By Sherri Matthews
When I set my Murderous Musing’s prompt for Charli’s Flash Fiction Rodeo, I expected a few good folk to turn bad, but not thirty-two of them. And what a deliciously devious lot they are! Thank you so much to all who entered; my esteemed judges and I read wide-eyed and suitably horrified through a disturbingly chilling collection exploring the dark side of the Rodeo.
Some had us baying for the same sweet revenge, such was the pain of the story. With others, we pondered the tragic price of a seething jealousy, bitter resentment and an all-consuming rage. One or two gave a chuckle, clever in the twist at the end. We enjoyed every flash and it was a close call, but we agreed our overall winner is Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon.
Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon
Mr Blamey had no first name. He had a forgettable face, an indeterminate dress sense and no habits to recognise him by. Yet he got the blame for everything. Getting the blame for his innocent endeavours had taken its toll on Mr Blamey. On his calendar he marked the fateful day his wife’s cat died in bold red ink. He had fed him last. His wife blamed him but bought a new kitten. It died too. A succession of cat deaths followed, his wife grew angry, she hissed and scratched. To placate his dearest, he made her a special anniversary cat stew. She ate it up and died too.
We judged all entries blind, so imagine our delight when our friend Marjorie, met in person at the Annual Blogger’s Bash in London three years running, was unveiled as our winner. Many congratulations Marje!
We loved this flash for the way the apparently innocuous Mr Blamey, while living up to his name, was secretly capable of the most evil revenge. Who would have thought it? The slow-burn of his hatred for his wife and her cats weaves a perfectly murderous vibe throughout. Pushed to the limits by his wife’s ‘hissing and scratching’ – a wildcat! – Marje’s flash created the perfect storm for this murderous musing.
Emphasising the close call for the winning entry, we then had the difficult task of deciding our favourites out of our high scoring selection for honourable mention. Each judge shares their top choice here:
Jeff and Jenny by Kati MacArthur
Jeff had thought all day about the things he’d do to Jenny when he got home. If only that bitch Sara wasn’t there. She’d gone into the kitchen to cook dinner, leaving him alone in the living room with Jenny. He watched the girl playing with her dolls in front of the television. “Come on up here, girl,” he said, patting his lap. She stared up at him, frozen. “Now, girl!” Jeff snapped his fingers. Jenny stood slowly. Jeff hauled her onto his lap, fingers digging under her skirt. Jenny cried out. The rush he got from her cries masked the pain he felt as Sara’s knife slid in.
Hugh says: ‘I loved the way it was told because, while I read it, it had me telling Jenny not to go to Jeff knowing that my fears of what he was going to do were about to come true. It’s a subject many of us prefer to leave behind closed doors when it comes to talking and writing about, but the author went ahead and wrote a fantastic piece of work which had an ending I was begging for because of the hate and revenge that built up inside of me while I read the story. And, what I also really loved, was that murder was on the mind of somebody in the background of the story which then went on to take all the glory and which had a standing ovation from me.’
The Celebration by Colleen Chesebro
“Where am I?” I groaned and awakened slowly. I shivered as the cold sunk deep into my bones. My head pounded and a bright light glared into my eyes. A sharp metallic smell overpowered me. All I remembered was that I had left the bar late last night. It had been one hell of a birthday party. Panicked, I swung my legs over the side and realized my body hadn’t moved. I hovered above, a ghostly wraith of energy gazing at the twisted and bloody body below, where a knife had pierced my heart. My eyes gaped wide at the realization of my location. The sign read: City Morgue.
Mike says: ‘I chose ‘The Celebration’ for the cold horror of our mortal fear reaslised when the narrator finds out the truth of what really happened that night at the birthday party. Great writing, I was glued throughout, not guessing at the murderous outcome for a fantastic twist.
Tele-Visions: Six Decades of Death Dealing by Bill Engleson
I’d sit close to the screen. Cross-legged. “You’ll ruin your eyes,” she‘d say. I’d shimmy back a bit. “Better to see, right?” It was. You could see the whole picture. It was a good lesson. I saw so many deaths there. The same people dying repeatedly. Death became…imaginary. Death was an act. I guess it wore me down. Odd, eh! One day, I was maybe …fifteen. Summertime. We were swimming at Cotter’s Bend. The Sweetwater River twisted there, dug out a deep pool in the sandstone. New kid. Smaller. Crappy swimmer. But he had guts. Kept on trying. And I suddenly had this urge. It was so easy.’
This excellent flash knocked me for six, a truly horrifying story all about the desensitising of a generation exposed to the constant streaming of ‘play’ violence on the screen. Truly troubling is the very end when the now older man, recounting his decades of ‘death dealing’, says: ‘It was so easy’. I gave this top marks for its shocking twist and an all too tragic warning for our modern age.
Thank you so much to Charli for letting me loose at the Rodeo and again, to all who entered and huge congratulations to Marje, Katie, Colleen and Bill. I’ve never judged a competition of any kind before, never mind a writing one, and it was my absolute honour and pleasure to read every single flash. I also now have a much better understanding of what an incredibly challenging job that is! And thank you again so much to my two judges, Mike and Hugh, for giving up their time to help me. Both a delight.
Hugh W. Roberts
Hugh W. Roberts published his book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016 and is working on his next volume. He lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom, and gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin.
Hugh’s blog link: Hughs Views & News
Hugh’s book: Glimpses
Sherri, a Brit, raised her children in California for almost twenty years before returning to her home in England’s West Country in 2003. Along the path to publication of her memoir, she shares her ups and downs with her blogging community at A View From My Summerhouse.
Sherri’s Blog: A View From My Summerhouse
Memoir Book Blurb: Stranger in a White Dress
NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:
Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. Darkly, with murderous intention behind the scenes.
We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.
We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!