It wouldn’t be a Flash Fiction Rodeo without a TUFF contest. The Ultimate Flash Fiction asks writers to write and revise a single story by reducing it to its sparest form and then rewriting it again in 99 words. TUFF goes from 99-59-9-99 words with one story. The process challenges writers to rethink their stories and revise. The final output shows a transformation from the original idea. It takes courage to rewrite original stories and TUFF introduces a tool to help.
The following are challenge submissions for fun.
The Calypso Triplets by JulesPaige
99-word first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. It wasn’t always easy figuring out what to cook for dinner. They were very independent and had very different tastes.
Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything, but she didn’t like cleaning the cauldron.
Breakfast was a challenge too. Amy liked full brew coffee, Bernadette decaf and Connie just liked to keep the grounds for the garden. However they all agreed that sharing an apartment was cool beans.
59-word reduction of first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything.
Lunch was often a soup mixture of Green, Red Kidney Beans, Black Eyed, Borlotti, and Haricot Beans. Bernadette kept Beano handy.
9-word reduction of first draft: “Excuse me’s” peppered the lives of the Calypso sisters
99-word revision of first draft: The triplets tried to live a very healthy lifestyle. They didn’t want to become ‘has been’s’. So they attempted to be good vegetarians, which required much of their protein to come from a variety of beans.
Amy enjoyed experimenting with soy based tofu. Bernadette thought most beans were bland and needed herbs and spices. Connie pretty much ate anything.
Connie let her sisters do all the cooking. They didn’t need to know that she stopped at the Golden Arches for a burger now and then. What they didn’t know was just one less ‘explosion’ they’d have to deal with.
Movie Talk by Bill Engleson
99-word first draft: “It’s a saying. Means you’re cookin’, doing what needs doin’. ”
“I don’t know. I think you’re wrong.”
“Come on. Everyone knows it. It’s as common as saying…big fish eat little fish.”
“That one I know. But this one, Man, I think we ought to look it up.”
“Don’t have to look it up. Hell, it was in the Godfather a couple of times. Sonny said it and Moe Greene, you remember him, waking up with that horse’s head in his bed?”
“That wasn’t Moe Greene.”
“Doesn’t matter. My bad. But both Moe and Sonny said, “I made my beans…”
59-word reduction of first draft: “Come on. It’s as common as the saying… a hole in the head. Means you’re cookin’ doing what needs doin’. ”
“Think you’re wrong.”
“No, I’m not. Hell, it was in the Godfather. Sonny and Moe said it different times.”
“Moe…the one with the horses head?”
“That was another guy. Anyways both Moe and Sonny said,” I made my beans.”
9-word reduction of first draft: It’s gangsterese, right, to say, “I made my beans.”
99-word revision of first draft: I thought, beans. I like beans. I like slow cooking them. A bonanza of dishes is possible.
Charli mentioned Chili Con Carne, eh. A childhood favorite food. And while I’m thinking, I decide, okay, I’ve got two tales in the hopper. How about a third?
I’ve done this before. Recently. Played with a prompt. Like a teasing cat with a silly mouse in its paw.
To honour Leo Gorcey’s, Slip Mahoney, I seek out a one syllable b word.
Then I watch the news.
Fires in California.
That horrible human trafficking story from England.
Yellow Roses by Charli Mills
99-word first draft: Yellow roses climbed sun-bleached lattice where silage soured the air like beans. A teenaged boy in hot-pink satin shorts watered roses with a milk bucket. His grandfather once mulched with cedar chips, but having none, the teen used manure. A setting sun bruised the horizon with a purple haze. His father pulled up and the leaking exhaust of the rusty truck lingered like stale smoke. “Get that bucket to the barn, boy.” The teen nodded. He had the patience to grow his grandfather’s roses in the desert. One day, he’d leave and take his yellow roses with him.
59-word reduction of first draft: The teen grew yellow roses in the desert and cultivated a plan to escape silage and endless beans. Wearing hot-pink satin shorts to irritate his old man, he watered roses with a milk bucket. The setting sun bruised the sky. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe and cedar mulch, but the rusty rattle gave away his father’s truck.
9-word reduction of first draft: He’d escape the beans, taking yellow roses with him.
99-word revision of first draft: Yellow Roses of Saigon
“Get that bucket to the barn, boy.”
A teen in hot pink satin shorts rose from watering his grandfather’s yellow roses. Exhaust leaking from his old man’s rusty truck choked the sour air of dairy cows and beans. The setting sun bruised the sky like a beating from his father’s fists. Putting the bucket down, the boy pruned cuttings from the bush. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe. He turned to face his father. “I joined the Army, Dad. Me and my roses leave tomorrow.”
“Fool.” His father spat into the sand. “Yellow roses won’t grow in Vietnam.”
Untitled by D. Avery
99-word first draft: They ran out of milk and eggs first. When the hay ran out and her milk had run out they ate the cow. When the hens had picked every scrap of anything edible from the hay and the scraps from butchering they ate them. They’d been out of meat for days. Still it snowed.
He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but there was nothing except a sack of beans for planting come spring. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue, and still it snowed.
Her children were starving. She opened the sack.
59-word reduction of first draft: Still it snowed. He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but again there was nothing, nothing left to eat except a sack of beans intended for planting come spring, seeds for future harvests. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue.
As snow fell she fed her children unsweetened boiled beans, bitter but filling.
9-word reduction of first draft: Her starving children found the plain beans sweet enough.
99-word revision of first draft: “Those are seeds. There’ll be nothing to plant.”
In normal circumstances his logic would hold. They’d kept the cow for milk until all the hay was gone, kept the chickens for eggs until their feed was gone. Then the meat from those animals had run out. They’d boiled every scrap into soup. Snow fell though calendar spring was two months past. Her children were starving. Her logic would prevail. She made him promise. Her children would eat those beans, the last meal she would prepare for them. But it would not be the last time she would feed them.
Stinker of a Ranch Yarn by D. Avery
99-word first draft: “Ello, Keed, how have you bean?”
“Pepe LeGume! It’s tuff times, but I’m all right. You?”
“I am so very happy, Keed. You see dat post? No, not dat fence post, de post dat ever body read. I am mentioned in eet. So. I am real, no?”
“Reckon ya could pass fer real.”
“Keed, I been passed so much. Now I find dees ranch, I jes’ want to linger here and smell de roses.”
“Phew. I think ya dropped a rose.”
“Keed, I am going to cook beans for ever’body. Weeth bacon.”
“How you say? Darn tooting.”
59-word reduction of first draft: “Pepe, this might be a tuff question fer ya. How’d ya end up here at the ranch?”
“Keed, I am from south of the border, that ees, da border of Quebec. I snuck in weeth dat lead buckaroo when she crossed Quebec and Ontario returning to her headquarters in the Keweenaw.”
“LeGume! Yer a bean stalker!”
“Ees magical, no?”
9-word reduction of first draft: Legume blew in after the Writers Refuge, lingers still.
99-word revision of first draft: Beans are magical. Not Jack’s magic beans, not the magical fruit that’s good for your heart; something more is encased in those symmetrical shells.
The magic of plants and cycles is revealed to young children who can easily observe a plant unfold from the hard bean; can plant them, watch them grow, flower, and bear more beans.
A great source of protein, traditions and stories are revealed through the preparations, memories stirred, savored, and shared. Beans are the humble communion of gatherings and of campfires, the places where friendships are forged and where magic unfolds like a favorite story.