Brilliant Flash Fiction promises to be even more brilliant than usual as they present the winners and shortlist of the “Wow Us” Writing Contest. Out of the 350 writers that entered, Eileen Malone, Suzanne Freeman, and Laton Carter stand out as the three placing winners.
In the first prize “LIGHT THE DAMN FIRE” by Eileen Malone, a scorned wife spends time with her husband, his mind on the woman he’s having an affair with. Her mind is on revenge as she swiftly and quietly leading us to her husband’s demise, the shortness of the form making the message that much more abrupt and brutal. While the wife may have been planning this for years, we must learn about it and adapt in the matter of a few sentences.
Second place Suzanne Freeman’s “Calculus” is a heartbreaking look at childhood innocence and bullying, with mathematics as the backbone for the story. Evie Munroe is great at math, and not so great at breaking the habit of chewing pencil erasers. She is great at being a good example for her classmates but actually fitting in with her classmates is a different story. Alone, isolated, she breaks down this math: the percentage of girls in her class who are mean to her, the number of cookie crumbs left over when smashed instead of shared. Freeman’s writing is astute and creative, connecting us quickly to this little girl who struggles to connect with anyone else.
Laton Carter invites us to consider something most of us have probably never taken a moment to think about: “Gustav Mahler’s Nipples,” in which something the musician’s wife said about his body continues to bother him. Mahler ends up finding some humor in his insecurity when he starts comparing the offending body parts to something he’s familiar with—music:
Represented musically, there was no other choice but the cor anglais, the dowdy while still loveable English horn. In its unadorned tenor nasal, the cor anglais was a pair of nipples, aimlessly hanging on to the skin they’d come with. Unless otherwise called for, a symphony contained just one set of male nipples, quietly lodged to the right of the much sexier oboes. Pitched to a low B, the nipples would be asked to somehow droop a half-step lower to B-flat in Das Lied von der Erde.
It’s both fun and humanizing to imagine someone from the past—a renowned musician at that—worrying over the same things we may worry over, the things that ultimately no one else gives a crap about. If Mahler really was insecure about his nipples, I can safely say only Carter (well, and anyone who subsequently reads his flash piece) is thinking about them now.
Along with the three placing winners, readers can also find a selection of work by the runners-up to the “Wow Us” Writing Contest. The subject matter varies, but the ones that lean toward the dark or bizarre were my favorites.
Among these, readers can find “Companionship” by Olga Zilberbourg. Tender and eerie, the piece begins: “At three years old Michael did decide to return to his mother’s stomach.” Zilberbourg handles this as if it’s a completely viable option for a mother to make room under her heart and let her toddler back into her body. This no-questions-asked acceptance makes the piece compelling and chilling.
AC Hunter’s “Honeymoon” is another chilling work, though shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The gold-digging, newlywed narrator discovers the term “black widow” may be a much more literal description for his bride than he’d bargained for. Gold-diggers and black widows may be legitimate concerns for people getting married, and Hunter throws a new worry into the mix: what if my new spouse is actually a spider, slowly devouring me now that we’re wed?
Tricia Lowther’s “Mrs Taylor” is a darker piece, one that tugs at the heartstrings. Mrs. Taylor, our narrator, watches a girl named Olivia, studying her every move, her clothing, her hair, comparing her to another girl named Ella. Beginning the piece, it sounds as if Olivia has a stalker, someone nefarious watching over her, but Lowther slowly lets us in on the tragic truth. Lowther’s slow reveal shows off the fun aspects of reading flash (despite some gloomy subject matter)—each new sentence has the ability to change the entire story’s meaning.
There are more contributions by the runners-up available, and Brilliant Flash Fiction has also released their September 2018 issue right on the heels of announcing the contest results, giving readers plenty of flash fiction to dip their toes into at the online magazine’s website.