Thursday, August 07, 2008

WOW - An Open Prompt Flash Fiction Contest!

The awesomeness that is Chris Eldin turned me on to a new contest when she posted her short story, Warning Shot (follow the link to check out her haunting entry). The contest is hosted by Women On Writing, and they have one every quarter - check out the submission guidelines here. This one is the summer contest, and it’s an open prompt, so fun for all writers – the deadline is August 31, 2008. I hope all of you will consider playing... So far, I know Precie put up a stellar entry, too.

Okay, without further ado, making it in just under the 500 word count, my entry:

Time In Purgatory



Most of the sorrows of the world were caused by envy and greed. Of this, Madeleine was certain. Just as she knew that the best of our history would be forgotten for fear. Our most significant accomplishments were often in the mistakes, and those we took care to bury much deeper than the ordinary lies we let people see.

Cocooned in the prison of hospital sheets, she ran crinkled fingers over the stiff material and attempted a sigh through the plastic tube stuffed down her throat.

"Not much of a thread count there, cheap bastards."

Madeleine stopped willing herself to die a number of days before. It just didn't work. You'd think a simple thing like telling her own damn heart to stop might be easy, but it wasn't.

She listened to the respirator beside her bed with its steady, annoying huff, and she whispered a prayer, if only in her own head. Well, how the hell else was she meant to do it? For once in her life, she couldn't use her mouth.

She finally resorted to swearing at God, hoping it might bait him into finishing her off. But that bastard always was smarter than her, and she figured he was keeping her there, stuck in purgatory for a lesson. Either that or he was cutting her a little break before eternal damnation, but she wasn't quite sure which it was.

Visitors came and went. Her children hovered and sat, clicking through the stations on the wall-mounted TV and staring at the blinking, neon numbers on the machine that let them know she wasn't dead yet.

Madeleine's oldest granddaughter, Fiona, swooped in once a day, filling the room with the stink of expensive perfume. The smell stayed for hours, settling in the back of Madeleine's throat with a vicious tickle.

"Have you cleaned out her house yet? We should go through the jewelry and bank accounts soon." Fiona said to her mother, who was sitting in the chair next to Madeleine's bed.

"Not yet. I think we should wait until after. Your father and aunts will throw a fit if we go through their mother's things while she's still alive." Elaine's eyes flicked over the emaciated woman, lying prostrate in bed.

Madeleine heard every word, but didn't stir. Her lashes fluttered open here and there but otherwise she acted as if she didn't know they were in the room. Thirty five years. For thirty five years Elaine was sunshine and light around her mother-in-law, and she made sure Fiona was, too. Not now, though. They had some nerve when the old lady couldn't respond.

"That's okay," Madeleine thought, the corners of her mouth just twitching up around the tube.

Her mind shot back to the papers in her desk drawer at home and the copy with her lawyer. Madeleine wished she could give a mighty guffaw, but settled for a slow cackle in her head as she slipped off to sleep in the sterile room.

10 comments:

Precie said...

Nicely done!!! Great characterizations!

Good luck!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Precie,

Thanks! And good luck to you, too!

Travis Erwin said...

Good story. Sad yet satisfying. Too bad this exact things happens far to often.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Travis,

I have a friend who's a funeral director... you should hear some of her stories. It's amazing what people will do to each other during times like that.

Glad you liked it - will you be entering? It's open to men, too, maybe you could try out some of your women's fiction.

ChrisEldin said...

Oh God! That gave me chills!
Very well done. The characterization of the woman haunts me. I'm glad you ended it the way you did.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Chris,

I'm glad you liked it - yours was outstanding.

It was an interesting exercise. I took the openning pages to a women's literary fiction I was toying with... but those opening pages weren't a full story, so trying to give a whole slice of life in 500 words really made you think about what you included and how to end things...

Thanks for linking the contest at your place. I might not have found it otherwise.

Ello said...

Ooooooh, loved it! Very nice characterizations in so few words. Now that's an art!

Merry Monteleone said...

Thanks Ello,

There's still time if you can throw together an entry! It's only five dollars to put it in, and the judges look outstanding... and you can opt to get feedback on your work if you like - I didn't choose that option because I'm a nitwit and didn't see the button when I was signing up.

Mom In Scrubs said...

Lovely - I especially liked the part about the wrinkled fingers over the bedsheets - very visual/tangible.

I have a hard time reading medical fiction because of my nursing background. I just get stuck on little things, like: can someone smell when on the ventilator? I mean, they can't move air through their nose...

It ruins a lot of good stuff for me, like CSI and things. Even Dean Koontz' novels, and he is an MD!! I think medical writing must have to be layman-ized for mass appeal.

A blessing and a curse...and something 99% of readers wouldn't blink at! Nicely done =)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Mom in Scrubs!

Wow, I didn't even think of that, I mean the nose is free, but since you're not taking in air through your nose, you probably wouldn't smell anything, except maybe that antiseptic smell particular to hospitals...

Now I wish I'd have run this by you before submitting... the things you don't think of - I thought the machines came off okay, but I've been a visitor, never the one with the tube down my throat...

Anyway, thank you for the input - I'll definitely put it to use for revisions :-)