UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: December Edition


Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 23 words. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before December 30th will be considered. We'll run the winner on December 3st.

This Month's Prize

A copy of The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert, the New York Times bestselling author of Dune, is one of the most celebrated and commercially successful science fiction writers of all time. But while best known for originating the character of Paul Atreides and the desert world of Arrakis, Herbert was also a prolific writer of short fiction. His stories were published individually in numerous pulps and anthologies spanning decades, but never collected. Until now.

Frank Herbert: Collected Stories is the most complete collection of Herbert’s short fiction ever assembled—thirty-seven stories originally published between 1952 and 1979, plus one story, “The Daddy Box,” that has never been appeared before.

Your Inspiration:

In 1997, the popular sitcom Seinfeld broadcast an episode in which George Constanza's father creates a new holiday in response to the bloated commercialism and excessive ebullience that usually accompanies the winter holiday season. The holiday is called Festivus. Apparently the holiday originated in the 1960s as part of a tradition in Seinfeld scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe's family. O'Keefe turned it into an episode of Seinfeld, and the world has never looked back. 

In 23 words or less (23, because Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd), create a new winter holiday. Describe (in some fashion) at least two of its "traditions".

If you need some inspiration, the traditions (per Wikipedia) of Festivus are:

Festivus pole

In the episode, the tradition of Festivus begins with an aluminum pole. Dan O'Keefe credits fellow Seinfeld writer Jeff Schaffer with introducing the concept, which was not part of the original O'Keefe family celebration. During Festivus, the pole is displayed unadorned.

Festivus dinner

In "The Strike", a celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the Feats of Strength and during the Airing of Grievances. The on-air meal was shown to be some sort of meatloaf and spaghetti with red sauce. The original holiday dinner in the O'Keefe household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M's, as described in detail in Dan O'Keefe's The Real Festivus. In the Seinfeld episode, no alcohol is served at the dinner, but George's boss, Mr. Kruger, drinks something from a hip flask.

Airing of Grievances

The celebration of Festivus begins with the "Airing of Grievances", which takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year.

Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength is the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following (or in the case of "The Strike", during) the Festivus dinner. The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges that person to a wrestling match. Tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match. In "The Strike", however, Kramer manages to circumvent the rule by creating an excuse to leave. The Feats of Strength are mentioned twice in the episode before they actually take place. In both instances, no detail was given as to what had actually happened, but in both instances, George Costanza ran out of the coffee shop in a mad panic, implying he had bad experiences with the Feats of Strength in the past. What the Feats of Strength entailed was revealed at the very end of the episode, when it actually took place. Failing to pin the head of the household results in Festivus continuing until such requirement is met.

Festivus miracles

Cosmo Kramer twice declares a "Festivus Miracle" during the Festivus celebration in the Costanza household. It is the character Kramer that actually causes the occurrence of two "miracles" by inviting two off-track betting bookies to dinner with Elaine (men whom Elaine wished to avoid), and by causing Jerry's girlfriend Gwen to believe that Jerry was cheating on her.

And the Winner is...Grant Williams

Pail Day

December 1st the family waters a ficus with used neti pot water. The day it dies the family exchanges Garbage Pail Kids cards.

Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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JeppeSehested's picture
JeppeSehested from Denmark is reading Doron Rabinovici - Elsewhere December 1, 2014 - 9:10am


Dancing the shape of Leonardo DiCaprio's nostril, as Sally ate a spongy Hannah Montanana cake, Jackson offered her a kiss under the Gloriosa.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK December 1, 2014 - 10:00am

Cull-athon Live!

We're halfway towards our target! Remember to call once your oldest relative is dead. Next, the last ever performance from the Rolling Stones!

Christopher Peterson's picture
Christopher Peterson from Illinois is reading the tea leaves... December 2, 2014 - 10:12am

St. Genevieve's Day - December 26th

Papa would shake the table, knocking over the nasi goreng. Then we'd run out to the pool so Mama could push us in.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday December 2, 2014 - 10:36am

Pail Day

December 1st the family waters a ficus with used neti pot water. The day it dies the family exchanges Garbage Pail Kids cards.

Jenn Collins's picture
Jenn Collins from Wisconsin, USA is reading Spunk and Bite December 2, 2014 - 11:46am

Polar Bear Drinking Club

"Chug!  Chug!" 

Ronnie pounded the drink and bolted, his bare ass moving like battling hams as he ran balls-deep into Lake Michigan.




Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh December 2, 2014 - 11:40pm

"Then What Are The Hooded Robes For?"

"Winter's first full moon, as wind creeps through a mosh pit of fog, will be referred to in later years as Our Anniversary."

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Portland, Oregon is reading words, words, words December 3, 2014 - 4:53pm

Muhahahahamas, the Holiday for Evil Mad Scientists

First Test: Incorporate doomsday device into a humorous holiday meme.
Second Test: Make doomsday device wear ugly sweater.
Third Test: Eat the fruitcake.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like December 5, 2014 - 8:54am

12/12 : Gross Day (aka "Twelve-Square")

Clocks run at half-speed today.

Stacks of paper calendars crackle in the firepit, boiling water.

'Nobody can eat that many eggs.'

K.j. Hansen's picture
K.j. Hansen from California December 9, 2014 - 6:02pm

Hangunder Day

Winter parties mean wicked winter hangovers. Make one a hangunder.

Go hiking. Study Chinese. Run a race. Learn violin. Get up, go out.

BarryG's picture
BarryG December 10, 2014 - 12:25pm

Harvestfest (sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Before January,

We hold a lottery,

Afterwards, the winner's neck is sliced,

For a good harvest, the gods demand that he be sacrificed.

Jonathon Wolfer's picture
Jonathon Wolfer from Connecticut is reading Sacre Bleu By Christopher Moore December 15, 2014 - 2:00pm

Blood and Sweaters

Pull on your ugly sweaters.

Fill the pewter mugs with reindeer blood.

Drink blood as fast as you can.

Try not to puke.

Harper's picture
Harper from Johannesburg, South Africa is reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie December 22, 2014 - 6:26am

Messing with the Beats

Stepping back to Fugazzi’s. Shouting out the next line. Watching Ginsberg pause like you’re a Mayan god inside his head. Timefuckeryfest. Good times.

DaJoHi's picture
DaJoHi from MA is reading Wool (1-5) December 27, 2014 - 7:40pm

Return Day

It was almost noon on the second Friday of January. He was in transit, so they had to let him stay and drink.