UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: November 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, in which you're challenged to thrill us in 250 words or less.

How It Works

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

The Rules

  • 250 words is the limit (you can write less, but you can't write more)
  • Any genre
  • Give it a title
  • 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
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate
  • All stories submitted on or before November 29 will be considered. We'll run the winner on November 30.

This Month's Prize

LitReactor SUPER FAN package which includes:

  • LitReactor T-shirt
  • LitReactor Mug
  • LitReactor Buttons
  • LitReactor Stickers

Your Inspiration

Photo via MSN

Get writing!

And the Winner is...Tsofit Dangoor

Like many of the entrants, Tsofit's story takes the picture literally. But her story stood out to me because of the style of her prose--clear and concise, spare but strong--kind of like the girls in the picture. It clocked in well under the 250 word limit, but said just enough. Read it for yourself.


Humans have 12 ribs on each side of their ribcage.
I know this because Madame counts ours every week.
Less than 12 and back of the line it is.

Carbs are bad, fats are worse, remember to eat less next time. Someone always cries.

Until today, my record was pristine.
“You have 10 ribs.”
Truth is usually uncomfortable. I didn’t cry like the others.

At home I went through my father’s drawer. I pierced my fingers.
Found it.
It amazes me how sometimes, life just hands you everything you need.

“I see you cut back on the garbage.” I’ve never seen her eat. “Well done”.
I’m in the front again.

When they all left, she bent over, adjusting the lace on her slippers.

I loved the way her pupils dilated. We all knew what I was holding, all sharp and shiny.

Two minutes and lots of blood later, a paper doll hit the floor with a thud. A paper doll with 24 ribs connected to a small, fragile sternum.

Later that night, Mom’s rice tasted like victory.

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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Andreea Mihai's picture
Andreea Mihai from Bucharest, Romania is reading Dance Dance Dance - Haruki Murakami November 2, 2012 - 5:58am

Effort Comes With The Color Purple

Effort comes with the color purple.
I didn’t know that, so I was just staring.
Effort was staring back at me.

Dressed in my white, ruffled dress, I felt naked and alone.
In the end, I was just staring at Effort.

He looked back at me, his purple eyes lost in his purple fur.
“Well, how ‘bout it?” he meowed.

I blinked, a little scared, but all I could see with my eyes closed was purple.
“I really don’t like your dress” he said, licking one of his paws.
“I think you look like a farm girl.”

I couldn’t say anything.
“Let me show you what I can do” Effort said.

And then he proceeded in meowing while his paws and tail were bending and breaking. I was scared he was in pain, but…
“It’s nothing, it doesn’t hurt” he said to me.

So I watched the purple cat transforming, his limbs going in the wrong direction, his tail instead of his head, his head now becoming wings.
I was scared and crying, but my purple little Effort was no more. Instead, in front me there was this tall creature, with wings and what-not, eight-legged, roaring out of its butt and blinking from somewhere in the middle of its torso.

“See, this is what you should do when you don’t know what to do. If everything fails, take the effort and re-imagine everything. Meow.”

In the end, I was becoming purple myself. I was another effort, another try.

Stratton's picture
Stratton from Phoenix November 21, 2012 - 10:00am

The Relative Talent Pendulum

If I suck in my gut, I can touch my toes. Out of all the other 18 students in my class, I’m the only one who can do it. Mom says that means I’m super flexible.

Stretching hasn’t always been easy for me. It’s taken a lot of hard work to become as distinguished as I am. When I first started, I could barely touch the top of my knee-high socks, even if I tucked in my belly rolls. But after a lot of practice, my fingers stretched a little further each day. A quarter-inch one day—a half-inch the next. Mom says tangible improvement is the best motivator.

It feels good to be talented. It feels even better to be the best in my whole class. I found a stretching club on the Internet, so I can join other flexible kids who might be on my level. On the drive to my first meeting, Mom says I’ll be the best in the group. She’s probably right.

Inside the studio, the session has already begun. Rows and rows of girls so skinny you can count their ribs stretch down and touch their noses to their kneecaps.  Then in unison, they all bend backwards and touch their ponytails to their thighs. Mom was wrong. I’m not flexible at all compared to these girls. Standing by the entranceway, I’m torn. I could join in and embarrass myself, or make a stealthy exit and no one would even know I was here.

eirikodin's picture
eirikodin from Auburn, NY is reading Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler November 1, 2012 - 5:17pm

The Contortionist

Contortionist is quite simply not the way anyone should ever describe me since I'm so rolly polly weighing in at two hundred and fifty pounds.  I am quite simply not very flexible and have no reason for stretching as I don’t exercise in the least.  People even joke that spandex is something I wear on Halloween to scare people into looking away.

The only place that I have ever fit into is my job in construction.  It isn’t very often that you see scrawny GQ like people swinging a hammer or turning a wrench.  This is what I was thinking while I was walking through the front door.  I heard a snap and immediately felt a sharp pain in my spine.

People were simply squeamish and in awe when they pulled me from underneath the dumpster still alive.  With my tail bone pinned between my left thigh and my spine I could hear someone say after puking “contortionist always made me sick to my stomach.”

twinkletoes3106's picture
twinkletoes3106 from San Diego, CA is reading Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen November 2, 2012 - 3:04pm


My fingers rhythmically drum the melody of a song my mother used to sing as I survey the sea of purple cotton before me. Beneath my fingertips, the head of my wooden cane thrums dully with my touch. My hip aches, but I refuse to shift my weight. Instead, I revel in the pain, the reminder that my body is grasping at this life and not succumbing to it.

My eyes narrow and my lips purse as I notice that a number of my students are splaying their feet, their heels close together and toes pointed outward on the diagonal. Bad form.
I shake my head and suck cold air through my teeth.

These girls don’t understand discipline. They don’t yet appreciate the subtle intricacies of this art form, twisting and negotiating with the body so that it can reach its full potential. Many say it’s unnatural, it ruins the human form, it’s not something we should encourage anymore.

Well, they know nothing.

I know the sweet surrender of an accommodating sternum, the sensuality of hips shifting into a space you didn’t know was there underneath your joints, the abandon that can encapsulate you if you can simply stretch two more inches.

The delicious snap that separated me from my youth, my calling, echoes through my memory like a bell. My fingertips burn hot on my cane.

I had discipline. Now it is mine to administer. Once their backs have given me two more inches, we all can rest.

Veronica Boguslavsky's picture
Veronica Boguslavsky from Israel is reading game of thrones November 4, 2012 - 9:45am

One in a million

She stood in the third row, third to the left.
Her routine was simple yet alginate, she knew it by heart and preformed it impeccably.
Her name was unimportant and so was she; she looked like all the other girls, her face undistinguishable in the crowd.

If one would notice her for any given reason, it would cause her great discomfort. So she avoided it with all her strength, and it always worked. Her teachers welcomed this kind of obedience; they seemed pleased with her submissiveness.

Secretly she hoped for more, dreamed that she could be just like Sai.
Sai stood in the front row, Sai got all the applause, and Sai’s parents never missed her show. Sai knew how to shine, at least that’s what the teachers said, Sai danced perfectly, danced like a real ballet dancer.

Seeing her every day from the third row was too painful to bear, so she learned to how to cope with the pain and tears that would sometimes creep up on her when she let her guard down. She convinced herself that she was not one million, she was just like every one else, nothing special about her. Day after day she would remind herself, repeat those words until they became a part of her identity, a part of her soul.

And so third row, third to the left, died a one in a million dream, the question is: what remained?

Luis Oliveira's picture
Luis Oliveira from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is reading Iliad by Homer November 5, 2012 - 10:02am

Vicious Cycle

An almost inaudible snap breaks the silence that hovered in the room. It breaks also the little girl's vertebral column. And not only this. The list goes on: her dreams, her parents' dreams, her nightmares, her muscular and emotional fibers. All of this shattered, annihilated, as if it were  friable paper.

All eyes turn toward the bent missy. The mouths scream despairingly. The hands grab madly the hair and the wigs. People walk thoughtlessly, run in circles, stumble into each other. Pure mess, poor missy.

Some feminine voice advices loudly: call 911! Where is the telephone? Here it is. Where is the dial tone? Nothing works. You can't call for emergency services. You can't expect a well-done pirouette.

But life is a vicious cycle. Everybody keeps on training. Everybody forgets the little girl, until the next kid get hurt.

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes November 5, 2012 - 10:06am


“They just stand there like that?”
“For how long?”
“A week or so. As long as it takes the tech to service’em all. You know they put the guts and wires of the machine in their ‘you know whats’, so people don’t mess with‘em down there. Some real sick fucks out there.”
“Have they ever thought of making a machine that could—” The new guard thrust his hips in pantomime.
“God no. Holbrook/Nguyen Technologies is not in the business of sex toys. They’re in the business of giving grieving parents another chance to play mommy and daddy for awhile.”
“What do you think, they,” the new guard pointed up, “Do with them—the babies I mean?”
“Don’t know.”
“My cousin says food or fuel.”
“Nobody knows for sure. All we know is they take’em. Hell, it could be for their benefit like the government says.”
“You don’t believe that—nobody believes that BS. What happens when we can’t give them anymore? Like when we’re too old, the youngest woman on the planet is 34 for God’s sake, what’s gonna happen then?”
“Remember that map from orientation? The restricted area in the upper-right hand quadrant, word is they’re cloning or incubating or whatever more kids out there. Holbrook/Nguyen is on top of it. If anyone can figure a way, it’s them.”
“Do you think they’ll let us keep one then?”
“That’s the hope.”
“Sarah would like to keep one longer than a few hours.”
“Yeah, so would Chloe.”

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK November 7, 2012 - 4:49am

Remote Control

Once more we bend, once more. The endless cycle every morning, a droning instruction flickers across the screen. We flex, we stretch, we do as they ask. One day this will all change.

My mother tells me it wasn’t always like this. She tells me of a time when you lived alone, a time when you could choose what appeared on the screen. Remote control. She tells me in whispers, always in whispers. They can’t hear you if you whisper.

I find it all so peaceful now, bent back. The world seems calmer upside down. This pause, this break in contortion, this is my preparation. The cogs are always turning. Another day, another chance to help build this great nation. One nation under the sun. The buzzer will soon sound; we will be told where to go. Always we listen, always with anticipation, always the same. They watch us as we walk, as we follow our orders.

My father tells me it wasn’t always like this. He tells me of a time when you chose your destination, a time before the maps spoke to you, tracking your progress. Remote control. He tells me in secret, always in secret. They can’t take away your secrets.

One day this will all change, but for now we flex, we stretch, we do as they ask. The droning instruction flickers across the screen, an endless cycle every morning. Once more we bend, once more.

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works November 8, 2012 - 9:08pm


Tei decided that morning that she wouldn’t let An throw her around anymore. She decided she wouldn’t kill An. Killing her, she thought, wouldn’t be satisfying enough. She watched An slowly complete the complicated hand and foot movements of the five schools of the White Crane, an ancient art taught to an elite group of royal guardians. They were both born into a family line of secret guards posing as servant girls for the Empress, and everyday they prepared to risk their lives.

They paired off, Tei was quick to pick An, and quick to notice her smirk at the eagerness with which she had claimed her. The sparring began, intense focus, stepping, sidestepping, each girl trading hits, dodging, locking an arm or wrist, but countering at the integral pivot point of each move. Tei, however, did not need to take An to the ground, or break anything. All she needed were a few pressure-points. Her mother had taught her the secrets of these points. Each time she gave up her wrist or arm she did so with intent, to get at a point and press.  

The sparring was over, the class winded down with Kata and stretching exercises. An began to feel her back muscles spasm, but wasn’t worried, she had no idea her vertebra had been shattered by a series of precise touches forcing her body to crush her own bone. In unison the students all shifted their weight back to stretch.

jamesdwyer's picture
jamesdwyer from Bournemouth, United Kingdom is reading Joe Hill "20th Century Ghosts" November 12, 2012 - 2:45pm

The Snap
“Backwards bend. Stretch! Two, three, four.”

Deng felt muscles tensing as she bent backwards, the ceiling becoming the floor as her head inverted down behind her thighs. She kept one eye on the other girls, making sure she bent more than those around her. Seeing the ease with which they moved, she pushed further.

“Your daughter has potential,” the scout had told her parents, “If she joins the national academy, she could become an Olympic athlete!”

What the scout didn’t say was just how many girls had potential. Standing in the gymnasium, three hundred other potentials waited nervously, each of them aware of the chance they had. These were the trials, before selection to the national program. Selection brought an escape from a life of poverty. Her family would be financially secure for the rest of their lives.

She pushed her body further, almost at a ninety degree angle now. She had to impress.


Deng could feel her muscles tense at the sound, for a moment she panicked. It wasn’t her body, a girl beside her collapsing to the floor, crying out in pain. Her body pushed too far.

The trainers came and took her away, her cries silenced by the slam of a door. Deng could see some of the girls around her relaxing a bit, not wanting to push further. This was their one shot. There were no second chances. Now or never.

Deng breathed in and pushed further. She would not fear the snap.

Roy Dominguez's picture
Roy Dominguez November 20, 2012 - 5:16pm

The Inspector

They all stood still in line facing right.  A room full of mannequins wearing there default leotards.  In unison one couldn't notice the effort put into each one.  One can't appreciate the genius that is behind each eye brow, hair line, eye clarity and nose shape.  Even the wrinkles on the back of the elbow are impressive.  Yes, in unison they were just a department store exhibit waiting to be redressed.

"Position number 4," I said out loud.  All of the girls leaned sideways and got on their hands.  One leg straight out, the other folded at the knee to make an upside down four.  I gave it a minute to see if any fell or trembled.  None did.  Perfect score.

From the minds that brought you these living dolls came this grading tablet.  The tablet's built in camera ever scrutinized them.  Some of them will be servants, lucky ones will be models and the rest will be escorts.

I scrolled down leaving checkmarks for these exquisite Geishas of the Future.  The company is very happy.  One day I'll find the one that does mess up.  The one that's tossed out.  The human one.  That one will be my daughter.

Mark Fresno's picture
Mark Fresno from Flint, MI is reading The Baseball Encyclopedia November 15, 2012 - 8:49pm

"Truth Be Told"


  It seems like every time I tell the truth, which is rare, I immediately realize that I should have just stuck with lying. That's all most people really want to hear anyhow. Doesn't matter how much they carry on about wanting the truth, wanting honesty, nonsense like that, they all just want a spoonful of sugar.

  What I should have said to her was, "No, I do not want us to see other people," and then just went on ahead and seen other people. Fiasco that this is turning out to be, I'm just lucky that Her Majesty didn't ask me if her being Asian was the only reason we ever went out in the first place. What, with me being in a truth telling mood and all.

  What makes it even worse was that this was all said over text message. Even if you get completely blindsided in a text, you should still be able to recover and come back with something smarter than the truth. Must be losing my edge.

  Now some people will try telling you that lying is too much work and not worth the effort. But I say not so. I say go head first into the web of bullshit and deceit. Who cares if it takes a little bit extra? You ask me, anything that lets you maintain the peace is worth bending over backwards for. 

Tom Shmilovich's picture
Tom Shmilovich November 27, 2012 - 10:44am


the debut
Dr Anderson was anxious the past couple of days. It was like college all over again. He was having coffee every two hours. Kind of like during finals week in cellular structures and biochemistry. His latest work is currently lying in its incubation tanks, down in the third basement floor  of  Perdue University. He had to fight to get this space,as with any meeting point of hyper inflated egos and reality. He didn't fit in to the West Lafayette scientific "community", though he never quite fit in with any crowd.
At hand was Michelle’s ballet troupe debut recital. Sara, his ex, nagged him the whole week before, drilling at the remainders of his peace of mind .
For a while now he’d been planning his comeback in front of his detractors. The good doctor has been waiting for the chance to do so when he realized- they  will all be there. All the pricks, douchebags, assholes, they'll all be there.
The debut arrived. He passed his ex and colleagues wordlessly. As the crowds sat down for  the opening, so did he. .As the show was playing,vengence,though better served cold,was worming up backstage.
When the second act came into being a hiss rose above the music, the familiar buzzing of WASPs.
“Honey, aren’t those Asian girls kind of similar?”
"Whose daughters are they anyway?”
It was done, he won. They said he couldn’t, but he did.
Fuck you Dr Cooper. You too, Dr Stern.
Guess who's getting the second floor basement...
jennydecki's picture
jennydecki from Chicagoland is reading The Foreigners November 20, 2012 - 11:51am

Cold Comfort

Mother tells the story again. I try to ignore her. “Foot binding was so barbaric, dear.” She says. “You are a patriot and a testament to the resilience of our land and our people.”

I do not feel like a testament.

The television and Internet say we must continue to do our part. I try to feel good about being an Optimal – a girl who has achieved the physical position necessary for the fertility treatments and removal of the government fetus - but my heart feels that there has to be a better way for a five year old to be a patriot than breaking her spine. They call it The Adjustment. We try not to think about it.

Of course, being an Optimal is better than the alternative. There are countless crippled girls who die alone and ashamed. We try not to think about them.
My group wears purple shirts. Last year we wore the yellow of Almost Women but now that we have reached puberty we wear purple in preparation for becoming White Women. White shirts to show we have served our country and are pure in our patriotism.

At least my family is taken care of. We receive benefits the way our soldiers used to when they were the important patriots. Now the soldiers sit in rooms all day. They sit and masturbate. It is their duty.

We try not to think.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut November 21, 2012 - 9:42am

Bending Over Backwards


     All I ever wanted was for her to be happy and healthy and successful.

     My Daughter Rebecca. She was happy. Happy to make me happy. All we had was each other after her mother passed away four years ago. Rebecca was only five. She became my only reason for being. 

     I wanted her to be successful, and thought gymnastics would be a formative activity. She loved watching it on television, so I signed her up when she was seven years old. She caught on quick. For two years, she was the best. Blowing away every other kid at the competitions with her natural grace and style.

     She loved the attention as much as I did, or maybe she loved that I loved the attention, so she played it up to make me happy. That's what hurts the most. She did it for me and now I'll never see her reach full potential.

     She was so upset when she came in third place. I told her it was okay and that I was still proud of her, but she felt as though she failed me and insisted on training harder.

     For weeks she was trying to perfect her own version of the backward cartwheel. We came up with our own training techniques and stretches.

     It happened while she was stretching before a competition. Looking at me upside down from that contortionist position.

     The nerves and tendons in and around her spine seized, leaving her paralyzed in a way that made her look mangled. The screams haunt me to this day. I signed off on the experimental surgery which has left her comatose.

     Daddy's little girl. I would have done anything for her. She bent over backwards for me.

Jacob Good's picture
Jacob Good from Idaho is reading Asimov on Chemistry November 21, 2012 - 9:17pm

Lucy in the Sky with Digression

Once I stopped noticing the foreground it became clear to me that everything formerly blurry and indistinguishable from everyday perception stood out in hyperreal color and vividity. I knew there was no way I could return to the usual happenstance of the mechanical world, full of trudging laborers and melancholy usurpers of their own future. Who could possibly care for anything on the Cartesian coordinate-system of gridlock and patriarchal bullshit after seeing what was once unimaginable cascading through my perceptions as if they were mere vapors? I was dazed but far from confused, as the symmetry screamed at me from all sides of the universal prism.

"Claire! You're next on the uneven bars!"

I awoke from my stupor and every blissful sensation that had overstepped the bounds of my human nervous system was now faded away like the tides of the ocean. I prayed the waves would soon return to obliterate all the filth surrounding my true self.

"Coming, coach!"

Robert Scotch's picture
Robert Scotch from Everywhere & Nowhere is reading Ambrose Bierce's Civil War November 24, 2012 - 11:30pm

"Broken Twigs"

Most people have families; we have batches.
          Each batch is classified into a group, which is distinguished by colour, which indicates the collective’s particular developmental traits.  Every morning our groups gather in formation – four rows deep of columns ten long. A room full of the same person… more or less.
          Most are individuals; we are identical.
          We wait patiently until we’re filed into a series of rooms where Attending Physicians examine us. At the end of the gauntlet, we visit the Lead Researcher, who only ever asks the same few questions each day – “Any discomfort here?  Pain there?  Headache today?  How is your appetite?  How did you sleep?” – and so my answers are always prepared: “Some.  A little.  Yes.  Faint.  Same as last night… little if any.”
          Most communicate; we field questions.
          “We are finished here, 122-098,” the Doctor says. “You may return to your group.” 
          Most have names; we have numerical designations.
          I hesitate to leave. He reads my expression and assures me, “It is noble to be selfless. To live in service is a righteous existence… your entire purpose. Think of the lives you’ll save in the future.”
          Most have a future; we have a shelf life… and rumours of moaning chimney stacks which billow grey under the sanguine Harvest Moon.
          That day is near. Another colour group will be gone.  One less colour is one day closer for me. No more Red. No more Blue. And, soon, no more Purple.

          In the end, we all go grey.

Tsofit Dangoor's picture
Tsofit Dangoor from Nesher, Israel is reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas November 25, 2012 - 3:25am



Humans have 12 ribs on each side of their ribcage.
I know this because Madame counts ours every week.
Less than 12 and back of the line it is.

Carbs are bad, fats are worse, remember to eat less next time. Someone always cries.

Until today, my record was pristine.
“You have 10 ribs.”
Truth is usually uncomfortable. I didn’t cry like the others.

At home I went through my father’s drawer. I pierced my fingers.
Found it.
It amazes me how sometimes, life just hands you everything you need.

“I see you cut back on the garbage.” I’ve never seen her eat. “Well done”.
I’m in the front again.

When they all left, she bent over, adjusting the lace on her slippers.

I loved the way her pupils dilated. We all knew what I was holding, all sharp and shiny.

Two minutes and lots of blood later, a paper doll hit the floor with a thud. A paper doll with 24 ribs connected to a  small, fragile sternum.

Later that night, Mom’s rice tasted like victory.  

Sarah Metts's picture
Sarah Metts from Rock Hill, SC is reading A Game of Thrones November 27, 2012 - 12:24pm

Belly Up

"Belly up," the teacher would bellow. 

This was the trick that got the crowd and fellow competitors nervous, rubbing their hands together or preparing to shield their eyes. It wasn't for the faint of heart. It wasn't a show for wimps.  

Two words and we bent over backwards for the chance to make the crowd gasp in astonishment, to reel away in their comfortable seats. Little pink tutus were ruffled and powdered cheek took on deeper, darker shades of pink and red. 

Before the performance even began there were whispers in the crowd, mimicking gestures of flipping over. You'd see the excitement as people talked about the "secret weapon", throwing their hands up and leaning back.

Teacher was proud, grinning off stage at us. She worked us hard, made us tougher than the "frills and pretty pinks", as she called them. We practiced in purple. We performed in black.

At her funeral, I stifled a giggle thinking about her poor dental record being a reward for our performance. She mouthed those two words at us and then grinned wide. 

Looking at her grave site, I couldn't help myself.

"Belly up," I whispered and smiled. 

James Ower's picture
James Ower November 27, 2012 - 6:38pm

"Not Their Dreams"

Mark stood with his hands on his daughter’s shoulders, watching intently as the instructor’s face morphed into an expression of borderline anger.

“Listen, your daughter is only 4.  Her body isn’t ready for the stress that this ballet class will put it under.  Wait another year then…”

Before she could finish, the ruddy faced mother who’d been causing the scene jumped in again,

“No you listen, Justine is ready for this class. I’ve had her practising for an hour every night for fucks sake.”

Parents around the hall gasped and covered their kid’s ears, horrified at the desecration of the innocent atmosphere.

As the venom continued to spill from her mouth, Mark watched the daughter of the woman softly pulling on her sleeve, watery eyes pleading with her to stop. 

He felt his daughter’s shoulders wriggle free from his grip and watched as she calmly walked towards the continuing argument.  Neither the instructor nor the mother paid her any attention as she slipped between them and wrapped her arms around the other little girl.

After a moment she broke the embrace and skipped back towards her father, who knelt down beaming with pride.

“That was really nice of you sweetheart.  What made you want to do that?”

She looked up at him and gave a small shrug, 

“I don’t think she even likes ballet.”

Jov Ati Ram's picture
Jov Ati Ram from Manila, Philippines is reading Greek Drama November 28, 2012 - 2:09pm

Stretching, and How to Fail It

We were stretching out behind ourselves, with the objective of grasping the knees. Looks like I'm not going to make it, though I look, and see that others are.

You should see me try in front of my girlfriend. The ultimate perfectionist, though she did hold on to me for two years. Every time she sees me trying hard - in bed, that is - we have this argument:

“You’re a weakling!”
“Then why don't you go find someone else?”  (laughing, but also fearing she’d do just that)

She always breaks out laughing after that - I never come to understand it.

Once, I saw her with this muscular guy. She was admiring the pecs, the bi's and the tri's, and touching them. I stopped walking; my hands clenched.

Back at home, I snapped and shouted at her. She was desperate to explain, but I blacked out in the middle of my tirade. When I came to, I was lying on the floor, head aching from impact with the potato cushion.

I then heard her say not that the guy was gay, nor that she loved only me, but that it was best if we didn't see each other anymore.

I shouldn't be attempting this stretch right now. If I succeed, I might break my spine.

I stop stretching when I make the 270-degree angle between my legs and my torso. This was a failure, I think, but I get my stuff and leave victoriously.

pennyblack's picture
pennyblack November 28, 2012 - 5:06pm

Zhenyu struggled to keep her mind focused. She stared at the girl in front, analysed every movement looking for a shake or a stumble that would once again reassure her that she was better than the rest. She had to be.
She remembered the cracking sound of her father’s belt. The sting it left across her buttocks and the despair she felt in her heart when she failed.
The Gold Medal, the far off dream that she will one day possess.  To one day grab that will make the pain go away. To gain the respect and admiration of everyone in the village will make the hours walking on bent toes worthwhile. The money it will bring will put an end to the beatings dished out to her and her mother at the hands of her father as he will no longer have anything to worry about.
The routines, the daily pain, the screams will just have to be endured. One day they’ll all be worthwhile.

HB Rad Lee's picture
HB Rad Lee from California. I usually live in the mountains or a car or out of a backpack... right now I have a flat in Germany is reading READY PLAYER ONE November 29, 2012 - 7:59am

The Doll Maker

He sat at a weathered old work desk, scattered with forgotten parts and dust and physical fragments of once grand ideas. He fumbled with his tools, and dropped them a few times with his trembling Parkinson’s fingers, groping blindly for the tweezers he’d left just there, only a second ago, by his left hand.

Finding them, he worked from memory, crumbled and incomplete as it was, and assembled another little doll. He made these to occupy his dwindling time. Rows and rows of these little dolls lined the edge of his infinite workspace, and his children would play with them as they wanted. No longer perfect, his designs were awkward and strange, like he couldn’t remember how to assemble the parts correctly. They bent in curious places and his children played with them merely out of reverence for their father rather than out of the inspiration they had once felt for his work. They too abandoned the toys quickly and watched them decay and crumble in the world, like forgotten old marionettes. Thousands of little Pinocchios strewn about the floor of that now decrepit old workshop; failed designs of creation.

There was a time when he had been a master craftsman, artistic with his creations and skilled with his hand, building whole worlds and cities. Civilizations once blossomed under his careful attention. Now, those magnificent worlds were left abandoned, to decay and rot and quarrel amongst themselves, his blind fumbling hands unable to maintain them.

FupDuck's picture
FupDuck from Beavercreek, OH is reading American on Purpose November 29, 2012 - 3:41pm

-- Sisters --

Although an obvious statement, identical octuplets just doesn't happen in nature.

Nù Liù and her seven siblings are just days from their thirteenth birthday. Nù Liù only knows forty two people plus her seven sisters. She has not met anyone outside ‘The Program’. Forty nine people and she has them all numbered in her head.

The Program provides the best education, top training facilities, plenty of free time, but not an ounce of freedom.  Everything is controlled by biologist, behaviorist, sociologists, and doctors; a bevy of interested parties.

"Ladies, finish your stretching and form a line," says their trainer, #12 Madam Kalder.

“Just a quick test today and then I have a surprise for you.”  Holding her outstretched palm and looking straight up she asks, “Can someone please bring me my bell?”  Her placid smile quickly changes to scowl as she snaps, “Go!”

The sound of a large electric breaker being actuated reverberates off the walls. The gymnasium goes dark.  Five seconds later, the same cha-chunk returns the lights.  Madam Kalder stands holding the bell. There is not a single plink as the bell was plucked from the ceiling fifty feet overhead.

Madam Kalder glimpses Nù Liù still moving when the lights come back on. The trainer shoots a glare at her, raises a hand and moves to administer discipline.

Before the familiar pain comes across her cheek, a slow clap fills the gymnasium halting the assault. Still wearing his night-vision goggles, a stranger says, “Very impressive ladies!”

Hello #50.

Tsofit Dangoor's picture
Tsofit Dangoor from Nesher, Israel is reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas November 30, 2012 - 10:01am

Thank you so much for selecting my work! This has seriously made my day...


p.s.- I'm actually a woman, but no biggie ;)  

Taylor's picture
Taylor from Durango, Colorado but living in Portland, Oregon is reading The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart November 30, 2012 - 10:28am

So embarrassed, Tsofit! I changed those hims to hers. I should know better. People often assume I am a man because my name isTaylor. When I was in school, I was mistakenly signed up for a boys soccer team. I usually double check, but I forgot this time. So, so sorry.

On the other hand, congrats! I loved your story. Your poetic background shines through. Well done!

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works November 30, 2012 - 10:36am

Congrats Tsofit, love the story!

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch November 30, 2012 - 2:26pm

Great story, Tsofit!

twinkletoes3106's picture
twinkletoes3106 from San Diego, CA is reading Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen December 1, 2012 - 3:12pm

Wonderful job, Tsofit!