Flash Fiction Challenge #3

Well, I am saddened to say that I didn’t make it into the final round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition, however I am surprised that made it as far as I did. In the process I realized a strength I didn’t even know I had in my writing toolbox, satire.  Yeah, I know that I’m hilarious in person and can be charming in text messages, but I wasn’t sure it translated well into my written narratives. Honestly, Round 2 was when I really shined.  (Wow my humility sure is humbling.)

My assignment for this challenge was: genre – sci-fi (ya, again. lame), location – candy shop, and item – an egg. In 48 hours the competitors are tasked with constructing a short story with the requirements above, all within a max of 1,000 words. Below is my submission for the challenge and below that will be the judges critiques. I have to say, Judge 3 was my buddy and seemed to actually like the story. The other two couldn’t have cared less. And what they said in their critique was spot on, especially in regards to the end. My husband did say that Judge 3 “got who I am” when they said “heartfelt and demented.”


Josh Aron hesitated for a moment at the glass door of the Rocket Fizz candy shop, with a hand clenched around the metal handle.

Shelby Aron stopped short at Josh’s shoulder. “What’re you doing?”

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

Shelby chuckled and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Of course you can. Just pull with your arm.”

Josh looked at her out of the corner of his eye and sighed through his nose as he opened the door.

A soft bell tinkled from somewhere deep inside the shop, to beckon the owner from the back and the patrons forward. However, at the moment, only the Arons followed the sound.

Both sets of eyes flicked nervously around. The shelves that lined the walls of the store were nearly empty except for a few displays of candy of unknown brands.

“Hello?” Josh’s voice cracked the word. “Is there anyone here?”

The sounds of shuffling paper and a heavy thud preceded the appearance of the owner dressed head to toe in a red and white striped uniform, accompanied with a white golf cap. “I do apologize,” the shopkeeper said, “I didn’t hear you come in. We’re almost about to close for the night.”

“We know,” Josh said, he walked stiff-legged to the glass case that held some displays of homemade chocolate confections.

“She told us this is the time to come.”

The stranger furrowed his brow and examined the two.

“We’re here to order a zyloral.”

“Are you now?”

Josh nodded.

“Who told you about it?”

“Nurse Lilith. She said you only serve the best.”

A smile spread across the man’s thin lips. “Indeed we do.”

The man hurried around the edge of the counter and to the shop door where after a quick glance up and down the street, spun the lock. Then with the same sharp motions, he pulled the shades down over the windows and switched off the neon ‘Open’ sign.

“Come with me,” he said.

The two customers followed the order and found themselves escorted through a kitchen into the walk-in freezer, and once in there taken beyond a false back to a laboratory teeming with men in white lab coats, fussing over specimens displayed in glass jars. A large metallic door, built into the rear wall, led out of the lab into a room that emanated with tinny cries.

The man led them to an office in the furthest corner of the lab, encased in walls of glass.

“Please, take a seat,” the man said, as he sat behind the desk.

They both again followed instructions.

“First things first, do you have the money?”

Josh tried to swallow the lump in his throat as he nodded.

“Good. Now, do you have a viable sample?”

Shelby shoved a hand into her leather purse, removed a hairbrush enclosed in a plastic bag, and handed it to the man.

The stranger held it inches from his face and examined every strand gripped in the bristles.

“We have one right here that will work.”

“That’s a relief,” Shelby said.

The man set the brush down onto the desk and rolled his chair in further.

“Do you have an egg?”

Shelby nodded and laid a hand on her stomach.

“Will the clone have any memories?” Josh said.

“Not at all.”


“However,” the man said, his eyes jumped from one to the other, “any replica of one of you will arise suspicion, and if that were to happen we never met.”

“Oh, it’s not one of us,” Shelby said. “The man you’re cloning has—has passed.”

“Was it a genetic disorder? One that we should remediate?”

Shelby glanced at Josh and waited for a response, and when none came, she said, “No. It was unexpected.”

The man sat back. “I’m—“

“There’s no need,” Josh said. “People get killed all the time.”

His words hung stiff and electric in the air.

Josh’s limbs shook as he stood.

“You know what, I can’t do this. I thought this was something I wanted but—”

“Why not?”

“Do you know how unbearable just the thought of having him and not having him is, Shelbs? Every night I go to sleep alone. I wake up the next morning alone. How am I going to feel to raise him and watch him date someone else, knowing he was once mine?”

Shelby rose to meet his eye.

“We’ve talked about this. This child won’t be him. It will never be because no matter how hard we try we can never bring back the man you knew.”

Tears streamed down Josh’s cheeks. “He will be a clone of Charles.”

“That Charlie is gone, Josh. You can’t recreate the experiences that made your husband. What you can do is raise this child to be a perfect combination of the two of you.”

“How do you figure?”

“Isn’t that what children are? A shadow of one parent guided by the hand of the other?”

Josh stared into his sister’s eyes and smiled.

“I don’t think you’ll get him to like the same movies as you but you can try.”

Josh laughed and wiped away his tears.

He turned to the man and nodded.

Time stretched into eons for Josh as he waited impatiently during the incubation period. Every night as he purchased another baby item or as he converted the home office into a nursery, he wondered if he had made the right decision.

On a Sunday afternoon, he got a phone call from a blocked number with a cheery voice on the other end that told him his zyloral was ready for pick up. He rushed through the house, grabbed the diaper bag and car seat and headed over to the sweet shop to pick up his son.

At the back of the candy shop, holding his and Charles’ child in his arms for the first time, Josh was made whole again, and he doubted nothing.


”Regeneration” by Joshua Hensley-Cline –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1686}  The story is an interesting take on cloning, and the twist is a nice touch.  {1504}  The owner’s outfit is memorable and adds whimsy. The couple’s mention of the zyloral builds intrigue. The shopkeeper’s odd behavior at the request is ominous.  {1751}  Wow, this story is so incredibly heartbreaking and chilling at the same time. It works both as an effective science fiction story concerning queer parenthood ( you can’t get too many more brownie points from this reviewer). It’s mildly creepy by the idea that (to extrapolate upon the already state of the art science used to produce surrogate pregnancy), that he’d be raising a clone of his dead husband, genetically his husband, with all the good nurturing he can provide. Heartwarming and demented, great work.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1686}  Consider focusing on sentence flow and pacing. The ending feels a little too tidy/simple.  {1504}  Calling the shopkeeper “the stranger” was a speed bump. Adding words to the title could make it more distinctive and a stronger draw. You might consider having additional science fiction elements.  {1751}  I do wonder one thing though; why is his sister offering to help him produce this child? Is it simply because her brother needs the love of the clone in his life, or does she get something more deeply satisfying from it? It’s just a suggestion but you might touch on her reasons for this, as I think they are just as pertinent a perspective. However, this is only a suggestion as you move forwards with this powerful story of love.


A man of no land

Today I am no longer an American. The ideals of the president elect do not reflect how I feel is the American ideal. He and his ilk represent the selfish bigotry of the dark side of humanity. I hate everyone that voted for him and I despise any person who voted for a third party and are upset with the results. You brought this on yourself.  

I have resigned to the fact that I am here because I was born on the wrong continent. I have no attachment to the people or place that I am. It is not my home nor will it ever be again. The very site of the American flag disgusts me. It represents hyprocrisy and lies. I piss on it. I spit on it. Fuck that fucking flag. 

This is truly a turning point in my life. I have so much anger and hatred in my heart that I will never be the same. At one point I felt love for my fellow man and now not a speck remains. 

I will be told I’m a poor loser and I don’t care. I truly don’t. I have sat through 8 years of these people bitching about Obama and the bull shit republicans have pulled only to pass the entire government into their hands. Of course the government was broken because they threw the fucking wrench into the gears. They broke it. They were why nothing got done and the things that they did were in spite of them. They were nothing but obstructions. They should be hanged for their crimes against the government. 

I have resigned to never stand for the pledge or anthem, nor will I applaud or show any semblance of respect for the armed forces. Fuck them. They’re nothing but a bunch of uneducated hicks that had no other options available to them BUT to go into the army. 

I will forever refer to any and all that voted for orange face douche bag as racist misogynists because that is what they are. 

I know without little doubt I will once again be demoted to a second class citizen being a gay man. The ideals asshat sold on the campaign trail was more devisiveness and derision. It did not speak of community and togetherness. It spoke of white male christian privilege. 

I cannot wait for the day when they are no longer the majority. And imagine how obnoxious they’ll be as a minority. It’ll be the temper tantrum antics from the last eight years. 

Sure call what I’m doing now a temper tantrum. It is. But it’s also resigning myself to being nothing and realizing I hate everyone and everything. I have no respect for authority or my elders. I no longer show respect to those I do not feel have earned it. 

My American dream ended this election. My very Americanness has ceased to be. I am no longer a citizen of this ridiculous country. I hope this truly is the beginning of the end. And I hope it all goes in a blaze of glory. I don’t want to limp away from the wreckage. 


Cancer Kills Humor

My aunt is dying. There is no other way to put it and for herself or her children to keep trying is… I cannot think of the appropriate word.  I don’t mean to appear callous or cruel, because I don’t want her to die just as much as they, but I have accepted that in her case the possibility of recovery is next to none.

She has thyroid cancer.  Apparently it is the kind that is the fastest growing and most deadly, and unfortunately occurs primarily in men. It would appear that time is telling her that it is time to go. The two doctors she has seen have flat-out denied her treatment, because of where its at and how large it is they don’t want to take on the risk of operating on her and have her die. (Granted she’s going to die anyway…) The lie she told my mother was that she just needed to have radiation to shrink it and they would operate.  Whether she intended to deceive my mother has yet to be seen.

Before I knew all of this, and was aware that the doctor had suspected it to be cancer, my mother asked me to send my aunt, my mother’s best friend, a get well card because she could use something to perk her up. What I did instead was piss her and her daughter off.

I thought my card was humorous, it joked that “a bible verse would be good right about now, too bad you have a heathen for a nephew” and I thought my personal message was spontaneous and off-the-cuff funny. However, it was not received in the manner I intended it to be taken. For me saying “I may not pray, but…” I might as well have said “Fuck you, I hope you die” because that was the response I got.

Since then her daughter has unfriended me on Facebook, which means any hope for an apology from me has absolutely dissipated.

I know when I’m at fault.  Hell, I blame myself for everything eventually. That is why I have an addictive personality.  I always feel that I am a mistake, not that I just make them.  So I will eventually come to the conclusion I need to apologize. BUT if you unfriend me on Facebook that is guaranteeing I will say nothing of the sort. My pride on the matter is petty and ridiculous, I know that. It is the conscious effort that goes into the action where I find umbrage.

So, I sent another card to my aunt to apologize.  This time however it was a religious card that said NOTHING about prayer (amazing, I know), because in fact I do not pray and felt any mention of it would add insult to injury. I apologized and told her that there have been only 3 women in my life that helped shape me to be the person I am today: my mother, grandmother, and her. Fingers crossed she won’t see it as me mocking her faith or telling her she deserves to have cancer. Who knows in this wacky world.

The reality of the situation is everyone handles crisis and grief differently and we need to be patient with the ones when something in the vein of my situation occurs. The thing I find humorous is that it was the cousin that unfriended me who said exactly that many years ago.


To my grandmother…

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 16

“You are given the opportunity to talk to one dead person and tell him/her one thing that you didn’t get to before they passed away. Who would you pick and what would you tell him/her?”

I have to say that I am blessed. Death is something I am not familiar with. At least, not when it comes to someone that is close to me. Sure, I have had the distant relative that I saw on an occasional Christmas or family reunion pass, but no one that was part of my every day. That being said my pool to pull from is rather small. Yet it doesn’t diminish the weight of my choice. If I wanted, I could choose from a dead celebrity who affected my life in a way that they will never understand, but has deep emotional meaning for me. (I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis by the way. If you were wondering.)

If I could talk to one person that has died it would be my grandmother. She lived with my parents and me for a good portion of my life. As I got older I started to be very disrespectful. My parents were good parents but a little lax and my grandmother would step in to take up the slack. She was never one for sitting idle. She bustled around the house, cleaning my clothes, and reminding me to do my homework.  We both shared a love of the TV show The Golden Girls and every time I watch it I think of her.

It’s strange the things one remembers.  For instance, the last thing you ever say to someone will live with you forever.  (So make it good. ) I deeply loathe the last thing I ever said to my grandmother. “Do you want the TV on or off?” It was so cold.  So empty.  Absolutely worthless words.  What’s worse is, she hadn’t been feeling well ever since her surgery, and instead of asking how she felt or spend any time with her I went to bed after my question.

At the time I had been working nightshifts at Best Buy, helping with the store remodel. It was good in the sense that I made a ton of money, but it destroyed any kind of living.  I was awake long enough to work and when I got home I slept the entire day. It was a temporary thing, but horrible while it lasted.

On the last night of my over-night shifts my grandmother died. My mother had telephoned while I was working and left me a vague voicemail.  It’s still a mystery to me why I never called her back, instead of just rushing to the house. Instead I did 65 on city streets until I pulled into the driveway. I’m certain that, in my heart, I already knew what had happened. Come to think of it, I had started to cry before I even knew for sure.

When I got home there were unfamiliar cars in the driveway. My heart began to go even faster. I could just feel it. I walked into a silent house.  A small gathering of people had congregated in the family room.  Then my mother told me the news.  I wept and crumpled to the floor. It is the first and only time (so far) that I lost someone I really loved.

More than anything, if I could talk to her I would say that I’m sorry for how I treated her. Like I said, as I got older I started to rebel against her parenting. I got to be a dick and I regret that more than anything. More than our final, hallow, conversation.  I wish I had said more to her before she died. I wish I could have told her that I did love her, very much. She had such a profound impact on my life.  It’s because of her that I love to read, play cards, watch the tv show The Waltons. She was the first person to know that I wanted to be a writer. My grandmother read all of my stories and would tell me each time how good they were, even when they were most certainly not. I promised myself that if I ever had a book published I would dedicate it to her. Although, as of late, the project that has been begging to be finished (and very nearly is) would be something she would not read. I don’t think my Southern Baptist grandmother would really approve of a book about a gay boy who gets dumped and then grows wings. At least, one of the chapters she would just skip all together because of its explicit content.

I’ve heard some before me say that they wish they had told their loved one that had died who they truly were.  I never got to say it, but I’m pretty sure she had a hunch.  The woman’s room was right next to mine and I had a habit of talking late into the night to my husband on my cell phone.  It’s strange to me that my husband even got to meet her once.  He attended my high school graduation and unknowingly sat behind my parents.

My heart tells me she would have loved Charlie.  To see how my parents love him…  It shows me how powerful love is.