Literary Maneuvers January 2019 - "Things You See in the Smoke"

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  1. #1
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Literary Maneuvers January 2019 - "Things You See in the Smoke"

    Things You See In The Smoke
    January 2019


    New Year, new comp! This month's prompt, as voted for by you, is "Things You See In The Smoke", for which you are to write a maximum of 650 words of fiction. Pick your own title, write about whatever you want, in whatever prose style and interpreted as you see fit, as long as it's related in some way to the prompt. You decide the best way in which to dazzle your readers - and the judges.

    The judges this month are -xXx-, SueC and myself, bdcharles. If you wish to join this month's panel (max of 4), please sign up for judging by PM or in the coffee shop. If you want to judge and I left you out, send me your scores before the end of the month. If you're listed here and don't wish to judge, please let me know at once.

    If you win, you'll get a badge pinned to your profile plus a month’s access to Friends of Writing Forums (FoWF) where you’ll have access to hidden forums. Pretty neat, eh?

    All entries that wish to retain their first rights should post in the LM Workshop Thread.

    All Judges scores will be PMed to bdcharles as soon as possible after the competition closes. Note: I will give judges 3 days into the next month to deliver their scores and then I will post with what I have.

    All anonymous entries will be PMed to bdcharles.

    Lastly, why not check out this ancient text on how to best approach this task.


    • All forum rules apply. The LM competition is considered a creative area of the forum. If your story contains inappropriate language or content, do not forget add a disclaimer or it could result in disciplinary actions taken. Click here for the full list of rules and guidelines of the forum.
    • No Poetry! Nothing against you poets out there, but this isn’t a place for your poems. Head on over to the poetry challenges for good competition over there. Some of us fiction people wouldn’t be able to understand your work! Click here for the poetry challenges. Play the prose-poem game at your own risk.
    • No posts that are not entries into the competition are allowed. If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to take part in discussion please head over to the LM Coffee Shop. We’ll be glad to take care of your needs over there.
    • Editing your entry after posting isn’t allowed. You’ll be given a ten minute grace period, but after that your story may not be scored.
    • Only one entry per member.
    • The word limit is 650 words not including the title. If you go over - Your story will not be counted. Microsoft Word is the standard for checking this. If you are unsure of the word count and don't have Word, please send your story to me and I'll check it for you.

    There are a few ways to post your entry:

    1. If you aren't too concerned about your first rights, then you can simply post your entry here in this thread.
    2. You can opt to have your entry posted in the Workshop which is a special thread just for LM entries. You would put your story there if you wish to protect your first rights, in case you wish to have the story published one day. Note: If you do post it in the workshop thread, you must post a link to it here in this thread otherwise your story may not be counted.
    3. You may post your story anonymously. To do so, send your story to the host of the competition. If you wish to have us post it in the workshop thread then say so. Your name will be revealed upon the release of the score.

    Everyone is welcome to participate, including judges. A judge's entry will receive a review by their fellow judges, but it will not receive a score. Please refrain from 'like'-ing or 'lol'-ing an entry until the scores are posted.

    Judges: In the tradition of LM competitions of yore, if you could send the scores one week after the closing date it will ensure a timely release of results. Please see the Judging Guidelines if you have questions. Following the suggested formatting will be much appreciated, too.

    This competition will close on:
    Wednesday night 16th of January at 11:59:59 PM, GMT, on the dot. Please note any time differences where you are and be mindful of daylight savings time.

    Scores would be appreciated by the last day of the current month, at the latest, pretty please, cherry on top, mmm? Too much later than that and I will have to post with any scores that I have.

    Click here for the current time. Good luck!
    Last edited by bdcharles; January 2nd, 2019 at 09:27 PM.

    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge

    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"


    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous


    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!

  2. #2
    Slow Burn
    (634 words)

    I was seventeen when I put my first order up under the heat lamp. Twenty years later, I’m the head cook. Actually, I’m the only cook, but head cook sounds better. Sure it’s a dead end job along a dying stretch of highway, but it’s mine. Nobody demands much of me and nobody complains about my cooking. The pay is laughable and the hours closer to a prison sentence than shift work. I’ll bet inmates have more free time than I do.

    Aside from throwing my life down the drain in that grease pit, I got it pretty good. A little bungalow down the street costs me a whopping two hundred bucks a month for rent. My longtime girlfriend, Maggie, has long since given up on marriage, yet she sticks by me through the thick and thin. Are the bad parts the thick or the thin? Well, I should say she sticks with me through the good and the bad. Mostly the bad.

    Some days I feel like I’m just waiting for something to happen. Hell even a robbery would liven it up a little. But who in their right mind would want to rob that diner? It would cost them more in gas just to drive out there than they would get from the register.

    My only relief comes from watching the folks who come in. I watch them from my window like it was a zoo exhibit, though I can never be sure which side of the cage I’m on. I used to hide away from the window to avoid contact with the customers at all costs. Figured if they spotted me, they would start complaining about my cooking. Over time though, I realized they wasn’t seeing me because of all the smoke coming off the grill. At least that's what I figured. I keep telling Ms. Owens she needs a new grill, but she refuses, insists that it’ll live longer than she will. That thing kicks up more smoke than a tire fire. Gives me a curtain though. I can watch them all day long and they’d never even know. To them, I’m just a shadow in the kitchen.

    For the longest time I was jealous of them. Coming and going as they pleased. Off on some adventure or journey. Living. Growing. Yet here I was, dying and withering. Some days I’d focus real hard on their conversations or how they acted. I’d pick up a few details here and there, living vicariously through them like some needy poltergeist, desperate to belong. But over the years something began to dawn on me.

    They had this look on their faces. Every last one of them. Like they was lost or something. I don’t mean like they need directions, but lost as in they didn’t know what the hell they were doing with their lives either, and it got me thinking. What if this was it? What if all we ever do is spend our lives searching for something until one day we just go out. Poof! I told Maggie about my thoughts one night. Told her all about my concerns and broken dreams. Tell you the truth I was scared she’d up and leave me on account of being weird in the head. Instead she wrapped her arms around me, pressed her cheek to my chest, and whispered, “Baby, you’re all I’ve ever wanted, and you’re my hero for getting up and doing what you need to do.”

    Now the way I see it, I’ll never be the guy who cures cancer or builds a rocket to Mars. I ain’t even a guy who invests in retirement. But I cook a mean chicken fried steak. Sure it ain’t saving the world, but have you ever had a rotten breakfast? Ruins your day.

  3. #3
    Forum Moderator velo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Probably on a boat in Puget Sound
    Pull no punches. If you are critiquing my work, please don't worry about hurting my feelings. As long as your comments are your legitimate views they are welcome. We learn best from our failures.

    Hidden Content thoughts on trauma and healing through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

  4. #4
    BUTTER: a fairy tale
    (544 words)
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

    "[An artist is] an idiot babbling through town. . .crying, 'Dreams, dreams for sale! Two for a kopek, two for a song; if you won't buy them, just take them for free!'" ~ Michael O' Brien,
    Sophia House

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Chest X-ray
    580 words. Strong language.

    “It’s cancer,” the doctor said.

    “What do you mean cancer?” I knew what cancer was, I ain’t stupid. But what did she mean by saying I got cancer?

    “You can see on this x-ray the shadow that we were concerned about.” The doc showed me her screen and some crazy picture that was s’posed to be me. I could make out the bones, and the lungs were obvious, but the rest was just fluff.

    “What’s that fluffy white stuff? It ain’t all the smoke is it?”

    “No. This part is your heart,” if she thought I was being dense, she hid it well. “And these smaller bits are what we suspected were cancer. The CT scan confirms our suspicions, there are several lesions.”

    “Our s’picions?” I musta sounded gormless but what the fuck was this numtpy talkin’ about? I weren’t suspectin’ nothin’. A bit of a hack on account of the smoking and that, but gimme some an‘ibiotics and bam I’m done and out the door. What’s all this crap about cancer? She’s blowing smoke up my arse.

    “You got the wrong person doc. Read about that stuff all the time in the papers, docs removing the wrong leg and all that. Nah, get my results up.”

    “I’m sorry Mr Edwards. There is no doubt.” She looked dead serious. And it was my name up there on the computer screen. I looked at the picture again, trying to find what she thought was the cancer. Yeah, there was something there. I dunno, it was like trying to find shapes in a cloud.

    “We will need to perform a biopsy as soon as possible. We need to know if it has metastasised. The first indication will be by looking at your lymph nodes…” The doc kept blabbing on, but she was talking some medical shit. I was still trying to make out the ‘cancer’ on the screen. “We should have an appointment for Monday.”

    Monday? But that’s cup final day. My lads don’t make it to finals often, I can’t be missing that.

    “I can’t do Monday, it’s the final innit, taking m’ boy to Wembley for the first time.”

    “Mr Edwards, I strongly advise you to make the appointment. This is your health we’re talking about.”

    “Com’n. It’s not really that bad is it? Jus’ gimme some pills to fix it, can’t ya?”

    She pinched the bridge of her nose, like it was hurtin’ her or something. Dunno what was wrong with her, so I just got back to lookin’ at the picture of m’ lungs.

    “Look, Mr Edwards…”

    “Wuh?” I think I said. Somethin’ stupid like that anyway. I saw it, ya see. Yeah, how could I not have seen it before? It was bloody obvious now, like one of those magic pictures they have where it’s just a loada shapes ‘n squiggles, but then your eyes go fuzzy and bang out pops some shape. And once ya see it, ya can’t not see it. It was something to see, I tell ya. Gordon Bennett, wasn’t it sinister? It wasn’t smoke, ya see. Nah, you had to look at the dark bits, then it made sense. In those two dark bits you could make out the eyes of it. And there was the nose just under ‘em. And the worst bit – its smile. I’m tellin’ ya, that skull was grinning at me like it had told the joke to end all jokes.

    “Mr Edwards?”

    Shit. I got cancer.

  7. #7
    Member Megan Pearson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd

  8. #8


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