Week #20 – Rivals

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is Rivals.

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Terrin's Planet by Terrin Munawet

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Ethics . by Matt Potter

Here’s one I prepared beforehand, I’d said. Please note the word “prepared”.

Still, the world runs on celebrity.

I was good-looking, marketable and ambitious. And that never hurt anyone cracking it big, even daytime big, the coveted 2.00 – 2.30pm timeslot.

And nobody seemed to notice only the guests did the actual cooking. Sure, I chopped, smiled at Camera 3, recommended sponsors’ products: These Chopperholic knives are great for chives. Nothing stirs custard better than a Stir-a-Durable frost-free spoon.

Or gave hints: It’s all in the wrist, and Just like Great-grandma used to make, but without the indentured labour.

So I was unprepared when making Overeasy Eggs Kilpatrick for Two – Here’s one I prepared beforehand – and there they were, in the Unbelieva-steel frypan, still thawing inside their generic brand packaging.

Damn cross-promotional live demonstrations during the news hour.

(I also had new ill-fitting contact lenses and the steam from the toaster – I was using frozen bread – fogged them up. No wonder I didn’t see that the Overeasy Eggs Kilpatrick for Two were still in their plastic packet!)

Celebrity Chef Can’t Cook for Nuts! headlines said. Not true, I responded: I’ve always been a fan of mental illness.

They fired me but I sold my story to another network. They’re hoping to revive – or recycle – an old genre by turning it into a TV Movie of the Week.

The contract states I must play myself. But I’m hoping they’ll realise I can’t act and pay me extra not to do the job.

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Simply Rivalry . by Susan Gibb

He picks the Chevy so I naturally get a Ford. He loves Italian and I develop an allergic reaction to tomatoes. Honest, my throat closes, my face swells, the whole scary thing. Why then did we get married? To beat him and win.

My mother told me he was the perfect man for me. I told her twenty-nine was not yet an old maid. “But you two have been together since high school,” she said. “Before that,” I growled and she knew enough to drop it for a month.

We hated, we dated, we hated, ad infinitum, but he was the one I trusted to pop my cherry. After that, he thought he owned me but I told him, “you merely unlocked the door.”

He was the one I came back to for holidays, summers home from campus, because after all, he was there. I’d spend the first few days crying about the latest guy, purposely snotting up the new Christmas sweater his latest girlfriend had knitted.

“Let’s be honest,” he said more than once, “we’re trying our best to avoid ending up with each other. You’re better at it than I am.”

“No,” I said, “I can just hold out longer than you.”

“Hah! No way,” he said, and we fought over that. It grew worse when we both ended up here.

“Bet you can outlast me on staying single,” he’d said.

Heh-heh. I said “I-do” about thirty seconds before he did.

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Mr. & Mrs. Pete . by Susan Tepper

Mr. Pete is cleaning the knife with some kind of strong chemical. You don’t want your meat sliced with this stink on the blade. Yet how can you tell him so without aggravating him? Recently his wife died and Mr. Pete has been near semi-hysterical though it isn’t obvious. Not to the world at large. But you’ve known Mr. Pete since you were a little girl and he never before had a red face that looked combustible. You want to tell Mr. Pete that it’s OK to cry over Mrs. Pete. Her real name was Helga, but you always called them Mr. and Mrs. Pete. A leftover from childhood, and they liked it. When your dad was out of work that long time, Mrs. Pete would sneak an extra chop into the brown paper. Or Mr. Pete would sneak a few extra chicken pieces. Both thought they were sneaking from the other. You were little and could hardly reach past the counter but you saw, and your mother used to get teary when she’d open the meat and see the extras in there. Now Mrs. Pete is gone and he is alone with the knives and no one to sneak from.

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No Man’s Land . by Michael Webb

They call it No Man’s Land-and it is somewhat aptly named. There are men in it, from time to time, but when you’re in it, you certainly don’t want to be. I first heard the term in baseball- a tipping point between bases when you might as well go forward, because retreating to the previous station is likely to result in disaster. I assume it probably has some sort of real world derivation-referring to an area that is controlled by no one, and thus no rules apply.

I didn’t start out intending for it to happen- she was charming, funny, and whip smart, and she was bawdy, and funny, and could make a sailor blush at times. She was pretty, of course- not in a conventional way, but in a snap your head around, what the heck was that sort of way, like when a shortstop dives to smother a ball in the hole and throws the guy out at first. But it happened, like a solo home run marring a strong 9 inning effort.

When you pursue any girl, of course, you have rivals- some corporeal, like the guy who sleeps next to her, or the guy who makes her laugh more than you do – and some less real, like the ghostly presence of the last guy who broke her heart, and, somewhere in the background, her father.

Sometimes, you don’t even know you’re losing, and then the game suddenly ends.

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Rivals . by Matthew A. Hamilton

The mongoose sniffs the breeze, listens to the mass of slithering poison in the sugarcane. Evolution has taught her patience. She stands, unmoved for centuries, the art of killing heavy within her almond colored eyes.

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Wolves and Butterflies . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Yang to my yin, you attack my defenses, hard-wired to protect against hepatitis, Clostridium and any number of God’s afflictions. Ever vigilant, even in your latency, your troops spread from bone and lymph to destroy mine, antibodies and white blood cells. You gnaw on epidermis, feast on capillaries and nerves feeding into larger organs – tendon, kidney, liver, brain. Soon you will swallow my soul.

Every morning a new battlefield. Puffed up on prednisone, I drowse, immune to most skirmishes. Now you gather at the border of my heart, Capulets to my Montagues. But this is no mere guerilla tactic — I know, the x-rays confirm. So I shore up my armamentarium – corticosteroids, ibuprofen, Plaquenil, acupuncture – to beat back the cells you’ve suborned and inflamed.

When you claimed the sun as your friend, you almost won. I admit, I mourn the day warming my face while I sit with my morning coffee, the slant of sun through dappled leaves, the buzz of birds and insects. (I do not miss butterflies.) When I found my anger, I allied with the night. In dark safety, I shovel my holes. Children make fun of me. “Werewolf,” they whisper. But I do not dig graves, only cradles, for wolfsbane and moonflower, evening primrose and columbine. When the plants are sunk, I sit on moon-licked grass, swaddled in the earth’s loamy must and the flutter of moths, the night sounds louder than my howl.

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Superman versus the Silver Surfer . by Al McDermid

“Okay,” Jim said, “I’ll start. Batman.”

Faster than a speeding bullet, Mark responded with, “Superman. There, I win.”

“Hey,” Jim protested, “that’s not how it’s played.” Mark sat in front of the fire, poking at the burning slates they’d torn off the walls. They’d been lucky to find a squat with a fireplace.

“Sure it is,” Mark said. “You pick a super hero, and then I pick one that can kick his ass. So, unless Batbitch has a kryptonite boomerang in his utility belt, Superman wins, every time.”

“The idea is to stretch it out, take different tacks. Kill time. It’s not like we can go anywhere.”

“I’m tired of this game,” Mark said, giving the fire another poke. Sparks shot up the chimney.

“You got a better idea,” Jim said. “Talking keeps us awake and we ran out of actual shit to talk about weeks ago.”

“Alright,” Mark said. Then he smiled. “I know. Blade. Blade could take Batman.”

“Blade,” Jim said, obviously impressed. And so back and forth they went, rifling through the various superhero universes, even pulling names from old TV shows.

“Can I choose the Fantastic Four?” Mark asked. “No, wait. The Hulk.”

“The Hulk? That leaves me no choice,” Jim said, almost gleefully. “Superman.”

“You are such a punk,” Mark said, ‘but you haven’t won. Silver. Surfer.”

“Silver Surfer? Are you high? Silver Surfer couldn’t take Superman.”

“Maybe not,” Mark said smiling, “but where Silver Surfer goes, Colossus can’t be far behind.”

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Sisters . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

the blonde the redhead
dye job henna
the pretty one the smart one
pink & khaki black & white
makeup lip balm
straightening iron unbrushed bun
daddy’s little girl father’s daughter
gymnastics hiking
1100 calories vegan
cheerleader KEY Club
swim team swim team
captain coach’s award
business major English major
MBA MFA
Juris Doctor PhD
summer intern research trip
hotels hostels
indoor pool skinny dipping
Margaritas whiskey, neat
Rosé Shiraz
Xanax Mary Jane
dad dies
fly home
leave the wake early
to catch a flight back
junior partner tenure track
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rivals are . by Dorothee Lang

rivals are
rivals are ready
rivals are blowing smoke, bankrupt
rivals are good for you
rivals are pushing it aside, still unmarried
rivals are remarkable on several levels
rivals are the only match tonight
rivals are 492 g per litre
rivals are on a roll, fooled by the influence of the spirit
rivals are so small, beautiful, and doing
rivals are quietly plotting their revenge
rivals are getting dressed to thrill
rivals are your best friend

*(rivals are based on googlism)

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4P28 . by Kim Hutchinson

He’d kept the parking space open. She used it most often, whenever she and her husband, an old drinking buddy, came to visit.

When he saw her that day, he knew. Her hipbones were fins on a ’58 Caddy, her eyes death black. He was shocked, but not surprised. Her husband had always mistreated women. A soldier’s daughter, she had carried on.

Had he known, he might have killed.

He’d been captured somehow the first time he met her. That first night, he’d watched her undress, her image unknowingly reflected in a window.

Over the years, they had become good friends. She trusted him. That day, all she wanted was to park her car and run to a distant city.

Suddenly a lieutenant again, he did the right thing. He stopped her.

At first, she wanted to run from everything, from protection, even love. He stood guard, held her hand as she stood, taking baby steps towards living again.

One evening, he kissed her. She kissed back tenderly, piercing his armoured heart.

He swallowed his fear. For months, every time she left, he worried she wouldn’t return.

He’d lived through the Tet unarmed; he would survive this. The years past had been the quiet before the battle, a long, restless wait, for what he had not known.

Now, she laughs again. He loves the sound. Just to touch her gives him joy. He walks home more quickly at night.

She comes to him.

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HAND TO HAND . by L.J. Prewitt

I’d been to the Russian restaurant before; the waiters dressed like Cossacks except they were clean. The main appetizers were flavored iced vodkas. Instead of the large party I thought we’d be joining at the invitation of Michael McCord, Steven and I arrived to discover only one other diner: Steven’s former lover, a older woman who was director of a training program for teachers.

We’d discussed Barbara before; I insisted she was jealous of me; Steven contended it was my imagination.

“We’re just friends now,” Steven said.

“Why is it she has asked me to teach just one course – in an emergency? I do a good job.”

“Well, she would have told me if you hadn’t.”

“So?”

“I don’t know why. But there’ve been a lot of girlfriends since her, and she’s been fine with it. There’s nothing between us anymore. We’re just friends.”

“Does she know you treat me differently than those other girlfriends?”

“She has eyes, so that would be yes.”

There was an awkward air as we sat down to dinner. I was across from Steven. Soon the conversation was rolling. Four teachers at a conference can always talk. Then, it happened. Steven reached across the table and took my hand. I glanced at Barbara and saw her face, stricken with jealously and grief and loss. For one second it crumpled, and I cried for her, knowing she’d never stopped loving him, knowing he’d never held her hand in public. I let go of Steven’s hand.

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A Scattering of Rivals . by Beate Sigriddaughter

Peace isn’t easy. Especially in fall when red leaves float down.

My first rival was my father, by far the favorite child in the family. The rest of us were easily eclipsed by his colorful tantrums. At breakfast over honey rolls, mother explained she had deliberately chosen him. We were more accidental.

I couldn’t wait to grow up. I planned to go to the ends of the earth to avoid rejection.

I had a date for the prom in February. In April he fell head over heels for Nola, lead actress in the senior musical.

“I’ll still go to the prom with you,” he nobly offered.

“No thanks,” I said and imagined them dancing.

My best friend with Joan of Arc hair and violet eyes was summoned to bed by the man I wanted as we were sitting at the foot of the stairs, talking of immortality and oranges and a certain fairytale fox. They left me with moonlight and Green Chartreuse.

A husband left for a long-legged creature on the brink of first bloom.

An old lover’s new love already swept his front porch as I walked by.

My favorite T-shirt is yellow and tattered: a wanderer, a woman, walks on a mountain bridge. I dream of the inside of gold lit windows I sometimes see at dusk.

I have come full circle. I am grown up now. My young son is already more important. Earth has no end.

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ARCH RIVALS . by Tom Allman

The slow, grinding, metal on metal whoosh……whoosh…….whoosh startled the doves sleeping in the rafters of the warehouse. There/not there/there-an impossible Blue Box appeared from nothingness.

The door of the Impossible Blue Box creaked open. Bony fingers, gripping a cylindrical metal MacGuffin, preceded a sharp elbow and the sandy haired pate of the foppish chrono-hippy. Confidently he maneuvered through the jumbled crates to the fresh, man-shaped stain on the dusty floor.

Was the HE really gone? Through all of time, back and forth, and back again they had battled. To have it end with a sickly-sweet smelling stain didn’t seem very cricket. Stooping, he waved his beep-boop twinkle stick over the patch. What would he do now? An impish Cheshire grin began to creep across his face. No, this wasn’t HIS man shaped stain. He stood, stuffed the beep-boop twinkle stick into his breast pocket and headed back to the Impossible Blue Box, whistling an Arcturian pop tune that wouldn’t be written for another eleven centuries.

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All’s Fair in War . by Catherine Russell

The two maids had been inseparable since the cradle. Hermia’s outgoing nature and natural charisma complemented her friend’s shy and quiet personality, and Helena never begrudged her friend’s popularity. She preferred the company of books to most of the addle-witted boys of Athens. But when her own fiancée’ cast her away to chase her lifelong friend – the gloves came off.

The abruptness of his change of heart shocked everyone. Throughout his courtship of Helena, Demetrius barely noticed her friend. In fact, during the Duke’s engagement ball, he’d paid more attention to Hermia’s father; The two men conversed the entire night.

Only days later, he asked The Professor for Hermia’s hand in marriage. Surely some art swayed the motion of Demetrius’ heart. Helena knew he wasn’t so shallow as to be lured by the wealth and position of Hermia’s family.

Still- she’d seen his eyes when he met Hermia’s father. The Professor was an impressive figure. However, the way he favored Demetrius made her… uneasy.

All was fair in love and war, and Helena intended to win at any cost. But who was her rival? The fair Hermia or The Professor?

Cupid was a knavish lad.

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Games . by Lou Freshwater

My daddy would knock-down about half of his case of Bud before the first game started. Me and him lived in a one bedroom house on a county road. I slept on the pea-green sofa bed, and on game days we put it back into a couch and we sat and watched whatever we could get with the rabbit ears, I picked a team with pretty colors, pretty to me anyways, and I tried to root for them. I tried to like the game best I could, better than most girls I’d say. I also learned to figure on how drunk Daddy was by the way he moved, by how slow or fast he talked, by how many times an hour he told me to get him another beer, by the way he crinkled the can in his big hand and how far he threw it when he was done. I was always careful not to make him mad cause by the second game he would usually be telling me I wasn’t going to amount to nothing. I was going to scrub rich people’s toilets for a living. But I was always proving how wrong he was, and sometimes he thought the plays I said they should do were the ones they should do. I don’t remember exactly all Daddy’s favorite teams, I just remember I always wanted him to win.

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The Peoria Gambit . by Martin Brick

“Your friend Cody is nice,” mom said, making obligatory communication. I rolled my eyes.

“Well, we had a nice conversation.”

“You and Cody?”

“He’s the kid with the chess kit?”

“Yeah.”

“We talked at the park. While I waited for your soccer game to end.”

“He’s not really my friend. He’s … kinda annoying.”

“Don’t you guys go to chess club together? You’ve been to his house.”

“We hang out, but he annoys me. He thinks he is SO good at chess. That’s all he talks about.”

Mom paused. “He thinks he’s good?”

“Like Bobby Fischer’s second coming.”

“Is he really good just thinks he is?”

Pre-teen’s worst dilemma – admitting your rival’s aptitude. “He usually beats me,” I said sheepishly. “Sometimes he attempts a strategy he read about in a book. Then I might win.”

“Hmm.”

“What?”

“We played in the park. And I won. He didn’t seem that good.”

Occasionally mom indulges me with a game. She’s never won. Although sometimes I lighten up, give her a fighting chance.

“What was his opening move?”

“He jumped over the pawns and brought out a horse.”

“A knight? Aggressive move.”

“Maybe that was his problem. Trying too hard.”

I looked over her way to stage my disbelief face. Then I noticed her summer top. A lacy edge of bra showed through. Her face looked really clean, smoother than the faces of most other moms.

The next day I said, “Hey Cody, knight to king’s bishop three,” and punched his face.

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Through the plate glass . by Guy Yasko

Alice thought of Dean and Duncan as rivals. She had no idea what they
thought. She had never asked. She goaded them because she felt more
secure, more herself when they fought. “This is what Alice is supposed
to do.” She liked the diversion. She knew she would miss it if it were
gone. Would she find herself fighting with one or both? Where would that
lead? At least she knew where their arguments went. It was safer that
they fight.

But what if they didn’t? She had seen them through the bar window, their
eyes fixed to the game, sharing cigarettes, eating peanuts from the same
bowl. She watched through the window until she noticed they were
cheering the same team.

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Red Card . by Doug Bond

Tim leaned hard with one hand on the patio table and poked the index finger of his other into a spreading waste of watermelon juice and vodka. His wife had gone in again for another recon on the stunning details of the remodel.

From where Tim stood he felt he’d already seen plenty. Grand Bay windows, period trim and wainscoting, cobblestone drive, and the peach and coral Italian inlay framing the scallop pool. That Jake Shaver, man, he really has done well for himself.

The kids, twins and just in preschool, along with Jake’s two older boys up for the weekend, were in and out of the pool and playing badminton and soccer on the well cut grass. A ball came hopping towards Tim’s feet prompting the one time high school soccer star into a little stutter step, for a perfect half volley.

The plant foot slipped causing Tim to chop the ball so far off line it toppled not only the Weber and the porterhouse beauties awaiting inside, but then rebounded up onto the deck table into the assorted liquors felling them like a game of childhood dominoes. Tim’s kids screamed and then fell in with Jake’s teens, laughing hysterically. In time, the ruckus rousted pressed faces to the window upstairs.

“Unlucky!” yelled Tim at himself as he folded over in a futile restoration by the grill, his bald head pinking from the sun.

“I think that man deserves a red card,” said Jake, nonchalantly zipping up his fly.

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The Blonde . by Stephen Hastings-King

1. When the head of the king popped off the royal body, the lackey thought about historical necessity.

That was the first sentence. Because of it, the story ground to a halt.

2. The famous writer has just been daydreaming about being a famous writer, about frolicking famously in the sun, about riding in a glittery boat through the still clear morning air. He dreams of going somewhere by following long thin black lines through mazes of events, scales and entailments. He dreams of connecting one moment to another because he is a cloud that is continually pulling apart because everything rivals for his attention because

everything.

3. The king’s plastic head roll across the table, past the salt and pepper shakers, the plate with a fried egg on it, the utensils, pile of toast and cup of coffee to the edge of the booth and fall to the floor.

He says: That was the king’s head.

The blonde smiles.

4. Who is the blonde?

Stymied, the famous writer tries to transforms himself into Truman Capote.
Sensing the approach, Truman Capote squirms.
Failing in the transform, the two sit next to each other on a couch.
Truman Capote lifts an eyebrow as if to indicate he has a secret.

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Reverie re: rivals revealed . by Walter Bjorkman

“I think, in spite of it all, I’d rather be the yellow bug” Sid proclaimed.

“I don’t know, Sid, the red one is the mean mother, only the brown one keeps trying to get by her, nobody’s gonna top her, she got it made, she established dominance.” They had decided the red bug per force was female, after staring for the last two hours at the picnic-style table top in the campground in Anacortes.

“We gotta finish this stuff off before the border” Eddie had wisely noted.They were brought up to waste not, want not, so they divied up the one tab left when they awoke.

The three bugs of different types did a rival’s dance for the two hours. Both agreed they wouldn’t want to be the brown bug, who constantly tried to get past the red one, only to be had at, bitten or stung and then retreating. The yellow one tried to invade the red one’s space just once, got bit, and hied it to the corner, just occasionally glancing over, but never trying again. They tried to make the scene in front of them into a stage play, a metaphor for life, trying to find deep meaning infused by the artificial and false insight of their altered state.

Finally, Eddie leaned back, took in the astonishing view of mountain and fjord before him and declared:

“They’re just stupid bugs, I don’t want to be any of ‘em.”

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First Date . by John Wentworth Chapin

“And I love the National Gallery. I was there two – no, three months ago – and the guy I was with knows a curator, so we got a special tour of works that aren’t on display. They were being restored. It was… phenomenal.”

Pause. Both men sip their Cabernet Franc.

“Oh, that is extraordinary. I love knowing people in the right places. When I went to the Inaugural Ball last year, it was all because of my work. I chatted up Barbara Boxer: loves the gays.”

“She’s fabulous.”

A wry nod. Of course she is.

Silently over the bar, four Taiwanese play table tennis on television, the ball invisible from speed, swiftly hit, deftly returned.

“So tell me what you do again.”

“DARPA contracts processing. Hush-hush.” Wink. “Their budgets are…enormous.”

When the waiter brings the check, neither reaches for it.

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Getting to Know You: A Six Course Meal . by Michelle Elvy

1. Salad

Oh no: onions. I despise
raw onions.

I wonder why she’s not eating
her salad.


2. Soup


The soup’s a little salty
– but I like salty.
He looks salty, too.
Delicious.

I wonder if she appreciates
the secret to leek soup.
Maybe she doesn’t care;
maybe she doesn’t eat greens –
she hardly touched her salad.
Oh, but she’s slurping now –
and dripping down her chin.
I think she likes the soup.


3. Entrée


Grilled veggies, mmmmm perfect.
Everything’s a little
too perfect.
Maybe he lives with his mother
and he’s stuffed her in a closet.

Damn! look at her eat.
I love a woman who dives into
her food — none of that
push-it-around-on-your-plate-I’m-not-hungry-bullshit.
And she just downed her second stout.
She could be
the one….


4. Main Course


How does he know how to make
molé? Just the right bite.
A man who understands poblanos and chocolate
is a man for me.
I’m ready to forgive him
beginning our date with onions.

She digs the mole.
I like a woman who appreciates
the right amount of bite.


5. Dessert


Christ, this pecan pie rivals
my gran’s. Fuck this talk
about my thirty kindergarteners
and his thirty employees, I’m gonna
ask him what’s for breakfast.

I wonder if she likes strawberries
dipped in chocolate
eaten off
that dip in her belly button
which I imagine
to be near-perfect?

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Terrin’s Planet, by Terrin Munawet, is an imaginary faraway place that was done with paper plates, crumpled up magazines, and water drops. Terrin submitted this piece for this week’s theme because it inspires thoughts of conquest, competition, and beauty.

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