KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Micro-Fiction: 249 words
Editor’s Note: 392 words

Target Practice

by Orianna Cuinn

Miss Geneva spied on you today. Circling the pond and coasting past the scraggly old pecan by her barn. Over and over again. She said, your sugar skulls fluttered on the breeze.

Like she’s proud you’ve accumulated so many god-awful hankies for your bike. The one around your head looks hideous too—paisley clashes with everything. Including my tormented nerves. You’re not fooling anyone with that bandanna. Everyone knows there’s no cancer, honey. It doesn’t exist, except in her schemes and your delusions. Just like there was no baby last summer either.

Grief made your hair fall out. Now, that sly old woman claims God never gives us more than we can handle. The nerve! Let me be succinct: her platitude is baloney. Totally unbiblical. And she’s no Christian. You think I’m biased, but here’s perfect proof she hates me. My darling husband, your beloved daddy, his life cut short by a stupid war—that was her doing, filling his head and heart with patriotic insanity. And she wants to steal your life from me, too!

She’s bad news, like I’ve said a thousand times. But truly, you’re a moth to flame. Deaf and blind just like your daddy was. I can see only one way to save you from the route of her evil. She’s the cancer, honey, but your mama knows the cure: a little accident in the woods. Shooting squirrels for supper. Thank goodness your grandma’s too big to miss, even with my tremors.

Editor’s Note by Clare MacQueen

Each year, the String-of-10 Contest held by Flash Fiction Chronicles challenges writers to use at least four out of ten prompt words in a story of 250 or fewer words (not including the title). An aphorism is provided for inspiration but need not be used in the story. The String-of-10 SEVEN contest took place in February, 2015 and included these prompt words:

  • scraggly
  • pecan
  • route
  • succinct
  • accumulate
  • handle
  • bias
  • exist
  • coast
  • handkerchief
The aphorism was, “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” —Galileo Galilei

While perusing Facebook, I learned about the 2015 String-of-10 Contest from Meg Tuite, fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review. As guest judge for the contest, she was helping to spread the word. Intrigued, I checked out the contest guidelines at Flash Fiction Chronicles, which is where I discovered their style prompts. Not one word, or even three or four, but a list of ten! And a new list several times a week, offered by FCC as a way to prime the creative pump.

I remember thinking, what a smart strategy by the editors. It seemed a fine way to help generate new stories to consider for their sister publication, Every Day Fiction. My next thought: Hmmm, is it really possible to include all ten words (seamlessly that is) in a story which is only 250 words long? Well, of course, there was only one way to find out.

The story that resulted was inspired by the image of a scraggly old pecan tree from my childhood, and did indeed include all ten prompt words. I emailed “Target Practice” to my colleague, the poet Jack Cooper (and one of KYSO Flash’s Contributing Editors), and suggested that he enter the contest as well—but having learned about it earlier than I did, he had already submitted his own story. Which also included all ten prompt words.

It was clear right away that Cooper’s story was more likely to win than mine was, and with excitement I wished him best of luck. How wonderful to learn a few weeks later that my intuition was right on, that “Options” had indeed been chosen as first-place winner. That stellar story is republished here in KF-3 (along with my story, at Cooper’s urging) to illustrate the kick-starting creative power of a random string of ten words.

Orianna Cuinn
Issue 3, Spring 2015

is a pen name for Clare MacQueen, who is Editor-in-Chief and webmaster for KYSO Flash, and has also served as copy editor and webmaster for Serving House Journal since its creation five years ago.

Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Firstdraft, Bricolage, and Serving House Journal, as well as the anthologies, Best New Writing 2007 and Winter Tales II: Women on the Art of Aging. She won an Eric Hoffer Best New Writing Editor’s Choice Award for nonfiction and was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize in nonfiction.

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