TAKE THE RISK • by K.B. Sluss

“You there.”

Javier hears the words, but they don’t register. Women don’t talk to men like him. He shoves his hands in his pockets, keeps his gaze trained on the ground.

“Hey, you. Mr. Hawaiian shirt.”

From the corner of his eye, Javier sees the sea of multi-hued, multi-generational faces staring up at the woman, perched in the bed of her pick-up. They all want work, or seem to want it. Some probably only stopped for the entertainment of watching a tiny, fiery-haired woman try to hire day labor from a pool of rag-tag men, recently released into the general population after a night in the county homeless shelter.

Javier persists in staring at his feet. The redhead knows she has his attention, though, because she says, “What do you know about fire layin’?”

Javier kicks a stone in his path. “I got some experience. What of it?”

“I got ten mommas fixin’ to lay. I need a coop and nesting boxes, ASAP.”

“Why don’t you do it yourself?”

“Ten mommas. Ten fireproof nesting boxes. Two days — or so says the weather man. You want the job or not?”

Javier shrugs. “What do I get for it?”

“Three hots and a cot, enough pay to buy you a couple new shirts. You should probably burn that one.”

Javier looks up and reveals the burn scars marring his left cheek and jaw. They match the marks on his left forearm that his short-sleeve shirt fails to cover. The scars make people wary; so does his questionable immigration status. Few will take the risk of hiring him and the ones who do usually try to take advantage of him. But something about this woman intrigues. Javier smiles at her. “This is my best shirt.”

The woman snorts. “Then you need this job worse than I thought.

***

Javier sheds his Hawaiian shirt and works in an undershirt, soaked through with sweat. Even in the shade of a magnolia, where Gilda has set him up with fire-rated drywall and a five-gallon bucket of liquid flame retardant, Javier’s blood boils. The birds need the heat, requiring 100-plus temps for laying, and this day promises to approach the threshold. The weatherman says tomorrow for sure and Javier has three nesting boxes to finish before then.

Gilda brings Javier a glass of tea. He guzzles it before the ice cubes can melt, but he instantly regrets it. “Uh,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Brain freeze.”

Gilda sips her own tea and smirks at him. “Shouldn’t be so greedy.”

When their break ends, Gilda joins Javier. He likes how hard she works to keep up with his more experienced skills. “Why did you wait until the last minute?” Javier asks. “You should have finished these boxes a while back.”

“The birds were a surprise,” says Gilda. “Sorta dropped on my doorstep a couple days ago.”

“From who?”

“Don’t know. But you see I got them laying hens and I do an okay egg business, so they must have thought I could handle these girls.”

“You didn’t try to sell them? They don’t come cheap.” Sexual potency and rejuvenation after consuming pulverized feathers, miraculous crop yields from guano fertilization, meat served as a delicacy in some countries; these birds turn a comfortable profit, if one overlooks the hazards of breeding them.

“Maybe I’m keen to the challenge,” says Gilda.

“Most people don’t breed on a whim.” Javier flicks his fingers across the burn scars on his cheek to illustrate his meaning. “It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Get careless and you’ll get burned.”

“Is that what happened to you? You got careless?”

“Birds, authority, beautiful women… I took a lot of risks when I was younger, learned a lot of lessons the hard way.”

“And now?”

Javier winks. “Now I’m a lot more cautious.”

***

For once the weathermen’s predictions of hundred-plus temperatures proves accurate.  Javier and Gilda stand at a safe distance from the recently finished coop and watch the occupants of the new nesting boxes settle into place. Gilda keeps her water hose close by, just in case.  “I been reading on-line,” says Gilda. “Says they’ll wait until the hottest part of the day to start laying, and then… pop, pop, pop, one right after the other. Sorta like microwave popcorn.”

“But when has your microwave popcorn ever come along with thousand degree blasts of flame?”

Gilda frowns. “Are you sure those nesting boxes will hold up?”

“They should do the trick, but they’ll need to be regularly replaced. The brooding and incubation keeps up a steady flame, sort of like a pilot light. It weakens the box’s fireproofing over time.”

“I hadn’t really thought that far ahead,” says Gilda.

“Typical chick survival rate is about fifty percent. This time next year, you’ll have at least fifteen, ready to lay. And then you gotta keep them all fed — they only like live prey — keep them warm, healthy, and happy. On top of your regular laying hens, phoenix breeding is going to double your work.”

Gilda starts to ask another question, but is interrupted by a momma bird’s soft cry, followed by the jettison of flame. A plume of dazzling plasma, like a sun flare, rockets into the sky. Javier’s breath catches in his chest. Another bird sings out; another blaze reaches to the clouds. Javier grips Gilda’s elbow and tugs her away from the coop.

“My God,” Gilda says. “It’s amazing.”

“Sure is,” says Javier. “I’d almost forgotten.”

Gilda turns to look at him. “Double my workload, huh?”

Javier nods. “At least.”

“If you could set aside your caution, I’d offer you a business partnership.”

Javier considers it — the inherent perils of phoenix breeding and trusting a woman he barely knows. Then he unbuttons his Hawaiian shirt, balls it up, and chucks it into one of the laying boxes, ensuring its incineration. He smiles at Gilda. “I guess that’s a risk I’d be willing to take.”


K.B. Sluss’s fiction has appeared at Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories and a few other places. She’s anticipating publication of her first novel with Red Adept Publishing, some time in 2015.


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 average 3.3 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    And there was I thinking they were dragons! Javier rising from poverty like a phoenix, with the promise of romance bubbling underneath. What’s not to like.

    • S Conroy
      Nice connection between Javier and the phoenixes. I hadn't thought of it.
  • Paul A. Freeman

    And there was I thinking they were dragons! Javier rising from poverty like a phoenix, with the promise of romance bubbling underneath. What’s not to like.

    • S Conroy
      Nice connection between Javier and the phoenixes. I hadn't thought of it.
  • Deb Fanner

    I liked the premise but think the editing was a bit off? Random momentary name change from Gilda to Glenda, and Javier taking off the Hawaiian shirt at the end that he’d already removed when he started work?

    • Edward Beach
      Nicely noted.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      The errant "Glenda" has been changed to "Gilda". Feel free to send such editing issues to us directly using the online web form so that we can make changes. As far as the Hawaiian shirt, I am pretty sure he takes his shirt off on the first day of work, then has it on again during the second day when the temps reach their peak. The story says "two days" from the get-go, and there are story breaks between the initial scene, day one of the coop work, and then day two when the work is completed and the eggs "hatch". So, no continuity/editing issue there.
    • terrytvgal
      maybe all he had were Hawaiian shirts?
  • Deb Fanner

    I liked the premise but think the editing was a bit off? Random momentary name change from Gilda to Glenda, and Javier taking off the Hawaiian shirt at the end that he’d already removed when he started work?

    • Edward Beach
      Nicely noted.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      The errant "Glenda" has been changed to "Gilda". Feel free to send such editing issues to us directly using the online web form so that we can make changes. As far as the Hawaiian shirt, I am pretty sure he takes his shirt off on the first day of work, then has it on again during the second day when the temps reach their peak. The story says "two days" from the get-go, and there are story breaks between the initial scene, day one of the coop work, and then day two when the work is completed and the eggs "hatch". So, no continuity/editing issue there.
    • terrytvgal
      maybe all he had were Hawaiian shirts?
  • Technical issue – I’ve had ducks, guineas and various breeds of chickens all requiring a male for fertilization (breeding). Without that element, eggs are only good for eating, not hatching. Never had a Phoenix, though, so don’t know if they are capable of self-fertilization. 🙂

    Fireproofing fire-resistant drywall to withstand 1000-degree plumes of dazzling plasma seems a stretch, even in fantasy. But if someone can breed a flock of phoenix, well…

    The thought of two phoenix actually breeding would indeed require some creative thought.

    The unfortunate name change too gave me a stumble.

    The concept is interesting, I think it needs more thought

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I consider the phoenix to be asexual, since they also have the ability (in more conventional lore) to rise from their own ashes. Hard to say where they come from in the first place, though! I actually liked that aspect of this, bringing such a cool mythical creature out from good old fashioned eggs.
      • S Conroy
        You got there before me!
        • Joseph Kaufman
          Just lucky. *smile*
    • S Conroy
      Usually phoenixes 'self-fertilise' in the sense that they die in flames and then the new one rises from the ashes. But here there was talk of incubation, so you're right. There must be eggs involved. I suppose the 10 mommas must have already been with chick when they arrived on the doorstep. And the sender didn't even leave a note...
      • MPmcgurty
        I didn't mind it at the time, but now...who did leave it on her doorstep?
        • S Conroy
          It wasn't me. That's all I know for sure.
  • Technical issue – I’ve had ducks, guineas and various breeds of chickens all requiring a male for fertilization (breeding). Without that element, eggs are only good for eating, not hatching. Never had a Phoenix, though, so don’t know if they are capable of self-fertilization. 🙂

    Fireproofing fire-resistant drywall to withstand 1000-degree plumes of dazzling plasma seems a stretch, even in fantasy. But if someone can breed a flock of phoenix, well…

    The thought of two phoenix actually breeding would indeed require some creative thought.

    The unfortunate name change too gave me a stumble.

    The concept is interesting, I think it needs more thought

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I consider the phoenix to be asexual, since they also have the ability (in more conventional lore) to rise from their own ashes. Hard to say where they come from in the first place, though! I actually liked that aspect of this, bringing such a cool mythical creature out from good old fashioned eggs.
      • S Conroy
        You got there before me!
        • Joseph Kaufman
          Just lucky. *smile*
    • S Conroy
      Usually phoenixes 'self-fertilise' in the sense that they die in flames and then the new one rises from the ashes. But here there was talk of incubation, so you're right. There must be eggs involved. I suppose the 10 mommas must have already been with chick when they arrived on the doorstep. And the sender didn't even leave a note...
      • MPmcgurty
        I didn't mind it at the time, but now...who did leave it on her doorstep?
        • S Conroy
          It wasn't me. That's all I know for sure.
  • Edward Beach

    This story is typical of EDF. It is basically a series of events. I want writing that tries to do something more. Is television to blame for this writing of things? Are we so dependent on visual representation that writing becomes the movement of people who are more caricatures than anything real? Do we need something fantastical before we can appreciate the beauty of the world? Give me a story about slippers! Where are the stories about slippers and dentures and people’s opinions of tablecloths at budget restaurants? Why do we need stories about phoenixes and space-bikers and death? Tell me about the real world.

    • Thank you.
    • I appreciate your comment. I think for many people the "real world" isn't enough.
      • Samantha
        or they prefer to escape/avoid it.....
    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      So you borrowed my horse without asking?
      • Edward Beach
        Its a nice fit! :)
    • Samantha
      NICELY SAID!!!!!!!
    • Samantha
      Oops...death is part of the real word....
      • Edward Beach
        Or is it? Unless you work as a mortician or a surgeon, honestly when was the last time you came across death as a present aspect of your life? But really, death is fine. Its the frequency we find it in stories thats the issue. Life is about life, no? :)
        • Samantha
          no, I don't work in a morgue or a hospital to see dead yet loved ones go. You are certainly a lucky one. Life is about life so as is death. Death of people, death of dreams death of ideas as is birth..... I'm not into Sci_Fi either but many are, so I not one to bag a piece because I either don't care for the genre or simply don't understand it. Others do.
          • Edward Beach
            Death and change are separate things. It is easy to conflate the two though. One's life is often changed by the death of someone close, but change can happen in a whole host of other ways. When I see so many stories that include death (6 out of the past 10 here have some reference) then I think the writers must be having a hard time coming up with creative and original means of representing change and development.
          • Samantha
            maybe not everyone copes the same way... For me its rather simple: Does a piece do something for me or not regardless if its on the same topic...otherwise nothing should really be written again since death and love or even life have been covered as topics over the centuries. That goes for songs and all... But that's just my opinion.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Too many "average" people deal with death sooner than they'd expect to. And you never sobbed over a cold stiff parakeet or the hamster that got dropped one too many times? I'm shocked, Edward, shocked that you don't expect the black-garbed one to show up more frequently...
          • Edward Beach
            I like a little variety, what can I say. I'm happy this story didn't go for death as a vehicle of character change/development.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      So you mean...like yesterday's story. I'm not sure what you mean by this being "typical" of EDF, and I am not sure if you are saying said "typicalness" is a positive or negative thing. I'd be interested to know, though. If a reader wants something different, he/she can always wait until tomorrow. Or, alternately, he/she can read one of the 2000+ free stories that have been posted over the last 5-6 years. There are plenty of stories about the "real world" in there.
      • Samantha
        I personally discovered EDF recently and love it. No one forces people to read stories they are not into either. This site gives people a chance to read and/or be read so why such ungratefulness????? And they really do provide a SERVICE and for free!
        • Joseph Kaufman
          I consider a rigorous discussion more a matter of opinion than "ungratefulness" (because we are allowed to post our responses, too), but I see where you are coming from... I hope you will keep coming back to EDF and that you enjoy the stories! And if you are an author, please send us some of your work!
          • Samantha
            To give an opinion on something one does not have any interest in....?? I really respect the fact that you EDF people are so open and I am grateful to what you do! It is a matter of being ungrateful when ones gives an opinion that has nothing to do with the actual story presented if I may say so. This does nothing for anyone especially for the writer and those that really did take the time and comment ON THE ACTUAL STORY. I have sent stuff through (3 stories) and love the fact that there are people here that can rip stories apart and make us better and apprecaite the good bits at the same time. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK TEAM and a huge thanks!!!! PS. You will "hate" me when EDITING time comes....so you are warned.
          • Edward Beach
            When I read a well written story the main thing that stands out for me is the smooth continuity of the prose, and how believable the world is. And how the writer achieves the sense of a coherent world is as much an expression of their identity as anything else. Some short fictions have a punch to them that indicates the writer’s irreverent attitude (Bukowski), some fictions have an ornate complexity about them indicating the writer’s methodical nature (Borges). In this story a dominant woman lording over a bunch of homeless migrant workers miraculously chooses Mr Right to help her breed a horde of fortuitously donated magical birds in the hope of recouping mega-bucks. What stands out to me here is someone writing with no compromise to reality. When a writer does this I have difficulty separating what they are doing from child’s play. We don’t dramatise children’s play stories because they are largely imaginative energy with no consideration for aesthetic quality. When I read a short fiction I expect aesthetic quality, some sign that consideration has been put into the effort. Am I ungrateful for saying this? Personally, if the story doesn’t agree with me I have no qualms saying so. If I find a story flat, as I do this story, then why not let the author know? What I am grateful for is this forum. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on what I like and don’t like and why that is. I think there is too much pussy-footing around the issue of bad writing on this site. Let’s have it out. Let’s freely say why something appals us. If that is not the point of the site, then why do have all these comment links? I am not trying to be aggressive here Sam, just honest. I hope I haven't offended you with my opinions in any way. If so, then I apologise.
          • samantha
            Im with you expressing your opinion on a piece...you only now did Ed! Look at you initial post...sweeping generalizations that were UNRELATED. Lots not quote Dirty Harry here....
      • Edward Beach
        [PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS COMMENT IS NOT ENDORSED BY EDF'S EDITORIAL TEAM AND DOES NOT REFLECT OUR OPINIONS — admin] Yesterday's story was a good one! Referencing rhinestone-encrusted jeans, the problem of debt, emotional naivety. Yesterday's story was also less than common. C'mon Joseph, you're a regular here, I think we can all agree that the general standard of writing published on EDF is stuck at Learner. I wonder about this sometimes, why we don't see quality writing more often. Is trying to publish a flash per day effectively a millstone round the site's neck? Is the purpose of EDF to provide a publishing platform for learner writers to feel encouraged in their choice of hobby. Publication is important, but also is a genuine engagement with a community of peers as part of a learning process. I wonder if EDF would be being more honest with itself and it's community generally if we took a more explicit role as a learner's peer support network. What do you think?
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Poking in here: Tip-toeing around the tar pit here, Edward. As a reader I'm often disappointed with stories I find here. But some of the ones I thought were abysmal got very respectable--or more than--ratings from other readers, who clearly didn't see those stories as kindergarten efforts. On the other hand, I've encountered really extraordinary stories on this site--stories I thought worthy of publication in any top-quality print anthology of horror, or sci-fi, or straight literary stories. And most of those got low or mediocre ratings, despite all or most of the comments on them being highly appreciative. So the argument can rightfully be made, I think, that EDF brings to its majority audience the stories they want to read. And I don't mean that with any kind of disparagement. I'm just grateful that sometimes I get to read what I want to see.
          • Edward Beach
            Hi Sarah, Yes, I imagine I do sound over-bearing rather than constructive. I do get frustrated by writer's living in their own fantasy worlds rather than trying to engage the reader. The fantasy is intended to entertain, I am sure, but it's a simple kind of entertainment that becomes bland through the sheer volume of it. After a while it doesn't matter if it's phoenixes or elves or people gunning for immortality, it's all the same distraction. What I appreciate is a story that tries to say something about the world as it is. I was encouraged by the start of this story with it's potential for social commentary on immigration and power imbalances. There seemed like a real story in there. This phoenix business feels like a let down in comparison. I have a question for you Sarah. What does the majority know? What can it appreciate? How does the majority identify quality writing? I personally think the majority is a fraud, prioritising sensation over understanding. This is a sensational story, by which I mean it tries to gain the reader's attention by flashing the supernatural around at the expense of good writing. I wish I could be more positive, but honestly, I just don't see the positives in this story. If someone could elucidate them for me that would be great.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            Well, I didn't care for it either. But some of the people whose opinions I value and whose own abilities are sterling did like it. And that's not an uncommon experience. A story will appeal to me about as much as fingernails on a blackboard, and another reader, of demonstrably fine discernment otherwise, in my opinion, will find something moving or original in it. So it's probably a good thing I'm neither an editor nor a slush reader. They'd have to go to a binannual schedule... Edward, the comments thread is our solace. Do you need more than that?
        • samantha
          You make creativity and writing sound like a piece of cake....maybe you have a knack for it...and yes honest criticism is great but on something specific. The think I like about this sight apart from some nice pieces of writing is YOU guys that honestly speak your mind.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Edward, I have to come back here one more time because I'm really troubled by your comment. I was pretty surprised to see you'd applied to be a slush reader at EDF, because the majority of your comments on the site sound like someone who's arrived to sweep away false gods, or something. As an extremely tough critic myself, I still believe people have the right to read what they want. You and I don't like most of what they like? Tough. Yes, it's a grief to me to see that all too many of my fellow Americans think James Patterson and Carol Higgins Clark are great writers. But nobody's forcing me to buy or read their books. I do manage to find enough reading material to keep my brain alive. Why do I keep submitting to EDF when my stories are getting increasingly ulcer-worthy ratings? Because EDF is--and hold the violins here--a bright light in the world of online publishing. No tiresome agenda; no "we're too cool for you to even look at us" mentality; editors who have treated every single submission of mine (and therefore I feel free in jumping to conclusions and say that encompasses EVERY SUBMISSION THEY GET) as though they're working with a potential Pulitzer Prize nominee, or something. Editorial feedback and the editorial forbearance to accept defending arguments that sometimes run longer than the submission is worth a hell of a damned lot more than these guys get paid. I mean, who do they think they are? Working for HarperCollins or Random House? Pulling down big salaries? Didn't anyone tell them they're working too hard for free, or something? Yes--it would be fair to say that when I give a blistering critique of a story, that does rather imply that I'm questioning the judgment of the editors who declared it ready for publication. And waddya know? Readers often just love those stories to pieces. Put 'em on top ten lists all the time. We as commenters are not here to educate the great unwashed, regardless of whether or not scorn flames in our hearts. We're here to give honest feedback, without any personal agenda--and to be down on our knees in gratitude that a site like this keeps going.
    • How about a gang of space-bikers clad in steel-toed, cast-iron slippers who are caught in a thousand-year battle with a flock of trans-dimensional phoenixes? Perhaps the disagreement broke out over which budget restaurant in the 5th dimension has the most eye-catching tablecloth pattern... Or even a set of lost dentures. :)
      • Samantha
        WOW...I know a writer when I see one! dadahhhhhhhhhhhh Micro fiction is born! get it copyrighted!!! :) Im serious!
        • Or maybe even Quantum Chronicles... Published by Planck Publications. :) Thanks for the compliment!
          • Samantha
            thanks for the good laugh.!!! But you are good and this coming from one that is not into sci fi...maybe you just converted me! Just place a toilet roll in there so its an every day thing that most (hopefully) can relate to!!!! Cheers!!
          • Joseph Kaufman
            Ooooh, physics humor! I love it!
          • SAMANTHA
            He can even extent it beyond Max boy....metaphysics....? lol
  • Edward Beach

    This story is typical of EDF. It is basically a series of events. I want writing that tries to do something more. Is television to blame for this writing of things? Are we so dependent on visual representation that writing becomes the movement of people who are more caricatures than anything real? Do we need something fantastical before we can appreciate the beauty of the world? Give me a story about slippers! Where are the stories about slippers and dentures and people’s opinions of tablecloths at budget restaurants? Why do we need stories about phoenixes and space-bikers and death? Tell me about the real world.

    • Thank you.
    • I appreciate your comment. I think for many people the "real world" isn't enough.
      • Samantha
        or they prefer to escape/avoid it.....
    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      So you borrowed my horse without asking?
      • Edward Beach
        Its a nice fit! :)
    • Samantha
      NICELY SAID!!!!!!!
    • Samantha
      Oops...death is part of the real word....
      • Edward Beach
        Or is it? Unless you work as a mortician or a surgeon, honestly when was the last time you came across death as a present aspect of your life? But really, death is fine. Its the frequency we find it in stories thats the issue. Life is about life, no? :)
        • Samantha
          no, I don't work in a morgue or a hospital to see dead yet loved ones go. You are certainly a lucky one. Life is about life so as is death. Death of people, death of dreams death of ideas as is birth..... I'm not into Sci_Fi either but many are, so I not one to bag a piece because I either don't care for the genre or simply don't understand it. Others do.
          • Edward Beach
            Death and change are separate things. It is easy to conflate the two though. One's life is often changed by the death of someone close, but change can happen in a whole host of other ways. When I see so many stories that include death (6 out of the past 10 here have some reference) then I think the writers must be having a hard time coming up with creative and original means of representing change and development.
          • Samantha
            maybe not everyone copes the same way... For me its rather simple: Does a piece do something for me or not regardless if its on the same topic...otherwise nothing should really be written again since death and love or even life have been covered as topics over the centuries. That goes for songs and all... But that's just my opinion.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Too many "average" people deal with death sooner than they'd expect to. And you never sobbed over a cold stiff parakeet or the hamster that got dropped one too many times? I'm shocked, Edward, shocked that you don't expect the black-garbed one to show up more frequently...
          • Edward Beach
            I like a little variety, what can I say. I'm happy this story didn't go for death as a vehicle of character change/development.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      So you mean...like yesterday's story. I'm not sure what you mean by this being "typical" of EDF, and I am not sure if you are saying said "typicalness" is a positive or negative thing. I'd be interested to know, though. If a reader wants something different, he/she can always wait until tomorrow. Or, alternately, he/she can read one of the 2000+ free stories that have been posted over the last 5-6 years. There are plenty of stories about the "real world" in there.
      • Samantha
        I personally discovered EDF recently and love it. No one forces people to read stories they are not into either. This site gives people a chance to read and/or be read so why such ungratefulness????? And they really do provide a SERVICE and for free!
        • Joseph Kaufman
          I consider a rigorous discussion more a matter of opinion than "ungratefulness" (because we are allowed to post our responses, too), but I see where you are coming from... I hope you will keep coming back to EDF and that you enjoy the stories! And if you are an author, please send us some of your work!
          • Samantha
            To give an opinion on something one does not have any interest in....?? I really respect the fact that you EDF people are so open and I am grateful to what you do! It is a matter of being ungrateful when ones gives an opinion that has nothing to do with the actual story presented if I may say so. This does nothing for anyone especially for the writer and those that really did take the time and comment ON THE ACTUAL STORY. I have sent stuff through (3 stories) and love the fact that there are people here that can rip stories apart and make us better and apprecaite the good bits at the same time. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK TEAM and a huge thanks!!!! PS. You will "hate" me when EDITING time comes....so you are warned.
          • Edward Beach
            When I read a well written story the main thing that stands out for me is the smooth continuity of the prose, and how believable the world is. And how the writer achieves the sense of a coherent world is as much an expression of their identity as anything else. Some short fictions have a punch to them that indicates the writer’s irreverent attitude (Bukowski), some fictions have an ornate complexity about them indicating the writer’s methodical nature (Borges). In this story a dominant woman lording over a bunch of homeless migrant workers miraculously chooses Mr Right to help her breed a horde of fortuitously donated magical birds in the hope of recouping mega-bucks. What stands out to me here is someone writing with no compromise to reality. When a writer does this I have difficulty separating what they are doing from child’s play. We don’t dramatise children’s play stories because they are largely imaginative energy with no consideration for aesthetic quality. When I read a short fiction I expect aesthetic quality, some sign that consideration has been put into the effort. Am I ungrateful for saying this? Personally, if the story doesn’t agree with me I have no qualms saying so. If I find a story flat, as I do this story, then why not let the author know? What I am grateful for is this forum. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on what I like and don’t like and why that is. I think there is too much pussy-footing around the issue of bad writing on this site. Let’s have it out. Let’s freely say why something appals us. If that is not the point of the site, then why do have all these comment links? I am not trying to be aggressive here Sam, just honest. I hope I haven't offended you with my opinions in any way. If so, then I apologise.
          • samantha
            Im with you expressing your opinion on a piece...you only now did Ed! Look at you initial post...sweeping generalizations that were UNRELATED. Lots not quote Dirty Harry here....
      • Edward Beach
        [PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS COMMENT IS NOT ENDORSED BY EDF'S EDITORIAL TEAM AND DOES NOT REFLECT OUR OPINIONS — admin] Yesterday's story was a good one! Referencing rhinestone-encrusted jeans, the problem of debt, emotional naivety. Yesterday's story was also less than common. C'mon Joseph, you're a regular here, I think we can all agree that the general standard of writing published on EDF is stuck at Learner. I wonder about this sometimes, why we don't see quality writing more often. Is trying to publish a flash per day effectively a millstone round the site's neck? Is the purpose of EDF to provide a publishing platform for learner writers to feel encouraged in their choice of hobby. Publication is important, but also is a genuine engagement with a community of peers as part of a learning process. I wonder if EDF would be being more honest with itself and it's community generally if we took a more explicit role as a learner's peer support network. What do you think?
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Poking in here: Tip-toeing around the tar pit here, Edward. As a reader I'm often disappointed with stories I find here. But some of the ones I thought were abysmal got very respectable--or more than--ratings from other readers, who clearly didn't see those stories as kindergarten efforts. On the other hand, I've encountered really extraordinary stories on this site--stories I thought worthy of publication in any top-quality print anthology of horror, or sci-fi, or straight literary stories. And most of those got low or mediocre ratings, despite all or most of the comments on them being highly appreciative. So the argument can rightfully be made, I think, that EDF brings to its majority audience the stories they want to read. And I don't mean that with any kind of disparagement. I'm hard to please; I don't have mainstream tastes; I really dislike most of what's offered as "literary fiction" because most of that strikes me as what used to be called, unflatteringly, "women's fiction"--1000 words of aching yearning, beautifully expressed but going nowhere. I'm just grateful that sometimes I get to read what I want to see.
          • Edward Beach
            Hi Sarah, Yes, I imagine I do sound over-bearing rather than constructive. I do get frustrated by writer's living in their own fantasy worlds rather than trying to engage the reader. The fantasy is intended to entertain, I am sure, but it's a simple kind of entertainment that becomes bland through the sheer volume of it. After a while it doesn't matter if it's phoenixes or elves or people gunning for immortality, it's all the same distraction. What I appreciate is a story that tries to say something about the world as it is. I was encouraged by the start of this story with it's potential for social commentary on immigration and power imbalances. There seemed like a real story in there. This phoenix business feels like a let down in comparison. I have a question for you Sarah. What does the majority know? What can it appreciate? How does the majority identify quality writing? I personally think the majority is a fraud, prioritising sensation over understanding. This is a sensational story, by which I mean it tries to gain the reader's attention by flashing the supernatural around at the expense of good writing. I wish I could be more positive, but honestly, I just don't see the positives in this story. If someone could elucidate them for me that would be great.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            Well, I didn't care for it either. But some of the people whose opinions I value and whose own abilities are sterling did like it. And that's not an uncommon experience. A story will appeal to me about as much as fingernails on a blackboard, and another reader, of demonstrably fine discernment otherwise, in my opinion, will find something moving or original in it. So it's probably a good thing I'm neither an editor nor a slush reader. They'd have to go to a binannual schedule... As for this story--nothing wrong, I think, in tossing some phoenixes into the social commentary here. Saves it from a dreary earnestness or self-righteous preaching. The problem, for me, was in failing to make those phoenixes more than just a gimmick. Why must there be a clear line between the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary?" The world is a marvelous place of seen and unseen, and to reject possiblities is a little--narrow-minded? Or should none of us go into Marquez territory? As far as pussy-footing as you mention above to Samantha--you don't always like honesty much either. Per your response to me a few stories hither. And I was only bringing up a minor observed discordance as I saw it. If I'd hated the whole thing, would you have asked me to dismount from my elephant? But finally, Edward, the comments thread is our solace. Do you need more than that?
        • samantha
          You make creativity and writing sound like a piece of cake....maybe you have a knack for it...and yes honest criticism is great but on something specific. The think I like about this sight apart from some nice pieces of writing is YOU guys that honestly speak your mind.
        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
          Edward, I have to come back here one more time because I'm really troubled by your comment. I was pretty surprised to see you'd applied to be a slush reader at EDF, because the majority of your comments on the site sound like someone who's arrived to sweep away false gods, or something. As an extremely tough critic myself, I still believe people have the right to read what they want. You and I don't like most of what they like? Tough. Yes, it's a grief to me to see that all too many of my fellow Americans think James Patterson and Carol Higgins Clark are great writers. But nobody's forcing me to buy or read their books. I do manage to find enough reading material to keep my brain alive. Why do I keep submitting to EDF when my stories are getting increasingly ulcer-worthy ratings? Because EDF is--and hold the violins here--a bright light in the world of online publishing. No tiresome agenda; no "we're too cool for you to even look at us" mentality; editors who have treated every single submission of mine (and therefore I feel free in jumping to conclusions and say that encompasses EVERY SUBMISSION THEY GET) as though they're working with a potential Pulitzer Prize nominee, or something. Editorial feedback and the editorial forbearance to accept defending arguments that sometimes run longer than the submission is worth a hell of a damned lot more than these guys get paid. I mean, who do they think they are? Working for HarperCollins or Random House? Pulling down big salaries? Didn't anyone tell them they're working too hard for free, or something? Yes--it would be fair to say that when I give a blistering critique of a story, that does rather imply that I'm questioning the judgment of the editors who declared it ready for publication. And waddya know? Readers often just love those stories to pieces. Put 'em on top ten lists all the time. We as commenters are not here to educate the great unwashed, regardless of whether or not scorn flames in our hearts. We're here to give honest feedback, without any personal agenda--and to be down on our knees in gratitude that a site like this keeps going.
    • How about a gang of space-bikers clad in steel-toed, cast-iron slippers who are caught in a thousand-year battle with a flock of trans-dimensional phoenixes? Perhaps the disagreement broke out over which budget restaurant in the 5th dimension has the most eye-catching tablecloth pattern... Or even a set of lost dentures. :)
      • Samantha
        WOW...I know a writer when I see one! dadahhhhhhhhhhhh Micro fiction is born! get it copyrighted!!! :) Im serious!
        • Or maybe even Quantum Chronicles... Published by Planck Publications. :) Thanks for the compliment!
          • Samantha
            thanks for the good laugh.!!! But you are good and this coming from one that is not into sci fi...maybe you just converted me! Just place a toilet roll in there so its an every day thing that most (hopefully) can relate to!!!! Cheers!!
          • Joseph Kaufman
            Ooooh, physics humor! I love it!
          • SAMANTHA
            He can even extent it beyond Max boy....metaphysics....? lol
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Author to self: “What if those hens were phoenixes!?” But where does my MC get them from? Don’t worry about that. She’ll just find them on her doorstep…

    The mundane and the fabulous can make an extraordinary mixture. But when you just ignore the inconvenient parts–like why anyone would just send 10 count ’em 10 PHOENIXES to someone…

    One is good. Two’s a pair. Ten is ridiculously unbelievable and made the story crash, for me.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I didn't care much whether there were 2, 10, or 20 phoenix. If there had been too few, then she wouldn't have needed help. Getting the explicit narrative as to where the critters came from seems unnecessary to me, especially since the piece makes clear how dangerous these creatures are as the heat wave approaches. It's a literal game of "hot potato", so perhaps someone just wanted to get rid of the creatures before they 'sploded. (Of course, of there is a phoenix industry like this, you'd think someone would have just sold them for their feathers...)
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        I think it's a bit of lazy storytelling to treat fabulous creatures like they're just a super-fancy breed. It would be reasonable to think that Gilda could use a hand with even one super-combustible bird. The story is explicit about the value of these birds and everything that comes out of them or falls off them. The author could have cut out some of the scene-setting in the first couple of paragraphs to perhaps give us a hint as to why Gilda might deserve such bounty--or why someone might have meant this as the gift you never want to receive... I do a lot of complaining about failures of a story's interior world. But to me that is crucial. Otherwise, this is just making a cake with Bisquick. Throw in a little real vanilla and make 'em think you've slaved all day in the kitchen...
        • Joseph Kaufman
          I agree with needing a cohesive, consistent internal world. But, for example, I really liked the opening scene and wouldn't change a thing. If that Peter had been robbed to save your Paul, the story would have worked less well for me. That being said, it wouldn't take that many words to make the dropped-off phoenix more plausible, and one can always pare a few words here and there. It does raise the question, though: how much of an explanation would be needed to be satisfy? If Gilda had simply said, "Dead relative -- they willed me the things," would that suddenly exalt the writing from "lazy" to "effective", in your eyes? It's hard to know what one reader will find helpful while another reader finds it extraneous. In conversations just between you and I, I have asked if you would have had an issue with re-wording a passage (using a few extra words to satisfy my clarity level). Your answer (paraphrased to summarize my perceived intent) was "yes, that would have made the story worse for me". So, there are times you don't want more, and don't consider it "lazy" to leave things out. That's why I present the question of "how much is enough and how much is too much?" That's the essence of writing, in my opinion, or at least of revision/editing.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I always prefer a tiny pinch to a claw hammer. This story, I thought, was a bit of "let's throw some cranberries in with the smoky paprika and see what we get..."--a social commentary on the grinding lives of exploited day laborers; unexpected camaraderie and what might grow from it; and to separate it from the usual run--combustible laying hens! That's an interesting combination. Great possibilities. A couple of problems: 1) Gilda wasn't entirely believable. She snorts, she smirks. She's a bit contemptuous of all those laborers. A couple of days of skilled help and she's ready to offer him a business partnership? Beginning of a beautiful friendship? 2) I do want to know why she received such a double-edged sword of a gift. Did someone want her to catch something more spectacular than salmonella? Or does she deserve a chance at a potential windfall? What's the catch? There was a fine story here, a couple of years ago, presenting woman-needs-help; guy needs a place to call home--simple, mundane, no fireworks; worked beautifully. Without giving us a peek into the magic and mystery behind the gift of phoenixes, this is just a gimmick. It's not anchored to anything. A full backstory doesn't have to be written, but I think it does need to be suggested; crack the door open and make us hungry to figure out what's beyond it--make us believe you believe in your characters and what they were doing before we followed them into the yard.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Author to self: “What if those hens were phoenixes!?” But where does my MC get them from? Don’t worry about that. She’ll just find them on her doorstep…

    The mundane and the fabulous can make an extraordinary mixture. But when you just ignore the inconvenient parts–like why anyone would just send 10 count ’em 10 PHOENIXES to someone…

    One is good. Two’s a pair. Ten is ridiculously unbelievable and made the story crash, for me.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I didn't care much whether there were 2, 10, or 20 phoenix. If there had been too few, then she wouldn't have needed help. Getting the explicit narrative as to where the critters came from seems unnecessary to me, especially since the piece makes clear how dangerous these creatures are as the heat wave approaches. It's a literal game of "hot potato", so perhaps someone just wanted to get rid of the creatures before they 'sploded. (Of course, of there is a phoenix industry like this, you'd think someone would have just sold them for their feathers...)
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        I think it's a bit of lazy storytelling to treat fabulous creatures like they're just a super-fancy breed. It would be reasonable to think that Gilda could use a hand with even one super-combustible bird. The story is explicit about the value of these birds and everything that comes out of them or falls off them. The author could have cut out some of the scene-setting in the first couple of paragraphs to perhaps give us a hint as to why Gilda might deserve such bounty--or why someone might have meant this as the gift you never want to receive... I do a lot of complaining about failures of a story's interior world. But to me that is crucial. Otherwise, this is just making a cake with Bisquick. Throw in a little real vanilla and make 'em think you've slaved all day in the kitchen...
        • Joseph Kaufman
          I agree with needing a cohesive, consistent internal world. But, for example, I really liked the opening scene and wouldn't change a thing. If that Peter had been robbed to save your Paul, the story would have worked less well for me. That being said, it wouldn't take that many words to make the dropped-off phoenix more plausible, and one can always pare a few words here and there. It does raise the question, though: how much of an explanation would be needed to be satisfy? If Gilda had simply said, "Dead relative -- they willed me the things," would that suddenly exalt the writing from "lazy" to "effective", in your eyes? It's hard to know what one reader will find helpful while another reader finds it extraneous. In conversations just between you and I, I have asked if you would have had an issue with re-wording a passage (using a few extra words to satisfy my clarity level). Your answer (paraphrased to summarize my perceived intent) was "yes, that would have made the story worse for me". So, there are times you don't want more, and don't consider it "lazy" to leave things out. That's why I present the question of "how much is enough and how much is too much?" That's the essence of writing, in my opinion, or at least of revision/editing.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I always prefer a tiny pinch to a claw hammer. This story, I thought, was a bit of "let's throw some smoky paprika in with the cranberries and see what we get..."--a social commentary on the grinding lives of exploited day laborers; unexpected camaraderie and what might grow from it; and to separate it from the usual run--combustible laying hens! That's an interesting combination. Great possibilities. A couple of problems: 1) Gilda wasn't entirely believable. She snorts, she smirks. She's a bit contemptuous of all those laborers. A couple of days of skilled help and she's ready to offer him a business partnership? Beginning of a beautiful friendship? 2) I do want to know why she received such a double-edged sword of a gift. Did someone want her to catch something more spectacular than salmonella? Or does she deserve a chance at a potential windfall? What's the catch? There was a fine story here, a couple of years ago, presenting woman-needs-help; guy needs a place to call home--simple, mundane, no fireworks; worked beautifully. Without giving us a peek into the magic and mystery behind the gift of phoenixes, this is just a gimmick. It's not anchored to anything. A full backstory doesn't have to be written, but I think it does need to be suggested; crack the door open and make us hungry to figure out what's beyond it--make us believe you believe in your characters and what they were doing before we followed them into the yard. As far as the "dead relative willed 'em"--that's not so unreasonable. Maybe poultry-raising is a long-time family occupation. Some o' them birds is just trickier...it would give a certain grounding. Anything that shows the author has thought about the provenance is useful. Otherwise, again--just a gimmick.
  • I enjoyed reading this story. Like Paul I was thinking dragons too 🙂

  • I enjoyed reading this story. Like Paul I was thinking dragons too 🙂

  • A good story set in an interesting world. Really fun to read. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

  • A good story set in an interesting world. Really fun to read. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

  • joanna b.

    well-crafted story. the dialogue is snappy. the “tiny, fiery-haired woman” is a gem of description that gives us a picture in few words.

    i did have a hard time with the concept that phoenixes can be a dime a dozen and be food for humans. in mythology, they are such powerful creatures. their rising from the ashes is such an inspiration to anyone who has “burnt all their bridges.”

    nonetheless, a creative idea finely rendered. 4 stars.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Actually I found the description of Gilda to be a bit of a red herring, combined with her name. Led me to think there's more to her receiving those phoenixes than she let on, but the story didn't give us that. Unless this is part of a larger work, in which case I'd call it cheating the readers of this story out of the full picture.
  • joanna b.

    well-crafted story. the dialogue is snappy. the “tiny, fiery-haired woman” is a gem of description that gives us a picture in few words.

    i did have a hard time with the concept that phoenixes can be a dime a dozen and be food for humans. in mythology, they are such powerful creatures. their rising from the ashes is such an inspiration to anyone who has “burnt all their bridges.”

    nonetheless, a creative idea finely rendered. 4 stars.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Actually I found the description of Gilda to be a bit of a red herring, combined with her name. Led me to think there's more to her receiving those phoenixes than she let on, but the story didn't give us that. Unless this is part of a larger work, in which case I'd call it cheating the readers of this story out of the full picture.
  • Javier’s hard way may be just the thing for (whatever her name is). What more can you expect from a questionable immigrant. Pearls before swine?
    Good show.

  • Javier’s hard way may be just the thing for (whatever her name is). What more can you expect from a questionable immigrant. Pearls before swine?
    Good show.

  • Diane Cresswell

    This had me glued right to the end. I was attempting to figure out why fireboxes for laying hens… and knew that didn’t fit. Had to be dragons or phoenixes… oh yah!!! Great flow and direction to the story. Could take this one and develop it into a great short story building on the romance and what happens when you have 15 laying phoenixes. LIke this one a lot.

  • Diane Cresswell

    This had me glued right to the end. I was attempting to figure out why fireboxes for laying hens… and knew that didn’t fit. Had to be dragons or phoenixes… oh yah!!! Great flow and direction to the story. Could take this one and develop it into a great short story building on the romance and what happens when you have 15 laying phoenixes. LIke this one a lot.

  • MPmcgurty

    That was clever. Took me a while to catch on to the phoenix angle, but not too long. Very nice.

  • MPmcgurty

    That was clever. Took me a while to catch on to the phoenix angle, but not too long. Very nice.

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