First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 SIX Contest
Joe and I get out of the psych ward the same day. We make a snowman in the mental hospital courtyard to cheer up the other crazies. We debate our snowman’s diagnosis. He could lie facedown on the grass (depression), hide in the bushes (social anxiety), or perch in a tree (mania). Ultimately, we put him near the cafeteria entrance, so everyone can see him.
I roll the big snowball for the base, Joe makes the medium snowball for the torso, and I make the little head. There aren’t any good rocks or sticks around, so Joe uses litter for the snowman’s features. Styrofoam cup hat, pizza crust nose, eyes and mouth formed from cigarette butts. Joe makes half the mouth curving upward, half curving down. “Bipolar,” he concludes.
Patients watch us from indoors. Their eyes are pills, their mouths razor blades, their faces ticking clocks. Doctors on heels click by, each footstep a second passing. We have too much time to use or spend. We have too much time to waste, kill, or burn. We roll our time into a ball and wait for it to melt.
Inside, we buy coffee filled with grounds. Back outside, we find our snowman’s head smashed across the pavement, a footprint in his chest, ketchup spilled across his throat. His cigarette eyes still gaze upward, smiling spiritually at the unblinking sun.
“Poor dumbass.” I wipe out our snowman’s eyes, then wipe mine.
Inside, the patients watch. One razor mouth curves upward.
Caroline Hall was raised by English majors during the Nintendo generation. Now a teacher-on-hiatus, she has attended ten schools and worked at seven. She is a compulsive hiker and a New Englander who says “wicked awesome” and used the same window fan until it caught fire. She writes short stories and flash fiction.
The String-of-10 Contest challenges writers to choose at least four out of ten prompt words and use them in a story of 250 or fewer words, and an aphorism is provided for inspiration but does not need to be used in the story. The prompt words for String-of-10 SIX were: LITTER — ENTRANCE — SAFE — SPIRITUAL — SPOTLIGHT — BOOKMARK — CATASTROPHE — RAZOR — FAULTY — ULTIMATE. The aphorism was: “I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.” — Anatole France