Sunday, January 2, 2011

Write a Story about Liza Lott and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Liza Lott and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday January 16, 2011





 
Liza Lott 
14"x11" oil and mixed media 
on masonite panel



 
Liza Lott

The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at kmencher@ohlone.edu with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at kmencher@ohlone.edu

Go to my website for more contests: http://www.kenney-mencher.com/

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).

The show is called:
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes.

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)


_____________________________________________________________________________

This was sent by e-mail:


A Day in the Liefe of Liza Lott by Jen Reich

“How COULD you?” she screamed while dashing down the wet alleyway. “I knew it was a cover-up all along. Your ridiculous portrait of pink innocence couldn’t fool me forever.”

She threw the papers she had grabbed before exiting the jazz club into a rain puddle. She stomped on them once, twice, and then stopped as what was written on one of them caught her eye.

My studies in anthropology have led me to the undeniable conclusion that no human government will ever succeed. This is where machine cognition and biologically inspired robotics must take over. 

“Sick!” and the stomping resumed, only this time more fiercely, until her sweat became indistinguishable from the splashing rainwater and she became so out of breath she had to stop.

Silence. She looked at her watch, began collecting the soggy shards of paper, and as if someone was there to hear stated, “I must save them” thirty times during the single minute it took her to gather all of the evidence she had at first sought to destroy. 

In her daze she was truly startled by the gentleman’s voice, “They are all waiting for you in there.”

Here was another one, surely out to get her. He could read her mind…no wait, could he? Was he reading it at this very moment? Surely if he was he would shriek and run away. So no, perhaps with him she was safe…temporarily.

“Is it my turn to go on already?” she asked.

“Yes but don’t worry I asked them to stall a bit - I saw you run out of there and you seemed upset. Is everything alright?”

No, everything was most definitely not alright.

“Yes,” she said and followed the gentleman inside.

A booming voice made the announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, here she is performing Fever, put your hands together for Miss Liza Lott!”

Liza sizzled and became someone else the second she walked on stage. The only evidence of the alleyway episode that had just taken place were the watermarks on her clothes, but the place was dark, she thought to herself, they will never figure out who I am….I have them all fooled once again.

She channeled the rush of her successful deception into her singing, and the audience was mesmerized. She did have them fooled.

When it was over, the safe gentleman came up to her, and the way he looked at her – studied her – it was as if he was trying to read her mind.

Oh no, she thought, he is going to figure out my plan. He is not safe at all, no. Most definitely not safe.

“You were brilliant,” he remarked.

“But I didn’t tell you what the papers said, I only said I needed to save them.”

“I meant your performance just now.”

She gasped, “Do you mean to tell me that I was on stage?”

“Are you feeling alright?”

“No, I’m not. I need to get out of here.”

Down the alleyway and through the rain puddles she went, all the while thoughts drifting through her head….My cover is blown….He – no They are all on to me….My memory short circuited again….Who am I?....How did I come to be here?.....The end must be near….

Suddenly, the thoughts stopped. She stopped. She took out the pages from her handbag and began studying them. Her eyes rested on a diagram of a robotic exoskeleton with a phrase underneath it that read:

Don’t bother looking for work here. We are not looking to hire humans. We are developing humanoid robots for operations in urban environments.


“That’s it!” she exclaimed, as if someone was there to hear, “I have to stop them!”

After deciding once again that the gentleman was most definitely safe, she ran back to find him.

Darting back through alleyway, the thoughts started coming back…I know who I am and where I come from….Oh if only he will believe me….Won’t anyone believe me?.....I remember now…It’s all coming back to me…I must save them.

Her eyes settled on the safe gentleman inside, she entered, walked over to him and said, “Will you come with me please? I need to talk to you.”

Begrudgingly, he agreed and followed Liza outside.

“These are the papers you found me gathering in the alley.”

“Why does this matter?”

“My brain short-circuited earlier – my memory of being on stage was completely wiped out. The last time that happened, I awakened in the middle of writing all of this.”

The safe gentleman stopped reading after the first mention of Robotic Rulership and said, “Look Lady, Liza. Liza Lott, if that even is your real name, I thought you were a great singer so I decided to give you a chance here, but I don’t have any time for crazies.”

“Listen, you’ve got to believe me. These people, the people who brought me here, are planning something drastic, and they will stop at nothing to make it all happen, just as these documents explain.”

“See ya’ later, Lady.”

“No! Wait, stop! Please listen to me. What I have to say could save your life!”

At that, Liza woke up. Simultaneously relieved it was all a dream and stunned to find herself lying in a hospital bed, she glanced around the room. This was no hospital. It was a laboratory, and there was a big viewing window with two silhouettes behind it.

The next realization Liza had was that her arms and legs were strapped down and that she couldn’t move. “Let me go! Who has done this to me?!?” Her screams were left unanswered.

On the other side of the window, a man stated, “We knew it was a cover-up all along. She was always wearing pink, attempting to paint herself the portrait of sweet innocence, but she couldn’t go on fooling us forever.”

Then, the safe gentleman who was listening dropped down to the floor in shock. Liza Lott was a machine.

______________________________________________________________

Sent by email!


Catholic Girl by Gigi DeVault


I was seven years old when I was baptized as a Catholic in Vienna.  Father decided it was best.  My parents sent me to communion on Sunday and to confession on Saturday.  But they didn’t go to Mass and they didn’t honor the Shabbat.  They didn’t speak about anything important in front of me, especially not religion.  But I heard their whispered talk.
 
Father’s business took him from Berlin to Prague and to Vienna.  His traveling attracted attention and he was told to transport certain machines.  That would have been breaking the law, so my father refused.  One night, we left for Brussels.   When Belgium was invaded, we went to northern France.  But they put us in a camp.  Gurs is a horrible place.

After six weeks, grandmother, mother, and I were released and traveled to Auch in the unoccupied zone of southern France.   Father stayed in Brussels as he had work in Antwerp.  He was arrested twice. After the problem with father, grandmother was so afraid and begged us to come with her when she left. Grandmother sent a postcard to tell us that she was still in Portugal, waiting.

When I was thirteen, mother enrolled me in summer camp at Château de Montéléone that was run by Catholic charities.  Father came to see me.  From the porch, I saw him turn off the main road and jolt up the rough driveway.  He rode straight up to me and dropped the bicycle on the rocky ground.  He was very thin.  They let him go, father told me, because he had been ill. 

After kissing me on each cheek, father took a knotted handkerchief out of his pocket.  He pressed my fingers around the bundle.  He said not to look at what was inside, but just to keep it hidden.   For the longest time, father looked at me without speaking.  Then he hugged me so tightly it hurt. 

Father looked back once as he rode away.  But I could barely see him as my eyes were wet and a little cloud of dust rose up behind the wheels of the bike.  He wouldn’t tell me where he was going.

 Soon after, the summer camp directress called me to her office.  One of our old servants sent me shoe ration coupons, fifteen francs, and a letter from my parents.   She had learned from the Swiss Aide Organization that they had come for my parents.  For awhile, mother and father wrote letters to me from Drancy.   Because I can’t post mail to them, I just write my letters to my parents every day in a diary.  I’ll show them the diary when we are together again.  Today, I wished my father a happy birthday and kissed his photo.

Mr. W. is selling our things from the apartment and brought me a packet of francs.  I trust him.  But he said that Mr. L. took the bicycle.  What a rat!  Mr. W. is looking after the animals and will try to find them homes.   He says the gendarmes search for me.  Mrs. C. says that I am to stay in bed and pretend to be gravely ill.  If they come for me, she will show them a medical certificate.  Even gendarmes do not like to catch disease.

I was to sail out of Marseilles, but the Allies landed in Africa and now southern France is occupied, too.   The port of Marseilles is closed.  The voyage is now out of the question.  I was sent to Les Caillols with a bunch of Jewish children who were also to leave.  

The gendarmes came searching for Jews.  I had to stay in bed for weeks, pretending to be sick.  Mrs. B. wrote to see if there is room for me at Les Grillions. The boarding school is in the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon on a high plain in Haute-Loire.  A thousand meters in elevation.  The winters are cold. 

Le Chambon is an odd place.  The villagers resist the Vichy and the Nazis by hiding anyone who needs refuge.  Each side knows what the other does.  There is usually no trouble.  But sometimes we children have to go into the forest to hunt mushrooms—even when it is not the mushroom season or when there is snow on the ground.   We have to be very quiet.  It is very boring and often very cold.

My French is good, and I guess I have all the language drills to thank for that.  I have new papers with a new name.  Liza Lott.  I am told my new surname comes from the Hebrew name Lot, which meant a “cover” in medieval times—and I guess a cover is what I most need now.  When the knights returned from the crusades, they brought the name to Northern France.   So, it is a Catholic name for a Catholic girl.

Sunday there were major roundups and a Maquis prison raid.

I wish I knew what was happening to my parents and where they are.  Sometimes I wish I could be with them; others times not.  Everyone here is very kind.  Except some of the kids who are “religious” Jews.  Like father said, they can be trouble for the rest of us.  They say I don’t act Jewish.  They hate me because I can pass as a French Catholic girl.   

None of the aid organizations know where my parents have gone.   I think about unknotting father’s handkerchief.   I can feel the weight of it in my hand even when I am not holding it.
 
The Ministry of the Interior and the préfecture approved my departure on a ship leaving in November.   All the plans were made.  I was excited and sad at the same time.  I had hoped my whole family would go on the ship to America.  At the last minute, the emigration forms were returned with a letter saying that I might not be able to leave because I am Catholic.

There are Krauts and armored vehicles everywhere now.


________________________________________________
Another story in by e-mail:


A PAINTING WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS.
By William Knight

          As a writer I had stolen the image of many a stranger to overlay upon a diverse populous of fictional characters. My mind like a camera was use to taking quick snapshots and logging details of persons of interest for walk on rolls in a verity of make believe worlds that were constantly whirling about my brain. These nameless faces of people I knew nothing about served only an inspirational purpose to flesh out the details of my protagonist’s local haunts. A thousand times over I had done this without pause or reflection. Just, snap—there’s my waitress. Snap—there’s my video clerk.
          One day, when I was not so entertained, I was perusing through writing gigs on Craigslist. I was indulging my long term fantasy again that one day I might actually get paid for writing. Typical of everything I do I poked at various things to see if anything jumped out. As I scrolled through various Blog offers looking for writers on the cheap, I finally came to one that caught my eye.
          A gentleman by the name of Kenney Mencher was throwing a contest for writers to compete to capture the essence of his weekly painting in a thousand words or less. The prize: The original sketch of the painting.
          So you might ask, why bother? There’s no money right? Well, Kenney is just following in the footsteps of his Artist forefathers. Throughout the ages artists have been trading their skill for services for as long as it’s been around, but this is not what caught my interest.
          Kenney provides a painting for you to write about, but only gives you the name of the person it centers upon. The only clues you have to the actual model is what he has painted. Without detail they could be anyone in a writers mind. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but writing them out in any semblance of order is a whole other matter.
          So where do I start: The young models name is supposedly Liza Lott. Do I know this for sure? Of course not. For all I know Kenney made up the name, but for now were going to assume he didn’t. So any clue in the name Liza? Pronounced LYE-za, it’s an English name shortened from the Hebrew name, Elizabeth, meaning, God’s promise.  Not much help there.
So what about, Lott? Naturally you think Hebrew bible. Lot: Uncle was Abraham, wife turned to salt, seduced his own daughters. But past that, the name becomes kind of obscure until the twelfth century when it becomes popular amongst crusading Knights returning from the Holy land. So think of it as a medieval form of Smith. --- And who art thou? --- Uhh, Lot, John Lot.
Ok, not a lot of help from Lott.
Time to put the ol’ critics eye on Kenney’s painting.  I’m guessing Liza’s between fourteen and twenty in the painting. That certainly narrows it down. Long wavy blond hair that has dark roots or Kenny needs to adjust his color palate. A round face, rosy cheeks (Looks like a blush.), good shapely nose, and two, yes two, dark brown eyes. She looks slightly tan, and appears a Goldilocks: Not to thin, not to thick, but just right. A touch of lipstick about the lips, and if I can guess correctly by the impressionist mutli-pink pattern Kenny has splashed about; that’s a flower patterned dress she’s wearing, kind of fifties looking, with a single red button at the neckline. The real odd part is her eyes; their gazing aimlessly over to her right looking at something.
Well, all the research is done. So let’s get to the story.
 One sunny day there was a young woman who decided to wonder out from her ancestral castle by the name Liza Lott. The castle had been in her family since the twelfth century, passed down to her, from the Patriarch of the family, Sir John Lot the Unknown, who had fought in the Crusades. Since it was a sunny day she decided a sun dress was appropriate to wear, but the only one she had clean was a pink hand-me-down that her young, nearly blind, cousin had tried to paint flowers upon. But today she was in a good mood so she threw on the dress and made her way out. Just then, a booming voice rattled down from the sky stopping her in her tracks, saying, “Liza, I am calling upon you to fulfill a promise I have made to a most worthy one, and in return I will wipe away the debt your family owes to me for your deadbeat ancestor skipping out on the crusades under an assumed name long, long ago. Does that sound fair?”
“I guess. What do I have to do?” She called out to the heavens.
“It’s pretty easy. You see there’s this Artist, and he’s dirt poor. All he has is some paper, pencil, a few brushes, and a couple dabs of paint. Well. Anyway, every night he’s praying and praying to me to send him some inspiration. So to get him to finally be quiet, I’m sending him you, ok?”
“Sounds pretty simple, but I get nervous when people stare at me. How do I know this guy isn’t some creep trying to make a move on me?” She folded her arms defensively. “Because I am not that kind of girl. So no setting me up with any of your slick angel friends that like to rain down on innocent girl, you here me?”
“How about this? I’ll stand back in the corner and make sure he keeps his hands to himself. You can look at me so you don’t get nervous, and all promises and debts will be wiped clean. So what do you say?”
“Sounds fair. So what’s this pathetic soul’s name that’s got your most worthy attention?”
“Uhh.” He sounded embarrassed to say. “Kenney Mencher.”
“Kenney! Really? He Liz’a’lott.”
______________________________________________________________________________


This came in by e-mail:
Portrait from a Friend by Matt O'Malley

Liza looked at the portrait a friend had made of her when she was a young girl and compared it to her reflection in the bedroom mirror that hung next to it. How could things have gone so wrong? In the picture she looked so pretty, like the corn-fed girl from Indiana that she was when she was younger and not the monster she felt she was becoming. She choked on the thought, on the words “corn-fed”, the antithesis of what she could do now, taking in food only if it was pureed, and she couldn’t even do that well.

Dentist after dentist for over a year had told her what it was, the sore in her mouth that was growing, bleeding off and on, dislodging her teeth, making the skin on that side of her face stretch hard. The dentist had been lying to her she had told herself, couldn’t be trusted.  It wasn’t until the oncologist she was referred to confronted her about all the previous diagnosis’s did she realize she’d been lying to no one but herself.

It had been a year now since the first surgery and she still looked like this, felt like this, a grotesque apparition of her former self.  She looked nothing like her portrait now. Damn the doctors for removing her jaw, half her face and leaving her handicapped from eating or speaking with any sort of articulation.

Damn the doctors for their creation that made young children look at her with mouth agape, pulling on their parent’s coat sleeves to point out the monster; some running and even crying. And damn the doctors for even giving her the glimmer of hope that she would be able to fight this and for not telling her, giving her any sort of idea what she would look like afterwards.

And now she was to begin radiation. Liza couldn’t look at her portrait anymore. She wanted all of this to end, the discomfort, the torture, the pain. She took her portrait down, covered it with a bedsheet, and slid it behind her dresser.

Radiation.

Strapped down to a table with an unforgiving mesh covering her from head to chest, Liza felt as if she was being treated as a lunatic from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Incapacitated in such a way, she would wait for the sounds of hydraulics, the dimming of the florescent lights, and then with eyes open as she held a claustrophobic scream in her chest, she would watch for the green beams.

The green beams. With each radiation treatment, as the beams traveled across her face, she felt what seemed like a sweet soft breeze. It wasn’t until later after the first treatment did she contemplate the feeling and understand that it was nothing more than a gentle kiss of death. Death as the beam slowly killed her cells on a microscopic level.

Now daily after treatment, Liza looked in the mirror and watched as her skin slowly transformed. Her face seemed to become more and more accustomed to the grid line pattern formed from the mask that held her securely to the treatment table, the grid lines remaining on her face each day a little longer and daily her skin reddened as it bruised.

When confronted, the doctors had said she still had much to look forward to. She would develop sores in her mouth, her skin would begin weeping, melting slowly like the green witch from the Wizard of Oz. She would eventually loose her taste buds, saliva glands and hair. Eventually she'd take in nutrition through a bag attached to her side.

Daily and as the weeks went by, Liza became a little more disheartened with thoughts of ending the treatment, of letting things go their natural course. She was becoming more lethargic with each murderous beam meant to save her life and on a daily basis, her stamina, her constitution, her willingness and ability to withstand seeing and feeling the changes to her face and body were tested. Finally she could take it no more. The next day, she promised herself, she would wait to speak to the oncologist and tell her she was giving in, that she could physically, mentally, emotionally go no further.

Five weeks into a seven week course of treatment and Liza, resigned to her fate, sat in the waiting room and took stock of the other patients around her. She had been so wrapped up in her own grief and misery, she had taken little notice of those around her up to this point and to her surprise now, she found the majority of the patients were young people; mostly men and women in their early twenties although there were some who had obviously barely just climbed out of puberty.

She watched them intently, examined them. They, for the most part, seemed happy, content. Some were even joking, laughing prior to their treatment, and afterwards, solemn behind their grid marked faces, smiles would break free as they were greeted by their friends, relatives and loved ones who had been waiting for them.

This was quite unlike what she ever imaged cancer patients to be. She had expected the majority to be like her, in their senior years of life. The idea of cancer patients being old smokers or basically the elderly was the exact opposite of this demographic group.

There were many, so many, too many that were younger than her, going through what she was going through, younger then her age when her friend had painted her portrait. Liza became resolute as she thought of the portrait of her that had captured her in her prime, untested, and unblemished by the world and life; if only those around her were as lucky as she had been. That day when Liza returned home after treatment, she retrieved the painting she had concealed behind her dresser, removed the bedsheet, and hung her portrait next to her bedroom mirror.

________________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:


Liza Lott by D. Bellenghi



     Liza Lott gazed at the photo that had started it all. It was such a simple thing. She submitted the picture with registration for entry in Queen of the Cheese Festival competition. She had worked so hard to get the desired effect for the photo. She had painstakingly done her hair and strategically placed the flower in it. The crème and pink dress she knew was perfect; it set off her skin tone (courtesy of year round chores in an Oklahoma sun). So much time and care. How could such a picture bring down a person's world?
      Liza Lott. Liz-a-Lott. How she hated her name. Some days, she just hoped that her name was only a coincidence. On the bad days, Liza knew it was a horrible, spiteful act that her mother had committed before running away. What kind of mother does that to a helpless baby and then doesn't stick around. She must have been drinking was Liza's thought.
     The Lott family which consisted of Harry Lott, Harry's mother, and his daughter moved from Texas to Oklahoma quickly after Liza’s mother's departure. Liza had no memory of her mother. At the age of eight, Liza decided she was glad she had no memory of her mother. Her mother had left them behind. Liza would do the same; forget she ever had a mother. It was beneath her to care.  She did not allow herself to miss having a mother. Her mother did not deserve being missed or loved. Liza had her dad and Granmaw Lott. That would be enough.
     Granmaw Lott, however, proved to be a challenge to love and lacking as a replacement for a mother. She was stiff and stern and inflexible in her beliefs. Disobedience was not tolerated for any reasons. She had the warmth of a refrigerator and was more quiet than a ninja when creeping into a room to eavesdrop on a loved one. Her steel gray eyes seemed to pierce whatever they lasered in on. Liza often felt that Granmaw didn't even like her. She told Liza more than once how her mother had named her and then ran off. Even Liza's dad seemed to try to stay out of Granmaw's way.
      Liza did not realize the weight of her name until she attended school, where she had to deal with teasing school mates. The family moved every few years which gave Liza new towns in which to reshape and redefine herself. She became very good at it.
     On arriving in a new town, there were always questions that at first had made her uncomfortable and ashamed: "What, no mom"? "Everyone has a mother." "Hey, where in the heck did you get that name?" "What's the matter,can't ya tell the truth"?  These constant and nagging questions led Liza to develop a plan. Before any new playmate could lob the first stone, Liza would explain how her mother had named her after the family's most famous relative, Liza Minnelli. Of course, the family received Christmas cards telling of Aunt Liza's exciting life and how she wished she had time to visit. As for no mother, Liza, early in her story spinning career, told the poignant story of how her mother had sacrificed her own well being to give Liza a kidney. Sadly, the surgery was too great a trauma, and Liza's mother died of complications. This story worked well, leaving few dry eyes until one school chum asked to see Liza's scar from the above mentioned surgery. After that encounter, Lisa had her mother being hit by a speeding car as she pushed Liza's baby carriage out of danger. Quick and clean. No details for inquiring minds to question.
     Liza didn't lie. She might stretch the truth from time to time. The stories she told were not lies. She was smoothing all the sharp corners of her world. The stories were just the way she wanted her life to be. They were dreams inside her that came alive when asked a question. When she opened her mouth to answer, they came rushing out to a real life and to freedom. Like butterflies breaking free of their cocoon.    
     The Lott family stayed in Watonga for four years. It felt like home to Liza. She had worked hard to fit in and make friends. At seventeen, she felt that she had acquired a certain amount of popularity. This popularity had given her the confidence to enter the Queen of the Cheese Festival. What a night it had been for her. She had glowed from all the attention. When she took the stage, with baton blazing she could hear ahs from the crowd. With her final toss, she thought the flaming bars would touch the stars. Anyway, that's how she would retell it. She had won, crown and all! A golden
moment to last forever.
     Granmaw Lott belligerently spoiled it all. She did not approve of the contest, so stayed home only to choke on a sour ball candy and die. What timing! Now, instead of Liza the beautiful, it was Poor Liza whose grandmother had died. Always second billing, and to a dead person yet!
     The funeral was set for late afternoon. Liza hated the black dress she had on. The morning was dragging on. The doorbell rang. Another neighbor bringing yet another fatening casserole, no doubt.
     At the door stood a strange woman, who looked oddly familiar, asking if she was Liza. With a yes, the women burst into tears. With the flood gate of tears, came sentences that stunned Liza. "I finally found you after all these years. Your father took you and disappeared. His mother made him. She always hated me. I wanted to name you Tami but she wouldn't allow it. I saw your picture in the paper. I'm so happy I have found you”!
     With these words, Liza’s well constructed world began to crash! It made her dizzy. But one thing was for sure, she would be Liz-as no more.
_________________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:

Tanning Bed Confessional by David Florey
“They are like wind up toys, people are, with interchangeable keys labeled ‘ego,’ ‘avarice,’ ‘jealousy,’ ‘lust, and ‘trust,’ trust being my favorite key of all.  I simply push the appropriate key into a person’s back and wind it to the desired tension, then let them go.”  Liza smiled.  She adjusted herself in the bed, turning her palms up and letting the unnatural light bathe her forearms and splash about her naked skin.
“Or perhaps they are more like marionettes,” she said to herself.  “With strings affixed to arms and legs and little places in their brains.  I twitch this finger and Devon drives me to where I want to go.  I twitch that finger and Maria thinks her crumb cake is to die for, when it is really hopelessly dreadful.  I twitch all of my fingers, and the town dances for me; it is a delightful little jig in which Joseph and Amy exchange vows and then Amy finds Joseph in bed with me.  But Alexander believes me - I couldn’t be unfaithful and he and Joseph fight while Amy consuls me for having to bear her husband’s awful behavior.”
Liza giggled in the darkness from behind her goggles.  The tanning bed buzzed. 
“Oh tanning bed, you are a splendid ear, truly you are.  Why if it weren’t for you, I’d have to go all the way out of town to talk about myself or write about all of this in one of those journals and you know how that turned out last time.  Well, this is a different town, of course, and I am wiser.”  Liza chuckled.  “Yes, much wiser.  No more journals for me.  The trouble with writing things down is that someone, somewhere will read it.  And then, well, that just causes all sorts of trouble, now doesn’t it.”
The tanning bed hummed.  Then clicked.  Liza’s brow furrowed, then she shook the thought from her head.  Another click.  Was that the door to the room?
Liza whispered.  “Oh bother.  I thought I had the room to myself.  No matter.  I’ll just have to talk more quietly.”
The tanning bed buzzed.
“So just yesterday, I met Eleanor for tea at two and her husband for chocolate-covered strawberries and a delicious Riesling at ten.  What a delightful pair they are, both quite talkative.  She was bragging to me about just how hard he works and well, I tested that out for myself.” Liza giggled aloud.
Sweat dripped down her hairline and dangled from her ear.  “My, it is getting hot in here.”
“I got some free groceries from Carl.  He is such a sap.  He actually believes that I’m in love with him.  That’s the thing with small towns and small town people.  They all think their in some kind of romantic movie where the beautiful woman will settle for the town grocer because he’s the last bachelor around.  I’ve got news for you Carl, you don’t have a chance in hell.”
Another click.  A cool breeze wafted in through the gap in the bed and pulled the heat from Liza’s skin.  “My, I am positively glowing under here.  Perhaps you aren’t feeling well, eh, dear tanning bed?  Running a fever are you?”
“Anyway, just this thursday I was running a little low on cash and I happened to mention this to old Ms. Canard knowing, of course, it would spread like wildfire.  Well, I put it to her like this, I said, ‘Oh Ms. Canard, I’ve just sent my last nickel to my aunt Betsy who’s on her deathbed.  I knew I’d not eat for weeks until I could get back on my feet, but my poor aunt... they just must save her.’”
“Phew, it is hot in here.”
“And old Ms. Canard, well she...”
“My, I feel like a roast.  What is that smell?”
Liza pushed on the lid of the bed, but it wouldn’t budge. 
“Help!” She shouted.  “Help me!”
She pushed harder.  She pushed with all her strength.
“Brian, help me this instant.  I’m not paying for this session!”  
Silence.  The tanning bed whirred.
“Brian, help me please!”  Liza pleaded.  Desperate.  Panting.
Tears rolled down her face and her goggles popped off.  
“Brian,” she said.  Her voice twisted painfully into an attempt at seduction.  “Brian, come in please and I’ll make it worth your while.”
Silence, but for the bed.
“BRIAN!”
“I have money Brian, lots of money.  I’ll pay you.  Whatever you want, I’ll pay you, just get me out of here.”
Her throat hurt.  Mouth dry.  Raw, arid heat seared her body.  Dizzy.  She opened her eyes.  Dehydrated.  Sapped.  
“Brian...” her voice sounded distant.
Cold.
Silence.  
The tanning bed hummed.

________________________________________________
This came in by email:

LIZA IS A LIE by Dee Turbon

She was pretty as a picture, all soft and pink, and her hair all kiss curl and shine. And he was sitting beside her in the park, had followed her there from Maisie's flower shop where she worked. Her name was Liza. It said so on a badge she wore in the shop. Henry had made a note of it so that when he arranged to meet her at the end of her day he was able to say, 'Hello Liza,' like they knew each other. Only, now she was telling him that wasn't her name. Not really.

'I don't understand,' said Henry.

She shrugged and said that was ok, that she couldn't say more than that, except that she was not what she appeared to be. 'All of this, the job and the dirty pink dress and my hair all plain, that ain't me, ain't really who I am. Not in another life.'

'Like you're in hiding? said Henry. 'From the law or something.'

She let go his hand. 'Jeez, Henry. Ain't you got no romance. I could be famous, or royalty, or rich. And you think I'm some sort of criminal. Is that how's I look to you?'

Henry felt the sting of her rebuke. He thought he was romantic, a part of him was. Here they were sitting in the park together, and they'd been holding hands, and he'd said she was real pretty today, and he was working up to asking her out, and in his head he was planning something that would be special, something the girls like.

'I think you're the prettiest girl in all of Clarksville,' he said.

She looked at him then, her eyes narowed and sharp, as though she thought he might be making fun.

He took her hand again, pressed it, and leaned in to kiss her cheek. 'The prettiest girl by far,' he said.

'When we're by ourselves you can call me Norma-Jean. But only when we're where we can't be heard.

'Norma-Jean,' Henry said. 'Like...'

She cut him short and pressed one finger to his lips.

'That's all I'm saying. I gotta be home by six or my pa will worry,' she told him. 'He worries bout me alla time. Calls me princess and says I gotta be careful. We've always gotta be careful. Looking over our shoulders alla time, you know. Just in case.'

He looked over his shoulder. There was a man in a hat and walking a small dog. Aside from that they were alone in the park and from where they were he could just see the face of the town clock. It was a little after five.

'So, Henry, you've got me here. And you're holding my hand and the kiss on the cheek. What now?' she said.

Henry was wrong-footed for a moment.

'You wanna put your hand on my knee? You wanna stroke my hair? Kiss my neck and put your tongue in my mouth? Cos I like you, Henry. You're real gentle and maybe I could trust a young 'un like you.'

Henry wondered at her age then. She looked like a girl. Maybe twenty. But she sounded like she was much older.

'I thought maybe we could go out sometime,' said Henry.

'Like a date?' she said. 'Only, I ain't ever been on a date before. My pa don't allow it, see. He's a bit precious bout that sort of thing. Always is.'

Henry's turn to look quizzical. Hadn't he seen her a month back sitting with Thomas Farmer taking coffee at Collie's Coffee Emporium? Hadn't she been holding Thomas' hand then, just as she now held his?

'No date? Not ever?' he said.

'Never been kissed neither. Except by pa, and just now on the cheek.' And she put her fingers to her face where his lips had touched, and she blushed pink.

He leaned in and kissed her again, his lips to her lips, and she opened her mouth a little, and she took his hand and laid it to her breast and pressed it there, and she made a small noise, somewhere in the back of her throat, something between a sigh and a moan.

'You ever made out with someone famous before, Henry?' she said.

'Famous?' he said.

'Like, crazy famous,' she said.

'Nope,' said Henry. 'Can't say as I have.'

'Say my name,' she said.

'Liza,' he said.

'No, the other one,' she said.

'Norma-Jean.'

'I gotta be back before seven,' she said, and she slipped one hand easy down the front of his trousers.

Henry snatched for breath, his thoughts all spun sugar and pink clouds. He thought she'd said six before, that she had to be back by six. Didn't she say six? He wasn't sure.

'Only, my pa will worry,' she said.
 

________________________________________________
This came in by email:

SKIN DEEP Sheila Florey
There she is again – right in front of me – her flaxen hair, her soft brown eyes boring into my soul.  That coy little neckline.  The petite white flower whispering purity, pinned  so casually in her tousled blond locks.   She beckons to me, then turns, laughing and skips away.  I throw out my hand, reaching for her, crying, “No, don’t go.  Stay.  Stay…stay with me..”  But all that comes back to me is the soft tinkle of her laughter as she disappears into the mist. 
Liza  was mine once.  I thought she was mine once.  I knew the first time I saw her that she was meant to be mine.   I approached her softly, gently.  “Are you alone?  May I sit here?”  With tinkling laugher seeming to bubble up from deep inside her, she looked into my eyes, touched my hand, and said, “Yes, I’m alone.  Please sit down.”   And with that began the months of sitting at her feet, admiring, loving, adoring that strong, beautiful face framed by her pure, flaxen hair falling around her shoulders.  And I knew she was meant for me alone.
We drank and we danced and we made love.  All through that summer we were never apart.  We walked on the beach; we lay in the sand; we dined beneath the trees.   We were all that existed in the world.   And it was enough.  It was enough for me.
But just a whisper can topple that which is set too high and perched too precariously on a pedestal , and so it was with Liza Lott.   I went to where we had first met.  She sat at the bar again, alone.   I stood for a moment admiring her beauty.  And then there he was, head bowed toward hers.  “Are you alone?  May I sit here?”   Her tinkling laughter bubbled up as she looked into his eyes, touched his hand and said, “Yes, I’m alone.  Please sit down.”   A searing pain shot through my heart.  I could see nothing but her gesture as she touched his hand, could hear nothing but her tinkling laughter jeering at me.  My hands were not my own as they reached out for her, pulling her from the stool, squeezing, squeezing that soft throat.   Other hands reached for me, pulling at me.  Voices shouted.  But I had to make that laughter stop.  I had to.
And now there she is again, Liza Lott – right in front of me – her flaxen hair, her hard brown eyes boring into my soul.  That coy little neckline,  promising,  but not delivering.  The petite white flower whispering purity, but lying by the very fact it exists pinned so casually in her tousled bleached locks.   She beckons to me, then turns, laughing and skips away.  I throw out my hand, reaching for her, crying, “No, don’t go.  Stay.  Stay…stay with me..”  But all that comes back to me is the soft, jeering  tinkle of her laughter as she disappears into the mist.
________________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:

Salamander
by D Charles Florey
“It’s caramel, care a mel.  Not car mall.”
“I know how to say it Liza,” Andrew replied.  He kicked a rock and it scuffled down the dirt road in front of them.
“Well then say it correctly or don’t bother speaking to me.  And call me Ms. Lott.  You are far too young to be calling me by my first name, young man.”
“But your only ten years older than me, Liza.”
“I’m seventeen and a lady, now do as I say.”
“Yes, Ms Lott.  Anyways, as I was saying.  I got these carmel, I mean caramel chews at the five and dime, next to the school.  You want one?”  Andrew held out a grubby hand with three unwrapped caramel chews in it.
“My goodness no, Andrew.  Now run along home.”
“OK, but gee.  I was hoping I could carry your books for you and we could talk while we walk home together.  I don’t live but just a fence post down the road from you.”
“Oh...oh fine, here.”  Liza dumped her books into Andrew’s waiting arms.  
“Ugh, this is a lot.”
“Yes, well you wanted to carry my books for me, didn’t you?”
“Yes Ms. Lott.”
Liza smiled.  
“What’d you study today?  In school, what’d you study?”
“Greek Philosophy, Heraclitus, actually.”
“Oh yeah?  Neat.  It sure is a beautiful day, isn’t it Ms. Lott?”  Andrew asked and without waiting for a reply, he said, “I wonder how many fish are in that lake.  Do you know how many are in there?  We pass by it every day and I always wonder.  Do you ever wonder that?  Or how many leaves are on a tree, you know just any tree around here.”  Andrew spun around looking up at the trees and he dropped the books on the ground.
“Andrew!”
“Sorry, Ms. Lott.”
“Oh never mind.  Here, this is my road.  Now you run along home, ok?”  Liza picked the books up and patted him on the head.
“Ok, see you tomorrow.”
Liza held the pleat of her dress as she trekked up the dusty path to her house and onto the wooden porch.
Sirena, her mother’s nurse, leaned over the porch railing with a glass of lemonade in her hand and watched the dust curl behind Liza as she approached.
“Hello, Ms. Lott,” she said.
“Hello Sirena.  How’s mother?”
“Your momma’s doin’ ok today, never mindin’ the heat.  She’s alright.  Restin’ in the back as usual.”
Liza found her mother in her rocking chair, staring out the window.
“Hello mommy,” Liza said.  
Her mother’s eyes twitched, and she continued rocking.  Liza didn’t expect a response, she hoped, but didn’t expect it.  Waking coma, the doctor’s called it.  Ever since daddy died in the fire, she hasn’t spoken a word. 
Liza sat on the floor next to her and told her about her day.  Then she gave her mother a kiss on the cheek, made herself dinner and retired to her bedroom.
--------------
“Ms. Lott, Ms. Lott, wait up for me!”  Andrew ran as fast as he could, his black hair flopping in the wind.
“Hey Ms. Lott, I wanted to walk with you.”
“Ok, Andrew, but you must carry my books.”
“Ok, Ms. Lott,” Andrew said.  He took the books from her, grunting under their weight.
“Ms. Lott, you’ll never guess what I found!”
“What?”
“A salamander, big as my whole arm!”
“Oh yeah.”
“Yeah, I found it near the lake last night.  What do you suppose a salamander’s doing near the lake like that?”
“Living, I suppose.”
“Living?”
“Yeah, just minding his own business, you know.  Probably didn’t like it too much when you picked him up.”
Andrew stopped and stared at the ground for a moment.  “Yeah, maybe... I put him back.”
“That’s good.”
“Yeah, so he’s probably ok.”
They walked for a moment, under the shade of the oak trees.  A cool breeze lilted off the blue lake and Liza shivered.
“Hey,” said Andrew.  “Did you know salamander’s can survive fires?”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“I read about it in a book.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah.  Pretty neat, huh?”
“Pretty neat.”
Andrew shuffled his feet in the dirt and kicked up a large cloud of dust.  
Liza thought about the salamander: the resilience of a such a thing to withstand something so destructive.  She looked out at the lake and felt the wind on her face again.  Then she closed her eyes and walked through the dust cloud letting it permeate her nostrils.  Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.  The ancient Greeks believed them to be the elements, fire being the most important - fire being the force of change.  Fire destroys so that new things may be reborn, but the salamander remains.  What if one could have the soul of a salamander, seeing change all about but remaining steadfast, resolute, strong.
“Hello, Ms. Lott.”  Sirena said.  
Liza hadn’t even noticed that she left Andrew back on the main road.  She stepped onto her porch, books in hand.
“Hello Sirena.”  
Sirena smiled.
“What is it?” Liza asked.
“Go on an’ see for yourself.”
Liza ran to the back of the house, to the rocking chair.  But the chair was empty. Her mother was standing, arms outstretched.  
“Liza, darling!”
“Mommy, mommy!”  Liza was beside herself.  
They embraced.  Tears streamed down Liza’s red cheeks.
“I’m here now, Liza.  I’m here,” her mother said.
Sirena stood behind them and chuckled.
Liza pushed away, so she could see her mother’s eyes connecting with her own.  She wiped her cheek.  “But how, what happened?”
“Your momma just snapped right out of it.  Started callin’ for you,” Sirena said.
“Your father, dear.  I don’t know how to explain it.  Well, he spoke to me.  He told me to be like the salamander.  That we must both be like the salamander.”
“Salamander?  What in the world?” Sirena said. 
Liza beamed.
“Do you know what he meant by that Liza?” asked her mother.
“Yes mommy, I know exactly what he meant.”