Thursday, September 29, 2011

New flash fiction contest: Ode on an Urn

Write a story about Ode to an Urn and Win the Watercolor Below 

The contest closes Monday October 10th, 2011

Ode to an Urn,oil on linen 24"x48"
Ode on an Urn 11"x8" watercolor on rives bfk

Round #2 of Renovated Reputations will culminate in three shows.  One show will be in December 2011 at the Art Museum of Los Gatos in California.  Two others will be in February 2012 at Ohlone College in the Louie Meager Art Gallery in Fremont California and the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento California.
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.

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 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

This is the second version of this show!

Round #2 of Renovated Reputations will culminate in a show at Ohlone College in Fremont, California at the Louie Meager Art Gallery in February 2012. 
Stories will be published in a vintage style  newspaper catalog and the gallery will be converted into a 1930 or 40's cabaret set and students will be acting the stories out as monologues at some of the events at the college in the art gallery.

More competitions posted on my website at:


These came in by e-mail:

Trouble Cliff by Patrick Nelson

          Clifford stood leaning out over the precipice weighing his decision carefully.  Literally over the precipice. Twenty floors up. He was surprised he could hear the noises from the street below as well as he could. At night like this, he assumed it was much easier to hear all the traffic than during the day. He had no previous experience on which to base this, he just thought it was awfully loud. He had never actually gone so far as to pry open the windows of his apartment before, even though he had thought about it often recently. It was her, egging him on, goading him into this action. It took quite a bit of resolve to cut through the layers of old paint which had sealed them shut for who knows how long. It actually took him most of the afternoon and a good part of the evening--seeing as how he wasn't very handy with tools of any kind.
          Clifford was a gentleman and therefore, any strenuous work was usually delegated to another man in the building. Clifford had lived there fifteen years with his lovely wife, Geraldine, and of all the repairs--a leaky faucet, a running toilet--all such things were handled by good old trusty Ebenezer, the superintendent. Clifford decided to do this job himself, because he knew old Eb would have frowned on this suggestion and may have even realized why Clifford really wanted the widow open...
          "Well, darling," he said as the cold Autumn air whipped past him "just like everything else in my life, you doubted I could do even this. Well, here I am."
          A strong gust sucked the thin curtain out of the apartment and wrapped it tightly around his chest and face. He pulled one hand away from the window ledge and struggled to free himself and almost lost his balance. Even in his brief panic, he thought it funny that he was about to step out into nothingness a second before, but the drapes coiling around him kept him from it. He laughed as he thought that he had to free himself before he "freed himself."
          If he went, it would be like everything else: on his own terms. He was a perfectionist, after all. It was what drove him to pursue and eventually win over his dear Geraldine, the perfect woman. It was what had propelled him to the top of the musical world on Broadway two streets over. Right now, at least seven marquees down below boasted musicals by the great composer Clifford LeRoi.
          Yes, even his death would be the perfect orchestration he had envisioned when he sat down and contemplated it.
          "You taunted me doggedly about my shortcomings and how you always knew when it came down to it, I 'wouldn't have it in me.' Here I am, ready to prove you wrong, once again! What have you to say to that, my sweet little day-lily!"
          Her voice echoed through his head as if she were standing right there on the ledge with him, "Well, Mister Bigshot, do it. I don't see anyone trying to stop you..."
          The wind now whipped his pant legs furiously, as if it too was urging him into action. A car horn blared on cue which he deemed the perfect note to which he should end his tortured existence. He would have written a death scene exactly this way. There would have been a cacophony of brass and drum which would have swelled up and come to a crescendo of musical violence signifying the torture in the soul of the hero. The final touch would be a clash of cymbals as the damned man leaped out into the air. But, no...
          "This is what you want, is it not? You, my dear, would love to see the final act end this way, wouldn't you?" he said as he leaned back into the apartment. "You would be the maestro of this piece!"
          A chill which did not come from the tunnel of wind outside, froze him to the bone. The realization that she was, in fact, the one responsible for this scene made him see things more clearly than he had in weeks. He stepped in from the ledge and chuckled deeply in his chest. This turned into a wild roar of laughter which echoed through his home. When it made it's way back to his own ears, it seemed as if another person was laughing at him. Was it her? How dare she laugh at his anguish? It furthered his resolve to not jump out of his window. It actually began to make him angry.
          He stopped laughing and instead, bellowed with rage, "You dare mock me? I am the one who brought you up from nothing. I am the one who gave you everything and you repay me by laughing at my torture?"
          "Oh, my dear, sweet, genius!" he heard her voice cooing in his ears. "How could I even dare to think you anything but the hero you told me you were. The man who would make my life a paradise on earth? You did bring me up from nothing, but in your childish attempt to control me, you just managed to push me away."
          He covered his ears, but her voice still crashed inside his mind. Bouncing about and smashing any other thoughts, "You destroyed me. You destroyed what we had just so you could see me under your control. I was like a part in one of your petty little shows. I had to do what you wanted and say what you scripted. You did this to us, not I."
          He raged around the room and began to smash things: the sculpture they had both brought back from Milan, the Tiffany lamp that she 'simply had to have,' and he even smashed the large Ivory ashtray they had picked up in Africa; the one she treasured so much.
          The tirade continued for the better part of an hour and yet she laughed and goaded him tirelessly, "Yes! That's right! Destroy it all like you destroyed me, little man!"
          Her laugh became a cackle which did not lessen even when he became so tired that he had to crawl to the piano stool and struggle to seat himself. Here, even, where all of the good things of his life sprang forth, could not lessen the anguish he felt.
          He looked around the room and realized the extent of his destruction. The only things he had not destroyed were his beloved grand piano and the urn. Both remained without even a scratch. He thought it odd, but was too tired to do anything more.
          "See, darling?" Geraldine's voice called, "You couldn't even bring yourself to destroy these things. The piano, your dear and only friend and me, your worst enemy--besides yourself, that is."
          He just sat defeated. He knew she was right about it all. He had destroyed everything. He did the only thing he could when he was this tired, he wrote.
          Despite his fatigue, he began to compose. He wrote all night and as the red and orange hues of daylight began to climb up the backdrop of the city, he finished. He penned his signature on the last page of the music, rose and stretched. He was spent fully, now. Yet he still knew he must bring forward the strength for one last deed. He went to the urn. He stood before it and lifted it to his chest. He caressed it and put his cheek against the cool marble. It seemed to hum from within.
          He strode over to the window cradling the urn and took a deep breath of the city air. It was still early enough that the fumes of traffic were not too strong. He thought he could even smell the faint aroma of the trees in Central Park as they shed their foliage. They were turning themselves over to the grey and lonely eventuality of the long winter.
          Clifford took one last look around his apartment and stepped out into nothing, still clutching the ashes of his sweet Geraldine.

Ode to an Urn-By Matt O'Malley

“He’s in there.” Leonard whispered as he pointed into the lavish living room, his pale white and freckled face, topped by a mop of red hair, was grimacing. I followed Leonard’s finger with my eyes and looked into the room; on the fireplace mantel was a large green vase that culminated with a lid that had a single pale green ceramic leaf and stem. A painting of Leonard’s dad, Alvin Sterling, playing the piano, was framed on the wall behind the vase.

“Are you sure he’s in there?” I asked Leonard.

“Yes!” Leonard cried, “Mom says he’s in there, watching over us.”

I had met Leonard the previous summer at a concert at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. My mom had dragged me there for a Sunday matinee to immerse me in the finer things in life while my dad slept off a night of drinking.  On stage a man played a piano, Leonard’s dad, while a woman sang arias and I fidgeted in my seat in the audience. At some point, my mom allowed me to excuse myself to find a restroom and as I wandered the lobby of the theater, I came across Leonard at the concessionaires buying handfuls of candy and stuffing them into his pockets.

“Want some?” Leonard offered freely.

We sat on a bench in the lobby and ate candy until our moms came upon us in a panic. They quickly became friends and so did we.

Over the year I learned that Leonard’s life was magical. His dad could make beautiful music on the piano that would echo throughout their Pacific Heights mansion and they had servants that cleaned Leonard’s room and who were at his beckon call. There was Mae, a heavyset woman who worked the kitchen and fed us endless bowls of ice cream while Mister Rumford, whom we called Runfrom, kept the house and other servants in order.

On weekends Leonard’s parents would send a car to bring me to their house to play, and play we did. Leonard had everything, all the biggest and best toys; heavy steel Tonka trucks that you could sit upon and push yourself around the room. I would ride a giant red cement mixer while Leonard rode a bright yellow dump truck. We would race down the hallways of Leonard’s house on our vehicles until Mister Runfrom would yell “Stop!” and chase us.

Outdoors Leonard would ride his new Schwinn that I envied for my parent’s had given me a used Reliable. And although my bike was red like Leonard’s, mine had an additional thin white stripe on the frame, had tassels on the handle bars, and worst of all, was a girl’s bike. When I had refused to ride it, my dad cut a broomstick in half, painted it red, and attached it to my bike frame from just below the seat to just below the handle bars. The ploy failed to work. One ride around the block and I was the neighborhood laughing stock. My bike was sentenced to rust through the winter outside.  

Leonard and I grabbed a large doily covered living room chair and shimmied it across the floor to the side of the fireplace. He then climbed the chair and pushed the vase to the edge of the mantel. “Here it comes,” Leonard said as the vase teetered then toppled into my waiting arms, falling against my right shoulder and almost knocking me over. It was much heavier then I had expected it to be. Maybe Mister Sterling was inside.

I ran my hand across the surface of the vase and found it smooth to the touch and checked for holes. “How can he breathe in there?” I asked.

Leonard shrugged.

“How can he watch over you when there’s no holes to peak through?” I asked.

I could see a growing alarm in Leonard’s face. He hadn’t seen his dad for over a month and everyone in the house seemed to be unnerved by it.

“Hello” I knocked on the vase, “Are you in there Mister Sterling?”


I wrapped the vase in a doily and handed it to Leonard. We then ran outside and hid in the hedge outside the living room window.

Both Leonard and I tried to remove the lid but couldn’t.

“Get something to open it.” I instructed Leonard and he ran off.

While Leonard was gone, I pondered the situation. The only way Mister Sterling could fit into this vase was if he was a genie. And he had to be. How else could Leonard’s family be so well-off? How could Leonard have the best toys and I had so few? How could they live in such a beautiful house with servants? And again, how else could Mister Sterling fit into such a small container? Maybe he just couldn’t find a lamp or was tricked into the vase by Mister Runfrom. Maybe Mister Runfrom was really an evil man.

I was going to help Mister Sterling and I was going to get three wishes by setting him free. I started rubbing the vase this way then that way. I spat on the vase then tried wiping it with my sleeve. I was going to get this damn genie out of this vase come hell or high water. And I was going to get a new bike from doing it!

Leonard suddenly stood in front of me, retrieved a hammer he had shoved down the back of his pants, and handed it to me by the handle, “From Runfrom’s toolbox.” He said.

I snatched the hammer from Leonard’s hands and raised the hammer high above my head as Mister Runfrom came to the living room window. Mister Runfrom knocked harshly at the window and yelled at me to “Stop!”

I looked at Mister Runfrom’s scowling face, at Leonard’s teary eyes, and then down at the vase. At that moment, I knew with my first blow, both Leonard’s my dreams would be revealed.

Les fantômes du sonore
by Elisa Bandy

When the pianist had met the woman who was to become his wife, it'd been clear to him that she'd been crying.  There was a handkerchief in her hand, well-worn and well-used, and her eyes were puffy and red as she thanked him for his performance of Tchaikovsky's most famous piano concerto.  It was impossible to resist her when she asked in a broken accent accompanied by gentle tones, “Could you play the cadenza for me, one more time?”  They'd waited until the lounge was cleared of its patrons, and the janitorial staff began its night's long haul.

Her slender hands were glued to her mouth while she listened with a fervour that he'd never seen in an audience before.  From her chair just beyond the edge of the stage, she wept in silence, in spite of the visible tremors that shook her entire body.  He'd stopped playing in the middle for fear of her well-being, but she had begged him to continue.  “Please,” she whispered in between ragged, harsh breaths.

Years later, he finally understood the swell of pain she always got when she listened to the cadenza of the first movement.  Typical anguish paled in comparison.  The kind she'd felt was an icepick to the back of the throat, scratching at first, then stabbing.  When it bled, all he could do was choke.

She'd always mention when he played it for her per request as she sat next to him on the bench in the lounge after-hours how it reminded her of her mémé, and how they would attend the theatre whenever Tchaikovsky's works were in performanceShe would talk about the Opéra de Nice with its massive, sweeping staircase, and the hundreds of candelabras around it all glittering like stars.  When she'd been a child, those trips to the opera were like excursions to the heavens themselves.  “C'est comme les étoiles, n'est-ce pas?” she asked after adorning the piano with her collection of wax candles once.  Her eyes glittered with the flickering reflection of the flames as he replied, “I agree.”

She used to ask him to repeat the cadenza over and over again.  One night, she'd told him that if she just detached herself enough from the world, she could almost feel the marble of the opera house under her feet, and hear the rustling of her grandmother's silk dresses as she climbed the opulent staircase.  That was a long time ago, back when life was simple and the opera was the only thing that had mattered.

Now if he closed his eyes, he could swear that he was able to smell her perfume linger on the air.  Lilies, with rosewater.  How quickly it had become his favourite despite the simplicity.  Her voice would flutter throughout the lounge, echoing with her replies to his attempts at conversation.  It was like a crystal so clear that he was always shocked to find her gone when he opened his eyes again.

It was like losing her over and over every night.  And yet, he couldn't help himself.  He insisted on keeping company with the ghosts of the past.

Maybe it was like she'd told him when they'd first met: within the music, they would always find each other.

Feature: Cotton Joliet, A Flash Fiction Author

I met Cotton Joliet through one of my flash fiction contests.  I think she has some fun interesting stories so I paired them up with some paintings.  I hope you like them.

AMARANTH by Cotton Joliet

John and Deena went to see their friends in another county who had recently gotten a dog: a beautiful female Samoyed whom they had named Amaranth. The friends were thinking about breeding their dog and asked John and Deena if they wanted a pup from the litter. “We’ll have to think about it,” said John, as Deena signed “yes” behind his back.

When the couple got back from their trip, John wrote in his little daily journal “Amaranth  has a beautiful tail. When she walks and her butt moves I think I want her. I wonder if we could keep her and play with her for a few days while we decide if we want to get one of our own.”

When the cleaning girl came, she perused John’s diary, as usual. When she had read the page about Amaranth, she got pen and paper and left John and Deena a note saying “Clean your own fucking house, you perverts.” The cleaning woman’s name is Amaranth.

CHANGE OF HEART by Cotton Joliet

He had a heart transplant. It was absolutely necessary; without it he would die.

His wife, Ilene, noticed the changes in him beginning the first day he came home from the hospital. Her husband Lucas had been a CEO with a will of steel. He was the quintessential workaholic and feared by many. His explosive temper was legendary. Now he was gentler, kinder, more subdued. In California they would have called him “mellow”. In New York they called it getting soft. Ilene was ecstatic. She loved this new Lucas. He treated her with respect and constantly displayed signs of affection.

At some point Lucas became obsessed with finding out whose heart was beating so beatifically in his chest. Usually that kind of information is unattainable, but Lucas still had a few strings he could pull. He found out that the heart had belonged to a Tibetan monk killed in a car crash in New York. He had been visiting his dying sister. Lucas began studying the teachings of the sect to which the monk had belonged. He became more and more involved in his studies. Finally, after 7 months, he went to his wife Ilene and told her that he had a calling to join the monastery. Ilene was distraught and hoped it was a phase. She got her husband to agree to see a therapist, which he did. The therapist felt that Lucas was totally rational and had found his calling. So Lucas went to Tibet and lived as a monk for 3 years.

One day Ilene, Lucas’s wife, showed up at the monastery. She said to Lucas, “I thought you might want to read this.”  “We have discovered that our records were in error. The heart came from a drug dealer sharing a cab with the monk. We are so sorry for the mistake.” Ilene was sure Lucas would come home with her finally.

Lucas blanched, composed himself, and said “Then it was my fate to save the drug dealer’s soul. I shall remain a monk.” It’s up to you, the audience, to decide whether you think he made the right decision.

CRIMINAL by Cotton Joliet

 The lone guy sauntered into the “hip” cyber café. He almost looked normal, even mundane, if you will accept that label for a person, but he seemed a little nervous. What’s to be nervous about in a cyber café? Maybe a virus?  I don’t know. But, to everyone’s surprise, he held out what looked like a gun in his pocket and said, quietly but with a kind of whacky authority, ”Close down those fucking computers. Come on, all laptops on the table here in front of me. I’m a maniac; I just may shoot if you don’t comply.”

 “Oh Jesus,” one man was heard saying,” I was almost through with my report.”

“Now I command all of you to assemble yourself into groups of four and have conversations. I don’t care what about. Just talk, face to face.”

First there was a profound silence, then groups formed. At first, the talk was stilted, but it became more and more animated. After fifty minutes or so, the “criminal” said, “Okay. I’m going to leave now. You can take your computers back after I leave, or you can keep talking face to face. If you want, I guess you can call the police. I’ll be riding a royal blue Triumph motorcycle with racing stripes. It was nice seeing the transformation. Thanks.” And he turned and left. Another profound silence hit the room. And then a huge wave of laughter erupted. The conversations continued.