Write a story about Isabelle Ringing and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closed Monday January 3, 2010
Queen of Hearts by D. Bellenghi was the winner
Isabelle Ringing 20"x16" oil and mixed media on masonite panel
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org____________________________________________
Just sent in by e-mail December 31 5PM
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!)
Isabelle Ringing RC Florey
Her parents were hippies. How they had talked the orphanage into allowing them to adopt her had always been something of a mystery. When she was in her teens and curious about all that, they just laughed. Usually she caught a sly wink between them at such times.
She would often ask what they knew about her real parents, and they would just as often seem to make something up about the circumstances of her being orphaned. Her parents were in a three car smash-up on an icy interstate on New Year’s Eve. A tragic apartment fire had killed both her parents as they had heroically tried to rescue her, only to become lost to the smoke. A fireman had found her just in time, but couldn’t get to her parents. Another story she got from them was that her parents were unwed teenagers and their families didn’t believe in abortion, but thought she should be left at the orphanage for adoption. These stories or some variety of them were always presented as truth and she was told she was mistaken if she recalled being told something different.
As you would suspect, her name was pure hippie invention. “Isabelle” paired with their real last name, “Ringing,” if that was their real last name, was just too cute. However, later in her life, it was to fit perfectly with her chosen profession.
They moved a lot, often in the middle of the night, and her “dad” never seemed to settle in on employment. And of course, she was always being moved from one grade school to another. Same when she was junior high age. She was always behind the other kids in the various schools, but no one seemed to care very much. She never had really nice clothes or made lasting friends.
By the time she was 16 and in her third high school with no friends once again, she decided it was time to strike out on her own. The day after the carnival had come to town, she found herself in front of the carnie boss. Convincing him that she was 18 years old, with no family except an invented grandmother in a far away state, she talked him into hiring her as the ticket taker for the main gate. She was off to see the world on her terms at long last.
The cards. Her future was in the cards. Carnival atmosphere and the card handling ability she had picked up over the years, had led her away from the ticket booth to her own booth on the midway, telling suckers their fortunes. It took her about 6 months to perfect the list of what the cards would mean when certain sequences appeared when dealt face up. She liked her system far better than the Tarot card readers she had seen.
Years passed, and she became very fat, highly skilled at her con, and fairly well off financially. She stayed with the carnival for the adventure of it and also because she had not really ever known a “regular” kind of life. She had a lot of friends in the carnival and was always meeting new people. The life was not like the people had in the towns she traveled to, but it worked for her.
A day came when everything changed. Her cards had let her down, so to speak, and the event that was about to unfold was a great surprise. The man that approached her tent on the last day in the small town was very well dressed; suit, white shirt and tie and looking very prosperous. Not the sort of person you would expect to be looking to have his future foretold.
“Are you Isabelle Ringing, a runaway from Elizabeth, New Jersey, thirty- two years ago? “ He began. “Can you produce identification to demonstrate you are the Isabelle we have been looking for these last 18 months?”
Isabelle was understandably intrigued. But she was always very wary, being a con artist herself and having learned never to trust others. “Well yes, I have the name Isabelle Ringing, but say, what is this all about and speaking of identification, who are you?”
When the man flipped opens his wallet, she nearly fell out of her chair. This guy was really good if this was in fact some sort of con. The badge was gold and silver covered and worked into the design at the bottom of the badge were the letters in deep blue: FBI.
She immediately showed him her identification.
Well, he said, I’m afraid I have some bad news. When one of our undercover field agents is killed in the line of duty, we always work to try to locate all family members. I am sad to say that your father who was about to retire from the Bureau, was killed by a drug lord he was about to arrest. Your mother passed away from cancer about 5 years ago and your father immersed himself in his work after that. He had always been a top undercover agent, even as a young man. He and your mother were a legendary undercover Bureau team. Yes, Special Agent Ringing will long be remembered. He and your mother were devastated when you left home.
Sent in by email:
Navigation by D. Charles Florey
There are few left of her ilk.
Perhaps she is the last.
She places her hat on top of her head. She applies her makeup, but the lipstick, the base, the rogue: it doesn’t quite cover. She spends hours getting it right. It must be right. She plucks around her brows, perfects her lashes.
She smiles at her reflection and it smiles back, cracked and unemotional.
“Just one more task, Isabelle.”
“Yes I know.”
“Then we can see the Lord.”
“Yes I know.”
She adjusts her hat to the left, then to the right. Then she touches the mirror three times, then touches her hat, then the mirror, then her hat. She coughs four times into her left hand and two times into her right. The mirror, she must touch the mirror three more times, then she won’t die. Not immediately. And her family, they will be ok too...as long as she touches the sink with her knuckle. She raps the porcelain five times.
There are few left like her.
Isabelle leaves the bathroom and sits down at the cross-legged side table next to her bed. Shafts of blue light sneak between the window shades, drawing dust filled lines in the darkness, making green the yellow quilt covering her bed, making purple the sepia photo of her parents. Blue light illuminates the table. She shuffles the cards, staring at the alarm clock on her nightstand: 3:04 AM.
She turns the cards. They come easy. A flush of red. Once more she must give in. Tap the table four times so your mother won’t die. She taps. Now sort the cards red and black, red and black or your cat will choke on its dinner. She sorts.
“We must do this first, Isabelle. Then we can complete our final task.”
“Go to Fourth and Elm, that is where it must be done.”
“Fourth and Elm.”
“Yes. A man there, you know the one.”
“He is next?”
“He is the last one. Then we can stop. We can be at peace...after the final task.”
“Mr. Harbinger and then the final task?”
She stands and taps her left foot four times so that she won’t go to hell.
The kitchen is close by. She selects a butcher knife. She puts on rubber, yellow gloves.
She sees her reflection in the knife and she must put it to her head ten times and clear her throat so that the police won’t find her. She taps her hat with the flat of the knife ten times. Then eleven, then twelve. She taps, taps, taps until the thought is gone. It won’t happen. The police will not catch her now.
She slides the knife into the pocket of her dress. It catches on a thread. She must take it out and put it back in five times. She does. That’s better.
She makes her way outside. The air is crisp, moist. It smells like rain on dead leaves. She sniffs the air, it gives her strength and she forgets. It makes it easier to walk and she feels free. She steps onto the sidewalk, onto the cracks and imperfections, onto the branches and leaves.
This lasts but a block. There are few left. She stops under the street sign. Fourth street. She may be the last.
Don’t look at anything made of metal or you are the last.
If I am the last, then who will do this work?
Others may come.
Don’t look at your shoes or anything concrete or green. She closes her eyes.
If you hold your breath and stand on one foot, you won’t be the last.
She stands on one foot. Her breath stays in her chest.
Now you are not the last. There are others.
She walks down fourth street. The pearls around her neck clatter. Her heels click. The paperboy drives by in an old brown Lincoln and throws a paper onto the porch of the house just in front of her.
You cannot cross the path of the paper.
She walks up into the yard and onto the porch and around the paper and back down the other side.
She looks to her left. He is in there, sleeping. He lives alone.
She taps her hat four times with her ring finger, feeling the knife against her leg.
This is the last one.
She kills. She is clean now. Light. Free. She walks home. She enjoys the night air. She cleans the knife. She puts it back in her pocket. She sleeps.
10:12 AM. She wakes. She showers, dresses. Euphoria.
“Now we complete our final task.”
She drives. Her mother and father are fine. Her cat is fine. She will be fine.
A strip mall. Chinese restaurant. Laundromat. Fortune Teller.
Return the cards and you will go to heaven.
She opens the door.
“Good afternoon...Ms. Ringing?”
“How did you know that?”
“I knew you would be coming today.”
“You have something for me?”
“Good. Place them here.”
Give her the cards and God will forgive your sins.
“I am dying.”
“If I give you these cards, if you take them. I will be free of sin.”
“I will, you can’t say that I won’t.”
She fumes. Scratch your leg five times.
She does. She feels the knife.
Tap your temple four times.
Look at the wall. Let out your breath. Don’t breath in.
Don’t look at her. Look at the table. Put the cards on the table.
What have you done?
Turn your head from side to side, side to side.
What have you done? Now you are the last. Now you will be caught. Now your mother and father will die and so will your cat. What have you done?
This was sent by e-mail:
Circus Act by S.M. Florey
“Gypsy..Gypsy...Gyp..see” The taunt still rang in her ears all these years later. Isabelle Ringing’s parents had been part of a traveling circus and they had decided to winter over in a small mid-western town that year. The other kids in school thought Isabelle was strange and were not kind to her. Her mother was a fortune teller and she told Isabelle not to pay attention to them, that she had been born on an auspicious date and possessed great talent. Isabelle learned a lot from her mother, especially that people were gullible and wanted to believe their fortune – good or bad.
As a natural course, Isabelle fell into the trade and was pretty successful, but the circus was not where she intended to spend the rest of her life. She often read the cards to forecast her own future and lately she had been turning up two tens, foretelling of unexpected luck coming her way.
One day a handsome finely dressed gentleman and his pale, rather timid wife came to her Fortune Teller’s tent. Over the years she had developed a second sense about people and she could feel that, while the gentleman was skeptical, his wife wanted to believe anything Isabelle told her. The cards spoke of coming disaster, followed by great joy for one of them. The wife went away fearful and the husband still skeptical.
A couple of years later, the circus happened to come through the same town and the same gentleman came to her Fortune Teller’s tent. He sat down across from her and asked for his fortune. There was sadness about him, but she told him that she saw luck coming his way, a large social gathering and a second marriage in his future.
Isabelle was a vivacious, rather attractive young woman at that time and the gentleman fell under her spell. The handsome gentleman was kind and rich, and Isabelle, too, fell in love, in her own fashion. Soon they were married. Though his friends were curious about her, neither Isabelle nor her husband ever talked about her past. The years past and they became older and fatter and richer. She and her husband threw parties where Isabelle amused her guests by pretending to tell their fortunes. As those fortunes sometimes came true, more and more people clamored for her attention and the parties became more and more lavish. Isabelle relished the attention of these friends and each day thrilled more and more at being intimately involved in their futures. It never occurred to her that she had left the circus in name only.
This was sent by e-mail:
|Queen of Hearts by D. Bellenghi |
Isabelle Ringing had never been anyone's fool. The facts of life had been clear at the early age of six when she started school. The kids had nothing to do with her. Her clothes were shabby and she lived outside of town in a rundown house with her fortune teller mother. She had no father. These circumstances did not bother her. She had learned from her mother how to read the cards and she knew there was something big coming. All she had to do was wait.
While she waited,she worked. She cleaned and cooked for her mother and worked in town at odd jobs. She was almost invisible to the towns people. She was just another cast out of dubious background. And so, she worked and waited. Patience was her strong suit. Years passed.
When fortune came calling a last, she did not recognize it. Fortune came wrapped in the present of George Ringing. He was a thin, wiry young man with a shock of thick uncontrollable hair and the deepest brown eyes. When she look into his eyes she found the understanding of the struggles and dejection she had been through. There was a tenderness there that she found no where else in her world. They were the same. George had big ideas. He was just passing through. He was looking for a way to make enough money to stake him in the big games. He was a gambler and he was ready to try his luck.
Isabelle could not help herself. Despite her feet on the ground attitude , she fell helplessly in love. The man with those all seeing eyes and his cocky smile made her heart race and the world a bearable place. George came to Isabelle
late one afternoon and told her he was leaving. He wanted her to go with him. The way George described it, the world laid at their feet. All they had to do was take it. He was a man of luck and he was going to cash in. He had found her, hadn't he. Without a second's hesitation, Isabelle said yes. She was leaving nothing behind but rejection and hard times. She smiled to herself, there was something else that she and George had in common. The cards.
The years went by in a colorful cascade of high living and grand times. They saw the many wonders of the world. All that George had envisioned had come to pass. He was indeed a man of luck. But luck can be a jealous lady. Perhaps,George had been too in love with Isabelle. Perhaps, he 'd gotten a little careless in how he gambled, always expecting luck to be with him. It happened slowly at first, losing an odd game. Then it got to be more often, sliding down the hard times of lady luck's distain.
The riches of the past seemed to belong to another life time. The years passed slower now with the same bitter theme: at the next game,George would win. They would be on their way back. Isabelle remained always loving and encouraging. Winning was just around the corner, she would tell George. You have to believe! The money and all it's advantages meant nothing to her. Yes, she had enjoyed it all, but what she cared about was George. He could not seem to regain his balance,his center. The loses had shattered him and Isabelle ached for him.
George decided they should head up to Alaska to try his luck there. It was new and freer than most places. Things would be different there, he could feel it. Isabelle as always agreed and they headed north. George's luck did not change all at once. It was on Isabelle's birthday that it changed. George was playing with a man named Charlie who was on his own losing streak. Charlie had no more money for the last hand, so he throw the deed to a mine he had been working in the pot. At the end of the game, George had won a sizable amount of money and a gold mine. He proudly gave the deed to Isabelle as a birthday present. George seemed to be himself that night. He had big plans for them again. Lady luck was with him again.
The years of fast living and long nights caught up to George that night. It could have been the excitement of winning again, or the smoking and the drinking or the worrying. He died in his sleep, at peace,a winner.
Isabelle could only bare the weight of his lose by throwing herself into work. She decided to use the money George had won to develop the mine. What else could she do. Once again,fortune smiled with the discovery of gold. Isabelle liked to think it was George smiling down on her.
After some time, Isabelle traveled back to the town she had left so many years before. There were not many who could remember her or would have guessed this wealthy woman was the fortune teller's daughter. No matter, Isabelle often smiled to herself. She knew. She had a grand life with her George. They had lived life, it's ups and down. The people of this town had only skimmed the surface of life. It gave her a sense of amusement that the towns people were in awe of her as bought up businesses and real estate. She had come back to merely lay her cards on the table.
Sent in by e-mail
By Gigi DeVault
Isabelle knew her own mind. People said that about her. She was a woman of conviction and she had no trouble acting on her convictions. Still, it couldn’t hurt to get a second opinion
She’d made the wrong choice about wearing a scarf, and pulled the fur collar tighter. Away from the South Pearl trolley station, the streets were quiet. By the building numbers, she had only half a block to go.
She came from stock that didn’t believe in coincidences. The women in her family had second sight. Not that it could be relied upon, coming and going like a tinker slinking around at the back door. Never around when needed, and scaring the beejeebers out of you if you let your guard down.
Her premonitions were like tea leaves. She could drink a hundred cups of tea, maybe two hundred. Truth be told, when her intellect drove her to peer into the bottom of the cup, there would be no story. That was the reason for this meeting. She just wanted confirmation.
There. Number 18. She looked doubtfully at the beat-up sign. If someone needed to advertise in this business did they really have the gift? Isabelle’s gaze compelled the teller to flip her shawl over her breasts. Isabelle wondered if the sign over the door might be changed in the evening to signal a different sort of business, in which men bought their own versions of good fortune.
“Don’t say why you’ve come,” said the teller. “I only want to know what will be revealed. You must shuffle the cards.” The teller took the cards, blew on them, closed her eyes, and began a quiet singsong. A bit melodramatic, but Isabelle would play along. Be a good sport. If people didn’t say that about her, they should.
Five cards, face down. Isabelle held her breath. “We’ll ask for two spreads,” said the teller, as though they were about to order dessert. “We may get a stronger reading.” Isabelle was transfixed. Ten cards to tip her over the edge, or to send her home again.
“The first three cards represent your past, present, and future.” Snap. Three of hearts. “You are undecided about love,” the teller began. Snap. King of hearts. “A fair-haired man. Good-natured, caring, helpful.” The teller looked long into Isabelle’s eyes. “He is affectionate but not talkative.”
“Yes,” said Isabelle.
Nine of hearts. “The wish card—for the card just before it. A dream fulfilled?” Isabelle blushed deeply. This was a bad idea. She had not thought it would all come out so plainly. Ace of hearts. A card of love and happiness. Your troubles lifting.”
Snap. Queen of hearts. Again, the teller’s penetrating stare. “He calls you ‘Belle’,” she said, finally. Isabelle felt a wave of goose-bumps. ‘Belle’ was his secret name for her. A new name for their new life together. Isabelle gauged her thoughts and found them moronic. She had an impulse to grab the teller’s arm to keep her from seeing the second set of cards. Instead, she was as fascinated as when the butcher slit the throat of a goat and let it bleed to death before her eyes. But it was Isabelle’s secrets that were pouring out all over the table in an unstoppable fashion.
The teller halted. “The odds are very against a flush in a reading. It’s more common in gambling...” Bingo. Isabelle thought that obvious. “Perhaps, except for this problem that makes you query the spirits, the rest of your life is in balance.”
“Yes,” Isabelle nodded.
King of diamonds. Though she noted that pallor had replaced pink in her client’s cheeks, the teller made no mention of it. “A gray-haired man of stature holds great influence over you.” Edmond had fifteen years on Isabelle. She had never thought of him as old until... Isabelle was loyal. No one needed to say it, really. But she was.
Queen of diamonds. “A gossip.” Isabelle recognized her sister-in-law, Bedeliah, with her nose in everybody’s business. Edmond adored her. Ten of diamonds. Financial changes. Well, of course. She’d give up a few things.
The teller narrowed her eyes at Isabelle. “No one ever receives a second flush.” She leaned toward Isabelle. “Not unless they play games with the spirits.”
“I assure you, I do not. I sometimes see or know things. Everybody has premonitions at some time or another.”
The teller pounced. Isabelle’s eyes widened but she sat silent through the rant. Neither woman gained if the session ended prematurely. Isabelle studied the fanciful red shade covered with stars, planets, and crescent moons that topped a lamp on the window sill. She surmised the teller could send a man straight out-of- this-world. All that was required was to flip down the Murphy bed. Isabelle noted that she was feeling less and less charitable.
Isabelle pressed several large bills into the teller’s hand.
“I do not want to upset the spirits, “said the teller. “We shall resume.” Jack of diamonds. “A man in a uniform will try to bring you bad news. He is jealous. You must not rely on him.” Isabelle and the teller held each other’s gaze until the last card was turned. Ace of diamonds. “You will experience a good change in your life.”
Well, there it was. She’d be giving up all that life with Edmond could offer. Stepping right off the brink, and embracing it.
On Broadway, she hailed a cab that let her out in front of her building. The doorman, in his blue uniform, held the door and handed her the newspaper. “Mrs. Ringing. Seems some illegal things are going on at your husband’s company. Sorry you had to learn of it like this, Ma’am.”
She always disliked the man, brass buttons or not. She looked the fool right in the eye. “I’ve known for weeks, Harold. I put them on to Mr. Ringing.”
The teller let him in. “Did Belle suspect?” he asked. In answer, she began pulling off his coat.