Write a story about Jacquie M. Balla and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Jacquie M. Balla and Win the Drawing on the Right  
The contest closes Monday December 27, 2010
The winner is W.H. Matlack

Jacquie M. Balla 16"x10" 
oil and acrylic on panel

Click on Images to Enlarge

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

Go to my website for more contests:

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:

Il ya de nombreux Jacquies

by W.H. Matlack

In all respects Mme Jacquie was a normale Parisian housewife with one indulgent husband and three small children. Each morning after her husband went to work and her children were off to school, she would gaze contentedly from her small deck at her beloved Paris. To Mme Jacquie, Paris was her very existence. No one understood her life and her place in the world more than Mme Jacquie.

Sometimes, after her chores were done, Mme Jacquie would take a short, glorious walk through her Paris neighborhood for a croissant at the wonderful little bistro a few blocks away. There the contented and happy Jacques would let random thoughts roll warmly through her pretty head – joyeux fois.

Hélas, one day while she was contemplating the beauty of Paris, a small, dark cloud passed over her contented head in the form of a frowning, older man. The cloud’s name was Pierre Basset, a local intellectual whose hobby was disillusioning young people in bistros all over Paris. He thought of himself as a merchant of reality, and loved to see a happy, young face deteriorate into angst after being “enlightened” to the depressing realities that surrounded everyone. He was an Existentialist heavily influenced by Camus’ darker visions.

It was facile to open a dialogue with the pretty, young Jacquie. All the sophistiquée Monsieur had to do was smile so that his eyes crinkled just the right amount and ask, “Madam, do you know why Paris is so beautiful this time of year?” She would meet his gaze and ask back, “No, pray tell, Monsieur. Why is Paris so beautiful this time of year?”  

Thus would begin a series of daily lectures on how France gave Paris to the Nazis for their promise not to destroy it, horrors of the concentration camps, how Existentialism was borne from those camps, and how existence is such a futile illusion, really.

Each morning Jacquie would walk to the bistro, her mind filled with questions she had never before imagined. Each morning Monsieur Basset would answer those questions with more questions until Jacquie’s little head spun with wonder – wonder of things that seemed so obvious to her, but had been so invisible just days before. One day Monsieur Basset gave the impressionable Jacquie a mental challenge. “Jacquie, presuppose to be presuppositionless, and then see if you can experience the raw edge of pure existence.”

Through all of Monsieur Basset’s lectures, Jacquie had remained the dutiful wife and mother. Even so, her husband became increasingly uneasy with the vacant look that would come over Jacquie’s face in the quiet evenings when they sat together and read. Jacquie would read Camus’ The Plague over and over.

Each evening Jacquie felt that she was getting closer and closer to total presuppositionless awareness of, as Monsieur Basset called it, the raw edge of developing reality. Monsieur Basset explained that reality is not a solid, static thing. Rather it was like the bow of a ship that smashes into the formless water and classifies it as right spray or left spray, just as Jacquie classifies every element of her reality without being aware of it.

After that session, Jacquie came home and sat on their little outside deck just looking at everything and trying to not classify it. No longer were the beds made, the dishes done or even the kids kissed off to school. Those were suppositions, and Jacquie worked hard to not make them. Jacquie would just stare and stare.

Next Monsieur Basset focused on the multiple realities of quantum physics – the infinite number of realities and the infinite number of Jacquies. This was a difficult concept to accept until Jacquie realized that it was just another supposition, and she let it go. As soon as she did so, an infinite number of Jacquies began to contemplate the universe in concert with each other.

One day Monsieur Basset told Jacquie to focus on the time distance between her awareness of reality and her perceptions. Jacquie suddenly understood. Her inner awareness was a dimensionless point that existed (totally by itself) in the present. Everything else had occurred in the past before she became aware of it.

As she sat on the balcony, her suppositions all fell away to reveal the totality of pure suppositionless awareness. Jacquie existed alone in the present. There was nothing else except Jacquie’s total, unending fascination with the reality that hit her awareness like a rogue wave every second of the eternity that surrounded her.

The diagnosis reported to her crying family was schizophrenia, but Monsieur Basset knew the truth. He had won her soul.

This was sent in by Marilyn by e-mail:

“Well, it was my moment to be alive, now wasn’t it?

The things people say sometimes stay with us. Same with the visual memories of her mother. How she used to take off her earrings and place them on the glass table at the pool, and would never get her hair wet, and swam so inconceivably slowly. So slow one thought she’d sink but it was really the thrashing that led to sinking. Such grace, like those strange utterances of truth that came out of nowhere. They stayed with her and her mother lived on through them.

Jacquie senior got sick right before her 41st birthday. An in-law found her wandering in the hospital mumbling to herself on one of her striper shifts.  No one knew what to do back in those days. There was just nothing, not like all the things they have today. It was probably best that no one understood or could not know what lay ahead. No one could tell them anything, since people didn’t talk about those things back then.

Those poor kids grew up fast, and yet never grew up at all. Childhood cancelled, momma dancing with the stars. One time Jacquie Sr. had decided to go to Washington DC. Congress was in session and she had had one of her visions of panacea. The visions had always been beneficent, saving people, ending suffering, and what not. Her heart remained pure while her mind had become an electrical storm. She had taken Jacquie Jr. with her without telling her the reason. Jacquie Jr. had thought she would die of mortification when they arrived at a Chinese restaurant on Pennsylvania and 3rd and were met by a legislative aid from their district. There was just no stopping her, and who could blame her. If they saw the things she saw, could see the cure to cancer in their minds eye, neither would they mind convention.

It was always a thrash, unless Jacquie Sr. was home sitting in her chair in the living room with the lights off. This would come after the visions of panacea and would last until the next visions. The psychiatrist told her it was because her father was gone during the war and this had caused an irreparable spiritual crisis. The psychiatrist had been a fraternity president. His father had gotten him into medical school. Unable to listen, he talked about all sorts of things instead. It made sense, according to him, to pay men more for winning tennis matches because they played for a longer period of time. The real problem with America was the trial lawyers. When she died, he was remodeling and mulled the loss of income.

But Jacquie Sr. was never a victim. Society was its own victim. The psychiatrist may have had a nice kitchen but he had never really been alive. Jacquie of course had many complicating factors in her life but she loved well. She tried, she wept, she saw. She could not control herself but when she lost control it was always in the service of saving. Saving humanity, saving lives, saving truth, saving us from forgetting that magic wind that whispers in our ear at every moment of our lives, even the worst ones. She had not really been a spender, a lover, or a gambler. It did leave Jaquie Jr. in a quandary all those years later. The visions, weren’t they somewhat real? It was profound but indecipherable. The mind like Icarus, could fly too high, but it’s not like the sun wasn’t there.

Jacquie played tennis, sang, did needle point, dried her hair under a dryer, played piano and was a troop leader. She was in the first integrated class to graduate from her high school. She had celebrated the first Earth Day and loved Jimmy Carter. Women were not to hope back then. Never quite understanding why they had to take the back seat of wife and mother, when their hearts burned for truth and something to do, they either laid down and died or cracked wide open. 

The last time that Jacquie Jr. went with her mother to church picnic it was out at the Davis’, who had a lovely Victorian pool with fancy tile work. They got there early enough to get fried chicken and stayed until the end. After the softball game, people began to say goodbye and leave. Jacquie Sr. seated herself at the Fischer piano in the Davis’ living room. Everyone was leaving, and Margie Davis’ stance in the marble hallway said it was time to go. Jacquie Jr. stood in the hallway getting nervous. Was mother off again? Jacquie Sr. began to play. For a few tense moments Jacquie and Margie Davis maneuvered separately to get her to stop, but they were arrested. For after a few halting bars, there came the sweetest, swinging, most hopeful melody that had ever vibrated Greenmont Hall. Departing guests came in to listen. “I am thine oh lord, and I have heard your voice…..” sang Jacquie Sr. It hit those poor Episcopalians like a wave of honey. Jacquie Sr. sang “Nearer Blessed Lord,” and Jacquie Jr. and Margie Davis could not steel themselves against a song so sweet and sincere. It took them both and all the departing guests beside, right inside of Jacquie Sr’s heart and made them feel that strong, strong will of hers to love and be good. “Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, my will be lost in thine……” she repeated at the end. Applause, smiles, she had sent them to a good place, a place many of them might never go again.

Jacquie Sr. hummed it in the car on the way home. Jacquie Jr. was still wondering if it was a scene and made a vague complaint about it having been time to go. “Well, it was my moment, now wasn’t it?” Here mother said after a pause. “It was my moment to be alive.”







    Megan sat with her head on her desk staring into an opaque window frosted over from the weather. This was school; there was no point in paying attention. As the teacher in front of the class spoke with the tongue of a smooth, deep tone, Megan began to feel like she was in bed, buried under a thick blanket of warm covers, and listening to the periodic drone of the fog horn. She let go and allowed sleep to overcome her.

    At first she saw just wispy objects dance beneath her eyelids, lasting only a moment until fading as quickly as they had come. Then, more concrete objects took form. She saw herself, huddled next to a warm fire that stood solitary amongst the surrounding sea of snow. She watched herself peer around, searching for a sign of life besides her own. Vicariously, she felt panic. She felt desperation.

    Suddenly, she felt an overwhelming coldness strike her. She watched in inexorable pain as the fire, her sole source of warmth amidst this dreary cold, slowly succumbed to the cold and eventually extinguished altogether.

    Megan began to whimper from the germinating frigidity, and began to scan the desolate landscape for an alternative source of heat. Then she saw it. A figure cloaked in white with no apparent face, gliding over to her. Upon perceiving the figure, Megan felt as frozen as ice. She tried to get up to evade the figure, but her efforts were in vain as the figure slowly made its way over to her. Seeing no other alternative, Megan began to cry in desperation, but to no avail. The figure began circling her, hissing furiously. Then, all at once, Megan perceived a series of sounds as loud as booms of thunder emanating from the figure. Although each sound was inexorably loud, Megan was able to begin to make out each word: "You do not deserve to live. You have wasted your years of life. You have failed to discover the true meaning of life. You have not appreciated the gift that you were given die now because you have failed to live life."
    With that final phrase, the figure evoked a sword, and stabbed the screaming Megan straight in the heart. He smiled to himself as he watched her fall backwards onto a sharp stone, all life billowing out of her like smoke out of a pipe.

    Megan woke up screaming with pain from her head and chest. She looked around; the entire class was gaping as steaming coffee dripped from her head to her chest. Megan touched her desk, her face, her eyes, and then darted out of the room headed towards the ladies room. Upon finding herself facing a mirror, Megan carefully pinched and prodded each part of her body to make sure that she was truly alive. She inhaled a deep breath of all the scents mixed together in the bathroom, felt the cool stone from the sink beneath her fingertips, and looked into the mirror to see herself for who she now was. She felt the infinite energy of her mind swirling about like fruits and ice-cream in a blender.

    Although the whole ordeal was thoroughly gossiped over later, the most noted aspect was Megan’s new appearance. Her face seemed more colorful, her composure more cheerful, and some students even ventured far enough to say that they saw a few small stars erupt from the tip of her head as she sauntered in to the classroom after returning from the bathroom. Who knew a dream could really change a person?

  3. I chose Il ya de nombreux Jacquies by W.H. Matlack as the winner mainly because Matlack’s story had magic realist flair in the vein of films like Amelie but also had something in common with age of Dada and Futurism as artistic movements. (The painting itself was a tongue in cheek homage to Giaccomo Balla’s Streetlight.) The references to Camus and existentialism brought me back to the Dada Manifesto and Marinetti’s poetry but also had a little flavor of Herman Hesse’s novel “Steppenwolf.”

    All the stories seemed to deal with the main characters experiencing epiphanies. These stories were great and I enjoyed how each author shared in the theme of how sensation and thought can inspire changes in consciousness. Marilyn’s story had a wonderful sense of how nostalgia and recollection can inspire a type of awakening. A different type of “awakening” occurs in Alexander Slavitz’s tale of a young woman who on waking from a dream is also awakened spiritually.