D. Bellenghi, the winner of the Isabelle Ringing Flash Fiction Contest

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.
I guess I should have predicted that almost all the stories would have a sideshow flavor to them. Even so, each one was impressive and different despite the shared element.  Fotune tellers, freaks, grifters, and scammers were the characters who inhabited this set of stories!

Mirus Infidus’s story had a great sense of perspective.  The story was told in a kind of monologue ala Catcher in the Rye kind of way.  I left wondering if I should like the character telling the story.

Gigi DeVault combined a real attention to the details in my painting with a clever noirish plot.  The ending is such surprise that I had to go back and reread it it to make sure I understood it correctly.  I like the final image in the story!

 Navigation by D. Charles Florey was Fun in the “spirit” of the pun names.  Totally cool name of Mr. Harbinger.  An unsettling look at a world that is part Monk part Dexter and all the way creepy fun. 

Both Circus Act by S.M. Florey and R.C. Florey’s story had a Ray Bradbury kind of setting and plot.  The surprise ending of R.C. Florey’s story was a great unpredictable reconciliation with the events from earlier in the tale whereas Circus Act was more of a pointed observation about the nature of the human condition than a surprise.   

Speaking of human condition Queen of Hearts by D. Bellenghi really nailed it and that’s why I chose this story to receive the drawing of Isabelle.  The story was extremely well written with a clever use of prose and some wonderful phrases that stuck in my head long after I finished reading the story.  The opening and sentences were wonderful bookends to the story.  Bellenghi’s had an original, fresh take on fortune telling that struck me as being based in reality. 

Read them all here:

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