Write a story about Hope Ferterbest and Win the Drawing on the Right

This contest is closed.  Please read to the end of this entry to see who the winner is!
Write a story about Hope Ferterbest 
and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday January 24, 2011

Hope Ferterbest 11"x14" 
oil and mixed media on masonite,
egg shell, jar with wishbone, twigs

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:
ESCAPING KETCHUP by Stephen D, Rogers

I escaped through the woods while falling snow and the ashes of
those who didn't escape covered my footprints.  I ate bark and
survived.  I melted ice in my mouth and survived.  I survived and
crossed the ocean to America where a bottle of ketchup sat on
every table.

I escaped through the woods but never left them, the wolves
howling in the brittle cold, a cold that never left me even after
I warmed myself at the table of America, a bottle of ketchup
sparkling in the light.

I escaped through the woods to the ketchup in America.

Escaped through the woods.

Ketchup in America.

This was sent by e-mail:
Hope Ferterbest

by Sharon Rohwer

Wild chickens roost in trees, so if you want one to hatch an egg, you have to catch it first. Confine it to a cage, one that’s just big enough to hold a nest. You can let the bird stand, but don’t let it move around too much. You’ve got to make that bird sit.

You could say that Nora Ferterbest had similar maternal instincts. She was the kind of girl who was more interested in laying than staying put. But in the spring of 1932, a small, steely man caught her off guard and, before she knew it, Nora was trapped in a one-room apartment.

Little Hope entered the world through those four dingy walls. It was a reluctant birth, followed by a halting childhood. Someone once told Hope that she was a wild child, just like her mother was. She never knew that mother, but she liked to think of her that way.

She liked to walk in the woods and imagine all sorts of things, like talking rabbits and flying chickens and a handsome father who was on his way home to her.

When Hope got lost in daydream, she heard a voice break through the white noise of growing up Nora’s daughter. Amidst who do you think you are, you’ll never amount to anything, and you’re going nowhere so just accept it, Hope could hear, if she listened close, anything’s possible.

Was it the voice of the father she never knew? Hope wasn’t certain. But wherever they came from, 12 year-old Hope clung to those words as she climbed her favorite oak tree. She was convinced that if she believed hard enough, she could fly out of that old tree. And for a brief moment, before she landed in a heap on the cold, hard ground and broke her collarbone, Hope thought she did.

Hope preserved and carried around that uniquely adolescent brand of promise and pain in a little glass jar. For years she held onto it tight, but not too tight, and she never shared it with anyone because she understood the fragile nature of things.

When she turned 18, Hope took that shard of promise and pain and broke right out of her shell. Leaving Nora’s cage behind, she headed to New York City on a train. She stared out the window, watching the trees parade in front of her in a dizzying blur, and she smiled. She was going to find buildings that reached far above the trees and touched the sky. And she was going to find men who would try to touch her soul.

With no one to notice, Nora also smiled. Best be careful, she silently admonished the daughter no longer there, or my chickens are gonna come home to roost.


This came in by e-mail:

By D. Bellenghi

It was the coldest winter in years. Hope Ferterbest got on the bus and looked for a seat. Of course, there were none. What's new, Hope thought as she made her way to the back of the bus. She held the pole to brace herself as the bus lurched forward. She looked down to find a man smiling up at her.
“Please, Miss, take my seat," he said getting up.
“No, thanks, I 'm ok.”
"No, I insist". He was on his feet and she found herself seated. She managed a "thank you" and studied her shoes as all seasoned city dwellers do. Each time she looked up, she found this man smiling at her. What was his problem, she thought. She squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, suddenly hot under his gaze. Finally, her stop arrived and she eagerly got off. Just as she took a breath of relief, she heard, "Miss, do you have a second?" Hope, wheeled around, irritated to be bothered again. No, I don’t she thought, but held her tongue. He held a piece of paper with a handwritten address for her to see. "Do you know where this is?" he asked with the naïveté of a tourist. The sun caught highlights in his blond hair. He was smiling again showing off perfectly placed dimples. He thinks he can just flash that smile and I won't mind, Hope thought. She was having a hot flash again. I'm way to young to have hot flashes, she thought as she glanced at the address.
 “It’s down this block on the other side of the coffee shop." Hope answered pointing. She turned and headed down the block, only steps from her building when he spoke again.
 “Miss, thank you for your help; Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"
 "Thanks" she answered quickly, “but there is no need."
 "Actually, there is a need. I haven't had any coffee yet. I was afraid I'd be late. Now it looks as if I'm early. I just got in yesterday." No kidding Hope thought big surprise. She looked up at him. He was smiling again like they were old friends, his slate blue eyes making it hard for Hope to think of anything else. She heard herself say,"Ok, but I only have a few minutes."
What in the world was she doing? The thought was lost as they entered the coffee shop. It was the beginning that Hope would play and replay in her mind.
     Each morning, they met for coffee and then went off to their day; Hope to cooking school and William to his instructional course on life insurance. They met late afternoons for long walks in the woods. Snow covered the ground, but they were oblivious to the elements around them. Trees reached bare branches to the sky as if to say, where is spring. At night, they would go to Hope's apartment. William would read over what had been covered in class and Hope poured her love into her cooking. She used each day's new found knowledge to out do the last meal she cooked.
     The crumbling of Hope's protective walls did not alarm her. She had always been a black and white, matter of fact person. There had never been flights of fantasy or whimsical daydreams. Now there were, and she quite enjoyed them. She had always been a sensible person; she kept her head and worked hard. Now was her chance to be happy and in love. She threw her heart out in the open with new faith William would catch it.
     The week before Christmas, William finished his course. He met Hope as always, before her classes and after for long walks and dinner. He seemed the same to Hope and yet, a little different.
"William, is there anything wrong?" Hope would ask.
"No, of course not. What could be wrong when we are together?" he would answer with his boyish charm and best smile.
     Christmas day was like the Christmas Hope never had as a child. She was the happiest she had ever been. William gave her a charm bracelet with a half a heart on it. In the middle of the heart was the tiniest diamond. He placed the other half on his key chain. To Hope, it was the most beautiful gift she had ever received. Her eyes sparkled as he opened his gift, a camera. William took a picture of her in her new yellow sweater. Dinner was all Hope had wished for. Everything had turned out perfect. The turkey was the best she had ever cooked. She placed the wishbone in a jar for them to wish on, on New Year's Eve. As William was leaving that evening, he took Hope's hands in his and said to her, “I have to leave tomorrow. I just want you to know that you are very special to me, Hope." He kissed her and turned to go.
“But you'll be back for New Year's Eve, right?" William turned back to her, sadness crossed his face and then he flashed that dimpled smile she loved. “Of course." and he was gone.
     Days passed without Hope hearing from William. That's ok she would tell herself. He will be here on New Year's Eve. On New Year's Eve day, she made all his favorites. When she didn't hear from him, she told herself he wants to surprise me.
     Hope sat patiently on her couch and waited for William. As the hours dragged by painfully slow, she hugged the wishbone jar tighter and tighter. When the clock in the hall struck twelve, tears silently ran down her cheeks soaking her blouse. Her heart broke like an eggshell, hands locked on the precious jar until light of dawn. She had a decision to make; return to the life before or keep Hope alive. She held up her bracelet and the tiny diamond in the half heart charm caught the light.

This came in by e-mail:

Hope’s Journey by D. Charles Florey
The icy snow crunched under Hope’s bare foot, cutting her leg.  Hope bent her red fingers around a frozen cottonwood limb, her hand shaking, blood dripping from the cut on her wrist.  She lifted her head to the dull sky allowing the feeble sunlight to blanket her, to cover her bruised cheeks, her battered forehead, her torn skirt.
“He’ll be back for me,” she said to herself.
She turned around, the road seemed so far away.  
“He’ll realize what he did and he’ll come find me.”
Hope turned back around and stared into the forest.  Though the sun was rising, a cold wind blew through the naked trees and teased at her dress.  She shivered.
“There must be shelter ahead.” She said.  She plunged her high-heeled foot into the frozen snow, then pulled her bare foot from its icy hole.
“One step at a time,” she said.
The wind blew harder.
Snow began to fall.
Hope inched forward, her heeled foot more difficult to move than her bare foot and no more protected, but she dared not let the shoe go.  It was her favorite pair and one was better than none.  He gave them to her.  He was a sweet man, just upset right now.
Hope moved into a clearing, a flat space amongst the trees, void of any plants growing up through the frozen crust, free of any animal tracks.  
“This looks like a good place to sleep,” She said.  “I’m so tired.”
She dropped to the ground, to her knees and then collapsed, resting her face in the snow.
The snow fell.  Hope slept.
The wind whistled through the icy branches, past the grey wolves, past the white owl, past a lone Meadowlark’s egg, resting in the clearing next to her.  The wind whipped up her brown hair as she dreamed.
Ice formed about her eyes, crusting over her tears.
Hope’s well had run dry.
She was awakened by a cracking sound, deep and hollow, splintering beneath her.
She tried to open her eyes, but she couldn’t.
“Who’s there?”  She cried.
She stumbled to her feet, finding nothing to hold her up, nothing to clutch, she swayed back and forth on the snow covered ice, trying to find her balance.
She stepped hard into the ice with her heel and the ice groaned, splinted and then split open.  
Hope fell.  
All thought left her with only color to ponder: blue and white, though she could see only black.  The water felt like a thousand tiny knives stabbing her all at once.  Red.
She opened her eyes; mirky water surrounded her; there was a hole above her head.  She swam, her legs feeling like lead weights, her arms moving in slow motion.  
She grasped for the hole, leaning on her arms, pulling her head above the water.  Brown.  The Meadowlark’s egg moved.  She stared at it, cocking her head to one side, curious.  Curious.  In this cold, the warmth of the nest long gone, the wind relentlessly driving the snow in sheets, whipping it like would his shirts on the clothesline, in this harsh bitterness, a Meadowlark chick pushed its beak through the wall of its egg.
Hope dug deep with her elbows, lifting herself above the water line and pulled herself free.  She dragged herself to the edge of the frozen lake, through the woods and back to the highway.   
A car passed and Hope raised her hand.
The car stopped.

This came in by email:

Hope by Patrick Nelson

“So you’re saying that there’s no chance? No way I’m going to ever have a child?” 
Hope looked at the doctor with dry eyes that also showed how far away she was rapidly traveling. Her skin was beginning to tingle and become clammy at the same time. She felt the thin cotton of the dressing gown begin to stick to broad patches of her skin as the sweat began to spring from every pore. She drew her arms and legs up tightly on herself and she drew up inside herself too.
She flashed on the things her mother had told her about menopause. 
Is this it? Is this why I lost the baby? I am too young for this shit to begin happening! I can’t start now... I still have a couple years. I still want to have a...” She felt the urge to vomit, and her vision began to blur and darken. The examination room began to stretch into a long corridor in her mind. She began to fear that she couldn’t go back to the way things had been. Thoughts began to swim past and bump into each other then collide violently. 
“I was carrying a child and now it’s gone... My God, why? It can’t be this way. We didn’t even get to find out if it was a boy or a girl. I’m sure he made a mistake. We shouldn't have had sex last week! I told Theo that it wasn’t good to do it so soon after finding out I was -WE were pregnant. Oh, my God... What? Why?”  
She pictured Theo in her mind: His white teeth grinning his selfish smile. The one he flashed when he wanted something she didn’t want to give. He was younger than her by twelve years and he made her feel younger too. So she gave what she could. But he wanted too much from her. Now she pictured his tan skin turning grey and hairy. Fangs began to grow from his sparkling grin. 
Then she pictured the Glass of wine she had at dinner the night before last. “Oh no! I shouldn’t have had that glass of wine! But, it was just a small one! No!”
In her mind the glass filled itself to the rim as she raised it to her lips. She sipped from it and it overflowed and ran down her chin and her throat and on to her breasts, on to her stomach. I flowed down between her legs. It flowed out of her now staining her skin, her clothes, everything.
Her mother and father’s rapidly aging faces floated into the foreground next. “When are you gonna give us some Grandchildren?” She heard them taunt. But their mouths didn’t even move because she knew they would only think this, never speak it. She and Theo weren’t even married yet. 
Close behind their disembodied heads once again floated Theo’s face. “I know you think I’m too young to have kids but you yourself said if we don’t get started soon, it’s gonna be too late for you. Now look at what you did. You waited too long.” He started to press his disappointed feelings on her almost physically.
The more this continued, the farther away she slipped. Fear. She felt afraid. Not of just losing the child, but of being an empty shell. No love. No joy. No Future. Lonely. Nothing. She knew she needed to stop herself or she was going to become permanently hurt or broken. 
“STOP! It’s not my fault! This has to be a mistake! He’s wrong! I know I lost this baby, but that can’t be IT!”  She clawed at the pieces crashing them together. Things began to clear away. It was still dark, like she must be closing her eyes tightly. She saw a small light far away. It was like looking at a streetlamp through a drop of rain on windowpane at night: A corona of prismatic light with an unfocused point of light that slowly pulsed. It was the only thing left there now.
The darkness began to evaporate and the Doctor said something to her but it sounded like a wasp buzzing a little too close to her eardrum. She instinctively swatted next to her head. The doctor gently but firmly grasped her shoulders and turned her on the examination table to face him. The paper under her ass crinkled and the leather squeaked as she rotated. He gave her a little shake. Her eyelids fluttered and the spell was broken. 
“I know this comes as a shock, but we need to discuss this.” the doctor said. “I need to explain the position you are in physically. Can you focus on what I am saying? Can you answer me?”
Her lip trembled and tears finally began to fill her eyes. “Can I see Theo now? I need to tell him”
“Sure,” he replied “but first I need to explain your situation to you then you can see him alone and tell him.”
“Look, I know what my ‘situation’ is” she said as calmly as she could. “But I really need to talk to Theo now. Then you and I can have our talk, OK?”
“Very well. I’ll have the nurse go get him and when you’re done you send for me, got it?”
“Yeah Doctor, I got it.” She said.
A few moments after the doctor left, Theo opened  the door and shyly peered around the corner. His eyes were puffy and red. He stared at her for a second. She hung her head slightly to the side as she looked at him and raised a limp hand and waved him to her. He closed the door gently and rushed into her arms. She could tell he didn’t want to hold her too tightly and she whispered; “I may be banged up a little, but you’re not gonna break me.”
This drew a short sobbing laugh from him as he squeezed her tighter. “I’m so sorry, baby.” He choked out.
This immediately broke her last resolve of emotional restraint. She wept hard and long in the shoulder of her lover. His shirt became soaking wet with tears and snot, but she still wept.
A moment later she composed herself slightly and came away from the safety of the crook of his neck to say “It’s nobody’s fault, honey. I know that now. It’s just the way we have to be.”
Wiping the tears that from under her eyes and pushing the drenched strands of hair from her face, he said “I’m just so glad you’re ok. Oh my God! I thought... oh man! I can’t live without you.”
“Yeah, but I just hoped that we could, you know... I just hoped...” she searched his bloodshot eyes for forgiveness and was answered by the little crinkles around his eyes as he smiled to her.
“I just want you to be ok. Sometimes the only way to keep hope alive is to hope for something else.” He sputtered.


The Stand-In by Gigi DeVault
Her best friend told me that Hope got the acting bug in sixth grade.  Natalie Wood was a big thing then and everyone kept telling Hope that her big brown eyes looked so much like Natalie’s.  She could use those eyes to good effect, but it was her bearing that got her the parts.  Hope was not pretty, but she was animated.  Watching her on stage, I didn’t really see her course-cut face.  Instead, I would be caught up in the emotions that danced with her features, or be held captive by a nascent sense that I knew the character she was playing. 
Hope was the girl next door.  The one every boy climbs trees with before they take notice that she’s a girl.  And later, she was the one in the smart girl sorority that every frat boy looking for a little luck dated.  She majored in French literature and minored in drama, as counterpoint -- I liked to believe -- to my world history and film.  If someone reached, she reached further.
She’d turn a disdainful glare on anyone who tried to suggest a course of action to her.  If they thought they knew better, they didn’t think it for very long.  Once she made up her mind, Hope never looked back.   If you make an omelet, she’d say, you can’t put the eggs back in the shell.   Decide what you want and move forward.  She was the bravest girl I knew. 
She sent postcards to my mother from all the places backpacking kids go to in Europe and North Africa to escape their families and find each other.   She took a breather and settled for a year in a tiny pied-â-terre in Saint Germaine des Pres in the 6th Arrondissement.   Hope had been accepted into La Sorbonne, and was innocently, exuberantly proud.  We exchanged letters for awhile, until I stopped writing.  She was too polite and too sympathetic.  I don’t think it was guilt that caused her to keep the thin connections to home.   It felt more like pity.
What do you say to a girl who uses up her afternoons reading Michard’s Les Siècle, her tanned legs stretched out to catch the sun at Café de Flore, and spends all that she could scrounge for an evening a month at the Odéon?   I was still going to the Saturday night movies at the Roxy on Main Street.   Mostly alone—I insisted I was seriously studying film—or with any girl who reminded me of Hope.
She intentionally stayed away from the International Center for Theatre Research while she was in Paris.  Hope firmly insisted she had come to study literature not theatre, and being of two minds was confusing.  Being of two hearts was worse, I thought.  
One morning, Hope grabbed the same bundle of asparagus off a produce stand as Peter Brook’s cook.  Instead of an argument, she got a free ticket and went to see Brook’s production of Le Costume.  She was seduced anew—first by the iconoclastic play and later by an artistic director.   He was as handsome as Hope was plain, and he asked her if she was ready to totally commit herself to the possibility of changing society through his work and her acting.   One thing Hope learned was that there was always some younger, prettier stand-in waiting her turn to demonstrate total commitment.
After the director, we met up in London.  She told me over the phone that she didn’t know which half of her soul to feed.
Instead of the luminous gray of an early spring in Paris—a backdrop I would have preferred—I exited the expansive cocoon of a glossy London cab only to duck immediately under a big black umbrella, expertly opened with a precise pop.  I had a few hours when I was afraid my omelet would turn out to be scrambled eggs.  Hope would have laughed at my anxiety.  She was a relative stranger to that emotion.  I checked in at the hotel and then took to the paths in St. James Park.  The wet silvery branches were stark and bare, reflecting all the sorrow and promise that my visit seemed to hold.
I had directed a few arty films and a couple of documentaries.  People were beginning to know my name and I was working, regularly, at what I most enjoyed.  I could meet her eyes again.  I stayed at The Dukes until she invited me to her flat.  We passed people she knew when we ventured out, which wasn’t often.   Once, overcome by hunger for a real meal, we found a dimly-lit restaurant with beaming, friendly staff.   We ate Cornish hens with our fingers.  She called them her stand-in Thanksgiving birds and tucked a tiny wishbone in her napkin.  It went into her purse along with a small half-empty bottle of ketchup.   The look of intrigue on her face was spoiled when her laughter found a way out, along with a shower of sputtered champagne that rained all over me.  
Before I left, I saw that Hope had put the tiny, dry bone in the washed bottle.  It sat on her bureau along with bobby pins and face powder.  A fragile shell protecting a delicate treasure.  It was a tableaux of my feelings for her.   That’s what I saw.   I wondered what it meant to her.   What wish was she saving it for?
Several months later, Hope told maybe the very first real lie of her life.  Something about a hiatus, she said into the phone.  And would I like to rendezvous someplace warm?   The calendar said summer had arrived, but the British skies did not.
Those familiar long legs and sandaled feet carried a softer, rounder Hope toward me.  The breeze caught at the hem of her batik top where it was not so tight.  She pressed her body into my embrace, then stood back and gave me a look that invited the next move.   “Mine?” I asked.  “Ours,” she said.

Sent by email:

Hope Ferterbest By Rochelle Wattz

Hope Ferterbest still had a gleam in her almond shaped brown eyes.  Her brown flaxen hair only had hints of grey to it which one could only imagine was due to good breeding.  After living through the nightmare of days gone by, she still managed to keep going.  It was her grandmother’s words that filled her mind every time she thought she’d give up, stop living.  Those words seemed too simple to be true, but never the less, she lived by them.

Her parents were new money and she never wanted for anything.  Her grandmother had spent her life farming in the Midwest.  From sunrise to sunset she toiled the soil, milked the cows, washed the laundry and tucked her only child into bed.  She would tell him stories of promise, that America was the land of opportunity and that he could do anything he wanted.  When it came time to leave the farm and go off to war, he cried as his mother held him.  She whispered those same words to her son and he too told her that they kept him going through the cold, the hunger and the death of his friends fighting in the Great War.

After her father returned home from Europe, he went into business with a solider he met in a fox hole.  Together they formed a company so big, that he could sail the world in his yacht and drink the finest champagne.  He paid off his mother’s farm and never understood why she kept working and didn’t retire.  He showered her with clothes and jewels, but she never wore them.  Hope would visit her Nana every summer and work side by side with her in the garden and in her kitchen.  Her tomatoes were the best around and she could still smell the pies baking in her oven she would often say.

That last summer before college, Hope’s family all gathered at Nana’s farm to celebrate her 18th birthday.  Her father’s Aunt and Uncle were there and even her Mother journeyed to the “back country” as she put it.  Hope couldn’t have been happier to have her family together.  No one is quite sure why on that night her father sat quietly in the corner, but clearly he was not himself.  He drank more scotch then she had ever seen and her mother seemed more agitated than usual.  She could her them arguing in the foyer, but couldn’t hear what they were saying.

Hope said it all happened in a flash.  That to this day she could still see the man’s face that crashed through the front door of her Nana’s farmhouse.  Her father was the first to be shot through the head and then he turned and started firing at the room filled with her family.  The screams and cries, “please, please stop” could be heard from her Mother and Aunt, but the fire pops kept cracking.  Hope ran out the back kitchen door and hid in the outhouse.  She could hear her breathe and feel her chest pounding.  She said the stench of the outhouse kept her in reality, telling hear this was not a nightmare.  Then, through the hole of the door, she saw flames engulfing the home. 

She panicked and flung the door open and there was the man with the gun.  He told her to get down on her knees and tied her up.  All the while Nana’s house continued to burn.  She pleaded with him to save her family, to let her go.  He looked her straight in the eye and told her “they’re all dead, but I will let you live you”.  He told her he wanted her to remember this night forever, just like the pain he lived with each day.  She would suffer the loss of her family just like he did.  “Blame your father for this, not me” he yelled at her.  Then he left her, the burning home and the emptiness that still fills her heart today. 

Hours later after the fire trucks left and the police had finished questioning her, she thought about ending it all.  She didn’t know how to live without her Nana, her mother or father.  While her head filled with ways to kill herself, a voice kept coming through.  It was her Nana, her spirit she said.  She woke up the very next morning and was determined to rebuild all that was taken from her.  Out of the ashes of her Nana’s home, she would recreate the life that her Nana lived and find out why her family was killed. 

Hope rebuilt the farm and filled the town with joy with her spirit and generosity.  She filled the shelters with food from her farming and clothed the women and children who didn’t have a home.  She opened her doors to anyone down on their luck and to those of us she befriended.  No one spoke of the tragedy that was the old farms history, but we all wondered how Hope survived. 

Late one fall evening, Hope and I were sitting on her porch, sipping hot tea and talking about how late the harvest was.  It was then she became quiet and I think tears had filled her eyes.  She stared out into the fields and said, “How come you never ask me about that night my Nana was killed?  I know the people around her whisper about it, but you’re my best friend.”  I didn’t know what to say and so I asked, “Hope, how did you keep going all of these years?”  Then she told me the story of that fateful night and the words her Nana had told her. “Love.”  “Love”, I asked?  Yes, that’s it.  “Nana told me fill my mind’s eye with love and my heart, then no matter what happens, you will survive and grow.”  She looked at me and the tears were replaced with her smiling eyes.  Love was what Nana gave her, Love.

Okay, I’m gonna have to keep running with the imagery of the “Pandora’s Box” throughout my thoughts about each authors’ stories.  Each story was designed to take the elements of the image of “hope” both from the Pandora myth and combine it artfully with the symbols or icons I used in my assemblage.   I liked the fact that each story had a suspenseful tone.  As I read each story I kept wondering what the last thing out of the “box” would be.  It was a little like Christmas morning reading some of these stories.  So in keeping with the theme, I’m going to hold back the name of the winner until you get to the end!

A bit of a Pandora herself Sharon Rohwer used the image of a box to begin here story, “Little Hope entered the world through those four dingy walls.”  In accordance with the imagery in the myth Rohwer’s story matched the myth and assemblage.  The puckish character of Hope also matched the attitude of the portrait.  I liked Rohwer’s fun use of language at the end it tied itself to the beginning of the story.

D. Bellinghi’s story had a great use of dialog.  One piece struck as being wonderfully clever,
 “Miss, thank you for your help; Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"
 "Thanks" she answered quickly, “but there is no need."
 "Actually, there is a need. I haven't had any coffee yet.

From the story began and I wasn’t sure if the main character was being menaced or charmed.  Is it a love story or a stalking?  This created suspense.  I like it.  So, a little like Pandora, I’ll leave it to you to see what Bellinghi’s box contained.

Hope’s Journey by D. Charles Florey the season he set the story in and how he portrayed it corresponded to the cold blue gray of the painting so did other elements.  Florey’s story also kept me on edge to see what the end would be.

In Patrick Nelson’s story the main characters’ womb is the vessel that once contained the hope but he lets you know right up front, that it’s empty.  Different from the rest in that it the suspense was not really about an event in the plot line but rather the emotional state of the main characters.  The internal dialog of the main character had a nice counterpart in the believable dialog of the characters as they interacted.  I liked the fact that Nelson did not incorporate the elements of the art work as literal imagery in the story.  Instead, the setting and plot of his story interwove with the elements of the painting giving a greater subtle context to both.  There was a lot to like!

The Stand-In by Gigi DeVault the anonymous first person narrator gives you an external sense of the main character of Hope.  I liked the elements that reminded me a little bit of Capote’s Holly Go Lightly although I suspect that she was thinking of the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” especially since the author provided the image of Natalie Wood (who could’ve been a stand in for Audrey).  Her story was cinematic in every way with references to Sabrina’s character and I wondered was Wood a stand in for Hepburn.  Did DeVault mean to play and pun?  I hope so cause that’s what I liked a lot: the fun name/image game of double entendre of the title, the twigs in the painting, and the references to the impish quality of the main character.  Great finish to the tale!

NICE! Rochelle Wattz story had great sense of time and place, a kind of epic setting.  I was a little scared for the main character and I was also afraid of the grimmer aspects of the story, but was saved but I lack of sensationalism.  It was a cool element that the main character wasn’t raped as I suspected she would be.  I bet by now it makes some of you want to read the story!  Again, the ending is not what you or I probably expected!

I read Matt O’Malley’s story a couple of times because I liked it so much.   Like Wattz’s story O’Malley had a great sense of place and time.  More a vignette than a story I like the fact that O’Malley combines visual imagery with a sense of smell.  It really adds a dimension to the tale.  The end to his piece provides a nice coda.  I read the story several times because it was almost like a song that I wanted to remember.

Two stories were running streams of consciousness.  The anonymous entry, (I do know who submitted it but I’m not sure they wanted me to share their name) and    
Knight’s story was also not so much stories as a kind of James Joyce “Portrait of the Artist” look at his thought processes.  Knight’s story was a bit humorous and autobiographical and included a kind of fun play on the title of the painting/character whereas Mr. Anonymous took a dead serious look at the inner machinations of the main character.  I think that the tale by Anonymous had a quite a punch and also had a great finish that satisfied me. 

As usual, I liked all the stories.  It’s funny I think that if I could I would make almost all of them “honorable” mentions.  I think that there was only one in the batch that seemed a bit out of place in terms of the quality of thought.  (I’d like to acknowledge that all my decisions are subjective opinions.)  The one I think should get the drawing is Patrick Nelson’s story.  I think mainly because it surprised me the most and was different than the rest so it stood out. 

I want to thank all of you for writing these stories I love reading them.  I hope that you guys will keep going.


  1. Tree Folk--Matt O'Malley

    Momma Hope Fertherbest told me this story a long time ago. She’s grown old and wise. Her skin is red and flakes off like Manzanita bark. Her joints have stiffen. The doctors say she has arthritis, but she knows better. It was from the trees.

    Momma Hope was born in the Virginia hills where the trees were ancient and where smoke from coal fires rise through the underbrush and the soil bleeds to contaminate the drinking water. Back there, Momma Hope said the forest could provide everything that you could ever need, from food, art, furniture, medicine and shelter. Momma Hope was at one with the forests out East, she knew how to live off the land and to be one with it. Here though, here things are just different.

    Momma Hope met a man way back when and he brought her here out West. Actually, he lured her out here, promised her a better life. She told me she was in love with him, had met him when he was doing a paper on life in the Virginia forests and when he packed up his truck to head back West, he accidently loaded her in the back of his truck with the rest of his souvenirs.

    I never met him but Momma Hope said he had a peg leg and at first she thought he smelled like Vicks vapor rub or petroleum jelly. That’s what attracted her to him, but as things turned out, it was Eucalyptus oil.

    Eucalyptus trees are no good. Have you had a cat gone missing? You never see squirrels living in them. Nothing grows at their base. Even fleas shy away from the oil of Eucalyptus leaves.

    I’ve heard that Eucalyptus trees are transplants and I can tell, these trees are unhappy to be here. These trees moan, even when wind just whispers through their leaves, their branches screech, cry out, shake, groan and grumble. When a strong gust is captured in a gathering of these trees, watch out, they’ll start hurling branches. You should run, but watch out that you don’t fall. You may think you just tripped over a root but it actually grabbed at you. And if they have grabbed at you and you are tossed to the ground, you will slowly turn to wood and slowly grow into a tree, a hardening of the arteries and arthritis. I’m sure of it.

    I’ve hadn’t a chance to see that land back East, to see the ancient forests, to see the land Momma Hope comes from or to meet the trees she grew up around. I just know the trees that are out here on the West Coast.

    Way back when, Momma Hope said, we’d go back. She said that when I was little more than just a sapling. But that was already a long time ago. I hope I get to go soon for I think my roots are getting thick and it is getting harder to move.

  2. Title: Transparent Intentions.
    By: William Knight

    Ok, you may not know this but sometimes writers don’t get to write what they want to write. Yah, really, it’s true. Hard to believe? Well, we can’t all be Twain, Hemingway, or Rowling. History teaches us that for every Noble there has to be at least ten thousand peasants. So what are the odds of becoming that one writer that stands out amongst the thousands? Well let’s just say you usually get knighted by the same odds. Thus the irony.

    What’s my point you ask? You try writing about art you don’t understand and see how far you get into a paragraph. Writing's suppose to be easy right? You just describe what you see, throw in some big words and maybe a quote or two and wa-la, instant magic. But this smack across the face came from that Artist Kenny Mencher throwing down the gauntlet of challenge to all writers with the message, “I dare you to find meaning in my Art!”

    Unfortunately all my wish fairies got drunk over the holidays and are still pulling themselves out of the gutter. So I’m forced to look to my own faculties to solve this artistic riddle.

    Ok, maybe you can help. I’ll describe it to you and we’ll go through this together. It’s titled, Hope Ferterbest. Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, Hope for the best? What were you thinking? Kenny’s bad puns aside, there’s kind of a devil may care woman in the center. She looks cougarish. She’s looking over her left shoulder kind of wild eyed directly at Kenny since he’s the Artist sketching her at the time. But he paints her with a green short sleeve shirt. Why is that odd? His background is winter tones of gray with barren branches glued to the canvas, along with two halves of an empty egg shell. Lastly, there is a small clear bottle glued to her right.

    What? Your right, thinking about this is making me thirsty too. Time for a drink or maybe five or ten, it’ll make more sense then.

    So after some hard Drinking---I mean thinking---I think I’ve finally figured it out.

    What does it mean?

    It’s Diana, the Goddess of Spring, arriving at the end of winter, while the snow is still on the ground, the trees are still bare, and all the chicks have long since left the nest.

    You’ve drunk the same conclusions---I mean drawn the same conclusion as me, right? No? What the heck do think it is then?

    I forgot about the clear bottle? What does that mean if it’s Diana?

    Auuunnnnhh, No clue. So what is it then?

    A metaphor that women from the time of birth are programmed to wear inappropriate clothing during winter so as to be more sexually attractive. Green stands for fertility, the egg stands for no children at home, and the bottle stands for the artist’s transparent intentions?

    Holy crap, that’s deep. How many shots did you have before you came to that conclusion?

    Not enough? But it dawned on you as you’re standing out her in the freezing cold, in front of the pub, on the patio, in that little dress, listening to my boring art story, hoping I’ll by you another drink?

    Well, after telling me that isn’t it kind of presumptuous to assume I will?

    What? You can only---

    ---Hope for the best---

    Yah ok, ha ha, for that you deserve a drink. Get in there before you freeze, and I’ll resist telling you my transparent intentions.

  3. Mr. Knight, Diana wasn't the Goddess of Spring. I suppose you knew that and where just using that to get us to dislike the character speaking. Getting us to think he is a pompous know-it-all but doesn't bother to get his facts straight. Good job.

  4. Ok Stanford folks (in the Herrin Bldg) - you told me that you were psyched about writing about Hope. . . where are your stories? Valerie

  5. Hope; she thought, that’s ironic. I was my parent’s last ditch effort to save a fledgling marriage. All the books you read, all the Oprah’s you watch tell you that the last thing in the world you should do to try and save a marriage is bring a baby into the home. Right? Everyone’s heard that one. One would hope. Well anyway, it didn’t work, they supported the numbers. 1 year and 12 days after I took up residence, he left. He said at the time they had grown apart, that she was not a partner, just another dependant. She said he never really understood or appreciated who she was and what she had to offer. I was not asked. My future was decided while I pushed down then out some mashed sweet potato. I guess there was no way of knowing what this would do to her. I mean, some women go on to meet a nice man, remarry, buy a home and achieve the American. She went the nightmare route of gin, depression and a string of losers that not only did not appreciate who she was or what she had to offer but tried to beat her into the shape of something they wanted. Some would say she repeatedly tried to punish herself for letting him go. But what did I do? I was just Hope. He called a couple times. Once on my ninth birthday he came to town and we went to the zoo. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I can smell the candy corn and the goat shit from the petting zoo. It mingles together in my memory like a crappy sweet wet dream. His letters were short and male. I guess he moved around a lot. I made excuses for him because he was not the parent that was left. She got all my bitter hatred, he was the unknown. Somewhere around my freshman year of high school I realized he was just another asshole that was too weak and too young to have done anything else but leave. That was around the time Mom and I started looking more and more alike. I found that those little blue pills in Mom’s bathroom and a little red wine made me very warm and very likeable. The thing that really pushed it over the edge though was the baby, or the lack thereof. I felt her inside me like God. I was going to make everything alright with this child of mine. The fact that the father was unknown was not a factor. In fact, I considered it a plus. This way, I can raise this child, this little Feterbest, all in my own way. With all the love I had to give. And the love I would get back in return would make me whole. That was my hope. But that child rushed out of me this morning in a stream of blood and the whole of my life’s purpose left with it. I took a bus, and a walk and then a long jump. It‘s weird how much runs through your head on the way down. The water will be cold and final. That is a something I can count on and not just hope for.

  6. soulbrotherphineas,

    That was not a half bad witticism. It made me laugh, but you might try reading Edmond Rostand for a few pointers if you really want to rub somebodies 'nose' in something.

    One nit: I think you meant, "Good Pretense." not, "Good job." Because job implies Kenney's paying me for the writing.

    But overall a good comment. With such rapier wit, I look forward to reading your entree, if not this round, perhaps the next. For after all, critiquing is for the sidelines.


    W. Knight

  7. My "critique" and announcement of a winner was too long to post here so I put it in the body of the blog!

  8. W. Knight, my bad. I didn't mean to start nothin' Let's just keep this easy. I just think this is a really fun thing. I was just messing with you because I felt from your tone that you felt this whole shebang was a little beneath you. But the fact that you even submitted stories says a lot right there. As far as the nits, I'm infested with 'em. I am in no way a professional like you (at least you really sound like you know your shit), I just think this is really fun. Once again, I'm sorry.
    Can't wait to read everybody's next ones...

  9. soulbrotherphineas -

    You are as polite as you are witty. I do not except your apology for none was ever needed. The world needs more bold voices such as yourself. Never let someone dissuade you from an honest opinion, and your just and valued remark is a most humorous reminder that I tend to get ahead of myself.

    I did honestly laugh and it brought a smile to my face.

    The same as Kenney's comment that the story is autobiographical. That really made me laugh! Kenny, Kenney, Kenney, you and I will have to get far more famous before name dropping will swoon anyone of the female persuasion; even with drinks in them. But I know it's the thought that counts. May we someday be so famous.


    W. Knight

  10. A Bonus flash fiction for the fun of it inspired by Kenney’s comment that my story for 'Hope' was autobiographical. Some of this is based on true events.

    A writer's reality.
    By William Knight

    “To a good night!” He toasted. The two glasses struck just right to give a harmonic ring to the ear.

    She smiled brightly at him over her free martini.

    “So what do you do?”

    “I’m a writer.” He said, and then took a sip.

    Her face contorted slightly.

    “You can afford this right? Because if you can’t . . .”

    “I can afford it,” He laughed.

    She glanced at the bartender as if to fact check, but he was busy. Then she looked back.

    “Anything I would know?”

    “Well . . . I wrote; this --- and this --- and this.” He said casually.

    She started to fidget with the hem of her dress, and looked to the bartender again, but he was still busy.

    “Anything else?”

    “Mostly articles, essays, short stories, and an occasional contest.” He said, repeating a phrase he had rundown a thousand times before.

    She ran her fingers through her hair, took another sip, and then brought her hand down to turn her cell phone that was lying supine on the bar and glanced at the time.

    “For example,” He conjured from his recent activity, “There’s this Artist, Kenney Mencher, who holds this weekly contest challenging writers to create a story surrounding a weekly painting that he has just created,” He laughed as if to convey, ‘Crazy huh?’

    The laugh quickly faded when she didn’t seem to get it, and now he started to fidget.

    “That’s Interesting,” she feigned a smile.

    Ut-oh, he needed help, and looked to the bartender, but he was still busy.

    Then her posture closed as she turned herself toward the bar.

    “Well, thanks for the drink,” She picked up her cell phone and started to look through the inbox, “Oh, my friend called, she’s suppose to meet me, I better call her back.”

    She turned and grabbed her drink, nodded to him, and then quickly headed for the patio.

    He watched her go finishing his drink in three quick gulps. No reason for pursuit, that one had escaped back into the wild. He had forgotten the top two rules of manhood: 1. Never talk about yourself unless you’re a doctor, lawyer, fireman, CEO, and/or rich or famous. 2. If not listed in rule one, evade and only talk about them.

    He looked from where she had disappeared, then back to the bar, and was surprised a new drink was sitting there for him. He looked to the bartender who still seemed busy, but took a moment and glanced over and waved a sign of---On the house.

    As he exchanged the empty glass for the full and sipped the double strong drink, he sighed and then realized---second place wasn’t half bad. He took another sip, and smiled, calling out to the bartender, “Hey Rich! Great drink! Thanks!”

    The bartender who had seen the same story over and over, saluted back, and said, “They’ll be another.”

    He wasn’t sure if Rich meant another woman or another drink, but for now he preferred to think of it as---another drink. The dialog was far easier.