Write a story about Earl Lee Riser and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Earl Lee Riser and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday March 7, 2011

Earl Lee Riser
11"x14" oil on masonite
antique kite spool
puzzle pieces, children's kite

Earl Lee Riser

Click pictures 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 came in by e-mail:
E. -- I didn’t envy Haakon Nielsen at all.  But the one thing that he did that I wanted to do – more than anything - was fly in an airplane.  Haakon told me about his journey to England.  Most of it I didn’t believe –-the kids all seemed to lie to hide things they didn’t want you to know about, things they were ashamed of.  Or they would make up grand stories to impress the people who chose to adopt them during the war.  But Mum told me it was all true.  That was not what I wanted to hear.
H. -- I was an early riser like Farfar.  First thing in the morning – when we could no longer ignore the endless light of a summer day –we would go to the fountain in the park to sail my little wooden boat.  I had to leave my sailboat with Farfar in Ebsjerg.  I left my bike with the bell, too.  When I got to Chatburn, where I met Earl, there was so much room to run on the downs.  It was like being back in Ebsjerg, where the wind from the sea would take my kites high up into the sky. 
“Until you could no longer see it on the end of the string.”
H. --Earl and I made our own kites. 
“Because of the war. You made all you own toys.”
E. -- Haakon had been in the port of Grays. Everyone felt that it would soon be bombed and preparations were made.  Mrs. Nielsen wanted to be far away from the reach of the Lufthansa.  So she and Haakon took the train to Chatburn.  There were dozens of children on the train, sent alone from the slums of the cities and the seaside villages, to live on English farms and in villages.  Haakon was lucky to be with his mother.
H. -- I liked being outdoors. When I was in Grays Thurrock, we had to tape the windows to keep any light from showing.  And we put chicken wire on the insides of the windows to keep the glass from flying into the house.”
“When the bombs fell.” 
H. -- The bombs fell in Chatburn, too.  But only once.  I was in school when we heard the single plane circling and circling.  Our little village could not be an important target.  There was only one mill and nothing else.  I was more brave and more foolish than I should have been because I had personally experienced being in the Blitz.  I stood at the window and watched the plane circle.  I could even see the pilot in the cockpit.  I had studied the black silhouettes of enemy planes on the handbills posted in Grays.  I recognized it as a Heinkel 111.  I felt pretty smug about that knowledge until I realized the plane was coming toward the school.
“Then Miss Tussely said, “Get under your desk, Haakon!”
E. -- I would always hurry to finish my school work.  After our papers were turned in, Miss Tussely would let us draw.  I always drew airplanes.  Sometimes the planes I drew were bombers.  I would draw the bombs falling from the plane, too.  Miss Tussely would say, “Earl, your work is so detailed.”
“She didn’t like the bombs.”
E. -- I decorated the kites, too, because that did make Miss Tussely happy.  And then I would get a treat from Mum forgetting a good report.  I liked to draw faces on the kites.  And the faces would inspire names.  So our kites, would have names.  Like big ships we were launching or a string of names, like royalty. Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax.  Or George Montagu, fifth son of the 1st Earl of Manchester. 
“Viscount or Baronet or Earl.”
E. -- It was a joke between us.  When Haakon and I first met, he thought my name Earl meant that I was an actual Earl, like a Danish Baron.  I liked that very much and never told him the truth myself.  I can thank Miss Tussely for the explanation that got me punched in the nose.  Haakon was very angry.  And said he had more noble blood than I did. 
“In Danish, Haakon means ‘of high birth.’”
H. -- I like to draw the Fockenwulf that brought me to England and to Earl’s family.  It was a two-engine plane with propellers.  In those days, they the planes that had only civilians on board were painted orange to show that it was a neutral plane.  The plane had to be refueled, so from Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, we were to fly to Rotterdam in Holland.
“Three hours.”
H. -- Then over the English Channel to Croden Aerodome, south of London.  As the plane rose over Jutland, I heard a sound over the noise of the engines.
“Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.”
H. -- When our flight came to an end, the pilot showed mother and me an even line of holes along the side of the plane. 
“You’d been strafed.”
H. -- The Germans were invading Jutland as we took off and flew away toward the Netherlands.
E. -- Mrs. Nielsen read children’s books aloud to us. She was practicing her English.  I remember thinking that Haakon and I were too old for Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys.  Mum said the picture book was written by two Germans.  I didn’t like it when I heard that.  But then Mum said they were German Jews who escaped the Nazis by going to Paris and then to Brazil.  That was odd to hear.  The giraffe and the monkeys in the story had to leave their homes, too.

 “Please read the story about the monkey and the kite tomorrow, Grandpa Earl. Please!” 
E. -- Okay.  I’ll put Curious George Flies a Kite.  Right here on the bed stand so we don’t forget where we left off.
“You never forget, Farfar Haakon.”
H. -- I never forget Curious George.


This came in by e-mail:
    Names, funny old things.  Some people use only one; Sting or Cher, some only use initials; J. R. Ewing, some use a combination; J. Edger Hoover.  Names can tell you what ancestry or nationality the person comes from; O'Bryan is Irish, Gonzalez is either Spanish or Mexican or South American, Wong is Chinese and so on. They can also tell you a lot about the parents that gave the name, a uncommon spelling indicates the parents want the child to stand out, a very ethnic name indicates the parents are proud of where they came from or of their culture. Therefore names can tell you a lot about the person they are attached to. 
    Take Earl Lee Riser, right away you know he is from a Southern state that was in the old Confederacy.  You know he is from a working class background, dad and mom have low paying jobs and are still hoping for the South to rise again.  You can tell that dad taught little Earl Lee to hunt and to never stand down and to love NASCAR and how to drive by the time he was ten.  With a name like that you also know Earl Lee Riser had his share of not standing down to the jokes of his classmates.
    Now in my job names are very important, you have to get them right.  We also have a rule that you have to use the full name and then list any and all known other names used by the person.  You also have to make sure that the photo or sketch that you attach to the name is of the right person.  After all, writing up wanted posters for the FBI is a highly responsible job.  You don't want to get the wrong person arrested.
    Poor little Earl Lee, who would guess that he would decide to car jack a new Dodge Charger at gun point?  Of course, you could always just look at the name.

This came in by e-mail:
Reflections in Black & White
By Royce A Ratterman

“Earl Lee,” mother whispered softly, “rise and shine … time to get up.”

4:30 AM and time again for some early morning work before school began. I was quite the young entrepreneur. Four hours was just enough time to eat the breakfast my mother so caringly prepared for me each day of her short life, then have grandpa drive me in our old faded-green pickup truck down to 17th Avenue where I picked up newspapers I sold before school began.

‘Master Riser’, a local well-off store owner would greet me by on occasion while out on his early morning constitutionals, made me feel special. After all, I was the Master of my life, or at least felt that I was.

I knew the value of a dollar. Having Great Depression Era parents, I had always heard the familiar quoted proverbs, “ Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” and “The early bird catches the worm.” Though, I was not necessarily after a worm at that age.

My father instructed me from as far back as I can remember to, “Get a days work done before other folks get up” and “To have and to keep any job you get you’ll need to be the best, not just good or great.”

Pops had lost the family farm in Oklahoma during the Depression and rebuilt his life in the San Francisco Bay Area, eventually becoming head foreman for the Union Ice Company. Needless to say, the introduction of refrigerators to the masses ended that career some time later. I used to go with him very early on those rare days school was out or I felt a bit sick. I clearly remember him scoring into fifty and twenty-five pound sections the one-hundred pound blocks of ice. This made them easier for the delivery guys to break up for the customers’ ice boxes. Eventually he settled in as the head custodian at our local junior college. “A good steady job is a good steady paycheck,” my grandma once said to me.

“Hard work never killed nobody,” my grandpa would often declare with certainty during supper. I would add, “Only John Henry,” but that never quite got the laugh I had hoped for.

It seems that good hard work may be an ideal of days and times long past. Folks expect too much for too little these days. I guess I was pretty lucky and blessed to have parents and grandparents like I did. I made ‘em proud too.

When I was fourteen I was on the front page of our local newspaper, the one I delivered for, with the headline reading, “Local Youth – Earl Lee Riser – Our Proud Future.” My hair was all slicked back with Vitalis hair tonic and I was wearing my best suspenders and striped tie. Was I ever handsome! I won a state of the art alarm clock, believe it or not. No trouble rising up early with that ringing in the new day!

I outsold all other boys in the Bay Area when it came to newspapers. Most other kids went in the early afternoon door-to-door and shop-to-shop. Or, they simply stood on street corners yelling, “Get your paper!” or something similar. I was smart. I went to the shipyards … early mornings when people by the hundreds were arriving for work and eagerly wanted ‘fresh news’ to start their day. Then, I went again after school to sell the evening addition to those same workers leaving their jobs looking for more ‘fresh news’ to read during supper.

“Bulk sales,” my dad would say, “Now that makes good business sense, Earl. I’m proud of you, son.”

Those values I learned growing up, and I was taught them by those who loved them, have made all the difference in my world. Discipline, hard work, dedication, loyalty, perseverance and more, are all the byproducts of my upbringing.

Other things my dad often said included, “You can’t talk and work,” “You can talk tonight in your sleep,” and “Focus on the chore at hand.”

My father always made sure I completed any task I started. Interruptions were never allowed. “Son, five minutes can cost you an hour, only stop a project when you have to. If you stop to start something else when it isn’t necessary, you’ll have to start back up again … and that wastes time and money. Time is money!”

I was taught to live by my name and be early to rise. I succeed in life by focussing and completing each task in hand and to separate the concepts of multi-tasking from living in a scatter-brained lifestyle. Now I build high-rise construction projects all over the world and pass those treasured values on to my constituents, subordinates and peers.

Don’t get me wrong though, I had lots of fun in those days too. I won our school’s kite flying competition with the highest flying kite ever. It helped that some friend of my grandpa’s who worked at the DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware had sent him a bunch of string made from nylon he wanted to have tested. “Strong enough for high winds,” grandpa wrote him. “Great for kites too.”

Is it ever too early to rise?


This came in by e-mail:
Was Kilroy Here? by Helen Chapman

‘Earl! Earl Lee Riser! You git outta that barn boy! You git them clothes dirty, your mama’s gonna beat you like a rented mule, ya heah!’

Earl grabbed the rope at the loft door and swung down, landing on a stack of hay bales. How on earth Granny thought a body could get dirty playing in hay was beyond him. It wasn’t like he was going into the barn to go digging in the sow’s barrow. He was up in the loft, looking at his treasures.

And didn’t Earl have some fine treasures up there! He had a whole cigar box full of nifty things he had collected over this past summer. He had a glass eye he won off James Ray Odom that James said belonged to his uncle. There were a dozen lead soldiers his cousin John had helped him pour. He was especially proud of the dried up lizard he had found on the top of the mower seat last summer. The one he was checking on though wasn’t in his cigar box. It was on top, held on with two fat rubber bands he got from his Pap.

Yesterday, Earl had gotten his bestest, neatest treasure yet. It was big, so big it wouldn’t fit in the Dutch Masters’ box. And it was extra special because his Aunt Lina made it for him with a spool she got back when she worked at the mill. Earl guessed he could get enough kite sting on there to at least get his kite up to the moon.
Church that day seemed never ending. Since Earl and his Maw and come to live with Granny and Pap, they went to church regular. Earl hated it. He hated putting on a boiled shirt. He hated wearing a tie. Mostly though, he hated when Pap would invite the preacher and his nasty little girl to come take dinner with them.

Sure enough, after altar call, Pap was the last one out of the sanctuary. He shook Brother Neely Down’s hand. ‘You coming to eat, Brother Neely? Bessie done killed a fat hen this morning. I reckon we’ll be eating mighty fine this afternoon. And you bring your girl too. You know she’s welcome.’

Earl was afraid of this. He looked from Brother Neely to the girl standing at his side. Eider was just a slip of a thing, not much bigger than a minute, his Maw said. She wasn’t but six. But she had enough mean packed into those six years to make her into a deadly weapon. Earl figured President Truman could have sent her over to Korea and Eider’d have them Commies whipped in a week. Less if she thought they had chocolate.

Brother Neely and his daughter arrived a good half hour after Earl and his family got home. The church didn’t provide a car, so he had to drive his old mule out the long dirt road from town. Eider didn’t wait for her father to tie off the mule before she leapt from the wagon and ran to the porch. She didn’t even bother knocking. She just yanked open the screen door and ran inside. ‘When do we eat?’
Earl had been sitting at the kitchen table since they got home from the church house. He had managed to talk his Granny out of a piece of brown paper that was Pap’s bib-alls had come wrapped in last time she ordered from the Monkey Wards catalogue. He just knew that would make the perfect kite. He was sitting at the table, measuring, folding and cutting, and trying to get just the right dimensions and angles to give him the very best lift. He even had his crayons out. He was trying to draw some nifty designs, maybe Indian signs. Earl was being very careful. This kite had to be just right to warrant such a special spool like he had with his treasure box.

Eider exploded into the kitchen. ‘Miz Riser, I asked when’s dinner? I’m powerful hungry.’

Granny laughed gaily, as if she enjoyed this rude little squirt. ‘Now Eider, you know we don’t eat for another half hour. Sunday dinner is 2:30, same as always. Why don’t you sit down and color some with Earl.’

Earl was horrified. Color! He wasn’t coloring. That was for babies. Earl Lee Riser was designing. He was making the P58 Mustang of kites!

His grandmother didn’t give him a chance to complain. She took the big sheet of brown paper, folded it and tore it neatly along the crease, then handed half to Eider. ‘Now Earl, you share with Eider, and everything will be just fine.’

Earl grumbled. But then again, he really didn’t need that big a kite. He could make to with a smaller one. Besides, it would be a lot easier to pick out the spines he’d need if it was smaller and square.
Granny called Earl to set the table. He started to say something about it being girl’s work, but that had only earned him a swat on the backside with Granny’s wooden spoon.

They ate, the same as most Sundays. Brother Neely Down asked the blessing that went on forever. Then Brother Neely and Eider inhaled every crumb of food on the table and looked for more. Finally, Brother Neely said it was time for them to go home.
Eider raced to the wagon and jumped up on the seat. She waited impatiently while her father said his goodbyes and gave out little blessings to everyone in the family. Earl just wanted them gone. He had a date with the heavens.

The dust cloud was still visible down the dirt road when Earl ran to the kitchen to retrieve his kite. He had it all planned out. He would take it up into the west pasture and catch the breeze at the top of the hill. His kite was right where he left it on the table. No, it wasn’t. It was face down. The spines were showing. He had turned it over to let the flour and water paste dry.

Gingerly, Earl turned his kite over. That horrid little girl!

Eider Down had tried to draw Kilroy on his kite!


  1. Yikes. Stories about Earl and Holly are due on the same day. I've submitted the Holly Wood story but haven't yet begun Earl Lee Riser's story. Too bad I have to work this weekend, too. Onward! Faster, too.

  2. Let me digress before I begin to announce the winner. This painting will not be in the show but the story will be in the catalog. The gallery does not want to show this painting because they are a little nervous that it’s too fragile because of the dangling spool and the paper kite.

    Now about the stories.

    Two transitive properties seem to be present in the four Earl Lee Riser stories. Each one had the quality of being a character study or vignette and each seemed to be based on authentic experiences. In a way I wish that I knew each author a little bit more personally to see if my fantasies about each story/author are true.
    Gigi DeVault’s story was the winner and was a wonderful reminiscence that reminded me of the couples in the movie “Reds.” Many of her stories have an international world travelling kind of quality. Gigi seems like a repatriated expat. Is Gigi a world traveler and a bit of a culture vulture historian? I keep imaging her as the Diane Keaton character from Reds.

    Kermit Hayes’ (who I do know) story sounds like it was written convincingly from the point of a G Man from the thirties or forties. Kermit is actually an excop and it sound like a discussion he and I would have had while drinking Jameson’s at his home in Chicago.

    Royce Ratterman’s “Reflections in Black & White”, is a memoir that has a very authentic tone. I liked the fact that it was based in the Bay Area and the truisms throughout sounded as if they came from life experiences. (I know that Royce is from the Bay Area but lives abroad now.)

    “Was Kilroy Here?” by Helen Chapman dialog and voice was authentic but probably the most authentic was the reference to Kilroy! I love the end punch. I envision her as an older person who could have lived through the Depression.