“Peach Fuzz” by Amy Curtis

Here is the winning entry for my first flash fiction contest.  This piece won because it received the highest scores from the judges for both technical competence and how emotionally moving it was.  Congratulations to Amy Curtis!

Thank you to all of our amazing judges who gave freely of their time and energy to make this a success.  These friends mean so much to me!

13301293_10155030960138975_1866992993383659836_o (1) copyLiz Sheller
Liz is a lifelong reader who has proofread so many of my works.  Well-read and meticulous, Liz is a mom of three, including the cutest canine named Romeo.  


Aaron DeMottaaron

Aaron is the author of the Psygens and Space Cats series, and the Onicranium Dragons series. Aaron is a certified Linux nerd who’s been a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars as long as long as he can remember. Naturally he writes space-opera. He lives in rural Michigan with his wife, four kids, and at least two cats. You can learn more about Aaron and his books at aarondemott.com


LoriAnn Weldon

24131521_1501556789893060_631155941391861402_nL.N. Weldon is a small-town librarian who dreams of the big city, a world traveler who dreams of seeing more, and a writer who prefers to read, because she’s lazy like that. She lives in the Midwest in a cozy apartment with a million books, and has a promising future as a crazy cat lady. 
She is a fantastic cover designer, and designed my Astound booklet!


R.J. MetcalfHeadshot

During the day, RJ is a stay at home mom of two active little boys. When she has ‘free time’, she enjoys reading, writing, baking and sewing.
After many years of creative writing classes, writing fanfiction drabbles and daydreaming, it was high time to start writing her husband Mike’s story. She dove into the world of Terrene and hasn’t looked back—except for when she runs out of dark chocolate.
Any free time not spent in Terrene is typically expended on hosting dinner and game nights, running amok with the two little monkeys or watching nerdy movies with Mike.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rj_metcalf/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StonesOfTerrene/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StonesOfTerrene
Amazon link: http://a.co/iGK7anP

H.A. Titus

authorphoto2019H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. 
She first fell in love with speculative fiction when she was twelve and her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young sons, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world, usually for some kind of adventure. When she’s not writing, she can be found mountain biking, skiing, or playing table-top games and RPGs.
Instagram: http://Instagram.com/hatitus
FB: https://facebook.com/HATitusAuthor
Freebie book: https://mybookcave.com/d/29ec990d/


John Thomas

John Thomas is an avid reader, especially of historical narratives. But, he has read many books of a wide variety of genres. He also wrote a novella, “Mara is Crying”. https://racheliscrying.wordpress.com/rachel-is-crying/
John was a corporate executive in information technology and was a County Commissioner overseeing the county he lives in as a member of the five person Commissioners Court. He served in the military as an Army officer and was an Airborne Ranger. He graduated from West Point and Harvard Business School.


Faith Blum

91Z74YdeT6L._US230_Faith Blum is a 20-something author of multiple books in various genres. She loves to write, read, play piano, knit, crochet, sew, watch movies, and spend time with her husband. She lives in Wisconsin in a small town with her husband and cat where she can write to her heart’s content during the day. Faith’s goal in her writing is to encourage Christians in their walk with Christ.
Website: http:// bit.ly/1tAFm4V 
Blog: http://bit.ly/12g3gfC
Twitter: http://bit.ly/1y3MLQt
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1y94De5

Kara Swanson

As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New37087821_10212777851180998_1162619377552457728_n Guinea. Able to relate to characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.
Shortly after moving stateside, Kara received the Mount Hermon Conference “Most Promising Teen Writer Award.” Her latest release, The Girl Who Could See, was a finalist for a 2018 INSPY Award and won the 2018 Parable Award. Swanson is also on the faculty for the Young Writer’s Workshopwhere she helps to guide thousands of young writers. 
Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, forming sincere connections with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order.


And without further ado – the winning entry:



“The smallest coffins are the heaviest.” No one warns you about that, ever. No one talks about it – at all. A baby boy, he’s her biggest newborn yet. Once you look past all the tubes and wires keeping him alive, so we can say hello and goodbye, he looks just like his siblings. He might even be the most handsome yet.

How his momma and daddy are doing this, I don’t know. I don’t think I could. There are twenty of us huddled in the birthing room next door waiting our turn to cherish our sixty seconds of time with their precious, silent four-day-old. If ever prayer held someone up, it was now. Digging my nails onto my forearms I close my eyes and press back into the corner praying again that He would change His mind, hold them up, make a way in the dark.

My mother-in-law touches my elbow and says it’s our turn. My knees want to buckle and I can’t breathe right. My hands go to my tiny but growing belly. All I can think is, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I am still pregnant, I’m sorry they won’t get to grow up together like we planned. I’m sorry you have to see my hope in the middle of your pain. I’m sorry the three bundles of hope, four months apart, are now only two. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

Hiding in the back of the small group I see his daddy, so strong and kind, encouraging each one to hold a little pink hand or stroke a soft baby toe. His momma sits holding him in her arms with physical pain, that I’ll understand later, and emotional torture blanketing her face. I now perfectly understand the phrase, “Silent tears traced rivers down her cheeks.” “You have to hold her! Don’t let go! You’re the only comfort she has.”

With how hard emotions and situations like this are for me, I surprise myself when it’s my turn by stooping down and kissing his blonde peach-fuzz head. He’s so warm and soft and normal. How can it be that he won’t just open his big, undoubtedly blue, eyes? How can it be that this sweet-smelling, squishy baby won’t be with us in a few short hours?

Terrified that I have overstepped some precious boundary, I quickly retreat to the hall. I find his biggest sister and their aunt sitting on the floor hugging their knees and crying. In the pale green hospital hall next to the water fountain they lean on each other and sob yet again for lost hope. Another thing no one tells you is there is pain you can’t comfort.

Heartbroken and spirit torn apart for my family, I can’t go back into the crowded room. I can’t bare the pain that has seeped into the hallway either. A sob echoes in the hall. Maybe I’m selfish, or maybe it’s pregnancy hormones, but without saying goodbye I make my way to the elevator. Two things will forever stay with me: how tangible this grief was and the softness of his peach fuzz. Stepping inside feels like leaving a different reality. No one on the other side of these doors knows about the literal ocean of grief flooding through the halls of Maternity Ward B Room 102.


WINNER of the RJ Conte Flash Fiction Contest!


RJ's Themed Flash Contest (2)

The official winner of the RJ Conte’s Flash Fiction Contest is…

AMY CURTIS with her entry of “PEACH FUZZ.”

She will win $100 and her flash fiction piece published right here on the blog within the week.

Thank you to all the participants, to all the judges, and to everyone who made this a success. All of the entries were fantastic – there wasn’t a single dud among them.

Because I’ve entered my own fair share of contests, and know that often you send a precious work of fiction out into the ether, don’t win, and never hear another word about it, I’ve always resolved to do contests differently (this is my second fiction contest I’ve held). I asked all the judges to return their scores with a word of positive feedback, so everyone who entered, be watching your inboxes this week. The judges had high praise for all of you to encourage you to continue on your writing journey.

And please enter next time! I’ll announce the new flash fiction topic and be looking for new judges in the spring!


Jamaican Grace

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

The second winner was Laura Pol with MercyMe’s “Grace Got You”!

The following short fiction piece was written in 15 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Laura that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!




Solomon “Jamaica” Barnes sat under the cement bridge, bopping his head to the hidden tune that only he could hear from the pounding of vehicles over his head.  The rhythm reverberated all the way down to his fingers, which tapped against his side happily.  He closed his eyes, his grin splitting his chapped lips.  Popping another peanut into his mouth, he dropped a handful at his feet.

Down on the cement, a tiny New York city squirrel wrapped itself around his ankles, scrambling for the peanuts.

“Dis be d’life, eh, Crunkle?” he murmured, reaching two fingers down to gently stroke the furry back of the small animal.

Crunkle’s rapid crunching was his only reply.

“Ho, Jamaica,” a voice muttered from behind him.

The dark-skinned man lazily turned his head to welcome a grungy, gray-bearded hobo pushing a loaded shopping cart around the far corner of the bridge.  “Jimmy!  Mon, how you be?” Jamaica waved his hands, the squirrel skittering away at lightning speed. “You comin’ to hang?”

The man shook his scruffy head, his eyes on the ground, sandaled feet scuffling forward slowly. “I’s be tryin’ to get to Central Park b’fore dark.”

“Sure, but I could use d’company.  Any time, mon.” Jamaica squinted at his friend, watching the man roll by him.

“I know, Jamaica.  I know. But I hate sittin’ on cement these days.  My war-torn backside ain’t what it used to be.” The old man’s coat had bird dung and dirt encrusted on the hem.

Jamaica watched him carefully. “You and d’war, Jimmy.  When ya gonna let dat go, mon?”

“When I be dead,” came the murmur as the shopping cart creaked around the opposite corner of the bridge, and the sound of cars covered anything else Jimmy might have added.  The echo of the word “dead” reverberated around the hollow underside of the bridge.

Jamaica frowned, but only for a second.  “Crunkle?”

The squirrel reappeared, a tiny little nose twitching above the black canvas bag behind Jamaica.

“Come ‘ere, ya lil’ beggar.”

The squirrel ignored him, sniffing the bag for more hidden food.

Jamaica scratched a spot on his foot that shouldn’t itch.  Pulling up his pant leg, he checked over the prosthetic.  “Jimmy and d’war… that mon wasn’t da only one who saw bloodshed.”

Crunkle made an angry squirrel noise, halfway between a chitter and a tiny cough.

“I’s be all outta peanuts, beggar.” He picked at his holey pant leg. “If we want somethin’ more dan dat, we’s a hafta go to Letitia’s, an’ I canna afford dat wit my pride.”

The squirrel gave him the nastiest stare a rodent was capable of giving.

Jamaica laughed loudly, his guffaws rumbling around him, adding a chorus to the car thumps above his head. “If squirrels coulda give d’evil eye, you’da killed me dere.”  He leaned back against the cement, pulling the bag forward to use as a makeshift pillow.  Folding his arms above his head, the little squirrel clambered onto his chest. He sighed, staring at a spot of graffiti on the bridge ceiling above him. “Wonder how dose dumb kids got up dat high to paint up dere,” he mumbled.

The squirrel stretched out a leg, all taut and tight, and then relaxed and went limp, tucking its head into its tail, its body a neat little circle.

“It’s gonna be Thanksgivin’ soon.” Jamaica frowned.  The grafitti read “Girls.” He put a hand over his eyes to block it out. “Wonder if my lil’ girl, Letitia, woulda be stark shocked t’see me show up for Thanksgivin’.” He tucked his chin to peek at the sleeping squirrel. “Think she’d be too ‘shamed to see us, huh, Crunkle?  Think she’d forgive her old dad now dat I be clean?”

A pipe from a motorcycle above popped, and Jamaica jumped. “It’s a hard world for us vets.”  Heroin had been an easy out.  He could block out the memories.  All that blood.  Men doing things he had never imagined, let alone wanted to experience.  All those faces, gone and dead.  And then he had come back home, missing a leg, his wife and strangers to him and his pain.

He had come to America at the tender age of ten, and becoming a US citizen was the highly of his life.  When World War II broke out, he had been excited to do his duty to this great country.  But no had prepared him for what life was like coming home.

Marge had wanted nothing to do with him when he wasn’t the man she had married any more, and he couldn’t stand the judgment on his oldest daughter Lucy’s face when she had chosen to turn her back on him and take her mama’s side.  That last day he had seen her, his vision blurred from his last fix, she had linked her arm through her mother’s, standing on the edge of the bed of the moving truck.  Her face was as steel as granite, even at the tender age of fourteen.

But little Letitia had turned around.  When Marge took her hand to lead her to the car, his second ten-year-old daughter had given him one last hopeful glance, those eyes open and still trusting.  There was love still in her heart, he had been sure of it.

It had been a decade and a half since then, and supposedly Letitia was married and back in New York, a brand newlywed. Her husband was a newspaper man or something like that. The last time Jamaica had visited his elderly father at the nursing home, before the nurses had shooed him out, their noses pinched, their hands shaking with anxiety, he had seen the letter from her.  After all these years.  Letitia had written to him, hoping her grandfather would pass her words on.  She wanted to reconnect.  She wanted to know her dad, to give him a chance.  She wrote about Jesus.

He had carried the wrinkled letter in the bottom of his bag for a while now – her address written clearly on the outside of it.  But he hadn’t need to – the address was seared into his memory.

Sure he had been clean for a year now, but time had passed him by.  He had no money and ability to do anything but beg.  Shelters were for those harder up than him.  Old Jamaica Barnes – he could tough it out, adopt baby squirrels, turn highway noises into songs in his mind, and keep up his cheer.

Until he thought about his baby girl reaching out.  Dangnabbit, she was brave.

He pulled out the envelope for the thousandth time and stared at it.

“I’ll go,” he said, and suddenly he knew that’s what he had always and ever wanted.

Thanksgiving was coming.

Alien Exchange Program

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

After a random roll of digital dice, Elizabeth Liberty Lewis’s song, “Many Words” by DROELOE won!

The following flash fiction piece (under 1000 words) was written in 15-20 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Elizabeth that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

Next up with be one for Laura Pol.  Stay tuned!

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!




The little alien stumbled and fell in the deep, rich, wet dirt.

As the speeder raced away into the sky, the taillights shrinking rapidly in his vision, his throat clamped shut. The faint smell of diesel filled his nose and time slowed, as if to stamp an important moment on his mind.

He had been abandoned.

His mother, pinch-lipped and silent, her three eyes focused straight ahead, had refused to even glance his way during the duration of the space travel.  He had tugged on her arm at first, but had given up.  He had hoped against hope for a fun vacation spot, like on Krypton’s moon, but his mother’s clenched paw had told him otherwise, her eyes stalks decidedly pointed in the opposite direction.

Now here he sat, alone on a new planet, speeder-like lights surrounding him as if eyes were watching.  In the dark of night. With only lit-up buildings to guide him, the ground wet from fresh rain, the mud squishing between his back flipper feet, he stumbled forward, a sob rising in his swollen throat.

There, straight down the muddy grassy lawn, he saw a smaller shop, the lettering illegible for his three alien eyes.  On the dimly lit sign a drawing of two creatures that looked like the two halves of himself sat and stared at him.  One was green with two bulgy eyes and webbed feet, the other had paws and fur and floppy ears. It was as if they had put both of his parents on one sign: his mother who had just left, taking his heart with her, and his adventurous father who had died so long ago.  A human creature with a stethoscope stood next to them. This had to be the alien welcome center.  Possibly he could find a new home.  The thought seared his heart with pain, but he was glad to have some place to start.

“What is this?” came the screech from the front desk when he entered, pushing his way through the heavy glass door.

He let out a garbled “Ribbit!”

The fleshy, pink, extremely tall creature rose up on it back legs and pushed black wire and glassy things up around her small eyes. “Joe!  Look at this!” it said, and he found he could understand it.  Thank his mother for teaching him alien languages – or had she been planning on abandoning him here all along?

A tall fleshy creature with a single patch of black fur on the very top of its head came around the corner and broke into a giant smile.  “I had one of these once!  A large furred toad!  They’re thought to be extinct!”

The first creature’s red mouth twisted in what was obvious disgust to him, even if he wasn’t used to its oddly hairless pink face. “You had one of these as a pet?  Where did it come from?”

The one called Joe was still smiling, and it was a peaceful, happy expression that tickled the young alien from his head to his webbed toes.  “Yes!  There have only been three in existence that were ever reported.  I had the third.  Maybe it was one of his family, and another had the intelligence to come looking!”

The first one with the metal and glass around its eyes looked skeptical. “Seriously?”

“I think they don’t come from earth, but that can be our little secret.” Joe winked at the other one and then reached those huge, pink hands down for the alien.  “Come here, little buddy.  Did you know my guy Marcus?”

Of course the name did not ring a bell.  It was human earthling talk.  But the hands were warm, and soon the little alien was snuggled against the large cloth-covered chest.

“I bet you did, little buddy.  Before he left, I told him my house was always open to his kind.  And I’m pretty sure, in his alien head, he knew it was time to go home, raise a family, and tell the next generation about earth.” Joe pet his head, and it calmed him to his very core. “I’m so glad you’re here, little buddy.  Let’s start the next chapter of this foreign exchange program, shall we?”


Copyright: RJ Conte 2018


Myers-Briggs Help for Authors!

Are you an author?

Do you have a Facebook account?

Do you like real, authentic, deep characters?

Are you interested in personality typing?

Are you curious how personality typing and creating characters go together?

Then what are you waiting for?  Join my Facebook group for authors interested in Myers-Briggs help!  Free coaching for developing characters and a happy community of Myers-Briggs aficionados!

Also, don’t forget about the flash fiction contest running until December 1st.  The prize is $100.  Enter here.


RJ’s FIRST Themed Flash Contest!

I want to award one amazing author with $100 and promotion online!  Please send me your “most emotionally moving” flash fiction!

RJ's Themed Flash Contest (2)

2018 Theme: “Most Emotionally Moving”


Official Contest Rules


Flash fiction entries should be 1000 words or less – no exceptions.

The entry fee is $1 which can be sent, via Paypal, to dashwoodavenue@gmail.com Once we have received the fee, we will process your entry and add it to the contest.  Limit ONE entry per author.

Contestants must be age 16 and older as of July 1, 2018.

The contest is open to all genres except erotica, but must fit the theme “Most Emotionally Moving.”

Entries will be judged on technical writing talent as well as its emotional impact.  Entries will be graded on a 1-10 point-scale for each category and then all ten judges’ ratings will be averaged to find the winner.

Keep entries to a PG-13 rating or below – no gore, no onscreen sex, and minimal cursing.

Entries can be previously published, and all rights return to the author after the contest is over.

One winner will receive a $100 cash prize, the winning entry published here on BlondeRJ.wordpress.com, and promotion across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The final deadline to enter the contest is December 1st, 2018 PST.

The winner will be announced March 1st, 2019.

Please attach the entry in a Word document with no name or personal information included in the document.

Keep it honest!  The entry must be written by YOU, the contestant.  No entering the contest for someone else.  No fan fiction.  Must be an original work.

This contest excludes immediate family members of the judges.



His Bottles of Tears

Psalm 56:8

“Please! Don’t hang up on me! I want you to come home!”

My cry echoed hollowly as the dial tone stung my ear. Dropping the receiver, the burning hit my eyes with a hellish fervor. They stung until the saltwater tears poured out to douse the fire behind my vision.

She wasn’t coming home. My beautiful, lovely, one and only teenage daughter. Lost to me, she refused to leave the sin and return. Repenting and begging for forgiveness wasn’t on her rebellious bucket list.

Was this the fifth time I wept today? The constant falling of life-water onto my face did nothing to assuage my heart. Like a bandage that would not stick, the tears failed me, but still, they would not cease.

Drained with grief, I stumbled back into the room where my husband lay sleeping, and crawled under the heavy quilt. Wrapping myself securely, I crouched near his warm body, trembling with the shivering sobs. Chill seeped in through the sheets. Would I ever be able to set a firm chin of resignation to this issue of my precious baby daughter?

Within seconds of forcing my eyelids to clamp a lid on the sorrowful leaking from behind my eyes, I found myself opening them once again inside a bright white room. Jars and bottles of all shapes and sizes stood shoulder to shoulder like ardent glass soldiers in strict formation. They occupied every inch of hundreds of rows of shelves affixed to the wall, and they held transparent, sparkling liquid up to their brims. The room was radiant, unseen lights reflecting off of the white walls and the crystal clear bottles.

I did not hear Him arrive, but there He stood beside me. He stretched out His hand to me, his robe as pristine as the room, the white soft on my swollen eyes.

“Where are we, Lord?” I worried. Had my heart finally cracked beyond repair and given up the fight? Was this Glory? Then why did I still feel so heavily unhappy? What was this absence of peace, even as I stood in Jesus’ presence?

“These are my treasures,” He said softly, His voice soothing my ears like feathers against the cheek. “Each of these hold the tears of my children.”

With a gasp, I surveyed the room again, staring at the precious life-water of my brothers and sisters. Some jars were larger than milk jugs, holding gallons of sorrow in their bellies. They could only represent numerous days and nights of ripped hearts and tortured souls.

Thinking of my own impossible battle with my daughter, of the messy breakup that had destroyed my college years, and of the miscarriage I once faced as a newlywed, I suspected my own bottle was fairly immense.

Turning doe eyes to my Lord, I enquired, “Where is mine?”

With a strong finger, He pointed to the corner shelf, second from the bottom.

There sat a miniature vase, its thin neck holding no more than a pint of the clear salty tears I had donated over the years. I stared in disbelief. “Are you sure you didn’t miss any, Lord?”

“I miss nothing.” There was a sweet smile on Jesus’ lips.

In an instant, I forgot about my own miniscule bottle, and straightened up, gazing about the room again in horror. Striding purposefully over to a vessel the size of a small aquarium, I tapped its face with my fingernail. “What happened to him?” I demanded, dread filling the gaps between my lungs and ribcage.

Jesus’ eyes melted with a wise sadness that was married to joy and hope, a look of which my own timid faith could not mimic if I tried. The corners of my eyes were far too wrinkled with doubt to attempt it. “His entire village was murdered at the hands of radical militants. They burned down his church, leaving him crippled. His whole family was killed, and his wife died in his arms.”

With a gasp of pain, my hand reached for the great big jug of tears, and brushed back and forth against the glass as if I could wipe them away forever. I felt useless and helpless and my own sorrows fled. “Why?” I whispered, eyes shut.

“He travels to all of the surrounding nations, giving his testimony and leading many to Me. He is writing a book that will bring thousands to Me. His entire church and family rest in my Father’s bosom in heaven awaiting his coming to join them for eternity.”

I stepped a few paces to the right and found another. Large, intimidating, and sloshing with fresh tears. “And her?”

“She was sexually abused by her father for ten years. It began at the age of four and didn’t end until she ran away with her mother as a teenager, living on the streets and eating out of trashcans.”

“And…?” I waited, my heart racing in agony.

Jesus took my hand. “And she has started a nationwide ministry that provides shelter and education for abused women and their children. Every day she frees hundreds of lives.”

Encouraged and emboldened, I found yet another giant bottle, the tears of which were almost overflowing.

“She has multiple sclerosis and hurts every single day. Her husband left her, her family has all abandoned her, and she is completely alone, trapped in her own failing body.”

I knew what to expect this time. Jesus would tell me why. There was a happy ending to this story too.

“She came to know Me. She loves Me better,” He said simply.

“No extravagant ministry or worldwide fame?” I asked, hesitating.

“No one knows her name,” Jesus replied. “But it is enough that it brings her soul daily into my arms.”

I pointed to my own tiny vase once more. “Why have I not suffered like these? Why have I been spared so much mourning? Why have you given me an easy life in comparison?”

“Because, My dear child, it would not have glorified Me or been for your best to give you more. What you have now is good for you. You bring honor to Me in your responses, and I see and hold your fewer tears just as close to my heart. They are precious jewels in my sight, and more valuable to me than gold. You have been a good and faithful servant with what I have allowed you.”

All of me resonated with His words, as they spun through my head and radiated out my fingertips and my toes. My body felt light, and the peace I longed for coated my limbs. All I could control in that moment was my knees, which dropped to a deep kneel at His feet.

He moved away from me, reaching for my own vase. In His other scarred palm, He held a new, slightly larger bottle. With deft hands, He poured my tears into this bigger vessel, discarding the old.

In an instant, the supernatural peace fled from my immature, unstable mind. His words disappeared, my flimsy brain forgetting them. All I could see was the greater bottle, glaring at me with its smooth surface. My tears only occupied two thirds of its inside, ominously prophesying of weeping that was to come.

“What are you doing?” I demanded, rising to my feet, my hands clenched. “Are you implying I will be crying so much more soon? I thought it wasn’t for my good! I thought I was good enough now!” My spirit cried out silently that my words were vain and foolish, and not fit to be spoken in front of my King, but I did not heed this warning. I was consumed with unreasonable fear.

His kind face remained unchanged. With the same look of compassion, He took my hands in His once more. “My daughter, there is no inherent goodness within yourself. And did you forget so quickly what I did in the lives of My other children? Do you still not trust Me?”

Biting my lip, I shushed my mouth and hung my head. “Help me!” I murmured. “Because it is so very hard. It should not be, but yet it is!”

The doorbell roused me from sleep and I was once again huddled against the strong back of my husband, our familiar bedroom walls alerting me that it had been a dream. The incessant chiming cried to be noticed. Who could it be so early? The sun had only just begun to apply blush to the cheeks of the sky. I pulled on the knob and swung open the heavy front door.

There she stood. My lovely, broken, weeping daughter. Her cheeks were pale, her makeup smudged. But her lowered, shamed eyes were clear. She lifted them to me and fell into my outstretched arms. “Mama, I’m home!”

Again, the saltwater cleansed my cheeks. These were the new tears of which He had hinted. Tears I had been afraid to meet. I knew they would flow for hours.

Tears of joy.

The Bloody Rag – RJ’s Flash Fiction – Posted Exclusively Here!

996 words, posted exclusively at BlondeRJ, for your reading pleasure.  Thanks, Heather Fitzgerald, for the idea!



How long have I been driving?

The freeway seems to yawn forever in front of me. Stop and go. Stop and go. LA traffic is hell on wheels.

I am waiting for exit 6, but I can’t even remember what time I left home. My mind is fuzzy and blurry and I’m exhausted.

The license plate in front of me reads “IMAH8TR.” Not clever or cute. Just stupid.

Fantastic. I’m stuck behind the “Hater” and the eye-piercing sunlight makes my head ache. I recall that this is normal for me. Headaches are part of life here in the smog of LA.

Hater slams on his brakes in front of me. I slam on mine as well, cursing loudly. Who gives losers like this driver’s licenses?

To add to Hater’s incompetence, he has something sticking out of the trunk of his Toyota Camry. I squint, my eyes tired. It looks like part of a blue flannel shirt. So Hater has a trunk full of clothes? What is he – an illegal immigrant? For some reason, this irritates me further. I can feel the road rage escalating inside of me. Pedal, brake, pedal brake. I’m going crazy.

Wait. Wasn’t the shirt blue? Now I can see that part of it is actually red. What kind of flannel combines blue plaid and bright solid red? So Hater has poor taste in clothes as well.

I am sitting so closely behind the Camry that I can see the red more clearly now. It’s not even in any sort of a pattern. It’s like a big bad stain. And it’s spreading. With a gasp, my brain comes into focus in an instant.

The red is spreading.

The bright color boldly creeps into every corner, overwhelming the blue and conquering the fabric for its own. Soon the scrap hanging out of the trunk is completely crimson.

What is this: sunlight-changing fabric? If only the hue didn’t remind me so much of…



Time freezes as the first drop falls. I watch it, stopped dangerously close to the Hater car in front of me. My stomach clenches as I drive over it a second later. For crying out loud, it’s got to be blood.

I’ve got to call the police.

Ignoring the hands-free driving rule, I fumble for my cell phone, my fingers trembling and shaking. I accidentally drop the phone at my feet and swear, stretching sweaty palms to find it, my eyes glued to the dripping of scarlet that hits the asphalt every other second.

“I’m on the 5, between exits 7 and 8!” I scream after dialing 911. My temples throb. “There’s a car with something hanging out of the trunk. It looked like a shirt, and now it’s covered in blood. It’s dripping.” Admitting this makes it true, and I shudder at the words.

“Can you stay behind the car and keep us on the line, sir?” The woman’s voice responds to me calmly.

“I’ll help! They’re getting off the freeway!” I cry, not knowing what I’m saying. I find a gap and pull into it, heading for the right hand side. They’re leaving at number 6: my exit.

“And he’s pulling into the gas station at the corner of 9th and Steton,” I whisper now, the buzz of the freeway replaced by quieter road sounds. I feel so obvious, trailing the car. I park as inconspicuously as possible in the nearest parking spot, facing the car with the bloody shirt.

A burly man gets out, tattoos marking his shoulder. He begins to pump gas, lighting a cigarette dangerously close. He looks right at me through my windshield.

I’m dead now.

But he simply nods at me. My breath exhales all at once, and I feel like throwing up.

The officers appear out of nowhere from around the corner of the convenience store. Engaging the burly gas-pumper in conversation, three policemen suddenly attack him, throwing the man’s chest against his door. While two officers slips handcuffs onto the man’s brawny wrists, one hefts open the trunk.

He lifts out a much smaller man. His shirt and pants are caked in crimson, and he collapses against the officer who saved him.

I throw up my hands with a shout of glee, dropping my phone against the seat.

A tap at my window startles me. Two of the officers have made their way to my driver’s side door, dragging the criminal with him.

What are you doing? I mouth. Just let me be the good citizen! I don’t want this nasty fiend knowing who I am or that I ratted him out! I’m frozen in fear behind the wheel.

“Please step out of the car, sir,” they say firmly.

What the heck?

I do. And find myself also thrown up against my own door, my hands twisted back uncomfortably behind me. “You have the wrong guy! I’m not with them! I reported this to you!” I shout, wrestling against them in sheer terror.

They lead me, handcuffed, to the back of my own car. The bloody man is pointing, finger shaking, at me. Using my keys, they pop my trunk, and out jumps a woman! With an animal yell, she races, tripping and stumbling, over to the bloody man, throwing her arms around him.

My head stabs.

“Mick!” growls the burly, tattooed man. “Mick, you sold us out, you son of a dog! You called the police, didn’t you?” He curses and spits. “Your head hurts, doesn’t it, man? I knew you were a liability, you piece of puke!”

With a crash in my skull that feels like I have been electrocuted, it all comes back to me. My name is Mick. I beat up and kidnapped a wealthy couple. The tattooed hunk is my right-hand man. I suffered a brain injury in a robbery last year. I black out some times and forget who I am and what I’ve done.

And I just called the cops on myself.


Copyright RJ Conte 2015


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