the meaning of the message is the response it elicits

A man is drowning in the ocean.
Another man, walking on the shore, sees him and calls out “Come this way. You’ll be safe once you get to where I am on the shore.”
The drowning man has been drowning for a while, has been struggling for so long, he has no strength left to get to the shore, and begins to sink.
The man on the shore calls out louder, “No, don’t give up. Come this way so I can save you.”
The drowning many dies and in death is transformed.
The man on the shore shakes his head and turns to walk away. The transformed man is standing there.
“Why did you stay on the shore? You could have swum out and saved me.”
“But then I might’ve drowned, too.”
So the one man, fearing death and not willing to leave his safety, never transformed, and never realized who he truly was, and who he could be.

A neuro-caprolitic converter

A Facebook group offered the following challege a while back

Write a flash fiction about this piece and let us see how you use it as story fuel!
1. Write a flash fiction inspired by the article.
2. 200 words is the limit.

The article in question is Sure, We Can Build a Better Toilet. But Will People Use It?.

Okay, sure.

Tuscany’s eyes went from the device sitting in the corner of the lab to Vergenne’s hopeful face and back. “A neuro-caprolitic converter?”
Vergenne’s face became beatific as he walked over to his invention. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Think of all the problems it’ll solve.”

“I didn’t know we had problems this could solve.”

Vergenne’s unbuttoned white labcoat flared like a ballroom dancer’s skirt as he turned to face Tuscany. “What? Just this morning you said you needed something like this. In today’s meeting. We all heard you.” Vergenne walked over to the wall console. “Computer, replay today’s staff meeting, first two minutes.”

The screen opened a video replay. Vergenne and several others sat around a conference table, their eyes down, some shakily lifting coffee cups, others tapping wildly on their tablets.

Tuscany entered the frame and threw a folder down with such force it slid across the table. Pages flew out as it spun past the people seated there.

Tuscany, his eyes wide and face red in the replay, slammed his fist down on the table. “Look at these results! Look at them. Stupid! Idiotic! You all have so much shit for brains this place stinks!”

Sanctuary Receives 2Q21 WOTF Honorable Mention

I know.

You’re first question is, “Why are you telling us a year after the fact, Joseph?”

Simple answer: I received the award yesterday.

I received notification back in 2Q21. Various things got in the way of it being mailed and so on.

Hey, I’m happy to receive any award. Especially while I’m alive to enjoy it.

I originally wrote Sanctuary in June 1991. It’s a 920 word flash piece which has had little to no revision since the original version.

I workshopped the piece several times. The universal (I’m not kidding. Creatures in the Magellanic Clouds love it) response was extremely positive. One critiquer stood out with “I wouldn’t change a f?cking thing. This is abso-f?cking-lutely brilliant.” Another said, “I hate it. I hate what happens in it. I hate the outcome, and I never want to read anything like this ever again.” (pause) “And the fact you could get me this pissed off in nine-hundred words shows me you are a really good writer. You’re really good to get me this pissed off in nine-hundred words.”


I’ve read Sanctuary publicly several times and always received enthusiastic applause. People come up and ask me the story’s origin and meaning. Some are weeping because the story so moves them.

And nobody wanted to publish it until Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 picked it up in July 2021.

Go figure, huh?

And now it received an WOTF Honorable Mention.

The times, they are a’changin’.

For the better, I hope.

15 Days of Harveys Day 10 – Me! Four Flash Pieces

Yes, I’m blessed! Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 has four flash sized pieces from me (but be warned, Harvey doesn’t like the term flash).

It’s a Man’s World

“Where are you going?”
Susan’s face softened but she looked away.
All the women in the neighborhood were dressed in what we use to all “Easter Sunday” clothes; light dresses, bright, Spring colors of sky blues and yellows and whites, some with flower prints with big roses or tulips or daffodils or morning glories or black-eyed susans and all with long, lush green vines wrapping around them. All of them wearing wide-brimmed sun hats, many with scarves tying their hats around their chins. A few wore sunglasses. All had nice big purses, lots of different colors but most of them white, white cloth gloves covering their hands and all of them in either tasteful heels or flats. Nobody wore stilettos or CFMs of any kind.

Lessons Learned

They stood, coffee cups in hand, staring out the kitchen window. The radio switched from the news to two DJs joking about the lead story: an extraordinary meteor shower that wouldn’t be seen locally due to heavy cloudcover.
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the sink. “Turn that down, would you, Love?”
She put her hand on his back and leaned forward beside him. “You think that squirrel knows we’re watching him?”
“How do you think he gets up there? That’s twice in two days I’ve seen him at the top of the bird feeders. He can’t be getting past the baffles on the poles and there aren’t any branches near by.”


There is a planet on the scanners. It is large and round and red. The sun is yellow and warming, and the planet is in the sun’s life zone. The gravity is slightly stronger than Earth’s. The air is a bit richer, and there is abundant water under the surface.
The red coloring comes from two things. The surface of the planet is covered with red vegetation and their spores are everywhere. The ground is also red, although not with spores but with clay and slate like so faraway Connecticut.
The dog beside me raises his massive head and growls. I scratch behind his ears and his hind legs start thumping the cabin floor. I make him thump in time to songs I sing, switching legs as I go from chorus to lead and back.
“We’ll go down, see if this is the one.”

What We Saw at Bishop’s House

What’s become of Bishop’s house? This chamber is like the one I lay in moments ago but I know neither you nor your man. Outside the door, that’s not Bishop’s workshop.
I am William Bennett. Where is my wife, Chrysanthé? We are “The Dancers Extraordinairre.” There’s an advertisement in my breast pocket. See? “Dancers to the Crowns of Europe.”
Bishop’s told you of us? Where is he, then?

Each of the above is from Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 (the famous “No Dragons” issue). You can read the rest of each along with several other amazing stories between its captivating covers (and I hope you do!)

Have you been Harveyed?

The kind, wise, and wonderful folks at Sixth Element Publishing included four of my flash pieces in Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 and I’m repaying that kindness by showcasing the opening from each author’s work for the next few weeks.


Next up, a taste of Kate Baucherel’s Firebird.