The Iron Writer Challenge #162 – 2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round, They’re Bracket


The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors:

They’re Bracket

D. Lee Cox, M. D. Pitman, Richard Russell, Emmy Gatrell

The Elements:

A Sky balloon festival

Trash talk

Hot Dogs

A Bow and a single arrow

The Invasionemmy-gatrell

Emmy Gatrell

As I cut the wheel and parked, gravel sprayed the bottom step of the dilapidated cabin. It always had looked like something out of a redneck horror show and still did. The tin roof was rusty, windows had new papers and foil covering them, the porch was falling apart and had a moldy couch and rocking chairs adorning it, the entire house tilted to the left and looked like it would fall over in a stiff breeze.

“So kind of you to take the day off to help, Matt.” Luis stepped out onto the porch and let the old screen door slam behind him.

“I don’t work on Saturday’s.”

“I should have figured you wouldn’t take a day off to help your family.”

“My job is keeping this family afloat.”

“I can’t have a job because I’m the only one taking care of our mother.”

“You don’t have a job because you don’t want one.”

Luis glared, crossed his arms over his chest, and changed the subject, “I stashed the weapons but I couldn’t find her bow and arrows.”

“It’s okay. I broke almost all the arrows when she shot me in the leg last Thanksgiving. I couldn’t break the bow or the arrow; Dad made them for her.”

“Well, that’s just great,” Luis replied sarcastically.

“What damage could she possibly do with a bow and a single arrow?”

“We’re talking about our mother.”

“Point taken. We better find it.” I cringed when I saw the first multi-colored hot air balloon come into view. “Who is it this year?”

He smiled, “You’re going love it. I told you not to get her cable.”

“Matt!” My mother ran from the back the cabin screaming, her worn floral mumu flying behind her like a cape, “They’re coming!”

“No one is—” I grunted as she hit me like a linebacker.

She pushed me to the other side of the car, peeked over the hood, and pointed to the sky, “They’re invading. Coming for our jobs and women. The people on Fox News warned us this would happen.”

“Fox News is just trash talk. No one is invading, those balloons are from the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque.”

“Liberal,” she shook her head. “How else will they get over the wall?”

“Who’s trying to get over what wall?”

“The Mexicans,” she whispered dramatically.

I managed to keep a straight face, “We’re Mexican.”

“If we were Mexican we’d be eating tacos for lunch and not hot dogs.”

I blinked a couple of times, “That might be the craziest thing you’ve ever said.”

“Now who’s trash talking?” She looked up at the sky filling with balloons and shook her head, “I need to find my bow.” Then began army crawling to the barn.

“Better follow; she still has great aim. I’ll make lunch.”

“Hot dogs again?”

He shrugged, “Yep.”

“I hate hot dogs.” He smiled and shrugged then I ran to beat Mama to the barn.

And Then One DayRichard Russell

Richard Russell

Jack slowly pulled up to the gate of the fairgrounds and handed the attendant his entry form. The attendant took the form, “Gonna be a humdinger of a balloon festival this year, bud. We’ve got more entries this year than ever before, and the weather looks to be about perfect.”

Jack kind of smirked unenthusiastically. “That’s great,” he said in a monotone mumble.

“You don’t seem to be very excited about it,” the attendant responded.

Jack sighed, “Yeah, well, it just seems like an awful lot of trouble these days.”

“Oh, I see,” mused the attendant, “Kind of depressed, are we?”

“Yeah, I guess. Maybe I ought to just go back home.”

“Yeah, maybe… but seein’ as you’re already here with your gear and all …

Tell you what; I’m just gonna waive your entry fee and let you in for free.”

Jack’s eyes widened a bit. “Seriously?”

“Just git on in there and get your gear set up. You’re running a little late…. And have a nice day!”

Jack found a space to park out in the field and began to unload his balloon. It really was a nice day. He looked around at the other balloonists as they were setting up. They all seemed to have other people with them. One team wore matching shirts and hats; another couple argued over something; others with picnic lunches set out looked to simply enjoy the day. Suddenly feeling hungry, Jack wandered over to the kiosk.

A woman in the window chirped, “What’ll it be?”  

Jack nonchalantly replied, “Gimme a cheese burger.”

The woman pressed, “Is that all? Just a cheese burger?   You want fries? … a drink?”

Jack rolled his eyes and, for the first time, he really looked at her. She was quite attractive. “Uh ….. sure. Why not?”

She smiled, “Okay then. You entered in the balloon festival?”

“Yeah, that’s me over there with the green pick-up. I guess I’d better get set up; looks like I’m a little behind schedule.”

Handing him his food, the woman said, “I’m Sue… and you are…?”


“Nice to meet you, Jack.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jack was hurrying to get his balloon set up when Sue came over.  

“You’d better hurry up,” she fretted.   “Can I lend you a hand?”

A little surprised, Jack responded, “I could use all the help I can get.”

The two worked seamlessly together as if they had been together their whole lives.

Just as all the balloons were taking off, the “hot dogs” with the matching shirts hollered, “Where’d you get that old wicker relic, dude? You inherit that from your grandmother?”

Sue hollered back, “Shut yer pie-hole, dork!”

Then she climbed into the basket with Jack, “Let’s show ’em how it’s done.”

When they were well under way, Jack had a moment to relax. As he watched Sue look out over the countryside, Cupid drew his bow and pierced Jack’s heart with a single, well-placed arrow.

Vengeance is the Judge’sMichael Pitman

M. D. Pitman

Bruce and Peter were the best hot air balloon pilots in the country. But the one-time best friends are now rivals and the Mid-Town Hot Air Balloon Festival and Challenge is the most competitive in the country. Peter’s won it five straight times… until last year. Bruce’s prank opened the door for him to win, and a repeat would guarantee his place in the Ballooning Hall of Fame.

But Peter won’t let Bruce pull another prank. His basket still reeks of hot dogs and spotted with ketchup and mustard stains. 

Bruce strolled by Peter’s balloon, which this year is stitched with Robin Hood drawing an arrow with a bow. With a mouth full of a hot dog, Bruce loudly muffled, “Want a bite?” He held up a half-eaten foot-long dog, oozing ketchup and mustard onto his fingers. A few drops splashed onto a dirt spot in the patchy grass field.

“Jerk,” Peter whispered, glaring at the black-haired doughy man who couldn’t keep food in his mouth as he bellowed.

Peter stifled that laughter when he pulled out a bow.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Purely for show.” Peter was unconvincing. He smiled as he pulled out a quiver of arrows. He slung both over a shoulder.

Bruce stared slack-jawed at Peter who pantomimed drawing a bow toward his balloon. The now pale-faced man scurried to his balloon three spots away. 

Bruce called on who appeared to be a judge. The ensuing conversation didn’t look friendly. Shaking his head, the judge walked over toward Peter.

A couple steps away the judge cocked his head with a funny look on his face as he smelled the air. “Is that stale hot dog?”

Peter grimaced at the memory. “Yes … it is.” He exhaled a defeated sigh. “That guy you were talking to filled my basket last year with hot dogs.”

“I remember that,” the judge said with a smile, which vanished as Peter glared. “Was wondering who did that. Figures it was Bruce.”

Peter flashed a quizzical glance. “You know Bruce, um…”

“Johnny. We go a ways back.” He closed his eyes appearing to reflect on a memory. “If I wasn’t a Christian man, I’d have a few choice words. Calling him a jerk is an understatement.”

“And you’re a judge?”

“Not for the challenge. For the balloon glow tonight.”

Johnny began to walk away but paused and turned. He walked close and whispered, “You know if you do decide to shoot fire off an arrow, I’ll ditch the evidence.” He winked.

Peter gave it a hard thought. “Tempting, but I better pass.”

“Well, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if something does happen. Right?”

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings.” Peter laughed at the sarcastic gesture. “Karma and all.”

The next morning as Bruce unpacked his balloon to inflate it for the challenge, Peter saw him flail his arms and heard barely audible screams. They were not words children and church-goers should hear. He then saw two raccoons escape through one of the balloon’s several holes.

At the judge’s tent 20 feet away, one of Johnny’s hands was heavily bandaged. Peter caught his eye. He winked and smiled.

Momma Wants a Balloon

Lee Cox

D. Lee Cox

Patricia Kreis was getting on in years. Her long auburn locks had given way to gray and white, yet she still held it back with a tortoise shell headband sporting blue hydrangeas.

She sat at a cherry meeting table, picking at her Sneaky Pete’s slaw dog. She wore a peace sign button over one breast covered in a faded Pepsi tee-shirt.

Boyd Maynard, a thirty-something trust manager, sat in his office just off the meeting room. A hand on his brow, a thin waft of strawberry blonde hair barely cutting the shine from his pate.

“Becky, I cant do this. I didnt go to Dartmouth to deal with witches like this. Cant you just tell her I’m out of the office?”
“Mr. Maynard, that’s just unprofessional. In fact, I’m pretty sure she saw you run behind my cubicle when you saw her come in.”

“BOYD! Momma wants a BALLOON! Get in here!”

Becky smiled. “You heard her – Momma awaits!”

Maynard flung himself forward, gathered up manila folders, and shuffled into the conference room.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Kreis. How can I hel….”

“Boyd, I need a balloon. A big ass balloon. One of them balloons what sails the skies with pretty colors and a helluva fire underneath. I’m entering the balloon race next month.”

“The All-State Regional Championship?”

“Thats the one, by jiminy!”

“Ms. Kreis…”
“Son, I have a mighty hefty portfolio there. If you wish to continue managing this account, you’ll call me ‘Momma Pat’.”

Maynard pursed his lips. Let out a breath.

“Momma Pat, you’re eighty nine years old…”

“Eighty seven.”

“You were born in 1927.”

“Twenty nine, it was a typo”

A long sigh.

“Ma’am, you cant possibly learn to pilot a hot-air balloon by mid-July. My grandfather is in that race and he’s been flying for decades.”

“I know. That’s why I’m entering the race.”

“I… I beg your pardon?”

“Your grandpa, he stood me up for the bingo last week. He’s a lyin’, no-good, sumbitch and I intend to beat his ass at the balloon race.”

“Ma’am, my grandfather has won hundreds of hot air balloon races. You cant possibly think you’d beat him…”

“I can, and I will. Now you just cut me a check for two-hundred fifty thousand dollars.”

“You want $250 thousand dollars for what?”

“I’m buyin a balloon and I’m staking Terrell Sturdivent to pilot it.”

“Terrell Sturdivent? I thought he was dead.”

“No. Not dead. Drunk? Yes. Dead? No. But I’ll have him sobered up and ready to whoop your grandpas wrinkly old ass next month!”

“Ma’am, I cant possibly condone the use of your money like this. This is an enormous amount for shear folly.”

“Son, you will cut me that check, and you will cut it immediately. I will be there in my own fancy balloon when they shoot that flamin’ arrow to start the race or you, sir, will be in a strip mall doin taxes for free for a livin’.”



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The Iron Writer Challenge #162 – 2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round


The Iron Writer Challenge #162

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Brackets/Authors:

Their Bracket

G. L. Dearman, Mamie Pound, Keith Badowski, Michael Cottle

There Bracket

C. S. E. Greenberg, Peter Lusher, Jennie Richmond

They’re Bracket

D. Lee Cox, M. D. Pitman, Richard Russell, Emmy Gatrell

This Bracket

Tina Biscuit, Vance Rowe, Dani J. Caile, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

A Sky balloon festival

Trash talk

Hot Dogs

A Bow and a single arrow

The Iron Writer Challenge #160 – 2016 Spring Open Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #160

2016 Spring Open Challenge #8

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Maureen Larter, Zac Moran, Dani J. Caile, Emmy Gatrell

The Elements:

Main character is Ozymandias

“Do you need me?” (must be in the prose)

“What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?| (Must be in the prose)

A mouse

Bravery Knows No BoundsMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

“Do you need me?’ The question squeaked out rather tremulously.

Rasputin laughed. He looked around at the rest of his friends, standing behind him. They grinned and took a step forward menacingly.

“What an earth could you, Squirt, help us with?” Rasputin brought his head down and twitched his nose. His eyes seemed large and evil, but Ozy stood his ground. His meek demeanor had worked. The rats were nearly in the ambush zone.

“I didn’t call for you! ” Rasputin continued. “Just get out of our way!”

Ozy took a deep breath and stood as high as his tiny frame would allow.

“My name is Ozymandias!” he said, his voice getting louder as he dredged up every last bit of courage within him. “My home is under threat by you – I thought you might listen to reason, but I have every right to stand and fight.”

Rasputin flung out a paw and knocked Ozy to the ground.

‘Nothing!’ he stated. “Nothing is worth dying for!” The rats at his back enthusiastically nodded in unison.

“However,” he grinned maliciously. “To take over this part of the sewers I consider worth killing for!”

Ozy scrambled to his feet and backed up a couple of steps. He turned and scampered into the shadows.

Rasputin and his rat brigade advanced another few feet.

Suddenly, from all around them, jumping from the rocks and stone walls, they were besieged by thousands of mice. They crawled and kicked, scratched and bit. The rats cowered as if beaten, until with great reluctance, many of them, trying desperately to rid themselves of the insistent and annoying creatures, ran back into the depths of the underground tunnels from which they had come.

Rasputin yelled and swore.

“Come back and fight, you cowards!”

A small mouse stood before him and roared – his voice no longer a squeak of fear.

“All bullies are cowards!” He said. “But my home is worth defending unto death! Remember this name – Ozymandias – and know that I will vanquish you – so – never. never come back.”

Rasputin didn’t have any choice! Several mice clambered over him, and eventually, by entering through an unblinking eye, Rasputin was brought down!


Emmy Gatrell

Ozymandias looked over his bustling kingdom as he listened to the shuffled footsteps echoing through the vacant throne room. He could have shouted to his loyal servant and mentor, halted the old man’s agonizing path, but the rhythmic tap swish-swish of his cane and billowing robes gave the Pharaoh a sense of calm and peace he needed.

The room was adorned as a God’s should be. Incense burning in the four corners hid the scent of death in the air. Torches lined the walls highlighting the various artwork depicting his battles, victories, and achievements; but his favorite piece was a carved bust of Queen Nefertiti. She was beauty, intelligence, and grace defined; perfection itself bestowed upon the world and would soon leave it, and him, behind.

The thought of missing her inevitable last breath had Ozymandias turning from the window and hurrying to his servant bringing a smile to his weathered face and a sigh from his lips. He waited for Ozymandias to speak and grew more confused as it looked like for the first time in his life, his master was at a loss for words.

“Do you need me?” Ezekiel prompted meekly.

“More now than ever my old friend.” Ozymandias looked to the right of the throne where Nefertiti lay surrounded by their six children and her loyal servants.

“She will be welcomed by the Gods with open arms. Her tomb is the grandest I have ever seen, befitting the Queen of Egypt…” He hesitated to do what he wanted. No one dared touch a God among them, but he still saw the little boy and his brother that he taught to read, helped mold into men, and loved as his own. He lifted his claw-like arthritic hand, and gently placed it on Ozymandias’s shoulder. “She shall not suffer much longer—”

“What to you is worth dying for?”

“You,” Ezechiel answered without hesitation.

“Worth killing for?”

“I suppose I could whip up a poison.”

A rare smile crossed the Pharaoh’s lips, “No.” Ezekiel shrugged earning another small smile. “I want you to go with Nefertiti to the afterlife. I need to know she’s being cared for by someone I trust.”

“It will be my honor,” Ezekiel eyes filled with tears. “But, no killing or sacrifice. I want you to have Bram.”

Ozymandias raised a painted brow but, “Father,” was shouted from Nefertiti’s chamber before he could object. Instead, he nodded his agreement then ran to his wife’s side.

Ezekiel watched Ozymandias disappear within the room and took out a small hunk of bread he had hidden in his robes and held it in front of another hidden pocket.

There was a little squeak before a tiny gray mouse ran up his chest and then perched on Ezekial’s shoulder eagerly awaiting breakfast. Bram ate happily until a heartbreaking cry filled the chamber and time seemed to stop.

“He’ll need you now,” Ezekiel whispered before offering his prayer to the Gods for his fallen Queen.

Schemes of Gods

Zac Moran

“Son, do not mourn for me. I go to be with the gods, for I am chosen by Ra,” said Ramasses, his breathe growing shallow.

“You have taught me so much. I will miss you,” said Amun, sitting at his father’s bedside.

“I will watch over you,” Ramasses paused to breathe, “from the heavens.”

Ramasses’ eyes closed and his last breathe left him.

Amun exited the death chamber and addressed his people.

“My father, the great and powerful pharaoh, Ramasses II, has ascended to the heavens!”

Ramasses opened his eyes and sat up on his deathbed.

“Your people are quite upset that you’ve left them,” came a voice.

“I would never leave my people behind!” said Ramasses, “Who’s there?”

“Tell me, Pharaoh, what to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?” asked the voice.

“I would fight and die for the protection of Egypt and it’s people. Who are you?”

“Very good. Then I need you to steal something from the goddess Isis. She slipped a toxin into my drink and has offered the antidote in return for my true name. This would give her great power over me, but the poison will not harm me.”

A painting of Ra on the far wall moved to look at Ramasses. His eyes widened and he bowed.

“Great and powerful Ra, pardon me for not recognizing you.”

“All is forgiven. Now rise, Ramasses. Gods do not bow to one another. Will you do this task for me?”

“Why do you need me though?” asked Ramasses

“I do not wish Isis to know that her scheme failed and she has defenses around her quarters to alert her to the presence of other gods. But you are a new god and she won’t have prepared for you yet.”

Ra stepped out of the wall painting and shared his knowledge of Isis’ complex with Ramasses; telling him how to get in, steal the antidote, and leave undetected. Ramasses left his tomb and traveled to Isis’ palace. With no wall surrounding the grounds, Ramasses could see numerous guardians roaming the area, including a sphinx.

Ramasses stepped into the outskirts of the grounds and a large shadow loomed up behind him.     He turned around to see a one-hundred foot tall Isis standing over him. She laughed and the ground shook under Ramasses’ feet.

“You thought to come like a mouse in the night to fatten yourself upon my grains of wheat? Did you think it so easy to steal from me?” bellowed Isis.

“I am the god Ramasses and you will give me what I came here for!” he yelled up at Isis.

“Ooo, you’re the new one. I was wondering when you’d join us,” said Isis as she shrunk down to Ramasses’ size.

“I was sent by Ra to-”

“Yes, yes, the antidote. Here,” interrupted Isis as she handed over a small vial. She then proceeded to walk around Ramasses, looking him up and down.

“Take it back to Ra now. I’ll have use of you later.”

“I will not be used as a tool!” said Ramasses.

“Oh, you’ve just begun to learn the schemes of gods.”

King of KingsDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

Deep in the temple of Abu Simbel, the spirit of a long-gone Pharoah hovered over the rock floor of the vestibule, meditating.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”

He wasn’t alone. The spirit of a mummified mouse rested against a pillar.

“Yes, yes, king of kings. Whatever. How many times will you say that tonight?”

“I will say it as many times as I like because I am… king of kings! Look on my…!” he boomed through the corridors.

“Do you need me? Can I go?”

Through forces unknown to him, he was cursed for eternity with this rodent by the ignorance of his peers.

“Now I come to think of it, I guess not. When you’re alive, you don’t know the things you know when you’re dead, like gods are a figment of the imagination and fear, a conditioning construct of society to control and manipulate, a non-existent entity that…”

“You do go on, don’t you,” said the mouse, now scurrying about, twitching its nose.

“And especially animal gods. Why they thought a mouse was a god, I have no idea.”

“Why not? We are majestic creatures!” It stood on its hind legs, head held high.

“You’re a pest. Go away.”

“I would if I could but I can’t. Your people put me here, therefore I am forever linked to you.”

“My name is Ozymandias, king of…!”

“Why do you do this every night? No one’s listening.”

“What else is there to do?” he said, scratching his ear.

“Find a way out?”

“You do realise why my spirit, and yours, is stuck on this rock, don’t you?”

“Yes. The men you killed hold us here.”

“For my sins, yes.”

“You shouldn’t have killed them, then.”

“What else does a Pharoah do?” he asked.

“Needs must, huh?” The mouse went back to twitching.


“So you had to kill all those people?”

“Yes. For the life I received, the life of a king, a living god, it was all worth it.”

“Even though your spirit will now be stuck in here forever?”

“Okay, okay, with a little hindsight, I may have been a touch more merciful.”

“You could’ve joined your queens in eternity,” said the mouse, pointing to the paintings surrounded by hieroglyphs.

“Yes… Oh, Nefetari, dear Nefetari, she was one hell of a gal. Worth dying for.”


“Yes, really. A question to you, ‘mouse’. What to you is worth killing for, and also worth dying for?”

“Ooo, a deep one, I’ll have to think… erm… a lump of cheese.”

“Oh, please.” A ‘meow’ echoed through the temple. “Finally!”

“What was that?”

“Meet, Bastet, goddess of warfare.”

“What? A cat? Where has that been for the past thousand years?”

“She had nine lives. Guess it took her this long to die in the mummification process.”

The spirit of a cat entered the vestibule.

“Oh crap,” said the mouse, being chased by the cat.

“Have fun! Now where was I? Oh yes. My name is Ozymandias, king of kings…!”

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