WINNER Flash Fiction Contest “Happiness”

And without further ado the Winner is…

1st Place: Ken Cartisano “T. Rex

2nd Place: Alice Nelson “My Olive”

3rd Place: Phil Town “Happiness Is…”

4th Place: Carrie Zylka “Happiness Is a Jumble of Nerves”

5th Place: Andy Lake “Happy”

Story with the Favorite Character: Ken Cartisano – Harry

Story with the Best Pacing: Carrie Zylka

Story with the Best Use of Dialogue: Ken Cartisano

Anyone who would like to get their vote totals may send an email to liflashfiction(at)gmail(dot)com to request details.

Congratulations Ken!!

To read all of the stories entered and find out how you can participate in our weekly/bi-weekly/monthly short story contests please go to:

Per the new process, Tegan Maus has three days to choose the next prompt/theme. Visit  to view the Writing Prompt Roster.


T. Rex by Ken Cartisano

Copyright 2017 – all rights reserved

I think it was a Saturday. A lazy afternoon, no one was home, I slept late, had a bowl of cereal, then rode my bike down to Harry’s house.

Harry was a friend who lived at the end of the block, in a house that backed up to one of the many canals in the area designed for flood control. As canals go, it was deep and a little treacherous, with a steep drop-off just a few feet from the bank, the water was green with algae and God knows what else. A few people put boats in it, some fished in it, hardly anyone went swimming in it, at least, not intentionally. For better or worse, it made Harry’s backyard a great place to hang out.

I should point out that I was at the approximate age, (eleven? twelve? thirteen?) when I realized how ‘interesting’ girls were. I felt a compelling urge to present myself as older and wiser than I was. Sports became a substitute for play, and actual playing took on a much more competitive aspect.

And Harry, well, Harry was my age, a tall skinny kid with a family that none of us had ever met, despite the fact that we all congregated behind his house on a regular basis.

As I road into his backyard, I was confronted by a large crane, actively dredging the canal a few houses away. As soon as Harry saw me, he called out and waved frantically, but I was too cool to pay him much attention. The crane was large and yellow.

Harry ran over, grabbed me and pulled me towards the canal. When we got closer to the bank, he dropped to his knees and started making mud balls. (Or mud clay balls.) He had assembled a small group of them, aligned in rows, and excitedly explained that they were mud bombs, and he needed help trying to kill the monster.

As a twelve year old with delusions of maturity, I was initially skeptical about the danger and the plan, but shrewd enough to survey the situation with a critical eye.

The huge crane swung out from the opposite bank, ratcheted its 500 pound bucket up and out to the end of the boom amid the rattle of chains and gears. One end of the giant bucket dipped menacingly, revealing a lethal row of 6 inch metal teeth, and then, with the mechanical clatter of chains, cables and pulleys, the bucket dropped into the canal just a few feet from the bank. The sound it made was impressive, even at this distance. Water splashed and a wave surged well up onto the bank. Nothing happened for a second or two, and then the chains and cables began their discordant rattling as the bucket was hauled across the canal underwater, to emerge on the other side, with muck, water and weeds oozing from its iron maw.

I dropped to the ground and furiously started making clay mud balls as fast as I could.

The colossal jaws deposited their muddy haul on the opposite bank.

Harry screamed. “Here it comes again.”

I looked up and watched Harry run toward the looming crane. The bucket hung suspended in the air above him for several seconds as Harry pelted it with one, two, three mud balls. Then, amid the racket of thrashing metal chains, the bucket dropped again, landing in deeper water and making an even bigger splash. Harry was half drenched.

“Did you see that? Did you see that?”

He came running back along the bank and squatted beside me. Making mud balls way faster than me. “It’s a T-Rex Kenny—and we’ve got to stop it.”

I was learning the art of mud ball construction as I spoke, this being my first time. I glanced up. “Maybe if we had bigger mud bombs…”

“This is all we’ve got,” Harry hissed. “You’ve got to hit it in just the right spot.”

“Ah.” I said, scooping a hunk of clay from the mud pit. “Which spot is that?”

“Here it comes again,” Harry yelled, jumping to his feet.

I was right behind him, carrying two mud balls with one arm, a third ready to launch. We ran to the bank opposite the crane, the bucket swung in the air above our heads. We flung our mud balls one after the other, all six finding their mark, and then it dropped: The chains rattling, the whir of cable, the clunk of metal as it made impact and an enormous gout of water drenched us both. Then a wave sloshed up the side of the canal and soaked our sneakers. We looked at each other in disbelief, and then ran back along the bank to make more mud balls.

This went on for hours. Just me and Harry, and the T-Rex. The machine gradually moved parallel to the bank every so often as the operator made progress down the canal. We continued making mud balls, throwing them at the looming bucket, and getting drenched for our efforts.

The operator of the machine sat in a glass cab. At first, because of the light, all I could see was the reflection of the sky off the angled window of the cab. As the afternoon waned, I was able to see a man with a full beard, pulling levers, pushing pedals, and occasionally laughing.

Until then, I was happy to pretend that the machine had a mind of its own, then I realized that behind the massive machinery, there was a man doing his job, but enjoying it. Since we were just playing, somehow, that made it even better.

I think he put in some overtime, because it was dusk when he retracted the boom and bucket, and secured the machine for the night. I think he waved.

I was exhausted. I went home drenched with foul water and covered in mud.

My mother was intrigued with my condition but not alarmed. “Look at you. You’re a mess. What on earth have you been doing?”

So I told her. I told her everything. I spared no detail, even the part where I saw the man at the controls laughing at us.

She said, “Really? He was laughing?”

Her reaction was interesting. “Yeah mom. I saw him laughing. We were all having a great time.”

She was folding linen and putting it in the closet. “Huh. Well—that’s a man who remembers what it was like to be a kid.”


“That’s a man who still remembers what it’s like to be a kid.”

I was incredulous, considering my overall state: soaking wet, filthy, and ecstatic. “I don’t understand. People forget? How could they forget something like THAT?”

She paused what she was doing. “I don’t know son, but they do, especially men. It seems you were lucky enough to meet one today who didn’t.”

“I hope I never forget.”

She smiled and resumed folding the linen, “I hope you don’t either, son.”


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8 thoughts on “WINNER Flash Fiction Contest “Happiness”

  • August 4, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, four in a row. Way to go Ken, I really did love this story!!

    • August 4, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      Wow. Thanks Alice. And thanks to the rest of you guys and gals too. This is going to go straight to my already big, fat, swelled up head. I’ll have to cut my t-shirt off just to take a shower. I love the picture that you picked for the story header too. It’s perfect.

      • August 4, 2017 at 8:10 pm

        I love that painting on the header, it is the epitome of happiness.

  • August 4, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Yep, well done, Ken (again!). A really lovely refection on happiness.

    • August 5, 2017 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks Philip. I think.
      the eating of partly digested fecal pellets, as practiced by rabbits.
      I know you don’t make mistakes so…
      Heck, I didn’t even know there was a WORD for that. You’re so scholarly it’s scary.
      Thanks just the same, Philip. You’re a prince.

      • August 6, 2017 at 8:37 am

        It was a deliberate mistake – just to make sure you were paying attenshun.

  • August 5, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Well done, Ken. A true story from the Land Before Time … 🙂


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