FlAsH Fiction Contest 2021
This first annual FlAsH Fiction writing contest was an incredible success. I had 62 entries: 38 short stories and 24 poems. It was very hard to choose, but I took my time, read through everything carefully and thoughtfully and then sat on all the entries for a couple of days. Then I slowly went back through all the submitted pieces and started to make choices, making sure to read each piece out loud to get the full effect of the writer’s words and subject. Then I waited some more and started over again until I came to three winning entries in the short story and poetry category.
I chose the winning entries because they all represent some aspect of Foil Arms and Hog that is clear and universal. All of these pieces are very well-written, interesting, thoughtful and full of humor and insight into FAH, their characters, and being a fahn. The writers also made me feel something, tugging on my emotions and staying with me long after I had read their short stories or poetry. Each winning short story had a strong narrative voice, a story arc, and presented a FAH character in a new and compelling perspective. Each winning poem captured a moment, a character, or a feeling that has come to mean something to all fahns in this community.
I also chose four (4) honorable mentions in each category and those are published on separate pages (click the links below.) I asked each winner and honorable mention to write up a “statement of inspiration” about their piece, so everyone can hear from the author about how they came to write their FlAsH Fiction entry. The fahns in this incredible community did not make the choices easy at all! The creativity is astounding and the approach to FAH characters and FAH themselves was very interesting and varied.
I chose a diverse range of subjects and representative perspectives in the eight (8) honorable mentions and I present them in no particular order – they are all wonderful and incredibly fun to read! I do hope that the fahn community enjoys them as much as I do!
The characters that popped up over and over again in the submissions, however, were Anne Flanagan, Barry and Oisín. It seems, at least in this first annual FlAsH Fiction contest that these are the most popular characters with fahns in FAH’s vast canon. All told, I received 12 stories and poems with these characters as subjects in one form or another.
But I also received entries focusing on La Bullshat, the McCormick family, FAH themselves (including Seán, Conor and Seán & Fingo, McKenna and Flango), Mrs. Geraghty, Bittles, Business Dudes, Thursday, and personal reasons for loving or supporting FAH. The genres were also varied, but many concerned mysteries and humor. And what was really interesting was how many fahns took their own creative path and didn’t stick to any of the genres that I had suggested. That was really great to see and to read!
Many thanks to all the fahns who submitted their work to the contest. It isn’t always easy to let someone see your writing, so I’m grateful for your bravery in stepping forward and letting me read your short fiction and poetry. And a special “thank you” to the wonderful and amazing Foil Arms and Hog for inspiring the fahns, promoting this event and for supporting it with wonderful prizes!
As a special treat at the very end of this page of winners I’ve left in FAH’s lovely “plug” (as Foil called it) that they made for me to promote this contest. It’s a FAH vid that just makes me happy and it's loads of fun to watch!!
FlAsH Fiction Short Story Winners
1st Place: Jenny Crookes
Statement of Inspiration: My inspiration for writing [my story] started from when I was reading some of the ideas FAHns suggested for how Barry got into the Flanagan's house. That got me thinking that as Anne Flanagan seems the sort of person who would keep doors locked and the house secure, it's unlikely that Barry would find it so easy to get in unless she was actually happy for him to come and go. On watching the sketches back, I then started to notice little hints here and there that Barry's Mum was not the most involved parent, and everything just came together from there.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Barry twisted the handle to the garage door, then stuck his toe in the gap at the bottom and lifted, whilst at the same time giving the wooden surface with its blistered paint a good shove with his shoulder. In a house that was immaculate in every other way, he found it strange that the old side door to the garage was never fixed or replaced. Still, it was handy for him, he thought, as he felt it give under his weight. He had a number of ways he used to get into the house: he knew where the spare key was hidden between the acacia and the agapanthus, he was a dab hand at picking the lock on the patio doors, and on occasions had even scaled the trellis to climb in Oisίn’s bedroom window. He liked to mix things up to keep Mrs Flanagan guessing, but the garage door was definitely the most convenient method of entrance.
Creeping into the kitchen, he stealthily swiped a couple of homemade muffins off the wire cooling rack, then took a moment to root through the fridge and freezer. Earlier at school, Oisίn had given him his lunch money after realising that once again Barry had nothing with him to eat, but he had ended up splitting the food he’d bought with his friend. Despite Oisίn’s protests that he was fine, Barry had felt guilty leaving him with only the salad sandwiches and banana left in his friend’s bag from the previous day’s packed lunch. However, half a plate of chips and a thin sliver of pizza wasn’t enough to fill either boy, and once again Barry was hungry. Munching on some bread from the fridge, he pulled out the pack of Penguins from where it was hidden under the frozen peas in the freezer and shoved a couple in his pocket, then after a moment’s thought added another couple for Oisίn.
Closing the freezer door, he bent to take off his shoes before heading into the hallway and up the stairs to his friend’s bedroom. Mrs. Flanagan was very particular about keeping her carpets clean, one of the many things she and her son did not see eye to eye over. Oisίn was always complaining about his mum’s nagging, but Barry didn’t really mind it. By nagging him, she acknowledged his existence, and that was preferable to the utter indifference he encountered at home. Never mind worrying if he took off his shoes, he didn’t think his Mum would notice whether or not he came home. Or possibly even care. Mrs. Flanagan might get narked about the little things, but she accepted him in her house, fed him more often than not at mealtimes, and even let him come away on holiday with them on occasions.
Moving silently down the hallway, shoes in one hand and muffins in the other, he reflected, not for the first time, that Oisίn really had no idea how lucky he actually was.
Seemingly busy dusting the top of the picture frames, Anne watched out of the corner of her eye as Barry snuck past the half open door to the lounge. He’d found the muffins, she noted with satisfaction as she spotted them in his hand.
Anne Flanagan wasn’t born yesterday. That Shauna Cavanaugh next door was a selfish, bitter, cold-hearted creature who wasn’t fit to look after a dog never mind a child. She couldn’t stand the woman. When the husband finally had enough and upped and moved to Portugal - and who could blame him! Hadn’t she just been saying to Maureen the day before he left that she was surprised the poor man had stuck it out all those years - Anne had known the child would get little to no attention at home, and so had made it her mission to keep an eye on him.
Over the 4 years that followed, she had had to fight to keep from storming next door and giving that selfish cow a talking to and a good slap on many occasions, as she watched the formerly voluble 12-year-old grow into a withdrawn, verging on monosyllabic teenager. Instead, she set herself to making sure the lad grew up with an understanding of common courtesy and good manners - he wouldn’t be learning any of those at home, of that she was certain - and ensuring he always had ready access to food.
A creak from the stairs caused her to roll her eyes; for all his sneakiness at getting into the house, Barry could never learn to avoid the squeaky floorboard 5 steps up.
‘Is that you Oisίn?’ she called as she headed into the hallway flourishing her feather duster, before stopping still in fake surprise. ‘God almighty Barry, how did you get in? Never mind,’ she cut him off as he went to speak, ‘I don’t want to know. What are you doing here?’
‘Aw Mum, can Barry just stay for half an hour?’ came her son’s voice as he appeared at the top of the stairs. ‘Please?’
‘Now you should be concentrating on your homework Oisίn, not wasting your time dilly dallying on computer games. It’s exam year after all pet.’
‘But I’ve nearly done my homework Mum, and the exams aren’t for ages. Can he not just stay for a bit?’
Anne made a show of taking off her glasses and giving him a look, ‘Alright, but only for half an hour. And if I get a call from your school saying you’re behind in your work, don’t be thinking you’ll be going to that football match at the weekend.’
Her son rolled his eyes, ‘Yeah fine.’
‘Or off out with your friends after school to the park or whatever it is you do.’
‘I didn’t spend all that money sending you on that French exchange just for you to fail the exam because you didn’t put the work in.’
‘Yeah, alright Mum!’ he huffed, throwing up his arms and exchanging a look of exasperation with Barry. ‘Come on Barry.’
Anne smiled slightly as Barry ran up the stairs calling ‘Thanks Mrs. Flanagan,’ over his shoulder as he went, then headed into the kitchen to add an extra portion of chicken to the dinner she was cooking. She’d make sure the lad had a decent meal tonight. And no matter how many times her husband complained that the old garage side door was an eyesore, she wouldn’t be letting him replace it any time soon.
Statement of Inspiration: My initial idea for this story was a bit different. It would’ve had La Bullshat running auditions and seeing Robo-Actor in the theatre corridor and immediately casting him without even seeing him audition. Then the story would have turned to Richard and his earlier failed auditions with other directors before we see him audition in front of La Bullshat. I think seeing those three characters together in one sketch would be a beautiful kind of madness.
The inspiration behind ‘And Scene’ was really wish fulfilment. I love the characters of La Bullshat and Richard Chandley, The Third and would love to see them in a sketch together. I think Richard would really suit acting in one of La Bullshat’s experimental theatre pieces. I chose Romeo and Juliet as the audition piece for Richard as I think he would deliver those speeches to perfection and I wanted a memorable two-person conversation for him to deliver alone (even if I do owe Shakespeare an apology for changing up the order of the dialogue).
Huge thanks to Foil Arms and Hog for creating these magnificent characters and for being so open to us messing around with them, and a huge thanks to Barbara for running this fantastic competition. I had an absolute blast writing the story and re-watched many sketches/live shows for inspiration, which is always a great joy.
Richard Chandley The Third closed his eyes and listened to the thunderous applause coming from the cheering crowds in the theatre. He inhaled deeply and bowed low. Standing back up he opened his eyes and the theatre was empty. It had been empty, every night for this one week run of his latest play. But it didn’t matter, they would come, the crowds, the adulation, the recognition. It would all come. For now, he was content to just picture it. His phone rang, he picked it up on the third ring (he didn’t want to seem too keen) it might be Spielberg or Tarantino calling to offer him a leading man roll he thought to himself...It wasn’t. He exhaled and listened as the familiar voice on the other end said “the audition is in an hour, make sure you've prepared."
Richard got to the theatre early, not much choice with the buses it was either you arrive early or you arrive late, they were never on time. He had lugged his old suitcase with him, it was jammed full with his costumes and his props. Always best to be over prepared. He walked through the empty stalls and looked up into the balcony and the upper balcony. He could picture the crowds, he could just envisage that opening night, his name on the posters. There’d be radio interviews, TV interviews too, of course, and who could tell where he might go from there. A musical? A drama series? Or a big budget Hollywood film?
“The name’s Chandley, Richard Chandley,” he paused before quietly adding “the third." He mimed aiming a handgun at one of the seats in the stalls before firing it and lifting it to his mouth to blow the imaginary smoke away. He smiled to himself and tapped the suitcase before following the taped paper signs, that with a big red arrow and Comic Sans lettering proudly declared ‘Auditions This Way’. After much snaking around the backstage area, where Richard was able to find a dressing room of sorts to store the case away, he stood in the empty hallway in front of the big brown door that had a laminated piece of paper taped to it that simply stated ‘Audition Room’. There were no chairs, and apparently no one else there. Richard began to wonder whether he’d been mistaken about the day and he was just about to phone his agent (or Mam as he called her) when he heard...
Richard opened the door and stood in front of the singular casting director who was seated behind a large oak desk. The man was unusually dressed, thought Richard, but then all us theatre types are a little eccentric perhaps. After the very briefest of exchanged pleasantries Richard handed the man his much-padded CV and head-shot. The director moved both of these pieces of paper aside with a sweep of his hand before asking.
“And what will you be performing?”
“Romeo and Juliet” said Richard proudly.
“And which particular scene?” came the reply
“I don’t usually assist in auditions, but do you need me to feed you the lines of the other character?” asked the director in a slightly bored tone.
“No need!” said Richard brightly before promptly dashing out of the room.
The man behind the desk watched with a slight level of confusion as Richard left but decided to humour him and wait. He glanced quickly over Richards CV. “Oh,” he said to himself “he played a corpse in Silent Witness...and a bush in Emmerdale”.
Richard ran to the backstage area, into the dressing room/broom cupboard and opened the suitcase he had brought with him. Using his phone as a mirror he quickly applied the make-up to his face and put on the especially constructed costume that he himself had made. He was rather proud of it. This was going to be his moment.
He frantically raced back to the hallway. He gathered his breath, adjusted his outfit, then carefully and slowly opened the door taking one large side step into the room, making sure to keep only his left-hand side visible to the director.
“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?” declared Richard in a loud voice before turning to his right and stating in his best female voice.” O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” Another quick pivot and Richard once again assumed the character of Romeo before yet another quick turn and he was Juliet once more. As the scene concluded Richard turned to stand facing the director and he bowed deeply.
Richard’s eyes are closed, he waits, he hears nothing. He stands upright and opens his eyes. The director is standing now and he slowly applauds.
“You...are... perfect,” shouts La Bullshat.
“You will help me complete my vision. I can see it now. My next piece will be the world premiere of the complete unabridged works of William Shakespeare, a one-man play, where one man plays all the parts”.
3rd Place: Anonymous
Statement of Inspiration: The FAH cinematic universe is densely populated and thus offers a lot of possible hooks for fahnfic. Foil playing a neurotic, stressed out lad is fairly common and the idea grew from there. I wanted to explore Stephen and Gerald’s relationship, because their dynamic is so complimentary, and since Stephen is perpetually stressed it made sense to combine him with some of the other highly anxious characters Foil plays.
From there it turned into a game of trying to figure out how many references I could fit into the piece, while still keeping the world building consistently. Another part was that I wondered what the emotional impact and long-lasting effects some situations would have on someone would be, since some sketches like the Samaritans one seem rather traumatic, so I let that inform the story as well.
Building on this, I wanted there to be a healing aspect to the story. Not a full fix-it, because life rarely works that way and I do not believe in a relationship being some magical cure all, but rather I wanted the tone of the piece to be optimistic, a little hopeful, in the face of all the stress and anxiety Stephen deals with.
Related to that FAH have this great way of writing casually queer sketches, kind of like Schitt's Creek deals with queer identities, where queerness isn't the butt of the joke, nor is homophobia dramatized or ‘suffering’ the only plotline available to a queer character. It was one of the things that first drew me into their work. In the FAH universe queerness simply is without having to justify its existence, and I wanted it to be the same in this story. Let Stephen be stressed out and anxious about everything, except his feelings for Gerald.
“Ladaeitus, Ladaeitus, Ladaeitus”
Stephen is staring at the ceiling, trying to get his breathing under control. "That’s thirty-six pubs of Christmas!" Somewhere to his left his therapist nods solemnly. "There is only thirty-one pubs in this town and I am running out of Christmas jumpers and-" The panic inside him is rising and Stephen feels himself fighting back tears.
It all started with a phone call, a couple months back. If you want to be pedantic it all started way before that, a gradual build of stress that turned into unmanageable anxiety. But in the end, it was a phone call that broke down all the carefully constructed walls inside Stephen’s head, making him crumble. Fearing that a grenade and gun wielding maniac is on a murdering rampage with the goal to kill you in your office tends to do that to people. The incident was like a match set against a very short fuse.
Now Stephen’s anxiety is off the charts. He has nightmares about killing his house plants, about being abducted and having his hand hacked off, about someone coming to his house to end him because he didn’t recycle properly. He comes to work trembling and his boss sends him to therapy after taking a single look at him. Stephen was high strung before, but now he is downright unraveled.
It’s by chance that they meet. Stephen’s car breaks down, his (t)rusty Lada. It simply dies on the side of the road one day. Gerald works in the car dealership where Stephen decides to try his luck.
Gerald is everything Stephen isn’t. He is calm and neat and doesn’t seem to worry about a single thing. It’s weird, Stephen thinks. Where Stephen is caught up in societal expectations, Gerald doesn’t seem to know why any of them should matter. He enjoys wearing his pressed jumpers because they feel nice, not because it’s the proper thing to do. Which is even weirder, Stephen decides. Funnily enough, he makes Stephen feel seen. Not as an amalgamation of his issues, but simply as a human being. He answers all of Stephen’s questions as best as he can and doesn’t seem bothered by any of them. That, to Stephen, is weirdest of all.
"That wasn’t too bad now, was it?", Gerald says, smiling softly, picking up empty beer cans and putting them into a plastic bag.
"No, it wasn’t", Stephen sighs, tension draining from his body for the first time in hours.
"Even though we didn’t have frozen pizzas?" Gerald sounds like he is teasing, yet there is a hint of real concern in his eyes.
"Even though we didn’t have frozen pizzas."
"Great, then I’ll get the tools and fix up the hole in the wall."
Stephen is looking at the destruction that is their apartment, crushed beer cans and empty snack packaging littering the floor, apart from the one small patch that Gerald has already cleared. Gerald, who is looking at him right now with his usually so impeccable hair lightly dishevelled, expression open and honest.
"Hm?" Stephen shuffles through the chaos over to him, who drops the plastic bag with the cans on the coffee table.
"I just wanted to say thanks. For everything." They’re close enough now for Gerald to reach out and loosely wrap his arms around Stephen, which he promptly does.
"And that I am sorry for making you punch a hole in the wall." Gerald laughs.
"Just don’t make me do it again, I don’t know if my knuckles can take it."
They share a kiss, simple and short and Stephen can feel Gerald smile against his lips. "And I wanted to say I am proud of you. For saying you want to stay in tonight and not go out into town later."
They both know that when they met a moment like this would have seemed impossible. Even today Stephen struggles just saying ‘no’ to something.
He still gets freaked out. He still goes to therapy. He will probably always be the worst backseat driver in existence. Though Gerald insists that his one friend’s cousin’s mother is even worse.
But he’s getting better. Together with Gerald he has been taking care of a succulent for four months now and it is thriving. One of his therapist’s suggestions sparked the idea to turn his anxieties into a board game. So, he tinkers with that in his spare time. Gerald doesn’t really understand the game but he indulges Stephen whenever he needs to do a test run.
But most importantly: the world hasn’t ended yet. He’s still there, despite everything.
Short Story Honorable Mentions [here]
FlAsH Fiction Poetry Winners
1st Place: Lorilie Atkinson (Twitter: @atkinson_lm)
Statement of Inspiration: As Hog said in the [FlAsH Fiction] video, “There’s a lot of topics they could cover in this competition”—and he was right!! The options were overwhelming. Taking Barbara up on her posted suggestions, I browsed back through the Patreon content. We all love the Behind-The-Scenes gems Foil Arms & Hog generously share, and Foil’s Lockdown Makeup Tutorial is one of the best.
There is an openness and honesty in this video—the pure joy in Foil’s expression when he uncaps the correct end of the pencil! I also picked up a bit of a ‘celebrity-using-the-product’ feel to the filming style which keyed me into a product placement angle. I have always been intrigued with the “Open Letter to...” concept and thought a poem to Sudocrem would be a nice challenge for the FlAsH fiction contest.
I really DID do a wiki search since I didn’t exactly know what Sudocrem was, and was amazed at all the things it treated. From there, my brain spun off other scenarios, including a 1950s-style Sudocrem commercial featuring Foil Arms & Hog...but that is, perhaps, a story for another time! :)
An Open Letter to the Makers of Sudocrem
I see from your Wiki you’re a medicated cream—
Curing all ills as a pharmaceutical dream.
From sunburns to spots, and stopping insect bite stinging,
And as a repellent, keeping fake tans from clinging.
I want to take a moment to make you aware,
Of other magical qualities, beyond baby bum care.
I first saw your product in its Patreon Premiere
On the 28th of June in our first Covid year.
Locked out of the office, FOIL didn’t think twice,
Instead grabbed the Sudocrem as an aging device.
Globbed onto the ‘stache, the temples and brows
He transformed in front of us, to ‘Ooo’s!’ and ‘Oh! Wows!”
Revealing a man handsome, charming, and quick—
All with the ease of the ‘Sudocrem Trick’
Might I suggest a new marketing hook?
Appeal to those seeking a new debonair look.
With Foil Arms and Hog endorsing your brand,
And a new motto, “Sudocrem is our man!”
Your sales will skyrocket; your income will soar,
Especially when stocked in the FAH ‘morch’ store!
2nd Place: Squirrels, for Short
Statement of Inspiration: The inspiration for this poem struck late at night (around midnight I recall), but I didn't put fingers to keyboard until the next day once I had re-watched "Parents When You Have Friends Over". Turns out procrastinating data entry leads me to entering poetry competitions. Once armed with the suitable terms to adapt William Carlos Williams' classic "This is just to say", the rest of the poem more or less wrote itself. To be fair, there are very few words that needed to be changed really. As a young man of few words, this seemed like just the sort of thing that Barry would say (mumble), or leave scribbled on a note for Mrs. Flanagan. Other FAHns had also penned their own versions of this classic poem; however, I did not discover this until after I had made my submission. Fair play to ye!
This is just to say
I have eaten
that were in
the deep freeze
you were probably
soz missus F
they were just grand yeah
and so cold
3rd Place: Sophie Burke
Statement of Inspiration: The main inspiration behind my piece was, of course, FAH! I simply thought about why I support them and why I think others should do the same because I have been asked why I am such a huge fan of them in the past.
Why Do You Like FAH?
"Why do you like FAH?" you ask,
I reply with a giggling grin.
"Why do I like FAH?" you ask,
Well, where do I begin?
Whether it's Foil's guitar skills,
Or Arms falling in slow-mo.
They find a way to make you laugh,
Even with Hog trying to steal the show!
They upload a new sketch every Thursday,
Which always makes me feel better!
They make boring things hilarious,
Even topics like Brexit and the weather!
Their sketches are also relatable and teach you some valuable lessons,
To never lie about yourself on Tinder or ask a Kerryman for directions!
"Why do I like FAH?" you asked,
In conclusion, life without FAH would be blue.
Without their comedic genius, charm and talent,
I don't know what I'd do!
Poetry Honorable Mentions [here]