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My latest in the always-fun Flash! Friday weekly flash fiction contest. New rules this time-around: We had to include the character of a “janitor” and respond to the above photo. We also get up to 210 words to do that now. I received 3rd runner-up for my entry with the generous feedback from both judges below:

“A great example of showing and not telling. In so many stories of blood, it was nice to feel the sense of calm in the library (even though it was about to be shattered).

“Subtle, yet highly effective scene setting within the opening lines: “Lennie started his day the same way he had for the last six decades: A bowl of cereal and the morning newspaper.” There is an overriding sense of being out of place in a world that the character does not understand or appreciate: the library was a relic in the modern era with its small frame, small bookshelves and small books. Great line here too: “allowed himself a deep intake of that old book smell; the familiar aroma that snuggled his nostrils and had comforted him for years.” I love my Kindle, but this is so true.”

“I loved this story. One of my favorite places to be is a library, and the older and dustier it is, the better I like it. The line, “the familiar aroma that snuggled his nostrils” resonated with me completely; I feel the same every time I enter an old library.

I loved the correlation between Lennie and the library. Lennie’s feelings of outliving his usefulness (“Alas, Lennie wasn’t spinning at the same speeds the world now did”) is exactly mirrored by the ancient, dusty building that’s been marked for demolition.

It’s because of this connection between the library and Lennie that the final line releases a burst of pain. It’s an understated line that shows a lot of mastery; it’s really hard to get just the right tone to finish off such a piece, and the author of this one nailed it.

Fantastic job.”

And now my entry:

Lennie started his day the same way he had for the last six decades: A bowl of cereal and the morning newspaper. He liked the comics and the obituaries. Maybe the latter was a getting older quirk.

He then ironed his grey blazer his deceased wife, Maggie, got him around when JFK’s head got blown off. Black slacks, too. Next, he shined his touch-of-brown loafers.

Over the suit, he wore his blue jumper. They never minded the shoes.

Today, the coliseum, as he called it, was being demolished. Built during the Depression under the New Deal, the library was a relic in the modern era with its small frame, small bookshelves and small books.

But it was Lennie’s to clean. Today, he’d clean it like any other day. His old reliable baby blue microfilter cloth would get the job done.

It was his duty to keep pristine the books untouched for decades. Maybe that factored into the demolition, too.

He arrived at the coliseum and allowed himself a deep intake of that old book smell; the familiar aroma that snuggled his nostrils and had comforted him for years.

Alas, Lennie wasn’t spinning at the same speeds the world now did.

The demolition team was setting up outside. Lennie started dusting.

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