Story Starter January 2017 – Rich Helms

Our January Story Starter features an intriguing work by Rich Helms.

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art featured below. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original. Submit your entry in the comment section below. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Introducing our January inspiration piece:


About The Artist:


Rich Helms spent a career in computer research and development. Rich attacks his interests from the angle of a researcher. From coffee roasting to paper mache to baking bread, Rich dives in head first. 



Want to check out past contest entries? Click here.

Feeling inspired? Paste in your 100-word entry below!  

** Please note, there is a delay between comment submission and approval, so please submit an entry one time only. Thank you. **

  • Alphabet teeth eat
    Fleshy bits of lovers words
    Leaving space for peace

  • Marie Beswick-Arthur January 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Mouth closed, she presented as a delightful creature.
    Slightly open, her diction was flawless.
    The alphabet itself was a love letter unto her.
    However, jaw unhinged in the presence of grammatical blunders; when key errors corrupted the intended code of stories.
    She swallowed apostrophe-mistakers in a single byte.
    That’s how she was programmed.

  • Word Eater
    I eat words for breakfast!
    No lunch!
    No dinner!
    Whatever…they’re crunchy, tasty, filling…they’re useful!
    I chew on them and remove the sappiness, the joy, the hope!
    I spew out the anger, the rage, the resentment so that the blood red liquid lingers in the air
    and leaves you uncomfortable, anxious, frozen!
    To control so much with only letters, syllables…words…that can make you cower and
    look back instead of ahead, feel pain instead of pleasure.
    It’s easy, you let me win!
    You believe that I have the power to use the words…ha!
    Are you so gullible?

  • I Swallow Your Pride
    I search for words, I cannot find
    my thoughts are scattered in my mind
    I have no hands, I cannot speak
    but if I could so tongue and cheek
    I realize that you have no clue
    I swallow as I laugh at you
    My jaw too big, my mouth too wide
    and so I’ll keep it safe inside

  • Your jaw grew to catch up to the light,
    Your childhood receding down your teeth.
    Fins back, aerodynamic, your eyes dark,
    Mouth so red, thirsting for it, what you think you want.
    The lines on your face tight, a burden,
    Your many fingers grown sharp.
    Sharp enough to deter anyone and everything,
    A sacrifice you’ve made to get what you want.
    Once not as perceptively gruesome,
    Once you were small, and you weren’t alone.
    But there are no familiar waters for you anymore,
    You’ve transcended those old ties,
    Chasing something bigger, something better,
    Or so you thought.

  • Believe it or not this is the beginning of the end. You either come on board with me now, or you can sit out on this deal for good. Do not waste my time. We can both shake hands to confirm this deal, or you can turn around and walk away from this deal now. Deal or no deal, we can both shake hands for better or for worst. Done! You will live long, because you are a real deal maker. This is your new beginning, not your end. You have chosen well. Make a deal to break the ice!

  • Kathleen Boyle Hatcher January 2, 2017 at 3:19 am

    Jeffrey was a good swimmer, but never stood a chance at an athletic scholarship. He looked the part of someone who had to do it the hard way: by becoming an academic barracuda. His mother assured him that he would outgrow his awkward looks. Someday the boogley eyes would be deep pools women would fall in to. Orthodontia would coax the underbite into alignment. In time, the narrow nose would flesh out. But when he looked in the mirror Jeffery only saw a ninth- grade Caliban, not the fiercely handsome catch his mother predicted.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead January 2, 2017 at 5:01 am

    “Do you really think braces will help? How can straight teeth matter? I may look scary, but I can’t eat you with this protruding jaw. Besides, I can’t breath unless my mouth is open, so eating exhausts me. They think metallic letters will enhance my looks, so you won’t be afraid. Ha! Most of you don’t even take the time to decipher my message. You just swim away. Come a little closer. Read carefully. Closer, closer, so you can see all the letters. Now do you understand?”

  • Not a social butterfly

    She’s one of those social anglerfish, you know?

    Draws you into reach with
    colours your world with sparkling letters
    that form polished words. Only
    when you get too close for easy escape
    do you realize that each sparkling letter
    decorates its own destroying tooth,
    that the pretty words outline the gaping
    maw of a ravenous mouth. By then
    it’s too late:
    you are either swallowed whole by
    her predatory skill or sliced and diced over
    time into a slow-digesting stew
    in the cramped confines of her encircling domain.

    ‘Ware the anglerfish, whose perfect career
    lies in public service.

  • Georgina, an aggressive Fangtooth was looking for a few shrimp to satisfy her palate. She was cruising at 650 metres amid the lightless, ocean depths. Her oceanographer owner, Gerard Gotlieb, cruised beside her in his Alvin-like submersible. He said and motioned, “Cornuta (short for her scientific name Anoplogaster cornuta), turn right. I see some tasty morsels between the seamounts.”
    Cornuta approached her prey while her proboscis ebbed and flowed in the currents. The excited shrimp, seeing a worm-like lunch pursued the appendage. Georgina hovered. With a snap of her jaws, it was over. Bon appétite. Lunch is served.

  • Michelle Dinnick January 4, 2017 at 8:34 am

    He’s coming, and I can’t help but think: ‘Step into my parlour, said the spider to the fly…’ Mary knew what she was talking about. I have no parlour, and I am no spider. I am much scarier. Much deadlier. I call, and you answer. I am irresistible. Like a moth to a flame, perhaps… I am a temptress. I am insatiable. You will come, because I call. You will be devoured, and I shall enjoy. You will be my everything. Until I am done. Then I shall seek another. And you will be but a memory. A fleeting one.

  • As Dave and Lucie opened the last wedding gift, the patio fell silent.

    “Uh, D-Dave,” Lucie stuttered, “What the hell is that?”

    Dave stared intently at the quirky sculpture. “I believe it resembles, um, a piranha. Especially the jaw structure…”

    Dave’s best man, Al, couldn’t contain his laughter. “That’s what you get for telling everyone about your Amazon honeymoon! Who’s it from?”

    Lucie searched for a card. Beneath layers of tissue paper, she discovered several dry rose petals.

    “Rose,” Dave whispered as the blood drained from his face. His crazy stalker had found him again.

  • Call Me

    Your company
    is as necessary to me
    As braces on a piraña,
    Paper mâché knives,
    A scrabble rack
    without vowels.

    Being with you
    Makes me feel
    Like a squat yellow fish,
    Caught, killed, and dried,
    Head shrinking
    above the jawline.

    I would tell you-
    But my tongue
    has split and receded.
    Those dry bubbles,
    Faint remnants of my drowning in air,
    All mean nooooooo.

  • deep in the dark deep, there lays a monster full of teeth, it can not see, but that doesn’t matter, for it uses the light on it’s head and the air around it to consume the life of others. but if your one of the lucky one’s and listen well as I rattle on. That if you run into this monster you might be able to escape un-shattered if you can find the words that matter. For it love’s words and riddles as much as human flesh and if you find the right word, the word that might just matter and save your life you might be able to escape and tell the other’s

  • Am I not perfect enough for these above-sea dwellers
    I have been evicted from my home and put on display
    I am a mere piece of art
    Showing people what I could be and not what I am
    Shown to the world as above-sea dwellers would like
    Will they other fish like me
    and show them off as what they could also be
    I look down upon this world from above
    I came to the conclusion that fish and the sea are carefree
    While above-sea dwellers care what others think
    I watched as people passed by my body
    They looked and where amazed for only a brief moment before they were amazed by something else
    I was once a living creature,but now I am a piece of art

  • Sam sat calmly against the backdrop of an unfamiliar setting. Not quite sure how he got there, he adjusted his positioning and relaxed his lower jaw, settling it evenly on the flat surface. “Funny,” he thought, “a flat surface.” He had always wondered what a “flat surface” would feel like. In that moment, he knew he was having an “Out of Water” experience. He’d heard of them in school. And while he was pleasantly surprised as a sense of calm enveloped him, he was still somewhat perplexed, for he had always envisioned a slightly varied version of the game Scrabble.

  • The Lure
    Granny used guilt to lure me home and words to hold me while she reeled me in.
    I sat with her for seven days as she read aloud in her fading voice, page after page from her memoir.
    I now know why she had a hard shell. A tough life strengthens or breaks you.
    History repeats itself, she said, and I was following her well-worn path. Her last words were, you can turn it around. I promised to try.

    At twenty I am learning to read so I can finish her story and write mine a new end.

  • Marilyn Raaflaub January 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Lucan didn’t want to open his eyes. He had been playing in a most wonderful park. Slides magically lifted. The spring horses galloped and swings hoisted you into the overhead clouds. He didn’t want the magic to end, but from another world he heard his mother calling.

    With effort both eyes opened. Long, sharp white teeth were hanging before him. The blood red mouth opened. He froze. His magical park had spawned a monster.

    His mother’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “What a whimsical sculpture Uncle Matt made for the cottage garden. Lucan, you will love it.”

  • Its dark down here
    My personal light isn’t enough
    For me anymore
    Its starting to get really tough
    Because of my size and all
    I’m too small
    In an ocean so deep
    Hiding in all the little corners
    Where its cold
    To be all alone
    But with my spotlight I can only see so far
    Not anymore since I got my new bling
    Where they are all shinning
    Giving me the extra zing that I need
    With my big deep black eyes
    I can finally see beyond
    Now you can see me from a far
    Glittering like a twinkle star

  • He has never been attractive. He just grins too tensely and gestures too stiffly and talks the only way he knows how, stilted and tasting of acidic desperation.

    And in place of friendship, people leave little pieces of pity; friendship bracelet charms made up of long pauses and polite gestures and hesitant invitations. He sticks them to his teeth like braces so they don’t slide down his throat and choke him, and sometimes it even feels like they help.

    But they only spell out lines of gibberish.

  • I see menopause in the letters,
    and you thought
    Jonah’s whale was frightening.

  • Each step I take is met by sharp finned electro bolts…some small sharks.
    Slivers of pain on the back of the head…spreading around the scalp.
    Burn but no fire.
    Electrical surges.
    I awaken hypervent.
    It was just a dream.
    Or was it?
    The nurse taps me on the arm. “Wake up! Time for meds.”
    “Oh the sharp pain on the back of the head!” I awaken in a hospital bed.
    I know nothing. I am numb. What happened? I will never know. No answers.
    Sharp shots. Sharp fins. Sharp pain. Step and squish the sworded teeth. Damn the fish.

  • She didn’t have the heart to say. Katherine was such a sweet and innocent child so how did she ever imagine such a ferocious design. The large teeth especially. But the letters held their own subtle beauty with their rainbow of colours. Maybe nothing needed to be said after all. Imagination is something we should treasure, no matter what the outcome is. Now she found herself to be a little jealous over what her daughter had created because she felt she had nothing left to create. She could only hope that Katherine would make more pieces just like this.

  • We stare at the blank page or a blank screen. No matter what we do, the words never materialize. Our demons have stolen them from our fertile minds. But writers need to be warriors too. We pry one letter at a time from the jaws of our demons. Its sharp teeth cut and slice our fingers. It’s painful and agonizing. Writing becomes a battle, not a craft.

    Eventually, enough words form and our bloodied fingers will heal and write. Words won from a hard fought battle taste the sweetest.

  • My lantern guides me
    As Chiron’s across the Styx.
    Consumer of Soles.

  • Why do you look at me with fear in your eyes? Am I not beautiful? Do I not smile at you with my almost perfect teeth? Is my makeup not perfect? I try so hard to please everyone and conform to society. Yet still you reject my differences. My teeth are too big you say. My eyes are scary. My skin is not perfect. Perhaps I should stop trying to fix me. Perhaps I should understand that you are the one that needs to change. I need to love myself before someone else can love me.

  • Now I Know My ABSeas

    Carves the

    Fangs in

    Like lava


    Quell the
    Sobriquets, and
    Tales of

    Ex post facto!

    You can’t take ugly out to visit, but
    Zeal can be gained by creatures cryptic.

  • Perry was an avid angler, anticipating a relaxing afternoon on the water. All too soon he felt a tug on his line. He wrestled with the catch until it broke the surface and flew towards him, a glint of light shining from a handle-shaped appendage atop its head.

    “Eegad,” Perry screeched, “an angler fish!”

    As the fish’s pointy teeth lunged for Perry’s neck, he reacted instinctively. Plucking two strings of self-adhesive alphabet braces from his pocket, Perry flung them at the bared teeth. Bullseye! The stunned fish froze, allowing Perry time to remove the hook and throw it back.

  • I know the braces hurt you. I didn’t like it either but it’s not up to us. It’s a cruel world made worse when you don’t fit in. You’ll thank me for this, you’ll see. No one can resist a pretty smile, at least.

    I hated my braces too, you know. But my mother told me just what I am telling you. And you know what? Your father wouldn’t have even glanced at me if I hadn’t lived through this, just like you will. This is being a woman honey. It’s painful, but we can take it. We’re strong women.

  • “I do not know what drew me to her,”
    Added Dr. Mortice,
    Aquatic Orthodontist.
    “But as soon as I saw her,
    I knew…
    I would give my life to explore that mouth.”


    Mother always said, “words can cause a lot of pain – choose them carefully!”

    My best friend, Jimmy, had only kind words for everyone. He walked with a limp, but it didn’t bother him. He was the nicest person I ever knew.

    I suspected my girlfriend had feelings for Jimmy.

    “No girl would want a cripple for a boyfriend!” I shouted at Jimmy one day. I immediately regretted my cruel words. They say it was an accident but I believe he intentionally fell on that knife. I might as well have gutted him myself. I hate this monster I’ve become.

  • Beatrice’s mode of predation was always a little dim. She’d huff and puff to light the lure, but it never glowed as brilliantly as it should. Even the most dim-witted fish could not be tricked, and eventually Bea had to settle for the scraps of meat her kin would let fall to the ocean floor.

    Hitting rock-bottom can, at times, welcome a beautiful start. One morning, after rummaging through some waste in the ocean deep, Bea rose from its darkness with a tangle of light strung to her teeth, and the fish came swimming.

  • Between mushy mouthfuls, Eloise smiled as best she could with her new braces delightfully decorated with alphabet letters. She hoped in a few months she would have her old bite back. Meanwhile she made a list of those who laughed at her. With proper seasoning she was sure they would taste good. Who would be first, Herb or Jim?

  • My daughter Chauncey saw the long white tooth first. It was a
    beautiful October, cartoon bright, a day that wanted to be mistaken
    for April. Disney sky fluffy and wistful. She tugged at the indignant
    mud. I was preoccupied with moving tulip bulbs, our witness relocation
    program to foil mobster squirrels. Until Chauncey howled, ouched her
    curious little fingers. “Kiss better?” she beseeched. I puckered then
    dug. The tooth emerged as a fin. “Treasure?” Chauncey asked.
    “Maybe.” I cautioned. It was a fish sculpture with a string of
    letters like patio lanterns across the top of its gaping mouth.

  • It seems like there is never enough time for me to say all that I want to say and so, more often than not, I find myself sprinting to that ungraspable finish line to get it all out, almost to the point of babbling nonsensically. The supposed filter between my mind and my mouth no longer exists. The words tumble out, one after another, in an impossible rhythm most can’t keep up with, not even my beating heart. But I have to ask myself, is anyone really listening to me or is it all for not?

    Thanks and good luck to all who entered. A longlist of the finalists will be announced Spring of 2017.


    My childhood friend and I had always been bleeding hearts. We cared so much about the oppressed and abused in life; for every living being in the universe. Those were dangerous times back then for taking a stand, but my friend was fearless. I was always floundering like a fish out of water. I’ll never forget the day the soldiers came and dragged her away. I didn’t utter a single word – just watched with petrified eyes. I never saw her again. Losing her changed my life. These days, I bravely swim against the tide.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

back to top