Sleeping Deacon (Flash Fiction Rodeo Entry)

Contest #6 was the most challenging for me, the Bucking Bull Go-Round, embodying the Professional Bull Riders concept of what makes a good, high-scoring bucking bull ride:

“A contest of strength, balance, endurance, and effort between the world’s best bull riders and the world’s best bucking bulls. A rider must ride for 8 seconds with one hand in the bull rope and one in the air in order to earn a score. The clock starts when the bull’s shoulder or hip breaks the plane of the gate. It stops when the rider’s hand comes out of the rope – voluntarily or not.”

Without real bulls (thank all the gods there are!) the challenge shifted to writing. In real bull-riding, a rider’s arm may not touch himself, the bull, or the ground before the 8 seconds are up. For this challenge, no touching meant sticking to fiction; entries must be entirely fictional, with no first person narration. In real bull riding, the bull is scored for its difficulty to ride, including body rolls, bucking, and changes in direction; in this contest, the prompt words and the writer’s use of them to shift and change direction within the story while remaining in control were scored. Finally, style was judged, perhaps the most difficult. As lead buckaroo of this contest, D. Avery wrote: “Style is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Style is when the rider has mastered the moves of the bull and now is showing moves of her own. Style is when the whole ride looks easy and smooth.”

  1. Stories are to be 107 words in long in eight sentences.
  2. Stories are to include the two words drawn as your prompt (you may change the order of the words and they do not need to be adjacent).
  3. Write a fictional story that involves facing a challenge or fear.
  4. Stories are to be fiction only; no personal narrative, memoir, or non-fiction of any persuasion. Spur on a story!
  5. Go where the prompts lead, or buck, or twist. Hang on to your hat!

Entrants put their names in for a bucking bull and were each given the name of an actual bull on the PBR circuit; I drew Sleeping Deacon. That’s where it got tough for me. How on earth to include both the words “sleeping” and “deacon” in one story about staring down fear? Why couldn’t I have got an easier bull, like Panic Attack or Prime Time? But then, it wouldn’t be a challenge. You take what’s hard, and you run with it the best you can.

brimstone skeeze
Photo: skeeze


“What do you mean, you’re not coming to church? It’s the Deacon, back in town, gonna light everyone’s fire.”

Alicia sets her mug down with a snap and snugs her bathrobe tighter.  “That’s the issue. All I hear is damnation, eternal burning, we’re all sinners and always will be, and it follows me even when I’m sleeping, visions of never being good enough and burning forever, and that’s supposed to be comforting?”

“See, your problem is–”

“My problem is solved. I decided there’s no God, and now there’s no hellfire, no eternal damnation, and no early-morning preacher shouting at me, so I get to sleep late.”


Nope, didn’t win. But that’s okay. It was a real challenge, and damned if it wasn’t fun. The winners were wonderful, and you can read them here.

FF Rodeo


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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