In 2016, we asked 22 writers to write stories of no more than 250 characters — the size that can fit not only in your pocket but also on your phone.
Think big, write small: 22 Tiny Tales
Be Wise by Frances Gapper (England)
She listened to him in silence, wanting to shout and scream. Be wise, she told herself. That night an oak blew down in a storm, cracking but not breaking the patio windows. She rang a firm, they sliced up the tree and fed it into a chipper. The marriage held, just.
Frances Gapper’s next story collection In the Wild Wood is due out 2017.
Your problem by Kate Mahony (Wellington)
The woman follows me all day.
‘I know what your problem is,’ she shouts when we cross paths in the unemployment office.
I think: I am fat? I am single?
Finally, she pinches her mouth in anger. Spits: ‘Your problem is that everything will be all right.’
Kate Mahony is a New Zealand writer.
Book by James Claffey (Ireland/ California)
In the book of anger you enter my sins. Once my vice was caffeine, now the undersea creature with the morphing colors is my choice. A glow lights the backside of the mountains and I deal with the cold flow of your rage, a current from a watery place.
James Claffey is an Irish writer living in Carpinteria, CA.
Heat by Digby Beaumont (England)
Heat. Sandbanks First School playing field. Big Bella Cass, her salty breath on my neck, rides me piggy-back. Springs of red curls fall onto my eyes as I heft her over the finish line. For a moment our fingertips touch on the yellowing grass.
Digby Beaumont is an English writer whose flash fiction has appeared in many fine print and online journals and anthologies.
Communion by Nicolette Wong (Hong Kong)
All night they dance by the river until their reflection glistens at daybreak, and she says to him, her hand on his lame leg, “From now on our days shall converge.”
He holds still and does not weep.
Nicolette Wong is the editor-in-chief of A-Minor Magazine & Press.
Relocation by Andrew Stancek (Canada)
A raider to live-trap. The raccoon bandit stare chills and thrills. At forest edge I lift the steel latch; he growls off. Before I threw the crate and my duffel into the truck, I scrawled a bye under “milk” on your grocery list. “Born to be wild.”
Andrew Stancek continues to dream and entertain his Muses in Canada.
Scandal by Catherine McNamara (Italy)
She walks among us as if she has done nothing. We think, the children. We think, the diseases. We see her husband looks troubled and deserves so much better but he greets her and they stand together, a resilience. Two armoured knights. But her dress cascades and her smile is laden and we feel horror.
Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney and now lives in Italy.
Tattoo by Michael Gillan Maxwell (US)
He swore he’d never get a tattoo. Then he got cancer.
As a reminder, a lovely woman named Miss Kat tattooed a Celtic shield over his heart.
Now he sees it every day when he looks in the mirror.
He is grateful.
Michael Gillan Maxwell is a part-time shaman prone to random outbursts and spontaneous combustion.
Removal by VRL Thonger (Whangarei)
Pull over, says the pilot driver, hi-viz vest glittering in the dark like Peter Gabriel’s starry jacket in the Sledgehammer video.
Looming out of the fog, two lanes wide, a ghostly bungalow whooshes by; our girl in the back sleeps on, rescued, bereft.
VRL Thonger is a writer and performance poet, formerly of London, Washington DC and the Netherlands, now living in Kerikeri.
Frank Sargeson’s Shed by Rachel Fenton (Auckland)
Just before the on-ramp, you could miss the sign. Janet Frame wrote some of her best work in Frank Sargeson’s shed, but it’s not there; got rid in the subdivide to fund preservation of his place.
Rachel J Fenton’s fiction was most recently published in The Wales Arts Review and Remembering Oluwale.
Trace A Turkey by Bud Smith (New York City)
I only slip off my wedding ring around a machine that’ll rip a finger off or if feeding a camel a handful of Captain Crunch. Hi, just got your voicemail, love you too! I’m headed home lugging chests of treasure, these hands kept new, kept to myself.
Bud Smith reads and writes and publishes books at Unknown Press.
Moonstruck by Jude Higgins (Bath)
We met under a Harvest Moon, made love beneath a waxing crescent. By the solstice, our passion had waned. That night, a Strawberry Moon broke through the clouds. I wanted us to bathe in the light. Instead, she watched the final episode of a TV drama.
Jude Higgins runs Bath Flash Fiction Award in the UK and adores short-short fiction.
Silence by Iona Winter (New Zealand)
My feet wander over to the cool patch on your side of the bed, all empty, white and still. This skin of mine remembers the pulse of you beneath my hand, and fingerprints left on unwelcome flesh.
Iona Winter (Māori/Pākehā) is a holistic therapist and published author.
Three Things by Sheldon Lee Compton (Kentucky)
I lie about the Hep C. Lie about the 14 months with Franklin Correctional. I’m truthful if pushed. Name three positive things about myself? I’m alive, I’m tough, and I’m a people person. Mostly the truth, if you’re blind and listening with one ear.
Sheldon Lee Compton is a short story writer and novelist from Eastern Kentucky.
Floating by Nod Ghosh (Christchurch)
But now it’s time to run with animals. Their baby softness unnoticed, we cling to them like luggage.
Above us aircraft float like whales, immobile in a stagnant sky.
We run. They fall.
The animals mewl like newborns.
We dodge traffic, run between lines.
Nod Ghosh writes flash and longer stories: http://www.nodghosh.com/
Boogie Down by George Korolog (US)
We teeter on the edge of fine music, balanced on the boundary of every melody, in a strange unsure rhythm. We seem to have a purpose as the necessary embarrassment to allay the world from its apprehension of perfection. Play the music, let’s dance.
George Korolog is a poet/writer from San Francisco Bay Area. His two books of poetry are Raw String and Collapsing Outside of the Box.
Purplerainbrainfreeze by Patrick Pink (Auckland)
We were at the all-night diner having milkshakes after sex because each of us had an incurable sweet tooth. U sipped strawberry, glanced over smudged geek glasses, said, “I had this album.” I shivered from the rush and fell 4 U.
Chicago-born, Patrick Pink calls Aotearoa home where he frequently flashes.
Cold Feet by KM Elkes (England)
Winter now. Alone too long he decides: walk to town, get tea, a paper, see people. He pulls his boots from under the chair; a pair of socks rolls out. Hers, woolly with dust. So he treads another path, old feet warmed by socks that squeeze too tight.
KM Elkes is an award winning author from Bristol, UK, who tweets via @mysmalltales
Glass by Nancy Stohlman (US)
After the accident, the doctors explained that they’d gotten the biggest pieces out and that the body would naturally expel the rest of the glass over time. But I still feel the shards under the skin, waiting.
Nancy Stohlman’s creativity takes on many forms. More here.
If At First . . . by Paul Beckman (US)
On his third try, Douglas came to the realization that he was most likely doing something wrong, so while she was sleeping, he dressed, crept out of bed, and left his girlfriend Lois’ apartment the way he came—an unhappy virgin.
Paul Beckman is a writer and photographer both above and beneath the water.
Heartwood by Eileen Merriman (Auckland)
When I wrap my arms around the kauri’s trunk your heart beats in my ear, your moon-lips cool on my forehead. Remember me, heartwood.
Eileen Merriman’s flash fiction and short stories have been published in a number of national and international anthologies.
Rocket by Michelle Elvy (Tanzania)
My brother and I used to launch rockets in the paddock. Then Kim came along. She lit the fuses after that. They live in France now. He never comes home.
I tell my kid: Steady with the spark. Blast off. See it explode and tumble back to earth.
Michelle Elvy believes small shiny things, like glow worms and the memory of toy rockets.