2 x 22 online stories for 22 days
June 1 – 22, 2020
And away we go…!
June 12 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Pam Morrison – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
After the raspberries
She’s fingering the pleats on the hem of the green sofa. Her chin is stained with raspberry juice. The whole punnet, every sweet knobble, had poured into her mouth like a cascade of crimson. Isolation consolation she’d called it. She’d been grinning at her dead husband. They’d joked: gorge like no-one’s watching. She was still smiling, juice spilling, breathing easy, when the sitting room took on a lean. The fall she’d been avoiding all these months finally had her in its arms. How strange: the way time slows down as if to catch you, she thought on her way down.
Pam Morrison is a Dunedin-based former journalist who has turned her hand to creative writing. Her current passion is flash fiction and micro fiction, and she was last year’s regional winner in the National Flash Fiction Day competition.
June 12 NO-THEME MICRO
Sophie van Llewyn – Germany
Coana Rodica in front of a black and white TV set at the time of the Romanian Revolution of 1989
Peels knee-long nylons biting into her swollen legs. The borsch takes hours, but her grandson loves it so. No school for him tomorrow; everyone is hiding.
Wild rumors: the presidential couple fled to Cuba by helicopter. Russian tanks invading. The Army shooting at protesters on the streets of Bucharest. Her son, in Bucharest, too. Coana Rodica crosses herself. Lord, have mercy.
On the top of her closet: bananas, ripening, wrapped in newspaper. Bought them for Christmas — five hours of waiting in the cold.
Better give them to her grandson tomorrow. Better not wait to see how this ends.
Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania, but she lives in Germany. Her novella-in-flash Bottled Goods was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019.
June 11 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar – Columbus, Ohio, USA
Spirits in lockdown
My daughter, Lily, talks me into playing a game on the Ouija board she brought from the dorm. It’s harmless fun, she says.
We place our fingers on the planchette. It starts moving. The air reeks of the smell my nostrils have forgotten— I washed it off the curtains, bed sheets, and blankets. I start sneezing. Lily’s face becomes white.
“No smoking indoors, Mister.” I shout.
The planchette moves rapidly, jumping from letter to letter. “No rules in lockdown,” Lily reads in a shaky voice. My husband winks in his picture on the mantel.
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American. She was born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. She blogs at Puny Fingers and can be reached at twitter @PunyFingers http://saraspunyfingers.com
June 11 NO-THEME MICRO
Sam Payne – Plymouth, UK
This body of mine harbours a storm, the fortune teller told me so. It was Jimmy’s idea to visit her. Normally, he dismisses such things as bullshit, but the trip was his way of making amends for what he refers to as a little tiff.
What did she say?’ He asks me later.
‘Tell me,’ he says, gripping my arm tighter than necessary. ‘Tell me.’
I see that familiar icy look in his eyes and I know where this goes.
But this time, somewhere deep within, the updraft is gathering.
Sam Payne is a writer living in the UK. Her work has appeared in Spelk, Reflex Fiction and Popshot Magazine.
June 11 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Judy Darley – Bristol, UK
Some homeschool days the lounge is a sea, stairs a snow-capped mountain, bathroom a jungle, Mum and Dad’s bedroom a sun-seared dessert. You list dessert creatures: “Chocolate-tailed chuckwalla, jammy gerbil, custard vulture, sugar-swirl rattlesnake…”
The lounge thrashes with child-hungry squirms. Upstairs, bone-crunching jungle towels writhe. You save me when the dessert duvet gums me into sinking sand.
You’ve set your sights on the uncharted territory of the roof, aka the moon.
I waver behind curtains. When you return – narrow-mouthed, blank-eyed – I grasp your arm, but my fingers pass through. My brother, adrift beyond our realm. My turn to rescue.
Judy Darley is a British writer who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her short story collection Sky Light Rain is available from Valley Press here: https://bit.ly/2JiLT6h. Find Judy at http://www.SkyLightRain.com and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley
June 10 NO-THEME MICRO
Jenny Woodhouse – New Zealand
Stamp, jingle, slap. The Morris men quarter the green, coloured ribbons flying, accordion playing.
Cameras flash. People wave, applaud. How much longer can the tradition last? Most of them are over eighty.
The church hides behind guardian yews from the pagan ritual. The sun reaches its low zenith. Chimes, then the tenor bell tolls midday.
The dancers fall back, stand and take their bows. City folk buy them pints.
The sun dips into the west. The dark rises from the east. Midwinter has come but not yet gone. The dance resumes, fiercer, more energetic, conjuring the sun to return.
After she retired Jenny Woodhouse studied creative writing with the Open University. Her output has shrunk from novel to short stories to flash. A new addiction to micros threatens total disappearance.
June 9 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Sophie van Llewyn – Germany
Windows to the World in the Middle of the COVID Crisis
- A back garden in Bavaria that you share with neighbours on a tight rota.
- News in the only language that rolls naturally off your tongue — Romanians to the rescue of the crops in the UK & Germany. Maybe they’ll stop branding all of your people as beggars.
- In Bucharest, the window of your student flat, looking to a neighborhood of villas. At its end, the gigantic garbage bins between which a family resided. SUVs driving to them, hands stretching out: bags of waste & bags of alms. Never gift anything with cheese, eggs or meat on lent days like Wednesdays & Fridays.
Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania, but she lives in Germany. Her novella-in-flash Bottled Goods was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019.
June 9 NO-THEME MICRO
Sara Hills – Warwickshire, UK
On Ten Bay Beach
We sit thigh-deep in sea water manufacturing memories with my father, so after the cancer finally kills him, I can tell Benji, “You were his everything.”
It’s no lie; Dad has more patience for my infant son than he ever had for me.
Benji’s skin glows porcelain against Dad’s sunken chest while Dad’s young wife snaps photos. She tells Benji to smile and me to smile and though the whole stupid memory thing was my idea, I just want to punch her in her chihuahua-stained teeth.
Dad’s sitting right next to me, and I miss him already.
BIO Sara Hills has words at Barren Magazine, Reflex Fiction, TSS, Flash Flood Journal and others. She won the 2020 UK NFFD micro competition and has previously been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award and the Bridport Prize. She tweets from @sarahillswrites.
June 8 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Cherllisha Silva – Wellington, New Zealand
Day 16. ‘Toilet paper, flour and sex toys top of New Zealanders’ shopping lists in the day before lockdown.’
When Council locked public toilets, I used the essential workers’ one at the bus terminus, until the Government gave me this hotel room—a pandemic present. Only I touch this handle, these taps, this button, this bog roll—the softest and whitest, imprinted with stylie leaves like that supplied in the talking toilet behind the library. I used to sit there for eight minutes listening to bowel-relax music, tracing leaves across serrations and imagining three segments behind a white mat with black frame on my wall, expecting the voice, “The door will automatically unlock in two minutes.”
Cherllisha Silva lives in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. She writes poetry, flash and short fiction. Her work is published in journals, anthologies and newspapers in New Zealand, Australia and the US.
June 8 NO-THEME MICRO
Marissa Hoffman – Switzerland
Corners and Edges
The yellowing leaves were holding on, like Mummy. We came inside, we hushed. We cut apple pieces, drew pictures and crept secret deliveries up the stairs on a tray. Darkness felt bigger, we slept top-to-toe, Gorilla and Cattie too. Each morning, jigsaw pieces lay on our pillows, first the corners, then the edges. We worked by Mummy’s bed, no picture to guide us. Outside, the wind chased chatty leaves into groups, they whispered about letting go. But the snow shushed them the day Daddy rocked us. Wet cheeked, he told us the rest of the puzzle we’d work out together.
Marissa Hoffman is delighted to have her micro featured at NFFD NZ’s Micro Madness again. She won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2019 and has flash published in some of her favourite lit mags and anthologies. http://www.marissahofmann.com @hoffmannwriter
June 7 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Lucy Zhang – Cupertino, California, USA
Can’t see the rainbow from here
The man in the sewer hates the rain. He hates the pitter-patters and plunks of water droplets trickling down from the pavement, through the bars of the drainage–down, down, down until they join the pool of water covered by oil sheen. When he wades around, pushing floating leaves and jolly rancher wrappers aside, he closes his eyes, pretends the water resistance is just a very heavy wind and he is not half-soaked. He does not notice when the sun emerges, and footsteps replace the sound of raindrops as people emerge from their houses to take in a fresh rainbow.
Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer disguised as an anime fan. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Atlas & Alice, Okay Donkey, Jellyfish Review and elsewhere. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.
June 7 NO-THEME MICRO
Bronwyn Hegarty – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Seventy-eight years map his face with tributaries criss-crossing the main divide. He needs no one. He wants nothing else, alone with his shotgun and a cabbage patch. The peeling roof, the wooden boards – they need a paint, badly. His time is better spent watching from the toilet window. At dusk, a hare pops up amongst the silverbeet. Bang! Another one for the pot. His gut growls as he walks outside, blade in hand. He slits open the warm belly, releasing dark green coils. He cuts quickly around each limb, rips the skin back. Sighs, enjoying the softness of the fur.
Bronwyn Hegarty enjoys writing short and long fiction and poetry in the Dunedin countryside where she lives with her husband. Her love of nature is reflected in her writing and illustrates her Moodswithpoetry blog at: https://moodswithpoetry.blogspot.com/
June 6 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Charlotte Hamrick – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
She fingers the christening dress fabric. Its embroidered threads feel silky against the crinkly organza, feels like the fibers of another life. She dips it in a basin of soapy water – swish, swish. The scent of Dreft wafts through the room, bubbles riding shotgun. She carries it to the balcony clutched to her heaving chest. Gently lays it over the balcony railing, little sleeves waving forlornly in the breeze. She watches the woman across the atrium pacing the hours away. Thinks about her daughter out there, her legs still now. Waves back at her tiny dress for the last time.
Charlotte Hamrick’s poetry, prose, and photography has been published in numerous online and print journals. She is a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and reads for Fractured Lit. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets.
June 6 NO-THEME MICRO
Lucy Zhang – Cupertino, California USA
The flower girl holds a bouquet and steals glances at the goth boy slouching in the corner. When everyone clamors to speak with the newlyweds, she plucks a single flower and hides it under her trench coat. Cloaked in black, a grim reaper visiting a holy matrimonial ceremony, the boy eats from a spread of finger foods–dainty sandwiches that wouldn’t fill a hummingbird. She reaches for a cannoli, shoulder bumping shoulder. Her fingers brush against his knuckles and she apologizes, then pulls the flower from her coat like a magician and presents him an offering, an invitation.
Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer disguised as an anime fan. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Atlas & Alice, Okay Donkey, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.
June 5 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Kim Jackways – Christchurch, New Zealand
- To take shelter or refuge
She’s safe, they tell her. It becomes a mantra, like in the old days of meditation and yoga. She squints through smudged glass and fingers the cool frames.
- To sit on the heels with knees bent forward; squat
Grief comes prematurely, each afternoon. The curtains hang dank green and the voices from the 3D wraparound television are aloof.
- To hold stubbornly to some position
The screen talks in the voices of her grandchildren. Knocks in a flurry, the patter of pudgy fingers on her knee. Her heart pounds.
Kim Jackways is a freelance writer based in Canterbury. She writes tales of forgotten histories and imaginary worlds. Her fiction has been published in various places, including The Best Small Fictions 2019.
June 5 NO-THEME MICRO
Erik Kennedy – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
Dealing with Change
I couldn’t believe how much money I had found in my couch cushions. It must have been $10,000.
I texted my broker immediately: ‘Sarah, put it all in oil.’
Sarah texted back: ‘Lloyd, we’ve been over this. I’m not your broker, I’m your sister. And you didn’t find that money in your couch, you found it in the hole in your back garden where you keep burying it.’
This was a lot to take in. I had to rethink everything. ‘In that case,’ I texted back, ‘put it all in natural gas.’
Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he selected the poetry for Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019). Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.
June 4 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Kay Wise – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
I’ll run you over with my bike
Woosh! ‘Lookout guys!‘ he spits.
Matted fleece brushes against me – ragged hair, unshaven, the stench of sweat. He’s helmetless, unseated, riding like a race horse. A rush of air invades. No social distance, not like the courteous dog-walkers.
We saw him shouting at girls outside their flat.
‘She’s not my girlfriend!’ and, ‘He’ll have a sore mouth now!’
We wondered over lunch about the punch.
Kay Wise has poetry published in Christchurch Press, Catalyst and New Zealand Poetry Society. She belongs to a family of conservationists passionate about endangered birds. Land and seascapes of Banks Peninsula and Able Tasman inspire her writing.
June 4 NO-THEME MICRO
Nan Wigington – Denver, Colorado, USA
On her 15th birthday, black bowlered men fell from the sky. The sharp ends of their unfurled umbrellas pointed straight at her heart. She dodged, darted, barely survived.
At 16, clouds filled with teachers. She met them, face turned up. They kissed her lips, fell from her cheeks, washed away into gutters.
She spent her 18th birthday in hiding. Still boys arrived damp and sweaty. One fell on her like a hailstorm. Another like a fog. They made her shiver.
A drought followed. Nothing but blue skies. Only one tornado. How could she live with such perfect weather.
Nan Wigington lives in Denver, Colorado. She is currently employed as a paraprofessional in a K-2 autism center. Her work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, After the Pause and Spelk.
June 3 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Diana Burns – Wellington, New Zealand
The shape of things
She woke up tired after anxious dreams. Some nights friends turned against her, threatening her with knives. Classmates she hadn’t thought of in 30 years interrupted. Twisted macrocarpas with ominous branches stifled the house she needed to escape from. Once she was riding a llama naked down her street, which morphed into a crumbling mountain track.
By day, work and friends were strained through a pixelated sieve of distance. Movement and meaning zoomed into virtual space. Form was untrustworthy, could be filtered and enhanced. Fed on comforting starch and starved of attention, her body was losing its shape.
Diana Burns lives in Wellington, and has always loved words. Her eclectic career has included broadcasting, journalism, clear communications training, teaching in Spain and leading tours around Latin America. She’s good at a singsong because she always knows the words.
June 3 NO-THEME MICRO
Ursula Hoult – Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
Old friends sitting by the fire
Henry snuck out. His babysitter was blowing kisses into the phone again. So he headed to the banned beyond.
On the path he saw a rabbit. It turned and ran. He ran after it, through the trees and down the hill. But the rabbit was fast and Henry became tired. He was happy when the rabbit reached the pond and stopped.
He stood and caught his breath. Out loud he asked, “will you come home with me?”
In later years they discussed who had been the more surprised. Henry, because Peter answered. Or Peter, because he said “yes”.
Over a lifetime, Ursula Hoult has done many things – a little bit of a lot of things. As you read, you may wonder, “Did she make that bit up”? And the answer is quite likely, “Yes – because it suited the story.” https://ursulahoult.com/
June 2 LOCKDOWN MICRO
María Castro Domínguez – Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,The Canary Islands
The new normal
going out is discovering a country ─ over the phone he drinks love and fear ─
the daily ovation from balconies feels we are applauding trees sky and earth
the dog walkers with tired dogs look at me as if I was the only dog-less human
a woman sneezes outside a mask she wears it like a necklace I catch her gems of germs
window panes announce sales pre-covid clothes collects dust and becomes aged
a parrot cocks his head to one side it’s how it he sees this world
a neighbour has made an eggless cake she cracked sunshine in the flour
María Castro Domínguez is the author of A Face in The Crowd, her 2016 Erbacce Press-winning collection. She is also winner of the third prize in Brittle Star´s Poetry Competition 2018. Her poems have appeared in Orbis, Obsessed With Pipework, Apogee, PANK, Empty Mirror, Popshot and London Grip.
June 2 NO-THEME MICRO
Jacques Denault – Danvers, Massachusetts, USA
A roller coaster in the trees
It happened long ago, in the trees. A young boy stood atop branches so high they bore clouds rather than leaves. Some grew fruit—blueberries, strawberries, and currants which fed him throughout the years.
He was born there.
People worked far below. The boy watched as they built their village. Watched as their homes burned in summer, flooded in fall, froze in winter. When spring came he could not watch.
He ripped a strip of bark from the ancient tree. Plucked berries.
He loaded the gifts of fruit for the villagers onto his sled and rode down branches like rail treads.
Jacques Denault holds a BA in English from Merrimack College, where he was the head editor for The Merrimack Review. He is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Emerson College.
June 1 LOCKDOWN MICRO
Nora Nadjarian – Cyprus
And that’s when the sadness came. The nurse appeared, with her mask on. All we could see were her eyes. A voyage, she said. That’s all she said. I pictured God reading an old Bible, the pages yellowed with time, its spine broken.
Nora Nadjarian is a poet and writer from Cyprus and has been published internationally. Her work was included in various anthologies, most recently in Europa 28 (Comma Press, 2020) and in the 2020 UK National Flash Fiction Day anthology. @NoraNadj
June 1 NO-THEME MICRO
Gail Ingram – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
How do you make friends with boys
when they talk in facts, not memory of shapes in a summer haze?
when they don’t see the dust on the skirting boards, or edged in silver, floating?
when their eyes must be lowered to match the level of yours?
when their voices carry further, and yours apparently carries too much?
when something you understand, and he doesn’t have to, is Adam-and-Eve between you,
and you must ignore the fucking apple?
Gail Ingram is author of Contents Under Pressure (Pūkeko Publications 2019). Her work has been widely published and anthologised. She has won international awards for poetry and short fiction. She is also an editor and teacher of creative writing. https://www.theseventhletter.nz/
Watch this space as each new micro is posted each day between now and June 22…
Announcing the 2020 Micro Madness Finalists
Alphabetical by title
Micros will be posted each day beginning June 01. Watch this space!
A Roller coaster in the Trees – Jacques Denault
Coana Rodica in front of a black and white TV set at the time of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 – Sophie van Llewyn
Corners and Edges – Marissa Hoffman
Dealing with Change – Erik Kennedy
Filmic – Susan Wardell
Flower Girl – Lucy Zhang
Hare man – Bronwyn Hegarty
Heart felt – John Irvine
How do you make friends with boys – Gail Ingram
Lighting Storm – John Yohe
Little Chevalier – Mandira Pattnaik
Midwinter – Jenny Woodhouse
Old friends Sitting by the Fire – Ursula Hoult
On Ten Bay Beach – Sara Hills
Our First Apartment – Jodi Barnes
Self Defence – Sam Payne
Some Kind of Sunset – Rachel Smith
The Far Bleachers – R. P. Wood
The Squid and the Whale Send Alan a Piece of Ambergris – Rose Collins
The Ties that Bind – Heather McQuillan
Unchartered Waters – Sharon Boyle
Weather – Nan Wigington
A Small Spinning Wind – Jac Jenkins
After the raspberries – Pam Morrison
Can’t see the rainbow from here – Lucy Zhang
Convergence – Sophia Wilson
Day 16. ‘Toilet paper, flour and sex toys top of New Zealanders’ shopping lists in the day before lockdown.’ – Cherllisha Silva
Family Psychology – Judy Darley
Forty Days – Bronwen Griffiths
Full – Amy Barnes
I’ll run you over with my bike – Kay Wise
Last Night I Dreamt of the Sea – Mileva Anastasiadou
Observations – Lois Villemaire
Patter – Kim Jackways
Searching for Exceptions to My Black Thumb – Dallas Kidd
Sniffing Dreft – Charlotte Hamrick
Spirits in Lockdown – Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
The New Normal – María Castro Domínguez
The Shape Of Things – Diana Burns
Two-faced Moira – S.B. Borgersen
Voyage – Nora Nadjarian
Waiting for an Avalanche When You Live by the Sea – Sheila Hailstone
Wild life – Susan Wardell
Windows to the World in the Middle of the COVID Crisis – Sophie van Llewyn
Thank you to this year’s judges!
Diane Simmons studied creative writing with The Open University. She is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK and a director of the UK Flash Fiction Festival. She has been a reader for the Bath Short Story Award, an editor for Flash Flood and a judge for several flash competitions, including Flash 500 and NFFD Micro (UK). Widely published and anthologised, she has been placed in numerous short story and flash competitions. Finding a Way, her flash collection on the theme of grief, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019 and was shortlisted in the Best Short Story Collection category of the 2019 Saboteur Awards. Her historical flash fiction novella, An Inheritance, was published by V. Press in early 2020. More here.
Anna Granger has been writing very short fiction for a very long time. Her work has won awards and prizes and been published in magazines, anthologies, online and broadcast on radio. In 2018 she placed second in the NFFD competition with her story ‘The Lanterns’ and in 2019 two of her stories were highly commended. Anna lives by the Whanganui River.
Marcelle Heath is a fiction writer and editor. A former series editor of Wigleaf Top 50, Marcelle’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Kenyon Review Online, Little Fiction, matchbook, Nat. Brut, NOÖ, Split Lip Magazine, Wigleaf, and other journals. Her short story collection IS THAT ALL THERE IS? is forthcoming by Awst Press in 2022. Marcelle curates Apparel for Authors, an interview series on writers, fashion, and the public sphere.