~ ~ ~
June 22 — FIRST PLACE
The Broom of Sisyphus by Santino Prinzi UK
Dad is outside sweeping fallen leaves from the driveway. Again.
Santino Prinzi, from the UK, is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day (UK), Flash Fiction Editor for Firefly Magazine, and a First Reader for Vestal Review. His debut flash fiction collection Dots and other flashes of perception is available from The Nottingham Review Press. For more information visit his website: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com
June 21 — SECOND PLACE
Taking her in by Gail Ingram, New Zealand
The officer would’ve looked plain, even boyish as he asked, How much? He used the beamer that day, his jacket slung across the available seat, strains of Red Hot Chili Peppers ribboning through exhaust fumes … with birds I share this lonely view…
I was on duty when he brought her in, a bracelet of raw skin shadowing her cuffs. I saw how she might’ve bounced, brazen, up to his window, tossing her ponytail in the way a dog in the Second-Chance Pound might wag its tail and woof at strangers, sensing this one, at last, has a kind face.
Gail Ingram has flash published in New Zealand and overseas. She lives in Christchurch on the golden hills.
Flightless by Judy Darley, UK
She named it Dragon, made it friend and shelter in one. At night she huddled in moss-mottled airline seats and invented stories of flights through skies of flaming stars. She tried to recall fairy tales from her youth, but she’d been alone so long all that remained were shreds. She told Dragon about streets without jungle and towers without trees. Then she imagined something that might have been true – the click of seatbelts as Dragon fell. She couldn’t recall what came after, only the happiness of finding Dragon again: rusting doors agape and sightless windows welcoming her home.
Toilet humour by Keith Nunes, New Zealand
I’m a 52 year old guy sitting on the toilet when my teenage step-daughter barges in and then backs out.
“You should lock the door,” she says, standing outside the door.
“You should knock,” I say.
“If you locked the door I wouldn’t have to knock.”
“If you knocked I wouldn’t have to lock it. That lock only has so many lockings in its lifetime and I don’t want to waste them needlessly.”
She laughs, trundling down the hall, calling out to her sister.
“That guy’s a fruit cake,” she says.
“I know,” the other one says.
Keith Nunes lives beside Lake Rotoma near Rotorua and on occasion has poems/short fiction published around parts of the globe.
A Matter of Taste by Sally Syson, UK
Dessert, the pièce de resistance, is an enormous bead of living amber, a bucketful of insects suspended in a sphere of frozen honey. By the time the waiters have cleared away the last of the bones and wiped the blood from the floor, the honey is melting and the insects are slowly coming back to life. As if waking to a sudden spring, butterflies shake out the damp white handkerchiefs of their wings, and groggy flies sit up rubbing their hands. Beetles tap their mandibles upon the table, one hundred tiny alarm clocks counting down to death:
Tick, tick, tock.
Sally Syson lives in North West England, where she works as a medical doctor. Her short fiction has been listed for the Manchester Fiction Prize and The London Magazine Short Story Competition, and published by The Manchester Review.
Close by Agnes Marton, Luxembourg
Bob, my secretary, is an oak drawer of a man, this is where I hide remnants of my non-bossical life.
Once he ordered eighty pairs of turquoise bamboo socks of the wrong size for Christmas (cheap in bulk) on eBay. I got fifty, a chicklish nest for my schnauzer to yawn on.
Bob’s on a diet; he munches daffodils while burying his barking scalp in Wordsworth, pretending he’s busy with filing. I start humming Moon River in my office, desperate to get over Thursday. In a sec he joins me outside, the walls echo his clumsy brum-brummm.
Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Reviews Editor of The Ofi Press and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is based in Luxembourg. Her recent publications include Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry (winning the Saboteur Award), her poetry collection Captain Fly’s Bucket List and two chapbooks with Moria Books (USA).
Engulfment by Zoë Meager, New Zealand
Our sheets went up in flames that night and Icarus, I melted. Plummeted through billowing gold and orange smoke while her moon face, far below me, slumbered on.
Kneeling over me next morning, her hair drew long curtains around us. “You read too much into things,” she laughed, and reached out a hand.
“That woman,” friends said, snarling, “leaves scorch marks.”
But it wasn’t her fault I got burned. The dragon tattoo on her back; I never told her it had woken up.
Zoe Meager lives and writes in Christchurch.
Your father carries time in his pocket by Heather McQuillan, New Zealand
He keeps it in a tobacco tin, takes pinches of it between fingers stubby and stained, calloused from years spent gripping tools. You’d always thought his smokes grew on kauri trees.
Your father sniffs at time, drawing in through nostrils a long while. He closes his eyes against the decreasing seconds. He gifts you these moments. He doesn’t ask for thanks. Just for you to hear his lungs breathing in and out. Knowing him, for that time.
My father was improvident. He ran out of time in an ocean rip. His final breath, when I was only eleven, was salt.
Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes, reads, and teaches writing.
Crumbs by Jude Higgins, UK
For their anniversary, she bought him a runcible spoon and served them manchego cheese with quince.
‘I would have preferred a burger,’ he said, turning over the spoon.
‘What this for?’
She recalled those days on their beautiful pea-green boat and wanted to say, call me ‘Lovely pussy, oh pussy my love,’ like you always used to. Let’s dance under the moon and find that bong tree. Then everything will be okay.
But he piled the cheese and quince on top of a hunk of bread, spilling crumbs on the floor.
Neither of them bothered to clear up the mess.
Jude Higgins’s flash fictions have been published in Flash Frontier, Blue Fifth Review, NFFD, UK anthologies, Great Jones Street and The Nottingham Review among other places. Her debut flash fiction pamphlet is forthcoming from V. Press. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award in the UK.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, US/ UK
Steel City, 1920
In those days, we rolled cigarettes instead of gołąbki. We rolled as we fed our babies, rolled between stirs of meatless stew. Then, we’d fill our baskets and descend from Polish Hill, down into a world humming with cars and English. We perched on streetcorners and sold our cigarettes to passers-by who never said hello, who looked not at our faces but at our fingers stained tobacco brown. And when we got home with clutches of pennies, we’d roll those too. We’d roll that copper around in our hands, and imagine filling cabbage rolls with beef.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski lives in the UK but grew up in Vincennes, Indiana. Her great grandparents immigrated to the US from Poland, and lived for a time in the area known as Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. www.ingridj.com @LunchOnTuesday
Double fatality — the morning after by Fiona Lincoln, New Zealand
A high window is ajar. Warm air sways the net curtain. Edward sits tall on the sill, stripes aligned and paws clean under his thin tail, perfectly curled. His face is arranged: disdain, tinged with sorrow. They’ll see him the moment they open the gate. Their remorse will be great. They’ll rush inside. Croon his name. Overfill his empty bowl.
They don’t come, and don’t come.
Mid-morning, Edward breaks his pose. He slips under the curtain, downstairs, and outside. He lies, full stretch, across the hot front path. He yawns, as if he doesn’t care.
A hollow afternoon approaches.
Fiona Lincoln is a New Zealand writer. She lives and works. She also writes. Her recent flash fiction has been published in Flash Frontier and shortlisted for The Best Small Fictions 2016, the Bridport Prize 2015 and 2016, and the 2015 National Flash Fiction Day competition (NZ).
Anchor by Iona Winter, New Zealand
Now Mum’s in a wheelchair people think she’s lost her voice, and her hinengaro.
‘What’s wrong with her?’ they say.
‘Ask her yourself, she’s not a fucking retard,’ I reply.
‘Ssshh Julia, turituri!’ Mum hisses.
humans can be so bloody stupid
She’s dying. Our connection stretched to its thinnest point.
Her world is smaller, with everything viewed at waist height.
It’s here she receives uncomfortable smiles, and eyes cast downwards.
Mum’s had a shit of a life.
at sea my anchor is pulled deep below
And when she leaves a vast chasm of distance will exist between us.
Iona Winter (Māori/Pākehā) writes short fiction and lives in Te Waipounamu.
The janitors blend bleach with water. They spray kitchens, remove perishables from fridges and shelves. They systematize sugar, salt, hydrogenated fat. Wait until teeth rot and tumors grow and blood turns toxic. They gut schools and drain the Internet of truth. Handle money in exchange for pills. Wait again, scrubbing, scouring, then handle houses in exchange for naught. They declutter streets, parks, beaches. Wipe out resistance. Collect the crippled and sling them over walls, dump them onto plastic boats. Burn the dead. All finished, the janitors wash their hands and lean back, admiring their dirt-free home.
Claire Polders is a cynical optimist seeking balance in contradictions. Born in the Netherlands, she now resides in Paris with her American husband. Her virtual self lives at www.clairepolders.com.
In Biology, Ms. Simpson paired each one of us with a boy for every microscope, in the name of symmetry. We learned the rules of cell multiplication and its phases, while boys performed their mating dances. Behind the cafeteria, we showed them how to spell ‘amoeba.’ They taught us how to use the muscles in our tongues.
On tables covered in fake leather, our bodies learned the feel of the cold loop, arresting proliferations in our wombs. We remembered the cells on the illuminated end of the magnifying glass, frozen mid-mitosis. We chanted our anthem— the rules of division.
As an antidote to the anything-but-sunny German spring, Sophie van Llewyn just decided to start writing the fantasy novel she’d been dreaming about for years. You can wish her good luck @sophie_van_l.
Once said it could not be unsaid. Such is the nature of curses.
Katie tried to forget, but it crept around the edges of her thoughts, like black ink moving through tissue paper.
No one had seen her take the money, Katie was sure. Who would believe the accusation of a batty old woman? And the curse? Only words – they have no power.
A trip, a spill, a parking ticket. And when she finds the moths infesting her carpet, she knows.
But the curse cannot be stopped. At night it stalks her mind, switching off the lights.
Celia Coyne’s fiction appears in various journals and anthologies. She lives in Christchurch, where she enjoys writing and taking photographs. See more of both on her website: www.mybeautifulsky.com.
Belinda ate when she was happy, ate when she was sad. Ate when she was in a relationship, ate when she wasn’t. To find a lover, Belinda tried dieting. She called the Atkins Diet the Fatkins Diet. That made her friends laugh. She said the Dr Hay Diet made her a little hoarse. They laughed more. Of the Israeli Army Diet she said, “Diet schmiet!” She decided laughter made her happy. And fell roundly in love with Barry, a man generous in every way. They lived large and died happy. Their pallbearers shed pounds.
John Holland is a prize-winning short fiction writer from Gloucestershire in the UK, who likes to take his stories on the road. He also runs the twice-yearly event Stroud Short Stories. Websites www.johnhollandwrites.com and http://stroudshortstories.blogspot.co.uk/
The river is no longer in flood; the savage roar muted. We take our girl to show her the threat is gone. No need for more nightmares, we say.
‘The river’s part of our whanau,’ Nanny says.
‘Our friend,’ we say.
Our girl smiles and cups water in her hands.
Further out, from beneath the frowning bank, bubbles rise.
As the serpent-shaped head lifts, our girl begins to scream ‘Taniwha! Taniwha!’
We are city people now. ‘No, no,’ we say, laughing. ‘It’s only an old-man eel.’
Nanny watches on, feigning agreement.
We scan the fish shape for signs of slyness.
Vivienne Merrill lives in Lower Hutt. She prefers the sea to the river, which is full of guile: greedy for foolish people.
The man’s fingers were stained with blood. I thought nothing in life would happen to me if I was not sometimes still. He flicked away the tick, and I wondered how long it would take to turn to dust. I had recently received an email from an old boyfriend who wrote in a friendly way, as if he had not been a bad boyfriend. The man led me to the sink. I watched the blood swirl down the drain. He touched my calf where the tick had gone in. Just to do it. I said, “I sometimes forget I’m human.”
Laurie Stone is the author of My Life as an Animal, Stories. More at lauriestonewriter.com.
My father’s reading to me: Kipling’s illustrated Just So Stories. Delicate vapour strands split from the glowing cigarette tip, coiling upwards. His bald head’s wreathed in a blue smoke nest.
Fog hovers over the packed ashtray on the bedside table. I’ve lined up his Camels packet and my inhaler, side by side like two dolls.
He goes slowly so we can read my favourite line together, ‘puffing up and puffing up into a great big lolloping humph’. His voice rumbles, mine wheezes out the words.
Our hands touch and recoil: I’m reaching for the inhaler; he’s reaching for the packet.
Vivian Thonger has lived, written and performed in London, Washington DC, the Netherlands and Cornwall, and is now found in Kerikeri.
When two isotopes of the element Hydrogen collide under extreme heat, like cars crashing into each other at high speed, they lose fragments of themselves, forming particles and creating energy so powerful the pieces fuse to form an entirely new molecule, which happens over and over until eventually some find the surface and 150 million kilometres later light filters through the blinds into our rooms laying a thin line across the textbooks where we sit unsure, wondering about the enormity of it all and whether this thing happening really is the meaning of everything we’ve ever thought of being.
Steven Moss is a creative writing student from Manchester, UK.
With care the father places his three children on the sofa, legs ram-rod straight. For a tray they use one long plank. There is no mother.
With kindling pile on one side of the grate and logs on the other, the fire blazes — wood crackles and sparks. Flames dance in orange and yellow delight. Outside is icy sleet.
The leather fire bellows have Eastside House intricately carved into one wooden side.
He hands each a plate, the corncobs drip with butter.
“Straight from my garden,” he says. His blue eyes twinkle — “You will always remember this.”
He is right.
Pamella Laird has written for many years, has published or helped publish five books and is about to publish a collection of short stories to aid fund-raising for Nth Shore Hospices. She now lives in Orewa, north of Auckland.
~ ~ ~
My mother, a beagle-breeder and amateur stigmeologist, showed me the space that can be held in punctuation: how we can exhale commas into chaos, settling a paragraph as a hound winding down around its tail to rest, nose propped on the basket’s edge; how the question mark with its raised brow opens the eyes to that tock between two thoughts; how the full stop holds the tongue of the panting sentence against the next rush of unleashed sound.
My mother said that flesh is a hyphen, holding soul to soil. Life with five beagles is a chaos of leashes.
Jac Jenkins is currently learning how to live a metropolitan life in Wellington after many years in rural New Zealand. She has by necessity found music in the noise of the motorway that provides a continuous drone through her tenth-floor window.
Frances Gapper‘s third story collection, In the Wild Wood, will be published in June 2017 by Cultured Llama Press. Her other collections are The Tiny Key (Sylph Editions, 2009) and Absent Kisses (Diva Books, 2002).
Rachel Smith is a freelance writer, her favourite forms being short and flash fiction, and poetry. Her work is regularly found in Flash Frontier, where she won the Winter Writing Award in 2016. Last year her flash fiction was included in Micro Madness and Commended for NZ National Flash Fiction Day. Her work has also appeared in JAAM and takahē, and she was long listed for Reflex FictionSpring2017. At the end of last year Rachel joined takahē as Joint Fiction Editor and she is also a member of the South Islands Writers’ Association.
~ ~ ~
After a lifetime of swallowing words, her oesophagus is lined with arguments that blister the walls. Things unsaid stick in her craw so that a doctor must push down a tube and lens to see what it is that obstructs her gullet.
The camera reveals a coral channel eroded into corrugations by a habit of ingested clauses, and pearly nodules of secreted nacre, a protection against irritants that have been glossed over.
In the maw, he says, he sees cells inflamed with rage. When he tells her,
The cure, it comes with adverse side effects, she has nothing to say.
Heather McQuillan writes poetry, flash and children’s stories and she tutors young writers. She has a view of the sea and of mountains from her office window and often gets distracted.
Drowning is a silent thing, quicker than you expected. There was no flailing, no panicked cries echoing over the ocean: just a quiet, gentle sinking. Maybe it was a cramp, the paramedics tell me. We’re sorry for your loss.
I live in a small town, far away from oceans. We like simple things here: watermelons, corn fields, cows. We don’t like drama. “Where’s your husband,” people ask when I return home alone. Because I love you, I lie.
“Went off with another woman,” I say, shrugging, surrendering my heart to the salty brine.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski likes cryptic crosswords, the game of go, and the python programming language; links to her writing can be found at www.ingridj.com.
For her birthday, her husband baked four cakes in the shape of letters. At least he tries, she thought.
While he was upstairs, she briefly rearranged the letters to spell ‘vole’. Only last week, she’d encountered a vole on a forest track. They’d gazed at each other for a long moment – the best eye contact she’d made in years.
Later, at the party, everybody said it was a shame to cut into the letters and ruin the word. But nobody refused a slice.
In the end, there was nothing left.
Jude Higgins organises Bath Flash Fiction Award in the UK and loves everything about the short-short form.
The net was old, frayed after years of use. The fishermen left it, abandoned once it had served its purpose. We found it, gave it new life. We had to cut it to carry it, using rocks and knives to sever it from its hold. It hung between those trees for days. The scarred ropes could not be more perfect. When we parted, I lost track of our hammock, assumed it was gone forever, like a child’s toy. Used twice then tossed.
It’s in your room now.
Tristan Deeley is from Australia but living in Italy; when he’s not writing about love he’s writing about rotten lemons.
The second hand ticks off another moment of my life. Waiting couples eye my table. I pretend to sip from the empty cup, lick the last bit of foam.
You arrive from her bed flushed, rushed and unapologetic, wearing the sea-green cashmere V-neck I gave you for Christmas.
My finger tightens around the cold, smooth steel nestled in my lap. A real shame about that sweater.
I order another latte.
Nobody wants my table anymore.
Jayne Martin’s work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Pure Slush, Midwestern Gothic, Blink Ink, Literary Orphans, Flash Frontier, F(r)iction, SickLit Magazine and Hippocampus. This story was read in the Blink Ink/ Rocky Mountain Revival podcast on April 11.
Have you ever seen the sky?
Once upon a time, the ceiling was painted powder blue with white fluffy clouds. My sister and I would lie on our backs on the patched blankets, and try and figure out the cloud shapes among the chipped paint.
Then the ceiling was burned black from the fire, and the clouds that survived were ominous ghosts that watched us as we slept.
The green door opened today, and everyone was afraid to step outside.
I wanted to see the sky.
It’s not like the ceiling before the fire.
Jocelyne Gregory is a Canadian residing in British Columbia, currently enrolled with the 2015/2016 post-grad Writer’s Studio program at Simon Fraser University.
Sometimes I dream that you walk again. That the paramedics never cut away your favorite leather jacket. In my dreams you walk toward me across campus in polished shoes and with confident steps and I greet you, elated, “Mind over matter!” I say.
“I’m glad you didn’t say, ‘Jesus heals,’” you answer. “Everyone lately’s been saying ‘Jesus heals.’”
Brindi Joy is a writer who recently wrote and produced the short film, The Road Home. This micro was also read on Plains FM Bookenz with Morrin Rout, discussing NFFD and this year’s Canterbury celebration — here.
There are so many dead people in her life, especially in this house. They float around and exaggerate. They want to see something sexy. That nightgown? they say. They miss eating berries. They are sure that she will be okay. They say wonderful things about what one might do here on earth. They wish they had taken more lovers, had more beach weekends, seen more foreign films. They ask for autographs from the living.
Meg Pokrass lives and writes somewhere between the US and the UK these days; you can find her at megpokrass.com.
Seasalt hanging in the air like the smell of yesterday’s rain. Name etched into wood, you sat with your back by the ocean, face turned skyward to see the stars as they fell, crashing to the corrugated earth. Rocking back and forth like you were hearing music, the upbeat coming with the rising tide, leaving with a steady exhale; hush on skin, sand on shore. Breathe, hold, repeat. Again. A dawn swallowed by the roaring sun. Sometimes we held. Sometimes we whispered. Sometimes we wore red.
Lola Elvy likes the color grey. She’s practicing keeping things short.
It was a clear midwinter’s morning. You were wrapped in your favourite blankie. I carried you to the police car. Smoothed the hair from your forehead. Kissed your nose.
Dad held me while I held you.
The longest darkest passage. A rush of whispers. The graze of stares. A closed door. Entry forbidden.
The police officer opens it. The coroner greets me.
And claims my darling.
Winner of the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Award for best youth novel and co-editor of The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, Eileen Mueller writes fiction for children and young adults, and dark adult fiction for adults. She placed first in SpecFic Going Global and first equal in NZSA NorthWrite Collaboration contests in 2013. http://www.eileenmuellerauthor.com
Why’s a baby crying behind the strip mall buffet’s buffet?
A preteen boy strings green beans, fills wontons, rangoons, rolls silverware.
The boss-man shrieks in Cantonese at kitchen staff. He’s all smiles in the dining room – the mortgage needs positive reviews. The parking lot grows daisies through frost-cracks. The ratio of tastes-good-enough to costs-a-pittance isn’t generating customers.
The boss-man’s wizened mother-in-law comes with Jasmine tea, goes with consumed expectations.
The teenage busser (an eventual flight risk) looks outside where fortunes rise and fall while she fills steam trays.
It’s all you can eat. It isn’t quite enough.
Todd Mercer, winner of the 2016 Dyer-Ives Poetry Prize, the 2016 National Writers Series Prize and the 2015 Grand Rapids Festival for the Arts Flash Fiction Prize, had his digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appear at Right Hand Pointing.
I hear the whispers as I walk back from town.
Another missing child.
The milk in the plastic bag knocks against my leg. The lolly I’m sucking makes me ill.
Mum’s waiting for me. I can tell from the look on her face that she’s heard. That one wrinkle between her eyes is so deep I’d lose my finger in it if I prodded it.
“Go sit with Nana,” she says.
Sitting in her chair, Nana taps out a staccato beat with her walking stick.
“Another one, Nan.”
“I know.” She nods.
Nikki lives in Cambridge and is in the process of writing her first novel. She also enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.
I wait for this love to stop. I wait for the thought of your face and body to mean nothing. I wait to feel droplets for you, not icy waves. I wait to forget your taste, your texture in my mouth, the skin I have savoured. I walk to forget the way you walk, the way you carry yourself, your hesitancy in my eyes, your creeping back, your allegiance to other lives, my smallness, my nothingness, my drama evaporating and bodiless.
Catherine McNamara ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write and ended up in Ghana running a bar.
Broken by Colette Watson, Scotland
She’s here again this morning. Turns up at the door tear-streaked and half-sober.
“Let me in Ma, please. C’mon. I want to come hame.”
Franny, grey-faced, cracks the door enough to talk.
“Yer faither’s in the hoose. Wheesht! He’ll kill the baistert! You anaw.”
“He’s broke intae ma hoose Ma. He’s robbed ma iPod, ma purse, panned ma windaes in. I’m done wae it Ma. Let me come hame.”
She’s hingin’ in the doorway like a broken doll.
She wis a wee doll anaw. Afore that big shite got the haud of ‘er. Franny’s china doll.
Colette Watson lives in the West of Scotland with her family and writes mainly short fiction and poetry.
Misplaced by Rachel Smith, New Zealand
You took your time. Hands delved into pockets. Tissue thin paper spread with dark strands of tobacco. Two yellowed fingers raised to your lips. One a knuckle shorter than the other.
The click of an orange lighter. A slow inhale. The story would begin.
I could not believe. No one would bike home from school by candlelight, travel across the world to kill a man they didn’t know.
You would never tell me of your lost finger. I see the smooth nub falling unnoticed on a distant pebbled beach, fingernail washed clean by the gentle sea.
Rachel Smith’s fiction and poetry, the shorter the better, has been published in takahē, JAAM and Flash Frontier.
Lightning by Bronwen Griffiths, England
The lime green coat with piping. She loves the way the coat shines, the contrast of greens, the acid of the lime against the pine-coloured braids.
Grit under her feet mixed with mud. The wind screaming, leaves scattering her face. A puddle. Clouds reflected, dizzy, the silvery light and her face, blurred. Not hard-edged and glass cold, a mirror to talk back like the boys on the street.
Who’s got an ugly mug? Boyfriend didn’t like you, eh?
She touches the scarred skin. Tree roots and lightning, brilliant. In the puddle she is a princess.
Bronwen Griffiths writes novels and flash fiction, and lives in East Sussex, England.
Farewell Spit by Patrick Pink, New Zealand
Benji said whales belong in the ocean and toddled across the sand. Seawater sloshed over the rim of his plastic bucket.
My husband Jack worked one of the tractors. The chains strained in the receding tide.
Fourteen had stranded themselves. No one knew why. Parasites, misguided compasses, empathy to share a suffering.
Benji got upset because one was a baby. He marched back and forth with a child’s Disney belief in happy endings.
We laboured until light.
Jack took off his cap, mopped his face. Benji slept in my lap beside the still calf that hadn’t moved for an hour.
Chicago-born, Patrick Pink lives and writes in Aotearoa and is a staunch devotee of short fiction.
Monsoon by Wiebo Grobler, South Africa
The rain came down heavy, pinging off the corrugated roof like hail.
Rivulets of water cascaded down the open sides of the shed, like miniature waterfalls, trapping us inside.
I pulled a ciggie from my bag and offered Sadie one.
“My mom will smell me.”
I produced a wooden clothes peg and grabbed the filter with it.
“Clever,” she said, taking the cig by the peg.
We shared the smoke and then a kiss, she tasted like cola ChapStick.
She laughed as I grabbed her and pulled her through our water prison, splashing through puddles home.
Twice short-listed for the Fish Publishing Prize and recent winner of the Dantes Trials Competition from Horror Scribes, Wiebo Grobler consumes copious amounts of coffee whilst trying to write, edit and read all at the same time.
Enchantress by Mohini Malhotra, Kathmandu/ United States
My namesake arrived in New York from Delhi several years before I was born. Bought at age two by an American billionaire from a Maharaja for $10,000. She spent her first night in the Bronx, my birthplace. My parents named me Mohini – one who enchants – after her.
I imagine staring at this tigress, her coat an eggshell white, her stripes coal black, her muscles taut, her power wedged in a twelve by twelve foot cage. I see her sapphire blue eyes on me, exhorting me to lift my wings wide and soar high beyond my cage of air.
Mohini Malhotra is from Kathmandu, lives in DC, loves words, promotes women artists and is delighted that her flash stories are being published in Star 80 Review, Blink-Ink, 50 word stories and other cool places.
Monster in the Cave by Shelby Allan, New Zealand
Rumours always hold truth no matter how far-fetched.
It came from the shadows of the flooded cave. The water beautiful, some strange anomaly made it glow blue despite the current situation.
All hopes of escaping ruined by the monster’s eyes.
Already focused on me they glowed blood red. Not the pretty type. They radiated viciousness, showing that this beast would kill cold-blooded.
Sharp teeth and fangs stained with blood filled my vision.
But the claws scared me most. Almost an inch long, razor-sharp with rotting pieces of flesh stuck to them.
Roadkill Delicioso, by Jonathan Cardew, England/ US
After tapas, we took on the main event: 32oz ribeye, asparagus, and goat’s cheese risotto. The steak was hacked into strips, with a scattering of arugula. The asparagus spears were nestled in tufts of fur.
“Yum,” she said, licking her teeth.
I paused. I pushed my fork into a part that was not prime; it slipped into a giblet or orifice. “What a feast,” I think I said, and she smiled.
“You’ll get used to it,” she said.
We’d dated three or four times; tonight was the night.
She airplaned an eyeball toward my mouth.
I opened wide, deliriously happy.
Jonathan Cardew’s notorious blog is here: jonathancardew.wordpress.com/.
He said he’d shave her head for her, when her hair started falling out. It fell in honeyed wisps on her pillow. She said, I’m falling apart. Inside, he was disintegrating too.
Sitting behind her, he ran the razor over her head. Her hair fluttered around them, like autumn leaves. When it was over he held the delicate convexity of her skull between his hands, smooth like glass, and told her how beautiful she was.
When the nurse arrived, their tears were running in paired tributaries down her face, the current so strong she felt its pull from the doorway.
Eileen Merriman’s flash has previously been published in Flash Frontier, SmokeLong Quarterly, Literary Orphans, Blue Five Notebook and Headland.
June 22: ‘Blue’ by Jane Percival
Blue walks to school barefoot. On the way he stands in fresh cowpats to thaw his toes. A rich brown colour, they steam invitingly along the edge of the road. Outside school he cleans his feet on the frosty grass.
This morning he’d arisen early and put boot black in his hair to hide the red, admiring the effect in the cracked bathroom mirror. Mum had thrashed him and put his head under the cold tap, scrubbing until his ears rang.
Beside the school gate, Joe Reed waits.
‘Filthy Blue,’ he hisses.
Jane Percival lives on the Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland, New Zealand. She has always enjoyed writing and has recently taken time out of full-time paid employment to pursue this activity. Lately she has been focusing on speculative fiction.
June 21: ‘Kinny Chicken’ by Elizabeth (Betsy) Kernohan
Kinny Chicken, unceremoniously exhumed, was still very dead.
I patted her feathers, admiring the colours, blurred through tears. I thought of the mornings I’d shivered in the shed with cooing birds feeding warm mash from a steaming bowl sharing the spoon, ‘one for you – one for me’.
There were three chooks and two daily eggs.
“They take it in turns” I said in defence of Kinny.
Angry and irrational, I accused mother of making good her threat when we found Kinny dead. We’d dug a hole and patted down the earth and that’s when I heard the squawk.
Elizabeth Kernohan is an educator, photographer and actor. She enjoys the challenge of flash fiction and haiku, and there’s a play in the wings waiting to make its way onto the page.
June 20: ‘Blind Tasting’ by Heather McQuillan
Like sinking into a hot bath, she says trying to explain the sunset to a man who has already closed his eyes.
The man says nothing until the morning sun creeps warmth across his hands.
Then he asks, what’s the colour of the sky today?
It’s the blue of oranges, sharp and fresh and washing your mouth free of sleep.
The man turns with his lips ready for hers, and what is the colour of a kiss?
Strawberry, she says.
More like oysters and sex, he laughs.
They aren’t colours. She slaps him away.
They ought to be, he says.
Heather McQuillan writes poetry, flash and children’s stories and she tutors young writers. She has a view of the sea and of mountains from her office window and often gets distracted.
June 19: ‘Birdland’ by Jeremy Lake
Mother of pearl 60’s Premier Jazz. Sounded like Brubeck, smelt like cigars. That drum kit was hazy and open… Airily it made the drummer. It cut me and I bled, spattering my life over tom and snare, it was an animal. A striking snake on amphetamines, harder than a diamond-studded dildo, skins would break, eardrums shatter.
Mother -of pearl- was a foodie. No love lost for musicians. The farewell missive on the fridge door was reduced to a word, choose! He’d grown too fat to dance on eggshells. In the end, it went for a song.
Jeremy Lake dabbles in mixed media and operates from Rongotai, Wellington.When he’s not cursing the local noisy planes, he does his best to not curse at his children.
June 18: ‘A LIFE FOR A LIFE’ by Emma Vere-Jones
The storm arrived in the early hours of Friday morning, unearthing trees and street signs and unwanted memories. Evelyn lay awake and tried to picture the cat.
There had been a storm that day too.
‘The rain was torrential,’ she told the policeman, without mentioning the argument. ‘I swerved to avoid a cat.’
Later, friends brought hot dinners and sympathy. She heard them muttering in the kitchen.
‘Accidentally killing your husband! Imagine!…
‘He was a tyrant, but still… you’d never forgive yourself…’
How wrong they were, Evelyn thought.
Even so, she often wondered if she ever really saw that cat.
Emma is a freelance journalist. She enjoys creative writing because it allows her to write fiction without working for a tabloid. Her first children’s book will be published in August
June 17: ‘The deal’ by Marcel Currin
“Here’s the deal,” said the Sheep. She seemed bigger today, staring down through shaded glasses. She pushed a slip of paper across the table: one sentence hammered out in Goudy Old Style.
I said, “Really? There’s no other option?”
Her grin was thick with yellowing teeth. “We could always return to the periodic shaving and docking of your entire species. It’s your call.”
I picked up the pen. “Can’t believe I’m bargaining with a sheep,” I said.
She chortled. “Baa-gaining, that’s a good one. I may just take that too.”
Marcel Currin is a Tauranga poet and columnist. Ministry of ideas, his book of flash fiction, lives on the Amazon Kindle Store.
June 16: ‘At a loose end’ by Elizabeth Brooke-Carr
Sadie’s fence was the talk of the neighbourhood. Even strangers stopped to admire her handiwork. She had knitted the intricate Shetland lace design herself, on specially adapted curtain poles using strong black twine, the kind used to make fishing nets. Not that Sadie was a fisherwoman. Oh, no. The garden was her baby. Wrapped in its lace shawl she nurtured it tenderly with kindness and compost. She was at the beach gathering seaweed for mulch, the day that Hannibal, the terrier from next door, found a loose thread and began unravelling the axiom that good fences make good neighbours.
Elizabeth Brooke-Carr lives and writes from her hillside eyrie in Dunedin. The contours of city, hills, shoreline and horizon enlarge her vision, and the life in them feeds her imagination.
June 15: ‘Gone Fishing’ by Steve Charters
On the day you told us the facts of life you took us fishing. We’d never been before.
Driving carefully, you said sperm vagina penis.
You’d told us bedtime stories once, but this was different.
I sat in the back seat staring out at letterboxes, sheep and dust-caked daisies, my brother’s frightened eyes watching me in the rear-view mirror.
At the wharf, escaping the car, he slammed the door crushing my finger. I held it out to you – flat, blue and quivering – biting back my tears.
You wrapped your hanky round it and made me choose:
‘Fish? Or hospital?’
Steve Charters lives in Auckland. His work appears online at Flash Frontier. He enjoys the constraints of short-form writing and the challenge of implying a complete world in a few words.
June 14: ‘The importance of spare keys, in case of emergency’ by Fiona Lincoln
The lines company said my favourite tree was endangering their wires, and branches would have to go. So I hugged the tree, and sealed the embrace by handcuffing my wrists together on the far side. When the contractor arrived, I conspicuously swallowed the key. It lodged halfway. Pain hacked through my sternum, my chest, down one arm. “You look awful, mate,” said the contractor, before calling 111.
The paramedic’s bolt-cutters proved inadequate. She considered her options. She said to the contractor, “how quickly can you get this tree down?” The contractor laughed, the bitch, as she ran for her chainsaw.
Fiona Lincoln lives in Lower Hutt and works in Wellington as a law drafter. She has previously had a 50-word story published.
June 13: ‘What if’ by Jenni Komarovsky
If only I had died. That time that I had rheumatic fever when I was 35. Instead, I wheezed through to become a has-been. Vienna no longer adores me, it pities me.
This room is dark and cold, the bed unmade, my clothes and body smell. My wife and children have gone, my money and talent long spent. My fingers are too stiff to coax music from the out of tune fortepiano.
They only want him now. A new, exciting pianist, fiery-tempered and hungry for fame. He is well fed.
I laugh when I hear that he is going deaf.
Jenni Komarovsky. Greenie, knitter, gardener, blogger. Her day job as a structured computer systems specialist requires her to escape into creativity when possible and break into song at inappropriate moments.
June 12: ‘Falling Up Love’ by Frank Greenall
Yucheng’s free hand loops her scarf once more around her neck, a slight buffer to the bone-chilling southerly off Cook Strait.
Now saying to her arm-hugging companion, Wind very cold… I in very cold, also.
Garrick, gently correcting. I am very cold also… I am very cold, Yucheng.
Yes, she says … We both very very am cold.
Garrick leaves it at that. Talking means jettisoning bits of core warmth.
What place we now, Yucheng asks.
Garrick: In Oriental Parade.
Yucheng: Special place Asian people to walk?
Garrick: Very special.
Yucheng: That good. Special place walking down, falling up love.
Frank Greenall has worked as freelance writer, political cartoonist and artist, and recently in Adult Literacy. He won the 2014 Far North Poetry prize. Currently living in Whanganui.
June 11: ‘The Advice’ by Hilary Boyd
Today the doctor told me I am dying. His voice was as cold as the wind that hit me when I entered his damned clinic. As I was leaving, I turned back. He was stooped over his computer, tapping away as if I had ceased to matter.
There sits a clever man,
a wise man.
And here stand I,
a dying one.
“If you were me, what would you do?“ It was a stupid question but I was not myself.
His fingers stopped, poised just above the keyboard. “Put your affairs in order.“ He didn’t look up from the screen.
Hilary Boyd lives in rural Auckland. She likes to write, drink coffee with her neighbours and daydream.
June 10: ‘Stranger Danger’ by Kate Mahony
My sister dubs me home from school on her bicycle. She offers me a
forbidden treat, a gobstopper to share. I suck it quickly, so it will change colour.
The road dips. My jaw freezes around the lolly. I thump Laura. The bike falls; I’m crying.
A car pulls up.
The man who approaches is a stranger. I can’t breathe.
He grabs my elbow; says he’ll drive us to the hospital.
I panic. Cough. The lolly lands at my feet.
Back home, someone’s seen us and already phoned our mother.
We don’t tell her about the gobstopper. Just the stranger.
Wellington writer Kate Mahony’s story The Journey received an “Honorary Mention” in the 2015 Fish Publishing Short Story Competition. Her story, Regrets, was long-listed for the 2015 Fish Flash Fiction Competition.
June 9: ‘The elephant is gone, ladies and gentlemen, the elephant is gone!’ by Frankie McMillan
Hannah waits her turn, she lies in a wooden vessel the panels brightly painted
with fleur-de-lis. She ponders the fate of the animals: the disappearing rabbit
the disappearing donkey, the disappearing elephant. Her magician father strikes
the saw, a steel cross cut with a mallet until a keening wail is heard. A gentleman holds
her feet protruding from the end of the box. Her toes are snipped from the white silk
stockings to prove that she is flesh. The saw blade whirrs. Hannah shivers.
‘Extinction’ is a word that creeps closer.
Frankie McMillan is short in stature, walks fast and talks fast. She used to be a fire-breather in the Catz Pyjamas comedy show. She believes these qualities are of benefit when writing flash fiction.
June 8: ‘Advice’ by S J Mannion
On my wedding day as I dressed my hair, my hands shook. And my mother said with a crooked mouth, ‘You’ll be allright – just keep your legs open and your mouth shut.’
She laughed as I winced and went on to flounce down the aisle, despising her bitterness, her bile. But five years later and three kids on, my husband left and gone, I think on her black words and know them for some sour kind of wisdom.
S J Mannion: Middle aged, married-with-three, doing domesticity. When I can I write, when I can’t I read.
June 7: ‘COFFIN FOR SALE’ by Deryn Pittar
COFFIN FOR SALE
decorated with hand-carved floral motifs
Hand-turned rimu handles
Sale price: $400.00
Reason for sale: Misdiagnosis
Deryn Pittar’s bio:I live in Papamoa. I write Sci.Fi (Romance and Serious stuff), Young Adult, short fiction and poetry. I am published (hard copy and e-books) in these genre.
June 6: ‘one k. from the shops’ by Ila Selwyn
I walk down the road, arms dragged down with books and shopping. See a child’s sweatshirt sprawling soggily at the side of the road.
Walk up the road. The sweatshirt’s now spread-eagled on a bush.
Walk down the road. It’s still here. A few steps further find boy’s black gym shorts in the gutter. Leave them lying there. Want the story to continue.
Walk up the road. Black shorts have staggered onto the verge.
Walk down the road. See shorts, sweatshirt still patiently waiting. Look for socks, shoes, half hope to find a body.
Ila Selwyn completed her MCW in 2014 at The University of Auckland, writing a play with poetry. On her 4th draft. Hopes to get it work-shopped and then on stage.
June 5: ‘The Bride’ by Chang Shih Yen
Someone was knocking on the door.
“I’ll be out in twenty minutes,” the bride said. The bride stood alone inside the room where she was supposed to be getting dressed. With the make-up and her hair twisted up, she barely recognised the person looking out at her from the mirror. She inspected the long white dress that she was meant to be putting on. It was a voluminous dress that reminded her of a meringue with its layers of lace and chiffon.
The bride hoped everyone would forgive her, as she slipped off her stilettos and climbed out the window.
Chang Shih Yen is a writer from Malaysia. Shih Yen lives in Dunedin.
June 4: ‘the wind’s talking’ by Keith Nunes
the wind’s talking
the late spring wind is driving her madly into the gorge wall. we moved out here from the sprawling city last spring but this year the wind is profoundly aggravating her. last night she shaved her lush head of hair off and fed it to the donkey. I counted the blades in the drawer today; I count them regularly. she won’t eat, won’t wash and won’t look me in the eye. there she is, standing on the car roof, naked but for gumboots, asking god for a plane to fly her back to the sprawling city.
Keith Nunes is a former Kiwi newspaper sub-editor who now writes for the sheer joy of it. He’s had short stories published in NZ (including Takahe and Flash Frontier) and increasingly in the UK (Prole) and US. He lives south of Tauranga with an assortment of nutters.
June 3: ‘Rose-Tinted World on Winter-Licked Sheets’ by Patrick Pink
You took me to bed in your attic apartment after our seventeenth time seeing Rocky Horror and Brad and Janet in corsets and fishnets still writhed from loss and decadence in the exiting exhaust of a debauched spaceship in my head. A late January flurry shone like spun gold around the corner streetlamp. We stood naked in its champagne glow and watched the snow bury cars in angel-white as the radiator ticked erratically.
‘Are we damned?’ I leaned into your lengthy love.
You hummed Don’t Dream It, Be It softly in my hair and laced fingers over my time-warped heart.
Aucklander Patrick Pink finds inspiration in flash fiction and short stories. He knows he’ll never make a living but then again it’s all about finding the perfect word, isn’t it?
June 2: ‘Flight’ by Jane Swan
Amber’s laugh strung across the sky like a shimmering banner. “Those tiny sheep!”
The air was fresh, cooler than I’d expected.
My bride tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear.
“Sailors sometimes grow beards,” I said. “To feel the wind in their whiskers.”
“To tell the wind direction.”
Amber’s laughter pealed again. “Except the women.”
I squeezed her hand. “You reckon?”
Suddenly the basket lurched and rose into a thermal.
Seagulls swooped through the shrinking shadow of the balloon. Moments later the wind seized it sweeping us out to sea.
Amber should have learnt to swim.
Jane Swan lives in Waikouaiti, just north of Dunedin. Jane shifted to Waikouaiti from Oamaru in the summer and is enjoying the inspiration of the beach and friendly community. Jane writes short fiction and is working on a novel.
Decades later he returns, stands on the ledge overlooking the reef. Though he feels the rhythm of the broken surf, its tune remains inaudible, out of reach. He draws back his arm and releases a stone. He knows these rocks, this dark, still tomb. Knows the sea will take whatever it is given.
Later at the hotel his wife is distracted, searching for her keys. He takes the tea she has poured in a chipped china cup. “I do love you,” he says, but knows his words are slim salvation. Because every moment is the moment before something dies.
Originally from the United States, Sally Houtman makes her home in the Eastern Suburbs of Wellington. She has been writing fiction for the past 7 years. She is probably writing something now.
Eileen Merriman writes flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her work has previously been published in The Sunday Star Times, Takahe, Headland and Flash Frontier, and is forthcoming at Blue Five Notebook. Last year she was awarded second runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition.
Nod Ghosh graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. Short stories or poems have appeared in Takahe, Penduline, Christchurch Press, TheGayUK and Flash Frontier. Nod is working on her second novel as part of the NZSA mentorship scheme.