Micro Madness

2 x 22 online stories for 22 days

June 1 – 22, 2020

And away we go…!

Congratulations to the writers of these 22 stories from around the world!

Please tune into the June 22 NFFD programme and hear the three winning micros in each category, plus other readers, prizes and musical guests. You can find the online NFFD 2020 programme here, beginning at 6pm in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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The 2020 Micro Madness Winners

 

June 22 LOCKDOWN MICRO

FIRST PLACE

Sheila Hailstone – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Listen to Sheila Hailstone read her FIRST PLACE micro here.

Waiting for an avalanche when you live by the sea

She tilted her head to taste the salt-laced wind. Along the worn sandy path, the blood-red sunrise caught her by surprise. Container ships rolled on the waves passing by as masked strangers, their urgent eyes focused on another horizon. She looked for the Godwits. Had they returned early to the Arctic? The Gull fan club, soaring, dancing white handkerchiefs in the wind, screeched their farewells. She was alone observing the Oyster Catcher silently wading in the estuary as the tide turned. Everything looked in its place. She hoped for a red sunset, but, in her heart, she knew the tiniest bat drying its wing could create an avalanche somewhere in the world.

Sheila Hailstone is a writer/speaker living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her most recent work, Dancing Around Cancer, available on Amazon, presents reflections in the form of haibun, a combination of prose poem and haiku. All funds generated from the sale of this book will be donated to cancer research. Sheila is passionate about helping others find their voice. Founder of CWC Toastmasters, where women are ‘Supported to Succeed’. https://www.cwctoastmasters.org.nz/

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June 22 NO-THEME MICRO

FIRST PLACE

Rose Collins – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Listen to Rose Collins read her FIRST PLACE micro here.

Here sea slaps at gravel and gravel scuffs back. Wet things emerge.

Bladder kelp, polystyrene, once a nonagenarian eel. Today there’s a creamy, quince-shaped moon rock smattered with sand. Alan runs to the spot, kneels like a Bejawi camel, lifts it, sniffs. Grace is roaring, ‘It’s dog shit. Chuck it back.’ He pockets his find.

Later he’ll make a call; a dealer will come to scrape and scorch the lump, filling the house with the thick, sodden scent of the sea. Alan will take the cash and buy boots, tyres for the Caldina, armfuls of pale pink roses for Grace.

Rose Collins has a Masters in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s IIML (2010). She was shortlisted for the 2016 Bare Fiction Prize (UK) and placed 2nd in the 2019 National Flash Fiction Competition (NZ). Rose was the 2018 Writer in Residence at Hagley College and has taught creative writing to children and teenagers. The sea turns up a lot in her writing.

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June 21 LOCKDOWN MICRO

SECOND PLACE

Susan Wardell – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

See Susan Wardell read her SECOND PLACE micro here.

Wild life

The roads through Nairobi are now so quiet that gorillas have been seen carrying their babies back and forth, in the hours before dusk.

In England, for the first time in a century, walrus’ have returned to bask beside a crystal clear Thames.

The sudden reduction in smog has seen pterodactyls landing to preen on the balconies of Tokyo businessmen. They have expressed interest in magazines left outside. They are furnishing their nests with The Wall Street Journal.

We bed down in the news of nature’s return. Turn circles on our stained sheets. We peer out our windows, and howl.

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand, where she lectures in Social Anthropology, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. She has published poetry and essays in a variety of journals in New Zealand and Australia.  

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June 21 NO-THEME MICRO

SECOND PLACE

Heather McQuillan – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

See Heather McQuillan read her SECOND PLACE micro here.

The Ties that Bind

Dad kicked at the clumps and promised he’d fix the mower before the grass grew as high as an elephant’s eye. He dragged back a munted bike he’d found by the roadside, reckoned he’d fix it up for me but by summer’s end it and the lawn mower were smothered by convolvulus. Those flowers with fried-egg centres whispered Nothing to see here. I tugged them aside. Between the spokes of the buckled front wheel, roots writhed like sun-bleached eels.

The grass slumped over in the wet. Dad moved on somewhere. Mum says when I’m older I can follow his trail.

BIO Heather McQuillan reads, writes and teaches writing. She is director at Write On School for Young Writers. As well as flash fiction, Heather writes award-winning novels for young people. More here.

 

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June 20 LOCKDOWN MICRO

THIRD PLACE

Mileva Anastasiadou – Athens, Greece

See Mileva Anastasiadou read her THIRD PLACE micro here.

Last night I dreamt of the sea

I’ve been walking since dawn, still walking, when men in uniforms tell me to stop, asking, where are you going, sir? To the sea, I say, sweat on my forehead, my shirt soaked, but they tell me I should go home, they frown, and I stand still, out of breath, my feet weak, my heart pounding, it hurts to run out of air, and I give her my word, I will return, once this is over, and the sea talks back, she sighs, all bad things end, always, she says, then, we’ll celebrate.

Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Kanstellation, Open Pen and others.

 

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June 20 NO-THEME MICRO

THIRD PLACE

Sharon Boyle – East Lothian, Scotland

Hear Sharon Boyle read her THIRD PLACE micro here.

Uncharted Waters

I sit marooned on the couch. Ma’s out shopping which means I get to watch Granny scrub her crimson bloomers and hoist them high on the pulley. She sporadically squawks about no pocket money coming my way ‘cos I’m a dicey DNA bastard.

She knows fine well I need pennies for my pirate ship.

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I sew it myself – a flag as defiant as bad blood; a Keelhaul all skinflints! warning.

She flaps fierce about the theft, claiming I’m a fatherless shite who’s no longer welcome in her house.

Saluting agreement I set sail for a life on granny-free seas.

Sharon Boyle sits at a messy dining table writing short stories and flash. Some have been published on-line and in magazines, including Writers’ Forum, Reflex Fiction and the Brighton Prize anthology. She tweets as @SharonBoyle50

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June 19 LOCKDOWN MICRO

S.B. Borgersen – Nova Scotia

See S. B. Borgerson read her micro here.

Two-faced Moira

She asks the mirror, her only friend now. “Are you ready to go out?”

Moira puts on a mask of anonymity. Frozen faced, never speaking, she walks in stiff steps to the bus stop.

There are no buses, she turns and stiff-steps, enveloped visaged back to her forest green front door.

Moira knocks on her own door, like a visitor, steps inside and says, “Welcome, do come in.”

She takes a tray of tea and homemade misshapen shortbread to the chintz sofa where she unfreezes her face, her body, her mind and tells herself she is safe.

 

Internationally published, S.B. Borgersen’s favoured genres are short and micro fictionf and poetry. Sue’s collection of 150 micro fictions, While the Kettle Boils, will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2021. http://www.sueborgersen.com

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June 19 NO-THEME MICRO

Jodi Barnes – Athens Georgia, USA

See Jodi Barnes read her micro here.

Our First Apartment

Summer sweatbox, third-floor high, box fans banging. The first-floor, 30-something couple so friendly until Miller Time when windows gaped in hopes of a breeze. By ten, their shouts drowned out passions that should have soaked our sheets.

One night, sirens and lights. We saw their roundness bend into separate police cars, never mentioning it again.

Five moves later we are their age. I wake up cold in this new subdivision house, central air. You are out way past Miller Time. I remember the fermentation: passion and heat. It is quiet, too cool, maybe too late to learn how to fight.

Jodi Barnes writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and favors flash due to its flexibility and economy. A former journalist, HR manager and professor, she founded ‘14 Words for Love’ which aims to foster empathy and address social injustices through art and writing. She lives in Athens, GA, USA. https://14wordsforlove.com/

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June 18 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Bronwen Griffiths – East Sussex, UK

See Bronwen Griffiths read her micro here.

Forty days

We waited forty days like Christ in the Wilderness. We did not wander the desert wastes among wild beasts but were jammed into our apartment on the thirteenth floor.  Honestly, I did not think any of us would make it out. Forty days of Giuseppe’s Minecraft. Forty days of Maria’s whining. Forty days of Mario’s TV quiz shows. Even Jesus might have considered murder. But here we are, on the edge of the wasteland, and never have the dandelions appeared so yellow, the grasses such a razzle-dazzle green and never have we laughed together like this – like music.

Bronwen Griffiths lives in East Sussex, UK. Her publications include two novels and two collections of flash fiction, and she was recently shortlisted for the Bath novella-in-flash award. Her flash fiction has appeared in Barren Magazine, Flashback Fiction, Lunate and Spelk, among others.

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June 18 NO-THEME MICRO

John Irvine – Coleville, New Zealand

Heart felt

“Happy Valentines!” I handed her my heart-shaped card. “My heart!”

Tamara pressed the fingers of both hands into her chest, pulling the ribs apart. “Here’s mine, darling!” She tore out her living heart and offered it to me cupped in her palms.

I took it, nodding, thinking of butter, onions, garlic and just a touch of tarragon.

John Irvine is a New Zealand sheep lover. Here in rural and unsuspecting Colville on the Coromandel Peninsula, he lets his dark side out to play. John’s first collection of illustrated poetry, Man of Stone, was published in 2005, and a second volume of illustrated poetry, Rat atouille for the rindless (illustrated by Dave Freeman) in 2007 by Preshrunk Press. http://www.cooldragon.nz

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June 17 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Jac Jenkins – Kohokohu, North Hokianga, New Zealand

A small spinning wind

Three leaves tossed by a small spinning wind.

A small spinning wind tosses last night’s news. Three leaves unwind.

Last night’s news says three died when unwinding wind tossed their lives into small spinning piles of leaves.

That last unwound night, their lives folded into news: “They Died Like Wind-Tossed Leaves”.

Life leaves in spinning wind. Last night’s news tossed into three small piles of leaves.

Three leaves folded into small buds.

Three folded buds.

Jac Jenkins farms and writes in the Far North. Lately she has been editing a mixed-genre manuscript she began in her MA year and fixing fences.

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June 17 NO-THEME MICRO

R.P. Wood – Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

See R. P. Wood read his micro here.

The Far Bleachers

The cricket coach wishes to remind students that the far bleachers are not a convenient cover for losing virginities of any kind. They are for watching his boring sport on hot Saturday afternoons, when you would rather be at the beach or the mall or clawing your own eyes out. He is tired of sanding over heart-framed initials that none of you ever return to look at. It takes him hours to erase these amorous engravings, when he could be yelling at the 1st XI. The school nurse, however, is pleased with the abundance of condom wrappers.

R. P. Wood is a fiction writer from Tauranga, New Zealand. His work has previously appeared in Mayhem and Flash Frontier.

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June 16 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Dallas Kidd – Houston, Texas, USA

See Dallas Kidd read her micro here.

Searching for Exceptions to My Black Thumb

My seeds sprouted into a miniature graveyard, white mold like mist along the ground and up the signpost that declares “Lemon Balm” in Sharpie.

While pink Azalea Bonsai flowers wilted under Texas sun, the cucumber’s green curlicues wrapped tightly around the dill’s tiny yellow flowers and the wind blew over rows of plants.

I broke my voluntary self-isolation to buy a lemon tree and then unboxed a witch’s broom I soaked in water before planting in the hope of it producing Asian pears.

But a bee buries itself in honeysuckle-scented flowers. This garden of failures has become our refuge.

Dallas Kidd is a software engineer with degrees in English, psychology, and computer science. She loves traveling, especially for scuba diving; and she has a lot of hobbies, including writing and gardening.

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June 16 NO-THEME MICRO

Rachel Smith – Ōtautahi, New Zealand

See Rachel Smith read her micro here.

Some kind of sunset

The sun comes out at the end of the day, wedged between low cloud and horizon.

Fucken typical, she says. Come, he says.

Through the hole he cut in the back fence into a park of sorts. Patchy grass ringed by warehouses, a stockpile of gravel in one corner.

He sits on the grass, head tilted back into the sun. She swats at small biting flies. He kisses her wrist, her mouth. The sun sprays a mess of colour.

And it works out like this, she thinks. A grass stained butt and a bracelet of bites. Some kind of happiness.

Rachel Smith lives in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her writing has been published in journals and anthologies, including Best Microfiction 2019,  Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand and Best Small Fictions 2020. She has been short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and TSS International Flash Fiction, and placed second in 2017 NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition. She is script writer for the feature film Stranded Pearl, due for release in 2020. @rachelmsmithnz1

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June 15 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Lois Villemaire – Annapolis, Maryland, USA

See Lois Villemaire read her micro here.

Observations

We were wondering if
The squirrels were
Bigger this year
Or if we just hadn’t
Noticed their size before.
Watching them from our window,
Scampering at the forest’s edge
With enormous bushy tails.
Jumping over fallen trees,
Busily on their way
To find nourishment.
I saw worms in the backyard,
Under the leaves.
Stink bugs stuck
On the window screen,
Like paralyzed pests.
There’s lots of time to observe
The wonders out there.
Now we too scamper for food,
At the curbside pickup
Or the carry out shop.
Covering our faces,
Not used to breathing
Or talking in a mask.

Lois Perch Villemaire lives in Annapolis, Maryland, US. She writes poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. Her stories have appeared in Potato Soup Journal, 101 Words, FewerThan500, The Drabble, Pen-in-Hand and Flora Fiction, and she blogs for annapolisdiscovered.com.

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June 15 NO-THEME MICRO

John Yohe  – Puerto Rico/ Oregon, USA

See John Yohe read his micro here.

Lightning Storm

Cloud to cloud, positive and negative strikes over Redondo and la Caldera, all along the Sierra de Nacamiento and out to White Cliff and Santa Fe. The fire lookout tower is supposedly grounded, thick steel cables running from room to rock, but he’s heard stories—of a line of electricity stretching between the two power outlets, or looping around the steel catwalk railings. Mañana there may be fire, but for now this moment, thunder crack and roar, jagged streaks in anvilhead cells, he knows the world is alive and moving over us, cloud to cloud, positive and negative strikes.

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan and lives in Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, bike messenger, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. Fiction Editor for Deep Wild Journal. http://www.johnyohe.com 

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June 14 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Amy Barnes – Nashville, Tennessee

See Amy Barnes read her micro here.

Full 

I’ve eaten sunset three days in a row. Standing expectantly with my mouth open, orange-sicle sky and blueberry rain feed my escapist hunger. A sad Mother Nature doesn’t scold me for licking her sky with toddler-abandon.

She’s watching in case I go down the wrong path, skip stones in a forbidden pond or bite down on angry storm debris.

Her finger-lightning taps at wee hour windows.

She sends owls and mourning doves to encircle my house. I eat their songs as a midnight snack, catching whos and cackles in my throat, swallowing spring into my stomach.

Amy Barnes has words at FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Penny Fiction, Lucent Dreaming, The Molotov Cocktail, Bandit Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit and others. She’s a reader for Fractured Lit, Taco Bell Quarterly, NFFD UK, CRAFT, Retreat West and Narratively.

 

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June 14 NO-THEME MICRO

Mandira Pattnaik – India

See Mandira Pattnaik read her micro here.

Little Chevalier

You’d been winding wool into a ball when the orb slips out of your hands and rolls to the corner of the dim-lit room where the toddler is bending over his toy horse. When he brings the ball back, one step at a time, you’re more of a spectator applauding than the woman carrying his brother; so you pull out a wrapper from underneath your chair and fold it into a hat he can wear, remembering to fashion it like an armet fit for a knight.

Mandira Pattnaik writes in India. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Times of India, Watershed Review, Gasher, Spelk, Lunate, Eclectica, Panoplyzine and Splonk, among others. She tweets @MandiraPattnaik  

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June 13 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Sophia Wilson – Woodside, Otago, New Zealand

See Sophia Wilson read her micro here.

Convergence

The eldest faces the mountain, pulls at the sky, slender-swift with her fiddle. Invites dynamism.

The middle one hunches over kitchen bench. Inches through curriculum requirements.

What’s the difference between eminent and imminent?

I observe looming clouds, hear incoming wuthering. Shiver.

A storm is imminent. The prince is eminent.

A young princess gallops in, arms flapping. Yells, What am I?

Um – Don’t know – Circus-girl riding palomino? White owl?

Naaaah – one of those big chicken awtrish things.

An ostrich! Of course.

No longer imminent, rain wallops. Lightning bites. Thunder bangs its fists on windows.

The ostrich dives under a blanket.

Sophia Wilson’s work recently appeared in StylusLit, Not Very Quiet, Ars Medica, Hektoen International, Intima, Distāntia off topic poetics, NZ Poetry Shelf, Poems in the Waiting Room, Corpus and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the 2019 Robert Burns Poetry Competition and winner of the 2020 IWW Flash Fiction Competition. Thanks to the terrific helpers with the audio: Savarna and Peakfiddler for the music, Karuna for her question and Nalini for being the ostrich.

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June 13 NO-THEME MICRO

Susan Wardell – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

wardell filmic tn

See Susan Wardell read her micro here.

Filmic

Placing the washing basket on her hip, she immediately feels like a longsuffering prairie wife. Stepping past the overflowing recycling bin, she muses that in movies, women are always hanging laundry when men return from war.

She pauses to observe the honeybees worshipping at the purple-flowered hebe. Their choral buzz reminds her of that scene with the apes and the obelisk. Oh life-giver! Oh many-breasted God!

Beneath the rusted Eiffel of the line, she lays her burden down. Then she tilts her head to the matte blue sky and thinks about those indie films, in which nothing happens at all.

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand, where she lectures in Social Anthropology, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. She has published poetry and essays in a variety of journals in New Zealand and Australia. 

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June 12 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Pam Morrison – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand                                              

See Pam Morrison read her micro here.

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.

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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.  

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June 11 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar – Columbus, Ohio, USA

See Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar read her micro here.

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

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June 11 NO-THEME MICRO

Sam Payne – Plymouth, UK

See Sam Payne read her micro here.

Self Defence

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.

‘Nothing, really.’

‘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.

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June 11 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Judy Darley – Bristol, UK

See Judy Darley read her micro here.

Family psychology

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

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June 10 NO-THEME MICRO

Jenny Woodhouse – New Zealand

Midwinter

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.

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June 9 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Sophie van Llewyn – Germany

Windows to the World in the Middle of the COVID Crisis

  1. A back garden in Bavaria that you share with neighbours on a tight rota.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.  

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June 9 NO-THEME MICRO

Sara Hills – Warwickshire, UK

See Sara Hills read her micro here.

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.

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June 8 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Cherllisha Silva – Wellington, New Zealand

See Cherllisha Silva read her micro here.

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.

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June 8 NO-THEME MICRO

Marissa Hoffman – Switzerland

See Marissa Hoffman read her micro here.

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

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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.

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June 7 NO-THEME MICRO

Bronwyn Hegarty – Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Hear Bronwyn Hegarty read her micro here.

Hare man

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/

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June 6 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Charlotte Hamrick – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

See Charlotte Hamrick read her micro here.

Sniffing Dreft

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.

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June 6 NO-THEME MICRO

Lucy Zhang – Cupertino, California USA

Flower Girl

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.

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June 5 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Kim Jackways – Christchurch, New Zealand

See Kim Jackways read her micro here.

Patter

Hunker down:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

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June 5 NO-THEME MICRO

Erik Kennedy – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Hear Erik Kennedy read his micro here.

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.

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June 4 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Kay Wise – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

See Kay Wise read her micro here.

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.

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June 4 NO-THEME MICRO

Nan Wigington – Denver, Colorado, USA

Listen to Nan Wigington read her micro here.

Weather

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.

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June 3 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Diana Burns – Wellington, New Zealand

Burns tn

See Diana Burns read her micro here.

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.

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June 3 NO-THEME MICRO

Ursula Hoult – Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Hoult tn

See Ursula Hoult read her micro here.

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/

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June 2 LOCKDOWN MICRO

María Castro Domínguez – Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,The Canary Islands

Maria tn

See María Castro Domínguez read her micro here.

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.

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June 2 NO-THEME MICRO

Jacques Denault – Danvers, Massachusetts, USA

Denault tn

See Jacques Denault read his micro here.

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. 

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June 1 LOCKDOWN MICRO

Nora Nadjarian – Cyprus

See Nora Nadjarian read her micro here.

Voyage

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

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June 1 NO-THEME MICRO

Gail Ingram – Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

See Gail Ingram read her micro here.

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!

 

NO-THEME MICROS

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

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LOCKDOWN MICROS

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

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Thank you to this year’s judges!

No-theme micros: 

Diane Simmons

Diane Simmons

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.

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Lockdown micros: 

annahatflowers

Anna Granger

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

Marcelle Heath

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.

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7 thoughts on “Micro Madness

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the stories. Truly brightened up an otherwise dull day – but now the sun is shining.

  2. Pingback: National Flash Fiction Day 2016 – Ingrid Jendrzejewski

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