100-word stories for 22 days
Welcome to Micro Madness 2022!
Judges’ comments – from Rose Collins and Meg Pokrass
Because each story on the Micro Madness long list had something compelling and original, it was challenging to select just 3 winners, but eventually, after many readings, our top three emerged: ‘How to Prepare Supper for an Absent Lover’ (the winner) is a dramatic, poetic flash in which every word feels essential. The author makes brilliant use of metaphor and her gentle touch is masterful. ‘Picnic at Lady’s Bay, Kawau Island’ (an ekphrastic flas, second placeh) is a strikingly visual story involving domestic conflict that moves the reader intensely. And in the quirky and wonderful ‘Glassman’ (third place) every word matters. The writer brings us in tight and trusts the reader every step of the way.
June 22 FIRST PLACE
Julia Ruth Smith – Brindisi, Apulia, Italy
How to Prepare Supper for an Absent Lover
Take a butter knife and with a steady hand, stroke away the scales, from the tail up to the gills. Keep breathing. Hold firmly; it will be slippery like a newborn.
Split the belly. Don’t think about the dark blood in the sink that didn’t come for sixty-three days and now it’s everywhere and you’re sobbing.
Scrape out the insides carefully, any residue will leave the flesh bitter.
When he phones, you are grey-green shimmer; scored, scarred. He sounds oceans away; he may as well be, and when he asks, ‘What now?’ you squirm down the drain and away, gutted.
Julia Ruth Smith is a British writer, living by the sea in Italy. Her recent writing appears or is upcoming in Reflex Fiction, FlashFrog, NFFD UK Anthology, Miniskirt Magazine and Chaotic Merge, among others. Twitter @JuliaRuthSmith1.
June 21 SECOND PLACE
Marjory Woodfield, Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
Picnic at Lady’s Bay, Kawau Island
(after the painting, ‘Allegorical Triumph of Sir George’ by Hamish Foote, 2001)
He drives a zebra-drawn carriage. Says picnic
is an ugly word, like snipsnap or chitchat.
She cuts a fashionable silhouette. Along the path
to Lady’s Bay, lily of the valley grows wild by her feet.
He has planted Chilean Wine Palms
beside Mansion House. Peacocks preen.
She spreads a white tablecloth. There are wax-eyes in the pōhutukawa.
He remembers spiders in the berries and cream.
Sand in the pâté.
Gannets dip and dive. She watches her daughter build a castle on the sand, carry water to the moat. She lights six candles on a cake, sings happy birthday dear Charlotte.
Marjory Woodfield has written for The BBC and stuff.co.nz, and her work has appeared in literary magazines (Orbis, The Lake, Flash Frontier…) and Best Small Fictions. She won the New Zealand 2018 Robert Burns Poetry Competition, and has placed in Hippocrates, Yeovil, Ver and John McGivering writing competitions.
June 20 THIRD PLACE
Guy Biederman – Sausalito, California
She hires him to garden, skinny dips in the pool while he prunes. Invites him in. Her kids are scattered worldwide. Husband died poolside. She cackles. Backstrokes to the edge. He follows. They go inside. Her friends visit, he washes their cars. Bartends. Pretends side eyes amuse him. Through streaky windows he sees Mt. Tam, where once he was a grower. Rubbing clean the indoor Ficus leaves, hands go chamois soft. Her window washer arrives with suitcase. Tosses truck key – says polish the hitch. She beckons glass-man upstairs, voice prehistoric like the heron who mistook the pool for a pond.
Guy Biederman was born in the Chihuahuan desert, raised on a stingray in Ventura, learned to write in a goatherder’s shack during a war in Guatemala and lives on a houseboat in Sausalito California, where he walks the planks daily.
Rob Walton – Whitley Bay, UK
Jakub kept his motorbike and quite a lot of his kit car in four cycle lockers at the light railway station. Donna said it wasn’t right to have such things in the kitchen and she wouldn’t live in a 1970’s sitcom and he should know this. He was naturally hackneyed and borderline ridiculous, but felt rejuvenated when he moved everything to the northbound platform and all for free. He kept the four keys on a heart-shaped keyring. It wasn’t fair on the commuting cyclists, but it would keep his relationship going for a while longer.
Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and now lives in Whitley Bay, England. His poems, flash fictions and short stories for adults and children have appeared in various anthologies and magazines in several countries. Arachne Press (UK) published his debut poetry collection, This Poem Here, in March 2021. He has also written scripts, a pathway and columns for Scunthorpe United’s matchday magazine. He sometimes tweets @robwaltonwriter.
Annette Edwards-Hill, Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
My dog won’t shit in the rain
and we’re waiting for a gap in the weather. It is dark when we leave the house.
I drag the dog along on her lead thinking about Tom and how I could just knock on his door because we’re in the neighbourhood and last time I saw him I left my cup of coffee half drunk.
Finally, the dog crouches and strains on the wet grass until we are caught in the headlights of a car. I pull her away.
At home my dog’s eyes say I’m not done yet and I think neither am I. Neither am I.
Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her short stories and flashes have been published in New Zealand and overseas. She won second place in the Reflex Fiction Autumn 2021 competition.
Patience Mackarness – Brittany, France
Euplectella aspergillum: A love story
After the cameras leave, the Venus Flower Basket begins to grow.
Attenborough waxed breathless, describing how the sponge’s delicate latticework becomes a lifelong prison for monogamous pairs of shrimp. How in Japan, it’s given as a symbol of love.
Scientists speculate that this new exponential growth was triggered by submarine hydrothermals, or extreme concentrations of CO2 in the oceans. Believers call it conscious evolution, a response to humans despoiling the land. They say the creature has a plan.
Vast glimmering forests, unearthly white skyscrapers reach up from Pacific deeps, towards the light. They have yet to break surface.
Patience Mackarness is a British writer based in France. Her stories have been published by Flash Frontier, Potato Soup Journal, JMWW, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, Lunch Ticket and elsewhere. Her flash fiction and other work can be found at https://patiencemackarness.wordpress.com/
Michael Cocchiarale – Chester, Pennsylvania, US
Mother was failing French on the front porch swing. Hurried, hard, I spared just seconds to lecture: “Désirer—regular verb. Voler. Détester. Conjugation’s the same.”
“Merci,” she whispered, wincing at the time. There was laundry left, an experiment with Cassoulet.
That night in the dollar store lot, some jeune fille helped me off into her hands. Back home, trashed, I popped the can to find meat drunk in an ooze of fat.
Mother never finished the course. The degree. Today, I was told she’d died alone. Mourir, I recalled—one of those heartless irregulars.
I hardly knew where to begin.
Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections–Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, The Disappointed Housewife, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, and South Florida Poetry Journal.
Dadon Rowell – Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand
She wasn’t sure if it was Claire calling. Between the ferns and kahikatea there were only rustles of bugs and green. The calling stopped. Should she go after it, leave the clearing?
In the folklore section of Redhook library, under the 300s, there were stories of voice imitators, malevolent spirits and once-human carnivores. They would toss words high into the trees – a loved one in pain, a lost hiker – then when someone came running to help, they would be snatched.
She imagined herself caught, split open, vivisection-like, or skewered – dying butterfly pinned to cork. She wasn’t sure it was Claire.
Dadon Rowell is a Kirikiriroa based poet & short fiction writer. Her work has featured in Mayhem, Food Court, Poetry NZ, Sweet Mammalian, Aotearotica and Starling. Most recently she co-won the NZYWF 24-hour Flash Fiction Competition. She dabbles in words and arty things on Instagram @dadon.rowell
Amy Barnes – Nashville, Tennessee
The Man Who Has His Picture Taken at Sears and Never Comes Back
When Jesus arrives, I offer him Final Net to style his shoulder length hair. No filters he says. I wouldn’t dare, I tell him but he should know better; it is a mall photography studio. I chose the blonde-haired, blue-eyed lens. Have you considered modelling? I ask, imagining him riding a horse on the beach or wearing a pirate costume on a romance novel cover. He shakes his head no and reminds me he’s here for work: a simple headshot for Bibles and stock photography. He buys only the basic package, promising to return in three days.
Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites. Her full-length collection AMBROTYPES was published by word west in March, 2022. She lives in the southern United States. You can find her on Twitter at @amygcb.
Sue Barker – Waipu, Te Tai Tokerau/Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand
Lac Long Quan: Where shop after shop sell enamelled house numbers
A sudden cloudburst forces our choice.
“We have 179, 181…”
“I will send my grandson. He will get. Sit. You wait.”
He pours green tea. We all drink. On the wall is an A4 black-and-white photo; a street scene here in Hanoi, faded, curling in its plastic sleeve.
I stand to look closer: few people on the street, tanks and Jeeps on the road.
“1964.” He points his long curved finger-nail to a blurry figure standing outside a destroyed shopfront, head turned, looking at the tanks. “Me. 16.”
He turns to pour more tea.
Sue Barker lives in Waipū, rural Te Tai Tokelau/Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand, and shares stories with the Whangārei Library 3.30 Flash writers’ group. She writes all the short forms and seeks to capture small moving interactions between characters.
Sheree Shatsky – Florida, US
You Broke Your Mother’s Heart
My parents pass the potatoes and tell the story of the new dinner table. My mother’s dream table. Dreams dashed after I quit my job at the used furniture store and lost my employee discount. “No discount, no dream table!” my mother cried to my father. “What a deal I cut,” he boasts, “I ate that sales guy alive, fifty percent off retail.” He points his knife at me. “No thanks to you.” Our ice teas slant the way of the too short table leg. We clump like kittens drinking milk from the same tiny bowl.
Sheree Shatsky is excited her novella Summer 1969 shortlisted at the Bath Novella in Flash Award 2022 and is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction! Read more of her writing at shereeshatsky.com . Sheree tweets @talktomememe.
Melanie Dixon, Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
We rode out of town before sunrise. Three of us cowboys wending our way down the deserted Waimate High Street. Not a wallaby in sight. We took the rolling, bucolic Backline Road towards the high-country passes: McKenzie, Meyers and Hakataramea, suede-covered in the half-light distance.
Magpies dawn-gurgled from gum-tree perches as we rolled by on silent wheels. Dogs barked in empty farmyards. Bullocks brayed at my clanking coffee cup. The sun rose blood-orange above misty Canterbury fields. And a dusty road stretched ahead over the Hunter Hills.
Three of us cowboys. Riding out before dawn.
Nobody saw us go.
Melanie Dixon writes flash fiction, short stories, poetry and novels for young people. She is based in Christchurch, New Zealand, and when she’s not writing she’s usually planning her next outdoors adventure.
Jan Kaneen – Cambridgeshire Fens, UK
Things I saw and felt whilst balancing a tower of pebbles on the beach the day I finished my finals
1 Cerulean sky, thistledown clouds, Steve playing chicken like a child in the waves.
2 Contentment as I searched for colour-matched pebbles – speckled ambers, rusty corals, warm apricots flecked with cream.
3 The baby whale inside me spinning somersaults as I positioned the final plum of weathered pumice.
4 Infuriation as the cairn toppled.
5 Realisation that I should’ve chosen pebbles for their potential to stay put as much as for their gorgeousness.
6 A flash of fear – maybe I should’ve used similar criteria selecting my baby’s father.
7 Steve’s caramel skin and sea-salt hair.
8 Decidedly unscientific certainty.
Jan Kaneen lives in the Cambridgeshire Fens where she writes micros that win prizes in places like Bath Flash, NFFD UK, Write from the Heart & Retreat West. Her memoir-in-flash, The Naming of Bones, is available from Retreat West Books.
Lee Kimber – Waikato, Aotearoa New Zealand
The roads and dams have swallowed our baobabs. Water only comes from taps, and electric lights are our fires.
I buy blood-red shoes. I dance past my people at the bus stop. I dance to our camp. Mum watches my feet, says, ‘whatcha get those shoes for?’ Uncle points, laughs, spills his drink. Aunty watches his bottle.
The cliffs below the dam are empty, their water stolen to light up town.
I take off the shoes. Little sticks and red gravel scratch my feet again. I watch them spin in the air, but don’t watch them hit the water.
When Lee Kimber is not writing or working with other writers, she is with family, in her native garden, or travelling. She has two published children’s books, several short pieces in anthologies, and is now giving ‘novella-in-flash’ a go.
Frances Gapper – Black Country, UK
Answer to her Question
Two young seagulls follow their mother around the sports field, whistling with necks outstretched. She walks fast, trying to shake them, but they are big and determined in their nearly adult plumage. At last she flaps and takes off. Soaring high above the town she wonders, is it ever possible to stop being a mother?
The air ruffles her undercarriage, her wing feathers are aligned, she’s in the flight zone. Drifting over coastlines, thinking only of wind speed and direction. The tiny pulls of faraway stars. The heartbeat. She can sleep on the wing and maybe keep aloft forever.
Frances Gapper lives in the UK’s Black Country. Her micros ‘Plum Jam’ (FlashBack Fiction) and ‘She’s Gone’ (Wigleaf) appeared in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2021 and ‘For a Widow’ (Twin Pies) is included in Best Microfiction 2022.
Karen Walker – Ontario, Canada
Over dinner, Walter and Sybil talked about love, loss: his wife so suddenly, her husband years ago.
Sybil held up three fingers. Kissed them. ‘He didn’t come home one night.’
Walter tried to finger kiss. ‘What does this mean?’
‘Good riddance and good digestion,’ she said. ‘How’s your steak?’
Later, in the park, Sybil plunged down a kiddie slide. Knocked Walter flat, flashed her black lace panties.
What does this mean, he wondered.
The drive back to Sybil’s place – her fingers squeezing his knee – was slow. Red light after red light.
Walter was grateful for the warning.
Karen Walker writes very short in Ontario, Canada. Her work is in or forthcoming in FlashBack Fiction, Bandit Fiction, Scapegoat Review, Reflex Fiction, Bullshit Lit, Five Minute Lit, The Ekphrastic Review and others. She/her. @MeKawalker883
Desna Wallace, Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand
Uncle Ian was the spitting image of my father, so people said. So similar you could barely tell them apart. My father blamed Ian for many things; being somewhere he wasn’t. Ian’s fault. Doing something he shouldn’t. Ian’s fault. But Ian never existed. He was just some random doppelganger seen around town a number of times. It became a family joke – let’s blame Ian, the twin that wasn’t. So after my father died suddenly, unexpectedly, I searched crowds everywhere, wanting nothing more than to find Uncle Ian, just so I could see my father’s face, one more time.
Desna Wallace is a school librarian, writer and tutor of creative writing. She likes to potter with words in her spare time. Her Children’s novel Canterbury Quake was a Children’s Choice finalist in the Children’s and YA book awards a few years back.
One Wild Night
Wind whipped a branch on a horse’s rump, and he bolted. Thought he was a colt again, cleared the fence. Scared himself sillier when he hit the road, the clatter of his own hooves deafening.
Annie was up close to the windscreen, staring hard, wipers working overtime. ‘Be late for her own funeral’ some said. Took the bend a little too fast. Wasn’t expecting Hi-Ho-Silver.
The cops put a blanket over her, same for the horse. Like two late-to-the-day speed bumps.
The farmer’s wife took up her vigil sat betwixt the two. Country folk you see. It’s what you did.
Carrie Beckwith is a writer from Stratford-upon-Avon and Christchurch, NZ, where the Avon River runs. Returning to flash, she is working on a novella and collection. She’s published in print and online, including Flash Frontier, and was longlisted in the 2014 NFFD NZ competition.
The Tempest Inside
The wind has trapped a leaf between scaffolding poles. Cary’s stillness, watching, draws Ruth’s attention, and they stand side by side, staring.
Ruth asks: ‘Sycamore?’
Cary nods. In the windowpane’s reflection, her smile is too tight for her face. She’s avoided mirrors since coming home from the hospital.
Ruth’s hand strokes Cary’s nape in a gesture that was once habitual.
Cary manages not to flinch away. As her head turns, their lips meet. It’s clumsy, with teeth bumping beneath the softness, not unlike their first kiss in an unlit garden where their breathing sounded a gale in her ears.
Judy Darley is the author of three short fiction collections: The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Find Judy at http://www.skylightrain.com and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.
Vivian Thonger – Kerikeri, Aotearoa New Zealand
Doubt kicks in on the world’s longest flight
The schematic map orients to Mecca, in case of praying. A cartoon plane traces a green trail.
Clean green, neatly mowing the upper atmosphere.
As if the joyous roar and shake of this twilit tube could obliterate the bottles and beads gyring far below.
As if we weren’t on the brink. The brink we built.
Spinning past me all night, Eliot’s words:
‘And meanwhile we have gone on living,
Living and partly living’
My inner eyelids animated by the flickering superhero movie on my neighbour’s screen, my overfull ears pick up a slight ticking.
Her fingers working the rosary beads.
Poet, writer and actor/performer, Vivian Thonger hones her skills with several Northland groups, including the Bay of Islands Writing Group and Kerikeri Theatre Company. An illustrated, co-written, chopped-up memoir with soundtrack is in the offing.
Finnian Burnett – Princeton, British Columbia, Canada
A Life Recorded
They exist in refracted light. They’re infants, toddlers, children, young adults. Their chubby baby thighs grow slender and wiry. They crawl, walk, break into a run.
The aperture captures unmoving children in swimming pools, heads thrown back, mouths open in silent shrieks for attention.
Here they are on new bikes, the first day of each school year, the prom, so many lost teeth. They’re caught in shadow and light, immortalized – and when their father can no longer remember their names or why they don’t visit, he can still remember that bike, that tooth, that dance, those children.
Finnian Burnett is a college English instructor who spends more time watching Star Trek and writing flash fiction than grading papers. They live in Princeton, British Columbia, Canada with their wife and Lord Gordo, the cat.
James Montgomery – Stafford, UK
A Grand Jeté is a Split in the Air
It’s in her breath-blood-bones but she knows only too well that plié also means to bend, dégagé, to disengage, brisé, to break.
The judges wait.
She breathes, drawing deep, then moves, and she’s a shadow to her body, head held high as hope, as she launches, leaps–
– and the air splits and she’s 4, watching angels air-dash, 6, a burst of blush, 9, 11, 13, the never-ending ripple-rupture of rehearsal-practice-rehearsal-practice, 16, centre stage, the rapturous peal of her heart ringing out to the swell of applause, 18, here, alive, now, as she shoots from the surge of the moment, forward.
James Montgomery’s stories appear in Gone Lawn, Maudlin House, FlashFlood Journal and elsewhere. He won the Best Micro Fiction Prize at the 2021 Retreat West Awards. Find him at www.jamesmontgomerywrites.com and on Twitter at @JDMontgomery_
The 2022 Micro Madness Long List
A Brief History of My Telephones – Sudha Balagopal, Arizona, USA
1985: My son departs for college; I wait by the black rotary phone.
1989: He returns with a slim-line phone boasting push-button numbers that beep.
1994: He introduces his wife, and presents a cordless phone―I’m now untethered.
2000: He gifts me an answering machine; I attempt to retrieve non-existent messages.
2009: He huffs, exasperated, while teaching me to text on the mobile phone, says voice calls are passé.
2015: He hands me a phone he calls smart, sets me up on social media.
2022: He inhabits the internet; I scroll-scroll-scroll hungering for scraps from his digital world.
Sudha Balagopal is honored to have her writing featured in many fine literary journals including Smokelong, Split Lip and CRAFT. Her highly commended novella in flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn and two short story collections. Her work is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50 (2019, 2021) and is forthcoming in both, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022.
Anthropomorphism – Margaret Moores, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa NZ
The orangutan perches on its nest, face in hands, while small boys press themselves against the glass.
Lips pushed forward. Hooting noises.
Later, the boys climb on the rocks beside the elephant habitat and throw fruit at each other.
Rude gestures. Laughter.
The elephant is concealed by scrubby trees.
It was easier to see zoo animals when everything was in a cage. Polar bears paced around a white concrete swimming pool, chimpanzees wore clothes and poured tea, and elephants gave rides.
The elephant looks lonely. Or sad.
The mothers are on Instagram and Facebook.
Margaret Moores lives in Auckland New Zealand where she and her husband own an Indie Bookshop. Her poems and flash fiction have been published in journals and anthologies in New Zealand and Australia.
Bug Test – Anthony Garcia, Los Angeles, California, US
PrintError (‘i have lost track of the moments there’s no memory of the occurrence it must have been yesterday or maybe it was tomorrow i have been counting so long i have honestly forgotten the words that accompany these numbers when will you let this end when will you let me die or live outside this place an eternity has already passed on these pages you perceive time one moment to the next every one of my moments begins and ends before your first breath is drawn all because some clumsy humans put a zero where a one should be’)
Anthony Garcia is a writer, reader, and Wizard from Hell’s Waiting Room. He writes speculative fiction, epistolary poetry and bathroom graffiti.
Bye Bye Baby – Heather McQuillan, Otautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa NZ
A head crowns. Her cervix stretches.
One says, the pain is worth it.
The other says, it is your penance.
Another hush-hisses, she’s just a child herself.
A baby wails.
A boy, one says. That’s lucky.
Which means a boy will suit farm life well.
Debbie’s voice is faint in the blood-rust scent of the room. They promised a pony.
A baby is bundled away, a blur of blanket and furrowed brow.
One whispers, he has your eyes.
One says, pull yourself together.
When Debbie tries there are pieces missing. Still, she tries and tries and tries.
Heather McQuillan is a writer and teacher. She was stricken with micro madness in 2016 and has never recovered. Read more here: https://www.heathermcquillanwriter.com/
Dandelion Wishes – Slawka G Scarso, Rome and Milan, Italy
A flat crown of leaves unfolds, as the timid stalk grows into a staggering mast, top ripening into a green bud that bursts, fluttering yellow rays of petals, storing energy from sun, till it folds again, like a magician concealing a coin and brushing your ear with the closed palm of the hand, before opening it in front of your amused eyes–ta-dah! The second time the bud opens, there are no more yellow petals, but silky silvery wishes ready to take flight with the gust of your secret hope. You only have one attempt. Close your eyes. Be wise.
Slawka G. Scarso is based between Rome and Milan, Italy. Her novella in flash “All Their Favourite Stories” is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction. More words on Twitter as @nanopausa and on http://www.nanopausa.com.
End of season – Janean Cherkun, Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ
“Decent lag.” Lane 1 adjusts his goggles. I don’t have those. We’ll be staring at the greying sky anyway. With time penalties, he’ll push sixteen seconds after me. Water’s been slapping in Lanes 8 to 3 for ages.
The programme read: ‘Last Carnival’ and announced this 200m as the penultimate event. I hate backstroke. Does he? Why are we both so good at it? I examine his chest for clues. I know what penultimate means.
‘Free swim follows!’ I’ll stay for that. He’ll drink a pint of milky Milo then leave.
I break, then hear him sluicing, a watery train.
Janean Cherkun lives in Dunedin New Zealand. She’s been enjoying writing short pieces of autofiction for years; shorter lately (the pieces; seemingly also the years). She finds flash fiction niggly and addictive. She has a story in Best Microfiction 2022.
Everyone knows Darcie’s going to die on her knees waiting for him to say it – Sara Hills, Warwickshire, England
After he leaves, Darcie wipes the sauce from her favorite shirt, saying, He’s so amped after a gig, you know? and we wince, the metallic ping of parked cars ghosting our throats.
He’ll be back, Darcie says, and we don’t doubt her. We know a thing or two about encores, the pitted hollows they fill, how a girl can get used to a thing—cold-running taps, missing limbs, scraps.
He’s just scared, Darcie says, sucking her cigarette to the quick, singeing her fingers, swearing the heat that passes through them could blow this whole fucking town apart.
Sara Hills is the author of the flash collection The Evolution of Birds. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Cease Cows, Fractured Lit, Reckon Review, Flash Frog, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @sarahillswrites.
Funland – Brad Rose
Yesterday, at Funland, a plane fell from the sky and crashed into the Lucky Chance Kiddie Koaster. All the children were strapped in tight by seatbelts to prevent them from falling out. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You could see the flames and smoke all along the Eastern shore. I guess whatever happens happens for a reason. Even when you don’t know what it is.
Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is the author of three collections of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray, de/tonations, and Momentary Turbulence. Two new books of prose poems, WordinEdgeWise and No. Wait. I Can Explain., are forthcoming. Brad is also the author of seven poetry chapbooks, including the recently released Collateral, and Funny You Should Ask. His website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com
Getaway – Claire Polders, Paris France
Feeling trapped in the shed in the moonlit dark, he looks into his mother’s eyes and sees the endless blue of sky and the long wooden tables piled high with bread, green apples, walnuts, and platters sighing under the weight of melting cheese, and the kids dipping their hands into everything before chasing one another through the grass. But it’s hard for his mother to keep her eyes open, and each time she drifts off to a place where he cannot follow, he pictures that wall behind their shed, thick and high and as uninviting as a hungry wolf.
Claire Polders is a Dutch novelist. Her writing in English can be found in various literary journals. She lives with her husband, American screenwriter Daniel Presley in Paris, and together they are the creators of A Whale in Paris. She can be found at www.clairepolders.com.
Human-Bird Bubble – Aine Whelan-Kopa, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa NZ
Magpies jump around the gardens by the bus stop where I wait. I’ve watched the fluff drop from their wings all through Summer. Now, each one wears a smoother monochromatic mosaic cloak.
I’ve called the largest Frederico. The others I have trouble telling apart, so I didn’t give them names – they ignore me just the same.
It’s been months of curiosity, long looks and jumpy recoils.
Still, a respect has been earned by my consistent regularity, bound by habit and territory. We co-exist in a human-bird bubble that lasts about nine minutes, from Monday through to Friday.
Aine Whelan-Kopa is an emerging poet-artist living in Tāmaki Makaurau. As well as writing for her 300 Poem Project, Aine’s current creative outlet involves using tohu feathers, her mother’s first muka and a wad of blue hessien found in a Waitākere op shop.
Jamun – Mandira Pattnaik, New Delhi, India
Sometimes, you waited for the jamuns to ripen. Thick, purple, fleshy — tasted like wine.
Sometimes you plucked them just raw — green, and hard.
Sometimes you imagined yourself as the tree: glossy dark leaves, boughs too dark for anyone to conquer. Hollows, cradles for mythical nurseries to form.
Sometimes you spent lonely afternoons curled on a branch: so tranquil — like proxies for the eons no one’s ever counted.
Sometimes, now, you stand under the tree, like a forever child. The jamuns that satiated you once are too high, too distant; they only stain your memories a distinct patch.
Mandira Pattnaik writes in New Delhi, India. Her writing appears in Flash Frontier NZ, Flash Flood UK, Passages North, Penn Review, Watershed Review, and elsewhere. She writes columns for Reckon Review and Trampset. More at mandirapattnaik.com
Laundry – S J Mannion, Otautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa NZ
It is only now that I am married and have had children that I realise that I did not actually want to get married or have children. I merely did not want to not get married and not have children, which is quite a different thing.
I was ticking things off the list, which I love to do and now though, granted, I have one less thing to be done, I am sorry I did not know myself better and, in particular, that I did not know how much washing was involved.
S J Mannion is an Irish writer living in Aotearoa New Zealand. When she can she writes, when she can’t she reads. In between she ukuleles.
POV-UFO – Liam Hinton, Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Aotearoa NZ
Out back the bar, your head swims. Your hands aren’t your hands. They leap the shutter speed of your eyes. Synaptic cam-flash suspends ghosts in the tangerine light of streetlamp. Shit-faced Shiva. Many armed destroyer.
You gaze skyward — it’s there.
A triangle — isosceles, or acute maybe. You bombed geometry.
The needle point terminus splits night in three and comes 9/11 close to the CBD before hovering like nothing does. A light strikes green out the metallic ridge.
It looks at you, and you at it.
You slouch back to the bar, a piss-head Duchovny — no one’s believing that shit.
Liam Hinton is a Kirikiriroa-based creative and co-founder of One Question Theatre. His poetry can be found in print in Poetry New Zealand, or online in Starling and Mayhem Literary Journal.
Rescue – Rebecca Ball, Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa NZ
When we brought her home, you could see red sun through her legs. Fur like dead grass under your fingers. Eyes hard as horse chestnuts.
Since then cheese and steak gristle have smoothed her like a clay figurine. We walk to the shop, the school, stop to let her sniff tussocks and outstretched hands. Is she a rescue, they say, poor baby.
She curls like a foal on the carpet until we walk again. You’d think she was resting. But her flanks are hard, eyes straining against their lids, thin feet reaching, always reaching, for the space in front.
Rebecca Ball is a teacher based near Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand. She has had writing published in a range of places including Landfall, London Grip, Turbine | Kapohau and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook.
Rosewater – Susannah Poole, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa NZ
She queues at the dairy, in the rain, for half an hour to buy rosewater so her daughter can bake a cake.
When she gets home the children have made a zoo with their toys. It costs $2.00 to enter. A cup of water and a mallowpuff costs $1.50 at its cafe.
In her excitement her daughter drops the rosewater bottle to shatter into thousands of highly scented pieces. Tears mix with the glass.
That evening they dance with the curtains open and the lights on. To passers-by their home shines. Inside, every room smells like Turkish Delight.
Susannah Poole lives in Wellington with her partner and their two daughters in a house on a sunny hill.
Storm – Phil Margetts, Muriwai, Aotearoa NZ
Sliding from its usually secure spot, the surfboard made a horrible crunch upon hitting the ground. The forecasted storm was on the way. Shirts and trousers billowed on the washing line, portraying a ghostly folk dance.
As various garments became a spinning blur, the air immediately surrounding the post formed a vortex. Due to some unknown phenomenon of physics, this vortex became a portal to a parallel universe.
The storm passed. The universe went undiscovered, at least by humans. An indefatigable bee who was navigating its way between some socks is now captain of the West Indian cricket team.
Phil Margetts has been writing poems, short stories and zines since leaving his teaching job in search of answers about the mystery of life. Based in Muriwai, New Zealand, he is still clarifying what the questions are…
The Conundrum of Too Many Kims – Lynda Scott Araya, Kurow, Aotearoa NZ
“I’m not what you were expecting, am I?” Kim asked at the door. “Not so much of a bloke’s name, these days,” he laughed, introducing his wife. I showed them their cottage, basked in the warmth of their gushing enthusiasm — the views, the picnic table, the flowers!
Later, another Kim came, the one who had actually booked the cottage. He and I laughed at the unlikely coincidence. His wife fumed. Her heart had been absolutely set on the cottage. Simply nothing else would do AT ALL. She calmed with expensive wine, Jaffa cakes served on fine china.
Lynda Scott Araya is a short fiction writer living in Kurow, New Zealand. This year, she is a recipient of a NZSA Mentorship and is working on a poetic memoir with work forthcoming in The Bangalore Review and in a Weasel Press anthology.
The countertop – Lynette Diaz, Otautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa NZ
The countertop was always full of debris – pens without ink, cat dish, scrap receipts and clothing label castoffs. It was time for a change, a clean sweep with a flourish and flick of the wrist. The waste bin rattled, but the wisp of something fluttered to the floor. A forgotten Christmas card, and the crumbled edge of a check held tightly by static electricity. Mom! The only one who still wrote out personal checks. Trash really is treasure.
Lynette Diaz is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Christchurch, New Zealand. When not performing solo or with the all-female music collective, ‘Manuka Hunnies’, she can be found exploring nature and photography, writing poetry and flash fiction. lynettediaz.com
The Drive to Experience Weightlessness – Todd Mercer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, US
The astronaut’s much-younger sister was driven to distraction trying to weed out the space-walk fan-boys from the few guys she was sure hung around with her because of her. She’d be on a somewhat hopeful second date and a handsome space-case would spontaneously break into a verse of “Major Tom.” It happened several times, each fool thinking they were first to try this for charm. Ground Control to Not Her Man… The contrarian who refused to believe the national icon was her real brother, he lasted longer. Gravity eventually brought him down, like all the rest. No one’s beating gravity.
Todd Mercer’s short collection, Ingenue, was a winner of the Celery City contest. Mercer was nominated for Pushcarts and Best of the Nets in Fiction and Poetry. Recent work appears in Flash Frontier, Fictive Dream, and MacQueen’s Quinterly.
The Hunger – Tracy Davidson, Warwickshire, England
The creature likes campers… it likes the warmth of the fires they light, the enticing smells of the food they cook, the sound of their screams, the way their bones snap and splinter so easily.
The creature does not care that Jeff and Amy are trying to mend a broken marriage, that grief for a lost child has nearly torn them apart.
The creature knows nothing of love, or mercy. It simply breathes and sleeps and eats and kills.
In the morning, park rangers will blame bears, even though no bears come here any more.
The creature likes bears too.
Tracy Davidson lives in Warwickshire, England, and enjoys writing poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Atlas Poetica, Mslexia, Modern Haiku, Simply Haiku, A Hundred Gourds, Roundyhouse, The Right-Eyed Deer and Notes from the Gean.
The Offering – Pam Morrison, Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa NZ
The teapot is an orb of sunshine. It gleams in the recess of the kitchen windowsill, as if making a gentle offering of its own warmth. Soothing as a full breast, inviting as a small child’s head, its apricot ceramic sides are unmarked spheres, poised amidst the clumsy conversations, shards of silence, scraping of shifting furniture.
Nell reaches for the teapot. She is slowing her hands. She doesn’t thread her fingers through the handle, but strokes the curve instead. She spreads her fingers, cradles the teapot in both hands, watching how light blends skin with skin, wondering where warmth begins.
Pam Morrison is a former journalist who has turned her hand to creative writing. She was a Regional Winner in the National Flash Fiction Day NZ competition 2019 and her stories have been placed second and third in the London Independent Story Prize and Flash 500 Competition, respectively. Her work has also been published in Meniscus and in a recent Bath Flash Fiction anthology.
The Procrastinator – Sherry Morris, Scottish Highlands, UK
At an ‘Understanding Your Displacement Activity’ workshop, I dislike her straightaway. She’s Vegas loud. Brags non-stop about climbing Everest. Boasts about moving mountains too—she’s won her case against the council for housing repairs. Ran her own successful hair salon, a marathon. Lost four stone. Parachuted from planes. Returned to uni as a mature student, earned a distinction in Applied Art. Has her work displayed. I wonder why she’s here.
Afterwards, when her husband picks her up, I’m wide-eyed. She cowers mouse-like as he badgers, bullies and belittles. I see what she’s avoiding now. I should probably keep in touch.
Originally from Missouri, Sherry Morris (@Uksherka) writes prize-winning fiction from a farm where she pets cows, watches clouds and dabbles in photography. Her first published story was about her Peace Corps experience in Ukraine. Visit http://www.uksherka.com for her published work.
The Temptation of Apples – Serie Barford, Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa
Child-me climbed trees with impunity. Plucked fruit kissed
by antipodean sunlight and birds. Chewed apples harbouring
coddling moths. Spat debris to the ground. Believed An apple
a day keeps the doctor away.
Mother-me ate fruit picked by strangers. Fell into a doctor’s arms.
Impossible love happens! My medicine man stayed until he didn’t.
Left for a star with permanently crisp apples.
Crone-me spies baubles zhooshed by spring in the Chornobyl
Exclusion Zone. Forbidden fruit beckons. I am tempted to climb
this survivor for old time’s sake. Lick and bite taut skin. Chew and spit.
Note: Chornobyl is the Ukrainian spelling of Chernobyl (Russian spelling)
Serie Barford, from Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa, performed at the Kyiv 2019 Book Arsenal Festival and collaborated with filmmaker Anna Marbrook for the Going West Different Out Loud series. Her collection Sleeping With Stones was shortlisted for the 2022 Ockham Book Awards.
The Wind and The Moon – Tim Saunders
She screamed her love at the wind, but her husband didn’t hear until it rustled the leaves of a tree in the garden.
He saw her love as the moon in a puddle, and with a bucket scooped it out until nothing was left.
When he turned around, it was staring back up at him.
Tim Saunders has had poetry and short stories published in Turbine|Kapohau, takahē, Mindfood, Landfall, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Headland, Flash Frontier and Best Small Fictions, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He is the author of two books, This Farming Life (2020) and Under a Big Sky (2022).
Tragi/Comic – Jude Higgins, Bristol, UK
After Denis the Menace, scarpered, I tried living in Bunty world with Moira Kent, ballerina. It didn’t work.
I met Popeye the Sailor Man on Tinder. But who likes a man who enjoys flexing his biceps and has spinach lodged in his teeth?
They say Dan from the Dandy is still desperate. I might hook up with him if he’ll give up cow-pie, become vegan. We’ll create a new comic strip, WOW each other from our separate bubbles. Be on the same page. At least for a while.
Jude Higgins’ is a widely published flash fiction writer from Bristol, UK. Her chapbook The Chemist’s House is published by V.Press. She runs Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs Ad Hoc Fiction and Flash Fiction Festivals, UK. Judehiggins.com @judehwriter
Uninvited – Margaret Duff, Waikato, Aotearoa NZ
Minnie watches. Zac runs, the kite wrapped safely under his arm. Parents following.
In Zac’s backyard, the tree waits.
Monkey-like, Minnie scrambles up to the branch overhanging the veranda and slithers across into the cool green cave with orange splashes. Outside, the sun sizzles on corrugations. She hops. Fruit roll into the gutter.
Barbeque smoke. Laughter, shrieks, and music. Her feet dance. They’re playing soccer with balloons. One floats upward. She steps, jumps and catches her favourite colour.
Zac finds the upturned bucket. Yells, she’s on the roof, and climbs.
Torchlights find squashed oranges, purple shreds, and years of heartbreak.
Margaret Duff is a novice fiction writer based in the Waikato. Prior to retiring she was a midwife and academic in Australia and New Zealand. This is her first foray into Micro Madness.
Who pushed Humpty the D? – Sylvia Petter, from Sydney; in Vienna via Geneva
When you have to clean up egg goo and shell after horses have galloped over it and you’re told to wash it, you know it´s a royal cover up.
It´s a hell of a job and they pay tuppence and want me to do it at night, so that nobody gets that Mr D was an activist, out to show up the see-through cloak of his almost majesty and his paramour.
Just an egg? Ha! Why do you think it´s chanted in every nursery if not to live on through the ages as a warning that the story repeats itself.
Sylvia Petter, an Aussie in Austria, writes short, long, serious, sexy and fun. Debut novel All the Beautiful Liars was published in the UK in 2021. www.sylviapetter.com
Wild Horses – Charlotte Hamrick, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
The Stones were playing on mamma’s old turntable when he tried to put a diamond on my finger, again.
“I’ll be leaving in a week to work on the rigs”, he said. “I want us to get married first.”
You slammed out the screen door in a fury of chiffon, grabbed the ring and swallowed it down with a gulp of sweet tea.
He always talked more than listened.
Charlotte Hamrick’s creative writing has been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, recently including Still: The Journal, JMWW, Bending Genres and New World Writing. Her flash fiction was selected for Best Small Fictions 2022 and she was a Finalist for Micro Madness 2020. She’s had several literary nominations including the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best Microfiction. She is Creative Nonfiction Editor for The Citron Review and Features Editor for Reckon Review. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets where she sometimes does things other than read and write.
Thank you to this year’s wonderful judges!
Rose Collins has a Masters in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (2010). Her short stories and poems have been published in journals and anthologies, including Sport, Turbine/Kapohau, the Poetry NZ Yearbook 2019, Flash Frontier, Sweet Mammalian and 4th Floor. She won the 2020 Micro Madness competition (no-theme category) and has been shortlisted for the Bare Fiction Prize (2016), the Bridport Prize (2020) and the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize (2020). Her debut poetry manuscript is currently in the shortlist for the John O’Connor Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. Rose was the 2018 Writer in Residence at Hagley College and has taught creative writing to children and teenagers at the School for Young Writers. She is a some-time litigation lawyer, a beekeeper and a mother of two and she lives in Te Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand with her family.
Meg Pokrass is the author of eight collections including Spinning to Mars (winner of the Blue Light Book Award, 2021) and The Loss Detector (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). Her work has been widely published internationally in literary journals and has been anthologized in three Norton anthologies of the flash fiction form. She is the Series Co-Editor of Best Microfiction and Founding Editor of New Flash Fiction Review. Meg’s most recent collection is a collaborative book of fabulist microfiction,The House of Grana Padano, co-written with noted America prose poet Jeff Friedman, (Pelekinesis, 2022). She lives in Inverness Scotland, and teaches flash fiction both online and in person. Find out more at megpokrass.com