Micro Madness 2019
22 stories for 22 days
Tī kōuka by Susan Wardell, Dunedin, New Zealand
Morning leans its hips against the hills, and today I am beheading tī kōuka. Below, I watch the wings of gulls slice open the silver rind of the harbour. Death by a thousand cuts.
In all these summers you’ve never asked about the child I bore, rooted here among speared shadows. The years form rings around your silence. At night I lay my dreams across the water like a tablecloth spread for some other guest.
Now starlings flee the sudden grizz of the chainsaw. My fingers ache from holding on to that tough skin. I must let the ending in.
Susan Wardell lectures in social anthropology at the University of Otago while raising two small humans and a few potted plants. Susan is the author of an academic book: Living in the Tension: Care, selfhood, and wellbeing among faith-based youth workers (2018). Her poetry has been published in Landfall, takahē and Ecological Citizen. She was placed second in the 2018 Landfall Essay Competition.
Fermata by Len Kuntz, Snohomish, Washington, USA
There is an empty suitcase in your throat where the pigeons go to die. A cold night’s sleep in your eyes, those slabs of dirty ice not even a blowtorch could thaw. A smoke genie flees your right nostril and burns out the overhead light, short-circuits the porn connection on your screen. All of your darlings keep escaping from pre-school, from church, from jungle gym. Most mornings they prance across your trampoline eyelids, stab swizzle sticks under your fingernails. Your ambiance was hocked years ago. For half a life. For a lie. The one that made me your daughter.
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU from Unknown Press. You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com
Go girl, girl goes, gone. by Heather McQuillan, Christchurch, New Zealand
She dumps her schoolbag and heads to the beach.
He longs to call her back, but his tongue is thick with explanation, negotiation, appeals for absolution. He grips his beer. Aluminium tings beneath the pressure of his fingers. The first swallow is like dark bread.
She climbs the slope. On the other side, the ocean claws stones into its mouth.
How many times has he told her? Here she is, almost fully grown, and still he does not trust her.
He doesn’t trust a sea that scythes into the land.
You shouldn’t turn your back on it for a moment.
Heather McQuillan loves writing flash. She even wrote her Masters of Creative Writing thesis about the form. Heather’s first collection Where Oceans Meet is being released by Reflex Press in the UK very soon.
The cleaning lady was my first love by Mahesh Nair, New York City, USA
When I smiled at the acrylic dome mirror in a freight elevator, you showed me your middle finger.
My heart pounded when I heard my name on the walkie-talkie in my probationary period. I wanted the job. You stopped taking the elevator.
Loudmouth messengers breezed in and out with their carts and deliveries. I pushed their floor buttons like a gentleman. I wish you saw.
I was standing for hours. My arthritis returned. I greeted everyone. We journeyed up and down with the radio’s hum and car’s ding. I smelled the odor of your sweat, waiting in the mirror.
Mahesh Nair studied fiction at New York University. He was short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and long-listed twice for Reflex Fiction prize.
Mo(u)rning ritual by Damhnait Monaghan, Ringwood, UK
Thumb in mouth, Joe would lean against the bathroom door and watch his father shave. Dip and lather, dip and lather. If his father twirled the brush too quickly, water would slosh over the side of the mug, soaking its decorative sailboat.
“Sea’s rough today,” he’d say and Joe would grin.
After he left, Joe rescued the shaving kit from the bin.
Every night, Joe reaches under his bed for the mug and brush. Running his fingers over the ragged bristles, he closes his eyes and listens for the rasp of razor against skin.
Damhnait Monaghan is a Canadian writer, living in the UK for almost twenty years. Her flash fiction is widely published and anthologised and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best MicroFiction. She also writes creative non-fiction and short stories, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her flash fiction pamphlet The Neverlands was published in April, 2019 by V. Press. damhnaitmonaghan.com/
My hill by Paul Clark, North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand
Aching back. Doesn’t get any easier. It’s a mini-Everest these days as I growl and curse.
But each step is a separate smile.
I flew down here on my skateboard. First kiss with Kara at the bottom between the parked cars. On our wedding day, I carried her to the top and over the threshold, laughing. Heaved my kids up and down in prams while she rested. Carried her down in a box when she left me. This is my hill.
“Need help getting up, Grandad?” Callum asks, racing past.
“Fuck off!” I shout. Got to keep up appearances.
Paul M Clark is an English-born writer living in Auckland. A gradutate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he writes flash fiction, short stories and screenplays. As a former historian, he has a passion for historical fiction, but generally loves anything weird. He’s currently working on a series of script projects and in the process of completing his first novel. He drinks coffee and eats cheese.
On the other hand by Nora Nadjarian, Nicosia, Cyprus
On the one hand, it was summer. You were in love with the sea and what your body became in it. Your hair a wet tangle of black, your lips a loud giggle, your face salty and sinful. There was also the snake-eyed boy who beautifully, expertly poisoned you with his tongue.
On the other hand, it’s November – the world has turned old and cold. You’re on a bus and it’s raining. You want to scream. The old woman next to you is hardly breathing. “We’re all going somewhere,” she says as she turns to you. “Please hold my hand.”
Nora Nadjarian is an award-winning Cypriot poet and short story writer. She has published three collections of poetry: The Voice at the Top of the Stairs (2001), Cleft in Twain (2003) and 25 Ways to Kiss a Man (2004). Her poetry has been translated into German, Czech, Maltese, Arabic and Turkish.
Advent by Nan Wigington, Denver, Colorado, USA
What species isn’t born from failure? Husband gone, money gone, house, heart. I was looking for a warm place and slipped beneath the bridge. My neck snapped. The shell of my face shattered. Cells split, rearranged, blossomed. Death allowed darkness. Darkness remembered shadow. I saw fingers strengthen, nails grow and curl. My canines sharpened, ears triangulated. Bones shrank. My spine pushed through decay to become tail. The hair on my belly bristled. My words disassembled, came in purrs and snarls. Hungry again. I dreamed of water lilies. A backyard pond. I was catching. Scaling. Good fish. Oh, to eat.
Nan Wigington lives and works at the eastern edge of the U.S. Rocky Mountains. Her fiction has appeared in Pithead Chapel, Gravel, and (forthcoming) the 2019 Best Small Fictions anthology.
The town crier winked by Marissa Hoffmann, Oberaegeri, Switzerland
The family’s already gathered in the hallway when the funeral conductor removes his hat. The gate is open and behind him I see the hearse. Grandad’s daffodils aren’t yet in flower and there’s a frost. Grandad would have tapped the barometer, licked the edge of his mouth in concentration, announced better days coming like a town crier and winked at me. We all slide into the leather seats of the car and watch Jimmy next door twitch his smoke-stained net curtains; no more pools money to collect Friday then. None of us knows who’s in charge of hope now.
Marisssa Hoffman is originally from England but now lives and writes in Oberaegeri, Switzerland.
Firstborn by T. L. Sherwood, Springville, New York, USA
Harris is out on the tennis court teaching our son to dribble. For a toddler, Ben is doing pretty good. I stand at the sink, watching them, licking peanut butter from a spoon. A fight not that long ago led me to the filing cabinet to reread the prenup. If I go, my son stays behind. In the throes of lasting forever, I promised the world – my whole life. I remove a single, dry leaf and turn the windowsill planter a bit, hoping to channel better feng shui into this broken – but not quite ready to leave yet – home.
T. L. Sherwood’s work appears in Rosebud, New World Writing, and Vestal Review among other places. Her blog “Creekside Reflections” can be found here: http://tlsherwood.wordpress.com/
See me by Melanie Harding-Shaw, Wellington, New Zealand
Long hair reminds you of clutching seaweed. I shave. You linger near every rose. I tattoo myself with a floral army. Still, you do not see me.
You do not see me when I carve your likeness from trees that grow beneath my touch.
Nor notice when I shape the water running down your drain into letters of desire.
I lock my carvings away. Arm myself in tatters of despair. Accept I’m more floral creep than rose.
You see me then. Walk me to the ocean. We discover where my words washed to, and float together on tides of missives.
Melanie Harding-Shaw is a speculative fiction writer, policy geek, and mother-of-three from Wellington, New Zealand.
Impossibly small people on see-saws
by Jonathan Cardew, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
They’re just far away. Distant people. Strangely calm and reverent. See-sawing their lives away. Irreverent, really. Irreverent, possibly irrelevant relatives. Cousins and uncles and ex-whatevers and former lunch supervisors, all balancing out somehow. Your uncle Simon devoid of cancer. Your ex-boyfriend Sham not an arsehole anymore. That boy in Year Four with fangs. That girl in Year Five from France. Cooking with frangipane. Smoking with Sam and Pam. Just matchsticks now. Blissed-out, with smudged faces. Featureless. Fearless on teeter-totters. Miles away. Probably a kilometre. That’s no way to measure a life.
Jonathan Cardew’s stories appear or are forthcoming in Wigleaf, cream city review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, People Holding and Atticus Review, among others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and MicroViews column editor for Bending Genres. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
History lessons by Sylvia Petter, Australia/ Vienna, Austria
Ouch! You’ve dislodged it!
It’s just a theory.
No, the splinter.
I had to distract you.
What about the convicts?
Some were crims.
There was worse.
That’s your theory.
The ones who came over to keep the convicts in line.
Somebody had to.
The Cardinal. The mad monk. Some are still at it. Where d’ya think they came from? Not the poor convict buggers.
D’ya think it’s infected?
Nah, the bloody finger.
Better keep it clean.
We’re out of water.
Spit on it, then.
Sylvia Petter is an Australian now based in Vienna, Austria. She writes short and long, serious and fun. Her stories appear online, in magazines and anthologies. She was Co-Director Vienna of the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English, Vienna, 2014 and a founding member of the Geneva Writers’ Group. http://www.sylviapetter.com
I am changing my attitude to citrus fruit among other things by Rob Walton, Whitley Bay, UK
On Wednesday, John told me I wasn’t creative and smiled. On Friday, he said I should lighten up. On Saturday, at Kerry’s barbecue, he laughed and said I had a ‘cheap novella scent of oranges’. On Tuesday, I woke up. I squeezed lemon juice on my scarf before our lunch date. I washed in pomegranate juice. On the last day, I dabbed behind my ears with the television chef’s caper, coriander and lime vinaigrette. I shoved the key deep into the flesh of a kumquat, put it in the fruit bowl and laughed properly.
Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and lives on Tyneside with his family. His poetry appears in the Emma Press Slow Things anthology, Butcher’s Dog 5, Firewords Quarterly, Deseeded, Visual Verse and Northern Voices. His stories are published by IRON Press, Red Squirrel, New Writing North, Arachne and Shelter.
Musical break by Jeff Taylor, Hamilton, New Zealand
Our trio turned toxic when the new dude started on drums.
I watched, helpless, as he wooed her with fast-handed foreplay on his tom-toms and bongos. When I caught them backstage, his furtive fingers playing a virtuoso solo on her eager skin, I knew it was over.
We needed to split everything. ‘The geetar’s mine, the keyboard’s yours,’ I declared.
Hard decisions were needed about all the songs we’d written together.
I fumed. ‘The country, ballads, and blues are mine. You get the reggae shit and all the Latin American crap.’
Neither of us wanted any of our love songs.
Jeff Taylor is retired and living in Hamilton, concentrating on flash fiction and short stories for both adults and children. He particularly enjoys writing humour. He has been published at Flash Frontier and won the journal’s Summer Writing Award 2016.
My socially phobic inner voices as evoked by the prompt ‘doors’ by Jan Kaneen, Holywell, Cambridgeshire Fens, UK
a) On a Good day: portals, ways in, exciting thresholds into something new and thrilling. Full of potential. Moving forward and through. Ways out too. Clear escape routes.
b) On a bad day: barriers, locked, blocking, can’t see through, blind traps, prisons, keep out, turn back.
c) On a really bad day: pale ghosts. Hollow fingers inside, tap-tap-tapping. Don’t touch the handle. And threads of terror unravelling from my fingertips pulling me forward. Don’t touch the handle. And twisted whispers reeling me nearer, winding me nearer…don’t touch the handle…into the savage heart of whatever’s waiting on the… DON’T. GO. IN.
Jan Kaneen began creative writing in 2014 to see if she could, and signed up with the Open University. She’s now in her final year of a Creative Writing MA, still at the Open University, where she’s finishing her collection of weird short stories. She blogs at blogs at https://jankaneen.com/ and tweets as @Jankaneen1.
Donor by Tim Saunders, Palmerston North, New Zealand
We stand in cattle yards under the macrocarpa wrecked in the Wahine storm.
Wave at a couple of cyclists. Potential organ donors, you say.
And then we laugh like plovers, while over the ranges the last slice of the moon casts a shadow on your liver.
Tim Saunders farms sheep and beef near Palmerston North. He has published poetry and short stories in the NZ Listener and Flash Frontier, and won the 2018 Mindfood Magazine Short Story Competition. He performs poetry around the Manawatu and beyond.
My first time by Paul Negri, Clifton, New Jersey, USA
Gran was my first dead person and I was scared. I was six. Momma said not to be afraid, Gran still loved me and I had to kiss her goodbye. I stood on line behind my cousin Rita, who was ten, and waited my turn at the casket. Rita leaned over and kissed the air, not Gran, and stuck her tongue out at me. I stood on a little stool, bent over Gran’s frowning face, and fell on top of her. Rita laughed, Momma screamed, Dad jumped up to get me out. Gran just smiled. I smiled back at her.
Paul Negri has twice won the gold medal for fiction in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. His stories have appeared in Reflex Fiction, Penny Shorts, The Penn Review, Gemini Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and more than 30 other publications. He lives and writes in Clifton, New Jersey, USA.
Aftermath by Judy Darley, Bristol, UK
My father keeps me in his desk drawer, behind a quarter bottle of Glenfiddich.
I listen to the calls he makes to the hospital-recommended helpline.
While the phone rings, he slides the bottle out. I hear the slipslop of a glass filling, inhale the whisky’s earthy sting.
Then he says: “My daughter.”
I shudder as he stutters the syllables of my name.
“Forty-seven days,” he says.
Eventually the phone clicks down. I squeeze myself small enough not to be crushed as the drawer slams closed, and crouch in the darkness waiting for him to let go.
Judy Darley is a British writer who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her collection Sky Light Rain is due out in late 2019 from Valley Press. Find her at www.SkyLightRain.com and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.
Sweets by Barbara Leahy, Cork, Ireland
The sweet factory where he works is somewhere in the industrial maze behind her house. From her bedroom window, she sees the sprawl of gigantic metal containers and wonders which is his.
At night he smells of sweet, synthetic strawberry. He tells her that the noise of plastic cartons shuffling along the conveyor belt is like the march of distant feet. Thousands and thousands of faraway feet, drumming on a metal road.
You can’t imagine what it sounds like, he says.
Years later, she leaves her window open on summer nights and smells burnt sugar as she sleeps.
Barbara Leahy’s stories have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and won competitions including the Wells Festival of Literature Short Story Competition and the Words With Jam Shortest Story Competition. Find her work in the UK NFFD anthology, the Irish Literary Review and broadcast on Irish national radio.
Pearl diver by Jac Jenkins, Kohukohu, New Zealand
You watched your mother dab her throat with Femme before passing the pearls to your father. He fastened the clasp, fingers lingering. Later you weighed the strand in your tiny hands, seduced by the clean clack of pearls colliding in your palm.
Now they breathe with your scent. When your lover fastens the clasp, his fingers stumble on the pearl I pried from its oystery womb. My greased body burned under the ropes that lowered me to the ocean floor. Eighty seconds. One hundred feet. Nine times an hour. When I surfaced, the ocean hummed in my ears.
Jac Jenkins writes poetry and short prose. She is a past winner of the takahē Poetry Competition and is included in Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. She lives a generally quiet rural life with her partner in the Far North.
After the funeral by Patience Mackarness, Louvigne-du-Desert, Brittany, France
The room’s white walls suggest a nun’s cell, but Marie has different plans.
She’s only been here a day, but already the Glasgow years feel distant, with the colour and texture of cold mud. From the wrought-iron balcony she can see cobblestones and a lamp post, buttery Provençal light and blue-grey shadows. There’s a pavement café too, a grungier version of Van Gogh’s, nearly deserted in the hot afternoon.
She twists her mother’s red silk scarf around the balcony rail. If there were a crucifix, she would turn its face to the wall.
Patience Mackarness lives in Louvigne-du-Desert, Brittany, France for part of the year, and in a VW camper van for most of the summer months.
Introducing the 2019 Micro Madness feature artist, Suus Agnes, and her Micro Love series…
Suus Agnes is an author-illustrator and comics artist with a background in science communication, literary studies, and beekeeping. Her work takes a particular interest in environmental ethics and the underdog. She has been published in New Zealand, Australia and on online platforms, and exhibited in galleries and comics festivals locally and internationally, including in Russia, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands. As a PhD candidate at the Centre for Sustainability, Otago University, New Zealand, she currently works on a graphic novel about human relationships with ‘unloved’ microcommunities of invertebrates, moss, and fungi. www.suusagnes.com
Announcing the 2019 MICRO MADNESS Long List
(alphabetical by title)
Advent – Nan Wigington, Denver, Colorado, USA
After the funeral – Patience Mackarness, Louvigne-du-Desert, Brittany, France
Aftermath – Judy Darley, Bristol, UK
Built – Mary Thompson, London, UK
Donor – Tim Saunders, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Fermata – Len Kuntz, Snohomish, Washington, USA
Fine weather – Rachael Taylor, Christchurch, New Zealand
Firstborn – T. L. Sherwood, Springville, New York, USA
Go girl, girl goes, gone. – Heather McQuillan, Christchurch, New Zealand
History lessons – Sylvia Petter, Australia/ Vienna, Austria
I am changing my attitude to citrus fruit among other things – Rob Walton, Whitley Bay, UK
Impossibly small people on see-saws – Jonathan Cardew, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
In three movements – Marjory Woodfield, Christchurch, New Zealand
Meet me at the zoo – Brindi Joy, Christchurch, New Zealand
Mo(u)rning ritual – Damhnait Monaghan, Ringwood, UK
Musical break – Jeff Taylor, Hamilton, New Zealand
My father, the accountant – Sue Kingham, Christchurch, New Zealand
My first time – Paul Negri, Clifton, New Jersey, USA
My former selves – Henry Bladon, Somerset, UK
My hill – Paul Clark, Belmont, North Shore / Auckland, New Zealand
My socially phobic inner voices as evoked by the prompt ‘doors’ – Jan Kaneen, Holywell, Cambridgeshire Fens, UK
Night flights – David Cook, Bridgend, Wales, UK
On the other hand – Nora Nadjarian, Nicosia, Cyprus
Pearl diver – Jac Jenkins, Kohukohu, New Zealand
Pierre & Gaston – Emil Bragg
Rags meets scrags – Leanne Drain, Aveley , Essex, UK
Refugees rock on – Garrick Batten, Brightwater, New Zealand
Revelator – Vivian Thonger, Kerikeri, New Zealand
See me – Melanie Harding-Shaw, Wellington, New Zealand
Siege of Kut – Nandini Sen Gupta, Pondicherry, India
Skin – Margaret O’Brien, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
Splinters – Anita Goveas, London, UK
Sweets – Barbara Leahy, Cork, Ireland
That’s life – Jude Higgins, Bristol, UK
The cleaning lady was my first love – Mahesh Nair, New York City, USA
The dream catchers – Martin Porter, Whangarei, New Zealand
The fixer – Jo Goren, Moreland Hills, Ohio, USA
The strong man breaks down at the swingers club – Jesse Bradley, Orlando, Florida, USA
The suitcase – Trish Palmer, Stanley Brook/ Nelson, New Zealand
The town crier winked – Marissa Hoffmann, Oberaegeri, Switzerland
The woodpecker – Nicholas Fairclough, Richmond, Tasman District, New Zealand
This is how Bahia, my adopted spectacled bear, greeted me when I visited her in the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey ~ after she slapped away the male bear with her claws out – Agnes Marton, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Throw away the doormat – Melanie Dixon, Christchurch, New Zealand
Tī kōuka – Susan Wardell, Dunedin, New Zealand
Tunnel vision – Susan Borgersen, Nova Scotia, Canada
What le(a)d me here? – Marcus Hobson, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
When something stops being immortal, it’s hard not to look away – Alison Glenny, Paekakariki, New Zealand
Winter in Alaska – Katharine Derrick, Kerikeri, New Zealand
With one eye on the cows – Annette Edwards-Hill, Wellington, New Zealand
The SHORT LIST will be posted beginning June 1, when we post a story a day, leading up to the third place, second place and first place stories, shared June 20, 21 and 22, respectively.
The 2019 judges:
K.M. Elkes lives and works in the West Country. He is the author of the flash fiction collection All That Is Between Us, published by Ad Hoc Fiction in May 2019. He has won or been placed in a number of international writing competitions, including the Manchester Fiction Prize, the Bridport Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Fish Publishing Prize. His short fiction has been published in nearly 30 print anthologies, as well as literary magazines such as Unthology, The Lonely Crowd, Structo and Litro. He is a short story tutor for Comma Press and has led workshops at the UK Flash Fiction Festival and for National Flash Fiction Day UK. His work has featured on BBC radio and on school and college curricula in the USA, India and China.
Iona Winter (Waitaha/Pākehā) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her work has been widely published and anthologised. Most recently, her story ‘Toetoe’, from her debut collection then the wind came (Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2018), was selected for the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology (USA) and she was shortlisted in the 2018 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award. You can find her flash in Bonsai, Reflex Fiction, Bath Flash Fiction, Ora Nui, Meniscus and Flash Frontier. She is currently working on a new manuscript of hybrid fiction and poetry, and a collaborative project with sonic and visual artists.
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Enjoy previous years’ winning entries below
Micro Madness 2018
22 stories for 22 days of June
Selected by judges Christopher Allen and Jac Jenkins
Spring – Sarah Scott
Wellington, New Zealand
Today I am wearing your cardigan, spun from the live wires of spring lambs, the colour of hokey pokey ice cream left on the bench. You had set it out for me when I had a full boy in my belly. I felt like I’d been licked by dew. Never mind what you had seen me do and turned a blind ear back to tuis in the magnolia, the drowning refs’ whistles there. I practically jump with the electricity still in your hair.
Sarah Scott’s work has recently been published in journals such as Landfall, Turbine and UpCountry. She lives in Wellington.
Dust – Stephanie Hutton
Staffordshire, England (but in her mind she is always in a village by the sea)
At night I turn to dust, just to practise.
My husband thinks that I’m out on the town, on the razz, on my back. But I’m sprinkled softly on the surface of everyday things.
I long for a breeze to scatter me from this pillow, this book, this ornament. Or to escape into the night on the wing of a moth. But all is still.
By sunrise, I reform – my particles not quite in place. He kisses the top of my head as if I’m the same wife as yesterday.
Stephanie Hutton is a short fiction writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. Her novella Three Sisters of Stone was shortlisted for Bath Novella-in-Flash award and is published by Ellipsis Zine.
The Stairwell – Heather McQuillan
Christchurch, New Zealand
Dad calls my name. My coffee is too hot so I inhale it before answering, “ah-hah?” eyes rolling upwards.
“Have you seen the stairs?”
So far it’s been keys, glasses, shoes he accuses me of moving.
“Did you look where you left them?” I wipe crumbs and the ring of a teacup from the bench.
“You used them last.”
“No, you just went back up for something or other.”
I step into the gap between downstairs and upstairs. Across the empty space I see him, his lips trembling, and me with no way to get to him.
Heather McQuillan writes and teaches writing. She recently completed a Master thesis on flash fiction and has a collection of very short stories in need of a publisher.
Judges’ Notes: Christopher Allen and Jac Jenkins
CA:The top three stories are so varied in their approach to the micro. The first-place winner is a second-person and intimate one-sided conversation that shows how important the unsaid is in very short narratives. The second-place winner uses innovative language to render the dynamics of a familiar relationship. The third-place winner uses setting so well. All three stories are memorable and tight.”
JJ: Going into the Micro Madness judging process, I thought we were simply looking for well-written stories. But it quickly became apparent that it was more complicated than that. What is a story? What is not enough story — or too much, told too clearly? What is it that makes a great story – that particular quality that separates it from a good story? What decision is the best decision when there are several beautifully written stories with a disappointing last line or a single clunky or clichéd phrase that stands out in the middle. What about a strong piece that has grammatical or spelling errors?The top three stories all had something that stood out as different, or striking, or intriguing. For me it was how they created an almost physical tingle, not necessarily on first read, but a sensation that made me curious about this new world I was being introduced to. A world in which stairs can be lost. A world that quietly rearranges a person every night. A world that springs with electricity.
The Girl and the Catfish – Gail Ingram
Christchurch, New Zealand
She wants out. It’s not just the water she’s in, contained by an invisible wall; it’s the affinity she has with the catfish sliding around her legs.Do something, she says.
And now I know the water’s going to rise, creep over her waist, her flat chest, her cropped hair while she focuses fixedly forward, doing nothing.
But I can.
I take the picture down and crack the frame over my thigh, puncturing the canvas.
The green water pours over my lap. Two tears slide down my cheeks, tickle like whiskers at my chin, then vanish into the mud-grey floor.
Winner of the NZPS International Poetry Competition and Pushcart nominee for short fiction, Gail Ingram has been widely published in New Zealand and overseas. https://www.theseventhletter.nz/
CSA – Chris Espenshade
New York, US
Ramsey had sought a CSA buckle for years, spending his free time detecting Civil War battlefields of northern Georgia. He was systematic, determined. He felt nothing better represented the Lost Cause than a CSA buckle.Ramsey’s detector spoke. A complex signal, high range suggesting fine metal, mid-range typical of lead projectiles. Ramsey excavated the buckle, overjoyed, but something was wrong. Directly on the S, there was an impacted ball. This buckle saved a Rebel’s life! Ramsey posted his find, #evocative and #tellsastory.
Later, Ramsey re-examined the projectile, a .54 Mississippi rifle round. Confederate. Evocative but not the story he imagined.
Chris Espenshade is an archaeologist by trade, in northeastern Pennsylvania. He began exploring creative writing in 2017, and has found flash fiction works for him.
Rattus Rattus– Rachel Smith
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
It begins as nothing much. A few things missing. Spoiled food to throw out. A hole in the back of my favourite dress.If you mend it right no one will ever know, he says.
Gnaw marks in the crotch of my knickers. A sore on my big toe that won’t heal. Crusted eyelids.
You take everything so personally, he says.
When I wake the next night, for the first time I see the furrow between your narrow eyes, how damp incisors rest on your lower lip. I rub my eyes, feel the bite of your breath on my face.
Rachel Smith lives and writes in the Cook Islands. She placed second in the 2017 NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition. She is the fiction editor for the New Zealand literary journal takahē.
That Thing You Carry – Alyssa Jordan
Your daughter dances under water. She moves freely, heedless of the need for air. She is so carefree that it makes your mouth tighten, your teeth clench. Protecting her has become the ultimate study in fragility. You can’t help but count her bones when the swimsuit stretches over the sharp jut of her ribs. You’re hyper-aware of the light that dimples on her small, soft head, and the way it seems to shatter when she breaks the surface.
Alyssa Jordan is a junior editor at Tethered by Letters. Her work has appeared in publications such as Reflex Fiction, 100 Word Story and CHEAP POP. Follow her on Twitter @ajordan901.
Land of the Lost (And Found) – Patrick Pink
Auckland, New Zealand
That winter the Sleestak invasion was fierce. You said quick, let’s hide. I thought closet, but you meant bed. You said get close and I wrapped my arms around you and you did, too, believing the lizard horde could never find us if we only held on tight. Hearts beating wildly, we stayed like that until your older brother barged in and called us homos and we knew that such a word said like that wounded more than the savage claws of bipedal reptiles as we fumbled to discover their secret knowledge for returning us home to our own time.
The Bridge – Sue Kingham
Christchurch, New Zealand
On my short legs the walk to Grandpa’s took forever. Sky, grey on the going, was gold on our return. A railway bridge marked the boundary between our worlds. I’d stretch my neck and balance on tiptoes, peering up the iron panels. I wondered what kingdoms, jungle or paradise lay below.One day, in the middle of the bridge, Grandpa scooped me up and swung me towards the summer sun. Over the barrier I saw coke bottles, shopping trolleys and discarded tyres. I fell back to earth and landed on a rust stain from the bridge’s bleeding bolts.
Sue Kingham lives in Christchurch but her short stories and flash fictions are often inspired by her north of England roots or her travels.
Big Brother – Melanie Harding-Shaw
Wellington, New Zealand
Margaret watched the tired woman push her baby towards playgroup. She handed Amanda a coffee as she entered “How are you?”“Fine, Tommy is learning to stand.” Amanda tugged her sleeve down over the flashing emotion-monitor on her wrist a moment too late. Margaret saw and pulled the woman into a hug. “No, you’re not. How long has the depression alarm been going?”
Amanda’s shoulders slumped. “A day maybe.”
“We don’t have much time then. Come on, let’s talk it through.”
Amanda held tight to her son and followed Margaret as her eyes looked behind her for child services.
Melanie Harding-Shaw lives in Wellington, New Zealand and writes speculative fiction. You can follow her writing on facebook.
Fin – Judy Darley
Judy Darley Bristol, England
Each time the fin whale rose, it was closer to the tourist boat. Rachel felt herself singled out by the deep-set, knotted gaze.Back at home, a sensation grew within her, like the echo of a sight. Then the sky turned to rain, and the cellar began to flood.
A subtle reek of salt wafted from the waves, heaving against brick walls.
In the shadow of the cellar’s depths, a fin broke through.
Rachel held her breath as the whale surfaced. Its gaze met hers and she shivered with the thrill of seeing and being seen.
Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist. Her second collection Sky Light Rain will be out from Valley Press in autumn 2019. Find Judy at http://www.skylightrain.com.
A Shaft of Light – Anita Goveas
The children’s faces are buttered with sunshine and breaded with aloo paratha. Meena’s plait unravels further as she prises Priya’s sticky fingers from the tiffin-box and Arjun’s guilty fingers from his eyes. “We’re surprising Daddy. Wait, na, bacchas.”They round the corner to the knife-like offices at Canary Wharf, blinded by aggressive sunbeams.
When Meena stops blinking, Dillip is tucking a lock of hair behind the ear of a blonde-bobbed woman in a tailored grey suit and kitten-heels. Meena looks at the fresh masala stain on her yellow kurtha.
“Chulo, Daddy’s busy. Again. Let’s go to Nana’s house.”
Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and flash fiction is her message in a bottle. Some wash up, most recently in Dime Show Review and Literary Orphans.
Honeymoon Reservations – Damhnait Monaghan
Canada / UK
The bed is scattered with petals; a bottle of Bollinger chills in the ice bucket. He says it’s not the room he booked. She says it’s perfect. He says it’s not ocean view. She says tonight’s about what goes on inside the bedroom. He says I was promised ocean view. She says I was promised happily ever after, but I’m starting to wonder. She says he can pop the cork or complain about the room. He says men can multi-task too. He argues with Reception while she twists her ring, wondering why it feels a little tight.
Damhnait Monaghan is a Canadian who now lives in the UK. Her flash is regularly published in print and online, most recently in Flash Nonfiction Funny (Woodhall Press), Jellyfish Review and Mslexia Magazine.
In the Wash – Andre Lepine
New York, US
A mattress floated ashore today, cover crusted in barnacles. Tattered bed-sheet remnants trailed behind, jellyfish streamers.Sateen-type sheets on a twin, it could have been his.
Seawater had cleared the stains of Red Bull and sweat. Ocean stench had replaced Armani cologne. Other traces I found: rips on the edge from clenching nails, dents near the center from crashing hips, chestnut hairs among the tatters.
Grit fills my mouth instead of memories. Nadine’s a fine castaway companion. Still my parched soul longs to drown in Red Bull and sweat.
“S.O.S.” I write in the bottle.
Sheets of Sateen.
André Lepine writes short fiction while commuting between full-time gigs as a Dad and training coordinator in New York. After hours, he doodles and writes about pachyderms on ElephantsNever.com.
Emotional Instinct – Louise Mangos
Gone astray three thousand years ago, he lies face down in the melting ice.I want to tell him I know what it’s like to be lost. I want to connect to something far from my own fractured life, something that doesn’t hinge on a father with dementia, a best friend with cancer, an acrimonious divorce.
He is stretchered into the truck. The next time I see him scientists will be touching his leathered body, their excitement belittling his stature.
As he is driven away, I want to curl up in the hollow he’s left behind in the glacial moraine.
Louise is a compulsive writer and drinker of prosecco. She lives on a Swiss Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @LouiseMangos or visit her website www.louisemangos.com for links to more of her stories.
22 Bees – Gaynor Jones
My city thrums, hums, buzzes with noise, joy, fun, laughter. I raise my daughter here, protected by the innocence of false security. It will never happen to us.After. After the new noise, after the explosion, after the tears, after the poem, after the impromptu songs, after my city bares its defiance like lion’s teeth, we venture back together, cautiously.
My daughter, unknowing, squeals and points at a yellow and black mural that has appeared overnight. I fight back tears to protect her. I must always protect her. I clutch her hand as I count the bees.
Gaynor Jones is a writer of micro, flash and short fiction from Manchester, UK. Website http://www.jonzeywriter.com.
The world she sang, and singing made – Marjory Woodfield
New Zealand / Middle East
(after Wallace Stevens)Louise stands beside the piano. Breathes from her diaphragm. Sings Tell Me Gentle Shepherd. My mother says not to forget the final consonants. Upstairs my father listens to the music of spheres. Writes instructions for a Star Finder. A new book. Earth in Space. Louise leaves, consonants packed into a music bag, L.M.A. on the outside. Maria sings Happiness. André kneels, clasps hands. Christopher Robin is Saying His Prayers.
On my piano there are books. To Music, La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin, Gymnopédies. In London, a small boy plays May Song on his violin. At the end, bows.
Marjory Woodfield has recently returned to New Zealand after living in Saudi Arabia. A Bath Ad Hoc Fiction winner, she’s also been publishedbytakahē, Star 82, Flash Frontier and Raven Chronicles.
Lividity – Tommy Dean
The shower stall at camp, china doll white, the scar on your wrist, a mangled guitar chord, the last solo you intended to play. A counselor’s body shadowing the curtain, a parental request to assure your safety.At home, divorce fizzles in the air like the shadow of a kamikaze jet, spiraling. So they packed you off against your therapist’s concerns. Pulled between the personal and the professional, you’re not sure who to obey, who to shock with your possible self-destruction.
The water, a halo against the providential threat of future self-harm, runs in rivulets down your other unmarked wrist.
Elaine Dillon tweets from @Elaine_d_writer, or you can follow elainedillonwriter.com. Her work can be found in Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Inside the Bell Jar andFlash Frontier.
How I Live Now the Demons Have Gone – Sharon Telfer
When I was twelve, I took up with a poltergeist. We hurled chairs, slammed doors, smashed bottles to glitter, Catherine-wheeled to the ceiling. We chanted like harmonic toads. My parents called a priest who held me down with cold, carbolic hands.
Now I work in a tower of glass. The doors slide open without sound. I walk one inch above the ground in sensible heels. I recite long numbers with my heavy tongue. Occasionally, I bring home lovers. Over their shoulders, I watch the ceiling fan circle, round and round and round.
Sharon Telfer loves writing anything but author bios. She discovered flash in 2015 and has won the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize and the Thresholds Feature Writing Competition.
The Swing – Elaine Dillon
Auckland, New Zealand
We watched as you bolted the iron pieces together, drove each leg a foot into the earth. The seat, a slab of wood, hung from industrial chains that left our hands oily, or with an orange coat, depending on how recently you’d cleaned them. You liked to grab the poles to show us how the frame never shuddered, to tell us it would always be here.25 years later and it stands still. I walk by somebody else’s garden, remembering my metallic hands, and how my split ends brushed the grass as the clouds swayed.
Dividing Time – Diane Simmons
‘Can we go to the cinema, Dad?’I take in Sam’s excited face and give in. When we get home, I help with his homework. Soon bored with that, he nags to play chess.
Later, I think about all the outings we do together now, the hours he spends watching films with his mum. We used to make sure things were equal when our children were young.
I get up early the next day, buy roses from Sophie’s favourite florist, walk slowly to the park. There, I tie the flowers to my daughter’s bench.
I sit a while and chat.
Widely published, Diane Simmons is an editor for FlashFlood, helps organise the UK Flash Festival and reads for BSSA. Her debut collection will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019.
Rue des Moulins – Lee Hamblin
London, England / Greece
On the second floor, a cherry-lipped Madame unlocks one of the four-panelled doors set a spanned hand apart. The room is lit like dusk: sunset reflected in mirror tiles. Imagine Lautrec sketching a willow-haired girl haloed in moonlight. I am no longer that girl. The rug is striped like a zebra, the bed more utilitarian than alluring, and there’s one wooden chair in the corner. A pungent sniff of lust smoulders from every deep-rooted hollow. I’m told to rest for an hour, and drown in a sea of tears, trying to un-hear the sounds leaching through paper-thin walls.
Jac Jenkins writes poetry, flash and micro-fiction. She has recently also experimented with creative non-fiction, enjoying the lyric essay and non-fiction short for their genre-crossing nature. Jac’s work can be found in Turbine, the anthology Penguin Days, and Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction, and one of her flashes will appear this year in the forthcoming Bonsai anthology (CUP). She won the Northland Regional Prize of the National Flash Fiction Day Competition three years running and is a past winner of the takahē Poetry Competition. She likes to think she lives a quiet rural life despite having spent a recent year exploring her capabilities in the Northern Territory of Australia and another participating in Victoria University of Wellington’s MA in Creative Writing. She currently lives with her partner on a farm in the Far North.
June 22 — FIRST PLACE
The Broom of Sisyphus by Santino Prinzi UK
Dad is outside sweeping fallen leaves from the driveway. Again.
Santino Prinzi, from the UK, is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day (UK), Flash Fiction Editor for Firefly Magazine, and a First Reader for Vestal Review. His debut flash fiction collection Dots and other flashes of perception is available from The Nottingham Review Press. For more information visit his website: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com
June 21 — SECOND PLACE
Taking her in by Gail Ingram, New Zealand
The officer would’ve looked plain, even boyish as he asked, How much? He used the beamer that day, his jacket slung across the available seat, strains of Red Hot Chili Peppers ribboning through exhaust fumes … with birds I share this lonely view…
I was on duty when he brought her in, a bracelet of raw skin shadowing her cuffs. I saw how she might’ve bounced, brazen, up to his window, tossing her ponytail in the way a dog in the Second-Chance Pound might wag its tail and woof at strangers, sensing this one, at last, has a kind face.
Gail Ingram has flash published in New Zealand and overseas. She lives in Christchurch on the golden hills.
Flightless by Judy Darley, UK
She named it Dragon, made it friend and shelter in one. At night she huddled in moss-mottled airline seats and invented stories of flights through skies of flaming stars. She tried to recall fairy tales from her youth, but she’d been alone so long all that remained were shreds. She told Dragon about streets without jungle and towers without trees. Then she imagined something that might have been true – the click of seatbelts as Dragon fell. She couldn’t recall what came after, only the happiness of finding Dragon again: rusting doors agape and sightless windows welcoming her home.
Toilet humour by Keith Nunes, New Zealand
I’m a 52 year old guy sitting on the toilet when my teenage step-daughter barges in and then backs out.
“You should lock the door,” she says, standing outside the door.
“You should knock,” I say.
“If you locked the door I wouldn’t have to knock.”
“If you knocked I wouldn’t have to lock it. That lock only has so many lockings in its lifetime and I don’t want to waste them needlessly.”
She laughs, trundling down the hall, calling out to her sister.
“That guy’s a fruit cake,” she says.
“I know,” the other one says.
Keith Nunes lives beside Lake Rotoma near Rotorua and on occasion has poems/short fiction published around parts of the globe.
A Matter of Taste by Sally Syson, UK
Dessert, the pièce de resistance, is an enormous bead of living amber, a bucketful of insects suspended in a sphere of frozen honey. By the time the waiters have cleared away the last of the bones and wiped the blood from the floor, the honey is melting and the insects are slowly coming back to life. As if waking to a sudden spring, butterflies shake out the damp white handkerchiefs of their wings, and groggy flies sit up rubbing their hands. Beetles tap their mandibles upon the table, one hundred tiny alarm clocks counting down to death:
Tick, tick, tock.
Sally Syson lives in North West England, where she works as a medical doctor. Her short fiction has been listed for the Manchester Fiction Prize and The London Magazine Short Story Competition, and published by The Manchester Review.
Close by Agnes Marton, Luxembourg
Bob, my secretary, is an oak drawer of a man, this is where I hide remnants of my non-bossical life.
Once he ordered eighty pairs of turquoise bamboo socks of the wrong size for Christmas (cheap in bulk) on eBay. I got fifty, a chicklish nest for my schnauzer to yawn on.
Bob’s on a diet; he munches daffodils while burying his barking scalp in Wordsworth, pretending he’s busy with filing. I start humming Moon River in my office, desperate to get over Thursday. In a sec he joins me outside, the walls echo his clumsy brum-brummm.
Agnes Martonis a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Reviews Editor of The Ofi Press and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is based in Luxembourg. Her recent publications include Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry (winning the Saboteur Award), her poetry collection Captain Fly’s Bucket List and two chapbooks with Moria Books (USA).
Engulfment by Zoë Meager, New Zealand
Our sheets went up in flames that night and Icarus, I melted. Plummeted through billowing gold and orange smoke while her moon face, far below me, slumbered on.
Kneeling over me next morning, her hair drew long curtains around us. “You read too much into things,” she laughed, and reached out a hand.
“That woman,” friends said, snarling, “leaves scorch marks.”
But it wasn’t her fault I got burned. The dragon tattoo on her back; I never told her it had woken up.
Zoe Meager lives and writes in Christchurch.
Your father carries time in his pocket by Heather McQuillan, New Zealand
He keeps it in a tobacco tin, takes pinches of it between fingers stubby and stained, calloused from years spent gripping tools. You’d always thought his smokes grew on kauri trees.
Your father sniffs at time, drawing in through nostrils a long while. He closes his eyes against the decreasing seconds. He gifts you these moments. He doesn’t ask for thanks. Just for you to hear his lungs breathing in and out. Knowing him, for that time.
My father was improvident. He ran out of time in an ocean rip. His final breath, when I was only eleven, was salt.
Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes, reads, and teaches writing.
Crumbs by Jude Higgins, UK
For their anniversary, she bought him a runcible spoon and served them manchego cheese with quince.
‘I would have preferred a burger,’ he said, turning over the spoon.
‘What this for?’
She recalled those days on their beautiful pea-green boat and wanted to say, call me ‘Lovely pussy, oh pussy my love,’ like you always used to. Let’s dance under the moon and find that bong tree. Then everything will be okay.
But he piled the cheese and quince on top of a hunk of bread, spilling crumbs on the floor.
Neither of them bothered to clear up the mess.
Jude Higgins’s flash fictions have been published in Flash Frontier, Blue Fifth Review, NFFD, UK anthologies, Great Jones Street and The Nottingham Review among other places. Her debut flash fiction pamphlet is forthcoming from V. Press. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award in the UK.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, US/ UK
Steel City, 1920
In those days, we rolled cigarettes instead of gołąbki. We rolled as we fed our babies, rolled between stirs of meatless stew. Then, we’d fill our baskets and descend from Polish Hill, down into a world humming with cars and English. We perched on streetcorners and sold our cigarettes to passers-by who never said hello, who looked not at our faces but at our fingers stained tobacco brown. And when we got home with clutches of pennies, we’d roll those too. We’d roll that copper around in our hands, and imagine filling cabbage rolls with beef.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski lives in the UK but grew up in Vincennes, Indiana. Her great grandparents immigrated to the US from Poland, and lived for a time in the area known as Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. www.ingridj.com @LunchOnTuesday
Double fatality — the morning after by Fiona Lincoln, New Zealand
A high window is ajar. Warm air sways the net curtain. Edward sits tall on the sill, stripes aligned and paws clean under his thin tail, perfectly curled. His face is arranged: disdain, tinged with sorrow. They’ll see him the moment they open the gate. Their remorse will be great. They’ll rush inside. Croon his name. Overfill his empty bowl.
They don’t come, and don’t come.
Mid-morning, Edward breaks his pose. He slips under the curtain, downstairs, and outside. He lies, full stretch, across the hot front path. He yawns, as if he doesn’t care.
A hollow afternoon approaches.
Fiona Lincoln is a New Zealand writer. She lives and works. She also writes. Her recent flash fiction has been published in Flash Frontier and shortlisted for The Best Small Fictions 2016, the Bridport Prize 2015 and 2016, and the 2015 National Flash Fiction Day competition (NZ).
Anchor by Iona Winter, New Zealand
Now Mum’s in a wheelchair people think she’s lost her voice, and her hinengaro.
‘What’s wrong with her?’ they say.
‘Ask her yourself, she’s not a fucking retard,’ I reply.
‘Ssshh Julia, turituri!’ Mum hisses.
humans can be so bloody stupid
She’s dying. Our connection stretched to its thinnest point.
Her world is smaller, with everything viewed at waist height.
It’s here she receives uncomfortable smiles, and eyes cast downwards.
Mum’s had a shit of a life.
at sea my anchor is pulled deep below
And when she leaves a vast chasm of distance will exist between us.
Iona Winter (Māori/Pākehā) writes short fiction and lives in Te Waipounamu.
The janitors blend bleach with water. They spray kitchens, remove perishables from fridges and shelves. They systematize sugar, salt, hydrogenated fat. Wait until teeth rot and tumors grow and blood turns toxic. They gut schools and drain the Internet of truth. Handle money in exchange for pills. Wait again, scrubbing, scouring, then handle houses in exchange for naught. They declutter streets, parks, beaches. Wipe out resistance. Collect the crippled and sling them over walls, dump them onto plastic boats. Burn the dead. All finished, the janitors wash their hands and lean back, admiring their dirt-free home.
Claire Polders is a cynical optimist seeking balance in contradictions. Born in the Netherlands, she now resides in Paris with her American husband. Her virtual self lives at www.clairepolders.com.
In Biology, Ms. Simpson paired each one of us with a boy for every microscope, in the name of symmetry. We learned the rules of cell multiplication and its phases, while boys performed their mating dances. Behind the cafeteria, we showed them how to spell ‘amoeba.’ They taught us how to use the muscles in our tongues.
On tables covered in fake leather, our bodies learned the feel of the cold loop, arresting proliferations in our wombs. We remembered the cells on the illuminated end of the magnifying glass, frozen mid-mitosis. We chanted our anthem— the rules of division.
As an antidote to the anything-but-sunny German spring, Sophie van Llewyn just decided to start writing the fantasy novel she’d been dreaming about for years. You can wish her good luck @sophie_van_l.
Once said it could not be unsaid. Such is the nature of curses.
Katie tried to forget, but it crept around the edges of her thoughts, like black ink moving through tissue paper.
No one had seen her take the money, Katie was sure. Who would believe the accusation of a batty old woman? And the curse? Only words – they have no power.
A trip, a spill, a parking ticket. And when she finds the moths infesting her carpet, she knows.
But the curse cannot be stopped. At night it stalks her mind, switching off the lights.
Celia Coyne’s fiction appears in various journals and anthologies. She lives in Christchurch, where she enjoys writing and taking photographs. See more of both on her website: www.mybeautifulsky.com.
Belinda ate when she was happy, ate when she was sad. Ate when she was in a relationship, ate when she wasn’t. To find a lover, Belinda tried dieting. She called the Atkins Diet the Fatkins Diet. That made her friends laugh. She said the Dr Hay Diet made her a little hoarse. They laughed more. Of the Israeli Army Diet she said, “Diet schmiet!” She decided laughter made her happy. And fell roundly in love with Barry, a man generous in every way. They lived large and died happy. Their pallbearers shed pounds.
John Holland is a prize-winning short fiction writer from Gloucestershire in the UK, who likes to take his stories on the road. He also runs the twice-yearly event Stroud Short Stories. Websites www.johnhollandwrites.com and http://stroudshortstories.blogspot.co.uk/
The river is no longer in flood; the savage roar muted. We take our girl to show her the threat is gone. No need for more nightmares, we say.
‘The river’s part of our whanau,’ Nanny says.
‘Our friend,’ we say.
Our girl smiles and cups water in her hands.
Further out, from beneath the frowning bank, bubbles rise.
As the serpent-shaped head lifts, our girl begins to scream ‘Taniwha! Taniwha!’
We are city people now. ‘No, no,’ we say, laughing. ‘It’s only an old-man eel.’
Nanny watches on, feigning agreement.
We scan the fish shape for signs of slyness.
Vivienne Merrill lives in Lower Hutt. She prefers the sea to the river, which is full of guile: greedy for foolish people.
The man’s fingers were stained with blood. I thought nothing in life would happen to me if I was not sometimes still. He flicked away the tick, and I wondered how long it would take to turn to dust. I had recently received an email from an old boyfriend who wrote in a friendly way, as if he had not been a bad boyfriend. The man led me to the sink. I watched the blood swirl down the drain. He touched my calf where the tick had gone in. Just to do it. I said, “I sometimes forget I’m human.”
Laurie Stone is the author of My Life as an Animal, Stories. More at lauriestonewriter.com.
My father’s reading to me: Kipling’s illustrated Just So Stories. Delicate vapour strands split from the glowing cigarette tip, coiling upwards. His bald head’s wreathed in a blue smoke nest.
Fog hovers over the packed ashtray on the bedside table. I’ve lined up his Camels packet and my inhaler, side by side like two dolls.
He goes slowly so we can read my favourite line together, ‘puffing up and puffing up into a great big lolloping humph’. His voice rumbles, mine wheezes out the words.
Our hands touch and recoil: I’m reaching for the inhaler; he’s reaching for the packet.
Vivian Thonger has lived, written and performed in London, Washington DC, the Netherlands and Cornwall, and is now found in Kerikeri.
When two isotopes of the element Hydrogen collide under extreme heat, like cars crashing into each other at high speed, they lose fragments of themselves, forming particles and creating energy so powerful the pieces fuse to form an entirely new molecule, which happens over and over until eventually some find the surface and 150 million kilometres later light filters through the blinds into our rooms laying a thin line across the textbooks where we sit unsure, wondering about the enormity of it all and whether this thing happening really is the meaning of everything we’ve ever thought of being.
Steven Moss is a creative writing student from Manchester, UK.
With care the father places his three children on the sofa, legs ram-rod straight. For a tray they use one long plank. There is no mother.
With kindling pile on one side of the grate and logs on the other, the fire blazes — wood crackles and sparks. Flames dance in orange and yellow delight. Outside is icy sleet.
The leather fire bellows have Eastside House intricately carved into one wooden side.
He hands each a plate, the corncobs drip with butter.
“Straight from my garden,” he says. His blue eyes twinkle — “You will always remember this.”
He is right.
Pamella Laird has written for many years, has published or helped publish five books and is about to publish a collection of short stories to aid fund-raising for Nth Shore Hospices. She now lives in Orewa, north of Auckland.
~ ~ ~
My mother, a beagle-breeder and amateur stigmeologist, showed me the space that can be held in punctuation: how we can exhale commas into chaos, settling a paragraph as a hound winding down around its tail to rest, nose propped on the basket’s edge; how the question mark with its raised brow opens the eyes to that tock between two thoughts; how the full stop holds the tongue of the panting sentence against the next rush of unleashed sound.
My mother said that flesh is a hyphen, holding soul to soil. Life with five beagles is a chaos of leashes.
Jac Jenkins is currently learning how to live a metropolitan life in Wellington after many years in rural New Zealand. She has by necessity found music in the noise of the motorway that provides a continuous drone through her tenth-floor window.
Frances Gapper‘s third story collection, In the Wild Wood, will be published in June 2017 by Cultured Llama Press. Her other collections are The Tiny Key (Sylph Editions, 2009) and Absent Kisses(Diva Books, 2002).
Rachel Smith is a freelance writer, her favourite forms being short and flash fiction, and poetry. Her work is regularly found in Flash Frontier, where she won the Winter Writing Award in 2016. Last year her flash fiction was included in Micro Madness and Commended for NZ National Flash Fiction Day. Her work has also appeared in JAAM and takahē, and she was long listed for Reflex FictionSpring2017. At the end of last year Rachel joined takahē as Joint Fiction Editor and she is also a member of the South Islands Writers’ Association.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
After a lifetime of swallowing words, her oesophagus is lined with arguments that blister the walls. Things unsaid stick in her craw so that a doctor must push down a tube and lens to see what it is that obstructs her gullet.
The camera reveals a coral channel eroded into corrugations by a habit of ingested clauses, and pearly nodules of secreted nacre, a protection against irritants that have been glossed over.
In the maw, he says, he sees cells inflamed with rage. When he tells her,
The cure, it comes with adverse side effects, she has nothing to say.
Heather McQuillan writes poetry, flash and children’s stories and she tutors young writers. She has a view of the sea and of mountains from her office window and often gets distracted.
Drowning is a silent thing, quicker than you expected. There was no flailing, no panicked cries echoing over the ocean: just a quiet, gentle sinking. Maybe it was a cramp, the paramedics tell me. We’re sorry for your loss.
I live in a small town, far away from oceans. We like simple things here: watermelons, corn fields, cows. We don’t like drama. “Where’s your husband,” people ask when I return home alone. Because I love you, I lie.
“Went off with another woman,” I say, shrugging, surrendering my heart to the salty brine.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski likes cryptic crosswords, the game of go, and the python programming language; links to her writing can be found at www.ingridj.com.
For her birthday, her husband baked four cakes in the shape of letters. At least he tries, she thought.
While he was upstairs, she briefly rearranged the letters to spell ‘vole’. Only last week, she’d encountered a vole on a forest track. They’d gazed at each other for a long moment – the best eye contact she’d made in years.
Later, at the party, everybody said it was a shame to cut into the letters and ruin the word. But nobody refused a slice.
In the end, there was nothing left.
Jude Higgins organises Bath Flash Fiction Award in the UK and loves everything about the short-short form.
The net was old, frayed after years of use. The fishermen left it, abandoned once it had served its purpose. We found it, gave it new life. We had to cut it to carry it, using rocks and knives to sever it from its hold. It hung between those trees for days. The scarred ropes could not be more perfect. When we parted, I lost track of our hammock, assumed it was gone forever, like a child’s toy. Used twice then tossed.
It’s in your room now.
Tristan Deeley is from Australia but living in Italy; when he’s not writing about love he’s writing about rotten lemons.
The second hand ticks off another moment of my life. Waiting couples eye my table. I pretend to sip from the empty cup, lick the last bit of foam.
You arrive from her bed flushed, rushed and unapologetic, wearing the sea-green cashmere V-neck I gave you for Christmas.
My finger tightens around the cold, smooth steel nestled in my lap. A real shame about that sweater.
I order another latte.
Nobody wants my table anymore.
Jayne Martin’s work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Pure Slush, Midwestern Gothic, Blink Ink, Literary Orphans, Flash Frontier, F(r)iction, SickLit Magazine and Hippocampus. This story was read in the Blink Ink/ Rocky Mountain Revival podcast on April 11.
Have you ever seen the sky?
Once upon a time, the ceiling was painted powder blue with white fluffy clouds. My sister and I would lie on our backs on the patched blankets, and try and figure out the cloud shapes among the chipped paint.
Then the ceiling was burned black from the fire, and the clouds that survived were ominous ghosts that watched us as we slept.
The green door opened today, and everyone was afraid to step outside.
I wanted to see the sky.
It’s not like the ceiling before the fire.
Jocelyne Gregory is a Canadian residing in British Columbia, currently enrolled with the 2015/2016 post-grad Writer’s Studio program at Simon Fraser University.
Sometimes I dream that you walk again. That the paramedics never cut away your favorite leather jacket. In my dreams you walk toward me across campus in polished shoes and with confident steps and I greet you, elated, “Mind over matter!” I say.
“I’m glad you didn’t say, ‘Jesus heals,’” you answer. “Everyone lately’s been saying ‘Jesus heals.’”
Brindi Joy is a writer who recently wrote and produced the short film, The Road Home. This micro was also read on Plains FM Bookenz with Morrin Rout, discussing NFFD and this year’s Canterbury celebration — here.
There are so many dead people in her life, especially in this house. They float around and exaggerate. They want to see something sexy. That nightgown? they say. They miss eating berries. They are sure that she will be okay. They say wonderful things about what one might do here on earth. They wish they had taken more lovers, had more beach weekends, seen more foreign films. They ask for autographs from the living.
Meg Pokrass lives and writes somewhere between the US and the UK these days; you can find her at megpokrass.com.
Seasalt hanging in the air like the smell of yesterday’s rain. Name etched into wood, you sat with your back by the ocean, face turned skyward to see the stars as they fell, crashing to the corrugated earth. Rocking back and forth like you were hearing music, the upbeat coming with the rising tide, leaving with a steady exhale; hush on skin, sand on shore. Breathe, hold, repeat. Again. A dawn swallowed by the roaring sun. Sometimes we held. Sometimes we whispered. Sometimes we wore red.
Lola Elvy likes the color grey. She’s practicing keeping things short.
It was a clear midwinter’s morning. You were wrapped in your favourite blankie. I carried you to the police car. Smoothed the hair from your forehead. Kissed your nose.
Dad held me while I held you.
The longest darkest passage. A rush of whispers. The graze of stares. A closed door. Entry forbidden.
The police officer opens it. The coroner greets me.
And claims my darling.
Winner of the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Award for best youth novel and co-editor of The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, Eileen Mueller writes fiction for children and young adults, and dark adult fiction for adults. She placed first in SpecFic Going Global and first equal in NZSA NorthWrite Collaboration contests in 2013. http://www.eileenmuellerauthor.com
Why’s a baby crying behind the strip mall buffet’s buffet?
A preteen boy strings green beans, fills wontons, rangoons, rolls silverware.
The boss-man shrieks in Cantonese at kitchen staff. He’s all smiles in the dining room – the mortgage needs positive reviews. The parking lot grows daisies through frost-cracks. The ratio of tastes-good-enough to costs-a-pittance isn’t generating customers.
The boss-man’s wizened mother-in-law comes with Jasmine tea, goes with consumed expectations.
The teenage busser (an eventual flight risk) looks outside where fortunes rise and fall while she fills steam trays.
It’s all you can eat. It isn’t quite enough.
Todd Mercer, winner of the 2016 Dyer-Ives Poetry Prize, the 2016 National Writers Series Prize and the 2015 Grand Rapids Festival for the Arts Flash Fiction Prize, had his digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appear at Right Hand Pointing.
I hear the whispers as I walk back from town.
Another missing child.
The milk in the plastic bag knocks against my leg. The lolly I’m sucking makes me ill.
Mum’s waiting for me. I can tell from the look on her face that she’s heard. That one wrinkle between her eyes is so deep I’d lose my finger in it if I prodded it.
“Go sit with Nana,” she says.
Sitting in her chair, Nana taps out a staccato beat with her walking stick.
“Another one, Nan.”
“I know.” She nods.
Nikki lives in Cambridge and is in the process of writing her first novel. She also enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.
I wait for this love to stop. I wait for the thought of your face and body to mean nothing. I wait to feel droplets for you, not icy waves. I wait to forget your taste, your texture in my mouth, the skin I have savoured. I walk to forget the way you walk, the way you carry yourself, your hesitancy in my eyes, your creeping back, your allegiance to other lives, my smallness, my nothingness, my drama evaporating and bodiless.
Catherine McNamara ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write and ended up in Ghana running a bar.
Broken by Colette Watson, Scotland
She’s here again this morning. Turns up at the door tear-streaked and half-sober.
“Let me in Ma, please. C’mon. I want to come hame.”
Franny, grey-faced, cracks the door enough to talk.
“Yer faither’s in the hoose. Wheesht! He’ll kill the baistert! You anaw.”
“He’s broke intae ma hoose Ma. He’s robbed ma iPod, ma purse, panned ma windaes in. I’m done wae it Ma. Let me come hame.”
She’s hingin’ in the doorway like a broken doll.
She wis a wee doll anaw. Afore that big shite got the haud of ‘er. Franny’s china doll.
Colette Watson lives in the West of Scotland with her family and writes mainly short fiction and poetry.
Misplaced by Rachel Smith, New Zealand
You took your time. Hands delved into pockets. Tissue thin paper spread with dark strands of tobacco. Two yellowed fingers raised to your lips. One a knuckle shorter than the other.
The click of an orange lighter. A slow inhale. The story would begin.
I could not believe. No one would bike home from school by candlelight, travel across the world to kill a man they didn’t know.
You would never tell me of your lost finger. I see the smooth nub falling unnoticed on a distant pebbled beach, fingernail washed clean by the gentle sea.
Rachel Smith’s fiction and poetry, the shorter the better, has been published in takahē, JAAM and Flash Frontier.
Lightning by Bronwen Griffiths, England
The lime green coat with piping. She loves the way the coat shines, the contrast of greens, the acid of the lime against the pine-coloured braids.
Grit under her feet mixed with mud. The wind screaming, leaves scattering her face. A puddle. Clouds reflected, dizzy, the silvery light and her face, blurred. Not hard-edged and glass cold, a mirror to talk back like the boys on the street.
Who’s got an ugly mug? Boyfriend didn’t like you, eh?
She touches the scarred skin. Tree roots and lightning, brilliant. In the puddle she is a princess.
Bronwen Griffiths writes novels and flash fiction, and lives in East Sussex, England.
Farewell Spit by Patrick Pink, New Zealand
Benji said whales belong in the ocean and toddled across the sand. Seawater sloshed over the rim of his plastic bucket.
My husband Jack worked one of the tractors. The chains strained in the receding tide.
Fourteen had stranded themselves. No one knew why. Parasites, misguided compasses, empathy to share a suffering.
Benji got upset because one was a baby. He marched back and forth with a child’s Disney belief in happy endings.
We laboured until light.
Jack took off his cap, mopped his face. Benji slept in my lap beside the still calf that hadn’t moved for an hour.
Chicago-born, Patrick Pink lives and writes in Aotearoa and is a staunch devotee of short fiction.
Monsoon by Wiebo Grobler, South Africa
The rain came down heavy, pinging off the corrugated roof like hail.
Rivulets of water cascaded down the open sides of the shed, like miniature waterfalls, trapping us inside.
I pulled a ciggie from my bag and offered Sadie one.
“My mom will smell me.”
I produced a wooden clothes peg and grabbed the filter with it.
“Clever,” she said, taking the cig by the peg.
We shared the smoke and then a kiss, she tasted like cola ChapStick.
She laughed as I grabbed her and pulled her through our water prison, splashing through puddles home.
Twice short-listed for the Fish Publishing Prize and recent winner of the Dantes Trials Competition from Horror Scribes, Wiebo Grobler consumes copious amounts of coffee whilst trying to write, edit and read all at the same time.
Enchantress by Mohini Malhotra, Kathmandu/ United States
My namesake arrived in New York from Delhi several years before I was born. Bought at age two by an American billionaire from a Maharaja for $10,000. She spent her first night in the Bronx, my birthplace. My parents named me Mohini – one who enchants – after her.
I imagine staring at this tigress, her coat an eggshell white, her stripes coal black, her muscles taut, her power wedged in a twelve by twelve foot cage. I see her sapphire blue eyes on me, exhorting me to lift my wings wide and soar high beyond my cage of air.
Mohini Malhotra is from Kathmandu, lives in DC, loves words, promotes women artists and is delighted that her flash stories are being published in Star 80 Review, Blink-Ink, 50 word stories and other cool places.
Monster in the Cave by Shelby Allan, New Zealand
Rumours always hold truth no matter how far-fetched.
It came from the shadows of the flooded cave. The water beautiful, some strange anomaly made it glow blue despite the current situation.
All hopes of escaping ruined by the monster’s eyes.
Already focused on me they glowed blood red. Not the pretty type. They radiated viciousness, showing that this beast would kill cold-blooded.
Sharp teeth and fangs stained with blood filled my vision.
But the claws scared me most. Almost an inch long, razor-sharp with rotting pieces of flesh stuck to them.
Roadkill Delicioso, by Jonathan Cardew, England/ US
After tapas, we took on the main event: 32oz ribeye, asparagus, and goat’s cheese risotto. The steak was hacked into strips, with a scattering of arugula. The asparagus spears were nestled in tufts of fur.
“Yum,” she said, licking her teeth.
I paused. I pushed my fork into a part that was not prime; it slipped into a giblet or orifice. “What a feast,” I think I said, and she smiled.
“You’ll get used to it,” she said.
We’d dated three or four times; tonight was the night.
She airplaned an eyeball toward my mouth.
I opened wide, deliriously happy.
Jonathan Cardew’s notorious blog is here: jonathancardew.wordpress.com/.
He said he’d shave her head for her, when her hair started falling out. It fell in honeyed wisps on her pillow. She said, I’m falling apart. Inside, he was disintegrating too.
Sitting behind her, he ran the razor over her head. Her hair fluttered around them, like autumn leaves. When it was over he held the delicate convexity of her skull between his hands, smooth like glass, and told her how beautiful she was.
When the nurse arrived, their tears were running in paired tributaries down her face, the current so strong she felt its pull from the doorway.
Eileen Merriman’s flash has previously been published in Flash Frontier, SmokeLong Quarterly, Literary Orphans, Blue Five Notebook and Headland.
June 22: ‘Blue’ by Jane Percival
Blue walks to school barefoot. On the way he stands in fresh cowpats to thaw his toes. A rich brown colour, they steam invitingly along the edge of the road. Outside school he cleans his feet on the frosty grass.
This morning he’d arisen early and put boot black in his hair to hide the red, admiring the effect in the cracked bathroom mirror. Mum had thrashed him and put his head under the cold tap, scrubbing until his ears rang.
Beside the school gate, Joe Reed waits.
‘Filthy Blue,’ he hisses.
Jane Percival lives on the Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland, New Zealand. She has always enjoyed writing and has recently taken time out of full-time paid employment to pursue this activity. Lately she has been focusing on speculative fiction.
June 21: ‘Kinny Chicken’ by Elizabeth (Betsy) Kernohan
Kinny Chicken, unceremoniously exhumed, was still very dead.
I patted her feathers, admiring the colours, blurred through tears. I thought of the mornings I’d shivered in the shed with cooing birds feeding warm mash from a steaming bowl sharing the spoon, ‘one for you – one for me’.
There were three chooks and two daily eggs.
“They take it in turns” I said in defence of Kinny.
Angry and irrational, I accused mother of making good her threat when we found Kinny dead. We’d dug a hole and patted down the earth and that’s when I heard the squawk.
Elizabeth Kernohan is an educator, photographer and actor. She enjoys the challenge of flash fiction and haiku, and there’s a play in the wings waiting to make its way onto the page.
June 20: ‘Blind Tasting’ by Heather McQuillan
Like sinking into a hot bath, she says trying to explain the sunset to a man who has already closed his eyes.
The man says nothing until the morning sun creeps warmth across his hands.
Then he asks, what’s the colour of the sky today?
It’s the blue of oranges, sharp and fresh and washing your mouth free of sleep.
The man turns with his lips ready for hers, and what is the colour of a kiss?
Strawberry, she says.
More like oysters and sex, he laughs.
They aren’t colours. She slaps him away.
They ought to be, he says.
Heather McQuillan writes poetry, flash and children’s stories and she tutors young writers. She has a view of the sea and of mountains from her office window and often gets distracted.
June 19: ‘Birdland’ by Jeremy Lake
Mother of pearl 60’s Premier Jazz. Sounded like Brubeck, smelt like cigars. That drum kit was hazy and open… Airily it made the drummer. It cut me and I bled, spattering my life over tom and snare, it was an animal. A striking snake on amphetamines, harder than a diamond-studded dildo, skins would break, eardrums shatter.
Mother -of pearl- was a foodie. No love lost for musicians. The farewell missive on the fridge door was reduced to a word, choose! He’d grown too fat to dance on eggshells. In the end, it went for a song.
Jeremy Lake dabbles in mixed media and operates from Rongotai, Wellington.When he’s not cursing the local noisy planes, he does his best to not curse at his children.
June 18: ‘A LIFE FOR A LIFE’ by Emma Vere-Jones
The storm arrived in the early hours of Friday morning, unearthing trees and street signs and unwanted memories. Evelyn lay awake and tried to picture the cat.
There had been a storm that day too.
‘The rain was torrential,’ she told the policeman, without mentioning the argument. ‘I swerved to avoid a cat.’
Later, friends brought hot dinners and sympathy. She heard them muttering in the kitchen.
‘Accidentally killing your husband! Imagine!…
‘He was a tyrant, but still… you’d never forgive yourself…’
How wrong they were, Evelyn thought.
Even so, she often wondered if she ever really saw that cat.
Emma is a freelance journalist. She enjoys creative writing because it allows her to write fiction without working for a tabloid. Her first children’s book will be published in August
June 17: ‘The deal’ by Marcel Currin
“Here’s the deal,” said the Sheep. She seemed bigger today, staring down through shaded glasses. She pushed a slip of paper across the table: one sentence hammered out in Goudy Old Style.
I said, “Really? There’s no other option?”
Her grin was thick with yellowing teeth. “We could always return to the periodic shaving and docking of your entire species. It’s your call.”
I picked up the pen. “Can’t believe I’m bargaining with a sheep,” I said.
She chortled. “Baa-gaining, that’s a good one. I may just take that too.”
Marcel Currin is a Tauranga poet and columnist. Ministry of ideas, his book of flash fiction, lives on the Amazon Kindle Store.
June 16: ‘At a loose end’ by Elizabeth Brooke-Carr
Sadie’s fence was the talk of the neighbourhood. Even strangers stopped to admire her handiwork. She had knitted the intricate Shetland lace design herself, on specially adapted curtain poles using strong black twine, the kind used to make fishing nets. Not that Sadie was a fisherwoman. Oh, no. The garden was her baby. Wrapped in its lace shawl she nurtured it tenderly with kindness and compost. She was at the beach gathering seaweed for mulch, the day that Hannibal, the terrier from next door, found a loose thread and began unravelling the axiom that good fences make good neighbours.
Elizabeth Brooke-Carr lives and writes from her hillside eyrie in Dunedin. The contours of city, hills, shoreline and horizon enlarge her vision, and the life in them feeds her imagination.
June 15: ‘Gone Fishing’ by Steve Charters
On the day you told us the facts of life you took us fishing. We’d never been before.
Driving carefully, you said sperm vagina penis.
You’d told us bedtime stories once, but this was different.
I sat in the back seat staring out at letterboxes, sheep and dust-caked daisies, my brother’s frightened eyes watching me in the rear-view mirror.
At the wharf, escaping the car, he slammed the door crushing my finger. I held it out to you – flat, blue and quivering – biting back my tears.
You wrapped your hanky round it and made me choose:
‘Fish? Or hospital?’
Steve Charters lives in Auckland. His work appears online at Flash Frontier. He enjoys the constraints of short-form writing and the challenge of implying a complete world in a few words.
June 14: ‘The importance of spare keys, in case of emergency’ by Fiona Lincoln
The lines company said my favourite tree was endangering their wires, and branches would have to go. So I hugged the tree, and sealed the embrace by handcuffing my wrists together on the far side. When the contractor arrived, I conspicuously swallowed the key. It lodged halfway. Pain hacked through my sternum, my chest, down one arm. “You look awful, mate,” said the contractor, before calling 111.
The paramedic’s bolt-cutters proved inadequate. She considered her options. She said to the contractor, “how quickly can you get this tree down?” The contractor laughed, the bitch, as she ran for her chainsaw.
Fiona Lincoln lives in Lower Hutt and works in Wellington as a law drafter. She has previously had a 50-word story published.
June 13: ‘What if’ by Jenni Komarovsky
If only I had died. That time that I had rheumatic fever when I was 35. Instead, I wheezed through to become a has-been. Vienna no longer adores me, it pities me.
This room is dark and cold, the bed unmade, my clothes and body smell. My wife and children have gone, my money and talent long spent. My fingers are too stiff to coax music from the out of tune fortepiano.
They only want him now. A new, exciting pianist, fiery-tempered and hungry for fame. He is well fed.
I laugh when I hear that he is going deaf.
Jenni Komarovsky. Greenie, knitter, gardener, blogger. Her day job as a structured computer systems specialist requires her to escape into creativity when possible and break into song at inappropriate moments.
June 12: ‘Falling Up Love’ by Frank Greenall
Yucheng’s free hand loops her scarf once more around her neck, a slight buffer to the bone-chilling southerly off Cook Strait.
Now saying to her arm-hugging companion, Wind very cold… I in very cold, also.
Garrick, gently correcting. I am very cold also… I am very cold, Yucheng.
Yes, she says … We both very very am cold.
Garrick leaves it at that. Talking means jettisoning bits of core warmth.
What place we now, Yucheng asks.
Garrick: In Oriental Parade.
Yucheng: Special place Asian people to walk?
Garrick: Very special.
Yucheng: That good. Special place walking down, falling up love.
Frank Greenall has worked as freelance writer, political cartoonist and artist, and recently in Adult Literacy. He won the 2014 Far North Poetry prize. Currently living in Whanganui.
June 11: ‘The Advice’ by Hilary Boyd
Today the doctor told me I am dying. His voice was as cold as the wind that hit me when I entered his damned clinic. As I was leaving, I turned back. He was stooped over his computer, tapping away as if I had ceased to matter.
There sits a clever man,
a wise man.
And here stand I,
a dying one.
“If you were me, what would you do?“ It was a stupid question but I was not myself.
His fingers stopped, poised just above the keyboard. “Put your affairs in order.“ He didn’t look up from the screen.
Hilary Boyd lives in rural Auckland. She likes to write, drink coffee with her neighbours and daydream.
June 10: ‘Stranger Danger’ by Kate Mahony
My sister dubs me home from school on her bicycle. She offers me a
forbidden treat, a gobstopper to share. I suck it quickly, so it will change colour.
The road dips. My jaw freezes around the lolly. I thump Laura. The bike falls; I’m crying.
A car pulls up.
The man who approaches is a stranger. I can’t breathe.
He grabs my elbow; says he’ll drive us to the hospital.
I panic. Cough. The lolly lands at my feet.
Back home, someone’s seen us and already phoned our mother.
We don’t tell her about the gobstopper. Just the stranger.
Wellington writer Kate Mahony’s story The Journey received an “Honorary Mention” in the 2015 Fish Publishing Short Story Competition. Her story, Regrets, was long-listed for the 2015 Fish Flash Fiction Competition.
June 9: ‘The elephant is gone, ladies and gentlemen, the elephant is gone!’ by Frankie McMillan
Hannah waits her turn, she lies in a wooden vessel the panels brightly painted
with fleur-de-lis. She ponders the fate of the animals: the disappearing rabbit
the disappearing donkey, the disappearing elephant. Her magician father strikes
the saw, a steel cross cut with a mallet until a keening wail is heard. A gentleman holds
her feet protruding from the end of the box. Her toes are snipped from the white silk
stockings to prove that she is flesh. The saw blade whirrs. Hannah shivers.
‘Extinction’ is a word that creeps closer.
Frankie McMillan is short in stature, walks fast and talks fast. She used to be a fire-breather in the Catz Pyjamas comedy show. She believes these qualities are of benefit when writing flash fiction.
June 8: ‘Advice’ by S J Mannion
On my wedding day as I dressed my hair, my hands shook. And my mother said with a crooked mouth, ‘You’ll be allright – just keep your legs open and your mouth shut.’
She laughed as I winced and went on to flounce down the aisle, despising her bitterness, her bile. But five years later and three kids on, my husband left and gone, I think on her black words and know them for some sour kind of wisdom.
S J Mannion: Middle aged, married-with-three, doing domesticity. When I can I write, when I can’t I read.
June 7: ‘COFFIN FOR SALE’ by Deryn Pittar
COFFIN FOR SALE
decorated with hand-carved floral motifs
Hand-turned rimu handles
Sale price: $400.00
Reason for sale: Misdiagnosis
Deryn Pittar’s bio:I live in Papamoa. I write Sci.Fi (Romance and Serious stuff), Young Adult, short fiction and poetry. I am published (hard copy and e-books) in these genre.
June 6: ‘one k. from the shops’ by Ila Selwyn
I walk down the road, arms dragged down with books and shopping. See a child’s sweatshirt sprawling soggily at the side of the road.
Walk up the road. The sweatshirt’s now spread-eagled on a bush.
Walk down the road. It’s still here. A few steps further find boy’s black gym shorts in the gutter. Leave them lying there. Want the story to continue.
Walk up the road. Black shorts have staggered onto the verge.
Walk down the road. See shorts, sweatshirt still patiently waiting. Look for socks, shoes, half hope to find a body.
Ila Selwyn completed her MCW in 2014 at The University of Auckland, writing a play with poetry. On her 4th draft. Hopes to get it work-shopped and then on stage.
June 5: ‘The Bride’ by Chang Shih Yen
Someone was knocking on the door.
“I’ll be out in twenty minutes,” the bride said. The bride stood alone inside the room where she was supposed to be getting dressed. With the make-up and her hair twisted up, she barely recognised the person looking out at her from the mirror. She inspected the long white dress that she was meant to be putting on. It was a voluminous dress that reminded her of a meringue with its layers of lace and chiffon.
The bride hoped everyone would forgive her, as she slipped off her stilettos and climbed out the window.
Chang Shih Yen is a writer from Malaysia. Shih Yen lives in Dunedin.
June 4: ‘the wind’s talking’ by Keith Nunes
the wind’s talking
the late spring wind is driving her madly into the gorge wall. we moved out here from the sprawling city last spring but this year the wind is profoundly aggravating her. last night she shaved her lush head of hair off and fed it to the donkey. I counted the blades in the drawer today; I count them regularly. she won’t eat, won’t wash and won’t look me in the eye. there she is, standing on the car roof, naked but for gumboots, asking god for a plane to fly her back to the sprawling city.
Keith Nunes is a former Kiwi newspaper sub-editor who now writes for the sheer joy of it. He’s had short stories published in NZ (including Takahe and Flash Frontier) and increasingly in the UK (Prole) and US. He lives south of Tauranga with an assortment of nutters.
June 3: ‘Rose-Tinted World on Winter-Licked Sheets’ by Patrick Pink
You took me to bed in your attic apartment after our seventeenth time seeing Rocky Horror and Brad and Janet in corsets and fishnets still writhed from loss and decadence in the exiting exhaust of a debauched spaceship in my head. A late January flurry shone like spun gold around the corner streetlamp. We stood naked in its champagne glow and watched the snow bury cars in angel-white as the radiator ticked erratically.
‘Are we damned?’ I leaned into your lengthy love.
You hummed Don’t Dream It, Be It softly in my hair and laced fingers over my time-warped heart.
Aucklander Patrick Pink finds inspiration in flash fiction and short stories. He knows he’ll never make a living but then again it’s all about finding the perfect word, isn’t it?
June 2: ‘Flight’ by Jane Swan
Amber’s laugh strung across the sky like a shimmering banner. “Those tiny sheep!”
The air was fresh, cooler than I’d expected.
My bride tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear.
“Sailors sometimes grow beards,” I said. “To feel the wind in their whiskers.”
“To tell the wind direction.”
Amber’s laughter pealed again. “Except the women.”
I squeezed her hand. “You reckon?”
Suddenly the basket lurched and rose into a thermal.
Seagulls swooped through the shrinking shadow of the balloon. Moments later the wind seized it sweeping us out to sea.
Amber should have learnt to swim.
Jane Swan lives in Waikouaiti, just north of Dunedin. Jane shifted to Waikouaiti from Oamaru in the summer and is enjoying the inspiration of the beach and friendly community. Jane writes short fiction and is working on a novel.
Decades later he returns, stands on the ledge overlooking the reef. Though he feels the rhythm of the broken surf, its tune remains inaudible, out of reach. He draws back his arm and releases a stone. He knows these rocks, this dark, still tomb. Knows the sea will take whatever it is given.
Later at the hotel his wife is distracted, searching for her keys. He takes the tea she has poured in a chipped china cup. “I do love you,” he says, but knows his words are slim salvation. Because every moment is the moment before something dies.
Originally from the United States, Sally Houtman makes her home in the Eastern Suburbs of Wellington. She has been writing fiction for the past 7 years. She is probably writing something now.
Eileen Merriman writes flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her work has previously been published in The Sunday Star Times, Takahe, Headland and Flash Frontier, and is forthcoming at Blue Five Notebook. Last year she was awarded second runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition.
Nod Ghosh graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. Short stories or poems have appeared in Takahe, Penduline, Christchurch Press, TheGayUK and Flash Frontier. Nod is working on her second novel as part of the NZSA mentorship scheme.