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Tag: Autumn 2017 Long-listed

Jimmy Choo Shoes

AUTUMN 2017 FIRST PLACE

A crap year of scrimping. Penny-pinching nights in instead of out. No holidays. Forget the sales. Op shop buys. No Friday nights getting slaughtered with my mates. Finally, a new job. Pay day celebration. I deserved it, didn’t I? Credit card splurge. The coral-pink Jimmy Choo sandals and matching clutch are mine. Friday night, drinking, laughing, flaunting and flirting in my gorgeous fuck-me shoes before babysitting Maddy, and a promised rock-pooling Saturday, so Lori and Mark could have a weekend break before baby number two.

Crap weather for a beach day especially after a long night, but a monumental hangover and no fags are easy in the face of a seven-year-old’s whining. Bloody bus stopped 500 meters past the mini-mart.

“Wait here. I’m going for sunscreen.” (Who said I wasn’t responsible?) And paracetamol. And cigarettes. I piled our gear on the sand. Maddy’s face screwed for another whinge. “Don’t. Ten minutes, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Don’t move.”

“Okay.”

“Promise?”

“Promise, Aunty Cas.”

Crap years of chips, vodkas and nicotine turned a ten-minute dash into fifteen. Twenty if I’m honest.

Crap weather for a funeral. Over the heads of our tight-lipped family, I call to my sister hugging her swollen tummy.

“Lori, please. She promised to wait.”

“Now you know, Cas. Seven-year-olds, like twenty-seven-year olds, don’t keep promises.”

Crap weather for the beach. Another wrong night. Wind whips my hair. Lager greases my vodka-stale mouth. No busybodies ask are you all right, dear? Shall I call someone? I crack the seal on another Smirnoff and pull my Jimmy Choos from the Asda bag. Cops sit warm and dry in their cars sipping Costa coffees and hoping for a quiet Saturday night. Dream on, boys. My fingers crackle the plastic bag of dolly mixture Les down the pub sold me. They cost me the clutch. I kept the shoes. Vodka washes down the pills. Swallow. Dammit. Swallow. More beer. Sand grits my eyes. I crumple the can, toss it (arrest me) with the others. Crowned by my salty arms, bony knees blot my tears to black pinging shadows. Courage.

Trainers off, amazing sandals on. A walk, a stumble. The ice-cold sea.


Flash Fiction by Shannon Savvas
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Stolen Hours

AUTUMN 2017 SECOND PLACE

Romania, 1976

Tuesday afternoons, Mara and the secret service man keep the appearances, while they steal hours from her husband’s schedule. She opens the door, invites him to come in— but only after he kisses her hand. She takes his hat and his coat, sniffing the sheepskin collar, imbibed with his aromas: tobacco, dust from the files he pushes around at work, his French cologne and a sweet note of Turkish delight. He slips in the armchair, begins to question her:

“Comrade, have you noticed suspicious activities in the past week? Did you receive any correspondence from abroad? Did your husband express his intention to leave the country? Did he speak against the Party?”

Her answers evade in small gestures, each of them a silent “yes”: she brews his coffee, lights his cigarettes, she unbuttons her blouse. Yet he never looks past the Mara made of burning flesh and porcelain bones. He never sees the one biting her nails at night until she draws blood, while her husband breathes slowly beside her. The one washing the tainted sheets with tears, because only tears escape from where the rest of her is trapped.

The next day, Mara cooks. She swapped a class with the gym teacher so she could arrive home an hour earlier, don her apron like a superhero’s cape, light the stove. On Wednesday afternoons, she never speaks to her husband; she’s too busy in the kitchen. She shoves one course after the other under his nose at dinnertime, hot, cold or steaming. Mousakas, meatballs in tomato sauce, schnitzels, borsch, spinach pies. She spices them with dry peppermint, cayenne, laurel and lies: her day was fine, she has nothing on her mind. She loves him.

Her husband gobbles it all, without bothering too much to chew.


Flash Fiction by Sophie van Llewyn
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Pandora’s Cat

AUTUMN 2017 THIRD PLACE

They found a box in the woods. Dave wanted to keep walking, but Julie stopped and knelt on the warm leaf litter.

“There’s something inside,” she said, rocking the cardboard with her finger. “Sounds like a cat.”

Dave had no desire to kneel beside her, he’d brought Gran’s tartan blanket for them to sit on when they reached the clearing—ever hopeful of it being, at last, his lucky day—and he wasn’t prepared to get that out right now.

“It could be Schrödinger’s cat,” he said, smirking. Julie squinted, her neat eyebrows arching so Dave launched into an eloquent summary of the theory he’d learned from Brian Cox off the telly.

“How can it be alive and dead at the same time? I can hear it mewing. It’s definitely alive.”

Brown tape had been pretty tightly bound around the box. The poor thing could be running out of air. “Have you got anything sharp, any nail scissors?”

Julie stood, clutching her handbag. “What if it’s dangerous? Something bad might happen if we open it.”

Dave tried to lighten the mood. “You’re thinking it could be Pandora’s Box then? We’d better hope it’s empty after all.”

“Why would Pandora put a cat in a box and leave it in the woods?”

Typical, thought Dave, for Julie to actually have a mate called Pandora. His mum’s “What do you see in that girl?” echoed round his head, chased by the image of Dad pulling out his golf sweater to mimic an ample bosom.

“We’d better take it home,” he said, bending to pick up the box, but Julie grabbed his arm.

“I ain’t taking home some mangy stray. Don’t know who left it or why. We can pretend we didn’t see it—just walk straight past.”

Dave looked at her, really looked at her. Maybe it was his lucky day after all.

At his gran’s he handed back the tartan rug, still folded, and asked to borrow a sharp knife. Inside the box was a tabby kitten, fur damp and matted smelling like a stale, forgotten takeaway. “I’ll call you Pandora,” said Dave cupping the kitten with both hands.


Flash Fiction by Tracy Fells
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Cleaning

The old fart in Room 17 is becoming a problem. He does it even when his wife’s on the terrace, sweating, counting her rosaries. Clack-clack. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Ah, Mamma, what would you say if you could see me now? Four stringy children and a fat pig of a husband who belches triumphantly after every meal and snores all night. Clack-clack-clack.

It’s usually as I’m making the beds and she’s looking out to sea. Hospital corners. Pontus’s school project is to learn of other cultures so we fold towels into swans like his teacher says the Japanese do. Except in Room 17 I just do triangles—the swans take too long.

I smell his oiliness behind me and freeze. I am a sparrow, still and trembling. His saggy chicken arms claw at my apron, his toothless mouth waggles its wormy tongue at me. Clack. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.

I dart away, holding the sheets like a shield. His eyes are full of water, tears spilling over the loose red rims, filling the wrinkles in his cheeks, dripping off his chin onto the floor tiles. Salt water, inside and out. Surrounding us. Swimming in it. Clack. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Drowning.

Amen.


Flash Fiction by Sarah Gillett
Picture: rosary by liz west under CC BY 2.0
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Water Baby

Rain hisses on the surface of the pool. When I watch you walk through the mist towards the starting blocks with your fists tucked under your chin and elbows hugging your ribcage, I have a vision of myself at your age. I remember standing on the brink, toes curled down over the edge, antelope legs goose-bumping, kneecaps quivering.

Later I remember reaching for you from my own body. You floated up to me through the warm waters of the birthing pool swirling with secretions from our two bodies. As I gazed into your eyes already open to embrace your first breath of air, I promised I would never make you to jump into the icy waters of that school pool and swim ten lengths until your head felt like it would explode with cold.

But today I watch your coiled anticipation, see your muscles flex with the pop of the pistol, watch those fingers I always thought would prefer the flow of a piano keyboard, cleave the water. As you kick away from the last tumble turn, a jelly of bubbles churns behind you. I know your lungs are bursting from the pump of your legs and the haul of your shoulders. I know when you twist your head to breathe you can see you are an arm’s length ahead of your nearest opponent, and my heart rate lifts with yours.

Your fingertips touch the wall before the others, and there is a moment where time is a vacuum as you gather yourself. The water catches up with you, and laps over the edge of the pool. You turn to the clock at the far end and your eyes open wide in wonder as you realise your victory and your achievement.

I let out the breath I have been holding for twelve years and know it is time to cut the cord.


Flash Fiction by Louise Mangos
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Postpartum

She’d mottled like a gull’s egg in the carrying of her, left the bairn newly birthed, howling in twitch grass by the river; returned to her wheel to draft wool skeins, skirts crusted brown, foot against the treadle, fast and even.

Her husband found it, batted the flies from the cord freshly cut, took the bawling bantling in his great flat palms and the babby calmed, took to suckling his knuckle still sweet with wood sap.

He pressed his wife to take the infant back, held her raw hands, once as smooth as corn-silk; called her harvest moon as he’d done summers ago in the stubble of the twelve-acre. But with each appeal, she plucked a sheaf of her hair and taking up her spindle, twisted the shafts to a silver ply that coiled like steel around her.

The child whined, beat the lattice of his ribs for love or hunger so he fossicked a horse bridle to hold her and that was how he worked—daughter hoyed across his back in quarry and field until spring, when driving his pony string from shoreline to pithead he unhitched the girl, for the bridle was needed for the journey; left her at her mother’s feet playing with the rovings that fell from her spinner, hoping her laughter might feather his wife’s heart.

When he returned, a hundred gold sovereigns lighting his wallet, a wattled crib swinging from his side, he found the farm deserted but tied from the spinning wheel, a noil of thread which he followed past alder groves and drying sheds to the banks of the river. There was his daughter at the water’s edge: naked, cough-kinked. He scooped her up, swaddled her as best he could but nothing, not even his knuckle dipped in bee-bread stemmed the crying.

Then he saw it: a shimmer of cloth caught in shingle on the bank. He unhooked it. So soft. Delicate as shell. Held to his cheek he heard it sigh something akin to the crepitation of hay, felt its weft of eye and limb upon him as he wrapped the child within it and lay her cooing in the crib.


Flash Fiction by Mary-Jane Holmes
Picture: Unravel by LaVladina under CC BY 2.0
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Undercurrent

When the Pacific first touched her toes, April danced back up the wet sand, hugging herself, grinning back at me. For reassurance? I’ll never know. I dug my toes deeper into the warm granules, tipped my hat forward, feigning sleep, but never took my eyes off my bride.

She skipped forward until she was ankle deep, hollering “Harlan, c’mon!” and something about freezing and goosebumps, her voice mottled by pounding waves and the hiss of foam sliding along the sand. She went deeper, swells nipping at her shorts and spitting on her daisy blue shirt.

The next wave surprised us both; knocking April flat on her rear, water rushing into her shorts, her shirt, grabbing her straw hat, and hurrying it away. I braced myself to rescue her, though I knew she wasn’t the type to need rescuing.

She laughed as the next wave crested and broke, slamming her backwards, flashes of arms and legs tumbling through the surf. She found her feet, coughing, spitting, pulling muddy sand from her pockets, then launched herself back into the fray, cheering as waves knocked her, flailing her arms to knock them back, careening through the salty madness.

Ten years disappeared in the haze. We were fourteen again; that summer she broke the bronco that had tossed grown men in the dust; stuck in the saddle, her back curving, then arching, curving, arching, golden hair flying, sweat streaming down her neck. A wonder to behold. Untouchable.

She rode the surf as she rode that horse. Indomitable. Golden. Oblivious. Each skewed wave pushed her southward. Within minutes she was fifty feet away. Ten more found her hundreds of feet down the beach. Another fifteen and she was a mere dot charging in and out of the foam.

As the dot vanished, a conch washed up on the beach. Smooth and fragile against my ear, I listen to her faraway laughter, intermingled with the roar of the surf.


Flash Fiction by Laurie Theurer
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