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Showing posts from April, 2013

And that's all folks - Issue 3

Well, that's the end of issue 3 of the NFFD journal, FlashFlood. We have had a huge range of stories, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Don't worry if you haven't had a chance to read them all, as the stories will stay up for you to read at your leisure.

Please carry on leaving your comments and sharing/tweeting your favourites.

If you've enjoyed the stories, please do sign up with National Flash-Fiction Day through Facebook, Twitter or our mailing list, as there will be a lot more coming in the next few months. NFFD is on 22nd June this year, and we hope to see you all again then.

In the meantime, we are now looking for stories for our anthology. It's 4 weeks until the deadline, so plenty of time to put fingers to keyboards and send us a story or two. All details are on the NFFD website at www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.

So, until then, enjoy the stories and keep flashing!

All the best from The FlashFlood Editors.

'Father and Son' by Amy Rainbow

The crying’s the hardest. Every night. For hours. It’s just me and him, now that my wife’s gone. I’m not bad at the bathing or dressing or hair brushing, but the crying… We have a routine at bedtime. He likes routine. Teeth, pyjamas, warm milk, sleep. Except he doesn’t sleep, not for long. Today was a six out of ten day. I managed to wash the bedding and finally fit that stair gate. He’s started coming out onto the landing at night, and the thought of him falling… I guess this stuff comes naturally to some people. To women. He follows me everywhere; I can’t even pee in peace. Oh, and the food. One day it’s finger foods, the next day it has to be puréed. I snapped today. Threw the whole bloody lot in the bin. And that look in his eyes… I took him into the garden and we sat and watched the birds. He loves watching birds. That’s him now. I’d better go up. As I open the door, ammonia air hits me. I wash him, change him, change the sheets, tuck him back in. I turn off the lamp…

'Exposed: An Exhibition' by Leigh Bunkin

I hang by my neck, from an alabaster cord, swaying in the air-conditioned breeze of the museum. My insides trail out of me, leaving a pile of paper excrement on the floor. The guard’s laughter echoes through the high ceilinged rooms, signaling that it is morning. I watch as the first tour of the day is provided by a docent in a sleek navy dress and white open-toed sandals. Thick plump pearls hug her neck. Straight black bobbed hair swings like a curtain at each toss of her head. A group of people gather around a head that lies in the middle of the floor. Strands of milky, paper noodles surround the exposed skull. “As you can see this is a very unusual show. This head, for instance. The instructions from the artist were to display it on the floor. You can try it on--not really--just kidding. Remember don’t touch anything in the exhibit. The crowd follows her to the next body, which like most of us in the exhibit, is thumb-tacked to the wall. This flimsy paper body has a chain of paper loo…

'Evonium' by Samuel Best

At the edge of the lake, a man bends to dip his fingers in the water. He brings them to his mouth and sucks. The water is bitter and leaves a salty aftertaste. Nearby on the shore, a fish carcass rots; its tail frayed, skin withered and wet. Dead eyes stare up at the baking sun. The man spits, turns from the water and retreats to a bench. He used to sit here as a child, eating dry sandwiches and fishing the summers through. It’s been a while since he visited and he’s sure he remembers things differently. 

'Snowglobe' by Angi Holden

Everyone keeps talking about the weather. There's other news of course: a couple who have gone missing with the proceeds of a charity auction; an elderly lady bludgeoned to death in her bungalow; a cabinet minister photographed in a seedy night-club with his secretary. Lisa leans back against her pillow and wonders if that even counts as news.
But it's the weather that everybody seems interested in. The third bout of snow since New Year, and this time there has been chaos. Not just in the Highlands of Scotland where, let's face it, the people are more prepared, more resourceful and are actually expecting to be snowed-in once in a while. No, this time there has been chaos in places more often associated with sunny photos in holiday brochures. She knows of a friend caught in a blizzard, who left her car and togged up in all-weather gear walked to safety. It was a week before they dug the car out.
For Lisa, the weather has been a distraction. Propped up in her sixth-floor ho…

'The Lost World' by Zoe Gilbert

She worked every night until she had built a planet. She added snowy, glittering peaks of joy and lethargic seas of sorrow. She cut rivers leaping with silver fish of hope and lined them with soft ferns of forgetting. Somewhere near the equator, on a green and misty landmass, she glued a house, but before she pressed it into the bosom of its own valley, she drew her heart on the bottom, secret in the foundations. As she walked to the park, slowly, for she had not exercised in the weeks of building and her legs felt weak, she let the planet bob behind her on a long ribbon tied around its waist. She found him on the bench where they had sat so often.  “I have brought you a gift,” she said. “What is it?” He looked down at her pockets and into her eyes, searching. “Can’t you see?” she replied. He glanced at the ground, then, spattered with wet leaves. “I’ve nothing for you,” he said. “I tried, but I couldn’t get it right.” She felt the wind tugging at the planet and drew it closer to her, until…

'Sea Trough' by Sam Russell

She was from Saltcoats and when she came south to kiss me, she brought the northern sea on her lips. It was once, I told myself; a mishap. A random chance on a stranded train, the last to run, the first to break down, as a dark and wet night peppered the carriage. She was a tangle of patched jeans and knitwear but sharp; reading Barthes opposite me when she could have chosen any other seat because they were all empty. D’y have a spare quid? I fancy a buck o’tar. This gent is a boggle t’sketch. I paid for black coffees and a pack of miniature cookies, and watched her discard the lid to take a mouthful from the cardboard cup. Tha’s bettah. Tah f’ye kindness. It was half an hour before she asked me whether love should be spelt with a capital or not. From there she hooked me into an empty place where lovers and love look at one another from islands, being driven apart by the tectonics of absence and meaning. I asked her if she was heading home, where she was studying. Study? Naw, just…

'While Sitting at Caffeine Oasis Next to a Man Who Talks Incessantly' by Fred Longworth

I overhear that his artist friend, Nikolina, who lives in Bulgaria (and earns a meager income applying cloisonné to bottle caps) was ripped off by one Seamus O'Malley. Pretending to be a consulting curator for the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, O'Malley told Nikolina that, as a sideline, he tours Eastern Europe looking for marketable arts and crafts. O'Malley hoodwinked Nikolina into consigning to him six months worth of her cloisonné. They drew up a contract at a cafe in Sofia, and she handed him a jewelry box filled with her creations. Two days later, O'Malley vanished.
Nikolina has sworn she will find O'Malley, take back her artwork, and gouge out his eyes. But of course she is nearly destitute. The dreams of recovery and revenge are as empty as the shelves in her tiny studio. Only a good, kind, virile American man can help.
Like the man sitting at the next table. A few months ago, he met her on the internet. He listened to her deepest sorrows. He was pleased when s…

'Blast from the Past' by Sandra Hessels

Silently seething she opened her backpack and began shoving her stuff back into it. With each item her hand was quicker to get it over with and by now she’d begun to sigh dramatically. She looked up, briefly, to make sure he heard or saw her, and preferably both. He did. He crossed his arms. ‘Are you going to tell me what this is about?’ he asked in a half cross, half amused tone. ‘You already know.’ ‘No, I don’t. I wouldn’t ask if I did.’ ‘Don’t give me that. You always have all the answers. I’m pretty sure you can figure this out all by yourself.’ ‘Okay, so you’re still mad.’ ‘No shit, Sherlock.’ ‘Mad, why? What did I do?’ He gestured rather wildly with his arms to indicate he had no clue. Yeah, that really needed to be visualised. ‘What did you do? Lemme see…’ She zipped up her backpack and spun around to face him. ‘You show up literally fif-teen years after I last saw or heard from you. Fifteen years since you heard me say that I might just… you know… like you – in that way. Fifteen years…

'Cuddly toy, Fondue set' by Clare Kirwan

It's only stuff really, she tells herself: her nan's old sofa, three years worth of book club selections, plastic spatulas, potted plants and work shirts.

In the end she takes almost nothing - she can't think straight and it’s too difficult to rank things on a scale of their importance. In the end she only opts for a change of underwear, a cup-a-soup, the A-Z.  He'd put the hammer down by now, though he may still be shouting. She can't hear anything except a word in her head that drowns all others: leave! Everything else is instinctive, like an animal in flight... and what animal stops for their favourite shoes, the wedding photographs?

It makes you stronger, she will tell herself later, to know you're not tied down by possessions, places, people. The first album you ever bought, that dress, your tatty teddy bear – they are just things that pass in front of you as if on a conveyor belt in that 1970’s game show. And you only get to keep the things you can think…

'Night Terror' by Rachael Dunlop

The child is having a night terror again. He sits, he rocks, half-rises, falls back again. He calls out, Mummy, Mummy, Mama. He stands up in his bed. The woman, who has been watching from the far side of the room, comes and puts her hands on his shoulders. Lie down, she says, go back to sleep. He looks at her, but he doesn’t see her. Mummy, Mummy, Mama, he says, his face twisted as if he were crying, though his eyes are dry. He cheeks are damp with sweat, damp and pink. Lie down, the woman says. She looks at her hands where they are holding the child and she sees her mother’s hands. The skin is loose, the veins bulging blue, the pads of her fingers worn smooth by living. How did that happen? she wonders. How did time pass through my fingers so?
The child shrieks and wriggles out of her grasp. The woman sighs and retreats. Nothing to worry about, the doctor said, he’ll grow out of it. Maybe, she thinks, but still... a child that screams and kicks and looks through you with eyes full of …

'New Year' by Desiree Jung

I walk on the beach. The sky is greyish and the clouds have feminine traces. I observe them with surprise. It is the first time that I notice something so expressive in the sky of Rio de Janeiro. A cold breeze leads my eyes to search for the sun but can’t find anything. Those who pass by me appear lonely. The sand is filled with offerings. It is New Year’s Eve. A red rose suggests someone’s wish. A child talks with herself, looking at her own nails. Rebecca? She surprises me and I feel her cold hand, small fingers, over my shoulder. She has some make-up on and Bruno is on her lap. I looked for you in the party yesterday, she says. I know, I reply, I left just after I met you. She wears the same perfume of last night. It seems she hasn’t slept. In the nightclub’s bathroom, there was a confusion of smells, but hers was soft, with purple tones. How was the evening? I ask. I slow down my pace. The nanny arrives and gets the boy. Marina, Sergio’s ex-wife, doesn’t leave us alone, she affirms,…

'The Sweet Taste Of Mortality' by Mark Allerton

Michael visits his father’s study alone after school, while his mother drinks Liebfraumilch in the kitchen. He sits on the squashy vinyl cushion of the high stool and plays with the drawing board. A thick ruler presses down on the drawings, kept in place by heavy steel weights on cables, which he zips up and down. If a drawing is left on the board he recites his father’s immaculate labelling, ”Front Elevation, French Windows, Catslide Roof.” The room smells of ink, Old Spice and pipe smoke. Professional pencils, metal claws furled, wait to grip lead and create. Michael holds to his cheek white rubbers that don’t dry up like those at school, but remain waxy and cool. On the desk, at the level of his nose, an acrid pipe reclines in a heavy glass ashtray next to a tin of tobacco, a box of Ship matches and a bundle of white pipe cleaners held together by a paper band. He whispers the labels, “Quink, Helix, Faber-Castell, Staedtler Mars Pan-Technico, Player’s Whisky Ready Rubbed.”
One Sunday…

'Family relationships' by Liz Kerry

My son was standing on the other side of the road, hands in his pockets, shoulders shrugged up to his ears from the cold. His cap was showing from under his hoodie, I couldn’t see his eyes and didn’t know if he had seen me. I guess he had, because he was good at noticing things around him, but he wouldn’t make a sign and I knew he wouldn’t refer to it afterwards. I crossed over and stood a little way off seeing him in the reflection of the shop window opposite but not actually confronting him. The shop had a display of mirrors and I could see his broken image clearly, I don’t think he would think of seeing me this way. I was glad to see his case was safely behind him away from the shoppers milling in the High Street.
Kadie walked quickly past me; preoccupied with her-self as always, she wouldn’t have spotted me. She was walking at a little run, like a little bird, sharply and delicately moving towards their meeting place. I saw her mouth the words of greeting and Tom’s body language …

'Unmade' by Allie Marini Batts

I can’t wash the sheets, make the bed, or even fluff the pillows: if I do, you’ll be gone forever. The soft, lightly sour smell of your unwashed hair, sweaty skin and morning breath is delicately stitched into the fabric of the bedclothes. One wash and you’ll disappear. I snuggle down next to the hollow left in the mattress by your absent back, big-spooned against me in the twilight; drink deep of your smell, pray it lingers. If I’d known you would not come home again, I would have short-sheeted you with my limbs and kissed you back to sleep.

The Downstairs Neighbour by Helena Ryan

It’s started again.  Four o’clock in the bloody morning.  I need my sleep.  I have small kids to look after but he’s up again screaming and bashing seven bells out of the radiator.  He’s shouting something, exactly what is not clear, get them out, or perhaps, get out of here, it’s a bit too muffled to make out. He looks normal enough, tall, slim, dark haired. He doesn't look ex-services or even ex-fireman or policeman, so god only knows what trauma he’s lived through. We say hello when we bump into each other on the stairs, but I don’t mention the nightmares.  I don’t mention that he wakes us up three or four times a week.
It’s a relief when he meets someone and brings her back late at night. At least then the nightmares stop.  Instead of he, it’s now she who wakes us up.  On the plus side the moaning is quieter, less violent.  Sadly it doesn't last.  Six weeks of appreciative groans and it’s over.  It doesn't take him long to revert.  I'm surprised the radiator can tak…

'David' by H Anthony Hildebrand

“I wish my car was as dirty as your wife,” David sobs.
I eye him suspiciously. I have never been married.
David sends me a postcard. The text on the front says: Wish You Were Her! Beneath is a picture of the Titanic sinking, passengers drowning. Iceberg hulking. On the flipside the postcard’s surface is reflective. The tiny embossed font reads: You Are Not Here. *** David takes me to a restaurant. We wait to be seated in a space designed to look like a doctor’s surgery reception, the walls adorned with posters warning of the dangers of chlamydia and offering advice on living with irritable bowel syndrome.
Our waiter leads us to our adjoining workstations. Runs through the standard pre-meal tech checks.
“Gentlemen, here at The Lab we pride ourselves on delivering the finest haute cuisine dining experience available on the planet,” he says. “And to aid you with locating and enjoying your meal and indulging in all of its sensory pleasures, we are delighted to offer you, at no additional charge…

'Postal' by Kelly Daniel

The post-box was right outside her front gate.  She shut the front door behind her and walked over to it.  She looked at the letter in her hand. Her address was beautifully written and the stamp completely symmetrical. She allowed the letter to slip through the void and heard it slump into the dark. For some reason she had brought her purse.  She looked at it.  Money, cards, receipts, photos of her kids.  She posted that too and started walking

'Magnetic Fields & Electric Fences' by Amy Mackelden

It was late, when we stood in a field, with fifty cows. The bull, you said, was two fields down, and you thought it would be funny to let it in this one. I wouldn’t let you. You, who listens to me sing without laughing. Which isn’t easy.
Earlier, when it was light, I sat on your lap while you sat on a picnic table. You came up with lines to let him down with. I liked ‘Let’s just be friends,’ emphasis on ‘for now,’ and ‘I’m unboyfriendable.’ You told me it’s from a song, but you wouldn’t sing it. It wasn’t late enough and you needed more to drink.
Later, in the field, with the cows, we lay down, somewhere we guessed was centre, though is sure to have been off. You said it was the most women you’d slept next to, not just in one night, but always.
‘Me too,’ I said, and you laughed.
            ‘But you’re not next to any women,’ you told me.
            ‘I thought you meant the cows,’ I said. ‘The cows are all girls.’
After the lines about the cows, that made you laugh, that shouldn’t have, …

'Irony' by Alison Wassell

He had three months to live.  She held his hand as the consultant delivered the news.  She gave it what she hoped was a reassuring squeeze.         He proposed in the hospital car park.  She did not love him.  She barely knew him.  What she loved was the idea of herself as a young, tragic widow.  She planned her funeral outfit, rather than her wedding dress.  It would include some kind of a veil.  For the first time in her life, she was interesting.            The wedding was a quiet, dignified affair.  He remained seated throughout, bringing her hand to his lips whenever she was near him.  His touch, and his lips, were unpleasantly clammy.  She smiled sweetly, thinking of the black dress, and the hat with a veil, and her chance to be interesting.           He refused to die.  He had been saved by the love of a good woman. She looked over her shoulder to see who he meant.  Years passed.  He became a legend, a tale told to give hope to others.  She ate for comfort, and mentally ordered he…

The Gift' by Calum Kerr

'About a Buoy' by John F King

Looking back I’m glad I was kind to him at the time. At least I think I was, in the now, not later, not retrospectively. Standing at the school gates in his Navy uniform, Percy seemed to have found his legs. Back then you could leave school at 15, sort of age when you know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life. At school Percy was all at sea. On his last day, cast off, he simply sailed away.
It has to be said (does it?) he wasn’t the brightest boy. Some of our more direct brethren used the words Percy and plank  in the same sentence. He wasn’t aloof, self-contained, a self –appointed loner; he was lonely – there is a difference – isolated, lost. I never knew why, who was responsible, if the responsibility was his or others and to what ratio. Do people choose to be alone?  Really? I can see his last day now, that defeated walk of his, off course. There were not many waves for Percy.
Three years elapsed before any messages from him were picked up but to be direct not that many were on …

'An Apology' by Nettie Thomson