Friday 1 December 2023

Congratulations to our 2023 Pushcart Prize Nominees!

We are delighted to nominate the following FlashFlood stories to the 2023 Pushcart Prize:

Congratulations to our nominated authors!

Sunday 26 November 2023

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'What do I tell the grand kids?' by Layide

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


What do I tell the grand kids?
by Layide

Mum’s care needs have now changed.  She no longer communicates with words, but with screaming and shouting like Chewbacca from Star Wars!  The screeching is soul piercing, sorrowful and painful.  The Mother tongue (Yoruba language) is more dominant than the English language once fluently spoken . A dark cloud sits over her head, with occasional glimpses of sunshine bursting through the clouds. 

Mum spends all day lying vertically in bed, just waiting like a mascot for some sort of movement or interactions. As you enter her room her eyes gaze at you for instructions for you to either tell her to lift her legs or arms, or to sit up. She waits either for the family, or from the carers to dart in and out of her room doing the same daily routine.  The carers both caring and motherly women, greet mum with “Hello Aunty! how are you doing today?”  Mum smiles, as she recognises their familiar faces, and instantly knows the usual routine.  Anything out of the ordinary can set her back, and needs to be reset like a computer device being put back to factory settings.

The colourful box entertains her all day.  It watches her more than she watches it.  Whenever I phone  and ask her what is she watching, she always says BBC 2.  I know it’s not always BBC 2, as she likes the Food network channel and the Film channel too.  Mum was always one to watch Colombo & Ms Marple.  She was her own Detective, as she always solved the crime before anyone else!  She would watch the Drama and interact by talking and shouting “He’s behind you! “ Or she would guess who the murderer was before anyone else would.  It was a delight to watch mum in her element on a Saturday night watching TV.

I look into mums’ eyes looking straight back at me.  Innocent eyes, memories lost. Whenever she has the need to cry out, she shouts “my mummy oh!” followed by sorrowful cries, sometimes accompanied by nervous laughter just like a little child.  I offer her food or water, then she stops the cries and finds some sort of comfort in the feeding of food or drink.  I extend my hand to hold hers, then stroke her arm.  Simple touching connects and grounds her, she feels safe and secure.  She smiles a very warm sweet smile, then asks a random question.  There are times when she remembers things that have happened a long time ago, or asks me about a particular person that even I cannot remember.  She is still here; she is still present.  If only that were 100% true, and this ghastly disease was not true.

Prayer and faith are what keeps me going strong.  She spent most years in church and praying for other people.  Anytime I had a problem she would say pray about it, there is nothing too difficult for God.  She knew scripture by heart; she would run bible study groups and Caring hearts home groups as a leader.  She was well known and respected in the church.  Now it’s our turn to lift her up to God for healing and encouragement.  

Mum looks very well, her skin unblemished, unwrinkled for 82 years is not bad at all.  The odd grey hair bursting through the dyed black hair reminds you of her age.  Mum never liked the fact that she was growing old.  She would always ask me to pluck out the grey hairs when they made their first appearance.  It felt like effort trying to pluck the slippery grey hairs from her scalp.  Mum made sure I caught all of them before I could leave her presence.  She would keep on checking her head at all angles in the mirror.  Only problem was the more you plucked them the more they seemed to appear!  In the end I had to keep her happy by dying it black which lasted a long time.

Mum was always chatting, laughing, bubbly and very popular at work and in church.  Now, she rarely speaks, only talks when prompted with a few words or grunts.

Mum where have you gone, where are you hiding, what has happened? Are you scared? Are you worried? Are you ok?  

I could hear the grand kids asking, as they play around her.  Every now and then they ask Grandma “are you ok?”

What do I tell the grand kids?

She smiles back at them with that Grandma smile, then closes her eyes to catch a moments sleep.  The grand kids vary in age.  The oldest one remembers grandma’s booming African voice and laughter.  Always shouting and being heard above all voices, cracking jokes as she dominated her space.  The middle children remember her visiting them and going out to various functions where grandma was always in attendance too.  The youngest child only sees grandma at home either in her chair or in her bed.

I now realise there is so much I can tell the grand kids. Grandma has the greatest memory since she has lived long. It’s all locked into her mind and comes out every now and then when she wants to let it out.


Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: Extract by Nicola

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


by Nicola

Days had melted into weeks and Fae had gotten considerably better with the handle of her powers. The anxiety she experienced still crept in from the shadows from time to time but the whispers of doubts were slowly getting quieter. Combat training had been somewhat smooth for her even with a few hiccups Fae was able to pick herself up and try again. Step by step, things began to look up and Fae took it in her stride. Through those same weeks, Fae was comforted with words of courage from Lura when they would meet. It had a profound affect that lingered within her, as if it had caused an internal shift. Fae hoped that whatever was to come would not turn out bad like it had done the last time.


There had been a downpour that night as the girls and their parents took refuge in the nearby woodlands. The earthy smell swayed through the trees as the wind blew the fallen leaves from where they had rested. Small puddles of mud were trodden through as the group made their way past, and the animals of the woods scurried through the trees, jumping from branch to branch causing a ruckus for all to hear. The forest looked refreshed after the rainstorm and all the group could hear were the sounds of the forest.

“We should probably try and set up camp here and rest for a while. Who knows when we’ll next get a break?” Suggested Anthony. The batch started to relax and unload, letting out a chorus of sighs. They had been on constant alert ever since the loss of Althea’s mother, the brutal attack that left her half an orphan and everyone was on edge. Althea’s heart was breaking, and she did not have the time to mourn properly. Hearing something in the distance, Richard absorbed his surroundings and heard roars coming towards them from a distance.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Questioned Althea. She clung to her father in hopes of relief but to no availas her heart continued to race.

“I think I can hear the Algonites. They’re marching towards us, we need to leave, now!” The crew hastily got their baggage together making sure not to leave anything behind, as any trace would give them away. Out of nowhere an explosion erupted a few feet from them, following with a collection of screams.

“We’re too late.” Said Hannah nervously. In the distance a sapphire sea of foul-smelling creatures paced evenly towards them.

“Stop where you are! You are outnumbered and outmatched.” Growled an invader. It scanned the group from left to right as it took a few steps closer to take in their appearances.

“He’s looking for the Elementals.” Whispered Jade to Richard. With his enhanced hearing, he was sure to have heard her message.

“On your knees you insignificant creatures, you are in the presence of the Dark Fleet, you are now our prisoners.” The group started to bend their knees into submission, but Fae took a step forward in defiance and squinted.

“Not today.” Her hands ignited in fury and threw two fireballs which collided with a ball of electric. Fae shot a beam of Fire out both hands and burnt three of the blue beings, smirking at their part melted forms. Another globe of flames appeared in her palm, burning fiercely with her raged emotion, ready to launch. Just before she could throw the fierce flames, her father grabbed her out harm’s way whileburning himself in the process. Daryl cradled his forearm as he grunted in pain, trying his hardest to rock the pain away.

“Dad, I’m so sorry.” Apologised Fae. She crouched down to support her father’s arm to see the full damage, while the others covered them. It had melted through layers of skin and blood flowed from the wound profusely.

“You dare defy us!” Raged the invader. With a roar, the invaders charged their claws and launched a cluster of electricity in their direction. Eva-Rosebolted next to Fae and blocked them from danger with a boulder. The huge lump of stone crumbled on impact and showered dust fragments between thefighting foes.

“Quick Simon, take the girls out of here. They can’t be taken, or we’re all doomed.” Ordered Joy. Althea blew a gust of wind throwing a few invaders back as a cover for her and the girls to reach Simon. Teleporting was a tricky one. The more people he had to move with, the more difficult it was. Richard and Daryl charged towards the enemy, firing lasers from his gun. Hoping to bide time for them to escape. Slashing and shooting their way through the mass they took down a few more blues monsters. Fae, Eva-Rose and Willow placed their hands-on Simon and Joy, and Jade ran to join them.

“Dad no. Come back please!” Screamed Althea, tears falling from her watery eyes. Her yelp of sorrow caught her father off guard. The closest Algonite threw waves of electricity, shocking him to the floor where he trembled in discomfort and laid motionless as his heart came to a stop.

“Father!” Exclaimed Fae.

“Go!” Cried Daryl. In a swift motion the group escaped, leaving behind a teardrop from Althea’sand Fae’s anguish.


That was the last time they saw them. 

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'My Childhood Memory' by Bernadette

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


My Childhood Memory
by Bernadette


I remember my first week at my Catholic Boarding High School...

How the fear of leaving my parents, my siblings and my home built up as my drop-off day fastly approached, never had such fear in my ten years of life...

I remember how I was made to cut off my beautiful long hair...

How I watched with ignorance as the hair stylist repeatedly drove her sheers through my head, plucking off my God-given gift...

I remember when the day finally came...

How my heart overweighed my being as we drove pass the extensively lengthy school walls leading to the entrance gates...

I remember having the feeling of being sold away by my parents as they handed me over to the Reverend Sister and drove away...

How my fearful thought of migrating from free to lost became more real...

Being put in their care meant growing up fast, enduring torture, and discovering yourself in hardship...

I remember how the seniors bullied me as a junior...

How they ignored my plea for empathy and allergies from manually cutting wet grass...

I remember how that first week I got home-sick and wrote a letter to my father, asking him to come rescue me and take me home...

How my teared baggy eyes gave me clear insight and acceptance that my father was not going to answer my cry for help...

I remember many more stories of my childhood after that first week at my Catholic Boarding High School...  

How I had to protect my sisters when they were brought in later years to join me in the boarding school life...

I remember that hot sunny afternoon when my mother came to the school gates with tears, feeling empty and lost, to inform my sister and I of how she was forced out of our home and her marriage by my father's family...

How I had to grow up quickly again as a child to care for my mother and my siblings, always sharing my school provisions and teaching my siblings to do the same...

Many stories but a few shared...

Now I've had over forty years of life, I see that my father's rejection to my cry for help was his gift of tough love, to make me stronger to survive the remaining years at the boarding school...

Now I see clearly, that my father's actions helped build my independence, taught me lessons of life and how to face its challenges...

Many years I forgave my father and mother, as is the habit of love to keep conquering many actions...

Through life's waves, I am thankful for courage...

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'A tree with no Name' by Avril

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


A tree with no Name
by Avril


You know how people stare
Photographing my bark and branches
and think I have no emotion or feelings
‘I suggest you leave your world of connection
and obsession with speed, internet and
and fast food and learn patience and

In the quiet gardens, I found another tree
Taking in the quiet, noticing my
feelings and observations
What could I find if I took the time?
‘I’m like you weathering storms and all
kinds of weather that come my way’

I started to record my observations
writing in a journal, through a lens
admiring the different colours of
seasonal leaves
The enjoyment of being surrounded by

I researched and found how mature trees
assist with smaller trees in their
neighbourhood by using
Underground fungal networks to transfer
Water, carbon and resources

‘I started to notice how each tree is
Your ridges of bark and veins of leaves
are fingerprints distinctive to each
trunk and branch
As each one is different
I learnt how trees strengthen
Bringing together individuals and groups
walking, birdwatching, nature trails,
children’s activities

Trees stand full of pride
Roots are our foundation, we are all
Our roots spread
Spring is a time for growth and
‘You too can be open and grow at your pace

The conversation ended with the tree
with no name
Asking me to look closely and observe
all the shades of green leaves and
different textures of trees in London
growing in the Royal Parks
I’ll finish with a quote
‘We are the longest living species on
And give a link between the past, present
and future’.
Where I departed feeling calm and

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: Extract from 'Just another life' by Meliha

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


Extract from Just another life

by Meliha

Upon our return, my aunt questioned me about how Harris proposed. She was shocked to discover I accepted it with ‘okay’. She argued that a marriage proposal cannot be accepted with ‘okay’. I argued that it could, since I managed it. She explained what she meant at great length. I listened. We went to bed.

The next day my aunt was back at work, so I was on my own again. I remember lying on the bed, staring at my ring, smiling to myself when the thought of my mother shook every nerve in my body. I have no idea where all those tears came from, but they gushed out in great numbers. I couldn’t even stop them. I got up, got dressed and made my way to the graveyard. The sun was out, I had my sunglasses on, and every so often I had to rub a tear from my cheek.

I arrived to the great big field of gravestones and had no idea where to begin to look for one with Indira Behar on it. I must have felt considerable pain at the time, although I don’t remember that I cried anymore. I remember wondering about the grave yard, passing by stones that seemed too old to be done at the time of my mother, looking to my left and my right; turning back, stretching my sight as far ahead as I could. I wandered about the field of graves for a long time; I remember the sun was fresh on my face on my way to the graveyard, and it was sharp on my back as I walked away from the graveyard. I don’t remember that I thought about anything as I walked towards River.

As I caught sight of River I noticed Benjamin talking to two men and pointing to the window of the café. I was no more than a few meters away from them when the two men departed and Benjamin turned in my direction with a smile on his face.

Benjamin: “Good morning Mrs Stone.”

Me: “Hey.”

Benjamin: “Is everything alright?”

Me: “Err… I think I need coffee.”

Benjamin: “You’ve come to the right place. Come on in.”

Me: “Thanks.”

I took my usual seat by the bar, and Benjamin resumed his position behind the bar. It was cool and shaded inside River. No one else was there; all the other customers sat outside in the garden, by the river.

Benjamin: “Where have you been all morning?” I didn’t respond. “Harris has been trying to contact you. He’s phoned here at least three times.”

Me: “I should phone him.”

Benjamin passed me the phone without a word, I lifted the receiver to my ear and as I was about to dial I realised I don’t know his number. I closed my eyes and returned the receiver back on the phone.

Me: “I’ll call him later.”

Benjamin: “May. What’s wrong? Have you changed your mind about the engagement?”

Me: “No, no; that’s fine. I’m fine.”


You can purchase this book at Smashwords, Google Play, and Barnes & Nobles.

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'The Cleaner' by Mags

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.


The Cleaner
by Mags

Over the years she had had cleaners come and go. Some who rushed about with very little to show for their speed, some so meticulous that, frankly, she wished they weren’t, and some fell somewhere in between with their mediocrity.

Then there was another sub-category: those who, not only criticised, but openly berated her for her domestic shortcomings, looking around and tutting, and all because they shared a culture. Their cleaning took on angry undertones - their scrubbing more vehement, the duster grinding the dust into everything it touched, the hoover wielded in such a way it became a weapon, the carpet beaten rather than hoovered. Their lips firmly pursed. Their over-familiarity irritated and hurt. A bit of understanding or kindness would not have gone amiss.

She wasn’t looking forward to the new incumbent coming, she was positively dreading it, but she had reached an impasse at home.

The doorbell rang, she took a deep breath and went to open the door. A petite, pleasant-looking, dark-haired woman stood before her with a hesitant smile. They took a moment looking at each other.

“I am Maria, zee agency, she send me” she said by way of introduction.

“Yes of course, please come in…”

The dogs rushed up to her sniffing. The pup immediately launched itself on her, at 13 months already a large size, standing on his hind legs his head approaching Maria’s shoulders. The carer started to apologise pulling the pup off her, but Maria took it in her stride, not showing any concern. Surprisingly she had not been bowled over by the strong pup. She just smiled and said “eez okay”. The carer suggested that the dogs be shut in the garden for the duration of her work - other cleaners had absolutely insisted on this - but Maria looked surprised and said “no, I… I okay weez dogs”. She did wonder if the woman was just being polite.

She showed Maria around and explained the circumstances for calling the agency. She felt guilty for needing help and felt even more guilt for feeling the need to explain. Her insides fluttered as she heard herself justifying, her wringing of hands betraying her nervousness and shame of bringing a stranger into her home and asking for help. Her eyes asked that this stranger would understand how her 24/7 caring role jarred with basic home management, while in her head pleading that this woman was gentle when passing judgement.

The cleaner kept nodding throughout while looking around her. She was clearly formulating a plan. She patted the carer’s arm and said quietly “eez okay”. Maria started working in the kitchen, moving about efficiently.

The carer left her to it and was about to walk back into the kitchen when she caught sight of the pup sidling up to Maria at the kitchen counter, and leaned against her legs. She drew breath to call him to stop bothering the cleaner, but stopped herself. Maria hadn’t seen her, but bent down to the pup and stroked his silky, black and amber fur. She whispered “mi amor”.

The carer watched for a moment in the doorway, and smiled. This cleaner would be staying.

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'The Anti-Poem' by Jo

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

A note from the author:

I enjoy writing stories about observations I make of people’s lives. Sometimes a conversation may trigger a thought. This poem was inspired by a conversation I had with a teenager who had to analyse poetry for their English literature course at school. Poems can sometimes intimidate the reader as I have experienced myself, and before joining the Wandsworth carers writing group I would not have had the confidence to write a poem and put it out there for anyone to read.

The Anti-Poem (a teenagers lament on poetry)
by Jo

What is a poem but a bunch of words stuck on a page.

Who cares?

Who wants to know who’s written it and why?


I don’t always get it, and it fills me with dread.

I like the ones that rhyme and make me laugh, and some are quite clever and stick in my head.

What is a poem?

A piece of art of what’s in your heart?

A feeling?

A thought?

A memory?

Oh please…..

How do you know if you understand it if it doesn’t make any sense?

And what is the point if you don’t understand it? Just make it stop, the thoughts in my head!

I’d rather be dead than read another one. It makes me feel physically sick!

But why? I ask myself,

do I have a reaction to a written piece of infraction that seeps under my skin, and why should I care?

Don’t ask me why, I’ve just written a poem.

Wandsworth Carers Series 2023: 'From my window' by George

This piece is part of our 2023 Community Writing Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, in observance of Carers Rights Day 2023. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

From my window
by George

From my window, I see many, many things. Why? Because my dining room window overlooks my Amazonian garden. I have spent many an early morning eating my breakfast cereal and sipping my tea with my window as a portal to another place. Who needs a TV, who needs David Attenborough, who needs Netflix when I can transport my eyes and mind to somewhere else merely by viewing my garden.

So, what do I see?  On the animal front, I see a family of four squirrels frolicking furiously and frantically along the fence and jumping joyfully from branch to branch. They are a source of great amusement and entertainment. I see a couple of foxes basking and bathing in the sunlight, fast asleep, dead to the world. I see several parakeets effortlessly swooping and gliding in an astounding and outstanding display of aeronautical acrobatics. I see a robin redbreast hopping around with its chest proudly puffed out. I see multi-coloured butterflies flitting and fluttering nonchalantly and care-free from beauteous and bounteous blossom to blossom. I see the humble bumble bee going about its daily bizzzzzznesssss!!

On the plant front, I see a rainbow of hues, shades, tones and colours aplenty from the variety of flowers and plants growing wildly and abundantly in my garden. The colours are both breath-taking and awe-inspiring in equal measures. It is as if a giant had come into my garden and broad brushed a kaleidoscope of colours on nature's canvas. The colours are vivid and bright. They are glorious and beautiful, bursting alive with colour. Mere words cannot do justice to the sheer variety and complexity of the natural tapestry involved.

As the seasons change, my view of the garden changes. From the snowy branches of January to the life-affirming April showers, from the parched grass in August to the russet fallen leaves in October, my garden never ceases to amaze me in its monthly metamorphoses and transformations.

All in all, as I sit and watch my garden world go by, I feel a contentment and tranquillity that I rarely experience anywhere else on this planet. 

An Introduction to Today's Community Writing Series: Wandsworth Carers Series 2023

The 23rd of November is Carers Rights Day, and is an annual observance in the United Kingdom dedicated to raising awareness about the rights and challenges of unpaid family carers.  To mark Carers Rights Day, we are honoured to present work from the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group, the latest in our of Community Writing Series.  Throughout the day,  we'll be posting eight pieces of new writing from this group.  These range from flash to poetry to memoir to extracts from longer works. You'll find a new piece posted each hour on the hour from 11:00 - 18:00 today, but first, we'd like to give you a little introduction to Wandsworth Carers Centre and its Writing Group from one of its organisers....


Wandsworth Carers Centre is a registered charity and limited company that has been providing support to unpaid Carers in Wandsworth since 1995. It is part of the Carers Trust network. 

The vision for the Centre is a society where Carers are recognised and valued for their contribution and have choice and control that enables them to care, to stay healthy and to lead fulfilled lives.

A Carer is someone, who without payment, provides help and support to a partner, child, relative, friend or neighbour, who could not manage without their help.  This could be due to age, physical or mental illness, addiction or disability.  The term Carer should not be confused with a care-worker, or care assistant, who receive payment for looking after someone.

The writers group aims to encourage beginner and intermediate writers to explore writing as form of finding time for themselves, and of catharsis and self-expression. The group write fiction, non-fiction and poetry, about their experiences of caring and about anything else they would like to write about. To this end, we are pleased to share these of pieces of work produced by our Writers group

Wandsworth Carers Centre |
On X/Twitter at WandsworthCarers | @CarerWandsworth)

Sunday 25 June 2023

2023 FlashFlood: The Complete List

In case you missed any of the pieces we appeared during the 2023 FlashFlood, here's an index to everything.  Happy Reading!

Saturday 24 June 2023

'Only Water' by Sarah McPherson

It is only when the storm breaks and rain waterfalls against the windows, the rushing and crying and the noise of it and the pressure suddenly released, that she realises she needs to leave, needs to get out of here and she runs out of the house without coat, without shoes, without thought, and across the dunes leaving the imprint of her feet dotted across the wet sand like braille, like a route map, and the sound of the rain masks anything else and she can’t quite tell where she is and she is gripped by a sudden fear that she won’t find the ocean, or that she’ll find it too soon.

It is only when her hair and clothes are wet through and plastered to her skin, clinging like seaweed, that she stops, falls to her hands and knees, crawls up and over the next dune as marram grass whips in her face and there is sand under her fingernails and she can smell the salt and she knows she is going the right way.

It is only when the drumbeat of the rain and the deep rumble of thunder overhead are joined by a new noise, the growl of the surf singing with them in harmony, that she feels like she can breathe again.

It is only when the first ripples tease her fingers, dancing around her hands then sucking the sand from under them, that she gets back to her feet.

It is only when the water is up to her knees, her thighs, her waist, that she leans backwards until she is floating.

It is only when she is floating that she realises the rain has stopped.

It is only when she sinks that she feels free.

It is only her; only water.

'A Melody You’ve Never Heard' by Melissa Fitzpatrick

You are swimming. There are no waves. There is only the water, immense and blue. You dive down and down into the silence, into the rippling light, searching, searching. A blue whale glides slowly overhead. A school of fish glints silver, turning one way and then another. You hear someone singing, a melody you’ve never heard but that you think you know. Down, down you swim until you find him. Your boy. He is sitting on the bottom of the ocean, criss-cross applesauce, his hair floating out from his head like a halo. He is blowing bubbles, and the bubbles are floating up and away. When he sees you, his eyes brighten. Look, Mama! Look! he says, and you know his voice, though you’ve never heard it before. You open your mouth to tell him yes, to tell him I see, to tell him I love you. But you are out of air, and you know you will have to surface soon. And you know you will spend the rest of your days trying to find your way back to this place.

'Scheherazade' by Kate Mahony

In the bar, my lover is silent. He acts bored and says he is tired. I see him glance around the bar as if in search of better company.

I tell him this story I read in a newspaper. A man somewhere in Asia went to a hospital complaining of complications from surgery. The doctors found nothing wrong, but the man refused to leave his bed.   

After a year, a new chief of staff took over the hospital. He said the man had to be removed. It took six policemen to carry him out. On a stretcher. He was still wearing his pyjamas, I tell my lover.

My lover blinks.  He casts a covert glance at me as if possibly he may have a question or two in his mind.

I do not wait for him to speak.  I begin another story.


First published in Bonsai, Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand, published by Canterbury University Press, 2018.

'Calling time with Edith Piaf' by D X Lewis

Calling time with Edith Piaf

… and Daniel suggests we lunch at the bistro, I think how romantic, maybe we can have a siesta, it’s a long time since we … you know, so we book a table, I put on sexy clothes, scent he gave me, and they give us our usual table, but this time Daniel sits with his back to the wall, which I don’t like because I like watching everyone else, and this way I can see only him and the Edith Piaf poster, and he’s tense and pale and I say what’s wrong he says straight out do we want to stay together for the rest of our lives, and I’m shocked, I ask has he found someone else, someone better in bed, someone who can still have children, he hasn’t slept with anyone else has he, no he just feels the spark’s gone and we should see if we can feel more alive with someone else, I must have noticed we hadn’t, you know, for a long time, it’s not he doesn’t love me, but he can’t imagine being with me for ever and time is running out we should look back on our three years as a happy or at least satisfactory chapter and move on, stay friends of course, but each of us find someone else, let’s have a nice meal and bottle of wine and be grateful for what we’ve had rather than sad for what we’re losing, I thought that was beautiful when the Queen said that about her mum, but I haven’t died, and my mouth dries and eyes water and the waiter recommends the pumpkin soup and garlic lamb but I’m not hungry now so I stand up and walk out as Edith starts singing her bloody song about no regrets …

Debut Flash: 'Five Minutes to Midnight' by Anthony Q. Rabang

We’re already jolly-jumping like what we always do in welcoming the New Year. Believing in superstitions to invite good fortune. With an empty biscuit can, grandma drumming her heart out with a wooden ladle like a rock star; and we jump with each beat until our legs become very sloppy. On polka dots, dad opens all the windows of our house and makes the coins in his pockets rattle – complementing the music in full volume. Mom wrestling with frying pans, steel pots, and a pressure cooker in the kitchen sink. A fruit salad, an arroz caldo, and a pineapple-glazed ham are slated for the Media Noche.

her little fingers
skipping some numbers

Far from home. I am alone at my condominium,  in solitude, welcoming the New Year.
On the balcony, from soft to loud, the crackling sound of pyro brings me to the present.

‘Oh gravity!’
The weight of a heavy heart and an overworked body dissipating. . .
The vastness of citylights from here brings forth thoughts of what it used to be at home.


the slow descent of
grandma’s ashes

'Jailbird' by Minglu Jiang

My cellmate had a trio of pet parrots named after the Three Tenors. Emphasis on “had.” When he got nicked, he used his one and only phone call to tell his brother that Luciano, Plácido, and José need fresh produce 4 times a day, water dishes cleaned and replenished as often, pages from the latest issue of The Strad at the bottom of the cage, at least 3 hours out of their cages daily and ceiling fans and electrical wires and hanging lights, all those things that exist not in the amazon parrot’s natural habitat, removed.

My cellmate was an operatic bass who starred in every high school production despite his lack of falsetto. He attended Colburn and didn’t pay a penny and didn’t receive any either after graduation. 2 days after we met, he came down with a delirious fever and raved lovingly about Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. My only experience with music was as a roadie for a friend’s shit punk band that dressed like they knocked off a Hot Topic clearance. They probably did. We were that broke.

Luciano, Plácido, and José died in less than a month and in that order. With proper care, the amazon parrot’s lifespan is about 30 years in captivity. My cellmate wept and it made me angry. He loved those birds, he said. But if God intended birds to fly, caging them must equal suffocation, and what sort of love is that?

'Polaroid 129' by Paul Phillips

I sit on the bunk bed in my unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid for fear of perspiration, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile. Around me the plush animals, dogs mostly, seem perturbed and a little lost, like their names if they ever had them, which I suppose they must have done, same as I suppose that bland pink wall behind me must once have engrossed us with a texture. On the daisy patterned bedspread lie the other Polaroids – fogged, fading – and the other camera.  

We got the cameras for our birthday. I remember using up all ten shots in the cartridge, then switching to those exciting flat boxes of spares that were our second presents and would double as places to hide secrets – click-clicking and whirring at everything that came to hand, one another, of course, the abalone and the amethyst, and other childhood keepsakes, the mobile of ceramic doves and, bizarrely, other photographs, of bands, and foreign lands, and boys, even Dylan, even then, with that breaking wave of blond-tipped hair and the latest incidence of bad skin on his sucked-in cheeks, framed forever on the daisy bedspread, or for as long as such cut-price alchemy can last.

Here it is beside me now, fading still: Dylan; Dylan's bad skin and retro zoot jacket with the sleeves rolled over like a dozen times; Dylan's car.

And there you sit on the lower bunk bed, in your unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid in hope of miracles, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile.


First published online as part of the Found Polaroids project ( in 2017.

'Redline' by Rich Youmans



0–90 along the backroad peach blossoms fly

He slips glances at her sunlit inner thigh as he throttles and shifts, the hemi whining wire-tight. All day he's waited for her, driving the same streets from stoplight to stoplight, as shadows climbed the stubby Main Street buildings. Now she's done with ringing up Dixies, with fending off the locals in their threadbare tees and splattered workpants. He shifts again as they take the bend by Miller's Farm. She flashes one of Old Man Miller's prized bulls before it can even look up. She laughs, her blond hair blowing wild, all the windows down. She holds her open palm into the wind as if to sail away, gives him that sideways look. Tonight they'll park again out by the lake. Already he can feel her flesh on his, see her pale face shining as if to slip its skin, hear her breath giving life to wishes—to head out west, past the Mississippi's muddy flow. To drive away, far from her parents' shotgun rooms, his father's temper and pile of empties. His graveyard shift. To find a plot of land, green and deep. To see nothing but what they can call their own.

crossroads    down every turn the same horizon


First published in MacQueen's Quinterly, Issue 6, January 2021.

'Behind blue eyes' by Sarah Royston


I have two friends, Brenda and Barbara. We love dressing up. In summer we go in the garden. Sometimes Maxie comes to play. She’s really cool with super-long blonde hair and pink earrings and a tutu. I’m not allowed to try it on. At Christmas we get new clothes and take turns wearing the sparkly ballgown.


There’s shouting downstairs. Then we get presents, even though it’s not Christmas. Shiny purses and jumpsuits. Riding gear – as if we could straddle a horse. Shoes that soon get lost. A new girl arrives, Jasmine. Her dark hair is longer than Maxie’s. We move house, but go back to the old place at weekends. In the kerfuffle, Barbara disappears. Brenda keeps smiling, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.


We wear mini-dresses and dance to Madonna. OK, mostly we just lean on the walls. A guy turns up. He stands around stiffly, always wearing the same tuxedo. Then suddenly, everything is about him. He dates each of us in turn. His mouth gets a raw look from kissing. One time he’s with Jasmine when Maxie comes over. She throws a fit, saying boys only like blondes. The tuxedo gets ripped in the row. It’s months since I went outside.


Maxie shows up in a state – hair hacked short and streaked with red. She’s got all her stuff in carrier bags, says she’s staying for good. I finally try on her tutu. It’s not that great. My skin is firm and smooth as ever, but my hair is tangled. The velcro on the ballgowns is clogged with fluff. We have one shoe between us. It’s dark most of the time. We lie quietly together on the pile of clothes. In the dimness, Brenda smiles. Sometimes I wish I could shut my eyes.

'Woodpecker Houseguest' by Alycia Calvert

We put it off, blame winter snow for obscuring nesting materials, hear in-wall chicks as snow thaws into wildflower. We climb, rung by rung, equipped with gloves, goggles, filling foam. We climb, counting your holes, a scatter plot parabola triangulated around meaning.

In bed, we spoon, find our utensils don’t fit, layers spread space thick between us. “Why are we lonelier together?” We perform fear-based love. Your beak-tapped messages a respite. Our winter nights less lonely, we live for you. On the top rung, your nest empty. “We” dissolves into “he” and “me.” I spray expanding foam into our absence.

'Kaleidoscope' by Annie Marhefka

Uncle Billy made kaleidoscopes by hand. He was a carpenter first but grew tired of the legginess of tables and the unnecessary curvatures of armchairs. The stillness of furniture made him anxious. He preferred the simplicity of a solid cylinder, the rhythmic sanding down of its endless curve. You could just keep spinning and spinning it and never know if you’d gotten back to where you started. You could pour a glaze and it would drip and drip, as long as you kept swirling the wood in your hands. He liked how its ends were indistinguishable from its beginnings, how you could break glass into a thousand shards and make it more beautiful. He liked how, when he gifted someone a finished product, they had to shut the world out with one eye to see what he’d made, the way his art required you to look. He liked how sometimes you couldn’t guess what he had crushed to make it whole: whether it was the blue glass of a soda bottle, the velvety red of a wine jug, or a fistful of seashells. Guess, he’d say, but never reveal the answer. After he died, my brothers would dissect the kaleidoscopes, inspect the mirror systems that refracted the light, pull the rainbowed fragments from the object mechanism and declare their origins. I hid my own kaleidoscope from them, buried it in my sock drawer. I did not want to know the pieces or to unveil the secret chambers within. I only wanted the mystery of the emerald green shards dipping into the blue and the amethyst and the triangles turning to circles and back to triangles again. I wanted to peer into a world where everything would always be whole.

'Dream State' by Melissa Flores Anderson

The hair dresser hadn’t me the phone and I heard my mother’s voice break.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said.

“Maybe it’s time.”

I got home smelling of coconut and lemongrass shampoo from the salon to find my dad at the dining table, his eyes downcast and his shoulders folded forward.

“You’re right,” my mom said, a catch again in her throat.

Time for the cat to be put down. Bailey. A 12-year-old Siamese mix with a creamy coat. He’d gotten the name from my college boyfriend who had a penchant for Irish cream. The cat had long outlived the relationship. After college, I moved back home and the cat took to sleeping on my bed at night.

While my parents sat, I knelt down to get into the crawl space under the stairs to retrieve the cat carrier. I drove with my mom to the vet while my dad stayed home, not wanting to be present for it.

“I’ll give you a minute alone with him,” the vet said in the sterile room. The cat hunched down on a cold, stainless steel table. We petted behind his limp ears, his fur greasy and unclean, and he let out his squeaky half purr for the last time. Bailey’s spark left the room and we had just his body left in front of us.

That night as I slept, I felt his weight jump onto the edge of the bed, his half purr emitting into the dark. Half awake, I sat up to reach for him before I remembered he was gone. For a week, I woke to the sound of the purr, a comfort in the quiet, empty morning. And then Bailey was gone for good.

'Woman, Scarecrow' by April Bradley

My insides are outside, strewn and clumped together, leaking out of my clothes, covering the floor. I have been cut down, mown, and used for fodder. My insides sit next to me, a tangle. My insides grow outside, swallowing up the electrical lines and the homes, your home. You, satisfied and whole, only see the overcast sky, the sweet promise of rain.

You don’t see the spark, the rage, the rage, my rage—

is the inferno that burns us up.


'Woman, Scarecrow', After "No Trespassing" by Andrea Kowch, 30" x 24" acrylic on canvas.

'Traceless' by Kelli Short Borges

If the familiar scent of lilac hadn’t clung to his sports coat that evening, if she hadn’t sneaked from the marriage bed into the shadow of his den, hadn’t slid a hand into that same coat pocket, hadn’t rifled through the business cards gum keys cigarettes receipts of his life, hadn’t found the scrap of paper, hadn’t seen the sprawling script of her best friend Delilah, the words hot and hotel and fuck and tomorrow, hadn’t silently crawled back to bed, burning, hadn’t remembered the promise he made, “Never again,” hadn’t followed him the next afternoon to the Lazy Dayz Motel, hadn’t seen them slip into room 203, his hand on her ass, hadn’t peered through the blinds five minutes later, hadn’t stifled a scream—if she hadn’t—she wouldn’t have greeted him at the door two days later with a drink, watched his Adam’s apple bob as the glass was emptied, rinsed the last dregs of residue as he fell, erased google history.

Debut Flash: 'Honestly' by Nicole Winchester

No one ever wants to make or answer phone calls, nowadays. There's too much anxiety, too much urgency in the act of speaking, thinking of the next thing to say on the spot, as opposed to typing a response with your thumbs at your own leisure.

Too much honesty in it, too. No time to lie. That was my problem. I enjoyed the time that texting afforded me.

Eric: I got an invite to a party next weekend, u wanna come?

Me: Naw I got stuff to do, sorry

Eric: lol like what ur a hermit

Me: My mom is in the hospital actually

Eric: oh shit I'm sorry. Tell her hi from me

Me: I will, thx

I think about that exchange a lot, wondering if I cursed myself, if things would be different if I had accepted the invitation.

I missed the call that my mother really was in the hospital until everyone in my family texted me at once that she’d passed away.

I'll be honest. I wish I'd never told Eric anything.

'Static' by Darcie Johnson

The signal was first detected by some kid on his ham radio.  I wondered what would have happened if he had just switched to a different channel and not told anyone.

It seemed silly. Who cares about some sound on a radio? Cassie and I had laughed about it. How did anyone know it wasn’t just static?

But it wasn’t static. It went from puff piece to the only thing on the evening news. They talked about it without telling us where it came from or what it did. Except that they thought it was some kind of wake-up call.

Now they’re estimating that half the population is affected, and the numbers are growing.  Most people think it’s some kind of extra-terrestrial parasite. Embedded in humans from the beginning. Taking over quietly and turning us into real-life pod people. Others think it's a form of mind control, sent from another country to turn us against each other. We’re all being asked to see our doctors; they have a way to tell if we are still ourselves.

Last week Cassie and I made a plan.  If the world is ending, we just want to be together.  So, we packed our bags and plan to leave before things get crazier.  I had my appointment last week and she has her’s today.  She’s scared. Worried they’ll think something is wrong with her. Not everyone comes back from the doctor, her dad didn’t. I agreed to go with her, said we’d leave right after.  We held hands and rode up in the elevator together.  

“It will be ok, Cass.  Once we get through this we can go anywhere.”

But of course we wouldn’t.  I knew once Cassie went in, she wouldn’t come out the same.  I hadn’t either.

'Mississippi Counting' by Gail Warrick Cox

Billy-Jo was sick, couldn’t come out to play with me and Molly-Mae, and the other neighbourhood kids, so we left her home, all tucked up in bed, awaiting our return.

‘Let’s play hide and go seek,’ Elijah shouted, ‘you can be it, Cora.’
I closed my eyes, began to count, the other kids scooted off to hide.

‘You count too fast,’ Molly-Mae complained, still there on the sidewalk beside me. ‘Don’t you know to say Mississippi after each number, that’ll slow you up.’
I covered my eyes, counted again. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi…
ten Mississippi. Here I come. Ready or not!’

I looked in all the usual hiding places. Found Elijah squatting in the empty barrel behind Hunter’s store. He always hides there. A couple of the other kids were in Jackson’s barn under the old wagon, shushing and giggling so loudly they gave themselves away. Mary was holed up in her mother’s outhouse. I swear that girl prefers spiders to people. Just Molly-Mae to find. I asked the other kids to help, but they shrugged their shoulders and headed home.

I scoured the streets, checked backyards, peered in porches, under verandas, behind hedges and in outbuildings but Molly-Mae was nowhere to be found. Something was wrong. She’d vanished. I needed to tell Momma before she was gone for ever.

‘Molly-Mae’s lost,’ I panted, when Momma opened the front door. ‘We were playing hide and go seek, she hid so good I can’t find her now.’ Tears sprang to the rims of my eyes.

‘Well,’ Momma said kindly, ‘perhaps you’ve outgrown your imaginary friend.’
The tears spilled. I bolted upstairs to tell Billy-Jo all about the Mississippi counting and missing Molly-Mae.

‘Cora.’ Momma’s voice came sternly from the bottom of the stairwell. ‘Just who are you talking to up there?’

'Tastes Like Salt' by Alison Woodhouse

I want to be fluff, I say, the kind you blow off the head of a dandelion, pow.

Please be serious, you say. What do you want really?

I want superpowers like flying and disappearing and biffing the head off a giant robot who’s threatening the planet’s existence. I want to be a clean machine, sucking up the landfills, mashing up the metal in my cavernous insides and pouring out pure ozone. Actually, if I’m honest, all I want really is to float.

And why, you ask, in your literal, literally driving me mad, usual way, would you want to float?

Isn’t it blindingly obvious, I don’t say?  

Because when the icebergs melt and the oceans rise and the land disappears only the floaters will survive, then the floating population will make towns and cities out of all the plastic that will rise to the surface of our landlessness and we’ll have to learn to dive like south sea pearlmen and the best of us will have lungs like iron and us floaters never cry, no we don’t, and melting icebergs should taste like salt so why do they taste of nothing at all?

You’ve got that face on again that says you have no idea why we ever got married and you really want to talk about it but I’m not going to exhale, no I’m not.


First published by Reflex Fiction.

'In the Quiet Moment, Just Before the Light Fades.' by Kathy Hoyle

She bears the weight of the child against her breast. He suckles, amber eyes gazing up at her.

When he is sated, she lifts him onto her shoulder, cradling the back of his head with a fragile hand. She feels his puckered breath against her neck. He nuzzles her for more.

‘Shh, greedy boy,’ she whispers, ‘shh, bonny boy.’

 She has missed these quiet moments, the world paused, the child’s whole future before him - a myriad of possibilities.

Her back cricks as she lowers herself into the chair. She is careful with him, as only a mother can be. She rocks him, lullaby-slow, until his limbs slacken, and she feels his lashes settle on her cheek.

The frail winter light moves softly into shadow. The room darkens. Her lids grow heavy. She takes a thick woollen blanket from the arm of the chair and tucks it tightly around them both, relishing the swaddled warmth.

My sweet boy, she thinks, I’ve waited so long for you.

She inhales the freshly powdered scent of him.

His chest rises and falls. 

Rise and fall
Rise and fall

Sleep finally takes them.

During evening rounds  the nurses find her - nightgown pulled low, one breast exposed. A thick woollen blanket has slipped from her lap and lays supine on the tiled floor. Her eyes are closed, as though she’s sleeping.

A worn blue bear rests in her lap, its amber eyes fixed upon her peaceful smile.


FlashFlood is OPEN for submissions until 27 April 2024!

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