flashfiction

Creative Flash Fiction Comp Winners

Oh my goodness what a difficult task. I’ve selected 3 winners and 3 runners up for this particular competition but there was a hair’s breath between the winners and those not chosen this time. I hope you enjoyed the challenge and come back for more. I hope to see some of you who’ve just started trying out flash fiction participating in #Fridayflash in the future.

Book winners: Email me at Alison at Brierwell dot com with your email address or postal address as required. Thank you and well done to all!

Winners:

Alvy Carragher wins Frisky Business (please email with your postal address)

Annie Dyer wins 52FF and Clodagh Murphy wins Kettle of Fish (let me know your email address and if you have a Kindle or other e-reader or else I will send a version that can be read on Kindle app on computer)

Runners Up:

Steve Walker wins Stories to read on the train

Jayne Baldwin wins Stories to make you go ‘ah’

Gerry O’ Donnell wins Stories to make you go ‘ooh’

(let me know your email address (mail Alison at brierwell dot com and if you have a Kindle or other e-reader or else I will send a version that can be read on Kindle app on computer)

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#fridayflash Cleave

In this flash another outing for Emily and Eddie, some of the characters in my still-in-progress interrelated flash collection.

Setting sun, last dash grasped memory of fun, rollercoasters on the prom. Scuff, scuffle, sleet, duffle, caress, ruffle. Kerfuffle. Summers last forever, last summer.

This time she was late, she had been out with her mother shopping for a bridesmaid dress. More ruffles. She said not on her life. He couldn’t believe she was sixteen, seemed like she’d been around forever.

He didn’t consider himself clever. He couldn’t spell. He couldn’t smell trouble. He was clean, free, fresh as a breeze, naive. Cleave. It was one of those words, you know that meant the opposite. Wasn’t that onomatopoeic? Automatic kudos with Miss Bradley in English. No. Wrong. Onomatopoeic meant stuff like sludge, splash, spaghetti – sounded like it was.

No-one sounded like they were, he’d figured that one out but he hadn’t told anyone. Cowards sounded loud and women with metal like Miss Bradley sometimes couldn’t be heard. He didn’t sound like he was, if he did he would have sounded like a dog whistle. What was the sound of Emily?

Cleave. Leave.

What he hadn’t said was that he didn’t have to.

Cleave. The plum from the stone. At the shore with a punnet, he broke the skin of it’s dark flesh, tore it from it’s heart. Plums, Emily couldn’t stand the things, she took it out of his hand and flung it into the water laughing. Plum dunk. Plum drunk, her mother would have been outraged.

There was a chance her mother was dying. She’d seen a letter from the hospital on the sideboard, she’d told him, in a whisper, in a rush, then refused to say anymore.

So many dusks on the beach with the sand grains rubbing out the edges of Emily and Eddie. Heads bent together as the sun split it’s skull, spilled it’s blood into the water. He wore black, he threatened to get a tattoo. In quiet coves at next day middays when the sun revived, smiled, blasted them, they basted their limbs and she explored the topology of his shoulder blades, rib cage, contours with many reverberations, spider legs, sleek starchitectural trusses. He had this vague idea of designing buildings but he didn’t get the necessary points. His mother had asked what was the point of being an architect if they all had to emigrate; there was no room for fancy design among the battalion of bungalows painted in shades of ghastly pastel.

He was leaving anyway. Cleave.

Clinging to each other like the ivy on the walls of the convent. They’d walked past it on the way home from school before the summer began. The convent made them smile because they could never be like that. He kissed her in it’s shadow. But in the fast forward of his life Eddie would one day find himself in the closeted halls of his bedsit, dreaming of waste paper bin basketball, offering up blue prayers for deliverance.

Leaves, the first ones, almost forgivable, began to detach themselves and fall. It was almost autumn. He had a friend in London who had a floor. He had all sorts of plans and alternate futures. Emily had a wedding to go to, a dress to wear, a smile to put on. The days were numbered. He was unruffled.

How many last days could there be? When she went quiet he thought she thought of her mother maybe, of him, of maybe nothing. He climbed inside her eyes but did not see everything. Out to the hills, he stole her on his motorbike, down by the sea they cleaved to each other on the beach, bleached in the endless holiday light.

He didn’t have to go. She could not be everything. She bit her lip, he held her hair, back, hips, fingertips, loosening.

#fridayflash Not Ariel

This was not her house, this was not her bed, these were not her curtains with the long nosed trolls hidden in the floral pattern. This was not the way the light trotted in around the curtain rail and swung around the room like a torchlight, disappeared with the low hum of departing car. This was not Amy’s life.

Amy bit the duvet. This was her duvet but it smelled differently. This was her duvet cover with the princesses, if she had to choose she was Ariel, the mermaid with the bright red hair. Hannah would have to be Cinderella, blonde, nothing else, just blonde.

They had their own rooms. Mum had said they were extremely lucky to have that under the circumstances. Hannah said what was wrong with their old house, this one was too loud. Amy said yes, all she could hear were the cars all night on the motorway. Mum held her breath, Amy saw her although she was always telling Amy not to do it. Amy saw her mother’s lips turning blue. And although Mum hadn’t said anything, Hannah had started crying. No thought Amy.

Amy climbed out of her bed, she went into the garden.

She could hear the murmur of her mother’s phone voice from the kitchen.

There was one good thing about this house where her Dad wasn’t.

The grass was squidgy under her feet. And squidgier as she went down the slope.

On holidays the last time, Daddy had made her take off her water wings. She had swum: one, two, three, strokes towards him.

From underwater, Amy had seen her Daddy’s white, hairy legs, puffed up like balloons, she had seen the flash of Hannah’s bright pink suit. She’d inhaled water, thrashed to the surface. Her Dad had looked at her and laughed a big belly laugh – a kind he hardly ever laughed. If she’d been Hannah she would have sulked. But Amy just stood, snot and water dripping out of her nose, a sharp sensation in the back of her throat and watched him laughing, watched him as if he was someone else’s Dad far away at the other side of the swimming pool and laughing for a proper reason.

She stood at the edge of the river, heard the music of it.  ‘This is not the sea’ thought Amy. She was not Ariel.

‘I’m Ariel’ she thought.

Someone had told her she was too old for all that.

Things were different. She could swim now.

Her nightdress went to her feet, she stood close to the bank, the hem of the nightdress became damp.

The moon was reflected on the river like a silver coin. She threw a stick into the river. It spun. Then it was carried away.  When she jumped in, her hair spread out like a fan.

Under the water she could not hear the murmur of her mother. She could not hear Hannah’s stupid sobs.  She could not hear the motorway with its army of cars, straight backed men inside with faces set forward, faces with no tears. Faces that laughed at disaster. Amy held her breath. Her legs were welded together with cold. She flicked her tail and swam.

She thought of princess’ pearls on the sandy floor. She wanted to keep on holding her breath, for as long as her mother had, for as long as she could. She swam to the bottom. But her chest began to hurt. She took in great gulps of water. She thought of her father’s legs in the swimming pool. She was not Ariel.

The river was not a sea, the river was not even a river, was it. After all, she found she could stand, albeit on the flagpole of submerged turrets. The water ran off her, she felt it slide over her scaly skin. She breathed the unnecessary air. She heard her mother’s voice tearing the night apart with fright.

#Fridayflash Origami Flamingos

This relates to a previous flash Close Encounters with Goldfish.

That’s the trouble with origami flamingos, they crumple under duress. Exotic-pathetic. I needed something with a little more resilience, like the steel ties you put inside hardening concrete.

‘Pipe cleaners’ said my nephew Gary.

‘Good idea’ I said, thinking somehow of Dali’s elephants. There was the same sense of melancholy, loneliness. I wasn’t the sort of man who jollied things along.

We were working on a 3-d nature project. I was substituting myself for his Dad, my  brother Barry. I was a bit of a pipe cleaner then…

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I said by way of inane conversation.

‘Harry Potter’  said Gary, pleased. ‘NOT Voldemort – but’, he mumbled, ‘you’re not really supposed to say his name’. The same way we’re not to mention his Dad who did a runner.

‘Why flamingos?’ I almost continued but then I realised, slap on my thigh, I should keep my mouth shut.

‘Stopped yourself short’ my wife Christine would have said and no bad thing. I have a big mouth sometimes, I admit it, but sometimes what comes out of my mouth isn’t big, it’s petty. I blame the wiring – I’m a left-handed geek with a penchant for spatial relations and a neurotic eye for detail. Imperfection irks me. ‘You didn’t have to point it out’ Christine often says. She’s my PR face saving agent, saves me from digging myself in deep by digging me in the ribs at social occasions.

Phoenicopterus is the genus for anyone interested. And my nephew was. He had the same kind of forensic intensity as my father and that’s putting a hell of a genetic load on his eight year old shoulders. My father was an obsessive collector of facts and artefacts, Guinness Books of Records, stamps and Spielburg film memorabilia. By the time I was born he had done a conversion and moved all his stuff up there. I knew him throughout my childhood as the Man in the Attic. He spent his evenings cataloguing, cross referencing, archiving, noting the gaps in his collections and when, in recent years Barry  introduced him to Ebay, we never saw him.

When he died we thought it was of disgruntlement. He had lost a table quiz that night. My mother told us afterwards that they discovered a twisted gut. She didn’t seemed surprised. She asked me to help her apply for that telly programme where they come to your house and help you sell your collectibles for cash. Her application was accepted and she played the soulful widow on the BBC. She cleared him out that way.

Gary and I figure out how to get the flamingos to stand. This origami thing goes way back.

One time Barry and I made paper boats and sailed them in a race on the long ponds of a country house that had opened its doors to the public. My mother, conservatively diligent had convinced my father to bring us for the open space and the fresh air.

Barry’s boat tied itself up in pond weed and sank slowly, sodden while mine chugged on but then he produced another that stayed intact and sailed absolutely true and – with a little help from a stick – crossed the finish line first. He won a packet of crisps which in those days was worth the bother.

There were large goldfish in the long ponds and Barry was thrilled with them. So much bigger than the ordinary, he conjured up possiblilities of ecto-algae-plasm that had accelerated their growth. Later a heron landed in the water, enthralled the crowd. But when he plucked a goldfish from the water and soared, Barry roared.

He cried all the way home. We thought it was still because of the fish but I found out later that he’d lost his crisps. Fish, crisps, its easy to confuse in the middle of a tantrum. And he had them. He was much older than me but I overhead somebody say once that when I arrived it took the shine off him and made him cantankerous. In the nights his nightmares displayed heron flamingo confusion. Or perhaps they didn’t, he developed a love of flamingos that his son seemed to have inherited. More genetic load bearing.

Speaking of load bearing, when I grew up I became an architect, Barry became a magician. We were both illusionists. He created objects where they weren’t there before, I created space and light. My builders sawed through partition timbers. He sawed a woman in half. Gary wanted to be sawn in half but Barry said there wasn’t enough of him. So Barry and Gary’s mother Pauline left him intact with me when they ditched him for the high life.

Pauline became Barry’s assistant. Their love was so intense and exclusive that she would be torn in half by him if that was what he wanted. She was no Debbie McGee. She was lumbering, gothic, her eyes disappeared into folds of flesh. He transformed her: with his magic wand, with love, with a massive loan, gastric band and cosmetic surgery. It was remarkable really. They also removed Gary like an appendage, said he’d be better with us.

We got a postcard from the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Barry had hit the big time with his magic show. My elevations weren’t comparable. In recessionary times work was thin on the ground. I undercut the competition for kitchen extensions and planning applications. In the postcard Barry and Pauline said that they spent their day floating on the lilos in the hotel pool. Looking at young Gary I wished they would sink like Barry’s paper boat. This time Christine allowed me the gripe- out of earshot of Gary –  and even added a few choice words of her own. When it came to children Christine was a Rottweiler of an advocate, despite the gentleness of those green eyes, her soft bosomy look.

I don’t know if I ever told you this but when Barry was young my father accidently killed his goldfish and lied about it. My mother said Barry was never the same after.

Gary and I get the flamingos to stand. I have to say they look terrific. Gary’s happy, he grins at me, his proper father figure. I turn the page and find instructions for origami goldfish. If Barry had been here we could have all made them together.