Christopher Allen is the author of Other Household Toxins (Matter Press) and Conversations with S. Teri O’Type (a Satire). Allen’s fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in [PANK], Indiana Review, Split Lip Magazine, Longleaf Review and Lunch Ticket, among many other great places. Allen is a multiple nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, The Best Small Fictions, storySouth‘s Million Writers Award and others. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and semifinalist for The Best Small Fictions. He is presently the co-editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018.
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Again, we had another thrilling few months at Bath Flash Fiction Award for the eleventh Award with stories pouring in during the last few weeks, Our founder, Jude Higgins, writes flash fiction, and because she enters contests at the last minute herself, last year we thought the last minute crowd might like a (virtual) badge for entering on the last day. The third badge we've issued is pictured here and we think writers are collecting them! However, everyone deserves a badge. There were 981 entries this time from the 29 countries listed below and we very much appreciate everyone who took the time to write and enter a flash fiction.
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by Christina Dalcher
No Jews, no negroes, no single women after six. You can break all three rules if you hawk cohibas and candy from a tray strapped to your neck, so that’s how Miriam and I earn a buck. She became Marie. I bleached my skin. Doesn’t matter—at the Stork Club, men only measure your legs or peer down cleavage avenue while the wives powder their noses. They look harder when the wives stay home.
In our room, heavy trays and shoes kicked aside, we lie head-to-toe on a bed built for one. “Hurt, baby?” Miriam asks, rubbing the spot where too-tight heels made their evening marks.
Tuesday was our third time, and I’m leaving out recognizable names. You’ve seen them as giants on silver screens; later, they'll shine on black-and-white sets, small as they really are. Only Miriam and I see the parts hidden under tuxedos and fedoras. We smell their breath—champagne-syrupy, gin-sharp. We feel their bodies stiffen and slacken before tales are told at ashtray-littered tables. You don’t know them like we do.
They’ll talk about our bell-shaped skirts and our smooth skin that, in dark rooms, tastes like girl—not Jewish girl, not colored girl. They’ll whisper about how my fingers find Miriam’s and we hold hands in the during and in the after. They’ll laugh.
Alone, we tell each other different tales:
Only a few more.
The money helps.
We’ll be fine.
And we tell each other truths that rhyme with I love you.
“Hurt, baby?” she says, kissing me everywhere, peeling the stockings off my legs, letting them fall in a puddle of fishnet on the bare floor.
“Not anymore,” I lie.
Then Miriam rubs the sore spots, even the ones she can’t reach.
Snow Falling Upwards
by Fiona J Mackintosh
Meteorology man, you called me when you first learned of my weakness for weather. My love for fire rainbows and sun dogs. For lake effect snow and katabatic winds.
“Weather is mood, and climate is personality,” I’d tell you as you tugged the shirt from my waistband. “As for snow falling upwards, it’s just a trick of the wind and the eye. Gravity will always make it fall.”
There’s a photograph of you lying on our seagrass rug, listening to Satie’s Gymnopédies, a sunbeam striped across your waist. You did bliss very well. In our thousand days together, you’d always listen like you were hearing music, even when it was just my voice, full of unnecessary language.
Over the years, I thought of our lives as railroad tracks, moving forward side by side but never touching. Sometimes I could taste the want of you, but then I’d think about sleeping dogs and Pandora’s box. Instead, I stalked the high latitudes for the greening pulse of the auroras, my wife holding the receiver to catch their eerie sighs and whistles. When she died, I said, “Soon,” but first there was the paperwork, a sorting through, and the four stages, a long tunnel with damp and crumbling walls. Only then did I send the letter drafted long ago, folded into clean, white thirds.
This is what I do, I wait too long. I’d imagined you in a wooden house in the mountains with a great lake spreading out from your door, but now I know there’s not a single place on earth I’d find your footprint. I only hope the spheres are making music where you are. Here, there’s nothing but a goitered winter moon and the slow drag of an ice circle turning in the dark.
Sunday Crossword: These Three-Sided Polygons Trap Lovers (9 Letters)
by Lavanya Vasudevan
La, sirs, do you grin at my tales, do you think that I con, that I lie? Then let me tell you of this tangle, sir. Time must untie it, not I.
My beau, my swain, my love last night, he’s grinning in high cotton. He brings me to this crumbling inn, and right away I smell something rotten. “’Tis the last day of the last reign of the Tsar El Gin,” he says, “though his court is the largest in the land.” I nod and tap my nose; it’s a game we’ve played before. But this time, he’s having too much fun, and I wink and nod because I understand. The serving wench, she lingers at our table and wipes it with a tinsel rag. Her ears glint with stolen gold, a sterling ring I ken that I once had. I sit and smile and stand and sit, and now my anger’s lit. So, I pour him a drink, all neat and nice, and another, and another, and in a trice, he’s snoring and reeking of gin, staler than yesterday’s rice. Now, I say again: I’m no liar, gents, I ain’t like those cheating rats. They steal my ring, he two-times me, I strangle him, and that’s that.
Darling Tsar, pour me another, will ya? My heart’s broke, and it’s a real sting.
Her safe word is ‘circus’
by Sharon Telfer
But that’s before trombone blares clarinet reedy squeaks bass drum thrums and clowns slick her lips oversize scarlet her nose glows holly berry and what’s with her feet seee them streeeetch still everyone knows clowns are scary right so here’s that word slipping through kiss-stopped smack by whiskery sea-lion bark the candystripe ball bouncing to and fro to and fro never dropping dipping into silver-slippery fish pail dipping for silver-glistening prize then whipcrack reels her back a necklace of teeth cradles her throat her head deep in a red raw meat furnace blazing and this must be it now must be no leopard-skin strongman diabolos her up on dappled appaloosa thumpety thump splayed arms she’s tread tread treading thighs to that pounding rump round and round that very second as she’s giddy-sliding her teeth bite, hard, and up she rises in glitterball twirl hanging on nothing but a smile while her toes find a line a fine one and sole by sole she chalks forward her body eeling this way that held up by held breath only and there it is the board she’s going to make it don’t look down the great O below her she looks down her arms wing back legs like clappers ringing a five-bell peal but firm fingers snatch her tipping ankles wrists spin her spirals loops somersaults ‘til hands release a great gasp gusts from under and she’s comet tailing sequins falling no net falling yet here come the clowns again sirenning in hosing glitter while wheels fall off circling like a flower blooming and she lands on her back like a starfish safe at last in the bull’s-eye of the pulled white sheet.
by Jonathan Saint
We are going to fly, my five-year old son and I.
I am parenting alone. I choose the word ‘parenting’ because ‘fathering’ means something entirely different – ‘mothering’ is warmth and cuddles. I ‘parent’.
Smugly, I decide to pre-empt the challenges of take-off by purchasing mints – for the sucking and better equalising of the ears. We choose the sweets and then, for the development of my son’s social engagement skills (and exposure to low-stakes responsibility), I give him the mints, and a €2 coin, and stand behind him in a supportive, protective kind of way.
In front of us, second in line, a tall, sharp-suited man of middle age waits with his water and Times. My little one, holding the mints, swaps the coin to his other hand, or swaps the mints, or both, and drops the coin. It bounces high and rolls out… and then back… in a wide arc, until it returns to the queue, topples over, and settles finally on the shiny tiled floor.
Our queue leader completes her extended transaction. The businessman looks up from the news. My son crouches to pick up the coin. The man, all politeness and deference, steps back to make room for the many-bagged woman.
In the twinkling of an eye, I watch. I watch as my son’s little fat fingers try to lift the coin. I watch as the thick, black two-inch brogue heel lifts and steps back towards the five infant fingers grappling with an errant coin. I watch as the sharp heel comes down.
Conservatively, a 90-kilo weight transfer takes place with that backward step, as the man smiles magnanimously over his glasses at the bag-laden woman.
My son almost has the coin when the heel comes down.
His fingers are only small. Hardly pianist’s fingers. Perhaps a drummer.
Below, our eleventh Award Judge Vanessa Gebbie's report, detailing her interesting way of selecting the short list and winners from an anonymised list of flash fictions:
I was sent the long list – fifty carefully crafted flashes representing an impressive range of styles and subjects, a real cornucopia of flash skills. It’s always a huge responsibility, this judging game – and this time, I decided to see if there was any mileage in the Marie Kondo philosophy – could her thinking be applied to help me to remove thirty of them, somehow, leaving me with a short list of twenty.
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