Award Six

Amanda O’Callaghan
June 2017 First Prize

Tying the Boats

by Amanda O'Callaghan

A week after she married him, she cut her hair. The scissors made a hungry sound working their way through the curls.

“You cut your hair,” he said, when he came home. Nothing more.

She thought he might have said, “You cut off your beautiful hair,” but his mouth could not make the shape of beautiful, even then.

She kept the hair in a drawer. A great hank of it, bound together in two places with ribbon almost the same dark red. Sometimes, when she was searching in the big oak chest that she brought from home, she’d see it stretched against the back of the drawer, flattened into the joinery like a sleek, cowering animal.

Once, she lifted it out, held it up to the light to catch the last of its fading lustre. She weighed it in her hands. The hair was thick, substantial, heavy as the ropes they’d used when she was a girl, tying the boats when storms were coming.

About the Author

Amanda O’Callaghan’s short stories and flash fiction have been published and won awards in Australia, UK, and Ireland. A former advertising executive, she has a BA and MA in English from King’s College, London. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Queensland. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. More details and links to Amanda’s work can be found at www.amandaocallaghan.com

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Nod Ghosh
June 2017 Second Prize

The Cool Box

by Nod Ghosh

Ross opened the cool box and removed remnants of his wife's wedding gown, a pair of pliers, the telephone from his grandmother's hallway, a light moment, two books of paramount importance, his daughter's milk teeth, effervescent conversation and a piece of sky, the tenderness of his mother's bosom, the sweat of children running from parents shot by insurgents, a medley of vegetables, the disappearance of two American teenagers, refusal to use dental floss, a holiday in Tyneside, the temperamental nature of a wolf's disposition, his brother's charm, latex gloves, his drama teacher with the blood disorder who walked on crutches after bleeding into his knees, a deformed cactus, the visages of two cats, disparaging and cruel, an engineer's rule, Bach's cello suites No. 1-6, a Mexican wave, ten pins, all the reports he'd produced in the last hundred and fourteen months, a dinosaur tooth, non-iodised salt, a mission to eradicate multi-drug-resistant organisms, a punnet of strawberries, the plagiarism of fools, dormant mushroom spores, a glass table he had coveted but never bought, dielectric grease at three hundred and nineteen dollars for ten millilitres, a tablespoon, a symphony of simultaneous orgasms, cream, manufactured dreams available on-line, developmental delays, a red squirrel from France, two plastic wine-glasses, seven long-playing records he'd never owned, a tomato, mustard, meringue nests, soft cheese, a low-carb sandwich for Rita, and he still couldn't find the paper plates.

'Are you sure you packed them?' he asked.

Rita's hair blew across her eyes.

'Here they are.' She pulled out a pack wrapped in plastic. 'Honestly, I don't know what you were thinking. You seemed lost.'

An invisible comet may or may not have streaked across the sky.

'They were right in front of you'.

About the Author

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Nod's work appears in anthologies: Love on the Road 2015 (Liberties Press), Landmarks (U.K. 2015 NFFD), Sleep is A Beautiful Colour (U.K. 2017 NFFD), Horizons2 (Top of the South NZSA), Leaving the Red Zone (Clerestory Press, N.Z.), and various publications. Further details: www.nodghosh.com

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David Rhymes
June 2017 Third Prize

The Place We Live Before We Don’t

by David Rhymes

He sat by the window recalling everything; the new-born infant, toddler, son; the brother, friend and boyfriend; Janie’s date, her husband; Jack and Hannah’s dad; watching the bin men slot the wheelies on the cart. A bleating baby when his mam’s milk wouldn’t come. An empty belly raging, dozing in a pushchair, watching sparrows on the ledge, waiting for the microwave to heat the formula. The way the binmen always wore those bright flourescent uniforms during the day. The bin men they. At junior school, a rainy day inside; the warm fug of the form room; outside in the wintry half-light, crows; Mrs. Moncrieff, who wouldn’t give permission to turn on the lights; no quibbling boys, you know we must save electricity, we want to see the birds now, don’t we? Yes. And then the day that Angela was hit on Plessey bridge. Your sister in a coma at the QMC. Though things got better, slowly: by any reckoning it was just six weeks later she stood eating grapes at Daddy’s bedside, reeling out a stream of Knock-Knock jokes. But that shook us, till Grandad Albert shook us more, then Dad got sicker still and went. And Janie pregnant with our second then, with Jack, and little Hannah only three and toddling still, and I thought Mam would say that’s bad but I’ve got worse, I’ve got this thing, this what-do-you-call-it? The unthinkable, growing in me, a black crow roosting somewhere in my blood. And one day look it’ll flap out too big, and what comes finally to everyone at last will come to me, that big black crow that’s roosting somewhere in my blood. Well, yes, he thinks, it will. The signal beeper on the cart. The noisy bin men backing out. The place we live before we don’t.

About the Author

Born in Nottingham, David has a degree in English from the University of Warwick and an MA from the University of East Anglia. He lives with his wife and children in Eneriz, a village near Pamplona, Spain, where he works freelance as a language trainer, course writer and translator. He has written across many different forms, both poetry and prose, and is currently finishing a novel set in early Victorian Nottingham, based on the life of Bendigo, a champion bare knuckle boxer who later became a preacher.

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Melissa Goode
June 2017 Commended

Acute intoxication

by Melissa Goode

We arrive home from the hospital and you lean hard against me as we walk up the front stairs. Sweetheart, you say, straight into my ear. You smell of chemicals and antiseptic. The children in the school playground opposite our house scream and play, mad animals, running around their cage. They squeal and laugh.

“I’ll go to bed,” you say.

You sway down the hallway. You sail. The drugs make their way through your body—I don’t know their names, their compatibility. The ones the doctors put into you and those you put there yourself. Don’t fucking freak out, you said. I kept waiting for your heart to stop. I did.

The curtain rings rattle and you make the room dark, your skin white-green, your hair black-green. I put your suitcase at the end of our bed. You slide between the sheets, still clothed. It slithers into my stomach, acidic, and it stays. I don’t know what it is, maybe anger. Or rage.

“I thought you were going to die,” I say.

You open your eyes and close them again. “Nope, still here.”

“I don’t think you heard me,” I whisper.

You open your arm wide and beckon to me. I lay down beside you, on you. Your heart pounds beneath me, your chest rises and falls, your skin is warm, dense. I hear the children play. They shout. The bell rings for them to return to class. In another hour and ten minutes, the bell will release them from school.

As the sun sets, I will get out of bed and you will be asleep, peaceful, your chest barely moving, as if I have risen from your burial place. Outside it is quiet and then it is not. The birds sing all at once.

About the Author

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, New World Writing, Split Lip Magazine, Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Litro Magazine, and Jellyfish Review, among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and on Twitter @melgoodewriter

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Interview with Meg Pokrass
Flash Fiction Award Judge
March – June 2017

Meg Pokrass is a flash fiction writer, poet, writing tutor and Flash Fiction Editor and Curator at Great Jones Street. Her books include flash fiction collections, Bird Envy (2014), Damn Sure Right (Press 53 2011) and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down (Etruscan Press 2016) and an award-winning book of prose poetry Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Book Award Winner 2015). Among her many other publications, she has a flash-fiction novella and essay on the form in My Very End of the Universe, Five novellas in flash and a Study of the Form published by Rose Metal Press. Meg has recently moved from the United States to England.
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