Award Three

Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
June 2016 Third Prize

The Baby Came Early, Screaming

by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace

Davina clocked Harold the second he was born. She slapped his arse and shoved her wrist-watch in his mouth. He sucked the tinny heartbeat, silenced. “I understand you,” she said. “You just need more time.”

By six-months old, he had twenty-six manual alarm clocks, four digital time-pieces, and a free-standing grandfather clock which he slept in like a crib. The days pounded. The flat pulsated. Davina slept in the bathtub like each night was a hurricane warning.

Each time Harold cried, Davina gave him a new watch, or let him touch the numbers on her iPhone. Then the wailing began again.

“What’s wrong Harold?”

But Harold just sobbed, his big hands in his mouth. The hands were from a 1919 train station clock. Czechoslovakian, solid bronze. She’d bought them off eBay.

“You’re too small a number to explain. Maybe when you’re one, or two. Then you can tell me what’s wrong.”

She played him ‘Hammer Time’. She read him ‘The Hours’. At night the clocks glowed neon, and crawled round the room with their slow worming glow.

They listened to the woman on the phone-line tell them the Greenwich Mean Time, over and over, and the time was always different, except for twice a day.

That’s where Davina got the idea. To stop all the clocks, before time consumed them. “Then you’ll be right. Not wrong. At least twice a day.”

Davina killed the iPhone in the washing machine, on Cottons, ninety degrees. She unplugged alarm clocks, removed batteries from watches, pulled pendulums from carriages.

From the grandfather’s belly, Harold kicked, howled and emptied. Davina had morning sickness, all over again.

About the Author

Elisabeth Ingram WallaceElisabeth did lots before fiction: silver-smithing, production design, and working as a prop-maker for children’s TV. She’s made diamond rings, giant emus, a dog’s birthday cake, as well as shoving steaming microwaved tampons into pies to make them look fresh-out-the-oven-scrumptious. After receiving a Dewar Arts Award, Elisabeth studied Creative Writing in Glasgow, and has been published in two anthologies and edited another. Elisabeth is currently writing ‘The Precinct’, an apocalyptic short fiction series, and is in the middle of writing ‘Lobster Queen’, her first novel.

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Anita MacCallum
June 2016 Commended

Boobless

by Anita MacCallum

A commitment to permanent scratching, these tights, tucked into my regulation-grey knee-length skirt. Knickers, white cotton, are stuck to my bum with a thin layer of sweat and still the teacher drones on and on. Fat black fly bangs against the window matching the rhythm of the numbers spilling from Mr. Weston’s mouth.

Calculators mashing sums inside dirty plastic cases, I can spell ‘hello’ and ‘Boobless’ and ‘Boobs’ and all sorts of things like that with my upside down screen but I can’t add up. Dust particles dance in the air as numbers crawl across my book. A particularly plump number eight squats on the page. I push down hard trying to squish it flat. I want it to stay still.

The air in the classroom is solid. Dense like lead. I’m thick in the head. That’s me. Big head one leg, that’s number nine, he’s mighty fine. Twenty two, ducks, quack. Nineteen ninety nine Prince and the revolution and number seven takes me to heaven. Times, add, divide and conquer, Willy Wonka, exploding sweets. Numbers rise up from the page to the sounds of ‘Hands Up, Baby Hands Up’ eight ladies wobbling, ducks dancing, prancing from the page, a parade of disco numbers and I…

‘Susan Braithwaite.’ A rubber bounces off the side of my head.

‘Susan Braithwaite, get down from that chair this instant.’ Mr. Weston’s claret-coloured face watches as my legs climb down and cease their apparent kicking. I resume my seat in my splinter ridden prison that contains me Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A new ladder creeps up my tights, from my knee to the top of my left thigh. Mr. Weston’s black oil eyes squash the disobedient dancing numbers back into place on the page. They line up neatly, casting off their costumes, waiting.

About the Author

Anita MacCallumAnita is a Bristol based writer, full-bodied with a nutty after-taste. She writes about people living on the edge of society, mental health and feminism. Transformation compels her and she is inspired by stories of positive activism. Anita can often be found performing her work in and around the South-West of England. She is currently writing a play exploring motherhood and mental health.

Anita works as a socially-engaged artist playing with words, glitter, flowers, projections, installations, hearts, minds and loves collaborating with other writers and artists.
Twitter: @loud_word
Facebook: MacCallumAnita
Website: loud-word.co

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Michael FitzGerald
June 2016 Commended

Falkland Island Walk

by Michael FitzGerald

The Turkey Vulture bobs about the moor here. He has a head like a red nightmare and he doesn’t care, he’s not looking for friends. He would rather you were dead. You are just calories to him. We both thought he’d found a dead crow on the track but it was a broken umbrella. I’m moving over the land like him, dropping a bit, rising a bit, it goes on this way. Landmarks can be a solitary post, a plank or similar, often sticking up, other times lying down. Closer to a settlement the bits get bigger, sheets and slabs appear, then holes in the peat, full of black water, like tar, then big sandwiches of matter such as a piece of roof. The wind makes the heather buzz. Everything is built on stilts, nothing will embrace the ground. It’s all hovering, still deciding whether it wants to take root or not. Loops of movement begin. A dog goes in and out, in and out. Hens pop in and out. Sounds pass on the wind like fleeing ghosts. A man comes out then in, out then in, like the hen but slower. You wouldn’t notice these cycles unless you observed them over time, which I did. The wind goes in and out, the sun, the moon, the day, the week, the hen, the dog, the man.

About the Author

Michael FitzGerald

I am delighted that my writing has been commended. I wrote this piece after spending a winter surveying the remoter parts of The Falkland Islands to create a Historic Building Register. I’ve recently got into flash fiction as an exciting bridge between prose and poetry – I like both the freedom and the ambiguity of it. A single idea or whim can turn into a piece quite quickly, and the editing requires a ruthless discipline where only the essential can remain....not unlike the subject of the piece.
Thanks everyone.

Artist: www.studiofitzgerald.com
Architect: www.mfitzgerald.co.uk
Facebook: @michaelfitzgeraldartist
Instagram: @studiofitzgerald

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Sheila Armstrong
June 2016 Commended

October 29th, 1.17am

by Sheila Armstrong

Someone found the cat under a park bench, fur flat against its back, wet-sleek from an oily stain. Someone said it had probably been up under a car, that they go for engines because they’re warm, that they fall asleep and either wake up in pieces or in another county. Someone said that this one looked like a badger. Or a skunk. It stinks enough, someone said. Mangy, too.

Someone said it was drain-water, not oil, because it had been raining earlier, and the thing had probably been chucked out of a car straight into a puddle. There was laughter. There was silence. Someone said there was one way to find out, and lit a match with a careful wrist-twist, then flicked the stick of wood forward, so it tumbled, arcing skywards, fanned brighter by the night-time breeze.

Someone started forward, mouth full of a swallowed shout, but stopped as the screech began. A shriek that crawled inside the eardrum and beat its tiny fists against the surface in agony; that writhed, pain pouring from every crevice; that clawed at every nerve. Someone cursed, a chain of words stitched together into a high-pitched shout, and fumbled with a scarf, grasping at the fur, fanning the singe-smell into little circular orbits. Someone flung a can of beer in a hopeful spray of amber foam that slowed and stretched out the time into puddles that clamoured to be allowed to pass.

Then the seconds broke free, and spilled all at once, and the cries began to drop back down the register. And someone turned and ran, skittering across the gravel, then another someone, and another, until all the someones were gone, but the weak and soft noises continued, spiralling in on themselves until they spluttered out with the last of the flames.

About the Author

Sheila Armstrong

Sheila Armstrong is a writer and editor. She grew up in the west of Ireland and is currently based in Dublin. She has been published in The South Circular, Literary Orphans, The Irish Independent, Litro magazine and gorse journal. In 2015, she was nominated for a Hennessy Award in the First Fiction category, and she contributed to Young Irelanders, a short story collection published by New Island Books.
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John Saul
June 2016 Commended

Tearful

by John Saul

When I heard of a town having tearful peripheries I soon thought of the outskirts of my own home town when I was young. With their pale concrete and rough surface, the flat roadways were certainly sad and unloved, evoking no fondness except possibly from one or two pilots who peered down on them as they homed in on the airport nearby. No one liked to drive on them on account of the rumbling, a cause for depression, so they were left to driving schools and the occasional lost juggernaut or police who had to investigate. Set back from the roadways, the houses too were sad, hoping not to be associated with the cheap paving and arid verges, but they were likewise affected by the situation of the periphery, where little grass graced the earth. The people were not sad; they might be beautiful, as was Linda who worked at the chemical works over the bridge and Keith who also worked at the chemical works, and they would meet at each other's houses whenever they could. Both wore fine coats, Linda's loose and easily taken off, Keith's expensive-looking soft leather, zipped tight against his tall self, and both had thick dark hair they tossed back many times in a day but, their hair aside, it was as if the messages they passed between them were expressed in their coats. There were tears, young tears to do with jealousies and fine gradings in declarations of love, but happy times too, at small dance halls and birthdays in one of the houses set back from the roadways, and happier times still, when they removed their coats and slowly drove themselves into frenzies, before returning to quietly reverberating moments of tenderness, when the pores of their skin felt so open and clean.

About the Author

John Saul

John Saul was last year shortlisted for the international 2015 Seán Ó Faoláin prize for fiction. This year he has work included in Best British Short Stories 2016. He has a website at www.johnsaul.co.uk

photo: J Tang

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Michelle Elvy
New Bath Flash Judge

We're delighted that writer, editor and manuscript assessor, Michelle Elvy who we interviewed in January, has agreed to be our judge for this round of Bath Flash Fiction. Michelle reads and selects flash fiction on a daily basis for the online journals Blue Five Notebook and Flash Frontier and has judged many flash fiction competitions in recent years. She also organises New Zealand's National Flash Fiction Day competition which is now open for entries to New Zealand writers.
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