Winners

Novella-in-Flash 2019 Winners

Read about our winners and highly commended writers and go to our judge Michael Loveday's report to see his comments on their wonderful novellas-in-flash. All six novellas-in-flash will be published in separate single author books by our small press, Ad Hoc Fiction and will be available to buy in paperback on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop and in ebook formats on Kindle and Nook in due course. We are thrilled to publish such a brilliant variety flash fiction novellas by these authors and to further support a form of flash fiction growing so much in popularity worldwide.
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Winner, Ellie Walsh, with Birds with Horse Hearts. Ellie is a PhD student at the University of Plymouth, where her research focuses on Nepalese feminist literature. She has short stories and poetry published in UK, Canadian and Indian journals, and her play was produced in London. Ellie spends much of her time in Chitwan, Nepal, where the villagers teach her how to farm rice and often tell her to lighten up. Read in Full

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Christina Dalcher
February 2019 First Prize

Candy Girls

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.

About the Author

Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South. She is also the sole matriculant in the Read Every Word by Stephen King MFA program (which she invented). Find her sometimes-prize-winning work in The Molotov Cocktail, Whiskey Paper, and New South Journal, among others. If you’re looking for Christina, she might be here: @CVDalcher, www.christinadalcher.com, or hiding in a closet re-reading a tattered copy of The Shining. Also, she made a book called VOX.
Photo credit: Laurens Arenas

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Fiona J Mackintosh
February 2019 Second Prize

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.

About the Author

Fiona J. Mackintosh is a Scottish-American writer who lives near Washington D.C. with her husband and flies back and forward between her two countries at least twice a year. In 2018, she won the Fish Flash Fiction Prize, the NFFD Micro Competition, the October Bath Flash Award, and Reflex Fiction. Two of her flashes were selected to appear in the Best Microfiction 2019 anthology. In her non-writing life, she is a freelance editor for the World Bank. You can find her at www.fionajmackintosh.com.

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Lavanya Vasudevan
February 2019 Third Prize

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.

About the Author

Lavanya Vasudevan was born in a large city in South India that has since renamed itself. She is a recovering software engineer who lives near Seattle, Washington and reviews children’s books for Kirkus. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @vanyala.

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Sharon Telfer
February 2019 Commended

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.

About the Author

After cutting her teeth on Ad Hoc Fiction, Sharon Telfer won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in June 2016. She has also won the Reflex Fiction Prize, and been selected for Best Microfiction 2019. In 2018, she was awarded the New Writing North/Word Factory Apprenticeship for emerging short story writers. She is an editor at FlashBack Fiction, an online litmag showcasing historical flash. She lives near York, UK, and tweets as @sharontelfer.

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Jonathan Saint
February 2019 Commended

Fingers

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.

About the Author

Jonathan Saint is a New Zealander living in Dublin since 2000. He left work in 2016 to write fiction for adults and children and wishes he’d done that a long time ago. He was shortlisted for the Writing Magazine inaugural Picture Book Prize in 2017 and won the Christmas Flash at the Staccato Literary Salon in 2018.

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Fiona J. Mackintosh
October 2018 First Prize

Siren

by Fiona J. Mackintosh

In the wet slap of the haar, the lassies slit the herring mouth to tail and pack them into briny barrels. I see her head move among the rest, brown curls escaping from her shawl. She has the juice of silver fishes in her veins - it’s in the raised blue of her wrists, her raw fingers, in the taste of oysters when I lick her down below, her skirt canted up and knees apart.

They say despair can be a man’s making, but that’s not how it feels to me. I give her everything I have - primrose plants, stockings, greenhouse fruits – and everything I am, a stiff-collared man behind a counter at the bank. She says my palms smell of money and loves their smoothness on her skin, but then she sees the brown sails coming, the lads home from the draves, swaggering in their thigh-high boots. She rests her elbows on the bar, pink mouth open, as this one tells of breaching humpbacks and that one tells of waves the height of mountains. I loathe their muckled arms and sunburnt faces and wish them at the bottom of the sea.

She knows the only times I venture out are on the calmest days, sometimes to cast a line and once a year to watch the puffins hatch. It’s not an epic life, not one likely to inspire the poets. But when the Reaper goes down with all hands lost, it’s my door she comes to and cleaves herself to me from head to heel. She says, “I need a man who willnae leave me wantin’.” Afterwards, cross-legged on the bed, she hangs a pair of cherries over her ear and, giddy with my unexpected luck, I take them in my mouth, stones and all.

About the Author

Fiona J. Mackintosh is a Scottish-American writer living near Washington D.C. whose fiction has been published on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2018, she has won the Fish Flash Fiction Prize, the NFFD Micro Competition, and the Bath Flash Award and was runner-up in Reflex Fiction’s summer contest and Retreat West’s quarterly themed competition. Her flashes have been nominated for The Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction, and her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes. She was honored to receive a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist’s Award in 2016.

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Zahid Gamieldien
October 2018 Second Prize

The Coast

by Zahid Gamieldien

Bita, drenched, shaking—her bones are shortbreads soaked in mother’s milk, her knuckles white, red, gripping, numb. She’s crouched against the gunwale of a boat that’s not much more than a skiff.

A wave whumps her crown, skittles those on deck. Recovering, they shuffle crab-like in their orange vests and latch onto whatever they can.

Brine is in her eyes. She can't tell what comes from her and what from the ocean, and she's forgotten about the child. But he's there, in a pink life vest, chapped lips near her belly, too old to be wet-nursed.

Three weeks ago, she was nursing her own baby when a soldier with a port-wine stain on his brow snatched him from her nipple. Spiked him headlong into the ground. Bita’s scream curdled in her throat.

Her chest still heavy with unsuckled grief, she hears the child whimper. For an instant, she can see the coast. Then she can't. The sea climbs, forms a snow-globe around them. They're encased—a fossilized moment.

Now she's under; everyone's under. In her ears, a roar, the memory of shelling. Around her, tumbling limbs, snatches of color, costumes of skin.

Motes of air drift upward. Twisting, trying to follow, she feels a hand snatch at her ankle. She kicks, kicks, kicks, connects with a face, and she glides, seeking the surface.

It doesn't arrive. Seawater slushes down her gullet. Suddenly there's wind cutting up her trachea. She wheezes and her lungs expand.

In the distance, a shock of pink. Her arms flail, shovel water, will her toward it. When she reaches it, it's just the child's life vest, empty. She holds it to her cheek. The tide ebbs and swells, hoists her toward the sky.

Beyond the tumult, she can finally see the coast for what it is.

About the Author

Zahid Gamieldien is an Australian author, screenwriter and editor. You can find him at zahidgamieldien.com.

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Emma Neale
October 2018 Third Prize

The Local Pool

by Emma Neale

Turn a corner, into air tangy with chlorine. The smell removes memory’s stopper and an anxious genie swims out. What about the turquoise of a small town pool? What about concrete, dark with Rorschach marks that wet bodies left behind after boys egged on and watched?

Police, phoned by a passerby: the next day, when their own girls cried, ‘See ya!’ over pop-radio falsetto, did the cops saloon-door from their bathrooms, half-Santaed with soap, then gruff up quick hugs, foam-chins hooked over their daughters’ shoulders, to hide fuel-lines of dread in their eyes?

The mothers of the pool-girl’s friends: did they slash open packets, shove cupboards shut, slam on about hemlines, and torn black tights peep-showing lucky pennies of skin, because grown women can’t just wish-link pinkies, to ward off a suburb’s sons?

The girl’s friends, asked by social workers to tell when she skipped classes, because she had to get back on track, mustn’t let one summer dusk haunt her with that boy crisping her open, peeling her back like the winding-key on a tin of imported sweets — did those friends stop reporting because tears skirred free as she begged please don’t? Or because they learned she’d agreed to meet the boy again, at a bus shelter’s cold bunker, and the red folded mystery of how a wound could drag her back to its own start was too confusing? As disorienting as the acrid smoke they heard about later, when a schoolbag, schoolbooks, stockings, wasp-striped school tie, were soaked in art-room turps and set alight, as

a girl prayed for flames to leap a pine plantation’s firebreak, hive for the new subdivision and one blue house, its yard junked with bikes and a boy’s outgrown clobber, slung into trash bags slumped limp as drunks.

About the Author

Emma Neale’s most recent novel, Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. A new poetry collection, To the Occupant, is due out from Otago University Press in 2019. She lives in Dunedin with her husband and their two children, and is the current editor of Landfall, Aotearoa-New Zealand’s longest-running journal of arts and letters.

photo credit © Jim Tannock

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Simon Cowdroy
October 2018 Commended

Particularly Complicated When The Snakes Show Up

by Simon Cowdroy

The mice slow them down.

During dry spells, I never spot the tiger or brown snakes as they slide away, slaloming through the sinewy grass of the paddock, keen to see the back of me.

Give us heavy spring rains, like this year, and the mice arrive in torrents, a scratching, squeaking, stinking tsunami. For the snakes, a bumper crop mercilessly devoured into increasingly torpid, bulging sheaths.

“Watch yourself.” Mum warns.

Dad finishes the arvo shift at three, gets home by quarter-past, a handful of workmates in disorderly tow.

At five, Benny, who is slurring the least, lights the barbie.

“Red-headed idiot using a Redhead match.” Dad says, and everyone laughs like they hadn’t heard it yesterday.

I’m on the shuttle run, beer fridge to back-yard, so I keep my boots on, the ground littered with discarded bottle tops, serrated edges that bite into your feet like fangs.

The charcoal infused choke of recently incinerated meat slides away on the breeze along with their mood. They sit in silence, half-drunk stubbies gripped in coal mine calloused hands, Dad with his head down so you can’t see the scales slide across his eyes, the flick of his tongue.

The brooding lingers until they call it a day and drift home.

Cleaning up means I don’t have to go inside, not be around when it kicks off. If mum says nothing the bruises won’t show and she can walk us to school tomorrow. My sister hides in her room, fearing: the knock, the cruelly gentle first touch, the venom that hardens her heart.

I load the empties into the bin and the clatter almost drowns out the first slap.

Still only dusk, so I jump the fence and head for the paddock, not caring where I put my feet.

About the Author

Simon lives as part of a dog dominated family in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne, Australia. He returned to fiction writing in 2017 after a long absence, and in the past year his work has been short listed (Tarbert Festival Oct 2017) and long listed (Bath FF June 2018). In addition his in-progress novel was one of seven finalists in the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Festival 2018. His hobbies include writing, reading, lifting heavy objects and making awful puns.

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