Fiona Perry June 2020 First Prize

Sea Change

by Fiona Perry

He arrives breathless with excitement, clutching a thick plastic bag bulging with shells. At the kitchen table, he points to the bag and tells me they fattened up over winter. At first, they settled as larvae on ropes, before growing to half the length of a thumb, ready to be stuffed like sausage meat into casings known as socks. The runt grouped with the runt, the alpha with the alpha to prevent unfair competition. I imagine it – the swaying of the long mesh tubes, the seething growth of it. I tell him all of this is wonderful, resisting the urge to remind him he is in fact dead. He smiles and asks me to pour vodka for us into his old reko tumblers which have appeared on my counter top. He says that once the molluscs reach full maturation, they are able to travel outside of the sock – by attaching a byssal thread from their beard to an anchor and then shortening it to move. He finds this both funny and moving. Soon afterwards, he says, the sock collapses into the centre of the column. Collapses into the centre of the column, he repeats. He wipes his mouth with his hand. I am standing beside the stove now, frying diced onion and garlic in the big pasta pot I misplaced years ago, into which I squirt tomato paste, let it sizzle, splash in vodka, warm water and cream. He tips the mussels from the bag into the pot, I sprinkle in sea salt and clamp on the lid. He explains that this is where he has been all along, looking after these creatures. His face soft like a monk’s, he announces he must leave after dinner because new larvae always require his attention out in the ocean.

About the Author

Fiona was born and brought up in Northern Ireland but has lived in England, Australia, and New Zealand. Her first collection of poetry, Alchemy, will be published by Turas Press (Dublin) in autumn 2020. Her short fiction was shortlisted in the Australian Morrison Mentoring Prize in 2014 and 2015. She contributed poetry to the Label Lit project for National Poetry Day (Ireland) 2019. A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and Lancaster University, she worked previously as an environmentalist in a unitary authority. She is currently a teacher, editor, and proofreader and lives with her family near Oxford.

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Hannah Storm June 2020 Second Prize

The species of pangolin compromise their own order: Pholidota.

by Hannah Storm

Pholi - A folly is something stupid.

Dota - She’s learning phonics at school. This is how she would spell daughter.

He said I was fucking stupid. Ordered me to get rid of it. I cradled my belly’s soft shell as it grew.

‘Pangolin’ comes from the Malay ‘pengguling’, loosely meaning something that rolls up.

Later I stuffed into a rucksack all we needed to survive, hiding our future beneath my bed. I curled up by her cot.

Special glands near the pangolin’s anus secrete a pungent fluid as a defence mechanism.

Now the court toilet smells of the fear of losing my child.

That last night, he came home drunk. I’d not showered for two days between the feeding, burping, changing, rocking, cooking. He hissed at me when I begged him to be quiet.

You smell ripe. He tore at my clothes. Why can’t you make a fucking effort? Pinned me to the bed. Cried when he came. Then she cried too. By the time I had settled her, he was snoring. The room reeked of shame.

Pangolins are nocturnal animals. Their shells made of keratin the same substance as human hair and nails.

In the shower I scrubbed myself raw, let the water sear my scalp. Impossible to feel clean.

The mother curls up around the baby pangolin if she senses danger.

He left for work. Then we left. I clasped her to me, promising he would not hurt us again.

Now I hear my name, calling me to Court.

The endangered pangolin is the world’s most trafficked animal; its body parts are sold as a delicacy or used for their mythical healing properties.

When my daughter is older, I will teach her how to protect herself. One day I will explain what being endangered really means.

About the Author

Hannah has been a journalist for two decades, travelling the world and witnessing her fair share of love and loss. She writes flash fiction to pay tribute to the people she’s met and places she’s been, and creative non-fiction to process her own experiences. She's working on a memoir, a flash collection and is editing a novel. Now she is based in the UK with her husband and two children and is the director of a media charity as well as a journalism consultant.

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Sam Payne June 2020 Third Prize

The Man You Didn’t Marry

by Sam Payne

The police meet you after your night shift at Sunshine Care to tell you they're concerned for your safety. They found the man you didn’t marry outside your house at four am. In his car, black bags, rope and a crowbar. They tell you they're sorry but they can't hold him.

The locksmith talks about Brexit as he rips out the deadbolt and replaces it with a shiny new one. When he leaves, you barge your shoulder into the door just to make sure it doesn’t give. But in the night you wake to the smell of Joop and the man you didn't marry is pushing his knuckles into your clavicle and telling you he loves you. His saliva gathers in the corners of his mouth and the white froth reminds you of tide bubbles and you focus on this as he throttles you. You lose consciousness and your body becomes a stingray slipping into saltwater.

You survive because you're lucky or at least that's what people say. You move cities, rent a different house every six months and clean everything continuously. You're happy that you have things in order. Until the therapist tells you perfectionism is a sign of unhealed trauma. When you get home, you throw Bolognese sauce at the walls, empty the cutlery drawer onto the lino and chuck your clothes out of the window until you're satisfied this chaos is proof that you're fine. But every time you sleep you're sinking into a cold, dark ocean. Submerging deeper and deeper, the saltwater strips your flesh until there's nothing left and when your skeleton rests on rippled sand, the man you didn't marry scoops you up. He polishes your bones until you shine like teeth and he keeps telling you he'll never ever let you go.

About the Author

Sam Payne lives in Devon, United Kingdom. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in various places including Spelk, Reflex Fiction and Popshot Quarterly. She tweets @skpaynewriting

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Emily Harrison June 2020 Commended

Not Now, Universe

by Emily Harrison

I tell her about a guy who took me round the back of a fancy Soho restaurant once, to show me the lobsters in the tank holding claws. We are baffled by what men bother to plan for. I tell her I saw him again, weeks later, hanging around my favourite painting in The National Gallery. We laugh at the possibility that he’d been there all day. Maybe other days. I tell her what I was wearing. She nods slowly as she recalls the dress, brings her fingers to her mouth for a chef’s kiss. I tell her his flat was higher up than I expected, which was annoying because it meant running down dozens of flights of stairs. She does not interrupt me at this point because she knows where the story is headed. She winces when I tell her how he ripped my underwear off me by pulling them forcefully upwards. Amongst other things. It feels good to give her the details. I tell her how I walked home in the pissing rain, went past two separate karaoke bars where I could hear people murdering Hopelessly Devoted to You. How just before I got home, a man almost hit me with his car and then blew me a kiss. I tell her about this guy posting my underwear back to me a week later, and I’m crying in her arms before we can begin to discuss what a gesture as bold as that could possibly even mean.

About the Author

Emily Harrison is a poet and fiction writer based in London. Her poetry collection I Can’t Sleep ’cause My Bed’s On Fire is published with Burning Eye Books. She lives and teaches in Hackney.

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Stephanie Carty June 2020 Commended

The Price of Gingerbread

by Stephanie Carty

My brother Hansel went missing. Father frowned into whisky. His wife rubbed kohl down her cheeks before posting selfies on Facebook.

Hansel said he’d spied a shack with walls made from bottles of cherry vodka in the marshlands. He liked to get high on hope. He’d have made a great spaniel, yapping about on the daily walk as if it might be different one time, as if paths weren’t already mapped out to always end in the same place.

But a twin is only a twin with a twin.

Through the squelch of mud, I tracked his route. The shack was set back in some trees. Columns of cigarette packets created beams to hold the structure upright. I could have sprinkled those white sticks along the path I’d walked but what was the point when nobody would search for us? Glass bottles arched across the roof. Leeching out of the place was a scent far heavier than father’s shirts, woody and dark. I sniffed until the sky spun.

Lights blinked around the door in green and red. I dug my fingers into a crevice to ease out a mobile phone but didn’t know the passcode.

After that, it’s hazy. Hansel and I were back together yet hardly there at all. There were fiery drinks poured straight from the rafters, sherbet to rub on our gums, pastilles that turned day to night. We giggled like the toddlers we’d been before father’s eyes were glazed by grief.

We’re not alone here but let’s not spoil the tale. Let’s not sour the sweet with flashbacks. None of it matters: the strangers, the pressing, the pain. We have the house and the house has us.

My brother reaches out to squeeze my hand. Then we turn to the walls and gorge ourselves.

About the Author

Stephanie Carty is a writer, trainer and NHS consultant clinical psychologist in Staffordshire, UK. Her debut novella Three Sisters of Stone was published May 2018 with Ellipsis Zine and won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards 2019. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bridport Prize. She was a winner in Bath Flash Fiction Award, June, 2019. She writes psychological thrillers and is represented by Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown.

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Interview with Michelle Elvy, Judge Novella-in-Flash Award 2021

    We thrilled Michelle has agreed to judge the 2021 Novella-in-Flash Award, which will be open for entries shortly and will close in mid January, 2021. Results out April, 2021 Read Jude's interview with her below if you want to write a novella in the next six months for our Award. Michelle has many interesting things to say about the form and the process of writing a novella-in-flash.

Read in Full

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Pre-order ‘This Alone Could Save Us’ by Santino Prinzi

We're thrilled that Ad Hoc Fiction, our small press is publishing Santino Prinzi's wonderful new collection. This Alone Could Save Us. The collection was due to be launched at our cancelled 2020 Flash Fiction Festival UK.

Available here now.

Read what writers say about it here:

With This Alone Could Save Us, Santino Prinzi has fashioned a collection of small, smart fictions that read large. Here is work undergirded by innovation, incisive wit, and a keen ability to navigate terrain that is personal, and at once universal to us all.’

–– Robert Scotellaro, author of Nothing Is Ever One Thing

‘Santino Prinzi is a word-wizard of the heart—a writer who fearlessly excavates uncomfortable secrets. In This Alone Could Save Us, Prinzi's first full collection of flash fiction, human nature is the subject, gentle surrealism the medium. Bizarre yet real, funny and crazily sad—it's mesmerizing to watch Prinzi's vulnerable characters work to free themselves from life's stickiest webs. Subversive, haunting, beautiful—a must-have collection!’

–– Meg Pokrass, author of Alligators At Night and Series Co-Editor, Best Microfiction 2020

'This Alone Could Save Us is a richly varied collection of flash fiction. In these compact gems, Santino Prinzi makes exquisite use of magic and the surreal, but also the quiet, evocative gestures of ordinary life. You will find the deliciously unexpected within these pages, along with moments of breath-taking stillness. Highly recommended.’

–– Kathy Fish, Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018

‘Tender, poetic, and wonderfully surreal, Prinzi understands that stories can save us. Powerful flash fiction that lights up the page, this is the book we all need right now. It is one for the ages. This stunning collection will stay with you for years.’ 

–– Angela Readman, author of Something Like Breathing and Don’t Try This At Home

‘In This Alone Could Save Us, Santino Prinzi demonstrates his enormous talent for drawing readers into his stories, often surprising them with surrealistic touches that appear totally believable and natural. The flash fictions in this impressive collection are widely varied, but each story is unmistakably Prinzi.’

–– Diane Simmons, author of Finding a Way

‘Exceptionally engaging, closely observed and thought-provoking, this collection shows us a flash master at work as he explores the fault lines that crack open under our feet at moments of unplanned change. Seen through his eyes, the familiar becomes strange, solid becomes unsteady, and even the moon loses its faith in humanity, so moves on. Sometimes sad, sometimes playful, always memorable.’ 

–– Vanessa Gebbie, author of The Cowards Tale and five short fiction collections.

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BIFFY50 2019-2020, Nominations

Thanks very much to TSS and this year's editors for again compiling the list of fifty Best British and Irish Flash Fictions (BIFFY50) published online between August 2019 and May 2020. We are very happy at Bath Flash to nominate 'Eight Spare Bullets' by Sharon Telfer which won first prize in the February 2020 round of our Award and Valentine' by Claire Powell, which was highly commended by judge Santino Prinzi. Read his comments on the stories in his judge's report.

Our final story of the three nominations allowed is 'The Wild West' by Francis McCrickard which won second prize in the October 2019 Bath Flash Fiction Award judged by Nancy Stohlman and you can read her comments here.
The authors live in the UK and we think their stories are wonderful examples of flash fiction.
Very best wishes to them all.

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