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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Rosie Garland
October 2018 Commended

How can a woman sleep when the Master is in pain?

by Rosie Garland

In her room beneath the eaves, she listens. Laughter twists up the screw of the back stairs. The Master struggles to be heard above his wife’s shrill squeal. She knows how men are trapped in marriages; how women entice and steal what is not theirs.

Her cheek beats a heavy pulse against the Master’s bedroom door. She stretches the small hours with the pricking of her blood into the Master’s shirt cuffs. She unpicks the seams of the Mistress’s gowns, sews them a shade tighter. Slides a curtain ring along her finger.

The Mistress writes. It is poetry, says Mistress, although no question was asked. She heats the tongs; curls Mistress’s hair, peers at the dapple of ink on paper. She does not need the skill of letters to know the telltale shape of lies about the Master. All that twittering of the quill, when all a woman needs to do is spread her arms and cry, God. Yes.

She will show him. She will mend his prisoned heart. Will keep her eyes down and never laugh unless he draws it from her as a man persuades a shy beast to his outstretched hand.

When he is away, for men must go in order to return, the house-bones creak. At night, she sifts sugar into the ruts between the boards, loosens stair-rods, rubs the banisters with buttered paper, peels back the rug and polishes the floor. The half-hour before dawn finds her sharpening knives. She breakfasts on oats and water; doesn’t hold with honey, milk, things that distract the tongue’s attention. On the driveway beneath the yews, the crackle of rooks.

About the Author

photo credit Rachel Saunders

Rosie Garland is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry, and sings with post-punk band The March Violets. With a passion for language nurtured by public libraries, her work has appeared in Under The Radar, Bare Fiction, The North, New Welsh Review, Rialto & elsewhere.

In 2012, she won the Inaugural Mslexia Novel Competition. Published as The Palace of Curiosities, it was nominated for both The Desmond Elliott and the Polari First Book Prize. Vixen was a Green Carnation Prize nominee. Her latest novel The Night Brother was reviewed in The Times as “a delight: playful and exuberant.” Find her at www.rosiegarland.com

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Draft your flash novella during FlashNano

In 2012, writer and writing tutor Nancy Stohlman conceived the idea to run a series of daily prompts during November for those who wanted write a flash fiction a day instead of writing a novel during November for NaNoWriMo. Six years on, and a huge number of writers throughout the world take up her challenge each November. Read more about how she started this in my interview with her from last year.  Want to write a novella-in-flash for our third Novella-in-flash Award? We think with the motivating prompts Nancy supplies, November is an ideal month to create a flash fiction novella draft. Thirty stories and you'll have a complete draft manuscript at the end of the month. Don't know where to begin? The prompts themselves may give you initial ideas, and they can also push forward a vague idea you already have and take it in different directions.  You can also sign up to a Face Book group to receive daily prompts from Meg Pokrass throughout the month. Read in Full

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Deadline Fever

At Bath Flash Fiction, we love the buzz around the end of the Award on social media. We've never quite worked out the psychology around writers and deadlines, so if someone wants to try an explanation, let us know. For our Awards, the pattern is always the same, 80% of entries come in the last few weeks even though discounted entries are available in the Early Bird deals which end half way through the contest. Some people buy their Early Bird entries and submit much later but not that many. A very large number of writers enter on the final day. Those writers are members of the Last Minute Club. Last time we introduced a badge for them, pictured here. And there will be another one for avid collectors on Sunday 14th October, which is the last day for this award. K M Elkes, the winner of the June round told us he is an up-to the-wire kind of guy. He said he entered not long before midnight on the final day. Just the one story. Read in Full

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Nominations 2018-2019

We like to nominate winners' stories from the Bath Flash Fiction Awards and the Ad Hoc Fiction winners for yearly anthologies and awards. Authors nominated by us have done very well. This year,'Tying the Boats' by Amanda O'Callaghan, the first prize winner,from the June 2017 Award selected by judge Meg Pokrass was included in Best Small Fictions 2018 and The Hand That Weilds The Priest by first prize winner, Emily Devane, from the February 2017 Award, judged by Kathy Fish, was included in the long list out of thousands of submissions. 'Roll and Curl', by Ingrid Jendrzejewski first prize winner in the February 2016 round judged by Tania Hershman was longlisted for Best Small Fictions 2017 out of a similar number of submissions, as was 'White Matter' by Julianna Holland, which won third prize in the October 2016 round judged by Robert Vaughan. Henry Peplow's micro 'Zeus Falls to Earth', winner of Ad Hoc Fiction in June 2016 was also included in the Best Small Fictions 2017 longlist. Finally, we nominated Charmaine Wilkerson's novella-in-flash How to Make A Window Snake for the novella category in the Saboteur Awards 2018, and it won the Award.

This year, two new opportunities to nominate stories have arisen. 'The Best Microfiction 2019 anthology co-edited by Meg Pokrass and Gary Fincke for stories 400 words or fewer published in 2018 and the Best 50 Flash Fictions from Britain and Ireland 2018-2019 organised by TSS. We're also looking forward to nominating our winning authors again for Best Small Fictions 2019. See which stories we've currently nominated below. Read in Full

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Writers and Their Dogs

At Bath Flash Fiction, a few winners have mentioned their dogs in interviews with me after their wins. So as we near the end of the October 2018 round of Bath Flash Fiction Award, judged by Nuala 0'Connor, we're giving the winners' dogs a spotlight. Dogs are inspirational and we know several other dog-loving flash fiction writers, whose dogs are essential to their writing lives.

Molia Dumbleton's lovely dog, Huckle is pictured here  with Molia. Molia won third prize in the February 2018 round of Bath Flash Fiction Award judge by Tara L. Masih, with her flash 'Why Shit is Still Like This Around Here and Probably Always Will Be'  In my interview with her, I asked her if her dog was her muse. She said. "I think my only muse might be a deadline. Ha! But sadly, kind of true. I go for very, very long walks with my dog and those are pretty essential, just for energizing and de-cluttering the head." Read in Full

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