The Pamela Miller Memorial Prize

The story that received the most votes in last month’s Pamela Miller Memorial Prize was “What Guilt Looks Like” by Jennifer Pont. I’m sure she knows that look well.

Your cheque for $100 and your certificate will be on the way to you by post very shortly.

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Flash Fiction November – Pamela Miller Memorial Prize

It is essential that stories are judged exclusively on their merit, including (as appropriate for the item), punctuation, syntax, spelling, and grammar.

Please do not ‘stack’ the voting by getting family and friends to vote for your story just because it is your story.

Please vote only on the story’s worth, and do not allow personal loyalties to influence your vote. Our aim is to encourage all writers, not discourage any through having no chance of winning solely on their work’s excellence.

Please vote for the best all-round submission. That is true honesty and good-citizenship.

Voting closes at 4pm on Wednesday 22 November.

1          Porphyria’s Lover

Words 293

I spent a lot of time ignorant and flippant. It took me a long time to get better, to realise how hard it is to put words onto a page. I got mad at the people around who weren’t doing the same, their silence indiscriminate acceptance spread out into the universe, like monster children running up and down the aisles on buses. We have people masquerading as creators when they are mere curators.

I don’t hate them for retelling someone else’s story — we’re all guilty of that. I hate them for pretending it’s theirs. I hate them for distilling something so spread out and reconcentrating it into one place. They’re outsourcing trauma and trying to sell it back to us, the ones who had to tear it into shreds and dispose of it in the first place. I hate that their repetitions make it feel like it’s meaningless, even though I know it was played out before I ever heard it.

And here I stand nearly 20 years after the last time I saw you, staring at someone who’s just trying to get by day-to-day, appropriating someone else’s words into their art form, wondering if you’re still doing okay. I that last time we spoke you seemed distant — experience has taught me that people forget. You were a huge part of me but I’m such a small part of you. Maybe there’s no place in your memory for me, leaving me the custodian of an irrelevant legacy.

I’m not sure how to reconcile that.

Sometimes you want to not say things, let the gaps between sentences tell the story. You want to do away with all the words you ever had, and just get to the core of the thing.

I miss you.

 

2          What Guilt Looks Like

Words 247

The stick sits on the bathroom counter. There’s no pink cross. Again.

‘We can try for next month,’ says Aaron.

‘What would be the point?’ says Lisa.

Aaron’s brow drops.

‘The point would be having a baby, wouldn’t it?’ Aaron’s question is laced with concern about the stony look on Lisa’s face. ‘I … I can get tested,’ he says.

‘Tested for what?’ asks Lisa. ‘What is there that we both don’t already know?’

‘Maybe I’m the one with problem,’ offers Aaron.

‘I think we already know you are,’ Lisa says.

‘What?’ says Aaron. The blood has drained from his face. This is what guilt looks like.

‘You had a vasectomy. You had a vasectomy but you let me keep trying to get pregnant. You kept going with me to buy tests.’

Lisa glances down at the stick on the counter.

‘I’m sorry, Lisa, I’m so sorry. I just didn’t know how to tell you I didn’t want … ‘

‘Don’t! Just don’t.’

Lisa pulls open the cabinet drawer and starts loading the contents into a zip bag with little red hearts on it.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ says Aaron.

‘I’m going to Pete’s.’

‘Pete’s?’

‘Because Pete doesn’t lie. Pete doesn’t pretend he’s someone he’s not.’

Aaron studies the pregnancy test.

‘So, if you knew we couldn’t … why the charade with the test?’

He looks at Lisa’s hands, adding to the bag of cosmetics. She has a new ring.

We couldn’t… Aaron finally understands.

 
3          The Nestling

Words 290

Daylight filters through trees and ferns. The forest, momentarily silent, returns to its usual twitters, rustlings, and screechings. The sound of an echidna’s snuffling for ants softly rises from the damp ground.

A tiny young bird lies at the base of a tall gum-tree. It has fallen from its nest at the base of a forked limb. The structure should have been secure for its feathered inhabitants, but the combination of a sudden gust of wind at the same moment that the baby stretched to take food from its parent’s beak resulted in it toppling over the side. As it fell, its wings fluttered weakly, and its legs searched for a twig or stem to clutch at. Shaken but uninjured, it is helpless. It’s not yet able to stand on its spindly legs. All attempts to do so result in a pitch forward or backward, or from side to side.

A feral cat hides behind a mass of wire-grass. It pushes its nose and whiskers past the stiff stems, and with its head now showing at the edge of the small clearing, it scans the area with a darting scrutiny. Eyes narrowed, it stares intently at barely-breathing food. With its belly on the ground, the cat’s body seems to lengthen as it silently pulls itself forward with extended paws and claws.

The wild cat draws closer to its meal, and, sensing that the feathery little lump is at its mercy, it stands upright and casually walks toward its prey. It rears, ready to pounce on the morsel, as a shot rings out.

A young man with a .22 rifle kicks aside the now dead cat and gently places the tiny bird back into its nest.

The youngster walks away chuckling.

 

4          The Vortex

Words 283

Anna coughed as she choked on her sip of wine. Neither of her dinner companions seemed to notice. They continued to shove food in their mouths and look at each other without speaking for another twenty seconds while she cleared the obstruction. Not once did they look at her. She was officially invisible.

Anna glanced down at her hand. It sat, propped on its elbow, still holding the glass. She swirled the thick red wine around in her glass until a hole appeared to form in the centre. She’d seen something similar on the surface of streams. Once, when the river flooded after too much spring rain, a boy and his dog were sucked down into a large whirlpool. People searched for weeks. It was assumed that they had been drowned, their bodies washed down stream. But nobody ever found them. Nobody could say for sure. Maybe it took them to another world. A world that nobody knew about, except those who’d been pulled into its depths. And it was so wonderful there, nobody ever came back to share its location in case it got too crowded.

She wished to be sucked into the vortex of liquid. That a kind of doorway would open up and take her away to another place. She took a sip. Then a mouthful. Then a gulp until the liquid had disappeared inside her. Nobody would know her there. No one would expect her to be thin, or smart, or be somebody’s wife, or save the world.

She filled her glass and repeated the steps, each time wishing harder until she’d done it so many times that she forgot how many, or what she was even wishing for.

 
5          She

Words 123

Outside the window it rained. The soft Melbourne rain that shows as a fog hugging the light, barely staining the path she stood on.

She didn’t look up or move or notice us as we eased to a stop. Our light spilled out and mixed with the gloom of the station. She was stillness in the bustle of people who shoved to get off or rushed to get onto the train.

A sparrow shifted easily amongst feet. It found food where it could, preparing for the night ahead, as ignored as the woman who still stood.

In her hand a device held her attention. It cast shadows and reflected her tears.

My train moved on. She didn’t want this train. Not this time.

 
6          Limitless

Words 280

As I felt the cool waters of the Mississippi River pass between my fingers I knew I’d made it.

Every mile a marathon they said I’d never complete. Leaving the hospital in anything other than a wheelchair was the best diagnosis they could give me.

“They”. So often in life we are told what “they” think or say, but “they” were wrong.

One foot in front of the other 4,640,576 times. That’s how many times I proved them wrong.

Each step forcing my body to put into practice everything I’d spent months teaching it.

I’m still not sure which was harder, relearning how to walk, or doing it without my brothers.

Being the sole survivor of the bus crash was something else “they” could not explain. My football career was certainly over I hadn’t suffered enough brain damage for me to believe that was ever going to be a possibility again. They rebuilt me with more spare parts than an old junker, but somehow I managed to make those parts do things, they said I never would.

Despite or maybe in spite of everyone’s advice I set off upstream. Every step taking me further away from home. Training had been a wonderful distraction from life before the accident and rehab after it had been no different. With each step though, it was harder to ignore the question, what do I do when I complete this journey. Will I, had never been a question, only when.

I still don’t have the answer, but as I feel the cool waters of the Mississippi River pass through my fingers I know that if I’ve made it this far I might as well keep going.

 

7          Into The Void

Words 299

The headlines in The Ararat Advertiser October 1964 read: ‘Hikers Lost in the Mountains.’

The Advertiser reported four young hikers went missing overnight in The Grampians; the temperature had plummeted to four degrees as heavy rain teemed down, and police were fearful the hikers would not survive the night. A search party was quickly organised. Local men gathered in the car park where the hikers were last seen, concern on their faces as they set out along the track with torches, calling out as the night closed in.

The young boys had set off carefree that afternoon, confident of hiking into town. They were familiar with the bush; spent weekends clambering through the woods near their home, returning late in the evenings, never concerned at getting lost. But on that day along the track in the mountains, as night was closing in, the boys were in unfamiliar territory. This was not the bush they knew. This was vast endless mountain ranges, posing dangers not seen before; not known before. Ominous rocks loomed large, jagged and threatening in their unyielding strength; the air haunted by the ghostly presence of people long-ago. As the wind howled through the trees and the birds gave out an eerie call, they sensed the isolation of the mountains and huddled close together.

Stumbling along, they came across a fork in the track; a signpost damaged and unreadable. They hesitated; turn back or go on? Which path should they take?

Peering through the trees they searched in vain for the lights of the town nestled in the valley below. Shaken and uncertain the boys agreed to keep moving, then turned towards the new-found path, and like silent ghosts, disappeared into the darkness. Heavy clouds hid the moon as sheets of rain swept in across the mountains.

Urgent Notice – Flash Fiction closes 4pm THURSDAY 16 November

We have to close the FF competition a little earlier this month as we have to know the winner before the Member’s Night in order to prepare certificates et cetera, so entries will not be accepted after 4pm on Thursday 16 November, and voting will open the following day, and will close at 4pm on Monday 20 November.

You still have well over a week in which to send your entry in for judging by your peers, and don’t forget that this month the winner receives the $100 Pamela Miller Memorial Prize and a certificate to boot (well, please don’t boot it, it’s far too prestigious for that, perhaps just frame it).

Send your entries to competitions@ballaratwriters.com 

All the best,

Phil Green

BWI Competitions Co-ordinator

November Flash Fiction Competition

General Information:
Entries are limited to financial members only. Entries will not be accepted if they exceed the maximum word limit – even if by one word, and must comply with all the required parameters. Your email must include author’s name, story title, and word count. One entry per member, and sent as a Word file (.doc or .docx file). PDF files will not be accepted as they lose formatting in transition.

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pm Friday, 24 November 2017. Voting will open here the next day and will close at 4 pm on Wednesday 29 November.

Come along to our Members’ Night on Wednesday 29 November at 6.30 pm at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel to hear the winner announced. You can have dinner there from 6 pm (Results will also be posted here the day after.) This is also the night that we announce the winners of the Southern Cross Literary Competition, and, our wind-up night of the year. A great evening should be had by all who are there. RSVPs will be asked for.

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

There is no keyword or prompt this month as we want to encourage everyone to enter. There’s $100 in it this month as it is the “Pamela Miller Memorial Prize”.

You’ve got to be in it to win it, and this is our last FF Competition for this year, so please, everyone submit something and let’s finish the year with a boomer array of stories.

Genre:     Open

Word count:      not more than 300 words (the title is excluded from the word count)

Conditions of entry

Your entry must:

  1. Be in 12 point Times New Roman font
  2. Have single line spacing
  3. Have a title
  4. Include the author’s name
  5. Include the word count; exclusive of the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition and will not be accepted in that form)

 

October Flash Memoir

It is essential that memoirs are judged exclusively on their merit, including (as appropriate for the item), punctuation, syntax, spelling, and grammar.

Please vote only on the memoir’s worth, and do not allow personal loyalties to influence your vote. Our aim is to encourage all writers, not discourage any through having no chance of winning solely on their excellence.

Please vote for the best all-round submission. That is true honesty and good-citizenship.

  1.  No Second Chance

Words – 295

The call came in the early hours of Saturday morning. The doctor’s voice was kind, concerned, reassuring, all in one short conversation. My elderly mother had died during the night he told me.  She’d had a sudden heart attack, and didn’t suffer.

I sat bolt upright in the bed, shocked and overwhelmed by the sudden loss and a feeling of regret. How could this be? I was to visit her today and take her home.

She had been admitted to hospital the previous week for treatment of a non- threatening blood disorder.  I visited her every day, taking in fruit, nibbles and the daily paper. We chatted about her day, she quite enjoyed being in hospital, but always looked forward to going home. She lived alone in a small unit and was happy there.

On Friday I had to go out of town for work, and returned home late. I was tired, hungry, out of sorts after the day out, and did not feel up to a trip to the hospital. I rang my mother, ‘How are you mum?’

‘I’m feeling better, and the doctor thinks I can go home tomorrow.’ She sounded bright and chirpy.

I felt relief. ‘I’ve just come home.  I won’t come in tonight, unless there’s something you need?’

‘No, that’s alright, they’re looking after me well in here.’

I could hear a whisper of disappointment in her voice, but I blocked it out.  The day had left me exhausted.

‘I’ll get some groceries in the morning and freshen up the unit. I’ll call into the hospital about 11 o’clock.’ She seemed happy with that and said goodbye. I felt a pang of guilt as I hung up, but told myself I’d see her tomorrow.

The next morning she was gone.

 

  1.  A Life Lesson Learned

Words – 294

One bright summer’s day, aged twelve, my mate Russell, and I, chased Brian Beswick and his four mates, up the back lane into Brian’s backyard.

Brian and his friends threw stones at us. Russell tossed a piece of tree-branch. It hit Brian’s leg.

We raced back to our homes knowing we’d be in trouble.

Russell darted inside his house. I sat in my driveway in the dirt.

Mr. Beswick strode up, arriving as my dad, Bill, came out to stand beside me in the sunshine.

Mr. Beswick said, “Bill, your son threw a piece of wood at my boy that hit him”.

Dad looked down at me drawing circles in the dust, and asked, “Did you do that?”

I shook my head and said, “No Dad”. To my young mind, it was not me who had thrown the stick, so it was a truthful answer to the question.

Dad raised his eyebrows, and cocked his head at Mr. Beswick, as if to say, “That’s that then”.

Mr. Beswick said, “Well, he knows who did do it”.

Dad asked, “Do you?”

“Yes Dad”.

Mr. Beswick said, “Well, who was it?”

Again, Dad looked at me, and said, “Are you going to say who it was?”

“I don’t want to say, Dad”.

He spread his arms out from his sides, palms up, shrugged, and looked at Mr. Beswick with an open, blank, but understanding face, clearly indicating that the conversation was over.

“Harumph,” said Mr. Beswick, then spun on his heel, and walked off.

Dad half-turned, looked at me, winked, and without another word, walked leisurely back up our drive.

He never mentioned the incident again.

“It was in that moment that I learned about quiet strength, loyalty, steadfastness, love, and how to be a man.”

 

  1.  365

Words – 235

He grew up afraid of the sound of his own name.

Before he was old enough to write a single word he understood the power of them.

Hiding in his wardrobe at night he would try and forget all the words he had heard that day. They pinned him down making him feel so heavy that to move even the smallest amount gave him splinters. The wood from the bottom of the wardrobe burying deep under his skin smashing against the rocks inside causing even more pain.

The softness of that thin strip of satin held tightly against his face offering little comfort as it soaked up his silent tears till it could hold no more. His fear heightened as the drops fell hitting the wooden floor, petrified with every splash he would be found.

The morning sun would sneak under the crack in the bottom of the door waking him before anyone else as he quickly and as quietly as he could, he would wash and leave the house. Making sure his school uniform covered as much as he could.

Each step the voices in his head fuelling the inner turmoil as he walked from one place that should have been a sanctuary to another. Always in fear and dread of what would happen today. How many new names would he learn he had. How he longed to be called just one, just one.

October Flash Competition

General Information:
Entries are limited to financial members only. Entries will not be accepted if they exceed the maximum word limit – even if by one word, and must comply with all the required parameters. Your email must include author’s name, story title, and word count. One entry per member, and sent as a Word file (.doc or .docx file). PDF files will not be accepted as they lose formatting in transition.

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pm Friday, 20 October 2017. Voting will open here the next day and will close at 4 pm on Wednesday 25 October.

Come along to our Members’ Night on Wednesday 25 October at 7 pm at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel to hear the winner announced. You can have dinner there from 6 pm (Results will also be posted here the day after.)

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

Genre:     Memoir

Word count:      not more than 295 words (the title is excluded from the word count)

Conditions of entry

Your entry must:

  1. Be in 12 point Times New Roman font
  2. Have single line spacing
  3. Have a title
  4. Include the author’s name
  5. Include the word count; exclusive of the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition and will not be accepted in that form)

P.S. The use of F7 on your keyboard is highly recommended. If you are not familiar with this valuable aid to accuracy, Phil Green is happy to assist. Email him at philgreen@eftel.net.au

September Flash Fiction

It is essential that entries are judged exclusively on their merit, including (as appropriate for the story), punctuation, syntax, spelling, and grammar.

Please vote only on the story’s worth, and do not allow personal loyalties to influence your vote. Our aim is to encourage all writers, not discourage any through having no chance of winning solely on their story’s excellence.

Please vote for the best all-round story instead of necessarily voting for your own story. That is true honesty and good-citizenship.

 

1  Title     A Tender Heart

  Words   352

The school bell rang out as they ran from the class rooms, down through the corridors and out to the locker rooms. Tom called out, ‘Frankie did you get your bike fixed?’

‘Yeah,’ she replied, ‘I’ll meet you out the back’.

Tom grabbed his bike, flew around the corner of the school, and raced towards the lake. Frankie was sitting on her bike by the water’s edge; pony-tail flying in the breeze, fringe protruding from under her school cap.  His heart gave a familiar tug.  He remembered the school social; laughing as they danced around the room; her warmth as he held her close. Tom yearned for something more, but Frankie belonged to no-one. Music was her passion and playing the guitar was the most important thing in her life. Tom wished he could play.

They took off on their bikes across the narrow causeway of the lake, down onto the bush track on the other side. It was a short-cut to home where they lived as neighbours. Tom recalled the times he had Frankie on the bar of his bike, dinking her home; arms wrapped around her, her hair brushing his face. Now they flew over the gutters, their bikes going at a rapid pace. Frankie glanced back and laughed, ‘Keep up Tom!’

Tom hung back; his eyes soft and tender as he watched her swerving around on the bike. He planned to take Frankie into town later to buy her a birthday present. He longed to give her something special, just from him.

As they arrived home, Harry flew past on his bike and shouted, ‘Frankie, we’re having a music session, bring your guitar, it’s at the church hall.’

Frankie jumped off the bike. ‘Hang on and I’ll grab it,’ she yelled, running into the house.

Tom cast his eyes down, and made his way up the driveway. Throwing down the bike, he marched into the bedroom, slammed the door shut and dragged the old guitar out from under the bed. Mouth set with determination, he placed his bulky fingers on the rusty strings, grit his teeth and started strumming.

 

2   Title     Love At First Sight

Words    348

‘Father, it is 2017, I am old enough; I should be married; I need to be married.’

‘What do you mean my son, you need to be married?’

‘I need to have intimacy.’

‘Ahh. Good, your mother will be pleased; she was becoming worried for you. I will find a wife for you my son, trust me.’

‘Allah be praised; thank you Father, but please Father, I want to love my bride, and I want to be happy with her. Please, I do not want just any woman for a bride, I want for there to be romance too.’

‘Trust me Muhammed my son, I will make sure that you are not disappointed.’

 

‘Father.’

‘Yes, my son?’

‘It has been nearly three months since we talked of getting me a wife. Is anything happening?’

‘Yes, I have been speaking with my old friend Aabid. Aabid has many daughters, and one is suitable for marriage.’

‘May I know her name, Father?’

‘Yes, her name is Aisha.’

‘Aisha! Oh, Father, that is such a good sign. She has the same name as our dear prophet’s second wife, and the Hadeeth tells us that he was mightily pleased with her.’

‘Yes, my son, and as Allah, in his perfect wisdom, has chosen to make you in our Prophet’s image, peace be upon Him, she will be perfect for you. She is only two years older than blessed Aisha was when our Prophet took her as his wife. Who knows, perhaps you may become an Iman and aid in spreading our cultural teachings?’

‘But, please tell me, Father, is she pretty?’

‘I have not seen her, but Aabid says that she is pretty and well-schooled in all home duties.’

 

His wedding day is two months later, and Muhammed the obese dwarf stands in the courtyard after his marriage ceremony. His passion is rising; his eyes are closed. On opening them he sees his father’s token dowry of a white goat standing beside Aisha his eleven-year-old bride as she shyly lowers the hood of her burqa.

Allah be praised; love at first sight!

 

3  Title      BnB

Words      348

The tears streamed down my face as I walked down the isle solo.  From that first moment noticing him in college taking photos of the football team to now seeing him all dressed up waiting for me to join him for the rest of our lives.

What a journey these last few years had been. I couldn’t have been prouder of his quick rise from Intern to Editor at the newspaper. His investigative prowess made it difficult to keep the details of the dress I now wore a secret from him. One of the few secrets we had between us. He’d kept the honeymoon plans a secret from me and I was ok with that, it would make the week ahead even more exhilarating.

The aroma from the bouquet took me back to those lazy spring weekends when he’d pick me up and  we’d ride out to our favourite meadow. His back strong and firm against the tree my head in his lap as we took time just to listen to each other.

As I slid my hand into his I was surprised to feel it damp. I’d never known him to have sweaty palms before. My one and only forever and ever, I finally noticed everyone in the church. I wish my parents could have been there, I wish he had a better relationship with his.

We’d written our own vows and I’m glad I hadn’t tried to memorise them as my memory may have failed me under the pressure of the moment.  ‘Where’s the photographer oh there she is.’

“Yes I do”

The passion of that first kiss, words fail me. How can one describe something that felt so connected, so deep down right and natural.  My face must have given away what I was thinking about next as he looked at me inquisitively.

“I now present to you Mr and Mrs..”

While everyone was cheering I whispered in his ear “you’ll have to wait until the honeymoon to see the something blue”.