January 2019 Flash Fiction

It’s here, finally! The moment that you have all been waiting for amid the madness of the Christmas rush. Drum roll, please …

The topic for the first Flash Fiction of 2019 is REDEMPTION and you have a maximum of 220 words.

The winner was entry #6 – Neville Hiatt! Congratulations, Neville, great start to the competitive year.

Thank you to everyone who voted. This competition had the highest number of votes seen in a long time. Keep spreading the word.

Six entries for your consideration this month! Make sure you read them all, scroll through to the bottom of them and vote for your favourite. Poll closes at 11.59pm on Tuesday 29th January. Spread the word.

It is essential that stories are judged exclusively on their merit, including (as appropriate for the item), 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 excellence.

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

Entry # 1 – Redemption Code

Is it still called a queue if you can’t see the people in it and you don’t seem to move?

I’ve been on the phone for so long my finger nails have grown. I’ve got it on speaker so I can put the phone down and get on with the important things in life. Washing, washing up, getting the kids ready for swim lessons. It’s like exam time when everything else is more important.

‘Your call is important to us’ the voice punctuates the monotonous muzak and interminable self-promotion advertising spiels.

‘But you rang me’ I yell. ‘How hard is it? Your website says “get us to call you if you can’t get this sorted out”. So, you called me back and you put me on hold.’

It’s just a movie I want. Gone are the days of buying a DVD over the counter. No, now I have to buy it online so I can ‘have access to it whenever and where ever I like’ – so long as I am connected to the internet, of course.

A voice comes back on the line. ‘Thank you for holding. We apologise for the error on the gift card. My supervisor has confirmed that the details you provided are correct. You can now use your keypad to enter your redemption code.’

 

Entry # 2 – Arianna

Arianna told her driver to stop in the middle of the square. She could have asked him to go into the café to buy cigarettes, but she wanted to stretch her legs and feel the early morning air on her face. Arianna reeked of night; she wore it like the fur coat wrapped around her, defying the late October chill.

Three young women sat outside the café; they were tanned caramel; their health and humour erupted as they passed a bottle of soft drink between them. Arianna knew the sounds of their English were Australian; they were sounds she had once known as well as her own body.

Twenty-five years ago she had not boarded a flight to Melbourne, refusing to read the pain of her lover’s words, nor hear his shattered, wondering voice.

The Australian women had slept on the deck of a boat overnight; they were in Athens to collect letters and money from home. They’d pooled their last drachmas for the soft drink, and watched chickens turn seductively on the rotiserrie in the café’s window.

‘Now there’s a stunner!’ one of the women said as Arianna walked past.

Minutes later, a bulging plastic bag thumped onto their table.

‘For you!’ Arianna said, turning towards her car and leaving the hungry women to devour the chicken.

 

Entry # 3 – Being Swept Along is Not Enough

Francis Drake, explorer and patriot, tacking down the coast of Patagonia, saw the smoke of fires. I will capture a Patagonian, he announced, to tame and Christianise and take to England as a gift for her Maj’!

A dozen fierce volunteers came forward. Muskets and swords advanced, they entered jungle paths and green valleys and, by God’s grace, found two Patagonians. One was a mother, the other a four year old son. They drove her off with sticks. They took the boy.

She screamed. Of course she screamed. Cries of outrage erupted fore and aft. The volunteers raced for hours, panic giving them strength, muskets giving them hope. The boy they tossed from shoulder to shoulder, dropped, dragged and regained but never released. What was the use if the prize was lost?

In the end though, at dusk, they left him on the shale, accidentally dead, and rowed away. Over the dark water, Drake heard the Patagonians, weeping their pitiful curses. He was saddened. Not for them. Not for the boy. For England. For the queen. For God.

In the ship’s chapel, he took a knee. ‘Forgive my failure, Lord. I will redeem myself against the Spaniards.’

He hoisted anchor. And a week later God killed him with dysentery on the shale of a similar Patagonian beach.

 

Entry # 4 – ‘I don’t want to live somewhere else, Mum.’

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. It doesn’t have the calming effect I’d hoped for. The motel room still has the lingering odor of stale cigarette smoke, despite it being our temporary home for the last two months. Lucy is stretched across the bed, kicking her legs against the mattress and staring at the ceiling.

‘I know you don’t, baby, but we can’t go back.’

Our home was beyond redemption, reduced to rubble and ash. Nothing existed of our old life anymore, and even the land we had called ours, peppered with eucalypts and bird calls was deemed unsafe. Surely there was nothing unsafe about it anymore. Tree trunks stripped of their leaves stood like sentinels watching over an eerily silent, charred land.

I slam the laptop shut and rub my eyes, afterimages of insurance forms still clouding my brain.

‘You don’t need to be afraid anymore, Mum,’ Lucy smiles, rolling onto her stomach. ‘We know what to do now.’

I grab her hand and press a kiss to it. I want to believe her, but there is nothing calling me back to where we used to be. Nothing positive, no saving grace. Only the ghost of flames gone by.

 

Entry # 5 – Heat of the Moment

The hot sun beat down upon the pavement as she struggled along, the groceries weighing heavy on her arms as Thomas dawdled behind her. His face was flushed and blonde curls lay plastered across his sweaty brow. She felt her shoulders slump as she looked back to see he had stopped, and was standing by the fence plucking a flower. A feeling of rage and frustration suddenly engulfed her.

‘Come on Thomas! For goodness sake hurry up or I’ll leave you behind’, she screamed, her face flushed and angry. Stomping back towards him, she held the bags in one hand, grabbed him by the arm and yanked him up.

Thomas backed away; eyes full of terror and fear. Trembling, the tears flowed as his face crumpled and he slumped to the pavement.

She felt a stab of horror and shame as she knelt beside him and gathered him in her arms.

‘I’m sorry Thomas; I didn’t mean to yell at you. Don’t cry now, I’m sorry I got angry. I would never leave you, you know that.’

Thomas put his arms around her neck, and hung his head.

Her heart felt the sharp pain of regret. ‘I love you so very much,’ she whispered fervently, hugging him tight.

His little body softened as he pulled out the crushed flower.

 

Entry # 6 – Max

His smile was as wide as the main street.

His heart as big as the river that caressed that town, like he used to hold me.

 

The newspaper said he had a wife and kids but we hadn’t reached that part of our story.

Now the only thing I can touch is my memory of him.

 

My heart emptied when I heard his lunged had filled with water.

He’d left one island to call this island home.

Now he’s exploring eternity while I feel like I’m lost at sea.

 

Those arms that held me safe, now a hollow space.

His smile reflected love brighter than the moon on a cloudless night.

 

As I leave his ashes with the sea, tissues scattered about my house.

Days flow one to the next.

 

Knock knock, knock knock.

His mother is at my door.

She places in my palm a heart shaped velvet box.

 

I open it already knowing it’s contents.

Princess cut, wrapped in gold.

Shining as bright as his smile once did.

Clutching his mother tight I close the lid.

 

 

 

 

Entries must be in by midnight Wednesday 23rd January 2019. Voting will open soon after and close at 11.59pm on Tuesday 29th. Winner announced at the Members Night on 30 January 2019 -if I have the date right.

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, not including the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition)
  7. You must be a current member of Ballarat Writers.

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com