The final Flash Fiction competition for the year is also the Pamela Miller Prize, so get your pencils sharpened and see if you can win the $100.
The theme is SUMMER and there is a maximum word limit of 250.
This year, judging will be undertaken by your colleagues – fellow members of Ballarat Writers. The committee will appoint a team of three judges. Their decision is final. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to read and vote as you normally do. It’s just that this time, the online voting will not determine the winner. It will be interesting to see if the judges concur with the masses!
Seven entries!! Wow, you guys like to write for money! Normal polling is below the entries, but remember that we have a judging panel for this one – so the decision of the masses doesn’t count – democracy seems overrated these days!
There are no story titles. More than half of the entries used the same title (Summer) and I felt this could interfere with the voting. So this time, just take note of the number of your favourite story, OK?
Summer’s been inside me all year ‘round. It lurks there, simmering, till it rises from my ribs to my forehead. I look like a Nullarbor sunset.
Stand back! Caution! Hot Surface!
Covers off. Sweat, sweat, sweat. My bed is Adelaide in January. It wakes me as it builds. It’s coming, it’s coming. Rising, rising, my blood is boiling in a nightly fever dream. It’s 2.00 am before a work day. Great! Covers back on as the shivers set in.
I’m wearing beads today—beads of sweat strung under my eyes. I can feel my colleague staring quizzically. He knows nothing about hot flushes. He just thinks I’m losing it.
Should I cut my hair? Get this winter-weight coiffe off my neck? I attract funny looks as I reach back to hold it away from my skin, using my other hand to drag at my collar. I lust after some air. Blissful air.
I know no one cares. No one cares as I sit at Sturt Street traffic lights, trapped by the seat belt, wearing a coat. A coat! Gotta love Ballarat and its tee shirt-Thursday, coat-Friday Novembers. Why did I leave my coat on in the car? The other drivers are listening to their Bluetooth beats and surreptitiously checking texts while I’m having a parked-in-sun-all-day, sauna-on-wheels experience. I ponder leaping out to strip off before the lights change.
There are workers installing decorations near the town hall. All I want for Christmas is … winter.
It was a hot humid summer when we met, in a stuffy room filled with people who’d gathered at a writer’s workshop. We ‘clicked’ as women often do, and continued to meet each summer. The days were long and warm and we chatted late into the night, as the moths circled around the outside light on the porch.
We read out our stories – tales of meaning reflecting the events of our lives, our families, our desires. We shared our #metoo moments well before the world shared theirs. Empty wine bottles lay beside the rubbish bin, and discarded take-away containers gathered on the kitchen bench. We had no time for cooking, for the garden beckoned when we sought reprieve from words. The smell of roses and lilies wafted around us as the summer sun beat down upon our skin.
Time seemed endless; we had no warning these days would end, until that fateful visit to the doctor when my friend spoke of debilitating back pain, and the worst was confirmed.
Our visits now became more frequent, more urgent; so impatient were we to capture our stories in whatever form we could.
When we knew these summer days were ending, she looked at me with knowing eyes and a sadness that wrenched my heart.
‘I still have so much writing to do,’ she stated, defiant.
Now another summer has passed, and while the rays of the sun are fading, like the memories of my friend, their warmth remains forever in my heart.
Entry # 3
We children stepped off the veranda and walked to the gate. The crisp scorched ground under our feet was typical of the hot dry seasons of our childhood. The coastal breeze began its afternoon frolic over the farm. We were just five miles from the beach, as the crow flies.
Gran and Grandpa had spent the afternoon with us. Dad’s parents often came to visit. They were the ones who brought us very special and rare Violet Crumble treats. Of course, the sugary delicacies were immediately consumed and already we were looking forward to next time, when they might even stay over for a day or two. As they drove away we waved goodbye and turned back to the coolness of the veranda.
Earlier, despite the heat of the day, Mum had whipped up a sponge cake. Her old Sunbeam mixmaster whirled full speed as she deftly threw the ingredients together. The golden wonder, cooked and cooled, she filled it with cream, and topped it with mouth-watering passionfruit icing.
Gathered around the table, afternoon tea was served on Mum’s best china. Rarely did our grandparents visit without reflections on their proud heritage. So, in those days when children were seen and not heard, we sat still, listening to our gentle and quietly spoken Grandpa. He recalled how, filled with great hope and ambition, our ancestors’ migrated from Britain a century earlier, and flourished.
Then as his voice drifted off, he leaned back in the big leather chair, beaming.
Summer summary: how to describe such an expansive season in a mere 250 words? Impossible! Summer brings such joy – and dread. Outdoor sporty girl transmuted into melanoma woman. Terrible fear mixed with 50+ sunscreen. Ugly wide-brimmed hats (hates), long-sleeve shirts hot and graceless. Every day, check the UV, must only swim in the beloved sea before 10 and after 4. Start a new Ballarat fashion: carry a parasol like small pale Asian women, who smile at me gratefully – this is OK, here too, then? I smile back, happy, no shirts needed, air on my skin.
Moving to Ballarat saved my life. What’s that? the intern asked, and body whisked away, mind still there in the surgery saying, What? WTF? What now? Kids, partner, mortgage…to surgery, to more surgery, to big machines and endless kind-eyed doctors prodding and feeling with knowledge in their fingers.
Family history, I discovered, uncles dead, cousins with chunks missing. Twisted genes running through our family with the dark hair and laughter.
Summer. The sun is trying to kill me. But I am alive.
Summer means Christmas. I am, you are, we are Australian. Except the carols and movies are mostly set in the northern hemisphere. I’ve spent 3 Christmas’s abroad and this year will probably be my fourth. My first saw me meeting the love of my life, an internet romance. The Christmas bells led to wedding bells, alas they weren’t for me. My arrival lit a fire under a locals feet and he proposed to her while he still had the chance.
It would be years before I returned this time I knew I was her only one and as we watched the New Years Eve fireworks I knew this would be the year I’d pop the question. Alas just as I was about to make those arrangements she called it quits.
Third time lucky? Well my last trip was for the love of the country, the weather and the people, no romance this time. There’s something about being knee deep in snow that feels a lot more like Christmas than getting sunburnt at the beach. Watching my breath blow away in the wind cheered on by the flashing lights. If one could bottle it they’d be a gazilllionaire.
Friends celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary this month and one thanked the other for still not growing up and asking that they never do. It’s this sort of wonderment for life that a white Christmas brings out in me. It’s like I’m living in those carols and movies I watched as a child.
“Summer is coming.” observes the man next to me at the BBQ.
“Hmm,” I reply, “and what’s your name?”
“Jack; and you?”
“Well, how about that? I’m Jill, shall we grab a bucket of water?”
“Not today thanks. I’m expecting someone very special to turn up. She’s the love of my life, and I adore her.”
I say, “Message received Jack, but anyway, you’re a handsome man.”
“Gee, thanks Jill, I must say you’re not bad-looking yourself. Actually, you are an absolutely stunning looking woman.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“Yep, I’d bet that guys hit on you all the time.”
“No, I wish. It seems to me that guys think I wouldn’t be interested. I don’t know, but they seem to think I’m out of their league, you know, that they would be punching above their weight to ask me out. I’ve been quite lonely lately.”
Jack says, “Well, there are plenty of eligible men here today, I could introduce you to a few if you want?”
“Yeah? Great, thanks.”
Jack’s face breaks out into a broad smile, and he straightens as a woman walks toward us. She’s wearing brown. Brown lace-up shoes, a heavy brown skirt that flaps about her ankles, brown wool cardigan undone and running down at the front over a brown jumper. Her arms hang loosely at her sides as she walks, and her greying brown hair is carelessly coiled in a loose bun.
As she reaches us, Jack says, “Jill, meet my beautiful wife, Summer.”
When my brother and I, prowling the undergrowth, discovered a nest of honey bees, gone wild; when he put a stone over the hole in the log and we stood still to watch as the comers, too busy for high jinks, rose and turned in the air, checking their bearings; when he dared me, ‘Put your ear to the log, Robbie, and hear what a thousand captured bees sound like’; when I did and heard the querulous hum of business gone wrong, of the thrum in liquid honey and the slow grind of wood lice encased in cedar; when he smashed the log then, with a boulder and ran and left me exposed, caught out, ear to the nest, in a sudden wind of bees; when I froze until one speared out of the crowd, finding my guilt a suitable target for the drop of poison that might otherwise have gone unnoticed down the throat of a bee-eater; when I ran, then, crying out my terror, clasping the dying one against my own eleven year old log of a chest; when I wailed to my brother of his treachery and he laughed and said, ‘I’ll pee on the sting for you if you want, that’s the only way to take the pain away’; and when I paused to wonder and he said, ‘But you’ll have to ask me nicely’ and I looked around at mum’s hydrangeas with the bees dipping carefully in and out . . . that was summer.
The timeline is:
Entries open when you read this;
Entries close 16th November;
Online voting closes 24th November, and
Winner announced at the Member’s Night on 28th November
You have to be a member of Ballarat Writers;
Only one entry per member;
Email entries only to firstname.lastname@example.org;
Entries must be in Word format, 12pt Times New Roman, single spaced, have a title and include the word count, and
Be received before midnight on 16th November 2018.