September 2018 Flash Fiction

As Spring finds its way into our lives and we can think about putting away our winter obsessions, this month’s prompt might set you on your way to others … (I am not legally responsible!)

“Who did you follow today?” is the prompt. You can do whatever you like with it. You don’t have to answer the question, as such, but you do have to use ‘follow’ in a thematic sense.

Maximum of 150 words in any genre.

 

Entries must be in by midnight Wednesday 19 September 2018. Voting will open soon after and close at 8pm on Tuesday 25th. Winner announced at the Members Night on 26th September 2018.

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

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August 2018 Flash Fiction

August Flash Fiction prompt is from an overheard conversation “It’s illegal. You know it’s illegal”

Do with that what you will – maximum words = 170

Voting has closed. The gate has been shut! The winner was Entry #3- You Can’t Do That. Congratulations to Johanna Botman.

Entries are in … vote for your favourite under the last entry. Voting closes 8.00pm Tuesday 28th August.

Entry #1 – CATCHIT

Dunno why I went…dirty dishes, usual pigsty. But past breakfast mess, I saw smooth sea, sun glinting. Why not, anything’s better than this. I enjoyed the first hour. Chopping bait, salty skin.  Kev gotta few tiddlers, threw em back, pissed off.

“Ya cuttin’ bait too small,” he grumbled. I felt sick, the swell getting up.

“Let’s go in,” I said. Kev kicked the empty fish box.

“Nah, gotta beat that arrogant arsehole Bert. Thinks he owns the bloody ocean. I’ll show him.” Anger rose like steam. “Yeees,” he yelled, rod bending, a promising arc. The baby snapper flapped, entwined in seaweed. I reached down.

“Nah, we’re keeping it,” he said. “But it’s illegal, you know it’s illegal,” I muttered. We headed back, smashing through a big swell. Crowds milled about the boats.

“Just a minute sir, routine limit check.” He peered into the dinghy. “Well, you’re the first empty boat we’ve seen today. Bad luck eh?”

Kev clutched his stomach.

“Hang on,” called the fisheries officer, “Open your shirt mate.”

 

Entry #2 – Into the Night Sky

Jake saw them enter the darkened alleyway, and dashed into a doorway. The older boy prised open the shop door while his young mate kept watch at the end of the street.

Cars quizzed past the alleyway, and stragglers roamed the streets. It was past midnight and a full moon pieced the clear sky.

Jake watched the boy sneak out of the shop, a box tucked under his arm as his mate rushed to join him. Jake pushed further into the doorway, ears pricked.

They opened the lid of the box, eyes wide with delight. The young boy hesitated, ‘Should we really do this?  It’s illegal. You know it’s illegal,’ he muttered.

‘Nah it’s not,’ the boy scoffed, excitement mounting, ‘people do it all the time.’

They flew down the street towards the beach, Jake following at a distance.

Reaching the sand they halted, struck a match, and watched the rocket take off into the sky with swirls and swirls of coloured stars. The boys looked up in wondrous joy.

 

Entry #3  – You can’t do that

‘It’s illegal. You know it’s illegal. You can’t spend every Saturday this way.’

I’d said it a thousand times before and a thousand times before he wouldn’t listen.

‘Babe’ he started.

‘Don’t. I know it’s going to be bad when you call me Babe.’

‘Honey?’

‘That’s not going to work either’

‘What could possibly go wrong?’

This was always the last desperate attempt to get me to give in and let him have his way. He knows that I can’t answer that question – that I don’t even care to try to answer. I just rolled my eyes. He had won.

‘You get the food, I’ll get the drinks. The disk should finish copying in 5 minutes.’

‘If I have to. What did you choose this time?’

‘Blackadder.’

 

Entry #4 – Overheard at a local coffee shop
“It’s illegal. You know it’s illegal.”

“Well I guess I’m going to jail then because I’m not going to stop.”

“It’s not worth it. Change it slightly to make it fit with the new laws. Surely you can get the same message across without risking losing everything.”

“The truth needs to be spoken. The law has been wrong before, they are wrong now and I am sure they will be wrong again in the future.”

“I wish you’d reconsider.”

“I wish you weren’t so afraid.”

 

Entries must be in by midnight Wednesday 22 August 2018. Voting will open soon after and close at 8pm on Tuesday 28th. Winner announced at the Members Night on 29th August 2018.

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

July Flash Fiction

Another challenge for July for Flash Fiction.

Your entry has to be about a meeting of two people. You have a maximum of 100 words for one person’s point of view and 100 for the other person’s point of view.

So, 200 words maximum – no minimum.

And the winner is …. Entry #3 from Linda Young. Well done. By far the most voted for.

Four entries this month. You can vote for the one you like best using the poll below.

Entry 1 – Of God

1st para 95 words           2nd para 99 words

“Of course there’s a God. He does everything for us. He’s forgiving, generous, takes care of us and loves us all. He rules and orders our lives. He promises us a place beside him in Heaven. He forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. Just look around, do you not see the beautiful world He has given us? The birds, the animals, and all the creatures and living things on this earth and beneath the sea; He made them all, for us, his children, to enjoy. Do you think all this happened by chance?”

“If that’s the case my friend, then why do we have war and pestilence? Why does he cause a bus to crash that kills 40 people, and when one person survives we call that God’s intervention – a miracle? Isn’t that a dreadful thing to do to us?

That great Greek thinker, Epicurus, said,

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able, and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?”

 

Entry 2 – NO LIES

Words – Him 97           Her 67

“Excuse me mister, but my friend Shyanne would not lie to me!”

“No, I reversed out of the parking bay and as I went into first gear, there was the slightest touch onto the rear of a car in the opposite bay. I got out; there was no damage to either vehicle, so I drove away.”

“Shyanne said it was an older man who stove in the passenger side front of my car. She said it was you in a dark blue car.”

“Hey! I’m thirty-three. My car is light blue, not dark, and, if yours was so badly damaged there would have to be some damage to mine. Check please.”

“No, there’s no damage, and it is light blue. But she said it was you in the Aldi carpark.”

“I was in Coles next door. I saw a girl smash a bollard in Aldi. She was young, wearing a red top and tartan skirt.”

“Shit, it was bloody Shyanne! The lying little bitch!”

 

Entry 3 – Stand in Judgement

She struggles onto the tram, finds her balance and looks around for a seat. Grabs a strap and glares at the young bloke seated near her, his hoody pulled down, eyes on his mobile phone.

“Typical,’ she grumbles, lips pursed, ‘always looking at the phone, doesn’t see anyone else. Just like the rest of them. Look at that dirty jumper, and jeans in tatters, what would his mother think of him?’

She grips her purse firmly in front of her, and tightens her hold on the strap.

 

The young bloke’s in his own world, looking at photos of his parent’s European holiday. He’s happy; has the house to himself while they’re away.  Needs to plan for the exams coming up, so gets off the phone, stuffs it in his pocket and glances up.

He catches sight of her standing there, trying to hold on, and feels a tug of his heart. ‘She looks just like my gran,’ he thinks, and jumps up. ‘Sorry, have a seat, I didn’t see you’. He senses her hesitations so moves away, thinks again of his gran and dials her number.

 

She grunts, plonks down on the seat and gives a loud sniff.

 

Entry 4 – The Street.

The young mum held tight to her little girl’s hand, staring, eyes narrowed, at the old man sitting outside the café. His hair was matted; beard scraggly. As he muttered to himself he picked at his fingernails, black and dirty from years of unwashed toil.

“I bet he smells horrible,” she thought, silently vowing to keep clear as she passed by.

Then she was distracted by the sale items in the store window and promptly forgot all about him.

We watched the street together, she and I. She arrived at my table with no announcement, plonked herself down and began her observations. Her ponytail bobbed as she talked, her large round preschool eyes smiling at me.

She liked talking to old people because they had lots of stories to tell.  She didn’t mind if people were fat and wobbly or skinny and knobbly. She smiled benignly at them all, passing us by as we chatted.

The young mum turned from the window, froze.

“Narelle – get away from that old derro; get into the bloody car!”

As her Mum grabbed her hand to drag her away, she looked back apologetically and gave me a sad, tentative little wave.

 Total word count:  197

Young mum – 99

Old man – 98

 

 

 

 

Entries close Wednesday 18th July at midnight. Voting will open as soon as possible after that and close at 8pm on Tuesday 24th July. Winner announced at Members Night July 25th.

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.

June Flash Fiction

News!! This month’s Flash Fiction has a three way tie between entries # 2 (Johanna Botman) #6 (Guenter Sahr) and #7 (Neville Hiatt). Congratulations to all.

Welcome to Flash Fiction for June 2018.  See below Conditions of Entry for the fabulous entries!

This month’s challenge is a little different. You have 99 words. No more, no less. Any subject, any genre. BUT, you must use the word AMBITION as the 50th word.

That means 49 words, ambition, 49 words. No variation of the word AMBITION.

Let’s see what you can do with that. Good luck and, most of all, have fun.

Entries close Wednesday 20th June at midnight. Voting will open as soon as possible after that and close at 6pm on Tuesday 26th June. Winner announced at Members Night June 27th.

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)

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 11.59 pm Tuesday 20th June 2018.Voting will open here the next day and will close at 6 pm on Tuesday, 26th  June.

Entry #1 – Mum Would Be Happy

It was the day my mother died. She was quite young really, only fifty-five. It had been a hard life for her. A loving husband, but no work. They had seven children to cook, clean, and provide for; almost impossible just on the dole.

She failed to achieve her ambition of being in showbiz, consoling herself in the knowledge that her offspring were educated, loving, and caring.

That day was the worst of my young life. Only thirteen, motherless, and trying to understand the wildly fluctuating emotions of puberty. My vow that day was to become her; an actress.

Entry # 2 – What I Should Have Done

I should have kept going past the city on the freeway that allowed me to rush past the skyline, past the traffic.

I would have kept driving through the night on roads waiting to be useful then disappearing in the darkness behind.

I had no idea. I had no ambition.

I could have driven on until I was alone.

Instead, I made the turn off the freeway, off the highway, into the street and parked in front of the house. They were waiting for me there. All of them. I was filled with anxiety when I faced them. Alone.

Entry # 3 – What’s in a Name?

Jane had planned to write a novel ever since she won the Flash Fiction competition in high school.

Tom scoffed, ‘Anyone can write a book.’

Maryanne frowned, ‘You won’t make any money from writing.’

Still Jane was not deterred; she’d succeed, for within her was the driving force of ambition.

But as the years rolled on, and her novel progressed, Jane found that ambition was not enough in the world of publishing. She sent her manuscript to numerous publishers, accepting the rejections with increasing alarm.

Until one day it dawned on her, and she changed her name to Jack.

Entry # 4 – Ambition

“How to succeed in business without really trying”

was his favourite movie,

and he had read Norman Vincent Peale’s

“The power of positive thinking” five times at just seventeen years old.

He studied accounting, then business management,

graduating with Honours and an MBA from Melbourne University.

His one burning ambition was to retire at thirty five

and travel the world in a manner he would

like to become accustomed to.

But the world conspired against him,

overworked and underpaid, and management

didn’t accept his pushy style.

All alone on his thirty fifth birthday

he admitted failure, and hanged himself.

Entry # 5 – My Fair Children

Mother was a woman of ample proportions. Her personality likewise was never mistaken for uncertainty nor ambivalence. That is until she met her second husband, Professor Higgins. No quiet lamb was he, I assure you. “Give me a boy and I’ll make him a man”, he asserted with grand ambition.

Simply amazing was his amplitude, the way he kept on and on at us, to make us in his image. Until at last, after two whole months, on the eve of the Royal Gala, she did it. Casting aside all ambiguity, she screamed “Admit it! You’ve inherited thirteen daughters!”

Entry # 6 – Life in the (write) zone

Oh, my gawd! Ninety-nine words, no more and no less.  What a seemingly difficult task (and somewhat contrived, as they all are!)  Only a particularly sadistic exponent of the art of creative writing would devise such a task; perhaps there is more than one such in Ballarat. Ah, yes, ambition, it drives us all.  Whenever there is a solitary exponent of a refined art, others are certain to become emulators after an appropriate interval; a tidal movement that ebbs and flows with some unique variations in content, but traversing the same inter-tidal zone where chaotic life thrives in abundance.

Entry # 7 – 2016

I grew up believing that driving a car would get me pregnant and kissing would give me cancer. Touching someone was how the devil got you to do what he wanted and using the telephone was how people could read your thoughts. I don’t think it was my mothers ambition to make me believe all these lies it was the voices. I know now that my mother was crazy. The world outside is scary and dangerous but it’s also beautiful and surprising. She’s dead now, but some days I think it was easier taking care of her than this.

Entry # 8 – Political Reality

He finally made it, anointed

as the Country’s Prime Minister.

He didn’t really understand

what this meant,

but he smiled anyway,

a smirk of insincerity

dressed up in lycra;

he just thought he looked really good.

His advisors weren’t going to tell him

anything different.

It was his focussed ambition,

he had made it,

he felt good, no great

and powerful,

he felt omnipotent.

But the problem with omnipotence

is that voters don’t like it,

and many worked to break it,

by consensus or a knife in the back,

it doesn’t matter either way.

Now he’s just a pest.

Entry # 9 – Mother Love

If only he could win something. An award, whatever the size, whatever the significance, would set him up. His blurbs would thereafter include the descriptor “award-winning” – a magnet for the eye. But our man George had come to know that (frustratingly) all dreams are unattainable when fuelled solely by ambition. George took a long hard look at himself. Could he live inside the boundaries prescribed by the depth and breadth of his talent? Self-publishing had never been in his career plan, and he doubted that his KDP earnings could feed his growing family. Perhaps his mother had been right.

 

Flash Fiction for May 2018

Thanks to all who voted – a larger number than we have had in recent times.

Joint winners this month! Entry #4 – Maureen Riches and Entry #5 – Johanna Botman

Well done!

 

Voting closes 6pm Tuesday May 29 2018. Enjoy.

Entry #1 – Return of the Prodigal

Father glanced up with startled surprise as Sally and I approached; my mother spinning around, confusion written across her face. I hesitated as my brother reached for his children, holding them close beside him.

I had not seen them since that day I flew out of the house, my father yelling abuse at me, his face suffused with rage, my mother collapsing.

‘You’re making this up,’ she screamed, as she slumped heavily in the chair. ‘Why are you doing this?’

I left and never looked back.

Now I see the years have wearied my father. Did he ever think of me during the years I struggled, my soul tortured by a sense of betrayal? And my mother, who now turns her head away and shrinks into herself, did she ever care?

I gaze at the scene before me of the picture-perfect family, and I’m flung back to those cold and lonely years I spent running – further and further away from the ugliness I felt around me, and within me.

But I’m no longer that lost and angry young man, and as I grip Sally’s hand, I stare at my father and know the day of reckoning has come.

 

 

Entry #2 – And About Time Too

“Hello Rosemary, thanks for coming. Glad you worked out my directions. How’s things?”

“Good Frank; good. Your map was sooo easy to follow. And you; how are you?”

“Just great. Umm, would you like to sit?”

“Yes, of course. What, no kiss?”

“I’m not that pushy; sorry.”

“It’s not pushy. It’s about time. Kiss please.” He goes to peck her cheek, she turns, they touch lips. “That’s better Frank. My, you’ve brought enough food for a family.”

“Umm, I wanted this to be special for; um, for us, for me, I mean, um …”

“It’s alright Frank. It’s sweet of you; and what a lovely spot you’ve chosen.”

“Um, Rosemary, um, you see this tree here?”

“Yes, it’s very old isn’t it.”

“My parents brought us here for picnics when I was young. It was very special for them. Um, ahh, it’s, it’s um, where Dad proposed to Mum.”

“How lovely.”

“Rosemary; I know it’s only been nine weeks, but …”

“The best nine weeks of my life actually, Frank.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really; I’m so happy when I’m with you.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Oh! Will you, um, marry me; please?”

“Frank! I’ve been waiting! Yes, a thousand times, yes!”

 

Entry #3 – Too Close to the Truth

‘Sir take a look’

Leroy leans over peering at the photograph under the microscope, then grabs the table to steady himself.

‘Those cunning bastards all the high tech options of communication and they resort to coded messages hidden in a tree in a photograph.’

‘Get it to Abbey right away, tell her to work on nothing else until it’s decoded.’

‘No need Sir the message reads, 14th June 2018 19:00’

Leroy barely hears him as his attention is distracted by the breaking news on the TV.

American defense system fails as Seoul is bombed by North Korea.

CUT

‘The scene is still missing something.’

‘Put more Chinese take away containers in there.’

‘Yep’

RESET

ACTION

‘Sir take a look’

Leroy leans over peering at the photograph under the microscope, then grabs the table to steady himself.

‘Those cunning bastards all the high tech options of communication and they resort to coded messages hidden in a tree in a photograph.’

‘Get it to Abbey right away, tell her to work on nothing else until it’s decoded.’

‘No need Sir the message reads..’

No one hears him as their attention is distracted by the breaking news on their phones.

25 Million dead.

 

Entry #4 – No Picnic

‘I’d watch the caravans leavin’ town…all the other blokes haulin’ their families off on holidays. I’d tell meself, a man’s a mug…you should be doin’ that…but there woz never enough money. I worried how you kids felt at school with all yer mates talkin’ ‘bout where they’d been and what they’d seen.’

Dad is an old man now and I tell cheerful lies to comfort him. We had felt left out but we would never have expected a holiday. Mum’s constant worrying about bills meant we knew dad couldn’t afford train tickets to the beach, let alone a caravan.

‘We went away once though.’ He pulls a creased photo from his wallet – Dad, Nana, Uncle Jack and the kids somewhere I don’t recognise. I’m not in the photo and Dad just coughs when I ask.

‘Fitzroy Gardens,’ Mum says when I try her. ‘Jack took us on visiting days.’

‘Visiting days?

‘You were in the Royal Children’s for ages with meningitis. There was no Medicare then or health insurance and never much money after that.

There is a lump in my throat as it hits me. The reason Dad couldn’t be the bountiful father he longed to be, was me.

 

Entry #5 –  I Hate That Photo

That picture sat on the mantlepiece for years. I have always thought that he is staring at me but I am in the picture. You can’t see me.

I knew that look. It pierces me still. It’s the look he gave me when he was angry and perplexed at how he could have produced someone as stupid as me.

I remember the picnic. It was the only time his parents came to visit. He was anxious. I was eight – how could I have known that? Perhaps I didn’t know it then, but I came to know him with that look.

A private person, my father had made himself into his own man. His move to Australia was the ultimate opportunity to do that. No relatives, no other point of reference – complete reinvention to be what ever he wanted to be. Until they came to visit. Suddenly, all those generations of genetics were revealed, highlighted and reinforced. His created world spun out of control, out of the control that he had so carefully built.

I will never know what caused his anger that day but it echoes down the years through that stare.

I hate that photo.

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction entries are open to Ballarat Writers Inc members only, but anyone may vote for their favourite story.

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

Key word/phrase:    There has to be a reference to the this image. For instance, the reference could be that it is a starting point for the story, it could be that the story is told from one of the participant’s point of view, the photo could be sitting on someone’s mantlepiece – anything, so long as it is mentioned in the short story.

download

Genre:     open

Word count:     No more than 200 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, not including the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition)

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pmFriday, 25th May 2018.Voting will open here the next day and will close at 6 pm on Tuesday, 29th  May.

Our next Member’s Night is held at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel in Pleasant Street on Wednesday, 30th May where the winner of this month’s flash fiction competition will be announced. The evening starts at 7pm and all are most welcome. You can have a very good meal there from about 6pm and then stay on for the fun and frivolity.

April Flash Fiction Entries

Four entries this month. Please read, enjoy (and vote – if you are a member)

Entry #1 – KOALA BEAR?

  Outside the window, a gum tree’s mighty boughs stretched to the moonlight filtering through scudding clouds. High in its branches, a grey shapelessness hung from the main trunk.

The young Asian girl on the ground tugged at her boyfriend’s arm and pointed upward. “Look Guang, a koala bear,” she exclaimed.

The young man beside her looked up, and replied, “No, I do not see it Chizu.”

“There, near the top; it’s hugging the tree.”

“Oh yes, I think I see it – yes, I can. But I can tell you that while it may well be a koala, it’s not a bear. Before we came to Australia, I read that they’re marsupials that nurture their young in their pouch. They’re not bears at all.”

“Well thanks, Guang; you’re such a smarty-pants; but what about the Drop Bears that the nice bus driver was telling us about? Are koala bears, sorry, koalas, the same as the Drop Bears he was talking about? You remember, he said if we look up into a gum tree at night when there’s a Drop Bear in the tree, it will fall onto us as soon as we stop looking up.”

“No, Chizu, I wasn’t there when he said anything like that. I can’t imagine anything only falling on you when you stop looking; that sounds weirdly stupid. Sounds like a ‘let’s trick the tourist’ kind of thing. It’s not real.”

They turned away, and he suddenly screamed as a grey, soft, flat, and empty-looking thing, like a toy bear with the stuffing pulled out of it, landed with a ‘plop’ on his back.

She too screamed as she pulled at it before they both ran, shrieking, to the safety of the hotel foyer.

The bus-driver chuckled as he walked away with his toy and string.

 

Entry #2 – Easter Joy

Outside the window, I see the woman struggling along the platform as the conductor blows his whistle. He waits for her; she clambers onto the train, trying to catch her breath, and charges down the aisle. Heavily laden shopping bags swing back and forth, whacking disgruntled passengers as she pushes on. The train is packed, and the seat beside me is empty.

She flops down heavily, squeezing herself into the small space. The strong smell of cigarettes permeates the air. Sweat pours down her face and she’s gasping for breath. I offer to hold her bags as she gets out her inhaler, takes a puff and lets out a deep breath.

The bags are filled with Easter eggs. I’d suggest she load them onto the racks above, but this seemed unwise.

Her phone rings, she grabs it, stabs her finger on the screen, and yells out, ‘whada want?’

She listens, and yells again, “I told yous I’d get the f*****g Easter eggs, I’ve got them. What?… I got them at the Salvo’s.’

The woman across the aisle catches my eye, and I quickly look away.

‘What,’ she screeches, ‘you’ve got what?’ Silence ensures for a second as her face flushes red and angry.

‘How’d you get them?’ She sits bolt upright in the seat, ‘I’ve told you never to take money from that f*****g creep, haven’t I? What did he want?’ She attempts a deep breath, reaching for the inhaler.

‘Why’d he give you money?’ she yells again as she takes a quick puff. ‘Don’t give me that bulls**t, he always wants something.’

She’s struggling to talk. ‘I’ve gotta go, yous just wait till I get home!’ and jabs at the phone.

‘Bloody kids’, she grumbles, snatching back the bags.

The train whizzes through Footscray as the phone rings again…..

 

Entry #3 – Hugs

Outside the window was were I first saw her smile. She was hanging there in the morning sunlight.

I don’t think I’d ever saw her smile before. I knew her daddy was beating up on her bad, but what could I do I was just a kid too.  She didn’t look as bad as those kids on TV, but I wished she had someone to help her take a bath and clean her clothes. She never spoke not even when I gave her my snacks from school if I ever forgot to eat them. I’d give them to her when we got home. She would just take them and go inside.

We lived next door to each other on the first floor. She was already there when we moved in. I never heard any noises coming from their apartment. I sometimes wished I would so someone would do something. The teachers never seemed to do anything even when she kept missing days. She wasn’t at school the day they told us about the things parents shouldn’t do to their kids, I only hoped her daddy wasn’t doing that to her too.

That’s why I was so surprised to see her smiling when I looked out my window that morning. I’d asked her before not to do it, but she would often climb into that tree. I think she thought it was a safe place.

It was so dangerous to get there though. She had to climb out her bedroom window, stretch out to then cling to the edge of mine, before climbing over onto the tree. But there she was hanging there with a smile on her face, I’d never seen her happy before.

I think that rope hugging her neck might have been the only hug she ever got.

 

Entry #4 – Deliverance

Outside the windowless room at last, my lungs struggle with my first breath of freedom.

I’d endured more than two hundred days of confinement in darkness and isolation; silence except for muffled sounds that ignore my attempts to attract attention, with futile kicks and punches against the insulated walls and fortified door. Whoever put me here had prepared the space well.

Day after day, I lay in wait for another chance for rescue. Surely someone will realise I’m here and free me.

I’d woken abruptly from one of my long periods of sleeping. Sleeping had been the only escape available to me and I’d taken greedy advantage of it to stave off the terror that this was all my life would ever be.

It was like something had crashed into the room. Noises started to amplify. The floor quivered and quaked under me. Had someone finally heard me?

Something batters the walls. The room seems distorted and smaller from the incursion. If it keeps going it’ll crush me.

‘No!’ I yell. ‘Stop! I’m in here.’

I wait for the noise and battering to stop but it doesn’t. There’s nothing to do but despair at the irony of being entombed after all my days of waiting for deliverance.

Thump-thump! Roar! The sounds intensify and the room shakes violently, again and again. The forces must be deep and malevolent to cause such disturbance.

My heart pounds out a rhythm of panic. I have to work on the door so I push and push until its weakened structure starts to give way.

I forgot I was tethered, so I don’t think I’ll make it all the way out. Then something grabs me and tugs without mercy.

If birth is this hard, what will living be like?

 

 

Flash Fiction entries are open to Ballarat Writers Inc members only, but anyone may vote for their favourite story.

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

Key word/phrase:    Outside the window . . . (make sure these are the first words of your entry)

Genre:     open

Word count:      270 – 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, not including the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition)

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pm Friday, 20th April 2018. Voting will open here the next day and will close at 4 pm on Wednesday, 25th  April.

Our next Member’s Night is held at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel in Pleasant Street on Wednesday, 25th April (yes, we know it’s Anzac Day) where the winner of this month’s flash fiction competition will be announced. The evening starts at 7pm and all are most welcome. You can have a very good meal there from about 6pm and then stay on for the fun and frivolity.

March Flash Fiction

Congratulations to Ash Leonard as winner of the March Flash Fiction competition for Entry No. 6, Waste. Take a look at it below.

 

Flash Fiction entries are open to Ballarat Writers Inc members only, but anyone may vote for their favourite story.

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

Key word/phrase:    dead sheep

Genre:     open

Word count:      not more than 25 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, not including the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition)

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pm Friday, 23rd March 2018. Voting will open here the next day and will close at 4 pm on Wednesday, 28th  March.

Our next Member’s Night is held at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel in Pleasant Street on Wednesday, 28th March where the winner of this month’s flash fiction competition will be announced. The evening starts at 7pm and all are most welcome. You can have a very good meal there from about 6pm and then stay on for the fun and frivolity.

Flash Fiction Entries for March:

What a bumper crop!

Entry 1         A Waste

Sheep must die eventually,

I know that.

But this was odd.

My big rambling ram now motionless,

joined to dirt and maggots.

What a waste.

 

Entry 2     Pass the Potatoes Please

I gazed into the book swap box. Dead Sheep by Craig Coulson. A collection of musings by the amused. I read it in one night.

 

Entry 3     Gunfire

A newsflash crackles over the radio: trouble down Rooney’s Road.

Dead sheep litter the paddocks. Taggerty’s gang again.

I ram home the cartridges – payback time.

 

Entry 4     Heaven Scent

I opened the front door to a pretty girl holding an open perfume bottle.

“What is it?”

“Perfume; Heaven Scent.”

I smelled; “Nope, Dead Sheep.”

 

Entry 5      To the Rescue

a fisherman and his tinnie

with a load of hay

thirteen bales

for the farmer’s prize ram

on an island of dead sheep

 

Entry 6     Waste

Lack of rain confuses the land, the livestock, the bank accounts. Dead sheep dot the paddock. Wasted. A sign wobbles in the wind. ‘For Sale’.

 

Entry 7     A Marketeer’s Dream

Not your loveable livestock

And supposedly not so simple either

Fodder for big business

Bloodthirsty bureaucrats easily bleeding them dry

Sentimentality’s the hook

Forcing submission

 

Entry 8     Lambing Season

The unexpected frost, well into lambing season, claimed a newborn, yes they’re only animals, but one dead sheep was a loss felt by us all.

 

Entry 9    First-time Mum

First-time mum gave birth to a stillborn lamb, she was perplexed and unprepared, but the flock rallied around her as we removed the dead sheep.

 

Entry 10   Dead Sheep

Bones alone mark their fall,

Bleached white, like headstones in Bomana War Cemetery.

Jesus, Lamb of God, died for us.

To the slaughter, all.

 

Entry 11     No more Baa Baa Black Sheep

Dead sheep dotted the paddocks, eyes glazed, slack-jawed, flies buzzing.  No more woollen blankets and jumpers, or Mum’s Sunday lamb roasts.  Another Nursery Rhyme extinct.

 

Entry 12     Dolly

I saw it happen twice before. Back to life and a sluggish crawl. The dead sheep without a soul. Science advances, perhaps without toll.

Voting closes at 4.00 pm on Wednesday 28 March 2018

 

February 2018 Flash Fiction entries

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.

1          What I did on my holidays by Meaghan Rose Aged 10

I ran away from home. Look, I know that I am supposed to tell the story in the order that it happened, but that’s what I really did.

I had to, didn’t I? They were all so angry about the car. And taking Aiden to the hospital on my own.

It was Christmas Day – or night, actually – and they had all been drinking all afternoon. All of them.

Dad always starts a beer while he gets the BBQ ready. His parents had already had some before they arrived because they don’t like Mum’s parents. Mum’s parents don’t like big family get togethers so they had a few before they arrived. Mum had one to settle her nerves, she says.  You can always tell that they’ve been drinking before they arrive. They get all mushy and kissy and yukky. And there’s the smell.

I couldn’t trust anyone else, could I? To drive I mean. And Aiden needed help.

Aiden hates the kisses too, he hid in the tree house. That’s where the trouble began – where the bees were. When he’s bitten, he swells up like a balloon and could burst. You are not allowed to let your little brother burst.

He looked like a beetroot and could hardly talk. I couldn’t tell anyone – they’d know he’d been hiding, so I shoved him into the car, grabbed the keys and took him to the hospital. Its an automatic. Anyone can drive one of those.

They were all so angry when they found out. Apparently, I shouldn’t drive the car, even though I saved Aiden.

I didn’t get far. Next time I’ll get further.

2          “Kind Regards, Lucas Black”

What did I do on the holidays?

Well, Miss, firstly, that is a lay-ass teacher way of keeping the classroom quiet. I know it. You know it. So, let’s just know it together. I see you, don’t think I haven’t noticed your constant glancing at your phone, as though it might come to life and bite you. Your jiggling left foot, your tapping pencil. Last year, you were all about the bright colours; a cartoon character compared to this new, ninja look. I think, Miss, what you did on the holidays might prove more interesting. So, I offer you this.

“What YOU Did on the Holidays” by Lucas Black.

Your mates celebrated the end of the school year without you. You had other things to do. Things that involved the re-emergence of a family connection. A brother that you dearly loved once, but had lost contact with because you had become a respectable teacher while he had become a “criminal element”. He turned up at your house didn’t he, desperate for shelter. He took advantage of your confusion at his sudden appearance at three am and your desperate need to keep the noise down for the sake of the neighbours.

“Come in, come in,” you said.

He was skinnier than you remembered. Bearded. Not like the teenager you had last seen. You talked through the night about old times, ignoring the why and how of his finding you, despite your move from city to country, despite your change of name. He slept on your couch. While he slept you flicked on the news. You saw a police identikit just like him. I saw that too. And I saw him, glancing through the curtains.

My terms are simple. I keep your secret. You give me excellent grades.

Kind Regards, Lucas Black.

3          Still Got It

It was a caricature of a summer, with fearsome warm winds. No-one could talk about anything else.

“Gonna be a scorcher” they’d say, or “hot enough for you?”

Our fire warning sign was permanently red.

“Still High!” I exclaimed, on the only day of cooler weather. We were driving to town, with the aircon off.  You rested your arm on the open window, and said the people who change the sign deserve a holiday, too. There was a shimmer on the golden fields. Out here, we were connoisseurs of yellow.

Daylesford was invaded by warrior tourists, in search of things to buy and eat.

“Coffee, in this heat?” you moaned, “No way.”

In Vincent Street they ate piles of pumpkin and fetta, heirloom tomatoes and avocado, drizzled with sticky black stuff. Jaws moved stolidly, eyes stared blankly ahead. Like sleepwalkers, you said.

“Let’s get out of here,” you suggested. I nodded, slipping my hand in yours. We drove home lazily, between giant sprinklers that doused roads and paddocks alike.

“Don’t the birds love it,” I remarked, full of placid goodwill. You didn’t answer but placed your hand on my thigh. We would have taken a dirt track, once, found a clearing and lain down there. Our bodies would have melded, oblivious to stones below, and flies above.

At home, we banished the cat from our bedroom.

“Want the fan on?” you asked, as you undid the shirt we bought in Byron.

“Sure,” I said, smiling and lifting my t-shirt over my head.  We looked like ageing hippies.

Your hands were full of warmth, and when you touched my face, I could smell ripening tomatoes.

Afterwards we dozed, listening to the pumps throbbing on the reservoir, woke as the cicadas started their summer screaming.

4          In Great Company

Jack and Charlie are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, easy going and living a quiet life by the coast. I spent a week with them during my holidays in their beautiful home, with its large rambling garden and sea view.  During my stay I was assigned the role of cook; a task I readily accepted for they were easy to please. Not being fussy eaters, they preferred a simple diet of basic food, as did I.

On the day I arrived they were excited to see me; met me at the door and immediately indicated they’d like to go for a walk and show me the neighbourhood.  So off we went, walking past the houses alight with Christmas decorations.  They had celebrated Christmas day at home; lunch was a simple affair, with a few added treats, then they slept away the afternoon. Today they were full of beans.

As we strolled along the streets, exploring the gardens, I told them of my Christmas day, and how for the first time, I decided to have a quiet time on my own, and spent the day at home enjoying the peace and solitude. No big cook up, no rushing around at the last minute, and no mountains of Christmas presents.  Just the simple pleasure of the day.

They made no comment but their gentle eyes said it all, for their needs were modest and their pleasures few. Spending time with them I sensed the contentment they felt in the simplicity of their daily lives.

The week passed quickly; we walked each day, sharing stories, as I chattered and they listened.  I wished for more, but finally the family returned, greeting their much loved dogs with joy. Sadly my housesitting with Jack and Charlie had come to an end.

5          Celebrating Australia Day in Syria

Hi mum,

I hope my letter reaches you. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t answered your regular calls and still think I’m in Maroubra with Geoff; I’m not, & it’s much colder where I am.

Truth is, passports ready, I took a flight to Rome (too many Catholic nuns & priests). Got a bus to Istanbul via Romania (fairytale countryside) and Croatia (got by on English).  From Istanbul (crowded, noisy & frenetic) booked a tour that took me close to the Syrian border.  Jumped the tour at Kilis, Turkish police in pursuit 3 days later, by which time I’d reached A’zaz & made contact with Hashim (a minion from IS).

Did 3 days of basic training with suicide vests (duds) & made a video you may have seen on TV (just visualize al-Gary sans beard & kufiya). Sent to Damascus on mission to eliminate Bashar al-Assad at a State function. Entry was easy with US passport & letter of recommendation from Trump (all fakes).  Sidled up to al-Assad & released button on my tailored suicide vest (dud!!). Left after a few single malts only to be arrested for public drunkenness later & thrown in jail.

Jail is where I met this whining Aussie by the name of Neil Prakash.  He’s driving me nuts! I’m no longer sure whether he’s Australian or Cambodian (he does have an Aussie accent). I let slip I’m from Hawthorn; he’s been at me about Springvale ever since!

Mum, you’ve got to help me, please.

I’m getting to know the guards (one’s from Marrickville & a former fixer for the ALP); all it takes to get me out is money.

Mummy, I’m begging, please send $2000 in cash. I need to get some distance between me and Prakash.

Your loving son,

Gary

6          Reimagining

‘How much further is it?’ whines my little sister Izzy, tugging on my hand as we push our way through the Melbourne city centre.

‘Nearly there,’ I assure her, giving her hand a squeeze.

The streets have come alive with excited chatter and the scent of fried food, as we wait for the transforming moment after dusk. People have already stationed themselves in front of their chosen buildings, anticipating the minute that the city will flood with colour.

‘My feet hurt,’ insists Izzy, stopping to raise a sandalled foot towards me.

‘Come on, Iz. Don’t you want to see what I’ve done with my holidays?’

‘Holidays are over.’

‘Not for uni students,’ I reply smugly.

‘Mum says you’re always on holidays.’

I ignore this, and grip Izzy’s hand tighter as I pull her through the throngs of people, dodging prams and dogs on leashes. Music thumps from all directions, as restaurants and food trucks swell with crowds.

The sun disappears, and a chill descends over the city. The hours of designing my artwork in front of the air conditioner over the summer holidays, while my friends tanned themselves at beaches or took refuge in dark movie theatres, has led to this moment.

We make it to the university just as the darkness is really starting to set in. I buy Izzy a churro to keep her pacified while we wait for the projection of my work. This was supposed to be a fun assessment task to start the year, but my heart is pumping faster now than it ever has in an examination hall. Izzy pulls my phone from my sweaty hands and starts recording as the first artwork is illuminated with a flash of colour on the façade of the building.

The reimagining of the city begins.