November 2014: HEROES

Claire Beynon, Bringing to Light the Happenings of our Times

Claire Beynon, A Honeycomb Journal

Claire Beynon is an artist, writer and independent researcher based in Dunedin, New Zealand. Drawn increasingly to interdisciplinary work, she has established valued collaborative partnerships with scientists, filmmakers, musicians, fellow artists and writers in her home country and abroad. Her ‘Honeycomb Journal’ is part of a much larger work in progress. Meanwhile, Antarctica has her under its spell and her research there over two summer seasons (in a remote field camp on the edge of the Taylor Dry Valleys) significantly altered her way of seeing and being in the world. We admire Claire’s creativity so much, we open this month’s issue not only with her visual work but also her words, taken from her website:


“Wander wide, allow for poetry of a different kind –
cadence and kerfuffle, the heart’s rising above a familiar chaos
of subjects. On the late afternoon wall, paintings
in the making, canvas acrobats hang on our every word.
Bare feet yield to black water. Beyond the frame, life
is a risky business. Jack-in-the-box. Angel. Thief.
Some days a blackbird at ease with the rhyme and chime
of every unknown thing. Like the signs written in dust
after vultures have flown or the bones a shaman rolls,
clues clatter and scatter; each piece falls to earth
and order, takes its place in the heart’s vast chamber.”

More of Claire’s creative and inspiring output can be found here and at this global arts and peace hub.


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Annette Edwards-Hill, Ten Months of Winter

It was cold for May and Charles had an extra blanket for his last night at home. He lay in bed thinking of the hoar frost, ice crystals forming into spears that would be rising out of the dirt by the morning, the cold journey into Hastings with his father, waiting in the icy air for the train to Trentham.

His uniform hung from the door and the moon rested on the arm of his jacket, casting a shadow across his bed. He closed his eyes, tried to imagine Europe, a world far away from the farm: little cafes, French girls with soft hands and painted nails, sun beating onto pavements, castles and windmills. Then he was awake, his breath in front of him like smoke in the frigid air. He got out of bed, wrapped himself in the blanket and sat on the front porch, looking across the paddock to the homestead. The house was dark. Charles thought of the three Harris boys, one in Turkey, the other two tucked up in bed, one too young, one too blind.

He waited on the porch for morning. He heard the cries of the milk-swollen cows and saw Mr Harris leave the house through the front door. The tops of the hills reddened as the sun started to rise in the sky.

Charles stood up. An adventure, he told himself, four months training and onto a boat, a year without summer, the northern sun low in the sky.

Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington. She completed the Poetry Creative Writing workshop at Victoria University in 1997 and a Masters in Art History at Auckland University in 2000. A strange series of events led her to a career as a business analyst, but she has a preference for writing fiction over project documentation.

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Rachel Smith, Give and Take

He was there already, a bundle of black where the sea rested. Stars still pricked the dark sky, and the ground was crunchy underfoot as I walked down the hill.

He gave me a nod, his eyes on the water as my line landed with a soft splash. I took a seat on her rock and leaned the rod against my knee.

“Is she OK?” he asked.

I nodded. Kneeling beside her bed in the darkness I had listened to her soft sleeping breath, seen the outline of a small hand tucked under her cheek.

His line began to thrash; he stood, pulled and wound. A silver shimmer in the early light, it rose twisting and fighting from the water.

“It’s a beauty,” I whispered. She had fought the same, her long hair winding through my fingers as I plucked her from the silent depths.

The fish fell gasping onto the rocks beside me and he stilled it with a quick blow. “For her dinner.”

Rachel Smith enjoys writing short fiction, and more recently flash fiction. Her work has been previously published in JAAM and Takahē and was long-listed in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition.

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Jan FitzGerald, Night Mission

Tracer bullets tacked the night with red stitches as we struggled into the air with Messerschmitts shitting shells around us.

Within seconds of becoming airborne on his seventeenth mission, Smitty was taken out by shrapnel.

Soaring for altitude, we braved the slipstream of chaos while the earth shrinking below exploded her whole bag of fireworks.

We flew over dark cliffs and malevolent forests, sniper fire like obscene pop guns below us. One pop took off the side of Sandy’s head. He spiralled down like a sycamore seed.

Dawn broke as we turned towards the coast, choking on air thick with fumes from flaming ships.

Barney lost a tail to ack ack fire and plummeted into an ocean slick with oil and mayhem.

Paddy took a bullet to the chest and flew on in searing pain.

Shortie toppled from the sky and crashed onto the beach just as we made the headland.

But over hundreds of miles, days and nights, many of us pigeons survived, the precious capsules strapped to our legs with coded information and coordinates safely delivered.

Gallantry medals were awarded to heroes – including those who made it back to their lofts, rang the bell that signalled a homecoming, then died from exhaustion, mission accomplished.

Jan FitzGerald has been published in mainstream NZ literary journals since the 1970s and in Poetry Australia, The London Magazine, Acumen (UK), Orbis (UK) and others. Her latest poetry book is entitled On a day like this (Steele Roberts, NZ). Jan works in Napier as a full-time artist. For more see her website, Painting Poets.


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Peter Adams, Salvation

The wind rages, battering the tent as it has done for days. I have not managed to write in my diary lately, but today I feel I must. Nothing to eat, only snow melted on my little stove to quench my thirst. I am the only one left now.

The tent flap lifts. A stumbling figure emerges from a scurry of driven snow.

“Oates! You’ve come back.” Titus had gone outside, rather heroically, some days ago. His old war wound aggravated, he could scarcely keep up even at our miserly pace. “You said you might be some time. I did not expect to see you again.”

Titus grimaces – from the cold, or perhaps he thinks I am a little ungracious. I hear him mutter, “I’ve brought you a decent pony.”

We had argued about the suitability of the Manchurian ponies. Oates said they were crocks and would hinder us from placing caches sufficiently far south to assist our return from the Pole. He warned, darkly, that I would regret not taking his advice to shoot and eat them. But I was having none of it from the old pessimist.

Perhaps I have been wrong about Titus. After all, he’s come back for me, with a pony. I study his shrouded figure. A halo appears around the head and bandages drop from the hands. I can see stigmata. I write in my diary, of my salvation.

When I look up, the figure has vanished.

Peter Adams enjoys trying to capture the essence of things succinctly, which is the heart of flash fiction and poetry. A published historian and sometime diplomat, Peter is fortunate to reside at the edge of Wellington harbour with all its varied beauty, or at the family home in Fiji.

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Elizabeth Farris, Grounded

TO: [email protected]

Dear Sirs:

On 29 September, a friend of mine purchased model SC-482 from your online catalogue. Delivery was prompt and the colour was the correct shade of red. The fabric had a nice tight weave and a soft feel to it. But upon wearing, he found the cape to be of substandard quality. It merely flapped in the wind and didn’t billow properly as your website promised.

The issue became critical when Lois Lane required rescue from the top of the Auckland Sky Tower. Because of the inferior appearance of your product, my friend was forced to call for a Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Lois appeared on television on the Fair Go programme bellyaching about how she was ignored in her time of need by a man she fancied. Now my friend’s reputation is destroyed and Lois will never allow him to prove that he’s a man of steel.

He has enough trouble finding telephone booths to change in and doesn’t need any more problems. The cell towers mess with his X-ray vision and intensify his Kryptonitephobia. He’s no longer able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Doctor Kleinhoffer calls it Performance Anxiety. I do NOT need Prozac! I need a replacement for the defective cape you idiots sold me. Send it by rush courier and pray that you don’t need rescuing before it arrives.

And if my name is mentioned ever again on Fair Go, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers.

Clark Kent

Elizabeth Farris lives in Waikanae wedged between the bush and the Tasman Sea. Her short stories are published in Australian and American anthologies and her stage plays have been performed in the US. She was short-listed for the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing in 2009 and was runner-up in the Rodney Writes Competition in 2008.

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Celine Gibson, The Preservist

Round and round went the wooden spoon, in a pan so big it could hold half-a-dozen heads, should she ever convert to cannibalism; fortunately, in those years, it was vegetables, fruits and berries.

She lived with a lion and his cubs. And when she wasn’t stirring in the pan, she would throw them meat to stall their prowling.

But sometimes exhaustion claimed her, and the cubs would find her supine on an eiderdown, in a navy and cyclamen patterned bikini, limbs splayed to the sun – baking, burning. The shadow cast by the cubs signalled a return to shackles. She would scramble to her feet, grab her lady’s fork and begin gardening with a ferocious energy.

As temperatures soared, jars sterilised in an oven set to 100 degrees. As weed piles wilted, apricots simmered. Upon the bench, an early morning batch of tomato chutney securely sealed within glass chambers. The cubs counted to eighteen with salivating mouths.

On nights when the lion roared once too often, she would bravely roar back, and the lion, realising her tiredness, would reach a clumsy paw, an apology of sorts.

Come morning, after the lion had departed the compound to hunt in the concrete jungle, and the cubs went gambolling from 9 till 3, the woman would stir her fragrant concoctions, not minding the labours stretching ahead, for beneath her dressing gown was her navy and cyclamen bikini.

Celine Gibson shares her home with her husband (a bagpiping fiend) and two cats. Writing is her first love, followed by gardening, baking and painting — when time allows.

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Maggie Rainey-Smith, Lonely Planet

It was a two-star hotel. The lift was antique and unreliable. On the morning she left Athens, there was no hot water either. It took several goes to get all her luggage to the foyer. Marble staircases are both attractive and unforgiving. Outside on the busy street, dogs and taxis competed for her attention. It was a short walk to the station according to Lonely Planet. She clutched her laptop bag tightly, wheeled her suitcase and flung her rucksack across her back. The cobbled pavement’s romance dwindled with each precarious footstep. He arrived in a full-length cashmere coat, wearing gloves. His grey hair was groomed and his glance decorous. As her suitcase took off in front of her, she ran as best she could in heels she regretted, torn between terror and relief. Two thoughts fought for supremacy: he was a chivalrous Athenian dazzled by her distress or she might not ever see her suitcase again. By now he was several footsteps ahead and she was several people behind. She found him at the station waiting for her by the ticket counter, ready to interpret. He finally released her suitcase at the platform downstairs where the train departed. She watched him go, his coat in full-flow, a smallish man, now ungloved. Chivalry departed in a glass-fronted elevator. She raised her hand, and he raised his and it was sweeter than some of the best ever kisses.

Maggie Rainey-Smith is the author of two novels, a published poet and a short story writer. She blogs here and is a regular book reviewer on Beattie’s Blog. She won the 2007 Page & Blackmore short story competition and was short-listed in 2004 and 2013 for the Landfall Essay Prize and the 2004 Takahē Cultural Studies essay competition. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Sport, Takahē, The Listener and New Zealand Books, as well as on Radio New Zealand. She was highly commended in the 2014 NFFD competition. More here.

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Eileen Merriman, The Moon is Yellow (Blink Three Times)

The moon rises large and yellow on the day he dies. He paints it in his head, large brushstrokes, as his eyes move in saccades, blink once for no and twice for yes. The world comes to him in rectangles now, encased in the skylight above his coffin-bed.

Every day she comes to see him, smelling of freshly cut grass and sunshine and jasmine. She holds his hand but his hands are ghosts. Blink once for no and twice for yes and three times for let me go. At night he dreams he’s flying but it always ends the same way, his bike and spine twisted around each other metal on bone on metal, his heart still beating its treacherous rhythm.

On the day he dies he tastes her silvery tears on his tongue as she slips the needle into his arm, blink three times for let me go. The moon fills his eyes and the moon is yellow.

Eileen Merriman is a doctor with a serious addiction to writing. She writes novels, short stories and flash fiction. She was short-listed in the 2014 Takahē and Page & Blackmore competitions, was long-listed in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Competition and won third place in the 2013 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition. Her work has previously appeared in Takahē.

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DR Jones, The Bibliognost

Andi Harrow sips a cup of instant, daydreams at morning break. Her truth is the abstraction of her fantasy – there’s nothing so meaningful as the escape it affords. So no, no! Her name’s not Andi Harrow. (She’ll not have reality intrude via her mother and father’s poorly contrived play on words.)

Her name’s Atlanta. She’s all Greek, all heroine, a maverick librarian. A reference-tome-wielding, historical-romance-toting bibliognost. Atlanta puts paid to Dewey Decimal – declassifies books – defiles the sanctity of shelving and silence in the Warkworth public library. She’s paradoxically provocative and particular. Ergo, when her affair with Steve the intern begins, she ensures they consummate where they’ll least likely suffer discovery – between the experimental-flash-fiction and monomythic sections.

There, Atlanta anoints him Hercules, sets him twelve tasks: judge me by my cover, lick my spine, blow my dustjacket, open me, sign my frontispiece, thumb my pages, dog-ear my leaves, bookmark my mid-section, scan my barcode, reissue me, return me via the night slot. Make inn-u-end-o onomatopoeic.

“You’re my hero, Hercules.”

“And you’re mine, Andi Harrow. Oops! Atlanta.”

Andi sighs, rests her cup on the table, cups her chin in her hands. All whimsy, no sense, she thinks. Ought fiction be more serious, significant, less jejune? It matters not, it matters not, she allows herself. The scenes in her head, the words on a page, are more honest than the dull life she daily leads. Closing her eyes, Andi/Atlanta summons Steve/Hercules, in the scent of milk-warm coffee.

D R Jones lives and works near Puhoi, overlooking the Mahurangi Harbour. This pastoral setting seems conducive to his writing novels, short stories and flash fiction. At present, the second instalment of his genre-defying Anonymous_Author© series is well underway.

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Nod Ghosh, Bearwood

The enigma that was Elsie Egan inhabited my dreams beyond the confines of the woman’s life. Her gelatinous feet oozed out of patent-leather shoes like wicked butter and left their mark in the same way.

A flounce of chiffon, an ounce of perfume. The ungodly scent of rosebuds. Framed pictures of the Royal Family. Elsie names her Loyal Family, one by one. My family. There’s Bachu and David (whose real name she cannot articulate). She reserves the softest space in her heart for the prize-winning metallurgist who is her hero. He wears an Errol Flynn cowlick and marries a princess from the philosophia perennis dynasty.

Elsie is the powder-pink landlady, who bakes cakes on birthdays and anniversaries. The smell of custard fills her capacious house, which stands like a palace in the heart of Bearwood. She has a ceramic atomiser with a rubber bulb. I want to squeeze that bulb even more than I want to slide down the bannisters. I pull daisy heads in her fairy garden. An uncle with metronome eyes tells me there is a horse buried in the back. The garden is peppered with stakes topped with tennis balls that Elsie has painted blue. They hold the 1967 flowers up.

Elsie keeps an envelope within an envelope. It contains the milk teeth of her stepchildren. She soaks her dentures in sherry.

David burns incense and builds a memorial when Elsie passes. She goes like a stone from a kidney. Painful, but with the end in sight.

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has completed year one of the Hagley Writers’ Institute creative writing course. Nod’s work has been accepted in Catalyst, Penduline, Christchurch Press, Takahē and Express. She was also winner of the Flash Frontier 2014 Winter Writing Award. Nod works as a medical laboratory scientist.

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Patrick Pink, Just For One Day

David Bowie sang of kings and queens and transient heroes. That had been fifteen years ago when Michael was in kindergarten. In white-stitched cowboy boots and red cowboy hat, he would ask again and she’d sing along with the radio and he’d dance around the kitchen linoleum like the dolphin from the lyrics.

Bedside now, it’s 1992 and Hannah hums her son’s favourite song in time with his slowing breath. She knits a rainbow beanie and baby blue booties. The California sun isn’t strong enough. Before sinking into sleep last week, Michael had always been cold.

On a Greyhound bus, Hannah had made the trip to land’s end and stayed. She had stopped phoning Roger when her husband’s Great Plains silences spanned larger than his sparse Midwest words. Lawrence, young himself, couldn’t deal with the shit and the sarcomas and the sweet scent of decay so he escaped shame-faced into the immunity of the city. Hannah holds no blame towards Michael’s father or boyfriend. She wishes she had that same courage to find distance a balm.

They never talked about what he wanted. After. Hannah can’t imagine him buried so far from her amongst the callous tide of the ocean and the chilly oblivion of the shrouding fog. She thinks cremation because even ash has substance. It’s something she can carry in her hands back where prairie and sky roam forever.

Hannah hums and knits and waits…for one just day.

Patrick Pink grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and lived significant amount of his life in Michigan, Texas and Germany before settling in New Zealand. His story ‘Affirmation’ was highly commended in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition and another of his stories appeared in the September issue of Flash Frontier.

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Kate Mahony, Heroes

Most afternoons, my brother Sam and his friend Mitchell would run past me, out into the paddocks, racing to the end of the farm while I was still on the porch fumbling with my shoelaces. My mother would call me back inside. She’d read me a story while I pictured the big boys climbing trees in the creek, building dens, rafting down the flooding stream, fooling about on the cliff tops above the wild ocean. I wanted to be with them, keeping up, as tough as they.

Mitchell was about to turn eighteen the year he fell from the electricity pylon, falling seemingly effortlessly past Sam. The town mourned its loss; the coroner spoke of high jinks and recklessness.

The next year, Sam entered the seminary. He never came home much after that. He taught at boarding schools around the country, then went over to the Pacific as a missionary. Eventually he returned to Auckland to set up a centre for street kids.

Mum called me home last week. She thrust the newspaper at me. I knew what it said without reading it. I’d been the one who paid for the lawyer. I thought about the huge file I’d seen in the lawyer’s office. The allegations against Sam, each so similar.

I looked past her, out the open door, picturing Mitchell racing Sam through the gate by the cow shed, and Sam throwing a lump of cow shit at him. Then laughing as they disappeared from sight.

Kate Mahony has an MA in Creative Writing (IIML, Victoria University). Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications including Best New Zealand Fiction (Volume 6), the International Literary Quarterly, Blackmail Press, Blue Fifth Review, Takahē, 4th Floor, The Island Review and the anthology Sweet As: Contemporary Short Stories by New Zealanders. She lives in Wellington.

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Kathryn Jenkins, Caped Crusader

I’m no caped crusader. If it’s cold I’ll wear tights but they bunch up around my ankles, making my feet look more swollen than they are. My cape is a wet weather poncho, bought during a rainstorm on Great Barrier Island. Nothing is monogrammed – hasn’t been since Mum sewed labels into my clothes so I could find them in the lost-and-found. But they were second class hand-me-downs; if they ended up there I didn’t bother to retrieve them. And it’s too late for me to hop on a Richard Branson flight into space to fulfil any inter-planetary requirements. I’m no Superman, nor Wonder Woman for that matter, although I did once hold an unlockable toilet door shut against three burly women trying to get in to snatch my purse.

So the day I walked into the dairy and saw the balaclavaed man waving a gun at the owner I hesitated. I swivelled back towards the door but stumbled in my getaway. The gun changed focus. The eyes behind the balaclava darted from me to the owner rummaging in the till and clattering coins into a paper bag.

Indignant outrage surged through me as it had that day in an unlockable cubicle. I grabbed the closest weapon – a bottle of 2013 Montana Chardonnay. I threw it. It landed at his feet and smashed open. The gun went off. As I fell I noticed the scent of peach and apricot filtering through the room.

I’m no caped crusader. Caped crusaders are bulletproof.

Kathryn Jenkins unexpectedly started writing flash fiction as a result of a workshop exercise. She’s still surprised at what turns up on the page and wonders where the ideas come from. Hopefully they will never dry up.

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Jane Swan, H.E.R.O.E.S.

Dr Mendicott pushed his blotter a centimetre to the right and placed a fountain pen exactly in the centre. “There’s a psychological component to the disease, Mr Lawrence.”

“Eh? What disease?”

The doctor sighed. Really. These decrepit old farts should be confined to a rest home. What was it? The fifth time this week he’d had to explain to some nutjob.

“Remember? H. E. R. O. E. S.”

Marty Lawrence turned his head to one side like a spaniel with water in its ears. “Speak up.”

Dr Mendicott raised his voice. Not that it was much use. They just didn’t get it. No matter how many kilometres of pounding the pavements, or rowing at the gym, nothing could be done to reverse the decline of eyes, teeth, ears. Waterworks. For heaven’s sake, their joints – now that was an idea. The doctor chuckled. Wouldn’t it be great if he could prescribe marijuana. Weed would calm the buggers down.

“It’s no laughing matter, Doc.”

He snapped back to the task in hand. “HEROES. Herniated Elderly Rampant Overuse Exercise Syndrome. It manifests in a delusion that after retirement one can begin and continue a regime of exercise that would defeat even a younger person. Mainly in the male.”

“I don’t want to hear that psychological twaddle,” said Mr Lawrence. “What I want to know, Doc, is when can I get back on my skateboard!”

Jane Swan’s house and garden run wild because she spends time daydreaming and writing. She is newsletter editor for the Waitaki Writers’ Group. Successes include two Radio New Zealand stories and others published in local and daily newspapers, Alfie Dog Ltd and Essentially Food. She has also been highly commended in the Heartland Short Story Competition and short-listed in the Sunday Star Times competition.

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Katerina Patitsas, A Night in Shining Bioluninescence

On Friday, her assistant taunted, “Coral, remember to update your will!” On Saturday, she went blackwater rafting. Dr Hohaia, Professor of Physics, was usually courageous.Spelunking? That was different.“Never back in my teens,” she said, scrutinizing the initial drop. “Too scary.”

As they abseiled into the cave, she murmured Coldplay’s ’The Scientist’.

I had to find you, tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart . . .

Questions of science, science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart

Below, like ancestral ghosts, the endless black beckoned.

Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard….

Peering beyond her headlamp, she detected the hues The Pretties, a room with stalactites sparkling, ancient — yet so close.

Hohaia approached reverently, but her sites transfixed on another reflection: a shy, young Coralette in the river below. Her adolescent self stared back. Unlike Narcissus, however, she confronted this beauty: “Where did you go?”

Then, the room went dark.

Naturally, her eyes were drawn to the twinkling glow worms on the ceiling. She smiled inwardly and welcomed the girl stepping out of the water and into her chest.

“I’m not dreaming you,” she asserted. “Come to bother me?”

“Not to bother you. It’s time to come back.”

Their guide ran towards her, frantically, pointing his lamp her way. “You okay?”

“My torch went out, but I’m okay.”

“We found her!” he announced. We have everyone!”

Softly, she replied, “Yes, I’m all here.”

Katerina Patitsas began writing songs and poems as a way to spend quality time with her family and children. Born in the USA to Greek parents, she was raised in a bilingual home. Her grandfather was a poet on a small island in the Dodecanese. Thus, she sees the English language both as an insider and outsider. She was nurtured on the songs and stories of her celebrated ancestry.

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Rita Shelley, Trail Baby

“Mother, I will hang that for you.” Thirteen-year-old Elijah took the milk bucket from his mother and hung it beneath their small wagon. They would have butter by evening.

Young Elijah was given to leanness like his father. Three months’ hard walking and limited rations on the Oregon Trail made them both gaunt.

Elijah’s mother, Martha, hated to leave Nebraska with baby Isaac barely weaned. Birthing her youngest nearly sent Martha to the Lord. The doctor warned that another pregnancy could mean death. Martha mourned the idea of never suckling another child.

“Wheat grows the height of a man in the Willamette Valley and the climate is temperate. We shall have free land and the young ones will be safe from the Yellow Fever and the pox.” Her husband, Daniel, encouraged her again as they began walking after lunch.

Despite her misgivings, Martha enjoyed the change from the last two barren years on the farm. But now it seemed they had been crossing the same valley for weeks.

Presently the wagon train halted and Young Elijah ran to the lead wagon to see why.

He returned breathless. “A family left a bathtub beside the trail…” Young Elijah looked down at the ground. “Mr Peters said…well, beyond all reason, there was a baby in the bathtub. Mr. Peters thinks it is hungry.”

Martha’s milk now dampened her chemise. “Elijah, watch over Isaac,” she said, hastening toward the lead wagon.

Dr Rita Shelley, educationalist, grew up in New York City and lived and worked in British Columbia and Idaho. She came to New Zealand to visit family, fell in love and lives permanently in Whangarei with her partner. She’s published academic articles, short stories and slice of life pieces. She relishes flash fiction.

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Alex Reece Abbott, Dorothy’s War

I set out one day in 1915, to see what an ordinary English girl could accomplish. Nineteen, without credentials or money, I’d long dismissed the usual feminine wartime contributions – manic knitting; charity work; fundraising. Voluntary Aid in France wouldn’t take me and the services – even the munitions factories – were still barring women
back then.

My editors laughed like I was loony when I told them I planned to swap the Fleet for the Somme. Guffawing, they pointed out two good reasons why I could not possibly be a war correspondent.

So, like a keen cub reporter sniffing out a good story, I bound those reasons tight to my chest. Casting off petticoats and underwear, I smothered my hourglass figure with a home-made corset, bulked out my shoulders with sacking and cotton-wool. A couple of khaki accomplices smuggled my disguise. Piece by piece my sapper’s uniform arrived. Jacket. Shirt. Puttees. Boots. Cap. Badge. I fought my own war.

Snip. My waist-long chestnut tresses cropped into a regulation hair-cut. Scrape. My cheeks red-raw for a case of razor-rash. Scrub. My English rose complexion sullied to a tan with diluted shoe-polish.

I practised until I could drill and march like any sapper. Fake identity papers completed my transformation, then Dorothy, the only woman Tommy,
reported as Private Denis Smith, 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.

And secrets kept close to my chest, I passed and covered the fighting first-hand – a freelance war correspondent at the Western Front, for a fortnight at least.

Alex Reece Abbott took her inspiration for this story from the life of journalist Dorothy Lawrence, whose heroic, tragic and largely forgotten story ends in an asylum (1925) and burial in a pauper’s grave (1964). Alex’s work has been published in assorted anthologies, and has won some prizes and been short-listed in even more. Her first crime novel Rocking the Boat was long-listed for 2014 CWA Debut Dagger, and her first novel, The Maori House, was short-listed for several prizes. More here.

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Kathy Sewell, A Good Day

The old man scratched his coarse, stringy hair with stained nails. People turned away and passed by quickly without acknowledgement.

The frayed ends of the belt around his thin waist waved in the breeze.

He hunched his back against the cold and screwed up his toes inside the worn, unlaced sneakers.

As a passerby dropped a half smoked cigarette on the ground, the old man’s toothless grin widened. He scuttled forward, bent slowly and gripped it between his thumb and index finger. Eyes crinkled in the corners as he took a long, satisfying drag.

Moments later, sensing rain, he reached out with palm turned upwards. A well-dressed lady opened her purse and dropped two dollars into his palm. He stared, scratched his grey-stubbled chin and turned towards the take-away bar with the sign: “Hamburger, drink and chips $2.00….today’s SPECIAL only.”

He chuckled after finishing his meal. “Full belly and a few naughty puffs on a fag without using my EFTPOS. I’m a lucky bugger. Maybe I should wear this costume more often, except I’ll leave my dentures in next time.”

His fingers instinctively touched the tarnished medals in his pocket and thought of those comrades who never made it home all those many years ago. Bad days they were, not like today. He wiped his chin on his sleeve and headed towards the RSA’s fancy dress reunion party.

Kathy Sewell has had a number of stories published and several plays written and performed. She is working on her novel at the moment while completing the last two papers of her BA extramurally at Massey University. She lives on a lifestyle block, is a proud grandma and belongs to IWW, NZSA and Tauranga Writers, and she runs the Thames Writers Group.

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Frank Beyer, Hero

The scratching of what I hope are frutiverous bats on the wooden roof keeps me in a half-dream. I get up early, tired, but enthusiastic. The heat of the day sits pleasantly on my skin at the shack-like bus stop. Racing round the corner comes the bus. I wave it down, the driver with the strangely shaped head gives me a nod. The bus is a mixture of truck and boat, brightly painted protruding hood and broad body. The wooden interior: cramped seats and wide aisle, the radio blasts out percussion-heavy dance music – I expect to be handed an oar. One song catches my interest, as I sit next to a chook-filled cage. The song is about rain and snow. It never gets cold here. Is winter synonymous with misery and suffering for the people here?

Work day is a hot sauna clock watch.

Later, the cane liquor comes and all is dark – apart from the luminous saliva that oozes from the drinkers’ mouths and the bright, flickering forked tongues of gossip, forever darting around. Yet later, slippery things slither slowly over other things until it is hard to tell whose leg or arm is whose, where one body starts and another stops, who is doing what to whom.

The air is fetid, the heat intense.

The next day, Saturday, I shudder and try to rise. My hero, a poster on the wall, watches transfixed and disgusted.

Frank Beyer is a Tour Manager for educational trips to both Argentina and China. On these tours he tries not to judge places visited on the quality of lunches provided alone. Frank is from New Zealand and when he has the money (not often) he enjoys Java, Sumatra and the North Island of New Zealand for their volcanic beauty.

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Heather McQuillen, Namesake

When your parents name you Elvis you have to be ready to see a hell of a lot of pelvises thrust in your direction. When your name is Elvis you need to be on the lookout for people ready to take the piss. When your name is loud you need to be quiet. When your name belongs to someone else then you own nothing. When you have a name like Elvis teachers and cops think you’re the one taking the piss.

When you have a name like Elvis then you hunch your shoulders and walk in the shadows, but when your name is Elvis it’s like you’re wearing a dayglo vest.

When you pin on that label at your holiday job at the lighting store you hear derisive snorts so you say, “What were my parents thinking?!” You still hear the snorts though now they’re tinged with pity and when they call your name to walk on stage at graduation and some wit calls out, “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog,” you wish you’d thought to wear blue suede shoes beneath your academic gown to outwit them.

When, with a hangdog expression, you tell a sweet girl that your name is Elvis you assume heartbreak. Then, when she acknowledges your burden with such tender love it is shrugged off. When she thrusts her pelvis she’s not taking the piss. When you have a child you handle him with care and name him James.

Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch and has published two novels and a short story for children with Scholastic NZ. She was awarded the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005 and her two books have been selected for the Notable Books List by Storylines NZ. She has been busy teaching for many years and has taken leave in 2014 to develop her writing and learn more about poetry and short fiction. She is a tutor with the School for Young Writers.

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Andrea Quinlan, I was born for heroic deeds

She tells me this as we sit watching Joan of Arc in muted hues on a small and grainy television screen in her apartment. I ask her how long she has known this.

“As long as I can remember,” she replies, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.

“So there wasn’t a particular moment when you suddenly realised?”


I know I was not born for heroic deeds. I, too, have known this for as long as I can remember, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do them. I’m just not sure what they will be. I’m scared of many things even though my life at the moment is without any obvious dangers.

Will I be like Don Quixote in Kathy Acker’s novel – completing a series of heroic tasks in the search for love? Will I be the woman who is a knight who gets her prince? Is love the reward for heroism? If it is, I guess it’s a good one. But shouldn’t love be something that is given freely? If the prince doesn’t want me, I don’t want or need the prince. A struggle for love doesn’t seem heroic. Joan, silent yet full of love, does.

I look at her. Her eyes are brimming with tears. I don’t know what she is thinking or what her view of heroism really is, even though she sits there just like Joan, not saying a word.

Andrea Quinlan is a poet and writer based in New Zealand. Her chapbook We Speak Girl was published by Dancing Girl Press (Chicago) in 2012 and The Mysteries of Laura was published by Birds of Lace (Athens, Georgia) in 2013. Other poetry was published or is forthcoming in brief, Gaga Stigmata, Delirious Hem, HAG, Wicked Alice, Finery, Poems in Which and the Best Friends Forever anthology.

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Please also see this month’s feature pageThe Mysterious Writing of Andrea Quinlan, plus an introduction to Flash Frontier‘s new editors.

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Coming in December: no regrets, guest edited by Owen Marshall.

September 2014: FALLING


D R Jones, The Descent of a Decent Man

DR Jones lives and works near Puhoi, overlooking the Mahurangi Harbour. This pastoral setting seems conducive to writing novels, short stories and flash fiction. At present, the second instalment of his genre-defying Anonymous_Author© series is well underway.

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Louise Miller, Dormez Vous

A gentle heat radiates through the duvet onto a leg. Across all this darkness, sunlight from a distant galaxy. The cat. A hand held close to the cheek is his hand, is my hand, is a cheek plasticised. Unincorporated. Un incorporated, un in corp or ate.

The comedian’s mom stands beside him on a jetty out over a placid Californian sea. She is delighted by the camera. It is the 80s, gelato-coloured loose shirts for men, primitive face lifts for the women.

She holds up a photo.

“He always says he was fat as a child. Is this a fat child? Does this look like a fat child to you?”

A sepia child sits on her younger lap, a part of her. A small alert shield. One body, four eyes. Incorporated.

The comedian has this. He is on. A veritable peaking cat on a hot tin roof. Each riff a leap. Each riff saving his mother from herself, saving himself from herself. Such an old role, so wearing on a soul.

Later he returns with his third wife to live in his mother’s house, long after her death. There he chooses to become unincorporated. To take the corp out. To peel off the prosthetic. How does it stretch? It stretches like dough, body dough rising in a warm bed.

Peeling away into this blackness leaving a storm of noughts and ones passing through, passing through.

Louise Miller live and works in Auckland. She has written short fiction for some time but is new to publishing. She blogs at Life in Hydra.

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Timothy Gager, You Buy Too Much Kale

You feed your black rabbit what is not wilted. Still, you keep the kale in the back of the refrigerator, where it sits. “What are we going to do, Bunnyface?” you ask your lover, but the rabbit in the room continues to chew.

“Do you need to get out of here?” she asks, pulling the rabbit out of the cage. There is a dusting of drug powder on the living room table, ten empty bottles in a circle, and the car keys. You place the rabbit on the floor. You could drive away and as you think about it the house gets smaller.

Your boyfriend who sits at that table every night is still asleep in the back room. His whole world is in the front. You are there, often watching the news. You think of the shitty world and how things fall.

“The cage is big enough to fit in the back, if I push the driver’s seat all the way up,” you think. She’s hardly been out of her cage at all and she twitches and shakes, rattles herself out of your arms when you place her back in. She is still chewing. Blankets rustle in the back room. You pull five bags of kale out of the fridge. The cheap cellophane crunches.

Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan (Big Table Publishing), is his first novel. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which nine have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio. More here.

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Kyle Hemmings, Father Dunne’s School for Wayward Boys #1

There must have been a black-holed galaxy of eyes watching us, Father Dunn’s special boys, who secretly wished to be crucified. We tucked our plastic rosaries into our back pockets, where we once kept rainbow-colored condoms. There were awkward confessions in the corner of a room that made us shiver with long-suppressed intimacies. Our hearts would never again be open to visitors.

The proctor with early dementia sang at night through the only open window for miles. Something about stars on a string and how his mother did amazing needlepoint until her fingers went stiff. We told the star-crossed priests with traces of old acne that our mothers did tricks to save our bodies. Our pen knives were confiscated so we sharpened our pencils into weapons.

A young girl wavering between celibacy and punk mother-lust despair visited us each night. In a dim light, she blushed pink. She sowed our loins in different patterns with her brilliant coordination of tongue and complex fingering, then walked away, blending with morning sky. We became a wet dream. With magic marker, we drew vaginas on the wet cheeks of incoming students. Asked who among them were ever caught red handed. We grew more rebellious under our sheaths of lethargy. We sabotaged track and field events with competing schools. After graduation, we committed insidious crimes with a light touch and a good pen knife. We lifted what every straight-edge bleary-eyed sucker thought he could possess: love. We were expelled into the next life.

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Your Impossible Voice, Night Train, Toad, Matchbox and elsewhere. His latest chapbooks are Underground Chrysanthemums from Red Bird Press and Terminal from White Knuckle Press. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s. He blogs here.

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Howie Good, Revising Thoreau

Thoreau only left the woods, his face shaded by a wide hat, to borrow a pencil but found out there was a fire downtown and stayed to watch. Buddy Holly looked right at him at the show in Duluth three days before the plane crash. Now, kneeling like a supplicant, he weeds by hand around the base of the statue of himself, the air vibrating with the lurid farts of the souped-up Mustang that forever rumbles through the suburbs of night.

Howie Good’s latest book of poetry is The Complete Absence of Twilight (2014) from MadHat Press. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely, who does most of the real work.

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Jane Swan, Under the House

I can tell you don’t believe me by the way you’re looking at me. Think I’m lying when I say that I fell through a crack in the floorboards and I’ve been under the house all day on the dirt floor, staring up at the joists.

I dragged a stiff, half rotten sack over to the little grating to get some fresh air and sat waiting for you to find me.

You didn’t see me when you unlocked the low door to put your bicycle away. You didn’t notice when I crept out, didn’t hear me crying in the bathroom as I tried to wash away the smell that had seeped into my pores – the smell of stale, dried dirt.

You say it’s not possible. How could I be vacuuming one minute, and the next be sliding down, just missing the splinter, angled to pierce my heart?

I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. I fell through a crack between the floorboards. Look, I’ll show you.

Jane Swan’s house and garden run wild because she spends time daydreaming and writing. She is newsletter editor for the Waitaki Writers’ Group. Successes include two Radio New Zealand stories and others published in local and daily newspapers, Alfie Dog Ltd and Essentially Food. She has also been highly commended in the Heartland Short Story Competition and short-listed in the Sunday Star Times competition.

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Matthew Robinson, Old Vibrations

She’s worried about fire. There’s always a sound, something triggering the fear. “Is that creaking from the fan all right?” and “What’s ticking – no, not the clock; that ticking – what is it?” I admit that I do not know the origin of these sounds and therefore cannot estimate what they portend. We listen together for an agreed upon yet unspoken amount of time before resuming our game of dice. “Did you know this game was invented on a yacht?” “You don’t say.” She wins. I say let’s play again; she says she’s tired. Three hours later, we’re still awake. She’s reading Bradbury, his prophecies on burning, quietly worrying, and I’m sitting nearby holding a book like I don’t know what to do with it, and maybe I don’t. I hope for continued silence, or at least an agreeable sound to perhaps drown out the next objectionable one, but this is an old house, and old houses like this might very well consist of nothing but these kinds of sounds. The thought occurs to me that I’ve spent my entire life trying to remember things I probably never knew, and then I begin to worry, too, as I cannot seem to stop thinking about how, when we first moved into our house, the lock on the bathroom door was on the outside.

Matthew Robinson’s writing has appeared on the web in journals such as decomP, >kill author, The Lascaux Review and others. He lives in Seattle with his dog, cat and girlfriend.

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James Claffey, A Pirate’s Life for Me

There’s a postcard on the silver salver on the hall table. The stamp has the Queen’s head in profile and I know without looking at the address it’s from the Old Man: Dear Wife. Crippling migraine. Increased production. Six more weeks. Find my reward in heaven. Your loving Husband.

Mam is out at the clinic having more tests for the new baby that’s coming before Christmas, so I have to make my own lunch: Ham and Heinz Sandwich Spread on toast. The long-range shipping forecast is on the radio and warns of low visibility in the Irish Sea. From Erris Head to the Belfast Lough and all points in between, a fisherman can’t see the fingerprints on his own hand. One time the Old Man took us to the Bloody Foreland and pointed straight north and said if we’d a powerful enough telescope we’d be able to wave to him on his oilrig.

As I devour the sandwich, I turn the pages of Treasure Island and wonder how the Old Man would fare if pirates took over the oil platform and made all the workers walk the plank? I can see his face at the prospect of the long drop into the inclement North Sea waters. He’d probably curse a bit at the pirates, but in the end say a few prayers, picture the chalice in the priest’s hands and step off into foggy air.

James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. His first book, Blood a Cold Blue, is published by Press 53. More here.

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Eileen Merriman, Three Minutes

The day we went to the fair you wore a yellow dress with red buttons shaped like hearts. You bought pink candyfloss and divided it into three. James ate his fast and you ate yours slow and I didn’t really eat mine at all. James always sat next to you on the rides, so he could hold your hand. I sat by myself. When we got to the rollercoaster James said he didn’t like the way it made his brain rattle in his head and went to buy hot chips. They said the ride would take three minutes.

As the car started moving and we climbed our knees touched and I put my hand next to yours I heard your breath catch in your throat when we got to the top of the track you wound your fingers through mine then we fell my stomach plunged my heart was beating so hard and you didn’t scream not even when we went upside-down and when we stopped moving you smiled there was pink sugar glistening in the curve of your mouth I put my finger on your bottom lip and your tongue darted out to touch it so quick but you looked into my eyes the whole time in three minutes I made you mine

When we got out James gave you a kiss and me the rest of his chips. At the bus stop you pressed something into my palm. It was one of your buttons.

Eileen Merriman lives and works on the North Shore in Auckland. She is currently working on a book (fiction) and has recently completed a Creative Hub creative writing course. Her interests include reading, writing, running and the outdoors.

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P.V. Wolseley, L’Origine du Monde Speaks

Gustave said, “I want to tell the truth,” but I suspected a cover-up: He kept saying to the model, “No one will know it’s you.” When he said, “C’est fini!” I wanted to say, “Ce n’est pas fini! My torso’s twisted!” but of course I couldn’t – Gustave had made sure of that. Whatever truths he wanted to tell, they weren’t the model’s, or mine.

At first I was exposed only for occasional private viewings. I remember fabric being drawn back. A look. A touch. Whispered desires – not mine, obviously.

Now I’m on public display, people mutter instead about my title, brushstrokes and pigments, but few take the time to really examine them. Even if they do, their gaze always returns to the same spot. And no one mentions my back.

Some visitors pretend they’ve stumbled across me by accident. Others sidle up as if I might bite. If my lips could speak, I’d ask, “What are you so scared of?”

Occasionally feminists march up and talk loudly about liberation. At first I thought, “This lot will do something for my back,” but it soon became clear that they had their own agenda; some talked about me without even looking at me.

Sometimes, a sensitive soul stands before me and asks, “Who was she? How did she feel? What she was thinking?” But even as I lie legs akimbo, I can only keep my secrets; the part of me that could tell is forever falling out of the frame.

P.V. Wolseley’s first loves were Boy George and My Little Pony. When these childhood crushes came to nothing, she fell in love with art history, which she studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She then moved to France, where she discovered a passion for English (absence makes the heart grow fonder). To explore the theme falling, she drew on Gustave Courbet’s controversial masterpiece, which shows a close up of a nude woman’s genitalia.

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Nod Ghosh, Concealed

When Sudeva noticed red-brown lines of blood on her thighs, Thakuma stemmed the flow with cotton.

“What is it Tha’ma? Will I die?”

“Don’t ask such questions, girl,” Thakuma tightened the knot of Sudeva’s hair, twisting it into a chignon.

“There, that is how a grown woman wears her hair.” The old lady held the glass up, pinching her granddaughter’s cheek affectionately. The girl saw a woman’s visage in the mirror.

“Come, there are things to be done. Many, many things.”

That was how it began. Sudeva was transported by palanquin, jostled through spice-scented streets. She dared not smile lest she disturb the sandalwood-paste designs on her forehead. When a bearer tripped on rough ground, she thought they would drop her. The idea of falling into unknown territory was terrifying, yet thrilling.

Sudeva sat in silence, facing potential suitors. Her father spoke to their fathers, fingertips clotted with rice and saffron-bright sabji. Hard bargaining and asinine approbation. Disagreements and sworn alliances. Sudeva was not required to participate.

When the time came, her sisters and cousins applied turmeric to her face, mehendi to her hands. Their intricate patterns blurred through Sudeva’s happy-sad tears. She savoured the last night under her father’s roof.

Long after the giggling girls had been banished to charpoys on the verandah, Sudeva’s mother and Thakuma worked on the palms of the bride-to-be. They concealed letters of her future husband’s name in elaborate designs. In solemn voices, they reiterated wedding protocols, as mehendi paste dried to a crisp shell.

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has completed year one of the Hagley Writers’ Institute creative writing course. Nod’s work has been accepted in Catalyst, Penduline, Christchurch Press, Takahē and Express. She was also winner of the Flash Frontier 2014 Winter Writing Award. Nod works as a medical laboratory scientist.

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Peter Adams, Moon Child

“Look, Mummy! The sun is climbing up the sky, but the moon isn’t falling down yet.”

Anthea followed her daughter’s finger to see the gibbous moon hanging in the west like a ripening mango. “You’re right, they’re awake at the same time. What’s happening there, do you think?”

She was walking her four-year-old to pre-school. Skye had been born with the bright moon as midwife, flooding the birthing room during her labour. The passionless IVF process had finally delivered, but stressed the relationship beyond redemption. Anthea was now a solo mum with only her moon child to love.

Skye pondered the situation. “Maybe moon is just staying up to do some twicks, you think?”


“You know. Like juggling and so on.”

Anthea suppressed a chuckle at her daughter’s playful vision. “Yes, the moon can be tricky! Remember Rona, in your book of Maori stories? She tripped and fell when the moon hid behind a cloud and spilt her bucket of water.”

“And…and…she said bad words to the moon,” Skye interrupted, and now she’s stuck there forever!”

“But what if the sun pays the moon back and gets up in the dark, when it’s moontime? It’ll be light outside and it’ll be sleep time,” crowed Skye.

As in the land of the midnight sun, Anthea thought. Skye’s astrologic wasn’t so far-fetched. She gave her daughter a hug and they walked on hand-in-hand, looking at the rising sun and the falling moon.

Peter Adams won the PEN International first book of non-fiction award for Fatal Necessity, his book about the annexation of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi. After a career in international relations, and many bureaucratic documents later, he is trying the challenge of writing short fiction and poetry. Peter lives at the edge of Wellington harbour, which provides plenty of stimulus.

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Hobie Anthony, Abandon

The prop plane’s small body bounces and bobs on air pockets; we’re rattling like dice in a cup. I hear a pop and watch a stream of black smoke pour from the engine. We strap together, bound to the single, life-saving parachute. We crouch and stare into each other’s eyes before leaping into the sky. I think I smell your breath. Your hair whips into my eyes on our free-fall descent. We maneuver our bodies, aiming for a moon-lit mountain meadow in the middle of the forest. We cling like magnets, polar opposites spinning in winter’s cold air. My body turns to gaze into the Milky Way. I wish I could sleep on a bed of stars and make love to you in a nebula. I hear you screaming in my ear and I’m brought back to our union, so I pull the cord. The lurch of the parachute jolts me back to reality. Earth-time returns, the ticking on my watch. We float and watch the plane lose altitude on an angular decline. It begins to spiral down. It hits the dirt. The explosion lights the density of wood. We lie in the field and watch the forest burn. The fire warms our bones.

Hobie Anthony was raised on the red clay of Georgia, cut his teeth on the hard streets of Chicago and now grounds himself in the volcanic soil of Portland, Oregon. He can be found or is forthcoming in such journals as Fourteen Hills, Fiction Southeast, The Rumpus, [PANK], Wigleaf, Housefire, Crate, Ampersand, Birkensnake, Word Riot, Connotation Press and many more. He earned an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. When he needs money, he writes. More here.

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Patrick Pink, Across the border, Icarus carries American dreams in his pockets

Papa sews the wings from boxes of absent men’s clothes, silver space blankets and scavenged strands of barbed wire.

“What if I fall?” I ask, red-faced amongst these men of courage.

“You cannot.” Elias who prides himself an engineer frowns then checks the bed-slat joins to make certain they are light yet strong enough.

Pedro the prophet and Papa’s lonely-times lover says with a wink, “You carry us all. We will lift you over the river and to the sun.”

“This is doomed to fail,” Tomás the lookout grumbles from the nose-smudged window. “And what will we’ve accomplished…” and he leaves the rest unsaid because we know.

“It is done,” Papa says, biting the last thread with loose teeth.

Together the men assemble my freedom.

“Run fast, jump high and trust the thermals.” Elias demonstrates, crouching then leaping Christ-like into a glide.

Tomás shakes his head but clutches my eye as if he wishes to be made a liar.

Bato, you will dance with the angels.” Pedro anoints my forehead and hands with a kiss.

“Papa?” I stand with handmade wings and men’s hopes on my shoulders.

“If you fall, mijo…fall up.”

Together the men sneak me to the concrete roof.

When I leap, the north sky is gunmetal grey but boundless.

Bit by bit, I empty my pockets as the horizon tries to call me down.

Patrick Pink grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and lived significant amounts of his life in Michigan, Texas and Germany before settling in New Zealand. His story ‘Affirmation’ was highly commended in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition.

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Jodie van der Wetering, To the Bridge

The sky is dark and low and I am going to the bridge. I am one body in a sea churning in the tidal pull of traffic lights. Everybody knows the steps to this dance, each dancer instinctively ducking and weaving around their fellows, stepping left and right as they meet.

I don’t.

I dance the footpath dance as badly as any other social interaction, stepping left when I should step right, bumping and fumbling and no-sorry-you-first. I am the misplaced rock that destroys the smooth flow of the stream.

If one person smiles at me I will try once more to learn this complex ballet of gesture and expression and stance that children have mastered but I cannot fathom after a lifetime of study.

On the way the first raindrops fall fat and cold. I pull up my hood as the first warning shots become machine gun fire of sleet. I find a promising doorway and dart inside.

I notice her before she notices me and I stop but she doesn’t and we collide.

I step to my left as she steps to her right and we collide again.

She smiles apologetically and raises her shoulders and bows her head. I recognise this one very specific step in the dance. I perform it daily. An admission of uselessness, a beg for forgiveness, an apology for existing outside the dance.

I fall but not in the way I’d planned.

Jodie van de Wetering is a writer and journalist based in Rockhampton, Australia. Her work has appeared on radio, TV, online and in literary journals including Idiom 23, and on the backs of a great many envelopes.

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Steve Charters, In and Out

He spoke no English. And Gavin little Spanish. Not that it mattered. Clear communication was impossible in the crowded club: lights flashing, music pumping. Anyway, their intentions transcended language – at least the spoken word. Like mimes or mutes they relied upon a smile, a gesture. Later their hands conversed with greater eloquence: touching, squeezing, stroking; sharing secrets, seeking consummation; their tongues were busy too, though silent.

The problem surfaced the following morning, along with other human needs like food and drink. In the cafeteria ordering un té Ingles, Gavin’s tourist Spanish created for a moment the illusion that they might be what they seemed: a couple. By chewing assiduously and smiling he delayed the inevitable moment when they must speak.

A flingette, he supposed, each of them typecast, projecting expectations onto the other. To really connect, in depth, they’d need a common language. How else might they negotiate that vast minefield of visas, accommodation, jobs; arguments and jealousies; separations and reconciliations; families, anniversaries and wills? A lifetime of dependency and compromise was inevitable. But any – dare he use the ‘R’ word? – ‘relationship’ came with baggage; it was a given. And you had to start somewhere. He was cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile Pepe – Pepe? Or was that the night before last? Carlos, perhaps? Yes, Carlos – Carlos wrenched apart his roll, chewing aggressively with crooked teeth and trapping scattered crust flakes in his mo. Gavin, wincing inwardly, cut his croissant into delicate portions, applied butter and spread confitura impeccably into every corner.

S R Charters grew up in West Auckland. He has won The Macmillan Brown Prize for Writers and been highly commended in the annual CBA short story competition. He is published in Readers Digest and the HarperCollins anthology Creative Juices, and has read from his work at the Going West Literary Festival. He is currently working on a memoir.

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Doug Dautel, Helpless

His world breaks free from its moorings, and begins to slide on the underlying ice. Only a flutter marks the occasion. She looks up, at him. He looks down, too quickly.

He stares at his book, but can’t read it. Now or never. The tension in his shoulders fights him for control of his posture and resolve. He’s learned his lesson with ‘never’. Doesn’t like regret. The ice turns sheer.

His heart pounds with the decision. Sadly he is well acquainted with his own lack of creativity. He doesn’t even like coffee. She smiles. Sliding turns to gliding. He can’t change course. Has no desire to.

Sometime after 1 am the ice foundation itself breaks free somewhere behind him. He’s oblivious, comfortable. Warm.

Somewhere between taste in music and dreams for the future he clears the cliff with a big smile on his face. He feels the earth go missing. Feels it in his stomach. Thought it was his heart.

Somewhere between siblings and childhood memories the avalanche roars after him. It has more grace than he. Less vigour.

The rush of air cradles and slows him. House-sized shards of ice chase him downward. The view is breathtaking.

Doug Dautel is a husband, a daddy and a nascent but aspiring polymath who lives in Auckland. Sometimes he puts pen to paper and tries to put words together. Sometimes they make sense

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Elizabeth Morton, God, fallen:

God lives in a factory unit, between an adult store and a meth lab. his children hoola-hoop in the driveway. skinny dogs yawp at their hips.

not many people believe in God. these days, he watches infomercials from his couch. he smokes fags without filters and chooses menthol so that people don’t filch his stash. he works setting up scaffolding for a painter who buys him beer when he can’t pay his wage. and he drives a panel van with a Jesus figurine on the dashboard, even though he doesn’t believe.

God has a lot on his plate. he drinks six cans of Red Bull a day so that he can make everything happen. God reckons he’s on autopilot most of the time. he drops his toothbrush beside the toilet and a man jumps out a window in Brooklyn. a family in Uganda is incinerated as he spits into the sink. sometimes God gets lucky. he throws brisket to the dogs and rain falls on a cornfield in Kansas. he flicks through the tv guide and two people make out in a Manchester carpark. things like that.

most days, God gets on the piss. God drinks Double Brown at a dollar a can. it upsets his guts, and when his stomach rumbles Christchurch shakes. but he doesn’t know that. God is chillaxed. when he catches our prayers, he rolls them into joints.

Elizabeth Morton is a New Zealand poet and student. She has a keen interest in neuroscience. In her free time she collects obscure words in supermarket bags. She has been published in Poetry NZ, JAAM, Takahē, Blackmail Press and in the upcoming Meniscus.

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Lulu A. Tika, Synapse

Chop chop chop, the steady sound of my knife. Garlic for garlic bread. Brushing butter.

Fingers tingle. A sting, a gash of crimson, then the scene changes to the Rockettes. Christmastime. Sugar Plum Fairies. Me – five-year-old-me – running with Santa hat on head and cotton candy in hand. Seat 16b, an empty seat between a man and a woman.

Lying horizontal on the floor. Wet beneath my hand. Feet, running. Floor, vibrating. Me, spasming, twitching.

Now I’m in my room; there’s yelling downstairs, me and my dad. Me – eight-year-old-me – clambering up the steps, sobbing. The door slams. I run to the bed, bury my head in a flowered duvet. Muffled cries as my shoulders quake.

Silicone against my face. Extra oxygen. Familiar. Shouting. More shouting.

The world blurs. Me – six-year-old-me – with legs dangling from the countertop. My mother teaching me. Her kitchen cleaver steadily chopping garlic. Chop chop chop, the steady sound of her knife. Garlic for garlic bread. Brushing butter.

Dizzy. Mommy! She drops the cleaver. I sway, fall. Eyelids flutter, slipping from consciousness. A gash, a spasm. My mother’s bosom pressed against my head.

Lulu A. Tika is Mexican and lives with her husband and her Pomeranian husky. She enjoys reading, writing and sky-diving.

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Annette Edwards, After the Fall

Her father said he heard the radio report first – two climbers roped together on the side of a mountain and another who went ahead and waited. Then almost an hour later, before the 7am news, a phone call, his sister.

Laura lay in bed and listened to the angry floorboards above her bedroom. Her father tallying up the numbers as he walked. The friends lost in the fall and a German who raised the alarm in the dark, a survivor.

Auntie Sue’s lounge hadn’t changed, the same brown suede couch, the mountain scene above the fireplace and the rumbling noise of the trains every hour. When the news came on at six the family was divided. Laura’s uncle held the remote unbudging, her cousin Ricky left the room.

The family crowded into a small lounge, boxes of tissues and armchairs. Laura found herself standing close to the coffin. That night she lay awake listening to the creaking railway lines and thought of his face, combed hair, a suit she’d never seen before, a bruise on his cheek. When she slept she dreamed of stairs made of ice.

Unknown rituals confused her during the funeral. At the cemetery it was colder than she had expected. The sky was dark. An icy wind pushed and pulled at the coat she had borrowed as six friends, feet shuffling through mud, carried him to his grave. Laura queued to throw dirt on the coffin, heard the soft thud of earth and then rain.

Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington. She completed the Poetry Creative Writing workshop at Victoria University in 1997 and a Masters in Art History at Auckland University in 2000. A strange series of events led her to a career as a business analyst but she has a preference for writing fiction over project documentation.

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Elysia Rose Jenson, It starts before the drinking

It starts before the drinking. Let’s sidle up to him and sit with him at the bar. The bartender is rolling her eyes because now he is telling her how life isn’t fair. She’s wearing a blue dress as tight as a condom. Her lips remind him of the gash of pink highlighter on an overdue invoice. He distracts himself by scratching at the film of old liquor on the bar with the gnawed down nail of his index finger.

In his car the wheels break up the salt on the road, like a stent in a bad artery. He puts on some country and western music. The bartender sings along. Her voice is too high for Johnny Cash.

At the motel he doesn’t know where to hang his hope. There aren’t any coat hangers. There isn’t a hook on the back of the bathroom door.

They curl on the bed and when he gets out his wallet she says his daughter is beautiful. She gets out a picture of her own kid. She’s stolen some whiskey from the bar. It’s the cheap stuff. It’s yellow as a cat’s eye. When she passes out in his arms he is both fascinated and afraid for her. In sleep you are open to all memories. He finishes the bottle. When it’s not enough, he drinks the Listerine she’s brought in her toiletries bag and posts the empty bottle out the crack in the bathroom window.

Elysia Rose Jenson is a writer, artist and creative arts journalist who has spent the past two years immersing herself in London’s art scene. Her writing has been published in Phoenix magazine and DASH magazine and she was highly commended in the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day competition.

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Mark Crimmins, Solstitial 

Since October she had been sliding into a crushing funk. The problem was how to turn it around. She resolved to take a cue from the god of doorways. Pull a Janus. Turn one face from the past. Set another towards the future. What better occasion than this juncture of the turning world?

She rode the subway to the recently opened interchange and transferred to the new line. For weeks she had dragged herself up the stairs between the malfunctioning escalators like one of Lang’s workers in Metropolis. But on the solstice, the escalators – as though in deference to the gravitational pull of the sun – were working. The electric stairway bore her upwards towards the mosaics of the new station, an omen of effortless ascent.

She took her seat on the second train. Gazed through the window at one of the murals. Counted seven square tiles in a white streak on the head of a pixilated cow. Tallied the remaining units of the year. Three more days of work. Seven days off. Then a whole new year to imprint with her will. A three-hundred-and-sixty-five-chapter counterassertion to the text of the year just writ.

As the train hummed out of the station and the murals blurred past the windows, the bungee cord by which she dangled plumbed its Dantean nadir. Now it would contract. Soon she would be whistling upwards through the retrograde air. Regenerate. Transformed. Eyes blazing with the amrit of possibility. Back on track for the stars.

Mark Crimmins teaches Contemporary Transatlantic Fiction at the University of Toronto. His fiction has been published in Happy, Confrontation, theNewerYork, White Rabbit, Columbia online, Tampa Review Online, Cha, Eunoia Review and Pif Magazine. He is currently completing a book of flash fictions, Intersections: Experiments in Short Fictional Form. He lives in Hong Kong and can be followed at

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Martin Porter, Ikebana

The iris is her subject, the lotus her object. She places each into a bed of pins to angle them precisely; the flag upright, the blushing lotus to open into the sunrise. Both buds remain unopened, blind until they drop.

In the mature heat of evening she takes the sickle-shaped basket of rushes, fixes the interior with red maple. In its belly floats a single chrysanthemum, petticoats of sepal displayed perhaps a little too obviously. Through the handle, she watches deer glean amongst the stubble for felled heads of wheat.

She searches the shed for green bamboo stems, cut when young. She finds clusters of malachite growths grasping the twigs of pine, freshly downed by winter squalls. The leafy lichen dries like orange peel in the heat of the house, the mosses fall as frayed balls of shrivelled brown on the black japanned saucer.

The storms have passed and the snow melts under the frail sun. Searching for early blossom, she steps into the garden. The plums and camellia bushes, giving and blousy, are already ripped away. Dressy petals have floated to the ground, wind-gathered to rot in dark corners.

Soon the year will collapse into its finality. Then the days will mature once more and there will be cherry blossom, drifting in the air while the heavens are filigreed by rising swallows.

Martin Porter, born in Jersey, lives a quiet life in New Zealand writing poetry and flash fiction. He has recently had flash fiction published in Bare Fiction magazine, won the Northland New Zealand flash fiction prize in 2012 and 2014 and read at Auckland Library for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day Awards 2013. Some of Martin’s work and accompanying notes can be found here and here.

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Emma Shi, A Moon But No Stars

She said, don’t you worry ’bout me, smiled, and I believed her. So we talked about nothing till she fell asleep on my shoulder and I sat there in the dark, the sound of her breathing all I could hear. A rhythm like the most hopeful prayer, the hitch at the end of every breath, amen, amen, amen.

A week later, she called me in the middle of the night. I was drunk, folding back the edges of my heart and her voice scratched through the telephone – oh god, this hurts, oh god, oh god – and I asked her, why, what? but she just kept on crying. So I fell asleep to the sound of her breaking instead.

I forgot her. I was the first person she called and I forgot her. I was hungover and sick when they knocked on my door, then just sick when they replayed her last moments without me, said, sorry, sorry. Showed me my own cookie cutter heart and how it would never fit against her stars.

What am I going to do with all these empty spaces? she once asked me, and I held her hand in mine until they all disappeared. This and this and this, I whispered, and she squeezed my heart and god, I should have insisted on a closed casket. She said, don’t you worry ’bout me, smiled, but maybe she thought I was only joking when I told her, I love you.

Emma Shi was the winner of the 2013 National Schools Poetry Award and is currently studying at Victoria University of Wellington.

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Stephen V. Ramey, On the way down
In the last yards before impact, Edwin wished for a parachute. He had hoped his life would flash, but all the way down he’d felt nothing but electric ice in his veins, panic pounding at his chest. And now it was about to end. He tried to picture Susan’s face, her dimples, the way her hair curled around his fingers. He tried to recall their kiss last night.Useless. All he could think about was the asphalt rushing up. Actually, it was macadam. He’d learned that last week in his night class. Macadam was invented by Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam in the early 1800’s and was one of the most durable road surfaces. Asphalt might deform around him, especially on a hot day. It would not spare his life, but could at least preserve his features somewhat. No such luck with macadam.

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared many places, from The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts to Daily Science Fiction. His first collection of (very) short fiction, Glass Animals, was published by Pure Slush Books in 2013. Find him here.

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Heather McQuillen, It Passes Down

Yesterday, on the bus, these two women behind were talking about a kid who fell awake.

To fall awake you gotta be sleeping way up high, on a bunk say, or on the branch of a tree, or on the wing of an airplane.

They said his mother got no sleep that night. She had to drive him to hospital and wait by his bed while his head swelled. His brain expanded and pressed tight against his skull and every time he moved he spewed.

Can’t have that – kids with swollen heads. Gotta take them down a peg or two. Give ‘em a shove off the airplane wing just to learn ’em their place in the world. That’s what my Dad woulda done. P’raps that kid’s Dad pushed him off the bunk.

When I was four Dad shoved me outa the monster macrocarpa, the one down past the shearing shed. To teach me a lesson about falling. So I’d know how it felt and not try to go so high again.

“Pride comes before a fall,” Dad said, leaning on the hot metal and lighting a ciggie while Mum passed me from the bed of the ute to the orderlies, my leg bent out the side like a grasshopper’s. They gave me the x-ray to take home.

Betcha that kid gets an awesome skull x-ray.

Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch and has published two novels and a short story for children with Scholastic NZ. She was awarded the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005 and her two books have been selected for the Notable Books List by Storylines NZ. She has been busy teaching for many years and has taken leave in 2014 to develop her writing and learn more about poetry and short fiction. She is a tutor with the School for Young Writers..

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Chella Courington, Narrative Risks

I am sitting by the front window of the French Press, drinking a cappuccino and finishing my short story A Hazardous Beginning. Pages scattered on the table. As usual, I’m stuck at the end.

My first husband is supposed to meet me here. Not that I intend to have a series, but I have trouble calling him Peter. He’ll always be “my first husband.” I’m not sure why I asked him to come. Don’t know why he accepted.

Ten years ago we divorced. He brought me roses every anniversary and said he couldn’t live without me. But I was tired of the yelling. Tired of his sticky yellow demands on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, and front door. “You will have the clothes washed by tomorrow, you will come in before 7 p.m., you will eat Sunday dinner with my family…you will, you will.”

The night before I left, he gave me a box of chocolates with a sappy card. I cried. He held my hand, “You’re making a mistake.” When we first married, I spread my legs whenever we lay arm to arm, his body a furnace that ignited mine.

My ending still waits. I’m not doing it well. Leaning toward ambivalence most of the time.

The door opens. I hear the shuffle of feet as customers walk to the counter. My own coffee stale. The foam fallen in.

I glance up.

Chella Courington is the author of three prose poetry/flash fiction chapbooks: Love Letter to Biology 250 (forthcoming from Porkbelly Press), Talking Did Not Come Easily to Diana and Girls and Women. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong, Nano Fiction, The Collagist and The Los Angeles Review.

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Guest Editor Christopher Allen on the editing process:

Themes and prompts aren’t everyone’s thing, but here’s why they should be: they get you writing. I do them and submit them as often as I can. It’s great to have them accepted, but it’s equally great just to be writing. A rejected story is something for my “to be edited” pile – and I like editing. The good and the bad, each an element of the other.

Reading the micros this month at Flash Frontier has reminded me that “falling” can mean just about anything to anyone. My favourite stories are those that show how falling can be hopeless and beautiful at the same time, and it’s this chord of ambivalence that I’ve tried to strike in (most of) my choices. The good and the bad, each an element of the other.

Go here to find out more about what led Christopher Allen to flash.

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O’Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen’s award-winning fiction, non-fiction and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly’s Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Connotation Press, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, The Lit Pub and many others. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Please also see this month’s feature page — Something for Being Adnan Mahmutovic.

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Coming in November: heroes.

And in December: stories with no regrets, guest edited by Owen Marshall.

Posted in September 2014


Llyvonne Barber. groups of three plus one

Llyvonne Barber. groups of three plus one


Llyvonne Barber has an interest in photography and lives in a rural village in the Manawatu. This image, which first appeared at 52/250: A Year of Flash, has become the symbol for National Flash Fiction Day, with the artist’s generous permission.

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FIRST PLACE: Sarah Dunn, Islands and Cities

The neighbourhood I live in is next to the Spicer landfill in Porirua. Twice a day, every day, flocks of crisp seagulls fly all the way down the street from the tip – over my school, past the mall my sister works at, across the skate park and the flyover.

They carry bones, McDonald’s wrappers, tampons and plastic in their cherry beaks and red feet. Sometimes they drop bits on my house.

The bones make a special flat clang against the corrugated iron, like the marrow inside stops them from echoing. Dad runs outside with the hose when he can get out of his chair in time, but the seagulls don’t care about water.

“Useless flying rats,” he says. “It’s a disgrace.”

I think most animals that share spaces with people have a purpose. Cats and dogs are supposed to love us so we take care of them, but sparrows, pigeons, blackbirds and seagulls fit around us without being asked. It’s why I like them – they’re beautiful for no reason.

One day I went out to watch them bring in the dawn, and they never came. I waited until the sun came out and the rubbish from yesterday started to stink.

Over breakfast, Dad said the men at Spicer’s had poisoned them with a narcotic paste and he was sorry. I said it wasn’t fair and my sister said they deserved to be shot, but when Dad saw my face, he told me to get in the car.

At the landfill, hundreds of cool white bodies lay limp across the rubbish. They were so clean, they blocked out everybody’s mess with the weight of their feathers.

Dad put his hand on my shoulder. I put my hands over my eyes and the black light white of the birds was still there.

Sarah Dunn is a journalist who lives in Nelson. She graduated from Victoria University with a B.A. Hons in English Literature and Religious Studies. Aged 25, she has spent May and June this year in Korea on an Asia New Zealand Foundation internship.


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SECOND PLACE: Patricia Hanifin, With our eyes closed we begin to dance
Auckland Regional Prize

On Monday night I dream about Charlie Brown. He stands at the window watching Snoopy sleep on top of his kennel. Snoopy’s little tummy moves up and down as he snores and he’s wearing his goggles and scarf, the way he does when he’s playing the Red Baron. In the background Schroeder plays a blues tune on the piano and I have this weight on my chest that makes it hard to breathe.

On Tuesday Gerry gives me an ultimatum. The glasses or him, he says. Twenty-five pairs is twenty-four too many.

What’s brought this on, I say?

A bloody new pair every month for the last two years.

I pay for them out of my own money.

That’s not the point.

What is the point?

It’s crazy, he says. Sick in the head.

My new glasses slide down my nose. Gerry’s a blur on the other side of the kitchen table. I grope towards the bathroom and sit on the toilet seat. The back door slams. I blow my nose, go into the bedroom to find another pair of glasses – tinted, to soften the glare.

A text arrives from Gerry saying he’s at his mother’s.

I spread my glasses out on the bed, pick them up pair by pair. I can’t give them up, can’t be that naked in the world, even for Gerry.

On Wednesday I dream Schroeder plays jazz on the piano and Snoopy dances, his big beagle ears flying out, his feet doing circles on the ground. He’s still wearing his goggles and his smile stretches across his whole face. Charlie Brown reaches out and takes my glasses. He puts them in his pocket; he takes my hand. With our eyes closed, we begin to dance.

Trisha Hanifin has worked in adult education and adult literacy for over 25 years teaching a range of subjects including reading and writing. She has a BA in history and political studies and a Masters in creative writing. She writes short stories and flash fiction, and is currently working on a novel, Ghost Travellers. Her stories have been short-listed in the Sunday Star Times short story competition and the BNZ literary awards. This year her flash fiction has been published in Turbine and previous issues of Flash Frontier.

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THIRD PLACE: Sue Kingham, Just My Luck
Canterbury Regional Prize

Just Mum’s luck to end up with Mad Rowdy. She reckons she’s cursed when it comes to relationships, not that she believes in God. I do. I was keepin’ out of Rowdy’s way last Saturday, when I saw Jesus. I’d just scored a half-eaten burger from the bin outside of Maccas. I dropped the wrapper and it blowed down the street and got stuck on his leg. He was stood in the Square on a box. The shoppers, all wearing puffer jackets, pushed their hands deep into their pockets and pretended to look in the shop windows when they passed him.

Jesus’ arms stretched out from his sides. His fingers bent up, like he was weighing the clouds. And here’s the best bit: he was starkers, ’cept for a white towel around his privates. Yeh, and he had this kind of spiky ring on his head.

I went for a closer look. He was standing real still. He wasn’t even blinking. His brown eyes were kind of wild and he had big bushy eyebrows. The tin can in front of his box sat on a square of red fabric held down at each corner by rocks. I checked the tin for cash. It was empty.

“Hi Jesus,” I says. “Think it’s going to rain?”

He nodded.

A passing bull terrier pissed against his box. The yellow stream soaked into the cloth and made a stain around his tin. Jesus stared up to Heaven: just his luck.

I got soaked going home, so I copped it big time. I’m going to see Jesus again next Saturday. Need to ask him what I can do about Rowdy.

Since the Canterbury earthquakes shook her love of writing back to the surface, Sue Kingham has never been busier. She is a member of the South Island Writers Association and is a first year student of the Hagley Writers’ Insitute. Married, and mum to two children, she loves to fill her spare time reading.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Patrick Pink, Affirmation

When Cat finally allowed herself to fall for Dean, she did so with eyes open. She gave into the heart thrill and the gut fear and everything in between. At first, both were hesitant, having been hurt one too many times. Prudence cushioned hope. But Dean kept calling or coming around and Cat kept picking up or opening the door. She made him laugh and forget and he made her believe and forget. Together they remembered what it could be like if forgetting became habit.

Of course, that was when kissing had been enough and not a prelude and a busy workday the next morning could curb staying the night. However, recently, hands ran over and reached under and were tempted lower to unbutton and unzip. And, then, Cat would remember and she’d stop and straighten her t-shirt or blouse and was grateful nothing more obvious below had become more obvious below. She knew discovery was inevitable because she wanted Dean as badly as he, her. Which brought it all home again and Cat could not forget because it was as natural and vital to her as breathing. So over dinner at her place – a nice spag bol with Chianti wrapped in wicker – Cat remembered the ashy taste of loneliness and told Dean.

Electric silence charged Cat’s flat like bare soles rubbed across wool carpet. The pasta got cold and the red wine warmer. Cat prepared for the jolt to come.

“I don’t care,” Dean said eventually.

“But you might,” said Cat, astonished but still cautious.

“I might win the lottery. I might go bald. I might get to finish dinner. I might fall even more.”

“This is me,” said Cat.

“And this is us,” Dean said.

And Cat reheated their plates in the microwave while Dean topped their glasses.

Patrick Pink grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and has lived significant amounts of his life in Michigan, Texas and Germany before settling in New Zealand. Patrick has completed the Introductory Fiction course and the 30 Week Fiction course that was offered by the Creative Hub. He has read widely and has always written, starting with crayons then pen and paper, then tapping away on his Grandma’s old Underwood typewriter, moving up to a Brother electric typewriter to now, where he can’t imagine life without his laptop. ‘Affirmation’ is his first published piece.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Brie Sherow, Confused Camouflage

He had a smile for every emotion and a laugh for every occasion. He learned the tourists’ names when they checked into the resort and forgot them when they left. They all had the same flirtations, they left with the same sunburns and promises to return. He implored them to keep their promises but in truth he was always glad to see them go. The things they said were always the same, that’s not a job, that’s a holiday. And his replies, every day is paradise. He drifted between the beaches and the clubs. His smile was a disguise; revelry was an obligation rather than a diversion.

“The scuba gear is in the truck,” he said as she walked through the gate. The words came out flat and lifeless when he didn’t have to feign excitement. They drove west, far from the fabricated sandy beaches that he frequented; this was her territory. Unlike the novice divers he led at the resort, she didn’t have to be supervised in the water. He took advantage of the freedom, enjoying the freefall of descent. He somersaulted backwards slowly, suspended upside-down and weightless in the endless blue for a moment before catching the sandy bottom in his sight.

She’d found an octopus exposed on the sand shoal. It inflated its body and its tentacles swayed back and forth with the currents. Its skin flashed and altered textures, camouflage signalling anxiety rather than an attempt to blend with the sand. It was prickled and green like a cucumber, then gnarled brown like a tree stump, then smooth red and purple like a plum. He looked beyond. All he could see was a changeless expanse of sand. The octopus made no attempt to hide, but he could see nowhere for it to go.

Brie Sherow lives and works in central Christchurch. She had a short story published in Yen Magazine last year and is currently working on several more while studying at Hagley Writers’ Institute.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Elysia Rose Jenson, Cutting out the Stars

God made me wrong. I was cast with clay he clawed from the earth while spitting rain upon his children. Into my flesh God cut his despondency, then he spilled clouds in my skull instead of ribbons of brains. I was born the day he flooded the world with his anger. That’s why I’m damaged. That’s why I ended up here, at the factory that forms the stars.

The factory air curls with dust motes and the machines are older than time; they whinge and creak. The air tastes like old metal in the rain. I’m not in charge of anything, I just sit at the conveyor belt and cut out the stars from the lumps that come. I use an old pair of sewing scissors; they’ve got blades like an old man’s knees. I follow the pattern as best I can and, when a star is ready, I place it in a cardboard box ready for flinging at the sky.

I try my best, but each star I cut is as wrong as the last, like my demented hands are conspiring against me to fill the universe with peculiar mistakes. God throws my stars to the corner of the galaxy so they’ll die before anyone looks at them. He says it’s better that way, that he’s disappointed.

But you know… one by one my stars are expanding the universe, making room for wild creatures and strange ideas. Even though the light from my stars will fade away before it can whisper to the eyes of the living, it matters. Imperfection is where expansion happens. The space my stars create is where beauty slips into the world.

Elysia Rose Jenson is a writer, artist and creative arts journalist who has spent the past two years immersing herself in the creative underbelly of Europe, including the East London street art scene and Berlin fashion. She is also a first year creative writing student at Hagley Community College.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Maggie Rainey-Smith, Shop until you drop
Wellington Regional Prize
You didn’t go gently into the night as we’d hoped. You raged, shopped at Glassons for the perfect periwinkle top. We’d had our colours done only months before and you, like me, were autumn. We both knew the exact blue you wanted, only we hadn’t known the exact stage of your cancer then. I can never forget the colour of your toes under the cubicle. Even when dying you liked to be co-ordinated. Shop until you drop has never sounded quite the same since. And then, like the nurse you always were, you knew about hydration, hibernation and how fluids could keep you alive that much longer – far longer than any of us hoped – we were tired and wished you’d give up, but it was your life and you drank the coffee, holding the cup with both hands, but determined and each sip was a snub to the fates – your breath came later with gaps and we sat, waiting, counting the seconds it took before the next breath and the next breath. I’m embarrassed to say I read poems to you. Of course they didn’t matter and I can’t remember what they were, but I thought they did at the time. What mattered was your girl, your gorgeous girl who will marry this summer and she was barely eleven then. You didn’t want to go and leave her and she knew that and we knew that, and still we wished you’d give up, make it easier on all of us, let go, but you didn’t. Like Dylan suggests, you raged and you raged and even when you left, when they said, you were dead, your mouth slightly ajar, there was life in the room, your life, not a breath left, but all of you there, still raging.

Maggie Rainey-Smith is a published novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction, and flash fiction writer. She blogs at A Curious Half Hour. Her website is here and she is a regular book reviewer on Beattie’s Book Blog.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Melanie Dixon, The Big Wave

I guess with a title like that you’re expecting a story about a tidal wave. A tsunami or somesuch. So I may as well come clean; there’s nothing that exciting here. Sure, the story’s set by the sea. All the best stories start on the shore.

So there’s the beach, sandy or rocky, you decide, and there’s this shoe that washes up and sits there, all forlorn like. It’s lost its soul mate, lost most of its sole as well. It kinda gapes in the way only an old shoe can. Old shoes and fish. It’s all the same to me.

And here comes the girl. Every good story’s got a good-looking girl. Only this one ain’t too pretty really, you know the type, bit soft round the edges, eyes that don’t always point the way they should. Anyhow, she picks up the shoe and says that whoever the shoe fits she’s gonna marry. She’s a bit mushy in the head, this not-so-pretty girl.

She takes the shoe home, cradled in her arms like it’s some sort of baby and puts it outside her front door for all to see.

Then she waits. Every day. Looking out for a man to try on the stinkin’ sea-shoe. She won’t have nothing to do with me while she waits for Mr Perfect to arrive.

Then, whaddya know? Some loser comes along in the middle of the night and nicks the shoe. Hurls it into the river. Throws stones at it till it’s gone into the murk. Gives it a big wave as it sinks out of sight.

So she never did marry a prince or somesuch. Got stuck with me instead. But she still goes on and on ’bout that stupid shoe. ‘Bout the better-than-me man she was s’posed to marry.

Having worked in television and website production, Melanie Dixon has recently become a full-time writer, juggling writing with parenting two energetic children. She is a graduate of the two-year programme at Hagley Writers’ Institute and has had work published in a number of online literary journals including Penduline Press, The Quick Brown Dog and previous issues of Flash Frontier. Melanie has also been short-listed in several writing competitions including the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing and the Christine Cole Cately Award. She enjoys working across a range of genres and is currently working on a novel for children.

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HIGHLY COMMENDED: Susan Koster, The tree that reached up to the sky

When they moved into their new house in the country, the first thing they noticed was the tree. It reached up to the sky. They couldn’t see the top.It was a couple of fields over from their place. They went to look at it. It was very thick, as you’d expect. The first branches started forty metres above their heads. High. They stared up through the branches. The tree went on for ever. They knew they were all thinking the same thing – could you climb it?

“You might be able to do it with pitons,” said Don, who’d done a lot of tramping, some of it in very extreme conditions.

Nobody had a better idea, so they decided to get some. A couple of weeks later they were ready for their arboreal expedition.

Don hammered in the first piton. They toasted each other with their water bottles. Then it was time to get roped up. Four of them were making the attempt; the fifth was staying at base camp. Mobile phones were charged and ready. Also to be used in documenting the climb pictorially.

They set off. It was slow going. It took a couple of hours to get to the first branch, but it was wonderful to be there. They could just see their man at base camp far below, an upturned, pale face. They ate a good lunch, then continued.

By nightfall they were more than a hundred metres high. The going was easier, as there were more branches. They stayed roped together; it gave them a feeling of security. They decided to make their bivouac. It didn’t cross anybody’s mind to stop or go down.

They woke the next day feeling fit and energetic, and ready for whatever the day might bring. They continued to climb.

Susan Koster is a Wellington writer. She has spent most of her life to date wanting to write but not feeling able to start until quite recently. Now she’s started she doesn’t intend to stop. She has entered a story in the 2014 BNZ Katherine Mansfield competition and is working on her first novel.

~ ~ ~

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Jac Jenkins, Virtuose
Northland Regional Prize

I wake to music. A ringtone. Some vaguely familiar classical piece – probably one you played for me once. I lift my head from the white sheet, stiff from the unnatural position. I can’t feel my feet on the floor. A nurse in a pallid smock and hot-pink sneakers is thumbing her phone. She shrugs apologetically, pockets the phone, then adjusts the cannula and leaves us.

Your eyelids are closed, lashes almost lost in the swollen folds. Your once-prominent freckles wane in the sallowness of your skin. I see pain sliding its horsehair bow down the bridge of your jaw, and I place my fingertips lightly on the bone to calm the trill. I am now your luthier.

When the tingling in my feet eases, I stand, pushing the chair backwards with my legs. You open your eyes at the screak. I lean into you and rest my chin in the angle of your neck, pressing my breath into your skin. “Sorry,” I whisper. I feel your heart beating in staccato.

Your fingers pluck at the sheet and I pull away from your suffocating heat to take your hand.

Your eyes are rimed with crusted rheum. Voice dry, you start to tell me about the playlist – Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Iz’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and The Band’s “I Shall Be Released”. Each word you speak is a blue note. I am the mute; I dampen you. My lips are gentle on the scoop of your cheek. I take up the bow and play you like you once played “Theme from Schindler’s List”. I play you until my wrist burns and the soaring end note falls.

Jac Jenkins’ 2012 NZSA mentorship with Sue Wootton has been instrumental in her recent writing successes, including winning the 2013 Takahē Poetry Competition and the Northland regional prize of the NFFD competition three years in a row. She has had her work published in the Northern Advocate newspaper, Fast Fibres broadsheet, Takahē and online at National Poetry Day in Northland, NorthWrite 2013 and previous issues of Flash Frontier. Jac is also a member of the Northland poetry group Take Flight.

~ ~ ~

Long List

Celia Coyne, Blondes have more fun

When I pull on Dolly, my whole world turns blonde. Shop assistants are more helpful and the postie winks and smiles. I even had a wolf whistle at the bus-stop the other day – that was a first.

My Dolly Parton wig isn’t as outlandish as the country singer’s hairdo, but it’s curly and voluptuous and definitely platinum. I have two more: the “Catherine Tate” – a thick, sleek mane of titian – and the “Katy Perry” – dead straight locks in an audacious shade of pink. They sit in my closet, perched on their stands like exotic pets, silken and tactile. They’re good listeners. As I brush them out, I tell them how it sucks to be me. They tell me I can be someone else.

Everyone in the office knows about the cancer, the “big C”. No point pretending. I’ve started calling it Colin – that made them laugh. It means we can talk about it without them feeling awkward. We can say “Colin’s a bastard” and “I wish Colin would piss off!”

Dolly’s my favourite. I feel like a real vixen when I put her on. I wear pastel pinks and blues and I get a lot of compliments from men. I like to go to petrol stations, act all “dizzy” and fumble around with the petrol cap. Then I wait for the attendants to gather round.

People open up to me when I wear this wig.

At morning tea I’m sitting there in the coffee room when Jean from accounts comes over and squeezes my hand.

“You’re very brave,” she says. I shrug and slip my hand away.

I take a moment and nip out to the bathroom. I look in the mirror, make a few adjustments and Dolly is sitting perfectly again.

A beautiful mess of curls: blonde and bubbly.

Celia Coyne has been a writer and editor of non-fiction for over twenty years. She has had two non-fiction books published and is a member of the New Zealand Society of Authors. Over the last few years she has been focusing on her fiction writing and graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute with honours in both the first and second year of the course. Her stories have appeared in Takahē, Penduline Press and in Fusion, an anthology of speculative fiction. Celia lives in beautiful Christchurch.

~ ~ ~

Celia Coyne, Green

Jerome gestures towards the rows of shrink-wrapped chicken. “This is not just any chicken,” he says in the seductive tones of a TV advert. “This is battery-farmed chicken. Note the subtle hock burns – it’s our method of rearing that does that!”

He gives me a look, one eyebrow raised. I like the way he wears his beanie indoors, even in the summer. He flicks his biro up into the air so it somersaults but when it comes down he misses and it clatters to the floor. He flashes a glorious smile.

“Fool,” I say, tossing a two-pack of chops into the basket.

In the produce section he points to the plums and reminds me how they have been picked before they are ripe by underpaid farmworkers in Chile. They’ve been loaded on a plane and flown thousands of miles to our store. He holds up a packet of baby spinach leaves and sniffs: “Ahhhh, parfum de chlorine!”

Jerome’s parents own an organic farm. He’s probably going to work there after college.

“The best plums are the ones you eat straight from a market stall in Bordeaux. They have soft skins and are much more juicy than these imported ones.” He gives my bum a squeeze at “juicy”. I slap his hand down.

“We’ll go there next year – on our world tour,” he says.

I pause. “Cool,” I say, trying to sound indifferent.

“We’ll have to plant some trees though,” he continues, “to offset the carbon from the flight.”

Back at my flat I put the shopping away. I make us a brew. We have it with TimTams, sucking the tea up through the biscuits.

“Heaven!” he says. “All those additives!!”

“Will you stop?” I say. Then I kiss him and he tastes of chocolate.

Celia Coyne has the honour of seeing two of her stories long-listed in the NFFD competition. For her biographical sketch, see the previous story, ‘Blondes have more fun, and the bio that follows

~ ~ ~

Louise Miller, Management

The older Indian woman tells the young Tongan man in the yellow uniform that she has received complaints from block 5 about the stairs. They have not been mopped.But he mopped them.She has seen the stairs; they have not been mopped, not nice and clean like block 2. Those stairs are really cleaned well and smell nice.Who says the stairs had not been mopped?

The people in block 5. They contacted her; she will have to go and see them.

What do they say about the stairs?

They have not been cleaned. And they wonder why you haven’t a trolley. They ask how are you cleaning if you have no cleaning equipment. You must use the trolley. I got you a new trolley because you complained about not having one and now you do not use it. You must bring it down.

They say I haven’t cleaned the stairs, the stairs not cleaned?

She gets out her smart phone and scrolls through her emails. Hi, Anita, this is just to let you know that the cleaners have not been cleaning the stairs. There have been an old cracker and paper clip on the stairs and Sue and I have walked past it every day for 4 weeks. Also the toilets look like they have not been cleaned daily. Could you pass this on to the supervisor?

He is silent. She rests her case. So tomorrow we must get that glass done first thing in the morning.

The toilets not cleaned, he murmurs, questioning, leaning over the table under the weight of it all.

Yes, yes, they tell me this and I have seen they are not cleaned. Please. Please, Palo, clean the toilets. I will go and check on this paper clip.

Louise Miller lives and works in Auckland. She has a short fiction blog at Life in Hydra.

~ ~ ~

Alexander Wolstencroft, Miri

“Everything is a fashion accessory,” Miri says. “And if you don’t understand that, then you are a fashion accessory.

“But don’t think that it makes you fashionable.”


After the break-up, she finds a new boy very quickly.

“I’m going to be Frank with you,” says the boy. “If nothing else, I’m going to be Frank.”

“You don’t have to,” she tells him. “I don’t mind if you’re not Frank, sometimes.”

So he stops being Frank, and starts a regime of little fibs.

Rather I fib, he thinks. Rather I fib, than be Frank.


Later, Miri purchases a shrink-wrap machine. She starts with food: she shrink-wraps everything in the kitchen. Then she does the books and pot plants.
Then she does the dog.


When Not-Frank leaves, Miri shrink-wraps their love-notes and trinkets. Later, she shrink-wraps their house, their friends, and their history.

Lots of plastic. Lots and lots of plastic.

Alex Wolstencroft currently lives on the prose-poetry continuum somewhere in Christchurch. He likes to meet other writers and artists. You too could meet Alex! He too could meet you! He’d like that.

~ ~ ~

Rachel Smith, Night Shadows

There weren’t many out tonight, just his gang working on the wet road.

Nathan turned his back to the rain, and pulled out one of the cigarettes he’d carefully rolled hours earlier.

The paper soaked up drops of water from his hand, and even hunched over out of the wind it was hard to light. He pulled hard until the end began to glow brightly and he could feel the warm smoke running down and through him.

Lights from a car played past and an old car pulled up alongside him. Nathan turned to look, tucking his cigarette behind the shelter of his body.

Her long dark hair was pulled back and impatient fingers played out a tune on the steering wheel. She should have been home in bed not driving through dark streets with the doors unlocked.

He reached out a hand, close enough to touch the car if he leaned just a little, his body hidden in night shadows.

Her mouth opened and she began to sing, tilting the mirror to watch herself – eyes narrowed, lips pouted and body moving against the seat.

The door handle felt cool under his hand.

Her shoulders moved from side to side, and her head swung heavily towards him.

For a stinging second their eyes met.

The light turned green and a horn tooted.

She gathered her face together, flicked him the finger and put her foot down.

Nathan leaned casually back, lifted his cigarette to his mouth and took a drag.

Rachel Smith has been writing short fiction for many years, and more recently flash fiction. She has recently embarked on a new career as a freelance journalist and enjoys writing in all its forms. Her work has been previously published in JAAM and Takahē.

~ ~ ~

Eileen Merriman, Patience

Yvette looked at her computer screen.“How can I help you today, Mrs Moon?” Chronological age fifty-five, biological age seventy.“Sorry I’m late,” Mrs Moon wheezed. “The bus –”

Yvette picked up her stethoscope. “Your breathing doesn’t sound so good.” Serves you right for smoking…

“Wee Bruno gave me his cold. I told my daughter not to let him play in the rain but she just said I should mind my own business –” Mrs Moon’s musty breath wafted towards her.

“Do you want to hop up on the bed?” Yvette checked her email while she waited. The breast biopsy result is through…

“She wouldn’t dare talk to me like that if her father was still alive,” Mrs Moon carried on, as Yvette typed: Can I ring you for the result?

Yvette swivelled her chair around. Mrs Moon was hunched over on the steps, her chubby hands on the mattress, her doughy bottom quivering in the air.

“He had cancer.” Mrs Moon pivoted, and collapsed into the pillows.
“Just breathe in.” Yvette planted her stethoscope on Mrs Moon’s chest. Mrs Moon’s voice roared into her ear.

“He was only fifty – it was everywhere.” Snowy flakes of Moon-skin settled on the sleeve of Yvette’s black cardigan.

“Oh dear…” Yvette held her hand up. “I’m just listening to your heart.”

Mrs Moon gave her a sad smile. “Do I have one?”

“I’ll give you some antibiotics. Have you stopped smoking yet?”

“No… it’s my only pleasure now.”

“You should try patches.” Yvette whipped the script off the printer, and opened the door. “Take care, Mrs Moon.”

“Thanks doc.” Mrs Moon shuffled out. Yvette rolled her eyes, and opened her next email.

I’d rather discuss your result face-to-face. I suggest you bring a support person to your appointment. Regards, Dr Bruce Richardson.

Eileen Merriman is a doctor with a serious addiction to writing. Her work has previously been published in Takahē and Flash Frontier. She has recently been short-listed in the Takahē and Page & Blackmore Short Story competitions and is currently working on a novel for young adults.

~ ~ ~

Gail Ingram, Still Water

The river glints, the sun glances off the greywacke boulders; a bead of sweat elongates, then trickles down my cheekbone. You don’t expect the pool on the corner, banked by carved, silent rock. I know it’s there: sweet, deep. In my mind’s eye I see a child tip-toeing in, arms raised high, white skinny chest enclosed by the still water.

I saw my father last week before he went to hospital. We stood by the door, hesitant, forty years of not touching between us. With other people I would fall into a hug and surrender to the uncertainty. I don’t know who stepped forward first. He grasped my shoulders, stopped me from falling and we found that place inside shared breath where no one else was. When he left, I wondered at the strength in his skinny arms. It felt no different, I thought, than when he swung me round the dancehall on my wedding night.

On this twinkling day I know if you look down close into the pool, you’ll see the water under the surface moving toward the sea. I have also learned not to poke at the shadows by the silent rock. There’s a chance an eel might come up, black and silver, writhing and thrashing on the end of your spear. The concentrated jolt of muscle runs down the pole right through your arm.

I don’t want to think about hanging on.

Gail Ingram was an inaugural graduate of Hagley Writers’ Institute and is currently the president of South Island Writers (SIWA). Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Takahē, Fineline, NZ Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review and previous issues of Flash Frontier, among others. She has been placed in various competitions including the 2013 Takahē Short Story and BNZ Literary Award Flash Fiction competitions. Every now and then she attempts a novel.

~ ~ ~

Monique Shoneveld, The Ten Cent Piece

The pews are hard and I can hear Mrs Clouston breathing heavily behind me. I wait for her to collapse onto the floor and die. William sits next to me, hogging the heater. He smiles his big brother smile and fingers his 10c piece. Aunt Annie sits on my other side, looking beautiful. I like sitting next to her. She has a big black freckle at the corner of her mouth. It twitches when she sings.

Mum isn’t with us today – she is off having a baby. She says that they come from a hole at the top of your legs. I checked the tops of both my legs last night and couldn’t find a hole. Perhaps I can’t have babies. I hope she has a girl. Then we can gang up on William.

I swing my legs and look back at William. He might have the heater, but I still have the swing. His feet sit on the floor now and no matter how far he pushes himself back into the pew, he still can’t do the swing. Mr Piper plays “Onward Christian Soliders” on the organ and my legs follow the beat.

Dad steps into the pulpit. He looks very handsome. I helped him make his white collar this morning – we make them out of ice-cream lids. Dad looks over at me and winks. I wink back. I hope the baby doesn’t take my winks away. William has placed his coin on the heater.

Dad prays for Mrs Clouston. She has emphysema. I scream. A burning coin lies on my hand and the queen stares up at me. Dad stares at me too. I feel ashamed and kick William when Dad isn’t watching.

I rub the red circle on my hand. I hope Mum has a girl.

Monique Schoneveld is a second year student at Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. She fits her writing in around work and three busy boys. Monique is currently working on a novel set in India. She has thoroughly enjoyed the new challenge of writing flash fiction.


~ ~ ~

Carrie Beckwith, Time Bandit

It had been a hard day’s night. As he often said, if you’ve never worked a night shift you don’t understand. Walking in through the door and going straight to bed just isn’t an option.

So he sits and reads the paper. At least you got the news before everyone else, even if you didn’t see much of the day. He also has a beer. Having a beer at 6am might turn some people’s stomachs or just plain shock them but if you’ve been up all night working, having a beer is quite a good way to unwind. He likes the way it scrubs the surreal feeling of lack of sleep and knocks him down a few gears. He usually has a second.

When he was younger a group of them would go to the casino straight after the shift and have a few laughs. Now he trawls the Internet or the TV, often ends up watching one of those deep sea-fishing programmes. He’s half asleep as they fight against the elements somewhere north of Anchorage, Alaska.

The Time Bandit is crabbing. Good name, he thinks.

“You’re the worst crew I’ve ever had!” snarls the skipper.

There’s another blizzard in the Bering Sea. Ice forms on and around the boat; the decks fill with snow. They haul two pots for just one crab. And make snow angels to relieve the tension.

“Remember you’re just a deck hand,” squeals the PA from the wheelhouse.

They slave on. Eighteen hours straight working for their families, sleeping soundly 800 miles away from the crab grounds. Weeks at a time away from home. Working in the dark and cold.

He knows how they feel.

Carrie Beckwith is from Stratford-upon-Avon and loves to write on the back of envelopes, in traffic jams, in the middle of the night. She’s a student at the Hagley Writers’ Institute and works freelance as a marketing consultant and copywriter. She’s currently working on poems and short stories.

~ ~ ~

Heather McQuillan, Where Can the Children Laugh?

“We giggle because of the balloons in our bellies,” said the children and they giggled all the more as the air escaped their bodies and they propelled in jagged arcs across the room and out the open door. He grasped too late for the strings. Red welts scored across the palms of his hands as their sandaled feet, snake-striped by a long summer, skimmed across the roof of the house-next-door. Their laughter pealed out a callous carillon as they saw their childhood home from a new perspective and him so small in their world.

He last saw them lifting away into a bank of clouds filled with thunder as black as tea. The primary colours of their jumpers stood starkly out in contrast and made him think of geraniums and bananas and the sort of hyacinths that his mother would call sailor boys.

He suspects they might have stopped their giggling when the clouds wrapped them in a clammy embrace, the smirks wiped wet from their grubby faces.

He remembers how he’d trusted in his own father when he’d said, “If you eat too many bananas you’ll turn into a banana.” The children at school had mocked him with sniggers and snorts.

He thinks he sees a glimpse of buttercup yellow in the sky but it is gone. Just a card every now and then, a belated birthday or Christmas greeting when they remember.

He’s not laughing now either.

Heather McQuillan lives in Christchurch and has published two novels and a short story for children with Scholastic NZ. She was awarded the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005 and her two books have been selected for the Notable Books List by Storylines NZ. She has been busy teaching for many years and has taken leave in 2014 to develop her writing and learn more about poetry and short fiction. She is a tutor with the School for Young Writers.

~ ~ ~

Ila Selwyn, Wolfgang
gu’day folks – name’s Wolfgang – the leader of a pack of truly noble creatures roaming the wild woods protecting poor innocent animals from humans like you who kill for pleasure – you’ve knocked off too many species – more are disappearing daily as you strip our land from us – it’s about time you heard my story
we never kill for pleasure – you’ve shot too many of my friends in the back – not sporting at all – nohand-to-claw fighting as we had in the old days – my compatriots and I take turns on patrol – as leader
I do extra – set a good example for the youngsters – if the wind is right I can smell you humans a mile off – sometimes with a west wind I’m trapped – but always escape before it’s too late – have a few war
wounds I could show you – one day this sexy broad turns up – black mesh-net stockings and
garter belt under a scarlet cape – the pro has on these high red platforms – you know the kind – useless
for a walk in the woods – should have more sense – probably a ploy to catch me – I’m a sucker
for a scarlet woman – Scarlet says she’s lost – asks for directions to her grandmother’s –
the old lady’s always kind to us creatures – so show her the way – when we arrive Scarlett
invites me in – hear a groan – a sharp whack – then silence – am about to investigate
when Scarlet pulls a hand-gun out of her basket just as the Wood-Cutter rushes in wearing the old lady’s
nightie – and a Davy Crockett hat – situation so weird – I guffaw – Scarlet presses the trigger – bullet
whizzes past me – hits him in the hip – Scarlet says – sorry Sam – forgot my specs – he doubles
over screaming – yu stupid bitch! – while she’s ripping up the nightie I check the old biddy
in the bed-room – past saving so grab her money under the mattress – leap out the window –
the old dear would’ve been happy knowing her savings will buy back the land – stop the tree felling –
now hopefully you’ll all stop denigrating us poor wolves in your fairy-tales

Ila Selwyn is currently doing her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Auckland. This piece has been cut down from a long monologue, which she wrote for a play she is working on in conjunction with a poetry collection, both to be completed this year.

~ ~ ~

Congratulations to these writers!

Please see the features page with NFFD judges Frankie McMillan and Mary McCallum here, including a sample of flash from each of them.

Here’s looking ahead to 2015’s National Flash Fiction Day.

Coming in September: stories about falling.

Posted in July 2014

Feature: Frankie McMillan and Mary McCallum

Last month was a big month for flash, and in July we offer, as an addendum to our 2014 national flash issue, stories by the judges of this year’s National Flash Fiction Day competition, Frankie McMillan and Mary McCallum. Both Frankie and Mary are award-winning and widely recognised poets and fiction writers. Their achievements are many, and their most recent accomplishments include Frankie’s inclusion in the forthcoming W. W. Norton Flash Fiction International — an anthology including the world’s best flash — and Mary’s highly acclaimed novel for children, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish, currently enjoying glowing reviews.

Readers can also hear a radio interview with Frankie McMillan here; she’s in the second half of the programme, with an added bonus of hearing Owen Marshall at the top.

The winning stories from the 2014 NFFD competition can be found  in this month’s special issue of Flash Frontier.


Frankie McMillan, Truthful Lies

McMillan photoI’m a truthful liar, believe you me. You could cut out my heart and throw it to the dogs but I still couldn’t give you the bare facts.

Ask me what I had for breakfast. Go on. I’ll say what you want to hear, something ordinary and safe. Like Weetbix with chopped banana, milk and a teaspoon of brown sugar.  Toast, wholegrain with Marmite. You’ll understand that. You’ll think I’m just the same as you. Okay, now ask me something personal. Go on.

Have I ever been engaged to a dwarf?  Yes. No. Choose yes.

His name was Stan and he wore a black suit and had to jump for the doorhandles. He jumped with both feet so you could see the pink flesh between sock and suit leg. The door would swing open and he’d march on through. The only sign of this little accomplishment was in his hands. For a moment his pudgy hands would flare out like startled starfish. He could kiss. I think his tongue was thicker than normal. Ask me. Ask me what you want to know.

He had special shoes made; his feet weren’t long but his fat toes made them wide. Stan could have worn sandals. Get a pair of Roman sandals I told him. No one wears brogues anymore. Only dentists who commit suicide wear brogues.

Ask me about my kids. One day I’ll tell you I had four kids. Another day I’ll say three. So what happened to the fourth one? Look at me. Watch my cheeks, not my eyes.  See the two bright spots of colour? That’s blood coming to the surface. I’ll tell you I lost him. You’ll think I was careless. Left baby on the bus. Or at kindy with astranger in a checked shirt, open necked.

My baby was born in a garage. Stan and me did it up – had Frank Zappa posters on the wall, a batik cloth hung over the ceiling.

Looking at the colours while I was pushing the baby out. Stan running for the doctor because there wasn’t a phone and next door didn’t want a fuckin’ circus on their hands. The dog licking the baby clean and me laughing and crying and not knowing if dogs should be licking new born babies.

You asked. You wanted to know. Anyway he died.The dog – run over by the milk truck. He was a good dog. Stan took the baby because it was the same as him. Ran off with the baby one night. It was raining. He had an umbrella. You wouldn’t think a man would run off carrying an umbrella and a week old baby boy. Stan did.

My breasts leaked milk for months. The mattress smelt of stale milk; the smell followed me everywhere.

People understand lies. I lost my baby. I had a miscarriage. A loving lie gives you a picture in the head. A dwarf, an umbrella a garage will give you a headache. You will look at me sideways. You will wonder if I’ve lost the plot.

I lied when I told you I was lying. You knew that. I let you think that I was lying in order to lie some more but you knew. Because you lie too. Your lies are trivial lies.

Tell me you’re made of truthful lies. Let me believe in the goodness of your lying. Go on. Lie. Make it good.


Forthcoming in Flash Fiction InternationalW. W. Norton, 2015. More about Frankie McMillan here


Mary McCallum, Dead Space

Mccallum photoCatch the boy out there standing like a bird with one foot tucked behind a calf looking at the sea. He isn’t at soccer practice. He isn’t on the scout tramp to Chatham Creek. He isn’t playing Dead Space 2 while Bridgie practices her scales. Up and down, up and down. The boy, Jesse, is allergic to scales and allergic to Bridgie who squeaks like a bird when he interrupts her. Dead Space 2. Necromorphs for god’s sake. I need to concentrate.

But she just squeaks and then she squeals and then Mum comes wiping her hands on a tea towel, and she wants to know where he got the damn game from. Then it’s all over red rover, as his dad says, and he’s outside, like his dad usually is, smoking, except Jesse’s not smoking because he’s run out of smokes.

Catch the boy before he leaves. Not the boy leaving. The father leaving. Country Road bag in hand – Bridgie’s bag for sleepovers. He says to the boy, ‘Bye, Jess’, and he says to the boy, ‘Be good for your mum.’

And his dad puts down the stupid bag, and the look on his face is that sort of look he gets when he comes home and it’s his birthday and Mum’s made a special dinner. Hopeful. Or something. He blinks too much, thinks Jesse, his breath smells like shit. When his dad hugs him, Jesse puts his foot down so he won’t topple. The scales have stopped. Jesse thinks of Necromorphs. He smells sweat and smokes. That’s how Necromorphs would smell, he thinks. And they’d blink too fast. His father used to play the piano. He bought the piano for Jesse to play but Jesse didn’t want to play. He just didn’t.


Third place winner, 2013 NFFD comp and previously published in the July 2013 issue of Flash FrontierMore about Mary McCallum here




Thank you to Frankie McMillan and Mary McCallum for helping make the 2014 NFFD competition and awards ceremonies such a success. 

For this year’s NFFD winning stories, please click here.

Posted in July 2014

June 2014: SUGAR

Lilla Dent Sweet Nothings

Lilla Dent, Sweet Nothing, oil on canvas, 2013

Lilla Dent is a freelance photographer and studio artist who dabbles in a variety of styles and media. She is widely inspired by her multicultural background and international travel experience, including a 5-year residency in Tokyo, and fuses contrasting themes and motifs from different cultures into her projects. Lilla’s work is an ongoing exploration of the strange or surreal, in particular as relating to self-identity, stories and narratives, and the creation and definition of humour. She currently resides in Chicago and is branching out into printmaking and other mixed media. More here.

~ ~ ~

Nod Ghosh, building the fundamentals

…waited for years multiples of years she waited and tolerated a few more years’ worth of waiting deoxyribose part from you part from me A-T-T-A boy and G-C girl interlocking fingers speak volumes voluminous screaming bird streaming proud a tenement with rich foundations and fimbriations dare to display a deep understanding frame-shift framed photograph Photoshop adjustment. Cry. Real tears. Tenebrous anarchic resentment from the tops of steaming cups with kudos as a mediator quadruplex structures coiling uncoiling a millipede of hair forms on the soft down of her cheek for she has known always known she would come to be a product of you and me occupying the spaces between the history of existence yet always burning burning burning a flammable flatulent burst with occidental isolation. Stop.

Diaphragm lip skin the small portion of brain that is responsible for the pain felt on separation keratin the part of her that determines her likes and dislikes including a distaste of bananas. Day night day night day year decade generation eon. Stop.

– Do you want a coffee?

– I’m not sure yet.

– Did you sleep well?

– Dunno.

– Well, if you don’t know, I can’t think who will… (a smile in your voice as you say this.)

– It’s not often you wake up the morning after someone has asked you to spend the rest of your life with them.

– I’m still waiting for an answer.

-Yes please. Milk. Two sugars.

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has completed year one of the Hagley Writers’ Institute creative writing course. Nod’s work has been accepted in Catalyst, Penduline, Christchurch Press, Takahē and Express. Nod works as a medical laboratory scientist.

~ ~ ~

Emily Bertholf, Heirloom

Cat creeps into my kitchen, paws a cupboard door open-shut-open-shut. The splash-crack-crash cascade of porcelain surrendering to linoleum fills me with dread. I rush to the kitchen, hoping to find a fallen glass or plate, but already know what’s there.

Shattered fragments of my hand-painted rose tea set. A mosaic of memory scattered on the floor: Grandma resting her cane against the wall, as she gingerly lifted the set from her china cabinet, saying, “This was a wedding gift from my grandmother, given to her by her grandmother. Someday, it’ll be yours”; when I was ten, my dad receiving it with a note – in case I don’t make it to her wedding; each birthday, Dad lifting the box off the bookcase, my hands unwrapping each cup from its tissue paper like a gift, tracing the flowered JTC Germany mark, imagining Grandma, her grandmother, a line of mothers extending over an ocean to a place once called home.

Cat crouches in the corner. “No use crying over spilt milk,” he brushes past my leg.

I pick up a gilded handle, two halves of the cracked sugar bowl top, sink to my knees. The refrigerator clicks and hums, muffles my cries. I call my dad.

“Your grandma outlived her heirloom. Teapots hold tea, not memories,” he says. “Besides, we’re coffee drinkers.”

I smile and hang up. Cat slithers behind his swaying tail. Sleeps on my yellow sweater.

Emily Bertholf received her BA in English from the University of Iowa. Her poems have been published in vox poetica, Litsnack, Postcard Shorts, 6S and Lyrical Iowa, but mostly live in the dark caverns of old file drawers and dusty notebooks. She lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband, three children and a pug.

~ ~ ~

Sian Williams, Breadcrumbs

There was a real gingerbread house in the hotel lobby; together we went inside, were delighted by its authenticity, marvelled at the culinary engineering.

There was also a beautiful tree, dark and voluptuous; smelling of deep resinous forests, of snow, of fairytales. Dressed in white and gold, it shone like salvation.

Surrounded by the memories of childhood Greta seemed younger, more fragile. I worried that people would think us mother and daughter.

As we turned from the tree, the concierge took two Lebkuchen doves from the nearest branch and handed us one each.

In the lift we bit into them: sweet but unexpectedly peppery. Greta’s cardamom eyes widened, “Hot, hot, hot,” she said.

Our room was dark and I opened the drapes to see the Christmas lights in the Schlossgarten. I waited at the window until I felt her standing behind me, naked. She put her hands on my waist and her lips to my ear.

“I am not Gretel, you know. I am not lost in the forest.” She pushed me off-balance, then pulled me back. “And I will not shove you into the oven, old witch.”

I turned to her. She is Stollen, I thought, my Christstollen girl, white as winter, candied and spiced. A sticky-sweet indulgence.

“Are you not afraid I will eat you up?” I said.

She walked to the bed, lay down and trailed one hand along her icing-sugar thigh. Then she looked straight at me.

“Go on,” she said, “Take a bite.”

Sian Williams is a writer and editor living in Kerikeri who edited Flash Frontier for its first two years. Sadly she has never been to Stuttgart, either at Christmas or at any other time.


~ ~ ~

Lucy-Jane Walsh, Wait

Everything in the room was white – the walls, floor, table in the middle. A man stood in the corner wearing a white coat.

“Do you like lollies?” He took one out of his pocket, hard as glass, ruby red. “You can have this now if you like, but if you wait till I get back, I’ll give you another.” He placed the lolly on the table, left the room.

Tom stared at the lolly, placed his finger on top and rolled it back and forth. His mouth watered, stomach grumbled. He peeled off the packaging and shoved it in his mouth. Delicious.

“Guess you couldn’t wait,” said the man when he returned. He made a cross on his clipboard.


Everything about the house was grey – the paint, door, concrete front steps. A man stood at the threshold wearing a grey coat. He held out a Ziploc bag, one pill at the bottom, ruby red.

“Give us another,” said Tom. “I’m good for it.”

“No loans,” said the man, shutting the door.

Tom hugged his legs to his chest, lay down his throbbing head. He opened the bag and placed the pill under his tongue, swallowed without water. He’d wait there all night if he had to, all the next day – whatever it took to get some more.

Lucy-Jane is a young writer of science fiction. Her stories deal with themes such as infinity, drug use and the manipulation of time. She has had her work published in Takahe and shortlisted in the AUT Short Story Competition and the NZ College Short Story Competition. In 2013, she graduated cum laude from the Hagley Writers’ College.

~ ~ ~

Andrew Stancek, Lopsided

Cracked in the middle with one half perfect and the other a Grand Canyon.

If he cuts it horizontally and slathers chocolate cream to fill the crater and then strawberry icing to camouflage, it’ll pass. Mirko knows she loves him; she must. A collapsed cake can’t break them up. She’ll give him the melting look that buckles his knees.

He sprints home daily in the certainty that at this millisecond one of her bouquet of admirers is buying her diamonds or bedding her. He has no idea why she’s with him. He always fucks up, always.

She’s a Black Forest torte – perfect. Mirko stops breathing at the thought of her furrowed brow. He should bake another, but she’ll be home in thirty-seven minutes. He doesn’t have enough sugar for a new one.

The sparklers from Christmas; do they get stale? The rose-red balloon is deflating. Where’s the cake knife? He remembers using its tip as a screwdriver to fix her alarm clock and then he threw it and the clock out the window. Any knife’ll do, even this paring joke. Enough cream and icing? Didn’t check if the record player’s working. A week’s wages he paid on the black market for the new Beatles Celebration album. Under the bed, with the dust bunnies. Twenty-three minutes.

Vanilla. Pink food colouring. Almost there, swirls, steps on the landing.

“Happy Birthday, Oriešok,” Mirko calls.

Andrew Stancek was born in Bratislava and saw Russian tanks occupying his homeland. His dreams of circuses and ice cream, flying and lion-taming, miracle and romance. His work has appeared recently in Tin House online, r.kv.r.y , The Linnet’s Wings, Connotation Press, THIS Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Chronicles, Istanbul Literary Review and Pure Slush.

~ ~ ~

Joyce Elwood-Smith, Ants


“No thanks.”

The queue waiting for coffee was long, she was lost in thought. Had anyone asked what she was thinking about, she may have said, nothing in particular, even though she was actually thinking about ants. They’d turned up one morning, in the pantry, moving in two straight lines, in opposite directions. Climbing up into the blue sugar bowl and staggering down the other side, with a grain of sugar. Their amazing strength of purpose and tenacity had impressed her.

“I’ve got ants too,” she’d told her daughter on the phone, “but they’re not the same as your ants.”

“How, do you do know?”

“Well, these ones have little pearl necklaces. They are definitely Cashmere ants!”

Her daughter, in hippy, alternative Lyttelton, had laughed on the other end of the phone.

“Does that mean Fendalton ants wear their collars up, on their Country Road shirts?”

They had laughed again, just a normal, jokey morning conversation, on a normal day to go to work. It had been a normal line of traffic over the normal looking river, sparkling under the willows. A normal office morning, and then, almost time for a normal lunch. Is sushi normal?

Much later, huddled with neighbours on the grassy slope, in front of their drunken homes, while the dust from collapsed city buildings turned red in the western sky, and while the ground continued to tremble, she had wondered about the ants.

Joyce Ellwood-Smith had her life turned upside down by the Christchurch earthquakes. Temporarily based in Wellington, she is occasionally house-sitting in Picton along with her golden retriever. The good thing is that she now has time to write, with blogs published on and a children’s historical novel in the works. She was also recently commended in the Poems in the Waiting Room competition.

~ ~ ~

Iggi Zhou, Sunday morning, 9am

It is morning. Breakfast involves coffee, black and brewed on the stovetop. She doesn’t take sugar; he takes two. She has her toast dry. He spreads his with a thick layer of butter.

It is Sunday. They used to have proper breakfasts on Sundays: eggs and sour grapefruit jelly, just-ripened avocados and Tabasco sauce.

The table has been newly cleared. He sits across from her, sugar bowl between them. She cuts a picture of a solitary figure, pen in her mouth. She frowns.

He leans over and brushes a curl off of her face; she flinches. He drums his fingers on the laminated tabletop, a waltz in triplet time.

She ignores this and returns to the crossword puzzle she had torn from yesterday’s daily, the discarded pages now sit idly in the recycling.

“What are you stuck on?” he asks.

“13 down. Another word for ‘monotony’. 7 letters.”


She scratches the letters one by one into the prescribed squares. She doesn’t look up.

“Ask me another.” He is saccharine but she concedes.

“15 across. Indisposition to motion, exertion or change.”

“Inertia,” he answers.

Silence sits in the air, thick like smoke. She feels like she’s trapped in quicksand, drowning in liquefied tar, molasses invading her nostrils.

Iggi Zhou is an illustrator and a writer of fiction and poetry. She hails from Melbourne, Australia and lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Her work has appeared in Vallum Magazine.

~ ~ ~

Rebecca Simons, No Sugar Coating

She stumbles to the bathroom, prickly haze like an old woollen blanket threatening to block her way. Blind groping finds the bowl. On her knees she lifts the seat before her throat convulses – the sweet bubbles from wine and chocolate rising in thin waves. Sweat scratches at skin. She claws hair back from her forehead and heaves again – the sticky mess catching in the ends. At first it had been a way to cope, to block out pain. Now she is tired – so tired. She grabs a handful of toilet paper and pushes herself back against the vanity. It had been a year since he left – his death leaving her alone. A year since she had smiled. A significant period of time for her to have moved on according to those friends she had left. But she doesn’t know how love can be measured by time. She blows her nose. What she does know is that if she lets this consume her there will be nothing. She pulls her knees in close to her chest and holds on tight. When she wakes it is still – dark – the sound of a sleeping city humming in the distance. Carefully she unwraps stiff limbs and using the vanity pulls herself to her feet. The wad of toilet paper drops to the floor. She picks it up, throws it in the bowl and flushes. Lights still off she reaches for the shower, turns it on till water steams and steps into the heat.

Rebecca Simons is an ex-office worker who discovered short story writing while enjoying a mid-life crisis. Although her university years were spent studying European languages and culture, she has found an even greater challenge in mastering the use of her maternal language, English, and hopes to continue with this challenge for many years to come.

~ ~ ~

Peter Adams, Sugar Bum Rush

He arrived after midnight. Even so the club was mostly empty, bar tables and stools in shadows, a dim pool of light on the waiting dance floor. The aroma of fried flying fish wafted in from the shack at the back. By the time a couple of shots had slid down his gullet like liquid fire, the club was filling up. He stood out, the only whitey, tall with blonde flowing hair.

He hoped she’d be there. They’d met earlier in the Museum of Calypso. He was writing an article on the origins of the music. As curator, she’d showed him around and also told him about the Salt and Pepper Club.

The floor was crowded with dark-skinned, swaying bodies. Then he saw her. Dark eyes, black opals, flashed him a look of such intensity that the rum in his gut nearly ignited. His eyes shone back, green. As they took the floor, fingers touching, a frisson of desire shivered through him. Lord Kitchener began, in his sing-song voice,

Audrey, where you get that sugar
Darling there is nothing sweeter

Nor sweeter, for sure, than our gently gyrating hips, he thought.

You make me scream, you make me bawl
You make me feel like ten foot tall…
he crooned.

She whispered back, “All the further to fall. Calypso research can be dangerous – are you ready?”

And the song reached its climax:

Give me the bum-bum, Audrey
Honey the bum-bum, Audrey
Sugar bum, sugar bum-bum.

Peter Adams won the PEN International first book of non-fiction award for Fatal Necessity, his book about the annexation of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi. After a career in international relations, and many bureaucratic documents later, he is trying the challenge of writing short fiction and poetry. Peter lives at the edge of Wellington harbour, which provides plenty of stimulus.

~ ~ ~

Neil Campbell, The Road to Eccles

I thought when someone was in love that was it. Seems I was wrong. She left me a load of her CDs so maybe that’s why I still love her.

I moved into the first half-decent looking flat I could find. It was fine except for the bellicose lesbians upstairs and the fact that I was on the ground floor. I heard the front door bang every time it closed. Morning and night I was woken by this closing door. I moved the bed to the furthest corner of the room and dragged the wardrobe over to where the bed had been. Then I piled as much stuff as I could into the wardrobe. It made no difference. The door woke me every morning at 6.55, 7.25 and 7.55. Add on ten minutes to each of those and you’ll get the train times into town.

I began to relieve my misery by eating Eccles Cakes. Not Chorley Cakes, Eccles Cakes. I preferred the pastry. They came in packets of four and at first I would only eat the occasional cake in company. Then I started to eat them on my own. Every Friday night I would eat all four, one after the other. I’d drag myself to bed alone and lie there stroking by bloated belly. One morning I woke on the floor with pastry all down my front. The night before I’d made my way through two packets while listening to Ladies of the Canyon.

Neil Campbell is from Manchester, England. He has two collections of short stories, Broken Doll and Pictures from Hopper, published by Salt, and two poetry chapbooks, Birds and Bugsworth Diary, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. His next chapbook of short fiction, Ekphrasis, is forthcoming from Knives, Forks and Spoons.

~ ~ ~

Helen Moat, The Cherry Orchard

The wicker basket scratched Meike’s leg as the farmer pulled the leather belt tight around her waist. She winced. But Michi felt only the faintest tug, the reeds tickling his skin soft as water. He rammed a loose strand into his flesh and watched the blood trickle down his thigh.

Meike climbed the wooden ladder leaning against the cherry tree. She picked the fruit, the dull thud of cherry on reed satisfying. Michi cocked his head to listen. When the wind dropped, he thought he could hear the fruit tap like raindrops on earth, but wasn’t sure. He slapped his ears.

Meike reached for a wine-red cherry, loving the warm flesh on her tongue; the burst of sweet-sour liquid on the roof of her mouth. Michi ate cherry after cherry, yearning for its taste, sensing a sugar rush.

“Hurry, Michi,” Meike chided him. “A storm’s brewing. Stop eating and fill your basket.” She looked anxiously at the blackening clouds now bruising the meadows below, the silver streak of the River Aare tarnishing grey in the half-light, the Alps dissolving beyond.

Michi, examining the veins of the cherry leaves, didn’t see the orchard on the hillside with the sky overhead – all shattered fragments, contours shifting and merging in the periphery of his eye.

The storm broke. Michi held his face up to the rain, feeling the cold hard water on his cheeks. The thunder drummed his ears. The lightning illuminated his world. For a moment he existed within it.

Helen Moat spent her childhood squished between siblings in her dad’s Morris Minor, travelling the length and breadth of Ireland. She’s still wandering… and writing about it. An established travel writer, she is now exploring the alien world of flash fiction. She likes the fact that she can create her own micro journeys and encounters. Helen uses strange names she finds on Peak District OS maps as a prompt for her pieces, and doubles up with other writers she admires on her website Double Espresso here:

~ ~ ~

Sushma Seth Bhat, The House of Dreams

It stood on a hill. The house of dreams was for sale. I saw myself on the corner of the balcony dressed in a white chiffon gown. My dress blew so gracefully around me in the gentle breeze. The ocean before me fused into the sky and I into both of them. I became the sweetness which dissolved in them to create the foam and the clouds.

Someone tapped on my shoulder. Why was he yelling? Why was he looking so concerned? He took hold of my shoulder and shook me slightly, “Lady, are you alright?”

He stood in front of the ‘For Sale’ sign obscuring the view of my house on the hill. I wanted to ask him to move and leave me in my dissolved state. Maybe he did not hear me. Maybe I never spoke, for shook me again and shouted, “Lady, where do you live? Can I take you home?”

Stupid man. Loud and stupid man. Could he not see that I was at home and he was disturbing me? Sadly, reluctantly, I was crystallizing into form again.

I looked vaguely into his face and sweetly thanked him for his concern and started walking because I know my way home.

Sushma Seth Bhat, PhD, was born in India and has lived in a number of countries. She made New Zealand her home over twenty years ago. Sushma originally wanted to be a journalist and writer, but instead had a long career in in the business world and academia. She has a couple of books and many academic papers to her credit, but is now returning to her original love – writing fiction.

~ ~ ~

Eileen Merriman, Jam

The table is set for three. Carrie pokes her knife into the jam jar, takes her hand away. She looks at Grandma to see if she has noticed, but she is standing at the bench, her back and neck set into hard, unyielding lines.

Carrie looks back at the jam. It is wriggling, as if in protest at her assault. She peers closer. The seeds are moving.

“Tommy was only sixteen.”

Carrie looks up. Grandpa is framed in the doorway. He is wearing a faded blue blazer with a row of medals across the left breast. Two of the buttons are missing.

“Sit down,” Grandma says. Chop chop chop goes her knife.

“His jaw was gone, but his eyes were still moving.”

Not more war talk, Carrie thinks.

Grandma says, “Not in front of the child.” Chopchopchop.

Grandpa’s watery blue eyes settle on Carrie.

“I should’ve finished him off… but I just couldn’t.”

Carrie takes the jam to Grandma. “There are ants in here.”

“That’s what I would have done if he was a dog.”

Grandma snatches the jam off her, whirls around. The jar explodes against the doorframe. “He. Was. Your. Son.

Grandpa’s lips move through the clots of jam oozing down the side of his face.

“He used my gun.” Glass fragments tinkle onto the linoleum. He blinks. “What’s for lunch?”

Grandma’s hands shake as she turns back to her carrots. Carrie tries to become very small, so they will forget she is there. It seems to work.

Eileen Merriman lives and works on the North Shore in Auckland. She is currently working on a book (fiction) and has recently completed a Creative Hub creative writing course. Her interests include reading, writing, running and the outdoors.

~ ~ ~

D R Jones, What little boys are made of

We’re at Aaron’s place, in his brother’s sleepout, cramped, musty, like a confessional box.

“Father Herlihy knows,” I say.

“Father Curly Pubey, eh?” Aaron flashes a picture from the Hustler he’s thumbing.

“Yeah. Was hoping for an Angelus,” I draw deeply on a Rothmans. “Got slammed with The Rosary,” I say, exhaling. “Grandma again.”

Aaron sighs.

“Found her in the hall. Starkers.”

“Like this,” Aaron jokes, flipping to the centrefold.

“Taking a leak on the floor. I put a pile of shoes outside the toilet. She thinks she can’t step over them. I mean, she should be in Sunnyside.”

Aaron says, “But –”

“Sucks getting old. Bent, limpy,” I say, looking up. “Tits to your tummy.”

“Not like this,” Aaron snickers, showing a topless model.

“She doesn’t remember me any more. Thinks I’m a war veteran.”

Aaron says, “That’s kinda sad, you –”

“Pffft…” I say, “Last week, right, I overfill the sugar bowl so the spoon’s buried. She makes such a mess, shaking, spilling it everywhere.”

Aaron says, “Dude, that’s –”

“Cracked Janey up. I got belted. Worth it though…”

“How is your sister?” Aaron asks, displaying a page. I punch his arm, hard.

“…except now mum and dad are talking shrinks as if I should visit Sunnyside. It’s their fault, her living with us. They think I’m messed up. Father Herlihy just thinks I’m an arsehole.”

“Mike, you are an arsehole,” Aaron says.

“Am not,” I say, flicking the burning butt up the leg of his Stubbies.

D R Jones is a writer who lives near Puhoi. He has just finished writing the unauthorised autobiography of Anonymous_Author© and has pledged to write using his real name until the fictional literary voice he created has its memoirs published. Patently, judging by the book’s description, he may be submitting as D R Jones for some time.

~ ~ ~

Angelique Praat, Pause

Rafe had changed in the fifteen years since Emma had last seen him. A wisp of silver hair had conquered his sooty curls and he’d waved away the sugar she’d nudged in his direction; he who had been the staunchest Chelsea supporter the department had ever seen. She watched him bring his coffee to his lips. He paused to inhale. Ah, she remembered that pause. Into those pauses she had spilled the contents of her life: boyfriends, mouldy flats, the torture of clinical training.

Around them conversations flickered and chairs shrieked on the wooden floors while the coffee machine ground into their silence. It was his turn. Silence, she knew, was his preferred tactic, but she’d learned a thing or two.

She smiled.

He raised an eyebrow.

She tilted her head.

He put down his cup.

She linked her hands together on the table and leaned towards him.

“What did you get for Christmas?” he asked.

It was May.

She slumped back into her chair but decided to play along.

“We don’t really do Christmas presents for us – just the kids. No church either. Dad would turn in his grave – heathen grandchildren.”

He smiled and nodded. “I got cancer for Christmas.” He raised his cup, paused.

“Bloody Santa. I’ll be sending him a stern letter,” she said, wincing even as the words left her mouth.

Angelique Praat is a social researcher and business writer based in Wellington. Fiction writing is her not-so-guilty pleasure squeezed into the 26th and 27th hour of the day.


~ ~ ~

Carrie Beckwith, See you next trip

Grandma sits in the overhead.

She’s made the journey every year for 20 years. More if you count Pete’s wedding, Uncle Joe’s 80th and Aunt May’s dementia. She’d pull the fluorescent pink suitcase from under the bed: easiest to spot on the carousel!

Grandma divided her life between two places, like she had two homes, either end of the earth. Never said goodbye, just see you next trip – her comings and goings a regular part of our UK family’s lives.

She’d taken me a few times. Me a little scared to leave New Zealand, she supping champagne, down the hatch. Stuffing me with barley sugars to make my ears pop.

I asked her once which was home and she smiled: “As usual you’ve hit the nail on the head!”

We were pretty well tuned Grandma and me, we shared secret jokes. Like with Uncle Shine asking how’s your didgeridoo? – still convinced we lived in Aussie not NZ. And cousin Jamie, wide-eyed as we told tales of earthquakes, bushfires and ski fields that looked down to the Pacific. Grandma would smile and wink my way. Gotcha, Grandma.

No surprises that she left me the pink suitcase and the decision, of course. I knew that she couldn’t choose between one place or the other.

Trust your gut, she’d say.

“Ready for take-off.” I popped another barley.

I’d already farewelled half her ashes. The other half of Grandma is in the overhead. Last trip home.

Carrie Beckwith is from Stratford-upon-Avon and loves to write on the back of envelopes, in traffic jams, in the middle of the night. She’s a student at the Hagley Writers’ Institute and works freelance as a marketing consultant and copywriter. She’s currently working on poems and short stories.

~ ~ ~

Lisa McKenzie, Canes

The mother gathered up the candy lei from graduation and put them in the fridge. The ants would seek them out, otherwise. They would work their way into the sticky folds of the plastic wrap and gorge themselves on the sugar. Everything sweet had to go in the fridge.

She started to peel the breadfruit. The screen door slammed. Her husband and Ana were heading out to the canes. It was their Saturday night ritual. He said the canes needed tending, and his step-daughter should learn how.

Her knife carved wide paths onto the flesh of the breadfruit. The mother tried to make sure that the paths did not overlap, but she wasn’t always successful.

The screen door banged again, much later. She looked up with a smile. The man of the house entered first. She noticed the large moons of sweat under his arms and the moisture on top of his thick upper lip. He smiled.

“She’s a good little worker.”

The mother looked to her daughter. Ana was standing oddly, one arm wrapped around her waist, one holding out her gift. A piece of sugar cane.


She tried to meet her daughter’s eyes, but she could not find them.

The mother took the offering. She saw that her husband’s machete had hacked off the thick skin at the tip. She chewed on the coarse white fibres and spat them into the sink almost instantly, mangled and dry.

The burst of sweetness had already gone.

Lisa McKenzie lives in Christchurch with her husband and young son. She is a student at the Hagley Writers’ Institute and greatly relishes her free time in the evenings to develop her writing.

~ ~ ~

Cecilia Fitzgerald, Lollipops

Serena waits nervously. Would anyone turn up? She has stuck up all 108 flyers the old-fashioned way: on lampposts, supermarket noticeboards and at the university.

Sugar Addicts Club. Are you addicted to sugar? Want to quit? 4pm, Saturday.

At 3.50 Serena goes to lie down. Soon she hears a call pull up, park. Then another. Doors opening and slamming. The plink of automatic car door locks. More cars. Muffled voices. A nervous giggle. Steps. A knock at the door. Serena holds her breath. Another knock.

Serena counts silently to ten. Then she flies, off the bed, down the hall. She opens the door in a rush.

Seven anxious people stand on the terrace.

“Hello, hello, come in, come in…”

More people arrive… two mothers with embarrassed, resentful-looking daughters.

The eleven people just fit in the lounge. The meeting begins.

There is a flash of colour by the window, coming to the door. A small knock.

“Ah, my lucky number twelve.”

Serena throws open the door with a big smile. On the doorstep stands an exceptionally large woman, naked except for a collection of strategically placed giant lollipops.

A giant lollipop covers her face. It is Sellotaped to her forehead. Two holes have been gouged out for her blood-shot grey-green eyes. The woman sticks out a blubbery hand. A soft voice, in best Queen’s English, muffled by lollipop, says, “Hi, I am Jillian. I really hope I’ve got the right place. Is this the SAC?”

Cecilia Fitzgerald lives in Christchurch, still waiting for earthquake repairs and remembering vividly striding through the Ashburton Domain, not knowing if she would ever be able to live in her home again, if her family would survive, if she could get bread or petrol and a voice booming in her head Alright, alright, alright, I will be a writer.

~ ~ ~

Bruce Costello, Cloud Nine

Arnold scooped out a hollow for his body, fluffed up a cushion for his head and lay back in the cloud with a look of serene unconcern.

He glanced up as a shadow fell across him.

A woman landed, rocking the cloud.

“Sorry,” she said.

“Sweet as. I’m Arnold.”

“I’m Serena, honey.” She folded her wings. “Have you heard the rumours?”

Arnold nodded slowly.

“What do you think?” asked Serena.

“Everything’s laid on here so we don’t have to think and we feel only contentment.”

“They say some here are feeling…other emotions.” Serena smoothed her blond hair. “Like when we were alive.”

“God forbid.”

Serena smiled sweetly at him, and her slender fingers reached out to touch his arm.

He stepped back, but his eyes were on her breasts.

She advanced on him with little sighs, her tongue licking the corners of her mouth.

Unthinkable thoughts arose in Arnold’s mind and forbidden feelings wracked his body.

He took off his wings.


Two bodies moving as one, Arnold and Serena fell through the bottom of the cloud and were obliterated on impact with Earth.

“Where the hell am I?”

The cry arose from the last atom of Arnold just before flames engulfed his soul.

Bruce Costello semi-retired from his profession in 2010, retreated from city to seaside village, joined the Waitaki Writers’ Group and took up writing to avoid housework. Since then he has had three dozen short stories published in literary journals and popular magazines in five countries. He still does housework.

~ ~ ~

Celine Gibson, The Taster

Anna places the tray before him, waits. The man clicks his fingers. Anna fishes a cake fork from her apron, slices off a tidbit, puts it into her mouth, chews and swallows.

She regrets the smidgen of cream she cannot savour.

The man pulls out a fob watch. He grows an erection…which soon deflates. The man sighs.

Anna tongs five cubes of sugar into the man’s tea, stirs, then draws a measure up into a dropper to release down her throat.

The man brightens again, licks his lips between eyeing Anna and the ticking minutes. He raises his left buttock; a volley of farts ricochet against leather.

Anna is polite. She doesn’t laugh.

Anna doesn’t die.

A fist is clenched, unclenched. A thumb indicates the door. Anna bows, backs across black marble tiles, vacates his space. She’s marched down corridors by booted minders.

One of the minders says something rude about Anna’s great-grandmother and tells Anna she’s bleeding from her bum. She hears him laughing as he locks her in her room.

She perches on her bed, puzzles over her damp, uncomfortable bottom. She picks up her rag-doll to cuddle. The man whose food she tries every day stares from a photo on the wall. Anna worries about him. She thinks her rag-doll should too.

“Imagine…five sugars in five teas. That’s twenty-five sugars per day, Mitzi! Poor Herr Hitler must spend an awful lot of time at the murder house.”

Celine Gibson shares her home with her husband (a bagpiping fiend) and two cats. Writing is her first love, followed by gardening, baking and painting – when time allows.


~ ~ ~

Lindsay Woodlocke, Coffee Wins

“Do keep the golden syrup away from the eggs,” I called, as my husband loaded groceries into our car. He assured me all was safe, so I grabbed my elbow-crutches and threaded my arms into them. Once we had the weekly shopping stashed, we’d wobble off to our favourite café.

Suddenly I felt the gaze of a woman approaching on my right. Fiftyish, sleekly coiffured, carefully made-up, wearing high heels and the smartest of designer label clothing. Like so many nameless, faceless women who shopped in this upmarket mall.

“Which hip is it?” demanded the stranger. Bluntly. “Or is it both hips?” She had paused on the path and was studying me inquisitively, head to one side, pencilled eyebrows arching into question marks.

Before I could collect myself to reply, she persisted. “Or is it a knee? Both knees?”

I managed to smile and answered as politely as I could. “It’s neither, actually. It’s a muscle disease.”

Her face fell. She spluttered something foolishly apologetic about needing a hip replacement shortly.

I didn’t wait to hear the details. Standing answering questions has no charm when you’re dependent on crutches.

I needed coffee. Right away. With extra sugar.

Lindsay Woodlocke comes from Dunedin and shares a large suburban garden with resident family and three cats. Recently retired from teaching, Lindsay enjoys the challenge of writing flash fiction and, when not writing, might sometimes be found learning Mandarin, sculpting or taking tap-dancing classes.


~ ~ ~

John Richmond, “Yes! Sugar!”

Days after he received a Chemcraft chemistry set for his tenth birthday – and after having done every experiment in the manual – the boy sat there, disappointed, with nothing left to do. Then, he found a chemistry book in the attic.

The book was old; the pages were yellow. But the page that caught his attention was the one about how to make gunpowder.

The only equipment needed was a graduated cylinder. A quick check of the manual revealed that he could order the cylinder.

Next came the ingredients: sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal. He knew that he had bottles of the first two in his set, and his father had charcoal in the garage, but he knew that he’d need more.

Then, one day, he was amazed to discover that the neighborhood drugstore sold sulfur and saltpeter in sizeable quantities. Now, all he had to do was to pulverize the charcoal, which, admittedly, was a slow process.

Yet, the boy persisted and eventually filled a couple of one ounce bottles with gunpowder.

Weeks later – in the chemistry book – he found an appendix that listed substances by their common and scientific names. There were three substances listed as “carbon”. First was charcoal, next came diamonds and finally the third substance was… sugar.

“Yes! Sugar!” he proclaimed, excitedly.

Well, with this breakthrough it only took days for his gunpowder production to go from ounces to gallons, all of which sat on the shelves of his laboratory – in the basement – just waiting.

John Richmond “hangs” with his coonhound buddy, Roma, and most recently has appeared in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Riverbabble, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Embodied Effigies, ken*again, Black & White, SNReview, The Round, The Potomac, Syndic Literary Journal, Ygdrasil (Canada), Slow Trains and Forge Journal, and is forthcoming in From The Depths, The Writing Disorder and Kerouac’s Dog Magazine (UK).

~ ~ ~

Jane Swan, Sweet As

Freddie ‘Fingers’ Ferguson took a step forward. “Now listen girls, and listen well.”

He ran a grimy finger under the collar of his shirt – an alien garment reserved for High Days and Holidays. “We only have an inspection once a year and we will get our license renewed.”

He stared at the dwarf hanging upside down from the clothing rack among the spangles, lace and feathers of the dancers’ costumes. “Won’t we, Dolly?”

“Boss,” she grunted, giggled and flipped to her feet.

Chloe, the tattooed stripper – at home in my skin, she always said – smirked and whispered to her tiny friend.

“What’s that?” Freddie shouted.


The Irish Wolfhound on the sofa yawned.

“And get that mutt outside.”

“This inspector, Fred,” Chloe said, unclipping the tassles from her nipple rings. “What’s he want? Apart from what they all want.”

Freddie ran his hand over his bald head. “Jeez, do I have to spell it out? A clean, tidy dressing room, so scrub that basin. Toilet. Floors. And tidy up this make-up shit. It smells like a friggin’ brothel in here.”

“Hell,” Dolly whined. “The whole bloody city’s either an inland sea or a crevasse since the MegaShock. You’d think they’d ease up on the few of us left hanging by the fingernails.”

“Rules is rules,” said Freddie.

“OK. OK.”

Chloe pulled on the rubber cleaning gloves, not the performance pair. She sighed. “Sweet as.”

Jane Swan’s house and garden run wild because she spends time daydreaming and writing. She is newsletter editor for the Waitaki Writers’ Group. Successes include two Radio New Zealand stories and others published in local and daily newspapers, Alfie Dog Ltd and Essentially Food. She has also been highly commended in the Heartland Short Story Competition and short-listed in the Sunday Star Times competition.


~ ~ ~

Angela Atkins, The Bust

The little kid stood screaming in the middle of the park. He was four or five, blonde hair, tiny fists clenched at his side. I had to admire the sense of abandon, to stand red face scrunched, snot bubbling down your chin and just bellow.

I looked around. Couldn’t see any parent-types.

I didn’t know anything about kids. Never really came into contact with them.

But there was no-one else around to help.

So I went over to him. He had a good pair of lungs on him. The noise was all-consuming.

“Hey, stop crying. It’ll be okay,” I tried. No use.

I rummaged through my coat. I had a packet of sugar. It was the only thing approaching appropriate.

“Have you ever had a sugar lion?” I asked, desperate.

He stopped crying, looked up at me and shook his little head. I knelt down.

“Hold out your hands flat”. I tore open the packet and carefully sprinkled out a lion shape on his palms. “Are you going to eat him before he eats you?” I said and growled. The boy laughed and carefully bent to lick it off.

“Get away from him! What drugs are you giving him?” A woman ran across the park, screaming. I backed away and she grabbed the boy’s hands and wiped them. She glared at me, disgust on her face.

As she dragged him away, the little boy looked back over his shoulder at me and roared.

Angela Atkins is the author of two best-selling NZ business books: Management Bites and Employment Bites. She is the General Manager of Elephant Training and HR and has written many HR articles and blogs. Her true passion is writing novels, but she has found flash fiction much quicker! For more about Angela or to get in touch visit

~ ~ ~

Kay Meyer, Sweetener

“I must have that, I said, didn’t I Hamish?”

“Yes, you –”

“When I saw it in the exhibition. That sweet little chair, just right for the lounge, I said. Took us a week to track you down, though. Hamish had to offer the young man on the front desk a bribe!”

“Incentive, Caroline, they’re called –”

“What’s your price for it? Now that the exhibition’s over.”

“If I sell it this soon, the gallery will blacklist me.”

“How would they find out? Anyway, it wouldn’t be this chair exactly. We want you to make us another one like it.”

“It’s intended to be unique.”

“Of course. It’s very unique. That’s why I want it.”

“I meant: ‘unique’ as in one-off. Like a…an Old Master.”

“A what? Well, I don’t see a problem. We’d like some small changes. Not mahogany. Rosewood, I thought.”

“Ah, what people mean by rosewood –”

“To match our coffee table. And this prettier fabric for the upholstery.”
“Peach wasn’t quite the statement I –”

“Then there’s the design of the, what do you call it, inlay?”


“A bit trendy for us. Something more traditional: scroll-y things, perhaps? Or leaves.”


“Yes, that sounds nice.”

“It might help if you could tell me what you do like about it!”

“Well… its shape. Generally. And we’d want two.”

“Look, I imagine you think you’re making this deal more…palatable, but –”

“Of course we’d expect a discount, wouldn’t we, Hamish? As we’d be ordering a pair.”

Kay Meyer writes and paints by the shores of Wellington harbour. Both her parents were lively raconteurs but she owes her love of fiction to the many stories her father made up for her as a child, stories that, sadly, were never recorded. Kay didn’t set out to write short fiction, but now that she’s doing it, she finds the genre beguiling and challenging. The novel she’s currently working on isn’t the one she had in mind. She intends to stumble on with both short and longer fiction in the hope of further happy accidents.

~ ~ ~

Carol Burrows, The Sugarholic

Coffee swims around the pottery bowl, silver fern fronds floating, frantically clinging to the surface. Squiggles of coloured paper, brown, blue and white, protrude from a white container. Fingering the white one, rubbing it between sweaty fingers. Sugar?

Writing so small my myopic eyes cannot decipher. Salt? A ghastly thought. I pick up the blue. This is too firm, feels like tooth picks. Try the brown. May be a sugar substitute!

I gingerly open the brown. A white substance escapes and I lick my fingers. Ah! Sticky, sweet, debilitating, dangerous sugar. Pour the sweet nectar into my drink disturbing the fern, and stir the liquid.

Home again. Cleanse my spotty face of concealing make-up, lower my obese body into the bath and place my overflowing champagne glass carefully alongside a delicious box of chocolates. Contemplate my ravished body, each mouthful of sugar, cake or sweets appears forever on my hips, testimony to my delightfully, naughty indulgences.

A sugarholic. Time for my daily fix; blood sugar’s dropped alarmingly, hands shake and brow sweats. I stuff my gummy mouth, teeth long ago rotted, with glorious soft peppermint creams and wash them down with champagne.

I satisfy my cravings and the juices flow as I lie here indulging myself, picturing those sexy, sweat-covered men who slash the sugar canes, dodging the snakes and rats, with the blades of their knives. Burn cane burn. Fill the air with sickly, sweet perfume and keep the sugar coming.

Carol Burrows is a 77-year-young-at-heart nana and great-grandmother many times over who has always had a great interest in writing. She lived on the Gold Coast Australia for twelve years, where she belonged to a fantastic writing group and was a member of Writers at the Fair on the Coast. Her work has been published in several anthologies. She is a member of SIWA, the Airing Cupboard Woman’s Poetry group and Toastmasters – helpful when it comes to having to read her work.

~ ~ ~

Janet Pates, Sugar and Spice

She could have gone back to work after her medical appointment, but today she didn’t feel like a career woman. Instead, she went home. Someone had left a bag of apples at the door. She put them on the bench and went to the cold and empty bedroom to change. She was tempted to curl up under the duvet but knew if she did, she’d still be there when John came home. She didn’t want that, wasn’t ready for his sympathy or his pain.

Back in the kitchen, she tipped out the apples. Golden delicious. They would cook beautifully. John was always going on about his mother’s apple pie. Well, how hard could it be?

She set a sheet of frozen pastry to thaw. John wouldn’t know the difference. She peeled and sliced the apples, layered them into the dish, then sprinkled them with sugar and a dusting of cinnamon.

Sugar and spice and all things nice. Or how about slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails? Savoury instead of sweet. Either would be fine. Just imagine; mix up the ingredients, pop them in the oven, and with a bit of luck…

Soon John would come home to a house warm and fragrant with sugar and spice. They would linger over dinner, finish off with apple pie and cream. Then she would be ready to talk; about hopes and fears, luck and last chances; talk about trying the IVF recipe.

Janet Pates lives in the small town of Tuakau, near the mouth of the Waikato River. She writes for children and for adults, she writes fiction and non-fiction, the latter with an emphasis on local history. In between times, she is trying to create an interesting memoir out of a singularly ordinary life. Janet Pates was placed first in the 2012 National Flash Fiction Day competition.


~ ~ ~

Raewyn Alexander, Quick

Blue and green scrawls dancing in mind, tangles of idea ribbons. But she truly wants a summer walk, each with a strawberry ice cream, and laughter. This seems trite, but she doesn’t care.

Her name’s Charity; however, she gives herself almost no time away from wishing.

Tired, she imagines impossibly striding across the wide ocean between him and her, then opening his door. A trail behind her of water. He’d ask if her tail had just transformed into legs.

They’d laugh.

It appears briefly possible, as easy as ordering a Piña Colada in a bar.

In bed, Charity reads a book the size of two bricks. One day, she tells herself, I’ll stop falling for crazy men. Why do I want this kind of punishment? And why do I think in clichés and band names?

He’s mysterious, probably from insecurity. But also, Charity imagines he’s set up a game she’ll probably lose and he’ll laugh about. A toy for his amusement? It’s wise to get out now, surely?

Their emails, as original as sin, and sometimes as alarming. What happens next? She can’t imagine.

Charity reads, hoping her feelings will disappear between lines, or become a better story. Something never bitter.

She falls asleep and dreams of cane fields, burning.

When she awakens, he’s sent an email. She trembles, bites into honey on toast.

Can’t wait…

Lost in a pile of words, like magnetic poetry fallen off the fridge. Sweet chaos, a rush of energy.

Raewyn Alexander is a novelist, poet, reviewer and short story and non-fiction writer, who works as a lecturer. Her third novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends – An Imaginary Memoir was launched by Brightspark Books in 2014. Follow her second Poetic Tour to America here. Random House feature Alexander in their upcoming 150 Essential New Zealand Poems anthology, and her work is often placed highly in competitions. Read more here and also here.

~ ~ ~

Helen O’Leary, Crumbs

The musty smell of mouse greeted Charmaine as she pushed open the door with her hip. She dumped her lunch on the bench nearest the radiator – mince pie, chips and a coke. Settling on a stool, Charmaine eagerly bit into the pie; a glob of gravy slid down her blazer.

“You know you’re not supposed to be in here at lunchtime.”

Mr Edwards set a cardboard box down on the bench, brushed off some pastry flakes and wiped his hands on his rumpled corduroy trousers.

“Sorry sir, I was just… I needed somewhere to… away from…”

“It’s alright, I like it in here too, when it’s empty.”

Charmaine watched him unpack small packets of powders into a locked cabinet under the mouse cage. Straightening, he pushed back his glasses, stroked his straggling moustache and smiled.

“Well, Charmaine, maybe I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

Mr Edwards was there most days, wiping down the benches, poking at the paper stuffed down the sinks. As he worked he’d tell Charmaine about his childhood, and his mother who’d died last year. He missed her baking, so every Sunday he made one of her favourites.

Over chocolate smothered afghans Mr Edwards asked Charmaine what she wanted to do when she left school.

Sharing chewy anzacs he asked her what she was passionate about.

Licking the icing from the middle of ginger kisses he asked her who she would die for.

As she picked at the crumbs of a moist banana cake, he touched her breast.

Helen O’Leary would rather write than work, is learning to row – and the wind in Wellington drives her to distraction. She believes that meat is murder and that a Lotto win is just around the corner.


~ ~ ~

Alex Reece Abbott, Something Sweet to Finish

A story is like life, like a meal – get to the end.

Carefully. Daily. Sweet, sweet mealtimes. Last course. He’s got the sweet teeth.

Cold pudding, he likes.

Always eats the lot. Something sweet to finish.

Bands of dough cling to his stained teeth. “Struck it lucky with you, doll…got some more?” He slaps me on the arse.

Tonight, his man-handling can’t touch me.

Flakes of my golden phyllo pastry fleck his wobbling, crimson jowls. Stabbing his empty plate, he licks the crumbs from his fat fingers.

“This… whaddoyacallit-where-you-come-from, love?”

I shrug. “Special dessert. English…no. Sorry.”

Hard eyes rove my body. Custard oozes like pus from corners of his mouth. “Almond’s got a real kick, dunnit?”

I smile and pray I haven’t been heavy-handed. But still, he believes he’s tasting almond.

He burps loud and long. “’Scuse I. Custard’s gorgeous. Could eat this from here to Kingdom Come.”

No need to tell him he’s a prophet.

He smacks his greasy cinnamon and sugar dusted lips. “Strong almonds tonight, almost bitter.”

“Plenty more.”

I bring a platter. This time each little bougatsa glistens with manuka honey to mask the almond flavour.

He frowns.

“Honey – sweeter for you,” I coax.

“Too kind.” He winks. “You know what I like.”

It should be served warm, but he doesn’t know. I serve it cold. How I like it.

I never came here to be treated like this.

He posts every sugary, creamy parcel into his gaping mouth.

Not long now.

Then, all gone.

A New Zealand-Irish writer, published by the Katherine Mansfield Society and in assorted anthologies like Take Tea with Turing and Journeys & Places. She has been nominated for Short Story Awards and was the winner of the Arvon Prize, CWA Debut Dagger Opening Lines and Liars’ League, and short-listed for various prizes, including the Bridport. Her first novel, The Maori House, was shortlisted for several prizes, and Rocking the Boat has been long-listed for 2014 CWA Debut Dagger.

Posted in June 2014

April 2014: SCATTERED

bunny tails

Hare’s tails by Leanne Radojkovich

Photograph by Leanne Radojkovich, an Auckland writer and artist also highlighted this month on our Current Interview page, where she discusses experimenting with new media and sharing her work in unexpected ways with delightful results. You can find more at her website too.


~ ~ ~

Mike Crowl, Shells

One minute the shells were in her hand. Then, in a sudden stumble, were scattered on the beach. Amongst hundreds of similar shells.

The collecting had been taking place all day. The older brothers and sisters had chided her for it, told her that as soon as she got home Mum would throw the shells out, just as she always did. Before the child had even forgotten about them.

This collection was particular. Each shell had some individual feature that connected with the rest. This was a connected collection, she insisted. Her oldest brother sneered at her use of big words. Did she even know what she was talking about? He laughed at her and then, with his six sleek teenage mates, raced to the waves, crashed into them in an upturned waterfall.

She stared at the shells, trying to see which ones had been hers.

A dog, one of those long-haired bouncing dogs oblivious to what they’re trampling underfoot, came rushing in amongst the family, shouted at by its owners further along the beach, shouted and shooed away by the rest of the family, raced after by Danny with joyful hilarity.

The shells were now obscured by sand, mixed thoroughly with shells that hadn’t found favour.

She refused to cry. And who would have noticed if she had? Tears were disregarded even when cuts and falls and breaks occurred.

She gazed at the sand, the shells.

And picked up the first.

The second.

The third.

Mike Crowl is a Dunedin writer, musician and composer in his late sixties. In January this year he published an e-book called Grimhilda! – a fantasy for children and their parents. A second e-book, Diary of a Prostate Wimp, which deals with his experiences of going through a prostate biopsy and its aftermath, will be published in early May.

~ ~ ~

Emma Shi, Kalos

They taught you how to breathe. They shaped out your lungs and you practised inhalation and exhalation, over and over again, so much that they nicknamed you Aphrodite and lined your heart with gold. But you kept staring at the sun until your eyes burned and till all you saw was white light, like a poisonous heaven. So they scolded you, taped the night over your eyes, and you sat there motionless for hours, staring at a pool of metal not unlike the one in your lungs. Not unlike the tasteless sun.

They scattered your heart away later that night. Ripped half of it from your chest and turned it into dusty confetti till your pulse points felt like emptiness. You told them about stars and they scoffed, twisted your veins until they dulled into silence, and all the blood stuck together like glue.

Stop looking, they said, you’re turning your heart into a stomach ache. Like they knew how it felt to have near miss after near miss graze your skin, spill blood onto the cracks in the floor. So you sat there with a plane ticket in your pocket and when they decided it was time to teach you to sing, you ripped silver from the wallpaper and wrote down all the scattered pieces. Italy. France. Anywhere. And you stuck them onto your lungs for someday, one day, when you’d finally be brave enough to run away.

Emma Shi was the winner of the 2013 National Schools Poetry Award and is currently studying at Victoria University of Wellington.

~ ~ ~

Daphne Claire de Jong, A Story about a Marriage

She carried roses at their wedding. Creamy-centred white, lushly perfumed, the thorns removed.

After the reception she placed the bouquet on her mother’s grave.
On their first anniversary he gave her roses, but in other years he forgot.

When she had their first baby – a boy – he presented her with a mixed bouquet; carnations, gypsophila and fern, and three rosebuds just opening, with no scent.

The three girls’ births merited a box of chocolates. She understood, knew he didn’t understand her.

The children grew up and left for other towns, other countries, occasionally alighting like restless butterflies at home before flitting off again.

For their twenty-fifth anniversary their daughters arranged a family party and he gave her an eternity ring. After several glasses of wine he insisted on the two of them dancing, and it was like being newly engaged, laughing as they danced, looking into each other’s eyes, loving each other in that all-sparks-and-stars way the young believe that only they can.

Sparks and stars fade, and sometimes he and she irritated each other, snapped and sniped, but they laughed at the same things, worried about the children, and made love in leisurely, sweet passion, rekindling tiny lights that never quite died.

The children flew home for his funeral, then parted again one by one.

She placed roses on his grave. A creamy white bouquet. When they wilted she pulled the petals and scattered them over the bare hump of earth.

Daphne Clair de Jong, author of almost 80 romantic and historical novels published worldwide, is a past winner of the Katherine Mansfield BNZ Short Story Award and other awards, has had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines and anthologies, and some poetry in literary magazines. She also tutors writing in nearly all genres and runs the world-famous-in-New Zealand Kara School of Writing and Karaveer Writers’ Retreat at her home in rural Northland. Find out more here.

~ ~ ~

Kate Mahony, Red

Every day when I go to the market with my sister to buy oranges and freshly baked bread, I see little Mohammed. He plays in the street near his grandmother’s stall. He has a cheeky face, and large brown eyes. He wears a bright purple shirt and khaki trousers. Sometimes he pretends he is a soldier. He marches up and down. When he was born, there was something wrong. One of his small arms hangs limp, like a dead weight.

This day, I say hello to Mohammed. His grandmother sells old toys that have been scavenged from the rubble of homes around the city. Sometimes they are still in their boxes and the plastic is dirty and discoloured.

The fruit at the market today is speckled and unhealthy-looking but I take some anyway. I buy nuts and dates as well. My sister and I turn back along the street. There is a loud noise. I pull at my sister and drag her towards an alleyway. We shelter, she tightly against me. Bang, bang, bang.

I hear screams, wailing, screams again. Men in heavy black boots run away through the alley, knocking my shopping bag. The nuts are scattered on the ground.

Silence. I take my sister’s hand and edge out onto the street again. I see a flash of purple and a splash of red.

Mohammed’s lifeless little hand lies on the ground, and where his face should be is just red, red, red.

Kate Mahony has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, Wellington. Her fiction has been published in Best New Zealand Fiction Vol 6, Turbine, Takahē, International Literary Quarterly, Tales for Canterbury, Blackmail Press, Blue Fifth Review, Blue Crow Magazine and 4th Floor Literary Journal.

~ ~ ~

Lorraine Carmody, Scattered Lives

All day I thought of Uncle Vic heading home, his legs long in the stirrups, hat crooked, cigarette hanging. I saw the dust shroud, the upturned stones, and shiny railway tracks. Hustling Māori hens and fantails might spook the mare; the Greymouth railcar’s rearing head could make her cold-backed. Vic would stroke her chestnut neck, saying, “It’s OK, girl. It’s OK.”

At Hukarere, Vic might spot Hec Paterson at his farm gate, staring up the road. Vic would remember his best mate, Hec’s son Jack, killed by the Japs in 1942. Hec might nod. Vic would tip his hat.

In the shadow of Waimaunga’s Catholic Church, Vic could catch a glimpse of Moira O’Malley (née Conaghan), haloed in her doorway, cursing at her freckled brood. He’d recall once asking her for a dance and his mother’s swift rebuke: “Stick to your own kind.” Moira might turn away. Vic would sigh.

At midday, Vic would halt outside the Mawheraiti Hotel with its solid door and painted windows. Later he’d appear, whistling, and remount, dodging possum carcasses, flat-back trucks and tongue-lolling dogs — ears flat, looking back. Vic would shout.

Before town, Vic would cross the bridge, the horse’s shoes echoing above the loudmouth river. On paved streets he’d divert past Pete Williams’s place. Betsy Williams would run long fingers through strawberry-blonde hair, a wedding ring gleaming in the afternoon light. Vic would wink.

It’d be late when Vic got home.

“How was your day?” I’d say.

“Pretty uneventful,” he’d answer.

Lorraine Carmody lives on a 4-hectare lifestyle block at the northern end of Canterbury’s Greendale fault line with her husband, three teenage daughters and six horses. She’s a former press communities journalist and is in the second year of the Hagley Writers’ Institute course.

~ ~ ~

Nod Ghosh, Simon

The woman bunches up billowing clouds of shirts and trousers. She irons with a steel will, knocking out stubborn creases. She cannot take rumpled shirts to the charity shop. The incessant ironing does nothing to revoke the flatness of her life. She forces her feet into tattered pumps, takes the wash basket outside. On the line, coloured sails take the wind captive then release it, defeated. She pulls the pegs and a clutch of bras falls out of her hand, tangled promiscuous serpents. B-cup-headed cobras, in beige and white.

Simon misfiled his will between “Planning” and “Plumbing”. He’d been dead a week before she found it.

We were meant to go together. You said you’d wait for me, and I for you. Yet you crossed over without a thought. There’s less of me left now. You can see the light shining through the gaps between my bones. How could you leave? She smacks away a tear. The wind whips up a tattoo and slaps her, as she tugs the basket indoors.

The document sits on the table, next to a ring from yesterday’s coffee. She passes her finger over the solemn words. Give the whole of my estate to my wife… As she unravels its meaning, one thing is clear. Simon has made no provision for what matters most. She searches the pages again. There is nothing to tell her how to find him. Nothing to show her what happens to the soul when the body disintegrates and scatters.

Nod Ghosh is a student at Hagley Writers’ Institute, Christchurch. Her short stories or poems have appeared in Takahē, Penduline, Christchurch Press and previously at Flash Frontier.

~ ~ ~

Patricia Deavoll, The Mad-Woman

The mad-woman comes in spring. She’s there one day, amongst the scatter of naïve-green bushes on the village rim. Cackling like a chook. The villagers are wary, for mad-women bring ill-portion. And she’s dirty, smells bad. They turn away, hope she goes.

But Mehshed, the mayor, is troubled. What should he do? As a good Muslim, give her shelter in the corral with the goats? Or chase her off, to please the villagers. He doesn’t know.

Summer arrives and the land is golden. The mad-woman is still in the bushes, which are dusty and crisp. Small boys chuck stones at her, scattering gleeful at her harried yelps. Women, pausing at kitchen doors, see her dancing in the white heat of noon.

One day in autumn, men come to Mehshed’s house. The bushes glow copper now, the air sharp.

Sir, we must drive her off, with sticks and dogs, they say.

But in Allah’s eyes she is our sister, Mehshed replies.

She is a witch, she’ll bring a bad winter.

That’s an old wives’ tale.

Mehshed watches the men leave. He sighs.

Winter brings lash upon lash of storm. Mehshed stands in the snow in a cruel evening light. In the distance, the sound of men shouting, dogs barking.

The sound fades with the light. He goes in for dinner.

Out on the road, the mad-woman crouches. Her breath is a frozen whisper, her heart-beat a minuscule cracking of ice. Around her, the bleakness and sadness of winter.

Pat Deavoll is a late-in-life student of Information Design at CPIT. She is also in her second year of study with the Hagley Writers’ Institute. In 2011 she published an autobiography of her mountaineering career, Wind from a Distant Summit, and is currently working on a novel, but a recent discovery of poetry and now short fiction keeps distracting her.

~ ~ ~

Beverley Teague, Let him be

I thought I was special. I thought he recognised in me some erudite grain that would one day grow into a pearl of rare beauty. I was wrong. Every person that spoke at his funeral told the same story – the books he plied them with. I remembered the one he held at arm’s length, taunting, trying to decide whether I was ready. His widow handed it to me a few days later.

This diminutive woman grew in strength and stature in that short time. It was as though she had been waiting in the wings and at last her moment had come. She took to managing house, garden, finances, everything. I’m having fun, she would tell me, as she bought new clothes, filled her garden with colour, and laughed.

I admired a single rose the colour of muted sunset in a vase on the glass-topped table. She beckoned. I followed. The rose bush was in a giant terracotta urn. He’s in there, she whispered as she touched her finger to her lips. Sssh.

Barely a year later she had gone. Her family cleared the house, stripped the garden, emptied all the pots. I accepted their offer of two bags of potting mix. They heaved in two blue plastic recycling bins filled with soil, dumped them at my door “From the rose bush,” they said.

I haven’t got the heart to move him on. Besides, it would be a shame to disturb the tomatoes that are just beginning to sprout.

Beverley Teague has been a member of a writing group for almost three years, attracted to the group because of her interest in writing poetry. Flash fiction is her most recent discovery, her newest challenge.

~ ~ ~

Matthew Thompson, Endings

I don’t know how to finish.

I don’t really know how I began. One never quite does. Creation is a complicated process.

I’ve never been good at endings. I’ve yet to discover every nuance of my protagonist. The ancillary characters, some of whom I have neglected, need to be reigned in. I need to give each their own place, their own time. Their stories are threads waving in the wind, strands of spider’s silk. Sometimes they tangle together. Sometimes they scatter, find their own direction. That’s beyond my control.

There’s the long-awaited son, the child’s laughter unrestrained and pure. The teenager barely smiles. I need to find resolution or closure, a promise to the reader that there’s hope. There’s tenderness in there, but I don’t want to break the outer shell to find it. Time. I need more time.

His wife stirs the central character, even now. Her taut abdomen and avocado breasts have given way to childbirth and time. Yet when he holds her a gravitational force binds them. Sex sets them free. The climax will bring them both to tears. She will ask him not to leave. He can’t promise her that. It will break him, over and over.

And the best friend, the mother, the students, they’re all in his orbit too. It’s never quite finished but I have to let them go. I’ve never had a deadline like this before.

My own.

Matthew Thompson works in the field of haematology, is a prolific writer of flash fiction (opus:4) and enjoys a particular brand of dissociative identity disorder.

~ ~ ~

Janet Pates, Non-returnable

They’re planning a holiday. Somewhere she hopes, which will be warm and languid and remind her of home.

For him it means hours on the internet comparing airline fares, poring over minuscule photos of hotel rooms, checking his bank balance. Not that he needs worry about his bottom line but habit is habit and a deal is a deal.

For her, it means dreaming up scenarios and planning the clothes to fit the picture.

He comes home to find her standing in front of the bedroom mirror, wearing a yellow bikini. Scattered over the bed are six more sets — pairs? whatever one calls the two halves of a bikini. Apart from colours, they look identical.

She juts a hip, turns and looks over her shoulder, checking her bottom line.

“What’s this?” he asks. “One for every day of the holiday?”

“Why not?”

“Because hotels have laundries.”

“Internet shopping,” she says. “Returnable. Just choosing.”

She stares at him but he doesn’t meet her eye. Looks instead at her body, polished wood against the yellow fabric. He steps closer, reaches for the ties of the bikini and she feels the heat of him. Lustful. But it’s not lust she needs. Admiration is her drug.

She brushes past him, scoops the garments together and goes out to the pool, tosses them, then dives. He looks down on her starfish body, bright triangles and twin moons of bikini floating around her like tattered flags. Non returnable.

Janet Pates lives in the small town of Tuakau, near the mouth of the Waikato River. She writes for children and for adults, she writes fiction (placing first in the 2012 National Flash Fiction Day competition) and non-fiction, the latter with an emphasis on local history. In between times, she is trying to create an interesting memoir out of a singularly ordinary life.

~ ~ ~

Joan Curry, Silver Birch

I watch the figure as it leaps and twists. One leg is thrust forward, bearing the weight, balancing at the point where it surely must fail. The other is trembling with pent-up energy, still in mid air, still graceful.

White arms reach upwards, sinewy and impossibly elongated, as if to snatch at the fluttering remnants of what was left. The back seems androgynous – lean and muscular, but moving to a dreamy rhythm, the skin glistening where the fitful light catches smoothness. Imagination draws the head, flung back to follow the sure flight of an unseen ball, the face glowing with triumph.

Soon the colourful plumage is in disarray, no longer fresh but drifting – disintegrating.

It’s wild out there in the shredding winter wind.

Joan Curry has e-published three books – two on writing and one a selection of short stories. She has been a book reviewer for 37 years, writes notes for a nationwide book discussion scheme, has had articles and features published in newspapers and magazines and has researched and written three books of family history. Her blog is at

~ ~ ~

Annette Edwards-Hill, The Leftovers

Janet isn’t sure if it is her stomach or bladder that has woken her. One must be dealt with before the other. She takes the deep breath that will move her body from the bed and puts her feet on the floor.

Rod lies awake, eyes closed, breathing evenly. He hears his wife’s footsteps as she leaves the bedroom, shuts the toilet door, urinates, water on water. This goes on for minutes, it is torture, water torture he thinks.

Janet has flushed the toilet. She heads to the kitchen, pushes at the door. Is it locked? She turns the handle. Nothing. She can hear the fridge groaning. Calling to her. Earlier in daylight, while grass was mowed, birds called, and in the heaviness of afternoon sleep, she stumbled through dreams of red meat.

Rod has gone back to sleep. He doesn’t hear Janet leave the house, her footsteps as feet crunch gravel, the keys in the lock, the back door opening.

The sun is up. Janet sleeps. Rod notices a faint smell of gravy. He is out of bed, and unlocking the kitchen door. Roast beef sandwiches he thinks. He rubs his eyes and sees half eaten roast potatoes, dried crusts of bread, an apple and his roast beef, lumps strewn across the kitchen floor. There are sandy footprints; the back door is open. He steps back, acid in his throat; his heart leaps in his chest. Then he remembers the smell of his sleeping wife.

Rod cleans. Janet sleeps.

Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington. She completed the Poetry Creative Writing workshop at Victoria University in 1997 and a Masters in Art History at Auckland University in 2000. A strange series of events led her to a career as a business analyst but she has a preference for writing fiction over project documentation.

~ ~ ~

Brie Sherow, Memory and Glow-worm: A story for the sloshed

Mum loved France.

“The Marais was where we lived in Paris, it means ‘swamp’ but it’s not one anymore. Little tarts, feuillettes aux abricots. They looked like yolks. City Island was the best place for a picnic, with Orangina in little pear-shaped bottles of dimpled glass.”

Wine carves tunnels through my thoughts, flowing through dark passages, splashing against the walls of my brain, passing little glow-worm memories softly sparkling on the walls.

“I loved Marie Antoinette, walked past the Conciergerie every day and imagined what it was like in those pretty dresses in that small dark cell, waiting for the guillotine. The Tuileries, I don’t remember being there, but it’s so fun to say! And the ballet impressionists in the old train station museum and the spiral stone staircases carved out from so many footsteps in the castles.”

I lose sight as I climb the dark stairs. I focus, I see his face next to my feet, sitting sideways on armchairs, his legs by my arms, and I can’t remember the names of the columns.

“You know, those columns with the pinstriped suits? I used to climb on them, playing adventurer.” I tell him to look at the stars to distract him from my arms now hugging his legs, and does he notice the constellation that looks like a brontosaurus?

One more wine and now I can’t remember anything and I never even answered his question, “Were you really named after the French cheese?”

Brie Sherow lives and works in central Christchurch. She had a short story published in Yen Magazine last year and is currently working on several more while studying at Hagley Writers’ Institute.

~ ~ ~

Celine Gibson, Ringlets ‘n’ Pearls

She remembers when she was little, perched on a stool outdoors, her mother winding cotton strips through her hair – a transistor, Kenneth McKellar singing “Danny Boy”.

She’d asked her mother, “What does ‘soft you tread above me’ mean?” The mother explained that after her death, she’d hear her daughter come visit her grave.

Tears fell.

Her mother said, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want you to die.”

The mother tapped a comb on her daughter’s head, “Silly,” but she said it kindly as she spiralled hair around a clean rag.


In the specialist’s room – “Five percent I’m wrong and you’ll live to one-hundred…ninety-five percent I’m right and it’s pancreatic cancer, so we need to think how to manage that.”

In her mother’s kitchen she splits a pill in half. Tiny beads cascade over a fluff of chocolate mousse wedged amongst peach slivers. Her mother no longer capable of swallowing pills whole. She carries the tray to her, adopts a hideously cheery voice, “Sorry, Mary-Jane, but it’s your favourite pudding again.”

A couple of nibbles are negotiated, the rest she toys with. Baby pearls swirled, smothered, submerged.

Her mother drops the teaspoon, “Growing old is a bugger.”

The daughter nods, but in truth laments a sprinkle of seeds failing to be digested. Already she’s devising strategies for a second attempt; puny punches to push back that day when her mother hears a soft tread above her.

Celine Gibson shares her home with her husband (a bagpiping fiend) and two cats. Writing is her first love, followed by gardening, baking and painting – when time allows.

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth Farris, Cow Man

Leaning out the car window, she says, You’re a long way from home.

Yep, I say.

Silence as she waits for more.

Does The Lone Ranger have to explain himself? John Wayne? Nope. Those men are men; they take care of things. And there’s no reason why neither of them can’t be a Kiwi like me.

Git along little dogie, I sing, and the woman grins, assuming I’m ordering a huntaway to get in behind. But it’s only me and my heifers. They mosey and pause to glance over at me, indifferent to my lack of Swandri. And none pay mind that my rattlesnakeskin shit-kickers work just dandy as gumboots. All my herd asks is enough grub to fill them up and a spot of cool shade. And shifting to a fresh paddock across the road every few days. I give the straggler a slap on the rump and she saunters in, forcing the others to scatter farther into the field.

I turn and close the gate, tip my Stetson and say, Much obliged, ma’am. She chuckles, starts up her car, plows through the muck, and sets on down the road.

Tonight I’ll hang up my chaps, grab a cold one from the fridge, and rest my bones in the chair Granddaddy brought with him when he settled in Taihoa. And spin some vinyl. I reckon I’ll listen to Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Don’t Fence Me In. And after that, I’ll eavesdrop on the coyotes howling atop the ridge.

Elizabeth Farris lives in Waikanae wedged between the bush and the Tasman Sea. Her short stories are published in Australian and American anthologies and her stage plays have been performed in the US. She was short-listed for the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing in 2009 and was runner-up in the Rodney Writes Competition in 2008.


~ ~ ~

Lindsay Woodlocke, Paradise

She slumped in a weathered deckchair, looking over the iridescent blue ocean. It was hot. Too hot. Her clothes felt tight. Greasy sunblock trickled down her neck. Beneath the sunhat her trifocals misted over. Ben was taking too long getting the drinks. What are we doing here, she thought; what’s the name of this place? Retort? Report? No, resort. Dreaming Paradise Resort. A proper holiday, Ben had promised, but she felt she’d been trapped here forever. She was so very tired.

How hard it was to keep her thoughts tidy now, when words and ideas kept tumbling around in her head, instead of lining themselves up in neat marching order. She needed something to thread them on; knitting needles or kebab sticks, a colourful system like the map of the London Underground. Instead, words strewed themselves randomly, like the pebbles on the beach in front of her, and in strange places her weariness felt worse.

All around her people were talking, jabbering in languages she did not understand. Some were even speaking English, but it was full of warbles and hiccups and smiling emptiness.

She gazed towards the water, so shimmery and enticing. Suddenly the sea lurched towards her, rolling forwards eagerly, stretching its welcoming blueness over the beach in a gigantic foaming wave of invitation. People scattered, screamed and fled. She sat transfixed, as the sea beckoned, swept over her, and drew her into its swirling coolness.

When the water receded, her upturned deckchair sprawled empty.

Lindsay Woodlocke comes from Dunedin and shares a large suburban garden with resident family and three cats. Recently retired from teaching, Lindsay enjoys the challenge of writing flash fiction and, when not writing, might sometimes be found learning Mandarin, sculpting or taking tap-dancing classes.

~ ~ ~

Penny Somervaille, Scattered

She scatters memories like chicken feed and watches as the hens rush over greedy to grab the biggest and best. She remembers the Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and bantams of her childhood. Each spring a dozen day old chicks would arrive, cheaping noisily.

The small white hen with the bad hairdo feathers on her head, who hangs back, is a strange breed to her. Cautiously the hen approaches, picks up a grain and runs off with it to a quiet corner where she examines it. Walks round it, pokes it with a foot. She picks it up and rolls it round in her beak, puts it back on the ground and contemplates it, head on one side.

A shaft of sunlight breaks through the apple tree, lighting up the seed. The hen sees it, a shining golden brown. Reassured, she swallows it, and returns for more.

Well fed and contented, she scratches a dust bath for herself.

The woman listens to the quiet clucking as she collects the eggs. She looks at the eggs, thinking each one is like a separate memory. She turns them over, smooths the shells with a finger, frowning as she finds one with chicken shit smeared on it.

“Six eggs and one sunk beneath the nuisance,” her little brother would sing out from inside the hen house.

Indoors, she will wash it, scrubbing off the nuisance. Smiling to herself she closes the gate and leaves to make an omelette for her lunch.

Penny Somervaille writes poetry and short fiction. She is currently one of four MCs for Poetry Live, the weekly poetry event at the Thirsty Dog in Auckland. She has been published in Sidestream Magazine, Blackmail Press, Live Lines and Pot Roast and has read her poetry at Rhythm & Verse, The Library Bar, The Pah Homestead, The Thirsty Dog and The PumpHouse. She lives in Auckland.

~ ~ ~

Peter Adams, The Hollow Log

Edith clambered to the top of the cliff, out of breath, and subsided onto the hollow log. She’d been there many times, escaping from her suburban cul-de-sac. The wide views across the bay and the wind caressing the sea’s surface gave her solace.

Theirs had been a normal enough marriage, she supposed, based on what she’d heard from her friends. The usual pattern of the white wedding followed by an edgy reception; the children and their demands until they flew the coop; and lately the death of physical and then verbal communication, apart from daily banalities, culminating in Harry’s descent into jumbled incomprehensibility.

She wondered where her love had gone. And why. Wrong choice of partner, self-absorption, boredom? Or perhaps, as time passed, love simply hid itself down the cracks in the day’s surface, in the myriad mundane tasks, in the spaces between words.

She thought that if only she could achieve a new perspective she would turn nagging disappointment and the sadness of failure into something noble and enduring.

“Anyway,” Edith muttered aloud “Enough of that. It’s time to say goodbye, Harry.”

Taking a small box from her cloth bag she removed the lid. From the edge of the cliff, with a wide sweep of her arm she launched the contents into the breeze. She watched the grey-white ash scatter against the blue background of the bay below, like confetti at their wedding, she thought. Or dandruff.

Peter Adams won the PEN International first book of non-fiction award for Fatal Necessity, his book about the annexation of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi. After a career in international relations, and many bureaucratic documents later, he is trying the challenge of writing short fiction and poetry. Peter lives at the edge of Wellington harbour, which provides plenty of stimulus.


~ ~ ~

Gail Ingram, Tourist Flight Virgin Galactica 2036

I’m glued to the spacecraft window. The arc of Earth rolls under me like a blue belly. Part of me is pulling away. But I’m not sad. It’s not like what I thought it might be – seeing the pieces of my life scattered across the globe like pins marking some lackadaisical traveller’s journey. My boy in Australia, my girl in Saudi Arabia, the early years struggling in England and later my difficulties in Aotearoa trying to find what it was I wanted, my poor partner trailing after me, always there, colouring those pins. No, it’s not like that at all. Maybe Alice of the Looking Glass could explain it, her neck stretched like spaghetti, her head poking through the clouds and looking over Wonderland without seeing her toes. She knows her toes are there, like I know Aotearoa and Australia and Saudi Arabia are there, beautiful shapes in the blue-green swirl.

For a second I close my eyes and imagine a sperm whale, rising from the waves, blowing white spume.

Perhaps it’s Methuselah, still living.

Gail Ingram writes all sorts of fiction, found in all sorts of places – from Takahē to PoetryNZ. She has been placed in the odd competition, such as last year’s BNZ Literary Awards for her flash fiction ‘Butcher’s Daughter’. She is a butcher’s daughter. She has also dabbled in novel writing. No butchers have appeared yet in her novels.

~ ~ ~

Anahera Gildea, Taking out the trash

Refuse had gathered by the side of the road. Bags that the council refused to pick up because the maggots were too many for even the hardened stomachs of the rubbish collectors. Letters had been sent to each of the houses in the cul-de-sac but, so far, no one had claimed responsibility.

Over four weeks’ worth accumulated until it became so disgusting that the street called a meeting to decide how to deal with it. All agreed that they had rung the council numerous times. All agreed that it was not their refuse, nor their responsibility. And finally, all agreed to take it in trips. Those with tow bars would take the stuff to the dump and pay for petrol; those without would hire the trailers. Everyone would participate and that way no one was responsible, and no one was implicated.

On the day in question all were present except the Mantels from 10B.

The community was outraged. An agreement had been made and if there was anything they could not abide it was people who broke agreements. The Mantels were irresponsible. Hadn’t the Mantels been the first to deny ownership? Wasn’t it the Mantels who had sat arms crossed at the meeting, and hadn’t they looked at each other conspiratorially when they left?

It was agreed again – a new plan. Bag by maggoty bag, the rubbish was moved to exactly where it belonged and the neighbours waited at their pious windows for the Mantels to come home.

Anahera Gildea, Ngati Raukawa-ki-te-tonga, lives in Wellington with her husband and child. She has been published in multiple anthologies and online. She is currently studying with IIML at Victoria University in Wellington.

~ ~ ~

Alex Reece-Abbott, Te Puna

For H.K.

The archaeologists dug the chocolate soil of your cellar floor, shifted the rubble of bricks and stones, sifted the sandy fill and discovered the sherds, stubborn survivors against heat of fire and weight of demolition.

Typical discarded domestic materials, produced in Britain then scattered to her colonial outposts – props for early settlers playing out a respectable life against an isolated backdrop of Pacific savagery. So the professors profess.

The dig was neat as your prized needlework, black and white photographs of catalogued specimens, remains published for all to see. My reservations evaporate. Soon I’m imagining your meals, table manners and conversations.

I pry, poring over pages of fragments patterned with wild roses and sentimental scenes of prosperous blue and white villages, all idyllic country churches and calm far-off English meadows.

Fragments refitted, experts identify a matching London-style transfer-printed tea service. Popular, utilitarian Regency-ware – only mass-produced seconds though, befitting lay missionaries. You knew your place. Still, a good enough show of civilisation to lubricate social relations with any visitors who trekked to that far Northland bay.

Te Puna. My ancestors endured hardships here for forty years; my virtual dig is ridiculously easy. Click-click. Four identical cups and saucers unearthed. Village scenes of Oxfordshire, says the London antiques dealer.

That’s where you were from.

Worn fragments transform as the pattern stretches like a sacred connection beyond your mission station. No vague memories of distant pastoral England but a palimpsest of domesticity, your last cup of tea sweetened with your county Home.

Alex Reece-Abbott is a New Zealand-Irish writer, published by the Katherine Mansfield Society and in assorted anthologies like Take Tea with Turing and Journeys & Places. She has been nominated for the Short Story Awards and winner of the Arvon Prize, CWA Debut Dagger Opening Lines and Liars’ League, and her short fiction has been short-listed for various competitions including the Bridport. Her first novel, The Maori House, was short-listed for several prizes. More here.

~ ~ ~

Cecilia Fitzgerald, The Price You Pay For Late Reading

The dishes are all piled up. The cutlery at the back. Rinsed enough so the ants won’t be at them overnight.

It’s amazing the pile two people can make when everything’s prepared from scratch. It would be different if we were out, working during the day, but we are well past that now, thank heavens.

The house has not been updated in 50 years. No dishwasher or pressure shower here. Those dishwashers are too hot and harsh anyway. And noisy.

The plates are all stacked neatly in front of the cutlery. Then the glass ware in front of that. All in order. Pots and wooden chopping boards behind, last in line.

I like to do the dishes first thing in the morning. Before he is up.

I slept in this morning. Stayed up too late reading.

Some of the pots are now outside, with bits of murky water in them. A plate in the middle he’s used for his toast. The plates spread out now into the space where the pots were. The cutlery is all about the place; teaspoons by the coffee, knives on the table, strainer by the jug. Some cutlery is already put back in the drawer, as are some plates. He’s put water into a glass and a bit of a plant he has taken from someone else’s garden. Two cups and a bowl are half filled with water. He likes to soak things.

I sigh. Start again.

Cecilia Fitzgerald lives in Christchurch. She is still awaiting earthquake repairs and remembers vividly striding through the Ashburton Domain, not knowing if she would ever be able to live in her home again, if her family would survive, if she could get bread or petrol, while a voice boomed in her head, “Alright, alright, alright, I will be a writer.”

~ ~ ~

Mi Mi McLachlan, There is always

I can see it, sitting there, mocking me. The forbidden thing. There is always one thing in a room I am never permitted to touch. Normally it doesn’t bother me. The objects are plain and useless; this one, however, has an air of mystery. Simple brown cardboard walls and a thick wooden lid protect whatever secrets lie inside. Cautiously, I take one step forward, waiting. The room moves, shaking, transforming around me. I can see it. A little girl. I can’t quite make out her face, sleeping on her mother’s lap. The picture morphs. The same girl, older now. Her back is turned. Two more steps. The young girl grows taller almost like a montage. Still her face is hidden. The room itself is moving now a constant flow forwards, images changing with every step. The photo that stops me, one step away from the box, is the crash. That same girl is seated in the back, her head tilted away from me. There is nothing she can do as the cars collide. Her head turns with a blood stained face I could never forget. My face.

Mi Mi McLachlan attends St Andrews College and is in Year 9. She is 13 years old and loves writing and reading.

~ ~ ~

Lesley Marshall, The Diaspora

They talk about this in history classes – people coming out here from everywhere to avoid famine, war and oppression. New land, new opportunities, new beginnings.

My diaspora reverses that. One son on the Gold Coast, daughters in France and Norway, and the fourth son in Miami. How far do they have to go to avoid me? Even the Gold Coast is far enough – I can’t afford trips there on the pension, and somehow they’re “too busy” to come here.

People always blame the mother. Should have left him, they say. Even the bloody judge said it. What do they know? It’s not that easy. I did my best.

And they’ve done all right – got good jobs. They all went away to university – Otago, the lot of them. Making themselves into a family down there, and now they meet in places on the other side of the world.

And me? Well, I’m doing all right too. People moan about the pension, but when you’ve never had any money before, it’s luxury. No one to waste it on booze or drugs. I have a little book, and I write it all down – what I’m going to spend this on, what I spent that on. And it’s always exactly right, and always spent on me. Like I said, luxury.

Definitely worth the ten years inside, and every now and then I enjoy remembering his look of astonishment and fury when the knife slid in.

Lesley Marshall lives in Maungatapere and divides her time between teaching and editing, and answering needy phone calls from various children, both biological and surrogate. It makes for a very interesting life.

~ ~ ~

Tessa Hitchcox, All the Drifting Pieces

Here and there they fluttered on cold breezes, twirled within the eyes of warm winds. They caught on old splintered gutters and tugged against the worn hulls of drifting boats. In every place that held even the slightest trace of memory, she found them. She caught them in her net woven of heartstrings and fine silk, and every time she felt herself fill up a little more, felt her chest expand, her blood flow smoother. She had been surprised at how empty one felt without a soul. Surprised at how uncomfortable it was, like an itching thirst for something undefinable. She had most of the pieces back now – the tears, the spilled orange juices, the sunrays through the leaves, the smiles, the sands between toes. But she had to find them all. Only then would she smile freely again, and smell the salt and tarmac tang of home.

Tessa Hitchcox is a student in Timaru and will be starting an English degree in 2014 at Otago University.

~ ~ ~

Jan FitzGerald, Brain Fade

A stranger has moved in upstairs. He kneels with a face as blank as an eyeless doll, scraping the labels off words.

Olga feels wetness choking behind her eyelids.

Did I once have a lover?

For a moment she knows. She knows that she knows. Then she doesn’t.

What’s happening?

She reaches for a word, her fingers plucking at a thread in the lace tablecloth on which she used to play Scrabble with…. somebody. A man…

She stares at the vacant crossword on the back page of the newspaper.

What are those numbers and black squares? Aztec art?

There is a dark oblong on the floor in front of the lift in her apartment.. The doctor told her son to paint it there and she would see it as a hole and not wander out of the building.

She shuffles over to it. Are they crazy… I could fall down that.

Who is this man emptying the cupboards, stealing the notes from the music sheet? What delicate fingers I have. Did I ever play the piano…

She looks out on flowers someone planted long ago..

I’ve never seen them before… Have I?

Her thoughts are keys that swing out of reach of the keyhole.

The man opens a window. Words flutter out like a song she knows but can’t catch the tune.

Why has he changed the locks, hidden all the photographs?

Why must that wretched woman in the mirror always talk when I’m talking?

Jan FitzGerald has been published in mainstream NZ literary journals since the 1970s and in Poetry Australia, The London Magazine, Acumen (UK), Orbis (UK) and others. Her latest poetry book is entitled On a day like this (Steele Roberts, NZ). Jan works in Napier as a full-time artist. For more see her website, Painting Poets.

~ ~ ~

Rebecca Simons, Scattered

She sat very still, her entire self concentrated on the calm pea-green water and carefully thought nothing. Thoughts were dangerous – she knew that – just like she knew staying still was the key. What she had discovered was the connection between movement and thought – frayed nerve-endings and scattered reality. It was like the sparking bleeding ends of her nerves had been snagged on the traitorous edge of conscious thought, and so every time she moved, breathed, the conscious would unravel some more – it never repaired or remained static, but always unraveled. She allowed the thought that if her nerves, her thoughts, were the length of her sleeve, it would now barely reach past her elbow, frayed edges jarring. She flinched as a pair of ducks landed noisily, spraying water in untidy waves, and closed eyes. Inky darkness instantly enveloped, dragging her down beneath the surface where those voices were laughing, screaming, fingers pointing. She struggled against their pull despite the knowledge that they were always stronger, that they always won. United they whispered, “She’s mad. You’re mad. They will discover your secret and you’ll be locked away forever – no escape, no reprieve, no hope.” She let go, ready to be consumed, smothered, drowned. Nothing happened. Slowly , very slowly, she opened eyes and saw the pond now empty of intruders and cautiously breathed in the dank air. She raised a hand and touched her mouth. All around remained still, whole. She nodded, silently accepting her reprieve, and lowered her hand once more.

Rebecca Simons is an ex-office worker who discovered short story writing while enjoying a mid-life crisis. Although her university years were spent studying European languages and culture, she has found an even greater challenge in mastering the use of her maternal language, English, and hopes to continue with this challenge for many years to come.

~ ~ ~

Jane Swan, Eat Beetroot

Mariana ate sliced beetroot straight from the can, as if it was a sacrament. The disc, not quite the colour of blood, dripped as she put it onto her tongue; she held it there for a moment, chewed and swallowed.

Greg came in to get his jacket. Mariana’s back was straight, her dishevelled hair tumbling down. Wispy – like baby’s hair, Greg thought. He turned and left for work.

She did not hear his goodbye, entranced by the starlings flying into the macrocarpa hedge, dry grass dangling from their beaks. They landed on the branches and disappeared into the tangle of foliage.

She ate another piece. The beetroot’s strong, earthy flavour was masked, but only just, by the vinegar.

“A hamburger’s only a hamburger if it’s got beetroot in it,” she said. “I’ve eaten a whole can. What does that make me?”

Mariana’s feet were cold. She had no slippers on, only the dressing gown she’d scrambled into to go to the bathroom. In the toilet bowl was her blood. An icy slab had slammed down on her.

Ice numbed; ice froze. Ice kept things the way they were.

Would she begin to feel something? Anything? Her emotions had flown away like the starlings. She wouldn’t try and collect them yet. The thing to do was to settle. Land on a branch where it was safe.

Replenish the blood. Eat beetroot.

Jane Swan’s house and garden run wild because she spends time daydreaming and writing. She is newsletter editor for the Waitaki Writers’ Group. Successes include two Radio New Zealand stories and others published in local and daily newspapers, Alfie Dog Ltd and Essentially Food. She has also been highly commended in the Heartland Short Story Competition and short-listed in the Sunday Star Times competition.

~ ~ ~

Sian Williams, Closing the Universe

She reads in the paper that the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. It will grow larger and larger, with everything in it becoming further apart and more isolated, until there is no chance of any material interactions. Gradually all the stars will go out, leaving only a cold dead nothingness. This is, she’s told, an open universe.


After the funeral, when the family have drifted away red-eyed and mumbling, she goes around the house with a cardboard box collecting all the things he’d made her – lopsided mugs, pipe-cleaner dinosaurs, a jamjar snow globe containing a plastic dog, scraperboard self-portrait and, lastly, from her desk drawer, a bundle of cards, shedding glitter, stiff with glue: Christmas, Easter, Hapy Bithday Mummy.

She cannot look at them any more so she puts them in the cupboard under the stairs, right at the back, in the secret darkness beneath the lowest step.

Even as his physical presence is dispersed – scattered in space – so his absence is now condensed, into this one hiding place, this black hole.


She yearns for a closed universe; one in which the expansion eventually slows and where, after an exquisite moment of stasis, space-time begins to contract. Smaller and smaller it becomes, running in reverse, until it finally deflates into itself creating a point of infinite mass containing everything that ever was or ever will be. A place where, at the end, we are all one, and where she and he can become a singularity once more.

Sian Williams is a writer and editor living in Kerikeri who edited Flash Frontier 2012-13. She likes to write small pieces about big things.

~ ~ ~

Note from James George, guest editor:

This issue of Flash Frontier is dedicated to the memory of Auckland writer Miles Hughes. Miles was a prolific indie-published author (ten books in five years across several genres, including fiction, non-fiction/reference and young adult) and a tireless and productive supporter of his local indie writing community. He planned and organized speaking and reading events and writing competitions, and contributed through various roles in the Auckland branch of the NZ Society of Authors. He was an example of a person who retired from his first career and then embarked on a second – writer – getting a Masters degree in Creative Writing along the way. He flourished in his new life, and in his new and expanding circle of contacts and friends, until his untimely passing. He will be much missed.

James George is a novelist and short story writer of Ngapuhi, English and Irish descent. He is author of Wooden Horses, Hummingbird and Ocean Roads. He has been short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize, and his work appears in the Best of New Zealand Fiction anthologies and Second Violins (stories inspired by lines from Katherine Mansfield). James has taught and mentored in both AUT and University of Auckland’s Master of Creative Writing programmes. He has also served as chair of the Auckland Branch of the NZ Society of Authors (2012-2014) and as chair of Te Ha, the writers’ committee of Toi Maori Aotearoa (2005-2014).

Posted in April 2014

February 2014: ONE WAY

Graham Hughes railtrack
Photograph by Graham Hughes, taken using the Silver gelatin paper negative process, with photographic paper in the camera instead of film, developed in chemicals, then scanned and inverted. The image was taken using a Yamasaki 240mm lens, on a home-made sliding box camera, on Port Road Whangarei.

~ ~ ~

Helen Moat, Broken Ground

Cathal punctured the ground, sending spuds and stones flying, and damp soil filled Esther’s nostrils as the underbelly of land broke free. The potatoes bounced before landing to nestle like eggs in earth. Cathal, green eyes the colour of his religion, looked back at her, guiding the tractor in a straight line.

There were three brothers: Cathal, Sean and Cormac Doherty, with names so alien to Esther they could’ve come from Mars.

Esther and her cousins were gathering potatoes for Aunt in the humpbacks of County Down, a place that narrowed minds and roads between the dips. The Dohertys weren’t from Mars – just three fields away. Neighbours, not friends, needed for the harvest. Papishes, Aunt said.

Esther ached. She moved slow and slower, the tractor coming round again too soon and not soon enough. Cathal halted the vehicle to help her gather the potatoes in her drill. Esther felt the back of his hand touch hers and stiffened.

Aunt arrived at lunchtime with thick-crusted sandwiches, a canister of warm unpasteurised milk and tea so strong you could break your teeth on it. She frowned when the Doherty boys flirted with her nieces, warned the girls off. Fenians, she said.

But at night the cousins giggled in the darkness of their bedroom, picking out their favourite Doherty. Heathens, Aunt said.

Esther thought about her boyfriend with his cropped hair, scratchy jacket and Protestant stiffness and dreamed of Catholic Cathal. And she wondered what there was beyond the narrowed roads and minds.

Helen Moat was runner-up in the 2011 British Guild of Travel Writers Competition and was highly commended in the BBC Wildlife Travel Writing Competition this year. Her writing has been published in The Guardian, Telegraph and Wanderlust magazine. You can read her travel-inspired pieces at her blog.

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Mike Crowl, A Little Peace and Quiet

My morning for a sleep in.

“Bye!” Phil out the door. Georgie in the shower. Daph crashing round in the kitchen ‘quietly’ making breakfast. Sam. Who knows where Sam is, home or abroad.

Georgie blow-drying her hair. Daph doing the dishes, the hot water tank clunking as it refills. Ah, there’s Sam’s door, his footsteps in the hall. Now he’s in the bathroom. Can’t get to the loo until he’s showered, shaved, moisturised and probably waxed, for all I know.

“Bye!” Georgie out the door. She’ll have had her usual breakfast: half a Crusket and a spoonful of avocado.

What the heck is Daph doing in her bedroom? Drawer out, drawer in. Crash. Drawer out, drawer in. Crash. Wardrobe door slid open, slid back. Crash.

Wow. There’s Sam out of the bathroom. Must have done his make-up in record time.

I could go to the loo now, but it’s semi-comfortable here, sheet not quite warm enough but duvet too hot. Couple of magpies quardling. Half an army of sparrows chirping. Some blackbird claiming the morning.

Crash. Daphne picks up the set of drawers and throws them in a heap on the floor. I guess. Lifts the bed off the floor and drops it through the floorboards. Pulls the built-in wardrobe off the wall.

“Bye!” Sam’s off.

A giant hammers on my door. “Just on my way out to the supermarket,” shouts Daph. “Want anything?”

Mike Crowl is a Dunedin writer and musician in his late sixties, who also composes and occasionally acts. He has recently published an e-book called Grimhilda! – a fantasy for children and their parents, and is now working on something completely different, his experiences of going through a prostate biopsy and its aftermath. This is intended for publication – again as an e-book – in April 2014.

~ ~ ~

Cathy Lennon, Exit Strategy

Like chickens swallowed by a python they move and stop, kicking their luggage across the cement floor. “Relax,” he says, but there’s a snap to the edge of it. He checks his phone repeatedly. Fluorescent lighting in the corrugated metal ceiling glints off their Press tags, drains colour from faces. Munch-like they are hollows and bones. At the head of the queue, in a kepi and fatigues, a man clutches a machine gun. He stares out at the concrete concourse, past empty luggage trucks. The sky is a hard blue and it fits above them like a lid.

There is a gasp from up ahead, the line disintegrates into elbows and kicking feet. She is pushed from behind and Yohann pushes her back, as though he had never stroked her nakedness. She topples and yelps as her outstretched fingers are trampled. “What’s happening?” she asks, cradling her throbbing hand.

He does not help her up. “The last plane has gone,” he shouts. “The rebels are near. They are sending us back to the hotel.” She looks up at his face, the white-edged lips, the pitiless eyes. She hates him, and this job. She hates what they did. She thinks of her husband and home. Shots ring out and the screams fly around the hangar like maddened crows. When he drops beside her, his eyes are still open. “When we get back,” he had said, “I never want to see you again.” “That goes both ways,” she’d replied.

Cathy Lennon is based in the northwest of England. She has only recently begun sharing her flash fiction and short stories with others. She has been published in print and online, including in the 2013 National Flash Fiction Day anthology (UK) Scraps. She is on twitter: @clenpen.

~ ~ ~

Stefanie Freele, The Woman Who Stayed Up Past Her Bedtime

She will not tell her friends how the Al-anon book glided through the air to the mirror she always hated. An urge to show the cracks she created, the shards, the evidence to someone is overtaking her, like an upswell of hail.

The old her – the one before these books and meetings, the one who spied and double-checked and dumped out – would have sobbed. Would have buttered herself in pity. This newer version, armed with brave words like detachment and self-worth, ignored his goodbye, too immersed in her reading.

There has to be another way. An easier way. Every time he vanishes, taking himself to breakfast, considering himself on retreat, he leaves her with reasons she doesn’t believe but needs to bury. Her tears a wrecked spigot, her anger the vulgar beating force of a pile driver looking to hammer alcoholism down to featureless silence: how it was before everyone unhealed.

Who would be impressed with the throwing of text? This, they’d say, is not much of an indication of fighting for yourself. What is progress then? She sweeps the sliver of her trifling rebellion into a corner, covers it with an armload of dirty laundry the size of a small child and turns out the light so she can’t stare at the stain on the ceiling, the one shaped like spilled coffee, the one she’s painted over several times, but knows is still there.

Stefanie Freele is the author of two short story collections, Feeding Strays, with Lost Horse Press, and Surrounded by Water, with Press 53, which includes the winning story of the Glimmer Train Fiction Award. Stefanie’s published and forthcoming work can be found in Witness, Mid-American Review, Wigleaf, Western Humanities Review, Sou’wester, Chattahoochee Review, The Florida Review, Quarterly West and American Literary Review. More at

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Eileen Merriman, Relativity

It’s the second to last day of school, but they’ve skived off to the beach. The sea is peacock blue. Zoe can feel the warm length of Sam’s body beside her. There’s a pebble digging into her shoulder, but Sam’s leg is touching hers, so she doesn’t move. The sun has painted freckles on his cheeks, freckles she’s longed to kiss for the last three years. They’re listening to his iPod, a song about flying at the speed of sound.

Sam has a one-way ticket to London. He says he’ll write to her. His postcards will fade until she can’t read the writing anymore, but she’ll remember every word. Until one day he’ll send a postcard that she’ll tear into a thousand pieces: I’ve met this girl…

Sam says his greatest desire is to discover new things. She’s not a new thing. He asks her what her greatest desire is. She says, you. His laughter splinters into her chest, like shrapnel. She dares to kiss him anyway.

He tastes like the sea. For a moment their cells are aligned, vibrating at the same frequency. Then he is moving away, and all she can taste is jet fuel. He says, Zoe, I don’t want to ruin our friendship. He doesn’t know he’s ruined her.

She’ll hold onto that kiss forever.

Eileen Merriman lives and works on the North Shore, NZ. Her work has been published in previous issues of Flash Frontier. She was recently awarded third place in the 2013 Graeme Lay short story competition.

~ ~ ~

D R Jones, P. Skinner

I’d thought the first thing I’d kill would be a starling.

Dad had given me his blessing: “Damn birds wreck the orchard.” He’d handed me the air rifle for my twelfth birthday – a single-stroke pneumatic Ruger.

“Only shoot food and pests,” he’d said.
My little sister’s a pest.
“But don’t shoot slugs,” he’d laughed.
I didn’t get it – thought they were bullets.

Turned out to be a hare, not a bird. I thought it was a rabbit. Didn’t know the difference – still don’t. I’d read about how you squeeze the trigger. Gently. Peter, I’d named him while he’d twitched in the cross-hairs. Not that Peter. His father gets baked in a pie by Mrs McGregor. Peter after my maths teacher, Mr Peters, with stinky breath and polyester pants belted too tight. A real sack of bones, all jangly under scraggled skin.

I’d read in English that the Peter rabbit story was about rules and consequences. I liked my English teacher. She was kind and nice smelling.

Anyway, I’d sliced off its foot to keep. Lucky rabbit. Sorry, hare.

“Respect your quarry,” Dad had said.
I thought a quarry was for rocks.
“This is way better than a slingshot,” I’d said.
After that, I re-named our cat Pete.

Heh. I’ve read somewhere that kids who kill people start out on animals. I’ve also read that there’s more than one way to skin Pete. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’ll find out. Mrs Peters, my English teacher, will know.

D R Jones is a writer who lives near Puhoi. He has just finished writing the unauthorised autobiography of Anonymous_Author© and has pledged to write using his real name until the fictional literary voice he created has its memoirs published. Patently, judging by the book’s description, he may be submitting as D R Jones for some time.

~ ~ ~

Susan Tepper, Scarab

He grabs my hand and pulls me off the teensy stage, the bar bathed in smoky purple light. It’s the break, we’re halfway through the gig. I hate this night. My throat feels dry from too many high notes. I want to yell stop but this guy clutching my hand is way too beautiful – all liquid, those black eyes sulky deep. Roy, the bass player, jumps down after me still holding his guitar. Dammit! I don’t care who gets hurt. One way or another. Get lost, I tell Roy. What’s your name this other guy is saying in my ear. Carmen I whisper back to him. A lie. I choose it ‘cause it seems to match. I choose it for the best and worst reasons. Though none of that is really clear. We go out into the alley; he lifts my skirt high. People pass by on the sidewalk, close. After, when he gets to his feet, his face looks gold. I picture the scarab beetle my sister wears on a chain. Its shine rubbed off after the first week.

Susan Tepper is the author of five published books. Her current title The Merrill Diaries (Pure Slush Books 2013) is a Novel in Stories. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the author/book interview series UNCOV/rd. Her story ‘Distance’ was a named finalist in the 2013 story/South Million Writers Award. Tepper has received nine Pushcart Nominations and one for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. More at

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Celine Gibson, Now or Never

I’m off to Hanmer…no, not for the hot springs…more the cold turkey. Queen Mary, roll up your rehab sleeves – Junior’s succumbed to the ‘Irish Virus’.

And who could blame me? Dad drinks, Mum drinks. He blames it on her playing around. She blames it on boredom. They’re rural people…enough said.

The paterfamilias hoped boarding school would scupper my boozy inclinations. It did Monday to Friday, but come weekends I’d my voluntary work with Reg, the school gardener – such a poppet. It was too easy. Once I saw he was head down, bottoms up, I’d sneak a tipple from my stash. It’s amazing what can be camouflaged beneath, behind and in shrubs.

I told him I’m scared I’m gay; a Catholic, alcoholic, pimple-ridden poof – who could be so lucky? Reg reckons gardening’s my cure.

No, Reg – Elvis is my cure.

Elvis died last month. I love Elvis (not in that way), got all his records, play them all the time. I saw bits on the telly from his last ever concert, June 26th, 1977. Man, he looked rough – about ready to join Old Shep.

Fortunately I’m vain…Mister Narcissus, that’s me. I do not want to resemble a bloated puff adder at 42.


So, thanks to the King, I’m giving sobriety a shot.

Hanmer’s the last stop at the end of the road; only one way in and out. I admit it, I’m terrified…and I’ll so miss my gardening.

Celine Gibson shares her home with her husband (a bagpiping fiend) and two cats. Writing is her first love, followed by gardening, baking and painting – when time allows.

~ ~ ~

Joan Curry, Edith’s World

Edith doesn’t slam the telephone down like most people do. She puts it down firmly. People are so rude these days, ringing her up and calling her by her first name. How do they know what her name is anyway? It’s private, for her friends and family, people she knows. It really upsets her when strangers act as though they know her when she doesn’t know them.

In shops, for example. People peer into her face and say hi, how are you? So rude. She doesn’t know who they are, even when they wear badges that say Shellee, or Debbie. She doesn’t know anyone called Shellee or Debbie. Except in the supermarket. There is always a Debbie being summoned by a screechy voice over the loudspeaker: Debbie, customer query in aisle seven – Debbie, aisle seven!

Even church isn’t safe. The other day she was listening to the choir, watching the dust-motes dancing in the sunbeams, when people suddenly turned in their pews and started shaking hands with everyone else. It was terrifying, all around her, strange people lunging, trying to grab her hand. Teeth. Eyes. Looming.

She was trying to think who they were and how she knew them. She’s been around a long time so it wouldn’t be surprising if she knew a lot of people. That Mrs…um…Thing said just the other day, you’re something of an institution, aren’t you, Mrs…um, what did she call her? Apart from an institution?

Joan Curry has e-published three books – two on writing and one a selection of short stories. She has been a book reviewer for 37 years, writes notes for a nation-wide book discussion scheme, has had articles and features published in newspapers and magazines and has researched and written three books of family history. Her blog is at

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Kurt Struble, Where There Were Snakes

When I was a boy, we caught garden snakes in a field next to a place called the Tub Factory over by the railtracks. We trapped the snakes by stepping on their tails. Pinching them behind their heads we picked them up, looked at their flickering tongues and peered into their angry, cold eyes. Their teeth were little bumps. You didn’t bleed when bitten, but they wouldn’t let go. We’d collect six or eight of them in coffee cans, all writhing at the bottom. I took a can home to my mom once. She wouldn’t let me keep them as pets.

The field of snakes was behind the rambling old Eden house with its clapboard exterior that time had painted weathered and grey where seven brothers and sisters lived. Their father Mit, a full-blooded American Indian, was a mean, hard-drinking railroad man cruel to people even outside his family. His oldest son John was a bad apple who combed his greasy black hair into a pompadour, wore cuffed jeans, points, white t-shirts with cigarettes rolled into his sleeve. His half smile and white teeth belied angry, cold snake eyes that said he could kill you if he wanted. People said he even scared his father. Legend was he tied cats’ tails together, threw them over clothes lines and set them on fire.

Later in life he changed his ways, married a nice girl and became a Baptist minister.

Kurt Struble grew up during the 1950s in a small mid-western town. His stories illustrate the adventures of a boy growing up during that golden age of American history. He received his bachelors degree in Liberal Arts from Eastern Michigan University, taught elementary school and ran his own business. He is married and has raised four children. He travels between his homes in southwest Florida and Michigan.

~ ~ ~

Jan FitzGerald, The Best Studio Yet

“I really don’t need it,” the previous owner had said, apologizing for leaving a plywood sheet leaning against the inside wall of the shed.

“No problem,” Tony had shrugged, turning to Fran. “This is the best studio yet.”

Fran established her sewing business in the sunny spare room, opposite Tony’s studio, and planted roses outside the door. Sometimes, she could see movement reflected in the studio window. Other times, nothing for an hour or more, and she knew Tony had snoozed off. The non-working state was important in art.

When Tony was painting, there was to be no interruption. The phone could wait. Fran could wait. She’d understood that for years. Likewise, Tony didn’t venture into her sewing room. Some would say it was the perfect marriage – a relationship with an often passionate lunchtime.

It was a quiet neighbourhood. People kept to themselves. When a gust draped Fran’s bra over the grapevine inside the neighbour’s enclosed yard, she waited until the woman went out before sneaking over to retrieve it. That’s when she saw there was more than one way out of Tony’s studio.

She tiptoed to the tiny coal door and listened. Just this once, she had to . . .

She drew in her breath, tapped, then crept behind a bush. Perhaps the door was still hidden by the plywood. A few seconds later the little door opened and Tony crawled out. Wearing only a singlet tied around his neck and one of Fran’s roses between his teeth.

Jan FitzGerald has been published in mainstream NZ literary journals since the 1970s and in Poetry Australia, The London Magazine, Acumen (UK), Orbis (UK) and others. Her latest poetry book is entitled On a day like this (Steele Roberts, NZ). Jan works in Napier as a full-time artist. For more see her website, Painting Poets.

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Mark Crimmins, Chiricahua

You drive over a ridge and descend into forever: desert and a road that bisects it like a knife. An apparition shimmering in the distance, Chiricahua is a citadel of shadow and stone. On the one hand, you’re an avatar of movement as you hurtle across the Sonora, East and West landscapes tracking past you like films; on the other hand, progress towards your destination is so undetectable that you seem suspended in perpetual locomotion. There’s no one with you, no one to talk to, nothing to distract you; and – in spite of the fact that you’re driving a car – you occupy an elemental relation to nature. There is no sound but the purr of the engine and the whistling wind. The only sign of traffic is the javelina that trots across the highway just outside the ghost town of Dos Cabezas. Before you know it, your thoughts – as fluid and synchronous as the present – are coextensive with the horizon, all your thinking has become perceiving, and the god steering the winged chariot of the machine is no longer you. Nothing mars this continuity for an eternity of minutes. Then you start to emerge as the road winds into the foothills. But precisely because it requires so much attention, the climb to Inspiration Point itself seems timeless: you rise, you’re ascending and you’re there.

Mark Crimmins’s fiction has been published in Happy, Confrontation, and theNewer York. He received his PhD in 20th Century Literature from the University of Toronto in 1999 and taught 20th Century Literature at the University of Toronto from 1999 to 2013. He moved to Hong Kong in 2013 to concentrate on publishing his fiction.

~ ~ ~

Sue Kingham, Family Outing

“Purse your lips, don’t smile.”

I carefully applied lipstick to the mouth that had read me childhood stories.

“Sure you want this aqua eye shadow?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s pretty.”

“Pretty hideous.”

“I like it.”

“Hold still then.”

Creases around the eye sockets made it tricky to apply. It took me two attempts to fill in the left eyelid and three the right.



“Big smile. This goes on the apples of your cheeks.” I coloured the wizened fruits and asked what she was going to wear.

She gestured towards the door, “It’s hanging over there.”

I noticed that the price tag was still pinned to the label; the new look hadn’t come cheap.

“Hey, size 10.” I said. “No chance of sharing clothes with Mum then.”

“No, love.” She adjusted her blond wig in the mirror. “She wouldn’t want to anyway.”

Removing her dressing gown, she stepped into the dress. I helped her with the zip, and then, fiddling with the neckline, she turned to face me.

“How do I look?” she asked.

I pecked her on the cheek and whispered, “Lovely. You’re so brave. Sure you want to go through with this?”

“Yes. I’ve spent the past sixty years in hiding. This is the real me.”

“Okay then,” I linked my arm with hers. “This way, Dad.”

Since the Canterbury earthquakes shook her love of writing back to the surface, Sue Kingham has been busy joining writing groups and attending writing courses. When she’s not writing, she’s mum to two beautiful children and loves to fill her spare time reading.

~ ~ ~

Tay Glass, Ruckus

The wilderness could no longer hold him.

His escape required action, consequence. He had to fight every reinforcement the forest could mount; the sediment at his feet pushed against him, moving up the slope of Islington Peak with every bound. Vines and roots tangled themselves around his ankles. The air became thick with carbon dioxide, released in anticipation of his presence by the most sentient of the arboretum’s ancestors.

Ruckus, who was more forest than boy, sensed the adjustments of the wood long before they occurred. He could smell sap pouring into this limb or that. He could hear the roots twisting the soil, trying to gain the upper ground.

The child moved swiftly, no longer captive, but captor, a young prince of the prison that had held him.

The trees cleared, the steep incline collapsed in to rolling hills, in to lush meadows, in to vast farmlands. The forest had no sway here. Ruckus was free.

He came to a halt. His eyes, which were the colour of the forest canopy at night, darted around him for signs of danger. They reflected the sway of the crabgrass in the breeze, the sharp glimmer of sand against the setting sun and the waves.

The waves, he thought, are endless.

The forest air had tugged at him like chains, heavy amidst the stagnant trees. The sharp salt wind seemed to push him forward, into the waves and far beyond them.

No, Ruckus thought, it is not the wind that drives me.

Tay Glass writes things. He has been writing things all of his life (that is to say, since preschool). He has a soft spot for children’s poetry and science fiction. Tay lives in Toronto.

~ ~ ~

Jac Jenkins, The Agency

Ianthe did not yet know that her mother’s clean underwear advice was finally going to pay off. In a few minutes she would be bemused and dazed, hovering by my side above the square, looking down at her body sprawled on the cobblestones. I was hoping she didn’t turn out to be squeamish – the ones who can’t look at their corpses take the longest to adapt. I would have to put my other interests on hold.

Now though, she and Velma were deeply involved in, well, nothing. No, that’s not fair. Their friendship had long been solid – apart from that one time when Ianthe got caught out in a bit of ah-ah-afternoon delight with Velma’s husband – so doing nothing together at a cafe after their weekly assist at Hospice could be seen as an engagement in fellowship.

I buffed my fingernails with my robe while I waited for the action. Velma’s guide floated nearby, supercilious and sallow in his white swathes. The men in black were only about 300m away, so it wouldn’t be long before we were called to duty.

The bullets arrived on cue and Ianthe’s head disintegrated in a puff of red. She fell sideways onto the cobblestones, legs draped inelegantly over the chair, knickers exposed to the world. A thin wisp of Ianthe wavered above the body, tethered at the umbilicus. I allowed her a minute of twisting and tugging before gliding down for the clamp and cut.

Jac Jenkins is a poet and flash fiction writer from Whangarei. She works as a librarian but is looking forward to a three-month writing sabbatical in Australia late in 2014, hopefully in a location that challenges her with new experiences. Jac’s writing has appeared in the Northern Advocate, Take Flight and previously at Flash Frontier, and she recently celebrated winning the 2013 Takahē Poetry Competition and success in the Northwrite Collaboration Competition. She was also awarded a NZ Society of Authors poetry mentorship in 2012.

~ ~ ~

Judith Pryor, In Full Flight

Do I have to remind you to pick your clothes up off the floor again? Is it really so much to ask? Do you think that I don’t have a million things that I’d rather be doing than constantly nagging you all the time? Like reading the newspaper, uninterrupted, for once. Or taking a long relaxing bath.

Yeah, yeah, you say with your head.

I don’t think you’re listening to a word I’m saying. No wonder with those things in your ears all the time. I’m a mouth moving to you, but my words come courtesy of Beirut. Or Fleet Foxes. Not that I know what they sound like. It’s not like you’d ever share one of your earphones with me.

Yeah, yeah, you wave with your hand.

What if I were telling you something you think is important? Like your favourite band are in town and I’ve bought us all tickets to go? Would that get your attention? Or, your father has left us for a younger woman and you’re the man of the house now? Would that get you to help? Or, I’m about to go postal with the lack of consideration around here and put arsenic in the curry I’m making for dinner tonight? Would that be something you’d remember to tell reporters, the sole survivor of my culinary cry for help?

Yeah, yeah, you roll with your eyes.

You look up.

“Pass the salt, Mum,” you say.

Judith Pryor is formerly a cultural critic and historian. She has spent the last eighteen months at home looking after her young daughter and, besides writing short fiction, is now learning the guitar, blogging about motherhood and feminism on smothered and putting the finishing touches on a children’s novel.

~ ~ ~

Rebecca Simons, Paprika Coloured Dreams

The air was full, velvet to the touch, a golden paprika glow. Nostrils flaring she drank in the cardamom-laced sweetness of spices, sweat and heat, as the tears flowed freely. She couldn’t move, invisible cords rooting her to the spot. She woke shivering and pulled the covers higher, her hand brushing the dampness of her pillow-case. Tentatively she reached out and touched the shadowed hollow left behind by her husband’s head, and withdrew. It was no different to yesterday and would be the same tomorrow – the air a cool, watery grey – time a reality that only existed during the hours of sleep. When she left the hustle and bustle of Kolkata for the fresh new land of New Zealand her dreams had been filled with new possibilities, of clean air, space, the freedom to do as she would – the thought of leaving the crush of humanity, heat, sound, making her last days a torture she could hardly bear. Now her dreams had turned into a physical longing to be wrapped in heat – senses filled – to be hustled, bustled, prodded and poked, reminding her she was still alive. At noon she rose to stare at the colourless sky, determining that her dreams would become her reality once more – even if the ticket had said “one way” – this cool land with its distant people no longer able to hold her fast.

Rebecca Simons is an ex-office worker who discovered short story writing while enjoying a mid-life crisis. Although her university years were spent studying European languages and culture, she has found an even greater challenge in mastering the use of her maternal language, English, and hopes to continue with this challenge for many years to come.

~ ~ ~

Townsend Walker, A Postcard from Venice in January

Who was in Venice this time of year? She went down the list: Brad (extended business trip in New York), brother (Afghanistan), neighbors (present and accounted for).

Karen recognized the scene on the card: Campo San Polo. It’s where they’d bought masks from the shop of Gianni Cavalier. For her, a traditional white Venetian bauta and for Brad, a medico de peste, plague doctor with the long nose. That night they’d worn them in bed, with uproarious results, repeated from time to time after they got back, though not recently, she regretted.

She turned the card over. Brad’s writing, “Non dimenticarti mai.” A phrase they’d learned on vacation: “I’ll never forget you.” Instead of his signature, a drawing of the mask. What was Brad doing in Venice?

Then Karen remembered Annunziata, the girl. . .no, the woman. . .no, the bombshell at the front desk of their hotel, the one next to Teatro La Fenice. Where they’d seen Don Giovanni. Brad had spent hours with Annunziata mapping out their daily walks. Had the itineraries not been so perfect, Karen might have complained.

Karen called the airline Brad’s firm had an arrangement with. “This is Monica, Brad Foster’s secretary. I received a call from Mr. Foster. He’s lost his ticket and doesn’t remember the day he’s due to fly out of Venice.”

“There must be some mistake, Monica. Mr. Foster bought a one way ticket.”

Townsend Walker is a writer living in San Francisco. His stories have been published in over fifty literary journals and included in six anthologies. One story won the SLO NightWriters story contest. Two were nominated for The O. Henry Award. Four were performed at the New Short Fiction Series in Hollywood. During a career in finance he published three books on foreign exchange, derivatives and portfolio management. His website is here.

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Annette Edwards-Hill, A Dead End

When Pamela found her husband on the kitchen floor he was blue around the lips. He wore a halo of cornflakes, a dribble of milk on his cheek. She felt his breath on her cheek as she bent down to touch him, warm and light. She sighed and picked up the phone. Three digits, two rings. “Ambulance please.” She waited. The fifth call this year; it was April. She balanced the figures in her head: fifty dollars each way for the ambulance, then at least a day in hospital, more time off work, another scan, another “I’m sorry, Mrs Myers, there’s nothing we can do” then home again.

The seizures, they came regularly now, sometimes every night. “We can’t call it a matter of time,” the specialist had told her. “It could be years, or next month.” Pamela went outside and opened the gate. The ambulance arrived in the dawn light, no sirens, but still she saw curtains twitching across the street, a slither of inquiring nose or eye. She watched as the oxygen tank was lifted through the door, her husband rolled onto the stretcher, heavy arms falling then tucked across his body, a struggle to lift his bulk over the patio. She decided not to follow; she’d clean the kitchen first, have some breakfast.

Ten minutes passed. The cornflakes were now swept away and the milk wiped. The phone rang. “Mrs Myers? You need to come now.”

She locked the door and drove.

Annette Edwards-Hill lives in Wellington. She completed the Poetry Creative Writing workshop at Victoria University in 1997 and a Masters in Art History at Auckland University in 2000. A strange series of events led her to a career as a business analyst but she has a preference for writing fiction over project documentation.

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Neil Campbell, Another Good Country

From our tent behind the Kingshouse we could see across the A82 and across the pools of Glen Etive to the granite bulk of Buachalle Etive Mor. The loss of many years before returned more urgently to us as we climbed to the summit of the mountain once again. We fed bread to ravens before walking back down the mountain the way we came. Looking back we saw the mountain rescue bothy standing alone on the valley floor. We stayed another night behind the Kingshouse and the next morning made our way though the mists along the A82 and into the broadening valley of Glencoe.

In Glencoe we stayed at a place called the Red Squirrel campsite and in the evening went for a meal at the Clachan Inn, perched snug in the valley below the bulk of the Aonach Eagach ridge. The climbers rattled their karabiners and sloshed down beer and got more boring by the minute.

The following morning we drove further north, past the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge, with the jagged ridges of the Cuillin covered in mist above the Sound of Sleat. Further on we went, pushing memories back behind the accumulating slides of scenery. The first moment the TomTom said Assynt, our minds were filled with all our favourite MacCaig poems, and we drove onwards towards the north, where we planned to stay at Glencanisp Lodge and then take in the summits of Suilven, Canisp and Stac Polly.

Neil Campbell is from Manchester, England. He has two collections of short stories, Broken Doll and Pictures from Hopper, published by Salt, and two poetry chapbooks, Birds and Bugsworth Diary, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. His next chapbook of short fiction, Ekphrasis, is forthcoming from Knives, Forks and Spoons.

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Janis Freegard, The Wall

You will not believe what’s happened. You know how I always drive down Bridge St on my way to work? Well, this morning, I’m turning into the street as usual, right, and there in front of me is this massive brick wall – stretching right across the street from one side to the other. Taller than all the houses, totally blocking everything off. It’s insane. And it definitely wasn’t there yesterday.

Anyway, a couple of people are standing looking at the wall, right, so I get out of my car and join them. This one woman tells me, “It just appeared overnight.” She points to this house two doors down from the wall and says, “That’s where I live. Right there, and I never heard a thing. Slept right through. Woke up this morning and there it was. The council knows nothing, the police say they can’t do anything. It’s just there.”

And guess what? I look at the wall more closely and I notice that every single brick has a word etched into it: One. O-N-E. The woman sees me looking. “I went round to the other side,” she tells me. “The other side of the wall. A few minutes ago. I had to drive right around the block.” I mean you can see why – the wall’s way too high to climb over, right, and there’s no gap you could squeeze through at either end. And guess what she says? She says, “On the other side, every brick says ‘Way’.”

Janis Freegard’s work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Anomalous Press, Home: New Short Short Stories by New Zealand Writers, 100 New Zealand Short Short Stories 4, Landfall, NZ Listener and others. A past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award for fiction and runner-up in the 2012 National Flash Fiction Day competition, she is author of the poetry collections The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (Anomalous Press, US, 2013) and Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press, 2011). She lives in Wellington and blogs here.

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Trisha Hanifin, Splinters

That Paul Simon song, she said, I’ve been playing it over and over. You know the one, Hearts and Bones.

The CD cover lay open on the bedside table; she plumped pillows, ran fingernails through her hair, caressed his shoulder blade. The heat of a blush spread up her neck and cheeks.

I wrote the beginning of something once, she said. At the time I thought it had, well – she waved her hand in the air – it had something.

She coughed, reaching for her songwriter’s voice:
Splinters of heart and bone
Woven into sliding time…

He rolled over, sat up, yawned. What’s with the sliding bit? He said. There’s no sliding, it’s all one way, all downhill in a great pissing rush.

There’s no point talking to you, she said, you’re so literal, so liverish. Haven’t you ever felt time slide?

Do we have to analyse everything?

Listen to Paul Simon, she said:
The arc of a love affair
his hands rolling down her hair…

That’s good.

He touched her hair, traced the curve of her upper lip. Yes, but why say it?

It took him a long time, she said, to get it right.

He reached across, picked up the CD cover, read the blurb. All those words, he said then snapped his fingers – it didn’t even last.

A tear rolled down her cheek. Splinters of heart and bone, she whispered, losing her songwriter’s voice, and old Mister Time, all just sliding on down.

Trisha Hanifin lives in Auckland. She completed a Master of Creative Writing from the Auckland University of Technology in 2010 and is currently working on a novel and a collection of short fiction.

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Nod Ghosh, Decline

It happened over the course of a Thursday. At eleven, he thought things were improving. By midday it was clear the decline was only going one way.

He’d felt fine in the morning, even walked to the dairy with Hilda. But by eight, he’d started dropping things. There were gaps between the molecules of his fingers, and in the teacup too. There was no reason why his hand should support the china vessel. With that realisation, the drink crashed to the floor. Terracotta splash marks had dried at the foot of the cupboards when gravity hit him with a thump at ten o’clock. He was laid out on the couch, drifting between sleep and the familiarity of his wife’s knickers on the washing line, when the telephone rang.

“We can’t make it on Saturday,” James’s asphalt voice.

He made the right noises, like someone who cared. Clicking the kettle on, he had the distinct impression his body was turning into a gas. A little unsure of his grasp, and of what drinking tea might actually do to his insides, he exercised great caution pouring out the scalding fluid. He sipped carefully. The liquid appeared to make him solid again. Optimism warmed his shivering limbs.

By three o’clock, he woke to discover he couldn’t see his own reflection in the glass door opposite where he lay. He shouted out to Hilda in a panic, took two tentative steps and diffused through unseen gaps in the floor.

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch. Her short stories or poems have appeared in Takahē, Penduline, Christchurch Press and previous issues of Flash Frontier.