Judge Pamela Painter had the difficult task of choosing a winner, two finalists, and shortlist for this year’s writing contest. We received over 1,000 international entries that kept our editors busy for months. Special thanks goes out to Assistant Editor Charline Poirier for her tireless efforts and, of course, we’d like to thank every writer who submitted an entry.
FIRST PLACE: MARSH OMEN AUGURY
Judge’s Comments: “The unstable situation is introduced right off in a superb first sentence when thirty-three egrets appear as an omen and the locals call in the narrator to interpret it. The natural world of the narrator is filled with the sun, swamp flies, silky mud, reeds and tidal creeks, a keeled water snake, a gator and a hard-shelled turtle—and the egrets that s/he reads for The Truth, which the locals really do not want to hear. They are happy with a half-truth they celebrate with spaghetti dinners and swallow as easily as communion wafers. The startling ending arrives but the writer has prepared us for it well.”
Marsh Omen Augury
By L. Michelle Souleret
Thirty-three egrets flew into the salt marsh last night and lined up in a perfect row along an old, slanted pier. The locals chattered nervously at this omen and called me in.
I wade out, ankle-deep then to shinbone in the sun-warmed water, and stand all afternoon, watching. The white birds flap and preen and shuffle, but stay in formation. I wait. The sun passes overhead and swamp flies patter against my arms. My feet sink further into the silky mud. A keeled watersnake ripples past. I wait and I watch and I wait until, at last, a pattern emerges in the sinuous curves of the egrets’ necks and their awkward shifts from foot to foot. Meaning jangles into my brain with the snapping jaw-strength of a gator and the rightness of a hard-shelled turtle in the sun. I fall to my knees, choking, and cough out a glossy tangle of Truth.
But the town locals won’t want to hear the Truth. They pay me for comfort, and sometimes for the thrilling kick of fear. But never for the Truth. So I wade back and tell them “Thirty-three days, a row of storms like beads on a string, winds on the wing, rising water. But as a flock—salvation.” They cry and hug each other, thank me and pay me. They drive away to shore up the town’s flood defenses and hold spaghetti dinners in the church gymnasium to raise funds, shouldering the load of their fear side-by-side.
I continue to watch the birds after the locals leave. What I told them is true, if not the Truth. I simply peeled off the fibrous outer shell of the Truth—the metaphor that protects it—and balled it up into a salty knot they could chew and swallow like communion crackers. The Truth they leave behind huddles hot-green and alive in my pocket, writhing with meaning—Anger. Decay. A reckoning. Something comforting lost, something feared storming in. And maybe, just maybe, reconciliation.
The flock departs at sunset, rising in a rush of pale wings that glow in the thickening twilight. I climb into my canoe and paddle home through the tidal creeks, cradling the Truth in my lap, shimmering like an emerald. As I glide through reeds that rise above my head, the night sounds of the marsh close in around me. At home, I light my lanterns and push the Truth into a jar on a shelf with all the other Truths I’ve held back over the years. They pulse and gleam in my kitchen: some scaly, some pearled, some as delicate as birdskulls.
One day, I’ll let them all out like fireflies. Set the Truth free and ignite the world.
I’m not angry enough yet.
L. Michelle Souleret is a content marketing writer by day, and a fiction writer and poet by night. She lives in Denver near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband, son, dog, and cat.
SECOND PLACE: GRANNY HOLDS ME TO ACCOUNT
Judge’s Comments: “Humor finds a home in this story as the narrator is talked into wearing nothing but flip flops for a Rag Week fundraising stunt that doesn’t go according to plan. The unexpected continues to happen—so important to humor. And the grandmother only laments that he did not shave for his publicity photo. The ending is a surprise—but maybe not.”
Granny Holds Me to Account
By Helen Chambers
‘Volunteering,’ says Granny, ‘is good for you. Maybe you’ll meet a nice young lady.’
So, I volunteer for a University Rag Week fundraising stunt. Plus, I want to impress Emmy, Rag President. No-one is surprised when she persuades me into a deficit of good sense.
At my third approach towards the bank, I dare to enter. This same bank regularly extends my student overdraft. Battling nausea, sweaty hands and a sense of impending doom, I join the queue, feigning confidence I don’t possess.
I’m wearing nothing.
Not a stitch.
Except flip-flops, to which Emmy grudgingly agrees.
Life hack reminder: don’t upset Granny. She’d call this undignified and vulgar behaviour, and she wouldn’t be wrong. I long to curl into a (fully-dressed) ball and roll on the floor.
I notice that customers’ eyes stray to my chilly lower body, causing further heating of my face. But no-one will look me in the eye. I’ve mentally rehearsed my words: a polite request for an updated balance account, as if nothing is wrong, hoping I’m not asked for my card (no pockets).
Then a woman of around my age strides towards me, smiling. According to her badge, she is the Manager, Ms Webster. I didn’t know banks had young Managers.
‘Er, hello, Ms Webster,’ I stammer.
‘Hi handsome,’ she winks. Her voice register is deep and her captivating eyes are dark, almost black. I’m drowning. Her smile widens. ‘I’m Rachel. Can I help?’
‘Cash flow problems? Loan needed for essential purchases, like clothing?’
What I’d imagined was at this point, I’d be manhandled outside by a grumpy middle-aged Manager, where my accomplice, waiting with my clothes, would take photos as proof of my bravado.
What actually happens is that I garble an explanation, feeling foolish—and yet Rachel remains kind, shows an interest.
‘Where’s your photographer friend?’ she asks.
Rachel does some reckoning and offers us a deal. She’ll pose (dressed) with me (naked) for photos, and her branch will donate a generous, tax-deductible sum to the Rag Week fund. She wants full control of publicity, which, properly handled she says, should attract further and greater donations.
No longer feeling cold, I agree and deposit my arm over her shoulder for the photos. When she slips her arm around my waist in return, I expand my chest and wish I’d invested in some serious weight training in the lead-up to today.
Emmy glows from being the highest-profiting Rag President in the entire history of the Uni and shares the TV limelight with me. Privately, she scolds me for selling out to capitalism. Her loss.
Granny comments that I should never be seen in public unshaven, but does create a tasteful album of newspaper clippings and photos to show to her refined friends.
Once dressed, I return to the bank, to ask Rachel out on a date.
Granny loves her, too.
And that, children, is the true story of how I met your mother.
Helen procrastinates, walks, and occasionally writes in North East Essex, UK. She won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018, was nominated for Best Microfictions in 2019 and Pushcart in 2021. She has words in Spelk, Ellipsis, Janus Literary and Fictive Dream amongst others. Helen writes flash and short stories and you can read some of her pieces at helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com.
THIRD PLACE: DRIVING BY MOONLIGHT
Judge’s Comments: “The story begins with a dramatic event as the narrator is terrified when his friend, the driver, turns off their headlights, and for seconds they are barreling down a dark, deserted road. It becomes a tradition that changes in tone and substance with the words “A year into your diagnosis”—words that take the story full tilt into the future with another wild, and oddly life-affirming ride.”
Driving by Moonlight
By A.K. Cotham
Nobody likes Interstate 5. Like most, I tolerated it. But your greatest joy was putting pedal to the metal on the flattest stretch with no red lights ahead, no white lights behind. Halfway between Sacramento and the Grapevine, at night, I-5 laid out before us like a wasteland divided, the full moon high and heavy like a cliché, you rolled down the windows and turned off the headlights.
“Fucking lunatic!” I shouted through the wind. “Turn them back on!”
“We can see just fine!” You laughed through my shouting, then relented.
It had only been a minute, probably less.
But it became tradition, on each trip—“Keeps you on your toes!” you’d chortle. “You have to trust the road you’re on.”
“Nobody trusts this road, what does that even mean, and I don’t want to be on my toes.” But your joy was infectious and I’d hide a smile through each argument.
A year into your diagnosis, I drove the whole way. You slept in the passenger seat, your breathing shallow. Cars wove in, out, passing us by, moving onward. Dusk passed slowly through that kaleidoscopic haze when everything became slightly more than three-dimensional. It was almost a relief when darkness sharpened and settled during that last stretch, interrupted by nothing but taillights and mileage signs.
The music was low. The moon was full.
All that could be said had been said. No more bullshit. No more memories.
Then you whispered, “Roll down my window?”
I did, and you crept your fingers out to high-five the wind. They vibrated, thin and brittle as hair, as if they might snap off and fly away.
You whispered something else—but facing away, your words carried off into the wind. I thought I understood you anyway. Words were becoming part of the past now, and I was holding onto every last one:
Time to trust the road.
Taking a breath, I turned off the headlights.
The individual beams directly in front of our car disappeared—just a moment of transition, a tremor, a terror—then I fell back into the landscape. The same vastness as before but different: the moon glowing over us, lighting up new shadows in the spare land, the intermittent caverns of hay and barns and housing, and your profile, breathing it all in and out. The wind filling up the space between us.
A.K. Cotham lives and writes in Northern California. Her fiction has appeared in places such as 50-Word Stories, CommuterLit, 101 Words, Every Day Fiction, and Black Fox Literary Magazine, as well as in Brilliant Flash Fiction’s 2021 anthology, Branching Out. Two short stories have been performed by Sacramento Stories on Stage.
By Favour Ezienyi Ahuchaogu
Abrod. That’s how your parents pronounce it.
“Nkenna bu onye obodo oyibo. He is a foreigner. He is destined to leave this place and go abrod.”
Now you think about it, they said it about all your siblings.
“Chioma will marry an abrod person.”
“Iheanyi, onye America!”
In fact, about any young person they liked.
“Daa Keke’s son is so bright. That boy does not deserve to be here. He will go over there, I’m sure.”
They promised migration to you like the biscuits your mother bought as a reward.
You fell in love with “there,” even when you had not yet put a name or face to it and you longed for it for a better part of your life. “Here,” “this place” was your village in Osisioma Ngwa, so close to the hustling and bustling city of Aba. You grew up there, that untouched part of the world where everybody still rode bicycles as a means of transportation, not sport bicycles, tall Raleigh ones that you, like every other child, learned to ride unaided at 5, carrying your siblings in tow, two of them holding on to your waist, to the Anglican church in Amaukwa where almost everybody else in the town went.
The green grew thicker and greener in your village but you didn’t notice. You thought of snow and the brown leaves of Fall. So when your cousins from America visited the Christmas you were ten, you followed them around as they ahhhed and ooohed over the tall palm trees and the cassava your mother was preparing for garri. You asked them to show you pictures of America, of anything remotely foreign. You cringe now when you remember asking them if they had sand.
You traveled out of the country at 30, to Canada after an apprenticeship with an uncle who made shoes in Aba at 15, university from 19 through 22 and a nine-to-five hustle in Lagos where you saved and scrimped so much that your coworkers laughed to your face about your one pair of black shoes.
Abrod was everything you dreamed of, the snow and the aesthetic, but you realized that you fell in love with it from a distance. It was like a movie you watched based on someone else’s recommendations. The recommendation was good but it wasn’t a scene-by-scene review. It just gave you someone else’s opinions. So you struggled to find your own opinions of a place away from home sans the homesickness and periods when you wished you were somewhere else. It was not a movie you picked yourself.
*Author’s Note: Fernweh is a German word, literally translated as farsickness. It is the only word that I think can come close to capturing the feeling of falling in love and having a strong yearning for a place we’ve never been or even seen.
About the Author:
Favour Ezienyi Ahuchaogu is an avid reader. When you do not find her with her nose in a book, you will find her either sleeping and dreaming of places she has visited in her imagination, or spinning tales of her own. She is a graduate of English and Literary Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She currently works as a Sales and Marketing Executive with a Pharma-FMCG company (go figure!) but has never stopped doing the things she loves most. So she doubles as a freelance writer and editor in her spare time.
The Little Tin Soldier
By Terri Mullholland
She found it buried amongst the rubbish.
Her mother had told Elsie not to play in the grounds of the abandoned factory; children had been cut on things before, picking up bits of rusty old metal, broken glass, old blades. That’s how Jacob Davey got blood poisoning, they nearly had to cut his hand off. And Ben Harris lost an eye, never did say how it happened.
Most of the children were too scared to go near the factory after that.
But not Elsie. She wasn’t stupid enough to pick up anything sharp with her bare hands, not like the boys. She just liked to look at things and, occasionally to kick at things with the toe of her leather school shoe. That had always been safe enough.
That was until she kicked what she thought was a rusty old tin can and saw a little face peering up at her from the debris.
She crouched down to get a better look. It was a little tin soldier, the kind boys played battles with at school. His face was nearly rubbed out with rust, but he still had a smudge of black moustache and specks of blue for his eyes.
Elsie poked him with a stick, uncovered him more. He was whole, a body, two arms, two legs, not much bigger than an adult forefinger. The perfect size to fit comfortably in a child’s hand.
He looked well-loved, like he had been picked up many times, his suit of once-red livery, almost worn-off by too much play.
In his right hand was a rifle, pointing upwards over his shoulder. Compared to the rest of him, it was clean of rust, the black paint almost new.
I’ll be very careful, she thought. I don’t have to tell mother I found him in the factory yard. I can say he was just lying in the street, or even that one of the boys gave him to me. She reached out her hand.
Elsie grasped the tin soldier. He was looking her in the eye now. His face didn’t seem as rusty up close; he was smiling as he aimed his tiny rifle and fired.
About the Author:
Terri Mullholland (she / her) is a writer and researcher living in London, UK. She has a PhD from the University of Oxford, where she has taught English Literature and Critical Theory. Her flash fiction has appeared in Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese, Full House, Severine, Tether’s End, The Liminal Review, and Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and in 2021 was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction.Website: www.terrimullholland.com
More Beautiful Than the Moon
By Chelsea Stickle
He said he’d lasso me the moon, George Bailey-style. Stroking my grandmother’s bluish-purple moonstone on my ring finger, he whispered that he’d get me a real one. A proper moonstone for a wedding ring.
“But I like this one,” I said.
He shook his head. “You deserve better.”
After work he practiced lassoing. He was getting pretty good, too. I said we should enter him in a rodeo, cash in. Then he started lassoing things around the house while I read books on gemstones.
“Listen to this,” I said as he lassoed his phone from across the room. “Because the layers of moonstones are thin, light scatters across and is reflected from the inside. It’s called adularescence. Isn’t that cool?”
He hmmed and lassoed my favorite peace lily across the room. The terra cotta pot shattered near his feet. Soil scattered like glitter across the wood floor.
“It’s time,” I said. “Lasso the moon or let it go.”
The shed out back was stuffed with rope he’d been collecting since his promise. They were all linked in an infinite many-colored loop. He stripped down to nothing, his clothes pooling around his feet. In a wide-legged stance he whipped the lasso over his head like he was competing in the original Olympics, aiming for the white orb in the baby blue sky. It worked. The moon was on a string. All the animals bolted and left us in an eerie silence.
The moon crashed into the field. The roof and walls of our house collapsed.
“Come take a look,” he said. “Touch it.”
Up close it was a brown boulder. The kind you’d push up a hill for eternity because you pissed off a god. As I touched its rough exterior, I remembered that the moon was only bright white because it reflected the sun. Without that, it was just a big rock. The only thing that made it special was what he’d taken from it.
About the Author:
Chelsea Stickle is the author of the flash fiction chapbook Breaking Points (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). Her fiction appears in CRAFT, Chestnut Review, Gone Lawn, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Best Microfiction 2021 and others. She lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.
One Thousand Cranes
By Melissa McCracken
She was surprised at how long it had taken her to notice how much of town had vanished. Admittedly, she’d been housebound and distracted for years, but now that she drove across town every day, she was increasingly shocked to discover just how much had disappeared. She’d noticed incrementally, as she’d gone looking for things: the tailor, the florist, the butcher, places she’d been frequenting for decades. Today it was the stationery store. She drove to the Office Max near the highway instead, but even it was gone. Well not exactly gone, its hulking edifice remained, but vacant and empty.
She considered buying good-quality paper and having it trimmed, but the paper had to be absolutely perfect. It would never work unless everything was exactly as it had always been. She’d had the idea while watching a documentary about muscle memory and the brain, and with that idea came, to her surprise, a whisper of hope, which was something else she’d believed was gone forever.
She wasn’t so old that she didn’t know how to Google things on the computer, but she worried about her credit cards, and her glasses weren’t right for the screen, and she never remembered her passwords, so she rarely bothered. But now she was determined, and once online discovered that what she’d been searching for was at Wal-Mart all along. She’d assumed it was a specialty item from a specialty store, but there it was—in stock even—at the Wal-Mart near the highway. She felt both deep relief and crushing sadness, an uncomfortable combination with which she’d recently become well-acquainted.
It was a familiar drive, and she allowed herself to get lost in her memories, which she tried not to do when driving, or any other time. When he was courting her, he would write tiny love notes on origami paper and fold them into perfect cranes, which he’d then surreptitiously slip into her handbag or coat pocket, so that she would discover the treasure later, and he said, “be unable to forget him.” He told her he’d learned while stationed in Japan, and that although he had folded “thousands and thousands of cranes,” hers were his finest.
From Wal-Mart she drove to the facility, the origami paper tucked in her handbag. She would sit with him for a while first and wait for that look he sometimes still got: his thoughtful look. Then she would put a piece of the origami paper in his palm, have him turn it over a few times, let him get the feel of it. He would sense its lightness, its perfect squareness; he’d touch its crisp edges, pass his fingertips over the creamy surface, feel the delicate weave that gave this special paper its ability to hold its many folds. The mind was miraculous; his fingers would know precisely what to do, and then, she hoped, he could remember.
About the Author:
Melissa McCracken is originally from Chicago and now resides in central Georgia, on the road that is part of the Rural Georgia Authors Tour. Melissa spends most of her time writing lots and lots of business words, but prefers to write screenplays and flash fiction. Her husband is fabulous.
The Quiet Woman
By Tricia Lowther
“You certain it was her, Ron? You should call the police.” Bree frowns at me.
We’re at a beer festival on the south coast, working a promotion for the brewery.
“I’ll double-check.” I walk off, wade through clusters of revellers enjoying drinks in the August heat.
I knew I’d seen her before, but couldn’t place her at first. She’d gone grey, gotten heavier, but when she asked me, in soft Yorkshire tones, for a lager shandy, I almost yelled. Linda Blackwood! A regular in the first pub Bree and I ran together. Used to come in every Wednesday lunchtime and order a veggie burger and a lager shandy. She wore flowing skirts and long sleeved tops in muted colours. She was pleasant enough, polite, but reserved. Wary.
She’d curl up in the big armchair under the back window for most of the afternoon. Hardly ever spoke to anyone, just got out a book and read. Bree would tut, mutter about people who nursed drinks for hours, but I liked seeing her there. She radiated hush.
We got to chatting now and again, about books mostly. She liked the classics: Austen, Dickens, the Bronte sisters.
“Don’t you ever read modern books?” I asked her one week, as I gave her table a quick flick with the dishcloth.
She eyed me over the top of the book. “I prefer to get lost in another time.”
I grinned, gestured at her copy of Wuthering Heights. “Hardly light entertainment.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Have you read it?”
“It’s one of my favourite novels.”
“Really?” She had green eyes. Thick make-up couldn’t quite hide the purple stain around one of them. “It’s my third reading. Interesting how you see different things each time. First time, I was fourteen, fell in love with Heathcliff. Grown up a bit since then.” The last sentence was imbued with bitterness.
I agreed. “Yes, Heathcliff was an evil bastard. Never understood why he’s always played like a romantic hero. It’s a very dark story.”
She nodded, and returned to her book. After she left I found it on the floor beside the chair. I kept it behind the bar for her, but she never came back.
Soon afterwards her picture was all over the local news. Police concern over missing woman. That’s how I learned her name. The husband made an appeal on TV for her return, head clutched in his rough, big-knuckled hands. He claimed she was unbalanced, vulnerable. I sometimes wondered where the shifty-eyed bastard had buried her.
And here she is. Bare legs stretched out on the grassy bank that overlooks the beach, book on lap. She turns the page and I remember a bandaged wrist. I move a little closer. She’s reading the latest New York Times best seller. I walk away before she sees me.
Back at the bar, I shake my head at Bree’s look.
“No,” I say. “I got it wrong.”
About the Author:
Tricia Lowther grew up in Liverpool, England. Her flash fiction, poetry and short stories have appeared in many online and print publications including: Mslexia, Writers’ Forum and Event Magazine. She’s had non-fiction published in The Guardian, New Republic and Ms Magazine.
By Patricia Q. Bidar
I’m not working, but keeping my hand in. Covering my nut with the help of the U.S. government and those sweet stimulus checks. I know These Unprecedented Times won’t last forever. So I’m maintaining my skills for the day my calendar repopulates.
How I miss trundling my portable planetarium from elementary school to elementary school! I began this work with only a simple projector that included a set of fixed stars, plus the Sun, Moon, and planets. A handful of nebulae. Over the years I added comets.
I’d arrive in my party dress with the Milky Way galaxy emblazoned across the skirt. My ballet slippers, soundless in primary school breezeways. As they rose through the grades, the kids in my county would anticipate the annual assembly where I’d command, Lights Out! and whisk my illuminated pointer across the heavens, which at other times served as the ceiling of the school’s cafeteria. The job’s hazards include a jadedness to the screams of overstimulated wee ones, an awed respect for teachers, and an aversion to the smell of catsup.
My boyfriend bailed not long after the shutdown. He needs to sleep early because his job at the Pacific Stock Exchange demands he appear before the opening bell sounds. He was roused one time too many as I practiced. Unhinged, was his word. He left one cold night, taking nearly all we had, during the time it took to swim 100 dry laps in our bathroom.
When my boyfriend left, my mother gifted me with a subscription to an online dating site. Her version of, “You need to get out there!” With all the bars and restaurants closed, we’re all cheap dates now. Virtual fact-finding meetups have been distilled to hair and makeup. Earrings and a juicy backstory. The beta-improved face of a stranger in close-up.
I keep up my practice on the stained ceiling of my studio apartment. Then a month in, I threw my back out attempting to create a dome effect with three sheets and some masking tape. I convinced my virtual doctor that I also suffer from night terrors. Plus, I was pretty sure I’d been walking in my sleep, I added. She prescribed Restoril.
I began ignoring CDC protocols and inviting my dates over. To my surprise, three-quarters of them say yes. And yes to a glass of wine. A light dose, but people are already so tired these days.
If I’m addicted to anything, it’s skimming my pointer across uncovered skin and entoning descriptions of the constellations I discover. This is my delight. I can imagine we are in a Midwestern cornfield, reclining in the back of a pickup truck, engine ticking in the summer night, stars spattering the black sky.
My Milky Way dress entwined with his dungarees. Jackson or Perry or Hank. Breath-catching jawlines. Rough, grateful hands. The very reason they call it the heartland.
Did you know there are 88 official constellations? But it’s easy to make your own. The cosmos really is endless.
About the Author:
Patricia Q. Bidar is a writer from the Port of Los Angeles area. In 2021, her work was nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Best Micro, and Best Small Fictions. Her stories have been published in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Pinch, and Atticus Review, among other places. Her flash piece, Over There, will appear in Flash Fiction America anthology (W.W. Norton, March 2023). When she is not writing fiction, Patricia reads and ghostwrites for nonprofit organizations. She can be found online at patriciaqbidar.com or on Twitter @patriciabidar.
While You Kissed
By Harry Wilding
The kissing is fine. Nice, even. You just need to leave. This started as a goodbye hug, that was its only purpose, to say yeah bye lovely evening you’ll text. Why did you even stay the night? It was an accident, you didn’t mean to. She’d clearly engineered the evening to make it easier for you to do so—like the constant offers of food and drink, of alcohol. You’d had to lie next to each other for the film, too, because of how she’d placed the laptop and the cushions, and eventually the blanket. She’d started pushing her arse against you around the 45 minute mark. She smells nice and she’s cute. Pretty. And fun. You’d enjoyed yourself. It was a nice night but you need to leave. She won’t let you leave. You know you don’t quite align, not really. The wrong hole for the peg, as it were. Personality-wise, that is. The sex, well, that was where the peg fitted perfectly nicely, actually. But now, today, you have things to do. She knows this. It’s already gone midday. At least three hours overdue on your morning shit. Your bloated belly squashes tightly against her passionate embrace. You need to leave but you know you won’t, not until much later. You’ll be pushed back towards the sofa. You’ll play along, giggle with her, as you both fall against the cushions and quickly resume the kissing. The kissing will lead to enthusiastic hands exploring the most exciting parts of your anatomies, gradually, clumsily, revealing them to room temperature. She’ll remind you the condoms are upstairs and then lead you up to them, to her bed. The possibility of resisting will rise and fall in an instant. It can’t be stopped, you realise; it’s inevitable. This realisation will almost be a relief. You’ll finally escape just before 4pm. Your house will be cold. Your day will be gone. At least you’ll finally shit in peace. You’ll see her again, of course. You’ll have to. You won’t want to be that guy. The hump and dump guy. But then what? You’ll have to end it at some point. Before certain relationship labels start to be applied. Before you meet each other’s friends, each other’s family. Before she starts to think about marriage. Before she starts planning the wedding day. Before death will part you.
About the Author:
Harry Wilding writes in Nottingham, where he fantasizes about elaborate heists that steal from the rich and give to the poor. He has had work published by the likes of Popshot, Flash Magazine, and Ink, Sweat & Tears, and he is currently begging various literary agents to take on his recently-completed novella.
Notable Stories (selected by BFF staff)
Nic Arico, Wherein the Labyrinth the Fridge Lie
Joe Baumann, Missing Pieces
Debra Bennett, HOCKEY NIGHT, 1953
Hannah Brown, Some Assembly Required
Dr Dianne Bown-Wilson, How to Sew on a Button
Mark Burrow, Christopher L Johnson’s Heroic Act
Denise Chick, The Death of a Fisherwoman
CJ Erick, Fish Woman Sea
Anthony Kane Evans, Backwards
Stephen House, Twenty Bucks
Doug Jacquier, Bach Pastorale
Gregory Jeffers, Stalwart
Barbara Kurzak, The grains, the lumps, and the glitter
Swati Ravi Nain, The Devotee
Karthik G. Nambiar, Do Not Proceed Further
Sam Selvaggio, WHISKEY
Shoshauna Shy, BORDER COLLIE
Sai Shriram, Far Enough
Roberta Allen, WONDER
Marie Anderson, The Broken Mother’s Prayer
Anne Anthony, Talk to Him
Randy Attwood, Confidence
Sudha Balagopal, A Woman’s Place
Edward Barnfield, Blocked
Roberta Beary, In Praise of the Youngest
S. Berenstein, Confessions of a Closet Housecleaner
Laura Besley, Mouths to Feed
Finnian Burnett, Sparrows Mate for Life
Sally Clark, The Apple Tree
Judith Beth Cohen, Lobster on Thanksgiving
Manalika Borgohain, The Proof of the Pearl Is in the Heating
Elias Cooper, Man of the Year
Sam Corradetti, Health Report
Quinn Forlini, Imagine Birds, Imagine Light
Matt Goldberg, Organic Farm
Channie Greenberg, Agouti Coat
Elad Haber, A Heart Is a Friend That Leaves
Ravisha Hapuarachchi, Swan Lake
Margaret Kelliher, No Big Deal
Helen Ko, When Ioa Flew
Arah Ode’esidu Kuseme, Onyekwe
Jennifer Lai, Obedience
Samantha Meddaugh, The Human Flytrap
Addie Mitchell, Listening
Altraide Nancy, MORE BEAUTIFUL FOR HAVING BEEN BROKEN
Sherif B. Oshinowo, THE FIRST OF COUNTLESS HEARTBREAKS
Rostislava Pankova-Karadjova, A serenade for winds in A minor
Eliza Perez, Making Dents
Amanda Pica, The Good Girl
Jyoti Rajanand, Reminiscence
JP Relph, Staying
Gautam Sen, ROOMMATE
Desiree Simons, Where’s Henry?
Charmaine Smith, The Sand Thief
Riley Tao, The Color of Wings
Bob Thurber, Tango Dancers
Libby Tollefson, Woodpeckers
Hannah Whiteoak, Waiting for the Moment
Belinda Whitney, OPTIONS
Allison Xu, A Puzzle Piece
Michael A Young, A Little Story About Love