I Can Show You the World and other stories, page 1
I Can Show You the World
and other stories
a collection of award winning flash-fictions
from National Flash-Fiction Day 2012
First Published 2012 by National Flash-Fiction Day
National Flash-Fiction Day
All work ©2012 the authors,
The moral right of the authors has been asserted
Cover design by Calum Kerr.
Typeset by Calum Kerr.
Dedicated to all those who entered the competitions but who didn’t win this time.
We’ve reserved your place for next year.
Foreword by Calum Kerr
4’33” Audio Competition
The Nose Picker: Public Enemy Number One
1000words – Picture Prompt E-Journal
The Flower Girl
A Bit of Sparkle
Zero Point Zero Zero Zero Five
Bad Language Competition
The Cousins’ House
Kitchen Sink Drama
Lynn Myint Maung
FlashBang Crime Competition
Mirror on a Stick
Flash Fiction South West Anthology
A Good Dying
Flash Fiction World Competition
Every Picture Tells a Story
Ever Has It Been That Love Knows Not Its Own Depth Until The Hour of Separation.
Lorna Louise Hutchison
The Day The Music Died
Lancashire Writing Hub’s Competition
Once Upon A Time – Fairytale Competition
I Can Show You the World
A Mermaid in Texas
The Word Counts Competition
Writing East Midlands Competition
As I write this it is 8:48 on Tuesday 15th May 2012.
“How interesting,” you say.
“It certainly is,” I respond.
So why are we having this riveting discussion?
Well, we’re having it because just seven months ago I had the idea that what flash-fiction writers needed even more than money, food and shelter, was a day to call their own. Many of them agreed and now, as I write this, we are just over 15 hours away from that day.
Yes, 16th May 2012 will be, is, and has been (depending on when you’re reading this) the first National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK (and anywhere, for that matter). Many events will be taking place all over the country and, in fact, all over the world.
But, you see, that’s only half the story. Because things have already been happening.
In the run up to the Day there have been many different competitions, some with prizes, some promising publication, some offering both, and as a result a huge number of excellent stories have been written.
The only problem is, because these were winners in many different competitions taking place across the country, there was a chance that they might be missed by some people.
To avoid that fate, this collection gathers together the winners and runners-up of the various competitions (well, those which had announced by the time of going to press, at least). To avoid favouritism, the competitions have been listed in alphabetical order, as have the authors within each section. You can decide for yourself which the winners are (or go to the various websites for the prizes listed in the Acknowledgements section and look them up...)
These stories were picked as the best of the bunch, the cream of the crop, the cliché-lover’s cliché. They were written for National Flash-Fiction Day and they were written in celebration, and I hope you enjoy them in that same spirit.
Director, National Flash-Fiction Day 2012
By J Adamthwaite
“Hey!” I yell. But he’s gone, footprints so light they don’t mark the snow.
Mum rolls her eyes again. She thinks I make him up.
The Nose Picker: Public Enemy Number One
By Thomas McColl
Last night, police sealed off the end of my street, where a young man was stood alone at the bus stop. He was told to take his finger slowly away from his nose, and as soon as he did, he was surrounded and restrained, while forensic experts, quickly on the scene, still putting on their rubber gloves as they jumped from the back of their van, wiped his finger clean of mucus.
They took the sample back to the central lab and filed it under the young man’s name. From now on, they’ll be able to check it against any discarded mucus found in a public place.
This morning, his poster is on the shelter at the bus stop, a blow up of the mug shot taken at the station. The photo shows him with his finger up his nose. Below it is the warning to a hygiene conscious public:
“This man is dangerous: Approach with caution. Do not shake his hand.”
By Claire Noble
I’m vacuuming when I observe the intruder in my yard.
The yard’s my husband’s responsibility, but he’s not home. I confront the intruder.
“Hey Bella, hey girl?” I’m trying to sound friendly but we both know it’s a false friendly.
Bella flees but not without a “fuck you” growl.
I walk out to the yard.
“Fucking neighbor’s fucking dog.” Dog bombs everywhere.
My first impulse is to relocate Bella’s bombs to her yard. I call neighborhood security instead.
“Hello, yes, this is Mrs. Noble, uh, the neighbor’s dog is using my yard as a toilet. Ok, thanks”
A security vehicle pulls into the neighbor’s drive. It departs and a woman emerges. She crosses the street, plastic bag in hand, I figure that’s cool she’s coming to pick up the bombs. I go outside to say hi. But before I can speak, she does.
“Are you the person who called security? You could have just come and told me—I live across the street?”
“Your dog is shitting all over my yard, there are leash laws in this county.”
“You could have just come and told me.” She flees in Bella’s direction, doggie doo doo bag in hand.
“I’m at war with the neighbors.” I tell my husband, and he asks, “What is it this time?”
The Flower Girl
By J Adamthwaite
I was fourteen the first time it happened. It was a family picnic
My brother came to find me.
“Dad says it’s time to go,” he said and I told him about the flowers, even though I didn’t normally tell him anything.
“Yeah, right,” he said. “Like a super power, only rubbish. Bet you can’t do it again.”
I reached out into the flowers. A breeze blew and some of the petals fluttered into my hair. I rubbed my fingers over them, and then, as though someone had changed the slide: daisies. We looked at each other.
“I knew you were weird,” he said triumphantly, as though all he’d been waiting for was proof.
I spent a lot of time after that trying to find a use for my skill. There’s no way you’d get a gift like that if it wasn’t for something, I used to think.
“Sometimes things just are,” my husband said the day after he found out.
On our wedding day, the bouquet turned from roses to lilies to hyacinths like a fibre optic lamp. The flower girl stared at it in awe, her eyes as wide as oranges and her basket of petals clutched tightly in her tiny hands.
A Bit of Sparkle
By Susan Carey
‘Sitara, get in the cupboard!’ Tariq ordered. Sitara squeezed into her usual hiding place, the broom cupboard beneath the sweatshop stairs. Looking through the keyhole she saw the inspector with his clipboard.
‘How old’s that one?’ He pointed at Nanda.
‘Old enough,’ Tariq squashed a wad of notes into the inspector’s top pocket. As the inspector counted the rupees he shrugged his shoulders, gave a cursory glance at the other workers and left.
Sitara’s tummy rumbled. Something light and furry ran over her sandaled foot. She stifled her scream. Tariq knocked the all-clear and she came out.
She sat down and picked up the emerald green fabric. The colour reminded her of a picture she’d seen on a calendar of England. There were rolling fields and a castle. Her fingers had a life of their own as they danced over the material. Their fidgeting had woken her up last night as she slept on the sweatshop floor, sewing imaginary sequins on her blanket’s scratchy surface.
When she got to the end of the scrolling leaves pattern she told her fingers to stop. She rubbed them warm and just above the cloth’s selvedge she embroidered, with the smallest sequins she could find, a little star. Sitara’s mother had promised that every night she would look up at the stars and if Sitara did too, they would stay connected.
Maude purchased nine yards of silky fabric from the man in the turban. He wobbled his head from side to side as he put the material into a plastic bag. Tooting Market was almost all Indian stallholders now, Maude reflected.
‘She’s going through with it, then?’ Joe said as Maude ran up the garment on her ancient Singer.
‘Yes, she heard this morning. She’s got the job. Professional dancer on a cruise ship. She’s over the moon, Joe. Try and be pleased for her.’ Maude pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose.
‘What’s the point of going to university if she’s going to throw it all away and become a stripper.’ Joe lit his cigarette.
‘I heard that, Dad.’ Lynne came in, flopped down on the armchair and crossed her Ugged-feet over the pouffe. ‘I’m a professional belly dancer. The tips alone will keep you in fags and beer for a year.’ She admired her just-manicured nails.
‘Love that colour, Gran.’
Maude didn’t look up as she rattled the machine along the hem, close to the sequinned edge. Holding it up to the light she said, ‘this shade will suit you down to the ground.’ She tossed the finished skirt to her granddaughter.
Lynne stood up and wriggled the skirt over her skinny jeans. Getting up onto the largest of the nesting tables she twirled on the spot. The sequinned, circular hem spun out, flashing back the light, Sitara’s star subsumed in a kaleidoscope of colour.
Maude folded her arms and smiled. ‘You’ll knock ‘em dead in that, love. I’ve always said there’s nothing like a bit of sparkle.
Zero Point Zero Zero Zero Five
By Eva Holland
Jake had managed to eke out his last three meters for nearly two months. Each morning and each evening he measured the tiny amount he had used, totted it up in his head and then considered the implications. On a few occasions he was rash: seized by a gust of frustration he would tear off ten, 20 centimetres. He’d regret it later though. On the morning that his calculations told him he was down to his last 30 centimetres he started to prepare: pumping up his tyres and oiling his chain. Then he girded himself to tell Marie.
She knelt on an old cushion, humming gently as she rhythmically split green seedlings apart, separating sibling from sibling. Her hair was streaked with grey now and one lens of her glasses bore a jagged crack. He stood by the radish bed, careful not to block her light. ‘Marie, I have to go again. Today, love.’
She squinted into the sun, searching for his eyes. Then, slowly, turned her gaze back to the soil. ‘No, Jake, you don’t have to go. But you will,’ she replied.
His hands made tentative gestures of conciliation in the air. Not that she was looking. ‘I’ll only be a few days. Less, maybe.’
She didn’t look up. ‘Where will you go this time? You’ve searched everywhere. You can’t go into the city, not for this Jake.’
‘I might not have to. There are other places. Lots of places,’ he replied.
Head bent to her work, Marie ignored the lie until he walked away.
Jake tied his pack to the front of his bike and set off. The reel containing the last precious length of floss was in a specially-sewn pocket on his thigh. It had taken him more than two weeks of hunting and gathering last time he had set out like this and it would have taken longer if it hadn’t been for a lucky find in an abandoned house: eight untouched reels. That wouldn’t happen again; the city was his only hope this time.
An hour into his journey he pulled off the deserted road and clambered over the embankment. His boots crushed bright corn flowers as he made his way towards a cabin surrounded by gently grazing sheep.
‘Michael? It’s me,’ he called through the open window.
‘Jake! Come in!’
The brothers embraced. Shards of drying mutton hung from the cabin’s ceiling, its smell a pungent shock to Jake as they stepped inside. ‘I brought you something. Blackberry.’ He set two jars on the table.
‘My favourite. Thank you. Come, sit. How’s Marie? Susie? What brings you here? Jake you’re not…’
‘I have to’, his voice cracked and he wiped the back of his hand across his right cheek. ‘I’m going into the city this time.’
‘No, Jake!’ his brother’s fist thudded into the table between them. ‘It’s dental floss. You use it to scrape invisible gunk off your teeth. You don’t need it. Not like you need food, warmth, shelter. Not like you need Marie and Susie.’
‘I…’ Jake stammered, wiping a worn sleeve across his eyes.
‘It’s unforgiveable, Jake. It’s insulting. You’re one of the zero point zero, zero, zero, five percent of people left and you spend your life obsessing about dental floss? Really? Not art. Not fine wine. Not even porn. Dental floss. Stop snivelling for God’s sake!’
Jake recoiled at the sight of himself through his brother’s eyes. He rose from his chair and edged towards the door. He knew he couldn’t win this argument, but some base instinct compelled him to come out fighting: ‘What about you, Michael? Your no peo
‘I lost the people I had. You know that. Anyway, I’m not the one risking my life foraging for some meaningless remnant in a mass grave. That’s what it is now, the city. It’s a grave. Except no one buried the corpses.’
‘It’s been eleven years. It’ll just be bones. They’ll just be bones. And there were a lot of fires.’
‘Ha! Is that what you think? You reckon you’ll just stroll in there, leap over a few charred bones and swipe the contents of Boots into your bag? You’re a fool. A bloody selfish fool. You came through it all with your wife and your kid but you’ll throw that away for some weird fetish.’
‘That’s not what it is!’
‘Get out of here,’ Michael said, his voice calm now; calm and sad. ‘Go home.’
Jake re-mounted his bike and pressed on along the pockmarked road. Generally he forbade himself to think about why he needed the dental floss but now he lifted the ban, knowing that the pain and the fourteen year-old memory of fear would harden his resolve. He made himself remember the three days after his daughter’s birth when both mother and baby had hovered on the fence between life and death and he had sat in the hospital watching them. On the first day he had done nothing but hold Marie’s hand and cry. On the second day he had prayed, although he was never a believer and his prayers weren’t answered. On the third day he had made bargains with himself, reciting them like mantras over the narrow hospital bed: if they lived he’d never exceed the speed limit again; if they lived he’d never drink again; if they lived he’d floss his teeth twice a day, every day, forever. That was when she’d opened her eyes.