Well, the judges have sweated and grumbled, but in the end we managed to get them to make a decision, and we're pleased to announce the winning 10 stories from this year's over-300 entries to the Micro-Fiction competition.
The only stipulation was that the story should be 100 words or fewer and I think you'll be amazed at what they achieved.
The top three will win packages of books and cash, and all ten will appear in this year's anthology, which will be available for National Flash-Fiction Day on 27th June.
Congratulations and thanks to all who entered for making the judges' jobs so hard, and extra congratulations to our winners!
I’m rushing to push my lunch box in to my bag when I see these two who must be flying a kite on the green triangle outside the school because she’s holding a length of string, showing him how to thread it through his fingers, but then I realise she’s teaching fly fishing with no river for miles and the nearest polluted anyway and I look again, and she’s reading him Ted Hughes and he’s hanging on every word as he casts better than anyone I’ve ever seen, and we all realise that rivers are just a bonus extra.
I want someone who wants me so much they don’t care about grammar
On a canker of a concrete wall in a ground-up grey car park the colour of chewed gum a lover paints in lower case ‘your nicer than my wife’ above the butt bumper of a blue Fiesta. Each morning it waggles its way out of the space like a preening duck presenting. And when the bay is empty I lie on the earth to feel the heat of tires, the smoked breath of exhaust fumes and high-humidity whispers.
A Weekend Away
When I struggled off the train, you laughed, ‘You’ve brought rather a lot.’
In formal hall, I copied how others ate, tried not to grimace at the musty wine. At the theatre, you laughed when an actor spat into the audience. I tried to look like I thought it funny.
I tried to enjoy the beer you bought me in Trinity College bar, tried to like your boisterous friends, was pleased when one asked, ‘What are you reading?’
I didn’t understand why everyone laughed when I replied, ‘The new Ian Rankin.’
But when you laughed, I understood you.
Marks and Sparks
Her online dating profile said she was into M&S, so I proposed we meet up at our local shopping centre. I've been helping her with her dyslexia for a few months now, and she's been giving me the time of my life.
Old man Wilson, he calls himself a pacifist. Exchanges opinions and anecdotes for drinks at the Danny’s Bar: a cut price raconteur preaching non-violence. Last night I discovered he carried a loaded .38 in the pocket of his reefer. I said, ‘How d’you square it, this turn the other cheek shit, with the thirty-eight?’
He boot-heeled his cigarette, gave a smile that showed gaps where teeth used to be. ‘Wouldn’t feel right bein’ a pacifist without it.’
He pulled it, cocked it and rested the business end against my forehead. ‘See son, how peaceful that makes you feel?’
A History of Ants in the Sugar Bowl
“Little blighters are back again” Stan said. “Look” he added, finger stabbing the sugar bowl. Margo looked. “This‘ll teach ‘em” Stan muttered, pouring boiling water from the kettle into the frosted glass, grunting with satisfaction as a dozen or so agonised black forms caught mid-syrup. Margo imagined she could hear their tiny screams. “You’ll have to ant powder the place again” she said. Stan glared at the offending bowl and harrumphed, before stomping out to the shed. Touching the recently emptied matchbox in her pocket, Margo watched him go; knowing that she now had a whole afternoon to herself.
And A Bottle of Rum
"Then the Pirate Queen sliced my ribs with her cutlass and I fell to the deck as she left."
He lifted his gown to show the gruesome scar to his niece.
"So how did you get off your ship and into Papworth Hospital?"
"Glad you asked. Mermaids towed my ship to shore, and my parrot stole a mobile and called 999."
"Daddy says you had a double lung transplant, and you might be confused. Because of morphine."
Morphine, yes, but not confused. Just not ready to tell a child that he was breathing with treasure from a dead man's chest.
Spreading the Chaos
He is taking groceries into the house, an obedient little puppy; his wife directing him as if this is something that needs supervision.
Out the window she yells 'oi, shit brains. I've had the abortion, so screw you, have it all your way'.
He looks on with a bemused expression, a lost little boy, unsure which way to turn. His wife punches him on the shoulder; still he holds her gaze.
She winds the window up; gives a mock salute and drives away.
She has never seen this man before. This is just something she does; spreading the chaos.
by Jude Higgins
I'll avoid sitting on cold flag stones, swimming on a full stomach, going out with wet hair, bringing lilacs into the house or trusting men whose eyebrows meet in the middle.
I'll wear a dress – sometimes heels, attend my degree ceremonies, get a proper job, stay married, have babies, cook roast dinners, celebrate Christmas, visit relatives, hold family gatherings, stop causing arguments. Be kind.
I'll do what I want, even if my mother wants it too.
Even if it makes me happy.
by Joanna Campbell
When our Rose wouldn't put her arms in the sleeves of her best frock, Mam wept. Not just because of wanting Rose beautiful, but on account of the photographer charging by the minute.
“We’re up to a week’s housekeeping already,” Mam hissed, pinching Rose’s cheeks to raise a bloom.
I imagined four loaves, three quarts of milk and a string of prime sausage floating out the window.
Rose were right starchy-stiff. I couldn't twist her arm.
So I crouched behind and pushed my arms through her sleeves, lacing my fingers, just how our Mam wanted the corpse to look.