And the winners are...
by Tim Stevenson
I thought he'd been in the river for a year, down amongst the roots and tumbling stones.
My mother told me otherwise.
On a bookshelf something remained.
She'd taken it from the crematorium, she said, and he's as useful around the house now as he ever was alive.
I wondered about the jar of grey ashes, which bit of him hadn't made it to the river: an ear, a nose, the hand that clenched his pipe?
Incomplete, my father flows away, and somewhere a fisherman eats his catch, picks grit from his teeth and thinks, inexplicably, about tobacco.
by Oliver Barton
On Monday, Maisie started spinning. Not wool, but round and round. At coffee time, I said 'I'll not offer you a cup. You'll spill it.' She said 'It was them Dervishes set me off.' How she didn't come over all dizzy, I just don't know. At lunchtime, she stopped. Suddenly. And the world started spinning in the other direction, faster and faster. Everyone was sucked off in a gigantic cyclone, like down a cosmic plughole. Except Maisie, because she'd fallen over, and me, because I'd screwed my feet to the floor. You want to watch out for spin.
by Amy Mackelden
I live with every one of my ex-boyfriends. Stephen spends his time on the sofa, eating milk-less cereal and deleting my shows from the Sky box. Ted stays in the bedroom. Not to fuck, he just likes sleeping. Tim cooks, endlessly; mostly lasagne. Rob posts notes through the letterbox: Are you home? Are they gone yet? When am I getting a key? David reads Nietzsche in the armchair and Jack smokes in the tub, using my soap where he shouldn't.
Mum likes them all, and Dad says, "No rush. Like laptops and hard drives, it's good to keep a back-up."
Lost For Words
by Andrea Mullaney
When I was seven, my cousin Karin told me that words had a limit. You could only say each one a certain number of times
she couldn't remember how many, exactly
and then they ran out and you couldn't ever use it again. You would open your mouth but nothing would come out. I spent a week trying to find different ways of saying the most common words, like 'and' and 'the' and 'it,' terrified of being left speechless. Then my mum noticed and told me that Karin was only kidding. The relief I felt was
Oh. Oh, no.
My Grandad Was Roy Rogers
by Anouska Huggins
My grandad was Roy Rogers.
Except without the horse.
But he did have a Dralon armchair, the same colour as a golden palomino. He galloped on the edge of it, to keep in time with Trigger, blowing smoke from the barrel of his fingertips, while his loosened braces, like a bridle, flanked his hips. Then he'd throw off his fake buckskin hat. It smelled of Brylcreem and the oil from his old motorbike and sidecar: the one that kapooshed louder than a six-shooter.
'Here, Bullet,' he would yodel.
But the dog would just ignore him. It only answered to Shep.
Dot To Dot Man
by Alison Wells
It was about midday last Saturday I saw this dot-to-dot man. Lucky for him the wife had asked me to whitewash over the graffiti on the front wall or I might never have seen him. Lucky I always put a pencil behind my ear for odd jobs.
His dots were numbered so it was easy to fill in the gaps. I got my pencil and joined him all together
'though there was a tricky double back between fourteen and seventeen. When I got to the last number he went off on his way and I went back to my painting.
by Clare Kirwan
Even after a week of frying our startled nipples under the merciless sun, Madeleine was still going on about how important it was to protect yourself even on cloudy days, even when the wind is cool, and how we should all be slathering ourselves in Factor 30 the way she did, greasing every inch of herself until you could practically smell her coming along the beach without opening your eyes
so it was ironic really that when the waves pulled her down a third time and everyone reached for her pale, flailing limbs, she just slipped through our fingers.
The Gradual Discovery Of Loss
by Eva Holland
It was her shoes that I found first. They were waiting patiently on the stairs, the left a step higher than the right, as if they had simply slipped from her feet as she ran. I took off my shoes and set them beside hers. Next I found her dress: a lake of silk on the bathroom floor. I took my clothes off and dropped them on top of it. Lastly, I found the imprint of her body on the surface of our bed. I lay down where she had lain, fitting my limbs into the hollows of her absence.
by Alan Beard
The boy on the beach has his eyes closed and the chatter eddies at his ears. He thinks he's her boy-trap. He makes her sticky. The beach is rolling, the beach is swollen. Sea's froth breaks on bodies like music. I am a gull's cry. I am grass in the dunes. He's the sharpness, he's the light. Radio voices, he's a transmitter. She is a voice from a long way off and the colours brim through his opening lids, like all light trying to get in.
by Joanna Campbell
Gracie and me know when our Mam's sad.
"Shall we make tea?" Gracie's voice is like pan-pipes in a wood.
Mam hurts Gracie so much she can't cry. Just sinks down in the corner. There's a tea-stain the shape of a melting India on the wall. She traces it with her finger.
Mam leans against the back-door jamb with her cigarette.
We'll creep under the bed, to India. Red-hot, golden and cinnamon-spiced.
Except Gracie can't come, can she?
I'll lay strings of daisies tomorrow.
She kisses my bruises, those she can reach. Goodnight, Gracie. Thank you for holding me.