The 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Microfiction Competition was judged by:
- Susmita Bhattacharya
- FJ Morris
- Anne Summerfield
- Rob Walton
The winning and highly commended stories can be read below. All ten stories will be published in the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, which will be out in time for National Flash Fiction Day on 6 June 2020.
And the winners are...
- First Prize: 'When Neil Armstrong Walks on the Moon' by Sara Hills
- Second Prize: 'The Art Gallery Attendant Nine Months After Divorce' by Stephanie Hutton
- Third Prize: 'This Body Will Become A Corpse' by Donna L Greenwood
- Third Prize: 'Nantucket News' by Marissa Hoffmann
- Highly Commended: 'Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer' by Lynda Cowles
- Highly Commended: 'Tips for a Successful Whale Watch' by Rachael Dunlop
- Highly Commended: 'Three Chords and the Truth' by Tracy Fells
- Highly Commended: 'Craving' by Liv Norman
- Highly Commended: 'Bogged-Down Sister' by Paul O'Brien
- Highly Commended: 'Home Fires' by Alison Woodhouse
When Neil Armstrong Walks on the Moon
by Sara Hills
The GIs puff like bánh bao dumplings and drink until their pockets leak. They point at the sky, echoing, One giant leap, fingering our necks with promises, tracing our thighs with kisses. We orbit around them and ask for payment up front, mindful we’ve other mouths to feed.
They launch their rockets, planting their flags inside us, and fly away.
Years later, when Thanh asks about his father, I finger the night sky. Talk about small steps and point out his likeness in the waxy face of the moon.
His name was Neil, I say.
Somehow, it feels true.
The Art Gallery Attendant Nine Months After Divorce
by Stephanie Hutton
My hands were first to disappear. I could no longer wave a greeting or point out fine details in a painting of Lady Godiva so huge that people missed the point.
Arms were next. I couldn’t open any doors so I stayed in one room, surrounded by the longing of pre-raphaelite ladies forever framed as tragic, as solely for sorrow, as fodder for men.
My tongue dissolved last week. Even the smallness of small-talk impossible.
Now each cell – atom by atom – disintegrates. I am pixels. I am particles. I am anything!
I rearrange myself on canvas; seen at last.
This Body Will Become A Corpse
by Donna L Greenwood
As I walk through the bright fields, holding hands with my lover, talking about relatives and rings, cabbages and kings, kissing her ready lips, smiling at both her and the astonishing sky which shrieks its deafening blue whilst shedding button mushroom clouds which dance before a sun that drops goblets of warm yellow so celestial that the flowers and the mice and the flies drop their heads in devastated prayer, my grace is interrupted by a shadow casting its gloom across a lavender strewn path upon which lies the steaming red corpse of a sheep hollowed out by something unexpected.
by Marissa Hoffmann
The night-time hours were only good for whispering, Mary and me, under Mother’s quilt. We wished for whaler boys, we waited to harpoon us houses with silver candelabras. Now Mary’s ripe to burst, and I’m not far behind, and we’re stitching by candlelight, like the best of them. We’re singing to the wind to only blow our bonnets. And when summer comes to warm the sand dunes, we’ll lay our babies on our quilts, so the seagulls can tattle. We’ll whisper stories of brave daddies and monsters, and we’ll be singing to the wind to blow their pipe smoke home.
Bring waterproofs, sea-sickness tablets and your sense of awe.
Watch the bone-grey sea sluice around the neon buoys that mark the way out of harbour.
Imagine the shifting silt their weighted feet stand on and wonder at how they hold their place at all.
Get distracted by the tuna fishermen, their airy hoists bending to the will of their behemoth catches, and miss the first breaking roll of a humpback topping the waves.
Reach your hand to the infant whale that comes alongside and no one but you sees, because they are looking the wrong way.
They finally meet in the activities lounge of the Rosewood Care Home for the Elderly.
He’s 85 and rope-kneed; a hopeless dancer. She’s 83, with doll lashes and a doughy body, and she laughs that she feels like Diana Ross in her tinsel boa as he twirls her in her chair.
Later, he shuffles their seats together for the matinee. She cups his knotted hand, her beeswax lips silently tracing Jimmy Stewart’s prayer — I want to live again, please God let me live again — as outside, somewhere in the dark unknown, snow begins to fall.
Tonic: Taken with gin this is my favourite chord.
Subdominant: Drinking three doubles in a row puts me under the table, where I passively assert my nail scissors on the floorboards, which he’d sanded and polished to a sparkling shine.
Dominant: He yells how it is so over between me and that guy in the superstore, the one who asked about peanut butter. AND if he catches me flirting again there’d be consequences.
Truth: When I drink too much I talk too much. I make stuff up just to rattle his cage. Then I know he really loves me.
She finds the fractured egg on the lawn. There is blood inside, and an almost-born bird she weeps for then buries. It's not much bigger than a half-begun baby, but she can give this one a grave.
Six weeks later and she can’t touch an egg, can’t eat anything.
Instead she wakes in silent hours, her stomach viscous, her tongue searching out dried streaks of toothpaste in the basin’s cool cradle. At dawn she dreams of alternative beginnings: a birth; feathers unfurled in the soft nest. Knowing the scent of a parent. Knowing the shade and weight of sky.
When I found her, she took shelter in the past.
“Remember?” she inquired.
The turf stacked, Grandpa would watch us flit like green-veined butterflies over the sequinned skin of the bog, or we’d watch him, wrapped in blue peat-smoke, coax the soot-bellied kettle to a boil and fry to a sizzle three pullet’s eggs on a buttered shovel’s face, polished with sphagnum till it shone.
“Yes,” I said.
When I found her, she was sleeping on cardboard — a wasted stalk on the city’s grey scraw.
“Lately, I’ve been haunted by dragonflies,” she confided.
Lately, she’s been cooking on a spoon.
I’m a combi boiler, hot at the touch of a button, slim, unobtrusive, dual function.
You’re the traditional sort. You have a large tank and rumble loudly into life, as reliable as the clock you’re set to. In a power cut you become cold and take ages to reignite.
I break down; come on in fits and starts, not so instant or available.
You spring a leak. Your fan rusts. Your restart button jams.
I seal your gaps. You coax me back to life.
Our home is still warm but I’m not sure we’ll manage another winter.