November 2019 Micro Fiction Competition Shortlist
Well done to everyone who had a story on the longlist. We’ve had a few debates but the shortlist is finally decided upon! Congrats to all the writers whose stories appear below. Voting is anonymous though so please don’t tell anyone what your story is called.
Voting is now open until 23.59 on Monday 25th November. Winners will be announced on Tuesday 26th.
Enjoy these great micro fiction stories and then vote for your favourite in the poll at the end of the post.
A Journey Through Lung Cancer Distilled into a Hundred Carefully Chosen Words and Silences
Tumour. Malignant. Expect a year.
Muddled, mistaken, somebody else’s news.
A way off yet. A full circle of last things. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. Goodbyes.
Aggressive. Spreading. Hope for six months.
Hospice visits, home assessments, information leaflets, alien language, kind-faced nurses, cups of tea. You sleeping eighteen hours a day, me lying awake bone-weary, listening to you breathe, imagining cells replicating cells replicating cells.
You were 28. I was 26. Married 30 years if you make it to December.
Exhausted. Alone-together. Already lost.
Letting go of fragile hands. Getting my new bearings. Longing to talk but there are, no more words.
I walk towards the emerald meadow where we used to lie, pollen-caked and sun-weary, talking the nonsense of the day. My fingers remember the grooves in the drystone wall, the wrinkles across my skin drawing a map of where I have been since, but always leading me back here.
Waves threaten to crest on my cheeks as I round the corner.
You are not here. I feel your absence in the coarse grass and brown earth; the lack of you in the bland air. A dry patch of scrubland.
Turning to leave, I falter, no longer knowing where home could be.
Eradicating Common Pests
Snails fire love darts, like Cupid. Their strong, helical shell emboldens them. When I met you, I remembered Patricia Highsmith. She kept snails as pets, carried them to parties in her handbag, releasing them onto the table to horrify and entertain. I forgot, at first, that underneath a snail is just a slug. An unwanted pest. Their slime trails show where they have been. I followed yours to dark, foetid places. Unless you take a snail far away it will return. No surprise then, when you reappeared. I turned to ‘Ripley’ for inspiration, tongue shrivelling with the promise of salt.
For I’m the Tip of His Long White Cane
052o for forty-six miles. My home, wife and kids.
078o for four thousand, eight hundred miles. Production line for the fidget spinners.
112o for one hundred and fifty miles. Overnight truck stop.
197o for two hundred and eleven miles. Depot where the container was to be collected.
245o for ninety miles. Shop desperate for delivery before they opened.
275o for eighty-five miles. That curve on the A303.
312o for twenty-nine miles. Family house of the blue Volkswagen Golf.
342o for too few miles. Graves of the mother and baby.
360o for two metres. My life for the next six years.
Lost in America
The other girls zip along on bikes.
She wrestles with rusty roller skates.
“The bearings are shot,” dad says, “save your money for a new pair.”
What money, she wonders? She gets no allowance.
Her bearings aren’t shot; she’s lost her bearings.
Her parents speak with an accent.
Her hair isn’t blond: her eyes aren’t blue.
She brings scrambled egg sandwiches to school,
and Dad’s radio only plays Neapolitan songs.
She hides in the closet with her transistor.
Hours pass. She learns all the words to every top ten song.
Monday she walks to school. Familiar lyrics her new compass.
Make or Break Getaway
We’d met through our love of hiking; back when I had a waist and he had hair. The weekend was a chance to recapture us. We had lived as strangers for too long.
Echoes of our youth had begun to flicker over familiar maps.
Later, on a peak, the unpredictability of the season swirled and our search for a safe route led to bog breached boots, and squelching steps.
But it was amidst the freezing rain that we began to laugh. Our steps fell into one another until our brushing fingers twined, our once-blind eyes seeing the other once more.
Jess looks at the painting hanging on the wall behind her friend – that Ikea one of the shambolic wooden jetty stretching out into a loch – and realises she’s seen it in every house recently. Every friend she’s visited to console, calm, let coorie into her as they weep their weary words of wastrels or widowhood or want.
She closes her eyes, lets her mind drift onto the jetty, feels wood splinter her bare feet, water pull her to the edge of a cold darkness.
Back home she kisses her husband then takes the jetty painting down from above their bed.
The Way Home
I peer out of the window. ‘How do they do it?’
‘How do who do what?’
‘Racing pigeons – how do they find their way home?’
The old lady next door opens the coop and the flock takes flight.
‘I read they have some sort of magnetic compass.’ Tom snaps his suitcase shut. ‘They don’t always make it back though.’
‘I’ll miss you!’ I hug him tightly.
His body stiffens. ‘It’s only a week.’
‘Is Polly going?’
‘She’s my PA! She has to.’
Outside, a pigeon strays off course.
I take a magnet from the fridge door, slip it inside Tom’s pocket.
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