Vote for your favourite from these 10 fab stories to win the surprise People’s Prize. Our judging team are busy re-reading to choose the winners of the cash prizes. Voting is open until 23.59 (UK time) on 28th November 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 29th. Good luck everyone! The prompt this month was ‘shine’
Energy Saving Is Added To The Curriculum
He always did it the same way, pressing his thumbnail along each finger, creasing the foil over crisp edges. On a warm day the sugary scent caught in her throat as he opened the wrapper, chocolate sun-softened in blotches.
“Mind if I take this?” she asked, and he flicked it over with a shrug. By the third breaktime she didn’t have to ask. At the end of term, flattened metallic leaves filled her lunchbox.
Starting with her bedroom, she pressed the reflective wrappers precisely behind each cold, corrugated radiator. Maybe next winter they will release that soft chocolatey scent again.
The Gifts Of The Magi
He made the star from the foiled wrapping of his Gold Flake during his last leave. It shimmers on the Christmas tree, its stale tobacco scent lingering like incense in heartsick intercession. She fights open the curtains, praying it will guide him home, just as a star once lead other wise men.
A still, silent night in the trenches. The frozen Scharfschütze murmurs a lieder to himself as he looks across no-man’s land, wide as a football field. An ember pinpricked in the dark; twinkling, glowing. He aims six inches to the left and squeezes the trigger.
The light goes out.
When The Lovely Assistant Jumped The Box
You wanted abracadabra, alakazam, sparkle and sequins, a bigger rabbit pulled from the hat, whiter doves fluttering from flash-paper bursts of brightness.
Your Balducci illusion held me motionless but never quite quelled my fear of falling. Falling short of your expectations. Falling for you.
Sleight of hand. Sleight of heart. When you cut me in half, I cried a little.
For your last trick you clicked the padlock but I’d learned your Houdini ways. Beneath the spotlight you dealt your deceptions to adoring crowds, whilst quietly I slipped unfettered from your bonds.
Sometimes magic works best away from the glare.
I Polished All Our Shoes On A Saturday Evening
So we’d be shiny for Mass on Sunday. Mother placed newspaper on the scullery floor. She gave me a small wire brush and tins of shoe polish, black and brown. She warned me to make them as spotless as my soul, so we could see ourselves in them. All I saw was the cow dung from my father’s boots, the traces of coal dust from my mother’s brogues, the mud from my brother’s lace ups. When I polished my own shoes, I cleaned away traces of semen. I polished and polished but could never see myself. I always saw him.
Coins Are The Most Commonly Swallowed Foreign Object
Mica sifts through her purse, picks out the shiniest coins – tosses them into the jar. Old pennies make her hands smell; copper reacts against her skin. But the new ones are mostly zinc.
There was a time when she would have popped a penny into her mouth – swallowed it whole – but not anymore. Instead, she gathers them where the sunlight catches, a gleaming reminder of a youth long since spent.
And now, like the coins, Mica finds herself out of circulation; nothing left but to watch them oxidise and tarnish over time, remembering the tang of metal upon her tongue.
The Journey Of Motherhood Mapped Out By Shiny Things
Begin at the moon, low on the water, fragmented and reflected by the ring on your hand.
Stall at three false starts, before being rescued by blinking monitors and a metallic balloon.
Circle a silver bangle and the folds of a chubby wrist. Followed by tinsel caught on curls and coat-hanger wings.
Track the trail of gold stars on jumpers. Skip through a parade of glitter tattoos.
Then wait, indefinitely.
In a lay-by of silence, eyes on a faraway face and the glow of a phone.
Sit quietly in the gleam of memories until the face finds its way home.
It was Grandma that showed me the nightly opera of the stars, the great bear and the centaur dancing their illuminated tragedies.
We lay on our backs in her garden at twilight while she dazzled me with tales of Scorpion kings and Virgoen princesses, of treacherous twins and bull-headed Taurean slaves.
I look for her now on that interstellar stage, whenever the cloud curtain falls and night is clear. I see her in the melancholy flutter of Pisces’ tale, in the quiet flickering fierceness of Leo’s roar. Unreachable as the long-dead stars, burning cold bright trails through their celestial cemetery.
Darkness fell and London leapt back to life. Theatres turned on their lights and threw open their doors. Restaurants were full, clubs heaving. Shop windows dazzled, pavements gleamed and in Piccadilly Circus the rain fell in glittering daggers.
Trafalgar Square was packed. Delirious crowds sang and danced, giddy with relief, drunk on hope and glory. Nurses were cheered, strangers embraced. Royalty passed by and people stretched out their hands to them. The low clouds were lit by the orange glow of bonfires.
On the top deck of a number 15 omnibus, a soldier wept in the arms of the conductress.
The boy is such a small boy for a monster truck, his mother says, so he makes one from a cornflake packet and gives it jar-top wheels. When he shines a torch, the truck’s shadow fills the wall. He is a magician, he thinks. Outside, he must mind the rain and knows his truck can’t jump puddles like he can. His sister’s old pullover is too big and fraying at the wrists but he doesn’t notice. Under grey skies the puddles shimmer silver as if the moon has fallen to Earth. He clasps the truck to his chest and leaps.
Each Autumn I Face A Dilemma Over A Pair Of Gloves
They’re knitted in a shiny yarn with thin, pink stripes that remind me of you, of that pair of lines heralding your brief existence. They were a secret Santa gift. I’d missed the present swap, having called in sick when the bleeding started.
“You’ll spoil the fun!” my colleague chided, as I messaged to say I’d not be in.
I returned, hollow, marched past the twinkling lights, gave and received a gift. Tried to match my face to the festive glow.
I can’t slip my fingers into those glad tidings. But I can’t bring myself to throw them away, either.
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