September 2019 Micro Fiction Shortlist
We had another brilliant selection of entries to pick from this month and really impressed with the variety of these final ten. Well done to all the writers on the longlist and especially to all whose stories appear here. VOTING IS ANONYMOUS so please don’t tell anyone what your story is called if it appears here.
Voting is open until 23.45 on 23rd September 2019. Results will be announced on the 24th. Now it’s time to read and vote for your favourite!
A Sweet Mistake
I offer my upturned fists to you; “Left, or right? You choose”.
You hesitate and smile, enjoying the game, “Right”.
I uncurl my fingers revealing the earring that’s not mine.
Your smile slips, the game changes as recognition reaches your eyes and I watch your mouth begin to lie.
This is not serendipity; the flip of a coin, the turn of a card.
You chose someone else thinking I’d never know; I’d have played along too if you had chosen the correct hand.
The left fist held a Love Heart sweet saying ‘Mine Forever’. That would have been my choice.
Falling In. Falling Out.
If I stay, will it change?
That question’s doing wheelies in my brain.
Tonight, every night, his snore keeps rhythm with our old dogs.
We don’t touch much anymore. Don’t reach out to each other in the long liquorice nights.
When we talk about it, words get stuck down my throat. His too, I hear them, then he puts the telly on.
If I leave, I’ll miss him. It’s not about love.
It’s morning. The kettle’s on. He pops bread in the toaster. He’ll spread one with marmite and one with jam.
What would it feel like to forget that?
There were just three days to go when I found Tom’s list.
And by then, every damn detail had been confirmed: venue, guests, dress, rings, bells, hair, music, speeches, food, cake, wine, chairs.
On the back of a receipt from the dry cleaner’s, in Tom’s messy scrawl, the pros and cons of marrying ME were set out.
Cons: slightly fat, short(ish), snappy (PMT?), unsure about having kids
Pros: good SOH, pretty face, very independent (perhaps a con?)
I read it many times, looking to forgive. Looking for that absent word: love.
This morning I wrote my list: cancel wedding.
Lunch in Llandudno
‘Where would you like to sit?’ Everything about the waitress was thin: her hair, body, skin, voice.
I knew my wife wanted the window table, where we’d be able to watch the gulls bomb-drop onto tourists, harvesting ice creams and sausage rolls. I knew my wife would examine the menu and pat her belly out of habit. I knew my wife would choose something safe, like ham or coronation chicken; she’d say rain and pity and remember. I knew she wanted the window table so she could look out, and not at me.
‘Somewhere at the back, please,’ I said.
‘So…?’ he said and grabbed at my hand.
And I nodded and chewed on my gum.
‘I like you too,’ I said, when he took me to Brown’s. And I breathed in his Fahrenheit and flecks of old age, beamed at the pop of champagne.
And we slurped and chomped and slurped some more.
His voice was slurry as we arrived at my flat.
‘So..?’ he said as he grabbed at my heart.
And I nodded and chewed on my gum.
His blubbery body. My gauzy dress. His darty tongue and pinprick eyes.
Reality raw as the morning sun dawned.
A bird flaps in the cavity where his heart used to beat. Its wings tattoo against his chest, echoing through the forest. Beyond reach, the oil can mocks. Rust lines stain his weather-worn cheeks. He longs for the axe to fall.
A girl skips along a path. Singing softly to herself, she catches the reverberation of the wings, and stops.
Ahead of her, the path forks. Curious, she chooses the right one.
As she skips towards him new tears add burnt sienna to the lines on his face.
Reaching him, she oils his joints with clumsy precision. The axe falls.
Sometimes, Josie finds choosing difficult.
Every day is filled with choice. It starts with breakfast. Toast? Porridge? Eggs and soldiers? In supermarkets she stands blankly in front of shelves. Organic? Cold-pressed? Welfare-friendly or free range?
Yesterday, spag bol and fish fingers skipping dementedly in her head, she’d said If I have to think about another meal I will scream.
Now, in a fancy restaurant, Dan droning about cars, the waiter hovering –
Just a moment, she says, diving into the ladies’.
The other diners pause mid-forkful; wonder at the distant sound of a woman’s scream; then resume their meals, unconcerned.
Mom and Russ leased the Dodge four-door, so we took it to my birthday dinner. They sat close
on their side, like always, flushed with secrets. During cake, they gave me keys to his car from
before – a pine-green Pontiac with flames down the hood. I must have winced, because Russ
drum-rolled the table. Choose it or lose it!
At school, I parked behind the dumpster. You came along later, picked the lock and
placed daisies along the cracked leather dash. Seeing them there, stems intertwined, shielding
each other from a hot September sun, showed me what love could do.
There Must Be a Better Word for It
There must be a better word for it.
For the times you try to carry everything upstairs at once, knowing two trips is more efficient. Spilling stuff on the floor as you persist.
Or when you struggle with the wrong tool, instead of taking time to find a better one.
Or when you pop out of the house, for only five minutes. Quicker than taking the children with you.
There must be a word for it. These choices, this behaviour.
A better word for it than guilt. A better word for it than grief.
When I Remember Sally September
We were loose kids, Sally and I. Our escape came beside the railway, enfolded together under willowherb five feet tall between the ballast stones.
Summer holidays became autumn weekends. She’d roll in the leaves, face flushed, feeding me sun-warmed blackberries picked from the hedges. Hungry eyes watching me take mine straight while she balanced the rest on her hand, undecided on the taste.
The last time, before her parents spoke to mine, she was angry and crying, stamping her fruits into the tracks. I saw the pulp fly and the juice run, and pretended I understood. I was nowhere close.
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