Vote for your favourite from these 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 25th September 2023. Results will be announced on 26th. Good luck everyone!
I suggest cascara, he points towards a lemonade.
I, a serpentine lane, he, borders drawn at right angles on old maps.
I slide down a funnel to the beach, he ramp walks to the mouth of the river.
I, a sand castle with red sand from the moon, he, a labourer digging a diamond mine.
The ring around Saturn, my gift. A moat with floating criss-cross stars, his choice.
Give me the tick-tack of knitting needles. The pulley silent for him, a cease-work order?
Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty on, humid nights. Same pinch, says he, drenched. I roll over in laughter.
Two Boys, One Book, In Jim Crow’s Jackson
Emmet knows the math book is raggedy, but his teacher doles them out like they’re candied yams. His fingers trace the name inside the cover. Randall.
Emmet pictures a gold-curled boy claiming the book when it’s crisp new.
“It’s no matter, numbers don’t change,” the teacher says. But Randall has already written the incorrect answers in the book. Emmet knows math comes at you true as a Mississippi morning. Emmet has learnt it’s words that lie. Like lynching can mean justice. The word separate can mean equal.
Emmet corrects Randall’s answers. His slim black fingers learning to make things right.
A Beginner’s Guide To Displacement
Callie raises her hand long after other students give up. Mrs. Wilson announces, “Right again.” Later, Callie will sit alone at the lunch table working out an equation. Even later, she’ll graduate cumma sum laude in engineering, get hired by a top firm, and spend her weekends calculating power output and friction loss. On Mondays she’ll sit at a conference table. The project leader will ask a question. Callie will raise her hand. Her male coworkers will call out answers. She’ll accept a beer after work, rebuff sexual advances, and wonder what to do when the numbers don’t add up.
Instruction Manual For ‘Fitting In’ At Your New School
- Make sure your mask is fitted correctly before leaving the house; set it to ‘fixed smile’; don’t allow any hairs to stray.
- Keep your fiddle toys hidden in a secret pouch in your blazer. Only use in EXTREME emergency.
- If you feel the urge to stim, pretend you are a statue: keep your hands by your sides; count to ten.
- Don’t speak unless spoken to. Stick to subjects of interest to your peers. NEVER mention your niche hobbies.
- When Mum asks how your day went, set mask to ‘I’m OK’.
- Once you are alone in your room, you may self-combust.
We’re not sure who first came up with the idea, but we all applauded when the decision was made. We turned out with balloons, tight and shiny as blisters, the day the Pump was pieced together in the dead centre of town. Faced with the need for more and more sacrifices, the Pump has now streamlined the process. Of course, it takes at least two men to operate, three if there’s a struggle, and it isn’t without its heartbreak. But it’s efficient. There’s hardly any mess, now they’ve perfected the procedure. I’ve started a business selling earplugs, which is thriving.
Why My Big Sister Won ‘The City Of The Future’ Art Competition
Everyone else drew gleaming skyscrapers, and spaceships, and astronauts zooming across the page with flaming red rocket packs, but she sketched a fairy castle beneath candy floss clouds, with white unicorns leaping through delicate blue mist. It ‘stood out’ the judges said.
And when we were sent home early from school six months later, to see our apartment building bomb-blasted into smouldering rubble, my sister led me away from the fires and sirens. We built a tiny palace from shattered concrete and broken glass, and galloped our winged steeds over twisted girders. For just a little while, it was beautiful.
If, opening the fridge, you had noticed the last two eggs and decided to poach them, instead of cereal, or if I had not pointed out the baby sick stain on your shoulder, or if Eliza had not pleaded with you to hear her spellings, or if you had not paused to brush my hair off my tear-streaked face and tell me what a great job I was doing, then the woman who lost control of her Fiat Panda at 8.46am this morning would have ploughed into someone else’s life, and today would have been a day like any other.
My Name Was Different
I apologise to dad in the Arrivals Hall.
‘The flight was delayed. Hardly your fault, was it?’ He takes my backpack, saying, ‘That smell is familiar. How was Amsterdam?’
I describe cafés and riding bikes downhill without brakes. I don’t say that I arrived early at Schiphol, checked in, then fell asleep across metal chairs. Or that upon waking, my eyes opened directly into eyes the colour of Delft Blue, and we spoke fast, ignoring our lack of common language. Or that my name was different in Dutch, announced repeatedly by loudspeaker until I understood, rose and ran without turning.
Mum doesn’t agree with enclosed/silent orders, nuns who waste their lives praying when they should be helping people. You silently dissent. Extreme nunhood is for you the ideal, unlike being in a rowdy family.
Books about nuns keep arriving from the Catholic Book Club. You know eighteen is old to be accepted for a noviciate. Best apply the moment you turn fifteen.
Or get a quiet job, buy a quiet flat/house, live a quiet life. And find quiet places to go on holiday, places that smell of incense.
Mum sighs. “You were a bouncy little girl, but you went quiet.”
Cycle Of Love
I’ll never forget the day I put your favourite jeans on the wrong wash cycle — the ones you looked so wonderful in on our first date. The latest fad diet was never getting those worn again.
And the time you wanted to shrink into obscurity, when I got horrendous hiccups, as the vicar turned to the congregation and asked ‘that’ question at your sister’s wedding.
Now I watch you lying in bed; your shrunken version that’s been forced upon us. And I think how beautiful you’d still look in those jeans.
And hate the different reason why they’d fit you.
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