Vote for your favourite from these 9 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 26th September 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 27th. Good luck everyone! The prompt this month was ‘dry’
The Scarcity of Calcium in A Drought
Heat’s blistering the crops. Prudence warns her sisters, “Bones will crack.”
Amity, a bit mad, beseeches the bone-pale Moon, dances nude, chants spells for rain but dawn breaks without a drop.
Cows resist milking. Felicity says they’re sad. She croons and cries, combs their tails, caresses their hides but scant rivulets plink into her pail.
Prudence feeds the chickens, sweeps the coop, cradles warm eggs to her breasts. The cock crows its fractured hope and she tastes the dust. Prudence cheats a little, cracks and crunches one calcium-rich shell, takes two more for her sisters and leaves the yolks behind.
The Boating Lake
‘Smoooothest bowl you’ll ever riiiide’
‘Do it high bruh… sublime!’
‘Watch ur back – rebels in woods’
The reviews don’t mention the ferocity of the heat. There’s no reference to grounded pedalos, bleached to bone, splitting apart. No discussion of dead ducks – guts spilt, fat flies rising like a cartoon cloud.
#fuckyourclimatechaos – graffiti aimed at the billionaires flying north. I skate the blood-red length of it, draw an eighty-foot line under everything.
At the forest’s edge, I lean my ‘board against a redwood, ask for its protection. I make a white flag of my t-shirt and head into the pines.
Emily Regrets Taking Her Gran’s Good Coat To Be Dry Cleaned
The Good Coat was older than Emily, and black, to hide the dirt. Emily’s gran said it would see her out.
What the black could not hide were the smells.
Yardley’s Lavender, Vicks VapoRub, Pears Soap, Benson and Hedges Blue, Germolene, boiled cabbage, the odour of a decade-dead cat, mothballs, treacle toffee, an unnameable fragrance that was just Gran.
Emily’s gran didn’t trust dry cleaning. She had read something in The Daily Mail.
Emily should have realised then, when her gran surrendered the Good Coat so easily, and should at least have buried her face in it one last time.
What We Saved From The Flood
- Keys to the document firebox. Should have bought one that floated.
- My recipe for dry martinis, which caused the arguments in the first place.
- The dog, the cat, the kids. Not in that order.
- The hope that you can forgive me.
- My morbid sense of humour. So dry it makes you choke.
- My need to see you safe. I let my resentments drown.
- The planned route up to higher ground. You’re right, it came in useful.
- The pen to sign the papers that you chose to leave behind.
- The way you look at me, which I thought I’d lost forever.
Snapshots From A Daylight Robbery
Like a passionate groom, he pushed me backwards, through my kitchen door. The puja bowl clanged against the balustrade. Lightly. I scrambled up the staircase into Shankar’s rescue. Mentally.
Rocks in my joints, limbs sleeping, my breath mimicked his stealth. A brief brush-stroke along my blouse’s neckline. My breasts – those sleepy fools woke up silly. Like a dozing infant, the thick gold chain and bangles changed hands.
Squares of window light on the floor tiles, rasam pot on the table, vessels upside-down on the basket, with me dry in the middle of it all.
Day 452 of Drought: Frantic, we scavenged for the final remaining cinema seats to wring out last vestiges of weepy-movie tears spilled on those halcyon Sunday afternoons when sappily distracted with popcorn and Kleenex, us squeamish-scaredy-cats devoured the blockbusters and turned on the waterworks, covering our eyes when celluloid Reptoids marched, parched and hungry from desiccated waterways, swing-dinging lighthouse beams like angry usherettes – but today, when they really arrived, limping and lurching, shining old torches over salt-flats (once oceans), barren-boned rivers, and dead dried-up fountains, gasping for crocodile tears, thirsty for new releases, we turned round and glared, growling Shhhhhhh.
Hair snaps as the brush drags through Sunday morning hangover tats. The colours outside cast a kaleidoscope in raindrops on the frosted window.
A thought passes, ‘She should’ve got that washing in yesterday,’
The Monday Chat coffee mugs in the sink, the neighbour’s clothes still dance on the line.
‘That’ll be dry as sticks now. It’ll be like ironing cardboard,’
Scraping her Friday toast into the bin, she is irritated.
‘Take the bloody washing in. I’m sick of looking at it.’
Saturday, she answers the doorbell. A policeman. She says, ‘How awful. No, I’m afraid I didn’t notice anything unusual.’
On the envelope is a postmark from another century. Though brittle and yellowed by time, it weighs heavy in his hands. His wife asks who it’s from, but his throat is so dry he cannot utter the name of the one he loved first. As he teases the envelope open, the scent of her infuses the air with a thousand dormant memories. With trembling hands, he unfolds the paper and in his ninth decade reads the words he’d prayed to hear in his second. I do, he hears her say before the paper disintegrates, now confetti falling at his feet.
No More Clowning
You have anyone’s right to stand at the crowded bar ordering your turkey dinner. But you feel out of place, jittery. It’s a clown thing.
Eats here are quantity affairs, piled on the plate, forcing you to dig for nourishment. Flesh and bone and fried potatoes under a pastry lid, plus side scoops.
Later, find a cuddly ditch by a sports field, check it’s dry and no shit. Fold your red spotty trousers and bag them in plastic.
Cars speed-bump past front drives and security lights. Once you did monkey tricks for wages.
Lie down under the lemon drop moon.
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