How to be a winner by Cath Barton

On the day I won the lottery I put on my sparkly four-inch heels. Bad decision, because I tripped on a kerb outside the restaurant where I was going on a hot date. My first thought as my face slammed into the plate-glass window was that I wouldn’t now be able to eat the soft-shelled crab that I’d been looking forward to. Correction, my first thought was for my spectacles and camera. Only after I’d checked that they were unbroken did I think about the crab. And then I looked around for my date.

There was a lot of blood and screaming. It wasn’t me screaming but my date was embarrassed. My dress had been ripped by shards of glass. I wanted to cry – it was my favourite dress – but then I remembered my lottery win. What was I complaining about?! I smiled at my date, or tried to. The contortion of my rapidly-swelling face must have looked like a grimace. He started backing away. Thought: he had not yet heard about my lottery win. Cynical thought: he had nothing to stick around for. Well, if that was the way he saw things he was clearly not going to be life-partner material. Better to find that out now, though I was still sorry about the crab. This was supposed to be the best place to eat it in London.

People were crowding round, asking me if I was okay. In my confused state I waved away all offers of help and set off down the road. The pain in my right ankle was nothing compared to the throbbing in my face. The next thing I knew I couldn’t move my arms. They were pinned down by a sheet and there was an antiseptic smell in my nose. So I was in hospital. That much I could work out. But my mind was fuzzy. I’d had a dream about winning the lottery. No! I had actually won it – the ticket was in my coat pocket. Shit! Where was my coat?

The nurse had a kindly face, but she didn’t understand, thought I was asking for a comb. Not that I was making it easy. Forming words is tricky with a broken jaw.

“Aha,” she said after I’d spluttered at her for a bit. “You want your coat! No, no, my lovely. You won’t be needing your coat for a while yet. Try not to talk.”

I pulled my arms out from under the sheet and gestured turning the coat pockets inside out. In the end she brought my coat to shut me up. I searched in one pocket, then the other, then both again. Nothing, nothing, nothing! That was when I did start screaming, big time.

The lottery ticket never turned up. My winning ticket. But my jaw and ankle got fixed. Every day I count my blessings. I don’t wear those crazy heels. I’m careful on kerbs. And I narrowly avoided a very bad choice of life-partner. I’m a winner.


About the author: Cath Barton is an English writer who lives in Wales. Recently, her flash fiction has been published on-line on ZeroFlash and Spelk.


February 2016 Themed Flash Results

Thanks to everyone that entered the vanity-themed flash competition. I really enjoyed reading all of the entries and as always the quality of writing was excellent.  I’m delighted to announce the winners are…

1st Place: Lady in Red by Louise Mangos

Great voice and setting details so that I was instantly transported there walking down the road with the character and could really feel her joy at being alive and beautiful. I loved how the end revealed so much about her and completely turned the story on its head.
Read It


Runner-Up: Jimmy by Cath Barton

Again, this impressed me for how it turned out to be something so different to what it initially seemed.  It also showed how fickle people can be and how easily perceptions are changed.
Read It


The Shortlisted Stories
  • Selfie Queen by Sonya Oldwin
  • Vanity’s Reflection by Vicky Newham
  • Not Just a Pretty Face by Jan Keenan
  • Mirror, Mirror by Janie Holt
  • Self Love by Aidan Burns
  • Burned by Kayleigh Price
  • Feeling Famous by Kevin Line

Many congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist. The next theme is Belief. Send your stories by 31st March to be in with a chance of getting cash prizes and published on the website.  Enter here.

Jimmy by Cath Barton

We called him James Dean because of his hairstyle. Jimmy for short. He must have spent hours in front of the mirror slicking on the grease and combing it back and through to get the waves just so. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want hair like his. It looked daft. Even my Mum said so.

“What does he expect?” Mum said to her friend Rene. “He ain’t exactly film-star material. It’ll only get him into worse trouble.”

“Worse than what?” I said. Rene was sitting there looking pop-eyed, saying nothing.

“Never you mind,” Mum said, shooing me out to play. Later, much later, I wished she’d told me. I couldn’t have stopped what happened but at least I could have been nicer to him.

Poor Jimmy. Us girls sniggered behind our hands every time we saw him going up the road, and the boys called him a nancy boy to his face. Cruel, they were. We all were, that’s what I think now. Mum and Rene used to talk about him a lot but they’d change the subject soon as I came into the room.

That summer it was really, really hot every day and I couldn’t sleep so I watched the street from behind the curtains. Jimmy came home late three times a week. He looked tired, really tired. But his hair was still immaculate. It was all a bit odd.

People said unkind things about Jimmy. They said he used to go to a club called The Dirty Dogs where All Sorts went on. Actually there was a club called The Dirty Dogs. It got raided by the police and it turned out the dinner lady at our school was the woman who ran it and there really was weird stuff going on there. Big Scandal, all over the local paper. Mum and Rene had a field day talking about the dinner lady and she knocked Jimmy off their radar. Until it happened.

I came home from school one day and there was no tea on the table. Mum and Rene were twittering like a couple of deranged birds, clutching at their aprons. Rene’s eyes were popping out on stalks and she was nodding like the toy dog in the back of next-door’s car. Mum was all a-fluster ‘cos she’d obviously forgotten the time and then she went and burnt the toast for the baked beans. I knew better than to ask what was up but to my surprise she sat me down after tea and said she had to tell me something.

“It’s about Bob,” she said.

I tried to think whether I’d got an Uncle called Bob.

“The lad you call Jimmy,” she said. “His name’s really Bob.”

Turned out he’d died of some awful cancer. Next day it was all over the paper. People changed their tune about him then. Sainted after death. Hypocrites. The hair was a wig of course, because his hair had fallen out during the treatment. Poor Jimmy.

Cath Barton is an English writer, singer and photographer who lives in Wales. She enjoys writing short fiction, which is published here and there including, recently, online at The Pygmy Giant. In her writing she aims to remain surprising, even to those who know her best.