Monday, February 15, 2016

Writing Contest Wins Nos. 2 and 3

Much to my surprise and delight, two of my micro fictions (150 words) won the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction contest in December and January. Here they are….

Picture credit: Amnesty UK


They cartwheel through his dreams, legs splayed, eyes open. Sometimes together, sometimes one at a time. Fabric unfurls around them, golds, blues, reds and greens. When he wakes, heart fractured, he can still see the colours on the back of his eyelids. 

In the early morning darkness he walks to the restaurant, his hands in his pockets, cracked from hours in the cold soapy water. He’s left Tariq asleep on the mattress in the sitting room at his sister’s house. Later the boy will watch cartoons on TV and laugh. He’s already forgetting his mother and sisters.

When the great wave came, he caught Tariq by the belt, but Meyra and the girls in their silky hijabs slid through his hands like fish. He still feels the boat buck and plunge beneath him as he walks, wishing now he’d pulled Tariq close and tipped them both backwards into the vast dark water. 

Edward Hopper "Nighthawks"

She slips onto the next stool, lips as red as her dress.

“Buy me a cuppa coffee, Mister?”

I tip my hat and nod to the boy behind the counter. The urn spits and steams. He stares at her breasts as he sets the cup down, his acne raw under the fluorescents.   

A whisper of silk on silk as she crosses her legs. She holds up the coffee to warm her face, though the day’s heat lingers, even at the witching hour.    

 A lone car passes up Greenwich Avenue. I offer her a Marlboro but she shakes her head.

“You got any dough?”

I reach in my pocket and hand her a fold of greenbacks, no questions asked. She holds it up in the fingers of one hand, then looks out through the plate glass window to where someone stands watching, his cigarette glowing in the hot feral night.  

Writing Contest Win No. 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I was delighted when this story of mine won the TSS Flash Fiction of the Month for November 2015. I am reprinting it here for those who may not have had a chance to read it.

And in my next post, I will reprint two of my micro fictions that won the weekly Ad Hoc fiction contest in December 2015 and January 2016. Let’s hope I can keep up this momentum!   

On Warren Ward

When I tell my grandmother I’ve been drinking the gin she keeps in her pantry, she squeezes my hand. That’s how I know she’s still in there, behind the ramparts of that twisted body. We both know death is coming. It’s why I’m here.

She sleeps most of the time, but her dark eyes open as the nurse tips her gently to ease the soiled pad from between her legs.
“Hello, Annie, my lovely. Don’t you fret. We’ll have you looking like a picture in a jiffy.”

Bridie in the corner bed died yesterday. Her daughter came out from behind the curtains, a ratty Kleenex pressed to her nose. Her husband nodded at me as they left the ward, “It’s a struggle, int it?”

They are birthing their own endings, these women, in this shabby, beige room, riding waves of pain, confusion, denial. When Ethel needs to pee, she calls high like a bird, “Queek, queek!” From behind the curtain, I hear a nurse say, “Ethel, what’s your hand doing down there?” From the next bed, Clarissa calls out, “I’ve got me boots on. Someone take me boots off.” All day long she drapes her extra blanket over her Zimmer frame, then pulls it off again, over and over.

Doris in the bed beside us broke her hip when she blacked out in her home. Her husband shuffles in every afternoon, the stains of his lunch visible on his tie. He asks her, “Did nurse do your ears for you today?”
“I said, did she do your ears for you today?”
“I can’t hear you.”
“Oh never mind.”
A moment of silence.
“She did my ears for me today.”
“You daft beggar, I just asked you that.”

Doris takes a friendly interest in me. She asks where I’ve come from – “Ooh, that’s a long way” – and asks about a husband and children I cannot come up with. She nods towards the bed where my grandmother lies, her toothless mouth open on the pillow. “They get like that, don’t they? They let themselves go.”

If you call two strokes and a long, hard life letting go. A chilblained, gas-masked, penny-pinching struggle of a life. Ninety years, give or take.

Nurses bring me tea in cups that smell of disinfectant. They touch my shoulder as they pass. Under the fluorescent lights, time is transparent. The hands of the clock take forever to move from one black digit to the next, yet hours are swallowed whole in the long pauses between each of my grandmother’s noisy breaths. She is the flesh of my flesh, the bones of my bones. As darkness fills up the long windows, the ladies shift and mumble in their sleep, dreaming of flying, while I sit on a hard plastic chair, keeping vigil for the fallen.