Monday, 6 August 2012

'The Ascot Murder' by Kevin Barrett

"I'm a hat woman" said the stranger seated opposite me on the train, referring to the blue and red hat perched on her knee.
"Off to Ascot then".  I said facetiously.
Thoughtfully she fingered the rim of the hat.  "No she said; but I know where you are going."  The gunshot blew the crown off the hat and I slumped to the floor.
The blood seeped through my fingers clutching at the wound.  A veil fell over the woman's face and the ruined hat fell deeper into shadow.
Then I remembered.

(Written at the NFFD workshop, Winchester, May 12th 2012)

Story from Cara Sandys inspired by a ship's horn sound-effect

Childhood holidays were spent on an unexotic caravan site, but to the girl, it was paradise.
At the end of a bumpy road, with puddles like giant's footprints, the tiny van was a door to a simple world. No electricity, gas lighting, an outside larder and communal tap.
Oak apples bounced off the roof, molehills appeared overnight and crickets chirped on warm evenings.
She picked blackberries, read comics and swam. On wet days, the rain hammered down and ran like tears down the windows. After a storm, she'd go beachcombing,
discovering cuttlefish, driftwood and bottles from faraway places. Ships glided by, their horns signalling their farewells as they sailed to somewhere warmer and more exciting.

Summers came and went. The caravan was sold and the girl grew up and travelled the world. Fourty years later, washed up and cashed up, she came back to the caravan site
and bought the biggest van with the best view.
She found the oak apple tree where the old van used to be, the blackberry bushes and the giant's footprints. But where was the girl, full of hopes and dreams, looking forward
to a lifetime of adventure. She was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

'How it all began' by Philip Schofield

[Written as part of the Book-ish event in Abergavenny]

It is a little known fact that Flash Fiction originated in Abergavenny in middle of the sixteenth century.  Queen Elizabeth was on the throne and young men aspired to be scholars or poets.

In a quiet town called Stratford upon Avon, the parents of a lazy young lad named Will Shakespeare, despaired of him ever finding work.  He had no interest in reading or writing and, in fact, had never written a word in his life.

In desperation, his parents sent him to Uncle Oliver who lived in a sleepy town called Abergavenny.  Uncle Oliver was a strict disciplinarian and Will’s parents prayed that he would instil a work ethic into their son.
Young Will arrived tired and hungry but there was no time to eat.

Uncle Oliver appeared with quill and parchment. He was fierce and determined.  ‘First write, then eat.  You will focus lad.  Understand?  This is Abergavenny!  Focus!’

Now Aunt Cath, Oliver’s wife, ran a small business with two friends, Hannah and Emma.  They gathered mushrooms and herbs and brewed a thick soup in a cauldron to sell to travellers on the Brecon Road.

Will watched hungrily as they stirred, cackling and chuckling.  His quill scratched on the parchment but, after only 250 words, inspiration dried up.  He would finish the writing later.

Uncle Oliver snatched the paper out of Will’s hand and began to read, ‘Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.’

Flash Fiction was born.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

3 Tiny Flashes from NFFD in Trowbridge

These were written at Josephine Corcoran's workshop for NFFD in Trowbridge:

Packing by David Birks
( inspired by Gail Aldwin's story, 'Packing')

1: Tee-shirts x3
Cardigans x2
Trousers x3
Slippers x1
Shoes x1

2: Remove pictures from wall
3: Wrap figurines in bubble wrap
4: Leave TV and TV remote
5: Remember walking frame – to return to social services


9/11 by Debra Milner

On the top floor! What a time to be on the top floor!


Lost Lake by Katherine White 
(Inspired by Dulux Paint Card - idea copyright of Calum Kerr)

Lost lake. To find it you have to dig for it. Clear the creepers, clear the jagged brambles, find the slope dipping away- excitement! Look at the size of it! Imagine it with water, ducks, dancing grebes and wistful cries of coots. Imagine boats, young laughter, picnics on the island. Imagine the water rushing in, a hidden grotto, dark with lichen.
Imagine the man hours to dig it out, the back-breaking toil it will take to restore it to its former glory. Best left.

Lake lost.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

'Definition of Anger' by Joanne Mallon

It’s our anniversary today. Our 14th Anniversary, not the first or the tenth. Just a run of the mill steak dinner at home anniversary.

But the pretty box on my side of the bed has been carefully placed while I was in the shower. Pretty lingerie, a body brush and a pot of chocolate, all wrapped in tissue and sprinkled with sparkly testicle confetti sit before me.

She just doesn’t get it. It’s not that I don’t want to, not that I don’t think she’s the prettiest lass in town; I do. I do want to, and I do want her. But I just can’t, I can’t. I don’t know why, and I hate myself for it.

'Boring boring boring' by David Dunford

He was the archetypal anorak. All he ever talked about was the perfect real ale. In all probability he was a very caring person with a wife and kids. But all this talk about ABV’s, Cask conditioning, micro breweries, good colour, nice head, fruity aftertaste on and on and on. For Christ’s sake get out with your mates, have a goodtime and drink the stuff. Get wobbly legged, tell jokes, laugh loud and enjoy a bit of all male company. Stagger home, sleep downstairs to avoid the wife, live with tomorrow’s hangover, go to work feeling rough and tell more mates about last night. Get some flowers for the wife (not chocolates with the diet) on the way home from work and make it up with her so you can do it again next time.
Get a Life!!

'Companionship' by Ray Chiverton

They sat in the pub as they always had done, every week for many years. Same time, same seats. Good friends, best friends. They were rarely maudlin and they never discussed their friendship. They just enjoyed the other’s company and enjoyed having a laugh.

“I wish I could write like Ben Elton, or John Sullivan.” Dave wished for lots of things.

“He’s very funny, Ben Elton” agreed Den. “He can use words as well as be funny. In one episode he managed to get discombobulation into the dialogue. He tried to trick Doctor Johnson with that one.”

“I loved Melchett and the rude words. Crevice was one. Brilliant!”

Den guffawed as they enjoyed the moment. “I like a good crevice now and again” he said, a bit too loud.

“Hey careful” hissed Dave, “there is a family behind you”. 

“I know I know. I saw them. One looked like a retard…..he was wearing a West Ham shirt.” 

The banal humour appealed to then both as they laughed out loud, like they always had done, every week for many years.

'Sorted!!' by Kate Rawding

“Oh yea oh yea, I won, I won. See I told you I could win it, you didn’t believe me did you Tom? Buddy started licking Alfie’s face, trying to remove any last traces of cheesy wotsits. “You think you’re the best at everything, but you haven’t won any race’s have you. And I didn’t cheat; you can ask Mr Leonard if you like. Mum what did Mrs Lawry mean when she said ‘will the parents please refrain, from using inappropriate language’?”

“Well, it means, do not swear.”

“Mum! Why would they swear at a school race?”

“Because they might get over enthusiastic; caught up in all the excitement, Alf.”

“And why, was Matthew’s dad running with him, he kept shouting ‘come on Matthew, second place is no place.”

“He was just encouraging Matthew.”

“I’d like it if dad could come and watch me; he never comes to anything at school.
Is that cos I’ve got ADHD? He gets really cross sometimes; but I did my best today. I didn’t even get sidetracked, not even when that dog started joining in. 
Why were you telling Tom about Murray? And who’s Benny Hill? What’s funny about Murray running round in circles and Mr Leonard chasing him? It wasn’t about Murray, mum, it was about me.”

“Well Alf, I really am proud of you!!!  I just keep seeing cheeky Murray in his sanguine shirt running long after the race had finished and the teacher trying to catch him!”

“Did they give you a medal Alf? Or any extra house points?”

“No, they didn’t give me anything; well apart from Percy the parrot, for perseverance! I get to keep him for the weekend. Can we take him to the park and play footy tomorrow?” 

“If it’s dry; well matey how about battered sausage and chips for tea, from the chippy; for my superstar son?”

“Can I have a panda pop too?” 

'Je’ t’Adore' by Jenny Fisher

Julie and Tom strolled arm in arm by the river bank.  The Thames was at its best, the sun glinting on the water, the boats gently bobbing up and down.  They perceived a magical ambience.
Julie stopped at a side stall that sold coffee laced with hints of liqueur essences.
‘Look Tom, wouldn’t it be lovely to sit here and have one of those coffees.’
‘Because I adore you so much, we certainly will.’
They sat down and just then the sonorous chimes of Big Ben echoed over the water.  The atmosphere of gentle living and historic surroundings was complete.
To be broken almost immediately by a group of four male teenagers on roller blades. They were skating through the crowds oblivious to everyone except themselves.  Suddenly one careered into another sending him flying into the concrete balustrade.
‘You stupid clot,’ he shouted at the top of his voice.  ‘Watch it, you can’t be trusted on those blades, I almost broke my leg! More lessons are needed here,’
The younger one was very contrite and apologised profusely.
‘I couldn’t help it,’ he was almost whimpering and he was obviously terrified of the other older lad.

Julie and Tom watched this with a mixture of amusement and concern.  Tom walked over to the group and said,
‘How about you all joining us for a drink; it’s my treat.’
The older one looked at him with utter incomprehension,
‘You must be joking’, he said.

'Crisps' by Natalie Bowers

Crisps? She hated crisps. They were all right when you first put them in your mouth, but after you’d given them a bit of a chew, they always dissolved into a gooey mess which you’d then have to spend the rest of the day picking out of your teeth.

Why he’d bought her a packet, she couldn’t work out. True, they hadn’t seen each other for a while, but it wasn’t as if she hadn’t made her feelings about them more than clear on more than one occasion. Yet there she was with a packet of Cheese & Onion - her least favourite flavour – sitting in her lap and him grinning at her as if he’d just presented her with that week’s winning lottery ticket.

“Well, go on then,” he said. “Open them.”

She just about managed not to wrinkle her nose. “Thanks, but maybe later. I’m not that hungry at the moment.” She picked up the packet and set it on the table. “So, tell me about your trip.”

“Pleeeeeeease,” he said, like a child who knew exactly how to irritate his parents into giving him what he wanted. “Open them.”

Raising an eyebrow, she turned the packet over. It was a little crumpled, and the seam running down the back appeared to have been resealed with sticky tape. She frowned, looked up at him, then looked down at the packet again.

“What’s this all about?” she asked, teasing the tape with her fingernail.

He shuffled forward in his seat. “Just open—”

“All right. All right.” She had to laugh. “I’m opening them.” As she peeled back the tape, the seam gaped like a greedy mouth and revealed not the flat, fatty slices of fried potato she’d been expecting, but shells, seashells. “Oh!” She poked in her finger and thumb, drew one out and held it up. “It’s … lovely,” she said. The tiny, beige spiral was so thin, so delicate that light seemed shine right through it. She lay it on the table then gently tipped the rest into her palm. There looked to be about twenty in total – different sizes, different colours, all beautiful. “You collected these? For me?”

“I picked this first one up on Hayling Island.” He pushed a small fragment of slate-grey razor shell toward her. “D’you remember?”

She thought back. “I do.” It had been the day before he’d set off on his round-the-world trip. They’d just finished their picnic when he’d started fidgeting on the blanket next to her. “You kept fiddling with it until it broke into little pieces. Why on earth did you keep it?”

He shrugged and glanced away. Slowly, he picked up the shard and began to turn it over and over in his hand. “It reminded me of that day I suppose. They all did. That’s why I collected them, and why I kept the packet.”

She thought back again. Yes, she remembered; it had been one of those ‘more than one’ occasions on which she’d made her feelings about crisps more than clear.

“You know,” he said, his hands suddenly still. “I’ve been kicking myself every day since then.”

“What for?” Her gaze flickered down to his mouth, and she bit her lip.

“For eating those crisps.”

'Friends' by Charlotte Comley

'What does the term friend actually refer to?'
'I don't understand what you mean friend.'
'See there you go again, friend. I've only just met you and it's friend this and friend that.'
He paused and smiled. For a moment I found the pastel blue shirt and cream chinos threatening.
'In our religion we see everyone as friends. There are no strangers in the world only friends we haven't met yet.'
'That's nice,' I said but I was uncertain. I like the idea in principle. But I was scared of stories of cults in the bible belt. He bent over my engine again, he seemed comfortable with machinery, maybe he was a farmer? I wouldn't have thought that cream trousers would have been practical for that profession. He had a wedding ring. Probably kids too, there was nothing else to do out here.
'There you go friend. I think it will get you into the next town but you need your radiator fixing today. I'll follow you, make sure you get there safely.'
'The problem is I need to get to the city tonight.' I chewed my bottom lip.
'Well friend perhaps one of my kin will be able to take you. You could leave the car in the garage and get a ride into the city. For every problem there is a solution. In our religion...'
He stopped and looked down at the crimson rose blossoming against his chest.
'Yeah well, I was taught that the Lord helps those who help themselves.'

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

MayDay Flash - 'Mr. May Day' by Antosh Wojcik

“Do you remember bank holidays?” Wayne whispers to Carla, a dark haired, pretty woman next to him. They watch the holiday maker flop as his pitch for Dicken's Day is rejected by the other board members.
             “Yeah. They were nice. Always worked on them though. Loved the extra pay.” She smiles.
             “NEXT!” booms The Boss, who leans back in his chair.
             “I hope we find one soon. I'm sick of this.” Wayne rubs his eyes with hairy hands. He talks through his palms. Carla chuckles quietly.
             The door opens and a colourful man in mismatched clothing walks it. He is garbed in pink and green check, right down to his toes. His shoes have bells on the tips. His grin touches his hairline, that is concealed under a tall hat.
             “NAME!” booms The Boss.
             “Mr May Day.” His voice is high and silly.
             “WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE?!”
             “Well. I know bank holidays are old fashioned and are responsible for the deficit BUT I think I have the solution.”
             Wayne pulls his head out of his hands. Every board member around the semi circle table leans forward on their chair, simultaneously.
             “GO ON!” booms The Boss, whose elbows look like they have sunk into the table surface with anticipation.
             “We bring back bank holidays, cut out all the menial, deistic ones we've crammed into the summer and make May Day the last one for ages. SO people work their arses off and mend the deficit.” Wayne leaps from his seat and claps. He is the only one.
             “I'd love bank holidays again sir.” He winks at The Boss, who ignores him.
             Mr May Day's smile lights up even more. “Paganism and drinking.”
             Each member of the stands and claps their hands, simultaneously. 

MayDay Flash - by Vanessa Cardui

The maypoles have gone.  The days are growing longer and sweeter as they always do; but this year there’s no coloured ribbons, no dancing on the green.  We used to get giddy drunk, and laugh and sing and fuck, on Mayday; and it was funny and harmless and joyful. Now they purse their lips and say watch and pray, the end will come like a thief in the night. This Mayday, in plain dark gowns and bonnets, we sit with clasped hands; and in a moment it’s my turn to stand up and bear witness, tell the congregation how the Lord saved me. As I get to my feet, all I can think of is how it used to feel, to have flowers in my hair.

MayDay Flash - 'May Day' by Renaud Spencer

His neighbours and fellow-farmers of Petitcourt, in the heart of rural France, had never quite understood, and therefore never forgiven, Jean-Luc Mortier for the domestic fight that had sent his son into the town looking for work. Indeed, young Philippe Mortier, with only basic farming skills to his name, had found it impossible to find work, and had been reduced to polishing shoes on a street corner in the city, close to the hostel where he slept. Jean-Luc’s teenage daughters Amelie and Aurelie had helped on the farm as best they could, milking the cows and tending the vegetable plot. But Jean-Luc would go out on his ageing tractor alone at the crack of dawn to plough the fields and sow his corn, and not return home exhausted till well after dark. And like every other farmer, he was forced to hire in help for the harvest, farm-workers who hired themselves out at the busiest times. On the sunniest days. One could say that Jean-Luc was making hay, while the son shines...

But today was different. With the passing of Jean-Luc, some said due to the strain of the harvest without the support and help of his son, the farm was to pass automatically to Philippe. And he was finally coming home to claim his birthright. It was with a heart filled with trepidation that the weary Philippe crested the hill, to reveal the familiar little farmhouse and cluster of barns, surrounded by those immaculate golden fields of corn. To each side of the road were the tents of the temporary farm-workers, all in the fields harvesting the crop. Some operated the tractors while others baled the hay and loaded the trailers. As he walked towards his sisters, Philippe passed the tents of those making hay.

And as everyone knows, the past tense of making hay is “made hay”…

MayDay Flash - 'Fallow' by Nicola Belte

The ground is dry as I dig down to the roots of the oak tree.  I place your necklace, my hair and the heart of a pig into the hollow, and smooth it over with dirt.

I’m not a superstitious man.  I never used to be a superstitious man.


I took time off.  

I came to my parent’s Cornish cottage. I tended flowers in the garden, made nooses from twine to keep the beans growing upright while my spirit sagged and crumpled.

I tried to see hope in the spiralling of the swallows, in the crocuses and the daffodils. Night smothered it, like heavy black boots on saplings.

I am a city man.  I used to be a city man. 

I don’t know what I’m doing here.


I dreamt that you’d returned, as a tree.  I wrapped my arms around the knots and curves of the trunk. I thought of your hair, falling down your spine, in coils and waves.  Butterflies and ladybirds settled on you. I could hear your laughter in the rustle of the leaves, trapped, as if at the back of a grate.


You were the pagan, I was the puritan.  You left mascara on the sheets, I arranged our DVDs.  You kept silver nail varnish in the fridge, for your toes.  I ironed my collars.  Opposites, who made a whole.


The children dance around the maypole, with flowers in their hair.

A festival of fire, fertility, of re-birth, new life.

I know that you’re never coming back, that you’re part of the earth; that you can’t come back. 

But maybe I can.

I light the sticks around the tree.  This predates Christianity, predates all that I was told.

I never went to Church; I was never a religious man. 

If this doesn’t work, there’s nothing.

MayDay Flash - 'Mayday' by Kath Lloyd

She thought it was an old fashioned word, something they used in the First World War, maybe the second.  What she did know was they say it three times, to show it’s a real emergency and not just someone talking about or a mis-hearing.
So she imagined they’d use wind up bush telephones to call from the trenches, not from a barren street in Afghanistan.
He’d not been the one to make the call.  It was too late for him by then and for most of the men.  They’d heard a baby crying hard and followed the sound into a deserted building.  Only it wasn’t a baby and it wasn’t deserted.  It was a reel-to-reel recording and an ambush.
The first three men were shot down at the doorway.  The others ran but were met in the street outside by loyalist fighters with firepower sold by a friendly government in friendlier times.  Those who ran on even after being shot didn’t outrun the grenades lobbed by the retreating fighters.
One sapper, seventeen and already lived too long, managed to operate his radio with his remaining hand.  He managed two maydays and no location before passing out for the last time.  It took hours to decide if a rescue mission should follow them, more to eventually get there.  By then it was too late for them all.
She rested a hand on a boy’s small blond head, stroking hair as he slept.  Eight years old.  Too young to have many special memories of a father at war most of his life and too old to forget him without any effort.  She would have to tell him, soon anyway.
She wanted to call out mayday and not stop, certainly not at three times.  She would stop when it was no longer a tragedy.

MayDay Flash - 'May Makes Way for June' by Heather Johnson

They might not like peas
, she thought as she placed the hard, wrinkled seeds four finger-spaces apart. Maybe the new owners will plant roses or build a shed on top of it. Or just reseed it with grass. Mow it. Put fertilizer on it every few weeks.  

Her gardening apron fit looser than it had the previous year, her hands were stiffer, and repeatedly standing and kneeling was difficult and noisy. But the garden was her companion. She’d turned its soil, uncovered its worms, shared cans of beer with its slugs, and nourished it with compost. Through decades of summer days, she had scrubbed its heavy soil from her hands with a bar of rough, salty-smelling soap.

Sinking the spade deep into the soil, she leaned lightly against the handle, facing east away from the sun and toward the house. She and her husband had been in their twenties when they moved in. She still struggled to remind herself that she was not just waiting for him to come home. Now, the house was just money for the next decade’s groceries and bills.

She sighed and began the next task: digging shallow holes for the tomatoes. Stepping on the blade, she felt an electric pang and realized she was glad Trixie had died last month. The old tabby would have been miserable in a new environment. Involuntarily grunting, she knelt to nestle the seedlings into their new home, then used the spade to push herself upright.

She scratched a final shallow row into the crumbly grey dirt. At the end of the row, she rested for a moment and flexed her sore fingers. She watched as the silver band slipped off her hand and landed on the soil. She looked at it blankly for a moment, then used the handle of the hoe to push it deeper into the ground.

MayDay Flash - 'Spring' by Mark Wilkinson

The chatter and noise of others was such an irritant to me, that my home was a deliberate three mile walk over stony path and flimsy stile. 
Some would describe the walk to my cottage as bleak.  To me, it was perfect.  The route took me tramping over footpaths broken in the middle by an overgrown lane.  One wooden gate with an avenue of trees shielded whatever lay beyond, and though I wondered what was hidden, I had never seen a soul I could ask. 
On the May bank holiday, my usual peace was ended by a party.  There was music and singing and laughter.  It started at midday, and much as it irked me, I could find no valid reason to complain.  However, at 11pm, after I had spent a fruitless hour in bed trying to sleep through the din, I set out in search of its source. 
 The fields I walked through were dark.  If there was a party here, it was being held in the pitch black.  I stumbled and cursed over the uneven ground.  At the lane that marked the halfway point the noise seemed louder, but there was no tell-tale light, so I persisted on toward the village.  The noise receded as I strode away, the party could only be behind the wooden gate. 
As I leapt over the gate, the scene changed.  There were fires on the other side of the trees.  Nobody was standing directly in their light, but every time a flame bit and crackled, I caught a glimpse of thigh, or back, or hip.  All in motion, all unmistakably naked.
‘Whose party is this?’ I shouted.
There was laughter. 
Some called ‘Helena’, others ‘Flora’, yet more called ‘Chloris’.
None of the accents were English.
I retreated.  Arms tried to encircle me, I flung them off.
I awoke in flowers.

MayDay Flash - 'M'aidez, M'aidez' by Virginia Moffatt

Help me.  
 I hate saying  that.  It sounds so pathetic.  Needy.  Reminds me of what  I one was and what I have become. Sometimes, looking at photos of my past self - a radiant May Queen surrounded by adoring  attendants;  a graduating student on the road to success; the bronzed half of a once devoted couple - I wonder if such things actually happened to me.
Help me - the bitter words of the forcibly dependant.  I much prefer the French  - "M'aidez" - give me aid.  A tad more dignified, and God knows I could do with dignity these days.  It's  been in short  supply ever since this disease began to invade my body:  unsheathing my nerves;  paralysing my legs, muscle by atrophying muscle.  
At first, I wasn't  quite disabled enough for an accessible flat. But now my limbs have given up in the battle for motion, I have at last reached the nirvana of eligibility. Fiftieth on the waiting list for a home with doors wide enough for my wheelchair.  I'll be there in a couple of years.
In the mean time, the Council makes sure to meet my needs.  Each day the carer brings my state-sanctioned salt-infused pre-cooked meal  leaving it for me to microwave. They've given me a rail in the toilet so I can pull myself up to do the necessary. The shower chair is beyond me though.  I make do with a flannel and hope for the best.
It  would be nice to get out once in a  while.  Feel the breeze on my face.  Collect posies of may blossom, like I did when I was  girl. But since I lost my Attendance Allowance, there's no-one to take me.  So I curl myself  on a beanbag  with my mobile phone - sending distress flares to the world.
 M'aidez, m'aidez.
Can somebody help me please?

MayDay Flash - 'Breaking point' by Cath Barton

He’s always liked to goad me. That’s brothers for you. And I’m afraid I always rise to it.
“There’s a ladder in your tights,” he’ll say, just as I’m going out the door with two minutes to catch the bus.
“Why didn’t you say so before?” I’ll hiss, more than likely catching my nail on my tights as I examine them and starting another ladder.
Or, “Our Mam can’t stand the colour purple, sis,” when I’ve bought her a bunch of tulips for Mother’s Day, and though he’s bought her nothing and I could point that out I don’t, I just start feeling that I’m no good.
Today I’ve cooked lasagne for tea. I pull it out of the oven, all brown and bubbling, and put it on the table. I sit down and I’m about to pour him a cup of tea and he says
“That ‘orrible sludge something you made, eh?”
I put the teapot down carefully, because I am just that far away from pouring the contents over his bare hands and I stand back and I say nothing. I just look at him and I think very bad thoughts but I say nothing.
And he picks up the big spoon and goes to serve himself from the dish and something flashes red behind my eyes.
“Something I made, eh? Is that what you said? Yes, I made it, and I’m tired of your infernal cheek and...”
My mouth dries. I see myself, as if from above, pulling on the oven gloves, picking up the lasagne dish and doing something so bad, so much worse than I’d wanted to do with the tea, and the screaming’s coming from my mouth, or is it his or is it both of us? And I want to be five years old again, because then everything would be alright.

MayDay Flash - 'May Day' by Stella Turner

“May Day, May Day, “shouts my Granddad.

My Nanna looks up from her knitting. Her forehead all crinkly, she’s frowning like she tells me not to. She's always saying "If the wind changes Charlie you’ll stay like it".

“Yes Granddad” I nod knowingly in his direction. “It’s May day today “  I know this because each day in writing practise we have to write the date and today my teacher Miss Woods was telling us all about  the may pole and how years ago people danced around it on May Day and she’d show us pictures tomorrow.

My Granddad starts taping one of his fingers on the arm of his chair in a pattern. He looks really upset and my Nanna puts her knitting down and goes over to him. She lays her hand over his tapping finger and says “its okay Seaman Brooks, the ships are on their way”.  Granddad stops tapping and Nanna smiles.

Tomorrow I’ll ask Miss Woods what ships have to do with May Day.

MayDay Flash - 'Unexpected Cargo' by Brendan Way

‘HMS Junebug, come in, HMS Junebug. Do you read me?’
‘I read you loud and clear, skipper. What appears to be the problem?’
‘Well, we’ve, er, found something rather unexpected and we wanted a bit of advice.’
‘Okay… Why not simply call the coastguard?’
‘That’s sort of the problem. We don’t know whether to report it.’
‘Eh? What exactly is it you’ve discovered?’
‘May Day.’
‘What’s wrong, skipper? Do you need help? Is everything okay?’
‘We’re fine, thanks, Junebug. That’s just the name of a little girl who appears to have snuck aboard.’
‘What? I’m sorry, I don’t follow.’
‘Well, we think she –’
‘May Day.’
‘What’s wrong? Are you sinking? Is something on fire? Are you alright?’
‘We’re fine. I’m just saying that we have an unexpected passenger in the form of a Ma - uh, M.D.’
‘You’ve got a doctor with you? Well, that’s standard practice. Nothing unusual about that. Certainly nothing to call the coastguard about.’
‘She’s not a doctor.’
‘Come now, skipper, don’t be so old-fashioned. Women can be everything nowadays!’
‘Even so, the passenger is not a doctor. She’s only six!’
‘So, she’s like, what, a nurse?’
‘No! She’s nothing. She’s just a young missus who must have wandered off from her parents and ended up hiding on here.’
‘I see. Well, that you should definitely call in to the coastguard. Do you want us to report it in for you?’
‘Could you? My officers and I would do it, but we’re very busy here trying to keep her amused.’
‘Sure thing, skipper. I’ll get on that right away. What colour’s her hair?’
‘Mousy brown.’
‘Okay… And her eyes?’
‘Right, and finally, her name?’
‘It’s May Da – on second thoughts, I’ll do it myself…’

MayDay Flash - 'Don’t Cry Wolf, Cry Mayday' by Josephine Corcoran

“To avoid confusion,” says Dad, “don’t shout ‘Wolf!’, because I’ll think you’re ‘crying wolf’, like the boy in the story.”

He has this way of talking that makes Dreevy think he’s scolding her.  Like she was the boy in the fable who caused the whole flock of sheep to be eaten.

“If you see a wolf”, says Dad, “shout ‘Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!’  And I’ll come with my gun.”

She wants to tell him it’s not the same.  That they only have six sheep and that they’re not theirs anyway but part of this whole Survival Holiday deal.  That if one of the sheep was eaten, it would be sad, but not like in the fable, because there’s plenty of food in the shop at the foot of the mountain.

Dad starts walking away.  “Three times is wasting breath!” she calls. “And wasting time!”

He rolls his eyes.  “Three times is correct procedure.”


Nobody’s seen a wolf but Dad says it explains the smell.  The stench, he calls it.  Mum says it's probably the overflowing bins outside the shop and that Dad shouldn’t believe everything he reads.  Dad says “Why do you always undermine me?”and Agnes says if there are mines, will there be gold and will it be warmer there?

Then Agnes throws up and Mum says “I’ll take the children home”.   But Dreevy says she’ll stay with Dad.


It’s late when the shop goes dark.   Dad says “They’re money-making bastards.  Next time we’ll drive further out and find our own spot to camp.”


Dad's right about the stench.  It wakes her up.  There’s a low growling.  The sheep are nowhere to be seen.  What had Dad said?  She knows what to shout if it’s a wolf.  But what would Dad want her to cry if it's a bear?

MayDay Flash - 'Her Name' by Sal Page

She hated her name. Kids chanted it in the playground at school. What were her parents thinking? When she was brand new in her cot hadn’t they tried it out and realised?

The few times she’d asked her mother the reply was ‘it’s a nice name’. Everything was nice to her. Daddy had laughed at her complaints but he laughed at everything, even when that man on the train went to hit him.

When she went to work at the store customers made remarks. It was embroidered on her overalls and, pleased with themselves, they seemed to think they were the first. It wasn’t mean though, like at school, and the customer was always right of course.

Once qualified and back in primary school, she became Miss Day. At the beginning of a new year she would chalk her name on the board and tolerate the first ‘What day is it, Miss?’ She guarded her first name carefully. Staff room only.

‘Bet you hate having a rhyming name.’ a nurse commented, as she recovered from her operation. She snapped at him but had the excuse of feeling like death. Four days later she left, vowing never to get ill again. The nurse was smoking by the gate. She gave him a cheery wave.

Only a year ago, there was some problem with her pension at the post office. Computer’s fault, they said. She had to repeat it three times to that deaf woman. Then Raymond appeared, tipping his hat and commenting on such a pretty, poetic name. He said it again when they met for coffee, again just before the film started and when they went dancing every Tuesday.

She and Raymond didn’t need confetti on their windy wedding day. The cherry-blossom was out. It showered down on them in pink waves, as May Day became Mrs. Smith

MayDay Flash - 'Craters and Rocks' by Pete Armetta

She pulled into their crumbling and pot-holed driveway. This damn driveway had been like this for years. All that was left were craters and rocks. Ronald had said over and over ad nauseum that he was gonna take care of it.

Pretty much like everything else he never took care of.

The shocks on her old Honda had about had it, and the car bounced and buckled it's way, struggling to get all the way in. Ronald was standing at the screen door, still in his underwear.  "For chrissakes what are you doing out here?" he yelled, swinging the door open. She turned off the car and got out, noticing Bill the next-door-neighbor-man watering his garden.

He was looking in their direction.

Ronald stepped out on the stoop in his bare feet and watched. He pointed his finger and bellowed, "Why the hell are you always so stupid? You're gonna break that car if you keep that up! Just like you bust up everything! You're just good for nothing really you know that?" His big mouth attracted not only Bill but some other neighbors too, in their yards watering their gardens or simply going about their way.

She walked up the steps and slid past him into the house, knowing and not anticipating what was to come.

May Day, May Day, she thought.

Ronald shouted in her face and walked in after her, slamming the door behind him.

MayDay Flash - 'May Day' by Cathy Lennon

Sunbeam lances bury themselves in the forest floor. I like to see them pierce the ground. They glance across the lolling tongues of ransome leaves, gilding the green. There is a gentle morning breeze that makes their flowers bob, white pom poms to salute May Day. It is a Spring dance and the bluebells nod along. I join in too with little flutters of appreciation. It’s good to be alive on a day like this.

The melody of birdsong, pitch perfect praise for the blue sky and the soft air, is our orchestra. Even the woodpecker stops his hammering, now and then, to tilt an ear. There is nowhere else I would rather be. This is my place, my home, my territory. It is all I’ve ever known. From the height of the canopy I can see faraway places. A church spire and a cluster of roofs, their chimneys coughing curls of smoke. Hills rise in the distance, their flanks are dressed with seasonal motley. Now green and gold, they’ll flush with purple later. But their stubbled plains are not for me. I like the green, the sway, the height. Even the black bones of Winter have their charms.

The human voices coming close don’t worry me. I know my friends have long since gone. The rabbit and the deer took flight, the sleeping fox pricked an ear. When first the pain did strike me, the nesting blackbirds peeled themselves away, sounding alerts into the distance. Below they work at me. I feel an agony that only worsens. I bleed.

The horizon tilts. I say goodbye to the hills. Men come from the village to carry me, their sweethearts swinging baskets, laugh along. They hack and strip and hoist me high. Ribbons they bring, to be my funeral shroud. ‘It’s May Day’, they sing. They dance. I die.

MayDay Flash - 'May Already' by Sherri Turner

May already and the Christmas decorations only just back in the box and they’ll have to be out again next week, it feels like. May already and a whole heap of bills still not paid, floors not washed, pounds not lost, stories not written, people not met, places not seen, life not lived. May already. How in hell’s name did it get to be May already?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Shakespearean Flash - 'Good Night, Sweet Prince.' By Virginia Moffatt

You gave me rosemary – that’s for remembrance. I laid it under my pillow: prayed, loved, remembered you. My dreams infused with pine scent and memories of my sweet prince.

You gave me pansies – they’re for thoughts. I placed them by my bed, so to wake with thoughts of you: green girl hopes, that the tenderness of my affection could overcome your black melancholy.

You gave me violets - sweets for the sweet. My brother warned me such gifts were trifles. My father, that I should disbelieve your vows. My disobedient heart pressed the petals close in love for you.

You garlanded me with daisies, leading me to the shallow brook, where the willow weeps into the water. Before heaven I pledged myself to you. Lying down with you a maid, I rose a maid no more.

Now madness has overtaken you. Your eyes, that once looked on me with love, are infused with hateful stares. You lance me with your words: bid me make alternative vows, pretend you know me not...

You tease me with sweet cruelty, forcing your head into my lap in plain sight of all. You speak in lewd tones, exposing the secrets of our intimacy for those with ears to hear and understand

Worse, they say you killed my father. My poor, kind, father, at work to do his master’s will. Your lance pierced the curtain, extinguishing his life’s blood, lacerating the hopes and dreams of this green girl.

Your madness infects me now. Your love once thrilled my blood – but now your ramblings possess me. I shriek, I weep, I wail: lamenting loss of father, lover, honour. I watch them watch in horror. For I am lost to all.

Tonight, the fever has abated. I look to the crescent moon, which once filled my heart with trembling hopes and loves. There are no vows left to make, all promises are broken. For you have proved as faithless as they said.

I will deck myself with such flowers as I find by the bank of the brook: daisies, nettles, and purples. I will bid you good night, my sweet prince, and lay myself down this one last time.

There’s rosemary- that’s for remembrance – pray remember me.

Shakespearean Flash - 'Poster Boy' By Kath Lloyd

“I think the frog. Definitely, the frog.”

“Don’t you think it lacks something of the cuteness of the others? It’s the having no fur. And being green”

“Is that what the murder of Julius Caesar means to you? Cuteness and fur? Death usually does lack cuteness. “

“And the green?”

“What colour would you suggest for a slaying?”

“Well it’s just that the advert is meant to entice people in, get them to come and see the play. What about the one with 2 kittens? An all feline cast would be a first.”

“Remember when we tried Richard III with just dogs? The lead puppies fell asleep and missed their cues, Lady Anne repeatedly mounted the Lancastrians and ‘A poodle, a poodle, my kingdom for a poodle!’ lacked the gravitas of the original.”

He had a point. The world’s first Animal Shakespeare Company was a roaring success, but early errors with larger, jungle animals had persuaded the director to work with nothing bigger than a spaniel. There was still plenty of scope for actors of course, but the seats all had to be close to the stage so audiences could see. A ferret rarely has the stage presence of a lion but at least fewer seats led to longer runs.

The wardrobe manager tried one last time. “The frog is the only one who is a female. The others are all guys, far more suitable to play Caesar don’t you think? Do we really want to veer into cross-dressing?”

“’Cross dressing’? Not one of them will be wearing garments of any kind to dress or cross-dress in. And it’s not as if you’d normally expect to see a frog’s…dangly bits…would you. Nobody will say ‘Oh, a frog without a winkle.’”

He played his trump card, all further argument moot.

“And did you see her Hamlet at Stratford?”

Shakespearean Flash - 'Cat and Dog' By Sal Page

William had finished writing. There was ink rubbed into his fingers, splatterings on his shirtsleeves and even a little up his nose. His parchment was full of words though. He smoothed the corner with his thumb and felt a puff of pride.

It was a story about a cat and a dog. They were good friends but weren’t supposed to be. They came from families who didn’t get along but they loved each other so they ran away together, travelling all the way to London.

Cat and dog got chased by a fierce, sharp-toothed bear in a forest twenty times the size of the woods around William’s house. They stayed over night on an island where they sheltered from a storm that roared around them like an angry lion. They met a daft talking wall, a grumpy king and some soldiers on horseback setting off to fight a battle in a far off country. William added a ghost, a funny jester and a princess to his story. When cat and dog arrived in London they were very tired. They found a room in the King’s palace and fell asleep.

William gazed down at his work. He was still in the story so he didn’t hear her come in. A hand snatched the parchment away. The quill fell to the floor.

‘Come William. We have business in Coventry. We must leave now.’

Mother threw the parchment on the fire and William watched the flames gather around it. All his wonderful inky words, and over an hour’s work, gone in seconds. He looked up at his mother, sighed and accepted it.

As they walked through the wood, William could see pictures in his head. He could still hear cat and dog voices. They shouted, whispered, laughed and cried. William felt what they were feeling and he knew he could recall the tale. Maybe he could write it even better next time. He remembered how cat and dog died. He wanted it to be sad at the end. Sad like his brother and sister who’d died before he was born. Making you want to start again from the beginning, even though you couldn’t.

Yes. Deliciously sad.

Shakespearean Flash - 'Strutting and Fretting' By Dan Powell

This is the short and the long of it.....

‘To be, or not to be.’ That is the question she asked herself while still just a glint in her mother’s womb. To be, she decided and nine months later, burst into the world like an idea newly formed.

‘O wonder!’ she thought, her new eyes blinking, sucking up the smiles of her parents, ‘How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world. That has such people in't!’

Growing up she bathed in time and opportunity. Her head brimmed with all she had coming to her. ‘The world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open,’ she told her Career’s Officer when asked what she wanted to achieve after leaving school.

During University and beyond, she fell for many an unsuitable man. ‘Love is blind,’ she said when friends reproved her reckless liasons, ‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.’

‘Love sought is good, but giv’n unsought is better,’ her friends tried to tell her. ‘Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast,’ they said.

But each time a lover dumped her by text, she wailed to her friends, ‘These words are razors to my wounded heart.’ And then each time she cheered, for, she said, ‘To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on.’

In her thirties she met a man and lived and loved. She liked to think theirs was a marriage of true minds. The couple did not stray far from their small home and the small life they lived within it. ‘For you and I are past our dancing days,’ she said.

As her children began callously to pursue their own stories, her husband passed, leaving her to grow old alone. ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions,’ she told the warden of the assisted living care home. ‘I learnt how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child,’ she said. In the few years that remained she wore her heart upon her sleeve for daws to peck at.

And then was heard no more.