Flash Fiction: The SS Ayr


Cara lay on the bunk, the baby asleep beside her, his arms thrown wide as if surprised to be falling. From far below, in the ship’s hold she felt as much as heard, the melancholic bleat of a cow – the sound travelled through steel, along the gangways, up the posts of her bed and into her skull. Cara wondered if the animals ever stopped missing their calves.

She woke later, with the baby on her chest, both of them tipped against the ship’s hull, the bunk no longer horizontal. The engine wailed, gears shrieking. But no, not the engine. The cows.


This week I thought it might be fun to also post a recording of me reading my story. (And in the odd way that minds work, I only realised that this story bears the same name as the writer, C.E. Ayr, who gave me the idea to record it, after I’d written and titled my story.)


This is a Friday Fictioneers very short story inspired by the picture above (this week the image was provided by Jan Wayne Fields). Friday Fictioneers, which is hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, is a weekly group, where lots of writers from around the world write a 100-word (or so) story inspired by a picture, post them on their own websites and read each other’s. Click here to join in, or here to read some more stories.

61 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The SS Ayr

  1. Claire, that was super! I also loved hearing what you sound like, too. I’m happy to see more of us are doing that, reading their stuff out loud.

    I particularly like the tension in the story itself, very to-the-point. The sense of jeopardy is there, it works.


  2. Interesting question re Calves/Cows. I’ve often wondered the same re Lambs/Sheep. I know they have lambs every year, but do they really notice when they’re taken for slaughter. Perhaps they think they’ve just gone to another field.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although Cara wonders about this, I did a bit of research about it, and apparently cows make a very different moo when their calves are taken away, which must mean something. It might of course not mean ‘missing them’ in the way we think of missing something.


  3. Oh! Strong & fab to have the extra dimension of hearing it… although the loudest noise was strangely the cows which speaks volumes (pardon the pun) about the strength of each word earning it’s place to create a full scene. Great job!


  4. Dear Claire,

    I found myself reading your story from the POV of one who has spent a lot of time at sea and at first I wanted to gig you for not getting the descriptions ‘right’. Then, in thinking about it I realized, to my chagrin, that the descriptions are perfect for the tale because few passengers are going to have the experience to know what, exactly, they are hearing during their transit toward and then into, disaster. I applaud you and have chastised myself and am now left with the impressions your writing made on me. Impending doom, the love and loss felt by all creatures for their offspring and the fear that comes from knowing that the dark water is coming.

    (Do cows bleat? Would ‘lowing’ be more apt for a cow missing her calf?)

    Enough of my bleating. It was nice to read your work again. I hope this finds you well and prospering.

    Kind regards,



    • Lovely to hear from you Doug! This is definitely Cara’s first time on a boat, but it is part of my next novel, so even if Cara doesn’t know the right words for ship parts, I would like to. (I tried to look them up – she’s on a cargo ship.) If you have the time to tell me the right terminology for the bits in the story, I’d be really grateful.
      And as for bleating… I looked at so many alternative words for this. I dismissed lowing because it has biblical connotations for me. I really wanted something like ‘the cow’s noise started low and rose to a distressed high pitched bleat’ – but of course that’s far too many words. (How do you have, Doug, the uncanny knack of finding the exact thing I struggled with in a piece?).
      Hope you’re well too. Claire


  5. Dear Claire,

    I did question cows bleating. I always connect bleating with sheep. Unique little snippet and I loved listening to you read. I can’t wait to read the entire book.



    PS Sent my manuscript for the third book of Havah’s trilogy in this morning. Hope my agent likes it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So good. I can see it all unfolding as she experiences all this as though half conscious – her attention shifting between her baby and the sound of the cows. You’ve put me right in the scene – and it’s scary.


  7. Good story, Claire. I enjoyed hearing you read it. I’d love to do that if I knew how. Maybe someday. To imagine what I sound like someone can imagine hearing an American Grade 1 teacher reading to her class. I put feeling into it. You have to do that with little ones to hold their attention. It works especially well with children’s books. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to hear what you sound like. If you have an iphone (or equivalent) it’s very easy to record yourself, email yourself the recording, and upload it onto your website. Happy to provide more details if you want. (I’d love to hear your ‘teacher voice’!)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed reading this, Claire. We returned back from Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania last weekend and had a sleeping berth. I remember sleeping with the ship’s engine’s grinding beneath me, which was kind of interesting…no cows.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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