Flash fiction: Waiting Room

jhc7

In the autumn of 1968 Cara Adamo alighted from the 15.47 at Napoli station. As agreed, she sat on one of the hard benches in the waiting room, her suitcase by her side and the baby – Alberto – sleeping in the crook of her arm. The 18.20 was late and the room soon filled with hot, bored and eventually, angry passengers. Cara looked up each time the door opened. At 19.05 the room emptied, leaving behind only the bitter smell of coffee. Alberto woke and cried when the 20.47 pulled in and no one entered. She fed him. At 21.17 Cara Adamo caught the train home.

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This is a 100-word (or so) flash fiction story inspired by the picture (supplied this week by J Hardy Carroll). It’s part of Friday Fictioneers – a group of online writers who write and upload a weekly piece of flash fiction. Click here to join in, and here to read other people’s.

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I asked Lutyens & Rubinstein, an independent bookshop in Notting Hill, London some questions.

Flash Fiction: Reflection

arena

There were no mirrors in my apartment. Not through design or fearfulness; only circumstance. Some days I would go down to Cara’s, sit on the edge of her bath and watch her at her morning mirror: checking the whites of her eyes, the gaps in her teeth, that no hairs had sprouted from her chin. She would smile and grimace at herself. She needed the mirror to know she existed and that she hadn’t aged in the night. Sometimes she would swing open the cabinet door, and only when her eyes found mine did I know I existed too.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction, part of the Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week the picture above has been supplied by Ceayr. Click here to find out more, read some other stories or join in.

Flash Fiction: Taken by the breeze

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We laid our underwear out to dry across the over-grown box hedging. My dangling suspenders and skin-coloured corsets, wrinkled like the corrugated stomach of a worn-down mother. Cara’s nighties and slips, cream silk, taut among the green leaves.

In the night a breeze got up, whistling through the gaps in the window frames. When I looked out, the wind had hold of Cara’s chemise, lifting it and tugging. As I watched, it filled with air, became alive, a torso which let go of the hedge and spun away into the night.

In the morning, Cara too, had gone.

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This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece inspired by the photograph (this week from Mary Shipman). It’s been brewing in my head since Wednesday but just wouldn’t come out right, and today I wrote it in half an hour. Click here to read others and join in.

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I interviewed Mr B’s bookshop in Bath, England. Read it here.

Flash fiction: Songs of Beuren

barbed2bwire2bprompt1

They were docile and doe-eyed. They gathered silently in herds under the street lamps at night. No one knew where they’d come from but we all agreed they were beautiful. We named them Beuren and didn’t wonder what they wanted.
They were easy to catch and to pen.
As we slaughtered the first, some of the others made a low musical sound. More joined in, their voices coming together, urgent and louder. Words, I thought, Latin even. Some of the skinners dropped their knives, ran away, but me with blood on my hands, cried, ‘What Have I Done?’

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Songs of Beuren is the English translation of Carmina Burana. If you don’t know the
O Fortuna section of this piece of music you might like to listen here.

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I can’t believe Rochelle has been hosting Friday Fictioneers for four years today. Happy anniversary, Rochelle! This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece inspired by the photograph (this week from Madison Woods). Click here to read others and join in.

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This spring Our Endless Numbered Days was picked as a Richard & Judy book club book, along with seven others. For those in the USA this is the closest we in the UK come to Opra’s book club. Now that the season is over readers can vote for their favourite, and of course it would be lovely if you would like to vote for me. Click here.

Flash fiction: Life sentence

kent-b

‘They’re similar to the Nazca Lines, m’lord,’ I said, flapping the photographs. ‘The ones in southern Peru? That you can only see from the air?’
‘That’s as may be,’ the judge said, ‘but this was criminal trespass and destruction of private property.’
‘For god’s sake, I didn’t draw them!’ I said. ‘You must listen.  They’re coming.’
‘And you must listen to me, Professor Shaw.’
‘They’re landing strips, instructions, directions…’
‘That’s enough.’ His gavel came down.

Now all is quiet outside my cell. I know they’ve arrived because everyone’s gone. And the keys with them.

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This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece inspired by the photograph (this week from Kent Bonham. Click here to read others and join in.

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This spring Our Endless Numbered Days was picked as a Richard & Judy book club book, along with seven others. For those in the USA this is the closest we in the UK come to Opra’s book club. Now that the season is over readers can vote for their favourite, and of course it would be lovely if you would like to vote for me. Click here.

 

Flash Fiction: Decree 770

jhardy

Around the back, saplings have sprouted, some growing up through the floor and out through the shutters. She isn’t sure if they are trying to break in or to escape.
‘Better the place is bulldozed, forgotten,’ Vişinel says.
‘We grew up here,’ she says.
‘And spent the whole time trying to get out.’ He kicks some litter. ‘I don’t know why we’ve come back.’
She remembers the rows of iron cots, the thin blankets, the years she could only speak Romanian.
‘I’ve bought it,’ she says. ‘The building. I’m going to make it whole again.’
They both know she means us, not it.

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This is a 100-word or so Friday Fictioneer story, inspired by the picture. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts the Friday Fictioneers, posting a picture each week (this week supplied by J Hardy Carroll). Click here to read other people’s and click here to join in.

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My story this week might require some explanation. Decree 770 was a 1966 Romanian law which restricted abortion and contraception, which led ultimately to many children being placed in state orphanages where they were forced to live under terrible conditions.

Flash Fiction: Caught

ted-t

I ran. Beside the stable-block I found the old privy. Ceiling slung with cobwebs and a stink of stagnant water, still I squeezed in there, behind the open door, holding my breath, worrying she would hear my heart pumping, the thump of blood in my ears. A movement of shade and brightness across the crack in the door, that’s all she was. The crunch of her shoes on the debris scattered across the stable yard. My hand over my own mouth.

And then the sun found her knife, flicked a bead of light across the privy’s dark interior, and reflected back my staring eye.

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This is a 100-word or so Friday Fictioneers story. Friday Fictioneers is hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Anyone can join in by writing a 100-word story inspired by the picture above (this week supplied by Ted Strutz), or just come and read some pieces other writers have written.

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Absolutely delighted that my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days is a finalist in the ABA (American Booksellers Association) Book of Year Awards.

 

Flash Fiction: Crossing the river alone

antiques-along-the-mohawk

Yesterday I asked the fat nurse to describe the view.

‘A river,’ she said, her big hands moving confidently as she changed my dressings. There was no disgust in her face, although even I can smell my decaying self, my rotting body.

‘And on the opposite bank,’ she said, ‘are two yellow chairs. What d’ya say we break out of here and go and have a nice sit down?’

Today it was a new nurse, thin. I imagined her fat colleague, weighing down one yellow chair, waiting. But I didn’t ask her to look. I don’t want to know that both chairs are empty.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) short story based on the picture provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and written about by writers all over the world.

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This week WordPress interviewed me about my writing, and included a big mention for the wonderful Friday Fictioneers. Read the piece here.

 

 

Flash Fiction: Rice would be Nice

emmylgant

‘We’re out of potatoes,’ my mother said, in a voice I wanted to mend.

I dragged my father’s garden spade (he’d taken the fork) to the vegetable patch. It hadn’t rained for months; his brassicas had gone to seed and his onions were flowering.

I jabbed at the ground, remembering the pale, earthy potatoes my father had let me find, like golden treasure hidden in the dark. I knelt and scrabbled, stuck my hands in the soil, my fingers discovering only a wet, rotten mess.

‘Rice,’ I said to my mother. ‘Rice would be nice.’

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This is a 100-word story inspired by the picture above. This week, my mind decided to go in the opposite direction to the picture: gardens and heat, despite my best intentions. Thanks to Emmy L Gant for the picture, and to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for leading the Friday Fictioneers. Click here to join in, or here to read other people’s stories.

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It’s been a little over a year since my debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days was published by Penguin. I wrote a blog post about the good and the not so good things that have happened since then.

Flash Fiction: Into the Sun

crook

Cara goes by bicycle to the village shop. The sky is polished blue.
As I lie down with Peter in the grassy hollow I imagine Cara peddling home, into the sun.
Time slows: minutes become hours
Peter turns towards me.
Hours become days
I think of Cara squinting, stopping.
Days become weeks
Peter leans forward.
Weeks become months
I picture Cara pushing the bicycle, head bowed.
Months become years
One first kiss, and a shadow falls. We shade our eyes, look up. Cara, her face dark under her hat, frowns.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers story: a 100-word piece inspired by the picture (this week provided by Sandra Crook). Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to read other people’s stories, or here to join in.

I’d love to know what you think – constructive criticism gratefully received – leave a comment below.