Flash Fiction: The Lake

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I never liked to think what lay under the water: probably more than pond weed and duck poop. I swam in the lake because I didn’t want Peter to think I was afraid, or worse, boring. He liked to jump in, but I never even put my head under.

I heard they sent the divers in, or dredged it, or something. But that was much later, of course, after my swimming days were over. And after Peter’s days were over too.

I never learned if they found anything. I didn’t read the papers; I knew what had happened. I’d been there.

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Listen to me read my story: 

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A Friday Fictioneers story. Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Picture supplied by C.E.Ayr

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How many manuscript submissions does a reader in a literary agency receive in a month? What kind of cover letters do they like best? Read an interview I had with Susannah Godman, Reader at Lutyens & Rubinstein literary agency in London.

Flash fiction: Mrs Jellico

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The teeth grinding and sobbing wake me. It’s disconsolate, broken-hearted, a funeral kind of weeping. I hear it through the wall, and I pull the cord with the red triangle. The nurses’ station buzzer sounds and shoes squeak on linoleum. The crying stops.
‘Where’s the fire, Mrs Jellico,’ the girl asks, although she knows I have no words left.
When she’s plumped my pillow and gone, the noise starts again. Keening, moaning, grinding. I rap on the wall.
The nurse is back, syringe in one hand, eyes kind. ‘Shh,’ she says. ‘Shh, Mrs Jellico. Not long now.’

The crying fades.

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Hear me read: 

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I’m not sure exactly how I got from the photo to this story; perhaps milling = grinding = teeth. Anyway, I got there. This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words inspired by a weekly photo posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo is provided by Shaktiki Sharma. Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read other people’s.

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Last week I was asked by Penguin books to provide some tips about writing flash fiction, and they’ve just gone live on the Penguin website. Do take a look. I will be posting this piece on my own website in the future, so if you have any you’d like to add, please comment below here, and I’ll add them to the post, credit you and link to your website.

Flash Fiction: Once You Sat And Sewed

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I wake with my eyes still closed and hear the squeak of the treadle that you asked me to oil, the hum of the wheel under your hand. I imagine the needle, ticker, ticker, tickering, in and out of the hem; your pursed mouth and concentrated frown. I smile when you swear, almost see the pins falling from your lips, the pricked finger, and the thread snapped.

But your chair is cold when I rise, the machine still. Only the stain of faded blood on the edge of my shirt proves that once you sat and sewed.

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This is a 100-word (or so) piece of flash fiction written as part of the Friday Fictioneers Group, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week the picture is supplied by the wonderful writer Sandra Crook (go and look at her writing – it’s very good). Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read some more.

Flash Fiction: Now we are the same

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For two nights and a day they bloomed. Filling the world’s skies with light and apparently, sound. We sat on the playground, our faces turned skyward. The greatest firework display on earth our teachers said, their mouths round with each flowery burst. We watched late-night television in the common room, the hands explaining physicists’ and UFO experts’ theories, prophets’ and doctors’ warnings. And the doom-mongers’ threats: don’t watch, the lights will blind.

Too late they learned: it wasn’t the lights, but the noise.  They say the world is disabled; but we sign that now we are all the same: deaf.

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Listen to me read this story:

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This is a 100-word (exactly) flash fiction, part of the Friday Fictioneers group, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s picture is supplied by Vijaya Sundaram. Click here to write your own 100-word story, or here to read others inspired by the same picture.

 

Flash Fiction: Talk

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I stand under their bedroom window at night and hear them talking:
‘I don’t think she’s ever had a boyfriend,’ she says.
‘No?’ he says.
‘Still a virgin; at her age. Can you imagine?’
‘Not like you then, is she?’ he says, and she shrieks and laughs as if he’s goosed her. They are both silent for a minute or two, and I try not to imagine.
‘Do you think she misses it?’ she says.
‘You can’t miss what you’ve never known,’ he says.
‘But having someone?’
‘No,’ he says. ‘Not her.’
And I turn away, both stronger and sadder.

Listen to me reading it:

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This is a Friday Fictioneers story, hosted by the lovely Rochelle, and inspired by the photo above. This week provided by Janet Webb. Click here to join in and read more.

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A few weeks ago my short story, A Quiet Tidy Man won the Royal Academy & Pin Drop short story award. At the award ceremony the winner was announced by actress, Juliet Stevenson. The recording of the event and her reading my story aloud is now available to listen to. Visit this page, and click through to listen.

Flash Fiction: Add but don’t subtract

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Her body sank to the cobbles, each bony vertebra grazing skin against whitewashed wall. In slow motion she slid sideways into the shade, eyes glassy and the taste of dirt and leather in her mouth from a million sandals that had trod the alley before her. It was empty now, everyone indoors – away from the midday sun. As sleep, or something greater overtook her, she saw her mother pouring homemade lemonade from a pitcher she had never owned.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers story. A re-run (because it’s summer and we’re all busy) of an FF story I wrote in 2012. It became a Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Feral

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I set down the saucer of milk in the corner of the barn and scuffed around in the straw, calling and blowing little kisses. Every day I’d visited the kittens, pressing each soft face against mine and sighing.

Cara had sighed too. ‘They’re not your babies, Frances. They’re feral cats and in a month they’ll be yowling, and scratching and copulating.’

Now she stood in the doorway, the sleeves of her shirt sodden.
‘Have you been to the lake?’ I said.
She held out a sack, the dead-weight at the bottom dripping water on the concrete floor.
‘You’re too old for playing mother,’ she said.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words or so, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and this week the picture is provided by Piya Singh. Click here to join in or here to read other people’s.

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I had some great news yesterday. One of my short stories, A Quiet Tidy Man, has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy / Pin Drop short story prize. The winner will be announced at a ceremony later in June at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where the story will be read by the actress Juliet Stevenson. More information.

 

Flash fiction: Waiting Room

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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.