For the final month of 2022 (the 12th month, if you will), Furious Fiction entrants were set a curious collection of criteria. Here they are now:
- Each story had to begin with a 12-word sentence.
- Each story had to include the sale of a second-hand item
- Each story had to include at least five (5) different words that end in the letters –ICE.
And so, in a trice, entries filled our office as writers rolled the dice and hoped their voice (and the odd literary device) would suffice and that those who police this story sacrifice would notice their attempts to entice, making a choice (without prejudice, malice or outside advice) that would make them rejoice, “justice!” – a nice price for their service.
Along with the icy mix of words sprinkled throughout, we also saw all manner of items bartered. Long forgotten trinkets, valuable antiques and even more unusual things such as personalities and memories made it to the trading table, with our judges shrewdly assessing each story for dings or scratches.
As it turns out, the favourite item came from Jemma Green. Her story, Soccer Boots, has won her $500AU and you can read this winning entry below. We’ve also collected some extra reading in the form of seven further shortlisted stories, plus our longlist of highly commended entries. Thanks to all who entered and we hope to see you for the next round on the first weekend in March!
DECEMBER 2022 WINNER
SOCCER BOOTS by Jemma Green, QLD
It’s a clear and cloudless day when my family finally sells up.
Everything’s nice, the afternoon lit by lingering sunbeams and perfused by the trill of a dozen lorikeets. Mum’s Mazda is brimming with poorly taped boxes, the house gutted. All week trucks have been coming, carefully taking pieces of my home away, and today the front garden is trampled by tables with price tags and scattered with strangers, each flocking like crows to pick at the bones of my life.
The yard sale was Dad’s idea. I was in the kitchen when he proposed it, though nobody saw me.
“We should sell them,” Dad said.
Mum’s mouth fell open. “Sell Oliver’s things?”
“Bringing them will only make you upset.”
“Make us upset,” Mum corrected.
“Joanna…” Dad frowned. He reached for Mum’s hand, but she snatched it away, and I, standing by the sink, wished so hard that I could step forward and reach for her hand instead. “Joanna, it’s been two months.”
Mum’s chair dragged suddenly as she stood. “I can’t listen to this,” she said, storming out. She bumped into my little brother Ben at the door, who was clearly eavesdropping, but pushed past him and left. I stood there, helpless.
Still, the yard sale went ahead, and I now sit by my driveway watching neighbours walk away with my books, my toys, my clothes. Each of them smile that awkward pressed-line smile, offering sympathies, then leave, ice cold, clutching what’s mine. I want to make them give everything back. I want to snatch my things out of their arms.
But I can’t.
The afternoon passes into dusk, and though I hate today I wish it will last longer, that moving day will never come. Dad’s packing down tables when the last stranger arrives to take the last thing I have. My soccer boots – fluro green. I saved pocket money for six-months to buy them.
The stranger buys them in a minute and walks away with my life.
I want to cry. I want to scream, “Please! Give them back!” But I have no voice.
Uselessly, I chase the stranger, only to stop short round the corner. Ben’s here, waiting. He’s only little, wiry, shirt stained with juice, but walks up to the stranger as though ten-feet-tall. He thrusts out a hand, gleaming with coins. “Let me buy those boots,” he says.
The stranger smiles down at him. “Sorry kid, but I just bought them.”
He moves to leave, but Ben is stubborn.
“Please,” he says, “let me buy my big brother’s boots.”
For a moment the stranger softens – something in Ben’s face, in his unrelenting hand holding the few coins he has. “Okay kid,” he says. He hands the boots over. “Keep the coins.”
As the stranger leaves, I’m left standing beside my little brother, soccer boots held tight to his chest. Quietly, I whisper, “thank you.” Ben can’t hear me, but smiles anyway.
For the first time since I died, I do too.
What we loved:
This round’s criteria saw many stories of childhood items being sold, however this piece adds another layer. Shining with accessible writing, clear imagery and a poignant, youthful tone of voice, you can't help but be pulled into this tale with its The Lovely Bones tones. Gentle misdirection initially suggests a regular suburban yard sale, although small clues are sprinkled like breadcrumbs, while its emotional content is laced seamlessly with aptly observed details that fit the age of our protagonist.
What at first might be dismissed as not wanting to let go of childhood is revealed to be so much more. The story’s twist is foreshadowed throughout, yet wisely plays a side role to the heart of the narrative, which – beat by beat – reveals an anguished child not yet ready to say goodbye. Whether you picked it early or not matters little, as the final brotherly act lands equally either way. As a reader, you feel as powerless as our narrator, yet also touched by the home goal it scores at the end. Beautiful and bittersweet.
PAYBACK by Danielle Barker, NSW
Just one more day of babysitting criminals and Madge was done; finally. Volunteering in her retirement had been fulfilling at first, a welcome change from the loneliness and boredom at home. But five years, and a stream of unmotivated, ungrateful, uncommunicative youths later, and she’d had her fill. She didn’t understand the need for ‘community service’. Whatever assurances their parole officers gave that they were neither violent nor thieves, it made no difference. It wasn’t justice. They all needed locking up as far as she was concerned.
Madge looked over the top of her glasses at the latest recruit, sighing inwardly at the familiar sight of Gen-whatever-they-were’s uniform: oversized hoodie, baggy sweatpants, and pristine white trainers. At least this one removed his baseball cap when she spoke,
“Wayne?” she asked, eyebrow raised speculatively.
Wayne gave a small nod. Madge was surprised to see he held her eye.
“And you’ve 150 hours to do?”
Another nod, but she noticed his blush.
“Right, I’ll show you what’s what then.”
Madge moved from behind the counter to stand in the centre of the shop. She turned round in a slow circle pointing out the various areas into which donations were to be sorted, “We’ve got bric-a-brac there, books and DVDs here, household items, toys and games over there and then here’s…”
“Clothes…?” he interjected.
Madge glared at him sharply but found his face held playful eyes and a small smile. She cleared her throat, “Yes. Good.
“The till is my domain…”
“Obviously.” Another smile.
“…Your job is to unpack the donations…”
Before she could finish, Wayne moved swiftly past her and reached to retrieve a box from outside the office, “I’ll get started with this then, shall I?”
Madge shut her mouth quickly and blustered after him, stopping to pick up a DVD that fell from his box and which caused her pulse to stutter momentarily,
“I love that movie!” Wayne said, taking it from her.
“Yeah, it was one of my grandad’s favourites.”
Madge recognised the look of grief that briefly passed over his face, “OK, well. I’ll leave you to it,” she said, turning abruptly before he saw it mirrored in hers.
The day passed quickly, Madge was kept busy at the counter, whilst Wayne kept an endless stream of boxes moving onto the shop floor. At 5pm she flipped the closed sign and took in the shop around her for the last time. Her heart sank a little at the idea that she wouldn’t be back, nothing but an empty, quiet house waiting for her.
Wayne’s quiet voice cut through her melancholy, “I’ll take this before I go if that’s OK?” He held up the DVD from earlier and dropped a couple of coins onto the counter, “It’ll be nice to watch it again.”
“Of course,” she smiled.
“See you tomorrow then?”
Madge took a breath, about to explain, but found his warm smile once again disarming her. “Yes,” she said finally, nodding firmly “you will.”
What we liked:
Literature is littered with unlikely couples, and here we may just be seeing the beginnings of a friendship that shouldn’t work on paper – unless of course this story is written on it! What we receive is a well drawn scene and two equally distinct characters – fused together with deft dialogue, gentle gestures and plenty of restraint (we don’t need to know either backstory or even the name of the DVD).
It’s no easy skill to show a character developing and changing in fewer than 500 words (without a cringe factor) and this story is an example of how subtly it can be done, as we watch jaded and life-hardened Madge slowly soften, resist her prejudices, and find connection. The challenge prompts are used in a refreshing way, with the second-hand item purchase being both a throw away movement, and significant moment. Yes, she will be back tomorrow.
IN THE GLOAMING by Kristin Lennox Mill, USA
Glenda’s tiny pension usually didn’t allow for much more than window shopping. She had a particular weakness for estate sales, however – she could wander the rooms of an unfamiliar house for hours. It gave her a feeling of quiet reverence, to move among a stranger’s possessions, and she liked to secretly give the knickknacks and tchotchkes little back-stories, odd histories of how they came to be. She always found something small to purchase, feeling privileged to do her part in helping the owner’s legacy live on. All in all, a harmless vice, as vices go.
Glenda was in an upstairs back bedroom, lovingly tracing the carved teak of a four-poster bedpost, when she happened to notice a large, dusty frame tucked in a nook behind an overstuffed chair. With some effort, she lugged it out, and was instantly drawn to the oil painting: a wooded overlook, with two figures in silhouette, gazing into a fiery sunset. Glenda could feel the artist’s passion in every thick, deliberate stroke.
The voice startled her. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Glenda nodded at the young man who had joined her. He smiled, absentmindedly brushing away some of the dust. “I don’t know the artist’s name, but my grandmother cherished it. It’s the only painting she ever owned.”
That was enough for Glenda. She didn’t even do her usual haggling, just dumped out her purse to find every last crumpled dollar, and paid full price.
Her grandson, Nicky, hung it in her bedroom. He affectionately poked fun at her newfound art appreciation, but Glenda couldn’t explain the peace the painting gave her. She drifted off each evening studying it: she pondered what was beyond the overlook – was it a lush valley? A quaint village? She wondered if the figures were lovers, their shoulders barely brushing in the shimmering twilight…
The cancer was sudden, and quick. Hospice arranged for Glenda to stay in her home, and family bustled in and out, fussing over their matriarch, who now spent most of her time in bed. The painting was so familiar by now, Glenda was convinced she had been there, at some point in her life, and had experienced that exquisite explosion of color firsthand.
When Nicky found her that morning, lifeless, she had a hint of smile, and her eyes were open, fixed on her beloved painting:
A wooded overlook, with three figures in silhouette, gazing into the fiery sunset.
What we liked:
This whimsical story is a delight. In the wonderfully descriptive opening paragraph, we learn so much about our protagonist – vividly drawn and filled with relatable curiosity. Glenda’s imagination powers the piece, as her fascination with second-hand objects leads her to one that serves as a source of faith. From here, the story could go in myriad directions, and it’s intriguing to follow its simple but artistic premise to its conclusion.
The pacing beckons you closer in the beginning, before pushing you back with a time jump that heralds an ending with a final flourish – painting its own delicate and deliberate picture of a gentle afterlife of sorts, while avoiding any trite heavy handedness.
This story shows how much fun can be had exploring genres in a tightly contained word count. Worthy of its place on our wall!
FREE by Lydia Evans, WA
I was sure that whoever placed the ad was a bit dim.
What else would explain it?
I’d nearly choked on my cloudy apple juice when the ad appeared on Gumtree. And in the FREE section, of all places.
Two clicks and some nice polite banter later, here I was.
The home was smaller than I’d expected. Its rectangular shape made me suspicious it was a repurposed shipping container. I knocked twice on the glass sliding door and a woman appeared from around the back, barefoot, her loose jeans grubby.
‘Hi,’ I said as the woman removed her gloves. ‘I’m here for the, um, thing.’
‘Of course,’ the woman said with a voice that floated on the sunlight. ‘I’ll be glad to get it off my hands.’
The woman dusted her palms together for effect. ‘I’ve packaged it all up nicely, ready to go.’
Curiosity clawed at me. ‘Can I ask why you’re getting rid of it?’ I said. ‘It’s just so, well, perfect.’
‘Why do you say that?’ The woman squinted.
‘There are so many good traits, amazing qualities.’ I folded my arms. ‘I’ve been looking for a new persona for a while. It’s time I upgrade, “make something of myself” as they say.’
‘And you see my old identity as an upgrade?’
‘Definitely.’ I heard my voice speeding up. ‘Partner in a law firm, selfless, go-getter, relentless nature, people pleaser…. Why would you let go of one of those things, let alone all of them?’
The woman’s eyes tracked a bird or a cloud in the sky over my shoulder. ‘The day just comes, maybe when your hair is a bit more salt than pepper, when the shoes no longer fit. They’ve become painfully tight.’ She dug her bare toes into the grass. ‘And when you pull them off, you realise the blisters aren’t new. The shoes have been rubbing for years, but you were too busy to notice.’
‘I can’t imagine a six-figure income giving me a blister.’
‘Well, it’s all there for you to find out.’ She tilted her head towards a nondescript brown box that sat on the metal outdoor table.
I stepped towards it. ‘I feel like I’m robbing you…getting a whole identity for free. Can I please give you something in return?’
The woman paused. ‘How about you come visit me in 20 years. See if I want it all back.’
‘Deal,’ I said, a bit deflated knowing I’d eventually be handing it all back over.
I scooped up the box. I wouldn’t dare open it until I got home. I didn’t want to lose any of it.
I walked down the cul-de-sac towards my unspectacular sedan with the broken windscreen wiper, the symbolism not lost on me.
I looked back over my shoulder, expecting the woman to run after me, claiming temporary insanity. But she stood on the same spot, her face tipped to the sun, her eyes closed. I swear I even saw her bare feet leave the ground.
What we liked:
It’s not until almost halfway through that this piece reveals a hint of the surreal on offer, and yet thanks to an efficiently no-nonsense opening line (many other 12-word sentences fell over themselves, when simple can often be best), we were already on the hook.
And it’s this simple juxtaposition of everyday and bizarre that works so well in this transaction. With its unexpected metaphors, matter-of-fact tone of voice, and use of symbolism, it’s a story that knows what it wants to say, but allows the reader to discover its deeper nooks.
While we had many stories that took the prompts to abstract places, we particularly enjoyed the everyday qualities here and how it tapped into an ‘all in the eye of the beholder’ human truth. We also tip our hats at the power of a simple yet strong title that works in multiple ways.
OF SIRENS AND TWENTY-SOMETHINGS by Emily Marcus, USA
The day was as August as it gets, thick sunlight, sweaty air. Screen doors bounced shut throughout the neighborhood so frequently the sound became a heartbeat, a frantic thumping testifying to our fear of wasting the last citrus rays. I was not immune to the anxiety, especially that summer after graduating college, when September didn’t nag me that life couldn’t all be as nice as downing wild blackberries straight from the bushes off the bike path or reading on the hammock or watching the world crystallize and drop into the ocean from an oar strewn across my lap, rocking in the harbor mid-kayak trip, mid-morning, mid the silent bobbing of sailboats. The summer was just as much the town’s prime as it was my own, and even though I had graduated and hadn’t gotten a yes from any of the 100 jobs I applied to, September still sat there like a slow, mean cat, swishing its tail, eyeing me and my joys.
I couldn’t believe this was one of the last times we would all meander down to the rocks, this summer different from the others because we were at the crossroads between school and “life after school,” an expanse that unraveled itself towards eternity. Jacqueline off to med school, Katie moving in with Justin in the city, Bee leaving for an English teaching gig in Korea. And me. In the limbo. That all four of us had managed to eke out one more summer here seemed both impossible and inevitable.
Would this be the last summer we were all there on the opening day of Coolie’s Ice Cream? The last season we would spend Sundays on Bee’s porch swing giving each other terrible dating advice? Our last mornings catching the sunrise over Castle Rock or afternoons haggling with mean Jenna at the thrift store in the wealthy part of town for a better price on the secondhand designer jeans?
We reached our slice of rugged Massachusetts coast and immediately started climbing our familiar granite ledge. The sun, directly overhead and relentless, bordered on torturous. We walked to the edge. The hot rock scorched our feet. We looked out over the dimpled, light-dappled sea.
“Okay, 1, 2, 3!” After the initial shocks and shrieks there was always a silence. We were out of the ocean and then, suddenly, we were in it.
The afternoon went like it always did, in and out, freezing and sweltering, the sun lowering, light thickening, the tide unveiling a mosaic of sea-stones. We talked small things like acai bowls and tattoos and big things like what we’d be doing on this day in a year. We shimmied down our ledge and waded out into the water. By the time we were deep enough to dunk, the sun was nosing the horizon and our faces were glowing embers over a purple-green sea. We squinted, sighing how gorgeous, how lucky, each of us bobbing along in what, occurred to me then, had never been the same ocean.
What we liked:
Dripping with ‘crossroads of life’ nostalgia and peppered with wonderful turns of phrase, this story is less character study and more memory box. From the beat of multiple screen doors signalling the sound of summer to a personified September lying in wait, it feels awash with sepia tones and cinematic voice overs. In different hands, this could have melted into cliche, but there are enough hints of the real world to keep it grounded and relatable.
While the narrator name checks characters and places, they are simply stage dressing for a manifesto that reads as a farewell to the familiar – a slice of life floating in the late afternoon sun on the edge of adulthood and taking one last look at the shore.
FINAL SALE by Tony Neilson, VIC
A cold blast of sea air smacked her cheeks, drawing a gasp. She should have kept driving, but Julie was a sucker for garage sales. Not that this one looked hopeful – no other people, trestle tables groaning under the weight of unloved trinkets.
She sighed. Well, she was here now, and the woman in the garage had spotted her. She quick-stepped inside, out of the rain.
Margaret’s feet had turned to ice. The concrete floor drained the heat, her right hip aching more than normal. Worse than that was a dull despair leaching into the marrow. Only a handful of looky-loos had turned up today. She didn’t blame them. The bleak day matched her mood. Her last chance to sell a lifetime’s belongings before moving into the retirement home, and it looked like Vinnies would need to take it all.
Another time waster turned up, bottle-blond hair whipping in the wind. Flash red car. She sighed. Forced on a smile. What other choice did she have?
Nothing. Nothing remotely interesting. She should have known. DVDs of movies she’d never want to watch. Cake tins carrying the dints and scratches of hundreds of uses. Electrical appliances from the seventies, by all appearances. Carefully arranged, lovingly presented, but worthless. A sturdy box of crockery sat on a shelf. “For sale?” Julie asked, her voice loud in the silent space. The grey-haired woman hesitated, then nodded.
The blonde rifled through the box Margaret had set aside. She’d been flip-flopping all week about whether she wanted to sell the crockery. Some had been her mum’s, even her Nan’s. Most of it wedding presents. Hardly used in forty-six years married to Doug. Too good for everyday use, too forgotten most other times. The blonde pulled out a crystal trifle bowl, its facets catching in the light. She ran her finger twice around the rim before turning it over.
Margaret was transported back to her first Christmas married. She’d made a trifle for lunch at her mother-in-law’s, soft billows of whipped cream scattered with grated chocolate. Of course, Felicity had made one as well, even though Margaret had been clear about her plans. “That’s nice, dear,” Doug’s mother had said, “we’ll bring it out if we need it.” Her cheeks flushed at the humiliation even now.
Maybe. Maybe she could use this. The bowl had heft. Quality. Her palms shaped to its curves. Might be just the thing for Christmas. Show her mother-in-law she could match her in style and presentation. Stupid cow. Julie didn’t know why Christmas lunch had become a contest, but it had.
The woman startled.
“Oh. Oh, I don’t know. Ten?”
Julie considered. She started to haggle, out of habit, but something in the older woman’s eyes stopped her.
“Thank you, dear. Merry Christmas.”
“You too. Good luck with the sale.”
Margaret watched her drive off, taking one memory away. She shivered, then closed the garage door. Alone again, surrounded by unsold memories. They were hers, forever.
What we liked:
It’s often hard enough to wrestle one point of view into a story, let alone two. But here, it is handled expertly, each different yet with one shared grievance to create a lovely layered vignette.
Cleverly, the flip flop between both characters hints at much more beneath the surface, but the author chooses to provide only a glimpse into each of their lives. This helps to keep the narrative beat humming along as we merrily head-hop to see what the other is thinking. The contrast in language between their similar, inner descriptions of Christmas and family tensions is a great touch and when the garage door finally comes down on this narrative, you drive away happy with the style and presentation.
THINGS UNREMEMBERED by Liv DeSimone, USA
“Sale on all autumn memories,” the shopkeeper said with a greasy smile. “Halloween parties and apple-picking, half-price.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Alice replied as she wandered to the back of the shop. She had never been to this part of town, but somehow, the pawn shop’s dust and licorice scent felt familiar.
“Used memories make perfect gifts!” the shopkeeper called. “Especially for grandparents. Or history buffs!”
Pawning second-hand memories was a good racket, Alice mused as she searched the dingy shelves. No one remembered to come back and collect what they sold. And it was easy money; a week’s wages for a treasured memory of a dance recital or a wedding night, a few bucks for things you wanted to forget.
Or, at least, that’s what Alice had heard.
The memories, stacked like cassette tapes, had been picked through, leaving only labels like “Gary’s Final Stint at Rehab,” “Fight at Grandma’s Funeral,” and, simply, “Divorce.”
Alice studied “Divorce.” This couldn’t be the memory she was looking for, could it? She didn’t recall wearing a bridal gown or signing a marriage license. But if she had, those memories might be somewhere in the back of the shop. Unless they had already sold.
“Anything I can help you find?” the shopkeeper asked, peeking his head around the corner.
“I’m not sure.” Alice knew she was forgetting something. For the past few days, she woke up as if from a long surgery; her body felt changed, painful, though she couldn’t recall why. “Do you have anything new?”
The shopkeeper led her to a section labeled “New Arrivals,” mostly variations of “Fights Over Thanksgiving Dinner” and “Failed Midterms.”
Alice grabbed a handful of memories and stacked them on the fingerprint covered countertop. The shopkeeper punched a few numbers into the register, placing the memories in a thin plastic bag.
“56.60,” he said. “Unless you want to make a trade? I’m paying twice as much for Christmas memories until the end of the month. Opening presents, ice skating; that sort of thing.”
Alice racked her brain. The timeline of her life was riddled with potholes and blank spaces.
“How about sledding?” she offered. She wasn’t sure her family even celebrated Christmas.
The shopkeeper’s grin widened. “Perfect. I’ll even throw in “Family Home Forclosure” for free.”
Alice wrinkled her nose. “How generous.”
He arranged the memory-collection device over Alice’s head. It looked like headphones attached to a Walkman.
In moments, Alice’s last memory of snow was gone.
The shopkeeper winked. “See you tomorrow, then.”
What we liked:
This trip to the surreal is not afraid to wear its peculiarities on its sleeve from the beginning, with a deliciously seasonal opening sales pitch from our shopkeeper – the big-man-on-hippocampus. And with Alice’s first words a cheeky foreshadowing, we are free to browse the finer details of this cerebral store and slowly question our protagonist’s intentions and reliability.
A clever concept with a healthy spritz of Black Mirror vibes, its commitment to the idea never falters as it brings Alice, the shopkeeper, and the collection of recollections to life. Woven within is a hint of mystery (which memories are Alice’s? How many times has she visited this store?) that tantalises the reader till the final line, and beyond. A memorable piece (ironically).
CHAMPAGNE BEADS by Tessa Piper, VIC
“Fits you like a dream,” I lie, desperate to sell the dress.
I can tell by the way she is admiring herself in the spare room mirror that the lie was unnecessary.
“It’s just…. perfect,” she whispers. The champagne beads on the bodice are throwing balls of light on the walls like phosphorescent confetti.
She stops mid-twirl and looks at me quizzically.
“Why would you sell it?” The tone of her voice verges on accusation.
I knew this was coming.
I contemplate lying and telling her the wedding was cancelled, but I know what brides-to-be are like with this kind of thing; how they worry that negative energy can infiltrate a dress or ring. How they truly believe they can change the course of their marriage by warding off the bad magic of an afflicted object. Ha!
I think about telling her it was a simple e-commerce mistake; that a slip of the finger meant I’d accidentally added the same dress to the online shopping cart twice. It wasn’t a great selling point though, by the way Miss Buy/Swap/Sell was swanning around my spare room, she clearly wasn’t thinking of herself as a carbon copy.
Surely I can’t tell her that the dress had eyes; that the beads on that bloody dress had been watching me for the past 18 months of lockdown, smirking knowingly at every kilo I’d gained.
Or maybe she would understand.
Maybe she’d laugh uproariously as I told her that I was sick to the back teeth of the dress taunting me every time I opened the damned wardrobe.
Maybe she’d nod sympathetically as I told her how I’d truly believed that if I could just lose those last ten kilos, that I would finally be enough for him.
Maybe we’d crack a bottle of pinot and she’d weep with me as I explained that if I could sell the dress, that I’d take it as a sign from the universe to cancel the stupid wedding altogether.
Maybe she’d hold me by both shoulders and tell me that this doesn’t have to be my future, that I have a choice.
Maybe she’d pass me her phone and we’d dial his number and she’d grip my hand as I tell him I can’t do it anymore. That I am sick of being his supporting act. That I don’t need to shrink myself anymore. That he’s already shrunk me enough.
“So, what’s the price?” Her voice startles me.
“Um, oh, how about $400?” I stammer.
“Sold,” she replies quickly, before I change my mind.
I watch her laugh nervously as she struggles to undo the buttons.
“The wedding’s not until September, I should be able to lose a few more kilos before then,” she says.
I leave her to undress and as she meets me at the door and hands me the cash, I watch how the dress, slung over her arm, silently bends and forms to the new hopes and desires it carries in its fibres.
What we liked:
There’s a unique dynamic in a transaction that takes place between a former owner of an item and its new recipient – one that we’re glad so many stories exploited in this challenge. That exchange is on full display here; the object in question being one that is so often woven with emotion and threaded with hopes, dreams and regrets.
There is much to like about this story, which is deceptive in its simplicity. Striking an ideal balance between active language and introspection, the protagonist and her predicament is authentically conveyed – while avoiding an overload of exposition.
Repetition (“maybe”…), sharp observations and an intimate first-person POV pull this piece in by the seams to create an engaging slice of pre-wedding life. Most importantly, it steers clear of melodrama and instead, like champagne beads, expertly reflects the complexities of human desires.
In short, we were “sold”.
If you made this month’s longlist, congratulations! You did something that stopped the judges in their tracks and demanded a second look. And to all who entered, that’s a win in itself – we hope you’ll join us for the next one!
THIS MONTH’S LONGLISTED (in no particular order):
- COOL CHANGE by Jacqueline Spring, NSW
- THE ANTIQURIAN by J.L Brown, NSW
- THE AUCTION by Caroline Tuohey, NSW
- UNTITLED by Dom Jordan, WA
- INVERTED by Sam Cecins, WA
- TURNING TABLES by Caroline Bettenay, NSW
- ONE STEP AT A TIME… by Carol Phillips, NSW
- NEW OLD by Vanessa Papastavros, NSW
- ANNABEL'S TEAPOT by Judd Exley, WA
- THE ART by Averil Robertson, VIC
- GOING, GOING, GONE by Rani Jayakumar, United States
- BENEATH THE DUST-JACKET by Jess Morgan, NSW
- BRUNCH by Cee.Ford, WA
- THE NOTE by Lily Joseph, United Kingdom
- SECONDHAND LIFE by Emily Robertson, WA
- OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE by Emily Macdonald, United Kingdom
- THE SECOND-HAND SAVIOUR by Sarah Haggett, United Kingdom
- THE CLASSIFIEDS. by Michelle Dickins, VIC
- MR. BAKSHI by Sharon Aruparayil, Netherlands
- THE SALE by Sue Brennan, Japan
- UNTITLED by Elizabeth Bowie, NSW
- THE DETECTORIST by Jan Twomey, NSW
- UNTITLED by Michael Burrows, WA
- STUMPED by Ian Belknap, United States
- PIGS MIGHT FLY by Lisa Jose, ACT
- NICE WILL NOT SUFFICE by Gail Bird, NSW
- THE REUNION by Emma Wright, NT
- AN INSEPARABLE PAIR by Kimberley Shiel, Canada
- ICY JUSTICE by Jacqui Ra Na, QLD
- A LITTLE LOVE by Richard Gaynor, WA
- THE PHOTOGRAPH by Christine Anne Jeziorowski, QLD
- THE GARAGE SALE by Aj Carney, VIC
- PAY THE PRICE by Leigh Arnold, TAS
- OPEN WINDOWS by Robyn Knibb, QLD
- HUMAN RECHARGER by Manaly Talukdar, India
- UNTITLED by Ashleigh Mounser, NSW
- TURMERIC by Alex Reis, NS
- THE VESSEL OF LOST DREAMS by Gayle Beveridge, VIC
- LISTING—ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET, FULL OF MEMORIES by Tehnuka, New Zealand
- THE ICE WOMAN AND THE IMP by Chris Lassig, VIC
- TROUBLE FOR SALE by Kinneson Lalor, United Kingdom