Furious Fiction February 2020 winner and shortlist

Furious Fiction celebrated its second birthday this month with just a quiet gathering of more than 1200 of its closest friends. That’s right, it was the second largest turnout ever, and these were the criteria on the table:

    • Each story had to include a GUARD of some kind.
    • Each story had to include the words NARROW, GOLDEN, LEATHERY and GLOSSY.
    • Each story’s first and last sentences had to each contain just TWO WORDS.

We had a lot of different guards – dogs, dragons, beaches, castles and fairy tales. Even guards at the gates of heaven or hell. We also had some interesting two-word sentences to open and close the stories. They didn’t have to be identical, but many stories (including the winner) chose to go that way.

But we’ve kept this month’s winner a closely guarded secret for long enough. It’s congratulations to Helen Ockerse of Victoria, Australia – who may wish to have some security guards on hand as she collects her five hundred dollar prize. Nice work!

Did you enter in February? If so, maybe your name is below in the short or long lists. And if you missed out this time, don’t worry. Another Furious Fiction will be pulling into the station in just over a week. Hooray for second (and third, and fourth, and twenty-sixth…) chances!


FEBRUARY 2020 WINNER

SNIP SNIP by Helen Ockerse, Vic

Snip, snip.

Never once, when he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, had he answered hairdresser. He remembers saying things like fireman, or soldier, or fighter pilot. Brave, bold, daring things. Masculine things. Never once had he considered hairdressing could be his calling one day; never once had he imagined how satisfying he would find it.

Snip, snip.

Family trouble, or something of that sort, he might reply if asked what drove him into this unexpected occupation. A revealing conversation is likely to follow: his grievances with his family are many and bitter, and still rankle when he dwells on them. His sister, particularly, has done and said unforgivable things. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

Snip, snip.

Nobody asks him, however. His clientele are all women, all beautifully dressed and made-up in that rather obvious way that whispers of no insignificant degree of self-absorption, which may account for their lack of interest. Or perhaps that’s unjust—perhaps it’s something higher: their own jobs, for instance, that preoccupy them. After all, today alone he has attended to a CEO, a lawyer, a surgeon, and a dentist—occupations that reasonably could be expected to obsess their possessors to some degree. No matter, he has no desire to talk while he has his work, and he will work until there are no more glossy heads awaiting his attention.

Snip, snip.

He is methodical, quick, efficient. By now, after so many, his technique approaches perfection. Certainly his clients find no fault in it: each leaves wearing a smile as bright as the afternoon sun streaming through the window.

His final appointment of the day is a lifeguard according to the badge on her shirt—attractive in the same way as all the rest, skin that beautiful bronze shade impossible to achieve through natural means without becoming leathery. He doesn’t ask her what style she wants, does not even consider asking, in fact. He gathers a handful of hair, makes the first snip, sn—

“Charlie!”

The door flies fully open to reveal wide horrified eyes above parted lips as the newcomer takes in the scene: him, the scissors, his beaming customers.

Sadie dashes at Charlie with a shriek and snatches Lifeguard Barbie from him, running frantic fingers over her half-shorn head and futilely trying to reattach the golden locks.

“Told you I’d get you back,” Charlie says, eyes narrow, with darkly vindictive pleasure only slightly diluted by the uneasy thought that just maybe he’s gone too far this time.

“You—you—you—” Sadie gasps, wildly examining bald Barbie after bald Barbie. “MUM!” She bolts out again, leaving Charlie to ponder his immediate future and whether, after all, it was all going to be worth it.

Lifeguard Barbie with her lopsided hairstyle looks at him. Charlie looks back at her.

He shrugs, picking up the scissors again. He doesn’t say or think in for a penny, but that’s more or less how he feels.

Snip, snip.

What we loved:
It’s always nice to be caught off guard (oooh – another type of guard!) with a twist that makes us re-read the story to discover the clues sprinkled throughout. That was the case here in this salon, as we start with a stylist committed to their craft before being blindsided with a ruthless act of revenge. Remember, even without a twist as satisfying as this, the story still needs to keep you engaged – and that’s why this one is a winner. Not only are we curious about Charlie and his silent salon, but we are served an extra dollop of delight thanks to his gatecrashing sister. Other nods go to the clever use of “snip, snip” repetition and some nice homes found for the criteria words.


SHORTLISTED

SUMMER SOUNDS by Laura Bannerman, Qld

T-shirt weather. The end of summer brings golden sunshine and distant clotted clouds, a promise of later rain. Your glossy red eyes are reflected back at you in the mirror. You fix your face. You ignore the cool prickle on your skin. Winds of change.

He considers your outfit. “Oh, so you’re a hipster now?” He is reminding you that you evolved without his permission. A demon squeezes your esophagus – bile rises – you wash it down with the soapy bitterness of amber ale.

It’s almost time to go. You bought tickets months ago.

Arriving to leathery hard soled shoes crunching up the dirt path, human ant-trails form thick queues. There’s a building thrum of voices, laughter. Short shorts, glitter, merch shirts. You reach for his hand to stay together but his phone is in it and it knocks your knuckles away.

A bottleneck as you greet security. Tickets exchanged for wristbands. The guard, the gatekeeper, squeezes his fat fist into each compartment of your cross-body bag. Your emergency tampon falls into the dirt and he grunts an apology.

Amy says, “Drinks! You’re too quiet today.” But advice is what you ask for when the solution you already know isn’t the one you’re ready to accept.

A cold can in each hand. Sweat or condensation drips down your arm. A strum of guitar draws in the crowd, a petrie dish of cells multiplying and vibrating as one organism. Reverberating bass, a forcefield of dust in the air, the merging of energy. This is why you came, despite everything.

Amy disappears. You sway alone, stirring and awakening. The music moves through you and the person you thought you were suddenly, accidentally slips out of your grasp like a wet bar of soap. A collective strength takes over you, reinforcing an old primal instinct. A gut knowing arises.

He’s close by but he doesn’t see you watching him because he’s viewing the band through the narrow lens of his phone camera. Instagram versus reality, his life is deemed worthy only in those 13 second intervals. He doesn’t see your face until you lean in close and say, “I’m done. We’re done.”

His surprise. You might pay for that later. And then, recovering, a smirk. “You think I care?” But it’s too loud, too fast, he has betrayed himself. You might pay for that too.

You pull away and move towards the stage. Breaking away from him and leaving behind the girl that put up with all he was capable of giving. Crushed against the barrier, the demon is squeezed out of you now. Heavy clouds hang low enough to reach up and touch. The sky opens as the beat drops, and then spontaneous human combustion. An exorcism.

What we liked:
The lesser-used second person POV is here tightly woven (like the T-shirt) against this heady backdrop of gig, grog and a grim relationship. The dialogue may be minimal, but the players are identifiable and the description and sensory details are strong – much like an actual music festival. Ultimately, it’s the transformative power of music and dance that helps drive the metaphorical language as we navigate a realistic breakup that balances action with introspection.


SHORTLISTED

IN THE SUBWAY by Dettra Rose, NSW

Dollar coins. A shimmy of silver and an orange. Liam stoops and checks the contents of his canvas cap and pats Charlie, his wiry dog, who is curled up on a dusty blanket. In a couple more hours, he might have enough to pay for a hostel tonight.  

Feet clatter past. 

Liam rises. He’s down a guitar string; it bust yesterday. No one will notice but him. He strums a chord; it rolls through the subway accompanied by ringtones of glossy phones and texts that ping and ding. He takes a belly breath and sings.

His leathery voice spills into commuters’ ears, most don’t hear it and look straight ahead at their thoughts. 

‘Can I pat your dog?’ 

Mum and young daughter. 

Liam nods and smiles. Keeps singing. They drop change in his cap. The girl pats Charlie for too long; mum tugs her on.

Liam sings.

His voice tumbles down the stairs. Paints the tiles. Coats the prime-space ads for house insurance and miracle face cream. 

‘Get a bloody job, mate.’

Gruff boots thud past.

A slab of shame thumps Liam’s heart. He stops strumming, strokes his warm mottled dog. 

Liam scorches. Boiling water’s been thrown into him. He wants to explain, but people who shout like that don’t listen. 

He clears his throat. Plucks a chord. Plays the chorus, then the first verse.

A woman with a swinging ponytail stands in front of him, sings along. Together, their voices echo in the tunnel. 

She stays awhile. Her and her smile. Her and the songs she knows. Her. They sit down and share Charlie’s blanket. She asks to play Liam’s guitar. Her fingernails are painted blue. Chipped.  

Her voice is quiet. Golden. Liam thinks …  she’s singing to her bone marrow. Arteries. Skin. She stops. Reddens.  

They share a moment on the ground. It feels like sun. Liam hasn’t sat in the sun for a very long-time but remembers it.  

Boots scuff into Liam’s peripheral view. He looks up. The station security guard looms over them.

‘Move on, no buskers here. You know that. And no dogs.’

The guard offers Liam a narrow smile and waits.

Liam stuffs Charlie’s blanket into his bag. Picks up his cap, carries his guitar. The guard escorts them to the end of the subway. Liam and the woman stand by the exit. He wants to ask her name. Wants to sing more songs with her, but the invitation is a shemozzle in his throat. He wants to touch her as she did him, beneath skin. He wants to thank her but blushes instead. She smiles and waves goodbye. 

Later, when the subway fills with theatre, pub and restaurant-goers. Liam puts Charlie’s blanket and his cap back on the ground.

And sings.

What we liked:
There’s a grimy realism about these characters and location – with a narrative that moves freely even though the action is restricted to such a small space. Such is the juxtaposed setting in decorating a busy subway scene with lovely melodies and tiny human moments. The guard was fleeting (but that was all that was required), yet familiar to our musical protagonist, while the other criteria were nicely entwined throughout. In all, this story made us dig around for change to put in its cap.


SHORTLISTED

GUARDIAN by T L Whalan, SA

One footstep. Another. A rustling of paper. There was a clunk as the letterbox’s golden flap was pushed open. She watched the letter slide to the floor and padded to it. It smelt of fresh ink and glue.

She took the letter upstairs. Just like every letter, for years.

But it was different now. She placed the letter against his hand, but he didn’t respond. She pushed it harder – twice, thrice. She didn’t know why she continued the routine. It hadn’t worked for months now. The leathery, pale hand hung limp. She brushed her head against his fingers – in the past she had loved the fingertips running over her head, but she couldn’t remember his last caress. Her hair had gone from glossy to dull, like the memory.

The letter joined those already carpeting the room. Airmail, postcards, birthday cards over Christmas cards, and bills with bold red fonts. They all remained unopened and unread.

Across the room, a bucket sat to collect water that leaked from the roof. On wet days, it provided a drink. She licked the bowl with optimism, but her mouth stayed dry. She’d have to hope for rain.

She went back downstairs, peering out the grimey windows, as alert as she could be amongst the pangs in her stomach. She had grown thin – even her face had gone from broad to narrow. At first she had exhausted the pantry, and then went weeks with nothing more. Then the fridge stopped buzzing. Juice had dripped from its seam, onto the floor, and she had managed to claw the door open and eat food that was rancid and moldy but delicious.

Outside, footsteps tapped on the front porch. She listened, one foot mid-air, squinting at the shadows through the window.

They knocked on the door.

With effort, she summoned her voice and let out a dry bark. Twice. Thrice.

They knocked more, shouted back, and then… They were gone.

She retreated, back upstairs, back into his room, pulling herself onto his stained mattress. She pressed her body against his, licked his face, tried to ignore that he smelt of meat. She rested her head against his still chest and sighed.

She waited. For another letter. For another intruder. For always.

What we liked:
A heartbreaking story, told with simple details that echo the sparse desolation inside the house. It doesn’t take us long to figure out who is collecting the mail as a scene of silence and decay reveals itself upstairs, through the loyal eyes of one who cannot fully understand. The repetitious use of ‘twice, thrice’ further highlights this companion’s futile routine here – an achingly sad tale of modern neglect that as a reader “hits you right in the feels”, as the kids say…


SHORTLISTED

THE DEEDS OF A MAN IN HIS PRIME by Ian Orchard, SA

It rained. Private Briscoe pulled the hood of his raincoat over his head and drew its cord tight, framing his face in a circle. He rested the butt of his rifle on the ground, the muzzle inside his sleeve, to keep the water out. 

He stood still. 

He could hear nothing but the pitter-patter splatter of raindrops on the plastic. There was no light. Anyone could sneak up on them. He swivelled his head from side to side, trying to use his peripheral vision, but all that happened was water leaked through the raincoat and trickled down his neck. 

He was being foolish. The darkness was their friend, too; the perfect concealment. 

He oriented himself. His own shell-scrape, kept dry by a tarpaulin pulled into a taut A-frame, was directly ahead. The other members of his patrol were Corporal Ryan to his right, Hodges behind, and Crowe, who should have been to his left, but, drenched and shivering, had crawled into Briscoe’s warm sleeping bag after waking him to take over guard duty. 

A flash alerted Briscoe. Lightning? There was no thunder. He lifted his rifle, heart pounding. 

It was nothing. 

Another flash. Something cracked above him and leaves fell. They were under attack. “Stand to,” he shouted. He fired two quick shots towards the flashes, directly ahead, then fell and rolled, taking cover behind a large rock. He only had a narrow field of fire between the rock and a tree. He fired at muzzle flashes, aiming low. The sound of gunfire rolled into a crescendo, like a zip being unfastened quickly. It ended suddenly, and a profound silence fell on numbed ears.

Dawn came eventually, a golden sun peeping sheepishly from behind dark clouds. They found Crowe lying half out of the shell-scrape, glossy blood from his head flowing back inside, staining Briscoe’s sleeping bag. 

There was no sign of the enemy. 

Briscoe never told anyone about that night.

 Coombes, the night nurse, heard shouting in the garden. She found Mr Briscoe in his pyjamas, in the rain. “Let’s get you inside warm and dry,” she said, putting an arm around his bony shoulders and taking one of his hands in hers, like he was a child.

“It was me.” Mr Briscoe was crying. “I killed him. There was no one there. It was just the storm. I was afraid.”

“Well I’m here now. There’s nothing to be afraid of any more,” said Coombes. Mr Briscoe was seventy-nine and often had emotional moments, like many dementia patients. But the moods soon passed. 

As she towelled him dry she saw a faded tattoo of a dagger and a shield on the leathery skin of a frail arm. He was such a gentle man; he couldn’t have killed anyone. With dementia it was hard to know what was real memory and what was fantasy. Should she tell someone what he had said? No point, she decided. In the morning he would not recall any of this. Best forgotten.

What we liked:
As we so often emphasise, it’s your story’s opening that is make or break. And so here, as we are thrown into the middle of the action, we’re hooked immediately. No preamble – we’re immediately in the trenches, as it were. We really can hear that raindrop sound on plastic and feel the water trickling down our protagonist’s neck.  Great use of layering of the “guard” – on one level it’s Briscoe and his fellow patrolmen, while on the other it’s Coombes pulling him back from the past – and the guarded secret that haunts him many years later. Ultimately, it’s an original take on the criteria, peppered with descriptive nuance.


SHORTLISTED

PASSWORD PLEASE by Karina Grift, Vic

“Password, please.”

“Password?”

“Yes. No going through the gates unless you have the password.”

“But, I came through the tunnel and ended up here. I thought that meant I already passed ‘the test’.”

The guard sighs. He looks ridiculous to me, in his golden fleece loin cloth, crown of fluffy feathers and glossy, pearl-encrusted shield. I want to ask if he’s just come from Mardi Gras but hold my tongue. Do I belong *here*?

“When you are in the tunnel instinct makes you walk towards the light. It doesn’t mean you belong. If you belong, you would have received the password when you passed over.”

Every other log in, passcode or password comes to me: iPhone, laptop, internet banking, ATM, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon and Spotify, even Coles online – even my one-use gym membership, but nothing comes to mind about a password to get past the Pearly Gates.

“This seems a bit extreme,” I plead. “Doesn’t He already know everything about me, surely you can simply ask if I belong.”

The guard rolls his eyes. “You humans. Do you know how many of you there are? He hasn’t got time to keep tabs on you all, not while he’s out … you know … creating.” 

“Besides,” he whispers, “he’s getting on a bit now, you know … dementia.”

“Well, is there any way I can reset the password?

“Reset the password? Are you nuts? If we did that everyone would get through. Then there’d be no-one down there,” he says, pointing down the dark end of the tunnel. “Go ask him, maybe that’s where you belong.”

I turn around and shuffle down the narrow tunnel deeper into darkness.

At the end I see another guard, this one looking somewhat more dishevelled, dirty, like he’s been down a coal mine, with leathery skin and a raspy cough. Behind him, smoke billows from a deep abyss. 

“Can you help me?” I ask. “I seem to have forgotten the password to heaven and I am pretty sure I don’t belong in hell.”

He laughs, then doubles over to cough up a chunk of phlegm. I cringe and pray that the Pearly Gates will let me in.

“It’s His little joke,” he says.

“Joke?”

“80085.”

“What’s that?”

“The password. 80085.”

“But it’s not a word.”

“No?”

I visualise the numbers.

“BOOBS! The password to heaven is BOOBS? You’re having me on.”

“Has been for millennia.”

“Well, it’s not very  … PC … for these days I mean.”

“We’ve tried to tell him but … ” he whispers, “he’s …”

“I heard. Getting on a bit.”

“He’s a bit behind the times.” 

Heaven isn’t sounding saintly. 

“You can stay here … sure, it’s hot, and a bit smokey, but you’d be used to that coming from down there.”

“Thanks,” I say. “But, I was hoping to get away from all that.”

I weigh up my options. 

“One more question,” I say.

“Yes?”

“Which way to purgatory?”

“You’ll need a password.”

“Oh, c’mon!”

What we liked:
Well, we’ve all been here. Okay, maybe not HERE exactly, but this story is a warmly relatable tale where just when you think your password predicaments are finally over, the afterlife requires one. This month we acknowledge that we did receive a bunch of humorous guard stories that took place at the pearly gates. However this one gets the nod for adding an extra inference that ‘management’ is past His prime and that the ‘best’ doesn’t always equal the best customer service, amiright?


SHORTLISTED

UNTITLED by Sarah, Vic

It starts.

In the usual way; at the beginning. There’s the flash of noise and golden street light, the dark body that collides with mine, shouting, doors slammed shut, the suffocating darkness of the balaclava over my head, and the bodily jerk as the taxi takes off again. Then here we are again at the crossroads, the moment of sprouting where the dream grows arms and legs and grotesque bodily parts and diverges from what actually happened. Here, perhaps is where my sister is taken from her seat beside me, pulled out the door as I try to grab her, and I spend the rest of the dream fruitlessly calling for her, bargaining for her; failing her. Or perhaps the dream slows and becomes a languorous farce of muted violence and desperation; driving endlessly in the taxi, never reaching the house they took us to, never escaping. Sometimes the dream’s path is narrow: we are in the taxi, then we escape. We are in the taxi, then they kill us.

Tonight there’s a glossy slickness to the story; the detail is excruciating and the pace hurried, as though we flow in a current, pulled inexorably closer to the ending chosen tonight. The man sitting across my lap in the taxi leans on me, holding me in the seat. His head is beside mine and when he talks his words vibrate through me also. The balaclava over my head smells of cigarette smoke and the wool is damp with my breath. The taxi stops and we are pulled inside the house, pushed into chairs, and here we go again. The taxi driver is our guard as the others rifle, touch, select and discard. It is always the taxi driver. I know his voice. I chatted to him in the taxi, before he pulled over to allow his friends to explode in. I was so proud of my Spanish.

We are bundled back into the taxi. Grey light filters through the balaclava now and I know that hours have passed, but the process of robbery is not the showpiece of the dream tonight: the taxi is bumping over cobblestones; we have left the town where they picked us up. The story is winding to its conclusion and we are all silent, subdued. The night and heat that goaded and enfolded the mayhem has evaporated and the growing dawn fis a time for consequences and outcomes. The taxi stops and again they pull us out, walk us a few steps before someone pushes down on my shoulders and I kneel. I reach out for my sister and find her hand. Her skin is cold and somehow inanimate; leathery. I wonder if it is even still her beside me. We kneel, side by side, hand in hand, confined by the soft darkness of the balaclavas, like birds ceasing to struggle once trapped beneath a blanket. I hear them step back from us. Two steps. Three. We wait.

It ends.

What we liked:
This story perhaps should come with a warning for those who suffer from claustrophobia, such is the feeling of entrapment that this dreamscape brings. A truly creepy piece of trauma revisited, we quickly realise in dizzying fashion that our character cannot escape this experience, even in sleep. And like the restricted vision from the balaclava, we emerge from the story still unsettled and unclear on what is real and who is safe. Chilling.


SHORTLISTED

THE ENFORCER by Nicole Kelly, Vic

“Stay there.”

Her stance was menacing as she blocked the door to the bathroom. Leg and arm thrown across the doorway – she kept her face passive but her eyes were following every move of the wild thing pacing the tiles in front of her. She felt like a warden, working on the toughest cell block. Which – wasn’t she?

This work had taken its toll. Once, her hair had been glossy and shining with health. She would walk the streets with a bounce in her step. But that was the old her; before she had become The Enforcer. Those golden days were over, which both of them in that bathroom knew. Nowadays, instead of that goddess of old, when she looked in the mirror, she was confronted with someone that she barely recognised. A woman whose face was defined by dark circles and leathery skin. It was enough to bring her to tears.

There could be no crying now, though. To show weakness would wreak havoc on the situation. No. Now was the time to narrow her focus, breathe deeply and begin the harrowing negotiations, which were required to achieve a successful resolution. She steeled herself and made sure that her voice was calm but firm. No sign of wavering.

“Sweetie, Mummy needs you to sit on the potty and just try. We can’t leave the bathroom until you do.”

She leant against the doorway, feigning nonchalance. Lay down the challenge and then avoid eye-contact. An age-old tactic. This one was going to be tough to break, she could feel the defiance rolling off her daughter in waves. The request was met by a high-pitched squeal and a crash of the plastic toilet device being thrown across the room. Guarding the door, she tried not to flinch and began the familiar dialogue in her head.

Show no fear. You are the adult. This too shall pass.

It was what she had to tell herself to front up to this daily challenge. To keep persisting when every part of her screamed to give up. The job that every parent hated.

Toilet training.

What we liked:
Some welcome relief that still makes you work hard to get it. In fact, it wraps itself at first in a familiar, relatable scene with a straightforward storyline. It’s an effective take on the guard character and we’re invested in seeing where this well-paced prison scene will take us when it reveals its true colours. Many will nod in approval here, for after all, the job of parenting requires an ever-changing set of roles, from law enforcement, security guard, to negotiator, chauffeur and detective!


SHORTLISTED

ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL by Ellen Rees, Tas

“Been busy?”

Malcolm winced internally. Ride after ride had been drunk; from the businessmen like frogs in suits to the young women whose voices squawked, call and response, like seabirds. The car held the smell of their perfumes, pressed like the sample pages found in those glossy magazines his ex would buy.

“Yes, very busy.”

“Lots of people out, work Christmas parties and the like.”

Malcolm looked as the narrow green line on his GPS snaked around backstreets, avoiding main roads.

At the lights he looked in the mirror and took in the man on the backseat. They were a similar age, early fifties, but wearing a short-sleeved white shirt and black tie made the man look like a school boy. There were black badges at each shoulder. White letters proclaimed: GLOBAL SECURITY SOLUTIONS.

“You going to work or just knocked off?”

“Nah mate, I’m on my way. Night like this, reckon I might be needed.”

The lights had turned green as a young man stepped from the curb into the soon-to-be moving traffic. Malcolm blasted his horn and the sharp sound was echoed by other drivers. The pedestrian looked up from his phone and scuttled back to safety.

“Pfft,” a deflating noise of disgust. “Sooner they make that against the law the better.”

Malcolm wondered if he had the energy to take this on. “You reckon?”

“Yeah, young people never look where they are going anymore. Too busy checking their social media. Bet he had headphones in too.”

Last time he had given his opinion he had ended up with a two star rating but any comment about “young people” seemed a direct attack on his Clara.

Malcolm tugged at the leathery skin around his elbow as he considered his choices. He could let it go but would have had the splinters of sharp words stuck in his memory of the night.

“I reckon mobile phones are pretty useful.” He gestured towards the GPS. “I mean, without one, you wouldn’t have been able to get an Uber?”

“Yeah, good point. But I know when to put mine away, when it’s rude or dangerous to be head down, staring. What about their eyes? And their posture?”

Malcolm saw the golden arches, their destination, half a block away. He exhaled quietly. “Good point.”

He pulled into the carpark and exchanged farewells with the guard.

As he drove off he wound down his window and let the early summer night air blow onto his face. His phone made its insect-like chirp, signalling a fare nearby. As he drove he wished that he had talked about Clara, her hard work and how because of her he thought the future would be alright. Sure, everything seemed shit now but wait.

He knew the next fare because of their stance. She watched her phone as he watched the road then gave a small wave. They entered as did more of the yellow summer air. The young man arranged himself in the front seat.

“Busy night?”

What we liked:
Another golden rule of good flash fiction? Make it authentic and believable. That’s what this slice of Uber life gives us from one passenger to the next. No flashy action or anything too dramatic; simply an authentic scene that plays out in a believable way. The identical two-word open and close works especially well here in signifying the repetitiveness of the job. We got to come along for this nicely paced ride and we’re giving it five stars.


LONGLISTED ENTRANTS

Congrats to the following stories that made it to the discussion pile from more than 1200 entries – beating out 97% of the competition this month! But hey, if you’re not here, March could be the month for you – you’re adding to your story tally regardless…

FEBRUARY 2020 LONGLISTED (in no particular order):

  • ALL TEN TOES by Mike Smee (NSW)
  • BATHROOM BREAK by jdfcarradice (Vic)
  • NOT THAT KIND OF FAIRYTALE by Keely Fleming (NSW)
  • UNTITLED by Lucy Herd (Qld)
  • PRISONER by Lyle Skipsey (New Zealand)
  • THE DIARY ROOM by Katya Poloni (NSW)
  • THE ART OF INTIMIDATION by Barend Nieuwstraten III (NSW)
  • GOOD BOY by Jessica Stanley (WA)
  • JETTISON by Robyn Moriconi (WA)
  • DOVECOTE by Jake Watts (Vic)
  • THE HEIST by Lisa Flower (Canada)
  • ONE MINUTE by James Jesson (Vic)
  • UNTITLED by Peregrine Narborough (NSW)
  • THE PARADISE LOST JUSTIFICATION by Samuel Elliott (NSW)
  • FRONT AND CENTRE by Kylie Hughes (SA)
  • THE CELLARS by Ashleigh Mounser (NSW)
  • UNTITLED by Sally Anderson (TAS)
  • THHQ – EMERGENCY MEETING by Ruth Mullins (NSW)
  • UNTITLED by Hilary Henderson (Vic)
  • FRANKIE’S FOLLY by Robyn Lang (NSW)
  • PRISON by Kathleen Gaza (NT)
  • THE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MINCE-PIE FLAVOURED COFFEE SACHETS BANDIT by Haley M. Hwang (USA)
  • HER WRIST by S.W. Stribling (Mexico)
  • GATE KEEPERS by Lachlan Hinchliffe (Qld)
  • PASS ME THE DAGGER by Kai Gaitley (USA)
  • THE SUPER BOWL by Rachel Stuart (ACT)
  • UNSEEN by Jane Connolly (Qld)
  • THE OLD GUARD by Marilyn Kingston (SA)

 


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