Furious Fiction: June 2023 Story Showcase

Welcome to June’s Furious Fiction story showcase – our monthly fiesta of 500-words-or-fewer fiction fabulousness! Most importantly, it’s a chance to shout out our community’s creativity and the opportunity to have YOUR OWN story featured or acknowledged. So, without further ado, let’s remind ourselves of what June’s criteria were:

  • To celebrate the middle of the year, we wanted each story to begin in the MIDDLE of something. 
  • Each story also had to include the words LOCKET, POCKET, ROCKET and SOCKET. (You could use longer variations as long as the original spelling was retained.)

Writing a story, well, it’s not rocket science. Just grab a notebook or plug that computer into a socket and before you know it, you’ll have pocketed 500 words. (Who knows, you may even have created something special enough to put inside a locket.) Congrats to the many hundreds of submissions we received!


This month, we focused on starting your story in the MIDDLE of something as it’s a great way to fast-track your reader into the ‘juicy’ part of your story.

  • Where word counts are limited, you don’t need to meander through a simmering backstory. Focus on here and now.
  • It could be that you begin in the middle of some kind of action, dropped Tom-Cruise-style into the middle of a chase or mid-mission (impossible!).
  • Alternatively, it could be more day-to-day, perhaps mid-argument, figurative like a mid-life crisis or even physical like the middle of the road or the middle of nowhere!
  • Ultimately, the key is to hit the (middle) ground running – engaging your reader immediately.

This month, we let you choose what kind of middle you opened with – and we received plenty of creative takes on it! You’ll be reading plenty in the story showcase below, but here are some extra ‘middles’ we thought we’d shout out this month:

  • Molly Dennis (USA) opened her story in the middle of an embrace, courtesy of ‘The Lovers’ tarot card.
  • Lucy O’Sullivan (VIC) kicked things off in the middle of a pool game.
  • Jonathon Sawyer (Canada) began in the middle of a troll bridge!
  • Paul Parker III (USA) started in the middle of a karaoke number.
  • Kayleen Targett (SA) opened in the middle of an auction bidding war.
  • Nathan Bachman (USA) doubled up, choosing the middle of a breakup, in the middle of a blackout.
  • Lynn Vertannes (NSW) dropped us into the middle of a boarding flight.
  • And Liane Simpson (NSW) started her story sitting in 37B – the dreaded middle seat.
  • Jamilla Head-Toussaint (NSW) began literally in the middle – with someone being sawn in half!
  • Trisha Tavares (USA) opened her story mid-fart!
  • Mark Brailey (NSW) began hanging from a ledge in the middle of a tower climb.
  • Folayemi Awosode (Nigeria) went existential, starting with a mid-30s panic!
  • Janet Mell (WA) opened in the middle of a murder trial, your honour.
  • And finally, Nicole Szelag (UK), Matt Goddard (UK), Jane Jackson (France), and Caroline Tuohey (NSW) all began their stories in the middle of solving a crossword puzzle!

Congrats to all those featured this month and we hope to see you lining up for the next Furious Fiction challenge on Friday 7 July!

UNTITLED by Ally Tutkaluk, QLD

It was only 10 o'clock in the morning, but already Emma had swore more that day than she had in her entire life.

And they were absolutely magnificent swears, too. The volume at which Emma said them – no, bellowed them – truly gave them more impact. Whoever says that loud, angry people aren't expressing themselves in a socially acceptable way have not felt the utter joy in screaming expletives at the top of their lungs.

Who was she swearing at? Everyone. The world. The day. That moment. Her husband.

It was somewhat surprising to Emma's husband, seeing his slight, pocket rocket-sized partner in such a state of violent animation.

It wasn't just the swearing that was making him, minute by minute, grow increasingly scared (but also, increasingly in awe). It was her body, too: the way she gripped his hand and pulled so hard he thought his arm might rip out of the socket. The way her nostrils flared, the way the sweat dripped down her neck and pooled at the bottom, so that her gold locket was resting in the little salty pool of her clavicle.

And what about the roaring! The glorious, guttural sounds that felt like they were being forcibly ripped from Emma's throat!

Quite a delicious feeling, really, to let your base instincts take over and just go absolutely primal. Who needs words – even the very choice swear words she had been saying just moments earlier – when you could let that animalistic sound just burst from your body?

(Emma would later say the roaring ultimately helped things move along).

There was a certain point when Emma thought she was definitely, positively mad. Who would do this willingly? Where was the sense? Well, there was none. Simple as that. A ridiculous journey, that at that moment, felt so far from the end that Emma couldn't possibly see a way out.

But, the only way out is through.

And through she came.

“It's a girl!” cried the midwife.


It seems only fitting to begin this month’s showcase selection with a birth – and it was the no-holding-back description that set this mid-labour monolog apart. Perhaps a familiar scene to those who have experienced it for themselves, this story replaces anything sugar-coated instead with a salty pool of sweat as we bear witness to the sheer fitness of what the human body can do. The four mandatory rhyming words blend in with ease as Emma’s rational thoughts mix hilariously with her animal instincts. No surprise twist required – although the ending is in fact a beginning!


Deep inside planet Earth the Gloopiers have lived for millions of years. They are the ones who keep the gloopy stuff in the middle of Earth, for the most part, in the middle.

Sometimes a bit of the gloopy stuff gets away from them and rockets through one of Earth's volcanoes. Those days are considered ‘bad days’ around the office.

On those days it is Snarfle Beeblefast who pulled his small whiteboard eraser from his pocket and wiped the ‘days without incident’ out, replacing it with a zero.

Snarfle Beeblefast was a short Gloopier, even by their standards. His feet were thick and black on their underside, and his trousers only went to his shins. If you were to describe his face with one word it would be ‘angular’. His chin was sharp and complimented his long pointy nose and his pointed ears.

Today marked day 512 without incident, but the alarm was sounding and the Gloopiers were running around shouting things like, “Where are my slippers?” and, “Who’s got the socket wrench?”.

Snarfle was the Gloopiers head administrator, meaning he looked after both the spreadsheet *and* the whiteboard.

As the head of administration, he found it a better use of departmental resources to delegate some of his work, namely the spreadsheet, to his apprentice, Nudges Gently.

Nudges Gently was a full inch taller than Snarfle, which in the gloopy stuff was a lot. He towered over everyone else down in the gloop, and his clothes were bursting at the buttons. He was a gentle soul and not as dim as his sagging face and whiney voice made him seem.

“Nudges, can you update the spreadsheet for me, please?” Snarfle asked across the two desks.

Nudges Gently sat spinning the locket he wore around his neck between his fingers.

“Okay boss,” he nodded, before typing on the keyboard. “Done boss. Now what?”

Snarfle loved almost everything about his job, but one bit did bother him and it was this bit.

“It’s probably time to press the randomator, I suppose.”

Nudges Gengly’s body shrank very slowly, like a snail on its way to bed.

“Okay boss.”

Snarfle walked around the desk and stood over Nudges Gently’s shoulder as he pressed the mouse button. The text on the screen wheeled around for a few seconds.

“Ah,” Snarfle said, “Can we press it again?”

“No, boss. Can’t.”

“Ah,” Snarfle said again, disappointed, “I see.”

Snarfle had been one of the better head’s of administration so it did seem a shame when the Gloopiers launched him off the edge of the Sacrificing Cliff into the gloopy stuff, but rules were rules, and the gloopy stuff required a sacrifice if it was ever going to stop misbehaving.

As he fell through the warm air between the cliff edge and the gloopy stuff Snarfle realised that he hadn’t given Nudge Gently the whiteboard eraser and he couldn’t help but worry about the future of the administrative department without its most important piece of equipment.


With shades of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett or even the Fraggles, this fun tale takes us down below the surface for a dose of gloopy bureaucracy. As we always say, if you’re going to go silly, go all in – and the world building here dials the absurd up to 11, with hilarious Gloopier names and an unfortunate end result that no doubt mimics many office environments above ground. We’ll never look at volcanoes the same way again…


On the third morning of our stay at the guest house, croissants were added to the “light” breakfast buffet. With lashings of homemade jam, they were a welcome addition. As I stood to collect a second, my husband frowned and indicated the jam and flaky pastry at the corner of my mouth. I hastily reached into my pocket for a handkerchief and hesitated briefly before returning to the breakfast offerings. The only other change on this third day of five was that the background music was not from a classical station but slightly more contemporary. I recognised a couple of lyrics as I eschewed the croissant for a tub of yoghurt. How appropriate I thought.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold….

The artist who cohabited with the guest house owner greeted us like friends. “Are you bushwalking today?” he asked. As was my habit when uncomfortable I reached to fiddle with whatever was around my neck – today a gold locket, before replying, “Not today.” Not any day remained unsaid. He looked away disinterested as I noticed the walking boots and khaki trousers of the other guests in the dining room.

Today I wanted to enjoy the autumn trees’ titian tints, none of which would be found on the eastern escarpment of the great dividing range just metres from where we were sitting. Why, I wondered, was native vegetation so uninspiring? It was the introduced species, the Japanese elms, liquidambars and Chinese tallows that provided the autumn interest. One didn’t need to bush walk to be immersed in their seasonal splendour and after admiring and photographing village streets both littered and lined with their leaves, coffee in quaint settings awaited.

And so we ignored the bushwalkers and headed north west and downhill to a mining town. The artist, when hearing of our plans, suggested a visit to the highest scenic lookout in the district. Guiltily, we felt compelled to comply and drove up a winding track before parking and venturing through some scrub leading to a walkway and look out across valleys to the mountains encircling us. Was this akin to bushwalking I wondered?

Lunch followed in a café recommended by the artist. Certainly a decent feed, corn fritters for me, local pie for him, both accompanied by the obligatory chips and rocket salad. We wandered around the town with its remnants of the past and eyesores of the present before returning mid afternoon to the quiet of the guest house.

Curious about the foibles of our fellow guests, I plugged my laptop into the table lamp socket and searched for bushwalks nearby. The other slept.

Interestingly some advertised walks traversed suburban roads and covered accessible routes of just three kilometres whereas others were almost five times as long. Could this be our path tomorrow I wondered. But looking at my partner snoring quietly on the bed I knew instinctively, that such would be a road not travelled.


There’s a gentle comfort about the Bryson-like observational journal style of this narrative, taking place on the middle day of a middle-of-the-road holiday. Rather than thrill us with tales of mountain peaks or crashing waterfalls, instead we are treated to the quiet (and let’s be honest, probably more realistic) itinerary of an ordinary couple on the road. Small details and alliterative musings (“seasonal splendour” and streets “littered and lined with leaves’) weave themselves between coffees and perfectly agreeable lunchtime menus. Honest takes of the surroundings and the couple’s own abilities are refreshing – giving us a middling yet engaging autumnal slice of travel life.

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE by Richard Gaynor, WA

It had been two hours since the trumpeter’s solo started. The audience initially welcomed them with explosive vigour and the band had blasted their jazzy chords in approval. The drummer had fizzed and snapped their way through a backbeat, and the bass player had walked his line like a fidgety dog.

But now, exhaustion and terror gripped the audience. The smoky atmosphere of the bar had become stale and sticky, clinging to clothes like sweat. Cigarettes had burned to ash on lips. None of the band dared play another note as the trumpet’s blaring squawks resonated through the room, plummeting down like a bomb and rising like a rocket.

Women cried. Men clenched their fists. Non-binary folk both cried and clenched. Yet none could leave, none could escape. So powerful was this soulful tune that this tiny pocket of time had frozen, refusing to tick another tock until the trumpet had sung its last song.

The trumpeter, moving as if possessed, snatched the pianist’s hat and held it against the trumpet bell, muffling the tone with a wah-wah in rhythm with their breathing.

The sound changing shifted the audience. One or two broke from the spell. Leapt from their chairs to scream. They tried shaking others from the tone, but all they could see was a glassiness in their eyes. The flicker of life normally present in pupils was absent — absorbed by the music.

A man ran for the door and the trumpeter tossed away the hat, letting the brass ring like a bell toll. Those that could move slowed and sagged and soon stared vacantly. A woman who’d used her time to remind herself of family let the locket of her loved one fall and clatter on the floor. The bartender, who had rushed for the phone, managed to thrash before locking up. They smashed an entire shelf of booze, sending a wave of bottles crashing onto the floor in an ear-shrieking maelstrom.

The noise made every person blink.

The saxophonist tackled the trumpeter, knocking them into the drums. After shaking his thoughts free of smoke, the drummer grabbed the snare and held it aloft. The entire band then leapt into action, desperately beating as the trumpeter tried to blow dried air into their terrible instrument.

A wall socket, drenched by the alcohol knocked from the shelf, sparked and ignited the glassed pool, sending lashing flames slicing up the bar. Patrons screamed and yelled and ran for the door, rushing through the velvet foyer to the drizzling city outside. Police greeted them and moved in like soldiers, each one equipped with earplugs. Within minutes, they secured the club to let the firefighters rush in.

A detective’s jawline glowed as they lit a cigarette, watching the police take the babbling trumpeter away. Their assistant, thin and curious, stood beside them.

‘What do you think happened?’ they asked.

The detective breathed in deeply. ‘Looks like a case of the ol’ razzmatazz.’


Music certainly can mesmerise, and in this particular story, we see its hyperbolic effect. The surreal scene portrays what appears to have started with a well-received solo that never stopped – the crowd unable to escape the jaws of this jazz trumpet’s trance-like grip on their attention. Oscillating between mirthful and macabre, there’s nothing standard about this number as the audience desperately try to run away from this runaway razzmatazz. Silly but saxy, this story highlights the danger of blow-hards in confined spaces.

THE GUARDIAN by Rose Nord, Switzerland

“Family is really important to me,” I tell the interviewer, concluding my rambling response to a question I don’t remember. Based on his disappointed note-taking, it was not what he wanted to hear. I lock my jaw and squeeze my elbows in to hide my growing sweat patches, while my phone continues to drill furiously into my back pocket. The interviewer glares at me.

“Do you need to get that?” I know that he‘s being sarcastic, but when I glance at the screen and see fifteen missed calls from mother, my stomach becomes a hard knot. I slip out of the room and the interviewer tells me, fictitiously, that he will be in touch, and I curse at the loss of an opportunity I really did need.

“Mom?“ I call her back on my way to the car.

“Finally! You need to bring me an extension cord! This stupid cord doesn’t reach the socket!” She ends the call with a click. The stomach-knot hardens as I drive to her house, wondering why I’d listened to my fat therapist when he told me things would get better with some boundaries. What does he know? He probably has a normal mother.

As I park on the curb in front of the house, I am cautiously optimistic at the sight of only a light sprinkle of junk across the front yard. Stepping out of the car, though, I hear a rhythmic clanking, metal pounding on metal. I round the house and find her in the backyard, hammer in hand, goggles on her oily forehead, working on a pinnacle of sweltered together sheet metal.

“Where is the cord?“ she demands when she sees me. I ask her what she’s building, and she tells me it's a rocket. When I ask her why, she tells me impatiently about the aliens that burrow into holes in the ground, and how she’s the planet’s guardian, the only one who can save us. I offer to make her a coffee, sit down for a break before takeoff, while I hold the illusionary extension cord hostage. Snuck into the bathroom, my hand covering the space between my mouth and the microphone, I make a last-resort phone call, one I’ve had to make two times before. “She’s going to hurt herself and others,” I say, the secret code words to make them come right away.

She doesn’t have any coffee in her bombsite kitchen, so we drink musty herbal tea from stained mugs, standing up because all her chairs form part of the rocket. She tells me about the alien problem, and I nod, deducing the timeline of her decline, writhing in guilt.

“You’re not wearing the talisman!” she says, too loudly, prodding my chest with a blistered finger. She’s referencing a corroding locket she gifted me ‘for protection’, it stunk and stained my skin. I see the van roll up outside, but she hasn’t noticed yet.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m really sorry, mom.”


Family, huh. While we may not all have a rocket-building, planet-guarding, power-hungry family member in our life, it’s oddly easy to attach many of these quirks to a brother, parent, sister or wayward uncle in our lives. As this well-paced story opens, we are granted a timely glimpse into just one of the effects of a dysfunctional family situation – and the subsequent matter-of-fact home visit makes it clear this is not mother’s first rocket rodeo. From a criteria point of view, by the time the van rolls up, the aliens and the suburban shipyard have done a stellar job of distracting us and slipping in the tricky ‘-ocket’ words without any fuss. Possibly a reminder that your family might not be as crazy as you think.


I squish my hands and face against the cold glass, delighting over the brightly coloured tubs within. Mango tango, mint choc chip, hokey-pokey, cookie dough, bubblegum, rainbow, chocolate fudge.

“… and that one!” I point to the strawberry swirl.

My eyes pop out of their sockets as the ice-cream vendor rolls an enormous pink ball and balances it on top of the six colourful scoops already stacked high in the waffle cone. I reach up, grinning, as the tower of dreams is passed down to me. Dad thinks it’s amazing too, he smiles and his eyes twinkle. The sweet treat melts all over me, freezing my cheeks.

Dad leads me down to the shoreline and washes the stickiness away in warm saltwater splashes. Waves of white foam leave fizzing bubbles that tickle my feet. In a window of clear water I spot seashells nestled in the sand. I plunge my hand in to pluck them out, before the next wave tumbles them away from me.

I show Dad my collection, dropping my handful of wet sandy treasure onto his open palm. We pick our favourite ones; his is smooth, white and twisted like a unicorn’s horn, mine has a lumpy outside but the inside flickers with green, blue and purple like it holds magic. Dad tucks them into his pocket.

Sunshine and salty air fill me up, like holidays and happiness. This might be the best day ever. Dad lifts me onto his strong shoulders as we stroll along the sand. I scratch my hands on his hard, stubbly chin as I hold on. The world is enormous from up here, I have a bazillion new questions. Dad knows everything.

As his big hands swing me down, I flip and tumble through the sky. Round and round, I zoom like a rocket. I can’t see from dizziness and giggles. The warm sand crunches beneath me as I touchdown.

While I’m digging a hole, Dad takes off his shirt to go for a dip. He dives over the waves, and swims towards the horizon.

“Dad!” I call, but the wind whips my voice away.

I scream for him, but he doesn’t pause his stroke to look back. Not once.


“Shh-shh-shhhhhh,” my mother comforts me, wiping my sweaty hair out of my face.

“Daddy!” My broken heart lingers in the twilight between dreams and reality, not wanting to wake in either.

“I know, darling. I’m here,” Mummy holds me tightly to her chest and rocks me in the dark.

My hand reaches up to her neck, to the gold heart locket that she never takes off. I hold it and rub my thumb across the smooth surface. Sometimes I ask her to open it, to show me the photo again.

“We were at the beach, he left me there.”

“Oh darling,” her heart thumps in my ear, “saying goodbye is so hard. I’m glad, though, that he visited you. Did you have fun together? Tell me about it…”


This one begins as a fun and indulgent (SEVEN scoops?!) day at the seaside – a waffle cone of diabetic proportions only matched in sweetness by the tender tidal tickles and treasured finds among the sand. Loaded with the kind of details a child places front-and-centre, it’s easy to get lost in this world where everything is viewed from those strong shoulders. But as Dad’s shirt drops, we feel the shoe also drop – a sickly, sandy sense of rose-tinted nostalgia where things might be too good to be true. The jarring wake in the dark is beautifully bridged in the two lines of dialogue (“Daaaadddd”/”Shhhhhhh”) – with the line about not wanting to wake in either ringing heartbreakingly true. The resolve, while sad, feels reassuring and relatable to any who have lost as a child (or adult). A real gem to the power of memories. 


“I’m a grandfather,” continues the man sitting on the cold steel of the bus shelter seat, he splays out his gnarled fingers.

Marcie stops glaring at passing cars and cranes her neck to look for any hint of the bus over the horizon. She kicks the wall of the shelter; the bricks indented with years of frustrated youthful toes.

“One, two, three, maybe four. Did I count Robbie? They named him after me.”

A random tomato seedling is growing through a space like an empty tooth socket in the tarmac. Perhaps the seed was from the sandwich she chucked to the birds last year. She was in school then wishing the time away. Now she is back here, for the crack of dawn bus, wishing she was going to double maths instead of her coffee shop shift.

“I used to work in town. The solicitor’s, do you know it?” he asks.

He pulls a grey handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his face, then his whisker eyebrows rise like small kittens, as he blows his large nose with vigour.

She assesses him, a puzzled frown growing on her face, the walking stick between his knees, his feet in tartan slippers, the thin cotton of his pyjama clad legs, the outdoor jacket, dusty and stained.

“D’you know you’ve got slippers on? “

“What’s it to you? They’re not doing you any harm? You’ve rips in your jeans; your knees are showing.”

They laugh, his is a growl like a rocket taking off, hers is shrill like a kestrel.

“My name’s Robbie,” he says,” I’m a grandfather.”

“I’m Marcie. I work at the coffee shop.”

“Are you a student? I loved being a student,” he begins to sing ‘Another Brick In the Wall’.

“That’s my dad’s favourite band,” she says, her lips moving into a smile, muscle memory kicking in.

“My grandkids listen to rubbish,” he says as he flings his arms around making beeping noises.

“I’m going to university in September,” she says, “none of my friends are going.”

Marcie plays with a cheap locket, worries at it, taking off the layer of silver, showing the brass underneath. The photograph it held she abandoned, cut up into tiny pieces, to match her heart.

“You’ll have a wonderful time. I was worried I’d keep up, but I managed, and so will you. Friends, pah, you’ll make new ones. If you can talk to a grandfather at the bus stop, then you can talk to anyone.”

A black 4×4 drives up to the bus stop, a woman shouts through the window.

“Robbie, Robbie.”

Marcie hopes the woman moves away; the bus won’t be able to stop. It might sail right by, leaving her adrift.

“Come on love, let’s get you home, everyone was wondering where you’d got to,” the woman says, taking Robbie’s hand, helping him rise.

Robbie turns to Marcie.

“I’m a grandfather you know, four of them, they named one after me.”


This kerbside slice-of-life begins mid-chat at the bus stop – the kind of place where it’s very possible for the only thing two people to share in common is their intention of travelling on public transport at dawn. However, while Robbie initially may be talking only to the well-observed seats and tomato seedlings, eventually barista Marcie engages – the two bonding over each other’s questionable fashion choices. There are hints that Robbie may not be suitably dressed for a bus ride, and that resolution will pull up to the kerb soon enough. But for now, they’re simply two souls feeling out of place on the side of the road, at different ends of their lives – with nice end repetition to match the opening dialogue. Life is full of these fleeting encounters, and we love seeing them written so naturally.

NERDLE by Andrew Harrison, NSW


With three attempts gone and three still to go, Ethel was starting to sweat. Sitting on a record streak of 199 Nerdle wins, she needed this one badly…

Her choice of starting words was sound – O, I and E were amongst the top five most commonly occurring letters. M, B and L were fairly solid, too. Her confidence rose on the second attempt, knowing that with four letters identified and two already in correct positioning, the puzzle was hers for the taking.

Damn it, she muttered – R was the third most commonly used letter and she had gone with the first word that popped into her head instead of calmly analysing the alternatives.


A knot began to form in Ethel’s gut. With two attempts remaining, she needed to assess all possibilities and indeed probabilities. She commenced an alphabetic cross-check in her head to identify and eliminate options for _ocket words. The first she arrived at was LOCKET, closely followed by POCKET then SOCKET. Three options, two chances – the odds were still good.

Ethel was confident in the letter S – indeed it had appeared thrice in her late husband’s name – Onassis – and that had to be a sign from God.


She had never really believed in God anyway, and now she was extremely annoyed at her late husband as well. Two alternatives, one chance left – Ethel chewed her lip. What would the puzzler have been thinking? If it was a man, he could have been feeling the weight of the fountain pen, the keys, the handkerchief, the bank notes – in his POCKET. Or perhaps the lady puzzler with the blond bun and red nails was fondling her LOCKET as she dreamt of her dinner date with the fiancé.

“F**k it, thought Ethel – stick with the science.


Weeks later throughout the Twilight Retirement Village residents and staff sipping tea and munching on date scones were still remembering the strangled cries, the shouting and swearing that echoed through the corridors, louder and more furious than the seven trumpets of the apocalypse.


Slow claps to the genius of not only harnessing the power of a cheekily similar five-letter word game (hugely popular in 2022, but still a part of many people’s daily routine) but ALSO weaponising our four troublesome rhyming criteria words for this month and making them a key part of the plot. Very impressive! Anyone who has ever played WORDLE will know that anxiety felt with multiple options still possible yet limited guesses remaining. This story mines that feeling wonderfully, as Ethel tries to rationalise which word to select. Not since Slumdog Millionaire has each answer been accompanied with such backstory and suspense – however with the use of a clever time jump, we find that this result was perhaps not so celebratory. Hilarious and fun – and all for fewer than 350 words!

BURIED EVIDENCE by Margaret Bloch, WA

The paramedic ceased CPR on Tom, sat back on her heels, shook her head, and turned to Jessica.

‘I’m so sorry, he’s gone,’ she said.

The words came to Jessica as though from a distance, the softness of tone clashing with sharp reality. Jessica gazed out the kitchen window to where Gracie, their chocolate Labrador, buried her new bone, digging up the rocket seedlings. The younger paramedic shuffled his feet, hand thrust deep into his pockets, unwilling to meet Jessica’s eye.

‘I was in the back garden,’ Jessica said, her voice barely above a whisper, ‘and I didn’t hear anything.’

Her right hand went to her locket, the gold smooth against her palm and warm from her skin. It had been her grandmother’s and Nellie’s calm strength, her power, surged through Jessica, blood fizzing in her veins as confronted the scene in the kitchen. Blood on the corner of the stone bench. Blood pooling on the white tiles. Tom’s choice, but her responsibility that they remain pristine.

The kitchen filled with police. A female officer ushered Jessica out and into the waiting arms of Emma, her next-door neighbour, who took Jessica by the arm and led her into her messy home. Emma shoved aside a pile of clothes and Jessica sat on the sofa, inhaling the comforting, sunny scent of laundry fresh from the line.

‘Tea.’ A statement from Emma, not a question.

Jessica picked up a small t-shirt from the laundry pile and held it to her chest, her body aching with longing. No kids for Tom and Jessica, bringing their noise, mess, and unpredictability. Emma returned carrying a tray laden with mismatching pot, sugar bowl, milk jug, and mugs bought from the local op shop. Tom wouldn’t have a bar of that. He required symmetry and the regimented order of everything in its designated place. Emma put a gentle hand on Jessica’s back and the tears fell. Relief, not grief.

Jessica’s shoulders ached from the effort of lifting Tom’s dead weight. She’d feared her arms would be wrenched from their sockets as she calculated the correct angle, so the existing wound would hit the corner of the bench. All those hours at the gym pumping weights paying off. Tom insisted she’d join, demanding his wife be buff and fit. After, it took her a few moments to catch her breath and she’d nearly forgotten to untie one of Tom’s shoelaces.

What now?

Her life reclaimed, free to leave her wet towel on the bathroom floor, to let the dust bunnies breed unchecked, to let the garden run wild. Just her and Gracie. Darling Gracie, her unwitting accessory after the fact, who’d happily buried the evidence.


Nicely paced, with layers and details pulled back only as you need them, this story opens in the middle of delivering bad news. Here, the narrative pulls back, so to speak, to reveal the scene before us. A wife in shock and a stone cold body. Next up, the neighbour’s home, delightfully and realistically messy (as many would be if not expecting guests) – its chaos adding yet more tiny threads to start building a tapestry of Tom… clues to the provenance of Jessica’s tears. And then, there it is – a single paragraph reveals the true nature of the ‘accident’. Tightly wound, effective storytelling that demands an instant re-read.

ALL THE COLOURS by Miriam Drori, Israel


“Run!” She tugs on the tiny wrist. She hates to do this to her daughter.


Her skirt keeps flying up. Nothing she can do about it.


The front edges of her sandals scuff on the concrete as she runs. She can’t fall.


Her other arm is aching from the weight of the baby.


The noise. Like a never-ending single note on a trumpet. At least it deadens the sobbing.


The sound mustn’t end, even though it jars on her ears, on her nerves. Nearly there.




They’re in. She collapses on the floor. Someone closes the heavy door. The siren loses pitch and stops. A boom sounds, then two more. Three rockets have landed somewhere and her children are safe. She hopes no one has fallen victim. She hopes their home is still intact.

Miraculously, the baby is happy, enjoying the attention as he crawls between the neighbours. The little girl is still crying, shaking in her arm.

“I’m so sorry I had to pull you.” The sobbing continues.

“Why wouldn’t you come?”

“My locket. I couldn’t find it. There will be bad luck. Our home will burn down.”

She reaches into the pocket of her skirt and brings out a gold-coloured locket and chain. “I saw it on the kitchen table and picked it up when the siren went off.” She opens the clasp and closes the chain around the girl’s neck, happy to see a smile growing bright through the tears. As she embraces her daughter, she’s met by the image of a rainbow.

After finding initial delight in the baby, the neighbours have become engrossed in a discussion or two. An untrained – that is foreign – ear, might label the discussions as arguments, but really the participants are all on the same side. Several things need fixing in the shelter. They wouldn’t need to bother with those things if they didn’t have to spend so much time here. Why do they spend so much time here? They’re fed up with this cycle of terror and being in the front line and what’s the government doing about it?

Nobody notices that the baby has crawled over to the wall and used its ridges to raise himself to a standing position. Nobody sees him grab hold of the pretty, different-coloured wires sticking out of the wall, in the place where a socket should be.

Nobody knows why, with the suddenness of a missile landing, the shelter has been invaded by absolute darkness.


An effective narrative device takes us through the opening stages of this story – as we the reader are dropped, bomb-like, into the middle of a fleeing families sprint for the nearby shelter – small rushed details interspersed with the count. The siren accompanies them as a single note that “mustn’t end, even though it jars on her ears”. As long as it sounds, the bombs have not landed. From here, we get a sense that this is an all-too familiar routine and the frustration over the quality of life that accompanies staying alive. A final moment in the dark plunges us back into the uncertainty of this situation – sadly it’s a scene that could feel believable across many parts of the world throughout the past century.


A twelve-year-old kid in a pair of grubby dungarees over a flannel shirt appeared from a shed at the rear of the servo. ‘What’s your problem, mate?’ she said as I clambered out of my sick car.

‘I think I might need a mechanic.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘I dunno. One minute it was running as smooth as a nut, and then it wasn’t. Is your dad around?’

She laughed. ‘I’ll take a squiz.’

The servo forecourt was deserted except for a few stunted weeds growing through cracks, and the heat of the afternoon sun was intensifying. ‘Your mum?’

She shook her head, smiled, and my eyes fell on the tiny heart-shaped silver locket with the name Janie glinting on a chain around her neck.

‘Are you here on your own, Janie?’

She shrugged, reached in through the driver’s door and released the bonnet catch. ‘This model has a history,’ she said, opening the bonnet and staring into an area that, for me, could be the portal to another dimension in a parallel universe.

I shrugged and looked around. All I could see was a road that stretched through parched scrub, in a straight line from horizon to horizon, while a twelve-year-old girl was attempting to fix my car. Apart from my sanity, what did I have to lose?

‘Do you know much about cars?’ I asked.

She giggled, and her hand reached around for the socket wrench that was sticking out of her hip pocket. ‘Get in the car and await my signal.’ She leaned into the engine compartment and tutted. A few moments later she said, ‘Right, mate, I suspect it’s a fuel problem, but I’ll need to remove a few bits to get to the cause. Relax, don’t worry. When I’ve finished, I promise it’ll go like a rocket.’

For a twelve-year-old, she certainly seemed confident, which was more than I was. Then she banged on the fender.

‘Yup, just as I thought.’ She tinkered for a few moments more and said, ‘Try her now.’

The engine started first go and my heart skipped a beat.

She made a cut symbol with her fingers, dived back into the engine compartment and refitted the parts.

‘Your all done mate. How far do you have to go?’

‘About three hundred k. How much do I owe you?’

She laughed, turned about, and walked into the shed just as a four-wheel-drive, branded with the servo name, rolled onto the forecourt. A red-faced heavyset man climbed out and said, ‘Sorry, mate, had to take the wife to town. You look like you might need some help?’

‘Nah, all good. Janie fixed it for me. She must be worth her weight in gold to you.’

‘Janie?’ The man’s face turned ashen, his brow furrowed, and his eyes moistened as he slumped against his car.

It was only then that I noticed the tiny heart-shaped silver locket, caught in the curls of his chest hair, and felt the goosebumps rise on my arms.


This outback servo may have seen better days, but our unnamed narrator’s car is in even worse shape as we pull to a stop amid the weeds, cracks and afternoon sun. From here, the silky skills of mini mechanic Janie and easy dialogue between the two get the engine going “like a rocket’ once more, but there is a sense of mystery that lingers around the edges. That said, it’s not hard to feel a chill as we see the owner’s reaction to his daughter’s assistance. We may be 300 kms from the coast, but it turns out we were inches away from the ghost. Great use of the locket for that final confirmation.


  1. Attach side rails (P3) & (P4) onto the headboard with 4 x nuts (H9) as shown.
  2. Realise the bag of 4 x nuts is missing.
  3. Realise it’s 1am.
  4. Check your pockets. Check the pile of cardboard you have built into a Les Miserables style barricade.
  5. Call your dad.
  6. Don’t call your dad. You’re a strong, independent woman who can grow life inside her womb. You can build a Fantastic Furniture flat-pack on your own.
  7. Check your phone. Read a text from your best friend: ‘Sorry, didn’t see this! Was out at dinner. Mitch got me a locket! Will send pics later xx’.
  8. Throw your phone across the room.
  9. Crawl to pick it up and plug it back in.
  10. Pour yourself a mug of gin – a housewarming gift from your boss. She thinks you and Josh split because he moved to China for work. Pray that she assumes he has an identical twin when she bumps into him in Woolworths.
  11. Go outside and sit on the balcony. Notice your new neighbour in the apartment across the way. Wonder if he takes his glasses off during sex. Wave at him. When he doesn’t wave back, go inside.
  12. Creep past your new roommate’s bedroom. Wonder if she’s really asleep or just hiding from you.
  13. Try to remember why you weren’t paying attention when Josh built your last bedframe. You were organising the mug collection, his half soon to be stained with someone else’s lipstick.
  14. See if you can fit your whole body inside your suitcase. Hug your legs to your chest and close the zip. Think about how it’s nice to feel a warm breath on your face. Even if it’s your own.
  15. Get out of the suitcase. This is ridiculous. You just need a burst of energy to look for the nuts. Unplug your phone from the socket where it’s charging. Shuffle your ‘Pump Up Jams’ playlist. Rocketman by Elton John comes on. Don’t think about how this is the song that was playing on the radio when Josh told you that he loved you but wasn’t in love with you. Okay, you can think about it for one verse. You’re allowed to cry about how your relationship was ruined by semantics for one verse. When you’re feeling sufficiently sorry for yourself, skip to ‘I’m So Excited’ by The Pointer Sisters.
  16. Crawl into the middle of the bedframe and lie face down in your pig pen. Maybe you can just sleep like this on the floorboards. Maybe you don’t need side rails. Live a minimalist life. Silent retreats and yoga. You can be anyone now. Do anything. You could brew kombucha in Byron Bay.
  17. Turn your cheek to look underneath the nightstand. Observe a thriving community of dust bunnies. Right next to the biggest one, the bag of nuts.


With a delightful droll and hilarious voice throughout, this part of the instruction manual wisely begins with most of the boring construction stuff already out of the way. Now we get to witness the fun steps, as our protagonist fluctuates between the confident ‘Yas Queen!(bed)’ energy of step 13 and the defeat-tinged lows of step 23. Along the way, we are treated to brilliant inner musings about the new neighbour’s eyewear routine, perspectives on the end of her relationship (clearly, he got the bed), and whether she can actually fit inside a suitcase. We couldn’t help laughing out loud at the gin-laced peaks and troughs (very real if you’ve ever assembled flat pack furniture late at night) and the ultimate decision to turn repurpose resignation into intentional Byron-based minimalism. Nutty and clever – fantastic fun!


The question hangs in the air uncomfortably, like a bad smell waiting for a sudden breeze to clear the air. It is simple enough, it has been answered a million times by a million young women dressed in white.

Do you take this man to be your husband?

It is my turn to speak. The minister’s eyes bulge in their sockets. The gaze of a hundred strangers and a few friends in that dusty old church bore into my lace covered back. The groom, who tends to be always peeved, looks even more peeved now.

All that is needed from me is a simple three letter word. But a feline, maybe a panther or a puma or a snow leopard, has gotten a hold of my tongue. Beneath the filigree of my dress, my heart thumps against my grandmother’s silver locket.

Exhibit #1

The day we met. Dinner. I had steak. He ate rocket. I had wine. He had fizzy water.

A lifetime with someone who drank fizzy water.

Do you take this man to be your husband?

Exhibit #2

Three months after we met. I encountered The List. It is a catalogue of all the items we will purchase for the rest of our lives. Dinnerware by Royal Copenhagen. Knives by Wusthof. Furniture by Armani Casa. Art by Joel Peter-Witkin. And on and on and on.

The first time I felt myself standing in the middle of a circle drawn around my feet, very, very, tight.

Do you take this man to be your husband?

Exhibit #3

Last night. I’m told the name of our future child has already been decided. It’s Gerald, in memory of his grandfather. Gerald! Not a name I would pick, not for one of mine, but apparently he’s planned on this his entire life. Just like everything else, it’s been forethought, foreseen.


Do you take this man to be your husband?

It is now twenty seconds, and the crowd is shifting uncomfortably in their seats. A chair is pushed back, scraping against the ground. Somewhere, a discreet cough sounds, followed by another. Consternation writ large on the faces of his mother and father. Frown lines mark my mother’s forehead. My father, calculating, already reckoning the size of the damage.

And then Colin, housemate for nine months, whose gaze catches mine. His hand, a life safety rope, snakes out slowly from his pocket, then flies high.

A white flag. A victory. A rescue.

“I’d like to object to this marriage,” he says. No words have sounded sweeter.

I swallow the yes that’s stuck like boiled sweet in my throat, pick up the folds of my dress and run, run down the aisle, as if I am chased by a thousand ghosts. Because I am, and I will be, forevermore.

Nevertheless. I’m free.


Uh oh, it looks like some kind of feline has stolen our protagonist’s tongue – such as it is when we drop into the middle of the business end of this wedding ceremony. Clever use of repetition (“Do you take this man…” etc) follows, each time greeted with court-room treatment, as we weigh the trio of exhibits being presented here at the altar. If number 1 left her feeling flat, number 2 appears to make her listless. And as for the third, well, it goes without saying (or naming). Her timing may not be ideal, but there’s something to be said about it all becoming clear in the moment. Well-paced and engaging throughout, it’s a life-altar/altering moment we can all picture. Everyone needs a friend like Colin.

CHICKEN by Vanessa Papastavros, NSW

There is a time, in the middle of childhood, where the veil between adult understanding and juvenile misunderstanding becomes gossamer thin. It is not yet pulled back. It is not yet exposed in all its violent glory, but you can peek through and make out the grotesque and colourless dunes of adult understanding.

People associate the transition to adulthood with the adolescent years, typically resulting from a loss of innocence. This is quite misplaced, as no one can really recall what it is like to be a child. In fact, the very process of becoming requires forgetting. It is in that forgotten time, in the middle of being a child, that the metamorphosis begins.

To better explain this phenomenon, we will focus on Soph. Aged eight, she is in the very middle of her childhood. By her next birthday, she will be undergoing the developmental changes that rocket a child into adolescence.

At age eight, while sitting at the dinner table, a queasy half-realisation would raise its ugly head: the white stuff her mother cooks and the funny bird that runs around in the backyard are both called chicken.

Yet, the curtain does not lift. Instead, a searchlight from the other side turns the once thick, velveteen fabric to cheesecloth. Through it, she can almost see that she is eating a living, breathing animal—a thought so horrific it would rob her of her infantile sanity.

Instead, she sees this thought forming and finds a way to justify it: a dog barks and a tree has bark on it. The word bark can mean two things. A teacher at school had told her this, calling it a homonym, and so adulthood is staved off a little longer with a logic derived from that distant world.

Yet, Soph will soon learn that the word chicken is not a homonym. It is this realisation that will prompt her into the end of childhood, alongside the knowledge that her father is the tooth fairy and the locket her grandmother gave her does not magically keep monsters away at night but is simply a cheap piece of jewellery. Eventually, she would turn twelve, and ask her teacher to call her Sophia. She will take off the ultraviolet glasses that colour a child’s world.

The shock is like sticking a piece of metal into an electrical socket. Yet, like all pain, it will become difficult to recall. Soph will not remember the exact moment she stepped out from behind the curtain onto the adult stage of the world. There was a time where the curtain was drawn, and a time where it had been pulled back, but you don’t remember the time in between where you resisted, with every particle of your imagination, what the adult brain would come to accept.

For now, she pockets the idea that the white stuff on her plate and their pets that lay eggs are in any way the same. She eats her chicken in ignorance, behind the curtain.


We’ve all been this age – so eloquently described as that gossamer-thin veil between the magic, mystery and occasional mistruth of childhood and the colourless dunes of being an adult. Yes, the dunes are alive with the sound of metaphors throughout this engaging account of adolescence. One particular scenario of poultry proportions sees young Sophie grappling with a new level of object permanence in a dinnertime game of chicken. What follows is a delightful tour on the wonders of homonyms that logic can’t help but tip its faded hat at. Unfolding like a documentary, perhaps narrated by Mr Attenborough himself, it’s a wonderfully compiled ode to growing up that doubles, in one ‘fowl’ swoop, as a plucky coming-of-age story. Remember children, “chicken is not a homonym”!

THE WALK HOME by Madeleine Coyle, VIC

The end of the world began right in the middle of a football game. As the half-time siren blasted, we were up by eighty-two. We were bound for the finals – had the world not decided to pack it in.

Most of us were orderly as we filed out of the stadium. We had been given a heads-up that the world was ending a few years ago. No one knew specifically when though.

I pulled my phone from my pocket. Nothing.

“Hey, you got reception?”

“Yeah, mate,” I replied to the man who had fallen into my step.


I handed him my phone and, with trembling fingers, he began dialling. As he waited for the other end to answer he gave me a forced smile.

“Wife and kids at home. Shouldn’t have left them…”

There were no apocalyptic tell-tale signs. No rockets or missiles flying about. No flesh-eating zombies. Well, not yet anyway. How much time did we even have? Hours? Some theorised it could take a few weeks.

“No answer,” he said, “Can I… try again? Which way are you heading?”

We continued walking together, my new mate and I.

“Shira,” he said. Poor bloke. I felt for him, but couldn’t relate. No significant other, no kids, no family worth a phone call.


“You’re bloody calm, Josh.”

“Quietly crapping myself, but, yeah. I’ve just… accepted it, in a way.”

The station was a scene of mass confusion. A woman was wailing and clutching a child. A man, perhaps her husband, was looking more impatient than concerned. Some old bloke was loudly muttering to himself a string of expletives about the umpires. A middle-aged couple looked at each other with a knowing look, and walked away slowly, hand-in-hand. There was something serene about them, I couldn’t help staring.

Shira had been trying to get through to his wife, but was now frozen. His eyes were wide, bulging in their sockets.

“Trains are out!” someone yelled. Abruptly, a woman turned around making instant eye contact with me. She was clutching something around her neck, a locket perhaps. She looked older than Shira and I put together, but she had startling bright eyes.

“The first thing to go is our bloody public transport. Why am I not surprised, fellas?”

“Hey mate,” I said, nudging Shira. “How far away are you?”

“Lilydale. I… I don’t…”

Lilydale was a trek. Poor guy.

“I’m in Auburn.” It didn’t need to be spelled out, it was an invitation. I wasn’t about to leave the poor guy just stranded here. Besides, I had nothing else to do.

“You can’t just leave a helpless old lady!” the bright-eyed woman cried. But there was no mistake to her tone, and I had seen it in her eyes. She was one of the ones like me. Calm, accepting, and… alone.

We walked in silence, apart from a few brief introductions. Shira, Josh, Margot. And that was it, the end. In some shape or form.


They often say that if and when the end comes, it may be with more of a whimper than a bang. This appears to be the case here, with the portrayal of a matter-of-fact apocalyptic commute. Our narrator, Josh, sets the tone – more upset at missing out on a chance to see his team in the finals than the never-named end of the world event that is on its way. The combination of dialogue and inner thoughts feel believable despite the surreal situation. And that’s it, the oddly satisfying scene of three strangers walking side by side towards the story’s unnamed conclusion. What a fitting way, in some shape or form, to end this month’s story showcase!


Each month, we like to include an extra LONGLIST of stories that stood out from the hundreds and were highly considered for the showcase. If your name is here, well done – and we hope to see you ALL next month!

THIS MONTH’S LONGLIST (in no particular order):

  • DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT LIKE I DO? By Charlie Alexander, NT
  • THE FREEZES by Han Whiteoak, UK
  • MINE by John Drake, Ireland
  • CAPRICIOUS by Loueze Harper, VIC
  • 73 SECONDS by Connie Boland, Canada
  • WAY TOO LONG by Bronywn Ryan, NSW
  • THE ISLAND by Nelly Shulman, Israel
  • UNTITLED by Anne Hand, QLD
  • ANY OTHER AFTERNOON by Cath Krejany, VIC
  • PASSING THE TORCH by G. Lynn Brown, USA
  • HEATWAVE by Bethany Cody, SA
  • POCKETED CASH by Elizabeth Jane Hilton, QLD
  • STOPGAP by Rana Campbell, Canada
  • UNTITLED by Leigh Rodgers, NSW
  • HEART-WRENCHING by Glen Wade, Poland
  • SHIPWRECK! By Suzsi Mandeville, QLD
  • ZOMBIE RUN by Naomi Blundell, NSW
  • NEVER SAY NEVER by Lisa Verdekal, Ireland


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