Furious Fiction: June 2024 Story Showcase

Welcome to June’s Furious Fiction story showcase – where we celebrate flash fiction creativity and the power of storytelling. The creative prompts for this month were:

  • Each story had to strongly feature a relationship between TWO characters. 
  • Each story had to include someone whispering.
  • Each story had to include the words JAR, UNIFORM, NEEDLE and EDGE. (Certain variations were allowed)

These prompts hit a note with many writers – as we received around 700 stories all whispering their secrets to us through the trees, the breeze and through voices here and in the past. Along the way, mason jars, specimen jars, jam jars and doors left ajar rubbed shoulders with knitting needles, hypodermic needles, compass needles and needless tasks. School uniforms, work uniforms, soldiers, sailors, security guards and sportspeople – along with uniform movements that took us to the edge and back. We always love the variety of ways you approach the prompts – keep up the great work!


Frodo and Sam. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Peter Pan and Captain Hook, Miss Honey and Matilda, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Literature is filled with twosomes that are companions, mentors, rivals and lovers – where each character is tied to the other in some way. So this month, we wanted to CELEBRATE and feature the relationships and roles that two characters can play.

  • Twins represent! Many of your stories featured the powerful bond the twins share. An excellent choice for this wordcount.
  • Siblings also featured heavily – often told in a life-spanning arc to showcase their role beside the other throughout the years.
  • Best friends played a big part in many stories. Again, often highlighting the ups and downs of this relationship through the years.
  • Of course, couples are the ultimate couple – with love matches featuring heavily, from meet-cutes through the years and till death did them part. The Top Pick was a beautiful example of one end of this range.
  • Other generational relationships featured this month, grandparents, favourite uncles, parents and children. Oh, and pets! We love our pets.
  • And then there were some more quirky relationships – a few have made it to this month’s showcase, so we won’t spoil those ones. But other notables included an odd sock yearning for its mate, an unlikely love story between scone-buddies jam and cream, insects, actual superheroes (of which we expected more) and some plucky reimagined fairy-tales! Creativity at its best.

So, now to the showcase stories – including our Top Pick of the month from Laura Cody (congrats!). Laura’s story, along with our shortlist and longlisted stories are all showcased below. Well done to ALL who completed the challenge – let’s do it again next month!


OLD HABITS by Laura Cody, USA

On that last night, after the television had been turned off and the matching living room recliners were restored to neutral position, Nora and Jim climbed into bed. Long gone were the days when they could “slip between the sheets” or “tumble onto the mattress,” breathing heavy with desire as their strong, capable fingers unbuttoned buttons and unzipped zippers. These days, climbing into bed was a laborious process involving strategy and perseverance. It began with the alignment of a walker on either side of the bed, continued with the careful lowering of buttocks (groan) and hoisting of legs (on the count of three) onto a mattress, and culminated in a bit of strenuous shifting and scooching until both husband and wife found proper orientation on the bed: Feet down, head up, neither one too close to the edge.

On that last night, Jim picked the jar of liniment off his bedside table, removed the cap, and mindlessly held it out to Nora before dipping his own fingers inside. They engaged in ordinary everyday chatter while massaging thick cream into stiff hands, unaware of the perfect synchronization of their movements.

“Theresa’s stopping by tomorrow with the groceries.”

“Have her get ice cream. Pistachio–and not the one for diabetics.”

On that last night, Jim removed a large-print novel from his bedside drawer. He read just a page or two, as always, while Nora retrieved knitting needles and yarn from her side. Her fingers could no longer produce flawless, uniform stitches, but still they worked away, finding comfort in the rhythmic activity.

Click, click, click

The music of Nora’s knitting needles inevitably lulled Jim to sleep. The book dropped to his chest. His eyelids drooped, and soon–

“Glasses,” Nora demanded.

Jim startled awake without protest, knowing the routine. On that last night, he removed his spectacles and handed them to his wife. Nora sprayed them with the cleanser she kept on her night table, then wiped the smudges away with a cloth. She handed them back, and Jim laid them on his side, ready for tomorrow. Then Nora put away her knitting and did the same with her own glasses. A new day started best with fresh lenses.

Nora turned off the bedroom light.

On that last night, Nora rolled toward Jim in the bed and whispered. The couple’s whispering was a holdover from a time when their house was filled with big-eared children, a time when their pillow talk, intended only for each other, was a carefully protected secret. And even if there were no longer any children to overhear, Jim and Nora’s final words each night were still exchanged in hushed tones. It was a habit that felt as right as the words themselves.

“I love you, my darling. Goodnight.”

And even though Jim would not wake up the next morning, Nora would continue to whisper words to his pillow that night and every night because, while it is true that everyone dies, old habits die hardest of all.


There’s a beautiful sense of calm that settles on this domestic scene throughout this story – all while the ‘reveal’ of sorts has been telegraphed in the first four words. And it’s the repetition of those same words that provides a lovely scaffold on which to go out not in a blaze of glory, but rather – much like the embers of an old fire – a warm glow. We see the familiar night routine and synchronicity of Jim and Nora’s movements and whispered goodnights. And in these seemingly small and mundane actions, we see so much love. Wonderfully observed and a worthy pick to celebrate the power of relationships.


I called it the ‘magic pudding’. My brother called it the ‘chain letter’. In reality it was the start of the rainbow connection.

“Want a magic worm?” I would ask, meaning, ‘do you want a fresh worm to magically catch that elusive trout?’

Wasn’t so magic most of the time. Another drowned worm. Another wasted hour. Another childhood memory.

But then one day the wriggling wizard did his job. Caught a juvenile redfin off Dad’s dad’s rod, held by my brother. The sort we usually threw back.

“Toss him in,” Dad would say. “We’ll catch him next year when he’s a monster.”

We never questioned this instruction. Until one day we did. “Can’t we use him for bait?” I asked.

“The trout won’t go for him,” said Dad. But I insisted, persisted, pestered until Dad relented. He let me use his pocket-knife to carve off a chunk of tail flesh.

My hook was in the water less than a minute when the rainbow latched on. A proper bite, not a nibble, and I hauled him in with heart racing and voice squealing. My first fish. And it was a trout! My dad, never prone to envy, was filled with envy. Positively green. He hid it marvellously.

“Can I take some of the tail?” my brother asked that night in the kitchen.

“Of course not,” scolded Mum. “That’s good eating fish.”

But he insisted, persisted, pestered until Mum relented. He sliced up the tail and popped it in the deep freeze with the frozen peas and ice-poles.

And thus began the Magic Pudding Challenge. Catch a fish. Then use that fish to catch another. Then use that fish… Well, you get the point. How far could you stretch that first piece of luck?

Our record was seven. Our family record. Unbeaten by any other family, because other families didn’t have this tradition. This secret game our family played on Friday nights in summer.

“Do you want the last of the pudding?” I ask my brother.

“Chain letter,” he corrects me, for old time’s sake.

“You take it,” I suggest. “You always did attract more luck than me.”

He’s silent for a moment. My tears make him uncomfortable. “You attract enough,” he finally says. “You caught that first trout. Patient zero. Remember?”

I remember. It was drizzling that day. There was a rainbow. But patient zero was actually the redfin.

I remember. Worm jars. School uniforms. People walking their dogs too close to the edge. Needles and haystacks and songs about ants and rubber tree plants. “For you Dad,” I whisper softly as I thread the last bit of thawed fish onto my brother’s hook.

Dad’s no longer with us. He went to the great lake in the sky four months ago. But he caught the yellow belly that started this latest magic pudding… ah… eh… chain letter. We’re using the last of fish five.

“And for Grandpa Mack,” my brother adds, then hands Dad’s dad’s ancient rod to my ever-watchful son.


Using fishing to highlight a generational story works marvellously well here, and it’s hard to say if the most notable relationship is between brothers, that of the father and son, or even that of one fish to the next! Whatever the case, it creates a strong linking device to structure this story that’s painted with the kind of nostalgia that families often feel when memories have their own language and traditions. The rainbow trout that features as a hook here (literally and figuratively!) is nicely mirrored in the kermit-green tinged title.

SHE KNOWS ME BEST by Madelyn Grace, NSW

Clear as day, she appears before me through the glass.

She yawns quietly, her eyes scrunching until the rich embers of her irises disappear.

My mouth stretches wide, my chest tightening.

It’s too early to be awake; she can see it in the storm clouds beneath her eyes. She slept barely four hours last night, and just three the night before.

I feel it in my bones, the exhaustion. I feel every tickticktick of the hours that pass without slumber, night after night.

She’s already donned the maroon uniform, pristine and clean-pressed, silver buttons glinting from her blazer sleeves. The crest over her blouse should be something to take pride in–a symbol of what she has worked so hard to achieve—but when she wakes feeling like she never slept, and finds no time to spend with the friends she does not have, it’s more akin to a burden.

An anchor.

“Hey,” she whispers, pulling her thin lips into a gracious smile, curling her fingers in a lazy wave. Her kindness is soft here, feather-light and warm. With anyone else, she is needle-sharp and glacier-cold, too dedicated to allow herself the pleasure of bountiful company.

“Hey.” My mouth hurts around the greeting, pulled taut against my teeth. My fingers wriggle.

While the sky paints itself into a patchwork of blushing tangerine, she begins the painstaking process of pulling herself together for the day. Thick hair, darker than a raven’s wing, is brushed to silk and smoothed back into a low, all-business ponytail. From a half-empty jar, she scoops a citrus scented balm, and scrubs it in slow circles over her face, rinsing the cleanser off with lukewarm, filtered water.

My nose tingles at lemon blossom while I pat my face dry.

After the cleansing comes the makeup, all twenty-three steps of it.

I’ve never felt so claustrophobic than I do beneath these colours, this overpriced muck, these never-ending expectations.

She tells stories as she works, primps herself over the course of two hours, desperate to please. Her peach-pink lips spin tales of essays and flute practice and quizzes and the first hand to be raised and debate club and charity work and application after application after application. Twelve in total, to every Ivy League in the country, and then some.

I mouth every word back to her, tone for tone.

When she’s finished, she brushes her pleated skirt of invisible dust, and sighs.

“I’ll see you tonight,” she sighs, her brow twitching, the only sign of her slow creep towards the cliff’s edge. After a moment, she turns back to the mirror.

“You’re all I have left,” she confesses. “The last person I care about.”

“The last person I care about,” I echo. I try not to feel such rage; we are one and the same, after all. It is both our faults that we’re the only people who can stand one another.

She waves once more at her reflection before she leaves.

I wave emptily back.


The use of italics here is sublime in providing a counterbalance from one ‘character’ to the other – as the reader alternates between the two in this morning conversation of sorts, set against “a patchwork of blushing tangerine”. Of course, it makes very little secret of the fact that this is just one person and their mirror image. However, the choice to provide the mirrored-self with a first person perspective to the third person counterpart is a stylistic touch that elevates this scene. We are essentially being told the same story from two sides, with extra clues to fill out this personality and her own mental state. Quiet, yet powerful at the same time.


Dad always called it his reliable Honda.

Painted the color of murky lake water, it didn’t have a CD player or a tape deck so we listened to fuzzy radio stations or the wind. The speakers rattled with their blown-out parts loose inside, and there was an underlying wet dog smell that must’ve seeped into the frame and thawed when the weather topped seventy-five degrees.

On steep inclines or tough stretches, he’d stroke the console and whisper to it.

C’mon old girl, you can do it.

Like it was his trusty steed or something. He believed in the Honda like he believed in a good handshake – some things just worked. I would sometimes wonder if he believed in me the same way.

The first time I heard Mom and him fight, he slammed the screen door and the Honda sputtered to life in the dark. He sat out there for hours, the front yard hazy with exhaust. She said he paid more attention to the car than her. That she wanted something more from life, and that there were plenty of people that would give it to her if he couldn’t.

Mom spent less time at the house after that. Dad spent more time working on the car. On the days that Mom didn’t come home for dinner, he’d show me the proper way to check the oil and how not to electrocute myself with jumper cables. He’d show me the jar of mints wedged inside the driver door and the spare needle and thread stashed inside the console, just in case. But his real pride and joy was the odometer.

Two hundred thousand and counting! They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

One day, Dad picked me up from school in the Honda. He took me to Dairy Queen, a place he usually saved for weekends when the weather got warm. Never on a school night, and certainly never before dinner. We stopped at the park after and sat on the hood, ice cream melting faster than I could lick it up. I remember my sticky fingers and the stains blooming on my uniform as he told me that Mom didn’t want to live with us anymore.

It’s my fault. I’m sorry, kiddo.

He explained that she still loved me but couldn’t stay in the same house as him. I’d visit her when I could, when she settled down somewhere. He apologized again and said the engine fumes were stinging his eyes and took us back to the house.

I caught my reflection in the side mirror a few times on the way home. The fumes must have gotten to me too.

Mom moved out the next week. Dad and I watched from the driveway as her U-Haul pulled away. As soon as it turned the corner, he asked if I wanted to drive the Honda for the first time. I was only thirteen, but he said he wasn’t worried.

He believed in us both.


Ah yes, a man’s love for his mechanical steed is a strong one, and here it is borne out in a coming-of-age style story, the ‘reliable Honda’ playing a key role in the backdrop of this family’s changing circumstances. Of course, this is both a study in the father’s relationship with his child as it is with his car. We are given a thoroughly authentic tour of this ‘man shed on wheels’ (an adult treehouse even?), prompt words snuck into the door and console – always through the child’s eyes. And that’s where this story truly succeeds, in making it both about the car but also about everything else happening at that time in our narrator’s life – exactly how kids often thread memories, even for big moments such as described here. They don’t write ‘em like this anymore.

THE OTHER ME by Anne Wilkins, NZ

I was six when Mama told me I had a twin. He was meant to have died at birth, but he was very much alive to me.

He’d kept me warm in the crib, cried when I cried, and crawled after me on the floor. I called him Other Me because I had no other words for what he was. He looked, sounded, and acted like me. A reflection of me, but for only my eyes and ears.

“Who did this?” Mama would ask, looking at our glass jar of marmalade jam shattered on the floor.

“It was Me,” I would tell her. “The Other Me.” And I would point to the Other Me standing shamefaced in the corner, his hands still sticky with jam, but she never understood.

Other Me grew just like I did. When my hair grew long, so did his. When my voice changed, his did too. He was always with me, and at night we would melt into each other like two drops of water.

“That boy, always talking to himself,” Mama would say when she heard me chatting to Other Me long into the night.

I’ve heard identical twins can be so close that they can feel each other’s emotions. It was like that for us, except more.

We were so close that Other Me could take away my pain and soak up my sadness.

When I fell in my school’s cross-country race, Other Me took my injury. He limped for me, allowing me to cross the finish line to win gold. When my first girlfriend dumped me, he sucked away my sadness and heartache; leaving me only with lightness and the idea of fresh beginnings.

And when I got sick and had to go to hospital, Other Me was right beside me.

Look away, he whispered as a Nurse in a shiny uniform produced her shiny needle for another blood sample. I barely felt a pinprick upon my skin as Other Me took away the stab.

The cancer spread quickly.

Let me help you, he said from the corner of my hospital room. You don’t need to suffer. Let me take it away.

And I let him take it all.

All the sickness.

He pulled it from inside me and claimed it as his own, where it rested inside him like a black serpent.

“A miracle,” Mama said the next day. Mama, who had worn her rosary beads thin, praying for my recovery.

I was cancer-free.

The doctors and nurses were dumbfounded.

None of them could see my brother slumped in the corner, or hear his ragged breathing from the serpent inside him.

I had beaten the odds, but the cancer had beaten my brother.

He closed his eyes and simply disappeared over the edge — like he’d never been there at all.

My eyes filled with tears; my heart shattered like that jam jar so long ago.

And this time there was no one to take away my pain.


We received many twin stories this month, but this one deals with the idea in such a unique way – a child who keeps the memory of their twin alive as a kind of imaginary friend. At first, it’s playful in a ‘blame it on the other guy’ way, before turning to a role of soaking up the hurt and the pain. As the narrative navigates into these darker waters, this is where the storytelling gets lifted. The idea that ‘Other Me’ is the one to beat cancer, and being defeated in doing so, is heartbreakingly depicted here, the final two lines providing a poignant end.


They stood together, alone.

Tall, they were and so very similar that their relationship was easily recognised as what they were, twins. So alike were they that, if you saw them one at a time, you would not be able to say with certainty which you were seeing. “Which is which?” you might whisper but not perceive an answer until both were returned to your sight, separately together.

They stood as sentinels, guardians of a revered space, unmoving and uniformly full of resolve. Jarring attacks could not move them. They did not retreat one iota, nor did they return the ferocity exhibited by their attackers. It was not in their makeup to gloat or needle someone for a failed attempt at penetrating their space as they stood at its edge. Not at all. No emotions were exhibited at any time. Resolute, inflexible, unmoved by inclement weather, they stood on guard and asked no quarter. They did their job and remained firm…. as all AFL goalposts should.


Consider this 166-word story a ‘palate cleanser’, if you will – and a reminder that sometimes a story can take place between two goal posts and still radiate an emotional impact! In this case, we are led down this twin-esque garden path before the siren eventually sounds on the conceit and these two characters are in fact revealed to be ‘outstanding in their field’. Yes, it’s silly, but hey, for many AFL fans reading from the sidelines, this one might still hit all the ‘feels’ in a big way! For what it’s worth, we score it six points.


I know her more intimately than I know myself. I hold her, press her cooling body against my breasts, her lids tiny membranes, veins tattooing translucent skin.

Every part of her is still a part of me, her heartbeat dancing below my own, her breath a fluid love song vibrating in my belly.

I unfurl ten crinkled fingers, touch each perfect toe and trace soundless lips before I whisper into her tiny ear shaped like a shell.

My words form soft waves that reach into her now still heart and I know that she knows, always knew that she was loved and wanted even before she was knit inside me.

They will come soon, to take her away and the thought of separation is a sharp pain like a needle.

I hear firm footfalls and a nurse enters, her uniform crisp, her hands cool as she measures and assesses, cuffs my arm, and asks me how I am.

I cannot answer. I save my words for her alone. I submit, one arm enfolded around her still, my whispers an echo in this room that cocoons me from a future that is no longer ours to share.

‘It was unexpected, unexplained,’ the nurse says, not unkindly. She leaves brochures beside my bed, and I am left alone again, the time still, the grief on pause while my body searches for itself and comes up empty.

The light changes and falls across the blanket. Still, she sleeps, weightless in my arms. My belly is flaccid, my breasts ache, my thoughts suspended.

They come and go. Another shift. They are patient but each intrusion jars and I long to be left alone with her forever. I will carry the weight of this day and need to carve each memory into my heart where it can be reached.

It will pass, they assure me.

It won’t, I whisper to her tiny pink scalp peeping from the wrap.

I tell myself stories, to make sense of it. She was impatient to meet me, longed to be a part of this world that was not ready for her. She is too pure, too unsullied, and never chanced a breath.

I pushed and allowed her to come, and they told me it was already too late to intervene, that there was nothing they could do.

And so she lies, lifeless in my arms while the world encroaches slowly on our final moments together.

I sense him in the room, waiting at the edge of things, uncertain. I should let him hold her but am loath to sacrifice even one moment.

I slowly become aware of all that awaits us.

The cot. The pram. The tiny clothes folded and never worn.

They will ask me to choose something for her to wear one last time.

I will leave that to him.

The day ends and they take her away.

I fold in on myself, collapse into his arms and weep.

She is gone.


Heartbreaking. This story highlights one of the most intimate relationships of all at its most vulnerable. In doing so, it goes about documenting those swirling clock-stopping minutes that describe a mother’s precious time with her newborn baby that she will never get to see grow. The result is a delicate and powerful exploration of grief – where the world and its brochures blurs away and we are left with seemingly perfect physical reminders, whispered moments, and the numb reality of a world turned upside down. The title also captures the painful potential of a new life ended so soon.

In Australia, SANDS – 1300 072 637 – is an independent organisation that provides support for newborn death, stillbirth and miscarriage. 

FIRST TIMES by Danielle Barker, NSW

I didn’t want a friend, or so I thought, but you did and that was that. From the moment you sat next to me in class you needled your way into my life, stitching yourself tightly to my side. Even now, thirty years later, when the wind is warm and the sun is high, I feel you there.

You’d only been at our school six weeks before the long holidays hit. By then we were firm friends and for the first time in my life my summer ‘to-be-read’ pile stayed just that. You showed me that adventures were not only for the likes of ‘The Famous Five’.

The summer was endless, as they were back then, our exploits blanketed by a permanent blue sky, a feeling we were on the edge of something as yet unknown. We notched up miles on our bikes, discarding them carelessly, wheels spinning, as we raced to reach our latest destination.

It was with you I caught my first fish, a tiny stickleback, in the beck down the back of the estate. You said it didn’t count, it having landed by accident in my wellie, but I carried it home proudly anyway, letting it swim circles in a jam jar before returning it the next day.

You pushed the boundaries and I happily followed. At the sweetshop, I’d count out my 50p mix under the watchful eye of Mrs Pickle. Every time she turned her back you snuck in an extra couple of white mice or cola bottles, blinking at me (you never could do it with one eye) knowingly. I quickly paid, worrying my sweaty coin would give us away, but we emerged from the shop safe and feeling like we’d got away with murder. After, we sucked and chewed our way through the stash, bare skinny shoulders pressed together, giggling under the shade of the weeping willow, before hopping back on our bikes to spend the last few hours of daylight at the park.

It was a summer of constant motion. Days filled with swinging, spinning, running, climbing, racing until we collapsed in a tangled heap, onto itchy brown grass, exhausted and laughing at the sky, no worries other than when the sun would go down.

When the holidays ended, for the first time, I didn’t dread the return to school. I pulled on my uniform feeling taller and not just because I’d grown. I looked forward to your hot whispers in my ear, telling jokes that only you and I understood. For the first time I didn’t want to escape to my books, I was choosing my own adventure with you.

But you didn’t come that day. Or any day after. I never saw you again.

In a summer of firsts yours was the first funeral I attended, the first heartbreak I had. I’ve had countless firsts since the moment your bike wheels stopped spinning, but you were my first friend. I just wish I hadn’t been your last.


It’s true that so many of the most powerful relationship stories this month also dealt with loss. This time, it’s the reminiscence of a friendship and those long summer days that at first appears so full of life, before the rug is pulled in the final paragraph. Along the way however, we are treated to a montage of best-friend energy – likely relatable to many who have spent a lost summer in similar fashion. The choice to frame this story around a series of ‘firsts’ allows it to never drift and of course, gives us the final first and the unexpected ‘last’. Nostalgic and tragic.


My funeral was held on a Wednesday. A morose affair by all accounts, as these things tend to be. And all the more heart-wrenching because I was a teenager. So young. So much promise. Freckles and vitality.

The service was a long time coming. No body makes it a little harder to be declared dead. But the schoolbag and uniform left carelessly by the edge of the river, the bits and pieces of mine they found in the water, and the disappearance of Jennifer Joan Bradley – so complete and unequivocal – what other conclusion could be reached?

My mama wept at the funeral. Wept for her JJ, for her baby girl. She swayed and staggered with grief. Dad drank himself into a fury that night and belted Mama. This was typical behaviour from him. He needn’t have buried his daughter that day. It could have been anything that set him off. The coffee jar was empty once so he smashed it and Mama’s cheek bone.

I used to intervene but he’d wind up hitting me, too, and Mama begged me not to, so I stopped. Instead I prayed. When the yelling and the beating sounds started I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together so tight my fingers would get pins and needles. And I’d stay like that until I heard Dad’s snoring and Mama’s quiet sobbing. Next day he’d get up and work the farm like nothing happened.

One evening during dinner I noticed Dad, four beers in, looking at me. I noticed Mama looking at him.

That night after Dad had fallen asleep, Mama came and sat on my bed. Without preamble she told me in whispers that every time Dad was unconscious after drinking hard, she’d sneak a little money from his wallet. Not enough so as he’d notice. But given how much of a boozehound he was, the total sum amassed over the years was not inconsiderable. She wanted me to take the money and follow her instructions. She’d give me the nod some day soon, she said. Dad was unpredictable and if I simply went missing, there was a chance he’d go looking for me. So it was better he think I was gone forever. She would come and meet me and we’d be together again but there were things she had to take care of first and I mustn’t worry if I didn’t hear from her or see her for months or even years.

I understood. I felt strangely calm. I would do as she said.

Seven months after my funeral, tragedy befell the family once again when Justin Bradley was killed in a farming accident. Well, accidents do happen. Poor Lucinda – first her daughter, now her husband. The community rallied, and when she decided there was too much sadness, too many memories to go on there, she was offered more than a fair price for the farm.

And then she came and found me.


The ‘dead person narrating’ technique here seems at first like we have ourselves a ghost in reflection mode at first, but as the story unfolds and the backstory comes into focus, the plot literally thickens. Turns out that poor Lucinda had it all planned out and when her husband meets with a ‘farming accident’, well, the stage may just be set for an off-camera reunion. A good example of subverting expectations and somehow (for a story that opens on the narrator’s funeral) managing to conjure up a happy ending that is very much alive!


Leaves burn. Crimson, red, and burgundy, they tremble against the backdrop of coal-black clouds. Maud always craved the coming of the cooler days. She welcomed the slow shortening of light and the long hours spent curled up in her favorite armchair, but this season the change of weather is making her nervous. The wind wails in the chimney in an unfamiliar way, and the static on the radio sounds like voices. By turn angry and mournful, they whisper of the coming storm.

Maud bends down to attach the watering hose to the connector. Things haven’t been the same since the illness took hold of Dan. The day he checked into the hospital, he smiled and said, “Don’t you worry, love, we’ll be dancing at the fair next spring. You’ll see”.

Maud no longer remembers their first date, their first dance, the feel of Dan’s hand on her hip. Instead, she remembers needles stuck in the knotted blue veins, sticky bandages clinging to paper-thin skin. She remembers the stark white sheets, the aseptic smell of the hospital room. The green tiles of the waiting room floor. The blue uniform of the doctor telling her there’s nothing more they can do.

“No,” she kept saying. “No.” And then, stomping her foot on the green tiles, Maud saw in the doctor’s face that she’s being the difficult loved one every shift dreads.

“Let me take him home,” she said, resigned.

Their daughters have been begging Maud to move to the city ever since that day, as if being cooped up in a concrete box can protect from the unraveling of threads holding the world together. She is too old to pacify herself like that. Too attached to this stretch of land, this color of the sky, these weeds and flowers.

She glances at the house, at the figure seated in the deck chair on the porch. Maud finds comfort in the familiar breadth of the shoulders, the angle of the upturned face.

A sudden gust of wind rips through the garden, beheading the last of the chrysanthemums, and the black Alsatian in the kennel howls, sensing the approaching darkness. Maud wipes the sweat from her brow and tucks the handkerchief away. Time to take a break.

She walks up the porch steps and sits in a chair next to Dan, pours herself a glass of ice tea from the jar. Air carries the smell of smoke. Beyond the tree line, the edge of the sky is a bleeding wound.

Maud puts her hand gently on top of Dan’s, feels the cold of the metal wires holding together his brittle bones. It took her some time to get the knots on the phalanges just right. She gives her husband a sideways glance. If Maud takes off the glasses, she can see the familiar smile in the yellowing jawline of the skull. That’s good enough for her.

“Don’t you worry, love,” she says. “It’s going to be a mighty storm, but we’ll brave it together.”


Much like the story that opened this showcase, once more we have ended with a widow alongside her beloved husband. But in the case of Maud, this tale is a little darker, as she seems to have raided the craft cupboard to keep the spirit of Dan going strong. Using the dramatic change of seasons as a backdrop, we see a flashback to Dan’s illness and a realisation that they won’t be dancing together next spring. Maud has chosen to care for Dan at home, but as she tends to her flowers and the sky paints itself into a bleeding wound (great colour descriptions throughout), we realise – through the metal wires and yellowing jaw – that this skeleton figure of Dan is only alive in Maud’s grieving mind. (But seriously, where are those daughters?)

The final line sums up a lot of the relationships that were on show this month – braving storms together, whether alive or simply as a memory.


Each month, we include an extra LONGLIST (approx 5-10%) of stories that stood out from the submitted hundreds and were highly considered for the showcase. Remember, all creativity is subjective, but if your name is here, enjoy a moment of satisfaction! And to ALL who submitted stories, we’d LOVE to see you again for next month’s challenge!

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

  • COPS AND ROBBERS by Isaac Freeman, SA
  • A QUARREL WITH TIME ON LOVE by Courtney Evans, WA
  • GREAT UNCLE HENRY by Lisa Zeltzer, Canada
  • WHO AM I? By Chloe McLeod, VIC
  • JUNE AND AUGUST by Bruno Lowagie, Belgium
  • STRANGERS ON A BUS by Victoria Daube, SA
  • MAX by Jenny O’Hara, WA
  • GOOD COP by Paula Benski, USA
  • RESIDENTIAL CARE by Charlotte Chidell, VIC
  • UNTITLED by Teri M Brown, USA
  • DRIFTING by Annie Lance, Ireland
  • UNTITLED by Brutus Richmond, NSW
  • TOO MUCH SCREEN TIME by Simon Shergold, USA
  • BEACH DAZE by Sherri Bothma, WA
  • MOMO TWINS by Nina Miller, USA
  • UNTITLED by Zach Lawler, NSW
  • SIZZLING by Robyn Knibb, QLD
  • FLYING LESSONS by J. Lynne Moore, USA
  • NEIGHBOURS by Pat Saunders, WA
  • A BEDTIME IF STORY by Miriam Drori, Israel
  • NOTES FOR A EULOGY by Jaime Gill, Cambodia
  • REFRACTED LIGHT by Simone Bowers, VIC
  • DEAR SISTER by Alex Atkins, Canada
  • WRITING IS LIFE by Anna McEvoy, QLD
  • IT’S NICE AND QUIET by Suzanne Wacker, QLD
  • MY HAIRDRESSER by Anne Moorhouse, QLD
  • AMANDA LEE by Adrienne Tan, NSW
  • NEXT MOVE WINS by Ducky T, QLD
  • UNTITLED by Lisa Verdekal, Ireland
  • THE COLANDER by David Wilson, VIC
  • SWEET TOOTH by Ani Artinian, Canada
  • THE CATERPILLARS by Philip Ogley, France
  • SIDE BY SIDE by Deborah Ferry, NSW
  • I, ME, WE, HE by Djuna Hallsworth, NSW


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