Join the fun. On the fourth Friday of the month join our monthly writing challenge Flash Fiction Friday.
This monthly challenge is open to all NSW Writers. Each month a shortlist will be announced with the winner receiving a mystery prize each month to the value of $50 and entered into the Hall of Fame -see below. To be part of this challenge you must subscribe to our newsletter – Write Now below.
Flash Fiction Friday open at 5 pm on the 4th Friday of the month.
HALL OF FAME
May 2021 Winner
How Now Brown Cow
A small cardboard box rests on the kitchen table where a little girl sits and eats her cereal.
“What’s in there, Grandma?”
“We’re going to make some art today.”
“What are we going make?”
“We’re going to make the kitchen beautiful.”
The girl pulls out a sample pot of paint, then another and another. She holds one up. “What colour is this one?”
“Betty Blue, I think.”
The girl laughs. “Really! Is that what it’s called?”
“It is now.”
“What about this one”
“But the sky’s not orange,” argues the girl.
“It is at sunset. What do you want to call the last one?”
“What does the writing say?”
“What about Sour Puss. That’s what daddy calls me when I’m cranky.”
“Can you guess what the recipe is for green?”
“Colours don’t have a recipe. Only food does.”
“Don’t they? Just watch. One part Betty Blue, let’s put that into the dish. Now add one part Sour Puss. Mix thoroughly”
“Green!” The girl jumps up and down.
“It’s quite bright. Let’s call it Cut Grass.”
The girl watches closely as her Grandmother blends blue and orange in another small bowl and asks what it should be called.
“Brown Cow,” decides the girl.
“Brown Cow it is.”
The girl picks up the bowl and asks it “how now, brown cow?”
They look at each other and burst into laughter.
“Wait a minute.” The woman goes into the lounge and slides her compilation CD of Mozart, Vivaldi, Strauss, and Rossini into the stereo. She looks around the kitchen. “Let’s start on this cupboard, it’s the biggest.”
An orange sky begins to bloom over a sea of cut grass, soon dotted with rotund brown cows and frowning yellow cats. The music picks up and they drop their paintbrushes to waltz around the lounge room, wave arms and point legs and creep across the carpet chasing each other.
By afternoon a blue girl with huge roller-skates dances on the door to a smaller cupboard and a choppy sea carrying a wobbly boat has flooded another. The drawers have become inhabited by birds in trees and suns, moons and stars. Fairies flitter about in the corners of the room.
“Grandma! I’ve got paint on my dress.”
“On your dress? You should see the rest of you. A real wild thing. Let me get a mirror.”
The girl makes a huge ‘O’ with her mouth when she sees orange and yellow tiger stripes through her hair, blue petals on her cheeks and a forest of green on her arms. She looks down at the flaking brown paws of her hands and frowns. “Mummy’s going to be very angry.”
“Don’t worry; you’ll look like an angel again by the time I’ve finished with you.”
The growl of a motor interrupts their cleaning, followed by the inane chatter of a radio D.J. echoing from the carport, then silence.
“Mummy’s home!” The girl runs to the kitchen door and opens it onto her mother, loaded with shopping and folders.
The younger woman’s face drops. “What the …! Mum! What have you done with my new kitchen!”
May 2021 Shortlist
Eleanor Sharman – How Now Brown Cow
The judges comments…
How Now Brown Cow which draws the reader into a world of colour and humour. At first, the judges were concerned about the use of a cliché, but the author uses it to unite the two generations. Both the grandmother and her granddaughter recognise it.
The short story addresses the contemporary issues of play, aging and childcare as well as the curiosity of a child. The dialogue pushes the story towards the conclusion. This is a story that is worth extending so the reader discovers what happens next.
John Walker – The Omelette
The judges comments…
The author of The Omelette introduces tension early and demonstrates the protagonist’s attempts to minimise the conflict, and her frustration. The use of rhyme is an interesting tool and adds some humour.
The in-laws arrived in Australia, and at first they camped down at our place.
Though we had two small kids, there was still a spare bedroom – the problem was never the space!
The problem, in fact, was that mother-in-law was trying too hard to be nice.
And she’d cook the kids’ dinners while we’re out at work, but she’d never include any spice.
Always meat and three veg and some gravy – your typical Pommy cooked meal,
And she’d boil the shit out the cabbage; well, you probably know how we’d feel!
We gave her some hints and some recipes, in the hope that she’d soon realise
That our kids went for curries and pizzas, and even some spicy meat pies.
But that didn’t work, so we had to change tack; we thanked her, but said we’d prefer
That she left it to us to cook for the kids, and she’d cook for just him and for her.
We said, in full truth, that we wanted the kids to wait till we’re home for their dinner.
So they’re eating with us, and we hear all their tales from school – and that was a winner.
It’s so easy to sour a relationship, and that was never my intent.
And, to her great credit, mum-in-law said that she’d understood just what I meant.
And I like to cook, I relax after work, and especially to cook for the kids.
It’s quality time when we dine all together, and I wouldn’t miss it for quids!
So I cooked for us, and they cooked for themselves, and never the twain would meet.
But one Sat’day lunchtime the in-laws declared that they’d found a house in a near street.
A quick lunch was needed, so they could attend: – the auction was scheduled for two.
So I volunteered to cook for us all, and they agreed a cheese omelette would do.
Can’t go wrong with cheese omelettes – as Pommy as chips! – I got down to work on the grills.
Just eggs and some cheese – how boring – what a waste of my great cooking skills!
I chucked all the eggs in a blender, but it needed more flavour, I knew.
So I cut up a few spring onions, and tossed them all into the brew.
I grated the rind off an orange, just to give it a bit of French flair.
And served it up with alacrity, knowing we’d have no time to spare.
Father-in-law was the first to comment, as he carved the omelette into slices.
“What did you do with my lunch – it’s green – I hope you have added no spices!
I’m sorry, I said,– it’s spring onions, I’m sure you’re familiar with those.
But I sniffed as I said it, raising his fears that this green stuff had come from my nose!
I admit it was gross – but – dammit – I feel I was not guilty this time.
Just take care if you’re feeding your in-laws – and remember this terrible rhyme!
April 2021 Winner
Slaughter by Salad
‘She’s been poisoned!’ my father shouted, knocking over his wine glass in haste.
‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ I whispered under my breathe. It took great effort not to roll my eyes.
He leant over my new mother’s body. She had fallen, face first into her salad.
‘Were there nuts in that salad? She’s highly allergic! You’ve poisoned her!’
He was gesturing widely, as if he really cared. He should have used his talents to be an actor rather than a serial killer.
For that’s what my father was.
This was the third wife I could remember. He could have had more before that. I was twelve and had no idea what happened to my own mother. He once told me my mother had just left us. Perhaps that’s true. Perhaps it wasn’t. You never knew with Father.
I wondered if the police would cotton on after this one’s death. Surely there had to be a limit to how many wives can die ‘accidentally’?
Father picked well off ladies, never too rich, people cared more about what happened to really rich people. These ladies were all kind and trusting. When their wills were in Father’s favour they died.
This mother had lasted longer than the other two. I’d hoped maybe I was mistaken that Father was a serial killer.
‘Quick get an ambulance,’ Father shouted at the nearest waiter.
‘Yes of course!’ he said, racing off.
My new sister, just a baby, reached over in the highchair and pulled at her mother’s hair. I felt sorry for Abby. It wasn’t going to be easy.
A new mother would be found soon enough. The idea filled me with dread. I didn’t want another mother dying. I wondered if the police would believe me if I told them I thought my father was a serial killer. I was only nine last death and could barely believe I’d lost another mother. She’d died on a hike with Father. But Father had been shouting at her before they left and he’d had that look, like when the first mother died.
I had no proof. Just the occasional odd comment, a glare, a feeling he was evil.
I looked at my latest mother, saw her back move slightly, and felt a burst of hope. She was alive! I prayed the ambulance would get here in time and she survived. I really loved her. I scooped up Abby as she began to cry.
My father shot the baby a look. Abby’s crying got on his nerves. I didn’t want her added to the list of victims.
A man had rushed from another table in the restaurant.
‘I’m a doctor,’ he said, pulling out a medical bag.
Father ran his hands through his hair. Now he really was distressed.
My new mother would survive. I felt a surge of confidence in that thought.
I would speak up this time.
‘Poisoned was an odd word to choose Father.’
April 2021 Shortlist
Jackie Mohr – Slaughter by Salad
Luke Evans – Unintended Consequences
Eleanor Sharman – Criminal Justice
He looked up as the man reached his table. The newcomer looked like… well… a Norse God… all muscles, strong jaw, blond ponytail. No smile.
“Tee!” the sitting man exclaimed. “Great to see you!”
“Pest. What do you want?”
“C’mon,” the man admonished, indicating the free bench, “don’t be like that.” The giant didn’t move. “You want a salad?”
The titan rolled his eyes, reluctantly sitting down. “No.”
“Don’t do that.”
The big man shook his head. “This isn’t what the arrangement is for. It was supposed to be used to prevent us from fighting each other.”
“And I will, when that happens. Meanwhile…”
Tee frowned and leant across the table. “Have you no respect?”
“Don’t be a baby. What I have is the need for certain things to occur the right way… gods’ willing.”
The big man grunted, looking away. “Unbelievable. You summon me to this… what do you call a place like this?”
“A family restaurant.”
“There’s a woman dancing on a table over there.”
“Yes. She has a family too. Three kids that have to eat. Her name’s Destiny. Don’t be so judgey.”
“It’s not like wine-houses were better back in your day.”
The giant grinned. “They weren’t like this.”
“Anyway,” said the Pest. “I need a favour.”
“You have got to be kidding!” Tee boomed. Other patrons turned. Destiny missed a beat, but, being a consummate professional, quickly recovered.
“This attitude’s not helping,” the Pest remarked. “I assume you’re familiar with ‘Set’?”
“As in ‘to set the table for dinner?”
“As in the Egyptian god of chaos … and storms?”
“Oh,” Tee mumbled. “Him.”
“Yes,” his host replied, whispering conspiratorially. “Word has it he plans to disrupt a fundraiser for underprivileged children tomorrow. Throwing up the mother of all storms.”
Tee’s eyes widened. “Bastard!”
“Never liked him. Anyway… I was planning to stop it… for the kids.”
Tee frowned, shaking his head. “He doesn’t like interference. None of us do.”
“Ah.” The Pest looked away, feigning sadness. “I wonder if Aeolus is available?”
The colossus scowled, his eyes suddenly as dark as winter storms. Thunder cracked in the distance. “Don’t do that, Godpest. I’m warning you. I will not be manipulated.”
The Godpest held up his hands innocently. “Thor. I wouldn’t, honestly. Look… there is a storm coming…”
“Unbelievable,” growled the Odinson. “This isn’t what the power is for.”
“If it rains, we can’t play golf and if we don’t play, we don’t raise any money. For the kids.”
“Golf?” repeated the Thunderer. “I’ll rip out your eyes and hit them into the furthest hole I can find.”
“Later. First, I need a weather update. Sunny skies, with a chance of a light drizzle after four?”
The Godpest smiled, calling a waiter over for drinks. “You’re my favourite, you know?”
Thor, Son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, smiled reluctantly. Flattery always went a long way with the gods.
“Did you really call Poseidon to get your keys out of a lake?”
“Happy Birthday Natasha” Anya reached over the table to clink glasses with her sister.
“The parole Board had a meeting the other day; Joseph has been given early release. He’s coming out next month.” Natasha couldn’t suppress her smile.
“Already!” Anya leaned back, “doesn’t he have to go to half-way house or something, first?
“God no! That’s only for serious criminals,” Natasha laughed.
“He’s still a criminal”
Natasha rolled her eyes.
“Where’s he going to stay, then?”
“At home, of course.”
“What,” Anya’s eyes widened, “at your place?”
“I thought you guys had agreed to split up.”
“Well,” Natasha shrugged, “I thought he’d be in for longer. And it was less complicated to get the Single Parenting Payment for Emma. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cover the rent and everything.”
“So you’re still deceiving the government.”
“No, I’m not deceiving anyone,” she levelled her eyes at her sister, “and I never did.”
“So you really didn’t know what he was doing?”
Natasha shrugged. “Sure, I knew he was working all that time, but I didn’t know it was cash in hand and that he wasn’t declaring it to Centrelink.”
Anya lowered her fork. “So he does lie. I don’t know why you’d want to be with someone who lies to you.”
“He didn’t lie, he just neglected to tell me.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is.”
“Let’s get another bottle of wine. Where’s the waiter gone?” Natasha scanned the stripped timber walls dripping with potted ferns and fairy lights.
Anya raised her eyebrows. “Shouldn’t you have water instead? Aren’t you breastfeeding?”
“Not much anymore. Do you want some more salad? I’ve had enough. “
“Are you eating enough greens? You look tired.”
“Of course I’m tired. I have a baby. I’m going to the loo.” Natasha stood up. This was a mistake, she decided as she pushed open the door to the Ladies. Facing the mirror she pulled the same silent scream face that she used give her sister when they were kids and laughed at the thought of doing it to Anya now. That wine’s gotten to me already, she realised as she wove her way back to their table.
“So, Anya, how’s the business going?”
“We’re both really busy, can’t keep up with the orders. We need to up production.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? That you’re finally making money? Weren’t you going to try to have a baby this year?”
“Well…yeah,” Anya looked down and played with her food, “but it’s too much for Terry on his own, even if I still work part time.”
“Perhaps you can take on someone else, a casual.”
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that. We could probably afford it if we didn’t have to cover tax and Super and everything, if we can find someone willing to work for cash-in-hand.”
“Oh? I know someone who’ll be desperate for work, soon,” Natasha grinned.
“Oh yeah? Who’s that?”
“Joseph, of course!”
A look of confusion passed over Anya’s face. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Of course I’m kidding. But what about you? Who’s the criminal now?”
March 2021 Winner
Kate loved the zoo after dark. No noisy tourists. Just her and the animals. Apart from the skunks and foxes who roamed the night, most of them would be deep in slumber by now. Not for the first time, Kate wondered if they dreamed. She checked the lions. They were tucked up tight in their cages, so too the hyenas, but when she reached the elephant enclosure, her heart did a double flip. There were supposed to be three elephants. She could only count two.
‘How goes it Kate? Everything all right?’
Kate jumped at the crackle of the radio and Ed’s voice in her ear. She pictured him leaning back in his chair, feet up on his desk, the smooth contour of his arms.
‘Kate? You okay?’ A wary edge to his voice.
She must stop thinking about his biceps.
‘Yes. No. I…’
She knew his chair would be firmly planted on the floor by now, and he’d be on his feet, ready to run, sensing an animal in trouble.
‘What about Eleanor? What’s happened?’
Kate hesitated not sure how to answer. She took a deep breath. ‘It’s more like, where is Eleanor?’
Ed was there in five minutes staring at the sight of Josie asleep on the ground, Oscar, her calf, curled up beside her. But no Eleanor.
‘How the hell did she get out?’
Kate felt the blood drain from her face. ‘The gate. I taught her to open gates.’
‘I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t…’ Kate turned away, close to tears.
Ed took her by the shoulders. ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘Look at me. It’s okay. We’ll find her.’
Kate nodded, not trusting herself to speak, aware of the warmth of his touch.
Night casts a different light on the world with sounds both muffled and amplified, the forest canopy merging with the sky. Kate headed south, her torch and the moon chasing shadows down the path so that she couldn’t tell what was real and what was imagined. She thought about Ed heading north. What if they couldn’t find Eleanor? What if she’d escaped?
She heard the elephant before she saw her. A low rumbling sound. ‘I know where she is,’ she said into the radio, and took off at a run
Kate and Ed sat on the rocks and watched Eleanor wallow in the water.
‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ said Kate. She turned toward Ed, a wide smile on her face.
‘Yes, she is,’ he said.
Kate’s mouth turned to a soft oh she realised Ed meant her. Then he was leaning into her.
Eleanor submerged a few more times, then, when she was done, waded from the pool and headed home.
Kate barely spared her a glance. She was intent on some wallowing of her own, wrapped in Ed’s warm biceps. She hoped the elephant remembered to shut the gate.
March 2021 Shortlist
Leonie Harrison Night Games
Kelli Dragos The Zoo
Robyn Hatherly A Night in the Zoo
“This nightclub is a zoo,” said Rita, reading my mind. “I guess that explains the name” I quipped back. I had heard whispers of strange goings-on here, of party-goers coming in for a Friday night shimmy and reappearing, disorientated, the following Tuesday in the distant town of Port Macquarie.
We fronted the bar and I noticed the barman had an elephant tattoo on his pinky finger. It was the same as Eleanor’s. “Hey mate, where is Eleanor,” I asked? “Never heard of her,” he said in a strangely singsong tone. That’s odd, Eleanor sat in the cubicle next to mine and often regaled me with stories of her weekend job at The Zoo.
I noticed an elderly man who vaguely resembled the Speaker of the House, dancing in a cage above the stage. Zoo was right alright, I thought with a zing of interest. Looking further into the dimness I noticed a flowered path leading further into the club. Strange I hadn’t seen it before, now that I looked again it was obvious.
“C’mon Rita, I’m curious about this place. It looks like a mix of Sergeant Peppers and the Hellfire Club. I want to check it out.” The barman looked at me and passed across two shots that glowed with a pearly luminescence. “They’re our house cocktail “Shut the Gate Mate”. You’ll be needing them,” he said. “On the house.“
We shot the shots and looked at each other. Nothing happened.
As we pushed our way forward further into the Zoo I noticed I could see the music in colours and patterns. When I thought of a word I began to taste it in my mouth. “Let’s dance” immediately conjured the taste of meringue in my mouth and my eyes widened. Swirls of turquoise, blue and gold engulfed us as Florence and the Machine soared through the club. I looked at Rita and tasted Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Feeling faint, I disappeared.
As the world surfaced again I was conscious of a brusque bearded man in green hospital scrubs. “You’re in the Port Macquarie Base Hospital. You were found in disarray on Town Beach.”
The words “beach” conjured the taste of salted green beans. I could taste the word. A distant radio played and swirls of yellow and green washed through the room.
“We’re testing you for synesthesia. You’re the forty second person to be found in this condition at Towns. All have an Elephant tattoo on their pinky finger and all claim to taste words and see music. The synapses in your brain that control your senses have somehow crossed over and you washed up here.”
The yellow and green swirls began to mix with silver and purple swirls as the song changed. Thinking of the song caused my mouth to taste a crispy potato scallop with plain salt. It was a new world. “Where’s Eleanor” I demanded!
A Night at the Zoo
The trumpeting scream washed like a giant wave across the zoo.
‘What the hell’s going on?’ roared Bruce the lion.
Across the path and into the crocodile swamp his roar echoed waking Beryl the crocodile.
‘Oh no. Poor Geoffrey the elephant. Are you Ok darling?’ Beryl sashayed her hips, purring to Geoffrey.
Wally, the chimpanzee scratched his backside, yawned and lisped ‘He’th lothst Eleanor again. Why dothen’t he look after hith toyth? And you can thtop flirting Beryl. It’s embarrathing.’
‘I saw a kid duck through Geoffrey’s gate into his cage as the zoo was about to close.’ Bruce growled. ‘Pesky kids, always getting in the way. I know how to deal with them!’ He shook his mane and bared his teeth.
Wally cowered against the tree trunk ‘I don’t like it when you do that Bruthe. Do you think the kid took it?’
‘Hey Geoffrey.’ Bruce roared.
‘Where is Eleanor? Have you got her, you nasty piece of fur? You know I can’t sleep without her.’ Geoffrey stamped his right foot which landed squarely on a large watermelon which shattered into a million pieces.
‘Hey, who are you calling a nasty piece of fur? You’re nothing but an enormous dried out old prune.’ Bruce pushed his face against his wire cage, forcing his cheeks through the gaps.
Wally chattered away, jumping up and down ‘Don’t fight. You’ll have the ranger come out and go mad on uth. Beryl, Beryl! Where did you go Beryl? Don’t tell me you’ve dithappeared too. I think we might have a portal opening up and thingth are being taken into thpace never to be theen again.’
‘Portal! Are you crazy you silly baboon?’ Bruce roared.
‘I’m not a baboon, I’m a chimpanthee. You moron.’
‘I’m over here boys.’ Beryl blew her breath seductively out of her nose. ‘Now just stop fighting and think how we are going to settle poor Geoffrey down. Perhaps I could sing to you Geoffrey. Would you like that?’
‘I want my teddy bear! I miss her cute face and ripped ear. I miss her cuddling up to her at night.’ Trumpeted Geoffrey.
‘Don’t you dare start singing Beryl. What if I tell you a story?’ Bruce licked his paw.
‘Yeh, the one about Daniel in the Lionth den. I love the ending to that thory.’ Wally screeched as he jumped from one branch to the other.
‘I don’t want a story, I don’t want singing and you Wally can just shut up. Your screeching is driving me crazy.’ With that, Geoffrey lifted his foot (not the one smothered in watermelon) and was about to smash it onto the ground when he noticed two beady eyes looking up at him. ‘Eleanor!’ He grabbed hold of her in his trunk and brought the very dirty, dishevelled teddy against his cheek. ‘I thought I’d lost you.’
‘I think he’s crying.’ Bruce growled disgusted.
‘Oh, he’s so sweet.’ Beryl cooed.
‘Now leth all get some thleep!’ Wally demanded.