For the past three or four years I’ve been participating in the Writers Victoria Flash Fiction challenge. Each morning in April they send out a prompt, and the challenge is to write 30 words in response. Here are my 30 entries for this year (plus one extra – after encountering her on the street, I couldn’t resist writing about the little girl in the dusky pink coat on April 21 for the prompt, ‘Gold’).
Alex operated stealthily, secreting $20 notes in toilet rolls, stacking strategic piles of clothes like tidiness. But somehow Barry got the hint, ramping up surveillance, his tentacles of righteousness quivering.
Of course she’d believed him. She’d swallowed it whole and bathed in its glow. The gifts, the flowers, the candlelight. But if he was pyrite, that made her the fool.
The glow of those first days remained for years, cocooning us in a world where everything was good. I thought we could only emerge as butterflies, our wings delicate, together.
The rainbow spread colours across the bay. We ran to the headland to seek our fortune in the rockpools, finding instead a ghostly stingray pup, undulating in slowly swirling seaweed.
We’d always laughed at the icon on the shelf, its tealights and oranges. Tonight it laughed at us, faces grey, toying with noodles. ‘Who’re you gonna call, atheists,’ it chuckled.
‘Yes, his good days are becoming more intermittent,’ she agreed, remembering that there was a time before ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’. There had been a life lived together, unquestioned.
You were no bright star, neither steadfast nor patient. Your moving waters more restless than a river. No swooning, no death for me when the pillow of your breast disappeared.
Solemn-faced, they’d given her a year. Twelve rotations of the sun, or thirteen of the moon. She chose the moon, her hope shrinking with it, swelling with it by turn.
‘You “appreciate” that I “perceive” it that way!’ she echoed, fingers working overtime on air quotes. ‘You appreciate …’ She shook her head, slamming the door on her way out.
Jean was careful with knives, not so careful with people. She could skewer you with a sharp look, metallic twinkle in her eyes, while cutting onions to a fine dice.
Emmy squeals. Shiny, green! Picks it up. Sticks it on her arm, then her leg, her cheek. ‘Don’t put the sequin …’ I start, ‘in your nose,’ I finish, lamely.
There had been a time. There was a photo. She’s smiling, laughing. He must have been behind the camera. The memory shimmers, just on the horizon, just out of reach.
You had been to Granada before, her ghost there with us. She could have the golden altar in the cathedral, but I wanted the Alhambra’s glory for our eyes only.
I had anticipated clouds appearing on the horizon, eventually. They’d be little white fluffy things, puffing up, ebbing away. I hadn’t expected this solid bank of bulbous purple and black.
I wake, screaming, from a nightmare. A room full of subdued people. Decorations – streamers, balloons – hang forlornly. From a screen, Antony Green says, ‘We’re starting to see some trends here.’
At midnight it had seemed romantic. Now it seemed, well, ill-conceived. You’d been more shake than sheik. Trudging back to the oasis, sand chafes. Ill-conceived! That might be tomorrow’s problem.
We used to walk in dappled light among these crowding trees.
It’s your ashes that I’ll put here now. You’re always close to me.
In Agrigento, the light was failing. We ate pomegranate on the terrace. Faint calls crossed the valley. Small shapes careered down the hill, guiding goats into pens. Darkness set in.
It became awkward to have her children visit. Their blinking, averted eyes, their silences and wooden smiles showed what they’d overheard, and what they thought they knew of me.
I’m wavering now. Is he really gold, or just pyrite? An oasis for my resurrected heart or just another mirage, his glow vanishing where the dunes blink on the horizon?
1851. Sydney. City emptied, roads clogged with wagons and walkers. A dusty, shuffling corridor of people, miscellaneous tools at their shoulders. Gold fever lured them. Typhoid fever struck them down.
The little girl wears a dusky pink coat and matching bonnet. She stops in the driveway and pulls off the bonnet. Lips, mouth turn down, arms cross. Gold standard toddler.
Margaret tapped on the grid. ‘What about this one?’ she said. ‘Eleven letters. “Shine in verbal naughtiness until the wee hours”.’ She looked longingly into his ever-sparkling eyes. ‘Ah! Scintillate.’
I have hope without expectation. Hope in the shape of a tiny kernel. It may grow, it may overtake me with its winding tendrils. Or it may rot.
You came into my life like, like what? Like unexpected rain on a dusty roof. I suspect you had an inkling of how it would turn out. I didn’t.
I dream of a prime minister whose intelligence sparkles. This one is a puffed-up meringue, a confection of promises spun from highly-processed sugar, vanishing in your mouth as you bite.
We sit with our backs to the ocean. She has ice-cream. I have coffee. We talk about seagulls, watch them hover and swoop. Her neon smile lights up my life.
This time has softened me, making insistence less attractive, knowledge less sure. And it’s hardened me, closing off the pores in my skin, stopping them from hungering for his touch.
‘Things were simpler when we were kids,’ she says. Yes, I think. We only had the flash and the mushroom cloud to fear. Not this perpetual grinding away of hope.
He had the softest hands. He had a roving eye. He had an angry ex. More than one angry ex. Both knocked at the door that morning. ‘Shhh!’ he said.
Oh my poor heart. This glimmer of care you make embryonic. You bud arms and legs, eyes and ears. From this speck you confect faces smiling stupidly, vows and evermore.