Richard Hooton February 2023 Highly Commended


by Richard Hooton

ICE princess pose, open-palmed hands shielding my eyes from the thousands in the arena, mind blanking out the millions watching on television, just me and the ice, me and the ice, only the routine in my head, perfected, perfected, perfected, my signature triple axel the clincher separating me from the rest, though its ink has bled just like the broken veins blackening into bruises beneath nude tights, clear your mind the psychiatrist instructed, muscle memory, your body knows what to do, trust the training, trust the process, my shimmering blue dress too tight to take deep breaths, brass bellows the opening bars of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.1, arms outstretched, up, pushing away in elegant swirls, ignoring the blood blisters, Ryan’s words creep in like snakes through grass, take hold, he doesn’t understand the dedication, diets, deadlines, why you can’t just have fun, Mother always said he was a distraction, her anxious eyes, all that time, energy and savings she’s invested, driving me to training every day for those six hours of torture, missing out on the best years as others partied, but it will be worth it, this dream or destiny, I’ll finally feel happy with that medal around my neck, finally be someone, finally find peace, increasing speed to the piano’s descending notes, pirouettes, a Lutz double then triple, clean landing, applause, they can’t smell my garlicky sweat, make-up melting as if I’m the Wicked Witch of the West, violin strings soar, I curve backwards, arcing, building to the triple axel, a cliff dive, heart racing, this is my moment, leaping high, first twirl perfect, second, then third, Ryan’s door slamming, the forward edge of the blade hits the ice a millimetre off its axis, my ankle bends, the balance of everything goes, gasps, and something cracks.

About the Author

Born and brought up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Richard Hooton studied English Literature at the University of Wolverhampton before becoming a journalist and communications officer. He has had numerous short stories published and has won several prizes and been placed or listed in various competitions, including winning the Hammond House International Literary Prize. His flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Richard lives in Mossley, near Manchester, and is a member of Mossley Writers.

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