Catherine Ogston, June 2024 Third Prize

On Friday Nights in May I Sit Quietly with a Friend

by Catherine Ogston

The faerie man is sitting next to me, just like last Friday and the one before that, while forest insects buzz and flit and the evening sunlight touches the nodding bluebell heads. So many dogs he mutters, as yet another runs past the signs telling their owners to keep them on a leash. A man walks on the path, a tripod and Cyclops-eyed camera tucked under one arm, followed by another. How about one of them, the faerie asks and I wrinkle my nose. The faerie hands me a bluebell and tells me that turning it inside out will win me the heart of my true love and so I try peeling the soft trumpet-headed petals but they tear like damp paper and fall groundward. Better keep practising, he tells me although we both know the heavy-scented flowers are about to sink down into the forest floor for another year. Last week the man versus bear debate came up and before I had completed my explanation the faerie man told me, with unsettling adamance, to always choose the bear. In his nimble fingers the delicate petals bend and fold obediently. Your sweetheart’s name starts with M he says and I sigh, ask him to do another one because I’ve had it with Marks and Mikes and Martins. No do-overs he tells me and we go back to sitting in silence, only the whisper of the leaves and ferns in our ears. One of the photographers strides past and the faerie says, maybe he is M and I reply that maybe he is a worse option than the bear. How can you tell asks the faerie and I agree, how can you ever, ever tell?

About the Author

Catherine Ogston lives in Scotland. Flash pieces have appeared in anthologies by Bath Flash Fiction Award, National Flash Fiction Day, Reflex Press plus others. She placed first in TD;LR Press 2022, Flash 500 in Nov 2023 and won the Scottish Association of Writers Flash Fiction trophy in March 2024. Catherine has been shortlisted twice at the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize and received a Pushcart Prize nomination. She also writes short stories and longer YA fiction. On X @CatherineOgston


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