Winners

Kathy Hoyle October 2022 First Prize

The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson

by Kathy Hoyle

When Evaline Jackson saunters into class after summer break, with brand new braids and cling-cling shorts – breast-buds pouting – we swallow down envy like clotted cream.

She flips her long, sun-kissed legs onto the desk and chips at her lilac glitter nails with fine white teeth.

The boys pop-pop in bubble gum bursts.

When Evaline Jackson sighs and rolls her eyes at them, we roll our eyes too.

When Evaline Jackson snips her tube top even shorter, with scissors stolen from art class, and glints her arms with beaded bangles, and steals mocha eyeliner from her mother’s make-up bag and paints curving cat-slants across her lids, we cut and glint and steal and paint too.

When Evaline Jackson eats fries down at Skittle Town Bowl on Fridays, we beg for chore money and cut and glint and steal our way down there. We order fries and roll our eyes too, and watch the boys pop-pop.

When Evaline Jackson says, gotta go, and slinks out to the parking lot, and the boys catch her scent and follow, fox tails flaring, we pull down our too-short tube tops and look anywhere but at the middle-aged fat-gut guys who smash the skittles and high-five each other and side-eye our long legs in cling-cling shorts.

When Evaline Jackson’s seat is empty Monday morning, we stretch our sweaters way down over our knees. We spit glitter polish from our teeth, stuff beaded bangles into rucksack pockets and crush the heels of our palms hard against our wiped-clean eyes to keep them from rolling.

About the Author

Kathy Hoyle’s work can be found in publications such as Spelk, Virtualzine, Lunate, Ellipsiszine, Reflex Fiction, The Forge, Emerge Literary Journal and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She previously won the Retreat West Flash Competition, came second in The Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award, and the HISSAC Prize. third in the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Other stories have been listed in competitions includingThe Exeter Short Story Prize, the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize, Flash 500, and Strands International.She holds a BA (hons) and an MA in Creative Writing and lives in a sleepy Warwickshire village in the UK with her crazy labradoodle.

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Sarah Freligh October 2022 Second Prize

McDonald’s

by Sarah Freligh

The boys again, their sneakered feet and chin zits and peach fuzz. Her boy at that age had been slow to grow, slow to do anything. At fourteen, he still had a voice like a flute and sang soprano in the choir until he dropped out because the high notes hurt his head. Everything hurt his head then – the light from the TV screen, the spin cycle on the washing machine – but she didn’t take him to the doctor until he imagined he could hear voices singing opera on the phone wires. The doctor tapped his right knee and ordered an MRI that lit up his brain pink and purple, like a sunset after a storm’s passed through only the real storm was coming and there was nothing to do but shut the windows and keep him quiet for as long as he had left, which turned out to be five months, three days. Ma’am, the boys call her when they come to the counter to ask for something, salt or straws or cups of ketchup. Ma’am, they say and when they say it softly enough, it sounds just like Mom.

About the Author

Sarah Freligh is the author of four books, including Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis, and We, published by Harbor Editions in early 2021. Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review miCRo series, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Fractured Lit, and in the anthologies New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (Norton 2018), Best Microfiction (2019-22) and Best Small Fiction 2022. Among her awards are poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Saltonstall Foundation.

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Kathleen Latham October 2022 Third Prize

Fourth Grade Science Lesson, Chickasaw City, Alabama

by Kathleen Latham

When Rylee’s class plants papery, brown bulbs in mason jars, she’s sure nothing will come of it. Olivia Hewett told her flowers are born looking beautiful, and she should know because she lives in a house with a bedroom all to herself. Rylee lives with her mama and little brother in the Housing Authority where nothing grows but washed-out patches of grass for dogs to pee on.

“Why can’t we have flowers?” Rylee asks her mama.

Mama rolls her eyes at the question. “You wanna spend five dollars on somethin’ be dead in a week, or you wanna get two roller dogs and a Polar Pop at Circle K?”

At school, Mrs. McCarty says they need to be patient. Olivia Hewett says they need bees. Rylee takes notes in her science journal and waits for the experiment to fail.

Brown lump, she writes. Still nothing.

But then roots appear. Tiny white tendrils snaking against glass.

Worms? Rylee writes.

Next, green shoots, straight as a pencil.

Grass?
The shoots make her fidgety. She tries not to think about them, but at recess she finds a weed with white flowers growing by the fence. She pinches some of its dirt and sprinkles it onto her bulb for good luck. Doesn’t tell Olivia.

A week later, the class arrives to find thirty-one tulips lined up on the windowsill like ladies waiting to dance. Rylee touches hers to make sure it’s real.

Petals like wax, she writes. Purple as nail polish.

The flowers fill her with a hopefulness she can’t define—each of those funny-shaped husks hiding something wonderful.

She saves the petals when they fall off. Keeps them hidden in a plastic bag behind her pencil box. Takes them out from time to time and cradles them in her hand like a promise.

About the Author

Kathleen Latham is a native Californian who’s been living outside of Boston, Massachusetts long enough to have her loyalties questioned. She loves ice hockey, her family, and her cat—not necessarily in that order. A recent winner of the Web Microfiction Prize for Women Writers, her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Masters Review Anthology XI, 100 Word Story, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Tipton Poetry Journal and Constellations. You can find her on social media at @lathamwithapen or online at KathleenLatham.com.

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Debra A Daniel October 2022 Highly Commended

In The Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep

by Debra A Daniel

“Get up,” my grandmother says. “It’s storming. The lights are out.”

I want to say, “Of course, they are. It’s the middle of the night,” but I don’t. She’d tell my mother, and I’d be punished for sassing.

Whenever it storms, my grandmother drags her rocking chair into the hallway. There are no windows. She can’t see what’s coming. She makes me sit with her until the danger of lightning death passes.

In the dark, she recites her storm rules. No bobby pins in my hair. Lightning searches for metal. No petting my dog. Lightning seeks out animals, even jittery ones like chihuahuas. No going into the bathroom no matter how bad I have to pee. Lightning can burst through faucets and drown you in electricity.

I want to ask why she only wakes me and not my mother who’s sleeping in her pink bedroom without my father who isn’t home in the middle of the night.

I want to say I have a math test and went to bed reciting formulas for circles—area, circumference, radius—so I won’t fail, but now I’ll be sleepy and confused by circles that spin me until I’m helpless.

But I don’t speak. I sit near the creak of the rocker and listen to her story about sisters she knew when she was eleven. Sisters struck by a bolt straight out of a blue sky. Sisters who never saw it coming.

“You must watch in bright of day,” my grandmother says. “and darkest night. Especially then. That’s when no one realizes the lights have gone out and you’ve lost your power.”

The black storm surrounds us. I hold onto my pillow and listen to pour of rain, the whipping wind, and, from behind her bedroom door, the sleeping hush of my mother.

About the Author

Debra Daniel, from South Carolina, sings in a band with her husband. Publications include: The Roster, (Ad Hoc Fiction, highly commended for the Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash, 2019), Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher (novel, Muddy Ford Press), The Downward Turn of August (poetry, Finishing Line) As Is (poetry, Main Street Rag), With One Eye on the Cows, Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road, Los Angeles Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Kakalak, Emrys, Pequin, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River, and Gargoyle. Awards include The Los Angeles Review, Bacopa, the Guy Owen Poetry Prize, and SC Poetry Fellowships. Her second novella-in-flash A Family of Great Falls was shortlisted in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in July 2021. She also won third prize in the February 2022 Bath Flash Fiction Award.

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Sara Hills October 2022 Highly Commended

A Beachcomber’s Guide to Desert Grief

by Sara Hills

The boy on his bike is a shark. Each clump of grass? Seaweed. Each broken crash of cholla? A jellyfish. The ground is water—that’s what you tell yourself—not hard-packed desert dirt.

You throw yourself into the waves and float, waiting to feel lighter, waiting for the boy to pass. But he doesn’t. He rolls up next to you and stops, hovering there with his sharp fin, scenting for blood.

You’re here to feel the salt spray on your face, taste the tang of summer on your lips, sense the sun shimmering on water. You’re here to listen, and he’s ruining it.

Doesn’t he know that each inch of this ocean is a cure? That time is held in each grain of sand? That if you get quiet enough, the seashells will whisper your sister’s secrets to you?

They might, but not with him here.

The cool of his shadow falls across your face. His breath is root beer soda and barbecue sauce.

You play at being invisible until he touches you, until his words bubble to the surface.

‘Not dead,’ he says and laughs.

When you open your eyes, you see his bike tire as a whale’s eye. See his mouth, a pufferfish. See that he’s not going to leave. So you leave first.

Each footstep sucks the wet sand and the ocean slowly recedes behind you, out of your memory. The wheels of the boy’s bike follow, spokes flickering, tires spinning up droplets of dust.

For one last glimpse, it’s sunlight on water—every chance at being washed clean—then it’s gone. And it’s just the hard desert dirt all around you, miles and miles of dry despair.

About the Author


Sara Hills is the author of The Evolution of Birds, winner of the 2022 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection, and co-author of a collaborative novella-in-flash forthcoming with Ad Hoc Fiction in 2023. Her stories have won the QuietManDave Prize for flash nonfiction, the Retreat West quarterly prize, and been selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50 and The Best Small Fictions. Her work is widely published in anthologies and magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Fractured Lit, Cease Cows, Flash Frog, Splonk, and Reckon Review. Originally from the Sonoran Desert, Sara lives in Warwickshire, UK and tweets from @sarahillswrites.

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Rachel Blake June 2022 First Prize

Sequelae

by Rachel Blake

She waited for the neighbours to leave for work or driving out along the twisty roads by Minnehaha Falls to a lay-by with wooden chips where girls were dragged, sat in the car, bent her head down into the coat on her lap and screamed. It was never long enough, lips never wide enough to peel the skin from the bones where it itched her skull. The car wasn’t soundproof, it would raise an alarm. People were everywhere, except when you needed them. She’d tried roller coasters, pitching her voice with others down rattling tracks, flung into the side feeling beaten, left, and a kind woman, a mother, asking afterwards: are you alright? Beside railroad tracks when the train shuttled past, screaming with the screeching wheels, the electrical breath hot in her tangled hair, but people were in the windows, perhaps, where she couldn’t see. You could cry anywhere, and tears were there somewhere, but how to get to them, smothered in her plastic wrap voice, eyes of glass and waxwork teeth. She walked through galleries, but art was for the artists, grew the scream if it wasn’t yours, added to it. She painted root-like flesh, faces with smeared, watercolour features, a glance out of the corner of an eye, a smirk and, on the other side of the paper—trees, shifting in patterns of light. She wanted to lie on the ground and stare into those leaves and scream into that light. But they were gone and she couldn’t look, didn’t want to know—not until she could find somewhere private to bleed.

About the Author

Rachel Blake was born in New Delhi, raised in Minneapolis, and has lived in San Francisco, Paris, New Orleans, most recently in the UK and is now in transit to New York. She is always looking for adventure and has worked as a dance teacher and therapist. Her undergraduate degree was in Women’s Studies, and she has an MSW from NYU. One of her short stories was published in Open City, and she has recently completed a novel. She lives with her husband and twelve year old son.

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Madeline Byrne June 2022 Second Prize

Between

by Madeline Byrne

Juliet cleans houses. The wealthy, high-ceilinged kind. She navigates hallways whose walls have absorbed the smell of absinthe, the spritz of champagne, the spell of lovemaking. She changes bedsheets and breathes in clouds of perfume, so potent, they pass through walls like full-bodied ghosts. There’s music, too. The walls take it in, every spin of the vinyl, every child’s violin lesson. Every woman who stumbles home after the opera, drunk and singing and making her lover laugh, cringe.

When Juliet cleans, she leaves a little part of herself behind. She is nowhere and everywhere at once; a payslip in the housekeeper’s tray, a strand of hair in the coat closet that causes her employer’s mistress to worry. Invisible cells of skin in the dustpan. When she walks the city at night, she becomes no one. A traceless blue shadow, an outline.

There was a time when she would walk halfway home before waving for the bus. Listen to the ebbs and exchanges that leaked over café terraces, the notes of heightened, private conversations drifting out of upper windows like the hems of curtains. It had been a time before Michel, before the subdued city. Now, it was a place where one fell into two of four sorts. The visible and the invisible, the dancers and the ones who turned their ear away from the music, toward the wireless with its shifting dials and talk of war.

When Juliet gets home, she watches her son sleeping. She lights a cigarette. Outside, a lone, late-night musician attempts to penetrate the night with the keys of a piano. Inside, the radio murmurs ceaselessly, filling the walls with voices.

About the Author

Madeline Byrne is an emerging writer based in Brisbane, Australia. A former bookseller, she now works as marketing assistant for the little-but-fierce university press, UQP. Madeline lives on the river with her husband and their British Shorthair, Obi. .

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Abigail Williams June 2022 Third Prize

Don’t mistake me for your crabapple

by Abigail Williams

You are in the garden, kneeling among scarlet lupin spears. Savage, you stab the soil with your fork, weed out green tips with dark delight. I find myself lacing the edges of the lawn, shifting from one damp paver to the next. I am ornamental. Like your crabapple which refuses to blossom, I am in the wrong place.

‘Sam’s doing well at school,’ I offer. I hand these pearls, these claims to you, and I feel like my daughter presenting pieces of gravel in the pink crook of her palm, watching me intensely to check I understand their value. You hold the words for long enough to please me, before tipping them out of your ears. It is dangerous to show interest in the grandchildren. I might ask you for something. You fend me off with a long pole.

‘Carol and Jon had theirs again. A whole week.’ You look at me as if I sent them. ‘Carol was exhausted.’

I remember when you planted the lupins. And the hellebores on the shady side. The dahlias and the bee balm. You carved a new shape for the lawn, and you make dad crop it to lush stubs: US marine-green. Your garden is curated. You weigh it daily, your roving eye bleak and calculating. Do the plants feel themselves suspended in your balance, I wonder? Do they sense the threat of the fork, the severing of their clinging arms?

When they are tiny, you are tender. You patrol the borders with your slug scissors. You blanket buds when frost threatens like a mother wrapping winter’s child in a warm towel. But they are like me. Their petals will brown. Their bloom will fade. They will need you too much.

Always the shadow of your fork stripes our shoulders.

About the Author

Abigail Williams (@scribblingabby) lives and writes in Devon. She spent twenty years as a Marketing Director in Leeds, and is now wrestling with her Creative Writing MA dissertation at the University of Exeter. She won the Cranked Anvil Short Story Competition in February 2022, and the Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition in March. She was longlisted in the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize in spring 2022. Abby has been published in the journal Riptide and the anthology, More Gallimaufry.

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Sudha Balagopal June 2022 Highly Commended

On Our Daughter’s Wedding Day

by Sudha Balagopal

I don’t miss wearing bright colors―red, orange, purple―or jasmine in my hair. I don’t miss the elaborate maroon bindis on my forehead. I don’t even miss the taali you knotted around my neck at our marriage ceremony―the one the priest commanded me to remove after death claimed you.

I do miss being a part of the religious pujas from which I must keep my distance as if I’m tainted, as if I’m contagious, as if my cursed ill-fortune can spread.

And, I miss you.

I miss you with an ache in my body’s cradle, where our daughter grew for nine months. I miss you because I cannot shower our child with love on this, her special day. I miss you because I’m told I shouldn’t stand on the mandapam where she’ll place her hand in her groom’s, where she’ll take the saptapadi―the seven steps of marriage―where her groom will tie her taali.

I miss you because if you were here, I wouldn’t be expected to watch our daughter’s nuptials from afar, shredding a moist, muslin handkerchief. I miss you because I’m instructed to stay tucked away, like a pariah, while your brother will take your place at the ceremony and his wife mine―as proxies for you and me.

I miss you, so I heave uneven breaths, then toss the handkerchief in the bin. I miss you, so I adjust the pleats of my sari. I miss you, so I straighten my spine, walk up to the mandapam. I miss you so I stand next to our daughter and her groom, offer them our blessings, yours and mine.

About the Author

Sudha Balagopal is honored to have her fiction in many fine literary journals including Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip and CRAFT. Her highly commended novella in flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. Her work is forthcoming in both Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022.

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Olwen Wilson June 2022 Highly Commended

The Shape of the Situation in Apartment 23C on a Sunday in September

by Olwen Wilson

Sick of soup-stained shirts, unending heartburn, and his wife’s attentive new friend from down the hall, the Horizontal Man decides to attempt standing up. He declares this to the Parallel Woman while reclining on their contorted couch, and out of earshot of their Upside-Down Child. She doesn’t ask why. She hasn’t asked him anything at all since that tall, hot-liquid-loving neighbour moved in.

“I’ll get the Vertical Vixen to help!” the Parallel Woman says through her gummy-grin.

“No! Not her! Ask the Spiralling Boy in 17D,” the Horizontal Man shouts.

His wife’s cheeks blush pink as she flees from his side. Then red when she knocks their Allen-key-assembled coffee table with her knee.

He hears her send the Upside-Down Child to fetch his foe from the Perpendicular Widow’s old apartment. She adds a lunch invitation as thanks before pushing their child toward 23E.

The click of the stove coming to life tells him his wife’s serving soup for their midday meal. He notices his antacids toppled on the table in front of him, beyond his reach.

When the Vertical Vixen arrives, the Horizontal Man can’t get up from the couch to greet her, nor does he want to. The Parallel Woman’s fawning over the Vertical Vixen’s towering frame reminds him of why he does.

Neither of them offers him any help in getting to his feet. Not even when he won’t contain his grunts and groans while scooching himself higher on the cushions.

They’re too busy swapping stew recipes.

Too busy complimenting the other’s smile.

Too busy declaring their undying love for the world above his view.

All he can do is stare at them sideways as his Upside-Down Child joins them to form a new trio.

About the Author

Olwen Wilson is a writer from Canada whose enthusiasm for finding joy in ordinary moments is contagious. She loves to be surrounded by loud laughter, unread books, paint and pens, cuddly cats, warm blankets, and birds singing outside her window. Her first published story, More Sludge Than Pink Popsicle Sticks, is in the Flash Fiction Festival Four anthology. Find Olwen online at olwenwilson.com and only occasionally on Twitter @Olwen_Allwen

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