Audrey Niven October 2021 Commended

On Rannoch Moor

by Audrey Niven

It’s a clear day. Clear enough. They set off. They have guide-books, knapsacks, waterproofs in breathable fabrics, wicking base-layers, hats, gloves, walking poles, stout boots, sandwiches, hip flasks, energy bars. They have mobile phones – no signal, of course – a camera, binoculars, a book of birds, a book of flora of the Highlands, a compass, a Swiss army knife. Someone has an orange. Someone brought an umbrella and everybody laughs.

They leave behind the hotel with its tea and bacon rolls. They walk towards the woodland. The ground beneath their feet crunches, then it snaps. The pine-needles muffle all the sound in the forest. The forest gives way to the moor. The road – such as it is – meanders off.

Stay on the road.

The moor is eighty-four percent water. It deceives the eye with its low-lying heather, brownish water glinting between its roots.

They read about the blanket bog that lies on the surface, its rocky outcrops and lochans, the slow decay of dying things, the mesotrophic standing water.

The rain pushes in over the mountains and falls on them. There is no shelter on the open moor, so they stand together in a circle, their backs to the weather. They have rain in their pockets. The umbrella blows away. No-one laughs.

By nightfall they are still walking, pushing forward but slower now. They are afraid but they only say so by arguing, by whining like children. They see lights in the distance at last. They are expected. Someone knows they are coming – a reassurance as the wind gets up and stings their faces. They tuck into themselves and press on.

At sun-up the moor lies quiet, the weather undecided. By the side of the road – if you can call it that – a trail of orange peel dwindles away to nothing.


About the Author

Audrey Niven is a Scottish writer, editor and coach who lives in London. Her stories have previously won prizes in the HISSAC Flash competition 2020 & 2021, been listed and published in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, National Flash Fiction Day, Lunate, Ellipsis Zine and Reflex Press. She’s supposed to be writing a novel.@NivenAudrey

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Dara Yen Elerath June 2021 First Prize

The Button Wife

by Dara Elerath

The button wife bends her body across the bed, but the cloth husband is not interested in touching her. Instead, he phones the burlap wife. He likes the way her coarse skin brushes against his body. At night, the button wife cries, recalling how her husband used to clutch the dark thread of her hair. She knows the burlap wife’s curls scratch him in the fashion he prefers. The cloth husband has a passion for roughness, but the button wife, woven from cotton, has only been soft and yielding. One evening, she decides to scour the buttons of her eyes with a steel wool; she hopes her husband will love her again. Soon, they are scuffed and cracked. When her husband comes back he looks at her with anger. You have ruined your eyes, he says, how can I look at you now? Later, gazing in a hand mirror, she notes she is no longer beautiful. She lifts a pair of scissors and snips the strings that knot the buttons to her face. Then she can no longer weep; then she can no longer see her husband leave the house each evening. She irons the hem of her dress in darkness. She waits to hear the sound of his car speeding down plastic blacktop. She dreams of the burlap wife’s hair cutting her skin the way it cuts her husband’s. Sometimes, she pricks her arm with a darning needle to feel. The red thread that unspools from her body is long as a dog leash. She wonders then if she is a dog. She hopes the cloth husband will walk her when he returns. She resolves then to wag her tail in greeting. She resolves then to sleep at his feet.

About the Author

Dara Yen Elerath is the author of Dark Braid, which won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry (BkMk Press). Her first published flash fiction appeared in Tahoma Literary Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Boulevard, Plume, Poet Lore, Hunger Mountain, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. She received her MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts and resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Emma Phillips June 2021 Second Prize

Strong Like Carp

by Emma Phillips

Aoi-chan was strong like a carp. Even when the bombs fell, she hardly flinched, although her best friend Megumi said she laid upon her futon each night and cried the Edo river. Megumi did not have fighting spirit. Aoi was like the Koi she used to feed before the war, when she walked through Sensô-ji Temple with her father.

“See,” Otosan declared, “they dance their beauty but find their strength together. Stay proud, my daughter. Remember your Japanese heart.” Otosan was in the Imperial Army. Aoi ran their stall with her mother now, selling eggs from her grandmother’s chickens and tending each scrap of their yard to grow vegetables. The Koi had disappeared but Aoi kept them safe inside and when the fire bombing started, she drew a pond for them in the ashes. Her father sent her paper cranes inscribed with the symbol for courage.

Aoi joined the search and rescue teams. Her thin fingers and keen eyesight helped pluck survivors from the rubble. The Koi led her to them. Each day they swam through the broken streets and gave her hope. The radio said the Emperor would never surrender but Aoi heard Japan was losing the war. She fed her worries to the fish.

By the time the atom bombs landed, her shoal had multiplied. Their rainbow scales dazzled Aoi and she held onto their tails. In the morning, they were gone, leaving dust on the edge of her eyelids. Where the Koi had led her home, she found American soldiers handing out candy. Aoi refused to chew gum, cursed when Megumi spat pink bubbles from her lips the shape of peaches. Her father returned. Otosan taught Aoi to chase the Koi upstream again. “Old life has gone,” her father said, “now a new one starts.”

About the Author

Emma Phillips lives close to the M5 in Devon with her husband, son and guinea pigs. She teaches in a primary school and has become addicted to Flash Fiction over the past year. She has lived in Japan and China and loves to sing karaoke badly. Her work has been published in Blink Ink, Popshot and Mslexia. If she were a fish, she’d like to be a carp.

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Leonie Rowland June 2021 Third Prize

Reasons You Married a Woman Called Rose

by Leonie Rowland

Please match the following numbers with the correct letter*

a. The love story

b. The proverb

c. The theories

d. The joke

e. The myth

f. The whole

1. Because when you were born, there were tides in the kitchen: boiling water gushing over abandoned pots, falling onto your mother where she lay on the floor, still trying to reach up and stir the pasta, worried it would come to pieces if she didn’t, that your life would start by falling apart. You moved from warm fluid to starchy water and then to hands careful with soap, scenting your skin, a velvet perfume. Your mother says the bubbles were pink, that you were laughing. You still adore the smell of roses.

2. Because you were burned as a baby / because you are lying / because the stars are eating themselves / because you are high on transgression / because you have a hysterical brain / because you hate your father / because you hate your mother / because no man wants you / because your body is craving / because you are split where it matters.

3. Because your breasts were always inadequate, and you deserved a second chance.

4. Because on your first date she made you pasta, and when the water splashed your skin, she kissed it away, took off your dress and folded it, made you realise you were whole before her, with her—all of this for hours, and nothing fell apart.

5. Because you found her at the mouth of a volcano, and the volcano sparked, and the mouth said: there are promises we must keep.

6. Because in this barren wilderness, there are still flowers.

*Answers are subject to change.

About the Author

Leonie Rowland lives in Manchester, where she completed an MA in Gothic Literature. Her debut chapbook, In Bed with Melon Bread, is available from Dreich, and she is Editor-in-Chief of The Hungry Ghost Project. She has recent work in Wrongdoing Magazine, Pareidolia Literary, The Walled City Journal, Sledgehammer Lit and Punk Noir Magazine, among others. You can visit her website or find her on Twitter @leonie_rowland.

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Debra A Daniel June 2021 Commended

Across The Street The Old Man Clears Out His House

by Debra A Daniel

Late every afternoon, Mr. Anderson unloads a rusty wheelbarrow full of giveaways onto the driveway’s edge, displaying each item as if designing a department store window. Duck decoys. National Geographic magazines. Embroidered Christmas stockings. One day kitchen utensils. Cast iron skillet. Shrimp peeler. Nesting bowls. The next day it’s fishing rods, tackle box, a couple of golf clubs.

We watch from our front porch. Me, sipping tea, humming along while my husband plays guitar. He chooses songs he thinks Mr. Anderson would like. Old standards. “Paper Moon” or “I’ll See You in My Dreams” maybe. I tell him I don’t think Mr. Anderson can hear anymore, but my husband plays anyway. Never much of a talker, Mr. Anderson keeps to himself, but once in a while, before he totters back, empty and done for the day, he waves.

Every afternoon, minutes after Mr. Anderson disappears, the young woman who rents the apartment on the corner rolls a wagon along the sidewalk, stopping at Mr. Anderson’s driveway. She picks up each piece, turning it over in her hands. Muffin tin. Sock monkey. Dog collar. Examining. Not to find fault. Not to eliminate.

No, she takes everything, filling her wagon with an old man’s castoffs. Then she pulls her cart away. She lives alone. No roommate or rescued mutt to keep her company. She’s not a talker either, but sometimes she waves, too.

Each day as the clearing progresses, the treasures become larger, the wagonload more precariously balanced. Toaster. Nightstand. Stained glass lamp. Bit by bit she salvages his belongings. Dog bed. Hatrack. Desk chair.

When the weeks pass and the old man is gone, we watch the young woman remove the sold sign and unlock the door. Then wagonload after wagonload she wheels the bits of Mr. Anderson back home.

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, 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 recently shortlisted in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards and is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction at the end of July

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Catherine Deery June 2021 Commended

Where are the Instructions for the Panasonic Full HD 3D Home Theatre Projector?

by Catherine Deery

When you said we didn’t have a future together because we couldn’t watch the same tv shows I thought is was the saddest and truest thing you’d ever told me — maybe the only true thing — even though it wasn’t true at all and I could have enumerated many happy middle-class-couple nights in summer spent side by side on the grey Ikea couch watching wall to wall projections of that cheesy western-meets-space-travel series you adored — all five seasons — in your early eighties bungalow-style red-brick rental house, which was my house too, but in a probationary kind of way never explicitly voiced at the time. Still, the probationary aspect of my existence inside your house was made abundantly clear by how the electronic gadgetry was laid out as a test for me to fail that entire September when you were overseas in Austin, Texas eating dry steak in empty restaurants and driving down state highways, feeling alone and masturbating to the memory of those five weeks three years ago when you hooked up with a rock-n-roll girl with long wild hair — long wild hair does it for me every time, you said — and since we’re being honest with each other that’s the sole reason in November, staring winter down, I shaved my head back to the bony outline of my scalp; I didn’t want a bit part in anyone’s fantasy, not even yours.

About the Author

Catherine Deery lives in Bendigo, Australia. She has been scribbling for a long time, mainly working on short fiction. Her stories have been commended and shortlisted in various Australian awards. Recently her flash fiction was shortlisted for the Smokelong Quarterly Micro Competition, and longlisted for the Cambridge Flash Fiction Award. She is having a go at writing a novel.

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Novella-in-Flash 2021, Winners

Many congratulations to the winners in our 5th yearly Novella-in-Flash Award. Do read our judge Michelle Elvy’s excellent report and comments on these fantastic novellas in flash. All of them will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction and we’re privileged to add them to the Ad Hoc novella-in-flash series.

First Prize Season of Bright Sorrow by David Swann.
David Swann’s flash fiction collection Stronger Faster Shorter was published in 2015. In 2016 he won the Bridport Flash Fiction Competition, his eighth success in a Prize that he judged in 2013. His other publications include The Privilege of Rain (based on his experiences as a Writer in Residence in jail, and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award) and The Last Days of Johnny North, a collection of his prize winning short fiction. He is currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Chichester, where he teaches modules on fiction, poetry, and screenwriting.

Runner-up One for the River by Tom O’Brien.
Tom O’Brien is an Irishman living in London. His Novella-in-Flash Straw Gods is published by Reflex Press and he has another novella-in-flash, Homemade Weather forthcoming from Retreat West, which won first prize in their Novelette in Flash prize, 2021. He’s been Pushcart and Best Microfictions nominated. His flash fiction and short stories are in print in various anthologies such as Blink-Ink and Bath Flash Fiction (forthcoming) as well as many sites around the web including Ellipsis Zine, Reflex, Spelk and 50-Word Stories.

Runner-up The Tony Bone Stories by Al Kratz.
Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife Kristy and their cat Tom Petty. He is the Managing Editor for New Flash Fiction Review and a co-founder of the Flash Monsters!!! blog. More about his work can be found at

Highly Commended Small Things by Hannah Sutherland.
Hannah Sutherland is a writer and teacher from Scotland. She placed 2nd in the Writing East Midland’s Aurora Prize in 2020 and recently won Cranked Anvil’s first Flash Fiction competition. She’s been listed for Retreat West’s Short Story and Flash Fiction competitions, the Flash 500 Short Story Award, The Phare Magazine and Strands International Flash Fiction. Her stories have been featured in The Common Breath, The Phare Magazine, mac(ro)mic and others.
Hannah lives with her husband and son in Aberdeenshire and tweets at @HannahWrites88.

Highly Commended, Things I Can’t Tell Amma by Sudha Balagopal.
Sudha Balagopal’s fiction straddles continents and cultures, blending thoughts and ideas from the east and the west. She is the author of a novel, A Dawn, and two short story collections, There are Seven Notes and Missing and Other Stories.Her short fiction has been published in journals around the world, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions, will appear in Best Microfiction 2021 and is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50. When she’s not writing, she teaches yoga. More at

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Q & A with Geeta Sanker, first prize winner, Feb. 2021

Geeta Sanker

We’re delighted to post this Q & A with Geeta, who won the 17th Bath Flash Fiction Award, judged by Charmaine Wilkerson. Charmaine’s comments about ‘Let Them Eat First‘ are posted in her judge’s report. We’re always interested in what inspires a story, whether it is memory, meetings with others, the written or spoken word, images or other things. Here, Geeta tells us her story was prompted by a striking visual prompt. She is coming to read ‘Let Them Eat First’ and talk about it at ‘Flash Point: Flash Fiction and Social Commentary’, a half an hour conversation with Charmaine and others at our first Great Festival Flash Off Day, 27th March. This will be a fascinating discussion and we hope you can join the festival day to hear them and participate. Do also have a look at ‘Butternut Tosh‘, Geeta’s short film produced during the lockdown with the London Eclective group she is involved with. Another quite different, yet very pertinent type of social commentary. Read in Full

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Geeta Sanker Feb 2021 First Prize

Let Them Eat First

by Geeta Sanker

I’m in the short queue. The slow queue. The women’s queue. Along with the few remaining girls, and Noor to whom I cling as if she were my mother. Noor was a mother; she might still be one. For now, she has my trembling arms around her waist as a reminder. Four days ago creaking wheels heralded the arrival of stale crackers, vegetable oil, and date-filled bars like the ones Father used to buy us on Fridays. Not a morsel has passed our lips since. Not even a drop of water from the old well at the edge of the camp. But I am in no hurry to eat. I can wait until dusk for our queue to progress if it keeps me away from Kareem.

Kareem is in the long queue. The fast queue. The men’s queue. He is many metres ahead, and is instantly recognisable in Father’s coffee-coloured leather jacket from Dubai. It fits him; he has lost weight. After the third bombing, Kareem sifted through the rubble of our house and selected his loot. The most valuable remnants of our once great family. Heba, Nasrin, and Father’s jacket. I played dead beside the corpses of Mother, Father and Sameen. Perhaps Heba and Nasrin are lying still somewhere now, as flies suckle their blood.

I pray for the men’s queue to move faster and it does. They are served swiftly, for they must be strong and they must fight for us all.

“Because they are men.” Mother had often reminded me.

Let them eat first. As long as it keeps me away from Kareem.

About the Author

Geeta Sanker lives in London and works in marketing/comms. Geeta has been writing flash fiction for four years as part of the London Writers’ Eclective. During the first lockdown in 2020, Geeta wrote a short comedy satirising the life of a social media influencer during the Covid crisis. The short film, Butternut Tosh, can be viewed here. Twitter @tweetsgeets

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K.S. Lokensgard Feb 2021 Second Prize

Car Trouble, Spartanburg, August 2002

by K.S. Lokensgard

There on the asphalt, in the sweat-sticky shade of the car hood, cicadas grinding, I ask her to try it again. The engine trips over itself, struggling up and up before guttering out, and that was the last idea I had.

“Thea,” I say. Her name on my tongue: like a piece of candy. Thay-uh. Touching my teeth, soft, and then the air.

“It’s okay,” she says, coming to stand with me by the hood. The day hangs its last breath on the point where our shadows meet. There’s only the wit-wit-wit of a bird nearby and Thea’s braid, hanging over her shoulder like a rope. Her keys jangling in her hand, fingernails blush-pink. Her family’s squat, weedy house behind us, and mine five doors down.

“Let me try one more thing,” I say, no idea in my head except stay here with me a little longer.

I fiddle with the terminals. Again the engine fails.

Across the street, a screen door slaps and Mrs. Henry shuffles out to smoke. I shift behind the hood. There’s grease on my hands, on my nails painted Merlot Kiss, on the dangling end of my own braid. There are many things I shouldn’t touch.

“We tried,” Thea says, close again. Shoulder to bare shoulder. A breeze picks up, and then she’s pulling out a rag and taking my hands and wiping the grease off my palms, slow and easy. The kitten-tongue rasp of the towel squeezes and drags over each of my fingers, each of my heartbeats.

Behind us, another screen door slaps, and it’s the one that counts. But Thea has three fingers left and she finishes each one, squeezing and dragging. Slow, easy. My pulse a sweet and guilty stutter.

“There,” she says, the rag streaked dark in her hands.

About the Author

K.S. Lokensgard is a writer and lawyer from Washington, D.C. Her most recent flash fiction can be found in Cleaver and CHEAP POP.

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