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Read the winning entries in the DLF 2015 flash fiction comp. Judges Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen


Thursday, October 08, 2015

RESULTS 2015 DROMINEER LITERARY FESTIVAL FLASH FICTION COMPETITION

JUDGE SARAH DAVIS-GOFF & LISA COEN from TRAMP PRESS

 

 

  • 1st - Peleliu by Molia Dumbleton, USA
  • 2nd  - Winding Sheet by Una Mannion, Sligo
  • 3rd  - Reconstruction by Barbara Leahy, Cork

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED  - Comfort Blue Skies by Fiona O'Connor, Kildare
  • HIGHLY COMMENDED - Fathoms by Sinead Gleeson, Dublin
  • HIGHLY COMMENDED  - Laundry Girl by Angela Carr, Dublin


1st - Peleliu by Molia Dumbleton, USA

Peleliu

 

 

Inocencio sits on his front porch, as usual, wearing an undershirt, smoking a hand-rolled stogie, and keeping an eye on his chickens. He keeps a fire extinguisher on the cement slab by his chair, to scare the neighborhood cats when they come prowling.

Someone killed Inocencio once, in the coconut groves of Peleliu. Just a boy, but strong, squeezed the air right out of his body, and the last thing to shut down was scent. He still smelled the coconut grove when they woke him in the hospital and told him they’d taken Ngesebus. Still smelled it sometimes even now. A boy killed me once, he told anyone patient enough with his slow whisper, the only voice he had left. I’ll never forget how easy it was.  

Ngesebus? they would ask. Peleliu? Are those places? People used to mark things in time. Before the war. After the war. But few saw the war as before-and-after anymore. It was a hard thing, to live, so aware of every neck and how small, how soft. How close that pipe is to the skin, how crushable those coiled ridges, in the strong hand of a man with intention. How pliable a boy’s intention can be.

His neighborhood isn’t a car place; people walk the street to get to the places they go. Young mothers with young children, old women, sometimes an old man, or pair. Not many young men, and Inocencio tells anyone who is patient enough what he knows about gorilla troops: how nonviolent they are, how peaceable. They don’t eat meat unless a young male is around, he whispers.

The neighborhood girls grow and come down the street together, without their mothers, and he counts them going out, coming in. He knows they think he’s leering but he lets it be, because he’s only guarding the perimeter, keeping track of the troop. Every girl back to its mama, every boy chased to territory’s edge. He has no voice, no body left to save them, but vigilance, he has.

Through squinted eyes he watches the neighborhood boys puff and thicken. Every season’s top boy inherits the speck of flint in his eyes, the large hands of his chased-out father. And one by one, the girls change too. The ones he had watched toddle by, holding the hands of their mothers, who still seemed to him to be only recently women themselves.

Year after year, Inocencio watches the boy with the newly big hands catch a girl’s new scent, and come nipping at the edges. Inocencio shouts, in whispers. But the once-newborn girl he remembers cooing at her mama’s chest catches the scent of power, and goes deaf, every time, like a dog that cannot hear its master once it’s seen a fox.

Inocencio fingers the trigger on his extinguisher, running across a 115-degree airfield, beckoned by the promise of shade and safety of a coconut grove, and hoping to god he will someday forget the things that boys, even he, can do.

 

Molly's fiction has found its way into The Kenyon Review, The New England Review, Witness, Hobart, and other journals in the United States. But more notably, two years ago almost exactly, she was awarded the Sean O'Faolain Short Story Prize and was able, at the last minute, to scramble up a flight for her mother, her daughter, and herself, to attend the short story festival in Cork, where the people--many of whom are here in Tipperary this weekend--could not have offered a kinder or warmer welcome. 

Molly is so thrilled to extend this incredible honor to Dromineer, and is flattered to be among such august and lovely company. 

 

 

 

  • 2nd  - Winding Sheet by Una Mannion, Sligo

 

 

Winding Sheet

                                                                                                                       

We move through the tall grasses, beating out a cloud of pollen dust, the itchy bits sticking to my arms, damp already in the morning heat. There are close to a hundred of us wielding branches and makeshift scythes, swinging them side to side, like grim reapers. Underfoot, the humming earth teems with life.

            I don't want to be the one to find her body. I pray. “Don't let it be me.” Just finding clothes outside discarded and exposed to the elements disturbs me, how the rain, dirt and sun solidify the fabric into its own faded bent shape, into a spectre of something missing.  Deena's face, eyes open, white skin against the dark mulch of earth, flashes through me, unbidden. I think her eyes are asking me for something: Please help me. Give me to my mother.

            “It's been five months. We're not looking for a live body,” the search coordinator said at the briefing. Deena disappeared and she is dead, murdered by her husband. Less then a mile away, they found her car, her blood in pooled stains on the passenger seat. I hadn't seen her since college and the loneliness of her marriage and death makes my throat ache. 

            Towards the end of the day, we enter an area of woodland where trees have fallen haphazardly and sit in the felled space, razed cruciforms and fallen pews naturally formed.  We haven't found her. Maiden hair ferns grow out of porous spaces of the broad trunk beneath me, and I look up towards the cupola of leaves and light. It is so beautiful here. We all sit in the hushed copse with our own thoughts.

            One afternoon Deena and I went with our Greek Theatre class to a bluff on the edge of a mountain. We were enacting scenes from Antigone. The unburied body of Antigone's brother lay on the cliff, a pollution against the earth, against men. We sat on the rocks and one of our classmates moved forward, carrying a small pail of earth that she sprinkled over the body, a ritual the gods demand.  How could we know then what this might mean to us. We stayed out there until the sun set and as we walked back to campus in the half-light, Deena was beside me. She knelt down, scooped up fallen leaves and crunched them in her hand, holding them up to me to smell in her open palms.

            “That's sassafras,” she said, a clear clean smell from the forest floor something between fennel and citrus.

             I imagine her now, somewhere near us where we can't find her, her arm reaching out to us like the branch of a tree as tendrils shoot out and look for track, the cellular breach as they wind and grip into her white skin.  Her open palm host to pupae, or maybe holding a fallen leaf. Roots that bind and swathe, wrap her, drawing her back into the loam, the earth her winding sheet, performing her ritual.



Una Mannion lectures in Performing Arts at IT Sligo and is currently enrolled in the Writing MA at NUI Galway. She is a member of the Sandy Field Writers' Group based in County Sligo. She is the winner of the Yeats' Society's Seamus Heaney Memorial Poetry Prize 2015 judged by Paula Meehan. She writes short stories and flash fiction. She was one of the four shortlisted writers in the Listowel Writers Week Originals Short Stories 2015. Three of her stories were shortlisted in the Fish Memoir Competition 2015 and her flash fiction was longlisted in Fish 2015.

 

 

 

 

  • 3rd  - Reconstruction by Barbara Leahy, Cork

 

Reconstruction

 

When she returns to work on Monday morning, Olivia thinks she's walked onto a film set.  Someone's done a pretty good job of replicating her office.  It almost fools her, but the door swings open a little too easily, the lights are a little too bright.  Floorboards ring hollow under her heels.  It's as if the whole building's been torn down and reconstructed from cheap planks of deal, painted with familiar scenes, scattered with familiar props.  All around, actors are in situ, eyes trained on computer screens.  The woman playing Angie looks right through her.  'Welcome back!'

            Heads turn.  Greetings bounce past Olivia, hit the back wall, lose momentum on the rebound.  She finds a vacant desk in the corner where she used to sit.  Someone has matched the mosaic of post-it notes she left clinging to her computer six months ago.  The yellow squares are covered with writing just like hers.

            Fake-Angie looms over the partition.  'How're you feeling?  You look grand,' she says.  She lowers her voice to a whisper.  'You look just the same.'  Then someone doing an impression of Mr. Neary arrives at the fax machine, and Angie ducks back down.

            Olivia wonders what to do.  Beside her, the photocopier hums a plausible monotone.  When a telephone rings at the other side of the partition, Angie answers it with an authentic air, holding an elaborate one-sided conversation.  Olivia tries to remember how things were before she went away.  Back when things were real.

            It's a reality TV show.  Everyone's acting normally for the cameras.  She plays along.  She types, and answers phones, she reads emails and files them efficiently.  By lunchtime she's getting good at the game.

            In the canteen she finds Roy sitting where Roy always used to sit, tie thrown over one shoulder, sandwich dripping mayonnaise onto page three.  'Howya Liv?' he says.  She takes her tray and sits beside him.  'All go okay?' he asks the wall opposite them.  She looks at the paper, at the young girl pointing symmetrical breasts at the camera.  Roy turns the page fast, but a bare breast, translucent with grease, shines through.  He finishes his sandwich in one mouthful.  'Gotta go, under pressure.'  He flips his tie back into place.  'See you later.'

            When he's gone, Olivia turns the page back to the girl with the see-through breast.  She looks into the hole in her chest and sees a glut of poison swelling to bursting point, a scalpel slicing through diseased tissue, a gloved hand sliding a sac of synthetic gel into the wound.

            There's a burst of voices and clattering of trays, as the women Olivia used to know join her at the table, and the girl on the paper fades into the next page, her hollow chest filling with the words of other people's stories.

 

Barbara Leahy is from Cork. She started writing in 2010, and since then her stories have appeared in various anthologies and journals, been broadcast on national radio, and won several prizes. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in both the short story and flash fiction categories. Last year one of her stories was highly commended at Dromineer so she's delighted to have won a prize this year.

 

 

 

 

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED  - Comfort Blue Skies by Fiona O'Connor, Kildare

 

 

Comfort Blue Skies

My room smells like Diego has done a wee in here but not as bad. I roll the sheet into a ball and stuff it in under the bed right next to my PJ’s and pound them into the wall with my feet. I cover the mattress with the duvet, the pillows, then my giant Sumatran tiger Fluffy, daring anyone to go there. Dad’s not up yet so there’s nothing, just the smell of Sunday morning at the bungalow, which is not like Monday, so that’s good.

 

“Come on, Diego.” I open the door and he boots it down the hall into the kitchen, skidding on the brown lino straight into his litter tray. I get his last Whiskas pouch from the box on the sink and he hops onto the table and head butts me while I’m trying to open it. The jelly has gone hard so he has to wait while I get a fork and mash it for him. Then he shoves his face into the bowl and he’s happy. I put half of my bum on the chair because it’s so freezing and warm my hands in his purry fur and stare at the broken washing machine.

 

Dad’s still having his lie in. If Granny was alive he would get up, because she’d be doing him a big breakfast at her house and he wouldn’t miss that, oh no. She’d be making me soft scrambled eggs with melted cheese on half a toasted bagel, and I’d be sitting in her warm kitchen and she’d be smiling and telling Dad to cop on and leave me alone, and why wasn’t he making me breakfast anyhow, what was wrong with him?

 

Diego is done so we walk around inside the bungalow looking for the sun. The sitting room curtains are closed and Dad’s wine bottle is still on the table and he has peanuts all over the brown sofa.  Diego makes for the window sill and I hide him in the sun behind the curtains.

 

Everything at the bungalow is rotten. There’s a grey metal shed in the yard that Dad won’t go into and the light is broken every time I look inside. There’s my bedroom which is rotten because it’s green and he never bothered to paint it for me because I only come to him at the weekends and he doesn’t care about bedrooms and never even opens the curtains in his room. It’s just a rental is all he says.

 

I look into Dad’s room. He snores with his mouth open on the pillow and his arms hanging out over one side of the bed the way they always do and I go in and get under the duvet and close my eyes really tight so everything just smells of him. The shed is full of Granny’s stuff, boxes of sheets washed in Comfort Blue Skies and hiding behind the boiler just waiting to be opened, her washing machine, bubble wrapped like a present.

 

 

Fiona O’Connor lives on top of a hill in County Laois with her husband, son, four cats and two pet mice. She is completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. Her flash fiction is currently published in UL’s literary journal The Ogham Stone.

 

 

 

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED - Fathoms by Sinead Gleeson, Dublin

 


FATHOMS

 

 

“Did you catch anything?”

She hears him and calls out before she sees him, bringing the salted air into the house. The stomp of his boots at the back door.  From the kitchen sink she can’t see his boat. On the shore, the rocks slant like blades of grass blown by the wind. The sea creeps slowly over the stone jetty she tells the children never to walk on.

 

He snakes an arm around her shoulder, kissing her neck.

“Of course. Did you doubt me?”

Triumphant, he throws down a hooped ring of pollack and young whiting.

The house is empty but she blushes, conscious of her stomach.

 

“The kids not home yet?” He fishes a pea from the bowl she has just shelled.

“Back at 6. They’re across the road with the Murphy twins”.

 

They have never lost this easy way with one another. His hair is greying, his skin rougher, but the kink of his smile still makes her heart totter in her chest. Her father was wrong about her marrying Tom and she can still see him, standing on the deck in his oilskins ordering her around the boat. Sometimes he’d try for sharks off Achill, and she’d have to chum the water. The dark slate of the sea turning red, as curious gulls followed the boat.

 

She prepares a fat chicken stuffed with garlic, herbs from the garden and hemispheres of lemon like stained glass. Three children is the perfect family. Tom wants another baby but her bones will not take it. From the kitchen window, she watches the tide move into the stony crescent of the bay carrying Paddy Moore’s red boat. It was once her father’s, but when he died, Tom gave it away without discussion. Made sense, he said. She thought of the striped mackerel Paddy sometimes leaves in brown paper by the back door. Guilty payments.

 

There’s stew in the freezer, she thinks, and crabmeat. They won’t starve.  A familiar pulse of pain in her back. The metal plate holding two discs in place and she imagines the bones worn smooth as seaglass. In two days, she will be back here. Home.

 

Every day, she longs to be out on the water. The crests and lulls, the hard pull of the oars. Casting for turbot and ray, away from the children and Tom letting them do what they want. In two days, she’ll return like a Sheriff to unpick the knots of bad behaviour.

 

Once she caught a Mako shark, the first in the family to land one. Her father never allowed her to fish again. After that, her sole job was gutting and filleting, the blood slime and razor bones of it. In the morning she’ll take a bigger boat to the chaos of the city. And when it happens - this thing she has chosen to do - she will close her eyes and imagine the bay, like her crooked spine, the tang of sea air in her lungs.

 

 

Sinéad Gleeson is a journalist, broadcaster and editor. Two of her radio essays have featured on Sunday Miscellany on RTE Radio, and her essay "Hair" features in the current issue of new literary journal Banshee. She is the editor of two short story anthologies, including The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers.  

 

 

 

  • HIGHLY COMMENDED  - Laundry Girl by Angela Carr, Dublin

 

 

Laundry Girl by Angela Carr

 

Fifteen, feet in stirrups, your hands alternately poker fists, diving deep into the sea of mattress, or landed fish, twitching on its shore. Contractions come every few minutes now. The nun adjusts the trolley by the bed, re-fixes the mouthpiece, coaxes you to breathe:

 

It helps, she says.

 

You push her away, but you are not the first; she is all brusque efficiency. You focus instead on the pain, pant to the quiet hiss, and gag: its rubber taste, a dead weight on your tongue. NO. Your fingers pluck at the hose.

 

Don't be a silly girl. It's for the pain.

 

The pain. Yes. It slices through you again and you buckle, skin pulled in six directions at once. Too many things to keep hold of: your knifing body, slick with sweat, chopped hair plastered to your face, your freshly shaved mons, raw and exposed, the room's glaring lamps darting across the ceiling and back.

 

The nun's voice s-l--o---w----s: explodes like a depth charge in your head.

 

Mouth cold, tongue swollen, you cannot speak your numbness and succumb to the gas, eyes rolling back. The last thing you see is the nun panic, as she realises something is wrong.

 

***

 

A body, limp on a bed, tubes worming its arms. A woman pats a damp cloth on its face; a doctor labours. You watch from the ceiling. Baby's a girl, but she's big. And breach. They're having trouble getting to her, but this does not concern you. You cannot put your finger on the reason why.

 

***

 

Awake: the cold of metal, the inexorable advance of scissors cutting, and a new flash-point of pain. A guttural cry startles you; you cast about for the animal that made it.

 

Stay with me. PUSH.

 

The animal howls. A dog, you think, flayed and trembling, beneath the bed. You clutch the nun's arm and hiss: Get it out. Hands on the onion paper canvas of your belly, assess position, push the baby into place. Metal again. Howls, again. Not a dog. Could it be the baby? A lurch of horror. Ruthless fingers gouge the open slit of the episiotomy. Mountainous pressure bears down: an eclipse.

 

You must PUSH.

 

Tears, exhaustion, the loss of feeling in your legs. The impossibility of a baby; of it trapped on the cusp, permanently lodged, umbilically attached, howling inside you. Then, a last tearing and it slips free. Bubbles of hot fluid spill from your gash and you fear everything — organ, bone, muscle, meat — will be seized in its bloody tide.

A smack and a sharp cry. You struggle to focus: she is purple, red, a shock of hair matted black, a crumpled face. Nuns swallow her in a blanket and bundle it from the room.

 

Acid fills your mouth and you vomit; it drips from your chin. You lie, sobbing, as the sweat cools on your skin, the filthy gown, the damp bed, and the dark February morning creeps up your dead legs and inside you.

 

 

Angela T. Carr is a Dublin-based writer and poet, published in Mslexia, Bare Fiction, Abridged, The Pickled Body and Crannog, among others. Three times short-listed for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, her debut collection, How to Lose Your Home & Save Your Life, won the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition 2013, and was published by Bradshaw Books in 2014. She has read at literary events around the country, including the Irish Writers' Centre, Dublin Writers' Festival, Cork Spring Poetry Festival and Cuirt International Festival of Literature; her work has been broadcast on local and national radio. www.adreamingskin.com