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WINNERS FLASH FICTION 2016, Judge Anthony Glavin

Monday, October 10, 2016

Winners FLash Fiction, Dromineer Literary Festival 2016

Judge Anthony Glavin

FIRST PRIZE: In The Cool Of Evening By Liz Quirke

In The Cool Of Evening

In this vivid place, there are no beaches that haven't been shaped by man. Rock measured, dug out and dumped inland, tonnes of sugar-white sand lorried in and spread, pristine like the pleats of towels digitised by the marketing designers who conjured the brochure. 

When he first glimpsed those deliberate beaches, he recognised them as where he would die. The sunshine fallacy rendered the place perfect for a premature end and while making plans, it became the only location where he could live and die without her.

To begin, he rewrote his script, fashioned a visible timetable, clear so that he could be missed and maybe someone in the post office would contact his children once the mail gathered. 

His mornings started with coffee and a croissant at the bar front downstairs. A nod to neighbours from the last fifteen summers, the man who patted him on the shoulder when he realised why his wife no longer sat opposite, goading him for using too much sweetener in his coffee. “Aspartame will kill you, love. It’s a known carcinogen.”  That man gave him the comfort of letting his shadow fill what should have been her chair, a small moment of company. 

In the afternoon, he would idle down the sunburst streets towards the Prom, making sure his hat brim covered his ears, the tip of his nose. A jaunty angle suited his countenance mostly, but he had long outlived the touristic pinkening that came from an ill-advised shunning of sun screen.
He had been sunburnt the day they met, in the gentle days before UV rays, SPF, when assessing curious moles and markings remained the preserve of elderly ladies and the paranoid, when men unburdened their shoulders of shirts the minute the sun staggered out. It was a time when reddened skin made a man, the evidence of hard work peeling into drooped collars in the cool of evening. 

In that sepia tinted way, their initial contact was a standard meet-cute from a simpler time, him working outdoors, her employed inside a home grander than either of their origins. Feelings cultivated through a respectful courtship of ha’penny cinema trips and shared bags of chips, of walks on roads bordered by unkempt ditches, furze, bracken and cuckoo spit. 

The first time skin met skin was the cool of her palms soothing a kitchen-made balm into his brittle sun-dried neck. He never asked for care, wasn’t reared to ever expect a tender hand. She owned every kind touch he never thought he deserved and he lived each of their days trying to earn what she gave freely. 

He told the children, in the days after they buried her, that their life together had been lived in the open air, that there hadn’t been a second she didn’t search for a fresh breath. He told them that he had to go where he would be sure to find her. He said he wouldn’t live again until he filled his lungs for the last time.

Winners FLash Fiction, Dromineer Literary Festival 2016

Judge Anthony Glavin

SECOND PRIZE: Just Another Day By Mark Tuthill

Just another day

I dreamed of not being afraid anymore, of not being alone. Every now and then I'd hear a movement from above. The scrape of her chair, her footsteps moving from one side of the room to the other. At this stage, I knew the pattern of her movements well. I could decipher her stopping at the sink versus sitting in her chair. I always preferred to hear her at the sink, hoping she might take it out on the dirty dishes. 

Our house was different to others in the estate, an upside-down house the other kids on the street called it, because the bedrooms were downstairs and the kitchen and living area upstairs. Like something from a fairytale, Adam Stephens, a boy with a BMX and a sweet stutter, had once called it. 

I heard the TV going off and the eighteen steps that took her to the sink, where I could picture her looking out the window while she ran the tap. I remember it had been a bright day (the morning at least) with a harsh light destined for Spain or Greece, as if nature had taken a wrong turn. I heard the blind snap back up like a sharp slap, but the sound too faint to hear her pull it down again. I could hear the whoosh of water swirling round the dishes though, then the clang as they settled in the draining board, as if they dared to sneak a kiss in her presence. 

There was always a sound to cling to, and all were familiar to me, but that day was different. That day was the first and last time I heard my mother cry. It didn't last long, less than a minute, and there was no definitive weeping, no absolute certainty to it, but I felt I could hear it in her breathing; in the great blowing of her nose that followed. I leaned up on my elbows in bed, straining to interpret what I was hearing. She was crying, wasn't she? All these years later, I like to think as much. I like to think she thought enough of herself, if not me, to feel something. It helps me think better of her, and that's no bad thing in the great scheme of things. 

I look to my two boys, the day all sky, the local park their back garden the way it was mine. I think how I always run to them whenever they hurt themselves, my husband quick to admonish me for fussing over them, as if just because he's a man he has a better grasp of what they will need to survive in this world. He makes the job of being a father sound easy. He still has no idea of the things I’ve seen. My sister once said some things are better going to the grave with those that bore witness to them. 
Yeah. Like something from a fairytale. 

Winners FLash Fiction, Dromineer Literary Festival 2016

Judge Anthony Glavin

THIRD PRIZE: Counting by Colm O'Shea


She’s singing in the shower. He’s sitting naked at the desk.

She comes out, wrapped in a towel, combing through her hair.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Filling out the census form’
‘We’re meant to tonight’
‘Are you fucking mad?’

She looks at him. She reaches over to grab the form or at least sweep it off the desk. He shields it with his arm.

They stare at each other, neither one blinks. 

‘You’re mad, you know that?’
‘Look, it’s just the census’
‘And what?’
‘And why are you filling it in, here?’
‘Because we have to’

She looks away as if she doesn’t care but he can see her in the mirror. She adjusts the towel and sits on the end of the bed.

‘Even here?’ she asks.
‘Yes, there was a sign in the lobby asking everyone do it tonight.’
‘So you have to do it?’
‘Of course.’
‘Boy scout’, she mutters, teasing the damp from the ends of her hair.
‘So why do it like that?’ she asks.
‘Like what?’
‘Like, I don’t know, like you’re doing your homework’
‘So why bother. Why not just write anything. Make up names, make it all up. Scribble any crap down and get it done’.
‘Because it’s important. It’s the census.’

He watches her reflection. She looks at the back of his head then gives her own a little shake. She drops the towel, knowing that he can see her naked body, and slips under the covers.

‘So you’re really doing it?’
‘So what if anyone reads it?’
‘They can’t.’
‘They never release it, not for like a hundred years or so.’

She looks at him again, catching his eye in the reflection of the mirror.

‘You’re mad, you know that?’
‘I know.’
‘Hurry up and finish, I want to get a swim in before we have to check out in the morning.’

She rolls over in the bed but allows the covers to drop, knowing that he can see her.

He takes his time. He makes sure he doesn’t make any mistakes and when he’s finished he carefully folds over the last page and leaves the form in the middle of the desk.

As he climbs into bed. As she turns out the lights. As he fold his arms around her. As he finds her lips with his and feels her along the length of his body. As he does this he knows. He knows that in a hundred years. In a hundred years after he’s dead, after she’s dead, after his family and her family are all dead and gone and everyone they know is dust. After everything they’ve ever done is gone and long forgotten. That somewhere, somewhere in a file or a record or a dusty ledger there will be something, something to say that they were here. They existed. They loved.