Flash Frontier

June 2024: National Flash Fiction Day

National Flash Fiction Day

Winners & Commended

First: Brother – Savage
Second: Rainbow – Mary Francis
Third: The landlord – Zita Rose Featherstone
Highly Commended: A femur, a rib and two claws – Alex Reece Abbott
Highly Commended:  Danilo’s grandad is weird – Sue Kingham

Long List

And we know – Rebecca Ball
Fana and the manumea: a fable – Vivienne Bailey
Fresh ideas on office etiquette – Gerard O’Brien
Fridge magnet – Lisa Onland
Incommunicado – Lorraine Carmody
The weeping woman (Exhibit: TAL5662) – Heather McQuillan
Uppity little terrorists – Hayden Pyke




Savage, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland



I fall often.

In love. On to rocks. Into debt.

My life takes turns. It burns me up. It throws me down. It casts me aside.

Leighton is there to stand me up. Without Leighton, I couldn’t be me. I wouldn’t know where to start. He always knows where to find me. He arrives on time.

Arrested is never a good state to be in and neither is Alabama. Pregnancy in Alabama is reserved for the holy and the pure of heart.

I am prohibited from ending this pregnancy, but I am in no fit state to carry on. It is illegal for anyone to help me. To give me advice, to drive me to the border. To hold my hand. To advise me on anything other than how to give birth.   

The father, he is gone.  We were naked and happy. For three days in lust. Without sleep. I fell into his arms. He flew into mine then boarded a bus back to base and shipped out to sea. I have mislaid his number and haven’t been looking. There is no longer a need.

I am far from being measured. Far from where I need to be.

It is Leighton who travels for two days. Twenty-eight hours on a Dallas stopover en route to Tuscaloosa. He will drive me away to some other state and save my life.

“Leighton, my brother,” I say. “You are my other half. My rock steady. You are the ground I stand on. The air I breathe. You pick me up. You carry me on.”

“Selina, my sister,” he says, “We are our own worst enemy.”

About Savage




Mary Francis, Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington



On his way home in the evening he picks a bunch of flowers from the side of the road. Their blooms are closed, but they’ll open in the morning sun that hits the kitchen windowsill just right, and they’ll be smiling at her when she comes downstairs for breakfast.

The next day, it rains. He leaves her sleeping, gently kissing her on the head, walking in his socked feet to get coffee and toast, pulling on his work boots at the back door and his winter raincoat, patched with duct tape, that reaches to the ground, and with the hood up turns his world into a dark narrow tunnel.

He shores up the banks of the stream and mends fences. Spring was too wet. And summer, which is six weeks old now, is acting more like autumn. The sheep follow him half-heartedly. There is no more winter feed. The loan manager rang yesterday. The hood stays up but still, his face gets wet.

He comes home when the last of the light is finally wrung out of the day. She has made three shepherd’s pies and brought the runt lamb in from the shed to lie in an old fruit box beside the fire. Two pies cool under a fly cover, to freeze for later, and she serves him the other one and says the lamb is rallying. It can go back with the flock when the weather clears. Did you see the rainbow, she asks. He shakes his head. There was one this afternoon, she says, and puts her hand on his. A big, bright rainbow over the valley.

About Mary Francis



The landlord

Zita Rose Featherstone, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland


On a Tuesday in November —
My landlord txts to tell me she has broken into my house armed with a hammer and drill to fix an overspill from the overfilled hot water cupboard.

I do not tell her —
She is meant to give me 48 hours’ notice.

I do not tell her —
The last time I thought someone had broken into my house, my dad carved a lock inside my door, despite telling me it was a fire risk.

I want to tell her —
Calcinating in a fire is more appealing to me than a stranger cutting me up while simultaneously counting my rent money.

I want to ask her —
Whether she’d find it romantic if she watched my clothes cauterise to my bones, like a Robbie Williams strip tease. What she’d save first. Me, or the fridge?

When I come home, a section has been removed from the wall, my father’s picture is askew on the floor, and my porcelain cat has lost three legs.

My landlord does not leave a note to apologise or a lipstick-lined kiss on the mirror that even a stalker would have the courtesy of doing.

Instead she txts to ask if she can pick up the drill she’s left on my pillow.

I want to ask —
– If she likes my thrifted green suede armchairs.

I want her to tell me —
– My smile looks radiant in my graduation photo.
– She adores the blanket I inherited when my uncle died.
– That my hand-potted herbs remind her that life exists in imperfect conditions.

Instead —
– I strike a match.
– Light a candle.
– Remove my washing from the dryer.
– Fold it into neat little piles.
– Leave my laciest lingerie on my pillow.
– Run a bath.
– Pour two glasses of wine.
– Undress, leaving the door ajar.

About Zita Rose Featherstone



A femur, a rib and two claws

Alex Reece Abbott, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland


Hera’s word is not enough.

They reckon that the pōrangi girl who lives alone on the edge of the gumfield is spinning more bullshit stories again.

Until one of the blokes reads the story in the Auckland Weekly News. Gums flapping, Red Garnett waves the newspaper, crowing to the other diggers. You’d think that he’d personally discovered the giant eagle’s bones, buried deep in a swampland midden.

Of course, no apology comes from Red – or anyone else – for the scorn that they’ve heaped upon her. Hera sucks her teeth … as if she’d ever lie, not about something like that … something so important.

Up to her oxters in her muddy trench, Hera wonders whether Tāne will like her fern-frond offering today, even favour her with a good find. She peck-peck-pecks with her gum spear, hoping to catch a scarce, bright-white nugget of kāpia. Or an eagle’s bone. She nudges back her wideawake and studies the corrie-iron sky, her ears pricked for that calling card, her telltale wingbeat. Whooooosh. Because she does swoop down from her mountainside eyrie, heavy as three, twelve-pound bags of flour, her wingspan over nine feet, her legs and feet more powerful than any other bird of prey in the whole world.

Plummeting with lethal force, she’s a gigantic red-crested eagle with black and white plumage, her wings tipped with yellow-green. Beautiful killing machine, she strikes faster than a rifle bullet, snatches you in her tiger claw talons … she’s impossible to escape.

The light flickers, the sun eclipsed by a dark shadow … mere flitting cloud … or te Hōkioi swooping through time, like a mood. Or a very real memory.

She laughs to the scrubby mānuka. A femur, a rib and two claws. Funny nē, how they call her stories legends and myths, but they call theirs facts and history.

Whooooosh! Te Hokioi.

About Alex Reece Abbott

Danilo’s grandad is weird

Sue Kingham, Ōtautahi Christchurch


“Danilo’s grandad is proper weird,” I say while washing the dishes.

Mum puts down the drying cloth and leans against the bench. “What makes you say that?” She’s looking at me funny. “Has something happened?”

Heat rushes up my neck. “Um, no, but he’s always coming out with odd facts. Like today, he said vending machines kill over ten people a year.”

Mum’s shoulders relax, and she breathes like she’s blowing out a candle. Picking up a cup, she runs the cloth around its rim. “That’s just his sense of humour. What else has he said?”

“Last week, when we were playing cards, I was sucking the top of the pen I was using to keep score, and he told me a hundred people choke to death every year on ballpoints.”

Mum chuckles as she mops up a pool of water hiding under the drying rack. She has her back to me as I mumble, “Why do I never see my grandad?”

She squeezes the dishcloth like she’s strangling it. “You know why. He lives a long way away.”

“So does Joe’s, but they visit him in the holidays. Couldn’t we do that?”

Mum wears her poker face. “Not all grandads are as nice as Joe’s and Danilo’s. It’s best to avoid bad people.”

“So, Grandad’s bad?” My stomach flips. “What did he do?”

“The court order says he’s not to be in the same room as a child.”

I stare at Mum. “He’s been to court?”

She nods.

Unsure of how to respond, I say, “Danilo’s grandad told me, on average, a drunk driver drives drunk eighty times before their first arrest.”

Mum’s voice is way too cheerful when she says, “That sounds about right.”

About Sue Kingham



Collecting taxes

Hayden Pyke, Kirikiriroa Hamilton



If you throw a punch and miss, that’s assault, but this was different. Splintered wood, maybe a crowbar, maybe not. Here, the perimeter has to be breached, the law is much less finicky about intent.

Dads probably shouldn’t be on Facebook. It’s why young people went to Instagram and the even younger to TikTok, but you can’t tell Dad that. He’s posting about crime in his neighborhood. He’s getting likes from people who don’t talk to their children anymore.

One day he drags two boys into the kitchen. They’re older than me, but not much.

“Caught them snooping around the car.”

Dad has the physique of a real estate agent so if the boys are in our kitchen, it’s of their own free will. He’s calling the high school and liberally sprinkling the principal’s name into every sentence.

More than half the world’s web traffic comes from cellphones, but here’s Dad with a landline. Here he is making sweeping statements about two young people sitting nervously at our countertop. His slang is thirty years out of date.

“No, I didn’t say they had a crowbar, but they could have. We were nearly broken into last month. Yes, I reported it, but …”

One of the boys looks pleadingly at me and I interrupt.

“Dad, did these guys actually do anything wrong?”

He spins toward me, bushy eyebrows pinging.

“That’s the whole point!” he cries.  “Why should we have to wait for them to commit the crime to intervene? It’s so, so … reactive.”

I look pointedly at the back door and the kids get up. They edge their way out without altercation.

Later a meme featuring my Dad’s Facebook profile picture on Tom Cruises’ body and a scene from Minority Report does the rounds online. Dad is furious but won’t log off.

About Hayden Pyke

Dath a’ bhàis

Bethany Rogers, Tahuna Queenstown

Otago Regional Prize


Absence of light. The ‘o’ in nothingness. Oily black. Light itself. Bones after every sinewy scrap has been stripped away by time or scavengers. Pearlescent white. These are not my colours. You mortals imagine me in monochrome. Fantasise that I am the end. No, my palette is not so defined. I’m not the ends of the spectrum, I’m the blurring between lines. The soft shade dark blood goes as it’s whipped into a deep, navy ocean. A storm cloud’s roiling heart. The uncertain hue of a seedling that has just broken ground. The dim light at the centre of a caterpillar’s chrysalis. That muted glow behind every page before it’s turned. Undisturbed dust atop an antique cupboard. The frayed edges of your favourite jumper. Uncut quartz under a crescent moon. The edge of the horizon,

            a breath away from the rising sun,

                   a breath ahead of the sinking sun.

About Bethany Rogers

synesthesia summer camp and back-to-nature couples’ retreat have a baby

Janean Cherkun, Ōtepoti Dunedin


The cat being bitten by fleas sounds like a tree falling sideways in a storm.

Arthritis of the wrist tastes like lemon juice and clay.

What would you know of arthritis of the wrist? … Never mind.

A warm blanket has an aura of soft teal, but a wet blanket insufficiently rinsed and smelling of laundry powder makes grubby waterlines appear above the clouds.

Those are flocks of birds if you paid more attention.

Pass the milk? Then watch it lip-synching the theme song to Dallas as I pour it on my cornflakes.

Leave some for me …

When I was a child, a sinkhole smelling of apples appeared on my street. Fortuitous, considering what else a sinkhole might smell like.

Your eyes are like this peanut butter.

We did live near an orchard.

Your hair is like this Vegemite.

If pet care is always my job, why can you never renew the car rego on time? 

I forgot, I’m sorry.

Your tardiness prickles my throat like a necklace of walnuts still in their husks.

Quick, eat your toast! Butter it like it’s hot, crunch it like it’s artisan. I can see/hear/smell the kids from Bunkroom 2 gathering outside, hungry for soft, asymmetrical canned fruit and tintinnabulous oatmeal. 

The neighbours complain to me about your bees leaving musical mustardy turds on their air-drying bedsheets. 

Your voice is like thixotropic honey! Strained once through a colander, just the way you like it.

Next we’re cataloguing mushrooms in the woods, then using those descriptors to write sexy poems to each other. 

You walk like a gluten-free cake screaming as it sinks in the oven.

I’ll take that as a compliment if you’ll stop farting ambulance tones in bed.

Ambulance tones. By sound, sweetheart, like notes; or hues, like colour? 

Both, baby. Both. 

About Janean Cherkun



And we know

Rebecca Ball, Ōtautahi Christchurch


Each day we stop outside the house with moss growing in the grooves of its iron roof. Strings of vines hang from the bricks and there are three broken windows on the school side. There’s a sawn-off tree stump in front, nothing else.

We know a man lives there because on sunless afternoons smoke seeps from the chimney. We know it’s a man because of the moss and the vines and the tree stump. We know his wife left him for a Russian sailor in Lyttelton, he turned to whiskey, his children disowned him because of how he yelled and threw mugs in the rage of his heartbreak.

One day he comes out.

And we know it’s a gun because of the vines and the moss and the wife and the sailor. And we know from his black beard and the holes in his flannel shirt and his undone boot laces that he’s going to step onto the stump and look through the sights of the gun and pick us off one by one like rabbits.

And before we’ve finished yelling he’s got a gun ten or more police trucks arrive and they aren’t white like normal but black like the man’s beard. And police pour out, black helmets black balaclavas black guns black black black.

And in silence we watch this black river push the man’s mouth into the tree stump, carry his flannel shirt away, leave behind a small axe on the grass. And in silence we walk home and wash our hands and eat our peas one by one off our plates.

And in silence the next morning when the principal asks us what were you thinking, our dark eyes flicking between sky and ground, sky and ground, our rabbit hearts thump thump thump in the still office.

About Rebecca Ball

Fana and the manumea: a fable

Vivienne Bailey, Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington


Putrefaction. The rotten egg smell of layer upon layer of discarded seeds and leaves clogs her nostrils like the giant swirls of umu smoke on a Sunday.

Rumbling vibrates the air, thunders over the ground, undulates through the trees. Fear marches around Fana’s body, scorching her skin, biting at the back of her throat like an angry tanifa. She squeezes her hand tight around the palagi’s ring. Collateral. A pink and white christening gown. A darling daughter. The sharp edges of the stone, cold and hard, as blue as the Upolu sky, pierce her rough skin.

Thumping, discordant, as clamorous as a company of atua strutting to battle. Fana covers her ears. Is it the police? Have they located the discarded bucket of cleaning stuff? Discovered it was Fana on the morning shift. Was CCTV in the hotel room? What …?

Huge, wild wings nosedive, scraping the sky. A giant head swoops against her face, a massive, curved beak blood-red like a war-used nifo’oti. Feathered blue-green iridescence brushes her hair. Fana’s throat closes. She gasps. Valaau atu gaga. Bird spirit. Manumea.

Faltering, she stumbles sideways. Briny water oozes over her feet. Olive green mangroves reach for her toes. Mossy slime licks around her fingers. Caresses the blue stone, slipping, sliding …

Flicker of platinum silver, a shimmer of turquoise blue amongst splats of lettuce-green liverwort. Fana balances against coral rubble, reaches, reaches …

Falling, plunging into salty darkness. Not hearing the soft-winged whirring. Not seeing the glare of bird-black eyes nor the forked yellow talons dropping, a hooked beak hovering over seed-shaped jewel brightness. Oscillating.

About Vivienne Bailey

Fresh ideas on office etiquette

Gerard O’Brien, Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington


1. When they beat the ethnic drum – a gift from a long-time client – dodge programme coordinators jostling for soggy sausage rolls and shuffle into the meeting room with an unpeeled carrot instead.

2a. Breathe in the apprehension as Captain Tom hangs his head, rubs his eye with the meaty part of his thumb, unpacks lacklustre performance against unsustainable growth and, with an animated pie chart on slide eighteen of twenty-one, announces restructuring for improved profitability.

2b. Breathe out a chunk of carrot in shock, then watch Floyd, the bring-a-furry-friend-to-work of the Vice President of People, lunge at it, then writhe and squeal before eventually dry retching.

2c. Whisper, Sorry, Floyd, between soothing pats of perfect copper fur.

3. Hug colleague 4b and hang around the coffee machine tracing pictures of shattered dreams in spilt coffee grinds.

4. Unleash at your lunchtime gym sesh, then unwind at your standing desk in a sweat-stained tee, sobbing, online shopping and adding calendar alerts – consultation ends; final pay run? rent due! update CV.

5. When you get a cantilevered spot in the new structure, but your two equally capable colleagues are buried in rubble, re-read Into the Wild.

6. Gallop across the office to the only opening window and appreciate the man in the alley below singing to his pigeons.

7a. When the VP swings by to touch base about remaining bandwidth, jump on your stool and throw your still-damp gym towel at him.

7b. Quote something quirky like, patriarchy is capitalism’s bitch, then retreat under your desk.

8. Nap in the wellness room and pass a peaceful afternoon tapping out a Glassdoor review.

9. When they beat the ethnic drum, don your backpack, scoop up Floyd and skip out the fire exit.

About Gerard O’Brien

Fridge magnet

Lisa Onland, Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington


The smell – damp mixed with the ripeness of an unwashed body – confronted Stuart as he closed the front door behind him. The curtains were drawn against the bright afternoon sun, the television on but silent. He ignored the pages of forgotten newspapers scattered across the floor, circulars piled high on the coffee table, the paint tin filled with cigarette butts. From the open bedroom door, he heard the low pitch of a snore.

Stuart made a pile of dirty plates, moved a collection of tea-stained mugs into the sink. He set the bag of groceries down on the kitchen counter and took out the bottle of milk. Turning towards the fridge, he stopped. A thumbnail photograph of himself stared back. The article had been neatly cut from last week’s paper: Local Artist Wows with Debut Show. It was a smarmy photo, all teeth and no mystery.

Waste of money if you ask me.

Not that he’d ever asked. The old man was a champion of such wisdom as: time you got a real job, and I ain’t paying for that. Or his favourite growing up: respect is earned.

He remembered how those words sounded through the locked door of his childhood home. Standing outside, not quite eight, his face pressed against the peeling white paint; water pooling around his bare feet as the rain soaked him through. Sometimes his father’s lessons were imparted so quickly there wasn’t time for shoes.

A long, serrated snore burst from the bedroom. Stuart opened the fridge and put the milk away. He unpacked the remaining groceries and placed them inside the bare cupboards of his father’s kitchen.

Folding the empty bag under his arm, he pulled the newspaper clipping from the fridge and tossed it in the bin on his way out.

About Lisa Onland


Lorraine Carmody, Ōtautahi Christchurch


The horse is walking the fence line. Up. Down. I phone my daughter.

“Just ignore him.”

She’s up north.

“When will you be back?”


“How’s it going, anyhow?”


I give the horse a piece of carrot. Apple. Bread. A wormer. I muck out, clean the trough, leave a salt lick. I throw hay, cut grains, mix in magnesium, selenium, a calmer. The horse walks. The dog barks.

I move the horse to another paddock.

“That’ll fix you.”

The horse keeps walking. The dog keeps barking.

“Shut up, dog.”

I take the horse to the shed, remove the rug, shake dust, wipe sweat, pick out hooves, brush the horse’s coat, mane, tail. Pat him.

“Good boy.”

He licks my hand.

I point out the old pony. “There’s your friend. Plain as day.”

I open the gate. The horse starts walking. Soil goes flying. A trench forms. The dog barks.

“What’s your problem, eh?”

I point to the macrocarpa, the cabbage tree, the harakeke. “Look. You’ve got shade. Shelter.

Water. Grass. A friend.”

The horse keeps walking, the dog keeps barking.


I text my daughter. Still walking.

I google ‘horse fence-walking help’. Usually occurs when a horse is separated from feed or herd mates.

I put the pony with the horse. Throw hay. He snorts. She grazes. The dog barks. The horse walks.

I check my messages. Nothing.

It’s getting darker, colder, windier. I lick my finger. A nor’easter. I rub the horse’s neck, nose, chest, withers. I put his cover on. He walks. The dog barks.

“Bloody mutt.”

I pitch a tent beside the fence. Inside, I phone my daughter. Above the ring tone, the flapping canvas, and the escalating wind I listen to the horse’s footsteps. Up. Down. The dog barks.

My call goes to voice message.

About Lorraine Carmody

The weeping woman (Exhibit: TAL5662)

Heather McQuillan, Ōtautahi Christchurch


At first, I mistook her weeping for the wind scraping bark from the kahikatea up in the gully.  When the wind stilled, I discovered her in the Hall of Talismans amidst turquoise amulets and variations on the swastika. She was carved from dark knotted wood and clutched her swollen belly with three-fingered hands. Her breasts were low and flat, her face was chisel lines, her mouth a wailing O. I unscrewed the Perspex casing and held her with a gloved hand as one would a baby bird. Her weeping subsided. The provenance notes told of her trafficking but here she was, once again close to home. I believed my duty then was to safeguard the artefacts, so I soothed her with ‘one-day’ promises and returned her to her case. As my obligations shifted I set her on the windowsill overlooking the proliferation of koroī berries. Their glory soon led to a plague of rodents. By the night of the gun battle, with my lover’s blood oxidising from red to brown on the limestone tiles, I no longer used gloves. At daylight I turned inland, clambering through broom and blackberry, willow and weeds. The remaining stand of grey-skinned kahikatea was the best the world could offer her now. As we gained distance from the museum and the terrors of the night, her timber softened to knotted muscle. Her calves rounded, remembering long strides along bush-knitted hillsides, and her feet widened as I stepped over tree roots and around ferns. I laid her on mist-soaked earth.  I was so tired from the bloodshed, that no words for karakia came to mind, but the high-pitched whistle of a shining cuckoo called pee-oo, pee-oo, pee-oo. I rested my thorn-scratched hand across my own belly. Felt the quickening of this unasked-for baby. And wept.

About Heather McQuillan

Uppity little terrorists

Hayden Pyke, Kirikiriroa Hamilton


Mothers, police officers, Thomas Edison, they all knew that things got gnarly at night. We still thought that was a good thing. We’d find the most bogan party in Hamilton and waltz in the front door. We’d have joined a gang if we’d thought anyone would have us.

My mother would often do double shifts on weekends. She’d get time-and-a-half which I learnt later was a good deal. I would wait for her to leave, then find my way into the dark. I might say I was renting a movie with Bobby, and she’d raise an eyebrow. She would’ve given me her right lung, power of attorney, but she wouldn’t give me more than a fiver for snacks.

When I found Bobby, it was through the smoke of a pallet fire. He pointed at two maniacs with mohawks who’d helped him light it. He hugged me. I mooched through the crowd, finding unopened beer bottles and eventually Gemma. We pressed into each other, her head on my shoulder before she leant back and slapped me across the face.

It wouldn’t have taken much to call the cops. The music was industrial-grade and the smoke incessant. Hearing the squark of a siren, Gemma and I wound our way into the street. Bobby appeared from some bushes wearing one shoe. I found a pay phone and called Mum.

She stood in her dressing gown at the petrol station while Bobby threw up viciously.

“I’d rather you called me before the cops do,” she said. “But I’d much rather you weren’t such a degenerate.”

We drove in silence. The night had lost its wild eyes. We parked and Gemma squeezed my hand. Mum caught her gaze in the rearview as she went to say goodbye.

“Make better choices, love.”

About Hayden Pyke

Judges’ Report NFFD 2024


Lynn Jenner and Rachel O’Neill


We entered into the reading with an open mind and sense of curiosity about what Flash Fiction could do that was particular to that form. We came away impressed by the variety of voice s and writerly sensibilities, contributing to a wide range of emotional, linguistic and tonal experiences on the page.

We attuned ourselves to things like exciting use of language, where the writer applies unique and impactful elements such as metaphor, imagery or repetition, conveying originality at the level of language.

We also looked for pieces that operated in the crossover space between prose and poetry. For example, from a prose perspective the writer might draw on intimate detail and concrete imagery that brings character, place and situation alive. They might employ structure to support coherence and/or twists in the central relationships or genre expectations, or other relevant elements such as compelling dialogue. From a poetry perspective the writer might employ repetition, contrast or listing effectively.

The longlist showcases pieces that we felt had real impact in terms of invigorating language, craft and voice.






A femur, a rib and two claws

This story takes place in a colonial gum digging setting and imaginatively brings to life Te Hokioi, also called the Haast Eagle, through the eyes of a highly observant main character. Though there is sparse dialogue, evocative imagery and specific period detail convey a sense of both the narrator’s voice and the tensions that demarcate her world.


Danilo’s Grandad is Weird

This story unfolds in an unadorned domestic setting and subtext is conveyed through telling details and naturalistic dialogue. The simplicity of the domestic situation strikes a contrast with the highly charged emotional subtext of the conversation between child and vigilant mother.




The landlord

In this piece conflict unfolds between a landlord and their tenant, and all at a physical distance. The story is in the voice of one particular tenant, but it speaks to the power of property, the powerlessness of tenants and the ingenuity of self-empowerment. A unique tone is established through barbed humour, while repeated refrains energetically convey the increasingly heated ‘battle’ between foes, a renter with limited power and unlimited imagination, and a careless yet most calculating landlord.





In this piece the harsh challenges of rural life are contrasted with the warmth between the narrator and their partner. The writer uses strong specific details to communicate subtext. For example, a raincoat hood narrows the narrator’s field of vision, leading them to later miss a sign of hope, the rainbow. The writer uses concrete imagery and detailed character actions to build the deep emotional intimacy between the central couple and show their commitment to the possibility of a future.





This sharp and edgy story, set in Alabama, picks up on the situation in American states where access to abortion has been cut. While this is a story about the close bond between a brother and sister, it has a relatable expansiveness, like a moving country music song. The writer uses a variety of sentence lengths to great effect, creating song-like rhythms, which put the judges in mind of a poetic ode, in this case an ode spotlighting the sparky relationship between two siblings who live by their own rules. Surprising language is a treat for the reader.

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