Shortlisted for the 2017 Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction
Dazzled by unexpected twin suns in the Suffolk twilight, he pivots his neck to stare. It only takes a second but the second seems to take for ever, as if it is a piece of eternity in which we are suspended, he and I; there is no time to brake.
For the duration of that hanging, flashbulb moment, he is caught as if in a portrait: an Indian fairy-tale prince, gold and red and peacock blue, his sparkling eye brilliant, if not that wise. He would suit a baroque frame on a National Trust wall: an exotic eighteenth century potentate, glittering against dark damask wallpaper.
Or is it I who am pinned by the shiny stab of his eye, bright with questions, as I speed away from the bedside of my mother, now so close to the end of her very long life?
His fleeting instant in the spotlight gives way to a thud, and he is reduced to a dark mound in the rear-view mirror, flopping around, and then, not.
The Venerable Bede said that the sparrow, flying through and out of the banqueting hall, is like our life, but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing. Except, with me and my pheasant, it’s all wrong. I know what went before – the bloody bird was alive and well – and after – a tangled heap of flesh and feathers. It’s the bit in between that’s the mystery: that exquisitely beautiful moment.
The Time It Takes
Highly Commended in the 2012 Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction
He stood with it in his hand, waiting; even when young he’d been a slow starter. He was aware of her – an empty space inside, which was at the same time a weight. The stream started, a clear arc onto the side of the bowl – he’d always been shy of hitting the water and making a noise. Shuffled half a step to his left, edging away from the window, in discomfort at being near it, at even coming into the bathroom at all, surrounded by the tasteful blue paint she’d chosen. He looked sidelong at it, the large, low window which opened onto the fire escape. The liquid poured satisfyingly out of him; he groaned. If sex was a small death, then pissing was a miniature orgasm – a little bit of your soul got free. She liked to lie out there on a towel, reading, her exquisite body in the sun. He would ask if she minded him using the bathroom. Urinating near her, feeling male, slightly aroused, also clumsy, dull and dirty. He finished in a dribble, the last drops. The hollowness inside him had shifted, removed itself to outside the window. He would paint it, the fire escape, maybe put down a piece of decking, some plants in terracotta pots, more new curtains that this time he would choose himself. He shook himself, just slightly swelled, soft and warm in his own hand; still plenty of life left in him.
Shortlisted for the 2016 Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction
Bill is not much use at anything at all except the one thing being unable to speak or do his buttons and laces let alone any kind of work barely able to feed himself and then so exuberantly that his carers are constantly having to scrape things off him but what he does insist on doing is that as soon as he sees you he makes a beeline swaying inexorably towards you tenderly enfolding your hand in an inescapable grasp pumping it up and down in a threshing machine gone beserk kind of way then crushes you in a monster bear hug during which he dribbles on your shoulder but you don’t mind half-smothered in all this big-heartedness before planting his king-sized hands on both your shoulders so heavily that you feel driven deeper into the ground like a fencepost and nailing you with a bright-eyed gaze that looks directly into you conveying despite everything and in a way that speech couldn’t do an intelligence that sees right through you as if saying I am a human being you are a human being we are more than we appear after which he nearly has your arm off again in another handshake before turning decisively on disorderly legs he’s off leaving you standing there crumpled a bit flustered realising that that essentially is the one thing Bill does do something that most able-bodied clever-minded people can’t even be bothered to do he acknowledges everyone. That is Bill’s sentence.