In 2012, I have been working steadily away on stories for a third short story collection, but I haven’t yet got to the stage of making many subissions to magazines and anthologies.
I have, however, had several short-short stories aka flash fictions published by the excellent New Zealand-based monthly flash fiction magazine Flash Frontier, whose editors Michelle Elvy and Sian Williams have done a great job since starting the magazine in late 2011. They pulled together an outstanding lineup of authors for the international issue, as well as all the New Zealand authors who have been published in Flash Frontier since its inception – as shown by the list of contributors.
I was very pleased to hear from the editors recently that they have nominated my story “Aftermath”, which was first published in the April 2012 issue of Flash Frontier, for a Pushcart Prize, together with five other stories from Flash Frontier. It’s always nice to get this sort of recognition, and I hope to have further flash fictions in Flash Frontier – and, I hope, in other venues too – next year. Thank you, Michelle and Sian!
After the party we drove the last guests home down streets already filling with the desperate and dangerous. The return journey was arduous, our new armour plating proving its worth more than once.
Sir Charles, manning the machine-gun nest at the gates, gave us a cheery wave as we swept into the driveway. Our path from the motor pool was lit by the fitfully flaring skies. To our left, the men under Tompkins were taking up the croquet lawn, ready to plant kale, to plant leeks, to plant the seed potatoes long tended in secret by O’Brien. No varietal rights lawyers would trouble him now.
Mother was surprisingly chipper. She gave me a peck on the cheek and sent me upstairs to help with the blackout curtains. “Everything’s going like clockwork,” she said. “Like clockwork.”
Standing watch in the upper gallery was tedious. I will not deny that I had fallen asleep at my post when the first wave of attacks began. We heard the chattering of Sir Charles’ machine-gun; we heard it fall silent. I learned later that only the massed charge of the under-gardeners, who had been concealed in the ha-ha for such an eventuality, repelled the attackers from our gates.
In the morning, we dragged Sir Charles’ body to the petunia border for burial. We stopped for a minute’s silence to mark his passing. Then Mother blew a single, mournful note on a party favour, and we returned to the task of further reinforcing the gates.
Storm stuffed with snow
stomps the sky’s boots
through hallways, conventions.
Delegates register, scatter
to the four sides of the square,
to the Four Seasons.
A corner suite. Storm
thrums the windows. Each year
they re-enact the ritual:
her hands meshed in his hair,
his stubble chafing her thighs.
She arches on the wardrobe door.
Next morning, at the plenary,
they sit apart. Each time they vote
a secret warmth escapes their hands.
Tim says: I can’t remember why, but the idea of a couple who conduct a secret affair at an annual convention they both attend popped into my head, and this is the result. For some reason, the idea only works if the annual convention takes place in winter.