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By Benjamin Judge

Association: The line ‘I crunch the leaf in my hand’ in Apple Tree.

 

The mattress,

free from the pull of her bones,

mocking ascension,

pushes her skyward.

Read more about Benjamin Judge on his blog: Who the fudge is Benjamin Judge? or follow him on twitter: @benjaminjudge

 

 

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Apple Tree

By The Editor

Association: The line ‘If I bought her flowers, maybe we’d go skinny dipping in the hot tub like we used to. I’d pick leaves out of her hair when they fell from the apple tree.’ From Room 669.

A leaf falls from the tree and settles on her hair. It’s dry and crisp, curled into an odd shape on her head. I lean forwards and take it from her, my arm drips with water from the hot tub. She giggles. I crunch the leaf in my hand and break it into tiny pieces, then blow it back at her as though its fairy dust.

‘For you’ I say, as if it’s a gift I have just bought and wrapped. ‘I’m sorry I forgot.’

This story is less than 100 words in celebration of National Flash-Fiction Day, which  takes place on the 12th May 2012. See their competitions page for details of how to submit stories of no more than 100 words.

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National Flash-Fiction Day

In celebration of the build-up to National Flash Fiction Day 2012 I am encouraging submissions of extreme flash-fictions. Flash-fiction has many definitions and can range from short stories under 1000 words to under 50 words.

The challenge I am setting is to write short stories that are 100 words or less. To kick start this, I have put up my own submission, Apple Tree, which you can read shortly…

Writing stories of such a concise length makes you think about the importance of every single word, and is a great exercise to improve your writing skills. So get thinking and get writing. And whilst you’re at it, get looking at the official National Flash-Fiction Competition.

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A Coloured Room

By George Alabaster

Association: Room 669

The maid comes every morning to change my sheets and spruceup my pillows. Today I feel crisp and clean when she leaves. I’m waiting for mynext visitors, wondering who they will be. Yesterday was a solitary man whocame late and left early. His body barely made an impression, a cold sack ofskin lying rigid and alone. Those are the worst kind of guests.

The door opens and two people come in. A man and a woman. Thewoman puts a heavy rucksack on me; the man throws his on my brother. They sitand talk with tired voices about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Ilisten. When I’m alone I construct narratives from these snatches ofconversation, spinning complex tales to pass the hours.

The man takes a shower and the woman sits flicking through aguidebook. They leave as soon as the man has finished. I’m alone again. Fromwhat I heard they’ve been travelling for some time, a few days here, a few daysthere. I decide both have left their jobs, choosing to see the world together.He intends to go back to office work but she wants to start again, carving outa new life. A painter, perhaps.

For the rest of the day I imagine the kind of things shewill paint. Maybe it will be landscapes, swirled in amber mist, or portraits ofold and important men.

They come back late and drunk. Fingers fumble for the switchand sharp light is thrown over the room. He goes into the bathroom, then I feelher painter’s hands on me. I am being pushed closer to my brother. She onlymoves me an inch before lying down, but we are nearer now.

Her body is warm and soft. There are no sharp angles to it andher curves swim across my surface, just like the mist will shimmer over thepeak she paints. The man comes out of the bathroom but doesn’t notice thechange. The light is switched off and we drift away.

Over the days that follow she moves me closer and closer tomy brother. I feel the ridges and furrows of her hands, fingers engaged in aslow waltz to a lonely tune. The man either doesn’t notice or says nothing.Then one night they stumble in drunk again and suddenly it’s happening. I amslammed against my brother. Their bodies fall on me together, twisting andturning like the fog she will one day capture. I see the colours of it all, adeep red and a sleepy gold, dying in the sun.

They stay for another week. Every morning and every night theypaint the scene again, their bodies like brushes sweeping across a canvas. Butthen something changes. I don’t know what happened, but I know something has.For one night I am still against my brother, but they do not touch, lying stifflike the man before them. The next night I am back where I was before, and theday afterwards they are gone.

George Alabaster is a philosophy student at Manchester University.

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Room 669

By Fran Slater

Association: The line ‘fist-sized holes in the plaster’ in Budget Family Room. 

The holes in the wall get me thinking. They look as if they were made in a rage, fists so fast they didn’t feel the blood until it was pouring.

I phoned her from the lobby like it said to on the card. She said to take the stairs because of the cameras in the lifts. Six flights of green metal, my hands on the banisters. Already sweating when I reached the top.

She was very specific. Room 669, the seventh floor, walk past the table with the cacti and take a right. Don’t even look at what is happening in room 660. They always leave the door open, and the sight can’t be washed from your eyes. Not without something way stronger than soap anyway.

But the girl isn’t here and the room smells like the last couple just left. Armpits and market stall perfume. If I’m paying, why’s she the boss?

A squeal down the hall could be death or pleasure. I came for the latter but now wish I hadn’t. Wish I’d gone home, seen Mary, sat and watched the television without a word until the one with the least willpower got up and said goodnight. If I bought her flowers, maybe we’d go skinny dipping in the hot tub like we used to. I’d pick leaves out of her hair when they fell from the apple tree.

The room seems lived in. Stains on the carpet. A paper on the table. Postcards tacked to the walls from cities I’ve never seen. Cities Mary and me always said we’d go to. Cities I’ve seen in my dreams. I wonder if someone comes here at night, after fifteen or twenty men have had their fun in the bed, and slips under the cover, cuddles their pillow and sleeps.

If the girl turned up now, there’d be no way I could do what I came here for.

I check in my wallet and see four twenties and two tens. I stand to go. On the headboard I notice a circular blob of dried blood, with dots of the same deep red around it.

My wife doesn’t talk to me or fuck me but she makes a wicked lasagne. I could be home now, eating meat and melted cheese.

The door was unlocked when I came in. Now, when I try to push the silver handle down it won’t budge. I shake it twat it bend it, but it’s stuck still.

My face is sweating, my glasses slipping from my nose. Ten deep breaths and a walk to the window. Seven floors up. I couldn’t escape even if the window wasn’t stuck shut with masking tape from the outside.

I hear a giggle near the door and I run and smack my knuckles on the wood. Knocking on a door to be let out. A new one on me. The giggle fades into the distance.

Sitting on the bed. Deep breaths aren’t working. Hands are shaking. Counting. One two three. One two three. One two three. I won’t look at the blood on the bed.

A knock at the door. The girl must be here. My pulse slows as the door handle squeaks and the bottom of the door makes a scraping noise on the carpet. I stand up to meet her, clammy palm outstretched for a shake. But she isn’t a beautiful young lady; she’s a six foot man with bright green eyes and a pair of pliers in his left hand.

Fran Slater is a Manchester Creative Writing student, just finding his way into the weird and wonderful world of literature in Manchester.

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The screams of Victory and Near Misses

By Dave Schofield

Association: Words we used, things we know.

The city smelt of cooked apple stewed with sugar.  Beautiful but too greasy to be homely, my stomach rumbled.  I couldn’t tell where the smell was coming from but hungry crowds were wafted in the streets.  Manchester with grey skies above, as usual.
The train in had felt like a hospital visit.  The man in the corner had slept noisily and we all silently listened to his deep breathing hoping not to disturb him.  Now I was aware of the sudden noise, the rush.
Oxford Road – full of freshers pushing and hurrying.  A long line of Asian men strung out for miles wearing sandwich boards for pizza places.  I fought through towards the art gallery, on and off the pavement, car horns and bike bells.  Nightclub advertisements, takeaway menus.  I remember loving being a student, but now they make me nervous as they play-fight and flirt.  People run out into the roads laughing. Zigzagging buses and taxis with the screams of victory and near misses.  I smile at one of the pizza-board men and he raises his eyebrows as if to say What do you think?  I’m embarrassed for him as teenagers knock his cap off and play his sandwich board like tom-tom drums.
In the gallery they’re between exhibitions and all that’s available is the drawers of William Morris prints and a few boring wall hangings.  I collapse into the cafe and use my coffee as an excuse to sit and read.
I can feel the distance behind me – my history – getting larger in moments like these.  Times where my memory fizzes with all the days that have passed.  I know I am old because my history is no longer a blackboard scribbled all over with events and people that I can appraise.  Now it is like the space under my bed, filled with dusty photos, old novels, address books and lost socks.  I have to really root around and sometimes I don’t find what I’m looking for.  I feel old when people can remind me of things I had completely forgotten.  That, and the experience of walking the length of Oxford Road twice on freshers week and not being handed a single flyer.

Dave Schofield… http://365project.org/chewyteeth/365. My writing/art blog is: http://manchestersartisticson.com

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GUARDIAN OF THE EDGE

By Agnes Marton

Association: There was no where to go but everywhere…

Winging out jetskinned,
melting off the steel.

Harsh, naked speed
upwards, then saundering.

Everywhere your arms.

Insomniac minutes
to loot.

Here, cherish,
I paint words for you
to frame.

Guardian of the Edge,
I shush pain and fear
from your dreams.

Intact,
shadowless harbour.

Agnes Marton is a hungarian-born poet, editor, linguist, translator. Regularly cooperates with visual artists. Her book: ‘Sculpture/poésie’.

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