Flash Fiction
Short stories

“Life in a box at his feet” | excerpts from EllipsisZine's ONE

How does one characterise such a rich and incredibly diverse collection of flash fiction? “Genius might be pushing it a bit” (Sarah Wallis), so I think I’ll go with “life in a box at his feet” (Nick Black). 

Steve Campbell has done a great job in selecting 52 pieces of flash fiction for EllipsisZine’s first print anthology ONE. I could wax lyrical about the collection and urge you to get yourself a copy, but I have a piece in here myself, which means I can’t blow the trumpet too loudly. Instead, I’ll let the collection speak for itself, with striking, witty, eloquent and moving excerpts from each story.

Congrats to Steve and all the writers included in the collection. Wonderful to hear that TWO is already in the making. Submissions open on 27 November.

And so, without further ado, here are 52 flashes of brilliance.

“The vanilla weakness of them, giving up so soon. Those spoilt boy-babies. Twenty-six years of mockery fuelled my legs.”

(Expedition by Stephanie Hutton, p. 5)


“Punishment had found its route. It was seeping in like water.”

(Water by Joely Dutton, p. 5)


“He wanted his father’s car to be the first thing it saw.”

(Aubade by J. Bradley, p. 6)


“I became an unyielding statue, rigid and unbending like the bare trees of our yard, not flinching, appendages beginning to tingle in the frigid air.”

(The Tyranny of the Coiffure by Tyrel Kessinger, p. 7)


“I say maybe that’s why Mommy never lets her hair grow out, and Gran laughs. I hear bells when she does that.” 

(Neverland by Christina Dalcher, p. 7)


“We miss the neon light from the nearby casino, miss the lit-up billboard advertising dental surgery.”

(Girls’ Night In * by Cathy Ulrich, p. 9)


“While she packs, she cries softly, tears falling down her cheeks. I don’t know why - the new house sounds amazing. I throw my swimming costume into the suitcase. For some reason that makes mum cry harder.”

(House Number One by Eleanor Jones, p.10)


“Vern sat in his yard with his life in a box at his feet.”

(Yard Sale by Nick Black, p. 11)


“I work my way up her thighs. Left and right. Front and back. Lifting her legs at the knee. Taking my time. Summoning courage.”

(Spring Cleaning by Richard de Nooy, p. 11)


“His hands were cupped in front of him, as if he was carrying a precious gift from the sea. He walked with a ceremony that seemed from another place or time.”

(Lost by F E Clark, p. 12)


“She knows I’ve done the arithmetic. Knows I’m happy with the score.”

(1 + 1 = 3 by Jennifer Harvey, p. 13)


“I bet she likes Cary Grant films too. I want to bang on the glass. Warn her.”

(One Carriage Away by Amanda Quinn, p. 14)


“The maps were wrong. That had sparked it off. Somehow, they just didn’t quite tally up with the actual geography. Resentment had crept in at the easy way we’d laughed off the guide.”

(The Pragmatist by Sian Brighal, p. 15)


“It was at the local pub quiz, so genius might be pushing it a bit, but it was a difficult question.”

(My Last Piece of Genius by Sarah Wallis, p. 17)


“Except at that very moment, at that very point in the proceedings, time decides that it’s going to renege on its God-given obligation to move forward.”

(Countdown by Mark Dixon, p. 18)


“The trains emerged from the darkness trailing ghostly after-images of themselves. When his mother dated Mr Millward from school, he had explained that this was an optical illusion caused by the action of heat on the bricks.”

(Henry in Exile by Mark Sadler, p. 19)


“My son, when he was still alive, told me I’d make a good prison guard. He shouted it up the stairs to where I sat silent in the kitchen.”

(Cell for One by Damhnait Monaghan, p. 20)


“They talked through the screen. Megan told her about school, how lunch was her favourite subject. Cynthia laughed like a cherry bomb.”

(Tangerine by Chris Milam, p. 21)


“I’ve already had my fair share of failures, but with plenty of room for more to spare.”

(The Crack In Everything by Samuel J. Fox, p. 22)


“I only met my father once. I was twelve. We had lunch in town and then I watched him haggle for a discount on a helium-filled balloon.”

(What Happens When Hot Air and Cold Air Meet? by Danny Beusch, p. 23)


“A silverfish, some metallic quick bug made of thin slippery muscle and legs, glided out from a crack between the floorboards.”

(Silverfish by Simon Pinkerton, p. 24)


You know this guy? the cop had asked, my neighbors leaning in. It’s my dad, I whispered.”

(Recovery by Brandy Wilkinson, p. 25)


“I saw myself in a mirror as we progressed. A beautiful bird. Shiny, mystical and ready to migrate.”

(Bird Girl by Janelle Hardacre, p. 27)


“Our reading is that passage from First Corinthians that everyone picks for weddings, so put on your drinking hats.”

(Love Is Plastered by Caleb Echterling, p. 28)


“In the soft ground, they found our rusted treasure. I wiped the mud away, and opened the box. I read your letter.”

(The Things We Let Go by Stephanie Bento, p. 29)


“Her flimsy wooden file cabinet has been pushed under the knob of the hollow office door. She’s tucked behind a metal desk.”

(Active Shooter by Kathy Lanzarotti, p. 29)


“The door opens. Everything illuminates as if a lighthouse has found the room.”

(Eating Letters by Clodagh O’Brien, p. 30)


“Like a fleeting spirit, a cold arctic wind sweeps through me, biting at my bones, breaking the spell.”

(1 For Sorrow by Lee Hamblin, p. 31)


“We share a cord and I read her troubles – an ugly accident, a rushed wedding, frayed connections, shame.”

(Birth by Maggie Jankuloska, p. 33)


“We wore shorts and believed the world was dying. You showed me the tooth you lost in a fight.”

(Global Warming by Nicholas Cook, p.33)


“She looked closer. In repose he looked like a child playing dress up, his face cherubic, a Caravaggio boy with a Rolex.”

(One Last Time by Sophie Watson, p.36)


“Statues on the court steps – that’s how mum and I looked for a long time.”

(My Dad: No Relation by Eilise Norris, p. 37)


“I swore if I ever bumped into you on the street, I would force myself to say hello in a normal voice, make as if to walk past you, make you think I didn’t still have this big thing for you, pressing against my chest.”

(Sainsbury Sorrow by Louise Mangos, p. 38)


“The cat walks by. Your eyes crinkle at the edges like the lines on male faces three generations before you.”

(Scar by Victoria Richards, p. 39)


“This man in the courtroom is not just upstanding. According to his lawyer, he is honest, moral, principled, trustworthy, decent and conscientious.”

(Halt, Desist, Cease by Gaynor Jones, p. 40)


“Jackie flounced, the way she’d seen her mum do it, chin tilted and skirt swishing as she crossed the hallway.”

(Abandoned by JY Saville, p. 41)


“The only time you ever saw me was the day I was making the daisy chain and you said you thought the daisies looked pretty around my neck.”

(Daisy Chain by Debbi Voisey, p. 42)


“It sings, reminding me of a hymn we sang as children where the blackbird spoke, or had spoken, only to rhyme with broken.”

(The Blackbird Sings by Melissa Goode, p. 43)


“Sylvia stands still and naked on the faux fur rug in front of a dying fire.”

(Different Kinds of Broken by Jan Kaneen, p. 44)


“The words in there can dry tears, but might open floodgates; they can mend a heart or puncture it, let it burst and bleed.”

(Thinking of the One Who Got Away by Federica Silvi, p. 45)


“They passed an airport with no planes and a beach of black sand, its colours sucked into the sea.”

(Here But You by Sophie Stern, p. 45)


“A third boat of blue, more exactly formed, leaves Keiti’s outstretched hands and sails across the slick mahogany of the round kitchen table.”

(My, She was Yar by Zoë Meager, p. 46)


“I want as well. Not him, nor her, but to be her. If only I could transform with ease, dive into a fountain of femininity.”

(Calla Lilies by Stephen Jackman, p. 47)


“It’s stuck to the windowsill in the very corner, just close enough to her arm for a little rush of horror, a chill breeze. She isn’t sure it’s quite dead.”

(Caught by Nathalie Kernot, p. 48)


“I remember fresh air stinging my face as I rode home with all the windows down. I remember the sweet smell of those leaves.”

(The Day Sonny James Went Missing by Janis Lane, p. 49)


“He smells of cinnamon, her one true love. She can almost taste him, the boy with the light brown skin and sly smile.”

(Melange by Karen Jones, p. 49)


“His blood is the ocean (a body of water indeed), his corpse and skull the earth, his scattered teeth boulders and mountains.”

(Division by Charles Allison, p. 50)


“I have spent my entire life with the herd. Over nine years I have named them all. They are my family. I would die for them.”

(A Dream of Yesterday by Christopher M Drew, p. 51)


“The Band-Aid on her elbow flaps open, and I press it back in place. I want to tell her that I will wish him dead, but there’s a yank on the line and the words freeze on my lips.”

(Only One by Alexandria Nicole, p. 54)


“Imagine if he wasn’t here, rocking the little thing in his arms, letting Jack get used to him, to his smell and the sound of his voice.”

(Paternity Test by David Alexander, p. 55)


“I want to hold the fear you have of your enemies, sniff a swatch of your second grade footrace defeat, dissect that iota of uncertainty I know must be in there.”

(The Basket Case by T. L. Sherwood, p. 56)


“Maureen had always hated her name; those two long vowel sounds that pinned you down and whined in your ear.”

(What’s in a Name by Lucie McKnight Hardy, p. 57)


“Jack and his mates had been throwing stones at the dog when it ran at them, its hackles raised.”

(Dog by Jason Jackson, p. 58)


“We weren’t the first to live in the condo, and we didn’t know if the carpets were always like that.”

(Day One by J. S. Chlapowski, p. 59)


“We were sixteen put together, spread out over four mothers and decades punctuated by nights spent in maternity wards, days doing homework while holding someone’s baby.”

(Out of All of Us by Yael van der Wouden, p. 60)


“Sorry to hear about your Mum,” she says softly. “She was a lovely lady. Him upstairs seems to have his eye on the good ones.”

(The Museum by Bibi Hamblin, p. 61)


“I find the most peculiar things there: used condoms, a dream catcher, a burnt car, a burnt bra - but today there’s nothing new.”

(Desperate Teething Tumor by Noa Sivan, p. 62)