Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘flash fiction

OLWG#57, 58 & 59 – Missed Connection

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Hmm, well the least said about why I haven’t been keeping up with the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts the better in terms of testing anyone’s boredom threshold. Herewith a story hopefully seamlessly incorporating the last three weeks’ prompts.

Thank you Thom for hosting as ever.


Missed Connection

It’s Friday again. Time to visit Nanna and make sure she eats. She will tell me she had corn flakes for breakfast smothered in strawberry yogurt. It’s what she always has. Always had. But I know the cereal packet will weigh exactly the same as last week and there will be the eight-pack of yogurts I left in the fridge last Friday untouched.

I no longer bite my tongue when Nanna tells me she eats her breakfast and prepares her lunch everyday. She has been telling herself, and us, these stories for years now. I will make her beans on toast; nutritious and filling, easy to swallow and digest, and tasty. Something we can share.

I find her watching The Walking Dead. Nanna used to hate watching the TV in the day, seeing it as a form of depravity, something the lower and non-working classes did to fill their time. All she has is time now, and a Sky box with buttons she doesn’t understand, so the telly blares daylong and she watches some really weird, age-inappropriate stuff. But it stops her wandering, and us wondering.

‘The dead don’t care much for fast food,’ she tells me as I stand in the doorway to the sitting room to let her know I am there. It does no good to surprise her, although by the time I have lunch ready I will probably have to introduce myself again.

Nanna remembers the dress she wore in 1936 when she sat on her father’s shoulders to watch the King and Queen pass by. Is it a sign, before the rot sets in, when people choose to show what a good memory they have for recalling way back then? She always used to tell that story, long before it was obvious she was leaving us.

‘Put that away,’ I hear her call out as I check the cupboards to make sure there are beans to eat. You never know when Nanna might have a lucid moment and regain who she once was. It doesn’t last long, but she has been known to prepare a meal, put it in the oven and forget, only for it to be found again when the smell and flies start to multiply. As for her admonishment, she might be telling the zombies not to eat their forebears or moaning that the adverts have come on. She never liked programmes being interrupted by ads.

The worst of it is, that when it started few could see it, and once it was obvious to all, she made excuses, had explanations, couldn’t, wouldn’t admit and seek help. It was hard to say she wasn’t lying to us, and much easier to talk about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we use to make sense of the lives we lead. But how come Nanna couldn’t see she wasn’t coping when she called the fire brigade because the smoke alarm wouldn’t stop beeping? Surely even she could see that was inappropriate? Nope. And until she did something dangerous or talked complete gibberish to her GP, there was no one to help. She was convinced she could cope and convinced all those professionals she came into contact with the same. It was only the family and neighbours who saw, and screamed silently for things to be better.

‘The time got away from me,’ she said of burnt dinners, cold cups of tea, washing left flapping on the line for days and in need of re-washing.

The TV blares, zombies and humans screaming as I put the beans on to cook to mush. We both like them this way, not just reheated, but boiled until the beans collapse and the sauce reduces, a nice russet pulp. Yeah, I can only have beans like this when I visit Nanna. Everyone else complains, and so I don’t mind the weekly ritual. A full plate of beans on toast will keep her going until tomorrow when Sylvia comes.

I move to the sitting room door and say, ‘The beans are on Nanna. I’ll just do the toast and then come and get you.’

‘It’s going to be cooler this weekend,’ she says, not moving her eyes from the TV. It’s one of her stock responses, a space filler for when she knows she should say something but doesn’t know what. Or that’s what it’s become. It used to be a space filler whenever there was silence in a room. It was as if silence woke her and Nanna had to say something, anything, to maintain her connection with the world. And so began the nonsense conversations that were put down to her sense of humour and not recognised until much later as an early sign of her deteriorating neurones making surreal connections.

I toast the bread to mid-brown. There’s nothing nice about over or underdone toast. Nanna likes it perfectly cooked in the middle. It’s cooked, the beans are pulp, and I go to call Nanna from the sitting room. I have to switch the TV off, break that connection, to get her to move, but she stands happily enough and follows me to the kitchen table. Her legs are strong, and her arms. She could do for herself physically if only her mind was fitter.

‘A young man with a bad haircut came by,’ she says, fork loaded with beans and paused at her lips. ‘He looked a bit like you.’ She sucks the fork clean then examines my face, tilting her head to see me better, ‘Only he was younger and better looking.’ That was me then, last week, or a month ago, or three years. These days take their toll, and I only do one.

Carers come in to get Nanna up and put her to bed. That’s all they do, the washing, the personal care that family do not want to do. Nanna would hate to think any of her children or grandchildren were wiping her backside and so none of us do. But we feed her and shop for her and talk to her and love the woman she was. We are all tired. A day with her is enough for anyone. Mum has had it worse; being the closest child she takes on more. Her brother and sister really want to help, but mum is a bit of a control freak and says she’s fine. ‘Did you really think it through?’ Aunt Janet sometimes asks, ‘Did you think what a burden it is for you all?’ Because Janet is 50-miles away she does not do a daily run. No, those are for Mum, Dad, Josie my elder sister, Mum again, me, Sylvia my cousin and Janet’s daughter, and Patrick, some other relative of Nanna’s whose relationship to her escapes me. He’s a good egg that’s all I know, as patient as a saint, always cheerful, and not seeming to suffer as much as the rest of us do. He’s not ageing like the guy with the bad haircut.

Nanna and I eat quietly. I would like to fill her in on my week but I don’t have the energy to explain for the umpteenth time what work it is I do. It frustrates me when she can’t grasp what I’m talking about. I need to start making up stories for myself to tell her, stories about how I spend my days, with stock answers for her repetitive questions. She won’t remember the answers or be able to tell me when I say the opposite of what I said last time. Why haven’t I considered it before? My taste-buds are suddenly tasting smoky beans. No, I didn’t add barbeque sauce, but still they have taken on that soothing comforting tang.

‘I can’t find it anywhere,’ Nanna says, halfway through her lunch. She is very particular: eats one slice, cleans up all the loose beans, and leaves a second full covered slice with no beans on the plate.

‘What’s that, Nanna?’

‘I can’t find the hole in your soul.’

‘No. Oh well, maybe we can look for it after lunch. We’ve got strawberry yogurt for dessert. How does that sound?’

‘Very nice. I had a strawberry yogurt on my corn flakes this morning.’

‘I know, Nanna. But two strawberry yogurts in a day won’t hurt.’



This week’s prompts are:

  1. the dead don’t care much for fast food
  2. the time got away from me
  3. the hole in your soul


Last week’s were:

  1. a young guy with a bad haircut
  2. did you really think it through
  3. put that away


And the week before that were:

  1. cooler this weekend
  2. I can’t find it anywhere
  3. the silence woke her


Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun



Written by Sarah Ann

July 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm

#FridayFictioneers – 6/7/18 – We Must Remember

with 31 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.

Thank you to Rochelle and J Hardy Carroll for this week’s photo.

I’m not sure my story works – please let me know.


© J Hardy Carroll


We Must Remember

(Genre: speculative fiction; 100-words)

It stands as a memorial. The site of the last spontaneous combustion.

As the sun spots grew and the flares flew closer to earth, the instant ignitions became numerous and scary. No one knew who or when or why. Lovers were burned, children orphaned, families lost. The world’s population pulled together, unable to find anything or anyone to blame.

And then it all stopped. Days, weeks, a year went by and no one smouldered. People started to breathe, fall out, and fight again.

The last scorch mark stands protected as evidence that everyone can get on. When they want to.



OLWG#56 – When Paul Was Five – #amwriting

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He is my response to this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild Prompts. This was fun to write, but didn’t take 25-minutes at all. It took a while longer and still needs re-editing and tweaking to make it better. Thank you Thom for the prompts that could only go one way for me this week.


When Paul Was Five

Clare decided long in advance that Paul should have a pirate-themed party for his fifth birthday. She collected together suitable detritus from the local charity shops – a squawking purple parrot on a perch, a sailing boat made of matches that was strictly hands-off, and various plastic chests of dubious treasure. With all the props she needed, Claire spent the two weeks leading up to the party making individual hats for the children expected, and hoped there would be no last minute invites as Paul made and broke buccaneers, or pushy parents approached with grappling irons. Paul was tasked with making all the swords, in cardboard of course. He and his father spent the month of weekends prior to the party’s launch decorating each sword hilt to match its owner. Paul was up on piratical law and myth, and there were runic decorations and symbols that had to be attached to explain the power and mastery of his crew in marauding and other plundering pastimes. Various pasta shapes, cotton reels, glitter, dyed string, and lots of paint, were used to make these messages clear.

As far as Clare was concerned, the only thing missing before the day was a pirate-themed magician. True, one wasn’t strictly necessary, but she needed some form of entertainment to keep the excitable little sea rats enraptured to save the tears as flimsy swords collapsed. A clown was not appropriate, balloon benders a bit old hat, and Clare searched long and hard but came up with no one suitable.

She discussed her dilemma at church and Phil, the cousin of the pastor’s wife, volunteered to come along. He had been in the merchant navy years since and had some treasures of his own he said he could bring, as well as photos and tales of tattooed peoples and brain-eaters. Clare was grateful, but pointed out the kids were only five and brain eating wasn’t necessarily appropriate. And could he please steer clear of voodoo and zombie tales. Clare didn’t want to be responsible for twenty families experiencing nightmares in the following weeks.

The day arrived: the kids played and ate, with only two throwing up from overindulgence. They fought and won their battles, cardboard swords starting to droop, leaving pasta and glitter all over the floor, and then they sat down to hear from Filibuster Phil, a man who had been to sea and see, and seen it all. Phil, as well as adopting a new moniker, revelled in his role and regaled them with stories of spotting enemy ships from the crows’ nest, being lashed to the mast to survive humungous storms, visiting islands of painted peoples, and the abilities of shipmates with peg-legs and hooked-hands. The children gaped and gasped in all the right places.

Phil’s last tale was one about the ghosts of Glummer Caves, that stole the breath out of you should you espy them. There was a rumour that if you ever stood inside the cave, a ghost might follow you all your life and use the least expected moment to take your breath. Phil paused before the punchline, his head forward like a stretching tortoise, his arms and legs akimbo like a cartoon scaredy cat, and then he tumbled gently to the floor. The kids loved it, and after a moment’s silence were cheering and crying for more. They carried on hooting, picking up their swords, as half the parents shooed them from the room and the other half picked Phil’s still body from the floor. With the children safely around the food table or in the garden, the first-aiders laid Phil on the floor, administered CPR, called an ambulance. All to no avail.

At school for the next six-months, Paul’s party was the best to have attended, ever. Clare, while not wanting to rush her baby boy to grow up, did look forward to the day he no longer hankered for birthday parties. It had been hard enough trying to keep up with Joneses, but topping the Glummer Ghosts catching up with Filibuster Phil was inconceivable.



This week’s prompts are:

  1. covered with glitter
  2. playing pirates
  3. life can end in the middle of a sentence


Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

June 29, 2018 at 9:34 am

#FridayFictioneers – 15/6/18 – Freedom

with 37 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.


When I looked at this week’s prompt I immediately imagined someone trapped in a cellar, seeing a bird outside, and longing to be free. Then I read Bjorn’s prompt for Haibun Monday on d’Verse and took a different path.

With thanks to Rochelle for hosting, Jean for this week’s photo, and Björn for a useful nudge.


© Jean L. Hays



(Genre: general fiction; 100-words)

I’ve been locked in here for weeks now, watching the days shorten through a tiny skylight. No one will be looking for me. I led an independent life and won’t be missed.

My kidnapper keeps me fed and watered, and life is easy not having to make choices about what to eat, how to fit in shopping, what to wear each day to look my best. Not being able to pee whenever the need arises is the only inconvenience.

She hasn’t told me why I was taken, and I have ceased to wonder. Having no control has become weirdly liberating.



Written by Sarah Ann

June 15, 2018 at 10:12 am

OLWG#54 – You’ll Dance on My Grave

with 4 comments

Here is my response to this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompt. That’s two weeks running I have managed to post on the Thursday after the Sunday the post went up. This has largely been because of last minute work cancellations, but who cares. I will have partially met one of my Project 10K goals for the month. 🙂

Thanks to Thom for another set of thought-provoking and challenging prompts this week.


You’ll Dance on My Grave

It’s five years since the funeral and I am dancing on my wife’s grave. I can’t actually believe I am doing this. I am not at all pixillated. True, I’ve taken a little Dutch courage, but I am not doing this because I’m tired and emotional.

I am emotional. I am swinging from wondering what the hell I am doing to knowing I am carrying out her wishes. As she lay in that damned hospital bed she told me, clear as a bell, to have a good life, to find another wife, ‘And if you haven’t after five years, you’re not the man I thought you were, and I want you to dance on my grave.’

‘I couldn’t do that,’ I half smiled ‘That would be so disrespectful.’

‘Yes, so you’d better find yourself another woman after I go.’

I didn’t argue. I agreed so she thought I’d do as she wished regarding the getting another woman thing. Angie was the love of my life so why she thought I’d want anyone else I don’t know. I am not well equipped in the gathering of female company.

The problem was, Angie didn’t let it go. She had cancer a long time and prepared her own sending off. She left messages for those she loved to be read at the wake, which was almost everyone there, and her plan and forfeit for me were shared. Many were drunk by that point in the proceedings, the pain of Angie’s passing had to be numbed by something, and her ideas for me caused great merriment. Some wondered if they had heard right when their sore heads stopped throbbing, but there was a print out of all the messages in the care of Angie’s best friend, and there is no doubt whether what Angie wanted is truth or just the way I remember it.

There was never a malicious streak in Angie so I know she did not want me to be seen and arrested for sacrilegious acts. Still, I have come to the grave after dark, to reduce my chances of being caught in the act, because that it what it feels like. I am doing something wrong. I feel slightly sick and my dancing has been lacklustre. In fact, why don’t I just stop and sit with her.

‘I have danced gently and quickly on your grave, love.’

I come to see Angie whenever I need to talk things through. Of course she can’t hear and provides no answers, but I feel her presence. I am glad she was happy to be buried so I can visit her. She wasn’t bothered by what happened to her body.

‘I’ll be dead. Whether I go up in smoke and heat a swimming pool or rot in the ground, it’s up to you. You’re the one having to deal with it.’

Sometimes her rationality and pragmatism got to me. At others her inability to shilly-shally was an immeasurable blessing. I imagine if she could see me now she’d be wagging her finger in mock anger saying, ‘How is it you haven’t found someone to look after you?’

I don’t need anyone to look after me. I was a happy and competent bachelor before Angie came along and swept me off my feet. I was a very happy husband to her. I am a competent widow. I can’t really comment on my mood. I miss her everyday, but I am getting on. I go to work and clean the house. There was nothing I couldn’t do before we married and Angie’s illness was of long duration so I was prepared for after. Her last weeks were spent in the hospital so the major thing that changed on her death was the amount of time I suddenly had. There were no more after work commutes to the hospital, no more hours spent sitting by her bed. It hit me hard, the spare time, empty time, time to chase thoughts around my head and come back to the beginning with the whys and what-ifs and chase them round again. The lack of her voice, never seeing her twinkly eyes, and the time are still the hardest things to bear.

My friends have helped me with the time. Ben, Mitch and I meet up every Friday like we didn’t before to bemoan the state of the world. Their wives are grateful; it clears the air for the weekend. It’s weird to think Angie’s death has helped ease the passage of two other marriages, but it has. Ben and Mitch looking after me has helped plug the fissures in their relationships as they don’t take their shit home anymore and leave it at my door. It’s not all doom and gloom. We discuss philosophical questions sometimes too, like whether it is more or less important to keep promises made to the dying than the living? The living will know whether or not you keep them, the dying never can. I never promised Angie but had to keep it anyway. I have failed to find a new wife so have danced on the grave of the old one, the only one. I hope she’s happy to know I followed through, and to know my candle still burns only for her.

‘Five years is a lifetime and no time at all, Angie my love. Maybe another woman will come along, but I am not looking and she will have to work bloody hard to catch my eye and outshine you.’

I stand and rest my hand on her head stone, bend down to kiss the cold marble that is my last link to her. Ben and Mitch are waiting by the gate to take me home. They offered to come in with me, to bear witness, but there are some things between man and wife than no one else should ever see. I have fulfilled my forfeit and professed my undying love. Now it’s time for a drink.



This week’s prompts are:

  1. keep the promise anyway
  2. another drink
  3. is it the truth or just the way I remember it


Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

June 14, 2018 at 2:51 pm

#FridayFictioneers – 8/6/18 – Within or Without

with 38 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.

My story this week might feel a little distant from the picture. I started with ideas of a sniper picking out a man in the red shirt, before the hall is entered by a swarm of Manchester United supporters, but that came to nothing. Next I got to thinking about libraries, swarms of tourists, and the following misery tale developed, although I’ve identified the genre in grander terms.

Thank you to Rochelle and Roger this week for the prompt.


© Roger Bultot


Within or Without

(Genre: philosophy; 100-words)

There once was a book in which the author described a perfect mystical world. She implied it could be found on Earth and peppered clues to its whereabouts in her text. For years scientists and readers argued over where nirvana might be, forgetting an author’s imagination. Possible sites were identified, visited, excavated. Multiple magical landscapes were destroyed then re-visited as examples of what not to do.

The author became a recluse. On her death her follow-up manuscript was published. ‘Beauty and devastation exist in the world, whether or not it is seen.’ Succinct as it was, few grasped her point.



OLWG#53 – Men in Suits

with 4 comments

Here is my response to this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts. As ever, thank you to TNKerr for hosting.

I came up with a sort of story, but a title was harder to pin down so apologies for its lameness.


Men in Suits

A corner office in a high rise. Floor to ceiling windows look out over the city. Glass walls on the other side have the blinds down and closed. A pale oak board table, matching chairs with upholstered seats and backs, are the only furnishings.

Two men in charcoal suits. The older, middle-aged, is seated. Jacket undone, his belly bulges in a shirt his wife has been saying is too small for months. He crosses his arms and says, ‘You know what you have to do.’

The younger, mid-thirties, gym junkie, stands looking out. Left hand on hip, the right raised in frustration, maybe supplication. He turns, drops the hand and says, ‘She won’t come.’

‘Use your persuasive powers.’

‘They don’t work on her.’


‘You want me to call her now.’

There is no need for the older man to nod.

The younger man extracts his phone, places it in the centre of the table. He presses two buttons before the ringing tone fills the room. It rings three times before a female voice answers.

‘Jack, how lovely to hear from you. However, I have to remind you I retired two years ago. I’m not that kind of girl any more.’

‘I said as much to Alec. He still wants me to try.’

‘We need you again,’ the older man says, leaning forward in his seat as if the woman at the other end will see his earnestness.

‘Sorry. No can do Alec. You know me. When I say a thing I do a thing.’

‘Which is exactly why we need you.’

‘Which is exactly why I won’t be coming back. I retired.’

‘You’re the only one who can meet the particular needs of this client,’ Alec says, arms outstretched on the table, hands reaching toward the phone, his body betraying his desperation.

Jack wonders why Alec asked him to call now he’s taken over the conversation. But Maisie wouldn’t have answered if she’d seen Alec’s number calling.

‘I am not the only one with my talents,’ Maisie says. ‘Come on, Alec, you must have picked out someone else by now for special training. I am not unique. It’s as you always say, no one is indispensible.’

Jack squeezes his lips on the smirk that tries to escape. Alec will not like Maisie quoting his own words back at him, and it underlines the fruitlessness of Alec’s pleadings. Jack wonders how long Alec will persist. He doesn’t want to watch his boss squirm, and knows Alec won’t want to be observed as he begs Maisie to return for this one last job. He also knows Maisie is resolute. They discussed it before she left. ‘There’ll always be one last time,’ she said. ‘And after you take the first last job there’ll be another one, and then another. I am out. End of. Not coming back for nothing or nobody.’

Jack misses her and looks forward to the day he decides he’s had enough and he and Maisie can socialise without fear of compromising each other.

‘Look you two,’ he says. ‘I’ve got things to do. I’m going to leave you to work this out.’

Alec looks at him, raises his arms in objection. Jack shrugs.

‘You take care, Jack,’ Maisie says.

‘You too. And remember I love you anyway, even if you are letting us down.’

‘Pah.’ The retort is true Maisie in stop taking the piss mode. ‘See you on the other side,’ she says.

Jack smiles, ‘Will do,’ and leaves the room.

He knows he will suffer Alec’s ire later. He doesn’t care. Maisie is right, Alec should have picked out and trained up someone to replace her. She’s wrong about not being unique. She truly was, but someone could be as equally good and effective at the job, with their own unique flare. As Jack walks through the open plan space to his desk he wonders if it’s time for Alec to retire. He’s been caught out, accepting a job and relying on an old hand to meet client demand. It’s not the first mistake he’s made of late. Jack will have to keep his eyes and ears open, whether for a way out or a way up he’s still not sure.


This week’s prompts are:

  1. we need you again
  2. I love you anyway
  3. I’m not that kind of girl


Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

June 7, 2018 at 8:21 pm

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