Winners of the April/May Flash Fiction Challenge

 In Newsletters, Writing Challenge




In our April/May Flash Fiction challenge we asked you to write a story inspired by a favourite movie quote. We were fascinated by the snatches of dialogue that entrants remembered and treasured – and thought, aha, the quotes you remember tell us a great deal about you…

The winner by a short head is Sandy Lee. It’s the voice that does it. As it is so often. Generate a distinctive voice and you have your reader by the throat. Sandy’s piece intercuts between the hatchet-like tones of the bean counter and the fantasy life of the protagonist to extremely good effect. Sandy, your prize is a choice between a literary assessment on 5000 words of writing worth R 2900 / £ 170 or a voucher to the same value to use on one of our courses or programmes. Let us know your preference. We look forward to working with you.

Runners up in alphabetical order are:

Liz Dewing for her conversation between a mother – or is it a grandmother? – and her daughter (or grand-daughter). The dialogue is fresh and sparkling, and the reveal at the end is superb. 

Jane Meenehan, for her idea – and the dialogue that supports it.

Jan Painter, for their surreal take on a dream scene – and a beautifully offhand final sentence.

Melissa Siebert for reminding us, quite lyrically, that the most painful memories are of love lost.

Sandy Lee

Jane Austen:  I could live by my …

Mother: Let’s knock that notion on the head once and for all.

– Becoming Jane                                                                                               

James walked into the meeting room claiming the space with every step.  Blue suit, white shirt, red tie. Sheila’s mouth twitched.  Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

James cleared his throat.

‘First slide, Sheila.’

He paused.

‘As the numbers show, cutting our head count by twenty percent is an easy cost saving.’

He stabbed the block on the spreadsheet repeatedly with the laser beam.

Sheila glanced out the window. Severed heads tumbled past. Steve, the janitor, the new glasses he was so proud of still firmly attached to his face. Martha, mouth open, eyes wide, her usually pristine white headscarf splattered with blood.  Down they rained.  Maureen from Accounts, a shimmer of silver hair streaming out behind her…

‘Sheila!  Next slide.’

With a start, she pressed the forward arrow.

Leaning against the table, James slipped his hand into his trouser pocket.

’And these initiatives will provide the biggest bang for our buck.’

The gunshot cracked like a whip. The report rang in Sheila’s ears.  The Kudu bull, blood pouring from the gaping wound on his flank, charged in terror along the corridor.  The majestic curved horns clashed against the glass partitions.  Behind him came a barrage of suited executives hollering and hooting, patting each other on the back.


She stared at the faces around the table.  Then, picking up her pen, she followed the trail of blood out the building.

Liz Dewing

We are not swans. We’re sharks.

-Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) in Up In The Air

“He’s an utter nightmare. She should be paid double what she’s getting.”

“He’s sick mom….and it’s her JOB! Bloody hell, after what….fifteen years in care work…? She should be able to distinguish between the person and the disease by now. She keeps on reacting as if he’s a bad person. He’s got dementia. Of course he behaves badly.”

June frowned, stabbed her fork into her steak and sawed at it with the steak knife. “It’s a bloody awful disease.”

Judith, sitting opposite her mother at the table, beckoned to the waiter to bring another round and kept quiet.

“I got called out to a job once…”

Judith’s ears pricked up. Something about moving house had triggered gran’s memory. She’d learned more about her self-contained grandmother in the last six months than in her entire twenty five years to date.

“Woman worked for a chap for twenty years as his Secretary – then stayed on as his Carer when he got dementia. Amazingly loyal.” She paused.

June stopped chewing and looked at her mother.


“She killed him….. Gouged his eyes out with sewing scissors.”

Judith almost choked on her coke.

“Well we’re definitely not swans, are we?” June said and continued hacking at her steak.

Jane Meenehan

 Houston, we have a problem.

-Apollo 13

“It doesn’t work.”

“What do you mean, it doesn’t work?”

“Won’t work.”

“Doesn’t, or won’t?”


“Same thing. Take it back.”


“Of course, you can. You’ve just bought it, man. Where’s your slip?”

“There’s a problem.”

“What problem?”

“Didn’t pay for it.”

“You didn’t pay for it?”


“Yet, you mean. You haven’t paid for it yet.”

Arthur appeared to have run out of words, not that he ever had a large supply of them on his most eloquent of days.

“Ar-thur,” Frank’s patience clung to each syllable. “What do you mean you didn’t pay for it?”

Arthur’s word bank was refreshing. He pulled an earlobe and scratched his temple to speed it up.  Frank’s foot-tapping wasn’t helping. A car started in the yard, sending a cat scurrying for a new shelter. Wind blew braai smells into the garage, along with wood ash and smoke. Arthur scratched. Frank tapped.  At last, a few words were ready;

“I stole it.”

No words from Frank. Just eyes. Wide eyes. Arthur guessed that it was time for Frank’s word bank to refresh. His was much quicker though, and the silence was short.

“Jesus, mother of Mary. What were you thinking? Are you batshit crazy? You stole it?”

Arthur didn’t know which question to answer first, so he didn’t answer any.

“You were supposed to buy it for your boss. He’s going to freak out, man. This is a huge problem. You’ll have to tell him. What’s his name?”

“Houston. Mr. John Houston.”

Jan Painter

Dreams feel real while we’re in them.

Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio)in Inception


The minute she boards, she knows she is on the Pig bus again; and she can’t get off.

There they all are again: Old pigs dressed in Armani suits, Mummy pigs in pretty floral frocks, Daddy pigs in jeans and tee-shirts and piglets dressed in designer kiddie clothes. There are so many of them, all overweight, crammed into seats or standing on two legs in the aisle with one hoof hung through the looped handles. Some speak with one another in loud, snorty pig-language, sometimes shifting their little piggy eyes in her direction, with obvious disdain.

She tries, as usual, to find a space for herself; but the pigs obstruct, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she is not welcome here.  They tread on her toes with their horny trotters; And shove her roughly out of the way when she tries to get to the door.

The air oozes a sweaty, fetid smell.

She sees again through the window that she has missed her stop.

When the panic begins to rise from the depths of her body, she wakes up screaming, “Stop!”

Once again return to sleep is impossible.

Another tired day at work tomorrow.

She’s been having this recurring dream off and on for years now; And it would continue for several more years to come.

Mysteriously it suddenly disappeared, never to return, after she left her marriage.

Melissa Siebert

Every night I cut out my heart.

– The English Patient

I stare far out across New York harbour, past the lights of the city’s tip and the glowing torch of Lady Liberty. Look, there’s the bridge, where we first thought of loving each other, running across it at midnight, catching the last ferry to Staten Island, tangled in each other’s arms as the sea frothed white in the darkness.

I feel how you held me, that night and countless others, with synchronised breath. You love poetry. You live it.

Here, high up on this brownstone roof, fall seeps into my bones, I shiver. Hold me. Listen. A fog horn mournfully signals a warning to a lost ship. To the lost souls coming to this city thinking it could save them. Chasing dreams.

Look at the stars. You guide me through the constellations. Orion, Scorpio, the Bear, Pleiades, Gemini. The city’s filth does nothing to disguise them. They’re always there, even when invisible.

Over the roof’s edge, four storeys below, young lovers wander the darkened sidewalks, for a moment illuminated by the street lamps before fading again into the night. Their laughter stings, they’re careless with it.

What if they looked up? Who, what, would they see?

A shadow, a cipher, here after sunset, looking for you. Like now, edging ever closer to the end of the roof. Closer, closer. Then dizzily pulling back to half a life.

My nightly re-enactment, coming up here. It hurts – but I love the pain.


And please enter our June/July flash fiction challenge. Deadline – 31 July 2023!

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