FlAsH Fiction Contest Honorable Mentions
I really wanted to have some Honorable Mentions after I read all the short stories and poetry; there were just too many good pieces to choose from and I didn’t want to let some of them go without other fahns and the larger community being able to read these authors’ pieces of writing. So, I chose four (4) honorable mentions in each category. Although they did not receive a FAH prize, I wanted these authors to be recognized too and, therefore, I decided to publish their work on my website.
I chose the Honorable Mentions in the short story category for their humor and emotional insight into FAH’s characters. The writers take unique perspectives to show readers how we might really see the world of a FAH character through their eyes – and those writer’s eyes are creative and definitely entertaining!
Statement of Inspiration: A bit of back story – I have always loved Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, and BBC’s “Ghosts” is one of my favourite TV shows… And there was so much going wrong in the Squatter’s apartment- sure, it could be due to 2 irresponsible man-children living there (plus one “normal” guy but frankly I worry about him!) – but why not make some of it attributed to a couple of unseen minor characters taking center stage?
I wanted to reflect a couple of old messers, just in love, dead as they were when alive. True companions, who share fond memories, just as they make new ones. Threaded through are a number of references to other sketches, including a shout out to Evil Gran, How to Invigilate an Exam, and How Not to Tell a Story.
I would have loved an extra 500 words to give it a proper finish! Thank you Barbara for hosting such a delightful and inclusive event! Hope you enjoy!
PS Of course if/when Squatters returns, so will Olwyn. Like Aodhagan, I have grown quite fond of her.
PPS I’m not quite sure what accent Alfred and Olwyn have, but I figure I need to apologise to approximately half of Ireland. SooooOOOOoooooOOOOOoooooOOrrrrrryyyy!”
“Now, dere’s a nice normal name,” Olwyn said as she drifted through the wall. “I can’t believe dem lot’re trying to pass off de space under de stairs as a bedroom!”
“I can’t believe yer man’s int’rested!” Alfred replied, looking up from pulling on Suits’ coils. “Dese locks are a work of art I tell ye– pity he doesn’t wash it more often. Filt’y hygiene of a…..what do you call it..?”
“Ah, c’mere Alf, he calls himself a “gamer”. All of dose tings he plays on de yoke dere…..make his eyes go square I tell ye now. De state o’ d’housing market, I can’t blame dis new boyo really.”
“Bah, he’s an eejit! I give him 2 weeks!”
“Sure, but at least he has a normal name like. Unlike dis “Suits” here. What kind of a name is dat? 2 weeks so, we’ll bet on it.”
“Grand. Ha, dey’re talkin’ about electricity! No electrician will solve YOUR problems in dis here gaff young man! Too much fun to be had flickering dem by de likes of us.”
“And now d’plumbing! D’plumbing is us too!” Olwyn began wheezing in delight while Alfred chuckled along. Olwyn caught her breath, “at least Suits has clothes so. His OWN clothes. Aodhagan…cute hoor he is. Ah, that pup has potential if he only applied himself. A right messer… no respect for his elders so…or de dead…” Olwyn sighed sadly, “the day he shows respect, is the day I’ll cross over”. Alfred, seeing Olwyn becoming pensive, patted her on the shoulder “We might be here a while yet Ollo…”.
2 weeks later…
“Alfred…c’mere to me now…Suits is going through annoying habits! Suits!!! Himself!! Pot calling the kettle black, so.”
Alfred pulled out the pen in Chris’ shirt that was draped over Chris’ small bed, pulled off the lid, then put it back in, nib-side down. He then nudged the pillow closer to the toilet bowl at the foot of the bed. He floated through the wall to re-join Olwyn, who was perched on the arm of the couch, giving Aodhagan ghostly wet willies as he tried to read his book. Alfred grinned at her with his one solitary tooth, and reflected on Suit’s feedback…“Let’s see now…lazy…rude…antagon-…ye know, sometimes it’s me bangin’ on de door, just for the craic, like!”
“Aye, sometimes I turn off the audio just to see the confused face on te gamer boyo dere…an’ he talks to himself “The audio! More tech issues! It’s banjaxed!” he says to himself. It’s gas! You owe me so you do now…2 weeks!”
Olwyn playfully nudged Alfred, who batted her away “Go ‘way wit’ you now Ollo. Let’s call it even so – look it how long Chris’ hair is now; didn’t even know I could do dat!”
A week later…
Olwyn and Alfred looked up from slowly dancing to Mr. Tambourine Man around the lounge as Chris entered the apartment, holding a paper bag. Alfred nudged Olwyn, and winked, whispering “what you tink he might have?”. Olwyn cackled, and responded “…potatoes?” They chuckled.
Alfred stared at Suits and Aodhagan as they awkwardly explained their food intake to Chris: uncomfortable viewing for the two spirits, who have rarely heard them speak their names, except when answering the door. However, Alfred noticed long ago that Aodhagan had the habit of regularly checking that Olwyn’s old apron is still tucked up in a drawer in the kitchen, patting it occasionally when no-one is looking. Alfred, now seeing Olwyn’s eyes get misty, yanked Aodhagan’s measuring tape so it slid to the floor. From there, he nudged it under the couch “They never huver und’r dere” he explains. “Ah c’mon now Ollo….ye never liked the Bolognese anyway….Chris is about to cook…would you like to hold the window down, or hold the extractor fan still?” he pecked Olwyn on the cheek, as she muttered, “Y’see….no respect.”
Later, as Alfred and Olwyn smiled at the state of the smoky apartment, their mirth only increased as they made plans to hide the flip flops and wafters. When they overheard Chris volunteering to watch Suits’ marathon, they stopped in stunned silence, matching the pause of the lads, now endearingly termed “squatters”. Alfred muttered, “he’ll be joinin’ us in no time love. Bored to death he’ll be!”. Olwyn burst out cackling again, wheezing, then rubbing her dodgy left hip.
“Ye’ll be in a right state then Alf…move onto a younger model so I will!”. They held each other’s knobbly knuckles and danced again.
As Suits played his marathon, and Chris watched, Alfred and Olwyn moved through the apartment - hiding some things, moving others. They looked on with interest when Chris was forced to answer the door for the Meals-on-Wheels delivery. Olwyn’s eyes widened when she heard him mumble his way through the interaction. She looked up at Alfred with mischief; “Guess what?” she whispered.
“What?” Alfred said.
“No, GUESS!”…..Alfred rolled his eyes, and waited.
“I’m DEAD!” Olwyn snickered, her eyes glinting gleefully behind thick glasses.
Later that afternoon…
Prepared for the “squatters” entertainment, Alfred and Olwyn positioned themselves in the loungeroom, as the 4 occupants waited for Aodhagan to get home from his shifty shift.
When the time came, Alfred and Olwyn stared as Aodhagan erupted – they expected snark, but not the emotional outburst he displayed when he processed the news. Aodhagan – cool, calm, cunning Aodhagan, morphed into a flailing emotional heap, while seemingly by osmosis, Chris became sly and confident. Alfred patted Olwyn’s hand, “He’s carrying on like a pork chop, so he is. Must’ve cared for ye.” Olwyn sniffed “He ne’er knew me.” Alfred just shrugged, and squeezed her hand.
The next day brings another surprise - cooking (potato), flowers (fake), a speech (genuine), and a trumpet send-off (bad). Alfred and Olwyn dance together one last time, as the squatters reminisce about the original tenants, Alfred and Olwyn.
As she disappears, Olwyn’s voice can be heard…“C’mere to me Alf…look after the tech issues will ye?”
“Aye, I’ll keep ‘em guessin,’” Alfred softly responded.
Statement of Inspiration: I knew that I wanted to write a story involving Anne and Oisín, but coming up with an idea that I felt confident with took longer than I expected. I wanted the story to leave an impact and make people think, so I kept waiting until the idea suddenly came to me one day. Kids grow up, they become adults and some go on to have children of their own. It is then that they begin to understand exactly what it means to be a parent. To keep their children safe, to keep them well and to help them grow to become good people. It takes a large amount of work and sacrifice that we come to really appreciate when we become adults and parents ourselves and the time comes for us to face the world on our own. I wish I could remember exactly how the idea came to me, but the story I began to create from it made me quite upset and very anxious and I initially wasn’t going to go anywhere with it. But after sensing an opportunity to send an important message to the readers, I took a chance.
The overall message of the story is to not wait to tell people how much you love and appreciate them and the reasons why. Please don’t wait. Because what if that chance never comes again? Just imagine how you would feel knowing that you had that chance, and you didn’t take it. No matter if it’s a parent, a sibling, a friend, anyone. Please tell them.
[This [story] is a heavily watered-down version of what was turning into a much longer piece of writing. I realised that condensing a narrative filled with strong emotional themes into 1000 words is not my strongest suit, as I tend to write a lot. But I think I made it work and I’m working on the longer, more substantial piece, as we speak!]
A bouquet of flowers in one hand. His daughter’s little hand in the other. Oisín sighed heavily as they made their way to visit Anne, his beloved mother and her beloved grandmother. It was only a short walk to see her, but it was a walk of silence. The only sound between the pair were their footsteps breaking through the frosty earth beneath them. As they got closer, Oisín looked down to check on his daughter, only to see that she had let her arm holding her own tiny bouquet drop a little.
“Aoibhe.” The little girl looked up at him upon hearing her name. “Don’t let Granny’s flowers drag along the ground.” The little girl gasped and pick up her arm. “Oops! Sorry, Granny’s flowers.” Her sweet apology made Oisín chuckle softly. The smile from his face suddenly fell as they both came to a stop. They had arrived. And there she was. Oisín took a deep breath, swallowing the lump that had begun to form in his throat. But instead of outwardly showing his discomfort, he gave her a loving smile.
“Hi, Mum.” He took another deep breath before speaking again. “It’s been a while. You know what it’s like with a career and being a parent and, just, life.” He took a quick glance down at Aoibhe, who was still holding his hand. He smiled at her and turned back to his mother, the smile suddenly disappearing from his now solemn face. “Mum, I want to tell you something.” He took another deep, but shaky breath. Swallowing the lump in his throat once again, Oisín sighed heavily. “I’m sorry.” A wave of emotion suddenly caused Oisín to feel heavy and overwhelmed. With the feelings of guilt and regret weighing on him, he continued on slowly. “I’m so sorry, Mum. I just- I keep thinking of all the times you would say something to me or tell me to do something and I would just huff and roll my eyes or argue or get frustrated with you. I know that I was only a kid and that I didn’t know any better. But I didn’t understand anything about what it was like to be a parent. Of course not. I was only a kid. But now I have a child of my own, I understand. I understand everything.”
Taking another deep breath, Oisín tried to swallow that stubborn lump and blink away the tears that were beginning to sting his eyes. He gently squeezed Aoibhe’s little hand and continued on. “I understand, Mum. I understand why you would always say “Clean as you go”, even though I hated cleaning and would argue with you about it. And I understand why you always had me wear those big, warm coats and those big and itchy jumpers, even if I thought they weren’t cool and they cost you a lot of money. And I understand why you always told me to read a book or to go outside instead of playing computer games or lounging around the house. I understand why you said and did those things. I understand the sacrifices you made and why you made them. Raising kids and running a household isn’t easy. And I know that there were times where you would’ve gotten frustrated or upset or angry. But you were always so patient, even when I was unappreciative or when I complained or argued. You only did all of those things because you knew what was best for me. Because you loved me. I just wish I had really appreciated you and what you did for me. Because I understand now, Mum. Thank you. Thank you for everything you did for me. These flowers are for you. Happy Mother’s Day.”
Leaning down, he placed his bouquet at his mother’s grave. “I love you, Mum.” He stood again and looked down at his daughter.
“Aoibhe, you can give Granny her flowers now.” Aoibhe didn’t move. Her head was hung, her face hidden. Noticing this change, Oisín frowned and bent down to her level. “Aoibhe?” She looked up at him with tears in her little eyes. Without hesitation, Oisín quickly scooped her up and cradled her in his arms as they both began to cry, causing Aoibhe to drop her little bouquet at her Granny’s grave. Oisín held her close and tight; his hand gently placed on the back of her little head that had found its resting place in the crook of his neck. He let his own head rest against hers and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling overwhelmed by his emotions. They stood still. Silent, save for a few sobs. Oisín finally pulled away and sat her feet back down on the ground again. “It’s okay, Aoibhe. It’s okay for us to cry and feel sad. It means that we love Granny and that we miss her.”
Then, Oisín got an idea. “You know what?”
“Whenever Granny felt sad, she would go to the garden centre and pick out a plant for herself.” Confused, Aoibhe gave him a small frown.
“Well, because it always cheered her up. It made her feel happy again. And you know what I think?”
“What?” Oisín reached up and held her face in his hands, gently wiping her tears away with his thumbs.
“I think that Granny would want us to feel happy again. She would, wouldn’t she?” The little nod and smile she gave him melted his heart. Giving her his own sweet smile, he leaned in and kissed her forehead. “So, should we go and get ourselves a plant?” Aoibhe beamed with excitement.
“Yeah!” Oisín laughed and scooped her up again, giving her another loving squeeze and together, they began the short walk back to the car. “Daddy, can the plant live inside?”
“No, Aoibhe, it’s going to live outside.”
“Aww, why?” Oisín pulled away from her and raised his brows. But before her familiar words came back to him, he smiled.
“My house, my rules.”
Statement of Inspiration: I was thrilled about a SciFi category. It fired my imagination. Evil Gran is one of my favourite FAH characters. I’m also a fan of space exploration and am very excited about the prospect of a possible future Irish astronaut @SpaceNorah Dr Norah Patten. It sort of went from there to a kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Evil Gran as Hal taking over the Not The International Space Station. I rewatched the Gran sketches to get some ideas and used some feeble space nerd knowledge to create a picture. It’s only a matter of time …..
Granny Takes a Trip
“Well, you’ve changed”.
I blinked. It was still on the screen. Where data analysing dark matter particle research should be.
I blinked again and it was gone. The rest of the crew were dotted around the station doing their thing. They’d seen nothing.
I finished my experiments for the day and set off to the treadmill to start my scheduled downtime. I’d planned to take a sachet of Astro lamb tagine with me later to the cupola. I could eat my dinner and watch the world go by for a while. Then maybe send some emails home or watch a fillum before going to sleep.
Things had been mildly tetchy recently on the utopia of international harmony that was the Space Station. Eevi had complained that a grain of rice had got into the charge point of her karaoke microphone and she hadn’t been able to use it. Closing the hatch on the cupola zone doesn’t make it soundproof and, to be honest, there are only so many times you can listen to someone belting out “It’s a Wonderful World” before you want to press the decompression button.
Mesho, the programming wizard, had speculated loudly that the damaged watering feed for his so-called “Serenity Garden” vanity project was outside operational parameters too – this is nerd code for “sabotaged” . But we are all professionals. And there is a logical explanation for everything. Commander Ni Murcha tasked me with looking into it. Tomorrow. When I get around to it.
After my work out, I settled into the cupola just as Ireland went past below me. The whole island must be bathed in sunlight. “Always a first,” I smiled to myself as I fumbled with the foil packet of lamb tagine. Cursed thing kept slipping through my fingers and floating away. I snatched at it but it swooped over to the panel set up to display Earth’s weather data information for a laugh. Wait a minute, things don’t swoop in zero gravity. I reached over to grab the packet by the screen. Which I noticed had gone blank. Weird. It usually showed the location searched by the last person in here. And then it wasn’t blank anymore.
“Well, you’ve changed”
The screen flickered and then it went back to a read-out of the weather in Helsinki today. Eevi must have been the last one in. Perhaps she had set the screen somehow to mess with me.
No. Not to mess with me. We don’t do that sort of thing here on the space station. Pranks are strictly forbidden. Not much craic up here at all, really. Bit like prison with biscuits. No. It’s nothing like prison. It’s a …. What did Commander Ni Murcha say in her welcoming speech? … a challenge and an honour to represent humanity as it reaches beyond Earth’s atmosphere blah blah blah. To be honest, I was desperate for the toilet so I kind of switched off when she said it. No. No, I didn’t.
I have dreamed my whole life of being up here. As well as all the fitness and skills tests, I must have answered all the psychometric tests satisfactorily. Ni Murcha, who was also my old commander on the ground, once described me as “good craic but not annoyingly so”. I like to keep my nose clean, after all.
After a refreshing night’s sleep, I checked my work roster for the day and any private messages that might have come in while I was sleeping. I hummed an aria from Madam Butterfly as I brushed my teeth. I’d heard it somewhere the other day. Eevi gave me a sharp look as she glided through the sleeping quarters. She can dish it out but she can’t take it, I thought.
I logged into the nearest console, floating horizontally as I did and, there it was:
“Come here to me, now”
I blinked and squinted at it to check I was reading it correctly. Did a gravity-free somersault too. As if that would make a difference but it always makes me feel better. The words had changed.
“Here I am. A lonely old woman looking for a favour”.
“What do you want?” I whispered.
The console made a whirring noise and a sentence unfolded on the screen.
“Be a pet there and transfer me over to the main computer.”
“What!?” I didn’t whisper, looking around me for I don’t know what.
“You alright?” called Eevi from Sector B, the next block along.
“Yeah. I just ….er… banged my toe …” I called back. Whether she was convinced or not, she didn’t come back to me with more questions.
The console whirred again.
“Is that that one from, where’s it now, Finland, or some such place?”
“Er .. yeah”
“Now, just transfer me now. To the main computer.”
“Of course you can. You don’t want any rice getting stuck in your toilet now, do you?”
“What!” I hissed. And then more quietly “That was you?”
“It’s not my fault if you use that foreign muck. Now transfer me over”
“I will not!” And I zoomed out of the sleeping quarters into Section B.
“Are you ok?” asked Eevi, looking up from her work.
“Yes, I’m fine” I answered a little too brusquely before trying what I hoped was a relaxed laugh. “I’m just going to run a diagnostic on the system in the sleeping quarters. I think there’s a glitch”.
“What kind of glitch?” Romesh drifted over as he spoke. He was definitely in Romesh mode rather than Mesho mode because he looked serious. Anything I did, like transferring a non-existent disembodied consciousness into the station’s main computer network, would have to get past him. Which obviously I wasn’t going to do because it was non-existent.
And that’s when all the lights went out.
Don’t panic. Follow the drill. Work the problem. Astronaut 101.
20 minutes later it was all back up and running.
“That’ll do nicely, there,” said the main computer.
Hydra Hammersweld (Twitter: HydraH)
Statement of Inspiration: Anne & Oisín sketches were not the first FAH sketches I ever saw, but they were definitely the ones that made me fall in love with their kind of comedy. Especially the "Cooking with Parents" one always resonated with me, mainly because it resembles/represents my mum so much. This is why I decided that my piece for the FlAsH Fiction Contest had to be one starring Anne and Oisín and (of course) Barry. Because the penguins are kind of a running gag in the sketches and because it was hot out when I set out to write and because I look after three cheeky little kids, the idea of Oisín trying to steal a penguin on a hot summer's day wasn't that far off. Also, I had been playing around with a kind of knight / dominant narrator situation for a while, so that seemed like a fun little thing to add. Hopefully everyone enjoyed writing / reading and is inspired to create more FAHn content (There is never enough!)
A Young Warrior's Quest
It was a hot summer's day at 23 Cranford Cresent. The sun mercilessly burnt down on young Oisín Flanagan's neck. Sweat ran down his face as the grey shirt of his school uniform was, for anyone in their right mind, way too warm for this kind of weather. Before long, Mrs Flanagan's roses had drawn blood. But young Oisín was used to suffering and his mission was clear: a Christmas penguin from the freezer – the only refreshment left that was able to withstand an Irish summer's day. Last week's quest for Mars ice cream had failed miserably and resulted into a day of cleaning the windows and the ice cream being given away.
There! Movement in the living room. Mighty Oisín peered through the sparkling windows to see Mrs Flanagan taking her spot on the sofa in front of the TV, the first time she had sat down all day. Shortly after Oisín heard the familiar voices of his current favourite show, “The Normal People”. Anger took hold of our young warrior. 'Filthy smut', my eye! But brave Oisín pushed this unbelievable offence to his personhood aside and focused on his goal. As careful as possible, he stepped out of his mother's precious rose bed and crept along the walls to the back door. Like the gentleman he was, he removed his shoes before entering (also his steps made less noise this way, as every half-decent PUBG player knows). The kitchen was only meters away. The only problem was: when opening the freezer, it made this annoying 'ping' sound. He had to stop Mrs Flanagan from hearing that sound at all costs, or his treasure would be forever lost. So, he slipped into the downstairs bathroom instead, flushed the toilet and tiptoed back to the kitchen. While the toilet tank refilled in its incredibly noisy fashion, young warrior Oisín opened the freezer. Ping! Oisín stopped and listened. Nothing, just the toilet gurgeling and faint voices from the TV. Oisín shifted his gaze back to the freezer. There they were. A stack of yummy frozen beauties with a post-it note on top saying 'FOR CHRISTMAS! That includes you Barry'. Our mighty hero took a deep breath and reached ...
“Oisín!” The voice of terror swept through the house, shattering the soothing silence of the refilling tank with the kind of ear-piercing tone only mothers are capable of. Mrs Flanagan. Now it was young Oisín's turn to freeze.
“Oisín?! Did you wash your hand after going to the toilet?” Poor Oisín suddenly found himself unable to speak. “Oisín?!?! I'm talking to you!”
“Y..y..yes, YES MUM!” Oisín shouted finally.
“Did you use the soap?”
“The bar of soap, yes? The bottle is for guests!”
“Oh my god, yes muuum!”
“Now, Oisín, it's important. Last time I had Mrs Murphy over, she was quite distressed, because she can't use bar soap because of her condition as you know. This is a guest-friendly house, I will have you know. So come on now, and let me show you.” Steps. Mrs Flanagan had gotten up from the sofa. Suddenly, the mission was in grave danger and our hero in mortal peril. Quick-witted as ever, Oisín grabbed the top penguin from the stack, shoved it in his back pocket and slammed the door shut. Moments later, Mrs Flanagan appeared in the corridor.
“Oisín? What are you doing in the kitchen? Come on now, and...”, she stopped mid- sentence and stared past him, “Oisín? Did you open the freezer?” A quick glance to the left told our young warrior that he had slammed the door so hard it had opened again. He shook his head, hoping she would just leave it at that. This, however, would have been completely against Mrs Flanagan's nature, which is why she stepped closer and stuck her head into the freezer.
“Now, Oisín, you cannot leave the freezer open. Everything in there will defrost and we'll have a whole mess on our hands...oh.” Our young warrior knew in this moment that he had fucked up.
“Where is the lovely little note I stuck on the penguins?”
“How should I know”, Oisín even managed a third-class eye roll, before succumbing to a state of quiet fright as Mrs Flanagan picked up the note from the floor between his feet.
Spying over her glasses in her usual interrogating manner, Mrs Flanagan held the note up in his face: “You better tell me of your shenanigans now, young man.” Unfortunately for everyone involved, she received no answer.
“Oisín, did you take a penguin from the freezer?” Mrs Flanagan's stern look intensified. An almost inaudible “no” left our warrior's lips. The wanted object began to melt in his trousers. Then, a single drop of ice cold water dripped in the floor. This was it. Oisín knew it, Mrs Flanagan knew it, even the nuggets in the deep-freeze knew it.
“Right. Put the penguin back in the freezer.” Our mighty hero surrendered and complied.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?!”
“It's hot out, mum, like really really hot.”
“If it's hot out, come into the shade.”
“What shade? There's no trees in the garden!”
“We needn't any trees in our garden. The space is much nicer with my begonias and my roses... Oisín? Why is there a rose petal stuck in your tie? Did you step into my rose beds???”
“Ugh they're not even that pretty”, a certain look from his mother shut young Oisín up for good, “Sorry, mum.”
“No TV for a week, that'll teach you!” Mrs. Flanagan passed the death sentence as easily as she made a cup of tea.
A pause. “There is no need to shout.”
Young Oisín groaned: “Fine!” and was about to storm off, when...
"Penguins. Delicious," said an uninflected voice from behind the freezer door.