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Flash of the Month: July 2017

Thanks again for all your wonderful stories on the theme of citizenship, identity and belonging. We were spoilt for choice and had a hard time selecting just one from the diverse, imaginatively-told entries. In the end, we chose Rachael Dunlop’s heart-stoppingly intimate tale about identity, ‘Nothing At All’. It is a beautiful example of the short form, with stunning imagery, precise use of language and a final, lingering line that works so well. Congratulations, Rachael!

This time around, we have also selected two highly commended stories, which we particularly loved. First up, ‘(almost) Adult’ by Jenny Richards – a witty piece about a teenager trying to fit in, with pitch-perfect characterisation; our second mention goes to ‘Blue Ice’ by Shannon Savvas – a story with dreamy prose and a powerful ending.

If you have a story of up to 500 words and would like to be considered for our next ‘Flash of the Month’, here are the details of how to enter.


Nothing At All

The best moment is just before you catch me. You fling me up and the shock of it pulls a shriek of laughter out of me and my limbs go weak with giddiness. It’s no time at all before you’ve got hold of me again, your arms crooked at the elbow to take the weight of my eight years, plus the extra we don’t talk about. I’m always glad when you’ve caught me, but I wish I could stay in the moment of free-fall a bit longer. All that is me is in the air, rising up and out of my body, the two things – mind-me and body-me, slamming into each other, recombining, seconds before you catch me and buckle at your knees, swinging me round to hide the fact I was too much. We fall, laughing, and I wonder if it’s normal to love a brother so much.

Mum sees us in a tumble on the grass and yells through the open kitchen window: ‘I hope you’ve not been throwing your sister in the air again. You’ll break the back of yourself.’

I’m not the only fat kid in the playground, but I seem to wear it differently to the others. You have to grow something else about yourself that’s bigger than your body so people stop seeing it – be funnier, be meaner, be happier. Be more than. Be better than. I lean against a wall, step to one side of myself and enjoy the head-spinning that comes with thinking: what if I had not been born me? A football bounces off the wall an inch from my face and I will myself not to flinch. That just makes them laugh more.

Mum sends you to pick me up from school. Who’s that, they ask, goggle-eyed, and I tell them you’re my brother and you’re nearly a grown-up, you’ll be eighteen in the summer. And one of the older girls says the word ‘fit’ like it means something different than what I think it does and I want to tell them yes, you are fit, you are so strong you can throw me in the air and catch me, but I don’t because that belongs to you and me, that moment when your arms are waiting and I am floating and there’s nothing to me. Nothing at all.


Rachael DunlopRachael Dunlop is an award-winning writer of short stories and flash fiction. Her stories have appeared in various places online, including Flash Flood Journal, Every Day Fiction, Words with Jam and Synaesthesia Magazine, and in several print anthologies, including most recently the National Flash Fiction Day anthology, Sleep is a Beautiful Colour (2017) and the upcoming Stories for Homes 2 anthology (due for publication late 2017). Her first (unpublished) novel was longlisted for the Bath Novel Prize 2017 and she continues to write fiction of all shapes and sizes, as the Muse strikes her.