Green Dream

I’m excited to announce that my flash story Green Dream took out 1st place in the 2019 Flash Memoir Contest at Writer Advice.

To top it off my good friend, Sarah Russell, took out 2nd with her brilliant flash Donny, 1968.

Here’s the link if you’d like to check out all four winning entries: Writer Advice 2019 Flash Memoir Contest

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank editor, B. Lynn Goodwin at Writer Advice for the wonderful job she does hosting a range of great competitions and writing resources on her site.

Green Dream

I glanced around the vet’s office. Minimal. Functional. Sterile. No windows. The only light flickered down from a strobe overhead. The neon globe emitted a low-register hum that battered against the tension already building near the base of my skull. If it was causing my head to ache, I figured it must sound even worse to the sensitive ears of Zeus, the German shepherd sitting on the tile floor beside me.

I lowered a hand to one of Zeus’s ears and began to stroke it. Zeus pushed into my leg in pleasure. “It’s alright, mate,” I said. Which was about as far from the truth as possible.

The single door to the small room opened and a woman in a white coat entered. Tall and athletic, her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail. From behind expensive-looking glasses, she considered me for a moment before she spoke. “How is he with needles, Officer? Do you want a muzzle?”

I looked down at the six-year-old shepherd, seeing instead the eighteen-month-old pup Zeus had been when we were first partnered together. Those initial weeks before we’d established a bond had been hell. For all his size, Zeus had been terrified of the injections required of all new police dog recruits. Zeus had nipped and scratched and fought to avoid his inoculations—my hands still bore a few faded scars to prove it.

I’d worked hard to desensitise Zeus to the process. After some trial and error, I eventually stumbled across a fix in the unlikely form of a Bic ballpoint pen. I discovered that pressing a pen to Zeus’s neck, nib retracted, and then clicking the end button to extend the nib, resembled the needle experience. Zeus had a high tolerance to pain. It was more the sensation of force on his neck while he was restrained that frightened him.

Over months and years, it became a constant in our life together. Before he was allowed to play with his Kong, Zeus had to lie down and remain calm while I pressed the pen to his neck and clicked the pen nib out and in a couple of times. Zeus soon associated the experience with the promise of chewing his Kong, and the struggles and nips ceased.

“Officer? Would you like me to get a muzzle?” the vet repeated.

I snapped back to the present and looked down at Zeus. “No. Zeus doesn’t mind. Thank you.”

“Are you ready?”

I signalled for Zeus to drop, and went down onto a knee beside him. I wrapped an arm around his neck, conscious of the strong heartbeat pumping beneath thick fur. I nodded, not trusting my voice.

The vet took out a large syringe full of green liquid and expertly found a vein.

Zeus didn’t flinch. I looked into his brown eyes, recognised the implicit trust that existed, the knowledge that we’d done this together a thousand times before. That everything would be fine.

Only this time was different. Degenerative Myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord, was quickly eating its way through my courageous police dog. Any day now he could wake up paralysed. I wouldn’t let that happen.

Zeus turned his head briefly, looking for his Kong, and then closed his eyes. He rested his head on my hand, deciding he’d hunt for it after a quick nap.

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The T-Shirt

She stares at the t-shirt draped over her chair. A replica Eames deserves better than Metallica. Of all the things for him to leave behind!

Clasped like Excalibur, a knife thrusts up from a toilet, Metal up your ass written beneath. Who would think of something like that? Who would print it? Worse still, who would wear it? She knows the answer to the last, having argued with him before countless dinner parties, Sunday barbecues, visits from her mother.

She swats at the shirt as she would a spider, gets slapped in the face by Armani as it falls. Now it lurks on the floor, one more dead thing in a week of dead things, until her kick sends it skidding under their her bed.

Hours later she listens to it whisper as sleep refuses her haven. If she lies just so her mind can ignore it, until a stray breeze blows a trace to her nose. She climbs from bed to hunt naked in the fragmented moonlight. The shirt is a cool breath on feverish skin, and she surrenders to heavy metal dreams.

Ryan Stone

A Capacity for Violence

My shot missed. Dust rose in a miniature mushroom cloud.

Donny drew back his slingshot and held a rock steady. The chicken stood still. Donny released. His rock struck the chook’s head and sent it scrabbling into the red dirt of my yard.

I watched as it rose and tried to escape. The piece of rusted fencing wire Donny had wound round its leg and secured to a star picket stopped it from getting far. I wiped my hand across my forehead. Sweat and dust ran into my eyes. I blinked it away and loaded my slingshot. I missed again.

“You’re fuckin’ useless,” Donny said.

A metal bar lay on the ground nearby, left over from the shed Dad had started to build. Another project that got too hard for him and remained unfinished. The shed leaned to one side and barely stayed upright when the winds howled.

I picked up the bar and advanced on the chook. “Take this, you little faggot,” I said, and swung hard. The chook somersaulted through the air, then sprawled on the ground. Still twisted in wire, its leg pointed like a finger of accusation. I wiped my eyes, then raised the bar for another blow.

“Stop,” my mother said, emerging from behind the half-finished shed. She didn’t yell—she rarely did—but her presence was enough to make me lower the bar, and my eyes.

“Go home, Donny.”

Mother walked to the chicken, still flopping around on the end of the wire. With a quick motion of her hands—a pull and jerk—she ended its suffering. She turned and looked me in the eyes. “Untie it. Bring it into the shed.” Without another word, she walked away.

I entered the shed with the limp, bloody bird, and lay it on the bench my mother indicated.

“Sit down.”

I didn’t look at her.

“I said sit.”

“I can’t.”

She tilted her head to the side. “Turn around.”

I did as she asked.

“Now drop your strides.”

Face burning, I complied. Mother looked at my bare arse, crisscrossed with red welts the same width as Dad’s belt. She placed her hands on my shoulders and turned me around to face her.

“Please don’t tell Dad about the chook.”

“The true measure of a man isn’t his capacity for violence, but his ability to contain it. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

She handed me a hatchet.

“Cut off its head and pluck it. Then bring it in for dinner.”

Ryan Stone

Runner-up in Grindstone Literary Flash Fiction 1000, July 2018

Catching Tigers a Winner of Writer Advice’s 2018 Scintillating Starts Contest

I’m ecstatic to announce that my short story Catching Tigers was selected from 148 entries as one of three winners of the 2018 Scintillating Starts Contest at Writer Advice.

Please follow this link if you’d like to read it: Catching Tigers.

This is the beginning of a longer story, due to be published later this year. I’d love to hear any feedback you may have.

My thanks to Editor, B. Lynn Goodwin and her panel of judges for the time they invested in this great competition. Writer Advice is a wonderful site, full of helpful writing advice, interesting articles, interviews, links to competitions and much more. Definitely worth checking out.

Rishi’s Star published at The Drabble

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I’m excited to see one of my drabbles – Rishi’s Star – published at the wonderful site The Drabble.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia offers this definition – “A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.”

The Drabble also has an excellent guide to what they’re looking for – What Exactly Is Drabble.

I’ve been writing them for awhile now and find it a great way to tune in my brain at the start of a writing session…and every so often I’m left with something I like.

Worth a try when you’re next faced with that dreaded blank page 🙂

Paper Hearts

Eliza moved into the new apartment complex opposite my own drab building. She started at my school but we never spoke; the different shades of our skin made certain of that. I studied her whenever I was able. It was her eyes that always held me transfixed; they were an amazing splash of green, swirling and ever-changing as tide pools at dawn. In their depths lay a sadness that I could never quite reach, no matter how I tried.

On the day I saw her crying by her open bedroom window, I felt the weight of the slate sky overhead press down. I had never before seen someone so forlorn. Although I lived a tattered, hand-me-down life, I dressed in smiles and was clothed in laughter. Eliza was always impeccably accoutered but I’d never heard a laugh cross her lips.

As I sat watching, she glanced up and our eyes met. Instead of looking away like she did at school, she held my gaze while unheeded tears fell. I was in a rowboat, being dragged into a maelstrom. Everything in me urged me to dip my oars and pull back before I was caught in the whirlpool. Yet, I resisted and stayed with her until the storm blew itself out. Finally, when there was nowhere left for it to run, I saw the cause of Eliza’s sorrow laid bare in the depths of her eyes.

I signaled for her to stay by the window and quickly gathered supplies. I worked diligently on a red magazine page, then folded a newspaper into a plane and loaded its precious cargo. Once I was back by the window, a flick of my wrist launched it out over the chasm between our worlds.

Eliza’s eyes traced its arc as my plane gracefully rose, then seemed to hang on a breath at the apex. Inside that pause, I lived and grew old in a world devoid of colours; I married for love, raised children who knew how to draw pictures in clouds and laugh until their bellies ached for release. As the plane descended, its cargo released, to fall as heart-shaped rain.

Laughter drifted like wind chimes at dusk and a sliver of sunshine broke through dark clouds.

Ryan Stone

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Pirate Queen of the Crimson Coast

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“Surrender?” he begged.

Aisha gazed down her rapier at Admiral Benpassa. When last they’d met, he was raping her mother, the Queen. Aisha escaped the horror that followed; fleeing her father’s fallen kingdom to be reborn as a pirate.

A sharp blade and sharper mind had kept her safe when her blossoming femininity betrayed her. Her beauty and fearless nature were unrivaled; pirates flocked to her banner.
She raided the usurper’s fleet mercilessly, taking joy in each victory. Today was particularly fine.

Aisha drove her rapier through Benpassa’s skull, then swung from the burning flagship; steely eyes smoldering.

Surrender?

Never.

Ryan Stone

Cornelius and the Machine

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Click. Cornelius lay in bed. Clack. Unable to sleep. Click.

The infernal clickclack came from the billboard outside his window; neon winking on and off until midnight. After a month of broken sleep, Cornelius raised a petition. His movement gained momentum – Power to the People! – a nationwide boycott sent the company broke.

The billboard came down. Cornelius slept well for the first time in weeks.

The following month, a new billboard went up. With its competitor gone, a rival company expanded its empire. Their profits paid for a billboard twice as large; one than never switched off.

ClickityClackity. ClickityClackity. Clickity.

Ryan Stone

Empty Sky

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“It was the empty sky that first set me on edge.

“Hundreds of birds huddled in overcrowded trees, despite the late hour and the crisp morning air. I was sufficiently unsettled to restock the bunker and still inside when the radiation sensors sealed the door. But I ramble.

“If there’s anyone still alive out there, I’m in a bunker on Mount Dandenong. I’m transmitting on UHF and will scan all frequencies for as long as I’m able.

“I’m at coordinates 37.8311° S, 145.3600° E, with food and water. Is there anyone out there?

“I don’t want to die all alone.”

Ryan Stone