Mutual Regret

Another piece of flash fiction from a Line A Day Journal prompt. This time I totally distorted the original seed: mutual respect sends his regrets. 

* * *

Mirrored in him are the empty places in me. I have hollowed him out as he hollowed me out. I have taken as much as what was taken. A fuck you, as I remember how to take on air again. As he forgets. And I walk from the water’s edge in silence. The echoes of mutual regret swallowed this time. 


Every now and again, in the Line A Day Journal I write with Em, there’s a flash fiction prompt. These are turning into unexpected writing boons. This from the prompt: you’re digging in your garden and find a nugget of gold.

No one could explain to her how the smelting process had been imperfect. How a small amount of her heart had been spilled. Or how the grotesque nugget came to be buried among her carnations and sweetpeas.  

Never give all of your heart away, she’d been warned when she was young. Always keep a piece for yourself. But they never spoke of a heart turning on itself.

Flowers lay uprooted and torn around her. Heavy-duty garden gloves torn and bloodied. Her breathe came in half-breathed sobs.

She would end what the malignant organ had started. No piece of it would remain.

And she dug. 

Later, At Open Changes

IMG_8007My poem ‘Later’ is on of the remix pieces for Week Six of if:Books’ Open Changes project.

It begins:

in the first promise of dawn
where powdered hearts
became butterfly wings,
the infinite layers
from which we unravel
shed like onion skin.

There is a veritable cornucopia of possibilities this week. From Tom Dullemond’s “VACCINE” about a Triceratops plague to Rob G. Cook’s historical “MERN KUZH – A TRANSLATED STORY” which has this amazing line:

Memory, after all, forgets; not even you, love, believe in ghosts anymore.

Get in a remix. The possibilities are as endless as you imagination — and if interpretative dance is your thing, there’s even room for that.


BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Words by Nik Perring

BEAUTIFUL WORDS: some meanings and some fictions too by Nik Perring is unlike anything I’ve ever read.

beautifulwordsIt is not a collection of flash fiction, though the story of Alexander and Lucy runs through the heart of it. Nor is it a dictionary, yet it’s arranged alphabetically and includes definitions. It’s not a journal of reflection, though the reader finds out along the way, what brings each word to this publication. And it’s not an art book, though it’s lushly illustrated.

When handed around literary-minded friends it was the catalyst for much ooo-ing and ahh-ing. Shared with old friends it was concluded to be better than chocolates for a birthday present.

It looks, feels and smells like a picture book (minus the smears of snot and vegemite). It’s also a little like the TARDIS! But it’s neither of these either.

So what is Beautiful Words?

Beautiful Words is a literary installation that inhabits the space between the reader’s hands, heart and head. Because of this it can’t help be bigger on the inside (and grow with each immersion). It’s less something you want to read (see Dan Powell’s review) and more something you want to imbibe, slowly, over and over again. Or perhaps be wrapped in, like your favourite set of cotton sheets.

It is ambitious, audacious and absolutely engaging.

There are the 26 words—lexigraphical gems—accompanied by their meanings: crazy words ‘wiffle’, every-day words ‘clasp’, exotic words ‘effleurage’ and totally left-of-centre-words ‘Dravidian’. They are attended by Perring’s explanation of why they are beautiful to him. Riffing off, and woven through, this is the unfolding story of Alexander and Lucy. And better than six steak knives to round out an impossibly good deal, there is Miranda Sofroniou’s vivid, bold and sumptuous artwork. Each element combines to create a multi-layered tapestry that asks you to curb the impulse to race through it (like resisting the packet of Tim Tams in the freezer!); to read, pause, savour and re-read before turning the page.

The inconsistent application of the narrative POV, swapping between Perring’s, Alexander’s (in first and 3rd person) and Lucy’s (in the 3rd) adds a unique and undeniable momentum. It keeps the book from becoming formulaic and repetitive while creating delicious space for expectation and uncertainty. Who is actually narrating… and, does it actually matter?

Breathless in its brevity, the power of Perring’s writing is not just in the economy of language or the stripped back nature of the narrative, but in the hardwiring of anecdotal glimpses (and often nothing more) that tremble with Universal resonance: misunderstandings, love, loss, longing, perfect snapshot moments. His writing breaks all the ‘show don’t tell rules’, yet reveals the narrative arc in such a way the reader is certain they were only ever shown it. Perhaps watching on, in person, as it unfolded on the airplane, in the garden center or the wine bar that night.

Perring mainlines emotions in a way that compels the reader to open their heart to weep bittersweet tears into. He delivers with such ease single sentence gut-punches then switches back to offer promises of love when all hope has fled.

And all this in just 2000 words (give or take)!

The best thing about Beautiful Words… there is more to come with the release of Beautiful Trees and Beautiful Shapes later this year.

**Five perfectly-shaped obcordate leaves**

Beautiful Words is released Monday and available via publisher Roastbooks, Book Depository, FishPond and where all good books are sold.

– – –

nikperringwords2Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring

[FGC#5] Bewitched

Of all the challenges, this one sparked the most discussion, fittingly, via Twitter. I have followed several twitter accounts specifically to read Twitter Fiction, notably @arjunbasu and @GayleBeveridge (who is this week’s guest judge with me) so I had an inkling of what I was getting myself—and everyone else—into this week.

It is harder than it looks to execute well, especially when you trawl Twitter for stories (use #vss as a starting point) and see how some sing and others bomb… then have a go yourself a telling a story in 140 characters. It must have a beginning and an ending, it must be a story, not merely a statement of something.

If a vignette is a snap shot of a scene, a twitter story is like a breath within that scene. An inhalation which draws you into the story and an exhalation which brings with it an emotional payoff, some kind of deeper reaction. And that’s what most challenged me this week… drawing an emotional response from such a short narrative. Adam Byatt’s collection of 140 character stories, Polaroid Moments is stirring and poignant (vintage Byatt!)

Of the six or so I penned (from trees of petrified thoughts like fairy floss to scarlet scarves and prickly first dates under the full moon) this is the story which appealed most to those who read my efforts.

So without further ado, my submission for the Twit-fic challenge…

She twirled in the hired dress remote in hand. Dance with me Mr Darcy. She pressed play and reached out. You have bewitched me, he said.

Like it… vote for it on the Readers’ Choice Poll.