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April 2013: HIGH TIDE

Fraser Williamson, Fishing
Fraser Williamson, Fishing

 

Fraser Williamson has had work in many national and international publications, books and projects for design firms and agencies. He shows his paintings at the Flagstaff Gallery in Devonport. He lives with his wife Loisi and their son Antonio. They like to spend their time between Tonga, New Zealand and Spain. ‘Fishing’ is a humorous look at the inter-connectedness between Hawaii and Aotearoa (and all the islands really). Tama is fishing up a dobro-style guitar which he will play as an accompaniment to the vision of ancient surfing that models itself on the original drawings by European seafarers who observed the sport when they first visited Hawaii. It is acrylic on canvas and now resides on a wall in Malta. More here

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Janet Pates, Cast Ashore

Once, there was an old man who loved the sea, for it had been his life. One day there came a huge tide which cast him high on the shore then retreated, washing the beach clean of sand castles, footprints and stick-drawn messages.

At first he enjoyed the waves’ siren song, but then the sound began to steal into his head and spirit things away. The days of the week were first to go, then names, faces, places – all washed out to sea on the tide.

Every day he went down to the water’s edge and fished for memories but all he ever caught were fragments of the past: the glint of an eye, the echo of a laugh, the colour of a girl’s skirt.

One day, a young woman came to him out of the sea mist. He peered at her and saw she had beautiful eyes. He knew those eyes. “Are you my wife?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. “I’m your granddaughter.”

He asked if she would take him home and she said, “Perhaps another day.”

Meanwhile, she would help him to fish. So they fished, side by side until he grew tired. Then he passed her the bait he had left and said, “Carry on.”

The winner of the 2012 National Flash Fiction Day competition, Janet Pates lives in the small town of Tuakau, near the mouth of the Waikato River. She writes for children and for adults, she writes fiction and non-fiction, the latter with an emphasis on local history. In between times, she is trying to create an interesting memoir out of a singularly ordinary life.

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Tim Heath, High Tide

The boy in the bath makes no effort to wash.

His knees are muddy, his face smeared with tears.

He lies down, only nose and eyes above water. His lips form a word. If his mouth was above water level the listener would be able to hear the word – buggers.

He starts to cry again and has to sit up. The water level drops and reveals that sufficient dirt has been released to form a high tide mark.

“Buggers. Bloody buggers. Coulda let me win, just once. I’m the youngest and the littlest and I never win, bloody buggers!”

He lies back down. The water is no longer warm and soothing. The high tide mark reinforced by the dirt his movement has dislodged.

“Hurry up,” yells his mother, “your brother needs to have his bath too you know.”

“Bugger him,” he bubbles. “He can be last because he never let me win and I am the littlest and the youngest and…”

His father steams into the bathroom.

“For god sake boy, how long are you going to take? You haven’t started to wash? What’s the matter with you?”

“They wouldn’t let me win and….”

The tears rush back.

“Stop your blubbing, wash yourself and try harder.”

He does as he is told. Scrubs, climbs out of the bath, dresses.

He watches the water drain away. The image of the high tide mark, a shadow on whiteness, will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Tim Heath writes poetry, enjoys some success in the oddity known as Poetry Slams and writes whenever he can grab time from grandchildren, travelling, sailing, growing vegetables and hanging out more washing than he cares to mention.

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James Claffey, return to nothingness

Along the empty beach seagulls struggle to make headway in the face of the strong wind and sea shells tumble end over end in the wash. I pull my trunks up around my waist, the plastic buckle is a gold anchor and Mam says they look very smart on me. The Old Man slaps his belly and says, “Time for a dip, my Son of Eireann.”

In the water a dead seahorse floats along and I pluck it out and hold it against the sky. Curved like an “S” from a storybook the horse is a beautiful thing. I take the goggles off and fill them with water. Sand washes off its body and its purple ribbed corpse shines in the sunlit water. I wade back to shore, afraid I’ll crush it and kill its soul.

Mam reads the Sunday newspaper behind the windbreak, smoking a cigarette. The baby is in its house, waiting to be born. When she sees the tiny creature she says she’s never seen one so lovely. “It’s wonderful. Thank you.”

I bury the seahorse in the rocky area by the fence. I say a prayer for the maritime traveller and toast its return to nothingness. When I get back to the windbreak the Old Man drips water on Mam’s Sunday Independent. “Sit down and eat something,” Mam says. “Give me one tick,” I say, and run back to the seahorse’s grave to say goodbye to the summer.

James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. His blog is at www.jamesclaffey.com.

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Jeff Taylor, Tsunami Blues

TV said it would strike about 11am Pacific Standard Time.

DO NOT GO NEAR THE COASTLINE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

Me, Trent and Kyle didn’t think twice, we wagged school, got on our bikes and headed out there with our boogie boards.

The estuary was deserted, except for some old freaks hanging out on the high ground. They shouted stuff at us that we couldn’t hear, so we gave them the fingers. The tide was out so we waded through knee-deep mudflats for ages before we reached the water’s edge.

“Whaddya reckon?” Trent said, “Ten feet, twenty feet?”

“You seen the TV this morning?” Kyle said. “They’re gonna be awesome. Thirty, forty foot maybe. Cars, houses just wasted, bro. Dead bodies everywhere.”

We’d come prepared. Trent had some Jim Beam out of his old man’s cabinet. Kyle had pinched some of his father’s roll-your-owns, and I’d used the five dollars I’d snuck from my mum’s purse to get some crisps.

The waves stayed about one foot except at one stage when the tide came slowly up the sand about another six feet, then went back after a couple of minutes.

Our eyes got sore from staring at the horizon for hours.

“Must be about lunchtime,” I said.

“Stinks, man.” Trent chucked a hunk of driftwood at a seagull, but missed by a mile.

“Waste o’ time, bro.” Kyle kicked a shell out of the sand and hoicked a spitball at it.

“Yeah,” I said. “Tsunamis suck.”

Jeff Taylor is a retired pharmacist living in Hamilton who enjoys writing short stories for both adults and children. He has been writing for about six years and has won three short story contests in the UK (Global Short Stories) and has a children’s story published in Barbara Else’s latest anthology, Great Mates.

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Melanie Koster, Chasing Dragonflies

She giggles as the tide pulls at the sand under her feet, almost causing her to lose her balance.

“Watch me, Mummy!”

“Don’t go any deeper Miriama, and keep your sunhat on!” Her mother lies under the shade of a ngaio tree, fishing little white flowers from her wineglass.

Miriama chases a dragonfly. It glistens and hovers over the water with cobweb wings. “Look at this, Mummy!”

No reply. A book covers her face, her glass discarded in the sand.

Miriama ventures a little deeper. A gust snatches her hat, tossing it further out. She lunges, but a wave knocks her off her feet. She tumbles through the surf, spluttering. Standing in the shallows, she watches her hat float away.

Miriama wonders whether to wake her mother – to tell her about the hat, and that she really needs to do Number Twos. She leaves her sleeping, and makes the trek across the paddock to the woolshed loo on her own.

Miriama screws up her nose. The woolshed smells of lanolin and dried sheep poo, but it’s cool and dark – welcome relief from the heat. She climbs onto a bale and stretches out. A fly drones above her, and she is soon asleep.

A shattering scream echoes around the bay. Miriama peers through the door. In the distance she sees her mother clutching a sodden sunhat, wailing and thrashing about in the waves. She’s mad about the hat, thinks Miriama. She decides to hide out in the shed for a while.

Melanie Koster lives in Christchurch with her husband and two children. She works at a local primary school and teaches a pre-school music group. She is the author of children’s picture books, The Reluctant Little Flower Girl (Mallinson Rendel 2008) and Milly Maloo and the Miracle Glue (Scholastic NZ 2011).

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Graeme Lay, James & Elizabeth, North Yorkshire, 27 December 1771

It was the first time Elizabeth had seen the sea. Until now the only seawater she had seen was a flowing Thames tide. Averting her eyes, she drew her shawl tightly about her. She was with child, again, and her husband, James Cook, would be leaving soon, again.

“It frightens me, James, the sea.”

“How so?”

“The endlessness of it. And the waves, they are so threatening.”

He drew her closer to him. “You need not be frightened, you need not go upon it.”

She raised her face to his. “Yes, but you … go upon it. And I worry that when next you do…”

They walked on, stepping around a wrack of seaweed, just above the high tide line. The sea was murky green, the wind bitter. Within the crook of his arm, James felt her shivering. The ocean pathway was the one he had chosen, there could be no taking a different course now.

Instinctively, he looked up and sniffed the wind. Nor-nor-east, ten knots. Even here in Yorkshire, surrounded by his family, his thoughts kept returning to the Deptford shipyard. How were the refits for the next voyage progressing? Who would be the expedition’s astronomer?

Breaking the silence, he said, “We must return to London, Beth. I have urgent work to attend to there.”

She looked up at him imploringly, one hand across her bulging midriff.

“I do not want you to go, James. Stay, please stay.”

The sea was coming between them, again.

Graeme Lay was born in Foxton, grew up in coastal Taranaki and is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington. He began writing in the late 1970s and since then has published or edited forty works of fiction and non-fiction. These include collections of short stories, novels for adults and young adults and books of travel writing. The above story is an extract from the sequel to his novel The Secret Life of James Cook, to be published in May 2013 by Fourth Estate.

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W.F. Lantry, Somnambulist

With all the constant change, hillsides transforming themselves, August fires burning down from the mountains, covering the city with smoke and ash, it’s easy to get restless, even on a calm night. In those times, it’s best to go out on the balcony and look up the coast. In the clear air, you can see why someone described the shoreline as a succession of dolphins plunging into the sea.

And between those plunging ridges, valleys that once held lagoons, some of them with romantic names, like Batiquitos, others whose names translate to foetid waters. You won’t find those on the map anymore. But you will find the names of the towns that have replaced them: Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana. Beautiful names for places now planted with every exotic species: giant bird of paradise that can grow up to the second storey, the wild mustard sown two hundred years ago by friars as they made their way north.

If you look out at dawn, when Orion has already set, after its night of being “strung across the throat of the valley like a lamp-lighted bridge,” you’ll believe you live in a different world, one which is both eternal and has never existed. A look across the boundless western sea will persuade you: it is always changing, and always the same. Behind you the desert, before you the high tide or the tidepools with their exotic life, and you, caught between them, waiting, for dawn, or for something, or someone else.

W.F. Lantry received his Maîtrise from L’Université de Nice and PhD in Creative Writing from University of Houston. His poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012) and The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011). Recent honours include: National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry and Potomac Review Prize. His work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Möbius and Aesthetica. He currently works in Washington, DC. and is an associate fiction editor at JMWW.

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Vivienne Merrill, Zero Hour

They checked the gauge alongside the river each half-hour. The man from Civil Defence had called in warning them “zero hour” was around midnight. His advice, Leave now. Leif shook his head and the man’s tone changed. He ordered them to stay alert – at least awake. Asta watched the rain slash Leif’s body as he battled away. She breathed in the damp air, recognising the smell of earth, of decay.

Asta left the curtains wide open to the darkness. The percussion sound of water, colliding with rocks, permeated the house. She remembered summer’s languid concerto: dragonflies like diligent violinists, scents warming them at night. Autumn brought sudden rain, too hard for the ground and unceasing for days. They filled bags with sand and stacked them around the house. For this time, she thought, they’d seemed almost happy again.

Outside, the wind snarled: a wild dog at their door. Asta heard, again, Leif’s words: She meant nothing. It meant nothing. Since then they’d swung away, in ever increasing circles, needing nothing from each other save silence. She watched the way the river rose and fell, surged towards the sea, and then returned. She understood that ambivalence and longing for things that could never be.

They listened for the sound they dreaded hearing. Trust the river’s banks, the sandbags, me, he said.

Asta wondered if such a trust could hold, in the face of a power they had yet to experience, another betrayal that could change everything they believed forever.

Vivienne Merrill lives on the Kapiti Coast where it is all too easy to beachwalk and dream her days away. Sometimes, when she’s lucky, some of these dreams become stories and poems. Writing as Vivienne Joseph, she has won several awards for her work, particularly for her children’s books.

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Nod Ghosh, Wet

Henny loves Gray. They’re sitting on a park bench by the Heathcote, their toes rolling naked in the grass like huhu grubs ready to burst. Gray lights up a fag, and the river obliges them with a retaliation of coloured swirls. Henny only took the mushrooms to find a way into Gray’s anatomy. He wants him in that way. Then there’s the glue, and a little baggy.

Jason drives past, his windows wound down, a shaft of bass resonates out of the battered maroon Legacy. He’s shouting, “D’wanna come to Miff’s bach?”

Henny feels like his toes are splitting as they scratch the earth. His teeth feel like they are still in his head, but only just. He looks up at a cliff face on the other side of the road. There are tree stumps near the top, They’re spinning.

Miff’s bach is always cold. Always has howling gales ripping through the corrugated walls and cracks like spider webs in the windows. You feel the cold a lot more when it gets dark. Stars lie sprinkled in the corner of the sky, like crazy dots of festival light. Henny reaches over and touches Gray’s thigh, who pushes him off, spits out, “Gay bastard”, then he’s gone.

That’s when the sea rushes in. It’s higher than his head, fingers of fright force their way down his throat. One minute he’s fighting the terror, the next, Henny’s wondering if he ever left the river at all, and then…

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has completed year one of the Hagley Writers’ Institute creative writing course. Nod’s work has been accepted in Catalyst, Penduline, Christchurch Press, Takahē and Express. Nod works as a medical laboratory scientist.

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Clare Kirwan, Sky / Sea

It used to be that the sky was the sea and vice versa.

Shoals of fish flew in high currents watching the birds ripple, distorted, beneath them. Some parts of the sea sky were so deep you couldn’t see the top of it or imagine what creatures lurked in its darkest heights. The moon was washed fresh every night by the tide.

Beneath it, the sky churned, depositing feathers and other detritus of the air in its wake: tufts of clouds and drifts of light fog on the barren land.

But man hungered for fish swimming out of reach and his nets weren’t long enough to catch them. He longed to dip his toe in the sea that stretched high above him. It was so dry on earth, with the blank sky under his feet, stretching as far as he could see, turbulent air and birds nipping his ankles.

Man called to the gods to bring the sea to earth and it began to rain. It was the time of a great flood: 40 days of salt rain with seaweed, minnows, and sharks splashing and thudding to the ground, filling the thirsty valleys with heaving, shuddering waves.

The moon grew grubby-faced and dry. That’s why the sea still tries to stretch up and wash its face when the tide is hig – but can never quite reach.

And man tires of fish – which is harder to catch than he’d imagined. But most of all, he misses walking among the clouds.

Clare Kirwan is from Wirral, England. Her stories have been published in The Binnacle, Dark Tales, Contrary, Flax, Short, Fast and Deadly and Little Fiction’s Listerature. By day she is a library assistant – like Batgirl. More at www.clarekirwan.co.uk.

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Adrian Hall, Calls from the Sea

Rubbery little things, aren’t they? She skewers another one with a cocktail stick. They’re like embryos: ugly little beginnings. Perched on craggy rocks, Sharon looks out at the vast expanse of Morecambe Bay. In the distance the Lake District hills embrace the sands and sea, corralling them back home, keeping them safe. She looks through her binoculars. I can’t see you: I can see the boat, but I can’t see you.

Out at sea, a few hundred yards at most, a rowing boat rocking, waves lapping against the wood: gentle salty slapping. The hull peeling, keeling and yawing, rising and falling. Fat wet kisses on pale blue paint. Within, almost succumbing to the watery lullaby, is Dylan. His pocked and sandblasted face is turned towards the cobalt sky, his coarse knotted hair silvering in the sun, flashes of mackerel in his rough sandy beard. Floating on the Irish Sea, Dylan has surrendered to the equations of tide and moon, anchored only by this telephone call. He listens, too, to the call of the sea, calls from the fathoms, from long-lost souls: in urgent Eastern tongues they whisper. Geese fly overhead. I’m lying down, that’s why you can’t see me.

Sharon looks up at the geese, their wings beating black scribbles into the sky. The tide ebbs and flows beneath her feet: each gentle crash against the rocks lower than the last. She chews on another cockle and swallows the sourness away.

Adrian Hall was born in Hull in 1969. After studying Philosophy at Lancaster, he went into teaching and has been teaching in the north west of England for over 20 years. In what little spare time he has, he writes short stories and flash fiction. He lives in Lancashire with his wife, three children and some chickens.

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Maris O’Rourke, Time and Tides

The day my waters broke, the rains came. Droplets were thrown dust high creating a blood-red mist in the hot air. Empty riverbeds and reservoirs with cracks deep enough to walk in began to fill. Nine long months of desiccating heat. My body had grown while the land died, streams stagnated, and young ibis died in the Mooroopna swamp.

Heavy, expectant clouds rolled in each afternoon over the parched landscape. We lifted our faces – only to watch them disperse. A chimera. A chance spark, a conflagration, and fifty-three houses were lost in the Dandenong bushfires. My distended belly rippled like the sea, hot as urine, sucking sand from my swollen ankles as I sought relief at the beach. The drought – death. My kicking baby – life.

Finally storms rolled in across Australia and New Zealand. Sank the Wahine in Wellington harbour. Fifty-three people died. The same weekend on Easter Sunday (and on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic) the Salvation Army band stood in the downpour and played “Abide With Me” outside my window at Warrnambool Hospital as I gave birth.

Maris O’Rourke has been published in a range of poetry journals in New Zealand and overseas (including being Guest Poet in Poetry NZ #44); placed in a number of competitions, including the South Island Writers’ Association National Competition, the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize and the Robert Burns Poetry Competition; and performed in a variety of venues including Lounge and The Fringe Festival. Her first children’s book Lillibutt’s Big Adventure was published by Duck Creek Press in 2012 and her first poetry collection Singing With Both Throats by David Ling Publishing in 2013.

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Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Tell Tale Tit

My bully has a French name. Louise D’Arcy. In my head – not to her face – I call her Loo Arsy. After she batters me, I go to the strand to examine the bruises tattooing my arms. I walk the sand to get my puff back and settle my heart. I don’t go home – Gran doesn’t like tattlers.

I can smell the sea even when the tide is out. It smells ancient and blue; it helps. When Loo Arsy thumps my arms and reefs out my hair, I don’t fight her. I can’t scream because my throat goes flat; not even a squeak escapes. The one time I told Gran she sang, “Tell tale tit, your bum shall be split, and all the kids on Shore Road will have a little bit.”

The sea leaves me presents: red seaglass and pottery chips that look like Gran’s good China. The clean seaweed and fish stink fills my nose and my belly. It softens me out when Loo Arsy has got to me. After her I am a person made of planks – stiff and unbendable.

I walk to the shoreline and watch a gull dip above the rushing water. The waves are in a hurry to get home, not like me. I let them chase me up towards the sea wall. I look back at the horizon; it is a grey smudge I can trace with one finger. I breathe on the seawater and it is lonely. Lovely, but really very lonely.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir, interviewed in the last international issue of Flash Frontier, is a short story writer, novelist and poet, born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970 and living in Galway. Her fourth short story collection, Mother America, was published by New Island in June 2012. For more, go here.

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Kevlin Henney, Wrecked

He was an unusual find, there at sunrise by the high-water mark, embedded in a four-poster wreck, tucked cosily into a seaweed-brocade net, a drinking-horn shell to his ear like a pillow, like a hearing aid, like a seafood cornucopia that had missed his mouth, a mouth half open beneath half-closed eyes.

Alive or dead? Dead or alive? She was answered by a cough, a snort and a crescendo of snores, waves of sleep breaking into foam, rolling in from a deeper dreamy sea. The seventh wave washed him onto the waking shore, his eyes half opened.

“Flotsam or jetsam?” she asked, head cocked to match his sleepy skew.

“Sorry?”

“Which are you?”

“I… I don’t know. I don’t think I’m either. I mean,” he said, removing the shell from the side of his head, casting it into his cradle, “This is the wreck, not me.”

“So why are you here?”

“I… I don’t know. I remember drinking… drinking a lot.” His hand reached up to the side of his head as if to restore the shell, as if its removal had undammed a dam, unplugged a plug, uncovered a hangover.

She passed him a bubble pack of tablets, part of some lost shipment spilt across the beach just yesterday, studying him as he popped two and swallowed.

“It’s OK, you can keep them,” she said when he offered back the remaining unburst bubbles, “Flotsam.” She continued along the shore leaving him in her wake. She would not claim him.

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction. His work has appeared online and on tree, in Litro, New Scientist, Every Day Fiction, Fiction365, Word Gumbo and others. His flash fiction has also appeared in the Jawbreakers and Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories anthologies. He can be found on Twitter, at his blog and, occasionally, at home in Bristol, UK.

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Makyla Curtis, Two Children

On the incoming dusk, we sneak out the back door of the rented bach.

At low tide, the wide belly of the shore, ridged and dimpled by the sea and our own imprints – heel and toe, heel toe – with all of its secrets laid bare in the rock pools and the fops of hair-like seaweed. But not tonight, the sea has moved all the way up.

We rest there, where the sand is softest, where it sieves and tumbles easily from our fingers. The top layer has a chill but, digging in our feet, we quickly find the warmth the sun left there.

There is such a long pause before we hear our mother, crashing about in the closing darkness. Her voice carries, strange and high pitched.

Pretending, imagining she is someone, something else altogether, we set off through the pohuehue and the scraggy shoreside bush, giggling and terrified in the elongated black shapes of the twilight.

We run right into her.

Her face is all shadows.

The holiday is over, and the car is all packed up.

Our car turns its metallic hide on the sea and we watch out the back window at the beach. The tide way up high: the hushed sea strokes and caresses the shore, as far up as it can reach. The sun is sunken: long, red-golden rays outstretched reaching back to the beach, holding on as long as it can.

Makyla Curtis is an Auckland-based poet and artist. She is one of the editors of Potroast literary ‘zine. Makyla works primarily on collaboration works such as Abstract Compositions and was one of the creators of the Metonymy Project in 2008.

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Anonymous_Author©, Recrudescence

Could she? This time? Imogen wonders on her return. She’s not sure. About anything anymore. She slips silently beneath the sea’s surface. It’s like passing through reflective glass, all that remains a magnificent play of shadow and light.

She thinks, Suicide is not meant to be beautiful. The ugliness of it ought to leave scars making it impossible for others to choose. A lunar eye, open and bright, dims – ashamed of its power to shift oceans which here smother the fearful and hesitant. Probably no one will miss me, she thinks, submerged and uncertain. Wind whips the calmness into anxious spray, diamond sea now dirty foam. A murky scum surges ahead of waves, strands
beyond the reach of the tide, stains cold and ugly on the black sand shore.

All at sea, immersed, Imogen inhales, chokes, drowns in self-doubt: It takes a courage I lack to see it through. She shatters the underside of her liquid-lidded mirror, bursts through its surface and gasps for air. The wet taste of failure lingers, before she breathes faint relief. The sky stares as she drifts to the beach on her back. Cast on land’s edge, water grasps at her toes, rushes and recedes. Woe betide, Woe betide, it whispers in a fizz of disappointment. Not tonight, Imogen relents. She’ll return home.

She supposes her mother might be happy to see her. She’s just not sure.

Anonymous_Author© is a literary voice who resides near Puhoi. He is an existentialist suffering from an identity crisis and exists only through the benevolence of language. René Descartes categorically stated: “I think therefore I am.” Anonymous_Author© ambiguously offers: “You think you exist.” As well as poetry, flash fiction and short stories, Anonymous_Author© is currently working on his unauthorised autobiography, The Ghostwriter in the Machine. Follow his progress on Twitter (@anonauth).

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Christopher Allen, Powerless

Kai toes a white sock through the dust smothering the coffee table. Like frost, he thinks, like Marcus lately. He should never have invested in mahogany or in his expectation that Marcus would stay. Like a dark, hardwood rainbow, he says, as a little man on TV, near naked and wrinkly, heaves arms against a raging sea. Orchestrating, Kai thinks, or levitating? Levitating the percussion section? God? Not God? But an actor who plays God on TV?

The old man – he must be Japanese, Kai thinks – is performing some ritual, probably for inner peace, for finding his center or his chi, though Kai doesn’t know what chi is. He talks to the waves. The subtitles – English over Japanese – are a poem, something minimal and stark about how nothing lasts but everything washes back, which doesn’t make much sense to Kai. He sneezes. Drops of mucus settle on the table with the dust. Marcus says Gesundheit from the kitchen. His voice sounds hollow, like it won’t be here tomorrow.

Kai climbs onto the coffee table. There’s music now, something Asian, pentatonic but not like that song kids clomp out with their fists. Kai’s white socks glide through the dust. Making and ruining rainbows. Conductors, he says: he and the old man, waving their arms wildly at the television sea. Though he knows he’s powerless to stop Marcus falling out of love with him, he dances until his sock-soles are dark and the old man stands motionless. Waist-high in the water, smiling.

Christopher Allen, a native Tennessean, lives in Germany. He is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O’Type and a recent winner in the AWP HEAT Flash Fiction contest. He blogs at www.imustbeoff.com.

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Melindy Wynne-Bourne, Postcard: Wish You Were Here

Lori read the words scrawled on the postcard, then turned it over and gazed at the sunny beachside landscape on the front. The brochures said walks on the beach should be romantic, but they didn’t mention the flood of a high tide. She carefully waded through the salty surge.

Lori pondered that phrase: “Should be.” Things never turn out like they should, she thought. Life should be calm, but it was as tempestuous as the tidal waves. John should be strolling with her tonight, but business won out over her, again. She should be missing him, but she wasn’t. She should be waiting for his phone calls, even though they always disappointed her. She remembered the last one.

“Hello?”

“Hey, babe!” John had sounded cheerful, as always.

“Hey,” she’d answered. “How’s everything at work?”

“It’s alright, Taking longer than I thought.”

“That figures.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it out there. Forgive me?”

“Yeah, whatever. Maybe next time.”

“I promise. Send me a postcard, OK?”

She frowned at the postcard for a minute, until another rushing wave startled her from her reverie.

“What’s the matter?” A pair of strong arms that should have been her husband’s – but weren’t – embraced her. “You scared?”

Funny how things didn’t turn out like they should. She tore the postcard in half and threw it in the water, smiling as the pieces drifted out to sea.

“No, but I think you should kiss me anyway!”

Melindy Wynn-Bourne is a freelance writer with an emphasis on flash fiction living in Mississippi. Her stories have been featured in such magazines as Gemini and the sixth annual ultra short edition of The Binnacle. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading and photography.

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Mary Carroll-Hackett, Aegean Blues

Marlene sold more Passion Party paraphernalia than anyone in the whole, hot-pink, hungry-hungry-housewife history of the company, trolling Richmond suburbs in her VW with its sticker reading Orgasm! Ask Me How!

Now, she needed a drink.

She was supposed to be on a plane to Crete. She had pinned travel posters to her teenage walls long ago. It was meant to be – blue water, white sand, mysterious men – just waiting. Twenty years later, she had the way.

Contest posters up for months – same blue water, white sand – Marlene had worked up that sales board until she got to the top, and stayed there. Angeline, Passion Party’s founder, all silver fox and innuendo, was supposed to have arrived to announce the winner. No one had out-sold Marlene. Not even close.

Marlene had waited for Angeline to sweep in with that first-class ticket and bikini with the Passion Party hearts sewn on bra cups and fanny. Marlene waited. And waited. Finally, Lois, the district manager, came over, eyes down, saying, well, Angeline wasn’t coming. In fact, Angeline had run off, it seemed, with Brandon – they called him Legendary Brandon – the only male sales rep Angeline had ever hired.

Lois smiled, pink shadow creased in her crepey lids.“Well, she followed her passion, right?”

Marlene shut the door behind her.

Now, Marlene found a bottle of Blue Curaçao in the kitchen, and poured it into a glass, kept pouring, added juice and stirred, until it swirled, blue as the water kissing the white sandy coast of Crete.

Mary Carroll-Hackett’s work has appeared in numerous journals including Clackamas Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat, The Prose-Poem Project and others. Her book, The Real Politics of Lipstick, won the 2010 Slipstream competition; another chapbook, Animal Soul, is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press. She edits The Dos Passos Review and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Most recently, she co-founded SPACES, an innovative online magazine of art and literature.

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Rachel J. Fenton, Waiting For High Tide

For all it is black, it gives back no heat. Emma holds her palm flat as a limpet for over a minute all the same, until she isn’t sure if what she’s feeling is her hand or the coal. Until her fingers are like all the other fossils protruding like nosey neighbours from the quarried valley slab.

Strange to think how many fish were fractured when they mined this seam; that a pit was here and men working deep underground; that all this was once sea. At high tide, this town did not exist.

Now, only men remain, and wildflowers smattering the scrub with colour. Ox-eye daisies, borage, cowslip, toadflax, poppy, mouse’s ear, black medic, speedwell, evening primrose, pimpernel, all strangled with blue: the tendrils of vetch clinging on every stem.

Emma presses her cheek to the coal face, listens, waits.

Rachel J Fenton was born in a South Yorkshire mining town in 1976 and currently lives in Auckland. Short-listed for the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize, she won AUT’s Creative Writing Prize. She is currently working on a novel.

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Teoti Jardine, Oranges

The oranges kept rolling out, one by one by one, until they covered the whole floor.

It all began when I asked at the dairy where the storage facility was, and they directed me to this warehouse near the beach.

I knocked on the door and a hoarse voice called out, “Come in ya landlubber”.

Sitting on a rocking chair was a very old man with a bright orange scarf tied around his head and dressed in what looked like a pirate’s outfit, a hook for a left hand, an eye patch over his left eye, his right eye glaring at me.

“Ya want a locker? Well, got one over there,” and he pointed with his hook to a huge chest covered with barnacles. “Ya lucky, came up the beach on the spring tide this morning, once ya clean it out ya’ll have more room than you could possibly use.”

I opened the chest and that’s when the oranges came rolling out, thousands of them.

Amazed, I turned to the old man who was smoking a joint, he winked at me and said, “I’m getting high and sailing on the next tide.”

He was never seen again.

With the endless supply of oranges, I’ve turned the warehouse into a marmalade factory, selling Spring Tide Marmalade to the Dairy owner, and whenever I make a delivery he gives me a wink, and I’m reminded of someone that I knew, long long ago.

Teoti Jardine is of Māori, Irish and Scottish descent with Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe and Kāi Tahu tribal affiliations. He spent twenty years overseas living in Canada, Italy and the UK where he worked as a nurse, a potter and a deckhand. Since his retirement two years ago he has been writing full-time. He’s had poems published in Te Pānui Rūnaka, Christchurch Press and London Grip, and hopes to have a collection of poetry published later this year. He lives with his dog Amie at his friend Bert McConnell’s place near Oxford in North Canterbury and is a member of the Canterbury Poets Collective committee.

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Sian Williams, Hokianga Ghosts

Last night he saw a brigantine crossing the bar, though he knows none have sailed this way for sixty years. He watched her cleaving the surf and heavy weather. This morning, he sees she’s anchored in the roads, riding the slack water, swinging with the rising tide. He opens the window for his old eyes to see her better and breathes in the cold dawn. A snatch of harmonica and distant hammering comes up, like a memory, on the breeze. She’s a blackened, barnacled West Coast workhorse but grimly beautiful nonetheless and he’ll be proud to step aboard.

His daughter and her man are still sleeping, so he closes the back door quietly. No need to make a fuss, to say goodbye. She’s a dear girl but he can’t be doing with tears and carrying-on.

He doesn’t look back although he thinks, now and then, he hears the slow drum of a marching band and the shuffling feet of a procession behind him.

It’s a long walk down the hill, past the school, the pub, the marae. His places, his times. As he walks he feels his years unrolling like a chart smoothed flat on a wheelhouse table. The whole dominion of his life can be seen now, complete – its headlands, inlets, anchorages and reefs – all surrounded by the circling seas.

The wind is raising white caps down the harbour now. A lapstrake tender waits by the old wharf. The long-drowned bosun takes his arm, “We sail with the tide.”

Sian Williams is editor at Flash Frontier. This story was inspired by a winter visit to the Omapere Hotel.

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Michelle Elvy, At Te Haumi

The windsurfer balances athletically and leans with the wind, propelled along the water’s surface at dizzying speeds. Hemi watches while playing lazily at the high tide line. Passing by is the typical Friday morning parade: a small sailing dinghy, several yachts and fishing boats heading someplace better for the weekend, the R. Tucker Thompson making its daily trek to Motuarohia with its guests. Up the beach, Hemi’s nana and aunties talk noisily under the shade of the pōhutukawa.

The windsurfer glides close to shore. The women’s laughter drifts towards him then whips away on the fickle breeze. He sees the small child, off on his own and poking the sand with a stick. Poor bored boy. He slows to a graceful stop in the shallows, motions Come, but the boy backs away quickly. The man mounts his board again, steadies himself and catches the breeze. As he sails away, he waves back at the boy, and whoops: “You don’t know what you’re missin’, kid!”

Much later, the women are scattered along the receding tideline, fingers and toes digging in the wet dark sand. Hemi sees the windsurfer return, even faster in the afternoon breeze. He waves, then drops a few more pipis from his shirt into Nana’s kete. Nana smiles, knowing he’ll leave with the outgoing tide some day. But not today. Today, her boy grins back then turns to the windsurfer – now a small speck speeding away forever – and hollers: “You don’t know what you’re missin’, mister!”

Michelle Elvy is founding editor at Flash Frontier. She has driven past Te Haumi beach many times, but has yet to stop and collect pipis at low tide.

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Please also see this month’s feature page with Flash Frontier contributors Rachel J. Fenton, Tim Heath, Leah McMenamin, Elizabeth Farris and Mike Crowl.

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Coming in June: stories about new shoes

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