Albarella di Sarzana – Anne Goodwin
3000 word Feel Good Fiction
After retirement, Daphne would never have imagined her redundant organisational skills being prized by the allotment society. But then, she’d never have imagined growing her own courgettes.
It wasn’t the best party I’ve ever had. Forty-odd sweaty bodies crammed into the boardroom to toast my expulsion (sorry, my early retirement with generous benefits package) with a glass of cheap sherry and a lukewarm mini-samosa. A witty speech detailing the parallels between my rise through the ranks and the steady increase in our market share, deftly glossing over the last three years since He Who Must Be Obeyed started meddling with my systems. A bouquet of enormous lilies and the lavender envelope containing the holiday gift vouchers. All those soon-to-be-former colleagues anxious to see how I would deal with it. How did I deal with it? Professionally, of course: I kept a rictus smile and spoke the lines that could have come straight from one of He Who Must Be Obeyed’s operational policies.
My Beautiful Smile – Anne Goodwin
1900 word Literary Fiction
A young woman hates the way her appearance marks her out from other people. Will surgery give her the contentment she’s so far been denied?
I’m walking past the plate glass windows of the Wellcome Foundation when they hit me with it. Above the roar of the traffic along Euston Road, cocky as a novelty ring-tone: “Cheer up! It might never happen.” I don’t flinch. I know what they’re after and they’re not going to get it. I keep my head down and walk on. For all they know, I might not even have heard. Yet I can’t stop my mind flicking through all the things I could’ve come back with. If I had a pound for every time I’ve had that said to me … I wish I had the guts to march right back and smack them in the mouth. If I had a pound for every time I wouldn’t be getting into debt to fund the operation.
Reflecting Queenie – Anne Goodwin
3000 words Literary Fiction
Self-sacrifice, jealousy and wicked stepmothers in this modern take on the Snow White story from the point of view of the girl who serves as her family’s mirror.
Queenie would not have wanted me there, but she could hardly expect Dad to attend her trial alone. So I sat beside him in the public gallery as he held himself as still as his Parkinson’s would permit, while the prosecution ripped her personality apart. It was a straightforward case of jealousy, they said, and only Queenie seemed surprised when the jury returned a guilty verdict. Up until that point, she’d kept herself aloof, not quite focused on anyone, or anything. Now she raised her head towards the gallery and found me. Her fear and confusion beat against my skin, fighting to penetrate my mind. I stayed firm and let it all bounce back to her, as if I were a bat, and she the ball.
Shaggy Dog Story – Anne Goodwin
1500 words Women’s Fiction / Humour
A visit from the vicar lady brightens up an elderly woman’s week. It’s not so much the hymns, or even the pie and peas, but the fun they have with Rufus.
I sit, along with Rufus, and we wait. Every day of the week we sit and wait. Yet each day the waiting is different. Sunday’s is the hardest wait. On Sundays we sit together in the wingback chair, our limbs entangled like tights in the washing machine, to wait for death. On Mondays, our triumph over the weekend perks us up somewhat. After I empty the remains of our microwaved meal into the pedal bin, we retire to the chair beside the window, to await the young ladies from Queen Elizabeth High School. Visiting the elderly and housebound; we never had that when I was a lass.
The Front Legs of the Pantomime Horse – Anne Goodwin
1000 words Christmas / Feel Good Fiction
Taking part in the village pantomime turns out to be more fun than Jo imagined.
Jo wasn’t looking forward to being the rear end of a tap-dancing pantomime horse again, but a promise was a promise, even one made rashly in the fug and fugue of a post-performance drinks party on New Year’s Eve. It hadn’t seemed rash at the time, of course. New Year’s resolutions seldom do. The whole thing had been such fun, she and Diana had told Mike back then, he could definitely put their names down for another year. Eleven months on, things felt rather different.
The Seven Dudley Sibs – Anne Goodwin
3000 words Women’s Fiction / Humour
Her mother always warned her to stay away from the sinful Dudleys, so how will Dolores cope when they turn up en masse at the restaurant where she works as a waitress?
“Oh, Dolores, thanks for coming in at such short notice, and on your birthday, too. You weren’t doing anything special, I hope?” I reach across to hang my cagoule on the hook next to Don’s denim jacket. “Not really.” Mother had invited the vicar over for a round of bridge, just like any other Friday night. “There’s nothing to celebrate once you hit forty, is there?” “You’re a star.” He gives me a friendly peck on the cheek. “Don’t know how I’d run this place without you. Those students keep letting me down.” “They don’t have our sense of responsibility, do they?”