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Fish Anthology 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-3-2

SELECTED BY:
Colum McCann ~ Short Story
Tania Hershman ~ Flash Fiction
David Shields ~ Short Memoir
Billy Collins ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short story25:13  by Tracey Slaughter

Read winning flash story Morning Routine by Kim Catanzarite

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – Buck Rabbit  by Noelle McCarthy

Read winning poem Father  by Peggy McCarthy

Lockdown Prize

Introductory Note

by Colum McCann

Every February, in my job as a creative writing teacher, I read literally hundreds of short stories from people all over the world. I know that at some stage I’m going to make a mistake. It’s natural. Maybe I just can’t see the one line or one paragraph embedded in the story which suggests that a promising writer is embedded in there. Maybe I bring my own preconceptions to the text. Maybe I don’t have the range to hear the music of the text. But undoubtedly I will get it wrong somewhere along the line. That’s one of the reasons why I am a little reluctant to judge literary competitions: they are a wonderful forum for a new writer, but they have limitations. And so I’m always torn when I get asked to judge. The most promising voices to me might have already been sidelined. Or I might overlook something myself. I might not be able to see through my own preconceptions.  

I have been the beneficiary of awards in the past and I know how they can kickstart a career. In particular, in judging this prize, I was looking for talent that would possibly last. Voice was very important to me. Style. And then story.  

I feel a certain guilt about aiding and abetting a Literature Olympics because in truth there is no gold, silver or bronze. There were many fabulous stories in the final batch that came my way. I could see great stretches of imagination. I saw experimentation. I saw novelty with voice and style. I saw sentences that embraced both meaning and music. And in the end that was why 25:13 came in what we call first place: it has the music and it has the intention. It has all the landmarks of a true writer. I expect we will hear great things from the author. So too with Oh Bend Your Backs! and I think a little time in the editing room could really sharpen this voice into a Kevin Barry-like maestro. And there was something very genuine and earnest and well crafted about Fearfully and Wonderfully. And yet all the stories had something wonderful in them …

Keep writing, keep reading, keep creating. And rage on …

 

Contents

SHORT STORIES

 

25:13

Tracey Slaughter

Oh Bend Your Backs!

John Mulkeen

Fearfully and Wonderfully

C S Mee

A Letter from the North

Donna Brown

Statue of the Future Martyr

Stephen Flanagan

Little Wren

Rosie Cowan

Dado

Sheila Armstrong

Billboard

David Munro

The Sorry Business

Róisín McPhilemy

Walnut

Bruce Meyer

 

FLASH FICTION

 

Morning Routine

Kim Catanzarite

Blink

Mary McClarey

Bog People

Anne Cullen

Domesticity

Claire Powell

Recipe for Disaster

Jan Kaneen

Reclining Nude

Stella Klein

The Abnormal Normal – Belfast 1970

Jennifer O’Reilly

The Other Flight of Icarus

James Wise

When you look down the throat of a doll

there’s nothing inside

Rosie Garland

Throwing Cockerels

Alan Passey

 

LOCKDOWN

 

Out For a Duck

Paul McGranaghan

Six Feet Away

Shamini Sriskandarajah

My Pawn Gently Sleeps

Shamini Sriskandarajah

Corporate Fallout

Lee Nash

April

Julia Travers

Leaving this Lockdown

James Allan Kennedy

Self-isolation

James Allan Kennedy

Fran Lebowitz is not happy

Emma Gallagher

Lost Connection

Jennie Ensor

Safekeeping

Gráinne Murphy

Change

Rachel Parry

Daughter

Ash Adams

a measurement of silence in

one hundred words

Rosaleen Lynch

 

SHORT MEMOIRS

 

Buck Rabbit

Noelle McCarthy

Inner Core

Miki Lentin

The Road to Salamanca

John Martin Johnson

Roman Quartet

Tom Finnigan

Catch Me If You Can

Julia Motyka

Brief Notes to My Brother’s Other Sisters

Lisa K Buchanan

Moulded

Phil Cummins

Regeneration

Laura-Blaise McDowell

Leg Man

Alan McCormick

What Are Young Men to

Rocks and Mountains?

Maán Jalal

 

POETRY

 

Father

Peggy McCarthy

Some pleasures

Vanessa Lampert

Wild and Alone

Susan Musgrave

Shoegazers’ Companions

Allen Tullos

Dead Ant, Dead Ant!

Michelle North-Coombes

Edisto Island, May 2019

Celeste McMaster

The Taking of Caravaggio

Bill Richardson

My Glacial Erratic

Leah C Stetson

On Reading Ecclesiastes 5 at

St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral

Angela Long

The Mothers and My Mother Tongue

Geoff Burnes

 

top

25:13

by  Tracey Slaughter

It is raining out on the field today when I get back from the hospital, and I find myself smiling, as if I called it up. I stand at the ranchslider that squares my lounge off with the turf and watch the downpour chasing off the onlookers. There are mothers out there who’ve thought to bring shelters, staked out a shanty claim of plastic on the sideline, parka’d up the younger kids. They’ve squatted in spiny pop-up deckchairs pre-game to guarantee their view is prime. Those mothers fight the longest. They’re still in place when a rush of umbrellas heads off, the deluge whirling from their red and white panels. Everything club-coloured, chillybins and snap-backs, pvc ponchos and first-aid kits, bumping in retreat along the flooded green sod. In the end it’s just me and those mothers, huddled in resistance beneath their branded tarps. Watching the team still stumbling the muck, as the sky proves no one can hope to stop it.

When Ryan was a child we had to rush him to hospital. I remember, the walls were lemon then too, and the frieze was a march of ducklings, grins of goofy fuzz with blue gumboots on their webs and sky-blue plastic hats. It was raining on them, but that only made them cuter. I hated the things, galoshing around in the splash, their peach beaks smirky and dimpling. I think Ryan hated them too. He hated the whole room, and everyone in teal that entered into it, carrying wires to the bed, and liquids, and trays, and needles, and lastly, straps. They’d plug and stick him, maintaining near-smiles, and gag his howl with clear-gloved fingers. We never had to guess his hatred. He screamed at them all, loud belts of terror, pitched from the struggle of his trunk, his blond-white hair spiked with fever, his milk teeth in fits. And it was my job to hold him down, to pin the tiny hammer of his heartbeat to the trolley, to lock down his clattering flannelette pj’s with their pattern of choo-choos all jumping the track. To use my whole body if I had to, like a vice, bear down on my baby, his flailing heels and wrists. Mutter everything I could find of comfort, while his head swung side to side and bludgeoned up at me. Keep on with a babble of falsetto sweetness, crossing my heart with fake promises. Hating the ducks the whole time, their chubby parade around the walls where the squeaky-clean blobs of entertaining rain would never drop down hard enough to drown them.

Let the rain come. Last weekend, when there was another minor incident, I stood at the window and watched while the ambulance coasted, low-profile, through coloured margin flags. While the stretcher was manoeuvred off, swift, unobtrusive. While the game played on. And those mothers never moved. Except one. But she wasn’t from the home team.

 


 

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Morning Routine

Kim Catanzarite

I opened a can of cat food and grabbed a saucer and one of the forks nobody likes and scooped out the food and gave the fat one the fork to lick and gave the kitten the full saucer and lifted their water dishes from the floor and filled them up and then turned the lights on in the living room and raised the blinds in the eating area and made my way to the fridge and put the bread in the toaster and grabbed the butter before tapping out the allergy medicine and her ADHD medicine and her other allergy medicine and pouring her glass of water. Then I put the kettle on and grabbed the brush and dustpan and picked up some mud that tracked in on her shoes the night before, and then the toast popped and I buttered it and she came in and said “good morning” and asked me if her socks matched her outfit and I said yes and she told me it was cold outside and that she was going to freeze her ass off at the bus stop if I didn’t drive her there, and I told her that she would live, and she breathed out a cloud of disgust and said that if the puddle down the road was enormous like it was the other day I would have to drive her because she couldn’t get around it, it was so big, and I stared at her and said nothing because that’s often the best response, and then she looked out the window and also said nothing, so I knew the puddle was gone.

 


 

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Buck Rabbit

by
Noelle McCarthy

“Get in ‘til you see what we got you. This is my daughter.” Mammy is loud, showing off for the driver. The cab smells of drink and Estee Lauder. Wherever they’ve been, they’ve been there all morning. Angela is jammed in the back, the big cardboard box on her knees shaking violently.

“You’ll have to mind him, give him curly green cabbage.” Mammy taps the side of the box. It lifts a few centimetres up into the air, sides bulging. Angela throws herself forward over it, Medusa curls flying, the ash from her fag goes all over the seat in front of her. I reach for the seat belt. It’s way too long for me. “Up past the crucifixion please.” Mammy sounds haughty. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel. They’d have kept him outside The Chimes a good half hour. There’s loud scrabbling from the back, the witchy sound of long nails scraping. The statues blur past: dying Christ, his weeping mother. “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Come on, girl!” Mammy blesses herself theatrically, insists I do the same. The driver thumps his chest three times with a vengeance.

The worst is not when she keeps them waiting, the worst is when she won’t pay them. A guy the other night pulled into the Guards Station. She got out with the glass still in her hand: vodka and lime. Dwarves, Angela calls them. We pretended to be asleep when the Guard came out, me and John Paul in our school uniforms. Something cold pressed up against my leg, the bag with the crispy pancakes. They put her back in the car eventually. The Guard must have told the driver to bring us home. Daddy gave him some money and flung the crispy pancakes all over the hall on top of her.

Passing the asylum, the box flies open. A savage kick, a flash of fur, thrilling and alien. Angela tries to jam the flap back down. “For fuck’s sake, hold onto him!” Mammy is high, triumphant. Children’s allowance day, maybe. Not The Chimes, The Raven. Up to Sullivan’s afterwards, the clock running down on them, buoyed by dwarves, unusually monied. Past the soft green glow of the fish tanks, up the back to the long rows of biscuity-smelling cages lined with sawdust. Fluffy piles of fawn, grey, tortoiseshell. Five pounds for a guinea pig, rabbits for a tenner. Three brothers own it, or four. Country people, they all look identical. The mice are only eighty-five pence, but I’m not allowed them anymore, after the last time. I am deeply excited about whatever is in the box, even though it’s Angela holding it. Her son catches pigeons when we’re outside The Chimes, just throws his jacket over them. I don’t know what happens to them afterwards. She’s trying to keep the box steady. Whatever’s inside is trying to tunnel through the bottom.

 


 

 

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Father

 by Peggy McCarthy

 

Coming in I often pass you in the hallway, in sepia,

your wedding day, June 1955. You couldn’t believe your luck.

And sometimes I stop to catch a trace of something I missed.

Maybe it’s the way the light catches the glass

I think I almost see you clearly

but mostly you give nothing away.

Clear-eyed, upright photo-stance,

a peep of handkerchief in your breast-pocket,

your first and last trip to the photographer’s studio.

Right hand put away behind your back

your left-fingers folded in a fist,

elbow tentatively crooked for your new bride.

 

Going out, I sometimes glance at you again,

this time it’s the other photo, a dozen years after the first.

Your farmer’s grind cast briefly aside,

your brow furrowed, your slack half-smile.

And what do I really know? You were not for turning

from buckets and wells to pipes and plumbing,

from bicycle clips and tilly lamps to motor cars and electricity.

You knew land and fields and the cuckoo’s call.

You said the best part of the potato lies under the skin.

These things hold steady when I pass through

angling to catch a glimpse of something new in the fading

greys and blurry edges of an overcast summer.

 

Fish Books

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News & Articles

Fish Anthology 2020

9th November 2020
The Fish Anthology 2020 is now available. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to publish work from these wonderful writers. I could see great stretches of imagination. I saw experimentation. I saw novelty with voice and style. I saw sentences that embraced both meaning and music. ~ Colum McCann Read more about the […]

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