Fish Anthology Extracts

Read Extracts from Fish Anthologies.

Select the genre:



Fish Anthology Extracts to Read:

Short Stories  – 


Fish Anthology 2018: Clippings  by Helen Chambers

Fish Anthology 2017: Dead Souls by Sean Lusk

Fish Anthology 2015: The Pace of Change by Chris Weldon



Fish Anthology 2017 – Extract from Winning Short Story

Dead Souls by Sean Lusk

It was at the Tolstoy house where we met. Rustling through the rooms I was conscious of the plastic bags covering my shoes. These were less a device to preserve the Tolstoy family’s carpets, which must have worn away long ago, and more a winter requirement to prevent the treading about of snow. My progress through the house was therefore accompanied by a noise which I found unaccountably embarrassing. Though I could see no other visitors, an amplified voice filled every space. A symposium was underway, a lecture on some aspect of Tolstoy’s life or writing, I assumed. Approaching the place from which the voice came I found myself in a large room where row after row of middle-aged Russians listened with solemn attention to a lecture being given by a professor. Her steely hair, pinned and buttressed into a small tower, tilted first one way and then the next as she spoke, as if she were a chess piece on an uneven board. None of them, I noticed, had plastic bags over their shoes.

Despite the walls lined with pictures, the sculptures of the author at work, despite his books, despite even the glass case with the ruby ring he had given Countess Sophia for transcribing and editing Anna Karenina, Leo was not there, and I found it hard to believe he ever had been. He had not liked his house in the city, had lived there on sufferance, and perhaps this accounted for his vacant spirit. I couldn’t read many of the Russian names below the photographs. After a day of museums the Cyrillic had worn me down. In the corner of each room a single panel about the size of a chopping board stood on a stand, carrying an explanation in English for what the room contained. I found myself competing for it with a woman in her late thirties. “I’m sorry, go ahead,” I said, gesturing towards the stand.

She took the board and smiled. She had short red hair and a cheerful confidence, as if she had known that the board was hers all along.

“Where are you from?” I asked.


We went from room to room, once or twice taking an interest in the same object. After a while, exhausted by incomprehension and the rustling of my own feet I went down into the basement to collect my coat and scarf from the sombre cloakroom lady. The street was cold but welcoming. Turning I saw that the German woman was behind me, that she must have left just a moment after me. I considered slowing down, starting a conversation, even wondered if that was what she wanted. I glanced back once more and this time caught her eye, yet for some reason my recently liberated feet quickened their pace along Prechistenka Street in the direction of the Pushkin Museum.

The next day I found that I had the Gogol house to myself. Again, not a word of English was spoken, but here the burly women who guarded the door, looked after the coats and who dispensed tickets seemed eager to talk to me, heedless of my inability to understand anything they said. Once I had put plastic bags over my shoes I was ushered enthusiastically into the first of Gogol’s rooms, a vestibule where his or some other overcoat, perhaps Akaky Akakievich’s, hung. If it was poor Akakievich’s then it was a fiction, a coat that he had saved-up for so fervently that it had cost him his life. I reached out and brushed my hand across the wool, thinking how much less real it was than the imagined cloth. The warden touched my arm and spoke to me intently, her Russian words hovering in the air, waiting to be understood. She encouraged me onwards, into Gogol’s parlour, inviting me to sit on his chair. She pressed a switch and the lights dimmed. A sound of distant bells filtered into the room, and flames appeared to dance in the fireplace.




Fish Anthology 2015 – Extract from Winning Short Story

The Pace of Change by Chris Weldon

Brendan soothed the horse by stroking under its jaw and the huge animal opened its mouth, allowing him to slide the bit in to the back of its teeth. He pulled the bridle over the ears and held firm on the reins as the horse jerked his head upwards. After a few moments it became still and then lowered its head to munch on the grass. 
‘Come up,’ said Brendan gently. ‘Come up out of that.’ 
He rubbed the horse’s nose and leant forward to buckle the bridle.  Taking the reins again he led the horse across the field towards a five bar aluminium gate. Set in a gap in the hedge, it offered a view across a narrow road and beyond to an oak lined avenue, the tree tops blurred by the Westmeath morning mist. He stopped and listened and the horse listened too, its ears moving like radars trying to pick up the direction of the sound, the sound of a motor car. It’ll be Kit Lee, thought Brendan. Kit was the only man he knew who owned a motor car, an old black one. 
At that time it was the only car around those parts, not that it was around that much. Kit spent an average of two out of three days at home in bed, convinced he had a fatal illness. One illness or another, it didn’t matter so long as it was fatal. When the due date for his death would pass Kit would get up and go about as if nothing had happened, which, of course, it hadn’t.  Brendan never tired of telling the story of the day when Kit stood at the counter in Briody’s shop in the village. 
‘“Twenty Sweet Afton is it, Kit?” says Mrs. Briody, reaching behind her to where the cigarettes were stacked on the shelf. “Ten,” says Kit.  “Ten?” says Mrs. Briody.  “The doctor gave me three feckin’ days to live and there’s two of them gone by already,” says Kit. “Ten will see me out, Mrs. Briody.”’ 
And Brendan would look around the bar to see who was laughing and to see if there was anyone who hadn’t heard it before.  Once a man had said that he had heard the same story down in Kerry but no more was said about that. 
There was a name for Kit’s condition but it kept slipping Brendan’s mind. Lots of things were slipping his mind these days: names, lots of things. He’d never married; said he hadn’t time enough for himself never mind a wife. 
The car went past, visible only for the second it took to pass the gate. It wasn’t Kit’s car. It was red and newer looking. Brendan had never seen it before and wondered who it could be. One of them fellahs down from Dublin, he thought. There were more cars in Dublin where they didn’t need them, of course, than anywhere out in the country. 
But it wouldn’t have been Kit, in any case, because Kit had taken to his bed the morning before with his latest fatal illness. Brendan had seen Tommy McCormack, the doctor, in Mullingar later that afternoon. He had taken the bus in to look at some cattle for Mr. Hope who owned the farm where Brendan worked when he was needed. The doctor was leaning against the top rail of the cattle pen in the street where the market had been set up. 
‘What’s up with him this time, Tommy?’ Brendan had asked. 
‘He has the plague,’ the doctor answered 
‘The plague?’ said Brendan. ‘We’re all doomed, so.’ 
‘I’d say we are,’ said Tommy. ‘I’ll just go in there, now, to the Bar and Grill, and take my last glass of Guinness. Will you send for the priest?’ 
‘I will,’ said Brendan, ‘after I’ve had a look at these heifers.’ The doctor walked across the street to the bar. As he opened the door the strains of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ emerged and mingled with lowing of the cattle and the shouts of the farmers bargaining in the market.  Brendan shook his head and moved away down the street. 
Kit had never married either so, there they were, two old batchelors going about together, whenever Kit was about, anyway. Brendan with his weather beaten face, lean and wiry: Kit tall and pale, his jet black toupee perched on his head ‘Like a cat on a mantelpiece,’ said Mrs. Keogh in the post office. Brendan was older than Kit. He had been drawing his pension these three years and Kit still had a year before he could draw his. 
‘I’ll never get there,’ he would say. ‘I’ll never see the day.’ 
The only time their friendship was ever strained was that time twenty or twenty-five years before, he had lost track, when Brendan went over to England for the work. Kit’s older sister, Maggie, was living in Sheffield with her husband and Kit had written to her asking if she could find room in the house for Brendan so he could earn a bit of money on the roads over there. Maggie had written back and said she could but not for too long now, as her husband wasn’t too happy about it at all. So Brendan took the mail boat over to Holyhead and caught the train to Sheffield, changing at Crewe. Maggie had moved her two sons into one room and given Brendan the small bedroom. After he had laid his case on the bed he came downstairs to the cramped sitting room where Maggie’s husband Dermot was hunched in an armchair with his pipe and a paper. 
‘Good man,’ said Brendan. 
‘Mmmuhh,’ said Dermot without looking up. 
Dermot was from County Cork. Stocky and short, he either said nothing or spoke so fast, so passionately and for so long that he exhausted you. Over the weeks that Brendan was there he made the effort to break the ice with Dermot but he generally got the silence or, at best, the grunts.  He felt for Maggie. She was a handsome woman, a good mother, funny and warm. Any man would be glad of her but Dermot didn’t seem to have any appreciation of her at all. 
One afternoon Brendan was in the kitchen with Maggie. He couldn’t get a start on the roads that week and Maggie had offered to cut his hair. There was more of it then and it was a kind of reddy-brown. 
‘It’s falling in your eyes,’ said Maggie. ‘Sit down there and I’ll cut it for you.’ She leant over from behind him and placed a tea towel round his neck, tucking it into the shirt collar. He felt her softness and it stirred him. 
‘I remember you leaving home,’ said Brendan. 
‘That was twenty years ago.’ 
‘No! Twenty years?’ said Brendan 
‘Will you sit still,’ said Maggie. ‘I’ll be sticking the scissors in you.’
‘Twenty years?’ 
‘It was,’ said Maggie resting her hand for a moment on Brendan’s head. ‘It was 1913, just before the war. Some bloody great idea it was to come to Sheffield.’ 
‘Why did you do it?’ 
‘Dermot had work in the steel factory.’ 
‘Ah, sure Jaysus, Maggie, it’s not Dermot’s fault the war broke out.’ 
‘I know that,’ said Maggie quietly. 
There was a silence between them as Maggie clipped away with the scissors, carefully holding his ears down with her cool fingers while snipping around them. 
‘I was sorry to see you leave,’ said Brendan. 
‘You were not.’ Maggie laughed. 
‘I was so.’ 
‘Why would you be sorry to see me leave?’ 
‘Well there wasn’t exactly a crowd of good looking girls around the village in those days.’ 
‘Now stop,’ said Maggie. ‘Stop now. You mustn’t be saying those things.’ But although she was behind him he could sense that she was pleased and when her fingers came to rest gently on the back of his neck he felt a tingling and he knew they rested there longer than they needed to.  



Fish Anthology Extracts to Read:

Flash Fiction – 


Fish Anthology 2021:  Both On and Off  by Jack Barker-Clark

Fish Anthology 2020:  Morning Routine<  by Kim Catanzarite

Fish Anthology 2019:  Teavarran  by Louise Swingler

Fish Anthology 2018:  The Chemistry of Living Things  by Fiona J Mackintosh

Fish Anthology 2017: Lost by Lindsay Fisher

Fish Anthology 2016: The Young Brown Bear by Julie Netherton

Fish Anthology 2014: A Theory of Relativity by Sally Ashton

Fish Anthology 2014: Juice Baby by Freda Churches

Fish Anthology 2011: The Long Wet Grass by Seamus Scanlon


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2021 – 

Both On and Off by Jack Barker-Clark

On the phone to your daughter all winter. On the power of attorney. On cloud cuckoo land. On the canal boat you once owned. On bravery. On ignominy. On trial. On fresh grapes. On the occasion of your birthday. On call if you need us. On amplification. On overreaction. On hold with the doctors. On display for one month only. On our best-case scenario. Onwards and upwards. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On modern medicine. On the contrary. On the one hand not so bad. On the other hand terminal. On assisted living. On your head be it. On the bedside table, there, next to your reading glasses. On increasing medication. On a tour of hospitals, West Yorkshire, the surrounding Humber. On the formal bed, writing down what the doctor had said. On dyschronometriaand cerebellar lesions. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On the ward. On the pillows inmates rest on. On-demand westerns. On John Wayne. On horseback. On purpose. On the bathroom floor with the shower gel. On the bathroom floor with the shower gel following a stroke. On disturbing volcanic dreams now. On canal boats choked with weeds. On holiday in 1972. On ghost trains. On beach towels. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On average twenty beats per minute. On life support. On your own. On top of the breadbin. On all sides surrounded. On the way. On the beach with Eleanor. On the borderlands. On the grass slopes. On and on. On Wednesday the 20thMarch. On and on, and then suddenly off.

On behalf of those who knew him. On behalf of those who knew him best. On behalf of his grandson, unable to attend. On the TransPennine Express writing letters to his grandad who had died.


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2020 – 

Morning Routine by 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.


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2019 – 

Teavarran by Louise Swingler


She can never believe how bright the gorse is, laid in great yellow arcs across the land. She breathes its coconut tang as she walks up the lane.

She can hear the gurgling veins of Scotland in the beck that runs in the ditch beside her. It’s twelve degrees here, cool after London’s twenty-four. The relief of it is a sensual chiding. She fits well here. Where does Thomas fit, though? You know I don’t do ‘green’, he says, whenever she asks him to come home with her.

She had wanted to come at Christmas, and in March.

A quad bike roars and she steps aside. Clumps of dock leaves are already growing back on the roughly-cropped verge. The one time he came, Thomas said these lanes ruined his suspension. He didn’t seem to realise how victorious this strip of tarmac is, checking the unstoppable push of the forest. But she knows it is but a temporary occupation. She enjoys this challenge to mankind’s arrogance.

Her father’s Highland cattle, flank deep, munch steadily through yellow rattle and buttercups. Two auburn calves are submerged like islands in an inland ocean of green, beige, purple, yellow. They raise their snubby noses, eyeing her. She thinks of Thomas, eyeing her as she left him at Luton Airport.

She looks across to the hills and the peaks behind them. The sky is a dull pearl, flat and quiet, and the morning mist has frozen into a row of frail tufts along the valley bottom, as if a steam train had recently departed.

She turns and stares into the calf’s swimming eyes, daring him.

‘If you don’t move before I blink, I’ll stay.’

Tick. Tock.

Her eyes begin to water. The calf remains still. Like a painting that Thomas can’t climb into. She blinks.


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2018 – 

The Chemistry of Living thing by Fiona J Mackintosh

The blue ones make me dream of thistles, make me loop-de-loopy, shaking bubbles from my wrists. The big yellow ones are slow-witted and tip me into drenching sleep at unexpected hours. The white diamonds have a certain easy charm, but it’s the tiny silver ones I like the best. In my cupped palm they roll like mercury balls, but in my head they fizz and dazzle, splintering into gaudy reds and greens. They’re the reason I can glide above the broken glass, put a soft hand on my husband’s shoulder as he tells our guests another story and nods to me to bring the coffee and dessert. Smoke coils beneath the lamp, softening the light. The faces round the table seem familiar, but I don’t know who they are, the men with bristled hair, the women oiled and shiny with cat’s-eye glasses and wet teeth. Mouths open, voices bourbon-loud with the looseness of late evening. The noise pulls close around my head like curtains as I rinse the dirty plates and spear a perfect sprig of mint in every peach sorbet. Against the backsplash, the pill bottles gleam, and I promise-touch each one for later. You and you and you. Through the window, just beyond the house-thrown light, a young deer stares at me with deep, black eyes. I see its dappled hide, a white stripe on its haunch that may or may not be a scar. I know at once it’s come to lure me out into the dark and unfamiliar, onto bleak, untrodden ground. I press my hands five-fingered on the window, and, when I wipe away the cloud my breath has made, the deer has gone like it was never there at all.


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2017 – 

Lost by Lindsay Fisher


She presses her face against the glass, as if it is possible, as if she could find a way through and not be in this world but in the world on the other side, everything polished and shiny and new there.

The man in the shop scowls at her and waves his hand towards her, as a man who would frighten chickens or cats from his garden, and he hisses at her through his teeth. All the men the same.

Her name’s Lynnell, and she is a tale of loss. Lost her would-have-been-husband to the war, years back, a black-edged letter she keeps tucked in beside her heart, paper soft as cloth and all the words fainter than whispers. A letter to tell her he was lost, but not before she found herself with a child growing inside her. Lost the child when it was born; taken from her rather than lost.

Lynnell lost her father and mother, too, all in the one year, the same year, except she knows where they sleep for the place is marked with a stone.

And lost her wits about the same time. Lost them and does not miss them now they are gone, for there’s a sort of freedom in everything these days; she moves from shop window to shop window, peering in through the plate glass, and she does not see the men on the other side with their black brows knitted and their shoo-away hands waving. And Lynnell looks for a hopeful way through the glass, for if only she could step through to the other side, then she might find everything she has lost waiting for her, that’s what she thinks – and everything there is polished and shiny and new if ever she did.


Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2016 – 

The Young Brown Bear by Julie Netherton


Cuffed, cuffed, and cuffed again by She-bigger-than-me, who fed me and led me and then turned to me and cuffed again until I split.

Alone, along the brightly edge between the fishy wiggle wet and the soft brown tall green, standing on twos to reach for upbugs running along a log. Down on fours to roll boulders, opening dark to sniffle underbugs.

Away, across the shiny wet, a pack of people-persons all scooped together in a float. I stop and lift my snout to sniff and clickclickclick.

One little people-person between two bigger ones. Little pink snout in a little pink face. All else shiny fat shell, brighter than sundown. Pointing its cuff at me.

‘Look! Big teddy! Hello, Teddy,’ says Little He, and the sound wings across the wet like sunup song.

Little He clambers up the floaty side and as Big She reaches to cuff him, he tumbles into the wet, opens his bughole wide to splutter and wail. Big She and Bigger He howl and flail their cuffs.

Me curious.

Me thinking, stop Big She cuffing Little He.

Me thinking, I’ve never sniffed or peeped a people-person close.

Me thinking, Little He not bigger than me.

Just curious.

I amble-scramble across the loosely earth into the wet, feel the pull and cool. The floatman calls ‘Oy’ and the float’s throat roars as it spins. He lifts and points a shiny stick, longer and thinner than the clickclickclickers and with a sniffle hole at the end. Crackcrackcrack, bouncing sound around.

Hurt. Like being cuffed, but more. Wet around me like sundown and Little He’s shiny shell.

Should have trundled into the hidy green. Should have sat down against bugbark and snoozed. Should have stayed away like She-bigger-than-me made me before she cuffed me and left.




Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2014 – 

A Theory of Relativity by Sally Ashton

I stand at the window of a railway carriage – Albert Einstein

Across from me on a train Albert sat facing backwards, a little table between us, his forehead pressed against the glass. His eyes flickered as if to count passing fence posts. At length he reached a small notebook from a chest pocket, placed it on the table, jotted something down. I tried not to stare, but couldn’t make out what he wrote even when I did. He smiled. May I trade seats with you for a while, my dear? What could I say? In spite of my motion sickness, I agreed. For one the train travelled a relatively straight path, plus his eyes were so kind and sad. He steadied my elbow until I was seated, took his seat, turned again to the window, again to his notes. Then I watched, as he had, the landscape recede, what I knew blurred in immeasurable distances. The sky lost light, Albert’s white head bobbed, and just before I slept a luminescent clock appeared in the sky, though now I see it was the moon itself wearing a clock face that watched us speed by, or did we too appear to be standing completely still?



She was smoking a roll-up when I walked in. Been feeling tired. Went to bed and woke up a different colour. Bright orange to be exact. At the hospital, she climbed onto the table, affronted, because there was a hole in her tights and her knickers were out of Poundstretcher.

Afterwards, we drove to the Cooperative for some messages. Under the stark fluorescent lights she seemed to glow brighter than ever, lolling against the soft drinks counter in her too-big coat, like a wee lassie.

You look like you’ve been Tango’d, I said.

Later, her colour deepened. Visitors fluttered around like moths, as she lay gulping glasses of ginger, bathed in an Irn Bru glow.

I tweaked her arm. Made from girders eh?

Every morning I wheeled her into the smoke room. Watched the spark go out of her. The hag with the fag. Waited, as the bony frame, kindling limbs, crumbled in a puff of reek. Ticked her menu card, like a waitress in a restaurant. Held a tumbler of Tizer to her lips.

You’re getting to be a right wee juice baby, I said.

Then, one day, her face clouded over. I saw a darkness creep in. But when I looked out the window, the sky was just as blue, the trees just as green. So, I swallowed the skelf in my throat. Made ready my voice.

You’re exactly the same as this Lucozade, I said, gazing into her yellow eyes.

Pure gold. 




Winning Flash Fiction Story from the Fish Anthology 2011 – 

The Long Wet Grass by Seamus Scanlon

The resonance of tires against the wet road is a mantra, strong and steady.  The wipers slough rain away in slow rhythmic arcs into the surrounding blackness.  The rain falls slow and steady, then gusting, reminding me of Galway when I was a child where Atlantic winds flung broken fronds of seaweed onto the Prom during high tide.  Before the death harmony of Belfast seduced me. 

The wind keeps trying to tailgate us.  But we keep sailing.  The slick black asphalt sings on beneath us.  We slow and turn onto a dirt road, the clean rhythm now broken, high beams tracing tall reeds edging against the road, moving rhythmically back and forth with the wind.  No lights now from oncoming cars. 

We stop at a clearing.  I open the door, the driver looks back at me. The rain on my face is soothing.  The pungent petrol fumes comfort me.  The moon lies hidden behind black heavy clouds.  I unlock the trunk.

You can barely stand after lying curled up for hours.  After a  while you can stand straight.  I take the tape from your mouth.  You breathe in the fresh air.  You breathe in the fumes.  You watch me.  You don’t beg.  You don’t cry.  You are brave.  

I hold your arm and lead you away from the roadway, into a field, away from the car, from the others.  The gun in my hand pointed at the ground.  I stop.  I kiss your cheek.  I raise the gun.  I shoot you twice high in the temple.  The coronas of light anoint you.  You fall.  The rain rushes to wipe the blood off.  I fire shots into the air.  The ejected shells skip away.  

I walk back to the car and leave you there lying in the long wet grass.




Read Extracts from Fish Anthologies.:

Short Memoir – 


Fish Anthology 2018:  What Was Once A City by Marion Molteno

Fish Anthology 2017:  Pay Attention by Paul McGranaghan

Fish Anthology 2013:  Luscus by Maureen Boyle



Extract from winning Short Memoir 2017 –

Pay Attention by Paul McGranaghan


Come and see.

Here is Spring Hill with its weirs of steps and tiers of streets. Their kerbs are green, white, and orange; yet this is not, nor ever has been, the Republic of Ireland. The sun is a spark in the clouds. See how the wind blows on it? Watch it. Watch it wax to a brilliant light. Look: Dandelions flare where they erupt from fissures in the paving. The bright buttons of daisies glitter across the common. We have been waiting for this. Can you see the removal van in the car park above our street? Can you see it gleaming?

Now look. The sunlight pushes away the rain and the workmen heave, shouldering the last of our furniture through the narrow door and up the wet steps to the van. That’s me, there. Can you see? There. That’s me, and my friends, and we’re following them. We want to go in the back of the van, sitting on the settee, but we aren’t allowed. It’s dangerous, they say; something might fall on us. I think of the bookcase with its glass panels and green and gold volumes of Charles Dickens toppling on top of me. Besides, my friends are staying behind and I am going to begin life as an outsider on the far side of town.

It is 1984. I am seven years of age.


Extract from winning Short Memoir 2013 –

Luscus by Maureen Boyle

The eyes are lined neatly in wooden trays.  They are laid in grooves according to colour and there seem to be hundreds of them staring blind off velvet lining.  The velvet is deep purple – as though they’ve been laid there bleeding – but that is a fantasy and the velvet may be too.  It was, after all, a National Health clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1966 but my memory of it is blurred and mixed with winter darkness and the sense of a bazaar.  My parents have taken me first to the giant Woolworth’s store in the centre of Belfast to buy me a bright yellow rubber duck as a beacon of small light in my hands, distraction from the ordeal ahead and whether it is because this is my first remembered experience of looking out on the world with only half the light I’d had until then – all of that first trip to Belfast and to the clinic, is shrouded in the colours of the dark:  of rich mahogany wood, of the hunched  Victorian corridors of the children’s hospital, of shops with wooden counters and sweets in wood-cornered vats like coloured fish you had to scoop out into little brown bags for weighing; of dark polished doors and of rain. 
We were there to find me an eye and the man who would do this was Mr Lennox.  Apart from the trays of eyes, I remember little of that first visit but I would come to know his method very well over the next twenty years and would miss it when he finally retired.  He would begin by washing his hands very thoroughly.  And then he would simply sit and look at my one good eye, staring into it as if hoping to find a secret: the secret of its precise colour, of the size of the pupil, of the iris, the shades of the white, the shape of the eye and then the choosing would begin and that is where the perfectly-organised trays came into play.  He would begin to scan the strange spectrum – leaving the tray of browns that had at one side a disconcerting row of pink albino eyes, and the tray of greens and go instead to blue – the colour of my eyes and of my family’s.  He would gather up a range of them, like a boy lifting coloured marbles, and hold them, one at a time, not initially where my empty socket was, but at the side of the good eye, the better to do the matching.  And it seemed to me that the movement of his fingers, deftly moving the first eye chosen, back into his palm and another forward between thumb and forefinger, was done like a conjuring trick – a version of the one where an uncle takes a coin from the child’s nose or its ear – this kindly uncle was going to pluck me back an eye from his magic box of them.
We are here because I have recently had an enucleation – my left eye removed entirely after an accident. The word comes from ‘nuclear’ which means ‘kernel’ – the removing of the seed from the kernel – the eye thumbed out like a Brazil nut from its shell.  I’ll come to know these words too in the months and years ahead – the socket – like pocket – from which the eye has slipped, been picked; the sulcus, from the furrow of a plough, for the little groove between eyelid and eyebrow.  I remember nothing of the enucleation but I do remember the day I lost my eye – an odd idea – as if I’d been careless and left it somewhere or dropped it while playing. 
My parents were building an extension.  It was the early sixties, when people built their own houses or did things to them and we knew about plans and permissions.  The builder was from Strabane.  We lived outside the village of Sion Mills, in County Tyrone, a Mill village where my mother grew up, in a house on the Melmount Road in the townland of Liggartown and my mother and father were replacing the tiny scullery, which would then become the ‘back kitchen’, with  a big light kitchen that would have a massive orange formica table, around which we would all sit on high stools and a divider of shelves made of exotic bamboo for ornaments.  The sink would face the road, the main road between Derry and Omagh, and its big picture window would allow my mother to look out on the world as she did her chores, to see the buses passing at their regular times and later the soldiers set up check-points on the corner and beyond to the fields, the river and the mountains. 
On this day my sister, who is younger than me, is playing with me in the garden – there is a vast uncultivated meadow behind where the vegetables grow – it is a country site and too big for my father and grandfather to tend – where we like to play safaris, imagining ourselves ‘lost in the jungle’, when in fact we are hiding behind overgrown gooseberry plants and under the umbrella leaves of the  wild rhubarb.  But it begins to rain and so we take shelter in the garage which contains the overspill of the family house and good things to play with.  In later years, though I doubt it was ever said, I always saw what happened subsequently, as carrying a moral message of obedience – always do what you are told – my mother having called us in out of the rain – meaning come in to the safety of the house.  Instead we go to the garage – where we are not really supposed to play because of my father’s tools and garden weed-killers –  but I love the smell of creosote and the jam jars my father screws by their lids to shelves to hold all his different nails and twine.  We are playing with umbrellas in there.  My parents have a print of Renoir’s ‘Les Parapluies des Cherbourg’ in our living room – its colours all the greys and blues of Parisian rain.  The woman in the front of the picture though looks dry and carries an empty basket lined dark like a gaping hole.  A little girl stands by with a hoop.  The rain of this day is green in my mind, and rust-coloured from the gravel of the drive, as it runs down the slight slope from the garage, running down the fields in front of the house and down into the Mourne River.  But we are dry inside the garage and the rain is spectacle through the open doors – like the moment in White Christmas where the barn doors are opened behind so that the scenery is suddenly real.  There is an old white umbrella which I think may have been from my mother’s wedding, it has a frill and it seems sumptuous  and it too is forbidden for play because of the danger of its tip. And that day also in the garage is the builder’s equipment, stored there for the weekend.  There is a step-ladder.  My little sister climbs it to the top.  I am underneath looking directly up at her.  There is a trowel –  from the Old French word ‘truele’ – ‘a small tool for spreading plaster or mortar’ from the Late Latin ‘truella’ – ‘small ladle, dipper’ –‘ a stirring spoon, a ladle, a skimmer’.

*  *

It is a Saturday.  I know this because my father is at a cricket match.  I remember the imprint of one of my mother’s tea towels – as though it were a phantom imprint on the lost or losing retina – like the checkered cloth marks that were burned into Hiroshima  victim’s skin.  The tea towel, white with red stitching, is held to the eye from the moment I run into the new kitchen screaming, held by my mother, all the way to Derry in my uncle’s small, wine-coloured  Mini car, my uncle who is called to take me to hospital in Altnagelvin in Derry.  I think I remember the surgeons in green scrubs and the panic.  I think I remember being wheeled in a high-sided cot or bed.  I don’t remember pain. They remove the whole eye.  

(Complete Memoir in the Fish Anthology 2013.)






Read from Fish Anthologies:

Poems – 


Fish Anthology 2024:  No, I Am Not a Robot (An Ekphrastic Poem of Sorts) by Brooke Herter James

Fish Anthology 2018: Vernacular Green by Janet Murray

Fish Anthology 2017: Paris, 13 November 2015 by Róisín Kelly

Fish Anthology 2015: Saint John’s Primary School Nativity. Nineteen Years On. 
by Tessa Maude


Fish Anthology 2024 –  Winning Poem

No, I am not a Robot (An Ekphrastic Poem of Sorts)

 by Brooke Herter James



And, yes, I am happy to check all the frames

in which the man on the motorcycle appears.


But what of all else?


The upper left, for instance—

the generous branch of an oak,

its leaves robust, verdant,

draping late afternoon shade

over the sidewalk etched with chalk—

the game of hopscotch, perhaps

just abandoned as somewhere

a bell chimed and sent children

scattering home to dinner and baths.

And the mailbox (bottom right)—

its door left open to reveal nothing,

and (bottom left) the Styrofoam coffee cup

in the gutter, lipstick on its rim,

dropped from the window of a passing car

in a gesture of summer’s ennui.

And why would the man on the motorcycle

have that slicker on, collar turned up,

if not for the fish-scaled clouds (upper right)

that surely must smell of rain?

Perhaps he is hurrying to get ahead

of the water-colored sky,

away from the empty mailbox,

away from what’s not his

(the children, the lipstick kiss).

I am suddenly sorry for him,

the man on the motorcycle,

stuck at the traffic light, waiting

for me to click on him and let him go.






Fish Anthology 2018 –  Winning Poem

Vernacular Green

 by Janet Murray

(i.m Howard Hodgkin1932-2017)


Hodgkin sees common green

in privet, grass, chestnut husks

blown horsetail, chickweed

crushed under baby’s toe

scum on ponds―pond weed.


Not silver olive, willow spinning

green or white, imported

rhododendron, clunking monkey

puzzle tree. Exempt montbretia’s

erect leaves, circling


fiery tiger flowers, but if he glimpses

luminous green on the wing-tip

of an escaped parakeet, exposed

by pallid vernacular green, which

hides fairy wings sometimes,


in this moment he speaks

Indian green where a greener green

can be unleashed, somewhere between

emerald and jade, a brush dipped

in feathers round a teal duck’s eye.



Fish Anthology 2017 –  Winning Poem

Paris, 13 November 2015

 by Róisín Kelly

In the end, it’s like going to bed as usual

except we lie down side by side in the street

and the night sky is our ceiling, and blood

drifts away from us between cobblestones

like rose petals torn up and scattered.


I don’t mind that the last thing I’ll see

is a café window’s red-and-blue OPEN sign,

and a neon coffee cup with three white lines

that symbolise rising steam.


Or the lights in your eyes going out—

as if someone turned off the bedside lamp

in your mind—except your eyes are still opening

and opening, and I am frightened.


What were the last things they saw, those eyes?

A cathedral’s rose window, or a view

from a tower: grey buildings like soft birds

nestling to the horizon.


My hair on my back as I walked before you

down a flight of stone steps on a hill.

My face turned towards yours, moments ago.


 There’s a sound like fireworks, but the stars

are as colourless as the diamond rings

laid out in the jeweller’s window

that we stood shyly in front of last night.

Our mouths and blood were ringing with wine,

but what we dared to think went unspoken

and now it always will.


That sound—it’s like the sky tearing apart,

as loud as the gig where we had our first kiss.

It was a metal band in a tiny hot room

above a bar in our home city.


The musicians rolled their eyes and screamed

do you want more? The drummer played naked

and kept throwing his sticks in the air,

catching them perfectly every time.


The singer hated the bright spotlight on him

and we cheered when he wrenched it down.

How we craved the plunge into darkness,

the careless unscrewing of the moon.




Fish Anthology 2015 –  Winning Poem

Saint John’s Primary School Nativity. Nineteen Years On
by Tessa Maude 

The Virgin Mary lights a fag 
Behind the vestry door 
She’s pregnant for the fourth time 
At only twenty-four.

Herod dies in Helmand 
And Caspar deals in crack and 
Melchior rapes Gabriel 
And stabs him in the back.

The shepherds beat up Joseph 
And steal his mobile phone 
Miss Stevens gives up teaching 
And drinks and dies alone.

The Star stands by her lamp post 
And sore afraid acts tough 
By bridges and in doorways 
The Inn Keeper sleeps rough.

The mothers and the fathers 
The chief priests and the scribes 
Are gathered in the court house 
Where Balthazar takes bribes.

The Heavenly Choir disbanded 
And went their separate ways 
Three wise men went to Wandsworth 
The shepherds to The Maze.

A suicidal Jesus 
Curses God then leaps 
And in his stained glass window 
Saint John the Baptist weeps.



Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2023

Fish Anthology 2023

… a showcase of disquiet, tension, subversion and surprise …
so many skilled pieces … gem-like, compressed and glinting, little worlds in entirety that refracted life and ideas … What a joy!
– Sarah Hall

… memoirs pinpointing precise
feelings of loss and longing and desire.
– Sean Lusk

What a pleasure to watch these poets’ minds at work, guiding us this way and that.
– Billy Collins


Fish Anthology 2022

‘… delightful, lively send-up … A vivid imagination is at play here, and a fine frenzy is the result.’ – Billy Collins
‘… laying frames of scenic detail to compose a lyric collage … enticing … resonates compellingly. … explosive off-screen drama arises through subtly-selected detail. Sharp, clever, economical, tongue-in-cheek.’ – Tracey Slaughter

Fish Anthology 2021

Fish Anthology 2021

Brave stories of danger and heart and sincerity.
Some risk everything outright, some are desperately quiet, but their intensity lies in what is unsaid and off the page.
These are brilliant pieces from bright, new voices.
A thrill to read.
~ Emily Ruskovich

Fish Anthology 2020

Fish Anthology 2020

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


Fish Anthology 2019

These glorious pieces have spun across the globe – pit-stopping in Japan, the Aussie outback, Vancouver, Paris, Amsterdam and our own Hibernian shores – traversing times past, present and imagined future as deftly as they mine the secret tunnels of the human heart. Enjoy the cavalcade. – Mia Gallagher

Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

The standard is high, in terms of the emotional impact these writers managed to wring from just a few pages. – Billy O’Callaghan

Loop-de-loopy, fizz, and dazzle … unique and compelling—compressed, expansive, and surprising. – Sherrie Flick

Every page oozes with a sense of place and time. – Marti Leimbach

Energetic, dense with detail … engages us in the act of seeing, reminds us that attention is itself a form of praise. – Ellen Bass

Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
Really excellent – skilfully woven – Chris Stewart
Remarkable – Jo Shapcott


Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]

Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.

Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
Ruth Padel

I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
Claire Kilroy

Fish Anthology 2013

Fish Anthology 2013

The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.


Fish Anthology 2012

A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.


Fish Anthology 2011

Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart


Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2008 – Harlem River Blues

The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo Gebler


Fish Anthology 2007

I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael Collins


Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane Fountas


All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank Delaney


Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo Hamilton


Feathers & Cigarettes

In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe


Franklin’s Grace

It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher Hope


Asylum 1928

There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’Riodan


Five O’Clock Shadow

I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology ­ these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms ­ the short story. – Clem Cairns.


From the Bering Strait

Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskey


Scrap Magic

The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn Sweeney


Dog Day

Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’Connor


The Stranger

The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy Doyle


The Fish Garden

This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.


12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


News & Articles

Fish Anthology 2024

Fish Anthology 2024 LAUNCH

11th June 2024
Monday 15th July at 6:30 Marino (Old Methodist) Church Bantry, West Cork, Ireland FREE ENTRY   The Launch of the Fish Anthology 2024 is being held in this charming old methodist church. Many of the authors published in the Anthology will be reading from their work, so come along to get a sample of  the […]

Poetry Prize 2024: Results

15th May 2024
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Here are the winners of the Fish Poetry Prize 2024, selected by Billy Collins, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. Below you will find short biographies of the winners and the Long and Short Lists. From all of us at Fish we congratulate the poets whose poems […]

Short Story Prize 2023/24: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, congratulations to all of you who made the long and the short-lists.  Apologies for the delay in this announcement. The 10 winners will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland – […]

Flash Fiction Prize 2024: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   From all of us at Fish, thank you for entering your flashes. Congratulations to the writers who  were short or long-listed, and in particular to the 11 winners whose flash stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland […]

Short Memoir Prize 2024: RESULTS

1st April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, we congratulate the 10 winners who’s memoir made it into the Fish Anthology 2024 (due to be launched in July ’24 at the West Cork Literary Festival), and to those writers who made the long and short-lists, well done too.  Thank you to Sean […]

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