by Trent Pomeroy
The woman in the seat beside Dave wants to chat. She is fiftyish, heavy, her forehead sheened with sweat. Her name is Irene.
“I hardly ever fly,” she says as they climb over the Atlantic. She is heading to London to meet her granddaughter. She shows him a picture.
“A cutie,” he agrees, though the kid looks like every other baby.
“Travelling for work?”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a pharmaceutical salesman.” He smiles. “Pretty boring, right?”
“It sounds like a great job,” she tells him. “And you get to travel too.”
“I guess.” He shrugs. “It pays the bills. Not my first choice.”
They sit in silence for a minute, watching the flight attendants bustle up and down the aisles.
“What was your first choice?” Irene asks.
“I wanted to be a writer.” He feels like a fraud to say it.
“Oh really! Do you write?”
“No.” Dave looks out the window. They are at cruising altitude now, the evening sun glinting off the cloud banks far below. “Too busy for that.” This is a lie.
“Maybe when you retire,” she offers.
The attendant interrupts with drinks and pretzels. Dave buys a scotch, nurses it and watches clouds. Irene lapses into her book.
The engine explodes outside his window, so close that for an instant Dave thinks he’s been shot. The plane lurches like a sinking ship. An alarm sounds. The intercom crackles.
“Return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.” The attendant’s voice is tight and urgent.
Irene grips his shoulder. “The wing!”
The wing is a ball of flame, so hot he feels the heat through the glass. Red banners of fire careen into the slipstream.
Then the sound of tearing metal, and the air is full of debris, a hurricane of paper and plastic. Screams behind him, he twists in his seat and can see blue sky. The rear of the plane is gone.
They are diving. The plane almost vertical. Acceleration hammers him into the seat. Masks stream from the ceiling.
“Seatbelts, fasten seatbelts!”
Overhead bins spring open. Bags cascade into the wind.
And suddenly, like a dam bursting, he is a writer again. The words are springing straight out of his soul. A short story bubbles up, complete and perfect. A novel, a whole series of novels, premise and plot and characters so magnificent they stagger him. Every sentence burned into him. Poetry: epics and ballads, sonnets and haikus, elegant latticed verses like snowflakes. He marvels at them, knows that they have always been there, just waiting to be written down.
Irene clutches him. Her face pure panic. He embraces her, writes a poem of solace. Breathes it into her ear. She trembles like a captured bird. He sings a song for her granddaughter.
“Brace for impact!”
He barely hears the pilot’s voice as they meet the water, awash in the ecstasy of so many beautiful words.
After hearing about his success, Trent Pomeroy, winner of the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) Flash Fiction category, said,
"What wonderful news! I’m shocked (and of course delighted). I’m particularly excited at the opportunity to attend one of your upcoming retreats. Sounds like a wonderful experience.
My warm congratulations to Maria O’Rourke and all the other finalists in both categories. I can’t wait to read their work."
Under the Tree
by Maria O’Rourke
The Christmas season started with such promise. D came home from work early on December 8th with the tree tied to the roof of the car. We put on Christmas music and talked about the gifts that might be under it the following year. By then Gretchen would be nine months old.
“I wonder, will she be the kind of girl who likes dolls or will she be more of a skateboard type?" D asked.
“Well, not at nine months!” I laughed, “But I always wanted something with wheels, so maybe she’ll be like me?”
We knew Gretchen was a girl from about twenty weeks, but we kept it to ourselves.
“It’s going to be so exciting wrapping presents on Christmas Eve for our own child,” D said, hanging tiny wooden trinkets we had bought at a Christmas market in London. And when we finally turned on the twinkling, coloured lights it was just perfect.
For days I came home from work, turned on the heat, the kettle and then the tree. I liked to stand for a few minutes with the steaming cup in my hand, drinking in the atmosphere, and sometimes Gretchen would kick as if to remind me she was still there. Now, that same tree looks like a mess of foliage and baubles representing nothing but failure.
A bundle of letters and cards were piling up in the hall for a week or so but I haven’t felt like looking at them till now. The first one I open says “Heartfelt Sympathy” and a handwritten note falls out. It’s from a woman I barely know. She tells me that she is reaching out to us because she knows the pain of losing a baby, saying she lost her baby boy fifteen years previously. She offers to come and see me, if I’d like that, and I think I would, but not yet.
There is no birth cert for a baby born without life. No death cert either. But I want the world to recognise that a short, but perfect life was lived in the darkness of my womb, and I’m grateful that those who never kissed her perfect feet, or felt her fleeting warmth, have taken time to acknowledge her.
I make a scrap-book of memories. I paste in the scans – first the ones showing lovely, steady growth. Black and white, grainy images with visible hands and feet and face profiles. And then the one that confirms the worst.
After the delivery, the nurses gave me a little footprint and a tiny bag of ginger hair. I glue them in beside Gretchen’s wrist-band, barely wide enough to go around my thumb. Then I cut the messages from the cards and letters. Any scrap of proof goes in and, in a way, I feel like I am pasting myself back together again. Then I cover it in the most beautiful wrapping paper I can find and place it under the tree.
After hearing the good news about her winning the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) Creative Non-Fiction category, a delighted Maria O’Rourke said,
"I'm blown away by winning this competition. It's given me a much needed boost in the strangest of times and I'm so excited to be going on my first ever writing retreat. Thank you to the judges and organisers for this amazing opportunity."