Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bright and Lively

The traffic light turns yellow. I wonder if I would’ve gunned it if the small white Toyota truck in front of me hadn’t stopped. I know the light to be interminably long and begin to fiddle with the dial. When I look up the glint of her ring, bright and lively, flashes in my eye for an instant. She is admiring it while lovingly scratching the back of his head. They talk, laugh, smile, and talk some more, all the while, her eyes wavering between his and the ring. Newlyweds, maybe just engaged, I conclude. A lifetime in front of them; picket fence, kids, another car, maybe even a mini-van to go with the dog they’ve probably already acquired in an effort to satisfy the nesting instinct until the first baby comes: a child that will no doubt reflect the best qualities of each. Mortgage, family vacations, recitals, ball games, Christmas performances, and furtive glances exchanged even in church as proof the home fires continue to burn.

The talk becomes animated and takes on a decidedly different tone even if I can’t hear a word. Her hand retreats, and soon she begins tugging at her waist - seatbelt perhaps? He slams his hand on the steering wheel repeatedly and glares at her. Still tugging, she shouts back, the veins in her pale neck protruding in earnest. The light turns green, and he angrily punches the pedal with his foot. They are broadsided in front of me: the collision a violent cacophony of glass, steel, rubber, flesh. And then, except for my radio, it is silent. Steam comes from under the hood of the car that speared the white truck. I look fore and aft and find I am the sole witness to this event. The car’s elderly driver slumps lifelessly over his steering wheel. The young man driving the truck is clearly beyond repair, a trickle of blood like strawberry syrup on vanilla ice cream marks his door. Her straightened arm, so white – too white, extends through the passenger window, and as I approach I see the ring fall from her hand. It bounces off the asphalt in seemingly slow motion.

She is not conscious, but still breathing, and I rifle through my pockets for my cell phone, dialing 911 in haste. I am told paramedics are en route. By the time they arrive I know she is not long for this world, and I think of her family as well as his. I think of their parents and the awkward and inevitable interaction at a hospital or morgue under lights that distort the pallor of living and dead alike. I think of the days and weeks they will endure until the beginning of the first film that will become a scab develops. There is little I can spare them. Only that when the paramedics wheel the gurney carrying this poor woman into the hospital, the ring on her left hand will remain bright and lively.

by Michael Twist

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Flash Fiction Challenge: Reviewed

Saturday, 21st June was National Flash Fiction Day – the third, in fact, to be held by the folk here and Cafe Aphra decided to get in on the action with a Flash Fiction Challenge of our own.

We gave out five writing prompts at three-hourly intervals throughout the day and encouraged you to post your inspired pieces of 400 words, or less, as comments on this blog.

The beauty of flash fiction is that its compact size and brevity allows you to create a glimpse into a life, a world or even just a thought and then, once seen, close that door behind you. There is such freedom in that level of concision. Without the necessity of laying out the background of characters, setting the scene or establishing a theme, plotlines or lengthy metaphors, you can throw whatever combination of words you want on a page and step away. It’s a format that promotes the domestic, encourages the bold, celebrates the fantastic.

On the pages of Café Aphra that day were heady teenagers, frightened mothers and guilty friends. We met with ghosts, villains and wild beasts. We witnessed the pain of the artist, the eroticism of snails and the horrors held in a mirror. We smiled at the mischief created by Puck and the pretension of writers on retreat.

But what really struck me were the exchanges, feedback and observations that were passed between people throughout the day because that is what Café Aphra is really about – a community of writers supporting, sharing and encouraging each other to do what they love. We know that writing can be a lonely and solitary activity - but we all write to be read. Receiving and giving feedback is like a lifeline for a writer. We cannot work in a vacuum  - it can create imbalanced writing and gibbering writers who finally emerge, blinking, into the sun one day as pale and as translucent as their laptop screens. We need to share what we do with others who have the same values, goals, struggles and pains because that will strengthen our community which will then, in turn, strengthen us as writers. We think that you can find some of those people here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Writing prompt no. 5

And our final prompt for the day in our Cafe Aphra NFFD writing challenge is....

Midsummer's Eve


The night before the midsummer solstice, a night of magic and mystery, even madness - leap off from this starting point and see where it takes you.  

There have been some really wonderful pieces of writing here today... Thank you everybody for contributing your time and your beautiful words to our flash fiction day event and keep posting on the site!

See you around in Cafe Aphra...

Painting by Edward Robert Hughes

Writing prompt no. 4

Some absolutely fantastic responses to our writing prompts so far for the Cafe Aphra NFFD... well done and thank you everybody for your contributions! 

These simple ideas have really generated some great short fiction writing.

So - prompt number 4 for today is: "My mother never..."

Write a piece starting with the line "My mother never..." and see where it takes you - I look forward to reading more fascinating and intriguing pieces!

Next one in three hours' time.

Writing prompt no. 3

And here is prompt number 3 of the day....


Write a piece around a significant object (it can be any object you choose)

I always love this one. :) 

Have fun.... and see you in three hours for another one!

Writing prompt no. 2

Second prompt of the day for our NFFD writing challenge is...


Physically or metaphorically, whatever occurs to you. Write a short piece around this idea - anything up to 400 words - and post it under here as a comment.

Any technical difficulties, please email us at:

Next one along in three hours' time....

Writing prompt no. 1

So our first prompt of the day for the NFFD Cafe Aphra challenge is....


Write a short piece - a few sentences, whatever story occurs to you, but no more than 400 words - and post it under here as a comment.

Any technical difficulties, please email us at:

Next one coming in three hours' time....

Thursday, June 19, 2014


He always liked watching those people who thought they were good at things everyone else could see they were terrible at. It was why he loved those X-Factor auditions on the telly. Deluded, that's what these people were. It was hard not to have a kind of grudging admiration for them all the same. He recognised in them a special kind of ability to self deceive few are fortunate to be blessed with. There had to be some merit in thinking you could sing like Maria Carey when in actual fact you sounded more like Minnie Mouse. There was probably an evolutionary angle to it, a trait preserved and passed on through the gene pool owing to its usefulness to our hunter gatherer ancestors, you know when cornered by sabre toothed tigers or something. Brazen it out. Believe you're a mammoth and you'll be fine.

It wasn't always easy to tell if someone genuinely fancied themselves though. I mean what about the embarrassing dads at weddings who threw David Brent-like shapes on the dance floor? Were they being ironic? Well, probably no, not all of them. The more he considered it, it had to be admitted we all had our own areas of self delusional grandeur. It was easy to snigger at those who imagined they excelled in the performing arts but what about the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers of everyday life? The deranged local councillor who thinks he's Winston Churchill; that moronic Alan Sugar-wannabee at the office; the idiot boy racer who thinks he's Sebastien Vettel. If these people's lives stayed inside fantasy land then fair enough, but some of them were downright dangerous. No, he didn't admire those types one bit.

But what about him? After all, he couldn't exclude himself from the homo sapiens gene pool. Where did he excel in life? Or rather, where did he think he was excelling while everyone else was pointing and laughing behind his back? He supposed he was good at wearing trousers. No, seriously. He had loads of different colours and often drew favourable comments for styles which may have been considered a tad ambitious for others of his age. It was a skill to carry such things off. Élan, that's what it was. He couldn't imagine that anyone would laugh at that. No, it'd be something else, but what? Where was his mammoth lurking?

The only other thing that came to mind was his ability to recognise those who thought they were good at stuff but weren't. Perhaps the truth was that he wasn't as good at that as he supposed he was. He'd been wrong once or twice in the past. No, that was bollocks, some sort of pseudo intellectual mind trick. He wouldn't go there.

It was the trousers.

He opened his wardrobe and checked through them. Sure enough, he could see it now. Bloody hell. Those yellow jeans were sending out the wrong signals. They'd have to go.

By Derek Dohren

Illustration of Michael Jackson by Derek Dohren

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NFFD @ Cafe Aphra

So this Saturday is National Flash Fiction Day in the UK! 21st June is the summer solstice – our longest day of the year and our shortest night. It’s also the start of a period of ancient pagan festivities known as Midsummer (cf. Midsummer Madness, A Midsummer Night’s Dream...) and is associated with magic and mysticism. 

Here at Cafe Aphra we’ve decided to celebrate the occasion by devising our own magical NFFD writing challenge... Six writing prompts will be posted on Cafe Aphra throughout the day at the following times (British Summer Time):



Write your piece of flash fiction based on the prompt and post it as a comment. Keep it short and sweet – no more than 400 words but ideally less. See if you can write a story in 100 words, or even a few sentences!

So spread the word and get ready to write... and remember to check the site on Saturday for each prompt. Look forward to seeing you at Cafe Aphra for some Midsummer magic!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Persimmon Tree

Check out the latest edition of The Persimmon Tree, featuring a fabulous short story by regular Cafe Aphra contributor, Frances Hay:

A Stake in the Future

Congratulations Frances!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Calling all Cafe Aphra Fiction Flashers!

National Flash Fiction Day is coming up once again, here in the UK... 21st June!

Here is the link to the official National Flash Fiction Day website, where you can keep up to date on all the latest events:

We're planning a fantastic flash fiction challenge to mark the occasion with Cafe Aphra - keep checking the blog for news. 

... So what are you waiting for? Get writing and ready for the countdown!!!

(Post comments on Cafe Aphra to tell us how it's going... remember we also have a facebook page, in case that's easier.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Philemon and Baucis

The wonder isn’t the gods’ appearance,
nor their beggarly disguises.  Zeus 

and Hermes love the earth—olive oil, 
gullible women, the substantiality of marble, 

that peculiar human failing of caring 
too much.  It’s the old couple themselves, 

the way they welcome the strangers, 
give up their stools, offer them wine 

and apricots, stoke the fire, how they touch 
each other’s shoulders. They gasp 

when the wineskins refill themselves. 
In the sudden light they kneel 

before their guests, gold peeking
from beneath the rags, feel the dizzying

closeness of divinity.  When the gods
grant one wish to repay their hospitality, 

the wonder is what the couple 
passes up - a wooden floor, new cook 

pot, lifetime supply of firewood, 
fleece-lined cloaks, the child 

they never conceived. Instead 
they ask only not to outlive 

one another. It’s the gods’ turn 
to gape. When the time comes, 

the couple feels the forest taking them. 
Sap rises, fingers send out leaf shoots, 

bark creeps up, closes over their mouths, 
but not before Farewell love

overheard by hushed birds and caught 
in the cleaved air, linden and oak 

now a single trunk, entwined.

by David Sloan

This poem first appeared in a collection called The Irresistible In-Between,  
published in May 2013 by Deerbrook Editions.