The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2019
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The Runner-up of 2017 Flash Fiction Competition

Matthew Gibson

3rd Prize

Matthew Gibson

Matthew Gibson was born and brought up in London, where he lives with his partner and two cats. He studied English literature at university and developed a love of the short story form. Now, several years later, he has decided to try his hand at his own. He has been placed in a number of flash fiction competitions, with entries published online and in print.



BUKENYA held the hoe in the air with both hands, the heavy blade a pendulum that threatened to pull him over. Samson laughed.

"Like this," he said, and took the tool.

He drove it into the soil, just to the point where he knew the weeds would be taking root. He turned the handle and pulled it free, thin green shoots visible against the shiny metal.

"It's easy," said Samson.

The hoe, a foot taller than the boy, had been his great-grandfather's pride. Handed down like an heirloom, Samson remembered the day his own father had taken him to the fields to pass on its secrets.

Clouds crowned the hills, their valleys jungle green. The air was still but the maize heads twitched, like ghosts in a breeze. Samson paused and squinted.

The faint purr of engines. A puff of dust in the distance. He moved his arm in front of his son's chest.

"Stay here," he said. He walked through the crops and stood at the roadside.

The dust mushroomed nearer. The scratch of tyres on gravel. He stood straight and crossed his arms.

Three khaki jeeps rounded the bend. Dirty uniforms crowded the open backs. The lead vehicle slowed to a stop. Its driver grinned.

"Old man!" he said. "Rejoice! The dictator is dead! The dictator is no more!"

Teenage soldiers laughed and gave high fives. Stale alcohol in the air.

"That is good news," Samson said, arms still crossed.

"It is excellent news!" said the driver. He banged his hand against the roof of the cabin. A volley of gunfire from the men, shots echoing around the valley.

The driver leaned through the window, dirty stripes visible on his sleeve.

"And now," he said. "We all fight for the general, saviour of the land!"

Bukenya's soft footsteps in the soil. Samson cursed, then silently prayed.

The sergeant stared at the boy.

"Who is this?" he said. "He looks strong! Fit to join the general's men!"

The soldiers cheered. Eyes wide, Bukenya hugged his father's waist.

Samson stepped forward and said: “The dictator will be forever cursed because he let his people starve. The general is too wise to let this happen."

He pointed at Bukenya.

"His place is here”, Samson said. “He is no soldier. But he will be a fine farmer, and one day his crops will make this country great. Even the saviour must eat."

The sergeant cocked his head to the side. He frowned. He drummed his fingers on the wheel.

Finally, he thumped the roof again. The convoy pulled away, its dirty tail spiralling far behind.

"Who were those men, father?" asked Bukenya.

"No one," said Samson.

But he knew, and he had known what to say.

It was what he had heard his father say when the soldiers had come. His father before that. Passed down like an heirloom.

He patted his son's shoulder.

"Back to the field," he said. "Remember what you’ve learned today."


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