The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2019
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The Winner of the Flash Fiction Competition 2020

1st Prize

Gail Anderson

Gail Anderson



It was sandwiched between Forrest’s Tree Service and the bakery and she was due for a visit. Goldilocks Hair Salon. Wooden shingles on its narrow front, a skinny sentry cypress either side of the entrance. Walk-ins welcome. The door breathed open, the shop bell rang her inside. A note on the counter told her: Back in 5. 

Three chairs, three mirrors. Towards the back, three basins gleamed a porcelain smile. The right-hand sink was small, with a shivery cold-water tap; the sink on the left was large, its hot water hissing. The middle basin was just right. Its spray frisked with her fingers. She dropped her duffle at one of the styling stations. The mirrors watched as she played with the glass pickle jar of combs, took a twirl on each of the chairs. She was dizzy when the shop bell rang again, and the hairdresser sloped in. 

‘Hey babe. Liberace Wolfe.’

His long face was framed in brindled curls, his neck and chest sparkled with twinkly bling. The walls sighed, leaned closer as he extended a hand to trouble her hair. 

‘Sure is fine,’ he purred, whirling a strand round a bony finger. ‘We could cut it into a bob? Put it up in a bun? Tease it into a bear claw? Why, you’ll look good enough to eat.’  

‘So,’ she sank deeper into the seat’s leatherette embrace, ‘Madge usually does my hair. Is she around?’

‘New management, hon. Madge’s last day was yesterday.’ 

Sidling inside, idling against a rack of dye, the salon’s sign caught her eye. The ceiling bent low as Wolfe leaned over her.

‘Loving your red hoodie,’ he murmured, sniffing her neck. 

She smacked his nose and he reared back. The mirror showed her the anger that flickered across the amber of his irises. Above and behind him, the ceiling lifted, the walls stood straight.

‘You read the news?’ she asked, voice sweet as maple syrup. ‘Two houses in this town blown down last week under mysterious circumstances.’

Wolfe, sloe-eyed, scowled. ‘You mean, like, huffed and puffed?’

‘And my grandmother,’ her voice dropped to a hiss, ‘went missing yesterday.’

‘I wouldn’t know anything about—’

‘My grandmother Madge.’

She held his gaze. Lifted her duffle from the floor. The salon’s sign slid to block the door. The sinks smirked. The combs whistled. The blinds ran themselves down to the sills.

When she turned, the lettering on her red, hooded sweatshirt danced before his startled eyes. Forrester’s Tree Service. The hickory handle so smooth and straight, the blade of her axe winked as it began its descent.


Author Bio

Gail Anderson has worked as a stop-motion animator, a graphic designer and a musical instrument repair technician. She won the 2020 Winchester Writers' Weekend Flash Prize, the 2019 Reflex Fiction winter competition, the 2019 Scottish Arts Trust Story Award and has been shortlisted twice for the Bridport Prize. Recent work is published in Popshot, Ellipsis Zine, Mslexia, Ambit, Crannog, Strix and The Cabinet of Heed. She can usually be found in her boat on the River Thames.



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