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'Taking off': National Flash Fiction Day - The Open College of the Arts
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'Taking off': National Flash Fiction Day

Today is National Flash Fiction Day in the UK. To celebrate, we’re publishing OCA creative writing student Mary Jupp’s story ‘Taking off’. With a word count of 432, it falls well within the 500 word limit for the genre. ‘Taking off’ is Mary’s first and, so far, only foray into flash fiction. It’s based on the true story of a friend who left her abusive husband of many years. Mary says she wrote the story straight off and edited it very little once she had the first draft. OCA assessors say Mary’s writing is exceptional. See if you agree with them.


He’s left the house. You know he’s on the way to the station; his first day back at work. Today the plan can go into action. It’s been three months in the making. How many bin bags will fit into your friend’s car? Five. And you can fit yourself and a holdall into the front seat. This isn’t conjecture. You’ve done it; the trial run using Maggie’s stuff. It works. But selecting what goes into the bags, that’s been a headache. And having to do it surreptitiously; can’t arouse any notion in Phil’s head. Fatal. Selecting the essentials and a few extras you just can’t bear to leave behind: photos of the kids, now grown up and gone: ornaments on the mantelpiece that you retrieved when they cleared mum’s place: plaster dog, snow ball of the Blackpool Tower and the rough pottery bowl you made her in school. All a bit chipped and damaged—bit like you. But all in one piece—bit like you are at the moment. No time to lose, there’s a load of what if’s going through your head. What if there’s a train strike? Unlikely. Or someone throws themselves on the track and kills themselves and the trains don’t run and he comes back? Get a grip and get stuffing those black sacks. You’ve rung Maggie. She’ll be round and outside in forty five minutes. Just enough time to finish the dishes. And write the note you’ll leave on the mantelpiece. He’s never looked at the ornaments, but the note will get his attention. Black sacks stuffed and down into the hall. Now a quick look around the kitchen. There was something you wanted out of here. Sitting in their shiny stainless steel block sit the set of five French cuisine knives. In different sizes. Which one did he use on Christmas day? When you said you were going out for a walk and he pushed the tip of the knife against your ribs? You could feel the point through the light weight raincoat you’d grabbed off the rack. The tip: small and sharp. Like his eyes. You took the coat off and you both sat back down in the lounge in silence, festive TV spurting from the set. No, it wasn’t the knives. And there’s a knock that sets your heart beating in time with the pounding in your ears. It’s Maggie. The bags are in. Keys left on the table with your wedding ring. And you are away. Wait. You wanted your mug. There’s room in the holdall. Too late. Go. Now.

photo credit:

Come l’impercettibile pulviscolo acquareo si condensa in fiocchi di nuvole via photopin (license)

Posted by author: Elizabeth Underwood

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