Special thanks to Daniel Norrish for donating his winnings back to the competition. Even though it was a slew of late entries we have some excellent submissions. A few tear jerkers in there are well. Check out the full short list here   One Good Turn by Sean C Grid Lock by Jason Fink The Nightmare by Charlie A Novak Raindrops by Little Miss Carmello Finnigan’s Wake by Evret Marr

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A strange situation this time around with 4 of the 5 stories sharing second place. Well done to Fingernails, Grading On A Curve, Mrs Williamson’s Rose Garden and The Box on running a tight race. Ultimately though our congratualions go to Lisa White for her story ‘Better Than Most.’ A win on your first short list probably doesn’t qualify as a NORMAL SUCCESS, but it’s more than deserved. (Insert ‘Better than most’ pun here). Don’t forget to check out all the new awards we have up for the first couple of months of 2015 on the awards and collaboration s page. Also, the NORRISH GIFT Award short list is up right now. That’s all for the moment. We’ll have some interesting new elements coming up this week, including a public …

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My next door neighbour has: a whipper snipper; a leaf blower; a chainsaw; a ride on mower; and a shredder. Well he used to. He may have had other tools in his back shed, like a spade or a rake, but they never came to my attention. It was the noisy petrol guzzling buggers that keep the garden under the thumb that piqued my inner good Samaritan. And that is the point I tried to make after I politely knocked on my neighbour’s door last Sunday afternoon. “There’s no law against leaf blowers,” he grunted. “Do you think you could maybe give it a rest on Sunday’s at least.” “What are you a religion freak or sumthin?” I must admit his massive illustrated biceps and the can of bourbon and …

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“Fuck you,” I muttered. Traffic was bad, the weather worse and my mood – surly. Cutting me off was not the best idea at that moment. I memorized the make and model of the car, and the license plate as well. If I ever came across that particular vehicle, I would fuck it the hell up. The phone went off in the seat next to me. I glanced down at it. My boss. Again. She could wait. She was a douche-and-a-half, and I was only going to be ten minutes late. Maybe twenty. But still. I was only late a couple of times a week. She could bite me. I moved a bit closer to the bumper of the car that had cut me off. I’d been in line for …

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The figures that prowled the swirling, golden mist were indistinct, yet terrifying. Their forms were hunched and misshapen, no two alike. Some red, some black, some scaled, others spiked or hairy. All were equally horrible. The way they moved was worst of all. They never stayed in one spot for more than an instant. They flickered in and out of visibility, appearing and disappearing at random. They were unpredictable, everywhere. Leo wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around his head and hide, but he dared not look away from the monsters. If he did, they would kill him. A demonic face loomed in front of him. Its skin was red, intricately patterned with gold swirls. A cruel, thin-lipped mouth was stretched into a manic smile that revealed pointed …

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As the bell signals the end of another tedious and sultry day, there is hurried gabbling, shuffling of papers, textbooks squashed with little dignity into bulky schoolbags, a snatch or two of nervous laughter, leather shoes thundering across the carpet, and the door closing with its plaintive squeal. Silence. She remains at the desk, in the right-hand corner of the classroom. A bead of sweat trickles down the side of her cheek, but she brushes it off before it lands on the grid paper. She scratches the paper with her pencil; solid, consistent strokes of a well-practiced swimmer approaching the final lap. She finds the last coordinate, plots the last point. As expected, the points join in smooth curves. The hyperbola and parabola intersect perfectly. Satisfied, she takes her time …

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Finnigan was a despicable human being, a fact he himself well knew. He looked up at the large colorful rosette of St. Jude’s Chapel illuminated with the warm soft glow of tens of hearts in prayer. ‘Ah, Christmas Time!’ he whispered with relish, breathing hot air into his gloveless cupped hands. It was freezing but Finnigan knew his hardship would soon be rewarded. He’d scrounge around the crowd for a while and then it’s straight off to The Sidetrack. He could already feel the whiskey streaming down his throat, heating him up, filling up all his empty spaces… Finnigan willed the doors to already open – floodgates letting the wave of parishioners spill put into the courtyard and Finnigan’s outstretched arms. He had found out long ago that he belonged …

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The short list for the NORMAL SUCCESS Award is up. You can find them all here   Mrs Williamson’s Rose Garden – Charlie Novak Better Than Most – L White The Box – Jane Basil Grading On A Curve – Joey To Fingernails – Clarissa NG (Student)

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  The last time I cooked dolmades, you told me that for years, out of consideration for my feelings, you had avoided mentioning that dolmades were no longer your favourite dish. That you were so sick of them that it was hard to swallow even the first few mouthfuls. I realised that our meals had become dull and repetitive, so I stopped cooking dolmades, and found new recipes, using unusual and exotic ingredients. You read a book at the table, leaving the food to get cold, or sometimes eating distractedly. You offered no comment. You seemed tired. To re-awaken your interest, I wore a daring dress. You told me it was too tight, and that it was time to embrace the dignity of middle age. How right you were. It …

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  Mr Davis hummed to himself as he trimmed the hedges. The lovely rose bushes that his neighbours grew along their white picket fence weren’t looking as well kept as usual. His neighbours must have agreed, because a few minutes later an elderly woman came outside armed with gardening gloves, pruning shears, and fertiliser. Mrs Williamson. That was her name. She and her husband had introduced themselves when he moved in. Must’ve been five years ago now. It was normally her husband who did the gardening. She reminded Mr Davis of his own mother, always pottering around in the garden. His mother had loved flowers. Mrs Williamson, however, didn’t have his mother’s knack. She clipped the rose canes in the wrong places and put too much fertiliser on some plants …

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From behind the counter, Harry slides an empty cup towards Rob. “Morning. Scrambled eggs with bacon and toast?” Rob nods. “And hash browns please.” The waitress pours steaming black coffee into the cup. “You hardly ever have that.” “Need the energy to work on that new picket fence of yours, right?” says Harry as he grabs the bowl of egg and cream mixture from the fridge underneath the bench. Rob smiles and glances at the television in the corner. It’s showing the news as usual, something about some president reminding everyone that his country still got plenty of nukes. Harry shakes his head. “Crazy bastard.” He ladles the egg mixture into the pan. It hisses. “Hey, doesn’t your grandson have a test today or something? He doing well?” “Yeah, they …

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With a scowl on her face, Henri’s teacher told me what had happened. ‘Your son is only thirteen, Madam. This is serious.’ ‘I apologize on his behalf. I’ll have a talk with him.’ She sighed, seemingly dissatisfied. ‘A student’s education isn’t the sole responsibility of the school. The family also needs to take an active role.’ Is she trying to say I failed in educating my son? ‘Henri is still young. He needs plenty of guidance,’ she continued. I mustered a smile. ‘I understand.’ ‘Well then, thank you for coming.’ I bowed at her, and left. Henri was standing near the door, head hung low. ‘Let’s go,’ I said. He nodded. We left the school and walked to the main road. The entire time, Henri was quiet. ‘Are you going …

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  I wake up. At least I think I am awake. I can feel the faintest sense of sunlight on my skin, filtering through my eyelids, gently urging me to wake up. But I can’t move. My breathing feels laboured. My heart struggles with every beat. It can’t be morning, surely not already, I’m exhausted. Just lying here, feeling the sunshine, breathing in and out – it’s all so exhausting. That’s the only problem when you have a medical mind like mine. You know what your body has been up to all night – breathing, beating, digesting, repairing, regenerating. If only I could stop all of that activity, just for a minute, I might be able to summon the energy to get out of bed. But it doesn’t and I …

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 3. Choosing a winner is never easy. In fact, it can be downright impossible. At Needle we use different judges for every award. Former winners, short listers, friends, people we meet on the street. We believe that everyone’s voice should be heard, and that doesn’t just mean for writers. Still, choosing is never easy. Third place this week goes to “The Choice”  2. Needle turned two recently.  In those 24 months we’ve seen some wonderful stories pass through the short lists. Debb Bouch’s Troika is no different, taking out a close second with a moving triple edit. 1 Our winner this week engaged the spirit of the award  with a unique and entertaining vingette. Both comical and poignant, it’s pleasing to see this author’s recent efforts haven’t been in vain. …

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#1 Frigging great! She’s steered me down the tampon aisle and now we’re parked, window shopping here. Like she hasn’t bought these exact same products for at least two decades already. I’ve been ditched here before, while she ran clear across the supermarket to grab a bag of grapes. Oh, and when I say “ran”, I mean my geriatric grandmother moves quicker. And she died, two years ago. Speaking of which… sorry… Speaking of which, I’m kind of glad that if we are loitering, it’s in this particular aisle, since it means – well, you know. She needs them. Phew! We had a scare last year… Well, it terrified me. As it turned out… the pair of us just congenitally run late for everything. Like this weekend. The boys’ll have …

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  #1 The Palace Bar was meant to be a refuge for all the poofs, queers, and trannies chewed up and spat out by the virulent streets of the 1980s. Meant to be. Inside, Phil smashed a bottle over the countertop. “What did you do, you motherfucker?” A young man lay motionless on the floor, skin pale as snow. Mal stood over him, his face twisted in a malicious sneer. “The idiot little poofter has off’d himself.” Phil moved forward, enraged and swiping at Mal with the broken bottle, but two patrons held him back. “What the fuck have you done?” Mal let out a derisive laugh, “Didn’t need to do a fucking thing, your gutter-junkie of a whore did it all to himself. Not my fault he can’t hold …

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  Draft 1. The Cake. By Patrick Fisher. I first met the cake at Dino’s Diner; a smoky, dangerous bar in an unfashionable part of town. It sat at the bar alone, staring into its whiskey on the rocks. I slid onto the stool beside it, and threw my own order at the barman; double vodka, no junk. As he poured my drink I turned my head to the cake. “Rough day?” I asked. “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.” The cake replied. It through down the last splash of whiskey and nodded to the bartender for another. A dollop of icing dripped onto the bar as it put the glass down. A three piece band was unpacking its gear in the corner. “Ever been in love?” The …

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First Catch Blistering. Summer heat. The sun was high. My neck felt itchy, the result of an overdue haircut. ‘James!’ someone shouted. ‘Get the ball.’ I looked up and squinted. The ball was too high. No way I could reach it. Giving up, I let it fly across the grass field. It fell with a thump on the slope and rolled down to the pavement. I ran leisurely behind to retrieve it. I thought the ball was going to stop anyway, but it continued rolling to the main road. Across the street, a woman and her son were standing at the bus stop. She was on her phone, while the little boy was stomping around, restless. Upon seeing the ball, he dashed across the street. A taxi came at a …

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Katy trudged upwards dragging the sledge behind her. Her brother seemed to weigh more every time she climbed the hill. The snow was mushy now, more like cold porridge than ice crystals. The sledge sank deeper into the ruts from the last few runs until she couldn’t go any higher up the hill. “Up, Katy, up,” Bobby cried. “Can’t go no further, Bobs. You’re too heavy.” He cried in earnest. Shuddering, heart rending sobs that shook his whole body. Katy sighed and sat down on the sledge wrapping her arms around him. “Hush now. Don’t cry Bobs. Maybe there’ll be more snow tomorrow.” She hugged him close. He stopped sobbing and squirmed round to look at her. “Katy, promise? Please?” “Can’t promise nothing. Depends on the weather gods.” And Ma, …

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