No Place for Sissies

 The mob hushes to a chill silence. A lit match is thrown, the whoosh- bang of boiler pilot light, then the roar of flame that engulfs him. He doesn’t scream? Her legs shake and she loses her footing on the  car roof, spins around, but too late; the image is already branded into her soul. She falls to the dirt track, covering her mouth and nose; the urge to help -do something- and the need to escape, pound, pulling her nowhere except down, down into a crouching ball. In her head moments unravel.

 Someone saying   ‘They caught him lying with another man - like with a woman. God’s punishment!’

She scrambles to get a view.

Tall, bloodied youth, trussed in a rubber tire, being bumped between three men like he’s inside a pinball machine.

Can of gasoline held aloft. 

She runs as fast as she’s ever run, faster even than when she won the university relay, away from that place by the river where women did their washing and sang together.

She double locks the door of her hotel room and turns the air con  up to max. Her reflection  in the  mirror  is of someone suddenly aged. She doesn’t know how she will collect herself :  put together her report for the  glossy magazine, already well overdue. She takes a long  shower,  lathering the  complimentary  jasmine scented gel which promises to exfoliate and   rejuvenate. But when she closes her eyes all she sees is his melting face - skin bursting, red flesh splitting  like ripe fig. And she recalls the parting advice of her father - a quiet man who’d once served his country, to be careful, advice  against which she always railed. ‘Where you’re going... no place for sissies.’

By Bren Gosling 

'No Place for Sissies' first appeared in Fifty Flashes of Fiction, The Worcestershire Literary Festival 2014.


  1. Powerfull stuff and it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Well done.

  2. Thanks - it had the desired effect, then ;)

  3. Powerful and appropriate for the day. Well done.


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