final sale

The Australian Writers’ Centre runs a quarterly short story competition, “Furious Fiction“, which encourages writers to deliver a short, sharp story that is subject to a different set of constraints each month. The topic comes out on a Friday afternoon, and the 500 words must be submitted by midnight on Sunday (55 hours).


This story is one that I only started at 5pm on the Sunday, and held no great hopes for – I enjoyed the experience, but didn’t think I’d spent enough time on it. Luckily, the judges disagreed with my assessment and included it in the seven shortlisted stories that were published (plus the winning entry)!

In December 2022, the criteria for the story were:

  • Each story had to begin with a 12-word sentence.
  • Each story had to include the sale of a second-hand item
  • Each story had to include at least five different words that end in the letters –ICE.

I talk more about this competition and issues about feedback in my blog.

final sale

A cold blast of sea air smacked her cheeks, drawing a gasp. She should have kept driving, but Julie was a sucker for garage sales. Not that this one looked hopeful – no other people, trestle tables groaning under the weight of unloved trinkets.

She sighed. Well, she was here now, and the woman in the garage had spotted her. She quick-stepped inside, out of the rain.

Margaret’s feet had turned to ice. The concrete floor drained the heat, her right hip aching more than normal. Worse than that was a dull despair leeching into the marrow. Only a handful of looky-loos had turned up today. She didn’t blame them. The bleak day matched her mood. Her last chance to sell a lifetime’s belongings before moving into the retirement home, and it looked like Vinnies would need to take it all.

Another time waster turned up, bottle-blond hair whipping in the wind. Flash red car. She sighed. Forced on a smile. What other choice did she have?

Nothing. Nothing remotely interesting. She should have known. DVDs of movies she’d never want to watch. Cake tins carrying the dints and scratches of hundreds of uses. Electrical appliances from the seventies, by all appearances. Carefully arranged, lovingly presented, but worthless. A sturdy box of crockery sat on a shelf. “For sale?” Julie asked, her voice loud in the silent space. The grey-haired woman hesitated, then nodded.

The blonde rifled through the box Margaret had set aside. She’d been flip-flopping all week about whether she wanted to sell the crockery. Some had been her mum’s, even her Nan’s. Most of it wedding presents. Hardly used in forty-six years married to Doug. Too good for everyday use, too forgotten most other times. The blonde pulled out a crystal trifle bowl, its facets catching in the light. She ran her finger twice around the rim before turning it over.

 Margaret was transported back to her first Christmas married. She’d made a trifle for lunch at her mother-in-law’s, soft billows of whipped cream scattered with grated chocolate. Of course, Felicity had made one as well, even though Margaret had been clear about her plans.

 “That’s nice, dear,” Doug’s mother had said, “we’ll bring it out if we need it.” Her cheeks flushed at the humiliation even now.

Maybe. Maybe she could use this. The bowl had heft. Quality. Her palms shaped to its curves. Might be just the thing for Christmas. Show her mother-in-law she could match her in style and presentation. Stupid cow. Julie didn’t know why Christmas lunch had become a contest, but it had.

“How much?”

The woman startled.

“Oh. Oh, I don’t know. Ten?”

Julie considered. She started to haggle, out of habit, but something in the older woman’s eyes stopped her.


“Thank you, dear. Merry Christmas.”

“You too. Good luck with the sale.”

Margaret watched her drive off, taking one memory away. She shivered, then closed the garage door. Alone again, surrounded by unsold memories. They were hers, forever.