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Winners: Jeanette Everson - The Stranger Who Shot My Family

What begins as a somewhat disturbing title rounds off into a story of human decency and camaraderie. It's strange, these days, to put your faith in a stranger, and to trust them with yourself and your family, but it still has it's positives, and here, luckily it didn't result in a family murder or anything near as horrifying as that.

Flash Fiction 500 - 2nd Place

Photograph by Steve Malloy, NZ

The Stranger Who Shot My Family

Jeanette Everson

Waiting in Holyhead, my daughter spotted a guy with tattoos and a trench coat. ‘Looks like Bono,’ she’d said. I hadn’t seen him.

Boarding the bus from terminal to boat, I followed a guy with a camera. ‘Him,’ my daughter said, nudging. Clustered up front of the bus, he spoke to the driver as I spoke with my daughter. We eavesdropped on each other’s conversations and struck up the quick friendship of strangers crammed together on public transport.

‘You local?’ he’d asked. Been home, going home, we’d answered – between our two worlds of family in England and home in Ireland. His down under accent gave me questions too: Visiting someone? First time here?

‘Looking for roots,’ he’d answered, ‘no real plans.’

We saw him again later; nice cameras get my attention. Tourist, I’d thought, amused, noticing him across the aisle drinking the obligatory first-time-to-Ireland Guinness, as we’d dozed in our quiet corner.

‘Ask him to stay’, my daughter had hissed, already smitten. Lazy, penned in by a group of German speakers who’d invaded our quiet space as we’d slept, I didn’t move. ‘Later,’ I’d said, ‘if we see him again.’

Waiting to disembark, we noticed him by his absence. ‘Foot Passengers Wait Her.’ He’d turn up.

He did. 'Dublin first, mate’s sister's house, then heading to the midlands, no fixed abode', he’d said.

'Midlands,' we’d said. - 'That’s us,' we’d said. Another eavesdropper, watching us pat pockets unsuccessfully as we offered a bed for the night, lent a pen.

‘Come and stay, we’d like you to,’ I scribbled my number, email address, on a scrap, he gave me a business card: Sculptor, photographer, gallery owner – mutual interests sealed the deal. ‘Do come,’ we said again, meaning it.

Home, later, he emailed me - may he really come? he’d asked. Are you an axe murderer? I’d asked, safety consciousness arriving late to the party. No, he’d replied, are you? No. That’s settled then, I'd said, come crash at our place - you’re very welcome.

Friday, he’d arrived, late, with dented fender and insurance excesses to pay.

‘When I'd said crash here...’ I greeted him with laughter and familiarity. My husband loved him too; welcoming with food and wine. We ate, drank, talked long into the night. He’d planned to stay just one night, but we kept him for another. The day in between the nights, we showed him our part of the world. Late the second night, my daughter spun balls of fire on chains in the ruined abbey nearby. He shot her, over and over, glowing and ethereal, in the flash-lit ruins of ancient stones. I watched, close and enthralled. Magnetised.

He left at dawn. We hugged goodbyes, pyjamaed and sleepy. Next time, we will visit him in his country, this stranger, this friend, we collided with on the ferry one day last summer.

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