‘Forty-Eight Dogs’ by Tania Hershman

So having trashed flash fiction with my comments on ‘The Exploding Boy’, I’m going to include another one. Not only that, but – God help me – it’s a dementia story too. Now everyone who’s ever judged a competition or read submissions for a magazine knows that the three favourite subjects of every single tyro short story writer are the three Ds: Death, Disease and Dementia. There’s a simple reason for this: it’s too easy to use them as a short cut to emotion.

So if it’s a dementia story, it had better be a bloody good one.

Fortunately, ‘Forty-Eight’ dogs is a bloody good one. It’s a deceptively simple story of a woman who is obsessed that her back yard is full of stray dogs, and how her husband gently tries to convince her she’s wrong. But right at the end, in the third paragraph, we get a glimpse of something else:

When he came back with the tea, her husband sighed to see her softer now. He added milk and spooned in sugar and as he leant towards her with her cup, from the corner of his eye he caught the garden, shifting slightly. And in that one blink he saw it. A tail, wagging.

First published in Metazen and collected in My Mother Was an Upright Piano, Tangent Books, 2012

‘Get Gone’ by Tania Hershman

Choosing these stories has made me realise how much I value writing that is crafted to such a high level that the reader doesn’t realise the tricks involved. That’s what happened with this story for me. I read it, appreciating the power and language before I realised that every sentence began with the same letter, G. Clever. And the g-g-g-g sounds give it a roughness too. Pure poetry. 

First published in Reflex Fiction, June 2020

‘Loose Ends’ by Tania Hershman

Hershman has a wonderful way with words and the gaps between them. In this story, she works with a technique similar to decoupage, using disconnections to make connections. The result is nonsenses that are emotive, physical and strangely meaningful.

First published in The End, an anthology of writers’ responses to paintings by Nicolas Ruston, Unthank, 2016