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When you’re a kid you live in your own world, a world separate from everything else. When you’re a kid a dead branch is anything but a dead branch. It’s a sword, a cricket bat, or even a flying broomstick; it’s whatever you need it to be. For most people their childhood world slowly fades as they get older and one day between jumping to avoid the cracks in the footpath and asking to borrow their parent’s car keys they look down and realise they’re holding a dead branch instead of a light-sabre. But sometimes, childhood worlds don’t fade, they shatter.
— from "Beneath the Wheat" by Iain Murray

On windy spring nights, amongst the clean-picked bones, the young make love on favourite graves, roar through the grass on motor-cycles, perform hand-stands on the heads of angels. But tonight the living are still and the still are dead ... all except Mrs Miller who rolls in her plot, complains of rising damp, the roots of the flowers inside her bending, stretching, straining, breaking.
“An’ did yer remember ter put the cat out, yer lazy ole bugger! Yer jist like yer father was!”
But dead Mr Miller, too close beside her, again pretends not to hear, yawns, mumbles, scratches his stomach, falls gratefully back into wet earth to dream for eternity ...
— from "To Begin at the Middle" by Maree Teychenné

Dennis glanced at the sun peeping above the horizon and slowly rubbed his eyes. It had been a restless night, tossing and turning, and finally waking to find the pillow on the floor, his right foot wedged between the bedside table and the mattress and the sheet around his neck. He had clearly drunk too many drinks last night in celebration. But why? Then it came to him in a rush.
— from "The Godfather of Balmain" by David Wilkinson

Twenty-three award-winning short stories from the Stringybark Short Story Awards will delight and intrigue you in this anthology of clever tales from Australian and international short story writers.

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