A Concentration on Numbers

Carla taught Anna to cut angels from paper, helped her glue them into her scrapbook. Carla was small and quiet, and three-year-old Anna loved her.

Anna stroked the smudgy blue numbers written on the inside of Carla’s soft forearm and wanted to have numbers too, and so Carla inked them gently; 14, 699. At bath time, Anna’s numbers washed into the warm, sudsy water. She cried, but Carla told her she was lucky and would one day understand.

Carla dreamed only nightmares. She woke, held the ugly tattoo, and wept for her dead parents. And for her stolen life.


Shelley Kirton has a Master of Management degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She has been published in MindFood magazine New Zealand, 2018, the Atlantis Short Story Award Anthology 2018, (nom de plume) and in 2020 received an Honourable Mention in the NZ Writers College Short Story Competition. She enters short story competitions and particularly enjoys flash fiction, and her work can be found in Flash Fiction Friday and Free Flash Fiction.