Competition Five Highly Commended: Guilty by

My daughter’s poodle-faced probation officer declares my daughter ‘thinks herself above the law.’ With a flourish of white acrylics, the poodle produces a file. I hear the click-clack: talons typing old damnations, adding weight, new accusations. A book waiting to be thrown. My daughter, apparently, ‘a lost cause.’

‘She’s not lost!’ I stand up tall to mitigate.

‘It’s in her blood. Our family is from nobility, descended down from highway robbers.’

I conjure up the 1600’s. Genes of Susan, Lady Sandys – aristocrat, accomplice, wife to Sir George. Lineaged. It’s destiny that we are here. Our history carried for generations, on the backs of nimble horses. We’ve startled carriages, robbed for riches, hooves sparked silver in getaways. Not just theft like Robin Hood, but dashing, daring, pedigree.

‘Just look at our genetic jigsaw, it’s in her DNA.’

My words gallop, as if their speed can stop the gibbet. The stable door reverberates, but after the bolting, a slam. I sit down quickly before I am silenced, removed again, for contempt.

The magistrate’s words hang in the air. He demands she stand, before he delivers. Lines must be drawn when pounds are scraped towards a quarter. A sentence, suspended, reimposed before she walks. This time out of Boots, again, with thirteen packets of disposable razors.

He sends her down.

Raising fists, I turn, hiss, ‘Remember Lady Susan.’

My daughter blanks me, of course. Wishes I wasn’t here at all. Sees straight through this pretence. Charade, my only defence – denial, bluster, masks my guilt. Court: the only time I ever get to see my baby girl.

The poodle’s smug. Pseudo-smart, polyestered. I spot a ladder in her tights – my daughter lands on snakes. The poodle snaps her file shut. My daughter’s shackled, taken down, again. Track marks stabbing sparrow-limbs: up, down, leading nowhere.




Kate Simblet (she/ hers) social works by day and plays with words by night. Lives mostly in her head but pays for a roof in Brighton, UK.

Words here and there including Free Flash Fiction, @nffd The Write-in, @paragrahplanet

Kate rarely remembers to tweet but when she does it’s from @KateSimblet


Illustration by Harry Venning –


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