TSS Publishing

Featured Flash Fiction: ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ by Sandra Arnold

The Short Story with Sandra Arnold

Sandra Arnold is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in Creative Writing from CQ University, Australia. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally and has won several awards including the 2014 Seresin Landfall University of Otago Press Writers Residency and the 2015 New Zealand Heritage Week Short Story Competition. She was short-listed for the 2016 Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship and was on the Honourable Contenders List for the  2016 Bristol Prize.  She started writing flash fiction earlier this year after completing her third novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and flash fiction.


Judge’s Comments: This story illuminates a moment in the life of an incompatible yet married couple, and shows us a bitter slice of the sadness in not being fully understood by a life-partner. The use of language in this story is lovely. The writer makes me care about the his characters without telling me how to feel, or sentimentalizing. This is beautiful writing.


June 2016 Flash Fiction Competition: 2nd place

The Lighthouse Keeper

By Sandra Arnold


Red knot, Caspian tern, Mongolian dotterel. As each name slipped from the lips of the lighthouse keeper, with tales of whales and seals and solitude, my father’s face filled with longing. We’d come out with the mail van to Farewell Spit, the northernmost point of Golden Bay to see the gannet colony. My father liked photographing birds. He told the lighthouse keeper that he envied him. My mother asked how he coped with loneliness, the lack of stimulation, the sheer boredom of such a desolate place.

            lighthouseThe lighthouse keeper looked at the blue arc of sky, the miles of white dunes, the refracted light, and said the only thing he wished for was a few more hours in each day to record the movements of birds, check the predator traps, maintain the lighthouse and tend his garden. He could see productive and busy were words my mother would understand. She asked what he did to relax. He said on starry nights he sat on the sand listening to the sea.

            I remember my mother’s incomprehension as we drove back to our motel and the faraway look in my father’s eyes. That look returned a few years later when he read that all the lighthouses in New Zealand would be automated. I asked what would happen to the lighthouse keepers. That sort of person… said my mother… would always have difficulty fitting in. My father opened his mouth to say something. Then he hid behind his newspaper.




TSS Flash Fiction Competitions run every two months. There are three prizes: 1st £75, 2nd £50, and 3rd £25. All winners are published on the website.




1 Comment

  1. Gina Cole

    Love this story. My father was a lighthouse keeper on Farewell Spit when I was four years old. We lived there and it is a beautiful place. I love how the writing draws out the feeling of a kindred spirit between the husband and the lighthouse keeper. And how the child sees that and it shows the distance between her parents. Beautiful.

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