The Devil’s in the Detail

by Helen Chambers

The best thing about this art retreat is the wide view it allows across the bay. I paint bold, sweeping strokes on my canvas, then check the detail through my powerful binoculars. I can watch each family on the beach.

There’s mine – my daughter Jenny and her father. And Her. The octopus who squeezed the dying life from us, suckered to him with her tentacles while I nursed baby Jenny.

I should have snagged Her in my claws, crushed her bones and torn off her flesh.

This year, I’m supervising their holiday. Ready to intervene when Jenny needs me.

But Jenny loves her new baby brother and She is being kind to Jenny: fixing on her armbands, helping with sun-cream, letting her hold the baby.

He strolls away, on his phone again.

I focus on my painting, reflect on the unexpected. In a few deft strokes, he’s buried under a sandcastle which wasn’t there before. I paint the details of another woman, a friend for the new mother.

Helen is a writer from North East Essex, UK. She won the Fish Short Story Prize in 2018 and was nominated for Best Microfictions in 2019 and a Pushcart Prize in 2021. She has been published in Spelk, Ellipsis, Janus Literary and Fictive Dream, amongst others. She writes flash and short stories and you can read some of her pieces at: