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Clean Floors

by Dawn Tasaka Steffler
A broom head sweeping a pile of leaves

Noi’s chore is to sweep. Now that there’s a hole in the ceiling and the back of her house has crumbled, the dirt blows in. And papers flutter down from the sky, but she can’t read. Wasps built a nest in the corner. She wants Mama to chase them away but Mama hasn’t come home since the hole. Noi is hungry, she’s eaten everything. She can’t understand where Mama is but she knows Mama will be mad if the floor is dirty. So she sweeps and watches the street from behind curtains. But she sees no one. Not even dogs.

Dawn Tasaka Steffler is a fiction writer from Hawaii who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was a Smokelong Quarterly Emerging Writer Fellow and won First Prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Her stories appear in Flash Frog, Pithead Chapel, Ghost Parachute & more, and have been nominated for BotN, The Pushcart, BSF and BAE. Find her @dawnsteffler on social media and

Judge's comment:

This piece is like a photograph in negative. There is much more in what isn't on the page than what is told to us directly. Why is there a hole in the ceiling? What might those papers be? We are asked to engage our brains and work out the answers for ourselves. That really drew me in as a reader - this sense that I was an active part of the story. I also appreciated the quiet power of the emotions here, wishing I could step inside the narrative and give little Noi a comforting hug.

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