Emma Scattergood, Senior Lecturer in School of Journalism, English and Communication at University of Bournemouth and also Editorial Director of Fresher Publishing kindly stepped in as our adjudicator for May. The number of entries this month was 18.
Emma’s comments are below with the winning entries but her choice of winners is:
‘The Surgeon’s Mate’ by Louise Morrish
‘The Silver Thread’ by Louise Morrish
‘Occitan Jewel’ by Amicia Bentley
Amanda McCarthy – On the Parish and W Fitzgerald – Denial.
Next month’s competition is:
Write a lovers’ reunion (300 words)
The adjudicator will be Adrienne Dines – author and creative writing tutor.
Please remember that I have set up an automatic reply informing that your work has got through but I will come back to you ASAP if anything is wrong with your entry.
The Surgeon’s Mate by Louise Morrish
Emma Scattergood: “This piece pushed the idea of a steamy love story to its limits! It was fast paced, exciting and full of peril. The final sentence both rounded the story off nicely and pointed forwards to a possible continuation. If I had my way, this would be expanded into a full-length piece – I’d love to read that and learn more about the characters and their backgrounds.”
DOWN on the orlop deck, the fetid air stank of bilge water and blood. Holding my breath, I watched as the ship’s surgeon, Mr Vivez, rootled amongst the bottles in his medicine chest. ‘Glaubert’s Salts… Spirit of Hartshorn…’ he muttered to himself. ‘Tincture of Opium…’
Hurry up! I willed him.
On the operating table – two sea-chests laid end to end, with a sheet of sailcloth stretched over them – Tyler lay moaning, his shattered leg covered in blood. Here, deep in the bowels of the ship, only Vivez and I could hear him.
The surgeon scraped a finger round his ear, inspecting the tip for wax. His fingernails were long and yellowed, like slivers of horn. Then he turned to me. ‘The leg’ll have to come off,’ he stated, opening a case containing knives and a bonesaw, blades peppered with rust, the sight of which near buckled my knees.
‘What about this, sir?’ I stammered, holding up the screw-tourniquet, a length of leather with a brass screw attached. Vivez faced me square, his gaze pinning me, needlesharp. Beneath the gloomy light of the candle lantern, his glinting eye seemed to see right through my skull, into my terror-addled mind.
‘New-fangled rubbish,’ Vivez declared.
‘But Tyler’s bleeding to death, sir…’
‘Laudanum and rum, that’s all he needs, I tell you.’
‘But listen, sir! If we can cut-off the circulation with the screw before we amputate the leg, Tyler stands a chance of living…’
‘He’ll live till he dies.’
Vivez was nothing but a glorified butcher, I realised.
I took a steadying breath, and felt the planks heave beneath my feet.
‘With all due respect, sir,’ I swallowed. ‘I think you are wrong.’
Before Vivez could stop me, I slipped the leather strap round Tyler’s bloodied thigh, and cinched it tight.
The Silver Thread by Louise Morrish
Emma Scattergood: “Here is a writer who, in just 300 words, gives us not only conflict and resolution but also a strong sense of character and the challenges with the narrator faces now and in the future. Whispering already below the surface are questions about the narrator’s relationship with her husband, her ability to cope so far from home, and whether this one conflict will only lead to another and yet another. Here is a woman under pressure – and I want to know what happens to her!”
EVERYTHING changes in a heartbeat. One moment, my husband has the bible open on the lid of the chest, his ragged fingernail pointing out a passage to the chief; the next, men are shouting, and the chief’s guards are aiming their spears at our throats.
‘What did you say?’ I whisper to Jeremiah. Not for the first time, I wish he had left the conversing to me. While he has been preaching and pontificating these past weeks, I have sat with expectant mothers, tended the sick and wounded, bestowed scraps of ribbon and buttons on the feral children. Slowly, gently, I have nurtured these people’s trust. But if Jeremiah isn’t careful, all our efforts will soon lie trampled in the cowry shells that cover the floor of the chief’s hut.
‘Exodus, verse twenty,’ Jeremiah mutters. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Perhaps it’s advisable to leave now, Elizabeth…’
But where would we go, I want to cry. The natives know every nook and cranny of this island; there’s nowhere to hide. I glance at my bare feet, half buried in the tiny, porcelain shells shining like glass in the firelight. It has grown so very hot in here.
Silently, the chief points a long, brown finger at my necklace. My own fingers instinctively reach for the fine, knotwork Celtic cross hanging from its silver chain. The natives have long coveted my necklace; their dark eyes flash whenever they catch a glimpse of the intricate design. It is like nothing they have seen before, for all the beauty of their island.
‘Give it to him, Elizabeth,’ Jeremiah hisses.
He has never liked me wearing the heathen sign.
I fumble to unclasp the chain, my hand shaking as I offer the chief the thin, silver thread connecting me with home.
Occitan Jewel by Amicia Bentley
Emma Scattergood: “This is clearly an extract from the heart of a novel, so we are left to surmise the details and extent of the narrator’s dilemma, but the portrayal of the domestic scene, as the narrator wrestled with a solution, is engaging and we get a real sense of her resourcefulness as she tries to craft a meal from a near empty fridge. I particularly liked the silent presence of the mother here, and the suggestion of this being a quieter yet maybe equally significant pressure upon the protagonist also.”
ADELINE patted her mother’s hand and quietly left her side.
In the kitchen, she found that there was not much in the larder, just a chunk of stale bread and a few over ripe tomatoes. Taking a sliver of garlic she wiped it along the breads surface and then cut everything into small pieces. In a large bowl she combined it all together with her hands, letting the red juice soften the bread. Her movements were disconnected from her thoughts and everything she did was functional. The shocking events of the day were beginning to sink in and she found herself going over everything that had happened in her mind, trying to piece it all together. When she had finished mixing, she cleaned her hands in the sink and wiped them on the side of her apron. It was then that she remembered the Occitan cross, coiled deep within her skirt pocket.
Of course, she thought, if she sold the cross it would be more than enough for Simon’s Hospital fees. Then she stopped, her face fell and the idea diminished. The cross did not belong to her; she knew that Claudia was its rightful owner and where to find her. Regrettably, Adeline realised that she could never bring herself to use the jewels value, knowing that she had stolen it. She felt the cool metal with her fingers and the image of Monsieur Lauzier’s glowing hat and Claudia’s liquid eyes full of pain came flooding back. She promised herself there and then that she would keep the pendent safe until she could find the time to return it.
Adeline picked up the bowls of food and took them into the main room. Silently she gave one to her mother, who just held it on her lap and did not attempt to lift the fork.