What an amazing start to the season. As always, it has been a pleasure having the support of Robin Mukherjee, Screenwriter and Playwright. The winning pieces, including Robin’s comments, for the September competition are below.
1st Place. Joanne Tomlinson – In Between.
2nd Place. Geoff Harrington (David Eadsforth) – The Day The Earth Moved.
3rd Place. Wendy Fitzgerald – One Meeting.
Commendations. Honey Stavonhagen – Fishing with Tyko and Rosie Sutcliffe – Tiger Tour
1st Place: Joanne Tomlinson – In Between.
Robin Mukherjee: I thought this is quite brilliant. It took a couple of reads before its subtleties began to seep in, but they soon became unforgettable. It also takes its subject beyond the obvious into a very startling and rather beautiful dimension.
I was looking down on myself, but paying little attention to that or to the voices until he arrived. He appeared on my bed, sat with his profile to me, a dark hoodie pulled up over his head, obscuring most of his features.
There was an unpleasant smell of ether and a soft beeping noise.
A shadowy figure in green pyjamas brought in an unassuming cool box holding my future and his past on ice.
The boy turned to me, pulling the hood from his head, revealing a sticky, matted mop of black hair. I felt his nascent testosterone invading me.
A memory flickered, not mine, of a car bonnet crumpled up to the steering wheel. Another, mine this time, of drowning, gulping air, frantic, gulp, panic.
He began to remove the pile of bricks balanced on my chest, which suddenly were almost unbearable. One by one, easing my discomfort, he told me that everything would be alright now, and his certainty helped me bear it.
It took all my strength to reach for his hand and squeeze it in solidarity and gratitude.
As he squeezed back I felt a warmth surge through my cold body, I broke the surface of the water and gasped deep, life giving breaths through my new lungs.
His hand slipped from my grasp as I felt his heart beat for the first time…
2nd Place: Geoff Harrington (David Eadsforth) – The Day The Earth Moved.
Robin Mukherjee: This is funny and sweet, a very simple story but with a rich world around it, delivering a genuine sense of OMG. The title is multi-layered and rather cheeky. A lovely read.
Jack woke in an instant, his senses assailed by a confusing jumble of sights and sounds. The room was shaking violently and there was a loud rumbling the like of which he had never heard before. No mistake; this was an actual earthquake! He leapt naked from the bed and ran for the door, wrenched it open and strode outside. He froze; across the corridor stood a naked woman, her eyes wide with astonishment.
“Oh my God!” he cried.
“Oh my God!” she echoed.
Both turned to face the corridor walls.
“Was that an earthquake?” he asked. “I didn’t wait to grab my bath robe!”
“Yes; neither did I!”
“I don’t want to go back for it, but I don’t want to go downstairs like this either!”
“Nor me! Wait; it’s not shaking any more; let’s sit down for a moment.”
Seconds later they were sitting, backs to the corridor walls, arms around knees drawn up to their chins, staring at the ceiling.
“Um, I’m Jack…”
“I’m Carol; um, what are you doing here?”
“Off-season city break for the museums; they’ve some of the finest in Europe.”
“Coincidence; me too! My friends think I’m nuts…” She grinned. “Was that a half-decent six pack I saw?”
He smiled self-consciously.
“Perhaps; I’m in a rowing club. Actually, I didn’t notice too many spare inches on you either.”
“Thank you, kind sir; I’m a rather serious swimmer.”
“Wonder if it’s safe to get our robes now and join the other guests…”
She stood up abruptly; modesty clearly set aside for a moment, and held out her hand. He smiled, got to his feet and shook it.
“Nice to meet you Carol; fancy seeing the museums together?”
“That would be nice.”
“See you at breakfast?”
“If you’ll recognise me with my clothes on…”
3rd Place: Wendy Fitzgerald – One Meeting.
Robin Mukherjee: This is poignant and moving, with a sharp twist that hurts. It raises rather than answers what might in the end be unanswerable questions, and offers a sense of desolation mixed with a complex tone of joy. A rich potage of powerful emotions.
To my Comrade in Arms:
I have thought of you so often
When night casts its terrors over me and no stars can be seen.
It was so many years ago now –
I am grown old and frail; my final days cannot be long
The days of reckoning crowd upon me
And my need to go fearless into the night.
Did you have a family like me? A wife, two little girls,
Who waited for you at home, and cried themselves to sleep?
The sense of seeing, feeling music
In everything you did?
Did you hide in that barn, in that desolate foreign land, alone;
Mad with hunger and thirst, dreaming of their arms?
When you faced me, gun in trembling hands
Fear bulging in your eyes
Did you think – it’s me, or him?
And when I dropped my arm and waved to you,
Did you think to kill me even then?
I’ve led a life of pain and joy;
A life so special, because it nearly was not;
And I’ve you to thank for that.
Now as my days close; the dark winter outside interminable,
I think of you so often; what might have been.
And I need to say ‘forgive me.’
You turned your back to flee …
And I shot you.
I can see the red haze of your blood before my eyes
Your body twitch to still.
And I know we won’t meet again, my friend
For you will be in heaven
And I will be in hell.
Commendation: Honey Stavonhagen – Fishing with Tyko.
Robin Mukherjee: A startling and evocative snapshot, which perfectly captures the weather, the atmosphere, and the awkwardness of two worlds coming together.
‘How old are you?’ The words were all correct but something about the way the boy placed them was wrong. Effie let the question sit on the surface for a while before soaking it up like a warm, wet snowball.
‘I’m…’ Papa liked to say that people who chose to mark birthdays or count years had too much food and too few worries. Effie agreed, so she gave the answer her Mama used to give the doctors before all her hair fell out in soft, brown clumps. ‘I’m as old as I’ve ever been, but not as old as I’m going to be.’ She shivered, as the cold wind bore through her thin coat like a tired lie.
The boy looked up at her then, his face emerging from a halo of fur and something in the glint of his eyes startled Effie into staring longer than she’d intended. He returned her gaze with a blunt one of his own, until the little wooden rod jerked sharply tugging at his attention.
‘You’ve caught a fish.’ Effie said, noting the layer of accusation floating on her voice.
‘Not yet, I haven’t.’ The fish lurking underneath them bent the rod into a question mark bobbing on the dead, black heart of the lake. Ice crystals had already begun to rebuild their spidery web, threatening the edge of the hole he had cut in the ice. Here, fishing was a race against time, not the meandering pastime it had been at home. Home. Effie wiped the word away with the back of her sleeve, her woollen mitten clawing at her lips.
This boy, crouched down wrestling an unseen fish, was the only other child in the long valley and therefore Effie’s sole prospect of friendship. It was going to be a long winter.
Commendation: Rosie Sutcliffe – Tiger Tour.
Robin Mukherjee: Beautiful phrasing such as, ‘His body an exclamation mark amongst the seething throng of bodies.’ The characters are quickly and fully established in complex layers, the world powerfully tangible and convincing with its intriguing promise of adventure.
David shuffled a few steps forward in the desultory queue of passengers, his body shaped like an apology from years of ‘excuse me’s,’ ‘sorrys,’ ‘pardons.’
A man who could never quite meet expectations, either those of himself or others.
This was by far the most exciting thing David had done in his entire forty-seven years of life. Spurred on by a small inheritance and the realisation that watching David Attenborough on television was not equal to seeing a Bengal
Tiger in it’s natural environment with his own eyes, David had booked on
‘Tiger Tours India.’
Stepping out tentatively from the airport, the brilliance, heat, aromas, vibrant colours and speed of ceaseless movement assaulted him like a gang of thugs.
Initially terrified, David had a choice to take the familiar route of hiding in fear or to embrace this experience and meet it head on. Whilst in a quandary of indecision he felt a tap on his shoulder and spun around.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump, but I saw your baggage label. I’m on
‘Tiger Tours’ as well and can’t see the tour guide anywhere. They are supposed to meet us at the airport, aren’t they? This is the first time I’ve travelled alone and I feel like a fish out of water.” She gabbled nervously, gentle hazel eyes wide with tremulous anxiety.
David smiled warmly, confidence growing, spreading like a fire within him.
“Don’t worry. Let’s walk down here a bit further and if we don’t spot our guide then we can begin the adventure early by catching a rickshaw to the first hotel and wait for him there.”
Taking both cases, David strode forward, his body an exclamation mark amongst the seething throng of bodies.