Adjudicating our November competition was our main speaker for the evening, Mitchell Symons, writer broadcaster and journalist.
Mitchell found the stories interesting and said it was hard to pick just five.
The adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Jordan Dean Ezekude – The Phoenix And The Butterfly
Second Place: Maggie Farran – Revenge Is Sweet
Third Place: Peter Hitchen – Every Dog Has Its Day
Highly Commended: Colin Johnson – A Stitch In Time
Highly Commended: Damon L. Wakes – Do Unto Others
First Place:The Phoenix and the Butterfly, by Jordan Dean Ezekude
“This was the only real story and it really answered the brief. It was so good that I found myself wondering whether it was actually a real fable.”
Long ago, on an ancient island in the far east, there lived two guardians blessed by the sky and sea. The first guardian was the brave Phoenix of the Sun who would shine his light of day for everyone. The second guardian was the gentle Butterfly of the Moon who would help the stars glow and the flowers bloom. They were close friends, watching over the island every day. But they didn’t always get along, so the legends say. The Phoenix was short-tempered especially at the sight of crime while the Butterfly was timid and hated seeing humans fight.
One fateful day, while defending the animals in the woods, the Butterfly was wounded by hunters up to no good. “How dare you hurt my friend!” roared the Phoenix enraged. To punish the hunters, he set their entire village ablaze. But not only were the hunters caught in the flames; so were the innocent children and every husband and dame. “What have I done?” the Phoenix tearfully gasped before burning himself out and becoming a pile of ash. Having lost her best friend, the Butterfly cried a rainfall to put out the village fire once and for all.
The flames were gone and the village was safe once more. The hunters were deeply sorry for all the damage they caused. They swore that they would never hunt animals again. Instead of hunting animals, they would treat them like friends. “I forgive you,” said the kind Butterfly as she smiled. So did the Phoenix who was born again and alive. Thus the humans and animals started working together as friends. And there hasn’t been another village fire since then. Thus the Phoenix and the Butterfly kept this lesson in mind: and eye for an eye makes the world go blind.
Second Place: Revenge is Sweet, by Maggie Farran
“The best written of all the entries.”
She picked up his shirt from the floor where he had dropped it the night before. It reeked of ‘Angel’ perfume. She examined it closely. There was bright red lipstick smudged across the collar. She shook with anger. Who did he think he was to betray her like this and then leave the evidence on their bedroom floor? She had suspected something was going on for a while. Now she had proof.
Angrily she gathered up all his white work shirts and shoved them into the gaping mouth of the washing machine. She rifled through her underwear drawer until she found her red satin bra, the one he had liked so much. It was exquisite, a delicate mixture of red satin and lace. He had bought it for her for Christmas last year from La Perla. It had been wrapped in black tissue paper inside a La Perla gift box. This was the bra that used to turn him on. This was the one he used to so enjoy unfastening.
She pushed the bra into the heart of the shirts until the bright red was hidden. The boiling hot water whirled and teased those pure white shirts until they blushed. The beautiful bra bled painful tears into the white cotton. When the cycle was finished she opened the porthole. The pale pink shirts gave her an embarrassed stare. The scarlet bra gazed at her without a hint of shame.
Third Place: Every Dog has its Day, by Peter Hitchen
“Also really well written and which, of all the entries, made me want to read more.”
She’d only nipped out for Bill’s lucky dip so hadn’t bothered with make-up, choosing instead to slip on a pair of sunglasses to hide the black eye. Now, as the car bounced back along the potholed track towards their static caravan, she wondered if she was just imagining that things didn’t seem quite normal. Kenny was going frantic at the window. Bill would never have let him bark like that, the dog wasn’t even allowed in the living room. And Bill hadn’t said he was going out, and he wouldn’t have gone out anyway, he’d already been soaked on his way back from his morning walk.
When she opened the car door the dog yammered even harder. ‘What’s wrong, Kenny? Bill… Bill.’ The dog heard the oddness in her voice and fell silent tilting his head, the throb of condensation from his snout misting on the window.
Bill’s bottom half was in the living room, his shoulders and head in the kitchen. He wasn’t exactly blue. His face, she thought, was closest to the colour of an April storm, like a fresh bruise that had blossomed from the sombre part of a rainbow. She wondered if the rest of him had gone the same colour too; had his chest’s fat folds altered from their usual mottled ivory? Would his V-shaped weather bib, as permanent as any tattoo, have changed as well? She got Kenny’s lead off the hook and the dog bounded down from the windowsill and over the barrel of Bill’s breathless torso in two elastic movements.
Bill always said a walk made things better.
As Kenny strained down the slope towards the river she pushed her free hand into her coat pocket and felt the still sharp edges of Bill’s lottery ticket nestling amongst the empty laburnum pods.
Highly Commended: A Stitch In Time… by Colin Johnson
“This had a great ending.”
Elsie can’t forget that summer.
‘Uncle Jack, why are we doing this?’ she hears Micky ask while they take apart the chair, to glue the joints.
‘It’s got a bit wobbly recently – best to fix it before it breaks.’
You learned that, in the War, and afterwards. You looked after what you had, you made it last. Things were scarce then. Even now, Elsie thinks, why buy something new, if you can mend the old one?
She sees Jack smile when Micky comes, remembering a joke to tell, finding a packet of sweets in his jacket. Then they get started, painting a window-frame or mending the catch on the back door. Micky always brings his transistor with him. He turns up the sound for every Beatles record.
Whenever she asks Jack to do a job, he never says no. Sometimes, she thinks he does too much. He looked so tired when she mentioned fixing that stair carpet, where it’s coming loose. She said it could wait. It can, but not too long – someone might slip on it.
Elsie decides she’ll ask Micky to change that flickering bulb in the front room, after dinner. Jack has taken to having a snooze on Saturday afternoons.
At the end of August Jack finally finds time to go to the doctor’s, when he gets too tired to go to work. Then it’s straight into hospital. Operation, the following Monday.
At visiting time, Elsie sees how he’s changed. The angle of his jaw stands out sharply; his neck hangs loose like a turkey’s. His cheekbones are high ridges below dark hollows. His eyes are still bright, but there are no jokes now. Jack reaches for his glass – his pyjama jacket falls open, showing the surgical dressing down the middle of his belly.
At the weekend, Jack dies. Before they’ve even taken out the stitches.
Highly Commended: Do Unto Others, by Damon L. Wakes
“It would have placed if the writer had put Sadist instead of Masochist as the last word.”
Robert stepped into his new workplace to find a generic sea of cubicles and water coolers. It couldn’t have been more of a cliché if it had that “hang in there” cat poster on one of the walls.
In fact, wait…wait…
Yep. There it was.
Suddenly, Robert found an arm around his shoulder.
“We do things a little differently here,” said the guy who Robert was certain was one of those buzzword-spewing middle management people. “We’ve established a dynamic new workplace paradigm that allows us to leverage a great deal more synergy going forward.”
Robert turned and stared in horror.
The man laughed. “Just kidding. We don’t do any of that: there’s just one rule.”
He pointed to a huge banner hanging right along one wall.
Robert read aloud: “Do as you would be done by?”
“That’s the one! Just keep it in mind and you’ll do fine here.” The man shook his hand. “My name’s Craig: the guy from the emails. I’d give you a tour of the office, but I never like being paraded around when I’m new somewhere so instead I’ll just leave you to it.”
And he did.
Robert found his desk, hung his jacket on the back of the accompanying swivel chair, and—figuring he might as well make an effort to adhere to the office’s one simple rule—decided to say hi to his neighbour in the next cubicle.
“Hi,” said Robert.
“Hi,” said the guy in the next cubicle over. And then he reached out and twisted both Robert’s nipples with considerable force.
“Ow!” yelped Robert. “Dude, what gives?”
Craig came running back over. “Yeah,” he said, grimacing. “Kind of an unofficial Rule Number Two around here: stay away from Larry the Masochist.”