Hampshire author, Nigel Spriggs, kindly agreed to adjudicate the April competition. And he certainly had his work cut out with a significantly higher number of entries for the competition than has been received throughout the 2017-18 season.
Nigel commented: “As ever, when I’ve been asked to judge a HWS short-story competition, there has been a diverse range of entries, which is always great to see. All entries definitely fulfilled the criteria of having a lost shoe returned, each single story took a different approach and no two story-lines felt the same. That didn’t make judging any easier, however, because I had a lot of favourites to whittle down, but it certainly made reading all the entries very enjoyable, so thank you to all the writers who entered.
“Of those that I wanted to shoe-horn into the final five placings but couldn’t quite find room for, the authors of A Lost Shoe Returned (by Penny Munro) and Ralph to the Rescue (by Maggie Farran) only just missed out, as did Cold Comfort (by Barbara Needham), which had a strong final line.”
The competition brief for April 2018 was to:
Write a scene in which a lost shoe is returned, in 300 words.
Nigel’s adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Dominique Hackston with Moore than a Fairytale
Second Place: George Rodger with The Snowshoe
Third Place: Kim A Howard with For Want of a Nail
Highly Commended: Lynn Clement with Serendipity
Highly Commended: Wendy Fitzgerald with A Tissue of Lies
First Place: Moore than a Fairytale by Dominique Hackston
“I have chosen Moore than a Fairytale as the winner, mostly because the situation described was the one that played on my mind the most after I had read all the entries through for the first time. Then, on second read through, understanding where the story was heading made it an even more satisfying read, which is always an impressive trick for any writer to pull off.“
Sophie burst into the kitchen. ‘I’ve got news!’
‘No, that’s tomorrow.’ Her attention was drawn by lemon-drizzle oozing over a cake. She dipped her finger into a puddle.
Sophie’s lips smacked as she removed the sucked-clean finger and pouted briefly. ‘You know I said I’d do a Facebook appeal for your shoe?’
‘Hmmm, have you … ummm … found it?’ Eleanor subconsciously stroked her neckline.
‘I think so.’ Sophie placed a small white Moore’s Pawn bag in front of her Gran. ‘You tell me’.
Eleanor took the bag and slowly withdrew a chain. She inspected the tiny silver pendent with its blue sapphire ornament. In her mind’s eye she could still see Joe holding her grey Mary-Jane with its blue button. Sophie did not breath until Eleanor nodded.
‘How much did you pay?’
‘Like, it’s the most romantic present, ever. A real fairytale. And you talk money’
‘Fairytale?’ Eleanor laughed, ‘Your Gramps mended a broken heel.’
‘And walked you home. Courted you, married you, and made you a shoe pendant to hang over your heart.’
‘I suppose compared to texting, it is. Now … how much?’
‘Its important to me.’
Eleanor lowered her head and frowned at her granddaughter. Sophie responded with a clenched jaw. The unspoken challenge hung between them. It was Eleanor that called the truce.
After tea, cookies and a kiss goodbye, Eleanor got out her savings box. She swapped some notes into the envelope marked Sophie’s Laptop.
‘So Christmas will be a little leaner, and I can wear an extra jumper.’ she thought, ‘Sophie is worth every penny.’
Eleanor placed the envelope inside a book of handwritten recipes and lovingly wrapped them. Before re-locking her savings box she rummaged for a little white chit. Then tearfully she shredded her Moore’s Pawn receipt.
Second Place: The Snowshoe by George Rodger
“I have chosen The Snowshoe – especially topical given the weather we’ve had recently, the pace of the story felt right and the descriptiveness of the wintry night rang true. The way the reason for the pursuit was held back until the very last line gave the story a surprising twist I hadn’t been expecting but immediately felt like the correct way to wrap up the action.“
The car radio was dispensing “Don’t travel” advice as I crept along behind the double-decker bus dropping commuters off after work. Snow had been falling heavily for forty minutes and was already lying thick on the pavements. I was looking forward to a hot cup of something when I reached home. I was thinking, it’s hard not to like the snow. It covers and sanctifies wherever it falls. It turns slag-heaps and landfills into Narnia, hiding everything under a blanket of snowy innocence.
Something flew through my headlights and banged against the windscreen. Along the road the bus was disappearing into the darkness. I picked up the missile and found it was a lady’s shoe. It looked expensive and must have come from the upstairs window of the bus. I knew that there were only two more stops before the bus reached the terminus.
At the terminus, I watched the remaining passengers disembark, all were fully shod. The driver was helpful; two people had alighted at the previous stop. A woman and a boy.
I drove back down the road. Opposite the bus stop was a wintry street lined with lampposts haloed in swirling snowflakes. Clutching the shoe, I followed the trail down the snow-covered pavement like a bloodhound. Two sets of footprints; one set shod, one barefoot, ended at a gate. I slithered down the path and knocked on the door. A light came on and it was opened by a little boy.
“Jason, who’s there?” A voice came from the back and a young woman, clutching a towel, appeared beside him.
“What a night,” she said. “Can I help you?” Covered in snow, I must have looked like a Yeti.
“Is this yours?” I asked.
She beamed, “My shoe! I thought I’d lost it. Thank you so much.” She glared at the child. “This scamp threw it out of the window.”
“My pleasure,” I said, “here’s my address. You owe me for a new windscreen.”
Third Place: For Want of a Nail by Kim A Howard
“In third place I have chosen For Want of a Nail. I felt the writer did a great job of choosing the right expressions for the period he or she was writing about which really gave the story a grounded sense of reality. This approach made the intentional absurdity of the last few lines especially satisfying.“
The sound of hooves on the road summoned Perry from his breakfast. When the horsemen reached his gate he was lounging against the door jamb, slicing an apple into segments with his bone-handled dagger.
‘Good morning, my lord. What brings you so far from the castle on this glorious morn?’ Perry addressed the nobleman at the front of the group, ignoring the soldiers ranged behind him.
‘Not so far when we serve the King’s justice,’ the noble replied.
‘Do you seek refreshment for your horses?’ Perry asked. ‘A stream runs through yonder field and the grass is plentiful this spring.’ From the corner of his eye he saw a soldier place a hand on his sword hilt. No one made move to dismount. Not a casual visit, then.
‘We seek a brigand who stole a large quantity of coin from a coach on the King’s Road,’ the noble replied. ‘Does anyone reside with you who can vouch for your movements yester’ eve?’
‘I live alone, apart from my hound and horse. You are welcome to visit both and quiz them if it please you.’ Perry led them to his stable. As he waited for the noble to dismount he rubbed his hound’s head and fed the mare a slice of apple.
‘Your steed stands uneven in her stall. May I examine her legs for injury?’
‘As you please.’ The nobleman ran his hands down each of the mare’s legs, lifting her feet to examine the hooves. At last he stepped back with a satisfied smirk.
‘As I suspected, your mount has thrown a shoe,’ he said. He thrust a hand into the pouch at his waist and produced a bright curve of metal. ‘This shoe! ‘Twas found near the scene of the crime.’ He handed the horseshoe to Perry. ‘Yours, I presume.’
‘Nay,’ said the mare. ‘It wouldn’t fit him.’
‘Quite,’ agreed the hound. ‘Now all we need is a farrier – and a convincing alibi.’
Highly Commended: A Tissue of Lies by Wendy Fitzgerald
“A Tissue of Lies is highly commended because I felt there was a lot of tension here and the writer does a great job of building that. A little bit more clarity around the background of the situation might have made this the winner. “
I open the door and he’s standing there on the pavement.
‘Miss, um, Smith?’
‘We spoke earlier. Can I come in?’
Somehow I resist the compulsion to look behind me. ‘Er, it’s not very convenient at
the moment …’
‘Right. Well, if you could just take a look at this and let me know?’
He holds out a clear plastic bag. There’s a label on it and inside is a shoe. I hesitate
and he adds, ‘it …um … there’s nothing on it you know.’
I take the bag and hold it gingerly. It’s more of a trainer actually, or the type that’s a
cross in-between. Black wedged rubber sole. Black textile uppers. The kind teenagers
today would die for. I thrust it back at him quickly.
‘So can you help?’
‘I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. They all … look the same these days …’ My voice fails
and I stare past him into the street, not wanting him to see the agony in my eyes.
Suddenly there’s a tug at my leg. Rosie! She squeezes between me and the door
frame, staring up at us silently with her big blue eyes. How …? I pull her up into my arms; feel her breath warm against my neck.
‘Is that your car?’ I suddenly hiss.
‘The black one? Yes. Why?’
‘In a minute,’ my voice cracks with urgency, ‘you will leave. You’ll get in the car but
just before you drive off, we’ll jump in. Then you drive away – fast!’
His nod is almost imperceptible. Following him, my heart hammers so hard as he
opens his car door that I fear it might bruise Rosie. And as we scramble desperately into the cramped well in front of the passenger seat and he powers away, the electronic clunk of the locks seems to taunt us that we’ve just swapped one prison for another …
Highly Commended: Serendipity by Lynn Clement
“Serendipity is highly commended because I enjoyed the way the visitor’s motives can be perceived three ways in such a short space of time, and the reason for the visitor to be suspicious – which leads to the final reveal – held up to a google search (always a good sign; though it’s probably something we should all be aware of anyway!).“
Joe knocked on the shabby red door. He wasn’t sure what had possessed him to follow the woman. He was going to be late for work now. She was a quick walker and by the time he’d made his mind up to return the shoe, she’d dashed off. Luckily he’d kept her in sight whilst fighting the early morning rush crush, and now here he was outside her door.
‘Yes,’ she said on opening the door. Not a warm welcome thought Joe. ‘I err, you dropped your shoe, that is, your baby dropped the shoe.’ Joe was never the most articulate at the best of times.
‘Oh, thanks,’ she said taking the tiny blue shoe from Joe’s hand. The door was closing when Joe decided to put his foot in it. ‘Hey,’ said the woman with the golden curls, tied up in a purple scarf.
‘I’m sorry,’ explained Joe, ‘I can hear your baby crying.’
‘That’s none of your business,’ snapped the woman.
‘It’s such a high pitched cry,’ said Joe.
‘Is it really?’ asked the woman sarcastically. ‘I hadn’t noticed all these days and nights.’
Joe saw her dark green eyes harden. Her pretty face became weary. ’Get lost mister,’ she said and tried to close the door again.
Joe put his hand on the handle now, ‘I need to come in,’ he insisted. The smell of stale milk and dirty nappies drifted up the grimy uncarpeted corridor. The baby’s cry was persistent and uncomfortable. ‘I only want to look at the baby,’ said Joe.
‘What are you some kind of perv, piss off.’
Joe pushed the door and followed the wail to a tiny bedroom, where the baby lay in a crib, lovingly decorated with hand embroidered bumpers and a purple patchwork quilt. He bent over the cot and lifted the baby, confirming his suspicion.
He thumbed his mobile, ‘I’m Doctor Kent, send an ambulance to 6 Meade Terrace and quickly, this baby has meningitis.’
photo by David Eadsforth