June 2018 Competition Results – Allie Spencer Adjudication

The June competition was judged by romantic comedy writer, Allie Spencer.

The brief for this month’s competition was: Write a 300 word piece of flash fiction set in a communal garden. 

And the winners were:

First place: The Garden of Eleven by Damon Wakes

Second place: The Tree Museum by Lynn Clement

Third place: The Garden by Margaret Jennings

Highly commended: The Melting Pot by Wendy Fitzgerald

Highly commended: DeFENCES by Annie Lindsey Grey

 

HWS June 2018
Winners (Left to Right): Lynn Clement, Damon Wakes and Margaret Jennings
Photos by Alex Carter, LexicaFilms

First place: The Garden of Eleven by Damon Wakes 

‘This was pretty much my idea of perfect flash fiction.  It was witty, intelligent, well-written and subverted my expectations as a reader again and again.  A tight, well-planned, superbly-executed piece of short fiction.’                                                                   

“So we can stay as long as we don’t eat from that one tree?”

“Of course! I made this garden just for you, Eve. Oh, and Adam. And Lilith.”

“Hi,” said Lilith.

“Wait, what?” said Eve.

“Yeah,” God explained. “See, this place took me all week. I thought I’d be able to bash day and night out in twenty minutes or so. That was my entire Monday. It was three days before I managed to get some plants going. And then obviously plants need sun, so that’s another day out the window right there. Basically, by the time the universe was really coming together, it started to seem like a lot of effort for just two people.”

“So…what? Now there’s Adam and Eve and Lilith?”

“Yeah,” said God. “And Brad.”

Eve took a look around. “Are you sure this place isn’t getting kind of crowded?”

“Naah.” God waved a hand. “It’s fine! You’ll really like Brad: he and Amy are really cool.”

“Who’s Amy?” asked Adam.

“You know—Amy! Darren’s sister.”

“Hey guys,” said a man trotting casually along on a zebra.

“When did Darren get here?”

“No, that’s Phil.”

“Should we have met Phil already?” asked Eve.

“I’m kind of surprised you haven’t! He and Samantha have five kids and they’re a rather, uh, lively bunch.”

A crowd of ice cream smeared children tore past, chasing after a terrified peacock.

“But we won’t be stuck in this little bit the whole time, right?” put in Adam. “I assume there’s more garden over that wall.”

“No.” God shrugged. “This is pretty much it. At least for now. I don’t fancy doing any more this weekend, and—” He stopped to stare at Eve.

“Oh no!” she said through a mouthful of apple. “Was this the one we weren’t supposed to eat?”

Second place: The Tree Museum by Lynn Clement  

‘This piece, written entirely as dialogue, is a stand-out example of short fiction [with] beautifully characterised speech, a believable setting in a strange, unfamiliar world and a lurking sense of threat and menace.’                                                                         

‘Grandma, do you think God is in nature?’

‘I’m not answering that on the grounds it might incriminate me.’

‘I do.’

‘Be careful Toni, walls have ears you know. Even glass ones like this.’

‘But Grandma this must be born of God. What’s its name?’

‘Iridaceous family.’

‘We’re not allowed to study Latin anymore.’

‘It’s a crocus.’

‘Crocus…it’s lovely.’

‘We had a lot of crocuses back then.’

‘Do you miss it Grandma?’

‘Miss what, my youth?’

‘No, the crocuses in, what was it called? A …’

‘Garden.’

‘Yes, the crocuses and the garden.’

‘I do Toni. I miss the honeyed smell of the roses, but the summer of 2091 was the beginning of the end. The roses were the first to go.’

‘Do they have roses here?’

‘No. Someone managed to save roses in The Devon Quarter I think.’

‘When they came?’

‘Yes, keep your voice down Toni!  I would like to get home tonight.’

‘It’s alright Grandma, the rays can’t get through the glass.’

‘Don’t you believe it. They cauterised Jacob Bell’s tongue in the bread queue.’

‘OH! That’s made me go all shivery.’

‘Toni, be careful what you say. Look here’s the arboretum.’

‘Wow, Grandma this is lovely. It feels so cool. So Grandma… do you believe in God?’

‘Toni, please don’t.’

‘But look at this magnificent tree with its huge leaves and smooth bark and tell me God isn’t here.’

‘Look outside Toni. How could your God do that?’

‘But he kept these specimens for us to look at.’

‘No He didn’t Toni, we Alpha’s did.’

‘Grandma?’

‘There, now I’ve said too much. It’s getting dark, let’s go. Don’t forget your helmet and telepath your mother that we are coming home.’

‘I have. Grandma, I’ll pray to God again tonight to help us all.’

‘Does he ever answer you?’

‘Not yet, but He will one day.’

‘I hope so Toni.’

‘He will Grandma, He will.’

Third place: The Garden by Margaret Jennings

‘This piece of writing was tremendously powerful.  A tightly-written, moving and thoroughly insightful piece of work.’                                                                          

Today someone said the word door. A word full of utility and function, certainly not an emotive word. Suddenly I was in the head of my Dad, looking at the door that held him prisoner in the nursing home. There was a number pad, a code that you needed to know. It was metallic and lozenge shaped. It was black and had silver numbers, a back space, a hash key, an enter button. It was by the door you needed to get out of if you were to escape.

I could see his eyes sharpening themselves on the metal of the key pad. I could see the numbers he tried to memorise disappearing as he tried to grasp them , as surely as water falls down a plughole.

When he walked around the grounds of the nursing home, the staff were delighted that he so loved the garden. The flowers were bounteous, the scents intoxicating, but the reason that my dad toured the grounds was not because he was admiring the flowers, but because he was plotting his escape.

He wanted to go home to the wife he knew and John Wayne on the telly. In this safe, reliable nursing home he was not waving but drowning. Nothing would keep his head above water but going home. He knew that. In all his addled mis-remembering and socially unacceptable behaviour he knew that. He toured the garden looking for a way back to his wife.

He never made it home. Somewhere out there my dad is doing battle with the final keypad. Arguing his case for entry to heaven, leaving out the bad bits, selling all the good bits. The keypad is a lozenge shape. It is the colour of metal, it has a hash key, but the back space is disabled.

Highly commended: The Melting Pot by Wendy Fitzgerald

‘This slow reveal is done masterfully and with huge skill, creating tension and suspense.  An overall superb piece of writing.’

I’m pulling weeds out of my allotment, normally an oasis of peace in this frenzied, crowded city. Groundsel, convolvulus, nettle – and things I still don’t know the names of. Not worth knowing really if they’re not gonna stay. And it’s good, honest toil. Takes yer mind off things.

But today there’s rare disquiet. In all my sixty-odd years here, man and boy, there’s
scarce been an argument save over weed control and whose marrow’s the biggest. Or
these days, perhaps, whose chilli is hottest. People just come and go but I generally keep
meself to meself.

It seems they came for him early doors.

‘Handcuffed him, man! Said he was resisting arrest!’

‘Whad’he do?’

I can hear the Tower of Babel in action from here. I get my trowel and root up a particularly large thistle. Way too much rain recently.

‘Said he had no papers! How could he have no papers? I mean, he’s been here since
he was four, hasn’t he?’

I recognise Syed’s anxious voice. Grows tasty coriander, that one.  Course, I’d never had it ‘til he moved in, so to speak.
‘Just shocking, man!’

I tug out a large dock root. Won’t be needing that if the nettles are gone. I can hear
Glenmore’s worried lilt, maybe he’s wondering if he’s next?

I played with that Tarone once when I was a nipper – ‘til the old man told me not to.
His dad had the patch before him. Think I saw his own grandkids here the other day. I stand and stretch my back, walk away from the huddle around the gaily-painted shed where his tulips droop as if in mourning.

And as I go to brew my tea, and see my flag flapping proudly from my shed roof, there’s a churning like there’s raw onion in my stomach and my eyes prickle like nettle stings.

Highly commended: deFENCES by Annie Lindsey Grey 

‘This story packed so much into a short space – lovely characterisation, a mini-plot and a great twist.’

As Hayley lay and waited for him, the late afternoon sun cast a toxic glow across the garden and the Jubilee line hummed beyond the dilapidated fence.    She had prepared sandwiches : jam, sprinkled with powdered arsenicum.

When she spotted Mr Lockwood from flat 3 striding towards her, she rose. “You, young woman, need to control your offspring!”

What had Jack done now?   Committed a parking offence by leaving his little pedal car outside?  Disturbed the peace by bouncing his ball?  Every day, some new charge !

“He’s destroyed every… single… bloom!” he continued.

Oh dear, Jack said he was making her perfume!

“Oh, sorry about the rose petals….”

And she was.    The sight of her neighbour’s “Celebrations” cheered her – even if he had isolated his blooms  from the scrubby communal garden within a low picket fence. When the tenants questioned their council about his  “rights as a private homeowner”, they responded by erecting a “No ball games” sign – at his request.

Studying his bulldog face now, she wondered what had happened to make him so shut in.

“You people have no respect !”   he said, spittle flying with the gnats, “In the two months you’ve been here, I’ve written twice to council.”

Hayley had known bullies before.  Feed them poison and you may as well eat it yourself …

Smiling with mischief, she held out the plate. “Care for a jam sandwich?”

Confounded by this, Reg Lockwood turned, muttering all the way back to his flat.

…..         …..        …….         ……    …….

Hayley waited. As the shadows grew longer, she glimpsed the tip of a white fox tail in the brambles: skulking his way, belly low, ears alert.

His coat was mangier today and, as he stole the sandwich and fled,  she hoped it wasn’t too late for the arsenicum, sulphur and psorinum  to cure.    The  £3.95 it cost may give him a fighting chance to enjoy life in the small earth between fence and track.

 

 

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