February 2019 Competition Results: Claire Fuller – Adjudicator

The February competition was judged by our local, Winchester-based novelist, Claire Fuller.  The brief was to write a last letter from a parent to a child and more people than ever took up the challenge!

Just a reminder to all entrants – please could you leave your name OFF the actual story submitted, but make sure it is included in your covering email.  Thanks.  

And the winners were:

First Place:  The Year of Our Lord, 1832 by Barbara Needham   

Second Place: Follow Your Dreams Sally by Lynn Clement

Third Place: Dearest Lizzie by Margaret Jenness   

Highly Commended: A Good Man by George Rodger

Highly Commended: Pastiche, The Big Top, Southampton by Gill Hollands    

feb-winners.jpg

Highly commended, Gill Hollands, with first prize winner, Barbara Needham and highly commended, George Rodgers

 Photo by Alex Carter: lexicafilms@gmail.com

First Place: The Year of Our Lord, 1832  by

Barbara Needham

‘This letter had a wonderful narrative and a really strong voice.  The parent shows us so much about the recipient and what’s happening, without it feeling like we’re being told information.  There’s even a little mystery – the recipient has done something bad but we don’t find out what.’

My Dear Child,

You know I am unlettered, so this is in the hand of Mr Loveless, the Methodist preacher. I pray it reaches you in time.

After the terrible events of yesterday, I went with your sisters to your father’s grave. We wept for him, so lately gone, and we wept bitter tears for you. You tried so hard to replace him as man of the house. You should never have done what you did, but God knows, you did it to help us.

Smudge is pining for you too. He sits by your empty chair whimpering. The girls pat and fuss, but he will not be consoled.

When the jury pronounced you guilty, I feared the judge would put on the black cap and send you to the executioner. I could tell from Squire Frampton’s crooked smile he was hoping for it. He has given us notice of eviction, nailed to the cottage door. We have to be out by Lady Day.

But I do not want to burden you with our troubles. You have enough of your own. Transportation to Australia. Many weeks on a ship – you who have always lived in this little Dorset village and have never even seen the sea. My heart is breaking.

You must know this secret before you go. Your sweetheart, Violet, is with child. Her parents are kindly and will not throw her out. I pray it is a boy, as she says she will call him Reuben, after you.

Be of good courage, my darling son. As long as I live, every day as the sun sets here, I will think of it rising over you, on the other side of the world.

Your loving mother.

Second Place: Follow Your Dreams Sally by Lynn Clement

‘This letter was very clever.  Only when I got to the end did I realise what was happening and so, of curse, I had to go and read it all again.’ 

Dearest Sally,

By the time you read this I will have gone. Well, I might still be there but you won’t see me again. I’ve asked Mummy Jane to open this letter if I’m not heard from by Christmas, when you are nine.

As I’m writing this you have just celebrated your sixth birthday. It was a lovely day. Remember; red balloons and a bouncy castle. Mummy Jane and I were so proud of you. You looked lovely in your silver party pants. You said you felt like an astronaut.  Ask Mummy Jane to show you the photograph of the three of us – big smiles. I took a copy of that photo with me.

I am sorry that I missed your seventh, eighth and ninth birthdays but I am glad you are proud of me. (Mummy Jane said.)

I am sure you are doing well at school and enjoying all they teach you. Do remember that not everything they say can be proven – yet. Have your own mind and question things. Art is just as important as science; ask Mummy Jane she’ll tell you it’s so. She loves her re-cycling sculptures. I hope you’ve made one.

Be happy my darling girl, as I have been happy with you in my life. Follow your dreams wherever they lead you, no matter how far you have to go to achieve them. The world is out there waiting for you to explore it, but sometimes even the world is not enough and you’ll have to look further.

My dearest Sally, always have love in your heart, let bad feelings go and embrace everyone, no matter where they come from.

They might not have found me but I am sure I will find something out there – something that will make a difference to us all. There has to be life on Mars.

I love you forever Sally,

Mummy Caroline.

XXX

Third Place: Dearest Lizzie by Margaret Jenness    

‘This letter was really moving and nuanced.  I liked how we learn the writer’s backstory, and I felt the author had really got inside the head of the parent to understand what he might be feeling: scared, worried, and even practical.’

Field Hospital 10

Helmand

Dearest Lizzie,

I know that I am dying.  I am reconciled but heartbroken that I will never see you again, walk you down the aisle, hold your children or take them to football.

After mum died, you begged me not to do this last tour of duty abroad but to take a post in the United Kingdom.   “I’ve lost mum.” you said.  “I don’t want to lose you too.”   Perhaps you had a premonition!  I still miss your mum too, darling.

I’ll never forget the tears in your eyes when you, nana and grumps saw me off at the station. Look after them.  They are so proud of you, their granddaughter, the doctor.

I don’t know if I ever told you how much I like David despite his preference for rugby!  I’m sure when you do get married, you’ll be very happy.  I could see how much he loves you when we last went out for a meal together in Salisbury.  Treasure those photos and remember me as I looked then.  You would not want to see me now.

In the top righthand desk drawer, you’ll find the paper work you will need for all the legal stuff.  The army will do some but the bulk of it will fall to you, my darling.  I’m sorry.  Accept offers of help.  It’s hell to do!

There’s also a list of people to contact.  When they ask you how I died, tell them courtesy of a landmine!  Family flowers only. Ask for donations to the charity Bobby Moore founded to help landmine victims.

I heard a groan then! Mentioning my football hero even at the end!

Goodbye, my darling.  Lead a good life!  Never forget how much mum and I love you.

With all my love.

Dad.

 

Highly Commended: A Good Man by George Rodger

‘A clever twist in this letter with a very sharp and polished writing style.

The letter, hand-delivered, was waiting on his doormat when he returned from the hospital.  Michael shook the drops from his raincoat and sat down at the table.  He’d left the hospice just before his father had received Father Kelly’s thumb on his yellowed brow, slipping from life at St Mary’s an hour ago.  He wasn’t old, just weakened by the cancer that had hollowed out his body over recent months.  He’d boxed professionally until he was thirty-five before starting work as a driver, twenty years ago, for Mancini Brothers, local businessmen.

‘Mikey,’ the letter began, ‘I’ve written this in haste, as I expect to be dead any minute from now.’

Michael smiled.  His dad; always the joker.

‘You’ll be hearing I’m a good man when I’m no longer here to deny it.  But in my life, I’ve done bad things.  I didn’t want this life for you.  That’s why whatever I earned went into your education.  A driver’s salary could never pay for your lawyer’s degree so I did special work – violent work.  I’ve threatened, crippled and even killed people for John Mancini.  It’s all written down, sealed in an envelope with Father Kelly.  Everything’s there; the policemen and the politicians we paid off, the wives we turned into widows.  Pick up the envelope tomorrow and take it to Police Chief Farrell.  Tell him it’s my dying declaration.  He never liked me but that’s probably a point in his favour.  It’s a pity I’m dead now.  This is just about the only decent thing I’ve done in my life and I’m not going to be around to see the results.  Mikey, now you’re a lawyer; do some good.’

Michael stared at the letter for a while before picking up the phone.

‘Yes?’ the silken voice of John Mancini oozed out of the earpiece.

Michael whispered, ‘Father Kelly’s got a letter.  I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.’

‘Thank you,’ said Mancini.  ‘Oh, and my condolences.  Your father was a good man.’

 

Highly Commended: Pastiche, The Big Top, Southampton by  Gill Hollands  

‘A bitter sweet and very original story with a strong voice.

Son,

First, you should know, you’re not an only child. It drove your mother crazy, like the others’ mothers. They all fell for the laughs at first. I guess comedy palls for some.  Besides, I can’t stay in one place too long. I’m a free spirit. You are my seventh son. That’s special. None of them have the gift, except you.

The day you were born, with my shock of orange frizz, I knew you were a chip off the old block. Caught perching a tiny tomato on your nose, the nurse threw me out before I could dust the talcum on your face. Next visit, I brought you baggies, long shoes, a sparkly waistcoat. Your mother threw me out. So continued my parenting, as you know.

You mastered that first bike with its square wheels. Guess where it came from. Growing, you learned to tumble and fall like a pro. I yearned to join in when you juggled or spun plates. Your yodelling was inspired. I howled at her screams the days you nailed her shoes to the floor. One day I stopped you getting run over, your head buried in a joke book. Just a shove. Yes, I was watching, so proud.

Even your first car fit the bill perfectly, when the panels kept falling off. It all comes naturally to you. You’ve filled my shoes. Keep an eye on the athlete’s foot.

I should have locked up the cannon explosives, never considered blowing up your mother. Don’t doubt, I deserve to be here. I’ve had a blast on death row; great food, endless material. Don’t feel bad.

I trust only you to write me a fitting epitaph. Wear a big bow tie. Put on a show.

Remember me and laugh.

Bozo.

 

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