As previously reported, I entered the recent 24-hour short story contest run by Angela Hoy’s Writer’s Weekly. com (https://24hourshortstorycontest.com/ ) – just to see if I could. Thinking up stories on the hop isn’t my strong point.
As promised in my earlier post, the story is reproduced below.
On the date of the contest, (around 6pm BST – UK time, ) the topic for the contest is emailed to all pre-registered entrants and posted on WritersWeekly.com. Participants have 24 hours to write and submit their stories, which ‘must touch on the topic in some way to qualify’. The word count for this one was 900 words (mine was 898). Each contest is ‘limited to 500 participants’ and, it is claimed, they usually fill up.
November’s prompt was…
She lit an old candle in the carved turnip, and placed it by the cracked window, causing shadows to dance across the log walls. She squinted through the glass. A cold wind was pushing dying red leaves across the stone path. It was getting late!
She’d heard whispers of a mandatory town meeting. Dressing in layers, she hoped to ward off the cold, and the gazes of her unfriendly neighbors. She knew what they would be discussing tonight…
My story got a mention! Not quite an honourable mention – that was the category above – but a ‘Grab Bag’ mention, which is somewhere between the 58th and 93rd position. It rates a free e-book on writing or free entry to the next 24-hour Short Story contest (12th January 2019, if you’re interested).
I confess to making a couple of further edits prior to posting on here – a missing full stop and a couple of words… a bit like wiping the face of one’s offspring before sending them in to a party.
‘Come on Billy. Mum said nine o’clock.’
The sheriff’s posse thundered across the TV screen.
‘’Tain’t nine yet. Anyway, how’ll she know?’
‘She will if Nosy Barker next door spots you. I wouldn’t put it past her to have the binoculars out to see what we’re up to.’
Billy scratched a spot on his chin. ‘Won’t Ma Barker be at the meeting?’
She hoped so. ‘I think it’s one vote per household, or Mum would’ve got Dad back from his conference. Tell you what, if I lend you my radio and earphones, you can listen to Radio Luxembourg.’
Sleepy eyes registered interest. ‘Cool! I can listen under the covers.’
He’d be asleep long before their mother was home from her meeting about a proposal to move the Gypsy encampment onto a permanent site. Last winter, the first caravans had appeared overnight in a field behind the beach. The local police were hopeless – incapable of evicting caravans or catching muggers or stopping motorbikes invading the beach roads at weekends.
She didn’t give Billy her transistor radio until he was in bed. She wouldn’t see that again.
Collecting a torch, she went out to the garden. The lawn lay flat and pale under a full moon. At the gate in the hedge, she rummaged for a key under her layers of warm clothes and unlocked the padlock.
A child-sized log cabin crouched in a far corner of the garden. She shuffled its door open, careful of the rusted hinges, and ducked inside. A new spider’s web brushed against her and she shuddered as she shone her torch toward the scuttling in the corner. Something shifted and moonlight suddenly appeared through a gap between logs.
On the window ledge, a box of matches waited with a half-used Halloween lantern, now as dry and wrinkled as the face of Nosy Barker. She shivered as she struck a match, steadying her hand to light the candle and aim it toward the dusty window. Rubbing at the dust with a wool-clad forearm, she peered out to where they’d thinned the hedge for Danny to see the candle from the lane.
She stood back to face her reflection, gray and mousy above the candle’s light. The image haunted her as she squeezed around the door of the hut and ran back to the warm house, leaving the back door open.
What did Danny see when he looked at her with those mocking blue eyes of his that had bewitched her from the start?
It had been Easter Saturday. Her father dropped her off to meet a friend, and Danny was outside the park café, the breeze fingering his dark hair. His eyes danced as she approached.
‘Nice car,’ he’d said.
‘My Dad’s,’ she said. ‘It’s new.’ And she fled inside.
He was still there when she and her friend brought their coffees out to a picnic table.
Now she brought her bulging backpack downstairs to the living room. Closing the curtains, she lifted a painting from above the fireplace.
The mantlepiece clock chimed ten; Mum would be in the pub by now, either celebrating or planning the next move. Ten-thirty was chucking-out time.
The back door clicked and she spun, shaking inside. Danny appeared in the hall doorway and she breathed again.
‘I thought you were Mum, back early.’
His smile didn’t reach the blue eyes. ‘Best get a move on, in case she does. You got the combination?’
She turned back to the wall. ‘I think so. I heard Dad telling Mum when he changed it.’
She was flustered now and panicked when the safe’s door wouldn’t budge. Next time she was careful to turn the knob the right way, and the door sighed open. Danny reached from behind her to pull out a fat brown envelope.
‘Wowee! Does your old man always keep this much in the house?’
She smiled, proud to have impressed him. ‘Discount for cash. They’re having a burglar alarm fitted day after tomorrow. Shh – my brother’s upstairs.’
He stifled his laughter and returned to the safe.
‘Nice watch.’ He slipped it in his pocket and inspected her grandmother’s necklace. ‘Is this real?’
She shrugged. ‘Should we be going?’
One final glance in the safe. ‘You’re right.’
He was through the back door before she’d closed the safe and re-hung the painting. Grabbing her backpack, she ran after him, letting the back door latch behind her.
He’d left his crash helmet under the hedge. ‘You wait here while I go get the bike. We don’t want you overdoing it, do we? Shall I put your bag in the back-box?’
Sweet of him, but she wouldn’t need to take it easy for months. He wouldn’t know that; she’d spent ages in the library, looking it all up in books she couldn’t take home. She relaxed against the gatepost.
She wasn’t good on the back of a motorbike; she wanted to stay upright when it leaned into corners. Maybe she’d get used to it on the way to his brother’s. They’d be staying there while they looked for somewhere to live – the three of them.
The motorbike throbbed into life. It didn’t sound too far away. Its roar diminished instead of getting nearer. She waited for it to turn around.
She waited in the silence and remembered the click of the back door latch.
Her mother’s car pulled on to the front drive.