Competition Winners April 2012
Congratulations this month go to our winner Patricia, from Devon. Her short story captured all the elements of the story cubes coupled with a nice twist at the end. She wins a set of Rory’s Story Cubes
I looked at the clock again. An hour ago the mist was wispy strands. Now, it was like marshmallow. Where was Paul? He’d been gone hours. Long shadows obscured the trees and it was getting dark. “This wasn’t one of my better ideas,” I muttered.
The cottage looked idyllic in the brochure. Whitewashed stone walls, thatched roof and roses flowering round the door. A get-away-from-it-all place. Ideal for repairing a rocky relationship, I’d thought. “It’ll be fun, Paul. We could both do with a break.” “But there’s a football match on Saturday.” He’d turned his face away. “There’s a match every Saturday. Can’t you miss one?” I took his silence for agreement and booked it.
Paul and I don’t communicate much lately. I hoped time away might rekindle the closeness we’d once enjoyed. But the weather broke just before we left. Autumn was sliding into winter and Dartmoor in the middle of a rainstorm wasn’t much fun. “Let’s light the fire,” I’d suggested. “There are logs in the shed.” Paul looked at me as if I was mad. I sighed and fetched the wood myself. Paul can find his way blindfold round any city but he’s useless in the country. In the morning the cottage still felt warm. We’d spent a cosy evening toasting our toes and talking. Something we hadn’t done for ages. “I found some fishing rods under the stairs,”
Paul said after lunch. “There’s a bridge over the river. I might have a go.” “Fine. Don’t get lost.” That was hours ago and I couldn’t get a mobile signal. I walked into the village. My torch wasn’t much good. I saw some sheep grazing but the sound of a helicopter zooming overhead worried me. I began to run. The pub landlord was sympathetic. “Don’t fret, lass.” he said when I told him about Paul. “They’ll find him.” “I haven’t reported him missing.” “Thy’re not looking for him. Some walkers are lost on High Tor.”
I opened the pub door and saw flickering lights. Overhead, the helicopter circled. Finally, I heard voices and saw Paul chatting to one of the rescuers. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick.” Paul grinned and held up two salmon trout. “I took a wrong turning in the fog.” I hugged him tightly. How can you be cross with your fifteen year old son who’s just caught his first fish?
GOLD STAR Second Place went to Lanie, also from Devon, with her lovely essay about living with an autistic child while also keeping the story cube elements in the piece.
I often lay awake in the wee small hours watching the clock and just waiting for the shadows to merge into that grey half light that signifies the emergence of the new day, and with it the awakening of not only the dawn but also “He who needs constant supervision”.
It’s a bit like a rolling river, living my life, constantly meandering past obstacles like trees and flowerbeds and moss covered boulders that stand in the way blocking the easiest route. Being a parent is the most rewarding, frustrating and pleasurable state to be in but it is fraught with hurdles and bridges and alien emotions at the best of times.
Add special needs and you have a new exasperating and exhilarating roller-coaster of experiences awaiting your every movement. “Something’s not right” I exclaimed to anyone who would listen.
I was lucky in that I had a benchmark child to compare with. “He’s just lazy. Doesn’t need to try he’s got an older brother to do it”. Lazy! I haven’t slept a whole night in almost fourteen years, if not to ensure safety, more recently to rescue the contents of the fridge.
Counting sheep didn’t cut it, nor did warm baths, warm milk or stories before bed. He just didn’t see the need. “He should be walking, or at least crawling by now” I cried to the health visitor.”He’s nearly a year old. And what about talking? He’s not uttering a sound”. Huh! Wish I’d kept quiet!
A week before his first birthday, he backed up to the sofa, stood up and ran across the room, he hasn’t stopped running since. On the day he was two he turned to me and said “Can I get a biscuit”? no “Mama or Dada” for him, just full-on sentences.
Swimming was watching everyone else from the poolside then getting in and swimming a length, riding a bike was much the same and so on… I often found him torch in hand under the covers, face alight with pleasure as the clock ticked round to the battleground time of that thing that has caused most upset in his short life than anything else, SCHOOL!
We have survived in the most unimaginable way. Lived through violence, desperation, depression,
frustration, self harm and suicidal tendencies and come out of it with battle scars bigger than Harrods but you know what? We did come out and are stronger for it. Autism has many faces. Some obvious and some not but, I firmly believe, all there and all different.
And SILVER STAR Third place went to Sandie, a swallow from the UK and Lanzarote with her comical tale of country life.
Jim was glad of the torch he had taken to light his way down the lane. Reaching the bend, he knew that the bridge lay just ahead. Ten paces further on, a bright moon appeared momentarily from behind a cloud, throwing Jim’s shadow fleetingly across the water below. A noise to his left attracted his attention.
He was confused. It sounded like a sheep bleating, but he knew this lane well, and that was definitely where Old Jones kept his ‘milkers’. Jim flicked his torch towards the sound and arched its beam this way and that. Nothing. “Odd”, he thought. Tracing the torch’s beam along the lower edge of the gate, through which Old Jones led the milkers to the sheds across the lane twice a day to relieve their aching udders, he was about to move on, when he became aware of what he at first took to be two pairs of dark eyes staring up at him. He leaned closer with the torch and realised his mistake. “Bloody kids”, he muttered. “Masks now, is it?” It was more often burger cartons and coke cans. They had no respect for the countryside whatever. What new form of litter would they come up with next?
Snatching up the masks and ramming them into his jacket pockets, where they nestled with a satisfactorily crunching crackle, he continued homeward. Next day, a bright sun was shining and the trees and flowers of the fields were looking at their very best. Jim took himself off down the lane for a nice stroll. Passing the milkers’ field, he saw Old Jones and stopped to wave. Jones ignored him and trudged on across the field, head down, hands stuffed deep in trouser pockets. “Cantankerous old bugger”, he thought, “Probably been up since 4am working himself silly, or maybe the kids have been bothering him again – worrying the livestock, chasing the working dogs, littering the place.”
He shrugged and walked on. Beneath his feet, something crackled and shattered. Looking down, Jim could see that fragments of a dried cow pat lay around his sandals and nestled between his toes. Other, fully formed dung heaps lay nearby, the tarmac beneath their drying cracks and crannies stared darkly up at him as if through the eye-holes of a mask. A creeping realisation came slowly over him.“Oh no!” he cried, and hurried off home to empty his jacket pockets.
Many thanks for all the entries. May’s competition is now up so get your writing heads out of the cupboard and get stuck in. You have until May 20th