Now. What a way to spend a sunny Spring afternoon.
As you’ll recall, we asked you for 250 word stories on this cheerful line:
Huge props, by the way, to everyone who snuck Waste Land references into their pieces. We were mighty glad we have an office poet to point them all out to us, and we think you’re all very clever.
Anyway, love them all as we did, we still had to choose a winner (or three).
So here those winners are. WARNING: The first one’s a bit of a naughty one.
RUNNER-UP: Litty Williams
The Hyacinth Girl
‘Achoo. Achoo.’ Lexie cast an agonised look sideways at Tris as sneezes wracked her naked body and tears leaked from her itchy eyes.
But at least her boobs held nice and firm when she sneezed. Worth every penny, they were. And once she’d got the money for the shoot she’d be able to start paying her step-dad back the loan.
‘Christ, Lexie, you’ve got snot everywhere. Do you know what I mean?’ Kyle, Lexie’s co-star, threw a bedraggled bunch of purple hyacinths down onto the overgrown lawn and wiped a hand gingerly down his waxed and oiled abdomen.
‘Take five everyone and get it sorted,’ Tris said. ‘And where’s that runner with the bloody antihistamine?’
The camera-man moved into the shade by the garden shed to check something on his hand-held camera, and Kyle went grumbling into the house with the make-up girl.
Lexie sat back on her heels, the long grass tickling her buttocks. ‘But if he’s whipping at my boobs with the flowers, Tris, it don’t matter if I’m crying.’
‘It does if you look like a rabbit in a testing lab, darling,’ Tris said, punching numbers into his mobile. He put it to his ear. ‘Where’s Gemma? I’ll need her here pronto. Okay?’
It felt like a boot in the heart. Lexie blinked back real tears as her mother’s voice crawled yet again into her mind: Lexie, with you it always ends in disaster.
But her step-dad understood her dreams. She could always count on him.
RUNNER-UP: Helen Thomas
April is the cruellest month
There is a variety of petunia, a type of pale yellow trumpet flower growing in abundance on either side of the muddy pathway that leads down to the magnolia tree, showing itself off in magnificent pink and rubber-white against the watercolour blue sky. Turning the corner there is a trace scent of hamamelis shaking in the breeze. The woodpecker beckons, then is further and further away when the ridiculous parakeets flash green by, wailing all the way. Pretending to be the redwood, reaching up as high as possible, my second-skin jumper is removed and nerve endings tingle.
Again, again, it all begins again.
The freckles on the girl who digs the flower banks are joined up already. Lined rough hands nurture all that is tiny, all that will be gigantic. Startled by me at first, soon we float well-meaning, meaningless words at each other before she flops back down to work. I am glad for her cheer and the waving blossom behind her but then I see the bench where you sat with your enormous legs crossed, staring in wonder at the glory of all of this, laughing your boom laugh at the whole damn prospect. Squinting your eyes, soaking it all up.
The path seems muddier on the way back. Shaking my head, I am again astonished that you are not here. Not giving names to the many things I do not know, not leading my eyes to the many things I do not see.
WINNER: Petrina Hartland
April is the cruellest month
And when the dead come back, I hate this place more.
“But we will see Mama again? And Annie?” Davey asks of me, but what he asks ain’t what he means and so I can’t bring myself to tell him, yes.
Yes, we will see Mama with her hair all brushed back, the way I did for her, the way she liked it, ’cause a lady oughta be known by the way she keeps herself up, no matter what the good Lord sends by way of trial and tribulation.
Annie too, although her golden curls went before her, sacrificed to the fire and despair of the fever.
Davey’s too little to remember Michael in his blue sweater, that Mama knitted on the boat, ’cause didn’t they tell us winter would be cold here; cold enough to freeze the breath right out of your mouth, your words falling away like snowflakes to the bitter, iron dirt.
The first winter, with Michael, Mama said it was ungodly. Said the thought of him, out there in the woodshed was more than a person could expect to stand.
“Should I leave him out for the wolves, instead?” Pa’s snowflakes, etched from broken glass.
This last winter, with Annie, Mama made no complaint.
When Pa stands in the door of the cabin, all the snowflakes are gone from him and I see the treacherous earth that coats the edge of his shovel and I know that the thaw has come.
Congratulations Litty, Helen and Petrina! Special congratulations to Petrina, who was a runner-up back in February and a winner back in January and who we think is pretty damn talented, you know.
And the biggest thanks, as ever, to everyone who entered. You’re the loveliest company to keep of a Friday.
See you same time next week!