Phew. Punnet of strawberries and a glass of squash, anyone? (Ian informs us that the normal post-match tennis player snack would be a banana. But it might sound a bit weird if we just offered you one of those, right at the opening of this paragraph, without any context).
Anyway: what a lovely round of QuickFic that was. And the sun was out as we watched you volley your micro-masterpieces into our net. Glorious!
As you’ll remember, we asked for 250 word stories on this little lady:
And you served up some aces, dear people.
Here are our three favourites:
RUNNER-UP: Matt Castle
‘What’s going on, Mummy?’ asked Ophelia. While the giggling had stopped, puzzlement had yet to transform into panic.
No. 1 Court was split down the middle. For now, only the net divided adults from children. Small furry things unfurled barbed wire along the doubles sidelines, while police helicopters spluttered ineffectually overhead. In the near distance, a megaphone honked and reverberated incoherently.
Despite the rapid implementation of the evacuation plan, several families and more than a few players and officials had been ‘collected’. Since the collapse of the climate change talks last year, the increasingly assertive actions of Wimbledon Common’s radical faction had been building to this day. Amongst the stubby, snouted, masked and Uzi-wielding instigators of this action, several human environmental activists freely conferred. Five minutes earlier, shots had rang out from Centre Court, and the kidnappers seemed nervous.
Their leader – it was surely he – clambered to the top of the umpire’s chair to address the internees and his squad alike.
Isabel shushed Ophelia from across the net.
‘Dear friends, and unfortunate tennis fans,’ he began. ‘Sadly, a series of gentle novels, a television series and a largely forgotten film have proven inadequate to give our cause the prominence it deserves. I fear we will have to work on the younger generation a little more directly.’
A chilling smile played on Bungo’s furry lips.
RUNNER-UP: Jo Bradshaw
Second Serve, Mister
Don’t give me those eyes dripping with the same stuff that’s stretching the corners of your mouth like that, you’re faking it, mister, and you know it. I hear how you speak to my mum when you think I’m in bed. You wish I lived under a glass dome so you could take me out on Tuesdays all dressed in baby duck, feeding me pink frosting to glue my mouth shut because when I see the bad things I say them, and it scares you.
I’m not picking up your tennis ball to be cute, I’m picking it up because I need to run, I need to smash my feet into the court. Perhaps if I close my eyes and hit the ground hard I’ll bounce high enough to see the shiny spot on your head you pretend isn’t there. You have a fuzz around you, not whiskers but fear, and that’s why your eyes look like swimming pools.
When you were my age did your dad find the golden glowing beam that connected your feet to your heart and snap it clean in two? Did your mum feed you caterpillars instead of shreddies? I know what it was now, I can see it. Your teacher said you were stupid because your letters danced drunken spiders and that’s when your heart burnt like toast and you smothered it in bitter breakfast marmalade because you didn’t know what else to do.
Well, your serve. Second serve, mister.
WINNER: Will Moorfoot
They would not speak in her own tongue; perhaps they had forgotten. Instead they would show her black structures and imprints of the world that were supposed to taste and smell of things. They never did. The passing coolness on the air was not wind, nor was the wet scent of a flower head a word-string to wear triumphantly about your lips.
It understood what she felt, yet could not think: the long, hidden form of the creature. It knelt in the grasses where the brightness of the playground faded into dusk and woodland, running the purslanes back through its hands. When it saw her, it smiled and its eyes shone with an invitation.
She smiled back, then giggled. They thought she must like the playground. They’d bring her back here tomorrow.
Congratulations Matt, Jo and Will!
And well played, everyone. See you next week: same time, same place, new prompt.