The schoolmaster was leaving the village… and you guys dreamed up some pretty excellent reasons why.
As you’ll recall, this week’s prompt was this first line — which is of course from Thomas Hardy’s goodtime beach read, Jude The Obscure:
We chose this because as well as being cheerful people, we are also sentimental ones, and Nicci just heard that a brilliant teacher of hers is retiring after 35 years. So, Richard Perry, of St Ivo School, this one’s for you. We apologise for not foreseeing how sinister all the stories would be.
Anyway. There were sinister stories, but there were also sweet ones and funny ones and super-smart ones. We loved them all.
Without further ado — it’s too hot for ado — here are this week’s winners.
RUNNER-UP: Tim Roberts
Red To Blue
So many messages. He taps his embedded wrist monitor twice, and watches it fade to black; there will be plenty of time to read them all on the return journey. Of the few he has read, most are from his students, expressing how sorry they are to see him leaving. Others contain thanks from alumni, who are now engineers in the water mines or tending to the bio-farms.
He was one of the first to arrive; now he will be the first to leave.
It’s fifteen years since he has seen his boy — now a man — in the flesh. Before the year is out, he will hear his son’s voice without the digital belches of binary lost to the cosmos. Their conversations will once again be at the speed of sound; free from 21 minute data transport delay. He will greet his son with a hug rather than fingertips pressed against an apathetic touch-screen. Together, they will breathe the same un-recycled air.
One more planetary sleep. One hundred and eight two in-flight sleeps. Then, retirement.
He gazes out of his silicate porthole, past the launch pad, across dust and rocks, out to where the polar ice begins. The setting sun turns the terrain before him blood red . Soon the stars will prick at the growing darkness and soon one of those atomic points of light will become bigger and bluer than the rest.
WINNER: Sharon Telfer
A Jolly Good Fellow
They line us all up in the schoolyard. Me and Billy too, though we’ve work in the fields with summer come early.
Ma’d scraped Evie’s hair into pigtails. “Stop fussing, Evangeline Carter,” she said. “Don’t you want to look pretty for Mr Pritchard’s goodbye?” Evie said nothing. Just shaking her head while Ma fixed the ribbons, ‘til Ma give her a clip. Evie don’t say much, these days.
All of us, in us Sunday best, holding them little flags from the day they crowned the King. Vicar says summat. Mr Pritchard, he goes red in the sun while we sing ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ and waves us flags and all the grown-ups join in.
Then along the line he comes, shaking each on us by the hand. Everyone’s always saying, how he’s such a good schoolmaster, taught us such nice manners. But when he comes to me and Evie, Evie hides behind my legs, like she’s shy.
I grip his hand firm, though it’s smooth and slippy with sweat. I look at him square. And I say, “Godspeed to the city, sir. You will never want to come back to our little village, I am sure.” Sun’s in his eyes, maybe, leastways he keeps ‘em down.
And Evie slips her fingers into mine, and I squeeze ‘em soft back, as Mr Pritchard pulls his hand away and goes off down the line.
Congratulations, Tim and Sharon! And thanks to everyone who sent in stories.
See you next week: same time, same place, new prompt. Happy weekends, all!