So. Another round of QuickFic comes to a close, and once again we marvel at your talent, your imaginations, your propensity to make ball jokes. High five, guys. That was an A+ effort.
This week’s prompt was that festive photo up there, taken by Nicci in San Francisco in 2011.
And this week’s winners are THESE GUYS:
RUNNER-UP: Paul Jenkins
He Knows When You’re Sleeping, He Knows When You’re Awake
Tinsel, that’s an a**hole.
You got to run the picker slowly around the tree, elevating the bucket. You’re doing this by torch so as to make the magic of Christmas appear overnight. It’ll be cold; good chance it’ll be wet.
She’s cheating on me.
The baubles, they’re no fun either. The big ones are fifty bucks and you only drop one once. Straight out the pay packet and your overtime wiped out right there. You pop it over the end of the branch, in the dark, in the rain. The bucket wobbling a little. Like I say, you’d only drop one once.
She won’t text back. She’ll say Carl, it was 2am, I was asleep for Christ’s sake.
It’s not as if you get to turn the lights on. Three hours winding round a tree, trying to space them out evenly. Up here, alone with these thoughts. The town asleep. Except, I guess for her.
My friends warned me. Carl, she’ll be no good for you. She likes a good time, etc. Well I like a good time too I said.
Well, can’t say I wasn’t warned.
And next month, I’ll be back. It all comes down in the daylight. The whole tree. No overtime. They still dock your pay if you drop a bauble.
From up here I can see the city. All is dark. All is quiet. I place the star into position and wish.
RUNNER-UP: Laura Arends
The Tug Of The Heart
The small hand in his squeezed a little harder. The metal cage wobbled above them. The man leaned out, his sweating torso at the edge of health and safety, but still the giant bauble fell through the sticky toffee air towards its impending doom. It shattered across the car park.
A woman screamed and dropped her bag. A solitary apple rolled out across the concrete. Twenty eyes looked up at the metal cage above. Next to him, Tim could feel the tiny shoulders slump and a foot kicking its scuff on the ground. An outbreak of yelling and profanity sliced the atmosphere.
“Come on, son.” He pulled at the boy’s hand,
“Dad?” Tim wiped the sweat line off his forehead. The boy was blinking up at the giant tree, scrunched-up confusion sitting in the tiny details of his face.
“Does Santa come here?”
“Yes, of course.” He swung the boy’s arm to the rhythm of ‘Jingle Bells’ bouncing from the loudspeaker outside the Walmart.
“Doesn’t he get hot? Why does he wear that big coat?”
Tim looked at the smiling bloke up above the doors of the store.
“He’s magic, and he works so quickly he doesn’t feel the heat.” He was reaching and the face below didn’t look convinced. Tim smiled his widest. “Don’t worry, we’ll have a great Christmas, everything will be just the same.”
“No, nothing’s the same here.” The tiny hand tugged itself free and slipped between the fingers of Tim’s sticky hand.
WINNER: Alex James
“A beauty, isn’t it? All the way from Lapland, apparently.” Her boss says, his tone suggesting that this was an extravagance too far even for the town council. He keeps talking even as she ascends out of his eye-line, then above the squat buildings of the town centre. The cherry picker trembles slightly as it lifts her up, like she is a stunned bird cradled in the things palm, a creature of hollow bones, infinitely fragile. Next to her, the star lies cradled in sackcloth, glinting on a pile of bricks.
A transplant, severed from the dark, close forests of home, where the only sound was the flutter of wings and the padded footsteps of miniature predators. Traffic blares below as a cyclist limps onto the pavement, dragging the warped skeleton of his bike behind him. Black, oily smoke congeals around the green mountain of the tree, tugging at the hairs in her throat.
She brushes her hand over the spindles, already drying out in the winter sun. You and me both, pal. Green needles tumble like dandruff to the tarmac below.
“Will you hurry up?” he shouts. “We’ve still got to string the lights after this.”
With exaggerated care, she places the star onto the iron spike driven into the tree’s crown. It slides into place, grinds and catches against some internal mechanism.
“Alright, all done. Get me down from here.” She yells, turning away. It’s so bright she can hardly bear to look at it.
Congratulations Paul, Laura and Alex! And thanks to everyone who entered. You are an excellent bunch.
See you next week!