Monthly Comp – December 2019

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    In honour of a writing exercise recently enjoyed, and to mark the end of 2019, when I will be judging the entries, please write a piece that contains the words: OLD YEAR NIGHT (in any order and not necessarily together). If you could keep it up to 400 words, that would be great.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Janette.

    Thanks, Janette. I’ve taken the opportunity to post a possible opening of the as yet untitled Luke #5. 362 words.


    Lucy Longland, who had only gone to check her hair, emerged from the Ladies in Leith’s Registry Office too prematurely for Dylan Richards to successfully make himself invisible. Her smile a blend of pleasure and warning, she shook her head at him. ‘Put this on the front page, Dyl, and I’ll have your balls!’

    ‘A not unappealing prospect, Lucy.’ She had had them – a handful, you might say, and but a handful of times – but, Christ, more than ten years ago now.

    She grinned. Possessed of a good memory and only ever sleeping for free with men who appealed – and a dozen years ago, he had – ‘Ah, but this time they’d not be attached to your body.’

    ‘But … Darbyshere?’
    Richards – in his younger days what would be known as a society photographer – was having trouble believing his eyes. ‘Are you and he –? Together? On the quiet, like?’

    ‘We arrived together, yes.’

    ‘And will leave?’


    ‘You’re early –’ He’d checked the list for today’s weddings. The groom was the best (i.e. most interesting) of today’s bunch of names; of moderate local reputation, if not always admiration. The ceremony early enough for him to make a detour, then go on elsewhere. He’d not bothered to memorise the bride’s.

    ‘He’s impatient.’

    ‘– and you anonymous?’ Late though it’d been last night, he’d certainly have noticed her name had it been given. No big surprise to find she had a working name.

    ‘Better to be legitimate, under the circumstances, don’t you think?’

    ‘Tell me what’s going on, then?’

    ‘Maybe in a couple of weeks. As a Christmas present.’
    Dylan Richards’ face suggested a weighing of risks. As an old friend he merited a second warning. ‘Unwise, Dyl. He’s as much muscle to call on as most, and it’ll be legitimate.’

    Outside, the pacing back and forth of the groom gave truth to impatience, but the should-be matching eager happiness of his face was compromised by a battle to dispel residual uncertainty.


    Untitled, 300 words

    Tilty Weston opened a tin of smoked mackerel and put half on his plate. Good for your heart, was mackerel, though his trouble was a limp and a few creaky joints. A tomato was next on the plate, and the frilled leaves of a Webb’s lettuce. A fine thing, a Webb’s. A sight of summer here in the half dark, though no surprise the weather was gone topsy-turvy if the world and his wife wanted salad at Christmas. Outside the cottage the wind was moaning again, the fourth time in as many days. On the wind rushed, fast as a woman in a hurry. Blow yourself down the chimney, wind, and thwart me having a good fire.

    The surprising thing, over the many festive seasons, had been the ladies of a single status, and a few as were attached, who’d sent invitations for dinner. Turkey and the whole what not. The difficulty had been fathoming what it meant. Charity perhaps. Village do-gooders saving him from a boiled egg and a pickled onion and bread. That had been in his twenties. Then, through a decade of fish fingers and frozen peas – his thirties and prime of life – there’d been the glad eye from divorcees and young spinsters. All nice enough ’cept they’d wanted to organise him and have his body as reward – not a bad specimen after a few years of farm work. Oh, Tilty was a practical chap; that was their excuse. Could fix anything.

    Naturally, it had all become clear. The cottage. He owned it and cared for it. You couldn’t blame a female body for seeking a home but after a while each woman got the message, or some other message. Village gossip was as fond of wrong turnings as a map held up-side-down. But no, he hadn’t wanted a fellow instead. Anyway, it hadn’t mattered. Time had gathered her skirts and here was his seventh decade. And he’d grown quite handy with the supermarket shopping. A nice lettuce. The end of the old year: a time for thinking. No wife, no children, but mortality would turn up one day or night and he had one worldly good. Outside it was raining again as if the sea was lifted and thrown over the fields. Humans had been given enough: out of season food and so on. The cottage would be left to charity. Friends of the Earth.


    Slipping in at almost the last moment… with 395 words:

    On the last day of the old year, the family always walked to Rock Island. Chivvied by our mother and wrapped up well in woollen jumpers, tights, hats, scarfs and gloves. The time of day when dusk was falling like a dark chiffon scarf over the landscape. We’d walk the sandy path along the top of the ridge, and then, turning a corner, we’d see it, a rock covered outcrop about the size of an old-fashioned sailing ship, rising above a sea of moving heather and we’d hurtle down the hill, whooping, our coats and hair streaming behind us, feeling its coarse branches brush our legs.

    Once there, my brothers settled in a car-shaped rock and drove off on adventures in far-away lands, but I stood at the tip of the island, the wind tugging my clothing, and stared into the horizon, imagining I was the captain of our ship, looking to see what the future would bring. And sometimes, I’d feel the touch of a hand on my shoulder and know that my father was standing behind me and looking too.

    This year my son came back from Singapore for the holidays. Time, he said, for the children to have an English Christmas, but, now, on the last day of the old year, I’m not sure it’s been a success. The little ones, used to high-rise living and crowded streets are lost in the space of the countryside and Lily, the oldest, spends all her time talking to her phone. Nevertheless we bundle them into fleeces, find hats and gloves and take them out into the darkening air. We scuffle along the sandy path and as we turn the corner my son whoops and runs down to Rock Island. Come on, he yells. And the children do. Tentative at first and fearful of the swishing heather until excitement and momentum move their feet faster and faster.

    The younger two ignore the car but crawl around lifting stones to see what lies beneath and we discuss rabbits’ homes and the chance of finding baby dragons. Lily moves away and when I look up she is staring out into the gathering night. My son walks over and quietly drops a kiss into her hair. And I feel my father’s hand on my shoulder as the echoes of past years melt this moment into all the others.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by JaneShuff.

    Has the ring of truth, Jane, and lovely with it.


    Slipping through the door at (nearly) the 11th hour. 400 words with title.

    The Tent

    When I was eight, my parents gave me a tent for Christmas. Of course, I insisted on spending the night in the garden. The coldest night of the year, but I wore them down with my relentless pleading until finally, with three pairs of pyjamas, two sleeping bags, a hot water bottle and a pile of blankets, I was left to my own devices. Well, my own devices apart from Mum or Dad looking through the tent flaps every hour to see if I was alright. I was – sort of. It was freezing and I hardly slept a wink, but in the morning, I insisted I was warm as toast and slept like a log.

    They don’t make years like that anymore: vast and meandering. But Christmas came round again, and I insisted on repeating my tent adventure. I met less resistance. I had to gather all my own bedclothes together and organise myself although it’s true that Mum inspected the tent, sniffed and announced that I needed the quilt from the spare room.

    This year I was warm, full of turkey and roast potatoes and soon began to drift away. But I heard something, or dreamed it. Mum was at the tent flap telling me how much she loved me, that she had to say it before it was too late and she’d meant to tell me for years.

    ‘What was all that about last night, Mum? Almost woke me right up.’

    ‘All what? Dad looked in at you. You were fast asleep.’

    Sixty years later, Dad was gone and Mum was in a sheltered flat. I spent Christmas Day with her and we had a great time, chatting and digging through old photos. I said I’d stay over on the sofa, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

    ‘I’ll be fine. The nurse looks in at eight.’

    And that’s how it came to be the nurse who found her dead in bed on Boxing Day. I sat and looked at her lying there, her last words to me the previous day running through my mind.

    She said, ‘Do you remember your old tent? I dreamed I was back there when you spent the night in the garden, telling you all sorts. I loved you, I had to say it before it was too late, I’d meant to tell you for years. Daft what we dream, isn’t it?’


    Only four entries this month, so easy to judge, yeah? No way. Each one was a delight to read and I’ve had to read them over again, and again, to decide on a winner.
    Sandra, your prologue is a hook which begs me to read on and see how the ‘will they – won’t they’ conundrum pans out. Lucy, it would seem, has more facets than a brilliant cut diamond.
    Libby, what a character you’ve created in Tilty Weston in so few words, searching his mind, sceptically, for the reasons anyone would want to gather him into their fold.
    JaneShuff, the descriptives in this piece are uncomplicated and beautiful, and I love how the present evokes such warm memories of the past.
    Athelstone, the simple voice is perfect, and I imagined I could see that young boy out there with his tent if I looked out of the window. The twist at the end took my breath away. I loved it.

    After careful thought, I choose Janeshuff’s reminiscent piece as this month’s winner. The twist at the end of Ather’s story earns him a honourable mention.


    Congratulations @janeshuff, I too loved your story, and Ath’s, and Sandra’s which completely hooked me. I hope we hear more about Lucy.

    Xander Michael

    They really were all lovely stories. It’s been a while for me (again) and it’s great to see the monthly competition still chugging along, though perhaps with fewer entries. It was great to be pulled out of here and to be transported to four uniquely different places. Great job everyone!


    Well done to Janeshuff – well deserved. And thanks for the competition, Janette.


    Well done Jane – very well deserved – and thanks to Janette for the opportunity to try out a scene.


    Just got back from a lovely day out culminating in finally seeing Stars Wars nine to this. First time I have ever won anything! Thank you Janette for the competition and thank you everybody for the comments. I love the way these competitions inspire so many different takes on the same prompt and I am feeling very honoured that Janette chose mine. I will put my thinking cap on for next month’s competition…

    John S Alty

    A belated “well done”, Jane!

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