Monthly comp: December 2020

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly comp: December 2020

  • This topic has 12 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by Libby.
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    Advent is upon us. I always liked Advent Calenders when I was little, but I haven’t had one for years. So you can make one for me. The theme is “opening a door or window and finding something”. It doesn’t have to involve calendars! Anywhere between 25 and 500 words.


    A New Opening

    Lockdown. Away from a contageous world full of contageous people. Away from touch. Away from hold. Away from gossipy nudges and ear-whispers in the office, shrinking my world to room size; specifically the area where work-table met window. I unfasten the latch and swing it wide open in a desperate bid for expanse.
    Between remote meetings, or report compilations, I gaze out, cup in hand. The grassed area (I stop short of calling it a lawn) resembles my most recent self-imposed haircut. The birds didn’t appear to notice, not me or the grass. One, an ear-tipping blackbird, extracated one worm after another from its roots; his song, between tug-of-war hunting, a cross between chortle and natter, reminding me of everyday gossip and lifting my spirits.
    Why hadn’t I heard him before?
    Why hadn’t I appreciated his stark, golden beak, or his yellow-rimmed eyes sitting like jewels in jet? Or the band of other creatures that formed a chorus; sparrows in shrubbery; other tiny birds (must find out which type) hopping about the trees, huge voices bursting out from miniscule bodies. Smaller still, the saddle-bagged bees droning around pillows of lavender I’d blindly passed by before, not taking in the heady aroma now drifting up and around me; an invisible hug, no less powerful than those others I craved.
    I took walks, of course, but my small patch of garden, the rest of the time, offered up newness each day I looked out, like the flowers I never knew I had, stretching and shrinking back with the seasons. My advent window – yes, exactly the same, opened up to fresh wonders each time I sat, coffee in hand, uncoiling that inner spring I’d taken years to unwittingly wind.
    Lockdown; it hadn’t shrunk my world but expanded it. Taken away the rabid need to dash around, toast-in-mouth, each morning. Taught me to slow down; open up. Stop trying to fit ten hours into eight.
    The day would soon arrive, oh please, that we might hug and nudge and be part of a crowd again … but at my pace, which would not involve closing eyes or windows on this new world I’ve found.

    360 words


    With good intent

    ‘Let’s face it, it is one of our unadmitted secret pleasures!’
    One eyebrow lifting in pantomimed leer, he turned his head away, allowing the wind to carry exhaled smoke along Portobello’s beach towards the Scottish capital.
    Aware of the flaring of her too-carelessly clipped hair, she pictured them as opening sequence of some French detective tv series.
    And yes, he was right, it was often a secret pleasure, on a par with their brief liaison some four, five years ago. Since when both had married others.
    He trod the butt in the sand, picked it up and pocketed it. ‘Time for a bit of B and E. Let’s go.’

    Breaking and entering it was not – they had the key to the front door of the low-browed house. A key taken from an inside pocket of a handbag discovered alongside an unconscious woman found in on the beach in the early hours. A key to which was tied a worn-soft, ink-run tie-on label which gave address but no name. That they hoped to now discover.

    Spirits rose as they approached the solid, buttermilk coloured wooden door set, like a child’s drawing, between two near-square windows, each framed in colour-matched concrete whose smoothness complemented the fossilised porridge of the harling. Then sank again. They’d assumed, since no-one had reported her absence, she might have no-one else to worry for her. Now they feared their job might be the far less enjoyable one of imparting bad – and possibly to worsen – news.

    A knock. No reply. Silence within. So very likely her home. And their job not to tell but discover. Gloves essential; shoe-covers a wise precaution (Too many times they’d heard the wrath of SOCOs addressed to ignorant offenders.) Key fitted, door opened. They stepped in, she first, since the house, as he knew, similar in layout and vintage to where she’d used to live. Five minutes away.

    He had, of course, exaggerated as to pleasure. Homes this small, this private and personal, it too often felt like invasion. Only in the houses of the those whose lives functioned courtesy of regular incursions of such as cleaners and au pairs was it okay to allow imagination to run free and comment on imagined lives.

    That Bridie Bothwell shared her home with no-one was obvious from a single glance. But that she was alone; was lonely, neglected and lacking care or love immediately negated. Firstly from the drift of handwritten letters on a large pine table that also served as desk, signed with love and kisses. Second for the open laptop which, on moving the mouse, revealed pages of an in-progress …
    He came to look over her shoulder, ‘Page 301 of 301, I’d say so’. He turned, pointed to a crockery-intended dresser whose shelves bore ranks of hard-backed books. ‘That must be her –’
    They read the name on the spines.
    Not that written on the letters, but one far better known. Worldwide.
    ‘Hope she gets better.’

    [496 words + title]


    372 words


    The room was big, like a workshop, but the machinery was rows of people seated on chairs all facing the same way. Silence nestled beside and around them, cut by infrequent remarks. What dreary weather today, no sign of sun. A bit stuffy in here. I hope we’re not kept waiting long.

    The ceiling was open to the roof. Struts made patterns of angles and lines. Around these interconnections mingled the warmth from people in their winter coats.

    Along one wall of the room were five doors, all shut. Nothing could happen to anyone on the chairs until a door was opened and their name was called, but the doors remained closed. Even so, the mood in the room was of patience, of resignation. There was no choice. Forbearance threaded the rows.

    No one here was dying, or if they were it wasn’t the reason for waiting. This part of the hospital was for life and its processes. The man with the broken foot, strapped up but on the mend; the woman with a swollen knee, that unenjoyable skiing holiday; the grandfather with snatches of shoulder pain, and interrupted nights.

    The orthopaedic clinic. One young woman, sitting at the back, looked around and, unable to see into the thoughts of the people in rows, wondered what they feared.

    The mishap while she’d been on tour. A slip down uneven steps, her hand put out behind to break the fall. Automatic. Shooting pain. A taxi, called by a kindly passer-by, to the town’s small hospital. The wrist re-set.

    At least she hadn’t been carrying the violin, hadn’t tumbled onto it in its case and crushed it.

    At home the splint came off and she had started exercises. The pain of holding the bow. Time and patience, the GP had said. Let’s get an x-ray.

    Now, a call to the hospital near her home. In the orthopaedic waiting room, one of the five doors opened and a doctor in an open-necked shirt, with an ID badge clipped to his breast pocket, called her name.

    He held the door open for her. You’re the violinist, he said.

    Yes, I am.

    She was a violinist, in this brief moment, stepping into the room.

    • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Libby.
    • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Libby.
    Xander Michael

    It’s hot and stuffy in the apartment. The air is still and she struggles to breathe. Her bangs are pasted to her forehead. She’d moved to Tuscany for inspiration, but was only getting perspiration. She thinks she hears a downpour outside even though she sees the sun bleaching the curtains hot white through open windows. Wishful thinking. There isn’t even the slightest of breezes to move those curtains and she longs to pull in a deep breath of cool air. In desperation she leaves her canvas, strides to the balcony doors, yanks them open and — she freezes.

    The air that hits her isn’t the stagnant air of the Tuscan countryside, but the crisp air from the fresh rainforest of Vancouver. The petrichor already permeates the air even though the rain pummells the earth to suppress it saying, “It is not yet your time. Now is my time.”

    This isn’t a memory. She’s there. One step onto her balcony and she’s still dry, one more and she’d be soaked. The lights are on next door. She can see the three university girls lounging on their futon sofa with wine glasses in their hands laughing at something. She’s sure she wouldn’t find it remotely funny these 20 years later. But their love for each other, captured in their smiles, is contagious. What happened to these young women next? Are they still in touch with each other? She hopes that they are.

    She wants to turn around, but she can’t. She’s dying to see her old apartment, but fears that it won’t be there when she turns. Her giant bookcase, completely full. The old big box TV causing its shelf to sag like a mule’s back. Mishmash furniture that she’d acquired over the years after leaving home. The first place that was hers alone. It really wasn’t even that special. Yet it was.

    She gulps in another breath of damp air to root herself in the present and it dawns on her that if she turns around she might see someone else. The apartment never changed in her mind, but of course it has changed many times in the years since she left. A child could have been born and raised there and have already left for university themselves.

    She closes her eyes and flares her nostrils to take in as much of that smell that she’s never found anywhere else in all of her travels, as much as her body will allow. She holds her breath at the peak and thanks — who? It doesn’t matter. She is thankful that this was here when she opened the door.

    The unbearable Mediterranean heat begins to warm her goose-pimpled skin and the warm tones of the suburban forest fade to white. As she resigns herself to its dominance, she savours her lingering smile, feels refreshed and eagerly anticipates the next door or window that’ll unexpectedly bring her back to a moment she didn’t realise was so precious while she lived it.

    497 words


    (Randomly generated words from Chocolat by Joanne Harris)

    The Gingerbread House

    A gesture, armoured with indifference
    And an almost-smile of white chocolate politeness
    In the darkness of his eyes
    A kaleidoscope of dreams


    A very happy new year to all Denizens! The advent competition didn’t have 25 entries as I hoped, but by way of compensation, those that were submitted are all gems that I would be happy to find behind a calendar window.

    Janette: A New Opening
    A truly positive response to the Covid restrictions. This was beautifully written with a powerful feeling of discovery. Something was found that had somehow been overlooked. Something worth keeping as and when our normal routines are re-established.

    Sandra: With Good Intent
    Things are not always as they seem. The characters in this story are fully realised – opening up to us that they look for what enjoyment they can in the hard task of investigating sad events. Then a flip of attitudes as they discover somebody who also creates fantasies. Love your methodical voice.

    Libby: Fracture
    There’s a powerful mix of themes in this piece and I had that rare sensation of wanting to know what happened before and after this glimpse into a life. The piece is quietly written with a sense of that powerlessness anybody who has sat in a hospital waiting room must know. But there is also a tension because we know that the stakes are high for this person with this injury. Then, too briefly, she is distinct from all the others waiting.

    Xander Michael: untitled
    This is a confidently written piece with a strong voice pulling us through. At first we aren’t certain what is happening. Is this a dream or an hallucination? Things are not resolved until the very end, but the imagery and sensory descriptions are beguiling along the way.

    Seagreen: either Randomly generated words from Chocolat by Joanne Harris or The Gingerbread House
    Well, I have Chocolat on Kindle although it is amongst the ranks of the unread – so far. So I admit that I am not completely certain what’s occurring here. But they are very nice words that form a pleasing verse.

    I wasn’t certain who I would pick until I wrote these notes out. Then I realised that I had known all along. Well done Libby.


    Sorry, Ath. I confess that when I finally got round to pulling something together for the December comp (last night, about two hours before the deadline), I had it in my head that the theme was ‘opening’ so that’s what I wrote 😁
    As it turns out, writing it reminded of something I’d lost sight of, so thank you.

    Congratulations, Libby, and thanks for giving new depth to the waiting room 😊


    Thank you Ath, both for comments and for setting the comp in the first place. As you probably guessed, I used it as a shameful attempt to find a way into a yet-to-be-written novel and was immensely glad of the opportunity to do so, though knew from the start I’d barely skated your original intent. And well done Libby – I look forward to finding out what you have in store for us.


    That’s a lovely surprise, and for the new year too! Thank you, Ath.

    Thank you also to everyone who entered. A very compelling selection of stories, as always, and a wide range of styles. I’ll have a think about what to set for the January competition.

    Happy new year, if we’re allowed to say that after 2020 🙂


    Thank you for the comp and the positive comments, Ath. And well done Libby – nice work.

    John S Alty

    Well done Libby. Excellent entries from all.
    Happy New Year!


    Thank you, Seagreen, Sandra, Janette and John.

    And happy new year to all Denizens.

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