Monthly comp: Feb 2019

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly comp: Feb 2019

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    This month, for ideas, I’ve raided my list of phrases, prompts, things overheard and other bits’n’bobs where I save my writing notes. Let’s see what you can come up with around them in, say, 350 words.

    The list is:


    “If you’ll let me sleep”

    “Fate has a horrible whisper”

    “To all the people I’ve ghosted”

    “Books resonate secrets”

    “Kathmandu Hippie Hospital”


    Have a read of 1, or 2, or as many as you like, see what comes, 350 words. Away you go 🙂


    Nice… my kind of prompt.


    Go on Squidge, you know you want to enter 😉


    I do too. I’m really annoyed with myself for not entering the last one. I had an idea and half the words down but I ran out of time…


    Okay folks, I think Feb and March have kind of got the better of most of us. Sorry @jd73 for the floundering of this comp. Your prompts are great & if you are happy to still judge, how about we make this the April comp, and get everyone going again?


    That’s a great idea @raine if @jd73 is happy to judge.




    Yep happy to judge April’s if people are ok with the prompts (or I can add more, or change, etc). Sorry, I’ve been rubbish here recently 🙂

    John S Alty

    Works for me, good idea.


    Good idea

    I think we probably need to have a wider conversation about how we run the competition, as the monthly flash thing doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did on the Cloud (and even there, there were some thin months). I know it’s difficult. I have been struggling for inspiration lately, and life has got in the way more than usual (new puppy, lots of commissions and general uselessness). There are obviously fewer of us here than there were on the Cloud, and those of us who are here seem to be pretty busy! I’ll open a thread inviting suggestions and opinions – but in the meantime, will have a good look at these excellent prompts


    Something ate Feb and most of March when I wasn’t looking, so I’m all for @raine ‘s suggested course of action.

    John S Alty

    OK, I’ll go first:

    Sunday morning
    A late breakfast, tea and toast, the paper folded at the cryptic crossword. 22 down, Kathmandu hippie hospital, 9 letters. Michael scratched his head with the pen. Just an average Sunday.
    The doorbell rang, startling him. Nobody called on Sunday. Nobody called on any other day for that matter, not since he’d put up the sign that said No salesmen or religious groups. The doorbell rang again. Oh, dear. He’d have to answer it.
    “What do you want?” It was Mrs Arkwright, his neighbour. She hadn’t spoken to him for at least three years.
    “No need to be rude.”
    “Sorry, you surprised me so it came out a bit sharp.”
    “My cat, Marmalade, is stuck up a tree and I hoped you might help get her down. I have a ladder but I’m afraid to go up it.”
    He followed Mrs Arkwright to her garden where she pointed out Marmalade lying on a bough well above their heads. As he set up the ladder the cat moved into a crouch. Michael trod cautiously onto the first step and as he did so the cat bolted down the ladder and dashed towards the cottage.
    “Well, that’s a relief,” said Michael, “I’m not too happy on a ladder these days myself.”
    “In that case it was extra good of you to help.”
    “Think nothing of it, Mrs Arkwright. Haven’t spoken for a while. The fracking, wasn’t it?”
    “Yes, it was. You wouldn’t sign the petition, said you weren’t sure of the issues, didn’t want to just be a nimby.”
    “Right, I remember now. Well, you won, didn’t you? No fracking.”
    “Yes, we did and I’m proud of that. Anyway, thank you so much for helping with Marmalade.”
    Michael set off back to his interrupted breakfast when she called after him:
    “Would you care to pop in for tea this afternoon? And it’s Betty, by the way.”
    Michael buttered a piece of cold toast smiling to himself. A bit of a cracker was Betty.
    He picked up the paper and looked at the half-completed crossword. 18 across, Budding romance beckons, 8 letters.

    349 words


    Here’s the opening scene of a drama. 349 words

    The scene is a contemporary kitchen. Magnets hold lists to the fridge. Children’s paintings are on the walls. MARCUS, 70, sits at the table, idle, and SAM, 40, stands at a counter, preparing food. Marcus wears his hair longer than Sam and has a brass bangle and a leather bracelet on one wrist.

    MARCUS It’s the fault of bucket lists.
    SAM It’s the fault of a puncture, Dad. A random event.
    MARCUS People do too much. They don’t chill out.
    SAM Naomi has taken the girls swimming, just like every Saturday. It’s not
    on their bucket lists.
    MARCUS Exactly. There’s other stuff they think they must do as well.
    SAM Look, regular swimming is good for them and it’s normal. Will you cut up
    this cucumber, please.
    MARCUS [Cutting cucumber] They do ballet and football. They get asked to go to
    school in fancy dress. In the woods they look up the name of everything
    they see or else they’ve failed. Now Naomi and the girls are in a lay-by
    waiting for a breakdown van. It’s a metaphor.
    SAM It’s a breakdown.
    MARCUS Wake up. Your karma’s running over your dogma. Or at least try and see
    the funny side.
    SAM Great. Old jokes from Nepal. Lucky you – all that time spent high on
    spliffs and joss sticks. [Waves knife at Marcus] That reminds me, if you
    call Naomi a chick again she’ll turn you into more pieces than that
    MARCUS Ha! I love Freud.
    SAM [Sighs]
    MARCUS There’s a lot of violence in this household.
    Sam’s mobile rings. The tune is ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ by Ronan Keating. He answers it.
    SAM Oh, right. The girls OK?
    [Woman’s voice on phone, her words indistinguishable.]
    SAM Dad is helping me make supper.
    [Woman’s voice again.]
    SAM No. Yes. Everything’s fine. [Ends call] The breakdown man has been held
    up. So when Naomi and the girls get here – finally – you need to look
    sympathetic. You know, caring.
    MARCUS I’ll open my arms wide and say, ‘Welcome to the Kathmandu Hippie
    SAM And then I’ll murder you.


    PS The odd layout is courtesy of the Den. It’s not some artistic effort on my part, though it could be due to my failure to understand Den formatting. 🙂

    John S Alty

    Nice one, Libby.


    Thank you, John.


    Ha, lovely closing lines, Libby.


    Thanks, Kate.


    It was closing time at the library. The best time of day as far as Charlie was concerned. At last he could spend some time alone with the books, wiping covers and aligning spines, handling the stories that could transport him to a different world. It was just a pity he had to share them with other people’s sticky fingers.

    Not that the real world was turning out too shabbily; not since starting his little side-line. He straightened his bow tie and settled the chunky Rolex more comfortably on his wrist before pushing the trolley of returned books into the aisles. Plenty of time to finish his duties and log onto the library database for a little information to aid those extracurricular activities.

    The other librarians didn’t like the tidying up time of day. They were always in a rush to get home to families or their favourite soaps. But so what if they thought him odd or just plain lonely volunteering for this task. They already cast him strange glances. He could see the questions written on their faces. How could old Charlie afford such an expensive watch? Some suggested it was a cheap knock off from one of his expensive holidays abroad. Charlie gave a slow smile. If only they knew.

    He paused to slot a novel into place, drawing in a slow breath that filled him with the scent and taste of old books and words. This was one of his favourite spots, right on the other side of the romances section. There was always plenty to learn here. In fact, just today Jane Barnett had told Nancy Collins about the affair with her next-door neighbour. Charlie’s smile stretched wider, revealing uneven, yellowed teeth. Despite his arthritic hip, he’d made double time to the check out desk for a glimpse of the names on their membership cards.

    They say books resonate secrets, and this library was certainly providing him with plenty of them.

    Blackmail was such a dirty word. It was amazing what people would pay to keep their secrets.

    (343 words)


    Aconite and Forget-me-not.
    (347 words)

    To you who I’ve haunted, will you listen? I have whispered stories in your ear and did you hear them? They were both your stories and mine, your sins and yes, mine too, and when I paid for both of us, you thought yourself free. So I came, did I not, to remind you. I have been the footfalls behind you in the dark, tasting your hastened breathing and sharpening my teeth on joy. When the mirror caught you slantwise and your eyes were not your own, I traced your shivering skin and drank you in. I dressed in moonlight in your garden, seeding aconite and forget-me-not, death and memory, and sent mice to sink their claws into your defences. Let them erode your walls, I thought, bring down the barricades between guilt and denial, make tinder of your absolution. I have been your ghost, your past and present but Oh, the weight of it.

    The days breathe on for aeons, suspend me in amber, and the weight of anger become my flesh, my anchor. I did not know the depths of it, but now perhaps I do. Down in the darkness, they are the same, anger, grief, bitter almonds and last year’s bones. I did not know, but now I do, and I am so weary.

    So I swear to let you rest. I have drunk your fear, sung your guilt, and I envy now your proximity to sleep and of your sleep, its finite wonder. I swear I will let you walk in shadows unmolested and sit alone without dread. I will give you this, and more, when you sleep I will let shame wash itself clean, become repentance, and it will be enough. Enough now. Only I ask of you this. Bring me flowers in the evening, when the mist rises over me like blankets and the grass gathers its tears. I have haunted you with your guilt but never asked you for your sorrow, and so I ask it now.

    Please. Bring me flowers in the evening, then we shall sleep.


    Mutated the quote, I know. Sorry. In my defence it didn’t say the quote had to be exact. Plus, I know ‘ghosting’ isn’t about ghosts, but I like ghosts, and am too old to write about ‘ghosting’! 😀


    Okeydoke we got there in the end, it looks like. Thank you all for your stories (and screenplay) – I enjoyed reading them all. However one winner it has always been and one winner it will be tonight and that winner, for the enchanting voice, the sinister — yet strangely beautiful — turns of phrase, and the macabre subtlety of it all, from the title on, must be Raine with ‘Aconite and forget-me-not’

    Well done all, thank you for taking part, and happy writing 🙂

    John S Alty

    Well done, Raine!


    A well deserved win, Raine. The voice is wonderful and the whole piece captivating.


    Fabulous piece, Raine.


    Awesome!! Thank-you @jd73, and everyone for your well dones. 🙂 I didn’t get round to reading the others til yesterday, and loved them all, brilliant endings in each one. So well done to you guys too. 🙂

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