Monthly Competition – June 2021

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    I shall be 65 this month. For most of my life, that was a significant date. It was the year that you became an Old Age Pensioner. Not now. It was a Labour government that did that. Hey Ho. OK, here’s a minor trope in many a thriller, in many a genre. You’re waiting for something significant, but it doesn’t happen. 250 words min, 500 words max.


    Sound Waves (470 words)

    An aeroplane churns the sky but no siren has sounded, and behind the blackout fabric at my attic window there are no searchlights. The aircraft must be one of ours.

    In my armchair I pick up today’s paper but find it hard to concentrate. We have all turned into experts in aircraft identification and the noise from this one has the mid-range rumble of twin engines alongside that feathery note made by two propellers almost in sync but not quite.

    In the flat below, the young woman runs a bath. The walls and floors in this narrow townhouse are thin but in any case sound has become like the sweeps on radar screens I study at work, except that I can’t switch off my ears. I try again with the paper. When the woman turns off the taps, one or other gives a short whine.

    The aeroplane has gone and instead there’s the grizzle from the woman’s baby. He complains, then pauses, complains, pauses. If he starts a full-lung holler, she will pick him up even if it means missing her bath. If a siren wails, she’ll do the same.

    Silence all round. I could have a try at the crossword. But my attention is fixed, unhelpfully, on trying to hear the air move, a dance of particles that I can’t locate.

    A grumble again, piston driven. A steady sound to match a mapped route. A crump and a blow-out of breaking glass several streets away. Up I jump and, in the seconds needed to identify the bomber’s direction and to pick up my coat, the door below slams shut. The baby’s tetchiness echoes down the stairwell with his mother’s footsteps, heading towards the cellar.

    One of the many absurd things one hears said is that people in bath-tubs plummet down through hit houses, tub and all. At least she hasn’t suffered that.

    A siren howls, mournful with presumptive grief, but not saying whether there are more aeroplanes or just the one. Up to a high pitch the banshee goes, down again with a keening fall, drawing breath before the next upward yowl. I put on my coat, gather my reading spectacles and the paper. I’ll keep warm, or offer the coat to the mother to keep her warm, and I’ll have something to read in the cellar.

    I collect a pair of scissors. Cutting paper dolls from the newspaper might entertain the baby, a good idea I think, as the siren is in full lament all the way down four flights of stairs. When I reach the bottom, my breathing has synchronized with it, my lungs tighten in time to the notes.

    The call gives way to the single pitch of the all-clear. With a slow breath I turn and start the climb back up the stairs.


    Another fairy tale

    Was it when, age three or maybe four and my mother, part way through their evening meal, seated at the table with husband, husband’s sister and husband’s parents, met my bad dream request for comfort with a withering ‘Why should I help you when this morning you said you didn’t love me?’. I knew then the rest of them didn’t think she’d got there yet. Because she was behaving badly. Behaving like a child.

    Or was it when, age eight, when I ran away from home, then felt my confidence wane and spent ages thinking up a reasonable reason to return: ‘Pip (our cat) will miss me’, that I knew I wasn’t there yet?

    Later and more consciously, smoothing skirt and regarding my plain, National Health bespectacled face in the mirror on a Saturday when my Dad took me into the County Library to explore the storage for the Children’s Section while he did his work, I did think it might be approaching …

    Then … then teenage years. Stroppy sixteen when I never even had to think about it (because it was so obvious I was).

    Motherhood (at twenty-four) when, given the choice between banging my head or new baby’s against the wall just so it would END and let me sleep … I knew I’d made the right decision, (but also that it might not last)

    Finally an answer, when my Dad, age 71, said even while he bought and paid for shirts he didn’t like, he knew he’d be returning them in the morning, just didn’t have the whatever it took to do it that same day. That told me, and I knew, and found it hugely comforting. A release from an occasionally nagging thought.

    There really is no such thing as ‘grown up’ (and now twenty or so years further on, I’m content I’ll never reach it. [308 words]


    Blimey, managed to write something and very pleased to be able to enter the comp. Was a bit concerned at managing to get to 250 words and wanting to post without having to DQ myself! Happily at 256 words including title. 🙂

    This might be the day.

    He hadn’t closed the curtains. The sunbeam found the bed at 6.37 and warmed his left foot at 6.45. By 6.54 it was glowing citrus off the lemon and orange duvet cover.

    The letterbox might click-clap

    The front door is five metres away from where he lies, and his bedroom door is open, and the flat’s laminate floor and hard decor means every sound reverberates.

    Still, no movement.

    An envelope might flitter-sigh onto the floor

    A bill; a circular; a glossy flyer – something arrives every day, but some weigh more than others.

    7.11 and the sun has found his chest, searing a halo of pink and red in the hairs around his left and two minutes later his right nipple.

    Bill might pick the envelope up and drop it by his bed, then lick his toes

    If this happens then him not stirring isn’t unusual, although Bill’s doggy optimism doesn’t understand that.

    The letter might have his name on it

    This happens, but not recently, not with a return address on the back.

    Could today be the day?

    The sheet inside might read “Re: your test results…”

    Imagine this letter; imagine it’s from Mr Andrews. Could it be?

    At 7.15 his clavicles are incandescent, shade above them striking a cross-cut below his neck.

    The text might continue “I’m glad to inform you …”

    At 7.20 sun shines onto his lips, and then three minutes later into his unseeing eyes.

    Somewhere, his waiting won’t ever end.

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by Barny.

    It’s not great, but it’s an entry… 🙂


    (276 WORDS inc TITLE)

    I wondered if there might be ticks. In the grass, I mean. After all, they’re rampant in this weather, aren’t they? And they’re nasty little buggers. The consequences of Lyme disease can haunt you for years.

    Although I do wish I kept a chair in the back of the car. One of those foldy-up things that campers use. It would have made waiting for the RAC much more bearable, although no doubt the cretin in the Ford Fiesta might have had something to say about that, too. Seriously, what did he think I was doing standing at the side of the road? Or did he think I parked the car in the middle of the A198 on purpose?

    Oh there, bless him. An elderly gentleman in a blue something or other has just stopped to offer help, but I am nothing if not prepared – well, except for the chair, of course – and the Knights of the Road are on their way. I’m a priority, I believe. Woman, travelling alone on a relatively busy stretch of road… and they probably have me down as a bit dotty. I told her (the recovery lady) that I was on the A168 which apparently is nowhere near Dunbar.

    I’m not going to say it never happens, it obviously has (or does) but I keep expecting a juggernaut of some description to career over the brow of the hill and decimate the car. That’s why I’m not sitting in it. Mind you, if it had been raining…

    Oh, look! There’s Sandra!
    I do think she might have brought coffee…


    Libby: Sound Waves.
    A real slice of life. Beautifully portrayed, the violent action all at a distance and the thoughts of the protagonist so quiet so mundane that we just know a bomb is going to explode into the story.

    Sandra: Another fairy tale.
    Ah, becoming an adult. I’m so glad I’m not the only one still waiting for that Corinthians moment when I put aside childish things. Yes, that’s exactly how it is.

    Barny: This might be the day.
    A triumph of descriptive writing with the succession of warmed and illuminated body parts matching the non-arrival of non-existent good news. Who’s going to feed Bill?

    A micro-portrait of an unknown lady who I could not help reading in the somewhat proper brogue of East Lothian. Loved it. And Sandra was in it.

    This is tough. I genuinely enjoyed all of these and on a different day, I might decide differently. Well done Libby.


    Yes indeed, Well done Libby – such beautiful writing. [And well done Ath for getting it right ;-)] Also for the theme of the competition which chimed with the greater degree of looking back I occasionally do these days.


    Well done, Libby – a deserved win!! And thanks Ath.


    Congratulations, Libby! And thanks, Ath ☺️
    Enjoyed reading all of these.

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