Congratulations goes to Tracey Glasspool from Tiverton in Devon, whose story, My Grandmother, The Deep Sea Diver, has been awarded first place in our 2017 Doris Gooderson Short Story competition. To read the prize-winning stories, please click on the story title. The full details are as follows:
by Mike Watson
Bamboo is not just a plant. It is a banner in the breeze. A whip in the wind. As supple as rope and wire strong. Bamboo is loose limbed with more fingers than hands can hold. It is a “hoo” and a “haa” with rhythm tapping roots and jazz filled leaves.
Bamboo is not just a plant. It is spears in the sunrise, sharp in the bright and tasselled in the breeze. And, when the big moon rises and silvers the ocean in the bay, bamboo is the hush and ghostly sway.
Bamboo is not just a plant. It is where Papa Bombo lives. Everyone knows that Papa Bombo has lived there forever. He was there before you were born, before the village was born and before the first footprint in the sand. Papa Bombo has always been there.
by Michael White
Beth closed the black-painted cottage door and hurried up the lane. Perhaps a blow in the sunshine would help. She had often walked up on the moor with Mike. On a clear day you could see Newcastle, thirty miles to the South, and the peaks of the Lake District, fifty miles West. Today the wind had combed high clouds into plumes and tendrils against a blue sky. She climbed the ladder stile and went on up the path through sheep pastures. When the path steepened through heather and bilberry bushes, she unfastened her jacket.
A steep scramble between huge red-brown boulders led to the top. She sat on an overhanging rock to get her breath back, dangling her legs in space. To South and West it was dark: rain before nightfall. Beth zipped up her jacket and thrust her hands into the pockets. A hand closed on a wad of paper: Mike’s letter. The world contracted as she tugged it out, cold fingers hooked round the crumpled envelope. She made to throw it away, but it remained in her palm. She straightened it and pulled out the single sheet. Mike typed everything: he could never bring himself to write neatly. But even the typescript was illegible to Beth’s stinging eyes. She crammed it back in the pocket and patted it flat. It wasn’t as if she didn’t remember what it said; she’d read it enough times. Tangled hair blew across her face. The broken rocks thirty feet below were uninviting. She’d better go back to the empty cottage.
My Grandmother, the Deep-Sea Diver
by Tracey Glasspool
Mrs Ki surfaces and breathes out sharply, a high whistling shriek. She holds an octopus aloft then swims for the boat.
“Your grandmother hated octopus,” she says as she hands it to me, “I’ll try for abalone.” A deep breath and she’s gone again.
I push the octopus into a sack; change my mind and drop it back into the sea. I also dislike the taste and the sack is already full of clams and sea-urchins. Besides, I’ve watched octopus in aquariums back home. I like them; their intelligence is obvious. Back home. My stomach contracts with guilt.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who entered our competition this year. With over 140 entries submitted, you’ve enabled us to donate over £160 to the Severn Hospice this year. But to the nitty-gritty: the winners. Congratulations go to:
MOUNTAINS AND PEBBLES AND SAND
By Douglas Bruton
There are fish bones in the mountains, pressed between the flat prayer-palms of stone, and ammonite shells shiny and ridged, and impressions of things that once swam in the sea caught in rock the colour of seabed-sand. That’s what Edwin’s grandfather told him. He said it was the earth’s story and it was like going back to the first page of a book and starting the story over, always going back.
And Edwin’s grandfather beginning in on a story of when he was a stripped-back boy, telling it like it was a new story even though he’d told it a hundred times over, not leaving out even the smallest detail, the smallest grain of sand.
‘It’s a pebble you want. Pebbles are best.’
By Carol Stone
She arrives at Paddington on the District line. Well-worn suede shoes, lace-ups, a shade of blue-grey with a thick flat sole. She is a stranger to this line. From where I sit it’s always the shoes I notice first. The polished city brogues, shiny patent stilettos, athletic sneakers. I’ve seen them all but never shoes quite like hers.
Amidst the rushing bodies she stands on the platform, the map she holds turning this way and that. Beneath the rim of her knitted hat, wisps of caramel hair protrude which float wildly as the air is sucked through the tunnel. Brushing it from her eyes she glances around, confusion on her face. Then my watching eyes meet hers and a smile comes my way, not fearful or sympathetic but the genuine kind not usually reserved for the likes of me. Momentarily I forget myself, forget where and who I am. Then a man rushes by, kicking my feet, sharply returning me to reality. I burrow down into my sleeping bag, hoping she won’t be there when I next brave a peek. Except the suede clad feet are already heading my way. Before long they are beside me.
By Jacqueline Cooper
‘He wants you to go to him to sign the divorce papers? Don’t you dare!’ Sally’s mum sounded outraged at the very idea. ‘You were at that man’s beck and call for 10 years. Let him come to you if he wants something. In fact let him come here to the house. I’ll get your Aunt Tricia and Aunt Betty round,’ she said grimly.
For a moment Sally pictured her soon-to-be ex-husband walking in to face her mum and the aunts, who’d be sitting in a row on the settee, arms crossed over ample bosoms, ready to lay into him. The image made her smile but she knew it would never happen. Greg, her ex, was the biggest wimp going. He wouldn’t dare face her family. Her mum used to think the sun shone out of him, so once the truth about their marriage finally came out, mum had taken it particularly hard, especially when Sally had to move back in to the family home until she got back on her feet. At thirty years old she’d ended up sleeping in her old bedroom, working two jobs to pay off her half of the debts she hadn’t even known Greg was running up.
The 2015 Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition
Congratulations. The winners are:
1st place was Alyson Hilbourne from Yokohama with story “Stars in your Eyes”:
Alyson Hilbourne currently lives in Yokohama, Japan where she works as a teaching assistant. She enjoys writing short stories and travel articles in her free time. She has been published in UK magazines, online and in several anthologies. Her goal, whenever she has time, is to write the novel that has been fermenting in her head. She is a member of Writers Abroad online writing group http://writersabroad.spruz.com/
2nd place was Jacqueline Cooper from Bradford with story “The A to Z of Adultery”:
Jacqui Cooper currently lives in Yorkshire with her husband, a cat and a snake. The cat, she wanted, the snake, well that’s another story. She has always written but didn’t always submit her stories – until a couple of years ago when she gave herself a good talking to. Since then she has been published in People’s Friend and Take a Break. She has won the Henshaw Press short story competition and been placed or short listed in various others, including runner up in the inaugural 2015 Ann Summers short story competition. She also has a story in the Romantic Novelists Association anthology, Truly Madly, Deeply.
3rd place was Janet Hancock from Ferndown with story “The Pencil”:
Janet lives in Dorset. She has had several short story competition successes, and stories published online and in anthologies. She is working on a novel set in Russia and England in the early 20th century; a previous draft was longlisted in the 2013 Mslexia novel competition and shortlisted for the 2014 Yeovil literary prize; the opening chapter and a 500-word synopsis won 1st prize at the 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference. Janet grows fruit and veg in her garden, from which she emerges at least once a week for several hours’ choral singing.
(Profits from the competition go to the Severn Hospice.)
The Shortlisted Entries
The following entries have made it through to the shortlist for the final judging. Congratulations to everyone listed here, and thank you to everyone who entered, because we’re able to make another donation to the Severn Hospice this year.
- The Sun and the Moon – Cassie Beggs – Caerleon, Gwent
- Shadow Over My Shoulder – Sheila Hollingberry – Etchingham
- Nemesis – Wanda Pierpoint – Tamworth
- Out for the Count – Marcia Woolf – Hastngs
- Only In The Dark – Jim Waite, Perth
- Born Again – Jacqueline Zacharias – York
- A Paddling of Ducks – Elise Hawken – Gainsborough
- Over the Limit – Andrew Giles – Darlington
- The Other Mr Chips – Andrew Giles – Darlington
- Worlds Apart – Kate Westgate, Ellesmere
- Too Late to Remember – Malcolm Maxell – Guildford
- The Idyll – Josie Turner – Hitchin
- Neighbourly Spirit – Norman Kitching – Gosport
- Absconding – Elisabeth Kondal – Worthing
- The Pencil – Janet Hancock – Ferndown
- Where’s Dad? – Jane Byle – Carnforth
- Losing Lyn – Bruce Harris – Seaton
- The Sand People – Jonathan Slack, Bradford-on-Avon
- A Dish Best Served Cold – Myra Godden – Ashford
- The Debt –Kevin Chant – Worcester
- A Present for Teacher – Sarah Lovett – Lowestoft
- The Open Cage – Pamela Keevil – Stroud
- Free Range – Dianne Simmons – Bath
- Stars in Your Eyes – Alyson Hilbourne – Yokahama, Japan
- Jimmy – Clare Connolly – Weymouth
- Other People’s Lives – Gillian Gardner – Shrewsbury
- In Confidence – Ian Burton – Bournmouth
- Waiting for the Pigeons – Tony Oswick – Essex
- Rock Goddess – Karen McDermott – Hove
- The A – Z of Adultery – Jacqueline Cooper – Bradford
- A Special Vocation – Stephen Gage – Essex
- Grandma’s Needles – Alison Wassell – St Helens
- Thin Lizzy – Jo Derrick – Rugby
- The Book – David Mathews – Bath
- Galloping in Vain – Michael Callaghan – Clarkston
‘There’s nothing to it, Sajid,’ insists Manu. ‘All you have to do is push, shout -‘.
But Manu, you have two arms, I want to say; two hands and two legs, skinny, yes, but tough, propelling a bony ten-year-old body; Manu thinks that’s how old he is. He has a cast in one eye.
I don’t know my own age but I’m sure it isn’t ten.
‘Anyway,’ adds Manu, ‘as soon as they spot you, they’ll feel sorry for you.’ And Manu is off, along the platform. (more…)
The A-Z of Adultery
A is for my no longer secret admirer. A is for attraction. For anticipation. It is also for affair. And for Andrew, my husband.
B is for boss. For the buzz I felt when I first saw him. For the butterflies in my tummy right now as I wait for him. It is also for betrayal.
C is for the chase. How long has it been since anyone looked at me the way he does? C is for my curves which he says he loves. It’s for the control I feel slipping away as I nervously pace the floor. C is for the curtains I half close in case he’s lying about my curves. It’s for the clock I can’t help watching. It is also for cheating.
D is for daring. Who’d have thought I’d ever be in this position? D is for discretion, of course – that goes without saying. And for desire. Dear god the desire! After twenty years of marriage I thought this giddiness was behind me. My mouth is dry. Should I open the wine? I have no idea how to behave. D is also for doubts. And dishonesty. (more…)
Stars in Your Eyes
We cheered as you marched past, smart in new uniforms, heads erect, arms swinging, hobnail boots ringing on the cobbles.
The town gave you a good send-off. The colliery band strode in front along the route to the station. We lined the pavements to watch, sitting with our feet in the gutter to wait. They gave us children paper Union Jacks to wave.
I craned forward to see, brandishing my flag.
“Papa, Papa!” I shouted. You didn’t turn your head but I saw your moustache twitch so I knew you heard. You were between Maud’s father and Willie’s older brothers. Half the colliery had signed up to go. You were all so straight and tall. I felt my chest swell as I pointed you out.
Mama stood behind me. Her best lace handkerchief was screwed up in her hand and pressed to her cheek. (more…)
The judges have announced the shortlist from which they shall make their final decision in the next few days. The shortlisted entries and authors are:
The Charity Boutique
Everything looks washed out when the fog rolls in, cold and wet like a flannel left on a part-time radiator. Makes it even harder to find my way around these forgotten streets. But I don’t want to ask for directions. Not to where I’m going.
So I wander up and down streets I never bothered with as a child. Lucy skips ahead, her red coat a bouncing blob of colour amongst the pale grey. Splashes and giggles and songs about butterflies flutter back to me; all I have for her are barked warnings about roads and dog poo.
“Mam,” she says at one point, tugging my arm. “Come and see.” (more…)
Letter From Portsmouth
As the pony sweated past on the hill, Wilfred Potter winced at its leathery smell. The postman, relaxed in the saddle, touched his cap to the walker.
“Good morning, indeed. A fine day.” Wilfred swung his stick, cut that morning from a lime tree in his garden, and inhaled the September morning. Below stretched a sultry Windermere; above, mountain-tops pushed into the cooler winds of a sapphire sky. Pebbles crunched beneath his boots. He remembered, years earlier, his little son running ahead on paths just like this.
The postman had stopped at a cottage, a slovenly bundle of stones behind a wooden fence, with a few dejected lettuces and a cow tethered to a stake. Wilfred saw him dismount, take a letter from his saddle bag and cross to the door. He knocked, firmly, but without interest. (more…)
When Gloria Was Here
When the two of you end up together, people call you chalk and cheese, say opposites attract, and whisper that the baby will be along soon. Perhaps they suspect that your older brother, Jack-the-Lad, they call him, seduced her and did a runner. Gloria’s father rants from the rafters, bruises kiss her cheeks and you, good boy, do what your mother urges, and offer to marry her. Keep it in the family.
You have another motive, sly perhaps, and more pressing than honour or duty. The caramel flesh of her makes you leap inside and out. And it doesn’t hurt, seeing disbelief on the faces of girls who’ve turned you down and boys who’ve dreamt, as you have, of that soft mouth. (more…)
(Profits from the competition go to the Severn Hospice.)
We’re delighted to announce the results of the 2014 competition. The winning stories and writers are as follows: (more…)
Breakfast in Bed
In the morning he brings her breakfast in bed: mushrooms on toast, and a mug of steaming tea. She sits up, pulling the sheet primly around her chest, and he laughs. He opens the curtains a crack and the morning sun creeps into the room, peeling back the night like an unwanted blanket. A dull ache unfurls behind her forehead. He sits cross-legged on the bed in his boxers, taking long thirsty swallows of tea, spilling blackened mushroom slivers onto the duvet. (more…)
‘Some say he is mad. But there are those who believe in the power of the Sandwriter.’ Silas cast a furtive glance around the bar then stood back and pretended to polish a glass.
‘What about you?’ I asked, ‘Do you believe?’
His laugh was a little forced as he shook his head. ‘Oh, no. I don’t believe any of that stuff.’ (more…)
I am Annie
I am waiting.
I hear the slam of a coach door, footfalls hurrying up the stone steps and the voices of expectation slithering into my house. It breaks the creeping silence of the past night where there was nothing to do but to walk the corridors, climb the staircase. I imagine the buttery Jamaican sun that drips thickly through the trees outside. Tourists have come to hear about the White Witch, shiver deliciously as they walk through my world. They will already be twitchy with stories of me, the terrible plantation owner who lived here over a century ago. If only they knew that I am with them in every room, in the long green velvet dress that was my hallmark. I drift with more freedom than I had when alive, undetected. In my bedroom that has been restored and furnished with fine antiques; there is an old mirror with rusty foxing on the glass like a young girl’s freckles. In stories I live again. (more…)
With over two-hundred entries received, the Wrekin Writers are proud to announce that the winners of the 2013 Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition are as follows:
First place: Breakfast in Bed by Barbara Leahy from Cork, Ireland
Second place: The Sandwriter by John Samson from Rickmansworth, Herts
Third place: I Am Annie by Julia Bohanna from Caversham, Berks (more…)
Mr Jakende’s Book
The boy strode forward, kicking at loose pebbles as he walked along the dusty track. The pebbles fell among scrub bushes that lined the side of the track, disturbing arid soil which had not seen rain for two months. Three scrawny chickens pecked at loose corn. The boy knew he was close to the village now. (more…)
The morning’s work had gone slowly. Interrupted by questions from students and conversations with colleagues, he had not been able to fully use the time he had set. Though still, by midday the paper was nearing completion. On the Essence of Moral Decisions, the follow up work to two exalted books, it would be his last push towards that open Professor of Ethics seat at the university where he had trained, taught and grown in notoriety. This paper would secure that seat, he was sure. And, with time, the life of public speeches, guest talks and book signings which he had aimed for since he was a student and seen others realise for years. The essay was unashamedly bold, it needed to be. What is a moral decision? Was the question it posed and on the way towards answering it would weave through history, literature and art in order to delve once more into the root of rectitude, as he had with his books. This was to be an auxiliary work, supporting those arguments he had carefully laid down at length. Man is a moral being; in man’s essence lies the moral instinct. With this, perhaps sententious, line he would finish. The piece needed to be bold. (more…)
Death and Shadows
Death is not something a six year old boy dwells upon and I first saw its shadow when my dog died. He used to limp about and was blind in one eye and bumped into things, and was old – much older than I was, but he was loyal and was always with me and he slept in my room. Then he died and suddenly I had this nagging thought that I was going to die too, and be carried off with my dog to some heavenly place above the clouds in the sky. I was scared. (more…)
First place: Mr Jakende’s Book by Tony Oswick of Clacton-on-Sea
A Time When Trees Walked The Earth by Susan White
It was Saturday and Usman sat on his trusty wooden bench outside his house in the old city of Kano. You could tell the days of the week by the old man’s habits.
Usman sighed. He looked up and down the alley that he knew so well. The walls, red sand and sinking sunlight gave the whole vista an aura of that of an old sepia photograph resplendent of the colonial days. Usman sighed a sigh that was even deeper. He looked down with disgust at his old and tired body, his sinewy hands and his drooping bosom and remembered a time when this body was strong and resilient. He was famous in the area for being able to carry a full oil drum on his back. He remembered fondly with a chuckle when he would catch the women sneaking looks at his muscles out of the corners of their eyes. Now, it took every ounce of strength to lift a cup of water to his lips. (more…)
Darren’s Day Out by Janet Gogerty
Darren’s face was pressed against the bus window as they came to a halt. Today they were visiting a new place and he hoped it would be more exciting than their usual visits to ‘the shops’. Darren trailed behind his mother and the double buggy down a busy street. He could hear her talking to him but he wasn’t listening, the familiar words washed over him. ‘Stay close blah blah don`t upset the blah blah or I’ll blah blah.’ His heart sank as they entered a shop and were soon engulfed by racks of clothes taller than Darren. (more…)
Bits and Pieces by John Enos
I certainly wouldn’t lose on the deal, but I wouldn’t make a fortune either.
I’d spotted the locked Gladstone bag in a dark corner of the Brighton Junque Emporium, as grubby and dust covered as the proprietor. My rummage had yielded nothing of obvious value to me but, at least, this looked intriguing. I felt I needed to buy something to justify the hour I’d spent hunting through the predictable but mainly unsaleable stock, and anyway, I’ve always been a bit of a gambler. The prospect that the bag might yield something of interest, if not value, persuaded me to ask its price. (more…)
New Life by John Samson
He waited. The morning heat floated lazily down the dusty road while a cicada clicked out the daily news in competition to the brittle-thin voice on the battery operated radio. Neither bore good news. The beetle spoke of a long, hot day ahead while the voice that floated through the airwaves from a distance capital spoke of economic crises.
Old Man Maloi brushed away an irksome fly with a lazy hand and shuffled into the stifling warmth of his shop. The crises of which the voice spoke had slowed his step and hunched his shoulders but he refused to give in. He would see this through, like he had the last time. He just needed to wait. (more…)
Mum’s Best Friend, by David Wass
Mum changed when Grandad went to heaven. She used to be my best friend, but not any more. The vacuum cleaner’s taken over.
‘Josie! I said your school shoes should be in your room.’
It’s switched on now. In the hall. Mum’s shouting over it.
‘Not by the door where anyone could trip over them.’
She shouts at me all the time. Even when I’m at the dining table with my laptop supposedly doing my homework. Sometimes I wish she’d get a babysitter and go out with her mates again. (more…)
Bewitched by Danielle McLaughlin
Mrs Wilson and the library carpet matched perfectly in one of those rare triumphs of interior design. I could never look on that particular shade of olive green without her pale, wrinkled face bouncing out at me. It was no good reason, my mother said, for refusing to wear the almost pristine duffle coat that Sarah, my gangly younger sister, had just outgrown. But I stood my ground, stubborn as a mule. The duffle coat also itched about my neck and made me look even pudgier than usual. (more…)
Third Place Danielle McLaughlin, “Bewitched“
When Clocks Stop
by Rebecca Holmes
You ask me about my obsession. Well, I’ll tell you.
It goes back to my childhood, to my grandfather’s house where everything was old, including the air. The furniture was big and dark, and gave me nightmares. Carpets were faded where they’d baked in the sun through the windows. Black and white photographs of stern, stiff relatives long gone glared down from the mantelpiece. (more…)
Second Prize was awarded to Mike Watson, for his story “Call Me Margaret.”
Unfortunately, we do not have his story on our website.
THE LONG ROAD HOME
by Diane Simkin
A cold sun shone on the day the old man made his decision. He left the hostel straight after breakfast and set out to walk the twenty odd miles to the place that used to be his home. It had been snowing on and off for over a week, and the once green fields were transformed into a white stillness. He carried nothing and fastened the collar of his mackintosh with a safety pin. But the inquisitive wind still poked frosty fingers through the gaps. (more…)