Look folks – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right??
3000 words. We can do that 💃🏼
Look folks – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right??
3000 words. We can do that 💃🏼
Travel posts from bloggers provide us with unique experiences of different parts of the world from individual points of view, and this I love. However, I found a site today while perusing short story competitions – about which I would like to start thinking – and must share the link with you.
By Friday I want to have sent my two short stories out to a handful of competitions to truly test the thickness of my skin when I will quite probably not receive a word back from any of the organisers! (Good, that’s a goal and far more effective than a vague ‘thinking about it’ statement)
This link will take you to Wilbur Smith’s Adventure Writing Prize. It is an annual competition with two categories:
A grant of £7,500 awaits the winner of the second category aimed at travel for that author’s subsequent research for their next book! They will also win a mentoring advisor from Wilbur Smith’s agents at Tabor Jones & Associates.
Wilbur Smith has written enough books to fill the walls of my reading room upstairs, so he knows what he is talking about.
I have an inkling that this competition is way out of my league, but may well be interesting to you. Right now in my writing journey, entering a competition of that magnitude would be like jumping out of a Hercules without breathing equipment. However, reading about it I found exciting and inspiring so I went on to research many more relevant competitions for someone at my stage.
Blog followers represent a true representation of readers across the globe and all genres. I feel I have had enough positive feedback to send some pieces for critical debate. I know ‘judges’ are human and will have their own favourite genres, opinions, pre-conceived ideas about how short stories should unfold, but I also trust that these judges are chosen for their fairness and ability to keep open minds. Why not take a look at a few yourself?
What are you waiting for? I’ll see you there!
Riya took in a huge breath and briefly closed her eyes as she let the air back out steadily until her lungs were empty. She turned her face to focus on John’s but said nothing.
“How can I help you?” John’s voice sounded small and he felt even smaller in a world he did not understand. His own life came galloping through his mind, behind his eyes as he sat back on his haunches watching Riya regain her composure. His work, his flat, his car, parents, loans, dreams …. and his fiance, whom he knew now for sure that he did not love enough for her to give his life to him. Overcome by a raging guilt, he dropped his own eyes and looked at the pattern on the intricate carpet. He must grow a set, be honest and tell Hebe that she needed to be let free. She deserved to know now and if he did nothing, he would regret it forever. Yes it would hurt, but the right way was never the easy way, his mother had often repeated.
“There is nothing you can do John. You are very kind to notice and care but I will be fine.” She forced a smile before moving to stand. He helped her up and they went through to join Harsha who had poured tea on a tray. “Drink this dear. You will feel refreshed. I can find you another box, there really is nothing to be upset about. Was it a gift from Ramesh?”
“Yes mother.” she took the cup and perched on the edge of a chair, the cup rattling in the saucer.
“He will understand my dear. Things become damaged in an earthquake. It can be replaced and you are safe. This is all I care about. Thank you John for joining us; I can drive you back as soon as you like, you must be tired.” Harsha sipped her tea but did not look at him.
The air in the room became stifling. John recognised and respected the message floating among the motes now just visible as sunlight broke simultaneously through the clouds and window. “Most kind. I probably should get back thank you. Any message for Adi?” he looked at Riya who shook her head.
“Thank you no. Let mother take you back to the hotel.”
* * * * * *
The door to his room was ajar, the lock forced. John eased it open enough to lean in and the havoc that met his eyes took his breath away. Clothes strewn across the floor, the bedside table on it’s side and the contents of each drawer tipped out. He went into the en-suite and turned the tap off which had filled the plugged-sink, water over flowing onto the floor. He looked up at his reflection in the mirror, an expression of disbelief stared back at him
“Shit, the letters!” he swore to himself and rushed back through to search the desk and his worst fear engulfed him like a damp black cloak of hell. Adrenalin teased his fingertips as it coursed along his limbs and he groaned as hindsight also came in to haunt him. “Why didn’t I keep them on me?” moving around the room, he checked for his passport under the mattress as he never trusted hotel safes and was relieved to find it still there.
The receptionist knocked and looked in. “Oh Mr John, what happened? Are you alright, I was passing and heard you moaning.”
“I’ve been robbed – someone has been in and taken important papers. Did you see anyone this afternoon?”
“No, I’m sorry.” she looked around and pointed to a small mirror on the wall behind the door. “What’s this?” she walked closer to it.
L E A V E …. a message written in lipstick.
(To read part 1, press here)
Ramesh threw the box to the floor, and the lid became detached, pieces of pearl bouncing into the grey dust, disappearing from sight.
“Do you know about this?” Ramesh held John’s gaze and was a different man from the bumbling engineer of previous meetings. “I think you do. Keep out of what does not concern you. I warn you!”
“There were important letters in this box. If you know something, or know where they are, you should tell me.” The shorter man took a step closer.
“What letters?” John’s eyes never faltered although his heart beat hard inside his ribs.
Ramesh grunted and pushed past him, out into the pouring rain and off across the carpark to a truck parked away from the other vehicles. John picked up the box and lid.
“I’m sorry; the box is broken but here it is.” John handed it through the open window of the car to Riya’s mother, as Ramesh’s tyres crunched across loose stones and dust flew out behind the truck as he accelerated away.
“She told me to fetch it.” The mother said quietly. “I’ve never seen it before. I have to go back to her now, excuse me. There is something wrong but I don’t know quite what; she won’t talk.”
“I think I can help. I know where the contents of the box are. May I return with you and speak with Riya?” John wasn’t sure what he was asking but instinct had taken over. “I’m sorry; what is your name?”
“Harsha.” She stared through the windscreen and looked sad. “I suppose there would be no harm.”
The quick journey took them to the other side of the hills; to a gated home. Behind the front door, Riya stood waiting and came out to take the box from her mother’s hands.
Within seconds, her wailing cry cut through the air as she lent against the wall, sliding slowly to the floor.
“Darling, what is it?” Harsha knelt beside her daughter and stroked hair from her wet cheeks.
“No mother – please don’t.”
The mother stood, her face distraught as she glanced at John, who touched her arm and filled the space where Harsha had knelt. He waited for them to be left alone in the hall, and sure enough Harsha moved silently into the kitchen.
“I have the letters Riya.” John whispered, “They are safe. Who wrote them?” he picked up her hand and held it in his.
“Ramesh, but my parents cannot find out. I have to accept him. The wedding is arranged.”
“Mother wants to bring it forward to next month.” her eyes showed pain and anxiety and her practiced words, aimed now at him, did not succeed in their efforts to assure that all was well.
“Surely you can say no?” John was astounded; he’d heard of arranged marriages but had assumed they were from a past life which no longer existed.
“It is all arranged. Hundreds of people. Years in the planning.”
“But do you love him?”
“This is of no consequence. My path is mapped out for me.”
“But in the hospital, you called out that you were scared. Has he hurt you?”
“Did I? That must have been the medication.” Riya looked down at her lap and the broken box, her fingers trailed the mother of pearl pattern, the missing pieces dark holes of fear.
Read part 1 here
A wall of hot air waited stealthily on the other side of the sliding doors. John knew the arrivals hall at Chhatrapati Shivaji was the last air conditioning he would enjoy until he reached his hotel, where cool air was not guaranteed in any event. Generators were temperamental in Kankavli. He stood, allowing the cool to seep around his neck one more time before grasping the case handle and braving the oven.
The cab driver was preoccupied – he drove erratically and spoke into his phone speaker quickly, his voice full of anxiety and irritation. The previous week’s earthquake had brought devastation to the area fifty miles south of the airport. John slid sideways across the back seat as the padmini criss-crossed the unmade roads, avoiding oncoming traffic but not potholes.
Usual hotel, usual room. A smile from the usual receptionist as she handed John his key. Four hours later he would attend his first meeting with Aditya, the CEO of a newly formed water company and John was prepared for resistance. His predecessor had warned him of the proclivity which had been shown at the suggestion of a new route for the existing pipework.
Mumbai was slowly improving their water systems but John was here to implement changes which would benefit huge parts of the city, and following Mother Nature’s recent reminder, he knew the work was needed. This was his fourth visit in as many months and this time he had a plan ….
(Daily word prompt flash fiction piece … today’s word Proclivity)
TO READ PART 2 of this story, click here
PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg
The hat hung forgotten on the bench.
Earlier, coconut smelling silky dark hair had slid against its fibres as Hebe pulled it from her head while she sat under a patio heater. She squashed the hat under her thigh so as not to lose it before reaching for her drink, which Jake brought back to the table.
They giggled and let their finger tips meet across the cold surface. Engrossed with each other, they did not notice time passing. Eventually they stood and Hebe slipped her hand in Jake’s to walk to the tube entrance, not wanting to say goodbye.
Fun with words, thanks to Rochelle Wisoff’s prompt, above … (100 words exactly!)
The smell of lavender and lily of the valley overwhelmed my nostrils again; immediately the distance between my previous exploration and today’s dissolved and it was like I had never been away. My 8 year old eyes scanned the tiny boxes, different sizes and colours, all protecting treasures from my Grandmother’s life in jewellery.
Before lunch, Granny had maneouvered the huge drawer from the bottom of the tallboy, ensuring I would not hurt myself trying to do the same. Her kind words encouraging me to enjoy the moment. She always knew I enjoyed her jewellery collection and allowed me the best thing ever – time. I loved lifting dangly cut-glass earrings from their dent in old cotton wool, which had stayed snuggled inside the sturdy cardboard box from the 1930s (purchased for Granny’s own mother and passed down to her). I would hold them up to my tiny ears in the mirror, twirling around imagining myself in silk figure-hugging dresses with fir stoles. Of course, I had no figure then, but one day I would and Granny had always told me this drawer of treasures would be mine.
There were emerald and rubies set in rings, and a choker made from three strands of pearls. Many marcasite brooches, the teeny tiny stones set on intricate patterns and my favourite, a miniature deer which sparkled when you turned it against the light. Grandad had bought her jewellery every year of their long marriage and I found unfolding the tiny receipts, with their old fashioned hand writing, as intriguing as opening the boxes to which they belonged.
Granny was the only grandparent, in fact only adult, who truly understood me and spent time with me. She would help me make dens in the tiny back yard of her victorian terrace, from which the shared back passage led out to the road. On colder days, in the shed, I would surround myself with my soft toys, propping them up against the tins of long-ago forgotten paint to prepare for the treats Granny would inevitably bring out for us all to enjoy. Peter, my panda with his rubbed-worn belly, his girlfriend Becky, a rabbit whose scale was totally wrong for Peter, a fact which my young eyes chose to ignore because they were happy and never left each other’s sides, her long ears always falling forward over her face and his.
I would look out through the shed door to the narrow flower bed at the end of which were two holly trees, one very large; the height of a man and a second, tiny – barely there. Granny had told me a long time ago that she had planted each tree as we were born, myself and then my sister, but Tabitha’s tree had sadly never grown.
* * * * * * * *
Today mother lays the boxes out on her dining room table. She dismisses the collection with a sweep of her arm, indicating nothing of value but if I would like to take anything, now was the time.
My 19 year old eyes scan the items and feel the presence of her hovering. Unnerved, I pick out a handful of the dulled boxes which evoke a memory; I had not been prepared for this after the long drive back down the country. The funeral had been only a week before and mother had been busy clearing the house and shed ever since. I clutch my small handful of boxes close to me and take them upstairs, lay them next to my as yet unopened case. A week ago, while stood in the graveyard, looking down onto Granny’s coffin, some soil and the flowers covering the plaque, rembering her kind words, tears had formed as they do now. Mother had pulled me away from the grave that day before I was ready too.
I was not to know on this day, that twenty years into the future, I would realise all of those boxes should have come to me. Granny had promised me they would always be mine. I could have shared them with my sister’s memory, the baby who did not survive.