January Writing Competition winners
And the winner is…
Last month we asked you to write a scene which consists of a real or imagined altercation between two people in a public space. Congratulations to:
Colleen Saunders for the story entitled Cup Final, which vividly portrays a time and place through her great eye for detail and humour.
A close runner-up is Jennifer de Klerk with Altercation. We found ourselves empathising strongly with the characters in this scene, which drew us in through its powerfully portrayed emotion.
Second runner-up is Liz Kirsten with All Our Children. We enjoyed the great details and the twist at the end.
Commendations go to Inja Enkulu’s entry, for its clever topicality, Helen Webster’s entry which held us with an all-too recognisable scenario, and to Derryn Fuller and John West, who made us laugh.
Cup Final by Colleen Saunders
The absence of goals did not bode well with the restless crowd. Several times people surged forward, to be pushed back by security. Mangoes and water bombs sailed onto the field, narrowly missing the players. Then, with one minute to fulltime, a tackle right in Dynamos’ penalty area sent Zeb Majola crashing to the ground.
“Penalty!” he screeched. This f#@* monkey tripped me!”
“He’s lying, Ref, I never touched him! You can’t even %&^# walk! Go tell your mother she’s a &^#$*& monkey!”
The roaring crowd rose to its feet.
“He’s swearing my mother – Penalty, Ref!”
Both teams joined the fray as the referee consulted the linesmen then returned at a trot, holding up his hand, blowing the whistle. Penalty!
It took a dozen policemen to restore order, and Flash Vilakazi took the stage. He pulled up his socks, flexed his muscles and did several signs of the cross. The stadium was silent. The air held its breath. At that moment a commotion arose up on the left. As the referee raised his hand, a large herd of goats poured down the embankment and onto the field, heading straight for Vilakazi. The crowd screamed, the goalkeeper gestured frantically, but the striker’s entire being was focused on one ball and one goalpost. This was his moment. He took a deep breath, did a one-two-one with his feet, and was swept into the air by a bleating river of hair and horns and cloven hooves.
Then the whole world erupted.
Altercation by Jennifer de Klerk
The security guard kept coming forward and refused to listen. “No dogs allowed,” he repeated.
I told him the dog was a service dog, like a guide dog, allowed by law because my husband needed him for his post traumatic stress disorder.
He ignored me. “No dogs allowed.” He kept coming.
“Step back,” I ordered, knowing my husband couldn’t bear strangers close to him. He stepped forward.
My husband backed into a corner, then, trapped, started screaming. “Get away, get away. Fuck you, get away!” He had that note of panic in his voice that I knew. He had disassociated, plunged back into his memories. He didn’t know where he was.
“That does it!” the security guard snarled and called for backup. They came, six burly men, even bigger in their body armour, guns at the ready.
“Get back,” I shouted. They stood, arms folded. “Move away,” I screamed.
Behind me, my husband had sunk to the floor, sobbing, arms around the dog in his well-marked service dog harness.
“Dad, Dad, come back,” my daughter knelt before him, trying to calm him. The dog licked his face.
I glared at the SWAT team and they glared at me; six armed men against two women, a panic-stricken man and his dog. A crowd was gathering.
In the end we won. The mall management apologised publicly. But we lost. We can never go there again.
Yet another traumatic experience to add to the bitter load of memories.
All Our Children by Liz Kirsten
The woman at the next table smiled at her phone, stroking it gently with her forefinger. Blunt-cut white hair, red lips, black shirt – she made you look twice, and the girl walking past did just that. She stopped and stared. Eyes blazing she stomped over and thumped her fist on the table, rattling the coffee cup and condiments.
“I’ve been phoning for days and you haven’t answered!” Her high, shrill voice was at odds with her large frame and she towered over the table.
The woman clasped her phone to her chest, eyes wide with surprise. She turned her head away.
“You’re ignoring me. I hate it when you ignore me!” the girl shrieked.
The woman kept her face averted, displaying the tendons in her neck and the sharp edge of her clenched jaw.
“Maarm!” the girl wailed. “Please…” She sank to her knees on the pavement. “I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it…you must forgive me!” She began to cry loudly.
The woman turned, hesitated, and then touched the girl’s shoulder. “Of course I forgive you. I do.”
The girl laid a wet cheek on her mother’s knee. As the woman whispered to her and stroked her hair she became calm. After a while she stood up, dusted off her knees and limped away.
I pointed to the scarf at the woman’s feet. “Your daughter’s…”
The woman looked dazed. “She’s not my daughter,” she said. “I’ve not seen her before in my life.”
Before the first blow even landed, the words paved the way.
“You will let me on this flight.” The woman’s suit sleeve strained as she pointed her finger at the handling agent at the check-in counter.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry but you are carrying a passport that is now on the United States’ no-fly list.” The agent spoke as though reading from a script he’d memorised the day before.
I was next in the queue. The flight to New York was in ninety minutes. I groaned.
It was then that a man stepped forward. He’d been behind me in the queue.
“Ma’am, you heard what he said. You are no longer eligible to enter my country.”
The woman drew herself to her full height. Despite being a good twenty centimetres shorter than the man, she appeared to be looking down her nose at him.
“My name is Zohra Ahmadi. I don’t believe we have been introduced. I am a scientist. I study the civilisation of ancient Persia. We had empires far greater than yours will ever be – 2,500 years ago. In fact—“
His arm shot out to grab her wrist as he interrupted her. “Look lady, I don’t care about the history. You’re from a terrorist country and we don’t want you.”
She smiled and stepped forward as she allowed him to continue holding her wrist.
“Son, we will never be like you. And besides, where I’m from, lots of women study karate.”
She flipped him on his back.
Something rapped sharply on my wing mirror. For a terrified split second, I thought it was a hi- jacking. But the walking stick’s owner was an elderly woman wearing enough gold rings to be the victim of her own hi-jacking.
Through gritted teeth she said ’Move your car….. please. ’ Really, I thought. Surely she knows that to be polite, you should put the please at the beginning of a sentence. Saying nothing, I studied the unpleasantness before me. Her face was deeply grooved and the colour of a walnut. All credit to her, onto that unwelcoming canvas, she’d painted black eyebrows and a vermilion mouth.
Her breathing was becoming agitated, so I replied, ”I ‘m waiting for my mother.” This was true. My mother was upstairs in GlamLox having her weekly rinse and blow dry.
“This is a disabled parking. Wait at the entrance.” She used her stick to point out the shopping centre doors.
I looked at the Madonna dangling from my rear view mirror, and when the necessary compassion and forgiveness were in place, I said, “My mother is in a wheel chair.”
“Well, where is she? I’ve been waiting for you to reverse for more than ten minutes.”
Her car, a silver Lexus, was parking me in. Its yellow hazards blinked. Drivers edged around it, shaking their heads.
“Well? “ The walking stick came down sharply again. This time on my wrist.
Saying nothing, I put the car in gear, and reversed.
“So you thought it was just fine to sleep with her?”
The tentative rapport that I had established with ‘XY chromosomes’ in chapter 9 was suddenly shattered by the raised voice of yet another XY chromosome in a bright pink skirt.
“Suzanne, I’m sorry! You know how she gets – she’s lonely! And I wasn’t thinking! Everything just happened so fast!”
The XY chromosome named Suzanne was so appalled that she threw a book on the floor of the library, resulting in a ‘Mexican wave’ of students suddenly turning in their direction. The librarian frowned and pointed to the ‘Quiet in the Library’ sign.
“You never do think though, do you Mark? What if you’d caught something? Do you think I want to be itching in class?”
Itching…? Where exactly? I thought with a disgusted grimace, frowning at my book.
“Suzanne, I think you’re over-reacting. She’s clean. What could you possibly catch? You’re such a spoiled princess sometimes!”
Oh no he didn’t! Cheating AND attitude! I closed my textbook and rested my head on my hands, staring at them unashamedly. I noticed about ten heads facing their direction, tests and assignments all but forgotten in the drama.
‘I can’t believe you! I think you need to find another flat.’ Pink skirt turned with a pronounced huff and walked towards the exit.
‘But Suzanne, baby – she was de-flead! Hairless Terriors are the cleanest dogs, she just gets scared to sleep alone after the vet!’ He cried out, running after her.
Plagiarism by John West
“You owe me at least half of the prize money.”
I had to work hard to keep the smile on my face as he waved his finger a few centimeters from it.
“For the last time,” I replied, “I didn’t steal your idea.”
I thought his head was going to explode as he tried to rephrase his accusations in more convincing terms. I could imagine pieces of his skull landing in the kids’ milkshakes at the next table, still smoking from the fires of righteous indignation.
“I read my rough draft at one of the writers meetings last year,” he spat. “Everybody heard it. I claim copyright.”
I shook my head. My eyes wandered to the surrounding tables, watching the unwilling spectators concentrate on the meals immediately in front of them. Nobody wanted to acknowledge the raving lunatic in their midst. If they ignored him hard enough, maybe he would magically disappear.
“I wasn’t even at last year’s meetings,” I explained calmly. “So I couldn’t have heard it.”
He looked at me as if I was the raving lunatic. Disbelief fought with disgust on his finely chiseled features, his trembling jaw jutting forward.
“Obviously one of the others was taking notes and passed them on to you.”
“Exactly what was your story about?” I asked.
His eyes blazed. “Two writers, arguing in a restaurant about who had the idea first.”
“Please believe me,” I shrugged. “I’ve never written anything even remotely like that.”
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