The three winning stories can be read here – and your congratulations for their success shared beneath:
1st prize went to Anne Howkins for:
I held Alice’s right hand as she died.
‘Ten out of ten,’ she’d whispered, ‘my work is done.’
Her left hand uncurled, liberating an intricately folded paper butterfly.
For weeks, Alice had painstakingly taught my stuttering fingers to fold and shape, while hers trembled with pain as the illness took hold.
A year later, I sit on our favourite park bench, legs hollow from the climb, a box at my feet.
It’s the bench our mums sat on complaining of absent feckless men, morning sickness, piles, teething and sleepless nights, and the joys of first words, first steps, first days at school.
The bench Alice and I sat on, sharing the spoils of daring teenage light-fingeredness, relishing the guilty thrill; the bench we sat on while the lads gawped and whistled; the bench where we had our first kiss.
It’s the proper April day I’d hoped for – sun, a fractious breeze, fluffy clouds lolloping across a crystal sky – an Alice blue and yellow kind of day.
I open the box, setting the folded paper rustling, as if the birds and butterflies need to be off to explore the world, ready to take Alice with them.
When the trees shake their leafy heads, I toss handfuls of bright colour upwards into the gusty wind, watching them flutter and soar, trailing specks of grey sand in their wake.
Below me a little girl jumps to catch a yellow butterfly.
2nd prize was awarded to Lorna Flanagan for her submission:
Dereliction of Duty
I found myself in the sprawling old residence of a family of semi-aristocrats. The owner struck me as rough and ready, but civil enough.
‘My aunt,’ he explained, ‘is disabled. She is looked after devotedly by a well-respected employee, who guards her job jealously.’
I felt I’d been given a warning. He showed me into the garden and then hurried indoors to answer a phone call. I saw the lady alone in her wheelchair on the lawn. It started to rain quite heavily. I knew I should wheel her into the house, but hesitated about encroaching on the duties of the devoted and well-respected employee, who might not take kindly to my interference. But this person was nowhere in sight. Then she came running out into the rain, shouting at me for not doing what I would otherwise have done without a second thought.
Nick Hamlyn took 3rd prize for his piece:
It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll
Andy, our singer, sat on his own in the corner of the store cupboard that served as a dressing room. The barman had given him a nearly-full bottle of tequila – the best present that someone who had already downed several pints of lager at home could imagine getting. It was a prestige gig, with a scout from a big record company coming to check us out. Andy was nervous – we all were – but only Andy was drinking. Keith, our drummer and leader – well, he had at least managed to get us the gig – checked his watch.
“I reckon it’s time we went on,” he said, “you ready, Andy?”
Our singer put his empty bottle on the floor and staggered to his feet.
“Course I am,” he said, rather more loudly than he needed to, in such a small room.
On stage, I silently checked my guitar with the tuner, watching while Andy hung on to his microphone stand as though a gale-force storm was starting to rage.
“Hi!” he bellowed into the mic, “we’re the best band you’ve ever heard in your life!” He let go of the stand, raised his hand to count us in – and tumbled off the stage.
I hope everyone has sharpened pencils in time for the next contest in February – plenty of time to practice and fancy your chances…