Results of the 2018-9 BeaconLit’s BeaconFlash 500-word competition

I’m delighted to announce the result of the second BeaconFlash competition but first, a word about year 3. For the 2019/2020 competition, we will have a new judge – therefore the competition may be a little late reopening but we will announce the details as soon as possible.

Okay… now to the results. Drum roll please…

Top 3 (stories in full below)

  1. An Open and Shut Case by Jane Broughton (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)… winning £75 plus up to a free critique 5,000 words.
  2. Ringing the Changes by Rosy Edwards (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)… winning £50 plus up to a free critique 4,000 words.
  3. A Public/Private Enterprise by Brenda Daniels (April 2019 – theme: the committee)…winning £25 plus up to a free critique 3,000 words.

The Next Seven AUTHORS… each winning free entry to the 2020 festival

  • Coming of Age by Barbara Young (August 2018 – theme: the first time)
  • The Shed by Carol Allison (April 2019 – theme: the committee)
  • Veg on the Edge by Glyn Davies (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Saving Kaylee by Julia Grieve (September 2018 – theme: not what it seemed)
  • A Special Christmas Gift by Patricia Randall (December 2018 – an alternative Christmas / not feeling festive)
  • A Picture of Innocence (September 2018 – theme: not what it seemed) / Blood Stained, both by Sue Kittles (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)
  • Upper Fiddling Town Council by Victoria Trelinska (April 2019 – theme: the committee)

Below are the winning top three stories:

FIRST: An Open and Shut Case (March 2019 – theme: main character is an inanimate object)

Frankie gripped the handle and jammed her shoulder against the door in an effort to hold it shut. The handle jerked painfully and then moved up and down, oiled by the sweat seeping from her pores. Frankie‘s breath came in gasps and she braced her foot against the heavy metal filing cabinet in an attempt to increase her resistance.

The door had seen all this coming. It had watched, in the way doors do, the activities of those unfettered beings that crossed its threshold. It had observed Frankie and had liked her. She pushed it open quickly and was always careful to close it again, gently but firmly. The door felt itself fit safely back into its frame after she’d passed through. On one memorable occasion she’d even rested her forehead against its surface and sighed, dropping salty tears that had coursed down the dry veneer. The door’s wood had warmed and it had allowed the moisture to soak deep into its grain.

It had seen the man who observed Frankie. It had witnessed the hunger flash in his eyes before he turned away. It noticed that the man continued to stare at Frankie obliquely, drinking in her reflection in the office windows.

This man had no respect for doors. He shoved them open and didn’t care if their hinges shrieked in protest. He let them slam shut and never stopped when their frames rattled or splintered. The door also knew he had no respect for Frankie. He wouldn’t care if she shrieked or splintered.

This had been a day like any other. The door had been so busy Frankie had wedged it open. “There,” she’d said, “That’ll save you the bother of opening and closing every few minutes.” It had enjoyed the rest and the way its hinges could stretch out for a while.

Time had passed and the office had emptied. Frankie was tidying her desk when the man had appeared. He hadn’t spoken. He’d pulled a large knife from up his sleeve and started walking towards her. Frankie had raised her hands and then something in his expression galvanised her and she’d leapt up. In one quick movement she’d turned and flung herself towards the filing room. She’d kicked the wedge away and, for the first time, slammed the door.

*

The door felt itself slowly starting to move. Frankie was weakening and could no longer hold the handle. She let it go and pushed both hands against the door desperately trying to hold it shut. The man was too powerful and the door knew that Frankie only had seconds left.

There are immutable laws that govern all portals. The door knew exactly what it was sacrificing but it didn’t hesitate. Its hinges sprung from their fixings and it added its strength to Frankie’s. It landed with the weight of a fallen oak. Both door and man shattered. Blood and sap mingled. Ruby and emerald snaked across the horrified wooden floor.

 

SECOND: Ringing the Changes (February 2019 – theme: the love affair)

The door jingle-jangled, another dripping refugee from the rain. The café was already jammed with sodden shoppers. Ladies had mud spatters up the backs of their stockings, trickling brollies overflowed the umbrella stand, shoes squelched. Seeing she was alone, I wondered whether one of my regulars might make room.

“Mr Maltby? Would you mind if this young lady shared your table?”

“Not at all, Mildred,” he said, looking her over. “My pleasure.”

Taking her order, I also promised to top up his teapot.

By the time I was back with her vanilla slice, they’d struck up a conversation. She was beautiful; long curly brown hair and a really dainty primrose yellow cardi. Anyway, Mr M left me a tanner tip as usual and I thought no more about it.

*

Over the weeks though, I realised they both happened to come in every Saturday around the same time. Initially at separate tables, just exchanging brief pleasantries, then sitting together. A date, you might say. Then I noticed he wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. Nothing wrong with that, him being widowed so long, but significant, I thought.

Must’ve been July. I’d gone to see Way to the Starsat The Adelphi and as I was leaving, something caught my eye in the back row, through the cigarette smoke: that yellow cardi. Definitely them. They didn’t see me of course. Far too… engrossed.

*

Every Saturday at eleven they’d sit in our corner booth, holding hands. Watching them together would brighten my day: seeing him smile again, hearing them giggle. On wet days they sometimes stayed for lunch. On fine days they’d often buy filled rolls and cakes and head for the park with their picnic. Dorothy, her name was. I’d guessed that, when I saw her hankie embroidered with a “D”. Then I heard him say it – and her calling him ‘Henry’.

*

Their romance was blossoming nicely. Then in November I was surprised to see her on a Thursday, with a skinny chap in his de-mob suit. He was skeletal. They sat in the corner quietly while he had three, mark you, three cakes: doughnut, apple turnover and a scone. She wasn’t herself at all, very subdued. But who wouldn’t be – if you were with someone just back from a Japanese POW camp? And she was wearing something different too – a diamond solitaire ring.

I was thanking her for her tip as I cleared their table, when she interrupted me, gripping my arm.

“Thank you, Mildred. You’ve always been so kind. I’m heading back to London next week – getting married.” She smiled up at me, but it never reached her eyes.

*

I was dreading seeing Mr Maltby again, worrying whether he knew. The following Saturday he turned up, but in the afternoon, and chose a seat facing the wall. His shoulders said it all. Leaving hurriedly, he pressed a shilling into my hand and doffed his hat without a word. I never saw either of them again.

 

THIRD: A Public/Private Enterprise (April 2019 – theme: the committee)

Dear Mr Postmaster,

On each visit to your post office over the last nine months, I have stood 35 minutes in a queue. Since my calls are weekly, my total standing time amounts to 1400 minutes or 23.3 hours.

I suggest you join Greenpoint’s Efficiency Committee (a public/private enterprise) to discuss ways of reducing this wait.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my suggestion.

Your sincerely,

Anthony Grote (Chairman, Efficiency Committee)

*

Dear Mr Grote,

How lovely to hear from you and to know of your ardent support for our post office.

I know many letters have issued from your home in Greenpoint over the years. I affectionately remember delivering letters to Matilda Grote, your mother, when I was just a postman myself. Thirty-five minutes (that very same number) it took me to walk to the climax of the hill on which her house sat, and back again!

I’m glad you are well.

Kind regards,

Ben Whishaw (Postmaster)

*

Dear Postmaster,

Another week, another 35 minutes waiting. I actually brought a chair with me this time to make the wait more bearable. How about your employees donate their seats to members of the public? Then they would know what it’s like to stand for so long.

Please tell me if you agree to joining our committee.

Sincerely,

Anthony Grote

*

Dear Anthony,

Exciting to hear from you again, and so soon after your last letter. The letter is quite the most intimate form of intercourse isn’t it? But then I’m biased, having been coupled with the service for 49 years!

And what a stimulating idea to ask staff to donate their chairs ‒ it shows how impassioned you are. You take after your adorable mother. I can’t count the number of meals she lavished on me over time. How are you managing to fend for yourself without her?

Warm regards,

Ben Whishaw

*

Postmaster,

Forty minutes! That’s how long it took this week! And blow me down if I didn’t hear the sole attendant on duty asking the young woman in front of me (seated on a chair) how she was doing after having to euthanize her dog. I ask you! What has that to do with efficient postal service? No wonder we spend so long in the queue with all this personal chatter going on.

I absolutely insist you join the Efficiency Committee.

A. Grote

*

My dear Anthony,

Isn’t Edward Brown a gem? He’s been the backbone of our post office for ages. I’ll be sure to pass your comments onto him. He’ll be so pleased you noticed his serviceableness.

Regarding Miss Eleanor and the loss of her dog: Teddy was a loving companion to the woman after her fiancé was killed. I can identify on so many levels. It was after your dear mother died that I poured myself into my own little Nellie. Not a substitute for the affection your mother lavished on me but there you are.

With love,

Ben

*

Postmaster,

The Efficiency Committee has been disbanded.

XX

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