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Read the Entries!

We've collected together all the entries to Enzo's Lil' Old Short Story Competition for you to peruse...





ENTRY ONE

Bert's Bash by Claire Mills


‘It’s drink driving laws what done it. We used to know how to have a laugh back in the day. Your lot are so blinkin’ serious.’


Tia squinted her eyes at her uncle. Her Great uncle in fact, if we’re going to get technical about it. She would visit Bert at his flat about once a month, and each month he would age a year, as if she was binge watching all the series of his life. She was hoping to catch a glimmer of the younger Bert through her eyelashes, the same Bert as in the photo she found in a box in her mum’s loft, but the sun was firing through the window with its cruel exposure of tissue-thin skin and downturned mouth. It was hard to think of them as the same person any more.


Bert was always the social butterfly of the family. His big house in Bedfordshire was known as the party house. He would make any excuse to open his doors to extended family and his entire neighbourhood, then regale them all with his wild stories and jaunty songs. Tia had many happy childhood memories of that place and her cousins still love to share stories of everything that happened there. Bert was a born entertainer. Nobody bothered to question Bert’s fantasy stories of how his billiard table had been destined for the Titanic voyage or how his chandelier once belonged to the third Earl of Southampton. Maybe they were just grateful for the escapism. What Bert’s house may have lacked in class it more than made up for in warmth and good cheer, but he had to sell his home when Naimh left him back in 1993. We don’t talk about Niamh.  


Bert’s only company now was the radio. Each day he would perch himself on his piano stool by the window and watch the world go by, joining in with any words he knew as his heroes crooned away beside him. Bert’s voice was still surprisingly strong but he couldn’t quite catch his breath like he used to, especially on the long notes. He would cover that up though, by stopping to make random observations about the postman or the “old bird” who lived opposite who had two boyfriends on the go. ‘She had both over in one day last week, the saucy minx.’ He had said with an appreciative chuckle. Bert would often comment how the number of faces he recognised on the pavement below were dwindling each day, owing solely to the grim reaper, not dementia of course.


‘You can’t be suggesting they scrap drink driving laws Bert. Think of the lives that have been saved.’

‘Lives? You call this living? You lot are zombies.’ He remained staring out of the window. His eyes clearly fixed on a vision in his mind. ‘You’re not allowed to feel anything any more. No danger, no ups and downs. It’s all nerrrrr….’. Bert drew a line slowly in the air with a horizontal palm. ‘You’re all flat lining! No wonder she’s resorted to two fellas. Desperate for some jeopardy!’ 

‘I don’t agree, I think I live quite a charmed life Bert.’

‘Yeah? When was the last time you went to a party that finished at two a.m?’


Tia couldn’t remember the last time she went to a party, let alone one that straddled midnight. Tia had never considered herself to be a particularly cool person but being called out by her ninety-two year old uncle for being a square was particularly cutting. ‘I’m a bit old for getting drunk at parties Bert.’

Bert made a disgusted face at the glass.


Tia glanced at the photo once again. The average age must have been at least sixty and it didn’t seem to stop them from wearing wacky hats and belting out their favourite tunes from days gone by. Why didn’t they feel tired? Didn’t they need to be up early the next day? 


Tia pushed the photograph towards Bert across the white melamine table for him to have another look.

He picks it up and lifts it closer to his eyes, taking in all the faces that he still loved dearly. One such face belonged to Tia’s grandmother, Mammie. She was Bert’s biggest sister and his biggest fan. ‘I could always count on your Nan to join in with the singing, God rest her soul. She knew how to have a laugh. Did you know she could still do the splits in her seventies?’


Tia did know this. She used to be proud of that fact, but now she just felt shame that she had never been able to do the splits herself. But even if she did know, would she ever have the gumption to slip down to the floor and demonstrate it to family and strangers alike? She doubted it.


‘So do you know what this particular celebration was for then? Tia asked as she took the photo from Bert. ‘It looks like a proper knees up.’ 

‘Yeah. It was Auntie Irene’s funeral.’




ENTRY TWO

Chuck by Dee's Book Blog


Oh those were the days. The sound of that good old folk music filling the room, lots of people, plenty of drinks flowing. The regulars all loved Chuck’s music, every week they gathered in the music hall to have a bit of a sing and a dance, he just had a way with that Dobro Guitar that no one else did. And Chuck, only his elderly mother still called him Charles, loved that they loved his music. He liked making people happy, seeing them dancing. Tonight was no different, they all gathered and sang, moving their feet to the rhythm of the blues.

 

A photographer watched on, and captured their faces in one click. The photograph was printed and framed, and still stands in the Town Hall music room it was taken in. All the men and women, mouths open in song, and Chuck there in the middle on his stool, playing his guitar. Except Chuck wasn’t there that day, Chuck died a week before, and that day had been his funeral.




ENTRY THREE

Nancy's Right Arm by Andrew Dell


Nancy’s heart sank as Enid approached.

“Here you are! Sitting all on your ownsome. Where’s Connie? I thought she was coming with you?”

Enid always speaks so fast. One word borrows another. It took Nancy a moment to unravel what had just been said.

“Well, her Cavalier’s had another litter and it was a week early, so…”

Enid cut her off: “And Josie?”

“Oh, they’re not mobile at the moment. Took a chalet break in Ilfracombe last week and Reg backed the Anglia into an ornamental rock.”

“Isn’t he marvellous? Wild Bill What’s-His-Name. Just marvellous. The way his fingers work those strings. I felt like I was at a Tennessee hoedown, I really did. Oh, look – the Lady Mayoress made it after all.”

 

As she dashed away to welcome the oncoming dignitary Nancy was left to wonder how many hoedowns this Bristolian Postmistress, Rotary Club of Clifton Events Committee Chair 1968 and notorious busybody had previously attended, either in the American States below the Mason-Dixon Line or even the southwestern counties of England.

 

“Raffle tickets!”

The fervid moon-face of Co-Chair Joyce Wilson beamed down at her, protruding eyes intensely magnified behind round spectacles and a garishly striped cocktail dress straining around a rotund frame. It was like being accosted by a charitable beach ball. Nancy nodded and employed her deft, left-handed handbag, purse and coin retrieval procedure, perfected over so many years.

“Could be your lucky night, Nance. There’s a lovely big ham.”

She smiled and single-handedly folded the pink tickets as Joyce bounced away.

 

Lucky. The word that had haunted Nancy her entire life. So lucky to have been treated at one of the country’s best facilities. Lucky that the paralysis affected only the upper right arm. And just a small lift required for the shoe on that right leg. So lucky to have married one of the few boys who came back – and such a handsome one.

 

A shadow fell over her. Nancy looked up to see the enormous frame of Gerald Simpson, six-foot-six with his Widow Detector dialled up to eleven.

“Nancy. My condolences. Must be like losing your right arm after all those years.”

“Thank you, Gerry.”

She watched it flash across his eyes, the tiniest grimace of realisation that he had said something incredibly insensitive. It didn’t matter. He could never comprehend all the words that Nancy had weathered over the years.

 

“Sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral – the daughter in law’s twenty-first up in Cleveleys.”

“It’s fine. I understand.”

“Marian says you’re getting along quite well, all things considered.”

That bloody Marian Blackmore! It’s like living next door to the British Information Services. Keep calm and try not to murder your neighbour with the blunt end of a coal scuttle.

“Problem with your front door though?”

 

There were stories that Gerald Simpson had enlisted in Mosley’s Black Shirts in his youth. His wild stare and imposing height were much-admired in the BUF but he was hit with a brick at the Battle of Cable Street and went back to watchmaking.

 

“Security’s of the utmost importance in this day and age. Especially with who you’ve got on the other side.”

Mr and Mrs Kapur and their three children live at number 33. Mrs Kapur, in her twinkling saris had called round daily after Laurie’s death, delivering pots of delicious, fragrant food and quiet, distracting chat. Laurie’s good friend, the softly spoken Mr Kapur had joined her on one occasion, weeping openly with sincere grief. Nancy decided that the stories of Gerald’s brush with fascism were probably true.

 

He leaned in closer. Hefty baubles of foamy saliva had formed at the corners of his mouth, attaching themselves to his handlebar moustache like the freshly laid eggs of some ghastly insect. Audible wafts of pale ale and Golden Virginia reached her. She retrieved a handkerchief from her sleeve and feigned a dab of her nose.

 

“It’s nothing. The lock’s jammed a few times, that’s all.”

“Well, we can’t have a damsel in distress on Winterbourne Avenue now, can we? Struggling with an unruly mortice. I shall pop round and take a look.”

He leaned over even further, like a diseased elm about to topple.

“I’m sure I’ll have the right tool for the job.”

 

“Gerry! Nancy! Come on – we’re having a photo.”

Enid was buzzing about, tapping shoulders and brazenly tugging at cardigans, ushering everyone to the end of the function room. Her face was bright with purpose and authority.

“A stool in the middle for Wild Bill. Joyce, grab that barstool. Joyce!”

 

 The Rotarians had assembled by the time Nancy arrived.

“You can take the picture, slow coach,” ventured Joyce, readjusting her ridiculous hat and offering over the camera.

“Oh, no!” shrieked Enid. “We don’t want it wonky. You can’t control a Brownie with one hand.”

 

“No, it’s fine,” said Nancy. “I can manage.”




ENTRY FOUR

Ms Eunice Regrets by Ericka Waller


Why she even agreed to come in the first place, Eunice has no idea. She’d told herself, the cat, the bloody dustpan and brush that she’d not agree, would not cave, and now here she is wearing a giant cardboard hat with a tassel on it and her second-best shoes (her first best shoes being too tight on the bunions).


Ethel refuses to meet her eye. “Wouldn’t catch me there for all the tea in China,” she’d told Eunice by the bins just yesterday morning. Obviously, Norma got to her. “I can see you, Ethel,” Eunice wants to say. “Hard to blend in wearing a hat shaped like a like a wastebin.”


Eunice is pretty sure that Ethel is wearing her newest dress. The one she got for her grandson’s christening and didn’t they all have to hear about it? Her and Norma took the bus up to town, as if that is hard to do. Made a day of it, apparently. Lunch in Flickwicks. Well, if people want to pay silly money for a small triangle sandwich, that’s up to them. Eunice likes to see the hands that make her lunch, thanks all the same and she said as much.“You’ve no idea what they do in those kitchens, Ethel,” she’d said. ‘”No idea at all. You could be eating anything.”“Pretty sure it was cucumber and cheese,” Norma had said. Always has to have the last word does Norma.


Ethel’s dress is nice enough, if you like the sort of thing. Sags a bit on the bust and the black handbag doesn’t match. Why Ethel is always clutching it, Eunice has no idea. She only carries her bus pass, spare nylon pop socks and fluffy old peppermints that she’s always trying to offer Frank, as though he’s some sort of pony. Well Eunice won’t be taking her coat off. No need to show what God gave you to all and sundry.

 

Norma has her fanciest heels on. Eunice feels sorry for her shoehorn. It must be exhausted wedging those wide feet into satin. And of course, Norma’s not wearing a hat.

“With my hair?” she’d asked in that stupid breathless voice she puts on for the men, as though she’s some starlet from the Fifties.


Stan had blushed and twiddled his filthy earwax-moulded moustache, the dirty deviant.


Anyone could piddle their pension on weekly trips to the salon, come home looking like you were wearing a shiny bike helmet. It’s not hard. Not that Norma is living off her pension. She’s living off the money that poor husband she drove to the grave left her, literally. They were off to place flowers on his widow’s headstone and Norma crashed into the cemetery gate. A freak accident they said, but Eunice isn’t so sure.


She wishes Malcolm would take his hand off her shoulder. It smells of pickled onions. He’d been told four times that the buffet was for afterwards, but would he listen? Eunice can feel his fingers, inching their way downwards. If he moves one fingernail further, she’ll stamp on his foot, bunions be damned.She’s only holding onto Betty’s shoulder to stop her toppling over or running away. Betty thinks she’s at her fifth birthday party and is excited about the rabbit shaped jelly and ice cream she thinks is coming, if Frank ever stops bloody caterwauling that is. Eunice is about ready to batter him with his bloody fancy guitar.

“You went to America once,” she wants to tell him, “for three days, fifty years ago. You are not Elvis!” Eunice is not going to sing about being all shock up, even if they are trying to raise money for a new community centre.


Eunice doesn’t even like the community centre. Can’t people just stay in their own homes? She doesn’t want to play darts or dominoes or try Norma’s Caribbean curry. Pineapple with chicken? Eunice doesn’t think so. The closest Norma has got to the Caribbean is when she got drunk on Jamaican rum at Christmas and look how that turned out. Poor Cyril still can’t look her in the eye.


Yes, Eunice would rather be a home with her cat and her Horlicks. Last week they hosted a quiz night and the week before that it was a murder mystery. Poor Betty thought it was real of course and was found hiding in the store cupboard wearing armour she’d made from cardboard boxes. And who had to go and calm her down? Good old Eunice that’s who.

 

Malcom’s tapping his fingers now, sliding them down the lapel of her coat. I know what you are up to Malcom, you hound dog.




 

 

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