GDWC 2013 Short Story Winners
Short Story Competition - Winners
1st - George Hawthorn, N. Ireland – King Jazz
2nd – Bea Davenport, Northumberland – Grocer Jack and the Pirate
3rd – T. D. Griggs, Oxfords – Caesar’s Cat
4th – Margaret Webster, Tyne and Wear – Cookie Crunch
5th – Emma Norry, Bournemouth – Josie
Short Listed and Commended (in no particular order)
Bruce Harris, Devon – Beyond the Autumn
Tim Griggs, Oxford – Slave
Mike Watson, Darlington – A Gift from the Sea
Sherri Turner, Surrey – Open Door
Gerald Vinestock, Lancashire – Still Life
Penny Aldred, W. Yorkshire – Face North, Fly Home
Jo Tiddy, Oxfordshire – The Diplomat’s Wife
General Comments from Kat Lund our 2013 Short Story Judge
This years’ short list demonstrates a breadth of stories and narrative voice from the lyrical to the historical to the intimate first person. These invite us into personal life moments, to explore small moments in time or whole lifetimes and use a range of devises to do from the vivid description in A Gift from the Sea to the repetition and graduality of time Still Life. In Open Door we explore the intimacy of lifetime through the passage of small moments and its painstaking dissection in the form of dual narrative. A different form of duality is explored in Beyond Autumn; the theme of lifetimes been also picked up in Face North Fly Home and in the final two pieces, the Diplomats Life and Slave, where small and large life events meet and force actions and consequences on the larger and smaller scale. In different ways, and through different stories, this years’ short list offers a range of different ways to make us stop and reflect, perhaps about things that have never touched our lives, perhaps about things that one day will, in some way .
1st Place – George Hawthorn for “King Jazz”
Hung-over and over-tired, Jez steps from the breezy sunshine into the billowing cumulus of the marquee — and bang into a jab in the chest from Charlie. "If we weren't gigging in five minutes son, you'd be back busking down Pottinger's Entry." He tosses the young man a black T-shirt emblazoned with a logo depicting a large ship looming through a starry night.
"Stick that on quick."
Jez reads the jazz-age lettering out loud: "The Belfast Titanic Dry Gin Distillers Jazz Combo. Snappy," he declares.
"Listen up funny boy. It's who we are today. Who we're gonna be for he foreseeable future. Unless someone — you — screws up."
Jez is incredulous. "These distillers actually consider it auspicious to launch their brand using the Titanic motif! What's the concept? Drink our booze — watch your ship go down? One berg or two?"
"Did I or did I not say listen up? The guests here today are all top bananas in the hospitality industry. A good performance and we'll be booked solid until you're my age and I'm dead. Capice?"
Charlie watches way too many mobster movies in Jez’s opinion. He even wears a fedora, albeit a straw one. He yearns for the glory days when jazz was king — not just the jester it is now performed by paunchy guys in misconceived T-shirts.
"How come you were on the piss yesterday, anyway?" Charlie asks. "Thought you had Alice?"
Jez's head emerges through the neck hole of the T-shirt. He shakes it. "Karen wouldn't let me see her cos we were late back from the zoo last Sunday. I’d promised the kid we’d see the monkeys but we’d barely reached the fucking prairie dogs before it was time to turn back for the bus. We pushed on anyway."
The monkey house, Alice's favourite, is at the very top of the hill. A long trek for a four-year-old and an even longer one with a four-year-old on your shoulders and a cuddly orang-utan dangling in your face.
"I warned you son." Charlie slips off his shades. "Go to court, get a proper contact order. Otherwise she'll jerk you around like a Muppet until the kid's old enough to drive. I speak from experience."
"Yeah, but you know Karen." Jez rakes back the briar of his hair. "Minute she gets a summons she'll block all contact until the court makes its ruling. Which will take forever. The kid'll forget me."
"Least you saw the monkeys," Charlie says. "She'll remember the monkeys for sure. What's that cartoon she's crazy about? The Disney one where Louis Prima does that wild Dixieland number?"
"The Jungle Book
"Yeah, The Jungle Book. The pair of you must have watched it a hundred times. Which means Alice is a jazz lover and you're a jazzman. How can she forget you?"
"Don't want to bust your bubble Charlie but really, I think, she loves it for the animals rather than the music."
"You think?" Charlie replaces his shades and slaps Jez's sax case. "Come on, the boys are all set up."
He leads the way between linen-clothed tables, each with a centrepiece of summer flowers, gin bottles and ship-shaped ice buckets. Glasses are clinking.
As they cross a parquet dance square to the stage Jim performs a roll on his drums and dings a cymbal. "Shag her then, Jezzy boy?" He is referring to the sexy blonde at their last gig. Eamon joins the banter by twanging a high-pitched guitar note and slinking it right down low and dirty whilst doing something reptilian with his tongue.
The blonde had only wanted to book them for her dad's fiftieth but Jez says, "She was a lot more fun than humping your drum kit, Jim."
Charlie shushes them and taps the mic. "Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Down Royal Racecourse and the Belfast Titanic Dry Gin Distillers Day at the Races."
"Fuck me," Eamon hisses. "He can remember that gob-full but not the lyrics to Summertime."
"Race cards are on your tables," Charlie continues, "and there's a tote betting point over on my right. Lunch will be served shortly. Meanwhile enjoy the gin and the jazz. Good luck." He raises his trumpet. "Okay guys, we'll kick off with Doctor Jazz — see if that won't cure young Jez's hang-over."
Smoked salmon starters are being served to the accompaniment of Basin Street Blues when a party arrives to fill the last table. Charlie gives Jez a kick but has to wait until the end of the first set before doing his Bogart impression: "Of all the gin joints in all the tents in all the world she walks into mine..."
Jez hadn't even noticed the arrival of his ex. Her hair now expensively blonder, curved in scimitars towards her chin. It seems she is the only female in a group of suits. The slap-head beside her Jez recognises as the new boyfriend whose picture was in the Sunday World in connection with some money-laundering racket.
Jez tells Charlie he's going out for his break and ducks beneath the canvas backstage.
"Half an hour," Charlie warns.
At the bar Jez downs a swift pint and carries a second out to the sunshine. Near the paddock he finds a spot to sit and consider Charlie's advice about instigating legal proceedings.
"Daddy!" calls a high, clear voice.
Scarcely daring to hope, Jez glances up and is thrilled to see Alice running towards him. Before he knows it he's hugging her one-armed whilst trying not to drench her blue dress in lager.
"This is my daddy," she tells a teenaged girl slouching up behind, whom Jez guesses is Slap-head's daughter.
Alice explains they were over at the bouncy castle and are now on their way to see Mummy in the big tent. Jez snatches the opportunity to suggest he takes Alice to see the horses run.
The girl looks up from her mobile. "Whatever. You're her dad." She wanders off.
As the horses parade around the paddock Alice picks out her favourite, a chestnut with white socks. "But they're not really socks," she states accurately. When Jez asks if he'll win the race she frowns. "He might."
He places a tenner at 10/1 and holds up the blue and orange docket.
"High rollers, Alice — that's what we are now. And Prince Mojo is going to win."
Beyond the rail lush grass streams in wind-silvered shoals. The Mournes are lilac through the summer shimmer. As the runners and riders round the far side of the course they disappear from sight and the commentator keeps the spectators updated through echoing speakers.
Prince Mojo is well down the field but Jez is happy to have this out-of-the-blue moment with Alice's hand enclosed in his.
"Here they come!" alerts the commentator.
The crowd cleaves to the rail. Binoculars are raised. Prince has made ground and is tracking the leaders. Jez hoists his daughter onto his shoulders. With two furlongs to go the favourite makes his move and takes the lead. The spectators urge. But wait, Prince is coming with him. His white socks whirr. The ground trembles.
Jez's stomach tingles. "Come on Prince!" He raises his fist to whisk the air. “Who’s gonna win?” Alice's little fist follows suit. “Prince Mojo!”
"They're neck and neck," cries the commentator. "But at the line it's Prince Mojo by a length. Prince Mojo wins the inaugural Belfast Titanic Dry Gin Distillers Company Handicap — by the length of a well-smoked cigarette!"
Jez kisses Alice. "We'll be able to go to the zoo lots of times now." He checks his watch. "Quick! Giddy-up! Let's see if we can run as fast as Prince." He gallops off with Alice giggling after him.
Karen is waiting outside the marquee, gin in hand. Her face is flushed, she totters on her stilettos. "I could have you arrested for abduction, you know."
"We just went to see the horses. I told the girl."
Alice is dismayed. "He did Mummy."
"Your father should have got permission from me first," Karen says.
Before he can stop himself Jez retorts, "I'll get it in court then."
Karen's eyes spark. "Just try. You'll be lucky to see her again in a month of Sundays. You haven't even a steady job."
"Maybe you being drunk and shacked up with a gangster will strengthen my case."
"He's a hotelier — with excellent lawyers." She trails Alice into the marquee.
Jez can’t help himself striding after them and the shouting starts. Slap-head is on his feet calling Jez an asshole, telling him to fuck off, and Jez is shoving him and gin bottles are clattering onto plates and the suits are on their feet in menacing unison and Jez is vowing to land one on Slap-head before going down but his biceps are clenched from behind and he struggles around to face Charlie's shades.
"Hate to break up the rumble guys but I need my saxophonist for the last set. Capice?"
The hoods glance at each other, bemused just long enough for the old sun-spectacled jazzman to propel Jez towards the stage.
Jez hooks his sax onto his neck-strap. "I've really screwed it up now."
"Don't worry," Charlie tells him. "It'll take a little time but everything will be cool. All the same," he winks to the boys, "I think we'll start with...Ain't Misbehavin'."
As the afternoon draws to a close Charlie thanks everyone and swaps his horn for maracas to lead his band in their mellow finale, his beloved, The Girl From Ipanema. Jim begins brushing his skins and whispers, "I've started playing this in my sleep."
Eamon quips back, "I've started sleeping while I'm playing it."
But Charlie is oblivious to their remarks. He never listens when they point out he should amend the lyrics as his girl, his true love, was from nowhere near Ipanema. He's eighteen again, way back when the song was a hit and he was a dumb musician and messed it up with the family he might still have had with the lass from Aghadowey.
His voice is wistful. The sifting of the maracas like falling rain. Jez accompanies as mellifluously as he can while wanting to unbend the curves in his sax over someone's skull.
Karen and her party rise before the end of the song and move towards the exit. She flicks her hair triumphantly at Jez as he strains for a final glimpse of his daughter through the forest of trouser-legs.
He doesn't realise he is blowing way too loud. Doesn't notice Charlie's sidelong glance. Doesn't hear the maracas cease. Doesn't realise Charlie has stopped singing his love song mid-chorus. Doesn't see Charlie reach down for his trumpet.
But he almost tumbles from the stage when a Dixieland riff suddenly blasts up into the canopy. The boys stumble to a halt and look to their leader. This is unprecedented. Eamon is first to grasp the buoyant new rhythm and cranks up his amp. Jim tosses his brushes and snatches up the sticks, starts drumming a jungle beat. Charlie nods at Jez to get in the action then lowers his trumpet and, Louis Prima-style, sings, "Now I'm the king of the swingers, oooh ... the jungle VIP!"
The crowd at the exit turn towards the commotion. The Belfast Titanic Dry Gin Distillers Jazz Combo are steaming full speed ahead. Eamon comes in with the shoo bee dee doos and the scoo bee doo bee doo bees. Jim screeches monkey calls. Jez blows a storm. The marquee beats like a gargantuan lung. Charlie is dancing. Jazz is king.
A small figure squeezes through the throng and hesitates on the edge of the dance floor clutching a cuddly toy — until the beckoning sweep of a straw fedora brings her running to clamber onstage where she is given a maraca and shown how to shake it to the beat.
"Forget a jazzman?" Charlie shouts to his sax player. “You think?”
What our judge, Kat Lund, said about “King Jazz”
Humorously written and with vivid characters who make their personalities leap from the page you are instantly thrust into this story as you are into a good piece of music. Reflecting its subject matter this is a narrative that subsumes you so that you feel at once in the piece, appealed to and engaged by the pace whose tempo creates the stories music and places one in the moment of the story and engages the senses. A reminder to us all to fight using our strengths, whatever they may be.
George Hawthorn lives County Down in Northern Ireland. He has worked as a bookseller and media technician. In his spare time, apart from writing, he enjoys sailing, fishing, photography and backing the occasional winner at the races.
2nd Place - Bea Davenport for “Grocer Jack and the
There were two things to
be frightened of that summer. One was Aunty Maw. The other was Grocer Jack. The funny thing was that
Izzie had never met Aunty Maw, she’d only heard about her and seen a couple of
old snaps. And Grocer Jack was just a
song. It was on Mam’s big radio, that dark coffin-like box on legs that cast a
shadow across the living room. Little Izzie’s arms bubbled into goose bumps as
soon as she heard the radio man announce the song or play the first few bars.
It started with some kind of bells playing up and down a minor scale. Next, a
deep brass sound, mournful, like a funeral march. And then the first words,
scary as a sermon.
‘Count the days, into
years. Yes, eighty-two brings many fears. Yesterday’s laughter turns to
Izzie wished the
presenter man would just stop playing it, but it must’ve been one of his
favourite songs. She would hear it two or three times over just a few hours, if
the radio was on all evening – and it usually was, the box getting warmer and
warmer and smelling of old wood, burned dust and Bakelite. She’d heard it
enough to know all the words and the message behind them: death is waiting to
snatch you away.
Izzie’s Mam had already
warned her about this. She told Izzie a story about how, at the age of 45, she’d
found out she was expecting her little girl. “I went to see the doctor,” she
told Izzie, pausing to suck on her cigarette and breathe the smoke back out
again, faint-grey like a little ghost, into the room. Izzie watched it float
away into nothing. “The doctor told me I was too old to have a baby. He said I
should just get rid of you.”
Izzie often wondered if
that might yet happen, on one of those days when she made Mam particularly
“Of course I told him no,” said Izzie’s Mam.
“But Aunty Maw thought he was talking sense. You don’t want a kid at your age,
she told me. You’ll never live to see it grown up. Best get rid. But I just
couldn’t do it.”
The twist in the tale
was that this doctor, according to Mam, died himself, at a very young age.
“How young?” Izzie
asked. Mam wasn’t sure. But very young indeed, she said. So you didn’t have to
be eighty-two. It could happen any time.
Mam had a bad chest.
Every time she went to bed, Izzie wondered if this would be the night when Mam,
like Grocer Jack, would suddenly find that something was wrong and her heart
wasn’t strong. She would try to open windows, to breathe in some fresh air. But
it would do no good. Oh no, oh no-oh.
Izzie wanted to know
what would happen to her if Mam died. At first, Mam clicked her tongue and
said: “Don’t be so daft. I’m not going to die.”
But Izzie stayed where
she was, in the kitchen, looking up at Mam, and so after a while Mam added: “I
suppose Aunty Maw would have to take you. And she’d soon sort you out, I can
tell you. She wouldn’t stand for your nonsense.”
In the photo on the
mantelpiece, Aunty Maw didn’t smile.
Izzie didn’t like going
to bed. She wasn’t good at getting to sleep, which Mam said was naughty. The
mournful voices of the children on the record would spin round and round in her
head. She would try, under the covers, to sing the other, happier songs the
Radio Luxembourg man played: Itchycoo
Park and the one about wearing flowers in your hair. But Grocer Jack was the only one she knew
all the words to and it just kept creeping
back. Where was this
terrible town, anyway, where children were told to go scream and shout at old
men? Where people sat at the breakfast table waiting for their marmalade to be
She would try to read
her library book, but Mam would shout up the stairs to “put that light out”,
and it had such a noisy click that she daren’t put it back on again. So she
would creep barefoot to the top of the stairs and peer down into the living room.
If she could see and smell the cigarette smoke trailing up from Mam’s armchair,
then she reckoned Mam was still alive. Izzie would sit there, shivering, with
her arms around herself, rubbing her feet across the carpet to keep them warm.
As soon as she heard the chair creak and Mam’s cups and ashtray clatter, Izzie
would dart back to bed and lie still, skin prickling, in the dark.
Izzie had only seen two
dead things and one of them probably didn’t count. The first was a maggoty bird
the boy two-doors-down kept in a box. He was checking it every day to see how
much was left. He said it was science. The second was an un-favourite doll who
Izzie never liked enough to name. It was a naked baby doll that didn’t have
proper hair, only moulded plastic whorls around its head that looked like a
skin disease. She’d loaned it to the same boy and his friends one afternoon
because they needed a ‘hostage’. She’d watched guiltily, at the gate, as they
tied it to a tree, whipped it and punched out one of its eyes. When they handed
it back, Izzie couldn’t bear the reproachful stare of the remaining glassy eye.
She dug the doll a shallow grave in the back garden, under some big dark
leaves. But dead dolls were probably different to dead people, she thought.
In the mornings, Mam’s
cough sounded like a drum roll. Some days it went on and on. Izzie put her
fingers in her ears. Oh no, oh no-oh.
Once, when the opening bars of
Jack started up
again, Izzie made a grab for the smooth grey dials. But she turned up the volume
hard at the same time as tuning into a scream of static. It made a noise like a
motorbike driving through the living room. Mam came racing in from the kitchen
and smacked Izzie’s hand to the rhythm of her words. “Leave – it – alone!”
Izzie backed away and
Mam put her face in her hands for a moment, then looked up again, wet-eyed.
“Just go outside and play, Izzie. I’m not in the mood today.”
Izzie spent a long time
wandering round the streets. Eventually she found a house where some kids were
having a sort of picnic on the front step. She stood at the gate and stared for
so long that, in the end, the oldest girl said she could come in and play. She
ate some things that she’d never tasted before because Mam thought they weren’t
nice: cottage cheese and crackers with Marmite. Marmite was a really bad thing,
Mam always said, so Izzie was surprised to find she quite liked its taste of
earth and salt and earwax.
Late in the afternoon,
when she wandered home, Izzie found a strange woman sitting in the living room.
She was wearing trousers, which Mam never did, and her face was all sharp
corners. The woman didn’t say hello. She said: “Your mother’s gone to bed for a
“Are you Aunty Maw?”
Izzie asked and when the woman nodded, Izzie burst into tears.
“Bloody hell,” said
Aunty Maw. “What’s all that about?”
“Is Mam going to die?
Have you come to sort me out?”
The look on Aunty Maw’s
face was hard to read. “Your Mam has a bad chest, that’s all. I don’t think
she’s planning on giving up the ghost just yet. As for sorting you out - well.
Do you need sorting out?”
Izzie shook her head. “Then I won’t bother,”
said Aunty Maw.
For two days, Mam stayed
in bed, and the only sound that came from her room was that cough. Aunty Maw
told Izzie not to pester Mam. Izzie put her head round the bedroom door once,
but the room was dark even though it was day time and it smelled bad, of
cigarette smoke and sweat and sick. Izzie and Aunty Maw kept out of each
other’s way. Aunty Maw even let Izzie have her tea in front of the television,
which meant they didn’t have to talk to each other.
On the third day, Izzie
was having her supper when she heard an ear-splitting scream from the bottom of
the garden. She went to the back door and ran down the path to where Aunty Maw
was standing, trembling and pointing to the ground.
“I went to pull some
rhubarb,” she was sobbing. “And - and -”
Izzie looked down to see
a tiny pale hand sticking out of the soil.
“Oh,” she said, and
leaned down towards it. She pulled and the dead baby doll emerged, its eye
socket full of soil. Aunty Maw stared at her and Izzie took a step backwards in
case she was going to get a smack. Then Aunty Maw started to laugh, so hard that
Izzie thought she’d never stop.
When they went in the
house, Grocer Jack was on the radio.
Aunty Maw said: “If I
hear this morbid old dirge one more time I’m going to scream.” And she turned
the dials, but instead of static she found the sounds of people talking. There
were no songs. And even though Izzie didn’t really understand what the voices
were saying, she liked them murmuring softly in the background, like they were
sorting everything out.
The next morning when
Izzie got up, Mam was sitting at the table in her nightie and fuzzy dressing
gown. Aunty Maw had made a rhubarb tart and Mam said she just had to get up for
that, because it was her favourite. Mam’s face looked yellow-grey and a little
older than before, but every time she and Aunty Maw caught each other’s eye
they started to laugh. It was a long time since Izzie had heard Mam laugh, and
even with the coughing in the middle, it sounded good.
Aunty Maw was holding
something behind her back. “Here,” she said, and brought out Izzie’s baby doll,
all cleaned up. Only it wasn’t a baby any more. Aunty Maw had made it some
trousers and a red felt jacket and it had a hankie round its head. She’d turned
one of its hands into a hook using silver cigarette box paper and best of all,
it had a little black eye patch.
“It’s a pirate doll,”
Aunty Maw said, as if Izzie was too daft to know. “I called him Jack.” She
waved the doll from side to side as if it was dancing. “Yo-ho-ho. That’s what
the pirates say, isn’t it? He was too young to die, I reckoned.”
Izzie put Pirate Jack
into the basket on the front of her trike. She pedalled fast down the street to
show him to her new Marmite friends. And
as she pedalled, her knees bumping the handlebars, she sang. Yo-ho, yo-ho-oh.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’, the single
‘Excerpt From A Teenage Opera (Grocer Jack)’ spent fifteen weeks in the UK
charts. * “EXCERPT FROM A
TEENAGE OPERA” WORDS AND MUSIC BY KEITH HOPKINS
AND MARK WIRTZ © 1967, REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION OF ROBBINS MUSIC CORP LTD/ EMI MUSIC PUBLISHING
LTD, LONDON W8 5SW
What our judge, Kat Lund, said about
“Grocer Jack and the Pirate”
terrors of our childhood are rarely explainable to adults nor are they great
world evils. This is a dilemma, and a truth beautifully captured by the author
of this evocative story of family relationships, childhood worry and doubt and
the quickness with which they pass and inexplicably turn with our growing
understanding of the world. The exploration of the relationship between all
three characters never comes close to sentimentality and in few words hints at
deeper and complex pasts and futures between not only Izzie and the adults but
perhaps most interestingly between the sisters themselves.
Davenport is the writing name of former print and broadcast journalist Barbara
Henderson. Her first crime/suspense novel, In Too Deep, was a runner-up
in the Luke Bitmead Bursary and is published by Legend Press.
Bea spent many years as a newspaper reporter and latterly seventeen years as a
senior broadcast journalist with the BBC in the north-east of England. She has
a Creative Writing PhD from Newcastle University where she studied under the
supervision of award-winning writer Jackie Kay and renowned literature expert
Professor Kim Reynolds. The children's novel produced as part of the PhD, The
Serpent House, was shortlisted for the 2010 Times/Chicken House Award and
Bea has also won several prizes for short stories.
Originally from Tyneside, she lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed with her partner and
Place – T.D. Griggs for “Caesar’s Cat”
It was my last command.
The last time I would
wear a centurion’s crimson cloak, or that leather tunic, so moulded to my body
that it was soft as kid. Soon my gear would be packed away in the sleeping
chamber of my promised farm in Umbria. One day my grandson might find the trunk
in some alcove. He’d pull out a cracked cowhide jerkin with sweat stains and
clumsily stitched battle scars, and a nicked steel blade powdered with rust,
and he’d wonder what his old buffer of a grandfather had got up to in his
younger days. He’d look at me differently then.
It pleased me to think
The creature’s roar
shook the ship and woke me from my reverie. I got to my feet and stepped to the
quarterdeck rail. Several of the slaves looked around fearfully, as if the
animal might be pacing the benches among them. The overseer’s whip cracked and
all backs bent low over the oars. It amused me that these men - thugs who would
have murdered all of us given the chance - were not truly afraid of the whip,
nor even of the lion. They were afraid of me, with my scarred knuckles gripping
the rail and the scarlet cloak whipping around me in the dawn breeze. They had
I took a few paces along the deck to let them all get a
good look. We were cutting into the open sea out of Alexandria, flames from the
pharos fading behind us in the strengthening light of morning. There was a
catspaw of wind over the purple sea and soon the captain would have the square
sail raised, but for the moment there was only the rumbling rhythm of the oars,
the grunts of the slaves who strained at them, and the slap and thrust of the
I climbed down to the lower deck. The breeze had cleared
most of the stench, but down here there was still that galley taint on the air,
sweat and fear and shit. And under it all an alien feral tang. There was
something ancient about this, some dread which made the skin crawl on the nape
of my neck, but I kept my back turned to the cage. The big cat bellowed again,
a vast despairing boom, enraged by my insolence. I could hear it scratching at
the timber bars behind me. None of the oarsmen dared glance up: if they had met
my eye they would have been flogged, and they knew it.
I slowly turned to face the beast.
He was enormous, quite the biggest I had ever seen, his
muscles moving like liquid under his yellow pelt. He prowled the narrow cage,
tail switching, his amber eyes, slanting with malice, fixed upon me. The
Nubians brought them up the Nile from deepest Africa. By the time they reached
Alexandria prime specimens like this commanded fabulous sums, but such was the
appetite for spectacle in Rome that the dealers knew they would get their
price. There were rumours about what the animals were fed while they awaited a
buyer. It was worth keeping big cats in good condition, and better still if
meanwhile they acquired a taste for human flesh: it saved time later. That
wasn’t my business. The creature was just cargo to me. As I was myself, a
forty-two year old centurion returning for discharge. But I still outranked
anyone on board, and I wasn’t about to let slaves, crew or even lions forget
It was June, and the
gods sent us a fair wind and a calm sea which brought us into Tyre after a few
days. At the old Phoenician quay they loaded crates of Tyrean glass, bolts of
silk, and great jars of oil and wine. It took them all day, mainly because half
the stevedores wouldn’t go anywhere near the caged beast, while the other half
kept stopping to gawp at it.
I got away from the bustle and stink and spent the
afternoon in the old city. I knew it well, having served in the province during
the Jewish revolt. When I got back to the ship, slow with wine, blue evening
was falling. There was a commotion on the cargo deck as I came aboard: the
greybeard captain told me that some fool had goaded the lion, then turned away
so his friends could see how brave he was. In that eyeblink the great cat had
laid open the side of his head and neck. They were binding up the groaning
victim as I climbed down, but I could see it was a waste of time. The crew fell
silent on seeing me and carried the wretch away, ducking their heads at me as
‘Who feeds this creature?’
A thin boy stepped forward, clapping his fist to his
breast in salute. A Greek, I guessed, one of the captain’s household slaves,
apprenticed to the sea. I clubbed him around the ear so that he fell on one
‘Get up. You’ve been selling the animal’s meat.’
I hit him again. Once more he got up, rubbing his face,
his eyes filling with tears.
‘You’ve been starving him, that’s why he struck.’ I
pointed at the deck, slick with blood and gobbets of flesh. ‘I’ll have you
At that moment the captain leaned over the rail above me.
‘Begging your pardon, sir, but they tell us we’re to let them go hungry every
few days. They say it sharpens them.’
Well. It was his ship and the boy was his slave, perhaps
his catamite. Besides, the wine had put me in a forgiving mood. I grunted a
dismissal and the boy scuttled away, bowing and scraping as if I were royalty.
The overseer was already yelling at the rowers, and with
a great rumble the long oars were run out. Sailors climbed the stays like rats,
ready to loose sail. Others ran along the gunwales, ready to fend off passing
I knew enough to stay
out of the way. I took a seat on a crate and watched the lion. He was prowling
again, rumbling deep in his throat, his wet mane matted with human blood. Some
shreds of flesh still lay just inside the bars, and he paused to lick them up
like a household cat lapping milk, but never took his yellow eyes off me.
The cage had been built
into the stern of the ship, shielded by a curtain of leather, now tied back. I
saw now that a wooden grating had been lashed across the cage to divide it. The
lion was cramped into one half, forced to tramp in tight circles over his own
stinking droppings, his rope of a tail thumping the bars with every turn.
I peered into the
darkness of the other end of the cage. It took me some moments to make out the
figure there, a dark figure, a woman, her cloak pulled up over her hair. I
realized with a shock that her face was uncovered and that her large eyes were
fixed on my own face.
Ruth. Ten years. The
dusty camp at Caesarea. Old Matthias, who held the contract to supply the
legion with bread and wine, and who grew rich on it. And Ruth, his daughter.
Eighteen then, with hair she could wrap around her pale body like a dark shawl.
My mouth was dry. I
said, ‘How is this?’
She shrugged. ‘My
husband defied the empire. Dead now, of course.’ The lion snarled and hooked
its paw through the cage at her, a cat after a mouse, not quite reaching her.
Ruth ignored it, got to her feet and stepped into the light. She was lovelier
even than I remembered.
‘They’ll sell you into
slavery.’ I meant to give her hope. Myself too, perhaps. Whoever was sold could
also be bought.
She smiled. ‘No.’
‘I have rank. Even now.’
‘You, Flavius? You are
more a prisoner than I am. No, I am for the arena, courtesy of the Governor. He
kindly left me my beauty so that Caesar can see it ripped from me with tooth
and claw.’ She nodded sideways at the lion. ‘Who knows? He and I may meet again
soon enough, with no bars between us.’
‘I am not afraid.’
‘You should be. I have
She shook her head
again. ‘I’m only afraid of the crowd. Those tiers of bawling Romans, baying for
blood. I don’t wish to crawl naked and torn in the dirt before them.’ She held
my eyes steadily. ‘My body was not fashioned for their sport. You know that.’
I stepped to the bars,
opened my cloak so that she could see the hilt of the dagger in my belt. I leaned
against the cage, close enough for me to smell her fear, close enough for her
to reach the knife. For a moment our fingers touched. But then she stepped back
into the shadows.
‘Ruth. It will be
‘It will be as it will
She moved out of my
sight into the darkness. I heard the rustle of her cloak as she gathered it
around her. The great cat rumbled, and nuzzled the grating and shook it against
its leather fastenings. I could feel the beast’s ripe breath, and knew that Ruth
could feel it too.
The weather broke that
night. I grabbed what sleep I could under the flapping awning they had rigged
on the quarterdeck. The rain lashed in over me, but I was used to that: it was
not rain, nor the wild pitching of the ship, which kept me awake. I rose and
stood at the rail. The black sea was broken with white all around. Above me,
and silhouetted against ripped rags of cloud, the steersmen toiled to hold the
craft steady. Spray burst against the hull and hissed down, sluicing over the sodden
covers where the oar-slaves huddled.
I climbed down, unnoticed. I thought I was alone until a
slight figure appeared among the crates, whimpering in the storm, struggling
with a burden. The Greek slave, grappling with a great wooden basin.
‘What are you about, boy?’
He was half sobbing with fear. He grabbed the rail to
steady himself: the basin slipped and offal and bone slapped to the wet deck
‘For the great cat, sir. He’s not been fed, and he’s
‘Pitch it over the side.’
‘But sir, I thought you wanted -’
‘Pitch it over the
side, lad,’ I said, gently, ‘and go back to your rest.’
He looked at me with wide eyes, but crouched and scooped
the scraps back into the basin and staggered away into the roaring blackness
with it. I waited. A few feet away I could hear the creature snuffling and
grunting. It had smelled flesh. I suppose it had been smelling flesh all night.
I closed my eyes for a second, and then paced softly on bare feet to the cage
I could not see Ruth, but there was a wedge of shadow
against the bulwark which I knew must conceal her sleeping form. In his half of
the cage the beast circled once, thrashed his tail, turned on me eyes which
blazed like golden lamps. He nudged the partition. I slid out my blade, reached
through the bars and slit the fastenings.
I believe it was over before I regained the upper deck. A
thud as the grating went down, one startled exclamation - just one - and then
the whipping rain and the moan of the wind blotted out everything else for me.
What our judge, Kat Lund, said about “Caesar’s
This story centres and
is balanced around two caged lions whose pacing around ever decreasing and
tightening circles both creates and heightens the tension and atmosphere of the
piece. One is the actual lion who lies at the heart of the ship, the other the
metaphorical lion, the roman commander who lies at the heart of the piece who
is both mirrored and opposed by the beast in question. As the two go head to head the commander is
really facing himself in the form a figure from his past and the cages of his
command that will never fall way. As we meet him thinking upon packing away his
soldiering gear to be unpacked one day by his grandson, so he is caged by Rome
as the lion is caged by bars and must face up to his nature and to the limits of his cage as he makes his
decision at the end.
T.D.GRIGGS was born in
London and has lived and worked on four continents. He holds British and
Australian nationality, and has worked variously as a truck driver, journalist,
film extra, MD of a successful communications consultancy, and - for about
seven sweaty hours - as a volunteer fire fighter. Despite that, much of the
Australian bush survives.
He has written many short
stories, and four novels, including the father-son drama THE WARNING BELL
(written as Tom Macaulay), and the Victorian epic DISTANT THUNDER and the
contemporary crime drama REDEMPTION BLUES, both under his own name.
T.D.Griggs is also a
professional business writer with an international client base. He lives with
his wife Jenny in Oxford, UK. They own half of a black Labrador dog called
James (a neighbour owns the other half).
To find out more visit www.tdgriggs.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @TDGRIGGS1
4th Place – Margaret
Webster for “Cookie Crunch”
“I’d laughed when I
overheard the couple arguing over whether to buy the cookie crumble ice cream.
‘To pot with the calories,’ she’d said, and plunged her hand into the freezer
‘I’m having it. I could
wake up tomorrow morning … dead.’
“So that’s exactly what
happened to you then?”
“Yes… and I hadn’t even
had the pleasure of the luxury ice cream… But how did you know..?”
“Your hand going straight
through that glass case was a bit of a give away.”
“Ah, I haven’t perfected
… much … about this experience.”
“It takes time. I’m
Quinn … O’Connor.”
“Claire … Sumner.”
“So, you like museums?”
“I always wanted to
visit Rome, but now I’m here, I’m not sure what to do. It’s not quite the same
… on your own. And … don’t laugh … I don’t feel dressed for going places.”
“You look … lovely.
That’s a cute checked night shirt you have there.”
“If I had known this was
going to happen to me I would have put on my slinky petrol blue nightie, before
I went to bed, the one with shoe-string straps. I only wore this because my
cousin Deidre bought it for me. And Brian was away for six weeks on a business
trip to Egypt.”
Quinn twirled with his
arms outstretched. “Didn’t you know embarrassing nightwear is all the rage in
Rome this year?”
I put my hand across my
mouth. “Your wife bought you those pyjamas didn’t she?”
“Worse, her mother did.”
He beckoned me to some lime green, highly incongruous seats. “So, how’s it been?”
It was a relief to share
the last hours, if it had been hours, with someone who obviously understood.
“I can’t start the day
without a cup of coffee.” I choked slightly. “Not that I’m exactly starting any day now. It took a lot of
deep breathing; borrowed from my yoga classes, and three smashed mugs, coffee
all over the floor … liquid and granules, before I mastered the technique. I
left the kitchen in a right mess. I gave up trying to get clothes … I kept
toppling into the wardrobe and knocking hangers all over the place.”
“You were on your own
then, when …?”
“Yes. I tried to phone
my friend … it was so inconvenient, I was meant to be meeting her for lunch.
And I was going to clean the cooker that morning. The cooker is filthy, what
will people think of me?”
“And did your friend
answer the phone?”
“She couldn’t hear me.
Of course she couldn’t.” The phone must be still off the hook; I hadn’t been
able to replace it on its charger.
Quinn put his hand very
carefully on my arm. “So you came to look at paintings.”
“I didn’t know what was
expected of me.”
It was true. I had
briefly toyed with revenge; but at whom? Brian maintained I was so laid back I
was horizontal. It might have been fun causing a bit of disruption to
neighbours; if I had been twenty-five instead of fifty-five. I pondered the
idea of doing ‘good works’ but the Santa Claus Syndrome was flawed in that I
hadn’t yet got a handle on moving objects safely. I would have been back in
poltergeist mode. I told Quinn my dilemma.
“I’m not exactly
Superman myself. It’s probably how I ended up in this limbo. The world and its
problems just never came knocking on my door, or if it did I never answered
“How did you …?”
“I had a heart condition
– medically, not emotionally. Back there they are waiting for the Coroner’s
Report, but I already know. I was, mistakenly, given medication for gout. It’s
got malpractice written all over it. That’ll please Oonagh; keep her in the
manner she was never accustomed to.”
“Brian! He’ll have to
come back from Egypt, and that won’t please him.”
Brian and I had lived in
amicable, partial separation for years. He had his work, mainly abroad, and I
had my life. No, that was wrong. I’d never had a life, not one I was ‘living.’
“So, do you know how you ….?” Why could neither of us say the
I shook my head. “Do you
think I should have stayed around? I left such a mess … they’ll think the house
was broken into.”
Quinn smirked. “What an
exit. We could pick up an English paper; see what they are saying about you.”
“That I never cleaned my
oven.” I tugged at my short nightdress. “And looked a mess even in bed.”
The newspapers lying in
a hotel lobby yielded no information. It was probably too early; Time had no
meaning. Quinn, who was an expert now handed me a gin and tonic that had been
forgotten by its recipient, while I read aloud my stars.
is a month of endings and new beginnings for you. A new dream is just taking
shape, but with so many plans in the making it may be difficult to keep your
feet on the ground.”I
lifted an eyebrow. “You can say that
“I don’t know how long
this is due to last.” Quinn spread his arms expansively. “But I intend making
the most of it.”
It lasted through two
more continents. We left Rome and headed for New York, then worked our way down
from North to South America. We picked up coffees waiting to be served by
apathetic baristas and glasses of wine left on side tables at parties. We didn’t
need to eat; we never felt hunger, or thirst, but taste was superlative so we
gleefully picked fruit from wayside trees. Was this Eden, or as Quinn had
described it; Limbo? We found out a lot about each other’s dreams and visited places neither of our partners would have deemed
necessary. Oonagh was content with her home town of Coleraine and holidays on
the coast of Donegal. Brian used his escapes out of Sunderland to belittle
those who never made it to Dubai or Hong Kong; though his encounters were confined
to airports and air conditioned hotel rooms.
Standing looking over
Machu Picchu; it had to be Machu Picchu, we both felt the world was about to
come knocking on our door, as Quinn had put it.
“I wish I could bottle
this and take it back to my friends.”
Quinn leant over and
kissed my cheek; we had reached that stage when embraces were common currency.
I felt it like the touch of the proverbial butterfly’s wing.
“You’ll never stop
thinking of others, will you Claire? Myself, I’m for drinking all this in, and
keeping it for number one.”
“No you aren’t…”
We were used to pe
unknowingly in our faces, but not to gain our attention. He looked at us with
suspicion, his young face devoid of expression.
“I’ve got a message for
His black woolly hat was
pulled down almost to his eyebrows, his hands thrust in his pockets.
“Your man’s been
arrested … something about a murder charge.”
“My husband? Brian? Who
has he murdered?”
The lad shrugged his
shoulders. “You I suppose. It’s all over Sky News. Just thought I’d tell you.”
He sauntered off down
into the ruins. The gaping tear in the back of his sweatshirt tallied with that
made by a knife blade.
Quinn had seen a couple
taking photos of themselves reading an English paper this high up in the Andes.
He trotted across to their haversack, abandoned by the empty roadside while
they marvelled at the view, and extricated the newspaper. The news item was on
page four. Brian hadn’t been in Egypt; he’d been in…
“Barnsley!” I lost
control of myself and sank into the rock.
Brian had been with
another woman for two weeks prior to ‘the
incident’. The police alleged he had driven up to Sunderland on ‘the night in question.’ There were
signs of an argument.
“The broken mugs.” I
gasped. “My wardrobe…”
Quinn grasped my hand.
“This paper’s an old one. They’ve probably sorted it all out by now.”
“I was on my own.” I pictured myself lying in
the bed with a pained expression on my face. I’d jokingly thought ‘no wonder I
have deep set wrinkles if that’s how I scrunch my face while I’m asleep.’ But
the grimace was not habitual, something had happened. And Brian hadn’t caused
it. “I’ll have to explain.”
“You don’t have to go
“The weasel… it was bad enough when I thought
he was in Egypt, but with another woman… If he’d been there he could have got
help … saved me. I was in pain.” I read on. “The post-mortem revealed a blow to the back of the head ... slight
fracture … anurism.” I gasped. “I’d been cleaning the windows and stepped
backwards … onto a bag of plastic bottles I was meant to be taking for
recycling…I lost my footing and hit my head on the floor. It was so stupid. But
it was hours before … could it really…”
“Have caused a blood
“Will you come with me?”
Quinn stroked his cheeks
with one hand.
I saw the hesitation.
“Something happened in the village we passed, didn’t it? You’ve finally heard
that knocking on your door.”
“It’s this altitude;
it’s playing havoc with my heart rate, making me illusional.” He perched on an
outcrop of boulders. “OK, I didn’t do much with my life, but not because I
hadn’t had the opportunities. I just took the easy road and made excuses for
not getting anywhere. These folks never took the easy way; otherwise they
wouldn’t have hauled all those building stones up this high. There’s a broken
down bus back in the village that belongs to a man with five kids. He hasn’t
got the pesetas to fix it.” He jumped down and looked out over the ancient
city. “Oonagh would have said ‘it’s just how the cookie crumbles’ and I would
“So would Brian. Can you
fix the bus?”
“I worked for the
Department of Works and Pensions … I’m not a mechanic.”
“But you could be Superman.”
“There was an engine,
lying in a back alleyway in Lima. I’m sorry, but …”
I kissed him gently on
the lips. “Go and get it, Quinn. Then go and find new tyres … and some cans of
spray paint. You’ve mended me, and it only took a few cups of coffee … in
“This can’t be goodbye.”
“Au revoir maybe. I’ll
be drinking coffee on the Champs Elyse … if you can make it.”
I waited, minutes,
hours, who could tell. Quinn didn’t show. His Limbo must have ended. I wasn’t
needed in defence of Brian; there was insufficient evidence to convict him of
any wrongdoing. My tragic death was consigned to the Cold Case files with a
question mark hanging on misadventure.
I let the sun play on my
face; there was no misadventure about this. From the corner of my eye I saw
her. She was very young; young enough to be the daughter I never had. She was
struggling with sitting on rather
than in a basketwork chair.
“Let me.” I guided her
gently into a sitting position.
Her eyes popped, and
then slowly filled with tears.
“I know. But I’m here,
for as long as you need me.”
Isabelle; Izzy, was
twenty-two. Her cropped vest top advertised the needle marks that had led to
her early death, under a canal bridge in Rochdale. She never really got to know
her mum, before she had died in
similar circumstances. Her dad had tried, but even though there was only an
eighteen year gap, he ‘didn’t understand her.’
I stroked her straggled
hair. “Have you ever tried cookie crumble ice-cream?... Well let me tell you;
it’s to die for.”
Her hiccoughed laugh
filled my empty veins with warmth.
What our judge, Kat Lund, said about “Cookie
meeting of two people in an un-expected or unorthodox place is the traditional
starting point of many stories. Here the author uses it to show that the coming
together of two people can never happen too late to change your life or to
start you changing the life of others. Mixing humour, realistic voice and a
simply built feeling of poignancy created by an understated narrative this is
an interestingly conceived idea with a well sustained and created voice.
I live in a
semi-rural part of the North East where my husband and I have raised four
children. Stories have been a major part of my life, starting at the bottom
with stories and poems for children while Primary School teaching. I fulfilled
my ambition to write for adults when my children left for university. Winning
success came with a gentle ghost story for The Pages, a Crossword-based
mystery for Crystal, and a story about an asylum seeker,for Dawn,
among others. The idea behind Cookie Crunch started with that
‘overheard’ in a supermarket.
5th Place – Emma Norry for “Josie”
attractive ten year old. She’s gone past the ‘cute’ stage – her corn on the cob
hair has darkened and her intense blue eyes have faded though she still has a
smattering of Pollyanna freckles across her nose. You can almost catch glimpses
of the woman she might turn into. She has the gravitas of someone three, four
years older and carries herself with a comical precision. She has an imaginary
friend called Sammy who sits down to dinner with us. We named her after my
favourite Aunt and she is our only child. I gave birth to her a week after my
fortieth birthday; I’d almost given up on having children. What a present, eh?
And it’s true what they say: my life really did
She’s been missing now for three days. You never know exactly how
long twenty-four hours is until your child goes missing. Forget waiting for
exam results or the result from a medical examination. There is no comparison. I have observed all the imperceptible
shifts of the days – the approach of dusk and the fearful dawn. Sunrise has
never been so unwelcome. The saggy, stretched skin under my eyes will never be
rectified. I am too old for this.
Mike is asleep; he’s exhausted, we both are. I’ve tried to sleep
tonight but can’t; I’ve taken two Pro-Plus, God knows why. Now I’m jittery and
anxious, and very much awake. I sit at the kitchen table, it’s 2.40am. The
phone is in my lap and I can honestly say that I’ve never hated an inanimate
object as much as this. Cream, chunky and quiet – so quiet. Like a teenager waiting for her boyfriend to call, I keep
checking its dialing tone. Both our mobiles sit next to an overflowing astray
on the kitchen table. The laptop is open, and I’m refreshing my email
constantly. This situation is so unlikely and demonstrates that no matter what
you do, you can never totally protect yourself, or your children. Everyone will
judge us, the parents, to make themselves feel safe. They’ll look for a sign,
something we did or didn’t do in our upbringing of Josie. In the papers and on
the news they check to see if I wear too much make up or not enough; if I wear
a skirt or trousers. How I speak: am I more angry than upset? Should I be? But
what does it tell you if Mike and I hold hands in front of the cameras? If one
of us breaks down - what could it possibly tell you about us?
It’s exactly a twelve-minute walk from our front door to the main
gates of her school. If I stand at our front garden gate, I can watch her walk
a third of the way. She always walks with Kelly from next door. Kelly has been
ill with a cold, and last week Mike and I decided that she was sensible enough
to walk by herself. She looked so proud that morning she set off, waving to us
from halfway down the street.
Twelve minutes. 8.40am. 16th April. Wide, open streets
in a friendly small town. Strangers noticeable, strangers rare.
I didn’t wait at the gate that day. No reason: some days I wait and
some I don’t.
It’s 3.50pm and she’s not home. No banging doors, no cries of,
“Mum! Mum! Look what we did today!” It’s a bright afternoon so I decide to
surprise her and meet her on the way back. When I don’t bump into her, I wonder
if today is after school gym or ballet and I’ve forgotten.
reach the main gates, children still wander about. I walk through the
playground and greet a few faces. You must understand – I am not worried yet.
You don’t think about things like this; you really don’t. You see horrible,
gruesome stories on the front page of the paper and you turn straight to the TV
section. Everything always happens to other people. So…I’m not worried yet. I’m
not even thinking about Josie, really. I’m hoping that the blue sundress in
Morley’s will still be on sale and wondering whether to cook chicken or pork
Gradually the playground empties and children’s voices fade.
I enter the assembly hall and see Josie’s English teacher, Mrs.
Hyde, hanging up a poster advertising the upcoming school play. She looks
surprised to see me.
“Hello there. How’s Josie? Will she be in tomorrow?” My brain
sludges and slurs as I watch Mrs. Hyde wobbling on a stool. My vision goes a
little fuzzy. Her voice sounds like a slowed down record and even before she’s
finished speaking, all my being knows what has happened and already I can
picture Josie laid out; school skirt torn, knees bloody, and her eyes wide and
staring. I can see her next to a bush or on a railway track or on the back seat
of a car…But, I have to go through the motions, so I reverse my thoughts and slow it all right down.
“Sorry? Josie’s not home yet, I thought she’d stayed late after
school for something.”
Mrs. Hyde looks stupidly puzzled – hasn’t her brain done the time
travel that mine has yet? She looks so pudgy and soft and confused I want to
“Josie hasn’t been in today, Mrs. Walker.”
“We assumed she was ill. That she had the same bug as Kelly.” A light goes out behind her eyes.
shakes like I’ve got Parkinson’s. “She left the house as normal…”
“Well, I’m afraid she’s not here…”
She’s afraid? “Why didn’t anyone call me?”
“She’s not here.” Defensive. She sounds like a malfunctioning
robot. Fury and fear tussle within me.
I don’t know how I manage to keep talking, let alone stand. I bark
at this woman I find myself wishing I could be - because she has no children -
I growl and the loudness of my voice, its strange pitch, echoes in my ears.
“Where’s Mr. Boyd? Josie left me this morning at 8.40am. But she’s
not here. You say she never arrived. That means she’s been missing for…” my
brain floods, “Eight hours – Oh Jesus, eight
I’m aware of a firm hand on my upper arm; helping to support me
since the world is sloping towards the floor.
Looking back, the first evening wasn’t too bad really, at least we
were busy. You’ve never seen such frenetic activity. We phoned all her friends,
checked the park, the toyshops and the video store. Then today the detective
superintendent told the press conference: “The chances of Josie being alive are
remote. Time is against us.”
knowing eats into me like battery acid.
It’s now 4am; still the phone - smug and smooth – sleeps in its
cradle. The police are fantastic; over two hundred people are involved in
searching for her. All local gardens have been searched and house-to-house
enquiries have been made. The police are concerned though since Josie had no
coat with her and no money. Josie. Ten years old. What kind of an age is that?
How many more days and nights of this limbo? They have to find something, anything, soon.
My eyelids are heavy and I close
them briefly. The phone rings, vibrating in my lap. It’s so loud. I jolt and
stare at it, transfixed. I let it ring. I put my hand on the receiver. The
plastic is cool and smooth. I trace my finger along it. Twelve, thirteen,
to answer it, don’t I? I have to answer
sounds like it comes from another planet, I’m not even sure that I’m speaking English.
What our judge, Kat Lund, said about “Cookie
piece that cleverly plays on constructs of and references to age and time to
build its tension. It is constantly contrasting between measurements of time,
distances, people and object so that the piece is both at once full of time and
place and yet also at the same time filled with a sense of growing absence and
loss. Its central character is not its narrative voice but its absent titular
character and the author sustains this absent presence well throughout to
create the main emotional pull of the piece.
Norry completed an MA in Screenwriting at Bournemouth University, graduating in
2007. Previous fiction has been published in Spiked, Aesthetica, Ink
and on www.fivestopstory.com. In 2005 she was a
runner up in the Rhys Davies Award. Her most recent piece published in
June 2013 is in Fading Light, which is a U.S. collaborative project
between writers and photographers entitled Open to Interpretation www.open2interpretation.com. She lives in Dorset
with her husband and two little people.