International Short Story Contest
Tenth short story contest winners
The Tenth International Short Story Contest closed on May 1, 2014. Deliberation over the final line-up of winners was long and hard, but by August 2014 the following successful entrants were announced:
Congratulations to Veronica Sims of Bedford, United Kingdom, who wins £200 for her winning story, "The Knitted Eeyore". The story is published below.
Veronica Sims was born in the middle of the Second World War (1943). She lived in Wealdstone (near Harrow, Middlesex) until she was nineteen when she went to London to train as a nurse at University College Hospital. She always enjoyed writing and throughout her life, when she has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico, she has always written. Since her retirement she has had the time to pursue her love of writing with a tad more vigour: writing courses, her husband and the company of fellow writers has spurred her on. She has written several children’s stories and just recently plucked up the courage to upload one of them to Kindle (Alric of Bedanford) she also writes short stories for adults.
Ten special commendations go out to the following entrants (in no particular order):
- Rose Dennen, United Kingdom, "Megastar";
- Christine Cox, United Kingdom, "A Very Special Present";
- Sheila Blackburn, United Kingdom, "The Ditch";
- Andrew Campbell-Kearsey, United Kingdom, "Director's Cut";
- Lucille Bellucci, United States, "Tin Cans";
- Jack McDonald Burnett, United States, "The Rifleman";
- Kay Ellis, United Kingdom, "You're Only Young Twice";
- Annest Gwilym, United Kingdom, "Cats and Dogs";
- Barbara Lorna Hudson, United Kingdom, "The Grave Robbers";
- Barbara R. Cohn, United States, "The Potter".
The Knitted Eeyore
By Veronica Sims
She tutted as she glanced into his room. He hadn't made his bed; he knew that was one of his morning tasks. She needed to put on her hat and coat now, as the Mother's Union meeting was at 9.30 and they wouldn't start without the minister's wife; but despite this pressing obligation she went into Donald's room and started to make the bed. It was the first time she could ever remember her son forgetting this duty since it became one of his daily tasks at the age of five, but even so, she did not want her husband to notice the omission as the incident would then doubtless involve them all in a sermon over the tea table and blight the meal.
The toy was under his pillow. She'd wondered at the time where it had gone... after her son's sixth birthday...
Their neighbour Mrs Geddes had stopped her in the garden as she was picking raspberries.
"It's your boy's birthday today, is it not?"
"Why yes!" She'd felt surprised; they did not have much to do with their Catholic neighbour.
"I have a wee present for him if he would like to come over
for it after school." The old woman turned and went indoors before Dorothy could
say anything. Dorothy was astonished. She didn't tell Alexander about it; she
suspected that he'd not approve of Donald receiving a present from a Catholic.
When the boy returned from school, after tramping the lonely mile from where the school bus stopped, she told him to comb his hair and wash his hands as they needed to go next door: Mrs Geddes had a birthday present for him. His eyes widened and she realised that even he thought it strange.
She went with him of course; the door opened almost before they'd finished knocking. The old lady must have been standing behind it waiting for them…
The parcel ready in her hand, she'd seen them leave the Manse and start walking toward her gate. The boy opened it for his mother to pass through first, and then latched it carefully behind him.
"Too gentlemanly by half for a six year old," Mrs Geddes thought. "That laddie should be allowed to be a child." Barely giving them time to knock she opened the door to them.
They stood there on the lowest step; the mother with one hand on the boy's shoulder. His eyes studying the gleaming, lime washed step.
"Happy Birthday Donald," she thrust the parcel, wrapped meticulously in brown paper and tied with string, into his hands.
She hardly heard his whispered "Thank you" as he turned to go.
She wasn't going to let him get away with it as easily as that. "Open it now, laddie, I want to see if you like it." He turned back to face her and started to unwrap the parcel. She noticed he didn't tear at the string and paper as her grandchildren would have done, frantic to discover the present inside. He was slow and methodical handing the wrapping and the string to his mother, who folded it into a neat square.
He reached the tissue paper surrounding the gift; this fell away in the light breeze to reveal a soft toy: a knitted Eeyore. She noticed a shy smile start around the boy's mouth; he looked up, this time meeting her gaze, the smile reached his eyes. "Thank you," he said again; now she felt satisfied the reply came from his heart. Mrs Geddes glanced toward Dorothy; and saw she wasn't smiling, but looked positively worried. For the first time the older woman wondered if she'd done the right thing.
"Excuse me Mrs Geddes," the boy was actually speaking unprompted, "What's my donkey's name?"
"Why Eeyore, of course, you know Winnie-the-Pooh's friend."
The boy frowned, mystified. Dorothy said quickly: "We do not allow Donald those sorts of books. My husband thinks Donald shouldn't waste his time on such things. But I do thank you for your trouble."
As they turned away from her door and Mrs Geddes noticed the boy clutching the donkey close and she had another moment of guilt wondering if she had stirred up strife for the boy and the mother. But said out loud to the trifling breeze as she shut the door: "Why shouldn't the boy have a childhood."...
Dorothy examined the donkey before slipping it back under the puffed up pillow. The pink ribbon on the tail looked a little faded, the wool grubby; she could see that Donald must have held the toy close on many occasions. She'd wondered at the time where the toy had disappeared to, though, in truth had felt relieved its presence hadn't needed explaining to her husband. So Donald realising the beast was at risk hid it away: wise child.
She felt her eyes fill with tears. Why didn't she have the strength to challenge Alexander's implacable regime, her poor wee son?
Church business took her off to Aberdeen a few days later. Her husband was having some of his sermons printed into a book and she needed to collect a copy to proof read. She passed WH Smith and was tempted to go in. But at the last minute she walked by when she remembered a member of the congregation worked there. She hurries on toward the bus station. At a row of down at heel shops she noticed there was a second hand book shop she hadn't seen before. This time she didn't hesitate; she went in.
Dorothy breathed deeply of the smell of books and listened to the hush. A young woman sat on a stool by the cash register, absorbed in the book she was reading.
"Good afternoon," Dorothy said. The girl looked up and for a few moments her blank expression revealed her thoughts were elsewhere.
"What are you reading?" Dorothy surprised herself for asking a question of a stranger.
"Anne of Green Gables, I just love it. I read it again whenever I need to cheer myself up."
"I read it when I was a girl. I loved it too." Dorothy surprised herself even more for carrying on with the conversation.
"Just the job if you need to lift your spirits no matter how old you are. Not meaning you are old, of course." The girl laughed appearing confident she'd not offended her customer.
Dorothy smiled: "Perhaps I should buy a copy if you have one to spare. Actually I was wondering if you have a copy of Winnie the Pooh."
The girl jumped off the stool and walked toward a box in the corner. "Just in today; all of them, a set of A.A Milne. I can't imagine why anyone would get rid of them."
She bent down and retrieved the whole set from the box. Dorothy
could see from where she was standing that it was an old edition and wondered if
she would have enough money to cover the cost. The girl set the books on the
counter. They were in good condition but had obviously been read many times.
"I am not sure if I can afford a set."
"Who are they for?" The girl looked interested.
"For my son and, I suppose, me; I've never read them either. My husband is a minister and doesn't really approve of fiction for my son." Dorothy astonished herself for sharing this information with a complete stranger.
The girl looked shocked. "No fiction, how old is your son?"
Dorothy didn't know how to reply; she'd become so accustomed to deferring to her husband.
"Well he's a minister." She realised her response sounded feeble.
The girl ignored this. "Look I can't afford to give you these but if you like I'll keep them for you and you can buy one each time you come into Aberdeen."
Dorothy agreed, bemused that a stranger should be so accommodating. The copy of Winnie the Pooh was slipped into a paper bag and tucked in at the bottom of her large handbag. She paid out of the food allowance, realising she would have to be extra careful with her budgeting for the next few days.
The transaction complete Dorothy turned to leave the shop.
"Wait a minute, I've got something for you." The girl went over to the shelves where the children's books were kept and took out a paperback: a copy of Anne of Green Gables. "Tuck this one away too, on the house."
Donald sat at his desk. He knew people thought him dour and that some speculated that this might be the result of his Calvinist upbringing; he thought they were probably right. Looking up to a shelf above the desk he smiled at a faded and oft mended knitted donkey set beside a row of A.A.Milne books. The books he read to his children. The knitted Eeyore they weren't allowed to play with; they had their own comforters.
"Thank God for that wicked old Catholic," he thought as he opened his lap top.