Short Story Competition


Enter Your Own Short Story


 

OUR 2011 WINNER
By Tim Curtis, Wicklow Town

 

CLOVER

clover

 

Joseph bent forward with a grunt. The pebble in his boot had been annoying him for the last hour. I probably have a blister now, he thought, shaking his head. He tugged at the boot. Damn thing wouldn’t come off. He pulled harder, losing his balance and fell onto his backside with a squelch. Great, he thought, as cold wetness seeped into the seat of his pants.

What a morning. Before he’d even had time to make breakfast he’d looked out the back window and seen that the dam in the upper field had broken through. The cattle were up there, and even from his kitchen he could see that a couple of them were stuck in deep mud. He knew it would take about two hours to get them out and herd them into the west field. He made his way slowly out the door.

After the job was done, Joseph was cold, tired, famished and sopping through to his thermals. He took a deep breath and hauled at the boot, flicking muck into his face when it finally came off his foot. Why had he gone into farming? He could be sitting in a comfortable chair, warm and dry in an office somewhere. God only knew there was little profit in the farm. These days, with the buyers offering less and less, cutting his margins right back, he could barely support himself, never mind think about getting a wife and raising a family.

Joseph turned up the boot and shook it. The pebble bounced around inside, finally rattling out and landing on the wet grass. What a little thing to have caused so much discomfort.  He reached out to pick it up … and stopped dead, with his fingers poised just over it.

Was that a four-leaf clover beside the pebble? He squinted and blinked. By God it was.

A four-leaf clover! Never in my life did I expect to see one of those, he thought. He wiped his mucky fingers on his jacket and carefully pushed aside the pebble and the grass around the clover before gently plucking it from the ground. He held it up in front of his face. It was beautiful – the leaves all the same size – four perfect green hearts.

This could change my life, he realised. It’s better than winning the lottery! There had been talk about rezoning. With this clover the council was bound to zone his land for residential. He’d sell it for ten times its present value. What a life he could have. He could sell the farm and move somewhere warm, somewhere with predictable weather. Live a life of leisure.

Of course he’d miss his brother. James worked the farm over the hill. They met for pints in McGrady’s every Friday. Maybe he should keep the farm. He could hire out the land. Let someone else get up at 5 in the morning and chase after his cows. But who could he get who’d  know the land like he did? Who would care for his cows the way he did? And what would he do with himself all day?

Joseph looked around at his land. Everything he saw was his own. The cows he had reared from calves, the ditches he had kept, the fences he had put up, even the broken dam he repaired with his own hands. Why would he give this up?

He looked at the perfect, four-leaf clover he held between his fingers and realised he would never have even found it if he didn’t work this land himself. With a sigh Joseph held up his hand and opened his fingers letting the wind catch the clover and whisk it away. He pulled on his boot, stood up with a grunt and started down to the farm to get himself something to eat. It would be a long day, but at least it was Friday – he’d be meeting his brother for a couple of pints tonight.

Sure maybe he’d find another four-leaf clover in a few years and let it change his life then.

2011’s winner was Tim Curtis. Tim asked us to donate the €100 prize money to Plan, one of the oldest and largest international development agencies in the world. Are you a writing phenomenon? You too can enter the competition. Stories should be 600 to 800 words. You never know, you could be the next great Irish talent! 

OUR 2012 WINNER
By Barbara Walshe, Dublin

 

LEAVING

Leaving

 

By Barbara Walshe, Rathfarnham, Dublin 

 

The Qantas flight takes off from Singapore Airport, headed for Brisbane, Australia. It is the third take-off in this long journey to the other side of the world.

 

Leaving Ireland is hardly anything new these days. But Shauna and Pat had no choice. Shauna’s job, at an auctioneer’s had gone. And there was no reviving that industry, not for decades. So she decided she would be a housewife until something else came up. Nothing did. Pat’s business in corporate gifts wasn’t doing so well either. Nobody was buying gifts for anyone anymore, and no one was expecting to be given any gifts, even at Christmas. An email containing the words “relationship” and “thank you” was enough these days. The business landscape had changed forever.

Shauna sinks back into the economy class seat and thinks about the day they decided to leave Ireland. Pat had said, “Shauna, I have to wrap up the business. We are in danger of getting in some very deep debt if we go on. We need to think of an alternative otherwise we can’t pay the mortgage this month. You have no work and we’re going to have to ask your parents for money for the kids’ uniforms this year if we don’t change the course we are on.”

Neither of them had been to Australia before. But in Brisbane, where her cousin lived, Shauna knew it was so hot in the summer that you couldn’t touch the steering wheel or get into your car for five minutes after the doors were opened lest your skin burned and melted onto the car seat. She knew that there were kangaroos on the golf courses, and that koalas were often seen high in the gum trees along the river near where they would be living. She knew that the beaches were beautiful and the weather was very rarely bad, and that sporting a tan was a national fashion. She also knew that if you didn’t follow some sort of sport then you’d have nothing to talk about to anyone Australian. And that Pat had better learn how to barbeque properly and learn the names of new cuts of meat very, very fast. And she had to learn how to make fruit salads, using local ingredients like paw-paw and mulberries and other purple things she’d never heard of. She has also been told that the Australian grass is everything that Irish grass isn’t. It’s coarse, full of prickles and ants that bite you so hard it feels like your foot is on fire. And of course, there are the spiders and the snakes and the god-awful cockroaches which will make their presence known to her often. She knew that many people had successfully immigrated to Australia and were living fabulous lives.

Shauna’s cousin had got her a job in a real estate office in the city centre, and Pat could start his business afresh in Australia without the crushing pressure of a recession to hinder sales. The kids were ready to start Australian school; their uniforms included a large sun hat that kept the baking heat off them in the schoolyard. They would not find a use, however for their Irish language skills.

The Qantas flight touches down, and the first thing Shauna notices is the bright, brilliant blue Southern Hemisphere sky. She ushers her children into the baking humid air, so dense and heated it is like standing under a hairdryer. The family presses on through immigration, where friendly workers greet them with, “Gidday, welcome to Australia!” Finally, they emerge out of the international airport, and into the sunny day and the cloudless sky. They stand outside in the most beautiful day. Don’t let it get away, Shauna thinks.

She looks at Pat. She says, “Have we done the right thing?”

Pat looks down. Shauna notices a tear in his eye, and she feels just how much he has kept inside for the family’s sake. She understands him. They can make it anywhere.

He says, “We really haven’t made the right decision.”

Shauna looks at her kids, and says, “Let’s go home.”

 

Enter the Competition

This year’s winner is Barbara Walshe of Rathfarnham in Dublin, who wins the €100 prize money. You too can enter the competition for next year by getting those creative juices flowing. Stories should be 600 to 800 words and can be submitted by 31st July 2013 to editor@oldmooresalmanac.com

 

You never know, you could be the next great Irish talent! 

OUR 2012 WINNER
By Barbara Walshe, Dublin

 

LEAVING

PULLING

BY SINÉAD BARRY

 

Hogan’s Bar in Dublin was busy, and myself and the girls looked gorgeous. We were young, single and we wanted the lads across the way to notice us and we sat down, pretending not to pose. I had only been in Ireland for a few months, but my workmates were taking me out to meet the local fellas. I wanted the lads to notice the hell out of me anyways. I quite fancied an intense affair with an Irishman.

I noticed a looker, sitting with his mate drinking a Beamish. I wondered if he was from Cork, seeing as he was drinking that brown murky ale. And I wondered if I was gonna be able to understand him when he came over to talk to me. I smiled at him, a big, full smile, which works so well in the States. The smile says, “Hey, I’m open for business, and I choose you as a client!” But the lad just looked down into his Beamish and kept talking to his mate.

I asked Aoife, from sales, about this. She roared laughing, and said, “Lady, you are in Ireland now. Those boys won’t make their approach until 2a.m. and only after they have plenty of booze on board. And only if you are in Copper Face Jack’s.”

I ask, in horror, “WHY THE HELL NOT? And what is Copper…” Fionnuala from accounts and Mary from the warehouse join in. “Oh Jaysus girl, Irish men are the worst pullers in the world. They won’t approach sober, and they won’t approach without their wingman and four layers of hair gel. And they can’t string two sentences together. It’s pure awful.”

I say again, in horror, “BUT WHY???” Fionnuala and Mary and Aoife all looked at each other and laugh. Mary whispers, “We don’t know, probably because they are reproductively clueless. Don’t worry, Sinéad, we will go to Coppers later and you will see what it is like at the coalface.”

So I look across Hogan’s bar at the one that will get away. It seemed a shame that the handsome Beamish drinker could not cross the floor of Hogan’s to talk to me without doing something grossly wrong in the eyes of Irish bar culture.

At midnight, Aoife says, “Right ladies, it is time to make our way to Slapper Faced Jacks!” I pick up my coat, and handbag, and take one more look at Handsome across the bar. He had polished off his fifth beamish by this stage. As I stood up, so did he. My heart leapt to my mouth as he started his rather unco-ordinated drunken walk across the floor towards me. It seemed the floor would go on forever, it was a most important and perilous journey. He made it intact. Phew.

Just as he sat down next to me, Aoife hissed at him, “Ah would ya ever feck off, you drunk eeejit.” Mary joined in, “What are ye, a bunch of pervs? We are talking WITH OUR FRIENDS.” And Fionnuala says, “Could ye not have made your approach about 4 drinks ago?”

The guy smiled at us. He said, “No. I cannot have approached you four drinks ago. Because you would have savaged my head off anyway. The drink just lessens the blow. We drink on approach because you are so mean.”

Mary says, “Yeah, whatev. Laters ya feckin’ eejit.”

She pulls me away from Mr Handsome but I reach back to grab my handbag. And I see Handsome slipping a business card into it. Maybe I will give Colm Murphy, Group Internal Auditor of Fresh Eire Accounting an email tomorrow.

 

 

 

Enter the Competition

This year’s winner was Sinead Barry, who wins the €100 prize money. You too can enter the competition for next year by getting those creative juices flowing. Stories should be 600 to 800 words and can be submitted by 31st July 2014 to editor@oldmooresalmanac.com

 

You never know, you could be the next great Irish talent! 

OUR 2010 WINNER
By Bridget Heslin

 

THE IRISH SON

Georgie awoke to the smell of an Irish breakfast. He was glad to smell it because he thought it would cure of his heavy head after being in McCarthy’s the night before .Georgie plodded down the narrow hallway to the kitchen.

“Mornin’ Mammy.”

“About time Georgie,” his mother replied. Georgie mumbled and sat at the four-seater table. He had sat in the same seat for 32 years now. There were seats for Georgie, his mother, his father who had passed away recently and his brother who was travelling the world. Georgie stretched and yawned, impatiently waiting to be served. He studied the kitchen around him. Something’s different, he thought. But what was it? Something was missing and his mother seemed edgy.

“When you gonna find yourself a caring woman boy?” his mother questioned.

“When I’m ready. After all I’m only thirty two.” He waved her question away.

“Only thirty two!” Mammy gasped.  “You should be out raising a family or doing something adventurous like your brother!” Mammy turned in horror that her son would never grow up. She was just hoping that all mothers had this problem.

As Georgie strolled down the field looking at his crops he thought about what his mother had said. Should I find a woman? Should I get a job? Should I be adventurous? All these questions were spinning in Georgie’s head. He lay under some trees thinking. His mother had never pressed so hard about him getting a life. Why start now? He wondered if the fact that something was missing from the kitchen and his mother being so edgy were linked.

”Is Mammy in debt?” he thought. But she couldn’t be, the mortgage was paid off when his father died and there weren’t many bills coming in.  “Was she dying?” he wondered.  “No. She would have told me.” Georgie sat under the tree till sunset at six o’clock. He loved the smell of the grass, the slight breeze in his face, the sound of the cattle bawling and the smell of nearby slurry. He came to his senses and realised he would never want to leave the farm and get a wife. What good was a wife when you had a mammy to cook your meals and a farm to look after? He reasoned with himself. He stood up slowly and dusted himself off as he gazed at the orange sun setting on the horizon. He was satisfied with the day.

When Georgie got back to the house he slipped off his wellies before stepping inside.

“That you Georgie?” Mammy called.

“Yes Ma,” he replied. Georgie stopped suddenly on the way to the living room. He studied the kitchen again. There were lots of things missing.

”You redecorating Ma?” he asked.

‘”Sure that’s what I’m doing love. So did ya think about what I said about a woman?”

“Yeah Mammy and I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here with you.”

“Ah but Georgie…”

Georgie interrupted her.  “Ma I don’t have time.”  Georgie left in a huff. He felt it was his right to stay there if he wanted. Mammy thought otherwise.

The next morning Georgie awoke to the sound of a car pulling away. He ran to the kitchen to find everything gone. Only a note was left.

Georgie, I’m sorry to do this but I could not go on taking care of you. I did it for thirty two years. Now I want something new. You should be old enough to take care of yourself but that’s why I want you to find a woman. Love Mammy.