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March 2012 theme and competition entries

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01-03-2012, 01:03   #1
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March 2012 theme & competition: Confusion
Set by De Batz

Here's the theme for March:

This month's theme is confusion. Inspired partly by the joys and despair of new parenthood, I'd like to read about being unable to piece together the fragments of a narrative jigsaw, or a character's inability to follow the motivations of another. Perhaps your lead character has lost something and can't remember it, or is baffled by some new item of technology.

Thanks and good luck!

TO ENTER: Competition entries of 500 words or less should be posted on this thread. If you prefer to write a longer story, outside of the competition, then please post it in a new thread with both the title and 'March 2012' in the heading.

JUDGING: De Batz will judge the entries, and will announce the winner in early April.

THE PRIZE: The prestige of becoming the SFWG Competition Winner AND the opportunity to choose the writing theme for May 2012.

COMPETITION PROTOCOL: All writers enjoy receiving feedback, be it high praise or constructive criticism, but in the interests of competition decorum, please could we ask you not to post your comments on individual entries until after the winner has been announced. After that, please feel free to let rip with as much feedback as you like!

Any problems posting/uploading your piece, please consult the guidance 'stickies' at the top of the Forum page. If you still have problems, please contact either Tallyman or Ron Blanco.

Have fun!


Last edited by Ron Blanco; 01-03-2012 at 14:09.
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03-03-2012, 21:51   #2
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It all started with the chicken. Or was it the egg?

First of all the bat falls. Onto it's head, bounces off dead.
The chicken doesn't care, it's affairs are everywhere.
The chicken NEVER cared.
But what if it was that bitch's egg that bounced instead?
She'd flap and scream, the stupid little drama queen.
My chick is dead, she'd shout and wail.
I wouldn't care. I'm drinking from the horses pail!
The chicken.
**** OFF!
"Dont cry because its over. Smile that it happened." -Dr. Seuss

Last edited by Allo1010; 22-03-2012 at 14:14. Reason: Removed masked swearing
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04-03-2012, 13:53   #3
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I Hope George is OK.

It is a lovely sunny day. Always makes me feel good, seeing the sun. I’m not sure when I last saw a day as fine as this. I should tell everyone. “Nurse, nurse!” where is everyone when you want them? I want them to see the sun and be happy. “Nurse!” Strange. They usually come when I call. Never mind, I’ll wake George in the next bed. He could really do with cheering up. Made no end of noises in the night. Was it last night or was it this morning? I’m not sure, but I know I heard it. Whenever it was he’d feel so much better if he saw the sun was out. I’ll get myself out of this bed and draw his curtains. Not sure why they’ve curtains all around him. Can’t see anything from my bed, except the window, because of that blasted curtain. Maybe George had a turn and they had to hide him from us. They do that you know. Think it means no-one knows what’s going on. As if a flimsy worn and torn piece of sheeting is going to hide the noise, dampen the pain, or stop the smell of leaked urine spreading across the ward. Do they think we’re all stupid? Who is that needs their head looking at, the ones that hear, smell and feel or the ones that draw the curtains thinking that all is hidden? Exactly. Bleeding doctors, what do they know about anything?

Right let’s get moving. Oh, there’re plastic tubes everywhere. What’s that all about? I don’t remember them. Must be some new fangled medicine they’ve got me on. I’ll just pull it with me. Aaaaaarrrh! Wasn’t expecting that. Bloody great needle poking out of my arm. Where is that nurse. If he’d just come and open the curtain I wouldn’t need to get up. I’ll press the buzzer. Where is it now? I could’ve sworn it was just by my left arm. Have I knocked it off? I’ll just pop my head over the side of the bed and have a shifty.

Ah, look, the sun’s out. Lovely. Always cheers me up to see the sun. Brightens the day no end. “Nurse, nurse?” I’ll show the nurse. He could do with cheering up. Last time I saw him he was looking really bothered. Blood all over him and he had quite a sweat on. In fact they both did. Keith and the foreign woman. I can’t get the hang of her name. She had a worried face too. Must have had a difficult customer to have both of them with their knickers in a twist. Smells like someone’s had an accident. Awful shame, to lose your dignity like that. They leave you like that for ages sometimes. Even once they clean you up there’s still the smell in the air. Everyone can smell it. I hope George is OK. They must’ve pulled the curtains around him because I can’t see anything but out this window.
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15-03-2012, 12:33   #4
Lady Agatha
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In the Dark

As soon as the train left the station, I knew that I’d got on the wrong one. It’s them gasholders that told me. Even in the dark you can feel them watching. It’s like they guard the place, keeping an eye on who’s coming and going. Anyways, they’re at the south end of the station and I was supposed to be going north. It’s the blackout. And the smog. And they’re so damn cagey about where you are and where the trains are going. So anyways I notices the gasholders and I shouts out that I’m going the wrong way. This Tommy stood next to me laughs and says “Oh, you’d best get off at the next stop and turn yourself around then mate!”

So I shuffles myself forward, stepping over all the kitbags and legs, and stands right next to a door, ready to jump off at the first stop. I just hoped I’d not got on an express up to the smoke, but somebody told me we were on a stopper to Bristol, so that’s alright, I thought. Anyways we comes to standstill, it’s still all dark and thick and I thinks to myself well we must be at Barker Hill station and I opens the door and jumps out. But there’s no platform and I keep going till I hit some track. Turns out we was in the middle roads at Barker Junction waiting for a signal. So this freight train bears down on me and that’s it. Kaput. I think I’m in about three pieces. I hope I’ve not caused too much trouble.
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21-03-2012, 07:24   #5
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I've opened my eyes and that's not my alarm clock. Mine has hands and two little bells on top, and goes 'brringg' and then my Mum brings me a cup of tea and a biscuit; this one has bright numbers. It's sitting on a bedside table that isn't mine either. And the pillow's the wrong colour, and my head is throbbing. I don't think I had much to drink, but I just can't remember what happened last night.

I'm not alone. A very fine young woman comes into the room and gives me a couple of tablets. These'll sort me out, she tells me, these'll get me on my feet again. She's wearing a dressing gown wrapped around her, and I obediently take the tablets. That should help my headache. She doesn't look much older than me, and I wonder whether I came up to scratch. I've no recollection of anything happening, but when you wake up in a strange bed with an attractive woman bringing you headache tablets, you have to hope you didn't disappoint, haven't you? She swishes out of the room, looking back with a smile. Encouraging! I wonder if she'll consider me worth another try. Perhaps she'll come back to bed and we can enjoy a lazy morning.

But I'm disappointed when she returns fully clothed. She's still smiling, though, and making comforting noises, so I think I'm still in favour. Perhaps this is the start of something. She kisses me on the cheek and calls me her 'daddy'; must have been some little joke we shared last night.

If I knew where my things were, I'd get dressed, but I can't see them. There are some clothes on the chair over there, but they look like an old man's stuff. Brown corduroys and a checked shirt; not my thing at all. I begin to wonder why on earth she'd have them in her bedroom.

Noises suddenly shake me and two young children come into the room. I didn't expect this at all, this isn't right. What have I got myself into here? I won't be having that much to drink again, whatever it was. No, just when the day seemed to be shaping up well, this happens. I hear myself making disapproving noises and the little people stop in their tracks. That'll teach them.

The sooner I get out of here the better. Back home to Mum and Dad's and maybe help Dad wash the car and not think about girls for a while, especially not ones with kids hidden away. I try to get out of bed but that woman stops me. She tells me to relax and not get upset, and then tells the children that their Grandad's not feeling too well.

I don't give a stuff about their Grandad, I want to go home. I tell the woman this, and she tries to tell me I am home. And she calls me daddy again.
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31-03-2012, 14:41   #6
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John arrives in the kitchen but cannot then remember why he has come into that room. This is not unusual. He has heard lots of people in their late forties onwards describe exactly this experience, and has more than once found his wife Maria standing in a room looking slightly puzzled, so this is common amongst older people, and not a cause for concern. He begins looking around the kitchen for anything which might provide a clue as to why he is there.
He spots a piece of paper, folded over and wedged between a jar of dried lentils and the tiled splashback. He knows Maria often leaves herself notes as reminders, and sure enough as he unfolds the paper he recognises Maria’s handwriting,
‘Tell Helen about John’s dementia next time they visit.’
John’s hand twitches; he drops the note. Helen is their son Mervyn’s new girlfriend. John likes Helen, and he likes the idea that they begin to tell things to Helen as one of the family. He just wishes he’d been told this thing first.
Forgetting that he has forgotten why he has gone into the kitchen, he walks back into the hall and looks in the mirror. There is the familiar reflection. He has brushed his hair. He is dressed tidily. There is no fleck of foam at the corner of his mouth, no strange glint in his eye. Yet it seems he is looking at someone who is mad.
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01-04-2012, 20:56   #7
De Batz
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Thanks for all the entries.

Here are my thoughts as I read them:
Allo1010: I think there is an element of distraction for me in reading this piece because of the slightly unpredictable internal rhyme scheme. As such, I found myself reading it several times to try to catch the cadence of each line. This isn't in itself a problem, and you could say that it is a strength that it isn't fully revealed on a first reading. Having said that, I can't fathom it on a third or fourth reading; I acknowledge the theme leads that way. Purely in terms of the sounds I make to myself, there's something quite alluring about it, but I'll have to go with your tag line and say that I just don't know with this one.

LFT1: I enjoyed this. I think the gradual revealing of the details, whilst giving a clear indication of the grounding of the story is effective. The voice is engaging, and the short sentences give it the feel of spoken words. I can hear the pauses. There's the sense that this is a sort of Talking Heads monologue that really ought to be 'acted' rather than read to oneself.

Lady Agatha: A little dark twist at the end and suddenly I'm no longer hearing from a man but a ghost. This piece also has the feel of a spoken narration, which I think comes from (again) the short sentences and the choice of words to begin them. I also like the fact that you have written a genuinely short piece, rather than restricting a longer idea to fewer than 500 words as we sometimes end up doing in this competition.

Tallyman: A similar theme to LFT1's piece. The focus here is on the scope of the decline, rather than on the narrower 'now', and I think this lends the story a wonderful sense of pathetic desperation, very finely evoked by what you have chosen to reveal in a couple of telling exchanges. The growing sensation of recognition in the reader is mirrored by the protagonist's growing frustration with his situation.

Greg2: Also on the timely theme of what we might group under the umbrella of dementia, this is a neat little piece of writing. This one has the 'reveal' as the central turning point, and twists about in the second part, leading us around John's failing mind. Again, you have handled well the difficulties of voicing someone who is suffering from mental illness of this sort. There is something particularly 'live' about the use of the present tense which adds flavour.

So, when it comes to choosing a winner, the usual caveats apply (personal taste &c). Tallyman is this month's winner, and here's why: the situation of his piece appeals to me, and the execution of the writing is delicate without the focus being pulled too far that way.
There is a lot of good writing - both in terms of ideas and the language itself - this month, so well done to all of you and well done to Tallyman in particular. See you over in the April thread.

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03-04-2012, 12:59   #8
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Thank you, De Batz, for your kind words.

Frankly, I thought all the pieces this month were of a very high standard, and made for some pretty stiff competition. Onwards to April then!

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05-04-2012, 14:12   #9
Ron Blanco
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Congratulations, Tallyman. A really good read - you've obviously still got it! I wonder if this will kick-start a new wave of Tallyman Tales?

In fact, they were all interesting pieces. One additional comment I have regarding LFT's contribution is that I thought that the idea to punctuate the piece with calls to the nurse worked very well.

De Batz, thanks for supervising, and for your excellent summary.
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09-04-2012, 12:13   #10
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Thanks to De Batz and Ron Blanco for the encouraging comments and congratulations to Tallyman.
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