Following on from a fantastic festival on Saturday, I’m delighted to announce the top ten authors of our competition.
Drum roll please…
The winners are (coincidentally both from May’s round):
- The Wisdom of Scarecrows – Kat Day (story below) winning £50 plus free entry to BeaconLit 2019
- Love Your Fete – Rosy Edwards (story below) winning £25 plus free entry to BeaconLit 2019
Runners up (each winning free entry to BeaconLit 2019):
- The Keeper of Time – Julia Grieve (Highly Commended)
- Changing the Clocks – Rowena Fishwick
- When Rambo met Mitzy – Barbara Young
- No Running – Sue Kittles
- Back to School – Pat Mernagh-Thompson
- Mayday, Mayday – Jane Broughton
- Happy New Year – Lesley Middleton
- Zapped – Jan Halstead
Either Dave, our Chair and competition coordinator, or Jacquie, our Secretary, will be in touch with your prizes.
In another batch any one of these stories could have won but the top two stood out for their compassion and humour. I created a Highly Commended for ‘The Keeper of Time’ as it only just missed out on the second spot. Congratulations to everyone and all those who entered regardless of whether you were placed in a certain month or overall. You wrote a story, you got your bum in that chair!
The Second BeaconFlash will open on 1st August with different themes per month and extra prizes. So without further ado, here are the top two stories (in reverse order)…
Love your Fete
The knot in Paula’s tummy tightened another notch. The lime-lit beechwoods and hedgerows frothing with cow parsley were in delightful contrast to her last inner-city parish, but she felt like a lamb to the slaughter. Her predecessor had left copious notes but on the subject of village celebrations he had been uncharacteristically brief:
“Whatever you do, avoid being roped in as judge in ANY of the competitions.”
A keen cook, Paula had succumbed to Diedre Sackville-Smith’s arm-twisting and agreed to judge the home produce competition. However, now that the fete-ful day had arrived, Paula was having palpitations.
It had begun the previous night, when an envelope dropped through the vicarage letterbox. The type-written missive had puzzled her immediately: who, in this day and age, still possessed a manual typewriter?
Dear Reverend Cousins
To secure funding for the Church roof you must award the following:
- Best Cake: Victoria Sponge (dusted in caster sugar, not icing)
- Best Preserve: Blackberry & Apple Jelly
- Best Biscuits: Lavender shortbread
A high-vizzed figure directed Paula into the field and she was beckoned into VIP parking under a hedge smothered in elderflower parasols. Muttering a prayer before opening the car door, Paula put her best foot forward. The Almighty must have been distracted as she stepped into some sheep dung which oozed into her sandal, staining her toes yellow-green. Paula rolled her eyes heavenwards in reproach. Swifts, circling high above on the thermals, squealed their delight.
Weaving through the throng, Paula smiled at familiar faces, grappling for names. For once the Bank Holiday weather had excelled itself, producing a bewildering array of attire: Stilton thighs protruded from generous shorts, calloused heels tottered in strappy sandals and bared shoulders and midriffs were already turning red.
Entering the sultry marquee, Paula was assaulted by gargantuan floral displays. The pollen-infested air was overpowering but, eyes watering, she headed towards the WI Committee, decked in their full regalia. After sneezing throughout her briefing, Paula escaped to mingle with her flock.
The ice-cream van had been doing brisk trade until suddenly his queue broke loose, brandishing smartphones.
“It is her, I tell you!”
“It’s Mary Berry!”
A petite, pink-suited lady was strolling across the turf, her blonde bob rigid in the breeze.
Seizing the God-given opportunity Paula rushed forward. “Welcome to Nether Ramsbottom, Mary. How lovely to see you!”
Clasping Paula’s hand Mary grinned and gave a theatrical wink. “Appearances can be deceptive, Vicar.” Her husky voice implied laryngitis, but her breath betrayed a nicotine habit.
“Do call me Paula. Can I offer you some refreshments?”
“Actually, there’s a small favour I’d like to ask of you.”
After an experimental “put-put-put” the microphone was passed to Paula.
“Ladies and gentlemen. As many of you know, we had the unexpected pleasure of a celebrity visitor this afternoon. Someone with far superior skills to mine for judging sponges and soggy bottoms. Sadly, she had another engagement to attend, but here are the results of the WI’s competition…”
The Wisdom of Scarecrows
“The sky is a lovely colour,” said the scarecrow.
Angela adjusted her baseball cap against the May sunshine. She was leaning back-to-back against the scarecrow’s checked shirt. Bits of straw poked her.
“You’re lucky,” she said. “It often rains this time of year. It might’ve been pouring down for your one day alive.
Angela and her Dad had made the scarecrow for the village competition, to be judged at the May Day Fête tomorrow. They’d stuffed a pair of jeans and a shirt with straw and made a face out of papier-mâché. She’d painted it bright pink.
She’d been surprised when he started talking. Scarecrows, he’d explained, get one day of life once they’re made. Angela was sure most people didn’t know this.
“What’s rain?” asked the scarecrow.
“Water that falls out of the sky.”
“How does it get up there?”
“Um,” said Angela, trying to remember what her teacher, Mrs Pilady, had told her. “Something to do with bicycles, I think.”
The scarecrow looked, as much as someone with painted-on eyes can look, at Angela’s bicycle, leaning against the side of the shed. “Does someone put it in the basket and ride it up there?”
“Something like that,” said Angela. It probably didn’t matter. Mrs Pilady wasn’t likely to spring an impromptu test on them in the next few hours.
The scarecrow nodded. “Tell me again what happens tomorrow,” he said after a moment.
“Why do you want to hear it again? You won’t see it.”
“I know, but it sounds so nice.”
Angela smiled. “We’ll put you in Dad’s trailer and drive you to the fête. There’s a big display of all the scarecrows. The best one gets a red rosette. There’s a maypole that the preschool kids dance around. I did it a few years ago, but I’m too big now. There’s ice-cream and a barbeque and a coconut shy. And a bouncy castle!”
The scarecrow sighed happily.
The smell of smoke and crack of burning wood crept treacherously across Angela’s mind. There would be a bonfire in the evening. But why mention that? The scarecrow would never know.
“It’s beautiful here,” said the scarecrow. “I’m glad I’ve seen it. Even if it was just for one day. I’m glad I met you, too, Angela. If you hadn’t come outside, I would’ve spent all my time alone.”
Angela touched the scarecrow’s hand. The old ski glove was warm from the sunshine. “I think,” she said slowly, “that we should always try to enjoy days. They might run out for any of us.”
“Yes,” said the scarecrow.
They sat in silence, then. A bee buzzed by. Angela took off her baseball cap and rubbed at her nearly-bald scalp.
A few minutes later, the back door opened. “There you are, sweetie,” said Angela’s dad. “It’s time for your medicine.”
“Hi, Dad. I was just talking to the scarecrow.”
“Were you now? Did he say anything interesting?”
Angela looked at the now-motionless straw man.
“Yes,” she said. “He did.”