It’s been a tough decision-making process, but we write to announce the winner and runner-up of our Travel Fiction competition for 2013!
Judged by Alysoun Owen, our editor at the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, the standard of entries this year was very high. You’ve had us dreaming about holidaying in the Caribbean and sweating in fear at some of the hairier situations you’ve described, but finally we managed to narrow it down to two wonderful pieces.
The winner, who will receive a Kindle courtesy of Directline Holidays, is Jon Fortgang with his entry, ‘Kites.’
The runner-up, who will receive a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2013, is D. A. Edwards, with ‘Winter of the Soul.’
Both Jon and D.A. Edwards’ stories and the thoughts of Alysoun Owen can be read at the bottom of this page.
Also, by way of recognizing the number of quality entries this year, we’ve decided to announce a shortlist of the fifteen entries that nearly clinched the prize.
Shortlist for Travel Fiction Short Story Competition:
Van Demal – Waiting
Eugène Brian Smith – Clarity
Ophelia Hu – Westward As The Crow Flies
Rose Stevens – Leaving Marettimo
Mikey Jackson – King of My Sandcastle
Julie Noble – Avian Encounter
Lindsay Fisher – Looking For An Angel In Venice
Maria Callow – On Water
Andrew Blackman – Farley Hill
Kay Readdy – Storm Chaser
Lisa Okon – Oh Oaxaca
Moll Heaton – Rise
So this is where you brought me, that hot afternoon in ‘76. A rolling plain of sun-bleached green off the A34 near Twyford. You parked the Mini in a layby. We walked away from it down the track. You picked up a stick from the ground and waved it ahead like a wand. I wasn’t going to come but for weeks you’d been quietly persistent. It’s beautiful up there, you said. There’s never anybody around. You said there was a chance we’d see kites – the birds, not the things on string. Birdwatching, I thought. Aye aye. I didn’t really know you then. You were a map I couldn’t quite read. Kites, you said, are part-carrion. They mate for life and feed on the dead. You made it sound so darkly beguiling. We were young enough to yearn, that year, for the half-light at life’s far edge.
We trod carefully through the long, sharp grass. The distant blue above was scored with thin, high clouds. They were cirrus, you said – made of ice. And I was wearing this clingy purple dress. Totally unsuitable attire. Jagged blades and pointy sepals grazed my ankles and caught the hem. At the centre of the plain was a solitary tree. Silently we walked towards it. The air was thick with buzzing insects. Their volume seemed to grow. It was as if we were standing beneath a pylon or suddenly apprehending radio waves. We reached the tree and I thought we’d to stop but no, you said, let’s carry on. Okay, I said. I’ll follow.
And then, like birds shaking out their wings before rising into an epic migratory voyage, that first exploratory kiss. For years we said we’d come back. Somehow we never did. Now the Peugeot’s parked up in the layby. The tree twists in retreat from the wind. And I’m here on my own in these stupid slacks with your binoculars round my neck, following the trajectory of a single, far-away kite, falling through the endless depth of the sky.
Comments from Alysoun Owen:
This piece is neat, calm and understated. Within a few short paragraphs, it manages to juxtapose two views of the same scene, mirroring the emotions of the narrator. The hot, sultry, sexy day in ’76 when the carion-eating kite / lover hovered compared to the same location years later as, alone in ‘stupid slacks’, the speaker locates a ‘far-away kite’.
This story shows us that drama can be found in the everyday. It builds up the changing moods very well through spare poetic description, leaving the reader with questions (has the lover / husband left or died?) and imagining what the intervening years had brought them both. A deserving winner.
Runner-up: D. A. Edwards
Winter of the Soul
The mists had come, rolling in over the rooftops, cooling the balmy air and creating a hazy stillness. You could only see as far as a few streets away now. Everything felt slower and calmer. The sun hung in the sky like a blazing orb, its rays shrouded and muted. The roadside sellers lined up their hats, gloves and jumpers. Winter had come again to Bangladesh.
From her balcony on the third floor, Salma surveyed the scene below. Rickshaws gliding past taking people to work, an old woman sweeping the pavement of dust, children in their uniforms heading off to school and men gathered by the tea stall, trying to ward off the cold. It seemed she’d seen this scene thousands of times before, it was all so familiar, and yet today, everything felt different.
Salma supervised the servants as they prepared breakfast. She made sure everything was laid out correctly on the table, cups, saucers, plates, napkins, glasses, each in its place. It was a smaller affair now than it used to be when the children were at home, but still the table must be set, everything ready in time for her husband to get to his patients at the clinic.
‘Is the roti ready Begum?’ she called to the kitchen.
‘Yes, yes and the sabji Madam, just bringing it.’
Begum slowly brought the food from the kitchen and placed it in the centre of the table. She was getting old now and couldn’t move as quickly as she used to. The cold made her joints ache. But everything was in time, just as Salma Madam liked it.
‘And the tea...’
The clinking of the teacups was the only sound at the table, as Salma and her husband Iqbal ate their breakfast. Iqbal was engrossed in the newspaper as usual and Salma gazed over his shoulder, at the mist hanging on the palm tree outside their window. Begum came to pour another cup of tea, but Iqbal refused, pulling on his jacket ready to leave.
‘When will you be back?’ Salma asked.
‘I’ll be late’ he said, closing the door behind him.
Salma pulled her cardigan tightly around herself, as a shiver ran down her spine. Always the same, she thought. He would come home hours after the clinic had closed, smelling of alcohol, and fall asleep on the sofa, snoring.
Always the same.
She called Begum to tidy up the table and headed out to the balcony to watch his car pull away. It was a ritual of hers. He never looked back to see her watching, but she watched never the less. The car turned into the main road and joined the weaving mass of Dhaka’s traffic, and he was gone. She thought of how many years she had gone through the ritual of watching him leave, twenty-five, nearly half her life. She had grown old watching him leave. But today she wouldn’t be waiting for him to return.
Comments from Alysoun Owen:
The writer conjures up a visually vivid set of scenes: inside and outside the apartment – the rituals of everyday life. The spell of normality is broken in the last, affirmative line ‘But today she wouldn’t be waiting for him to return.’ Freedom: a fuller life beyond the apartment walls beckons.
We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we have.
If you didn’t make the shortlist this time, and want to have another try, then why not enter our Flash Fiction competition here?
About Directline Holidays
Directline Holidays are an online travel agent, which has been established since 1993, and specialises in package holidays to destinations all over the world including Egypt, Italy and the Caribbean.