WEEK 2. WINNERS
We are delighted with so many entries and the quality and creativity of the submissions as been so high it's been very difficult to judge, but here are our winners for week 2:
Category 1: Previously Published Writers:
Maeve McKenna with poem "Our daughter Is Flying Us Into It"
'this is the calm, before the storm, before the surge’
One shallow breath remains. I endure
this flatness, inhale each final birth of mass
infection, and release. But,
you are contagious and I am mature, our army,
less congregation, more co-joined reflection.
Even the sullen crow we fed with stale bread, its calloused
feet all feral and neat, is battle-boot ready as clouds scatter like people,
dissolving overhead with our paths of retreat.
Without all hope, yet, with human ceremony, I make shorter
the night by kneading dough.
Then, the hearts rise. You are returning. We are almost ready.
You appear. How! Your startled gaze, out beyond
the local moon, is a face threatening our unending still.
Above, the pointed beak mimics a grin, tail
a propeller wielding a wand, expanse of wings a parachute
of thrills that last swooped the night you flung
your adolescent will at the foot of our bed. I was cross.
Ahead, trees toss shadows against amber streetlights.
We pull up to our nest, a fragile thing of the head, made of moss.
Category 2: Unpublished writers
We had a big response to this category and the quality was very high, so much so that we have also chosen 2 runners up:
Our winner is Deirdre Lane with a short story
"Wash your Hands"
“Dad. Did you wash your hands?"
“For fuck sake."
He is just in from Mass. We speak, today. He plops the two Sunday Papers on the kitchen table and runs his hands fleetingly under the tap. Splashes from his rheumatoid riddled shovel hands shake and take flight in every direction. They hit the window, window sills, bread bin and the far corners of the draining board. He reaches for an off-white tea towel and cleans his dripping nose on it too. As he shuffles and turns I remove the now maybe COVID cloth and replace it with a dark hand towel, it hides these stains.
“I bought us all one. Small, medium and large soaps just like the 3 bears, grrrhhhhh ha huh. They are just here, by the tap. The Bluebell one is from the American Maker at the market. He collects the wildflowers himself you know. Da, yours is the big French bar.”
“God why have you forsaken me?” his words escape his side ways shaking head as he mounts the stairs for his bi-daily snooze. My fancy soaps lie untouched.
The transistor drones on in his wake. Male voices punctuated by loud car ads waft through the now closed door.
“Turn that damned noise off” he punches the radio off button like a judges gavel and hovers about as 6 O‘Clock looms. I cook in silence and eye the clock. The Angeles chime in my mind. We three eat drowning in that silence bar the loud scraps which ricochet from his plate.
“He will wear the pattern off “she barks under her breath glancing at him sideways as he lifts the plate to slurp the juice off.
“Lovely. Lovely.” He rises to put the kettle on for tea for one.
“He would eat anything”, she mutters.
Inside I shrink as my today’s hour of washing, chopping, sautéing and flavour testing is destroyed just as her dentures takes her taste away, so too her bitterness drains my life one dig at a time.
Her voice rises as she lowers the drink. “Sure ‘tis 7 O’Clock somewhere!” her mantra trots out. Mundane news monologues get issued and I listen. Nearly time for Coronation Street, she rises with a grunt and farts trail in her wake to her telly room. I retreat to Facebook as he retires to his TV. Legs up, volume too, sport reruns blare from his room, romcoms from hers.
This increasing deafness and daftness deflates me.
She shuffles down the wooden stairs in the mornings. Woollen white slippers muffle her fallen arched plods. Her turf brown dressing gown belt thuds belated one step behind. One door opens, then the next, then the radio drones to life.
I stay in my single bed, iPhone on, then I hear him rise. Glad both are alive I leave them time to meet and greet. She shouts a complaint. He replies, if at all, in a low mono syllable.
His chair moves and the kettle clicks off. Time for me to rise as radio news at 9 tune travels thru my bare bedroom floor boards where piles of clothes stifle the rising daily deaths and more bad news. The toaster clunks two mid brown toast sky wise as his cholesterol reducing margarine is then scraped across their faces. Orange or red or purple smears follow.
I am greeted by a half conversation about the Germans . I know to nod. From the news, her book, the film last night-who knows? I nod and smile too difficult to extract the real story, even her version distorted and amplified and just....wrong. “You always quiz me” so I now don’t. His house. Her rules. Her version, versions that change with the retelling.
“Yer man from over there was on. It still not fixed.”
I nod, my stomach growls, I need coffee. The coffee grinder noise annoys her. The Ethiopian blend aroma brings a smile to my face as the 9.30 news comes on the kitchen radio and her TV belts out newer news too. The coffee splutters then percolates to life and boils over to her disgust. I clean up automatically and retreat to my new room, their front room, now my zoom room.
The land line rings and so her conversations are told and repeated and retold all morning, all day, each day. I hear the wrong versions thru the walls between the TV ads.
One day comes around again. Same pattern. Same time. Same place. Same people. More news, all bad. The figures mount and with it the fear. I take a walk each night post our 6 O’Clock sitting and clean up.
“Where are you going? Don’t go. Stay. Don’t leave me. It’s dark. It’s dangerous.“ For once I snap back at her “Mother it is the longest day of the year, its ten past eight. Amgoingforawalk.” Midsummer energy coursed thru my veins as years of happy solstice celebrations memories flood thru my incensed mind.
As he gets deafer and she gets dafter, the days grow longer. Locked in with COVID19 looming thru their house. Am home grown murder weapon number one. I dared go out late, once. I dared see him. We had fun, laughs, stories, beers, flirts and return to the ultimatum.
“It is him or us. You choose. You are placing our lives in danger. You are so irresponsible! Not a thought for us and all we went thru and us alone cocooning for months. Is this how you repay us? You made your choice. Just go”. He lowers his paper and chews the underside of his lower lip. As I turn on my heel, he turns to the racing page.
Daft.ie and Rent.ie become my daily companions. In line at Lidl. In line at Tesco. Rushing thru M&S my anxiety mounts, each aisle a maze of temptations, a buying rush floods me. Get the Japanese sauce. Grab the crimped crisps. Guilt mounts as it’s my first time back at the upmarket checkout line. The M&S lady promotes Percy Pig sweets and I contain the urge to sprint from the till and yet run quickly back thru one last aisle. Grab an Italian smooth roast coffee. If you are going to die, best do it with a strong rich blend at hand.
It is the next day just a same day. My walk way takes in the park by the closed school, and the closed cemetery, and the train lines. Decision reached.
“Single?“. Does it show that much!? He looks up at my perplexed and baffled face.
“Single, or return TICKET? “he repeats with a deep sigh.
“Oh. Em,oh, ah, sssingle.” I stutter and swallow back my tears.
“Actually em, no, no, sorry, sorry. Sorry, so sorry. Open return for one please?”
Our runners up Andrew Watson with
"The Death of the Irish Pub"
This is what it's come to,
The death of the Irish pub
Nare a pint to be seen without a feed of grub
Small little chairs not a sight of the high stools and blessed be to god says the barman I’ve had enough of those drunk fools
For a while All goes well not a shout or a fight
And Ive cleaned and locked up before midnight
And a few weeks go by and the craic hasn’t returned and neither will the high stools in the fire they were burned
And the porter doesn’t taste as good without the clatter of laughs
Sure what will the oul lads be at when they finish with the calf’s
The singsong is silence and the jokes aren’t there and the barman is getting sick of them little fucking chairs
No more micko billy or christo to be seen and no more shouts Stick us on a cold one feen
This is what it’s come to
The death of the Irish pub
No more blaggarding your man because he’s only a feckin dub
2 metre distance between themselves
and large bottles getting dusty upon the shelves
The keg has been tapped for a week or two and the Guinness is starting to look like a stew
Sure there’s no one drinking they’ll ate at home
To have a few punters in now I’d even listen to them moan
Give out shite about their day and the last race and another horse would fall as they drink the full case
He’d defend his horse and blame the turf in naas and the next fella would have a sip and laugh in his face
And in would walk your man without a punt in his pocket
And still find a Euro to lash onto a docket and he’d turn for his pint and ask for a sub
And I hope it’s not the death of the Irish pub
and runner up Nicola Spendlove with "A Lifetime Ago"
A Lifetime Ago
On my first day of preschool
I was the only child who didn’t cry.
My mother did.
I have always been energised by the prospect
Of doing things alone.
On the 8 th of March 2020
I did not hug my mother
I said a quick goodbye over my shoulder
And gave a promise to be back in town in four days for a few hours
For an assignment
For I always had places to be in a hurry.
I replayed this moment
As the country locked down
And all my hurries came grinding to a halt
As speeches from disaster films
Streamed into my living room
As I sought comfort in the voices of strangers on meditation apps
That I once would have found in hers.
And when the numbers grew
I forced myself to imagine my mother’s funeral
To get up early to sit alone on the couch and weep and rehearse my speech
To ready myself for not being allowed to go in person
With a certainty a rational soul would try to explain away
I kept this routine a secret.
I promised my mother I would tell her if I got sick
But I wasn’t sure if the dreams counted
The ones where they left her on a trolley
And let me say goodbye to her on Facetime
Like they do on the news.
I speak to my mother on video calls
I listen as she loses her job
As her own mother is put in a home where none of us can visit
I keep it together until I hang up
I am still the child that does not cry when her mother does.
On the 4 th of July I will see my mother again.
I have sterilised the surfaces and ordered a cake.
After an hour, we will annoy each other.
I will hug her anyway.
We were delighted to see our young writers entering and we have two winners in our new Category 3: Young writers
Lucy Hood (15yrs) "Chiffley & Libbrul meet Sad Boy"
The boy groaned, flopping his body around the covers, his feet peeking lazily out, curled like two pink slugs, slowly turning purple from the chilly air seeping into his room. He rolled over, his hair plastered to his face, dyed an unnatural murky grey, lolling over one of his eyes in a mass of strands, stretching to his chin. He disturbed it slightly, scratching his ear.
Outside the window, a little leek with jiggling green feelers, watched the boy, his narrow head cupped in a hairdo of leaves shooting up in the air, topped with a woollen stripy hat. He grinned, rubbing his feelers with glee.
A teenage boy, perfect for the most teenagery teenager competition, and how lazy he seemed, lying in bed in broad daylight, he was a winner for sure. The leek’s lollypop shaped eyes sparkled as a bogey dropped from the boy’s nose. And snotty, he was perfect!
He pressed his glass cutter knife on the window.
“Ouch!” he reeled his feelers back as a curly silver and white wing smacked him.
Libbrul rolled his eyes, “Ooh, Chiffley!” he banged the glass with his knife.
The wing clamped on his feelers, “No, Libbrul, like this”
A flutter stirred the air as Chiffley squeezed in beside him. Chiffley was a frizzle chicken, a beautiful breed, adorned with locks and locks of curly whirly feathers, rippling over her short tail in a mass of loops. her feathers bristled under a black cape, thrown over her shoulders with a silver brooch. A belt with pockets hung over a pale blue skirt.
Chiffley fished out a twisty hooked thing from one of the pockets. Placing her feathered foot on the bottom end and screwing the other with her beak, it started glowing, shimmering a deep midnight blue, growing brighter and brighter, crackling with a sharp fizzing sound.
Chiffley’s eyes danced, “Hold on, Libbrul!”
Libbrul wrapped his feelers tightly around the buzzing thing, his lips quivering, “What is it?”
Chiffley’s eyes twinkled, “An absorberniser” she rippled her tail, “Hold on, tight!”
Libbrul clung to Chiffley as they zipped into the air, showering the sky with sparks. His stomach lurched as the absorberniser rotated and steered, rocking with juddering movements, then hurling down, launching for the window.
Wind rushed past Libbrul, whipping through his skin, the absorberniser thrumming and humming.
“Arrh!” Libbrul’s feelers raked the air, icy wind gushing into his lungs, his pupils bulging. A sticky substance clutched his body, gooey, rubbery, stretching through him like elastic.
“Oww!” friction burns stung his feelers, a raw pain sizzling them like fire.
Chiffley’s beak pecked him, “Relax, Libbrul”.
Libbrul’s teeth rattled, “What’s happening?”
“We are going through the window.”
Libbrul’s eyes swelled large as beach balls, “Wh, what!”
“Yes, we are, now keep quiet, you are lucky we’re going through a teenager’s window!”
The substance lashed like snakes, roiling through the absorberniser. Libbrul squeezed his lips, trying not to think but a thrashing tentacle of sticky goo pounded his back. He heard Chiffley muttering about triple glazed windows. He felt the substance slacken, as a soft haven of carpet greeted him.
He looked up, seeing the grey-haired boy, snoring, and mumbling in the folds of a duvet.
He was inside.
Libbrul heard a rustle of movement as Chiffley pattered across the carpet, slipping the absorberniser back into her pocket.
His eyes bulged, the window had no mark or crack that proclaimed that two living creatures had thrust through it. It was solid, shimmering with sunlight, playing shadows of branches and leaves on the boy’s curtains.
Chiffley scurried to Libbrul, “Come on, here’s your chance”
Libbrul nodded, heaving his body off the ground, crawling on his roots to the bed. His feelers wobbled gingerly. What a mess!
The carpet was strewn with packets tipping out mouldy crisps and marshmallows, pools of liquid seeped from fizzy drink cans, hissing as their bubbling substance absorbed into the carpet. A furry mould covered pizza drooped over a toxic yellow take away container, festering with rank smelling chips. Odours crawled up Libbrul’s nostrils, artificial and stuffy, stinking with sweat.
Libbrul reached the bed, expanding the webs of his fingers, stretching, and spreading them until they were as wide as the boy’s foot, he let air fill his lungs, feeling the webs quiver, he dropped them down.
“Arrh!” Libbrul leaped back, knocking into a drink can that knocked into a dustbin, littering more rubbish across the floor.
The boy jerked and twisted in the duvet, wide awake, slapping the air with frenzied hands. “Ger off me, ger off me!” his legs kicked and lashed.
Libbrul scuttled to the flailing duvet, whipping it off.
The boy went still, his eyes sucking in Libbrul’s features. His lips wobbled, “A walking parsnip!”
Libbrul’s eyes widened, “I’m not a parsnip, I’m a leek.”
The boy rubbed his nose, “Oh” he flopped his hair over his ear, pulling the duvet up his neck.
Chiffley rushed to him, “I hope we haven’t startled you”
The boy’s eyes darted, “A talking turkey!”
Chiffley shook her head, “No, I’m a chicken, a frizzle chicken,” she bobbed her curly feathered neck, “Could you tell me your name”
The boy buried his head in the duvet, mumbling, he poked a foot out, blaring bright in a pyjama trouser leg, crowded with emojis. Each one a miserable face with the words Sad on it. He snatched it back into the duvet. Chiffley’s face creased with confusion.
Libbrul twisted his tongue, “Er, Sad Trouser leg?”
The boy wrinkled his nose, “No, Sad Boy”
Chiffley’s tail bristled, “Sad Boy! What lovely parents you must have!”
Sad Boy rose from the duvet, “Why are yah here and why are yah interested in me?”
Libbrul shuffled from foot to foot, giving Chiffley nervous glances. Chiffley shot him a venomous stare. Sad Boy watched the silent quarrel, his mouth drooping like an old sock.
Chiffley stepped up to him, “Sad Boy, you have been given the chance to enter the universe’s most teenagery teenager competition. Libbrul and me see you as a winning specimen”
The duvet was cast into the air, a blur of lurid pyjamas tore across the room; suddenly tripping on a fizzy drink can. Sad Boy hopped on one leg, clutching his toe, “You’re wrong! All this mess is my bro’s”
Sad Boy crunched the can, “Yes, all of it, these drink cans, these take away boxes, these marshmallow packets...” he swiped handfuls of the stuff in the air, “They’re not mine, I never make mess!”
Sad Boy wrenched open his door, beside it lay a sprawled heap of household things, dusters, mops, a hoover, all tangled in a big clump of chaos.
Sad Boy grabbed hold of the hoover, swinging its long black trunk over his shoulders while stuffing his hands with dusters and sponges. He scrambled it into his room, its wire and plug bashing into cans. Chiffley and Libbrul watched, confused as he hauled it over crumpled crisp packets, jamming the plug in the socket.
The hoover roared to life.
Sad Boy stabbed its sucker on a mouldy chip, “Goodbye, brother’s mess!”
The chip leaped into the sucker; Sad Boy’s face lit with delight. He slapped down the hoover, stuffing his hands with piles of rubbish, crunching it into his dustbin. He scooped up crisp packets and marshmallow bags, hooked sticky blobs off his carpet, grabbing the mouldy pizza and shoving it straight in the bin.
“I like cleaning!” he wheeled around with the hoover, his left hand equipped with a flannel, scrubbing the walls. “I’m an expert with the hoover, daring with the flannel!” He tied his hands in cloth, shoving a mop up his leg, “I’m cleany boy!”
Chiffley clapped her wings in protest, Libbrul wobbled his lip. A feather duster loomed in front of them, plunging its rainbow coloured hairy head into their faces.
Sad Boy’s eyes glittered, “And I don’t even have teenage tastes”
Chiffley and Libbrul gaped as Sad Boy zoomed to a radio, punching the buttons.
A rich stream of classical music whooshed through the air, haunting with soprano vocals. Sad Boy twirled and swirled to it, dancing with the hoover.
Libbrul’s eyes swelled, “He’s mad, Chiffley, not really like a teenager”
Chiffley nodded, “Cleaning and classical music, if we entered him, we’d be thrown out!”
Sad Boy marched to them, feather dusters branching from his shoulders, “There’s even more I can do!”
Libbrul nudged Chiffley, “Let’s go”
Chiffley fumbled out the absorberniser. With one twist, it glowed bright blue, vibrating and whirring. Libbrul snagged on Chiffley’s tail as they rose in the air.
Sad boy dropped a sponge, “Where are you going?”
“Somewhere that cleaning teenagers don’t exist!” The absorberniser and its passengers, twizzled in the air, rising, thrusting through the window, bobbing through the sky, growing smaller and smaller.
Sad Boy yanked off the feather dusters, casting the hoover to the ground. Lifting his foot, he knocked over the dustbin. His lips curled with a smile; he had fooled them!
Alex Molloy (11yrs) with "Summer Sand"
The salty breeze blows the bees
To the cliffs edge.
Please! Can I be the one who sees The ocean's sparkling pledge.
We reach the beach and I beseech
Sand sandwiches galore.
I make the reach
And take a bite! Who could want anything more?
Then comes the dream, chocolate ice-cream
Along with a cola float.
Now I see the ocean's colour scheme
And a turquoise fishing boat
Sitting on the warm summer sand,
I realise the ocean has always had the upper hand!
Thank you to all who took part in our competition. Due to the large numbers of entries we request that should you wish to re-enter our competitions in the following weeks, that you do so with a new piece of writing.