I had 30 entries in total – including 6 poems – and my friend Chris and I got together last night and enjoyed reading every single one and sifting through them for a shortlist of 6. (I’d printed them all off – without names – one copy each. We even had highlighter pens. Oh, we were very posh and organised).
The standard was, as always, high. And we were amazed at the cunning ways you sneaked in the requisite 5 words. We had, for example, a ‘monkey’ (£500), a former cat burglar, known as ‘The Panther’, wooden beads worn by a tribal prince, a ‘navy stampede’ at the sound of a school bell and someone in a pub ordering a pint ‘Courage Best’.
Some lovely pieces fell down at the last hurdle. At least three very clever and original entries, that could well have made the shortlist, missed out because of a clumsy last line. And while I’m pleased to report that no-one went over the permitted number of words (or missed any of the 5 words out), there was also one entry that only had 45, which seems a pity, when you’ve got 100 to play with.
What were we looking for? Originality, good writing, a ‘complete’ story – or one that left us thinking – and good use of the 5 words.
I let Chris decide the winner and runner-up (to be announced by the end of the weekend), because I knew who’d written some of the stories. So, any comments you make won’t change that decision but if, for a bit of fun, you’d like to say which 2 stories you’d have chosen as the top two, it will be interesting!
My partner was asked to pick his favourites and he picked two different stories from the ones we’ve chosen and you may well do the same.
Competitions are sooo subjective, so if you weren’t shortlisted this time, don’t be too disheartened – and thank you all for entering!
And here, in alphabetical order, are the shortlisted entries (and many congratulations if you’re one of the authors!):
1. Paradise Mislaid – by Philippa Bowe Smith
“I’ve lost it.”
“Again? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 500 times…it’ll be in the cupboard.”
“Oh…Tinman must’ve left his heart there too, look at him, he don’t care.”
Tinman slumps in his chair, wood creaking.
“I’m bored of being a cowardly lion. If I could be a panther, say…”
“You could try swapping. Might be fun.”
“No, he’s not getting near my heart.”
“Yes!” “No!” A stampede to the cupboard. The empty cupboard.
Scarecrow chokes with laughter. “Idiots! C’mon, it was a joke, I’ll give them back…put the matches down!”
2. MOHENJO-DARO – by Mervyn Coverdale
‘Panther Face on Wood Base.’
The catalogue stated that it had been found in Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient city of Sindh, Pakistan.
However it also hinted that the item might have once been possessed by Gengis Khan.
Misrepresentation like that took courage. If true, there should have been a stampede, but the Margate auction house was almost empty.
In 1947, I visited the excavations with my parents. Only 500 visitors were allowed in each day. Bored, I used a marker pen to draw the picture, and stuck it in the rubble as we left.
Genghis Khan, my foot.
3. Cowboys and Indians – by Linda Daunter
Remember how we played in those woods? Must be fifty years ago, though it seems like five hundred. You were always the cowboy. I was the Indian, creeping through the undergrowth stealthy as a panther while you threw stones you called bullets. The game always ended with me tied to a tree, fighting back tears. But once, I found the courage to save you from a stampede of buffaloes. I stood firm and shouted the secret Indian word that made them veer away. You called me stupid. That’s when I knew I’d won. You had no imagination.
4. Two Blue Lines – by Angela Dormer
For years, disappointment had stalked their lives like a brooding panther. “Whether it takes 1 attempt or 500, we’ll manage it”, Greg had said upon hearing the doctor’s news. They had hoped for a large family, a veritable stampede of tiny feet throughout their home. But years had passed, and the wooden crib remained unused. This time, however, something felt different and she allowed herself to hope. Two minutes passed. Yet again, she plucked up her battered courage and offered up a wordless prayer. Steadying her trembling hands, she looked down at the little white plastic stick. And smiled.
5. Fairies At The Soggy Bottom Of The Garden – by Keith Havers
It was the scandal of the year in Fairy Kingdom. Millistampede Marzipanther, viewers’ favourite to win The Great Fairy Bake Off, had been disqualified. Expert bakers Paul Gollywood and Faerie Caker would not change their minds despite encouragement from presenters Tinkerbell and Luna, otherwise known as Bel and Lu. And who was it that took Milli’s ice cream out of the freezer? None other than her fellow goblin competitor, Mister Krippling. Her Baked Alaska was ruined leaving Krippling to win the £500 prize with his showstopper. It had to be said though – he did make some exceedingly good cakes.
6. ‘Mind The Gap‘ – by Julia Thorley
The stampede towards the barrier as the 06.55 pulled in was unstoppable. Hector Wood, Important Man, was swept along by 500 commuters and mistakenly sat in a quiet carriage. He was not pleased. Nor were his fellow travellers pleased when he began to make loud phone calls. When stern looks and meaningful tutting had no effect, concerns were voiced. Hector was unabashed. Much has been written about the courage that a mob can find through collective intent. When the guard reached the carriage, all that remained of Hector was a haze of Panther For Men in the air.