We’d like to thank everyone who submitted a story to The Short Story Competition 2012. We received 500 entries from 30 countries.
The 2012 winners are:
FIRST PRIZE: Tell him to snap out of it – Glenys Norquay
SECOND PRIZE: Old Dogs – Grainne Murphy
THIRD PRIZE: Tom is Handsome – Vi Khi Nao
We would also like to give an honourable mention to the following story:
Jokerman – Bibi Jacob
We’ve written the reasons why we chose the winning stories. We’d advise you to read the stories first or we might spoil it for you!
Tell him to snap out of it
We really enjoyed this funny, yet touching, story of odd little Fergus and his anxious mother. It could have easily fallen into a well-worn tale of how to bring up children, but we feel the story moves beyond the mere anxieties of parenthood. With deft, perceptive touches the author brings to life not only the character of the mother and her relationship with her son, but also that of Vaughan, the frustrated husband and father.
No time is wasted in setting the scene. The three-year old Fergus mentions that he used to be a man called Walter. The ambiguity of this belief works its way through the story, so much so that the reader really does begin to wonder whether there is any truth in this crazy claim. What makes it particularly funny is the young Fergus doesn’t choose an adventurous astronaut or famous footballer as his alter ego, but a bearded banker who used to play tennis.
The dialogue is superb throughout and the use of repetition well executed, “I don’t think it’s sexual” being a particularly good example of this. Equally, Fergus’s repetition of “Yes?” adds to the ambiguity. Elizabeth sometimes mimics him with her own repetition of the word “Yes”, clearly as uncomfortable as her son by the questions she is asked.
There is a comedic quality to this story, not just in the oddity of the concept, but in the small nuances of the tolerant and all-embracing mothers’ group for children with special supportive needs. It is Elisabeth’s own mother, the author of the line that dictates this story’s title, that dismisses this “special needs rubbish”, pandering to fruitcakes, and reprimands Elisabeth’s paranoia, an interesting take on how parenting has developed over the decades.
The final line nearly knocked us both out with its powerful simplicity.
Great title, great start. From the offset, Nuala hits us with her ugly truths about life on the streets. She has such a strong voice and some of the best lines of all, ‘A drip, he said. A trap, I thought’, ‘It takes work to get here; there’s a long list of people you work your whole life to push away’, ‘…that’s people for you; all shit and no sense’. But we liked the dual play of the homeless wreck and smarmy doctor stinking of booze, living parallel lives, both equally unsympathetic and superior.
Despite all the trappings of success, Donal the doctor is an almighty shit, ‘humanity moves past him’. He cheats on his best friend, treats other women like throwaway trash or as sexual conquests with an inability, let alone desire, to feel any emotional connection with them. Even when he plays the role of compassionate doctor by delivering bad news to patients it is done with insincere choreography straight out of the medical textbooks.
Both play tricks on the world, but at least Nuala is honest with us about how she goes about it. This is something that shines through in Nuala’s use of the first person, so we can live in her head. Donal speaks in the third person, thus detaching him from the reader even more, and augmenting our hostility towards him.
Tom is Handsome
This story was demented. Tom’s obsessions (the main one being his fear of losing body parts) escalate into serious neuroses at the approach of his firstborn. His descent into the sick world of paranoia and madness and his self-obsession become paramount and his ‘logic’ laughable, ‘It pricks in his conscience that perhaps there is something terribly wrong with his reasoning’, merely adding to his ‘assembly line of phobias’.
It’s not so often that you see stories where the man loses it before the birth of his own child. And in this one, he really really loses it. We liked the endless repetition of ‘Tom is handsome’, all the more so because of the ironic ending.
Odd, disturbing,and deftly funny in places, this was an unusual take on vanity and fear.
Our thanks go to Ed Dadswell, Mila Steele and Eric Freund for their thoughtful input on the 2012 stories. We’d also like to thank Jen Crisp once again for her lovely design work on the flyers and Ed Mottram for his support on the website.