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Summer Contest (Prose) – Height

 
 
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  #1  
Old 05-04-2013, 01:18 PM
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Summer Contest (Poetry) – Height
The summer we are reaching for lofty Heights with our contest and we are eager to see to what height of skill you all progress with your entry. In case you had not guessed it the theme is Height.


Entries:

Members are allowed one entry in the Prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Summer Contest Comments thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2000 Words

Edits:

Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact a member of staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Close Date:

15th June 2013, 12 midnight GMT

Judging:

Winners will be selected by means of a public vote, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 16th of June and close on the 30th of June 2013, 12 midnight GMT.


* * *


Recognition:

The winning entries will be considered for publication in Writer's Beat Quarterly, subject to the approval of the editors. To increase your chances of getting published (whether you win or not), make sure your document is as error-free as possible!
Also, the member (or tying members) with the most votes will get to suggest the next contest theme!

* * *


If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!


Last edited by Tau; 05-08-2013 at 02:59 AM..
  #2  
Old 05-10-2013, 10:48 AM
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Default The ups and downs of life

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE

I grew rapidly for the first few years of life, but once I celebrated my twelfth birthday, this remarkable development came to a dismal end. When I hit 4ft 11 ins and towered above my peers, everyone told me how tall I would grow and I believed every word, despite the fact that my father was a measly 5ft 7ins and my mother was not an inch taller than 5ft.

Thereafter, it was downhill all the way. I watched my shorter classmates pass me by, while I stayed put, expecting to catch up. But I never did. From once lofty heights I ended up in the basement of life, foraging near the ground while others picked juicy fruits from the top of the tree.

How did I adapt from the tallest to the shortest?

High heels, high hairdos and high bar stools all played their part, and the odd step or two outside the Roxy cinema or by the front door, helped along the courting process no end. There weren't many benefits of being short, I found, but did I feel smug as a bug boarding a flight and finding there was sooo much legroom!

With the passing of time, strangely, I began to feel tall again. I am never daunted in the company of six footers and those flat shoes and flat hairdos, once shunned, are now choices I regularly make without a second thought.

I am convinced that somewhere within my short frame there is a frustrated tall gene waiting to reactivate, and that somewhere within my psyche there is a tall woman who can never be cut down to size no matter what the tape measure says!

Last edited by Tau; 05-10-2013 at 11:16 AM.. Reason: Typo
  #3  
Old 05-17-2013, 10:38 AM
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Default Summer Contest-Height-The Height of a Man

Warning, this piece contains racial and homophobic slurs and some foul language. No, I do not advocate the use of racial or homophobic slurs, so please do not half read this and then send me messages accusing me of doing so. However, I do on occasion, advocate foul language. Thnx-glwwlg
The Height of a Man

Another Saturday night rolled around. We piled into the car looking for adventure in the land of the lost, Shreveport, Louisiana. As with every other Saturday night, we drove aimlessly for a while. Pointless cruising of the streets, powered by two bits a gallon gas or dropping by Mom’s, a drive through combination liquor store and six bar stool hang out for professional drunks, were about the only venues open for teens in my hometown. Mom’s establishment was rarely on our lists of Saturday outings. It was not that she would refuse service to five young men in a car, none of whom possessed proof of drinking age identification. On more than one occasion, I had seen twelve year olds riding stingray bicycles, purchase a fifth of Old Stomach Rot whiskey at Mom’s place. The police, appropriately paid off in relation the old gal’s disreputable dealings, allowed her business to thrive. We simply were not fans of Mom’s since none of us drank with regularity.

Onward we drove, through the night, downtown, north side, south, nothing. The town was as empty of anything to pique our interest, as ever. We headed west on I-20. That direction led to one place, the Shreveport Regional Airport. The airport was a place as welcoming to us on Saturday night as our grandmother’s homes were.

The year was 1967. Few people owned color televisions at that time. One of the few places that offered constant access to such a marvel was the airport. Fifteen or so rows of semi-modern, uncomfortable, fiberglass, seating sat in the lobby with a huge color console perched on a dais, a three channel alter to the midnight horror movie. As had been the case many times before, we made for the airport.

Two lonely passengers curled uncomfortably on some seating in the back, attempting sleep, waiting for the flights to begin the next afternoon. Two bored employees staffed the counters, looking with dull eyes out over the virtually empty building, and engaged in conversation with an especially greasy looking baggage handler. He eyed us with malevolence. Looking back, I do not even know why the airport was kept open all night.

We quietly took seats on the front row as the movie began. I don’t remember the title, most likely The Beast that… Almost all those old 50’s movies bore titles like The Beast that something. Five minutes in, a shadow fell over me. I looked up. A tall cop, six feet and probably a few more inches in height, leaned over me with a smiling face. “Are you gentlemen waiting to meet a plane,” he asked, voice dipped in honey.

“Why, no, we are watching the movie,” was my stupidly innocent reply. I would never figure in a thousand years that a public place was off limits to teenage citizens.

“Well, git yer asses up and out thet thar door now, yeh little faggots!” We were so shocked at the outburst; we could not even question what was happening. We complied. The sleeping passengers jolted awake, with faces that bore dumfounded expressions, as if awakened by a crash of thunder. “Them payin’ fuckers couldn’t even see the television with ya’ll hoggin’ the front row!," the cop snarled, as we passed the laughing, fat, greasy, baggage man. He had reported our horrid transgression; summoning the police because we watched television.

Standing over us, the first cop’s height became more obvious. He stepped in close and hovered, looking down as if we were the worst vermin he had ever encountered. Shaggy haired scum, better to have been ripped from suckling our mother’s breasts and had our brains dashed out on the hot southern soil where our ancestors fought and died for the right to dash unruly slaves brains out on that very soil.
The tall man’s face was a long sharp angled contrivance that fit well with his height. He stooped a bit, bending over each of the dangerous, television-watching felons he held. Standing as my companions did, our backs against the outside wall, a hot summer breeze blowing across the front of the building, I could barely move my eyes from the large mole that marred his face. It bloomed in brown glory about one inch to the left of his nose.

He glared angrily into my face, his eyes mimicking those I saw once in an old film about Nazi concentration camps. An SS officer held a riding crop against the face of an old woman. Standing in the same posture as my imprisoner, the SS man bent and glared at the poor woman. She looked humiliated and he looked the perfect example of the triumph and the will.
My captor’s eyes mirrored those hateful orbs of the long gone monster of Berlin. His manner of speech though, told me that if he had been part of those horrid camps, his job would have been overseeing oven loading or beating slave labor. He was too ignorant to be a ranking officer, even in the Third Reich. Strangely, the tall cop was most likely drafted to fight the dirty Hun in World War II, yet he asked one of my companions if he was a Jew, and compared us with various races and a sexual preference that he held in contempt. At one point in his tirade, he asked if we squatted to pee, a common insult that police used at that time, implying that any man they encountered was actually a woman in disguise. That particular insult seemed rather nonsensical to me.

“We gonna git the paddy wagon out h’year. Yew boy’s gonna take a trip downtown in the paddy wagon. Paddy wagon’s comin’ to git ya,” he growled like the mindless beast he was. He stood straight up at that point, much as a primitive animal might, using his height to look regal and dangerous. He looked back and forth with revulsion. I watched the gray hairs in the nostrils of his snot locker twitch as he raved and his facial mole once again, hypnotically attracted my attention.

The next in our small group received the brunt of further insults, as the officer of dubious law passed from me to him. “Pad-Dee Wag-Inn,” he roared, trying to create sense of fear toward the as of yet unseen conveyance. “Yew gonna ride!” I should say, that as comical as the mole faced buffoon and his chubby sidekick appeared, I was terrified. Granted he and officer ‘short fat’ had the combined IQ that probably fell just somewhere less than my shoe size, but he and his fat friend possessed the two things that struck fear into any person on the streets of Shreveport, Louisiana who was not a member of the city’s elite. The elite being corrupt politicians, racist police, religious fanatics, but only the fanatics from the wealthy churches, and of course, the southern, conservative, old time, old money, wealthy. I digress. The two things the medium sized fish in a not too big pond possessed that struck fear into me were the badge and the gun. Even though both men fell just below the baboon on the evolutionary scale, they wore power, the badge, and the deadly ability to manifest that power, the gun. Police in Shreveport sometimes followed the old adage to kill first then doctor reports later. “Paddy wagon,” he shouted again in a near orgasmic display of bravado.

He stopped his orgiastic shouting, falling silent as he came face to face with the last of our crew of dangerous television watchers. ‘M’ was the tallest of us and lived a rough home life that made it difficult for anyone to intimidate him. The tall cop certainly did not care for the fact that a sixteen-year-old boy stood eye to eye with him and returned the same glare he was giving. He was just about to speak, light the match that could lead to a real confrontation---.

“Hey bubba,” his fat companion called from the passenger’s side of the patrol car, short legs dangling out the open door nearly touching the curb, and his chubby hand clutching the microphone on their radio. “Bubba, the paddy wagon caint’ make it. They pickin’ up some niggers.” The partner, the one who had remained mostly silent until the announcement about the paddy wagon, was the absolute opposite of his more vocal, idiotic companion. For all the other’s tallness, he was equally short, five foot six at best and approximately the same distance around the middle. The two were a perfect human embodiment of Mutt and Jeff, the living personification of those two forgotten characters that once resided on the Sunday comic’s page.

I always found tall, thin cops more frightening than their short, obese, counterparts. With my tall nemesis at the opposite end of our pimple faced rouges gallery, I spied the fat man as he communicated with the dispatch office. I almost laughed aloud as I tried to picture the stubby fellow chasing an actual criminal. If his quarry shinnied over a three-foot high hurricane fence, the lardass could only stare over the fence at the escaping crook, further pursuit impossible for the donut-laden peace officer. Suddenly, I realized why the local constabulary shot so many criminals. It was easier than giving chase. I did not laugh or even smile.

“Caint’ make it?” The taller cop was enraged, the arrest of his career and no paddy wagon to transport the criminals. “Damn,” he said quietly, “guess we gotta take em’ in in the back seat. The1965 Ford Galaxy was a large car but I did not relish a ride to the cop shop with five of us crammed into the back. It appeared that my vote did not count though.

“Turn around and face the wall,” the tall one screamed. We stood, lined up with our hands on the wall. The short fat policeman took position beside the open back door of the sedan. Tall, skinny cop ordered short, fat cop to tell him whom he wanted to pack in the back seat next.

“OK bubba,” fat man said, “Gimme the big one.” Looking down the line, I saw the boney hand of the tall cop grab M, roughly snatching his shirt in the center of his back, jerking hard away from the wall and he was gone. “Ok bubba,” the obese simian called out again, “Gimme the other big one.” I looked to my left, toward the other desperados in my gang, expecting to see the long arm of the law snatch one out of view. I suddenly felt a rough grab at the center of my back. The tall cop jerked me around and shoved me toward the waiting donut processor. “Come on bubba, he said almost sweetly, “scoot in there and make room for your friends.” He must have been the den mother to the other cops, with his bubba this and bubba that, on Wednesday nights when they gathered in the basement of the precinct to view stag films, confiscated porno, evidence that almost every cop in town had to study.

M looked at me and silently shook his head. I returned the gesture. It was interesting. Growing up, I was always the runt of the litter, the smallest guy in class. For the first time in my life, on that hot night, while being shoved into the back of a police car, I realized that I finally reached the height of a man.
  #4  
Old 06-13-2013, 11:49 PM
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When I saw the theme of this competition was height I thought I might tell you about the time I nearly plunged a thousand feet down a mountainside. It wasn’t that long ago actually, and I still haven’t quite got my head around what happened on that strange day - in fact if it hadn’t happened to me, I don’t think I would ever have believed it. You probably don’t know that I used to be a postman in Worksop; there’s no reason why you should of course because I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it. I say ‘used to be’ but that’s just because for me it seems to be in the past, it’s probably more accurate to say it was in another life.

To be fair I don’t think anyone would broadcast the fact of being a postman in Worksop, especially if they had once been the top office furniture salesman in the North of England. Oh yes, I supplied NHS contracts, local and district councils, Northern Rock Building Society, the lot. I could finesse a tender; I knew who else was bidding, what my competitors’ margins were, what they had for lunch – everything. I was earning £80,000 a year when the average wage was only £10,000. I had it all, a really nice house, brand new Jag, summer holidays in the Seychelles, winter ski-ing breaks, and I was stupid enough to think that was what life was all about.

While I was putting big deals together my private life was coming apart. I had become a cliché and didn’t even know it. What followed was predictable - divorce, nervous breakdown; I turned from workaholic into alcoholic and faced financial ruin. It makes you wonder why I didn’t see any of it coming. After five years of going down I managed somehow to pick myself up before actually ending on the street - kicked the booze and got a job. The office equipment companies laughed at me though, no-one was going to employ a sixty year old has been, so I became a postman.

Actually being a postman wasn’t so bad, the wages weren’t brilliant but my needs were small. I had my little flat, well it was just a room really but it was fine for me. Once in a while I would make the trip down to London to see my daughters and grandchildren – life could have been much worse. And my boss was good; he knew that I had no commitments and that if any odd jobs came up outside the normal routine I was always a willing volunteer. That’s why he asked me to go to Sheffield to pick up the new mail van. It was a warm, late August, afternoon and I took the train to Sheffield.

Sheffield Central Station is a busy place, always lots of folk bustling about, and when I say I ‘bumped into’ Peter Baxter by the news–stand, I mean that literally. Nearly thirty years before we had been neighbours over in Macclesfield, Cheshire - I had been a struggling office furniture salesman with two young daughters and Peter had been a struggling journalist. We became fairly close for a while and his wife, Brenda, was good friends with Julia and always seemed to be in our kitchen. In the evenings they would often come round and play cards and we’d share a bottle or two of wine. It must have been fifteen years since Peter and I had last met, he’d just taken a senior job at The Sheffield Evening News. We looked at each for a moment and then nearly simultaneous recognition occurred.

‘Peter!’ I exclaimed.

‘Jack?’ he responded somewhat querulously, surprised to meet his old friend dressed as a postman.

‘How are you Peter, still in Newspapers?’

‘I’m the managing editor, Jack, but what about you - a postman?’

‘It’s better than not working’, I explained, ‘and it keeps me fit. I’m just picking up a new mail van for Worksop sorting office, but what are you doing here at two o’clock in the afternoon - sneaking off early? Haven’t you got a paper to get out or something?’

‘All the work is in the mornings, Jack’, he said, ‘and anyway it’s my retirement tomorrow. Brenda and I are taking a World trip, doing the USA first and then Australia where our son lives now; we’ll be staying with Tom and his family right through Christmas. How about you and Julia, what are you doing these days?'

‘We’re not together now Peter’, I said, ‘decided some years back to go our separate ways, but we keep in touch. The girls are fine: Kate is married to a banker and Megan is a graphic artist, doing very well for themselves - they both live down South now. The postman thing is just temporary, until I get back on my feet – you know.’

‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Anyhow, must dash. We’ll have to meet up some time’, he called back to me as he hurried off. He was a worse liar than I was.

The short walk to the Royal Mail depot took me past the offices of Nicholsons solicitors, who had given me my first really big contract, a 30,000 sqft full office refurbishment. That was at end of August too, I remember it was a Thursday and we were going on holiday on the following Saturday. It was the only time I’d ever been to Wales when the sun had shone for seven days solid. We camped at a place called Shell Island in a tent I’d bought from Peter Baxter for £20. The entire holiday cost less than £50 but it was the happiest of times.

The new mail van was a Ford Escort, bright red and shining with the Royal cypher painted on the sides. I remember that ‘new car’ smell was so strong. How do they make new cars smell like that? It reminded me of that first new company car I’d had, a Fiat Mirafiori in bronze, with a factory-fitted radio. In those days most cars came without radios, so a factory-fitted radio was ‘a cut above’. It had plush velour seats and the registration was FNC 135V; don’t some strange things stick in your head? We went to Shell Island in that car, I had been driving it when I got the Nicholson contract and it was one of the last vehicles to have been driven around Mam Tor before the road disappeared forever.

To folks who live in Switzerland Mam Tor probably wouldn’t seem like a mountain at all, at just under two thousand feet it might be classed as a very small hill - but here in the UK it’s a mountain. The main A625 road heading west from Sheffield used to climb up the Hope valley and then wound around the south face of Mam Tor on a narrow ledge that defied gravity. The views from Mam Tor were stunning, but you kept your eye on the road if you didn’t want to risk a thousand foot drop. Remarkably no-one was killed, or even injured, when a massive landslide swept down the mountain and a half-mile of major road just disappeared into the valley below. Nowadays what used to be an important route is just a backwater; the road ends halfway up the mountain in a viewing area with a few picnic tables.

I had all afternoon, so I decided to drive up to Mam Tor and take in some memories; I stopped several times on the way and it was early evening when I drove through Castleton and, with ‘Classic Rock’ blasting out on the radio, began the ascent of Mam Tor. I was sure I was getting near the picnic site but the low evening sun was full in my face and I wondered for a moment if I’d missed the signs. ‘Don’t be stupid’, I thought to myself, ‘The picnic site is the end of the road, so just keep driving’, and I did just that. It was sometime before I realized I was on the descent, I remember thinking ‘Wow, they must have re-made the road.’ The radio wasn't tuned into Classic Rock anymore it seemed to have lost the signal and picked up some talk show. I couldn't re-tune the unfamiliar radio on the move, so I pulled into a lay-by and only then did it occur to me that something very peculiar had happened.

I was no longer sitting in a mail van, it was, incredibly, and without the slightest doubt, a 1980’s Fiat Mirafiori, beside me on the passenger seat was a familiar black leather briefcase. I had to be in a dream, but I could feel a warm breeze on my face from the slightly open car window. I sat for a long time motionless, one or two other cars zoomed past. I felt faint, I needed air, and I had to get out of the car before I passed out. I closed the car door behind me and stood with my back against it, facing the road, gasping, slowly I turned round - the bronze metallic paint was almost spotless. I walked, almost staggered, to the front of the car, the plate read FNC 135V. What was going on? When it began to rain I got back in the car and tried to collect my thoughts I opened the briefcase and there was the Nicholson contract, fresh and un-creased, it was signed and dated 28-8-1980.

As if on cue a voice came from the radio ‘This is the BBC and here is the news at 7 o’clock on Thursday 28th of August 1980’. Only now was the unbelievable truth of my situation beginning to dawn on me.

My home, what had been my home, was only twenty miles away. I can’t begin to explain the emotions I felt on that drive - I remember laughing, my eyes were full of tears, I was terribly afraid, I had never felt so excited, so elated. The little driveway leading to our back gate was just as I remembered it.

As I drew up I heard her voice cry out, ‘Jack! Where have you been?’ Julia flew out of the house and right into my arms. ‘Oh, Jack, I was really worried, did you know the road had collapsed?’

She was young, full of life, not the tired, unhappy woman that I had turned her into. Thirty years of guilt welled up inside me and the tears just rolled down my cheeks. ‘I’m so sorry’, I blurted.

‘Hey, it’s OK’ she said, as she looked up into my face and brushed my fringe aside with her hand. ‘The girls are just in the bath but they want you to go up and read them a bedtime story, and Peter’s coming later with the tent.’

‘The tent?’ I echoed vacantly.

‘Yes’, she said, ‘we’re going away this weekend, surely you haven’t forgotten the tent?’

‘No I’ve not forgotten it’, I said, ‘in fact I remember it well.’

______________________


Peter Baxter’s last morning news conference was a fairly low key affair. Pat Kellet and her team ran through the usual round of stabbings, muggings and rapes that seemed to be the main substance of big city news these days, while Peter’s thoughts turned to his World trip and the delights of Christmas in Australia with his grandchildren. Just one item made Peter look up from the notes he’d been pretending to study.

‘What was that Pat?’ he asked.

‘What, the stolen horses?’ she queried.

‘No, about the mail van.’

‘Oh that’, said Pat. ‘A Royal Mail van was driven through the picnic area and right over the mountainside at Mam Tor, fell several hundred feet and then burst into flames. The driver hasn’t been identified but is believed to be . . .’

‘A postman from Worksop,’ Peter interrupted.

‘Yes that's right, Peter, are you sure you’re OK? You suddenly look rather pale.’
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