My Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week’s challenge produced some cracking stories and poems, on the themes of ‘Money‘, ‘New‘ and ‘Operation‘,  as I’m sure you’ll all agree. Take a look below.

This week’s challenge moves forward to the letters of P, Q and R. Your themes for these are: ‘Party‘, ‘Quirky‘ and ‘Race.’ Not sure what to write? See the link below for some ideas:

Time for last week’s challengers:

Keith Channing‘s story makes a compelling read:

For five long years I had been living in the shadows, trying to keep away from the O’Grady gang, continually looking over my shoulder, afraid to answer the phone, hiding every time the doorbell rang.

Until five years ago my life was normal. It was more than normal, it was good. Good? It was great. I was a professional footballer, playing for a minor league side at the time, but I was being feted as a rising star with a grand future. Everything was going swimmingly until that fateful match when I ignored my coach’s orders. The order was simple.

“We gotta lose this match,” he said, “we gotta play normally in the first half, with a scoreline of two-nil at half-time. In the second half, John, in goal, will let three goals though, and we won’t score any more. The final result will be three-two to the opposition.”

“Why’s that, Coach?” I asked.

“Don’t ask, Mark. Just this once, do as I say without question. Okay?”

“Yes, Coach,” I said. But I didn’t. I pushed through a third, then a fourth goal, scoring my first hat-trick for the club. The crowd loved it. The O’Gradys didn’t. They had, it seemed, placed some very heavy bets on my team losing 2-3 in the second half after being 2-0 up at half-time.

Afraid to leave the house for fear of being picked up by the O’Gradys, I was living most of my life on-line. That’s how I came by the big money. I played the lottery on-line; had been for nearly five years. One Saturday evening I was checking my numbers and saw that I had bagged the Thunderball jackpot. I checked it more than half a dozen times. It was right; I had won. Big. Not the Lotto jackpot, but big enough. The Thunderball game pays a cool half million top prize.

As soon as the money was in my bank, I called on some contacts to see what options I had, that could possibly allow me to escape from this hell I was living in. One of the people I contacted was Algernon, an old school chum, who was then a cosmetic surgeon.

“Depending on how desperate you are, and how much you want to spend, I may be able to help you,” he said.

“What do you have in mind?” I asked.

“I can change your face so much, no-one will recognise you,” he suggested.

“Tell me more,” I said.

“For two-hundred-and-fifty thousand, I can carry out a series of operations that would change your face significantly. For another fifty thousand, I can arrange for a contact to provide full documentation to give you a new identity.”

“What if the O’Gradys find out about it?”

“They won’t. My contact is not in this country.”

“Where is he?”

“You don’t need to know that. Leave it all to me. Do you want me to go ahead?”

“Do it,” I said, and replaced the receiver.

One month later, Algy admitted me to his clinic, where I spent four months undergoing operation after operation. When the wraps came off, at the end of the four months, I didn’t recognise myself. The whole shape of my face was different. There was nothing about me that was familiar. I was looking at a different person. Fortunately, Algy was standing-by with a cup of hot, sweet tea and a large, stiff brandy. I selected the latter.

“Once the swelling and discolouration have gone, we’ll take a passport photo and arrange the paperwork,” he said, “your new name is William Clanville; you are a British émigré to New Zealand and will have a passport from that country. Whether you choose to relocate there is up to you, but it would seem to be a good move.”

“I’ll think about that,” I said, “how long before I can leave here and try out my new face in the open?”

“Two weeks should do it.”

Two weeks later, armed with my new documentation, I left the clinic. I was three hundred thousand poorer, but still had more than two hundred thousand in the bank. Hang on, I didn’t, Mark Meechan did. Complication number one. How to get the money from Mark Meechan’s account to a new account in the name of William Clanville? Perhaps not so hard. Provided I didn’t need to give photo-ID, I could spend my Mark money. But perhaps that wouldn’t be necessary.

I arranged with the bank that held my Mark Meechan account to open a new account in the joint names of Mark and William, and transfer the balance from Mark’s account into there. A month or so later, I switched that account to a different bank and, using both signatures, transferred two hundred thousand pounds to an offshore, Euro-denominated account that I had set up in the sole name of William Clanville.

Mark Meechan carried on a normal spending pattern for a while longer then, seven years from the date of that fateful match, William Clanville, naturalised New Zealander, boarded a British Airways flight bound for Wellingon, New Zealand to start his new life.

I’ve been there ever since. I bought a nice house in the suburbs, and found employment as a groundsman at a local football club. I helped out in various roles, and it soon came to the notice of the managers, that I was quite a tasty player. I had no wish to return to playing competitive football, but was happy to help out with some coaching. That went well, and I quickly gained a reputation locally for being a good, fair, effective and successful coach.

Today, I am head coach for one of the better semi-pro teams in the area, and act as visiting coach for a number of local schools. I am tolerably well-paid and well respected. I had almost forgotten about the difficulties of my past, until a new senior at one of the schools where I coach said that his step-dad thought my playing style was familiar.

“What’s your step-dad’s name?” I asked.

“Brien O’Grady,” he replied.

I’m thrilled that Kate Loveton has taken up the challenge. You’ll be mesmerised by her atmospheric flash fiction story:

Unanswered Prayers

Lace curtains fluttered on the breeze of a warm summer’s night.

News arrived and the window was quickly closed. A mausoleum stillness then descended, captured in the mirror’s surface.

Out of view, a lone figure knelt by a bed, fingers flying over a string of beads. Soft entreaties drifted skyward, searching for love and comfort as each bead touched fingertips.

‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us…’

Nearby, a body lay in a morgue.

She’d told him easy money was a lie.

She continued fingering the beads, once shiny and new, now worn dull by a mother’s troubled prayers.

Jasdeep Kaur has gone for a short tale this time. A great title and story:

Obligatory Conviction

Habitually, he threw the money on the bed.

“This is not what I want,” she said.

“Then why you are here,” he winked, “with me?”

“Obligatory conviction,” she said.

“And what’s that?” he asked.

“One that makes you cheat your wife,” she said.

“Oh, so you clicked the snaps,” he said summing up things in his mind.

“That sounds so moron,” she smirked, “Mr. Swindler, this is a fresh game.”

She flicked out her pistol and shot straight at his head.

Before leaving the hotel room, she kept a card on the dressing table that said: Insurgent Boggy Chambers.

Ayo Oboro‘s story tugs on the heart strings:

Is the smell of disinfectant so strong or is it his imagination? He doesn’t think he can stand it but he has no choice; he can’t just abandon her, not after what they went through last year.

They had both been overjoyed when they were given the news, news they had been waiting for for six years. They had started shopping almost immediately and didn’t stop picking up things here and there until the spare room looked like it would burst at the seams.

It didn’t but,’We need to stop shopping,’ Helen said to Victor.

He agreed but both of them would still come home once or twice a week with something small.

‘We really need to stop,’ Victor said to Helen again after they had both sneaked a little something into the house yet again.

‘I know,’ she said with a mischievous smile,’I’m just so excited and I know you are too.’

They looked at each other and laughed.

‘Let’s pinky swear that neither of us will do anymore shopping for the next …’

‘Four months!’ Helen shouted.

He put his pinky to hers and they swore.

Everything went smoothly – no unusual food requests, no unnecessary hospital visits, nothing to be concerned about. Helen’s doctor was pleased and they were, too.

And then one day, just after returning home from the market she started to feel uncomfortable. The pain in her stomach was worrisome. She considered calling Victor but changed her mind. ‘It must be something I ate,’ she said to herself as she went about preparing dinner. As she moved around in the kitchen, the pain increased so she decided to lie down on the sofa.

That day was the worst day of her life.

‘I’m sorry, Mr. Alfa there was nothing we could do. Your wife will soon be wheeled out of the theatre. Please be strong for your wife,’ the doctor patted Victor’s shoulder in sympathy as he returned to the surgery.

Victor wept. He couldn’t believe all their dreams, hopes, their happiness had just fizzled out in one day. Six years of waiting and two months of joy had just been taken away from them.

‘What do I say to Helen? How do I comfort her?’ He looked up as the tears continued to stream down his face.

Fast forward another year and Victor is standing in the lobby of the same hospital. He tries to focus on what he’s doing here but the unpleasant memories of the previous visit to the theatre cling to him. He tries to be upbeat but his step slows as he reaches the lift. The last operation was an evacuation but this one is to be a delivery.

‘New life, a gift money can’t buy, ’ Victor whispers as he carries his baby boy in one arm and puts the other round a smiling and content Helen.

A huge well done goes to Jason Moody for his first attempt at poetry. It’s a fantastic first go:

My body’s done, it’s staked its claim,
No hope, no point in operation,

No ransom of kings, nor new fangled things can offer me salvation.

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14 Responses to My Weekly Writing Challenge

  1. Kate Loveton says:

    What wonderful stories and what a great group of writers! I am thrilled to be part of the challenge group! 🙂

    Thanks for hosting, Esther.

    • You’re very welcome. They’re all so different but so enjoyable. I’m thrilled you’ve joined the group and please write in again very soon. I hope this week’s themes have inspired you 🙂

      • JasonMoody77 says:

        This weeks offering. 🙂

        Is a pigment, yes, a colour
        The way that we define a soul
        Be it white, brown or other
        Why must we pigeon hole?

        Two eyes, two ears, a hooter
        Arms and legs and more
        Be it English, Russian, Eskimo
        Perhaps you’re rich? Or poor.

        Is a person lesser?
        If he or she has different hue
        Do they deserve your hateful words
        Unfound, unjust, untrue

        Is a pigment, yes, a colour
        The way to define a soul
        Refrain from skin tone prejudice
        See the person as a whole.

  2. “Do you reckon we can still do it, Don?”

    “We’ve come this far, Jim; don’t start having doubts now. Go and give him hell”

    They had, indeed, come a long way. When the campaign started, five short weeks earlier, the pollsters had initially written them off as no-hopers. How things had changed. Who would have expected that from the first straw polls, when support for them was at a mere 3%, they would have risen to second place, and be knocking at the door of the Tories.

    Starved of support from the now-independant Scotland, Labour was on a downward slide, the like of which hadn’t been seen since John Major’s famous rout decades earlier. The revived Conservative Party, with Boris at the helm, has been holding on to their lead throughout, but were clearly concerned by the advances being made by HRE, Home Rule for England.

    Close to the election date, Boris and Jim were face-to-face, debating in front of the television cameras.

    “Do you have any idea, Boris, how much resentment there is around the country, and not only amongst HRE supporters, at the concessions you offered to the Scots in your desperate attempts to prevent the secession?” Jim asked, “and do you have any concept of the level of public disgust at the way you and your coalition partners have kowtowed to the Scots since their vote, giving them everything they have asked for, then asking them if they’d like more?”

    “Now… now… now, Jim. Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a little?”

    “Not at all, Boris. You’ve given them a currency union; something all the parties said they would never do-”

    “We had some very good, solid reasons for doing that-”

    “But you then gave them a seat on the MPC”

    “So they could have some input on interest rates”

    “So, Boris, you are happy that a foreign country has the ability to determine UK interest rates.”

    “Hardly a foreign country, Jim.”

    The audience, an equal mix of invitees of the Conservatives and of HRE, with more than a smattering of representatives of the press corps, clearly took umbrage at that last remark. The level of heckling from both sides, and shouted questions from sections of the press was enough to halt the debate.

    The following morning’s newspapers were unanimous in awarding the debate to Jim and HRE, and all the polls gave HRE an overall lead of between seven and thirteen percent.

    The future starts here.

  3. Jason – you’ve really got into this poetry lark now – I love your poem. It’s very well structured and so meaningful. It’s a poem that stays with the reader for some time. Great stuff 🙂

  4. Jasdeep Kaur says:

    Wow! Jason, I really loved your poem.

  5. Jasdeep Kaur says:

    Unprecedented Blast

    I was sipping on my favourite cappuccino, when David, the birthday boy, came scampering.

    “Friends, stay where you are,” he announced loudly, “I’ve got the information of a bomb in this hall.”

    “Bomb!” everyone gasped and started moving towards the door.

    David shouted, “I asked you not to move. The bomb can be anywhere.”

    We looked back. He was sweating. His fearful face sent jitters in my stomach.

    He said, “The detonation squad will be here soon. Till then, friends, please try to keep calm.

    The callous room was quieted. The only things we could hear were the clock ticks and our heart beats.

    The door flung open. Two men, in the uniform and helmets, darted in. As soon as the door slammed back, a shrill beep was heard. The clock ticks were suppressed with the louder ticks. They were coming from the table where the cake was placed.

    “The bomb has been activated,” one of them said, “ask William to stay outside. We must not open the door again, or the bomb may blow off.”

    The second man signalled the third man with his finger movements. Then he walked with sloppy steps towards the first one.

    Both fiddled with the wires. After a pause, the second one asked his comrade, “Can we do it without William?”

    The first one said, “We have no other option.”

    There were worried voices all over the room.

    The first man severed a wire. The bomb started ticking faster.

    His comrade screamed at him, “You have cut the wrong wire. You should have asked me.”

    “I know what to do,” came the reply.

    The comrade said, “Don’t deem yourself as William.”

    I could not see their traumatizing clash at this moment and said, “Please leave your ego and think of saving us.”

    There was no response from them.

    I rushed towards the door to call William. The men shouted in chorus, “Don’t do it. The bomb will explode.”

    When I looked at them, they were cutting another wire.

    I froze.

    A bullet came out and hit the ceiling triggering the blast. I felt no pain, but the hall was full of small bits.

    The door behind me opened shoving me ahead. William was in. The three men removed their helmets and along with David they said, “Happy Fool’s Day!”

    “Guys, I am sorry, but it was my fate to be born on April 1st,“ David said laughing, “and from now on, I think, you’ll not call me the biggest fool.”

    We, still flabbergasted, could not come out of the shock, but when we did, David got the hardest birthday bumps ever.

  6. Jasdeep Kaur says:

    Thanks Esther and Keith!

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