Whether in adulation of, with reservations about, or just with a display of plain old sour grapes, please post your thoughts concerning the September stories here. (If it be sour grapes, at least please may they be seedless).
All tcwg site members (and any other interested parties) are invited to read and enjoy the stories entered in the September 2016 TCWG creative writing competition.
If, having read all the stories, you would like to register your vote for the winner and placings, then please follow the voting instructions set out below. This is not obligatory, but if you choose to join in, your participation will be very much appreciated.
JUST FOLLOW THE LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES (which are listed below), AND YOU WILL FIND EACH STORY IN TURN.
The deadline for entries into the July 2016 Creative Writing Competition passed at Midnight on the 30th. September 2016.
The topic for the September stories was set by the winner of the July 2016 competition , Peter Barnett who graciously agreed that there should be an open topic with each writer choosing his or hers topic of choice.
11 members have entered a total of 13 stories, and thanks are due to them for their efforts. Advance thanks are also offered to all those group members who I hope will now support the competition by reading the stories and registering their vote in the form of a comment below on this post.
As in previous months, when voting it will help if voters will make sure to quote the name of the story when posting their vote, particularly in the case where an author has entered more than one story.
Voting can now commence and will continue until 11 p.m. on Monday the 10th of October 2016.
There are no restrictions as to who is allowed to vote, all that is asked is that the voter reads all the stories and votes according to their preference. A brief reason for the choice is welcome but not mandatory.
Voters are requested to vote 5 points for first place, 3 points for second, and 1 point for third place.
Please do not submit any other point combinations such as 3/3/3, 4/4/1, 5/2/2, etc.
Writers are requested not to vote for any of their own entries, and voters are asked not to comment at length about the stories or record any thoughts that you may have on them, until after voting closes.
There will be no detailed summaries posted as to how the voting is progressing throughout the voting period but as soon as possible after voting closes a tabulated list of results will be posted separately and the winner declared. If then you wish to describe in detail the reasons for your choices, or comment at length about some or all of the individual stories, a separate page will be set up at the end of the voting period and after the result has been posted.
List of entries received. (If I have inadvertently missed an entry or entries, please advise.)
JAVA LAVA. Written by Peter Barnett
THE ROAD TO HELL. Written by Charles Stuart.
TEEING OFF WITH A BOILED EGG. Written by Atiller.
BETHANY’S CHAIR. Written by Capucin.
A FUNERAL. Written by Colmore.
THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY. Written by Araminta.
THE AUCHENSHUGGLE BIRD. Written by Lostinwords.
THE FINAL MEETING. Written by tp_archie.
THE RED SWEATER. Written by ExpatAngie.
TWO SIDES OF A DIFFERENT COIN. Written by Danthemann.
BRIAN LARA LOVES BATTING. By Danthemann.
INVENTORY OF A BEACH BAG. Written by Seadam.
Mme. ROSE. Written by ExpatAngie. (To find … Scroll down from The Red Sweater.)
Pleasant reading and please remember to vote.
A FREE ENTRY WRITING COMPETITION OPEN TO ALL!
Details of the August 2016 Creative Writing Competition.
The topic for AUGUST has been set by the winner of the May/June 2016 competition Seadams who chosen “ISLANDS” and has commented as follows …
“I’ve been thinking about islands and their connotations recently. I am quite fascinated by islands, and the idea of living on one permanently (but then, I suppose I already do.)
Island – isola – isolate…insula – insular…
I propose for August we write a story with an island setting – be it desert, tropical, luxurious; real or imaginary; legendary or metaphorical; Channel, Canary, Balearic, Pacific, Hebridean, Caribbean…stacks, reefs, atolls, archipelagos…but no cheating, please: no peninsulas.”
The length of the story in August will be the regular “between 500 and 3000 words”, and competitors are reminded that multiple entries can be accepted, particularly of the shorter variety.
Closing date for entries will be Midnight on Wednesday the 31st. of August 2016.
The period for receiving votes will be announced when the competition closes, and votes will not be accepted until after the competition closes.
The “prize” for winning this July competition will be to set the topic for October 2016 when I am proposing that we will have a lower limit of 250 to 750 words, giving an opportunity for some writers to make multiple entries.
After the competition closes there will be a vote to decide the first three places.
Just after the closing date, details of how to vote, and a vote collection point will be set up here in this competition section.
How to enter.
Post your story on your personal WordPress blogs and post a link to your story in the form of a comment below (“Leave a reply” panel.)
For those unfamiliar with the workings of the monthly competition a list of detailed rules for the competition can be found here …
Pleasant writing and good luck. There are still a few teething problems (some more aggravating than others), but please persevere, and with Autumn approaching let’s try to get back into double figure entries once again.
Remember … help with your problems is available so please ask.
We first saw the house – aptly named Le Printemps – in late March just as the trees in the garden were coming into bud and the perennials appearing from their long winter sabbatical underground.
“What do you think, darling?” Jeanette asked as we surveyed the house, gaily named “Le Printemps”, glancing around nervously to ensure M. Pointairewas a safe distance away.
“It’s a good size; I would have preferred an extra room downstairs to use as an office, but the fourth bedroom will do if we stick a sofa bed in there. It’s a bit shabby but I guess nothing we can’t sort out with some redecorating as the structure looks pretty solid. And it’s on the edge of a reasonable sized village with decent facilities, easy drive to Angers for the TGV…. Garden’s not too big either. I’d say, come the summer holidays, we mobilise the kids to do some gardening and decorating.”
“But the price?”
“Oh, we give Pointare pushback on that,” I replied. “But first I just want to quiz him about that land at the bottom of the garden.” Sensing my approach, he stopped messaging and hastily put his phone away in his pocket.
“M. Stephens, you have seen everything you want?”
“M. Pointaire, I’m pleased to say my wife and I are very interested in Le Printemps. But we are curious about the plot of land at the end of the garden. Who’s is it and what do they do with it? And it looks to us like there’s some form of cross in the middle by the tree.”
“Ah, yes, the land. Well, it used to belong to the house but when la Veuve Moulin passed away, her companion kept it for his own use, apparently to commemorate . It’s a sort of memorial. She used to sit by the tree and I believe her dogs are buried where the cross is situated. I am told – it was before my time – that she loved the dogs more than her then husband. The dogs were for a long time her family. It was after the last dog died she took M. Frediani in as her companion. There was a bit of scandal at the time as she was sixty and he only thirty….and the locals assumed it was, how shall I say this delicately, more than platonic. But that is gossip.
And who are we to…..? They lived happily for the next twenty-five years.”
Pointare shrugged. “I digress. The land is M. Frediani’s although he’s not seen very often but he keeps it all tidy.”
“Mike….” Jeannette glanced at me.
“Sorry, lost in thought. I suppose it’s OK but just seems, well, a bit like a fairy tale….”
“Indeed,” Pointaire replied. “I am told they were quite content.”
“And why are the current owners selling?” Jeanette asked.
“Ah,” Pointaire seemed to look nervous. “I understand the wife doesn’t like the area or really enjoy France. But I believe it is all a bit irrational.”
“I agree the house could be made to look beautiful and it’s just the right size and price,” Jeanette took a mouthful of wine over dinner later, “But I thought Pointaire seemed uncomfortable when we asked about the land and the current owners.”
“Yes, I agree the story of the memorial is odd but, thinking about it, I find it sort of endearing. The current owners… well, not everyone settles into life in France, you know.”
We had been in Le Printemps for a month or two when Jeanette first heard the scrabbling noises coming from the sitting room during the night. At first we put it down to mice and I laid a few traps which produced some victims. And then I heard the scrabbling and after the haul of mice had dried up Jeanette and I began to wonder if there was something trapped behind the fireplace since the sounds travelled up the chimney which was behind our bedroom wall and which helped keep the main bedroom warm in winter. Two months passed and the constant scrabbling sounds began to set the two of us on edge.
“Feels like something’s alive down there. It’s spooky and it’s beginning to get to me.” Jeanette shivered.
“Once we’ve redone the kitchen and the bathrooms, I’ll start on the sitting room and get the chimney breast sorted once and for all. And if we can fit a log burning stove we can bank it up on winter nights and keep the bedroom warm as well. Mmmmm……” I snuggled up to Jeanette. Then being practical for a minute, “But, we’ll get at the fireplace and see what’s in there. No more rodents or whatever.”
We made good progress with help from Fauchet, a local builder, and Jules his assistant and by the end of March the kitchen and bathrooms were done. I located a suitable multi-fuel stove for the sitting room and, Fauchet then being detained on another job, decided to attack the fireplace and surrounding masonry myself. I instantly regretted my decision as I realised the job would be harder than I first thought. The plaster covering came away easily enough along with some of the stonework but I soon hit a very solid chunk of what looked like cement that was very hard to break into.
“This looks as if it was done more recently, in the last ten years or so. It’s far more recent than the stonework in the original fireplace.” I commented during a tea break whilst dripping with sweat. “The cement is not so crumbly and is slightly lighter; it seems just to be in a circle as if someone burrowed into the wall and inserted a plug of cement.”
After lunch, still dripping with my exertions in the heat, I managed to crack the cement to reveal a small plastic package buried in the wall. “Hello,” I called out to Jeanette, “what have we here buried in the wall?” I placed it on the kitchen table and then began to gently open the packet with the help of some scissors, brushing the cement dust off as I went. After a few minutes, a gold ring fell out of the package and lay on the table, its diamonds and sapphires sparkling in the light.
“Wow!” Juliette exclaimed, that’s a beauty. She picked it up and began to examine it, wiping carefully with a dry cloth, so the jewels sparkled and and the gold in the ring itself shone brightly. “Must be worth an absolute packet. But what the hell is it doing buried in the wall?”
We looked at each other perplexed.
“I suppose we need to take it to Maitre Lefroy as he may know who it belongs to or where it came from,” I replied. “He may know something about it.”
Jeanette gazed at the ring and allowed it to reflect the light for several minutes that seemed like an eternity to me. Then she laid it on the table and said with a heavy heart, “Mike, I know you’re right, Sorry but I just thought, wondered maybe….”
I stretched my hand across the table and grasped Jeanette’s hand.
“I know what you were thinking and it’s a lovely ring, but it’s not ours and we ought to speak to the Notaire as it must belong to a previous owner. I’ll ring Lefroy now and see if we can get an appointment tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll put the ring in our safe upstairs in our bedroom.”
Lefroy listened to Mike’s tale and accepted an appointment with what seemed like undue haste.
“Monsieur Jefferies, please…. It’s no trouble. A find like that needs to be investigated….. Yes, I used to act for the la Veuve Moulin and I should be glad to assist in your enquiries. Please come in tomorrow as soon as you can. Ten o’clock OK…? Good, I look forward to seeing you and Mme Jefferies at my office…. No, it’s no trouble.”
“Unusually hasty for a provincial Notaire,” Jeanette commented.
That night, the ring safely stowed in the safe, we went to sleep quite soundly. But, at about one o’clock I was awoken by the faintest hint of a rustling on the landing outside our bedroom. I listened lying dead still wondering if we had a burglar although, if that was the case, why hadn’t the dog barked? Then I became aware of a figure seemingly moving through the door and across to the safe in the cupboard where it knelt and scrabbled at the cupboard doors.. I sat up and shouted at the figure,
“Hey you! What do you think….?” and the figure looked at me, an elderly woman in traditional conservative dress, a grey faintly luminous shape. Then it disappeared.
Jeanette woke up and switched a bedside light on. “Who are you talking to? Is everything OK?”
“No. I saw a figure – a ghostly one – of an old woman trying to get into the cupboard where the safe is…. Scrabbling at the doors….”
“What? Like the sounds we heard from the sitting room?”
“That’s it,” Jeanette pronounced. “Much as I fancy that ring, I have a horrible feeling it has some sort of curse on it or this house. It needs to go.”
We arrived at Maitre Lefroy’s office in town ten minutes before our scheduled meeting but he was ready for us. “Monsieur et Madame Jefferies, please, come into my office and take a seat. Coffee?” We settled into the comfy chairs in Lefroy’s office, placed the ring on his desk and told the Notaire what had happened since we bought the house whilst he listened gently sipping his coffee.
“I think I know the answer to your mystery,” Lefroy sat back in his chair. “M. Frediani is the key to this. You see, many years ago Mme Moulin had an affair with a businessman who used to visit the area regularly. Nothing remarkable about that – at least not in France – but then, unfortunately, she became pregnant. Mme Moulin passed the child off as an unplanned addition to the family but suspicions always persisted even though he lived with the Moulins and their three children. Then, about thirty years later, her husband suddenly died in a farming accident, although many suspected that he committed suicide, and that was when Frediani came to live with the widow and only then adopted his real father’s name…..”
“But what about the ring?” Jeanette butted in somewhat impatiently.
“Yes, yes, I was coming to that.” Lefroy sighed. “It seems Frediani’s father gave it to Mme Moulin as a token of his affection and she kept it hidden in the house, unless she was out seeing her lover, until after her husband’s death when she wore it more or less openly until she died ten years ago. I do recall that when going through my client’s estate that the ring was missing – the origin of the ring became quite well-known and Mme Moulin was known to flaunt it as it annoyed the relatives of the late M. Moulin. Relations between her and her late husband had become somewhat, shall I say, discordant. M. Moulin’s family always blamed the widow for the death. But now we can surmise what happened to the ring. My guess is that M. Frediani buried the ring in the wall after her death as a sort of memorial to his mother and father and to prevent it being sold or passing into the hands of the Moulin family.”
Lefroy took another sip of coffee. “Still, the Moulin family came from a village some kilometres away so we never saw much of them. And the children have long moved away.” He smiled, seemingly with relief.
“But what about the father, M. Frediani senior so to speak?” Jeanette asked.
“Ah, he was a representative for an agricultural machinery company and, not long after the son was born, he was promoted so stopped coming to this area. No-one really knows what happened to him although there were reports some years ago of M. Frediani visiting the piece of land where Mme Moulin is buried with an elderly gentleman. One or two of the older inhabitants commented that he looked very like M. Frediani senior.”
“So, the ring. What to do?” I asked.
“ Well, unless you can suggest something different, I would propose to restore it to M. Frediani as I have contact details for him. Then the ring is, more or less, restored to its rightful owner.”
And so, some weeks later, Jeanette and I were working in the garden when we saw M. Frediani in the adjoining plot, elderly and stooped, shuffling with a spade in his hand and advancing towards his mother’s grave. I watched him trying to dig for a few minutes then went up to the fence and called out,
“M. Frediani, can I help you? My wife and I are the neighbours here and we found the ring that belonged to your mother. Can we help you? We’ve been to see Maitre Lefroy who told us.”
Frediani looked at me, smiled and then answered slowly,
“So you were the people who found the ring and took it to the Notaire?”
“Well,” Frediani continued, “I am grateful for your honesty. I buried it in the fireplace in order that it could remain in the house but I always worried someone would discover it and we would lose it.”
“I’m not sure we could ever totally hide it,” I said. “I am convinced your mother – or her spirit – has been looking for it for some time. I think I saw your mother trying to get into our safe the other night. I suspect that even if the ring had gone somewhere else, her spirit would have followed it.”
“Monsieur, I think you are correct. My mother had a great passion for my father and she never got over his job taking him away. The ring was her connection to him – in addition to me. But I am going to bury the ring with my mother now so she will not need to wander any more.”
We helped Frediani bury the ring and Jeanette planted bulbs around the plot and, on 24th March, the anniversary of our first seeing Le Printemps they duly burst into flower. It was, as Jeanette put it, as if Mme Moulin wished to express her thanks.