Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Rose Prize 2011 - THE WINNER!

Well, the waiting is over. We've read every entry, debated our shortlist and finally found our very first winner of The New Rose Short Story Prize!

It is my great pleasure to announce that the winner of the 2011 New Rose Short Story Prize is:

NAOMI FRISBY with her story Because I Was Too Much

This story was a unanimous choices of the judges because of its fantastic sense of place, great tension, pace and excellent composition. Of all the entries submitted, Because I Was Too Much remained in our minds the longest after we had read it - the proof of a truly special story. Massive congratulations to Naomi, who wins a place on one of Ruth Saberton's writing weekends in beautiful Polperro, signed goodies from me and the title of New Rose Short Story Prize 2011 Winner!

Keep watching this blog for the announcement of our two runners-up and our Special Judges' Mention award on Friday 30th September at 1pm.

And now, here is the winning story:

Because I Was Too Much by Naomi Frisby

Daniel stubs his cigarette out on the wall and drops the tab into the wheelie bin. He puts his key in the lock, turns it and pushes the door open. He steps inside to see his granddad sitting in his armchair, facing the portable TV in the corner. The test match is on. Daniel clears the breakfast pots and rinses them in the sink.

‘What do you fancy for tea?’ he asks. ‘We’ve got bread, beans, beans and bread.’ He pauses for a moment. ‘Beans on toast it is then.’
Daniel takes a lighter out of his pocket, puts it to the hob and then the grill. He grabs a tin of beans and the remains of a loaf of bread from the cupboard. He puts the beans on the heat and the bread under the grill and sits at the table.
The room he’s in serves as the kitchen, dining room and living room. Daniel’s lived there so long he can’t remember anything different and as it’s just him and his granddad it’s not as if they’re going to get in each other’s way.

‘Who’s winning?’ he asks. Granddad continues to stare at the TV.
Daniel turns the toast over and stirs the beans. When the toast’s browned, he puts it on a plate and pours the beans on top. They’re the local supermarket’s own brand.
He wolfs them down. When he’s done, he fills a pint glass with water and drains it in one. He puts the plug in the sink, turns the hot tap on and squirts some washing-up liquid in. He washes both the breakfast dishes and the pots he’s just used, placing them on the side to dry.
When he’s finished, Daniel goes to the front window, moves the net curtain just enough for him to see out and scans the street. Satisfied that there’s no one coming in his direction, he takes a key from the plant pot on the window sill and goes to his room. He kneels on the bedroom carpet and pulls a locked box out from under the bed. Inside it is a copy of Lord of the Flies. Daniel takes it out, lies on his bed and reads. Simon’s just discovered what the beast is. Daniel’s desperate to know what happens next.
Granddad taught Daniel to read when he was a toddler. He used to babysit him while Daniel’s mum was at work. They had been to the library the day she disappeared. While they thought she was at work, she was clearing the house out. Neither of them have seen her since and even if she did turn up she wouldn’t be welcome. They’ve managed just fine without her.

The book belongs to the local library. Granddad goes every week and brings something back for both of them. Daniel’s been working his way through the classics. He thought Of Mice and Men was brilliant and was embarrassed to find he had a lump in his throat at the end. He skived English when he knew they were reading it in class.
A beep from his mobile distracts Daniel from Simon stumbling towards the fire at the feast. Daniel digs into his jeans pocket and checks his phone. He slides off the bed, puts the book securely back in the box and leaves the room.

'I’m off out,’ he shouts through to granddad who is still sat in front of the cricket.
Daniel leaves the bungalow and heads towards the rec in the centre of the village. The village sits in the middle of a valley and the surrounding countryside reminds Daniel of Hardy’s Wessex. Most of the other kids who live there hate the place but he’s one of the few who doesn’t dream of moving to the city. It sounds lonely to him.
As he approaches the rec, Daniel can see Pete sat on the swings, a cigarette hanging from his lips. Daniel sits on the swing next to him and Pete passes him the cig. As they pass it back and forth, Daniel rocks on the swing. He’d like to swing properly, stamping his feet and pushing himself into the air, but Pete will only take the piss or wait until Daniel’s near the top and push him off.

‘Have you bought owt with yer?’ Pete asks.
‘No. Haven’t got owt.’
‘Well I won’t have owt til Thursday. Skint aren’t I?’
Daniel looks at the floor. He pulls a cigarette packet from his back pocket. There’s only one left. He lights it, passes it to Pete and throws the empty packet on the floor. Pete takes a drag, stands up and saunters off, cig dangling from his hand. Daniel doesn’t bother protesting. He’s known Pete since primary school and has seen what happens if you cross him.
Daniel’s not ready to go home yet and anyway, Pete might come back. Daniel decides to wander up the old railway track. There hasn’t been a train on this line since the early 1970s but no one’s bothered to take it up. It’s surrounded by trees and overgrown bushes. He hardly ever sees anyone else down here, it’s the sort of place parents tell their kids to stay away from.
He walks until he finds his tree, the one he’s been visiting since he discovered he was strong enough to climb it. He pulls himself up and onto his branch and sits with his feet dangling over either side, his back resting against the trunk.
It’s twilight and the cover of the leaves makes it dark. He tries to think of nothing but his head floods with thoughts of his granddad sitting there in front of a never-ending stream of television. It’s only been a few days but it won’t be long before someone starts to suspect.
There’s nothing he can do but wait.
He thinks about Simon making his way to the fire at the feast. Will he get there? Will the others believe him?
Daniel hears a noise and takes his lighter out of his pocket. Its yellow glow illuminates the space around him but not well enough for him to see what’s there. He assumes it’s a mouse or a squirrel and lets the light die out. He drops his head back against the trunk of the tree but his concentration’s been broken and he decides it’s time to go home.
He jumps from the branch, landing just short of the railway tracks. He places himself in the centre of the track and follows it back to the rec. When he arrives there he can see the lights flashing. He’s not sure, so he walks as far as the end of his street. From the shadows, he sees the body being carried into the ambulance.
Daniel wonders who realised; the librarian? One of his teachers? A neighbour? It doesn’t really matter, someone would have suspected eventually. He checks his back pocket for the note. It’s where it’s been for the last three days. He makes his way back to the tree, finds the rope hidden in the shrubbery and climbs to his branch.

* * *
Once again, many congratulations to Naomi and all the very best of luck to those waiting for Friday's runners-up and Special Judges' Mention Award*!

*Just to add a little spice of intrigue to Friday's announcement: the winner of the Special Mention Award is not someone on the shortlist!

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