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Chalk the Sun Short Story Competition and Slam: RESULTS

Our 4th Chalk the Sun short story competition went international with 111 entries from as far as Gaucin in Spain, Puglia in Italy, Wales, Dorset, Kent and, of course, Tooting. The short-listed writers performed at the Grand Slam Final Saturday 9 May in the Pied Piper Parade stretch-tent on Tooting Common  and presented the judges and audience with a very difficult choice. Actors Robin Miller and Keith Hill read the final four stories, Chalk director, comic poet Ardella Jones  compered and the Bedford pub at Balham provided the bar and Folkfest music. Thanks to the South London Storytelling and Wandsworth Arts for their support and Colour Me Awesome for grown up colouring book prizes. We were also pleased to raise £100 for ShelterBox and Impact charities in Nepal. All the stories entered were imaginative and high quality but the final four were:

WINNER 2015

 Pied Piper by Glenda Cooper, Tooting, London

This is the last time I ever see my daughter. 

On the CCTV, she skips through the controls. Her huge, coffee-beautiful eyes are concealed behind hastily-bought glasses – a child’s disguise – along with an unfamiliar scarf. My heart clutches with hope ­– she’s still wearing the neon yellow sweatshirt she saved for, the battered Converses, the black jeans. 

    But even with her head down to avoid the camera, I know I’ve lost. I can see the smile curling the edge of her lips, snatching her phone as she gets through the tall grey pillars, scrolling through those seductive messages that slither through cyberspace calling her, enthralling her, capturing her. I can’t compete.

      Behind her, come all other girls, stumbling, striding; a crocodile of puffa jackets, and battered Nike duffel bags slipping through our fingers. Some are smothering nervous laughter away with their hands, some are pale and serious. Some faces are already fading out of sight, swathed in black.

    I reach my hand to the camera, let it fall. The policewoman gives a short cough, letting me know they have indulged me enough.  

    “Yes,” I say. “Yes, that is my girl in Istanbul airport.”

RUNNER UP 2015

Best Foot Forward by Stephanie Barrett, Kent

Everyone was doing it. So it had to be done.

The hot topic at school for weeks, it-girl Clarissa had been the first. Her foot frill was apparently the same one in Kim Kardashian’s viral Instagram post.

So it had to be done. The blood eventually stopped pulsing out of the hacked cavity. The mangled, messy hollow where Mary’s right little toe had been looked like a stubbed-out stick of red lipstick, the buckled-up, cherry-red clay leaving a fleshy crustiness.

Sitting on her bed later, the swelling having subsided, she couldn’t stop wiggling her toes to see her Topshop foot frill catch the light as it delicately draped across the top of her foot and wove in between her toes. There was a neat symmetry, a restored balance in having only four. She tweeted a photo; #toetruncation was trending relentlessly. The hashtag’s network of lines connected her with the echelons of Hollywood’s toe- truncating celebs.

Back at school, she watched waves of teenagers parade their uneven gaits down the corridors, heads bobbing in hobbled syncopations. The lame kids were clear. She lolloped towards her friends, her steps adding their unique beat to the rhythm of fashion.

THIRD PRIZE

TUBULAR BELLS – Rob West, Balham   

“What happens when there’s no wind?” The planning officer looked blankly at the oxidated tubes dangling from an apple tree.

“There’s always fucking wind in Hertfordshire”. Anton “the Pie ” Piper, musician, pedagogue, newly elected Councilor for Hamlyn South, twisted his finger through a dreadlock. “It works in Peru, it’s going to fucking work here.”

The three Council officers gazed across the system of wires, loops and poles. Hundreds of metal tubes jangled in the Spring breeze, not a rat in sight.

2.

The waft of high-grade skunk hung above the teenagers’ heads. They chattered, giggled, shouted, in a haze of unknowing.The school bus ground along the M4, destination unknown, Pink Floyd on high volume, Anton Piper at the wheel.

It was a strange end to a music lesson: Mr Piper was a strange teacher. “We’re going to a festival,” his final words had been,”Get on in.” The moment’s excitement had suppressed doubts about where, why, whatever.

3.

James Phillips, father of four,  Council Chairman, unfolded the note that lay across his desk. Three words were scrawled in black capitals: “Fucking pay up,” it said. He grunted in low fury. Why had they voted for this nonsense?

FOURTH PRIZE

The Secret by Christian Rose-Day, Sydenham

Lunch; the inevitable topics in a repetitive routine: the kids’ esteemed development at school; Doug’s tenacity for professional reward; and Pippa’s ever increasing youthful appearance.

“How do you do it, Pippa?” asks Helen, for the eight time this year; a rousing coo from the collective around the table.

“I’ll never divulge my secret,” she retorts from behind an impish smile.

Later, at a birthday party of some 15 children, she performs a trick dressed as a colourful clown: the gathered youngsters encouraged to scream as loud as possible. The illusion: their tiny voices, captured by a funnel, fill a deflated balloon.

On the way home many children begin to feel motion sickness. For others, the nauseating illness strikes next morning. Every child present succumbs to a malady. In the ensuing months, adult dejection clouds their eyes.

Alone at home, languidly reclining, Pippa puts the balloon’s mouth to her own. She releases the clasp; the noise reminiscent of a shrill musical pipe. As she breathes in, her eyes come alive, her hair softens, and her skin becomes noticeable taut. As the rest of the world gets a day older, she redeems a little of her youth.

“Eternally, ladies; eternally.”