Here is my entry to last week’s short story competition. I didn’t make the shortlist but I’m quite happy with the work. I struggled with the three prompts and it took me a minute to pick as nothing immediate came to mind… I forced myself to choose ‘The long black coat’ as otherwise the thirty minutes would just disappear. Luckily, once picked, an idea came to mind which was to use that as the prompt of a memory, and as I started to write the story came to me, although, for what I think is the first time doing these competitions, as I neared the end a little extra idea popped into mind for the final sentence. I finished the story at least a minute early, which is unusual for me, and taking into account how long it took me to start I think I probably only wrote for 20 minutes.
As a reminder, this is a weekly competition where the online entry opens at 5.30pm (Saturdays) and closes at 6pm giving you thirty minutes to think of, write, edit and submit a short story from one of three given word prompts. £4 to enter and £50 for first prize. Here’s the link http://www.write-invite.com Why not give it a go? See you there.
Cremate the Memory
The dark red wooden wardrobe had stood at the back of dad’s bedroom since before I was born. It had always been a threatening presence, whenever I had been summoned for chastisement it seemed to be alive, waiting for dad to lose his temper and throw me inside, the bulky uneven doors its lips ready to devour. It had a depth that seemed impossible, who would make such a cavern? Was it originally designed as a mausoleum? A bomb shelter? What need did dad have to purchase such a frightening beast? Perhaps it was an inheritance. One that has now passed down to me. Not that there is a room big enough in my flat for it. It’s practically the size of an entire room itself. It still sucks all the light from the room, like it did in my childhood. That hasn’t changed. And it wasn’t a cry-baby nightmare come alive. I’m standing in front of it, and the red wood absorbs life as if it is punishing those who allowed it to be trapped in a domestic house like this when it was destined for stately manors of royal residencies. I never cared for it while dad was in his last years. His existence was downstairs and that’s where I was happy to stay. Upstairs was my childhood and the past and the wardrobe could stay in that past without interference from me. Except now I have no choice. It cannot stay in the sold house and it cannot come with me no matter the wording of a will. So I step into my dad’s bedroom, now a musty space with no purpose and no secrets. I open the wardrobe knowing my wife is busy in the other room, near enough to calm me but far enough so that she cannot see my shaking hands. The doors open and they swing like a bank safe, slow, solid, controlled. The air inside flows over me and smells like my father and what my childhood smelt like half a century ago, I expect the radio to be playing downstairs and my mother to shout up asking what I’m up to. I haven’t looked inside this wardrobe since I was in my school cap with knobbly knees and a desire to explore, and violate my dad’s trust. It is full. I don’t need to pull open any drawers or search the rack of hangers to know a hundred memories are stored within. This will take time. This will hurt and there will be surprises and things I wish I didn’t have to see. I feel like shouting at my dead dad, berating him for being senile and crippled and not looking after all this himself while he still could. My mother’s things shouldn’t be turning up after so many years. The stale air now smells of my mother too. I think this will need to be done another time and I move to close the doors. I take one last look inside as the light disappears and it turns into the depthless cave I remember and I see a button glint. I push the shirts and coats and waistcoats to one side, using all the strength I can manage with one arm and my other arm reaches out and I pull at a long black coat I can’t believe still exists. I don’t want to drag it out. I can’t, not right now. But there it is. The coat I thought I had burned in a fire. The coat my father made me believe I had burned in a fire. The coat that had cost me the skin on the back of my hands. The coat that he had reminded me of that held so many memories for him and that I had destroyed. Well, there it is. Now I know why I was never allowed to look inside and take care of his stuff while we had the chance. I try to slam the doors shut as the make the final inches together but they are too heavy and stubborn to allow me that pleasure. I turn to leave but before I take one step I continue my turn and pirouette back around. I open the doors again and take out the long black coat with a fierce tug. There is a fire happening soon and its time to reunite the long black coat and my father. This time I’ll know for sure I did it.
Have a great weekend,