The President's Competition 2016
The President's Competition 2016
This year’s competition theme is ‘Possession’.
That’s it! Interpret ‘Possession’ in any way you want – territorial, demonic, ‘bunny boiling’, etc etc. Your entry can be serious, humorous, true or fiction, fear or desire. Or whatever.
· Entries must be no longer than 1500 words but can be shorter.
· Each entry must be accompanied by a suitably awful pseudonym.
· Each entry must be printed, single-sided, on A4.
· Your real name should not appear anywhere on, or with, the entry.
- An entry fee of £2.50 must accompany all entries.
- Please could you supply two copies of each entry (one for each judge).
- The closing date for the competition is: 3rd February 2016.
Adjudication by John Spencer and Barbara Cooper (Last year’s winner) will take place on 2nd March 2016 at St Michael’s Church Hall.
There were three very worthy winners from a very high quality field; set out below.
Ist Prize went to Tina Shaw for this submission:
Possession- In its many forms. By Posy Sessions.
I can hear the key in the lock. He is bringing another one round to have a look. He’s all sharp suits and enthusiasm that one. Ooh, she looks more promising, dripping with jewellery. This one might be able to afford my asking price.
‘How many rooms on the second floor?’ She is asking him.
‘Two large sized rooms, plus the kitchen, just like the ground floor.’ He replies. ‘Needs a little renovation; it would make an ideal flat.’
They love to embellish the truth these estate agents. That kitchen needs ripping out completely, if you want my opinion.
‘And the top floor. Can I have a look at it? What about the old man up there. I’ll need vacant possession so I can let all three flats.’
‘Well, as I explained Madam, he can’t be got out, he’s got sitting tenant’s rights, but he’s very elderly. I’m sure it won’t be too long, or maybe if you offered him a sweetener, I’m sure he would be glad to move into a more modern ground floor apartment.’
What a cheek. They don’t know old George like I do; lived here forty years. Nothing will move him. Let’s see what they make of him, shall we.
‘George, Mr Smith, are you in there? Can we come in? This lady wants to look round your flat. She’s thinking of buying.’
Listen to them; charm itself and he’s buttering them up, kidding them along. He won’t move out. Not a hope. Here they come, down again.
‘He’s very old, isn’t he?’ She says. ‘I see what you mean. I’m surprised he can even get down two flights of stairs to do his shopping.’
‘Precisely,’ the agent flatters her. ‘Would you like to consider making an offer?’
Little do they know old George hasn’t been down those stairs in years; does all his shopping on line, and Tescos, they bring it all the way up for him; people like him, they do. He may be over ninety but he’s no fool is old George.
Well, she bought it; didn’t bother with any renovations; patched up a few damp bits and woosh, new tenants on both floors. George is still there of course. She tried the sweetener but he wasn’t having any.
‘Going out feet first,’ he told her. ‘I shan’t keep you waiting too long.’
I hope she doesn’t try and bully him, although she would probably come off worst. Not sure about those other tenants though. She’s let the ground floor out as two bedsits. They have to share the kitchen and bathroom. I can’t see that working. They are both a bit weird. The woman in the front room, Sandra, middle aged she is; wears hats indoors and layers of clothing. It might just be to keep the heating bills down but she talks to herself all the time, like she’s possessed. Keeps talking to the other ground floor tenant, Matthew, about the spirits. They have these funny conversations whilst they are in the kitchen cooking their dinners.
‘Can you see the aura hanging over the hob?’ She asked him the other evening.
‘Nah,’ he replied, ‘it’s just the steam isn’t it?’
‘They are all around us,’ she went on, ‘they control everything we do, animals as well.’
Matthew got upset after that, refused to talk to her. Trouble is he’s potty about his cat, Glinka she’s called. She‘s his most precious possession, as he never tires of telling anyone who will listen. He won’t let her out; got a litter tray, but of course his room stinks. I had hoped that the place would be cleaned up when the new tenants came; not much chance of that now with those two.
First floor’s different though. It took her a bit longer to let that flat. Charging an exorbitant rent I guess. Young couple, well probably in their thirties but that is young to me. Gwenda and Charlie; nice looking pair; both out at work all day; something in the city I think; talk posh but things are never what they seem behind closed doors are they. It took me a few weeks to work them out what with all that surface niceness, but all is not so well with them as you might think. She can’t do a thing on her own; no social life; no friends or relations allowed to visit. I’ve even heard him in the morning; now you won’t believe this.
‘Come on darling,’ always calls her darling for what it’s worth, ‘I want you to wear the navy blouse today, and the grey skirt, and your black heels.’
I can’t imagine why she puts up with it. She must be quite capable of deciding what she wants to wear, but no, he treats her like his possession, controls her every move. I can’t see that relationship lasting, although she will have to make a determined effort to escape from him. I reckon he could turn nasty if things didn’t go his way.
So you can see we are not a happy household, except for old George of course. He’s still there. She couldn’t get him out. Mind you, he’s getting rather noisy these days. Moves his furniture around a lot, especially at night. It’s quite funny really, although I am a bit worried that it might have serious consequences. Charlie sent Gwenda up there to complain the other evening and of course, George was all sweetness and light to her but the banging didn’t stop. It brought the other two up from the ground floor the following day. Sandra was convinced that it was the spirits at work and Matthew was worried in case Glinka couldn’t get to sleep but George just carried on regardless.
In my long experience, seeing all the occupants come and go over the years, I was not unduly surprised at the way things turned out. First to go was Gwenda. One evening it was unusually quiet in their flat, not the normal rumble of voices, mainly him telling her what to do, just a sudden scream and the sound of feet flying down stairs and the front door banging and she was gone. Charlie went next. Couldn’t afford the rent on his own I suppose, so the first floor’s empty again. Then it was Sandra. It was Glinka set her off and of course, that set Matthew off. She became convinced that Glinka was possessed by the devil; went after the cat with a knife. Well you couldn’t blame Matthew. He called the police and they took her away. I can’t see her coming back. They cleared out all her stuff yesterday. Next he was off.
‘Can’t stay here. Glinka’s too frightened,’ he told anyone who would listen.
I was expecting a whole raft of new tenants to have to get used to until I noticed George had gone very quiet. I thought it was all the upset with the other tenants but no, it was the Tesco’s delivery man that found him. He’d had a good innings as they say, so she got her vacant possession after all; except I learnt yesterday that she hadn’t. You won’t believe this but I’ve been repossessed; quite shameful really; the first time ever. I’m waiting to meet the new owner. They say it’s an A.S.Byatt. Have you heard of her? They say she is a Booker prize winner.
I wonder what book she won the prize with!
2nd Prize went to Richard Bruckdorfer for this entry:
Only three years ago I was a schoolgirl soon to sit her ‘A’ levels. Now I’m sitting here on a bed staring at dirty walls and wondering where it all went wrong. I can remember the first time I went down the Palais with my mates and we’d paid to get in with the new decimal coins. It was so exciting. I was just standing listening to the music when this fellah yanked me onto the dance floor. He was really nice though, handsome too and a good dancer. Jack asked me out after and I said yes. I was so happy - well until my Dad started on about him. ‘He’s no good that one – bad family.’ Jack’s father was a bigamist who scarpered. My Dad got above himself after he was promoted to that office job. He was still a beast. Me and Ange used to hear Mum sobbing. She tried to hide her bruises. But Dad was right about Jack.
That summer I left school. I hadn’t done much work for my exams. Jack thought it was a waste of time for a girl, so I got myself a job. He found a flat and we moved in together – a place of our own. Everything was fine except for the regular rows with Dad. He wouldn’t have me back home ’cos I was living in sin. But Jack always knew what he wanted, a bit like my Dad. Life was easier if you agreed.
I’ve been getting a lot of letters. Most of them are horrible. ‘You deserve to die, bitch’ or ‘Hanging would be too good for you’ or ‘Ruth Ellis was a saint compared to you.’ Who was she anyway? Anyway hanging’s gone hasn’t it? One or two of the letters were nice, like the one from America, from SCUM. The Society for Cutting Up Men they called themselves. Don’t know where they got my name or theirs. They said I’d done the right thing and deserve to be free. I don’t think I did anything wrong either. I just want to see my Mum but Dad won’t let her. Ange’s been. She understands. We’re close me and my sister.
We made a nice little home – with a lot of second hand furniture from Jack’s family and friends. We had a bit of money and went out together sometimes. Jack liked to go to the pub to see his mates too. I didn’t mind. I had the housework to do. Trouble was he liked the pub too much. Sometimes I had to help him upstairs when he came home. But I was sure we were happy, although I missed my Mum and I didn’t see much of my friends. I was so in love but Jack couldn’t see it. He said I’d been flirting with his mates. ‘You’re either mine or you’re not.’ He grabbed me by the wrists and snarled into my face. I was more careful after that – he seemed to forget about it. We had a small wedding in the registry office; just a few friends and family. Not Mum and Dad. Mum sent a card.
I had visitors yesterday. I didn’t know any of them. They said they were from the Women’s Group in our area. I’ve never heard of a Women’s Group. I asked if they were SCUM. They said they weren’t, just women helping another woman in trouble when it wasn’t her fault.
Things were going all right till I got pregnant. I had a difficult time; really sick. Jack didn’t understand or didn’t want to. He still wanted his oats, whenever. I got really big near the end. Then this pack of condoms fell out of Jack’s trouser pocket while I was doing the washing. He went mad when I showed him. Said I must have put them there. ‘You’re a liar,’ he said when I denied it and went off to the pub till late. That night was the first time he hit me. He was really drunk. My eye swelled up like an egg. I couldn’t see out of it for days. It was so embarrassing so I told everyone I’d walked into a door. Ange didn’t believe me. She hates Jack now. From then on he wanted sex every night. ‘You took my condoms off me, what do you expect?’ ‘Who do you think I am?’ I said, ‘one of your possessions or something?’ ‘Sort of’ he said, ‘to honour and obey remember – or have you forgotten?’ It only stopped when I asked him to come to the doctor’s to ask if sex was OK. But he carried on getting drunk - and hitting me. Sometimes he was nice afterwards and said he was sorry.
Baby Nathan didn’t make it easy either. They kept us in hospital a few days. Took him to the special unit – he’d breathed in poo while he was coming out of the womb they said. Jack seemed a changed man when we brought him home; for a few days anyway. He was showing Nathan off to all his mates down the pub, saying how he’d be centre-forward for Fulham by the time he was eighteen. Jack’s Mum came round and we were all a happy family again, except my Mum didn’t come. Ange did.
My brief’s just been down. She said the jury’s deadlocked and we won’t get a decision today. Ten men and two women - I didn’t like the look of them. My brief’s so nice though: she gave me a big hug. I didn’t think briefs were like that.
‘All you care about is that baby,’ said Jack. He was always like that when he got in from work. ‘Never get a decent meal nowadays. I can’t stand this. You better do something about it.’ Nathan had been difficult: colic the nurse said and he’d be over it in time. We weren’t getting much sleep. ‘O.K. you look after him for a bit,’ I said, ‘while I pop down to the Co-op.’ When I got back Nathan’s arms were all red and he was crying his heart out. ‘Don’t know what happened,’ he said, ‘little sod was driving me nuts.’ I didn’t leave him again.
It was after twelve when Jack rolled in one night, totally pissed. I was grateful Nathan was quiet while I helped his father up the stairs. He crashed on the bed and went spark out. I even managed to drop off myself. Sometime in the middle of the night Nathan let out a massive scream. We both woke. Jack was swearing. He went over to the cot, got hold of Nathan and smashed him against the wall. Nathan went quiet. When I tried to get up, Jack got hold of my arms and shoved me onto my back. ‘Open your legs,’ he shouted. When I didn’t, he smacked me in the mouth and forced them apart. He lay on me with all his weight, banging away. It really hurt. After he was done, he was sprawled all over me panting his beery breath in my face. I managed to shove him off: he didn’t even wake up. Nathan was in a bundle behind the door. My baby didn’t cry. He wasn’t breathing. He was dead. Something came over me. I opened the drawer next to the bed and found the kitchen knife I put there for when Jack was out late. The prosecution said it was premeditation; I’d planned it all along. But I hadn’t, it was there just to protect me and Nathan if anyone broke in when we were alone. Jack died when “his possession” stabbed him right between the shoulder blades. I don’t remember any more.
It was two days later when Ange found me. I was holding Nathan in my arms. Jack was still on the bed. Good job I’d given her a key. The prosecution says I killed the baby. There was no evidence he’d done it. They had witnesses to say what a great guy Jack was - how he loved his family. They didn’t know what he was like. Nobody did. They haven’t got my bruises or Nathan’s broken skull.
My brief’s here now. The court’s ready - time to go. Everybody’s looking at me, Jack’s family too. I can feel the hate. My baby’s dead - that’s all that matters, isn’t it? And it wasn’t me who killed him. The judge is asking the jury for their decision. The old git with a bald head is standing up and looking smug. ‘Guilty on both counts,’ he says. Fulham Women’s Group are chanting ‘Shame on you’ and scuffling with the police.
My brief’s coming over. She’s looking sad. ‘We’ll appeal, Cathy. We’ll appeal.’
Somehow, I don’t care.
3rd Prize went to Janet Baldey for this entry:
By Aunty Pasto
As usual, Marcello’s spirits soared as soon as he turned the corner and saw the market spread out before him. ‘Mama Mia.’ He felt the words tremble on his lips and clamped his mouth shut just before he shouted them aloud. All the same, his pulse beat faster - this could be Italy if the skies weren’t so grey, the wind less keen and the people happier. He loved the Wednesday market. Here, as almost nowhere else, he felt at home. His lips widened into a melon-like grin, his black eyes almost disappearing into the creases of his olive-tinged skin as he wandered amongst the stalls gently pinching plums, pears and nectarines, making sure they were ripe, but not too ripe that the worm had invaded their flesh. Despite the weather, the jewel-like colours of the bell peppers, red, yellow, and neon orange, all tumbled together, sang to him. They reminded him of Italian sunsets sinking below the Bay of Naples. Delighted by the oily sheen of purple aubergines the knobbly cloves of garlic, and the silver, slippery mounds of anchovies still smelling of the sea, he stuffed his bags until he could hardly bear their weight.
‘Gor blimey, Pedro. Sure you’ve got enough?’ Yer can’t carry all that. Where’s yer donkey? ‘Don’t know where you put it all, you’re as skinny as a stick of chewing gum.’
The coarse voices of the stall holders buffeted him like jocular waves upon the rocky shores of his beloved homeland. Marcello twinkled at them, ignoring their banter, instead he hoisted an enormous wedge of pungent gorgonzola.
‘How much?’ he asked.
At last, he turned towards home. Tonight he would give his Dora an Italian feast to remember, a creamy mound of pasta with a rich anchovy sauce, an olive and pepper salad and to follow, the gorgonzola with hunks of warm and crusty pane di Como. He paused, of course the meal would take some time to prepare and while she was waiting Dora would need something to keep her going, maybe a couple of packets of her favourite biscuits or perhaps those little tarts with the icing and cherries on top. He shuddered but Nora adored them and that was all that mattered.
As he hurried back, his smile faded as he remembered the bad old days when, newly arrived from Naples, he’d haunted the local restaurants for miles around only to be turned away, again and again.
‘So you want to cook eh? So where are your papers, where are your diplomas, where are your references?’
He couldn’t show them his diplomas or references any more than he could show them the love in his heart for food and how he lived just to cook. It had always been like that from the time he was a child and lived with his beloved Madre until that dark day when she’d passed into that world where he was forbidden. So, he had come to England to escape from his memories, only to find they had followed him and even worse, where he was alone, unloved and unwanted. He had made the biggest mistake of his life.
After yet another rejection, he was at his lowest ebb when he happened to glance into a shop window and saw a notice written in big loopy letters that he only deciphered with difficulty
‘Wanted carer/companion for elderly lady. Must be able to cook.’
There was a flash of brilliance as sun flooded the street with gold followed by the voice of his mother calling to him. ‘Marcello,’ it cooed and instinctively, he looked up at the sky, half expecting to see her gazing down at him as she lay cushioned among clouds made of purest spun sugar.
‘This is your chance, my son. Don’t let it get away.’
‘No mama.’ He shouted and ignoring the worried looks of passers-by, hurried towards the nearest pay-phone.
As arranged, the door was slightly ajar when he arrived and with the very tips of his fingers he pushed gently until it swung open.
‘Turn left. I’m in the bedroom.’ The voice was slightly muffled and Marcello hesitated for a second. He had never been invited into a lady’s bedroom before but then he pulled himself together. This was an elderly lady, maybe the same age as his own dear mother.
The first thing he noticed was the smell. His sensitive nostrils twitched - meat, garlic, tomato sauce - he nearly laughed aloud as his olfactory senses were overwhelmed by the unmistakeable aroma of spaghetti bolognaise. She liked Italian food! The first hurdle had been jumped.
Then, he looked towards the bed and his eyes almost popped out of his head. Surely, there was not just one mother in the bed, surely there must be at least three. Madre di Dios – she was huge, mountainous even, her pink and puckering flesh flowing over the double bed like a lava spill. As he looked closer, he saw that her lips were shiny with grease and she was chewing on something. Her many chins wobbled as she swallowed. She waved a chubby hand towards the remains of a pizza.
‘Have a slice,’ she offered.
His lips curled slightly as he saw it was shop-bought. If he got the job he would show her what a real pizza tasted like. He gave her his most winning smile.
Since then, Marcello had been in heaven. Most of his day was spent in the kitchen, experimenting with food and trying out new recipes. Just before the evening meal, he would wash the acres of Dora’s body with her favourite lavender soap, sprinkle her with talc, comb her hair and leave her propped up in bed watching the flickering images on the television screen like a gigantic scented baby.
There was, however, a fly in their dish of whipped cream. Sandra. Sandra was Dora’s daughter, a woman with as much flesh on her as a skeleton and with salt cellars so deep that a man could dive into them and never be seen again. Sandra, it seemed, was not happy that her mother had got even fatter ever since Marcello had arrived.
‘You are killing my mother!’ she screamed at him. Marcello was hurt. This was good wholesome food he was serving, had she never heard of the Mediterranean diet? Okay, so the portions were generous but his Dora was a large lady and large ladies had large appetites. He would never do anything to harm Dora – after all she was his second mother. But Sandra was now threatening to get a Court Order to compel him to stay away. Marcello stared at her, the veins in her neck were throbbing and as thick as hosepipes. ‘Cristo Santo. Perhaps she would have an apoplectic fit and join his mother. Poor Mama.’ Marcello closed his eyes in shame and prayed for forgiveness- he was not a wicked man. When he opened them, he’d looked at Dora. Very slowly, she lowered one eyelid and Marcello remembered how to breathe again. Dora was his and they would never be parted, whatever her skinny daughter said or did.
Marcello sighed. Why were people so unkind? This was not the only time he had been in trouble. Some months later, when Dora was admitted to hospital after her second heart attack, the doctors said some very harsh things to him after she had been found with a packet of raspberry jam doughnuts just after a visit from him. Very harsh indeed. He tried to explain that they were simply to cheer her up, but their grim faces didn’t lighten.
Dora understood. After she was discharged, they made a pact. Now, they refused to answer the door, or telephone, to anyone. They closed all the curtains and lived an almost subterranean life, huddling together hardly daring to breathe if anyone knocked or rang. Marcello only slipped out occasionally to visit the supermarket or the Wednesday market, and then only if the coast was clear.
But, Marcello was content. He had lost one mother but had found another and he would never let her go. They would be together for as long as God willed. And, as for the Court Order, didn’t her daughter understand that possession was nine tenths of the law?