Have you ever participated in a short-story competition? Well, I did when I was at school, but it’s been many years since I’ve summoned up the courage to enter one as an adult. Recently, I bit the bullet and submitted a story about a girl who becomes involved in a missing-persons case but that’s still pending review! The other competition, which allows you only 500 words and 55 hours took a bit less work.
It’s called ‘Furious fiction’, is run by the Australian Writers’ Centre and is open once per month. Even though it’s an Australian organisation, people from all around the globe can enter. Since the results were recently published, I’m going to share mine with you. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but as I discussed in my previous post, you’ve got to be in it to win it!
Oh, and more about the rules: The first and last words of the story had to begin with the letter s, it had to contain the words ‘traffic’, ‘jowls’ and ‘hidden’, something that buzzes and at least one element from the Periodic Table.
Sweat beaded on Jason’s upper lip. Air traffic control had just told him that a wheel had fallen off his Cessna 172. Crappy timing, especially since this was his first solo flight. How much longer would he have to circle the airfield? Until they could get the emergency vehicles out onto the tarmac? And then what? How was he supposed to land a crippled aircraft as a student pilot? Listening to the buzzing static of the radio, he gritted his teeth and felt a sharp pain pierce his cheekbone. The stupid thing was, he’d scheduled the flight as a way of cheering himself up. His girlfriend had cheated on him, his fifteen-year-old cat had been diagnosed with inoperable bladder cancer and his parents were getting a divorce.
‘Skyhawk 297, continue circling. We have an instructor here and he wants to see how you’re doing.’
‘Hello, this is Dave, how are you going, Jason?’
‘Not too great, but ok I guess.’
‘Yes, that’s understandable. You’ve got plenty of fuel, plenty of daylight left and plenty of time, so there’s no rush, mate.’
‘Thanks Dave. I just wanna get down on the ground.’
‘Yes, yes, we’ll help you get down to the ground. You’re doing a great job. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’
Taking off his headset, Jason sighed. As he rested it next to him, he noticed something hidden between the seats. Fishing it out, he realised it was the platinum bracelet he’d purchased for Mandy’s twenty-fifth birthday. He’d brought it with him on his previous flight for good luck and it must have fallen out of his pocket. Just last week he’d found her setting up a fake profile for a dating app and he’d lost his head. She’d tried to explain but he was having none of it. That night, he’d noticed Misty, his blue-cream tortoiseshell struggling to pass urine in her kitty litter and he’d taken her straight to the vet.
After a barrage of tests, the prognosis had been clear: Misty was in bad shape.
‘I’m sorry, Jason. She’s only got about a week to go. It’d be cruel to draw out her suffering.’
‘Yeah. I hear you,’ Jason had said, staring at the older man’s jowls and wishing there was something more he could do.
Licking his dry lips, Jason wondered whether losing a wheel was good timing after all. It wasn’t as if he had a fantastic, warm-and-fuzzy life to get back to. He overflew the runway and turned left as fire-trucks rolled into position. Maybe if he landed in the ocean, there would be no casualties, other than himself and the lump of metal he was trapped in. For some reason, he picked up the headset and waited for more news from the tower.
‘Skyhawk 297 do you copy?’ The voice sounded urgent, angry.
‘Your plane is in-tact. We made a mistake.’
‘Yes. You have clearance to land if you’d like. Right now, in-fact. Sorry.’
I apologise to all the pilots out there (and air traffic controllers) for my aviation lingo, but I did my best in the 55 hours I had to research it. As I was trawling through YouTube however, I went on several ‘journeys’ with some amazing pilots, many of which were female! This story was actually based on a real student pilot’s experience (hats off to her for landing safely) in the U.S. and a student pilot in Australia whose instructor was medically incapacitated half-way through the lesson.
In addition, my local paper, The Manly Daily posted an article which advertises that girls are now welcome to join the Australian Air League’s Manly Squadron.