Congratulations go to Linda Young, this month’s Flash Fiction winner, for her story, The Gatherers.
This month’s parameters are:
Genre: open (it’s your choice)
Keyword: bees (remember to include this word in your story)
You must be a Ballarat Writers member to enter.
Entries will not be accepted if they exceed the maximum word limit – even if by a word, and must comply with all the stated parameters.
All entries are to be submitted to competitions@by Friday, 23th September. Your email must include author’s name, story title and word count.
Voting will open the next day here on the blog.
Come along to our Members’ Night on Wednesday, 28 September, 7pm at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel to hear the winner announced. (Results will also be posted here on the blog the day after.)
Entry 1 The Gatherers
As young children in the nineteen sixties, we lived in a small town along the Western Highway. Mushrooms grew in abundance in the paddocks around the town, so one year we decided to pick a few and sell them along the side of the road as the cars returned from the Stawell Gift.
Early in the morning we gathered the buckets, climbed on our bikes and rode along the tracks until we found the right paddocks–those with short tuffs of dry grass, soft round hills, and a few trees. In some of the paddocks animals had been grazing; this we knew was a good sign, for their droppings provided manure to fertilize the ground for the mushrooms. But we had to watch out for the cowpats; to step in one would mean a constant stench would hang around us for the rest of the day.
We passed over creeks, and climbed through the barbwire fences. ‘I’ll hold the wire down, you get through’ offered the oldest boy, foot on the bottom wire. We gathered on the other side, then took off, buckets swinging as we looked around the paddocks for the sight of the mushrooms. ‘That lot’s mine,’ someone yelled. ‘And there’s another lot over there.’ On we’d go, darting from one spot to another, the sun warm on our backs, the grass prickly under foot. Mushrooms were in abundance, and we spread out across the paddocks.
With buckets full, we headed home. ‘Watch you don’t trip over the rocks,’ came the warning from one of the girls. The previous year had seen an accident–a trip over a rock, the bucket flying through the air and mushrooms landing all over the grass, broken and shattered into pieces. So we slowed down and strolled through the paddocks, the buckets passed over the fence with great care.
We arrived home, threw off our wet shoes and headed into the kitchen. The mushrooms were brushed and separated into piles– some put in butter on the top of the stove, the rest for sale. We carefully stacked them into small boxes, and made a sign on a piece of cardboard ‘Fresh Mushrooms 10 shillings a box’. We sat and laughed and ate our fill.
Late afternoon as the cars returned, we stood by the side of the road, put up the sign and waited. Cars slowed down, drivers pulled over, looked out of the window and handed over the money without hesitation. We took it without concern. The box was plonked onto the back seat, and off they went.
One driver yelled out, ‘Do you have any honey?’
‘No’, we cried. But we knew where the bees were, and next year we’d have the honey.
Entry 2 The Summer of Bees
It’s a warm summer’s afternoon and I’ve taken my book
outside to read. The sun is high in the sky but there is a welcome cool
breeze. Two fluffy clouds move across
the sky looking like large cotton balls.
The wooden hanging sea which I am sitting moves slightly when the wind
blows, making a gentle creaking noise.
The pages of the book are almost too bright to look at and make me
I glance up and see my small tabby cat frolicking with a
pair of cabbage butterflies in the overgrown grass. It makes me smile and I watch her for a
little while, before she grows tired of the butterflies and comes closer to me.
I stroke her warm sleek fur and scratch underneath her chin before she bounds
off to swipe at the bees that are hovering around the lavender plants. They are so small and wings moving so quickly
they seem to disappear and reappear at the next flower rather than fly. I can
faintly hear their low buzzing which is interfered by a lawn mower and whipper
snipper noise somewhere in the neighbourhood.
The scent of cut grass lingers on the breeze, as well as
nearby flowers, lavender and my coconut moisturiser.
Thirsty, I reach for the bottled water from the table beside
me, my hand becoming wet from the droplets of water running down the outside of
the plastic. I take three long sips, tasting the lemon I had added earlier and
feel the coolness running down the back of my throat and into my chest. I inhale a deep breath inwards, close my eyes
then sigh a long contented sigh. I turn
back to my book and close the bookmark between the pages. Today is not the kind of day to read about
Slipping my sandals on, I lock the front security door
behind me with a battered old discoloured key which sits on a keychain amongst
many other keys, some with forgotten uses, and a small red owl token.
My walk doesn’t take me far.
My neighbour’s five year old daughter is drawing on their large shaded
front porch. She waves and I approach
her as I always do. She’s very happy and
talkative today, her smile surrounded by orange coloured sticky icy pole
remains. We discuss the drawings she’s
made, using almost every crayon in the box.
There is a picture of three birds soaring against a page of
blue sky. Another of a house constructed of squares, rectangles and a triangle
all pink and purple, and two stick figures standing close by, as tall as the
house. My favourite is one of a large fuzzy bee, frenzily coloured-in, hovering
over many-coloured flowers with a huge sun in the background. I tell her this is my favourite and she gifts
it to me- provided that it be displayed on my fridge and given a title. I call it ‘Summer of Bees’.