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What started out as the April challenge, eventually became the May-June challenge. Four very interesting tales were sent in to be reviewed.

Entrants had the following prompts to choose from: A Campfire, The rain wouldn’t stop, and finish this sentence: “I didn’t plan to be a superhero, but all of that changed when I got bitten by a __________. (And then write a story that follows it.)

Martin G. Parker

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Our member and writer Martin Parker, very kindly agreed to be the reviewer and sent in his detailed critiques of the pieces entered. Thank you Martin!

Profile: Martin was born in 1956 in Uttoxeter in the English Midlands. He has worked in factories, retail, the funeral business, driven taxis and played trombone in a British Army regimental band, but since 2000 he has worked as an Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Bahrain, specialising in the history of the English language and meaning in English. He has published two novels, They Also Raise Chickens, and The Conscientious Historian, and a collection of writings, Improbable Tales From Unlikely Places, all available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon. Martin is also a musician; he sings, plays the guitar, mandolin and harmonica with the Bahrain-based Celtic-music band, The O’Dwyers. In addition. Martin runs the monthly meetings of the Bahrain Acoustic Music Group who hold their regular sessions at JJ’s. Martin lives in Bahrain with his wife and 12-year-old son.

Chickens Cover            Historian Cover copy   51YVPBsOo+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

And so without further ado… here are our entries

The Rain Wouldn’t Stop

By Preeti Rana

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I didn’t plan to be a superhero

By Rifat Najam

…But all of that changed when I got bitten by a pair of toddlers. My twin toddler nephews are a great booster for me. Whenever I feel dull, I rush to visit them to boost my energy. With them I get to act all insane, thus forgetting all the temporary stresses of the day. When the super aunt and nephews go crazy with their super powers, the mother’s heart starts to beat so fast that it seems it might jump out at any moment, yet she pretends to act all normal as if she is carefree. Kids are a blessing, in their innocence they bring us back on track when our steps wander away.

I recently saw a documentary, Teen Press, by T. C. Johnstone. Although the maker tried to portray his vision of ‘you can be anything you want’, from my perspective it gave out different messages to different minds. “Everyone has a story to tell” and “they are just people”, were comments made by two teenagers that really affected me as these are two of the few things that I had recently been struggling with.

Kids are innocent beings who know no limits to the etiquettes that Life teaches. Their innocent souls value gold and sand as one. Love and laughter are the language they speak and share. Many times they clear our blurred vision when we go astray. I love taking advice from my niece when that blurred vision strikes me. The other day I was irritated for some reason when she made a comment, “happy times, happy memories, when you come then we talk happily”, which completely took my irritation away.

Recently I asked myself a question: why is it rare to see assistance being offered before it is asked for. You don’t have to possess super powers to understand when help is needed. People nowadays seem to have covered their eyes with blinkers in order to run in one particular direction. Our lives are divided into professional and personal halves; professionally, a lot of potential is waiting to be discovered and given assistance before this neglected talent fades away. And personally every being has a responsibility towards its surrounding.

Nature has taught us how we are all interconnected. Rivers flow so life can flourish and if that came to an end life will become extinct. Similarly, if the winds stopped blowing globalization would come to an end. When nature has taught us to share, then why do humans act selfishly and hold back what tomorrow doesn’t promise to be theirs.

In simple words, step up and be the change that explores the one in need and help before it gets too late!

Superhero

By Michael Rollins

I didn’t plan to be a superhero, but all of that changed when I got bitten by a bug called fatherhood: Quite a statement, I know, but I also know that I’m no different than most other fathers out there. The thing is, it’s not about us; it’s about our children: They make us superheroes.

*

My daughter, Maya, was just five when my best friend, Michael, died. She called him Mikey; no-one else did, and he liked that. Michael was her favourite visitor; she attached herself to him from being a few months old and that was that.

Michael was a friend I’d known at school and later, by chance, a work colleague, when the firm I worked for merged with his. We developed a friendship based at first on mutual respect for each other’s work and then because we just…‘clicked’: The same sense of humour and a love of reading fiction being two of the main reasons. I remember the drunken discussions we had over James Ellroy and Cormac McCarthy, which trailed like ribbons unspooling deep into the night. Eventually, Michael became my boss or, as my daughter referred to him, my ‘work teacher’.

And we worked well together. And we had some great times. And Michael knew he was dying long before my little girl was born.

*

Michael never really disclosed anything about his condition; he was not secretive but quite vague, and all anyone really knew was that there would be no recovery. Like many people in this position, he helped his family and friends through it all. For a few years there was little noticeable change in his physical appearance. Yes, he had to rest more frequently and was steadily losing a small amount of weight, but there was no sudden change. Until, in his final year, over a few weeks in the autumn, he melted away like the reds and golds of the October leaves.

*

Explaining to a five year old what death means can be like trying to separate the milk from a cup of coffee. We were prepared to talk about what people think might happen after somebody dies and had tried to ready ourselves for the questions that a five year old would probably ask. When Maya had listened to what we had to say, she looked at us for a full minute, her eyes as sad as those of Christ in a painting of the Sacred Heart.

‘Why wasn’t it me?’

We had no answer that was worthy of the question. My pathetic words ‘It was his time’ folded and crumpled in my mouth, into the dust they deserved to be.

*

In the weeks following the funeral, Maya became another girl. She was uncommunicative and guarded, where she had been confident and friendly; uninterested and a little cold, where she had really loved life and the living of it. Our baby stopped smiling, but she hadn’t cried, and that, more than anything, broke our hearts.

There were a couple of incidents at school. Nothing major, although we were called in one time after she had told two of her friends that they or one of their parents could just

disappear one day without even telling them, and never come back. The girls had both burst into tears at this and the teacher told us that Maya just shook her head at them, walking away like a parent who was out of patience.

We knew after this episode that trying to ignore the profound change in our daughter, hoping this was temporary, was not an option. To get our little girl back we had to encourage her grief.

But how?

My wife and I had always shared the opinion that everyone grieves in their own way; that there are too many judges in this world. We all deal with loss differently, as individuals, and it is fundamentally wrong to expect everybody to behave in the same way. However, we had on our hands a confused, frustrated and unhappy young girl that we loved more than anything in this world. We had to think of a way to help her out of the shadow that had been cast over her since Michael died.

*

In the end, the answer was simple, as these things often are.

Just after Maya turned four, she went through a phase. Every parent knows about ‘phases’; this word covers all those difficult periods in a child’s life that parents go through. Those times when Mum and Dad are pulling out their hair for a solution to a new pattern in their son or daughter’s behaviour that is inconvenient.

For instance, there is ‘Question Time’. For everywhere you go and everything you do, there are is an unlimited, unstoppable flood of questions; unanswerable questions that drown you in a wave of words. ‘Why is he a policeman?’, ‘What is a bird for?’, ‘Who thought of butter?’

Maya’s phase involved getting out of bed within minutes of our leaving the room. There had always been the conversation about her day, the two stories, the ’cuggle’ and the kiss goodnight: a ritual to rival any sacred rite.

I remember the first time she ventured downstairs. She must have followed her Mum out of the door within seconds and walked into the kitchen where I was pouring our ritual glass of wine; a quiet celebration that all was done for the day and that everything in Paradise was just as it should be. Except this evening, it wasn’t.

‘Maya, what are you doing?’ I asked as she opened the fridge door peering inside like she had a particular sandwich in mind.

‘I’m minding my own business.’

It was clear that Paradise had a problem…

*

At last, as we were approaching the outer realms of our sanity, my wife came up with an inspired idea. Music. Maya had always responded well to music, almost all of her favourite children’s programmes were musically based and when she was only a few months old her Mum’s singing would soothe her like nothing else. So we created a file for an i pod and each evening, after the kiss goodnight, Maya would snuggle down and drift off on a cloud of melody. Perfect.

*

Just like everyone I ever knew, Michael had a ‘guilty pleasure’:1980s love songs. He could not get enough of them, he…well, he loved them. And there was one in particular that he seemed to adopt as a kind of theme song; He was always humming or singing the damn thing. Leo Sayer: I Love You More Than I Can Say. I used to call him morbid, because of the line, Why must my life be filled with sorrow, but he would just laugh, said if I listened to it all I’d see it was uplifting. We agreed to disagree.

He sang the song wherever he was, to whoever happened to be listening. To Maya.

And that was it; that was the simple answer.

*

When I entered the half-light of the bedroom, I was sure that she had fallen asleep, but as I moved closer, I could see her blue eyes were open and glistening with tears.

‘That last song made me cry Daddy,’ she whispered, as I sat down next to her. She took my hand and I leaned forward to brush the hair from her forehead, smoothing my palm over her hair until I held her head cupped gently in my palm.

‘Why, Maya?’

‘I don’t want to talk about it. Will you hold me while I go to sleep?’

I stayed there and held her all night. And I felt like a superhero.

 

 

The challenge was to depict a Sore Loser in under 300 words using a story format
 
Our judge was the Indian writer Kavery Nambisan whose book ‘The Story That Must Not be Told‘ was short-listed for the Man-Asian Literary Prize. In her comments on the winning entries she said, “I must say you’ve given them a challenge! Not easy…They seem to have understood the word constraints that you must have set, and the theme. Each of them shows promise, in different ways… In stories as short as these, every word must be made to count. It’s a good exercise.”
 
Now let our readers enjoy the first of what we hope will be a regular feature from the Creative Writers’ Circle.
The WINNER is Simi Kamboj
RUNNERS UP are Rebecca Young and Noor Nass

A Sore Loser

Simi Kamboj

Word Count: 200

“I want to die.”

“Hmm, what?” I adjusted the television volume. Manchester United was playing Real Madrid in the Champions League final and I had settled in for the evening.

“I said I want to die,” she repeated, louder this time.

“Why?”

“Because I’m a failure. I’m worth nothing.”

“What happened?”

“I went for the audition”

“And”?

“They chose some Nina. The producers thought she had ‘charisma’.”

“Maybe she did,” I nodded absently.

“You really think so? I think the audition was a farce!”

“Look,  there’ll be other opportunities.”

“That’s it. Maybe she told the producers she’d do anything for the part, and batted those fake eyelashes at them. Charisma, my foot!”

“Listen, you’re talented. You’re taking music lessons. Something will work out.”

“I think I’ve had enough. I want to take a break from everything”.

“Alright, but can we discuss this after the game?”

“Just as I thought. If I walked off the terrace this instant, nobody would notice. When you finish with your game, you can go looking for the charismatic Nina.”

At this point, Wayne Rooney headed the ball into the net. By the time I could tear my eyes away from the television, she was gone.

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RUNNER UP

Family Game Night

by Rebecca Young

BWC “Sore Looser” Contest Entry

Word Count: 297

Family Game Night

“Then I’ll trade this wheat for bricks and then build another road and a settlement,” Bill narrated as he changed his cards for two blue pieces, which he then placed on triumphantly on the board. “That’s nine points.”

“So you are winning,” grumbled Heather, 12, who didn’t especially care for her uncle Bill. Emily didn’t blame her daughter. Bill had been whining the whole game that he had the worst spots on the board, the dice never favored him or they ganged up on him. She didn’t see how. Bill’s mousy wife Karen hardly dared make a play and their daughter, Molly, 10, seemed equally cowed.

It was funny, how playing brought up childhood memories of other games- invariably won by Bill. She looked at her hand. But maybe not today.

She cast the die, rolling a six. “That gives me another point,” Emily said, revealing her hand “and I have three points here, so makes ten. I win!”

Bill looked at the cards in her hand disbelievingly. Then his lips pressed into a hard thin line. “You always were a little cheat.”

Astonished, she laughed, stopping short as she looked at Bill’s cold expression. “C’mon Billy- it’s just a game,” said Emily.

Bill shoved his chair back from the table, scattering pieces on the board. Emily saw Molly flinch. “Time to go,” he said, storming towards the door.

Disbelieving, Emily looked at Karen, who wouldn’t meet her eyes. Karen got up and warily made her way over to Bill.

Another childhood flashback- of Bill’s grimace as he gave Emily an Indian burn that left bruises. Afterwards, he was more careful not to leave a mark. And she was careful to avoid him.

What did I just do? she thought, as she watched Molly scuttle after them.

 —————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

RUNNER UP

SORE LOSER

By Noor Nass

Word count: 260

Her name was Sama, she was eighteen years of age. Life seemed good in her parent’s eyes, a popular reputation, a highly achieved GPA from a well-established high school in the country, and a very loved character among her peers. The new car gift from her Grandfather just made it seem very liberating; and a scholarship from Yale University made her dream even better. Until came across her path an opportunity of a proposal by a close relative of hers, she couldn’t let that slip away too.

For a marriage from a member within her own family would not come that easy and who knows when she would fall in love again, if not now!

But life seemed a bit unfair when she came back from her summer holidays in Paris, after her engagement from Zatter. For her life came to an end for her studies in Yale University. For she soon discovered that a child was on his way to this beautiful life that she called the Sand Island “Bahrain”.

As a young bride she began to feel betrayed by life itself, away from her peers, away from her daily outing with friends and limited intake of food due to the babies effect on her body, not to mention consent of a husband’s approval every time she wanted to do something. She began to feel like a loser. Sama began to whine and whine and whine! In 5 years she managed to lose everything that everybody considered to be a success and her whining came to an end ..

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