Thank you......for the huge amount of interest in the short story competition commemorating the release of A Sense of the Ridiculous and to those who sent in the amazing entries.
...and for waiting patiently!
Sue Johnson and I are currently reading and considering all the submissions and we will announce the results as soon as we can.
In the meantime...Here is a short story of 1000 words I have written starting with the same sentence. I hope it demonstrates the sort of things a judge is looking for - imagery, humour and sensory detail. I hope you enjoy reading it!
She did not need a looking glass to know she must look a fright. Joanne sighed and pulled off her kingfisher-blue poke bonnet before flopping down on the arbour's marble seat. The milky stone struck cold through her white muslin gown although the day was warm. She had signed on as an extra for the newest version of Pride and Prejudice, being filmed at nearby Heathway Hall, hoping for a glimpse of the stars Colin Fernyhough and Jennifer Healey. So far she had spent hours baking in the July sun while the director and camera crew had lined up shots of the park and house; gained blisters from tramping across a field in the wake of Ms Healey's understudy and been further desiccated by a repetitive ride in an open carriage up the sweeping drive. She was pooped, her hair must look as though blackbirds had nested in it and not a sniff of an autograph.
She sighed again and plucked dispiritedly at the deep turquoise ribbon at her waist. Her great plan had gone to pot. She had hoped to net one or two signatures to raffle at the Riding Club auction for the equine charity StableMates. Swiping the back of her hand across her damp forehead, she inhaled deeply, catching the summertime scents of mown grass and honeysuckle. Behind her an insect buzzed a desultory refrain and in the distance she heard the staccato crackle of a loud-hailer.
Back to it, she thought. It hadn't been much of a lunch break and they had started at 8am. She leaned forward, preparing to stand, when there was a squeal, accompanied by crashing and shouting. Rapid hoof beats drummed the hard ground. Seconds later, a handsome bay colt emerged between two enormous rhododendrons, a well-chewed rope dangling from his leather head collar. His momentum checked as he spotted Joanne; snorting, he swung to face her.
Her movements deliberate and speaking softly, she rose. "Hello, boy. What have you been up to? Sorry, I haven't got any mints. No pockets, look!"
The horse blew through his nose as though he understood. Joanne tentatively reached out her hand. The colt backed away a step but didn't appear frightened. She edged nearer; he retreated again. Whistles and calls floated over the yew hedge bordering the shrubbery.
"Where the hell has he got to?"
"Wickham? Is that your name?" Joanne questioned the visitor.
His attention was on the voices; his skin quivered where a fly landed. A sheen of sweat highlighted his fine coat. Taking her chance, Jo stretched for the dangling rope. As her fingers closed around the sodden twist of multi-coloured fibres, a designer-stubbled man in jeans and a teenage girl with a long blonde pony-tail pushed through the gap made by the colt. Taking flight, the animal sidestepped Joanne and shot down the path leading to the lake. She was hardly dressed for restraining half a ton of horseflesh, but despite her skimpy Regency slippers skidding on the gravel, instinct made Jo dig in her heels and hang on to its head. Dragged through another yew hedge, her hair now billowing in walnut-coloured hanks about her face, she managed to capture the horse's nose and squeeze the upper lip.
The colt tried to evade her grip, but as the released endorphins worked their magic, heaved a sigh and came to a halt some yards from the landscaped mirror of water.
"Good boy," she murmured, gasping for breath but keeping a firm grip on rope and nose.
"Miss Eliza Bennet, I presume." The young man with the stubble, also panting, had slowed to a walk and approached with the easy gait of the horseman. He winked and grinned disarmingly. "You crafty bugger, Wickham," he crooned, holding out some feed. "I'll find a knot you can't undo if it kills me!" The horse whiffled and took the offering as gently as a bird. "Darcy Williams," he said in the same coaxing tone. "Call me Fitz. I owe you one. This guy's one talented performer, but he's too clever for his own good. He could've caused mayhem and got me sued into the bargain!" In seeming afterthought, he added, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine... Thank you. Are the horses in the film yours?"
"No." He stroked the colt's neck and fondled its ears. "Only this one. I'm hoping EquinePerformers will buy him. You an actress?"
"No." She smiled as she mimicked his short reply. "An extra."
"You know horses, though?"
"I have two. Nowhere near his quality, but I love them."
"Fancy a career in films?"
"Not likely!" She grimaced. "I only did this to get autographs for a charity auction."
"The big-wigs will all be here on Friday. You'll catch them then."
"Oh, typical! I'm only here today."
"That's a pity. Well, I'd better be getting back. Thanks again... er..."
"See you around." Giving her a thumb's-up, he led the horse back to where Blonde Pony-tail was waiting, feed bucket in hand.
Later that evening, as Joanne was tiredly climbing into her Fiesta, she was astonished to be accosted by the harassed-looking recruitment manager.
"I've got something for you," she said, handing over a folded note.
"What...?" Jo began to ask, but the woman had gone.
Inside the stationery was taped a key, a car registration number and the words, 'Sell the item on the back seat at your auction,' scrawled beside it.
When she eventually located an ancient tan Discovery, she nearly fainted. On the grubby leatherette seat, wrapped in a white sheet, lay an ornate mirror. Tucked in the frame was a business card: Darcy 'Fitz' Williams, Equine Training with Sense and Sensibility and across the glass, in flowing script, the signature 'Darcy'. A yellow sticky note proclaimed, 'Dinner tonight?'
Joanne reached for her mobile phone and keyed in a message. "To Mr Darcy, Miss Elizabeth Bennet would like to express her sincere gratitude for your benevolence. Please also be advised of her Persuasion to accept your kind invitation."
© Heather King