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Saturday 13 December 2014

Saturday Story - 'Christmas stocking'

Quite a number of my published short stories began life as entries in a competition. Often the constraints of word-count meant that the story would require additional text, scenes and even a sub-plot, but the germs were planted by the competition.  Competitions are useful for getting the creative juices running.

Way back in the 1970s, I regularly entered the 250-word competitions set in The Writer magazine, and won a number of times. For one December competition, entrants were asked to choose one of the following: 1. Write a description of a snow scene. 2. Scrooge is not impressed by Marley’s ghost and does not change. Rewrite the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’. 3. Write a Christmas song. Some 90% of entrants chose the snow scene.

The following (220 words, using my penname Platen Syder) won the first prize and the princely sum of £3, with the judge’s comment ‘… and also made me feel really cold’:

An exquisite miracle, the birth of snow. It began just after darkfall, drifting lightly, snowflake crystals forming unique geometric patterns, brightening the barren colourless land.

But the serenity didn’t last.

Above and far beyond, more snow-clouds were building up, deep grey and massive, overshadowing the spruce trees and gently sloping snowdrifts.

A wind whispered round the solitary log-cabin, dissipated the thin ribbon of chimney-smoke. Distant cries of wolves floated on the air. The moon shone wanly.

Then it started. The blizzard!

Unmeasurable gale-forces swooped out of nowhere. The ponderous snow-clouds unzipped themselves and poured out their innards. It fell like the fleece from pillows until the winds snatched the flakes and the sudden mortifying frost covered them.

Transformed into a savage wall of darting ice-spicules, the snowstorm lashed and hacked at the old man’s log-cabin. The winds howled hauntingly, battering at the warped wood.

Inside, the oil-lamp on the rough-hewn table cast an unsteady yellow glow.
The wolves bayed again, nearer now.
Reindeer-bells clanged discordantly outside as the poor creatures panicked in their stalls. The chimney whistled harshly. Sparks flew bright red onto the bear-rug in the hearth and a choking cloud of smoke and freezing wind gusted into the room.
“I’m not going out in that tonight – there’ll just have to be two Christmases next year!” growled Santa Claus.

* * *

Miss Eleonor Clayforth was second (whose entry ‘not only befitted Scrooge, but struck at the tarnished image of commercial Christmas’), and Miss S.B. Wilson was third with her ‘poem rather than a song… a very fine piece indeed’).

* * *
If you enjoyed this short story, you might like my collection Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, featuring Leon Cazador, private eye in 22 cases; poignant, humorous, even.

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