I’ve been contributing to the Australian Writer’s Centre’s Furious Fiction for some time. This is a monthly competition whereby you follow certain prompts in writing a piece of fiction of 500 words. Every time the competition comes around I tell myself I’m not going to contribute this month, but I always do. I always think, when I read the prompts, that there’s no way I can come up with a story with those things in it, but I always seem to manage it and can do it fairly quickly also. I have to say that it’s a lot of fun and a nice bit of escapism for the first weekend of each month. Would highly recommend it.
The prompts for the June competition have dropped and as usual I thought – nah, going to give it a miss this month. But I haven’t and in fact have finished the draft already. Anyway, I had the idea, to keep this blog moving along, of publishing my past stories here. So, this entry was my contribution for May.
The prompts for May were quite tricky. You had to write a piece of fiction which contained the words: maybe, mayor, mayhem, mayonnaise, dismay. And it had to start with an eleven-letter word and contain something or someone running. So here is my attempt (and the explanation for the images):
“Prejudgment had led the Mayor to this moment, to his downfall.
Two days ago, he’d read in dismay the email from theMinister’s office announcing the appointment – a white woman, from the city, being sent out here to help resolve the mayhem gripping his remote community! He’d fired off a response, predicting the woman’s uselessness despite the row of letters after her name. The curt reply, when it came, simply stated the date and time for him to be at Alice Springs airport to meet her.
The woman’s appearance at the arrivals lounge only confirmed his prejudice – skin as creamy and pale as mayonnaise, hair the same shade as the red dirt around here, and a fragile form to wither in the relentless heat. He’d taken her suitcase from her with barely a word, led the way to the dusty jeep. Simmering silence endured during the journey from the Alice. She’d made a few polite overtures but had fallen quiet herself after a while. When they’d pulled up at the local where she was to stay her clipped “thank you” had invited no conversation.
Now, he stands outside the pub, hesitating. It had taken him the rest of the day to reign in his tension, restore shredded civility and venture here to speak to her. He knows his manner had been as ugly as the savagery unleashed on the community this week, and, what’s more, he’s surely lost a much-needed ally. Cold night has plunged. In the weak haloes of the buzzing street lights that remain unbroken, the empty streets slumber restlessly. Beyond the mulga, beneath the swathe of stars, circling dingoes howl.
He’s directed upstairs to the mainly empty rooms by the publican who’s alone in the establishment but for a few hardy regulars drooping over beers. When he knocks on her door, it’s pulled open at once and she stands framed in the doorway.
She’s adopted a professional air. He figures she saw him arrive from the window.
“Hi. Is everything alright?”
She’s thinking about the riots. Shamefully, he at last acknowledges her bravery in agreeing to come to this town.
“Yes. Fine,” he says. Stupidly, in the circumstances.
He detects the scent of lavender about her, a drop of water running down her neck, observes involuntarily the lack of undergarment beneath her top.
Noticing him noticing, she crosses her arms. A beat, and she allows them to drift to her sides.
He blurts, shattering the sudden tension: “I wanted to apologise. I didn’t make you feel welcome. I do thank you for taking this gig”. He nods once and turns to leave.
“I realise it’s maybe not the ideal appointment from your point of view,” she says, stopping him, “but you need me”. She pauses. “It’s going to be so good”.
In the void between them the visceral pull surges without foundation or logic and grasps with predatory intent.
She stands back, and he steps across the threshold to his downfall.”