“Juaaan,” my mother called, “Spencer’s here to play.” I cringed, my friends didn’t come to play anymore. We hung out, mucked around, went for walks, but we definitely did not PLAY. “He’s not here to PLAY!!” I yelled at my mother. “Well, he’s here.“
It wasn’t only that, my heart sank with every step he took upstairs. He had been here yesterday, and the day before that, and would have been there more if school hadn’t come in the way. Why didn’t he just leave me to playing Ballblazer on my C64? There was something about his dad leaving the house, but I didn’t know or want to know. I had the cold entitlement of a priviledged teenager of not worrying about things that confused me. And besides, we went to different schools now, he wanted to talk football, girls and bmx bikes, and he would do so, loudly, boasting. I cared for books and maths and desperately wished I could speak of football, and girls, and bmx bikes. He reminded me of what I had, and I hated him for that. He sat next to me, and we played.
I entered a version of this story into a 200-word short story competition organised by a creative writing group operated out of the Balham Bowls Club, called Chalk The Sun. I was excited, because the postcards land somewhere in the 150-250 word area almost every day, so in terms of length, it is something I am training daily for. Plus, if chosen I would have to read the story aloud, Moth-style, and I had a good feeling about that.
I have wanted to enter writing and photography competitions for years but, and here’s the excuse, work makes it almost impossible to work on pieces to what I would consider to be submission-worthy, before the deadline has passed. I had an idea for this story and it fit with the theme of the competition, ‘Games’, so I spent every night of the week re-writing it, discussing with Maria and friends how to form it into something coherent. I told myself that I would be no worse off if it didn’t get chosen (they would choose 20 to be presented aloud at some point after which one would be chosen as the winner), but I was disappointed today when my name wasn’t on the list.
I’ve stopped myself from writing for so many years because I spooled out the idea in my head and saw that it wasn’t leading anywhere, and the work died before it ever had a chance to be something. I didn’t understand until recently how the quality of an idea was impossible to pre-judge, and that the most important thing was to get it out there, and then figure out later if there was something there. That’s at the heart of this project, to get it out there, not to worry. I am sure 99% of these postcards are not literary marvels, but a few have a decent turn of phrase, or seed of an idea worth exploring. It does frustrate me just how first draft they are, and most of them will never get beyond that. This is just the first one I’ve put out there in a formal way and I want to keep doing it.
Here’s the version of the story that I entered into the competition.
HERE TO PLAY
“Juaaan,” my mother called. “Spencer’s here to play.” I cringed. My friends didn’t come to play anymore. We hung out, mucked around, but we definitely did not play. “He’s not here to PLAY!” I yelled.
It wasn’t only that; my heart sank with every thud on the carpeted steps. He had been here yesterday, and the day before that, and would have been here even more had school not come in the way. There was something about his dad leaving home, but I didn’t know, or want to know. Why couldn’t he leave me alone to play my Commodore 64? My mother would remind me that he had come to visit me in hospital, said it was the least I could do. But we went to different schools now, and he wanted to talk football, girls and bmx, and he would do so loudly, boasting. I cared for books and maths and Star Wars, wishing desperately I could talk about football and girls and bmx, and I didn’t want to face things that confused me. He reminded me of everything I had, and I hated him for it. He sat next to me, and we played.