Maria P Frino
How NOT to Enter a Competition
Updated: May 29, 2020
Being a writer there are many ways to improve your writing. One way is to enter competitions, there are a plethora of writing competitions open to all levels of writers. I have entered a few over the years, have received some nice emails of appreciation, however, I haven't won any. Yet! I do I live in hope, though.
One of the best things you can do before you send a story out, for any reason not only for competitions, is to ask someone else to read your work. As a busy writer, you will make mistakes. There is not one of us who can proofread our own work without missing something. Your mind reads what you were thinking. Another tip, don't try proofreading or editing your work as soon as you finish it. Leave it for a few hours and a few days is even better.
Recently, I decided to enter a short story to the 2019 Bath Short Story Award. There is no way I will win this competition. The reason for this is simple - I didn't check my work enough. Unfortunately, the story weaves in and out of first and third person. This is a newbie writer's mistake and I should have picked up on it before I entered the story in the competition. For your enjoyment at my silly mistake, here is a copy of what I sent -
Maria P Frino
© 1 February 2020
High atop on this bough of our jacaranda tree I can see over to the Pacific. In full bloom, the blossoms infuse the tree in a spectacular purple. Other jacarandas have our neighbourhood flooded in a sea of purple wherever I look as well. The red roofs pepper through the jacarandas of our seaside suburb, a middle-class haven on Sydney’s northern beaches.
It’s late spring and summer holidays are only weeks away. This is my favourite spot, away from everyone. My holiday shelter where I will spend much of the holidays. As I sit, I can smell the sweet scents of jasmine and murraya. The pungency of the smell soothes me, which is another reason I frequent this spot.
The sky is breaking blue as the sun rises over the ocean. I feel the warmth seeping through me. Today will be warm. I contemplate what this day will bring. Will it be peaceful with everyone leaving me alone? Will I be tormented? Or will the bullies find someone else to taunt?
“Milly, come on down. It’s time for breakfast.”
That’s Mum. She always knows I’m up here when I need some time alone. And she calls me by my cat name. I while away hours here, but not today. Unfortunately, school beckons. I hesitate not wanting to leave the peace that envelopes me when I’m up here. I am safe, why do I have to leave?
“Edward, did you hear me?”
Oh, she’s angry now. When she calls me by my human name, I know it’s time to move. With a huge cat stretch, I pounce from branch to branch until I hit the ground on all fours. As I head towards our house, I transform and walk on two legs. I’m Edward again.
Walking over to the breakfast bench, she acknowledges me. I nod but stay mute. Mum knows me too well. She has a sixth sense of when I want to share and when I don’t. Since Milly… I still find it hard to think of her not being here. I miss her sitting next to me, taunting me in her sisterly manner. She’s gone and has been for two years. Still, it is no easier to live without her.
The school playground is alive with young, eager students, all milling around waiting for assembly. I’m in my corner, away from all of them. No one interests me and no one wants to talk to someone like me. I’m different and being different at St Scholastica’s is taboo.
I see them heading towards me, Chase and his cronies. Now Milly. Transform me now! This would be the easiest way to escape the torment about to thrust upon me, but I cannot control when I can transform. It was Milly who was the transformer and since her death I have unwittingly been bestowed the power. However, I have no control of when it will happen. A slight inhibitor to me being able to use it when necessary.
Chase is flanked by Morgan, Shane and Chase’s sometime girlfriend Brooke. Why she bothers is beyond me. It’s obviously his looks. He towers over everyone in our year, blonde locks scatter down his forehead and over his ears. His charcoal grey eyes pour fear over anyone who bothers him. The only thing missing for Chase is a brain. He is a sports hero but academically he has no hope. Brooke is a smart girl, A-grade student actually, and a blonde stunner. Why Chase? He is still musing over this point when Chase booms at his cavemen friends, Morgan and Shane to pick me up. With each of them holding me by my underarms, my feet dangling, Chase, with his fists clenched, spells out what he will do to me.
“I’m feeling particularly annoyed at you today, Eddie.”
I cringe at him calling me by this shortened version of my name. Telling him sotto voce my name is Edward only infuriates him further.
“Couldn’t give a rat’s arse you little piece of shit. Now, I want to know how you disappeared from site last Friday afternoon. One minute I had you gripped by the shirt, the next your clothes were sprawled in front of me and your shirt left in my hand. We all know you’re different, you fat-arsed weasel, but this Harry Potteresque vanishing trick you’ve perfected, tell me how you do it?” who do you think you are Harry Potter?
I have transformed at times at school, mostly for no reason at all. Stress can bring on a transformation at times, maybe that was it. Chase did provoke me mercilessly that day. I am willing myself to transform now, why can’t I make it happen? Especially when I need it like right now! Desperation doesn’t seem to make it happen. My underarms ache from the pressure of being held up. Why hasn’t the assembly bell gone yet? “I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“Don’t play dumb with us Eddie. Tell us how you do it and we’ll let you go.”
I remain stubborn. Partly because I don’t know what to tell them and partly because I wouldn’t tell them even if I knew how the transforming works. Milly and I didn’t discuss how she did it. It was a power she was born with. As her twin, why I wasn’t bestowed the same blessing at birth, annoys the hell out of me.
The assembly bell chimes.
“Shit! Put him down, we’ll deal with this at lunchtime. You’ve a few hours to think about this Eddie. If I were you, I’d reveal your secret to avoid some broken ribs.”
I head towards my class line. Year 11 stands towards the back of the quadrangle, next year we will be at the back. How I wish this year was my last. I want to walk out of the gates and never come back to this crummy school.
My room’s musty teenage smell soothes my nerves. My ribs ache, although they are not broken. The teacher intervening halfway through the bashing helped. Chase and his cronies were given detention. I feel some pleasure from this, but it is not enough to stop Chase. He’ll keep bullying me until the last day of school.
As I worry on this thought, I’m suddenly on the bough of the jacaranda. Being Milly means no pain. The bliss of being agile and able to move without pain is wonderful. What time is it? I hope I won’t be here for long, even though I want to stay. But I’m starving, my stomach growls like a lion. Chase was upon him as he was about to eat his sandwich at lunchtime. He took the remainder of Edward’s lunch with him.
He suddenly realises how he can revenge himself against Chase. He is allergic to cats. It’s time to pay him a visit. With this thought, he pounces down and pads his way to Chase’s house on the hill.
Edward hears him speaking to his mother. He speaks to her in the same churlish tone as he uses with Edward. He has no respect for anyone, it is all about Chase. They have a dog, he can’t remember what type, but it means he can enter through the pet door. He slinks his way in, taking in the smells. Part human sweat, part dog hormones and part some type of sweet air freshener.
Their dog, a Pekinese with a pink ribbon holding fur out of her eyes, is suddenly in front of Milly snarling in the wimpiest growl. Edward is laughing and wonders whether Milly’s face conveys this. Probably not as the snarl doesn’t change.
“Misty, what’s going on? What’s all this noise?” Chase’s mother comes looking. “Oh, hello. Where did you come from? You are very cute, but you can’t stay here, my son is allergic. Come on out you go.”
Milly slinks past her and sniffs out where Chase is. Finding him in his room, which is twice the size of Edward’s, Chase starts sneezing and scratching. Milly had jumped into his lap and peed.
“What the… get off me. How the hell did you get in here? Mum get this disgusting thing out of our house. And bring me my antihistamines,” he yells.
Misty is now barking as Milly hisses at him while running past heading towards the pet door. Edward’s job here is done.
As I run through the pet door, I transform. The pain sears through me and I instinctively place pressure to the injury with my hand. It soothes the area a little. This is going to slow me down, but that’s not a problem, I have given Chase a dose of his own medicine. Chase will still be scratching at school tomorrow. Direct contact with a cat will mean he will be scratching for days. Edwards face beams with pleasure as he walks home.
Back in my room before my parents are home, there is no need for them to know where I have gone. In fact, they don’t even need to know I went out. Thanks Milly, your timing was perfect. How many times have I tried to think of how to hurt Chase as much as he has hurt me over the years? In the end, Milly had helped him out. Now, if only she would help him work out how to control the transformations. Chase is going to be angry and ready to burst out at anyone who is in his way. I desperately want to hurt him again, this time by leaving a few scratches that will fester.
It’s Friday and assembly is longer this morning because the principal is giving a lecture on bullying. How appropriate. Has someone informed him of Chase? I wonder how many kids at this school are being bullied that prompted the principal to discuss the issue? There are murmurs throughout the assembly, probably from the lucky ones who don’t have to deal with this problem. My insides burn as this authority figure spurts out the usual trite about being nice to each other, about tolerance and appreciating each other’s differences. Oh yeah, that’s exactly what the bully is thinking while pummelling me. Finally, we’re in class and I notice Chase is missing. His chair in the back corner is empty. Today is going to be a good day.
I’m walking out of science class when I bump into Morgan and Shane. “Hey, you fat-arse weasel, watch where you’re going.” Morgan’s booming voice rattles me. He doesn’t have a speaking voice, no matter what comes out of his mouth, it is a shout. I ignore him. I want this day to keep being peaceful.
The next class is a double maths lesson. My favourite lesson and I’m happy when a substitute teacher is taking the class. She hands out some papers asking us to work on them. Easy. This means I can smash through these and relax on my phone watching YouTube videos. Can this day get any better?
Shane, who is sitting behind Edward, is whispering to Morgan about Chase. “He’s in a bad way, apparently he’s scratching so much, his skin is red raw and bleeding. He isn’t coming back to school until the week after next. He’s in too much pain.”
“Poor guy. He suffers badly from this cat allergy. We’ll go over after school and cheer him up.”
“Yep, good idea.”
This day is the best day of my life. I managed to maim the great Chase Richardson enough to stop him coming to school for the next week. This means a whole week of no bullying for me and any other kids he picks on.
Milly, when you’re ready I’ll be waiting to give that arsehole another dose of your medicine. I’m ready for a lot more of these types of adventures. This day is a win for all of us who are bullied and cannot give the arseholes a dose of their own treatment.
As I walk home from school, I have a new-found strength and relish in the knowledge that Milly has my back. I miss her with all my heart, never feeling whole now she is gone. But with this, her gift of transforming, she is always with me and will help me to navigate life without fear of bullies like Chase and his ilk.