A big thanks to all who participated by submitting and or reading stories for the Valentine’s 250-word story contest on this blog. I appreciate everyone for the responses.
The Judge is Ifeoluwa Nihinlola. And here is what he has to say.
GENERAL COMMENT (from Ifeoluwa Nihinlola).
This contest appears difficult because of the opening and closing constraints Akintunde imposed on the stories coupled with the short word range. I presume a lot of folks did not enter because of these requirements, so we should praise those who attempted to write something.
In many of these attempts, however, it appears the writers chose to write a story they had in mind, and then turned the opening and closing phrases into aphorisms. The problem with aphorisms is that they are unwieldy things that have to be tamed by expert hands before they can can become good literature. I wish more of the writers found a better way to make the framing work for their stories, but in the end, I appreciate their bravery in attempting the seemingly difficult. To all who entered: well done, keep writing.
WINNER: TO CURT
I chose this story as my winner because of it’s opening and ending.
Pain, as established in the first sentence, finds its way through the rest of the story: in the wounds of the soldier husband, and the sores of the nurse wife as she leaves his bedside; in the tears of the man as the wife leaves, and chest of the woman after her lost marriages. The pain experienced by the characters, and how they respond to it (not begging, suggesting they find another nurse) makes them feel round and complete—not a mean feat in 250 words.
The story is also the only entry that refuses to accept the premise of the ending line as provided by Akintunde. (I thought more people would do this.) By hurtling towards an inversion of the statement, “everything is fair,” it makes itself more distinct and appealing, because, indeed, the truth I know is closer to this: not everything is fair.
DON’T COME LOOKING FOR LOVE: This story flows from start to finish, faithful to its premise and pursuing it with some interesting language
MAKING WAR: This manages to hold on to its major plot element, without making us feel like something is missing. A better handling of the reveal and my choice of a winner might have been less straightforward.
BRAINY MAVERICK (writer of the winning entry To Curt) should kindly inbox me on FACEBOOK at Akintunde Aiki.
Read the winning entry by Brainy Maverick.
Title: TO CURT
In love and war, one thing is customary–Pain. Curt and I refused to understand this in the early stages of our marriage. He was a soldier who fought battles often and came home with wounds as souvenirs; then I–having been reminded many times why I was a nurse–would dress them and stay up soothing him to sleep with songs that emitted my throat sounding as though a congress of frogs gathered to party. Sleep would elude me till he started snoring, then I would leave, my body sore from sitting in one position for hours, and head to the table to finish my cold meal.
It lasted three years before I yearned for divorce.
There were tears in his eyes; love, desire, or something else I couldn’t have explained if asked, but he wouldn’t beg me to stay. I left.
One morning, I received a mail. Curt was dead. He had had deep cuts on the head and I was needed, but I suggested they find another nurse.
Now, the memories refuse to leave. When I cackle, it sounds like what it used to, each time Curt tickled me. My new husband doesn’t understand. Each night our bedsheets ruffle and I have to roar in intense pleasure, I go “Cuuurrttt!” It would cost me three marriages, and on a warm evening, with the piercing pain in my chest, I would look upon the world from atop a building and think that in life not everything is fair.
READ THE ENTRIES WITH HONORABLE MENTIONS:
TITLE: DON’T COME LOOKING FOR LOVE (By MITTERAND OKORIE)
In love and war, I am the same dysfunctional lover, incapable of loving any woman beyond a fortnight. Which makes me doubt if I deserve to be called a lover at all, even a dysfunctional one. I see a girl I love, and I’m straight chasing her with the fury of a thousand suns, but soon afterwards, my feelings snap and die. I have no control over these things, and can’t say why they happen. These feelings just wake one morning and die.
To keep my sanity, I return immediately to my Bohemian dispositions. I become again, champion of the night, chaser of all things in skirt, in search of succour between legs that harbour moist and warm matters. My ultimate joy—to watch myself lie in between legs—and receive as it were, as much pleasure as I offered.
Then I’d watch the clapping of butt-cheeks underneath raised legs, limbs shivering in-between tempered moans, and my name called out in broken whispers and bated breathes. And then I’d listen to the chimes of my own whimpering, a sudden loud moan erupting from the depths of my lungs, one befitting my state of pleasure, after which my body yields gently under the exhaustion that follows. But soon as the last fluid hits the durex, and the echoes of pleasure is vanquished, I’m back to grieving the last girl I lost. One time, my ex called me a bloody sociopath, but in life, I think, everything is fair.
Making WAR (BY CHRISTY UDOH)
In love and war, we’re lost souls.
Tonight, he’ll come again but you’ll be ready. There’ll be no tears this time. You’ll shut your eyes and let the pain between your legs wash through you like waves, strengthening your resolve. His thrusts will become faster and deeper and the end, nearer. He’ll shudder with pleasure and you’ll still yourself, waiting for his release.
The night you found mother floating in the pool, he held you close and whispered soothingly. He called you by your mother’s name the first time he made war with your body. He said he loved you. It was this love that brought him back, night after night. You were twelve then and he was all you had. Three years later, nothing has changed, at least, not in your favour.
You’ll turn the tides soon. Your grip on the little bread knife under the pillow will tighten. Soon, the end will come. He’ll shut his eyes and gasp for breath, smearing your soul with his spurts. That will be your moment. You’ll finally find peace, away the man who declared war on your soul in the name of love.
You’ll remember the open fuel tank of the generator, the leaking gas cylinder, and the hidden keys. Either by knife or by fire, the beast will die.
After your father makes love to you, you’ll make war. You know your chances are slim but you’re ready. In death, everything is fair.