The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived!
We’re announcing the winners of the Stories in the North 2015 Short Story Contest.
Before we get to the winners, we’d like to thank everyone who entered.
As for the contest itself, it ran in early summer and we didn’t have a ton of rules this year. Entries had to be under 5000 words and could be in any genre. Entries did have to contain four out of the following five words; flash, secret, red, expletive and frog and entries were judged on this requirement. (Our winning entry contained all five words!)
A big thanks to our panel of judges which was made up of one Stories in the North committee member along with two volunteers who are both involved in writing. We appreciate their taking the time to read all of the stories and get together to make their final decisions.
It took us a bit of time to get this all together but now without further adieu (as they say), the winners are:
First place: Monster Math by Shirley Seabrook
Second place: War Time Years in Ottawa by Theresa Woroshelo
Third place: The Prophecy by Amy Mailman
We are pleased to be able to share Shirley Seabrook’s first place entry with SiN readers.
Shirley, who is going to be 80 in February, says she’s been writing since she was a child.
“I don’t know that I’d call myself a writer. I just tell stories,” she said. She also says she’s not a “self-promoter” so almost all of her writing has been mostly in long-hand and has remained inside her own notebooks and binders, seen occasionally only by a few family members. When she saw the Stories in the North contest, she decided to enter.
Congratulations, again, to Shirley and to all of our winners.
By Shirley Seabrook
Brad was sweating bullets as he chewed on a fresh red pencil. It was getting late and he was no closer to finishing the last math problem than he had been a half hour ago.
He drew angry faces on a scrap of paper and kicked the table leg, which led to a sore toe.
“Rats and mice!” he said, using the only expletives allowed in this house. It just wasn’t fair!
Mother had said she would help him before supper, but the guys had wanted him to play scrub after school and by the time he got home Mother had started supper and wasn’t a bit sympathetic, since she had an evening meeting.
He could hear sit-com laughter from Mr. Cameron’s room above and was tempted to ask him for help even though Mom had said under no circumstances, barring fire and appendicitis, was he to bother their boarder. Mr. Cameron was a nice retired older gentleman who told funny stories at supper.
Brad had been so shafted when Mrs. Mathews, in commenting on his low marks in math, knowing his mother was an accountant, frowned and said, “It doesn’t seem to be an inherited talent.”
He realized she hadn’t intended to be mean, but the whole class laughed. He had read the problem to his mother as she was preparing to leave, but she had smiled and said he should be able to figure that one out himself. Sure, if I wasn’t so stupid, he thought.
Now he read the problem for what he thought must be the hundredth time. ‘If an east bound bus leaves Ottawa at 8:30 a.m. and a westbound bus leaves Toronto at the same time and speed of 90 kphs, given the distance of 450 K, at what time will they meet and pass each other?’
The problems consisting of columns or numbers he found difficult enough, but he never seemed to be able to do the sentence problems. What to multiply or divide was such a mystery.
He rested his head on his bent elbow and closed his eyes. Mrs. Mathews was sitting on the dining table and the whole class was there too. Mrs. Mathews was holding his blank paper up before the other kids and singing “Bradly can’t do ma-ath.” And all the kids joined in.
“Oh, let me die,” he moaned.
He felt a warm gentle touch on his shoulder and Mr. Cameron was leaning over him as he woke up.
“Hadn’t ye better be off t’ your bed laddy?” Mr. C. said kindly.
“I can’t, I have to finish this last problem or I’ll be dead tomorrow.” He sounded like a frog and he blinked back tears.
“Is it something I can help y’ with?” Mr. C. fumbled for his glasses and read the problem.
“Hmm,” he said frowning. “Have y’ tried looking at a map? I think I have one in my room.”
Mr. C.’s sitting room was crowded with furniture but he turned a chair upside down on another one and was able to open the glass door of his bookcase. He brought out a map and spread it out on the table.
Now then, ye’ll likely know your geography some ‘at. But here’s Toronto. Now you find Ottawa following the most direct highway.”
“That’s impossible!” Brad almost shouted, “They could never meet anywhere in Canada, heading in opposite directions. It’s not fair!”
“It may have been put there t’ make ye’ think. But it’s getting late. Perhaps a sentence or two showing your discovery will suffice t’ complete the assignment,” Mr. C. said re-folding the map.
The next morning after handing in his homework, Brad had a lot of time for second thoughts. What if Mrs. Mathews actually wanted facts and figures? He wondered what the worst punishment might be for being a wise-guy; the thumb screw? Death by guillotine? He decided that anything would be preferable to being sent to the principal’s office and having him call his mother from work.
He puzzled; ‘why does life have to be so tough?’ He suspected monasteries wouldn’t take kids his age. He hated the thought of becoming a teenager; one of the older guys had once scoffed at his complaints about math and grammar.
“Just wait till you get into High School if you think grade five is bad,” he had taunted.
Such thoughts ran through his mind as he chewed on the cord in the hood of his dark red sweat shirt, while the class noisily waited for Mrs. Mathews, after the noon recess. As she entered the class settled down and she opened her case before she spoke.
“Most of you did very well on this lesson. However while some of you had trouble with the last problem, one answer was in a class by its self.”
She began to distribute the folders, starting on her right. Brad trying to look unconcerned, gave his fingernails some much needed attention.
He didn’t raise his head as he took his folder and waited for Mrs. Mathews to start down the other side before he looked inside. Then his eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. Each of the nine problems had a beautiful “C” for correct beside them and the tenth had ‘Ten points for enterprise’ written in red beside it.
While Mrs. Mathews took the class through correcting their mistakes, Brad sat in a glow of happy disbelief and drew funny faces, until they came to the last question. It came in a flash that the help Mr. Cameron had given him should be his secret, the rest might think Mr. C. had given him the whole answer.
“For the last problem, I and the rest of the school system owe all of you an apology. This is a new text and that, to quote from Tennyson’s Light Brigade, ‘someone has blundered’.
You can be sure I will be previewing future assignments more closely. It’s obvious in the Teacher’s Manual’ the words east and west are transposed to make it mathematically workable but,” she smiled directly at Brad, “I think the author or the proof reader didn’t do his homework. Now class, how many know the riddle, ‘When I was going to St. Ives?”
Several hands shot up.
“Good, now let’s review the last problem. Bradley would you please read the text?” He read the problem carefully emphasizing the lines about the bus leaving Toronto for the west and the eastbound one leaving Ottawa. Groans and mutters of comprehension swept around the room.
“Thank you Bradley. The next page is your homework assignment…yes, Susan?”
“What about St. Ives? I never heard of it. What’s that to do with Toronto and Ottawa?”
A half dozen voices took up the riddle;
“As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives.
The seven wives had seven cats.
The seven cats had seven kits,” ending with; kits, cats, man and wives, how many were going to St. Ives?
Susan looked stunned as she appeared to be doing some heavy math, one eye shut and her head tipped to one side. Chuckles and wise looks circulated. Then the bell rang, and several voices shouted “One,” and more laughter started as Susan said, “I don’t get it!”
I guess I’m not the only one slow on the uptake, Bradly thought as he hurried to catch up to Susan.
“Never mind Susan,” he said, “Lots of people miss the significance of the ‘to St. Ives, and that the man was coming from. I did too, when Grandpa asked me, a couple of years ago.
That’s what makes riddles fun, tricking the next guy.”
“If you say so,” muttered the serious Susan as she turned to line up for her bus.
A carefree Bradly, grinning broadly, got on his bike and peddled for home.