Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2018 Finalists
Seven stories have been short-listed for the 2018 Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition. Excerpts from each of the stories appear below with links to the complete story. Let us know what you think of them via Facebook or Twitter (@artsclubwriters)
Eleionomae, The River Nymph
by Emily Learmont
...Sir Alfred rose and strode across the hall, his dressing gown fluttering.
He paused in front of his masterpiece, ‘Eleionomae, The River Nymph’, the painting with which he had established his reputation, a gold-medallist at the Paris Salon. He scrutinized it intently. He had rendered the nymph life-sized and nude, pale-skinned and smooth, against a background of brushwork that was intended to evoke a riverbank and bulrushes. Her dark hair was highlighted with droplets of water and in her right hand was a waterlily. Sir Alfred recalled the youthful passion with which he had executed the painting. Striving by day-light and lamp-light in that grimy studio in Tottenham Court, impelled by the necessity to prove his talent, to fulfil his ambition - or else be forced to return to his job as a corset-maker in his father’s shop in Charing Cross Road.
It occurred to him then that it was Eleionomae who was the love of his life. His obsession with her had preoccupied him for over forty years as he recreated her beauty in a series of celebrated paintings.
He got down on bended knee... Read the whole story
by Mara Buck
The boy and his father are hunting. Sun filters through the hemlocks and warms the dry oak leaves that litter the forest floor. Acorns nestle in the leaves and frequent piles of fresh whitetail dung prove that deer are plentiful in this place that runs along behind the old graveyard. The tall man bends down and fingers a few of the hard dark pellets.
“Not cold yet. Can’t be much more’n a hundred yards ahead. Best we split up here. You stick with this trail. I’ll circle left.”
“Big one, huh, Dad.”
“Git a good clean shot and you’ll have you some nice trophy. Ten-pointer for sure. But if he is, he’s some smart, so don’t go messing with ‘im. Old ones like that been known to turn on yuh.... Read the whole story
The Genuine Article
by Colin Armstrong
‘What are you doing here Torquil? I told you, it’s not ready.’
Torquil cast his eyes around the jumble of tubes and brushes in Malcolm’s studio. Discarded paint adorned every surface, including the capacious canvas of Malcolm’s t-shirt.
‘I’m not here about the Rembrandt.’ Torquil mopped his brow with a white linen handkerchief. The studio was oppressively close and the smell of the oils was overpowering.
‘It took me ages to find the right canvas, without any modern chemicals in it. Something I can age convincingly. Then there’s the paint.’ He waved a tube menacingly at Torquil, causing him to step back into something sticky. ‘The lead will probably kill me.’... Read the whole story
by Mary Fitzpatrick
From the age of fifteen Murdo McLeod knew his fate; three days after leaving school he was standing in Mr Munroe’s shop, wrapped in an oversized apron, doling out loose tea and rashers of bacon. Murdo didn’t really mind; it wasn’t as if he wanted to be a teacher or a doctor or a pearl diver, he was really quite happy, listening to gossip, counting out change, sniffing cheese and butter to make sure they weren’t rancid. But that was before Aunt Flora came to stay.
Recently widowed Aunt Flora, wearing cerise stilettos, tightly belted white raincoat, headscarf depicting Parisian hotspots, tottered unsteadily down the ferry gangplank on toothpick legs; stepping onto the quay she swayed uncertainly and looked around her; spotting Murdo and his mother she fluttered her fingers (Murdo noticed they were tipped with cherry coloured nail polish) and swayed towards them. Murdo bent awkwardly to kiss his aunt; she offered him a cheek with a flirtatious moue; at that moment, breathing in deeply, absorbing her scent, 4711 cologne and face powder, Aqua Net hairspray and Pond’s face cream, Murdo knew that things were about to change. Read the whole story
A hat shop might not have seemed the most obvious place for a writer’s residency yet after a trying time for Gail, it proved the perfect fit. A terrible newspaper review of her last novel caused her not only to sink into the writing doldrums but also to start avoiding one of her favourite shops. She’d often paused outside the windows of ‘The Milliner’s Tale’, struck by the beauty and craftsmanship of the crowning glories on display although, curiously, had never stepped inside. She felt her head too small to deserve such attention, the childhood taunts of ‘Pea-head!’ whenever she dared to wear a bobble-hat leading her to feel she’d be a fraud if she went in to browse with no intention of buying. That self-consciousness coupled with the by-line photo of Jack McCain, the extravagantly moustachioed reviewer who’d blasted her ‘lazy characterisation’ and ‘reliance on coincidence’, showing him slyly tipping the brim of his fedora, caused her to walk briskly past one of her formerly favourite pauses in her strolls about the city.... Read the whole story
A Story the Span of Your Brow
By Kirsti Wishart
The room was elegant but sparsely furnished. There were no pictures on the wall, no vases of flowers on the table, no books in the mahogany bookcase. The resonating ticks from the pendulum clock above the unlit fireplace were the only sounds disturbing the silence. Beside the fireplace was a sweeping bay window that overlooked the driveway and garden.
In the middle of the room were two chesterfield sofas. On the larger of these sat a woman and a little girl. The little girl sat back, arms folded in a self-hugging gesture, eyes fixed straight ahead. The woman sat leaning forward, hands on her knees, alert; like she was waiting for something.
Finally the woman stood up. Tutting irritably, she walked towards the window.
“It really is too bad of them.” she said. She pushed back her glasses and glanced at the clock. “If they consider that security may have been compromised, Henderson should be here. Now.” Read the whole story
The Poppy Season
by Michael Callaghan
by Rachael Dunlop
‘Grab hold of me,’ Stacey called over her shoulder, ‘before I fall out of this window. I can’t quite get my phone into the light.’
Carl looped an arm around his girlfriend’s skinny waist as she raised herself onto her tiptoes and extended her arm into the slim shaft of light that fell between the apartment buildings.
‘Got it. Pull me in,’ she said after a few minutes. Back in the room, she checked the display on her phone. ‘Twenty per cent charge. That’ll have to do. Did you have to rent an apartment with so little natural light, Carl?’
Carl shrugged. ‘I’m not a millionaire. Light costs. And maybe if you hadn’t used the last of your lithium playing that game...’
Stacey’s eyes narrowed. ‘I’m this close to getting three stars on every level. This close.’ She held up a finger and thumb, pinched so close together their heavily calloused pads nearly touched.
‘If we miss the notification for the flash-mob because you’ve got no charge on your phone...’
‘The irony is not lost on me, Carl.’ Her phone beeped. ‘Here we go.’ She scanned the incoming message, brows pulled low. ‘This is it, Carl, the big one. It’s on.’ Read the whole story