On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
NOVEMBER 2020 (Missed the deadline by two minutes, so not formally submitted.)
THIS MONTH'S CRITERIA:
It was so perfect it didn’t look real, like some new-fangled computer illusion. The sun had burst over the horizon in a kaleidoscope of golds and reds, while ferries and sailboats glided over the calm harbour.
Gazing out the hotel window, Bev remembered a time before the crowded skyline and iconic sails of the Opera House existed. She absentmindedly rubbed her hands, knuckles swollen and sore, her skin papery. Her wedding ring had only come off once in 66 years, when it slipped down the sink. Doug had banged and bashed at pipes, flooded the kitchen, sworn like a sailor, and finally, miraculously, found the ring, sapphire intact. Bright yellow rubber gloves were then mandatory - “Lest we forget the kitchen sink catastrophe!”
An involuntary shake of the head couldn’t quite cast out Bev’s gloomy thoughts and she looked again at the perfect morning, colours changing from moment to moment. The TV from the room next door was blaring. A catchy jingle with a driving rhythm and over-the-top cheeriness. Perfect presenters. Perfect laughs. But obviously not real, not like the perfect view.
It was still early, but Bev had been awake for hours, and was impatient for breakfast. Doug used to make the first cup of tea for the day. To be honest, it was the only time he’d voluntarily darken the kitchen door.
Room service finally arrived. Toast with marmalade. A banana. Tea with skim milk. Nice not to have to prepare it or wash up. Perks of a hotel. She was going to start enjoying being old. No more making the bed. She was 88 years old. Who could stop her? It’s not as though the police would arrest her for an unmade bed. She laughed at her own folly. Of course she’d make the bed.
She took out her old black and white photo and smiled. Doug would have been proud of her continuing the anniversary tradition of a city stay. There was young Doug in a suit, tie crooked at the collar, grinning. A younger Bev in her favourite floral dress. A one-year-old Ian tugging at Bev’s pearls.
She looked up and saw Ian, now 63.
“Ian, how did you get in? Isn’t this room splendid? Look at the view! The harbour is glorious this morning! Is it time to go home?”
Ian looked at his mother and nodded sadly. Through the window, he could only see the giant liquidambar tree, ablaze with red and gold leaves. Her breakfast lay half-eaten, lovingly made by a daughter-in-law she didn’t recognise. The imagined hotel was, in reality, a converted study, her home for now but not for long.
Bev rambled on about the city, Doug, the ring and gloves, making beds, being perfect and real. Ian struggled to make sense of any of it.
“Lest we forget,” she suddenly blurted out, grinning and giggling. In that moment, Ian witnessed a real and perfect joy. He couldn’t see what she saw, but knew she was enjoying the view.
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.