So, I did it. I got brave and entered in the New York City Midnight Flash Fiction writing competition. The annual event attracts hundreds of writers from around the world who compete in a series of writing challenges. Each round, competitors have two days to write a 1,000 word story based on an assigned genre, place and object. Everyone participates in two rounds, then their scores are tallied with the top five from each group progressing to the next round. The shortlist/challenge process continues until there is a winner.
In my first ever challenge, I was assigned the genre of comedy, the place was a radio station and the object a rainbow. Unfortunately, the timing was tricky for me as the day of the deadline followed a massive night out on the town in Sydney and I was struggling with a huge hangover. I did it though (I just wish I had an sub editor) and it made me feel so exhilarated. It reminded me what I need to focus on again – writing.
And a big part of writing is being brave, so here goes it… here is my Challenge #1 entry…
Gwen Does A Runner
Synopsis: A young woman gives a feral Aussie town her own special send-off.
There was no doubt Rainbow was a shit town, Gwen was reminded of it each time she walked down its main street. Half the shops were boarded up with crudely written ‘For Lease’ signs taped to their dusty windows. The metal bins were overflowing with rubbish, cigarette butts and soft drink cans. There was a dodgy-looking supermarket and an old-school coffee shop selling stale Kitchener Buns and pre-made cheese salad sandwiches. Even the lettuce looked grey and limp. The sports store was crammed with faded football gear, the video store with shoot ‘em up movies and b-grade porn and the takeaway shop specialized in deep-fried fat.
The only place that showed any signs of life was the pub. Locals crammed around a tv watching the Crows footie match. ‘Carn. Ball. Ball. Bloody umpires,’ one heavily tattooed man with a scruffy beard yelled at the tv. He slammed his empty beer glass down, indicating to the bar maid he needed a refill. ‘Fuck you, Trev,’ the small, leather-skinned woman snarled. ‘You wouldn’t know the rules of the game even if they kicked ya in the face.’
There was nothing colourful and bright about Rainbow. Even if there were a real rainbow it would be muted. And rather than a pot of gold at the bottom of it, there’d be a pile of tourist brochures for other far more beautiful and upbeat places. On top would be a note saying: ‘Sucked in for living in Rainbow’.
Gwen could feel her cheeks reddening as the sun burned into her tanned flesh. Flies buzzed past her head, one brushed past her lips, making her gag. She pushed open the door of the radio station, stopping for a moment to embrace the rush of cool air. It was her last day as Rainbow’s newsreader. Her car was packed with all her possessions and she could think of nothing else but driving out of the crusty little town back to friends and family; back to her cosmopolitan life. Back to drag shows on Saturday nights, Vietnamese food and lazy days by the beach. Back to her boyfriend who would fart then pull the covers over her head. Her boyfriend, who made her heart sing like a love struck teenager.
As she sat at her radio console and read through her news line-up she couldn’t help but laugh about the time she’d had though. Luckily, she’d met some great friends. They’d made Rainbow bearable. They’d gotten her drunk and run nude down the main street. They’d listened to her cry and they’d laughed at her when she entered the local darts competition only to ever hit the board once. She’d definitely visit them, but she’d never live in Rainbow again. She’d rather pull her toenails out and wear them as earrings. Rainbow was a hole.
She looked at the clock. The seconds were ticking down. Soon she would turn on her microphone and deliver the latest news of the day. Her heart was beating out of her chest. Her throat was dry and she had sweat on her brow. She always felt nervous before reading the news. Gwen was not a natural radio presenter. In fact she was pretty crap. It was fun while it lasted. Once she finished this one last bulletin she would jump in her car and speed away from not only Rainbow, but also radio stations in general. She would even do a burnout and some circle work, topless, if it meant she’d never have to sit in front a microphone again.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The seconds were catching up with her. It was time. She popped her headphones on and turned on her microphone. She flicked her long brown hair behind her ears. Her blue eyes twinkled. Game time.
‘Good afternoon, the time is 3pm and this is 737 Rainbow. I’m Gwen Thompson,’ she crooned. ‘Heading the news today – Rainbow’s been shortlisted as the most fucked up town in Australia, according to a poll of everyone who has ever been anywhere near Rainbow, knows anyone who has ever been here and people who have had the misfortune of hearing stories of people who know people who have ever been here. The ranking was met with surprise by Rainbow’s Mayor, Doug “Tin Man” Smith, ‘Geez mate, that’s a little harsh. You know we’re getting a McDonald’s drive through restaurant next year? That means we’ll have burgers as well as Sammy’s Takeaway.’
In other news, a horse did a shit on the main street and a public holiday was declared as it was the most exciting thing that has happened in years. The horse now has a special spot in the bar alongside the other mules.
And finally, the 1950s called and it wants its way of life back.
Now to the weather, it will be hot and dull.
I’d like to say there’s more news, but there isn’t as nothing of any consequence ever happens here. Signing off for the last time and I couldn’t be happier. You can kiss my arse, Rainbow.’
Outside the booth, she could see the shocked faces of her colleagues. She threw off her headphones and grabbed her handbag. Her friend was waiting in her car out the front of the station to ensure a speedy getaway. Gwen took a deep breath, smiled, bowed and started to laugh. She’d never done anything so stupid and reckless in her life. For the first time in months she truly felt alive.
There was no place like home and that’s where she was heading.
What do you think?