My assignment was to write a story with a maximum of 1,000 words, using specific prompts – an emotion plus an event.
Yeah Write said: “Writers will receive a combination of a mood or emotion and an event to include in their story. While neither needs to be the main focus of the story, both must be included in such a way as to be integral to the plot. There are no genre restrictions.”
I was placed in group 2 and given the prompts envy (emotion) and attend a funeral (event), and I wrote a short story entitled ‘Sticky Situation’.
I have included the judges’ feedback below and, as always, your feedback is very much welcomed.
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Synopsis: When Martha visits her dear old friend Edith for afternoon tea she gets more than she expected. Can Martha finally get what she’s always wanted in order to become the person she’s always dreamed of being?
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The last time Edith spoke, before she dropped down dead onto her kitchen floor, it was to tell her dear old friend Martha how shit her tea-making skills were.
While Martha used a spoon to anchor down the bag at the bottom of the mug, Edith always insisted on making a pot. She would cover it with a knitted cosy for at least ten minutes before pouring it into bone china cups sat on matching saucers.
“Philistine.” Edith spat the word at Martha, stuck her nose in the air, and ran a hand through her dark brown curls. Not a single strand was grey; impressive for an 82-year-old.
Martha was about to defend her brew-making ritual when Edith, without warning, fell face-down onto her cork tiles. Following a quick call to 999, she was scooped up by a couple of handsome paramedics and whisked away. Martha never did see her again. An aneurysm, they’d said.
“You poor thing! How are you holding up?” The strange voice brought Martha back into the room. She was at Edith’s funeral and her deceased friend’s son, Frank, had his hands clasped around one of her own.
“What’s that now?” She wasn’t sure what he was going on about.
“I said I’m so grateful to you for being there with mum when it happened. How are you coping?” He spoke slowly and loudly, assuming she was deaf like most people her age. She quickly hid a smile behind her tissue, fearful of a giggle-snort escaping her nose.
Although they’d been friends for a good couple of years, she’d never really liked Edith. In fact it was only because the two of them had become widows during the same week that the members of Little Snoring Women’s Institute insisted they became bosom buddies.
Martha knew from the get-go that she could never truly like Edith. It wasn’t just the way her brown-headed friend wore her pearl bracelet – always perfectly – but also how disgustingly rich she was. It wasn’t just the pearls either, she had lots of jewellery. Her late husband’s job meant he often travelled to exotic places and he would bring home lavish jewels and expensive perfumes. Martha’s dear Jim never had the money for fancy indulgences.
“Martha?” Frank was staring at her.
“What? Oh, sorry. Yes dear, yes it was such a shock. I still remember your mum’s exquisite Royal Doulton tea pot crashing to the floor when she fell. Beautiful china, old country rose pattern I think it was, splattered around her like blood. Awful mess it was. It took me ages to clean up.”
“Right. Well, thanks for that vivid description Martha – I think. Still, you’ll miss going over for your weekly get-togethers right? Mum talked so fondly of them.”
“Ah yes. Our get-togethers were the highlight of her week! She’d always get the posh biscuits out, the ones with the dark chocolate topping. My budget only ever stretched to plain digestives.”
“You had lovely conversations as well as biscuits though? Right?”
“Right,” Frank tried to hide his confusion. “Well I’d better get ready for my eulogy. Take care, Martha.” As he headed to the front of the room, someone tapped three times on the side of a champagne flute and everyone fell silent.
“Thank you all for coming. As many of you will remember mum loved her jam. There wasn’t a single summer when she didn’t go fruit picking. By winter, her pantry would be stuffed with every flavour imaginable. In fact, as I’m sure many of you will know, her jams were award-winning and she won many Little Snoring WI competitions with her culinary skills.”
Mumbling and tiny claps of agreement floated around the room. Everyone, expect Martha, joined in. She was too busy stuffing her face with scone.
“In fact her legend lives on today and if any of you have sampled either the Victoria Sponge cake or one of the scones then you have tasted her famous jam!”
Martha hurriedly reached for her tissue again and spat the contents of her mouth into it, frowning at one of Edith’s grandsons while he watched in disgust.
Even though Edith was dead, Martha struggled to admit to herself that her friend was the better jam producer. It didn’t matter that her body was barely stiff and cold in the ground, Martha wanted the secret recipe for the gorgeous gloopy goo. She knew Edith had stolen it from someone else anyway, so it wasn’t really hers in the first place. Martha was desperate to win the next Little Snoring WI Jam and Curd Competition. She’d waited for this day for far too long and now it was her turn to shine.
“So let’s raise a glass to mum, the best jam maker the world has ever known. To Edith!”
“To Edith!” the room chanted.
Martha knew Edith’s house was still empty. The family hadn’t had much luck selling it yet. If she was quick, she would have enough time to sneak out and back again before anyone noticed. Armed with her secret spare key, Martha turned to leave but was stopped by another of Edith’s relatives.
“She took it to the grave with her y’know,” it was the grandson – Danny or Dylan – something like that.
“Took what to the grave dear?”
“Her jam recipe.”
“Well yes. She’s dead, dear. She can’t tell you what’s in it now.”
“Duh! I know that. I meant the written copy.” Martha’s hands tingled and her arms went cold.
What do you mean?”
“I mean it was only written down in one place.” In unison, Martha and Danny-or-Dylan said: “In the back of the 1986 yellow pages.”
Martha already knew the answer before the question came out of her mouth, but she asked it anyway. “So where is it now?”
“Six-foot under,” Edith’s grandson pointed to the floor. “Buried with her.”
“Jammy cow…” Martha whispered, squeezing the tissue-covered, chewed-up scone in her hand.
Feedback from the Judges:
What the judges really liked about Sticky Situation:
- Excellent opening hook that pulls the reader in and sets expectations for the story.
- A delightful little story. The dialogue is charming. Especially creative use of envy.
- A few lingering punctuation issues make some phrases hitch instead of reading as smoothly as an understated dark comedy should.
- The ending left a little to be desired. Given Martha’s character and her envy, it would have been more effective if Martha was successful in stealing the recipe.