The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2019
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The Winner of 2016 Autumn Flash Fiction Competition

Mary Bevan Winner Flash Fiction Competition

1st Prize

Mary Bevan

Mary began to write when she retired from full-time work just three years ago – which shows it’s never too late to start! So far she has concentrated on writing flash and micro fiction, which she finds really exciting and challenging, and short stories, but she also loves taking part in story slams. She has so far won or been placed in a number of competitions, and her stories have been published online and in print anthologies in the US, the UK and Australia. She lives in rural Dorset and loves walking and constantly re-designing bits of her garden.


It's the wrong time of year to be buying a tree. The garden centre has lost its usual hum and sad little piles of unsold Christmas goodies lie around in corners. The trees are outside, of course. We must brave the East wind to find them.

'Come on then, let’s get out there,' I say to Jack, winding his scarf another turn around his throat. Jack is just seven and has come with me to choose the tree. I am glad of his company.

Outside are boxes of winter pansies in vibrant blues and sunshine yellows bravely defying the grey skies. Perhaps I will get some, but Jack is already heading for the bare branches sticking up in a far corner. There are few trees to choose from just now; he marches up and down the line. 'Not much here,' he says disgustedly.

'They'll look better when they've got leaves.'

'How do we know what they'll look like when they’ve got leaves?'

'Let’s look at the labels; sometimes they have pictures.'

The first label sounds so magical I read it aloud – Japanese Cherry, Nashiki Sunrise.

'Gran hasn't been to Japan,' Jack objects.

'Well no, but...' His logic defeats me: we move on down the line. More Japanese cherries, an apple, a pear, a weeping willow with the tiniest of new, green shoots appearing on the umbrella frame of its branches.

'How about a willow?' I say, but Jack’s not listening.

'This one's got her name on it,' he shouts excitedly.

I read the label: he's right; Magnolia, Lady Cynthia. There's a picture of a great pink and white blossom sitting on a bough like a teacup. It's beautiful and vibrant, just like her. ‘Clever you – it’s perfect,’ I tell him.

The young girl at the cash desk smiles, glad to have a customer this long, slow winter's afternoon. She lifts the tree by its trunk to zap the barcode on the pot.

'Careful,' I say without thinking.

'Don't worry,' she smiles again. 'Is it a special present?'

'Sort of.'

'It's for my Gran. It's got the same name as she has,' explains Jack helpfully.

'Oh, won't she be pleased!' the girl is enthusiastic. 'Is it for her garden?'

'No, it's going to be planted on top of her,' Jack says flatly.

There's a heavy silence. She looks at me, horrified, not knowing what to say.

Inside my head I hear Cynthia laughing her throaty laugh. 'It's OK,' I smile at her, 'really, it's OK.'

'What's OK?' asks Jack.

'Everything,' I say. And, actually, I mean it. Our little tree seems so full of promise. It will grow strong and tall and lead us out of winter into spring. And years from now, when I'm an old woman, Jack and I will visit it together and remember today and laugh.

'Can we have waffles for tea?' Jack asks as we walk to the car.

Bless you, little tree. Guard my lovely mother well.

Bless you, Jack.

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