Tag Archives: short stories

Judged Five Best Short Story Entries for 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition


Short Story finalists from the Crocodile Prize – Papua New Guinea’s national annual literary competition.

Crocodile Prize PNG

Below are the five best short stories entered for the Short Story Category of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition. The numbers of the short stories entered for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition was low compared to the previous years. But the quality has been outstanding. The story lines and characters were better developed. The stories were better organised so the build-up to a climax were deliberate and entertaining. The emerging writers have also come from a more diverse background. Electricians to carpenters and Literature students of the University of Papua New Guinea and more. Several of these are first timers who do not identify themselves as writers. The following titles below were the selected short list of the winners after the long process of filing, culling and judging. Only one more process is left, that is: Selection of the overall winner among the 5 winners as identified by the judges.

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Where My Eyes Are From – Short Story JK.Leahy©


Here is one of my earlier short stories that I published on this blog in 2014. I have not been writing much, but painting and drawing. I have to finish some old projects. I hope you enjoy “Where My Eyes Are From”.

Where My Eyes Are From – Short Story by JK.Leahy©

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Old porch photo by First Light Photo. Sue Templin owner.

I turned to face the door and sat down in the centre edge. It was the softest part of mama’s large queen-size bed. I ran my large grey eyes over the bed. They never miss a thing. Papa had built this bed. The bed was rustic but sturdy. Because of the many years in the timbers, the bed talks like an old man when you are on it. Right now, the bed is not talking because I am not moving. The white cotton sheets were crumpled and warm. I wanted to climb into the sheets, make the bed talk, like mama and I used to when we would read together and play, but I could not.

We had buried mama at 3pm. The day had been long and tiring.

The few friends and family returned to our small two bedroom cottage on the edge of town in the hills of Mt Crosby, Queensland. The offering of sweet tea and cake to the mourners wrapped the day. However, the sweet tea did not sit well nor change the taste in my mouth. Soon, they left papa and me. We sat together on the old small veranda and did not speak. The old swing did the talking to the slight breeze. At 15, I knew half of papa was buried with mama this afternoon. I could not think of anything to say to papa.

The day hurried past. Soon, it burnt orangey into dusk. The ambers from the remains of the daylight pierced through the small white cottage.

“You can go to her room” Papa had said close to 5pm.

I saw the small clock on mama’s bedside as I sat down. Mama’s room smelt like vanilla with faint coffee. I had tried to shut out the noises with the door, but I could hear the puppies. All five of them ready for their milk. They needed their mother. A sharp pain went through me.

My hand felt under the pillow slip and I found it. The small white envelope mama promised before she took her last breath. I gazed back at the door. I waited. My heart started to race.

Through the gaps in the window I caught the late breeze approaching carrying bush smells of gum and acacia. I could hear my father humming “Gershwin’s Summer Time” and rocking in the old chair. The chair squeak was rhythmic and soothing. It re-assured me of his location. I did not want him to come in.

The house seemed to mimic Papa’s humming and suddenly I felt the sadness heavy in my chest. Papa was a real sweet man. Not only did he lose his woman, but his best friend.

I sat still and held mama’s envelope; firmed by the content of its small card. In this envelope was something mama wanted only me to know. My stomach did not feel right and I knew it was something I do not wish to know.

The room held on to the last of day light. In this dim light I read my name written neatly across with dainty curls. Mama always made a point of making big long tails in letters ‘y’ and “g”. My name was Margaret Meadows. Mama shortened it to “Maggy” with a “y” instead of an “ie” like in other Margies which was short for Margaret.

I brought the card closer to my nose. It smelt of vanilla too. This made me smile and my eyes salted. I felt that weight in my chest move up to choke me. I looked at mama’s photo of us in a white frame by the bed. Tears rolled down my eyes. Slowly, I pinched the corner of the white envelope and slit the end through with my index finger. This forced the white envelope open to reveal a small red card.

I eased back on the bed. The old man-bed groaned softly. I felt I needed some support and security before I opened the red card. I let my shoes drop on the wooden floor. I stared at the door; hoping papa would not come in. I need to be alone when I read this. That was what mama wanted.

My Love Maggy,

You were born a beautiful baby of glorious soft honey skin, pink lips, fair hair and long arms and legs. You were a fairy with piercing eyes. I swear if you had wings, you would have flown away. Your eyes always had a mysterious twinkle. When you were little, I often wondered if you were worried or just curious about your eyes because you asked me many times why your eyes were different from your father’s and mine. As you know, we both have brown eyes.

I need you to understand that Paul Meadows loves you like his own daughter. There is not a single person that loves you more and not a single reason to be ashamed of who you are.

Your grey eyes came from a man named Peter Sullivan who was once your father Paul’s best friend. Last year, I found out that he died in a car accident while driving back to Brisbane from New South Wales.

I love you Maggie, with all my heart.”

Mama.

The Fate of Little Luigi – Short Story


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Picture credit: Barbara W. Beacham.

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. The story requires 100-150 words (excluding the first sentence). The challenge runs from Monday to Sunday. Here is my short story for this week’s prompt based on the first sentence below and the picture.

The Fate of Little Luigi – JK.Leahy Short Story©

The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be a…murderer.” 

The shock was too much to bear as police led Luigi away from the courtroom. He caught his sister’s gaze and his terrifying eyes softened. Martha turned to her mother; they both buried their faces in uncle Dino’s old, smoke-soaked coat.

“It’s not him, it’s not him – I know… I know,” Martha cried. She felt the 65-year-old Dino’s grip tighten as he led them to his car, barreling through the flashing media cameras and the crowd. Many had come to see New York’s District Attorney Martha Luciano’s brother sentenced today.

“Grim Day for Luciano Family”, headlines screamed across the streets in earlier hours.

Three days later, Martha brought Luigi the aged Polaroid of the family that he had asked for.  Her eyes salted as she tried to smile. Trembling, she leaned closer to her beloved 26-year-old brother.

“I can’t Luigi…you can’t go to jail for me,” Martha sobbed.

(You can read my other short stories by clicking on the top menu on Tribalmystic Stories home page)

PNG Literary Competition Achieves Record Entries.


The Papua New Guinea Literary Competition The Crocodile Prize received the highest number of entries ever, this year.  On closing last night the Crocodile Prize fetched a total 826 entries from 132 writers & illustrators.

Poetry 355; Essay 196; Story 129; Children 52; Heritage 48; Illustration 21; Tourism Arts Culture 15; Book of the Year 10.

These numbers may not sound very much for writers in other countries, but for any Papua New Guinean writer, it is a very heart-warming news, especially coming from a literary culture that almost became extinct. In the early 70s, leading up to the country’s independence, passion for art, culture and heritage including the literary pursuits and publishing of works written by PNG writers were at their peak. It is not quite clear why the interests have fallen so much after independence. That culture may have been used because we were proud of our identity and we wanted independence so much or perhaps the general growth of consumerism and the wider issues of social, economic and political changes have contributed to this new – lack of passion of culture. I remember growing up with radio stories written by PNG writers, attending and being part of stage plays – written by PNG writers. Poetry, stories, essays as well as other forms of literary work were promoted and supported by the national government.

The lack of passion in the arts and the literary support to me is quite surprising and sad; our culture is based on oral history and story-telling.

As a PNG writer, a practicing artist and an arts curator, it seems very clear to me, that the PNG government’s priority is elsewhere and not the least in the arts. But to not even support the literary aspect and especially in developing educational content that is relevant to our children and educational for our people is wrong. We cannot just tell stories and pass them on – now we can write them down and keep for many years.

It is not how much minerals we export and logs we sell, but the natural beauty, our rich art, culture, languages and stories that set PNG apart, and gives us our unique identity.  The literary scene dwindled to almost non-existent, although that could have been easily combined with and taught through the education system. There are not many avenues and support nor funding where PNG writers could train or share their work, and even to sell. Most workshops, training and activities relating to creative writing or any literary work have been Aid funded or Privately sponsored in the past four decades. Now this is how things have started to change for the PNG literary scene.

THE CROCODILE PRIZE STORY
The Crocodile Prize was established in 2010 by Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson, (both Australians) worked for many years in Papua New Guinea; Fitzpatrick as a patrol officer, Jackson as a broadcaster and journalist.

The Prize evolved from the popular PNG Attitude blog, which has a policy of encouraging and publishing Papua New Guinean contributors.

The concept of a national literary competition was triggered by Fitzpatrick’s concern that creative writing in Papua New Guinea had fallen upon hard times, and that this was a cultural constraint needing to be addressed.

The first awards were presented in 2011, a year of determining whether or not a project of this kind could be managed successfully given geographical, financial and the constraints of a voluntary organisation.

Using PNG Attitude as a vehicle for publicity and initial publication, Fitzpatrick and Jackson soon discovered an enthusiastic and rapidly emerging body of Papua New Guinean writers.

They were assisted greatly in the early stages by material and financial support provided by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby and later by a range of sponsors, most of them PNG-based.

This backing made it possible for a range of associated activities to be instituted in addition to the Prize, including an awards ceremony, the publication of an annual anthology and the initiation of writers’ forums.

After the first awards in September 2011, it was agreed the Prize should become a permanent part of the literary landscape of PNG. Now under the management of the Crocodile Prize Organisation, COG, 2015 will mark its fifth year of operations.

PHIL FITZPATRICK on 2015 Competition

Thus ends another year of the Crocodile Prize literary contest.

IT’S not every day that you get to influence the revival of literature in a whole country, unintentionally or otherwise.

I must admit to some surprise that it has happened at all. What started as a humble writing competition seems to have bloomed beyond all expectations.

There is a sense of pride in what has happened but, strangely, it’s not personal. Rather it is a sense of pride in the achievements of the writers involved.

At a personal level it has been more of a humbling experience. There is also a sense of awe and enrichment.

The enrichment comes from reading the works submitted to the competition and the sheer learning experience involved.

I think, despite nearly fifty years travelling back and forth to the country, I’ve really only learned to understand Papua New Guinea in the last few years of the Crocodile Prize.

There is also a tinge of anger involved, mostly through the fact that an uninterested government and lackadaisical education system could let such a promising and rich cultural emergence in the 1970s wilt on the vine and become moribund.

That aside, one of the ironies I really enjoy is the fact that the revival has only now been possible because of the advent of digital technologies that were supposed to see the demise and eventual extinction of books. Such are the shaky prognostications of the doomsayers.

The key factors in the Papua New Guinean revival have been the Internet and the availability of digital publishing and print-on-demand technologies.

These have underpinned the Crocodile Prize, firstly by providing a writers’ outlet in the form of PNG Attitude and secondly in offering a cheap way to publish the best in an annual anthology and then to go even further in publishing stand-alone individual books by Papua New Guineans.

The future of literature in Papua New Guinea is starting to look rosy but we need to remind ourselves that it is still extremely fragile.

The disastrous complacency of the 2013 competition organisers reminds us of what could still happen.

2014-15 has been a watershed year and there’s light at the end of the tunnel but sustainability is still a long way off and we aren’t there yet by any stretch of the imagination.

The winners of this year’s Crocodile Prize will be announced early September. The awards event will be held in Kundiawa on Saturday 19 September

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

How the Cassowary Became a Flightless Bird – A PNG Legend


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Public Domain image

While described as one of the most dangerous birds in the world, cassowaries are beautiful large flightless birds. I have posted a story about threats to cassowaries in Northern Queensland due to their habitat destruction. Read Here. I had mentioned the value of cassowaries in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in that post and I wanted to show what this bird means to our  people. This legend comes from Garaina, in Morobe Province. I also come from Morobe. The legend was contributed to a national high school collection of legends told Stephen Suij.

How the Cassowary became a Flightless BirdA Legend from the Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

Long ago, the cassowary was a big bird with a long neck, large legs and big wings which enabled it to fly like all other birds of the forest.

At that time, the cassowary and the hornbill were best friends, and spent most of their time flying around together, feeding on the delicious fruits at the top of the trees.

They were very close friends, but as time passed, the hornbill became increasingly jealous of the cassowary, who with his long neck could stretch and reach the best of the fruit pickings. The poor hornbill had to be content with leftovers.

While the hornbill hid his jealousy, he began to plan a trick to punish the cassowary.

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A Hornbill Picture by Waterdragon62 – Flickr Photo-sharing

One day the hornbill broke two dried sticks off a tree branch, placed them beneath each wing, under its feathers, and then flew off meet the cassowary.

“I have an idea”, the hornbill said to the cassowary.

“After we have fed on the fruit and are fully satisfied, let us do some stylish tricks in the air to see who is more brave and skilled.”

“Sure”, the cassowary said – liking the idea.

“But”, added the hornbill, “each of us must break his wings to see how far he can fly with broken wings.”

The cassowary had no objection to this ‘idea’, so when they had eaten enough fruit, they were ready for the game. The hornbill volunteered to go first.

Pretending to break his two wings, he snapped the two dry sticks beneath his wings and then flew away. He performed some stylish tricks in the air and then flew to a nearby tree to perch. The hornbill then called the cassowary to try to outwit his tricks.

The cassowary, ignoring the pain he had to suffer, broke his wings, one by one. Then he stretched the wings to fly away but he only crashed to the ground. He could not lift his weight with broken wings.

The hornbill broke into laughter at the top of his voice he said, “you have always had the most and the best of the fruit, but now you can stay on the ground and feed on my waste while I enjoy the best of the forest.”

From that day until today, the cassowary has been a bird of the ground, with wings that could not fly.

The Cassowary – Papua New Guinea

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Public Domain image

Flightless Feathered Family
The cassowaries are ratites, very large flightless birds in the genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, nearby islands and northeastern Australia. There are three extant species recognized today.

The most common of these, the Southern Cassowary, is the third tallest and second heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.

Cassowaries (from the Malay name kesuari)[3] are part of the ratite group, which also includes the Emu, rheas, ostriches, and kiwis, and the extinct moas and elephant birds. The other two species are the Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus and Dwarf Cassowary, Casuarius bennetti. They are also found in Papua New Guinea.

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A PNG warrior wearing a cassowary feather headdress. Picture by Brent Stirton

Cassowaries are very important to the native people of New Guinea both economically and ritually. Cassowaries have been traded for pigs and even as bride price for a wife and compensation payment especially in the highlands provinces .

Some tribes hunt them for their meat which is considered a delicacy. They use the feathers to decorate headdresses, and the feather quills for earrings. The sharp claws are often placed at the tips of arrows, while the strong leg bones are used as daggers.

For many native people, cassowaries are full of legends and mystical powers. Some tribes believe that cassowaries are reincarnations of female ancestors, while others believe that the cassowary is the primal mother. These tribes do not hunt or deal in trade with cassowaries.

A HD Movie on Cassowaries narrated by David Attenborough on Natural World BBC.

The Eye of the Storm – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. Here is my story for this week’s prompt in the first sentence below and in reference to the above picture. 

The Eye of the Storm ©JK Leahy short stories

Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. Mack was a mess as soon as Zeus got going.

“Get me a cleaver…”

“Nooooo! Pleease! Oh god – I’m sorry!” Mack sobbed and gurgled as I ran to boss’s collection for a blade. I almost dropped it; my legs could barely keep up.

As Zeus’ knuckles tightened to white around the knife handle, I desperately avoided his predatory gaze, leering at me through the lightning bolt tattoo across his right eye.

“Now, get out” he growled. I didn’t linger.

Mack had hidden Zeus’s package as well as the money. He lied. I warned him that Zeus would not buy it. The kid messed up.

I wondered why you’d risk losing some fingers for a few bucks, and then I heard a chop. Mack’s screams battered the walls of the warehouse, and the echoes shook my bones. I guess you never quite get used to working for a psychopath.

(149 words)

Brooding Storm – Short Story


Mondays Finish the Story by Barbara Beacham

This is a flash fiction challenge where Barbara W. Beacham offers a picture and the first sentence of the story. Based on the photograph and the first sentence, one must come up with a 100-150 word short story.

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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

BROODING STORM © JK. Leahy

The crew of the Angel Flame received orders to head out. When Yakov and Marishka reach the secluded Russian base, most men had already boarded.

Marishka wiped her tired eyes as her husband walked to the submarine, leaving her, their newborn Polinka and their sick two-year-old, Boris. It was a dreary Friday at 5am; three lost seagulls skirted past Yakov, fleeing the brooding storm.

After Yakov’s head vanished into the submarine, Marishka left – four hours later the snowstorm hit. The radio announced that nobody was hurt. Marishka medicated and monitored Boris’s temperature.

The next day at 7am she heard a knock. It was persistent. Unwrapping herself from Polinka, she reached for her gown.

Marishka caught a glimpse of a man in uniform through the winter-frosted glass and threw open the door with a grin. Expecting to fall into Yakov’s arms, her stomach sank when instead she met the gaze of a stone-faced man carrying Yakov’s personal effects.

“Mrs Vladimir?”

“…Yes?”

 

 

Mind Games – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

 Mondays Finish the Story by Barbara W. Beacham

This is a unique flash fiction challenge where Barbara provides a new photo each week, and the first sentence of a story. The challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words, not including the sentence provided. The challenge runs from Monday to Sunday! 

Mind Games  ©JLeahy

“After losing her head, she realised that the rest of her body was falling apart”, Joe would mimic a psychiatrist.

I sat by the window. The sun warmed my scalp and shadows danced on my hands. In hiding, I watched police take Joe away last night. He would have calmed down, but only he and I knew that; not our new neighbours.

We could have lasted in this abandoned house. If only Joe stayed quiet. My thoughts hurt my head.

“Ava! Ava! Where is your doll?”

Over the low white fence were a lilac doll pantsuit and two doll hands.

I had watched Ava at work yesterday. The toddler first ripped the doll’s head and legs, which she threw towards me. Ava caught me watching her. She laid the doll arms and pantsuit down, and dropping the body, she ran to the house. My eyes salted, thinking how scary I must have looked to her. I must leave before the Johnson Mental Health party arrives.

(150 words excluding the opening quote)

Nothing Came With the Rain


The Family
First days in the family (Australian Wood ducks).

The rain eased at noon in Bellbowrie, Queensland today, but only for a few minutes. It has been storming for two days. The rain’s destruction was evident in washed garden beds and the main road overflows. I found some of my cuttings and seedlings floating in odd places, near the main road.

Yesterday, at the Coles Supermarket we were unable to purchase staple food like bread and rice. A Cole’s staff member said residents had a panic buy, stocking up in case it flooded like the 2011 Queensland floods. The supermarket was empty.

Several places outside our house were flooded. I had kept indoors and started a new artwork and read blogs. Only two days of wet weather and storms – yet there was too much water. On the news Brisbane was supposed to have 500mm of rain over the weekend. More rain will come.

In the distant, I heard a familiar cry that tugged at my heartstrings. I left the watercolour and went outside to the balcony.

“Listen!” I told my son Nathan.

We both waited and the cry was muffled by the sound of rain on our iron rooftop. It came again and I knew the cry was coming from the open field and then it moved around the back, near the duck’s nesting ground. She did come back. Her cries were strange, long and despondent. I knew.

“It’s her, something has happened”, I said.

I put my raincoat on and walked through the drizzle in the soft mushy flooded ground to her. The male duck, her partner was by her side, quiet. They made a striking couple. Her brown and white spotty breast and belly topped with deep brown-black wings, and he with a touch of spotty chest, blue-grey and black flumes. They stood on the fuzzy open plain of short stubby blue couch, Queensland’s native grass. The rain water was caught in the grass blades giving it a wet, fuzzy sheen.

I looked around the two ducks. The seven ducklings were nowhere to be seen. My heart sank. The inevitable had happened. The mother’s face was turned towards the pool, where she had hatched them. Her neck stretched forward and long in a breaking curve. Her mouth was wide opened, showing her pink insides as she wailed. Her cries were louder as I got closer. My eyes warmed into tears.

She looked at me and stopped crying. I stopped a few meters away. I wished I had some duck-words to comfort her. I could only offer her some food and walked away.

Short Story: Swamped


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From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

If you have missed the story opening published last week, click here

Although peeking through the pale mud with life and vibrancy, the young mangrove regrowth looked naked and vulnerable against the open swamp, and without the mother-tree nearby. In the distant, under the long shadows, piles of de-skinned fallen mangrove laid like stacked cadavers. This was part of an extensive wetland area used for fishing and gathering food like sugo, small snails and Kina, a fresh water mussel. There was some kind of an order in the distribution of the mangrove shoots along the random waterways. It was a peculiar, and neat arrangement. Amongst this orderly disarray, I stood out like the tallest cross in a dwarfed graveyard. The young mangrove shoots only came to my knees, just like the old stumps.

I must remove myself from here, I had thought although this had always been our favourite fishing spot. Today, the place felt strange, unlike before. Before, we would fish for hours and take our breaks on the logs. We ate with one hand and smacking of mosquitoes, then wiping their blood off and scratching the small bite mounds with the other hand. I had been to this place with my Grandma and Aunty Yellow. I also came here with my cousin Alison before she lost her mind to Malaria. I should not have been here alone today.

Once when Alison was eleven and I twelve we spotted a stranger here. On that day, we had brought with us Tinang’s (grandma) bush knife, which we were forbidden to use. The bush knife had cost a lot of money and one bush knife served many families in many ways. It turned out, the man we had seen was not a stranger, nor was he real. From his actions and the way the Sockwing (a type of wag-tail) birds were calling, my cousin and I became alarmed and we ran off, leaving grandma’s bush knife behind. I had to run back and get it. If we had left the knife there, we would have been punished for taking the bush knife. We were told that same evening, the man we had seen was a spirit of a dead great-uncle. This too was his favourite fishing spot.

I thought I saw a movement and my eyes tried to focus. Nothing seemed out-of-place, and everything around me looked like it had always been.

The Japanese bombing in the Second World War left a large gap in the wetlands. The bombs opened the place as wide as a soccer field, and made it lifeless; right in the middle of the thick mangrove that was relished by fish, birds, snakes, lizards and all kinds of insects. My Aunty Yellow said, in the open centre, mangrove regeneration since the bombing struggled for decades. The bomb explosions took both natural and human lives; our great-uncle was amongst those.

Apart from the war, this place was a landmark because the mouths of many small creeks gathered into the head of the largest one, which flowed into the main river, named Bu-dac. Budac meant Blood River, a name that reminded us of our history.

Our house was built along the river near its centre and at the entrance to our village. In pidgin, it is called, maus-rot which means mouth road.

I was standing at the head of Budac. There was a large T-junction, where the main creek met the river. The swamp clay was very soft and pale and covered with dead rotting leaves. In the dark river, life existed; a place where fresh-water fish feeding, spawning and nursery took place. Fish gathered daily to feast on other fishes and debris collected and deposited by the creek as well as the river at this meeting point. Not today, I had not seen fish movement breaking the water rhythm nor its surface. I could not understand nor remember why I was here today, and alone – only a few kilometres away from our village, just outside Lae, Papua New Guinea.

(© JLeahy, 2015)

More Swamped soon…