Winter writing contest

Thank you to all our readers who sent in entries to our seasonal writing contest. The quality of writing overall was excellent, and the content and ideas expressed varied and compelling.

George Elliott Clarke, East End resident, award-winning poet, and poet laureate for the City of Toronto, was kind enough to contribute an opening sentence to inspire our local East End writers. Entries covered the gamut, from fiction to non-fiction to autobiography, from tales of watching the boardwalk to stories set during the Second World War.

While the judging was not easy, only one writer can walk away with the prize – a $50 credit at contest co-sponsor The Great Escape Bookstore.

Below is the winning entry, written by Edward Hayes, titled The Green Scarf.

 

The Green Scarf, by Edward Hayes

THE SEARING BRILLIANCE OF THE SNOW SEEMED A SHADOW OF THE SUN. The words had seemed overly dramatic when Ron had typed them after breakfast. But now, as he struggled across the uniformly white landscape, blinded by the radiance and unable to judge the depth or slope of the snow, the words gained potency. His broken goggles were in Rachel’s coat pocket, on the way to the village.

“It’s a beautiful day for a walk,” she had chirped. “I’ll snowshoe in to Murphy’s to get the screw replaced. You can work on your draft.”

As the snow crunched under his weight, Ron rued his lack of snowshoes. But most of all he missed the scarf. Where is that thing? It would have been perfect to shield his eyes from this pitiless glare.

 

The unusual rumble had disturbed his writing. He had considered thunder, but had dismissed it as unlikely with the sky so clear. There were no trains this far up. UFO? He had risen from his desk and crossed to the sun-dazzled window of his study. Strange greyish white clouds billowed up beyond the ridge. The huge cumulus of mist confirmed his fear. Avalanche! Big one! In the valley. The same valley Rachel would have been walking through.

Ron had closed his laptop and frantically groped for his parka and mitts, plunged his already socked feet into his boots, and headed out the door. The brilliance of the snow had caught him unaware and he had blinked against the glare. Need something over my eyes. Returning inside, he had reached for the scarf Rachel had given him. The closet hook hung empty. Damn! No time to search for it. He’d slammed the door on his way out.

 

Crossing the yard, he noticed Rachel’s tracks leading to and from the shed. Wonder what she needed there? He paused to study the ivory plumes of mist roiling from the valley’s depths. Would she have made it across before the slide? THE BLUE OF THE SKY SEEMED PERFECT IN ITS TREACHERY. His writing intruded even now. He doubled back to the shed and grabbed the shovel. Just in case.

Near the base of the ridge he stumbled but caught himself, feeling the familiar pain in his knee. Not so young anymore. Slow down. She’s either buried or across.

As he trudged, Ron reflected that if he were younger, he would have been running and might have actually fallen. Rachel was probably fine. She’d have run for high ground. He recalled her bright red toque. Or climbed a tree. He glanced doubtfully at the smooth frozen bark of the tree trunks around him.

He climbed the slope toward the ridge. The sun had descended and was moving ahead of him, an alien circle. GREY AGAINST SNOW’S SEARING WHITENESS. With the second stumble he lost his balance and fell face first, landing on the shovel. The edge of the blade sent a spark of pain to his shoulder. He lay for a moment, face down, almost relishing the coldness of snow cooling his eyelids. Behind his closed eyes, an orange orb pulsated in the darkness. Ron could see Rachel beside the brightly decorated fir, handing him a carefully wrapped parcel; could see himself untying the orange ribbon, the silk scarf flowing free, a stream of green! He had admired it in the shop window. So gorgeous! And so impractical in this alpine winter.

“Lovely,” he had murmured to Rachel.

Ron forced himself erect and pushed forward through the drifts. Resting his eyes hadn’t helped; his blindness seemed only to have increased. Grimly moving on, he felt he must have gained the ridge that heralded the top of the path leading down into the valley. He bumped against something hard. He gratefully grasped the post marking the top step. Thank Josh for that! The icy staircase of rough logs, built by their son many summers before, descended invisibly. Wish I could bloody see!

He felt time racing, running out. He had to know if Rachel had made it across. He stepped down on the first log and immediately felt his boot slide. The frozen ground hit his shoulder. A stab of pain shot along his arm. The shovel clattered down the slope. He heard the startled caw of a bird. Silence surrounded him.

 

Ron was on his side, his face open to the incandescent sky, his eyelids clamped to shut out the insistent light. Futile! The shining sun behind his eyes glowed aggressively, shifted from deep purple to crimson. Snow blind?

He tried to roll over but discovered that he couldn’t move his leg. He lay still and relaxed his eyes. Gradually, he felt a mysterious warmth cocoon him. It’s actually comfortable here. Except for the light.

 

THE FOOTSTEPS SEEMED AN ECHO OF HIS HEARTBEAT. In the theatre behind his eyes, he watched as Rachel approached, two bright stars of light glancing off her goggles.

“Ron!” The name shot from her lips. She quickly mounted the steps, carrying her snowshoes. She drew a cloth from her sleeve and draped it gently across his face. The silk felt impossibly smooth. Opening his eyes, he saw that the white world had changed to a screen of gorgeous green.

“You’re okay!” His voice held relief.

“Yes. But you’re bleeding.”

He squinted at the red stain on his sleeve. “What about the snow slide?”

“It was on the other side. I hadn’t reached the bottom. I ran back up a bit and watched it. I’m glad I stopped in the shed to fix my shoe. But we have to get you inside.”

Rachel retrieved the shovel and helped Ron to his feet. “You can lean on this.”

He took the shovel with his good hand. “But why’d you take my scarf?”

She hesitated. “The paint for your study. I wanted it to match.”

The world tilted a bit, but he caught his balance. Rachel’s concerned face swam into view. He kissed it.


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