Thank you to everyone who submitted a story for this year’s Salisbury Story Prize. We had a huge number of entries, and once again the standard was very high. Congratulations to the winners and all those on the shortlist.
Winner – Rory Law
Shortlist – Sophie Farrell, Síomha Gallagher Charlton, Rory Law, Emily Milsom, Isabel Moss, Lorna White
Winner – Emily Redford
Shortlist – Terriesia Blackstock, Maddie Clayton, Poppy Freer, Harriet Hutchings, Sanvee Prabhu, Emily Redford
Winner – Anita Goveas
Runner-up – Laura Ansbro
Shortlist – Laura Ansbro, Rachel Barnett, Kaya Burgess, Carol Cole, Anita Goveas, Dee La Vardera
Primary (4-11) Winner – Rory Law
A River’s Life
In the cold, bleak mountain, I decided to stop being stuck in the mountain and go and be free. I raced down the rocky sides, destroying everything in my wake. As I crashed onto the earth below, I saw my home, a dry desolate landscape with no life in sight. I sat and waited. I waited for company.
I was fed up. I went on further into the empty land. Each day, I ventured further and further, trying to find life. I travelled far and wide, over hills and under mountains, trying to find life. One day, I saw the distant figure of a cave of some sort. Smoke came out high into the sky from a small campfire. A figure emerged from the shadows. Man.
“Water! Water!” He shouted. He knelt down and drank from me. I was not alone.
Each day, man became more and more civilised. They learnt how to use sticks and weapons. They learnt a language which was used a lot. Fire was used quite a bit-for cooking and in winters. I lay there, in the man village for many years until one day, the man village fell silent. I knew something was wrong. All of a sudden, hundreds of brown and white creatures, clothed in iron ran towards me. More men were saddled on their backs. Suddenly, the man village erupted with screaming and shouting and a battle commenced. The other men won.
The other people settled in my man camp. They started rebuilding houses, making them bigger and better after the battle. They also used my water a lot-every day. After a short while, many magnificent stone and wood buildings appeared. They called them castles. They had elaborate carvings and the noise of men. But soon these buildings were knocked down. I decided to travel on further. Everywhere I went, new buildings appeared. Days, months, years past. I was lonely again.
But one day, a man with a tall hat and a woman with a parasol walked past me. The woman walked up to me and ran her hand through me. She drank from me.
“Albert, what lovely, clear water this is.” She said with a pretty sing song voice. It was a beautiful day, the bees were buzzing and the birds were singing. I didn’t have a care in the world. But it didn’t last long. Factories were built, the air polluted. I longed to go back home.
One night, I decided to creep my way back to the misty mountain where I was born. I struggled up the rocky path and weaved my way through the rigid, lack trees. I slipped under rocks and went until I could go no more. I lay down underneath a craggy cliff. There I slept and watched my world and my life go past me. One night though, I fell into a deep slumber from which I would never wake up.
Secondary (12-18) Winner – Emily Redford
The reeds were almost still, emaciated spirits whispering hoarsely as they concealed the darkness of the river. The scenery had remained unchanged for miles, all the while the moon staring down like a pale blind eye at the black jeep navigating the muddy trail. There were four people in the car, a pair of rugged locals and two hitchhikers they had picked up around thirty miles down the road. The two locals were intimidating, the man, known as Mike, driving in a sullen silence, a scowl embedded in his face; the woman, Freya, equally as cold, her sleek, brown hair pulled out of her flinty eyes in a tight ponytail. The two friends in the back were less threatening, two average-looking students in their early twenties for a more jovial nature. Both of them were gazing out of the windows at the still river that had twisted itself through the land like a serpent, trying to distract themselves from the heavy silence that had engulfed the vehicle.
A sudden cough shattered the silence;
“Sorry,” one of the passengers began sheepishly, “but I was wondering if we could stop. You see, I really need to pee and-“
“We’re not stopping” interrupted Freya, her voice hard and authorative.
The man’s friend chuckled,
“That told you, Brad”
Brad started to protest, but the woman ignored him, her thin hands gripping her seat tighter with every word. The driver glanced at her out of the corner of his eye,
“Just let him, Freya. You can take the bat, just don’t hang around.”
She considered this, her furrowed brow casting shadows over her face. Finally she nodded,
The car pulled over tentatively, and both Freya and Brad got out; the two hitchhikers sharing a confused look as the woman retrieved a mangled baseball bat from under her seat. She gestured to behind the car,
“Don’t go far, if you wander off here you won’t be coming back.”
Freya waited for his footsteps to return, feverishly scanning the reeds along the river bead, the bat clenched in her bone-white knuckles. When Brad returned, she started to turn back towards the jeep, before spinning round again with a look of horror on her face.
“What is that? What have you got in your hand?”
The man glanced in confusion at the plant he was twirling between his fingers,
“A bit of reed, why?”
Freya didn’t answer, she just started to stride back towards the car at an alarming rate, slamming the door behind her. As soon as Brad was in the car, she turned to Mike.
The car took of down the track, a dark figure fading out of view in the rear-view mirror. The hitchhikers turned, taking in the dripping body and weed-choked fangs of the horse-like creature emerging out of the water; terror and awe written across their pale faces.
“What is that?”
The reply was short,
“You don’t mess with the river folk, not if you want to live.”
Adult – Runner-up – Laura Ansbro
The River Provides
“Left a bit… Hook it! Ah! Never mind, Darren, have another go.”
More than meets the eye, a shopping trolley in a river. Never know what treasures might be lurking in the wiry depths.
Some people think I’m odd. Other old men sit for hours on the bank and maybe don’t catch anything, for all their fancy equipment. Or if they do, they throw it back because it’s too small, or the wrong sort of fish.
No such problem with a trolley. It won’t swim away, frightened by your shadow or hungry for a fly.
There’s skill to it, mind. Getting the hook in just the right place so it won’t tip as it rises from the water, spilling its riches. No use going for the handle, that’s a fool’s game.
Fashioned this hook myself. Like a grappling hook. Weighty. Some rivers round here are murky. Hard to see what you’re doing from a bridge twelve foot up. Others are fast-flowing, tugging the line. I get ’em all though. Just a little patience. And then a bit of muscle. Heavier than you think, a trolley.
That’s why I’m teaching young Darren, here. Back isn’t what it was. Nor the eyesight. And he’s new to the street. Needed someone to look after him.
This bridge used to be perfect. Footbridge, from back in the 80s. Had this big frame over it. Council took it away last year, replaced it with a new one. Lower railings. No fencing on the bank. No metalwork over the top. More… what d’you call it? ‘Sympathetic to the environment,’ that’s what they said. Darn sight easier for trouble-makers to push a trolley in. Darn sight harder for me to heave one out, too, with no framework to sling a line over. Fancier bridge, but more trolleys in the river.
Shopping trolleys aren’t cheap, you know. The manager always gives me something for my trouble. Sandwich, bunch of bananas. And once, one of those hot chickens. The warm grease ran down my chin. And they always give me the quid from the slot.
It’s not just trolleys. Traffic cones too. Even police cones. I rescued two that got nicked from a copper’s pick-up and heaved in the boggy bit downstream. He bought me a coffee. Even offered to dry the boots I’d fished out the same day. A soggy pair of old boots right there on the station radiator!
Traffic cones are my secret. I’ll show Darren, when he’s ready. But I’ll not share it with you, thank you. Saw the council taking cones out of a river once. Four men, all in yellow. One had fisherman’s waders, right up to his middle. Big truck, flashing lights. Made me laugh! Of course, now they can’t afford a circus to get a couple of cones out of the reeds. They’d rather give me something, unofficially. One of them gave me an old coat. Saw me three winters, that coat.
Yes. The river always provides, one way or another.
Adult – Winner – Anita Goveas
When to let go
We’re fishing in the lake, my new Uncle Lorso and me, and it’s not exactly a secret cos Mum never said not to, but I won’t tell anyway. There’s lots of things I don’t tell.
The fish swim fast, like spreading glitter. I want to lean closer, the sun’s so sparkly on the green water I can’t tell the difference but Uncle Lorso keeps me busy counting worms. I didn’t tell him I can’t swim, but I think he knows. I think he keeps secrets too
He’s not really new, we’re new to this place. Manga-lore. There’s mangoes, chickens in the backyard, and we wash from a bucket in a place that smells like a burned-out fire, where they keep the wood for the stove. I don’t know how long we’ll stay, dad’s waiting at home.
I asked Uncle why we’d not been before, for a secret. He didn’t like my dad, he said, didn’t like his hands. My dad has big fat fingers, like strawberries. Uncle’s got long fingers, that’s why he’s baiting the hooks. I want to catch something, and I don’t.
It’s not really a lake, Uncle says. It’s a river that doesn’t stop until the Arabian Sea. Sometimes, Uncle says, things are bigger than you think.
Once, I was reading Black Beauty, and not crying, just sniffing a bit, when Dad pulled the book away and threw it in the bin. Too much time in the library, he said, not enough time on Maths homework. Then he made me say my five times-tables, I could do that when I was six.
Uncle Lorso says we don’t keep all the fish, some we put back. Some aren’t good to eat, some are too small. He shows me with his hands- smaller than this, it goes back in.
Mi went with me to the library, about the book. Then she took me to the neighbours and went out. Dad came home early, but I didn’t tell where she was. He made me go to bed. In the morning, there was a copy of Black Beauty under my pillow. When I went to hug Mi, she hissed like the kettle. There were marks on her arm, like she’d pressed five blackberries hard on her skin.
Uncle Lorso takes the fishing-line, I get a net. I scoop along the water to hold the glitter but it dazzles my eyes. I smell salt, the net gets heavy. A grey fish with a pointy mouth is flopping about and looking at me.
I tell Uncle, I scooped something but it’s too small. He looks at the net, quick, and away again. Ok, bacha, he says, you know what to keep and what to let go, I hold the net down, and the fish slides out, flicks his tail at me. He needs to go, I don’t think he’s seen the sea. I look at Uncle, quick and away again, and I say, sometimes I’m afraid of what dad does with his hands.