Tall Tales, Short Stories – Highly Commended, Daniele Ricotta

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Daniele completed Martina Devlin’s short story ‘Singing Dumb

But I suppose it doesn’t really matter now. With me locked up, nothing will matter. The Sergeant looked at Mama with a forced smile on his face saying “I suppose you’re right, Mrs Tobin.” Then he looked sternly down at me. “Listen here. We are not here to hurt you, arrest you. Just tell us what you saw, dear, and we will be on our way.” The other guard nodded his drooping head at me with another false smile. I looked at Mama. She glanced down at me for a moment with a blank expression and nodded at the guards.

“Well, I suppose we’ll just get right into it then.” The Sergeant sighed and spoke sharply “Who was there on that day?” My Mama still retained the vacuous expression, but slowly her fists began to clench. My heart was thumping in my chest as I couldsense the air around me begin to heat up. Slowly, at first, then rapidly as my heartbeat went faster and faster. “Who did it?” The other guard uttered, his frustration at my refusal to answer bursting out at that moment. I couldn’t breathe. What should I say, what should I do? I felt like a caught mouse ensnared in a trap yet still struggling, yearning for a way out. I looked at Mama. Her fists were tightly clenched, the veins on her arm pulsating with the skin around it becoming pale. “Well?” The second guard demanded once again. “We know it was one of you. Tell us now or we’ll lock up all you lot!” His voice was filled with prodigiousanger at that moment, his body seeming with impatience and desire to get this petty task over with. I gulped once and methis eyes. He glared at me, no longer masking his face with that forged smile. The Sergeant had stood up, his coarse hands slowly but surely moving to his handcuffs. I gulped once more. I began to shakily raise my hand, the small motion requiring a colossal amount of effort to be done. My index finger slowly curled out like a small branch, my hand trembling as it kept on rising, finally setting on Mama.

Mama’s face became red, with a look of mock innocence and madness. Mama stared down at me, questioning me with her gaze. I looked down at the floor with a sharp turn of my head and waited. Mama looked back to the guards, both of them staring intently at her. Mama looked back at me one more time, words forming in her mouth but she stopped herself. Her hands slowly reached out towards the guards as the click of the handcuffs shook throughout the street. As the group walked away, my forehead drenched with sweat, eyes brewing with tears as I looked up at them and saw their figures dissipating from view.

At this incredulous moment, time was static, numbing, my impending breath was unobtainable; my life had changed forever.

Highly Commended: Daniele Ricotta

Tall Tales, Short Stories celebrates 20 years of the V.S. Pritchett Prize, the great range of the short story form, and what is possible when we use other writers as inspiration. Our anthology contains the first 500 words of winning entries to the Prize and of stories from judges over the past 20 years. Our Tall Tales, Short Stories competition asks those aged 14-18 to finish one of the stories with a new ending of their own.