Entering Contests (a cautionary tale written in the second person)

You had always known better. You grew up in a pub, where the late night drunken phone call was a regular joke. At first it was the call made to the pub’s payphone and, woken by the ringing, you would creep down in your dressing gown to answer it, before going behind the bar to tell your father: drunk and deafened by the jukebox, who was wanted. He would yell out the name of the girl, always a girl, who would get up and walk to the cubbyhole where the grey phone lurked, accompanied by catcalls and people miming sad violin music. Tough girls put the phone down after a couple of seconds, average girls took a couple of minutes and soppy bitches would end up with mascara to their chins, mopping their red faces with great flowering handfuls of tissues, and agreeing to meet the drunken reject and give him a second chance.

Mobile phones made the payphone call obsolete – now the drunk could call their lost one direct, and women got into the act much more. You would hear them, bar manager yourself now, refusing the call if they were tough, or, if they were hellish tough, putting it on speakerphone and holding out the phone so their girlfriends could stuff tissues or hands in their mouths to muffle their laughter as the drunk wept and wailed and begged for a second chance. Soppy bitches took the phone outside to listen. Men were always nicer – either not taking the call or taking it outside – but never using it as a cheap joke.

So why, knowing all this, did you do it? Why, when you saw that The Weekend Guardian had a summer fiction contest, did you indulge in the literary equivalent of the drunken phone call? Was it because Dave Eggers broke your heart several years ago when he admitted that he’d given top place to a story about a pig called Marmite just because he liked the idea? Was it because second place in that contest burned your soul? So when you saw the judges were Julie Myerson and (be still my beating heart) William Boyd, and that they wanted a gripping, well-crafted story under 2000 words, why did you send them a crime romp set in Brighton and featuring a heavyweight boxer … a female heavyweight boxer at that?

You weren’t even drunk.

So if anybody else has a story that fits the criteria better than mine, send it in before 10 July …

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