SCARS - 1st Prize - Laurie Bolger
We are so thrilled/honoured/excited that Amanthi awarded Laurie's piece, Roadside Cafe first prize.
It's so up our street, so MONO, so fresh, so innovative, so utterly fab it kinda hurts. And it's her first-ever short story. GULP. Keep reading...
(ps. to view in the correct format you will need to read via desktop)
by Laurie Bolger
Here I am frantically tapping diners on the shoulder asking if they’ll act out the thing from the 90’s where I wear all lilac halter and weigh nothing so they put one finger behind my ear, tuck my hair in and say something like
you don’t know how beautiful you are…
and I can push one boney shoulder out and look like I am just dying
for a hamburger —
and then I see him
on the way to the bathroom
and I love him more than anything
in the world.
He has to go slow because the floor has been mopped. He’s wearing a sports jacket like my grandad might have and when he slides into the shiny booth and starts mirroring me I pretend I don’t notice
I don’t even really look up —
and he’s done this drawing, he slides it under my face look — what du think of my drawing?
I realise he’s been colouring in the sauce bottle this whole time and even though it’s a real mess I don’t say that —
he — says don’t tell his friends but he wants to play the heartthrob in the play in the big gym, he wants to be Romeo he says I just have to be him —
I want to say you’ve got the colour wrong there and you should have waited for it to dry properly that’s why the colours have bled look — but instead I say yes it’s very good, a very good drawing — he says what du think the meaning of life is? When I go to speak he tells me I have something on my chin — I don’t say anything — just smile beautiful from behind a napkin — giggle a bit.
When the waitress puts up the bubblegum chairs and sits on the high stool massaging her tired neck — I finally hand him the cigar tin that my Nan left me — I’ve been holding it this whole time like a shell and there’s some little note left inside the lid and it says the weight of this world is killing me —
I confess how obsessed I am with sad songs and before I finish the lyrics he says me too! and then I know.
I tell him sometimes me and Mairéad eat the apple pie straight from the tray with two spoons at once like they're our actual hands
—that once I was shut in the cupboard with the ghost of the wartime soldier — that once in my kitchen I fed the little mouse on purpose — that sometimes when I’m stressed I just keep chopping things for stews — sometimes when I’m stressed I polish the banister with Mr. Sheen— that’s just me — he laughs you know you’re so funny — I like women who are funny — and he tells me they put apple and red onion in the coleslaw here and it tastes mighty fine that he imagines I might like to try it.
I show him the scar from the bicycle ride but he doesn’t notice. I watch the sweet pies on the display counter attract fruit flies — the chilled deserts spinning in their crystal cabinet. When the coleslaw arrives the beetroot bleeds into his mayo just the way he likes it and I’m not alone in the diner — I wished I wish I wished for this — when one strand of his hair is electric against mine he must be able to feel it like the way I feel I need to push my hand across the shiny table and brush just one of his strong fingers like my brick of a phone in the middle of the night just holding it out for signal under the pillow and —
when it does I’ll know — I’ll know to run to the ice cream counter — to say yes! I’ll have a tall glass and two spoons and no I don’t know the capital of any country but I know his favourite flavour. My god, add nuts, add sprinkles, add a cherry, add confetti and stars— what time is it?
I take the floaty bits from the princesses hats. I give them to the little girls who run around waving them like napkins fanned out before they’ve been used. Somewhere in this place they’ve put the teacher we all crushed on at the top of the menu and we can add little gems to our eyes for an extra cosmic +£1. I read my sweethearts horoscope but he’s already sleeping as sound as a babe. I rub moisturiser into my elbows and imagine him in bed in his sweats.
Oh the bench seat one girl has a rainbow painted across her nose like a pore strip, she’s wearing chiffon of course she is but with long socks up her arms — she’s like some dying bird and her parents don’t understand how her long legs work — they can’t meet her sad eyes — before I go I put my lyrics alongside segments of orange — I want to give them to her but instead I give them to him —
He says I’d like that coleslaw to be ours, we could call it have a good day Coleslaw. I imagine making my waving from square windows an art form and I’ll want everything for him until he dies in the next room. On the drive our daughter is named everything — Everything is learning to ride my old bike, winning her imaginary race, all the way up the big hill in the metal dark she’s doing ever so well. I make her blackberries in a pie the colour of drying scabs —
the diner is closing —
on the way to the toilet rockstars guitars sit next to golden bras — the toilet roll sticks to the ceiling like a chalk so you have to make a wish before it dissolves or falls down. I wish I wish I wish. I tuck my arm over the side of the lid and imagine I am posing for my sweetheart across the table again — imagine I am Juliet dying on the church step — pulling at my insides in the name of love —
I am so hungry —
I just wish we had more time.
He doesn’t look up from his mixed grill even when our song is playing.
Somewhere a little girl is on a beach, running with her arms out — her favourite place she’s ever been — falling for her feet as unique as starfish, ushering the jelly fish away with her doughy hands.
Copyright. Laurie Bolger.
Laurie Bolger is a London-based writer & the founder of The Creative Writing Breakfast Club. Laurie has written for major brands, charities & organisations. Her first book Box Rooms featured at Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, TATE, Sky Arts & BBC platforms. Laurie's second collection Call Me Lady is a collection of poems celebrating resilience of women, autonomy, love & her working-class Irish heritage. Roadside Cafe is Laurie’s first Short Story.
Congratulations to all our winners and thank you so much to every single one of you who took the time to enter this competition, it's always an amazing honour and privilege to read your work. I hope you've enjoyed reading all our fab winners. I'm off to get a cup of tea now, peace out...
Have a lovely weekend : )
Kayleigh, Tina and Amanthi