Pen To Print
bob thompson orange grove flash fiction showcase write on

Showcase – The Orange Grove

Continuing on from our Showcase two weeks ago, I present the first runner-up in the Pen to Print Flash Fiction competition, The Orange Grove, by Bob Thompson.

Once again, I will let the competition judge, Clare Cooper introduce the piece, but please do keep coming back, as we will be publishing each of the wonderful stories we received in the coming weeks.

Keep on writing!

Dan (Associate Editor)

Introduction by Clare Cooper

Flash Fiction Competition Judge and Guest Editor of Write On! Issue 4 (available now!)

I worked in the Fiction Dept at Woman’s Weekly for 29 years. As Deputy Fiction Editor, I was responsible for reading, critiquing, choosing and editing the short stories for Woman’s Weekly and its monthly spin-off title, the Fiction Special. I am an avid book and magazine reader, although I can’t yet break the habit of looking for errors. One day, I hope to write something of my own. In the meantime, you can read my blog at: claredotcooper.wordpress.com and find me spending far too much time on social media.

We thought it would be fun to run a Flash Fiction competition for this issue (4). It’s hard to encapsulate the essence of a proper story – a beginning, a middle and an end –  in so few words and I was impressed with the quality and range from all the entrants. Congratulations, everyone!

My first runner-up story is by Bob Thompson. The Orange Grove is evocatively written and beautifully descriptive. You are right there with the main character: you inhabit their world; you feel their pain and you share in the small sliver of hope at the very end.

 

The Orange Grove by Bob Thompson

bob thompson orange grove flash fiction showcase write on

The orange tree sits on the windowsill, keeping home alive in her mind. Although her father owned the orange grove, the whole village would take advantage of the shade. Dogs wandering, children playing and adults just sitting. Adjacent sat the school abutting the trees.

It was a quiet spot in a turbulent land. She watched on CNN as the region tore itself apart but the village Sunni jogged along with Shia and Christians peacefully enough. They said she was too young to know politics. Her father and uncles became angry with Damascus – but life in the orange grove went on.

Their house stood opposite the school on the other side of the grove. From her bedroom, she could see the immaculate, whitewashed houses and the baker whose sweet pistachio Basbousa she loved. Often, she would lay in the grove watching the silver shapes of planes leaving their white trails across the blue sky.

It was that time of day when parents were shepherding their offspring to school. She heard the joy as excited children chattered to friends. She saw the helicopter as it passed overhead as others had on their way north. She watched as something fell from its belly.

Barrel bombs show no mercy. Parents and children alike saw the flash but never heard the bang. She felt the blast that shattered the school, heard the roar that shredded the orange grove and saw the explosion that vaporised the heart of the community. In shock, she gathered an orange sticky with blood and put it in her pocket.

Her father sent her to safety. Her tree grown from the pips of that one bloody orange would never grow well in Barking, but one day it would give life to a new grove in a new village.

Bob Thompson, 2020

bob thompson author

Bob has been writing, acting and directing since he was 16. He has completed two full-length stage plays: The Equestrianist and The Richest Jewel. His first published novel is Old Tom and his first screenplay, The Ghost Walk, is in pre-production.

“My favourite book tends to be the one I read last. In this case, How To Teach Philosophy To Your Dog by Anthony McGowan. More generally, I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman. The inspiration for my entry comes from a Lebanese student whose dissertation I was supervising. She came from a village close to the Syrian border and described such an orange grove. It seems to me that our insularity and faux superiority tends to make us forgetful of other communities in other parts of the world that are just as prosperous and homogenous as our own.”

Bob Thompson, Flash Fiction Competition First Runner-Up

 

Look out for my own flash fiction story on May 13th and our other talented entrants in the coming weeks. But before that, I am very excited to share that next week we will be featuring an extract of published novel Breakfast In Bogotá by author Helen Young.

If you’d like to see your writing appear in Write On! Showcase, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to: pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk Or you can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On! Available here 

Their house stood opposite the school on the other side of the grove. From her bedroom, she could see the immaculate, whitewashed houses and the baker whose sweet pistachio Basbousa she loved. Often, she would lay in the grove watching the silver shapes of planes leaving their white trails across the blue sky.