Since lockdown began I’ve been focussing on my novel Governor’s Man, and neglecting my usual short story writing. Then along came the Lincoln Book Festival 2020 flash fiction competition. The challenge was to write a complete 50-word story about the Lincoln Imp. Those of you who’ve visited Lincoln will know of the little gargoyle who sits perched on top of Lincoln Cathedral, staring down at passers by. Locals regard him as malign; he’s been blamed for all sorts of mishaps over the centuries, from housefires and miscarriages to sour milk.

It was a challenge I couldn’t resist. We’d spent a wonderful long weekend in Lincoln only last year, so the atmosphere of the city was still fresh in my mind. Plus I felt sorry for this poor little creature, sitting up there in rain, hail, snow and sun for all those generations, scapegoat for everyone’s misfortunes.

Off went my story, and back, eventually, came the lovely surprise of being judged Runner Up in the Adult story category (actually third, but who’s counting.) You can read about the excitement here.

And below, you can read my story. Well, you know, fifty words was just too much for the organisers to fit on the BookFest website. Not that I’m grumbling … much.

The Eye of the Beholder

You call me ugly and wicked.
You do me wrong. You carved me high above
the city, to bear witness.

I saw:
Black Death sweep away the moiety;
deadly bowmen, clothed in Lincoln
green;
Foster’s ironclad monsters mow down the Hun.
I was not ugly, till you made me watch.

[Copyright JS Rogers 2020]

Being Life in the Time of Coronavirus, of course, I don’t get an excuse to spend the weekend again in wonderful Lincoln, or to wear a flowery frock onto the stage at a bona fide LitFest prize-giving. I just get a nice certificate to frame and hang in my writing cabin. Such is the lot of the plague-ridden author. Pepys would have understood.

Next time … my book review of Andrew Miller’s shocking and nerve-wracking historical thriller, Now we shall be entirely free.

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