Not Yet 45
by Melodie Corrigall
As the winner of the coveted Billybong Prize for progressive literature, Theresa, not yet 45, should have been on cloud nine. And had her sister not come to the ceremony, young daughter in hand, Theresa having left her worries about her future decision (a syllable or one letter?) at home, bask in the glory.
As the event unfolded, all eyes were on her: perched proudly in a stylish new turquoise dress, face modestly composed. The celebrities, there to honour her, were lined up ready to perform as soon as the emcee finished his laudatory remarks.
Theresa’s husband, delighted with the monetary award, had attended with pleasure and promptly dozed off. But at the sound of the first speaker shouting Theresa’s winning piece, he suddenly jerked awake.
At the second ‘reading’ her niece leaped up and cried out.
“Why’s he saying that bad word?”
The child’s mother, grimaced apologetically to the stunned audience, and hissed at her daughter to be silent but to no avail. At the next recitation, the small sharp voice bellowed, “Why are people going up and saying that rude word in funny voices?”
The audience, until that moment reverently waiting to discover how the next celebrity would read the winning ‘piece,’ gasped.
Earlier the Emcee had proclaimed, “I call this innovative new genre a ‘piece.’ In her creation, our winner, like Michael Angelo, has scrapped the irrelevant from the stone slab to reveal the masterpiece hidden inside: the nugget that illuminates a response to our troubled times. No easy task.”
That was putting it mildly, thought Theresa. Years earlier, when her first novel had received negative reviews, (‘lugubrious’ had been one critic’s stinging word) Theresa had turned to short stories. ‘Interminable’ had been one remark. Flash fiction had been her next foray. Under 1000 words she still didn’t get the fulsome praise she sought. She whittled down to 800, then 500 and finally to 50 words. But now her moment had arrived.
Six months earlier awakened at night by what one critic called a ‘prosian revelation,’ Theresa had leapt from the bed and rushed to her computer. Fortunately, she discovered there was still time to enter a submission for The Billybong Prize. With her inspiration, it was within reach. She paced the floor, drank wine, glared out the window, and absent-mindedly attacked dust bunnies while searching for the ‘word.’ It had to be powerful, daring, and evocative: a word to reflect the times.
Suddenly inspired, Theresa stumbled to the computer, signed on the Billybong site and off went her gem. Two months later, the congratulatory phone call, and here she was.
Following her niece’s outburst, there was a hush in the room. The Emcee attempted to laugh it off. “Children,” he said. “What do they know of art?”
The celebrity at the podium, primed to speak the piece, looked at the hostile faces in front of him. In a small voice, quite unlike the one he had practiced by the hour before his mirror, he whispered, “Fuck.”
Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose work has appeared in Foliate Oak, Litro UK, Halfway Down the Stairs, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Scarlet Leaf Review, Blue Lake Review, Subtle Fiction, Emerald Bolts and The Write Place at the Write Time. www.melodiecorrigall.com