Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writing Contest Entry

The following was my submission to a writing contest which gave a photo prompt and instructed me to write the opening lines of a short story. Here is my entry. Oh, I won!

The couple looks out of place. They're dressed in antique brown vests and peasant shirts as if they might be going to a costume party. They are not.
The woman takes the man's hat off his head and places it on her own. A single feather stands erect in the back and she looks absurd. The man sneers as if tasting bile but otherwise pays no attention to her. Instead, he gazes fixedly at the bartender, a new boy we hired only a few weeks earlier. The old man smooths his hair back and then rests against the bar on his elbows. The woman whispers something in his ear.
He'll sit forward now and he'll address the bartender. I know this because he always does. It's always the same. He'll say, "Me name's Seamus."
He sits forward. "Me name's Seamus," he says.
Told you.
I have to give it to our new hire, Jason. He's a friendly sort, an American kid trying to earn enough money to slowly make his way across the European continent. England is his first stop and my pub his first real job.
"Nice to meet you," he says. "Get something for you?"
"Haven't finished me ale, have I?" the old man says.
"Suit yourself." Jason goes back to filling a mug.
He'll tell the woman she looks ridiculous in the hat.
"Gimme back me hat, Agnes," he says. "You look ridiculous."
"No more than you," she retorts. Her brogue is different. She isn't Irish. I've never been able to figure out where she's from. Maybe she's Welsh, but I haven't decided. She doesn't say much.
"I'll thank ye to give it back," the old man insists. "If I have to die tonight, I'll do so wearing me hat."
Agnes pulls it down harder over her head.
I smile at Jason's reaction. This is the first time he's heard this conversation and it's startling. He glares in the man's direction but then shakes his head and wipes up a spill on the bar's surface.
Me, I've heard this conversation every year for the past fifty two years. That's how old I am. My father owned this pub before me and I've spent every Christmas Eve of my life here. They have always appeared. I'm used to them, if one can get used to such things as ghosts.