Over the past few months I have been entering short story competitions to keep up my writing and to also help improve my technique in writing creatively, and from all the polite responses of ‘thanks but no thanks’ I received it began to get a little bit disheartening…that was until I received an email from Suffolk Libraries.
In August, Suffolk Libraries ran a competition for anyone to enter to submit their short stories or poetry to be considered for their upcoming anthology that was to be published as an ebook on their website. The only main rule was that the pieces had to be in some way linked to the area of ‘Suffolk’ as the anthology was to be used to help celebrate ‘Suffolk Day’ which is a day to be held every year to celebrate the best of the county.
As a resident to the area and a writer, the opportunity seemed to good to pass, even if I had become a bit jaded with the writing competition scene.
I had become used to the rejections now so one more wasn’t going to hurt and the continuous practice of my writing would hopefully mean in the long run that my writing style would become stronger and more concise.
I decided that the ‘Suffolk’ theme of my book would be Ipswich and choosing some of the few known landmarks in the town to help me create a story about a treasure hunt. I was actually rather pleased with how it turned out and thought it was probably one of the better short stories I had done so far.
A few weeks had gone by after I submitted my entry and to be honest I had completely forgotten about the story as with previous attempts I just automatically presumed it went in the slush pile but to my amazement, I received an email to say my piece had been chosen for the anthology!!
It had made all those past efforts writing stories worthwhile to know that finally a story of mine had actually made it to publication stage.
So to the bit you were hoping to get to after reading my long introduction! The link to the anthology: https://suffolklibraries.overdrive.com/collection/90738
There is however a catch to reading the ‘Suffolk Day 2017’ ebook in that it can only be read by Suffolk Library cardholders..well I suppose it is a local book for local people…
Never fear readers, as Suffolk Libraries allows me to retain copyright of my works it means I can publish the story here! (However, those who do live in Suffolk and have a library card I really recommend you download the ebook as there are some really brilliant pieces of writing from other Suffolk writers in the anthology)
So here you go readers, I hope you enjoy:
The Treasure Hunt
‘Rebecca, please don’t argue with me…’, Mum sighs down the phone. She knows I can’t stand spending any more time with my younger brother than I have to.
I try to protest against meeting him in Ipswich and that it’s such a long way on the train from London but she gives me a dose of emotional blackmail that I must swallow.
‘Your Grandad Alfie has asked for you to both do this together, it was his dying wish…’
I miss Grandad Alfie so much. Just hearing my Mum speak his name down the phone raises a lump in my throat.
At the mention of Grandad, I reluctantly agree to Mum’s plans, put the phone down and make my way to Liverpool St Station.
Just as I put my ticket through the barrier to board the train at Liverpool St, I spot my arch nemesis boarding the same train bound for the same destination.
It’s funny that both The Enemy and I live so close together in this city but do our best to keep our distance at all costs. Mum would make me sit next to The Enemy on the train so we can ‘work out our differences’. I decide not to risk getting too close to him just yet as I would quite like an hour or so to relax, before I get filled with rage and feel the need to throw something (or someone) out of the train window.
Oh – in case you were wondering, The Enemy is actually my younger brother. His real name is Alistair but I feel “The Enemy” is a much better fit for him!
It is rather harsh to call your own brother The Enemy but over the past few years we have become so opposite in our personalities that we make the South Pole and North Pole look close. Once we used to laugh and joke together in the garden of the family home in Suffolk. Now whenever we meet we bicker and fight so much even the roses in the garden blush in shame at such sibling rivalry.
It all began when I was in my final year of St Martins College and Alistair was just starting his Business degree at the London School of Economics. He could not understand my enthusiasm for being creative and valuing a well-constructed piece of work that challenges perceptions over a Gucci handbag. I could not understand his lust for designer goods and making lots of ‘paper’, or money as the rest of us mortals refer to it.
There are three years between us. He is now 23 and working as a stockbroker, and I at 26 am just beginning to make a teeny tiny mark in the art world. I may have only had one exhibition (in a gallery no one has really heard of) but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am a ‘wasteman’, especially as I work part-time as a Gallery Assistant in the Tate. This is The Enemy’s words though, even though he is from the Suffolk countryside he seems to think it is necessary to speak in what I refer to as ‘urban slang’. Pathetic.
Usually the train from London to Ipswich seems to bumble along with plenty of time to twiddle your thumbs and check all relevant social media, yet today the time has flown by. Chelmsford, Colchester and Manningtree all blurring into one and soon the announcement comes over the tannoy that we’ve reached our destination.
As the train lurches into Ipswich, I feel my head begin to pound as I prepare answers to the annoying questions I know I will receive from The Enemy: “why haven’t I got a ‘proper job’ yet?” I swear it should be the older sibling dishing out the grief to the younger. Clearly, I haven’t even mastered being a ‘proper sibling’ either.
I see The Enemy get off at the other end of the platform and for a split-second I wonder whether there is time to still do a runner…
Too late, he has caught my eye. We give each other the nod and head towards each other. Shoot me now.
‘So I see you decided to turn up. Have you worked out the first clue?’ says The Enemy in a slightly grumpy tone.
‘Yes I have decided to turn up Alistair, for Grandad’s sake nobody else’s. What’s this about a clue? Mum never said anything about a clue, just that we are to go to some of Granddad’s favourite spots in his home town,’ I say defensively back to The Enemy.
‘It’s probs because Mum doesn’t trust you with things like that… what with you being a loser and all…’
I immediately want to scream at him for winding me up so viciously but I decide to rise above it and thankfully he continues with what he has to say.
‘Grandad set up a treasure hunt for us to go on once he passed away as a final send off from him.’
He pauses for a bit and I see in his eyes that he too is upset about the passing of Grandad Alfie. At least we both have that in common: we both miss Grandad. The Enemy then takes in a deep breath to compose himself and acts as if everything is normal again.
‘Anyways the first clue he has given us is to see his friend in St Peters Street, he likes to sit down and often has a feline companion with him… I didn’t think Grandad had any friends down that way…’
‘It’s Thomas Wolsey of course! He wants us to go to the Thomas Wolsey statue! It’s not a real person you idiot!’
I realise I may have shouted that a little bit too loudly as an old lady who passed us on the platform jumped at least ten feet in the air and proceeded to give me a dirty look.
My brother lets out a smirk as he watches the incident before proceeding to make me wholly responsible if I have misinterpreted this clue incorrectly.
‘You better be right sis as I’m wearing my new trainers today, so I don’t want to get blisters walking to nothing because YOU got it wrong.’
We leave the station and walk to St Peters Street in silence. It is better we remain in silence rather than arguing, although I am really beginning to question whether I did interpret Grandad’s clue correctly.
When we arrive I quickly walk round the statue to see if I can find anything clue-like before The Enemy does or before he starts shouting at me for getting it wrong.
I spot a cream coloured piece of paper folded in half tucked between Thomas Wolsey and his cat. Snatching it from the statue, I open it and read it out loud.
‘Well done on finding the second clue. The next clue can be found with Grandma, although this Grandma isn’t your biological Grandma and she likes to stand still for quite a while. We often watched the pigeons together on a sunny afternoon.’
I breathe a sigh of relief that I did get grandads first clue right and found the second one, although the relief doesn’t last wrong as The Enemy begins to make a racket.
‘It’s the Giles statue! The answer to the second clue is the Giles statue. See Rebecca I can be as clever as you!’
I roll my eyes at The Enemy’s immaturity, but just as I do a memory floods back into my brain of when we were both last here with Grandad.
‘Do you remember he used to get us to tap the cat on the head whenever we walked past the statue with him? He said it would give us good luck for the rest of the day…’
Alistair smiled. ‘Yeah I do remember. Grandad was a funny old bugger.’
We move on to the next clue and without even thinking we both give Cardinal Wolsey’s cat a pat on the head in honour of Grandad.
When we get to the Giles statue, The Enemy gets greeted by the local pigeons in the form of a whole load of pigeon poo on his navy Prada overcoat. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
The laughter didn’t last long as I then get the same treatment from the pigeons on my Primark raincoat, which sends The Enemy into hysterics.
‘I think Grandad is looking down on us today’ said The Enemy through fits of laughter.
I smile in agreement knowing that Grandad would be laughing at what silly fools we were to get pigeon poo all over us.
We circle the rather large lady statute and find another cream coloured note tucked behind her bag. This time The Enemy reads it aloud;
‘It’s time for you to rest your weary feet and head to Grandads favourite seat.’
‘The middle bench at the top of Holywells Park’ we both shout in unison.
We both giggle and share the look we used to give each other as kids before life made us so different.
As we walked to Grandad’s favourite bench something between us shifted, and we began to reminisce about our childhood and all the fun adventures we had together. We both wished we could just be carefree and innocent again.
We get to the wooden bench and as we do the sun bursts out from the clouds and lights up Grandad’s favourite bench in all its glory. No wonder it was his favourite spot: it’s the best view of the whole park, from which you can see all the trees and flower gardens as well as all the woodland trails.
Underneath the bench, I spot a piece of neatly folded cream coloured paper exactly like the other two clues. I bend down and stretch underneath to get to it. I take a moment to feel the thick paper in my hands and wonder what Grandad has in store for us next.
‘Let’s sit down and read it together Sis.’
Without a fight or the need to argue we sit down together on the bench, Grandads bench, his favourite spot in the whole word, and unfold the cream coloured paper.
We begin to read it together;
‘Well done my beautiful grandchildren, you have completed Grandad Alfie’s treasure hunt and I am very proud of you both. I suppose you would like to collect your reward now. Well you already have it, all you need to do is look at one another and you will find your hidden treasure. It’s each other. No treasure is greater than your family. Don’t ever forget it.’
We look up from the clue and look into each other’s eyes, forgiving each other for our petty little quarrels and misunderstandings, and embrace each other tightly.