These ten stories will be published in an anthology entitled, The Tipping Point which will be published early in 2012.
The Tipping Point - Sarah Evans
A deceptively simple story about a couple on a mini-break in Dubai. Mark and Alex haven’t been together long, and he’s beginning to feel that she isn’t the woman he’d hoped she was. At first it appears to be a simple clash between Mark’s apathy and Alex’s spirit of adventure, but it becomes clear that the latter is meant to signify more than mere youthful thrill-seeking. Alex is a war correspondent who’s been working in the Middle East, covering the conflicts that have blighted the region. We come to feel that – despite the worthy nature of her job - there is something lacking in her: not only is she demanding and selfish, but she can’t form relationships, and we wonder if she is fully engaged in the world. When she talks of her job we’re told that she speaks without really saying anything, either that or she distorts reality, “glossing over the messy horror to offer amusing anecdotes.” In this way the story forces us to reflect on Alex as a character type, the nature of her vocation, and the extent to which they might be linked. Can the glamorous, self-interested thrill-seeker ever produce anything other than self-serving narratives? This is an original, thought provoking piece which offers an unsettling comment on a particular kind of storyteller and, in turn, on the validity of the narratives they produce.
After the Rain - Cath Humprhis
A powerful story about a couple marooned during a flood. The tone is initially humorous, but this darkens as the gravity of their situation becomes apparent. Gary (sometimes Garry?) and Cass haven’t been together long, and the disaster throws their differences into relief - he wants to abandon the house, but she wants to stay. The flood gives way to other crises, and the story takes on an apocalyptic feel as the water continues to rise and the prospect of help appears increasingly unlikely. At first people strive to assist one another, and it seems as if the communal, “Dunkirk” spirit will win the day, but as the flood fails to subside, altruism is in short supply – opportunists begin charging for boat rides to safety, and there’s talk of looters and riots on dry land. What I enjoyed particularly is the effective way in which the pessimism is offset by the ending – the closing image of the couple huddled together in bed is strangely comforting; though their differences remain, the image reminds us of the solace to be found via human interaction, and perhaps by extension in the communal spirit that the flood threatens to undermine. A very well-handled story, apposite to our times.
Embracing Change - David Chesters
A humorous story about attitudes to change: those who embrace it, and those who resist it. The protagonist belongs in the latter category, his wife in the former. While the husband laments the lost stability of regular employment - bringing “cleaning and janitorial services to every sector of the business community” – his wife strives to find herself, seeking stimulation through art and experimental sex. When she inadvertently knocks her husband off Shoreham harbour wall after reading a lukewarm review of her latest creative fad, it creates a lovely comic image that effectively frames the story. His backward tumble into the sea fittingly conveys his haplessness, and her selfish disregard for others, but ultimately it’s difficult to establish who is to blame for the couple’s current disharmony. In a way the story dramatizes the conflict at the heart of the human condition, where the need for reassuring structure so often competes with a desire to abandon its shackles. A sharp, engaging domestic satire.
What Could It Be? - David Chesters
A woman working on an art project reflects on her past life with her safe, dull husband. Following his death – for which she seems partly responsible – she is free to pursue her artistic endeavours. But will this constitute another failure in her life, another example of unrealised potential? The fact that her art project won’t be finished in time for the show seems to suggest so. This is a well-paced, subtle story that is convincing throughout.
This Concerns No One - Christian Cook
A story of two men who meet on a jetty: one has made a mess of his life, but wants to return to the world and make a fresh start; the other wants to commit suicide because his reputation is ruined. An offer to swap identities turns into murder in this haunting, morally complex tale which forces us to reflect on life and its value.
On Ice - Rachael Dunlop
This is a neat story about a woman hoping to leave the country with her lover, and her lover’s mistresses’ money. It has a pleasing twist in the tale, the anticipation of which manages to generate and sustain narrative tension wonderfully.
An Old Boy and a Young Man from Enns - Martin Cathcart Froden
An understated piece in which two patients recuperating in hospital form a bond; the relationship between and youngster and an old man has a transforming effect, even though only one of them fully recovers; the “secret language” they learn to speak transcends the generational divide and offers comfort for them both. A poignant, uplifting tale.
At the Border - T. D. Griggs
A story about cynicism versus idealism. Here a group of border guards in Nigeria don’t realise that they’re being treated with respect by an old couple who refuse to bribe them in order to facilitate their passage. This very clever piece makes a cogent point about what it apparently means to be civilised; at the same time, it doesn’t let us forget that one person’s idea of respect isn’t necessarily everyone’s, and that so-called civilised values don’t always travel well!
The Winter Visit - Mary O'Shea
A heart-breaking story about a man with Alzheimer’s who, after the death of his wife, fears the threat of degeneration and, particularly, isolation. He visits his older brother in an attempt to make a connection, but can’t establish one. Partly this stems from the fact that he finds it difficult to articulate exactly what he requires, and as he drives home into the night we feel the force of the darkness he is about to enter. The nightmare of his impending disintegration is a terrifying one indeed, and this is conveyed powerfully in the final image. It is a sophisticated and emotionally charged piece that was a very close contender for a spot in the top three.
Duchess - Eve Vamvas
A female doctor tends to a woman who has a history of being mistreated by her husband, and who seems to conform to certain expectations about the type of people who endure relationships of this kind; such expectations are effectively undermined, however, we learn that the doctor herself is the victim of similar abuse. This is a tightly written, troubling story which offers a corrective to popular assumptions and stereotypes.
A Nurse's Confession - Melanie Amri
The Heroism of Ahmet Efendi - Winifred Conway
The Killing o' Mr Finchan - Lynn Florkiewicz
In Space, no-one can Hear you Sing... - Frances Gow
Who Dunnits - L. F. Roth
The Problem with the Tub - Mike Berlin
The Rolling Sea - Elizabeth Dye
The Rant of the Skywalker - Clare Girvan
The Question - Jo Ling
In the Glass - Philip Taylor