March 2013 Writing Contest Finalists

Dublin, IrelandWe have two finalists for this month’s contest.  There were a couple of other entries that did not qualify, but were fun to read.  You can see them here.  Thanks to everyone who submitted their stories.  The following contestants are the ones who are up for the judges to vote upon.  Please do congratulate them!


*Mark Henwick
*Paul Venderley

Below will be a review of the contest stipulations for those who did not see them, followed by the two finalists’ stories.  Contestants, you are welcome to tell your friends and family through blogs, twitter, Facebook, or any other site to let them know your story has made it to a finalist spot.  They are free to leave words of encouragement below in the comments section.

The judges have already been notified to review each of the entries and send a private email to me for the one they like the best.  On Monday, March 1st, the total votes for each story will be announced.  Gift cards will also be awarded to the winner and runner-up on that day.


1) Scenario- Your main character has a run-in with a leprechaun that somehow results in them being transported to Dublin, Ireland against their will on St. Patrick’s Day.

2) At some point your character must lose their shoes.

3) The story should end in one of two ways:

a) The magic used to transport them will only keep them in Dublin until Midnight that night before they will return home.

b) They discover they are stuck in Ireland forever because of the magic.

3) Word count requirement: 800-2200 words


The Paths of Dubh Linn

by Paul Venderley

“Where’d you come from?” Something hard and wooden rapped the table twice, then Kirk’s head. “Hey. Time to move on.”

Kirk slowly raised his head and watched a meaty hand push a grey rag that stank of Guinness and dirty water beneath his nose.

“Where am I?” Kirk croaked.

“Hiding in a booth at the back end of my bar.”

Kirk let that answer sink in for a bit. He and the guys had gone pub crawling for Saint Patrick’s Day. They’d started at Brendan’s for beer and a succulent corned beef, then had gone over to Muldoon’s for beer and karaoke. He recalled finishing the night at The Auld Dubliner, but with its cold brick walls and scuffed wood floor, this pub looked nothing like the Dubliner.

“Uh-huh,” he sat upright and grinned disarmingly at the bartender. The bartender pointed a wooden spoon in the direction of the door at the far end of the room. Kirk slid out of the booth, walked the length of the bar and through the front door into a cold and gloomy alleyway.

“What the…?”

In place of a parking lot for The Auld Dubliner, tightly knit buildings loomed over a narrow cobblestone lane. When Kirk turned around to look for the Dubliner, he found an unmarked solid wood door set into a brick wall, flanked by two braziers.

Kirk pounded on the locked door of the pub.


“I was just in there!”

“Don’t care!”

“Look, I need to know how I got here!”

The bartender didn’t respond. Kirk resumed pounding on the door.

“He’s most likely calling the police.”

A bit below and to Kirk’s right stood a wizened little man dressed in a forest-green three-piece suit. He waggled his fingers at Kirk, smiled, and pushed a pair of square-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. With his other hand he waved a knobby, twisted stick at the locked door.

“What’re you wanting to go back into that dive for?”

Answers rattled around in Kirk’s brain. He’s in a strange city. He had been in that pub when he’d first noticed that he was in a strange city. Obviously, he needed to get back.

What he said was: “I’m an American.”

“Welcome to Dublin.”

“I’ve got to get back.”

“Through there? That’s not the way, lad.”

Kirk stared at the door sullenly.

“Look on the bright side! You’ve come to Dublin on the perfect day.”

“Why’s that?”

“Why, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!”

“That was yesterday.”

“It’s definitely today.”

“And I was definitely drinking way too many green beers. Yesterday.”

The little man sized Kirk up with a narrowed eye and pointed his stick at him. “Let me see if I can summarize your situation. You are now mysteriously in a city you’d never had any intention of visiting.” He paused, waiting for confirmation.

“Uhm, not exactly. I remember me and the guys last night, we were shouting that we should totally go to Dublin on St. Patty’s Day.”

“Ah-hah! A wish!”

“It wasn’t a wish! It was a bunch of drunks talking shit.”

“Circumstances aren’t important. What you have is a wish fulfilled, and you’ve travelled back in time.” The little man waited again for confirmation.

“Is it 2013?” Kirk asked.

The other nodded.

“Then, yeah.”

The little man clapped his hands together and whooped. “The answer’s obvious!”

Kirk waited for the answer.

“It’s magic!”


“Lucky for you, I happen to know a little bit about magic.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m a leprechaun.” The little man did a brief tap dance and held out his arms, as if for applause. “Ferguson, at your service.”

Kirk gave out a sour laugh, leaned back against the door of the pub, and slid into a seated position on the sidewalk. “Of course you are.”

“I most certainly assure you that I am. Now, get up, and let’s get to walking so I can think this puzzle through. I’m much better at thinking when I’m walking.”

Ferguson tapped Kirk’s shoes with his crooked stick, and Kirk found himself standing and following the little man down the street.

They walked down the alley for nearly a block, the leprechaun muttering to himself in a language Kirk didn’t recognize. Where the lane ended, another onto the Dublin Castle grounds began.

The leprechaun asked: “What time did you get here?”

“No idea. Last I can remember seeing a clock was at 11:30.”

“Ah. We can probably round that up to midnight. A lot gets done in that ‘witching hour.’” The leprechaun winked as though they were sharing a secret. They walked through the open gates onto the castle grounds.

“I assume that we would need to get you home before anyone misses you.”

“Why? What happens if we don’t?”

“You’ll probably be stuck here, then.”

“Stuck here in Dublin?”

“Might be, might not. You might have the whole of Ireland to call home.” Ferguson studied the expression on Kirk’s face. “A good many people have found Ireland to be a lovely place to spend their lives.”

“I’ll be stuck here forever?”

“Oh, I doubt you’ll be here forever. We all die. Ah! Here we are.”

They stopped in front of a little wrought iron gate cut into a weathered stone wall. The leprechaun touched his stick to the left of the gate, where the words “Dubh Linn Garden” were inscribed.

Beyond the gate was a large circular lawn with paths set into the grass by grey rectangular flagstones. They curved and looped through the lawn, forming meandering roundabout patterns with no rhyme or reason that Kirk could see. Muttering in his strange language, the leprechaun stepped onto the flagstones where a path began close to the edge of the lawn and beckoned Kirk to join him.

Kirk obeyed, asking: “What is this?”

“The gardens of Dublin Castle,” Ferguson announced, waving his stick at the castle standing behind them. “Centuries ago the black pool from which this city took its name – Dubh Linn – sat in this very spot. It was a powerful place, filled with magic. The pool is gone, but the magic lingers. I like to come here for my walks, let my mind roam free, reflect.”

They strolled along a flagstone path. Around them, other Dubliners sat on benches reading newspapers or drinking coffee. Few walked the paths, and the route Kirk and Ferguson followed was clear of other pedestrians.

Ferguson hummed a little tune that was strangely familiar to Kirk. He tried to remember where he’d heard it, most likely in one of the bars he’d visited the day before. Not Brendan’s, they were showing a rugby game. Not Muldoon’s, everyone was singing rock ballads. In the Dubliner, perhaps…

“I’ve got it! We can get you home in my shoes!” the leprechaun’s voice broke Kirk’s reverie. Kirk laughed out loud.

“What’s so funny? I’ll have you know that a leprechaun’s shoes can walk over land and water.”

Kirk did not hide his skepticism. “How?”

The leprechaun shrugged. “Who can say? They follow where the path leads them. Magic.”

Looking at the castle that towered over the peculiar lawn on which he stood next to a leprechaun, “magic” made as much sense as anything else at the time. “OK,” Kirk sighed. “I suppose I’ll give it a try.”

The leprechaun nearly danced out of his shoes – small, worn brown loafers that curled up at the toes – while Kirk bent over to unlace his sneakers. Kirk had to shove his feet into the snug loafers, but they expanded and wrapped around his arch when he stood up.

Ferguson immediately grabbed Kirk’s shoes and sprinted across the lawn. Kirk tried to follow, but his feet wouldn’t move off the flagstone path.

“Ah! That. You’ve got to stay on the path for the magic to work,” Ferguson called from a park bench, where he was tugging Kirk’s sneakers onto his feet.

“Really?” Kirk took a hesitant step forward on the flagstones. “Weird.” He followed the path to the edge of the lawn. But the shoes stopped abruptly at the path’s end, as if affixed to the flagstones. Kirk flailed forward with a disconcerted squawk.

“Why can’t I step out of here?”

The leprechaun appeared before Kirk.

“I’ve told you the shoes can walk over land and water. And I’ve told you that they can do so only if they’re on a path. Here’s where it gets tricky. It’s got to be your Path. This…” Ferguson waved his stick in the air. “…is not your Path.”

“That’s a path. Right there.”

“That’s a road. A Path is something more. A destiny, like, but that’s oversimplifying things. A Path is the route you take once you decide upon your destination.”

“My destination? I want to go home!”

“Aye, but what’s the home you want to go to?”

“MY home!”

Ferguson chuckled. “Don’t you worry. It usually takes some time to figure this out.”

“You know what? Never mind.” Kirk bent down to take off the loafers. “Give me back my shoes.”

“Nay, that I cannot do,” said the leprechaun. He watched as Kirk yanked futilely at the left, then the right, shoe. Neither would come off.

“Look, you’re American,” Ferguson continued. “Why don’t you make the most of things and take the hero route? Mend lives, save people, the stuff of television drama.” He hummed a self-satisfied little tune, and suddenly Kirk remembered where and how he’d heard that melody before.

“You little imp!” he shouted.

“Please. Leprechaun,” the little man responded.

“You were at the pub last night. When we were talking about Dublin!”

Ferguson doffed his hat, bowed, then disappeared.

Kirk spent several minutes cursing at the space left behind by the leprechaun. He spent several more minutes kicking at the air in front of him. Finally, he sat on the flagstone path and thought things through.

The leprechaun’s shoes could only walk on “his Path.” Any one of the paths on the Dubh Linn Garden lawn could be his. Once Kirk found his Path amid the lawn, he might be able to follow it back home.

“This is gonna take forever,” he groaned. “Unless…”

It took some trial and error, but Kirk was able to follow the path he and the leprechaun had taken through the lawn. From there Kirk retraced the route they had taken to the gardens. Once outside the wooden door of the pub, he looked at the loafers’ curled tips.

“Where did that little man come from?” he asked. He pointed the shoes towards the corner, inhaled, and took a single step forward.

The leprechaun appeared next to Kirk. “You’re going the wrong way,” he commented.

“Am I?” asked Kirk. “Because it occurred to me that there are two directions to any path: where you’re going, and where you’ve been. And I thought: ‘I wonder if I would understand this whole path thing better if I walked a mile in the previous owner’s shoes?’”

Ferguson scoffed. “Finding your own Path will be better for you.”

Kirk shrugged. “We’ll see.”

Kirk shambled through the streets of Dublin like a person trying very hard to hide the fact that he was drunk. He took short, cautious steps, pausing when the shoes indicated that they had not occupied the space in front of him, shaking his feet in a circular motion to determine which way to turn. Ferguson became an underfoot tour guide, frequently popping in front of Kirk’s legs to point out a Dublin highlight that held hidden delights just off the path, if only Kirk would show a little interest. The people filling the sidewalks had no patience for Kirk’s slow progress, jostling and pushing past him en route to their own destinations.

Eventually Kirk arrived at a spot on the sidewalk where he could not continue forward, but when he pointed the loafers to a brick wall at his left, they tingled.

“I wouldn’t,” warned Ferguson.

Kirk took one step to his left.

The streets of Dublin disappeared in the blink of an eye. In the next blink, Kirk saw a green land, thickly forested with a shining glen in the middle. Kirk shook his feet in a circle, found that they were still bound to a path, and moved forward towards the glen. Two leprechauns appeared on the glen’s edge, surprised to see Kirk making his way toward them. One leprechaun pointed at Kirk’s shoes. The other nodded.

“You shouldn’t be here,” that leprechaun said.

“Then show me the way home,” Kirk replied.

The leprechauns stared at Kirk for what seemed to be hours. Eventually the second leprechaun waved Kirk to follow him into the glen. With his stick, he pointed to Kirk’s left.

Kirk followed his cue, and was back in The Auld Dubliner in two blinks. Through staticky speakers, the Dropkick Murphys promised to play the wild rover “nay, never, no more.” In front of Kirk stood his friends, their glasses raised in celebration. Behind them, Ferguson held his crooked stick high in the air, as if joining in on the toast.

At the top of his lungs, Kirk shouted: “Hell with that! I’d rather do Spring Break in the Bahamas!”


The Little Feller

by Mark Henwick

The little feller came in just before dusk and climbed up onto the bar stool. Really up.
Another time, Annie might have asked for his ID, he was that small. She eyed him dubiously. Not exactly dirty, but none too clean either, with the sort of grime that kinda wears into a feller’s hands. Damn, and she’d thought things were on an upturn around here. She chided herself. Given the theme of the bar and the day, it was the least she could do to put an effort into her welcome.
“Top o’ the evening to ye, sir. And what’ll you be wanting?”
The man’s face scrunched up like he had constipation.
“That’s the most appalling Irish accent I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear, and I’ll tell you this, I’ve drunk in English pubs.” He leant elbows on the bar.
“Well,” she replied, almost angry except he had the brightest gleam of humor in his eye and a genuine Irish lilt, “welcome to Annie’s Bar, the best Irish pub in Louisiana. I’m Annie. It’s St Patrick’s Day, and we have Guinness and Jameson at half.”
He squinted up at her, grinning. “You’ll not be giving me a glass of Guinness, and I’ll not be paying you half for it.”
She wasn’t sure what that meant, but while she was working on it, she poured a Guinness and placed it in front of him, sliding the mat underneath with practiced ease.
“Now that’s welcome,” he murmured and took a thirsty swallow.
Annie sighed. Jokes aside, she felt a responsibility to small strangers coming into her bar today. “I’d drink that and move on,” she warned him, her voice returning to its habitual Louisiana twang.
“I liked the accent,” he said, frowning. Then he reached across and patted her jaw. “And why would I be moving on when I’m just getting meself comfortable, lass.”
“Well, and you’ll be attracting notice, what with your size, and all. For the competition. Now you’d not be wanting that, I’m thinking,” she said in broad brogue. Annie’s mouth closed with a snap and her eyes crossed as if they were trying to focus on her lips to see who had moved them. Where the hell had that come from?
“Much better,” he said. “And that’d be the Dwarf Hurling Competition, would it now?”
Annie’s mouth opened to answer but it was too late. The door swung open and Bart came in, head bent down to fit through the opening. His eyes lit up and he came and sat down on the next stool, towering over the little feller.
“Bart, you’ll not be harassing my customers today,” she snapped.
“Wow! Awesome accent, Annie. You must have put some hours in,” Bart said. “A Jameson for me and another Guinness for my friend.”
“I’m thinking I’d not be a friend if I didn’t accept that drink,” the little feller said.
“And a friend—”
But before Bart could fill the little feller in on what a friend would need to do for him, the door opened again. A slight and tidy figure stood framed by the lights outside, her glasses glinting.
“Bart Manus, I have caught you red-handed,” she said.
“Evelyn, come now, he’s just sitting down this very minute,” Annie said in her weirdly good Irish voice.
“And how long does it need? He’s—”
The little feller spun on his stool. “And who might you be, lass?”
“Evelyn Merriman, County Deputy for Health and Safety,” she said stiffly.
“Merry by name, merry by nature,” muttered Bart swirling the Jameson under his nose.
“And I am here to prevent disorderly, discriminatory and unsafe conduct, namely the so-called competition conducted here under the auspices of this establishment—”
“Evelyn, I haven’t run the competition since the time the window was broken,” Annie said.
“He’s here,” Evelyn stabbed an accusing finger at Bart. “And there was a sign outside.”
“Sure, and it’s not my sign.” Annie lowered her eyes and polished the bar unconsciously. It wasn’t her sign and technically it didn’t happen in the bar. It happened in the yard behind the bar. Only sensible after that small guy was thrown right through the window. And she didn’t run it. She just sold food and drinks to people who came.
“Of course it’s not your sign.” Evelyn sneered. “I have confiscated it anyway, on the grounds of discriminatory language against people of lesser physical stature. And you,” she turned on Bart, “I’m not allowing you to recruit an unknowing bystander to replace your colleague.”
“And just why would you be needing to replace a colleague, in this event we cannot name?” the little feller asked.
Bart went pale and Evelyn glared down her nose at him triumphantly. “Go on,” she said, “tell him.”
“Well, it was a mistake, y’ see, I was spinning round with Little Jim when my ankle twisted and I let Jim go too early.”
“You were disqualified?” the little feller said.
“Yes, that too. But the problem was, y’ see, it was the Alligator Creek Hurl. He’s alright,” Bart went on hastily. “On account he can swim real fast.”
“Lucky Jim,” the little feller took another swig.
“Yes, and lucky you,” Evelyn said, trembling with self-righteous vindication.
Bart’s shoulders sagged. He’d trekked around every bar in town before coming here. The little feller had been his last chance. And what a chance! Bart was certain he could hurl him clear across the yard and into the field behind, sore ankle or not.
“Well now, I’m betting there’ll be no actual law against people enjoying the craic,” the little feller said.
Evelyn’s eyes bulged. “What do you mean by crack? Are you—”
The little feller reach up and tapped her ear gently.
“Oh, the craic,” she said, as Annie and Bart looked blankly at each other. “Of course the legislation doesn’t specifically exclude legitimate amusements. But this competition is evidentially—”
The little feller sighed and reached out to tap her jaw.
“Sure, and I’ll just not be having the humiliation of smaller people in this town,” she concluded and frowned at the sound of her own voice.
“You’ll be stopping the competition then,” the little feller said, grinning.
Evelyn scratched her head in puzzlement, wondering at the words bubbling up inside her and trying to get themselves said. She was, wasn’t she?
The back door slammed open and a blast of horns signaled the start of the event. A crowd was gathering outside under the jury-rigged floodlighting. They were starting to jump up and down on the spot and chant.
“Hurl! Hurl! Hurl!” they yelled.
Evelyn ran out, waving her arms and shouting in an Irish accent, and made more friends than she’d ever had before in her life, even though they couldn’t actually hear what she was saying.
Annie opened the back window and organized the staff until they were clustered there like bees, relaying orders and selling Guinness and Jameson by the tray-full.
The little feller slid off his stool and wandered out. For want of anything better, Bart slouched disconsolately after him. There was no chance of getting a dwarf to hurl at this late stage, and the little feller had been put off by Evelyn, whatever she was going on about now.
He staggered a little. There were a lot of bars he’d visited in his search for a victim… err… partner, but even the alcohol didn’t take the edge of his misery. Hell, he was about to lose his title for want of a partner. It wasn’t even as if there were alligators in the pond out the back here, but Jim had been adamant. He’d had enough.
It looked to Bart as if the competition would go to Big Bob Massey, or maybe the Australian. They were hanging back, waiting for the no-hopers to finish landing their dwarves in the middle of the pond. Not a single one had managed to reach the mats on the far side yet, but the crowd was loving it, as always.
The little feller tapped his leg and Bart knelt down to hear him.
“Are you any good?” asked the little feller.
“I’m the champion,” Bart sighed and burped. “At least until the end of the competition.”
“You’ll not be throwing me half way across the pond,” the little feller said, chuckling.
The meaning of which statement Bart was still trying to work out, when he lined up, little feller alongside.
“Don’t be taking your shoes off for better grip,” the little feller said. “And whatever you do, don’t be spinning round three full times before you hurl me. You’ll be remembering to let go too.”
Bart thought it was damn sound advice. The launch area had gotten muddy. He threw his shoes aside and felt the mud between his toes.
“How far you think you’ll get, mate?” the Australian shouted out, trying to put them off.
“Oh, doubling,” the little feller replied.
“Twice the distance? Dream on.”
Bart spouted the advice you were meant to give a first-time contestant, but he was running out of time and garbling it all. The little feller gave him a slap across the jaw and the words were still tumbling out in Irish when the announcer called them out.
“AAANNDD NOW. The one. The only. Your very own Bad Bart Manus and …” The crowd screamed and Bart reached down to get a good grip on the little feller’s wrist and ankle. No one noticed the little feller hadn’t been named.
Bart squinted up at the far side of the pond. Big Bob’s dwarf had made the second mat, but the Australian’s had made the third. Sure and hell and he was going to spin round three times and he wouldn’t be tossing the little feller only half way across the pond.
It was only as he spun round the third time he remembered he was supposed to do something else too. Or not.

Damn and who had been about leaving the dustbins here? And who turned the lights out?
Bart tripped and fell over. One bin, balanced on another, tottered, and with wonderful inevitability, emptied over him.
“There he is,” came a voice behind a searing bright light. “Drunk as O’Malley. Out you come, lad.”
Bart managed to get to his feet. The law may speak with different words in different countries but only ever in one tone, and it was a tone that Bart knew. He didn’t think this was Sheriff Clay, but it might well have been a cousin.
“Now, lad, what’re you doing?”
Bart squinted into the blinding light. “Well, and I was just tossing the little feller here,” he jerked his thumb back to where he hoped the little feller was, and stopped when he realized he wasn’t.
“I see.” The tone of the law took its most ponderous, and words started coming in italics. “You were just sitting here, tossing your little feller.”
“Well, sure, and we started out the back of Annie’s Bar on account of she won’t let us toss inside, and I… don’t know how I got here,” he finished lamely, suspicion dawning like the sun through the fog of alcohol in his head. “Where am I?”
“Round the back of the Bridge Inn. About a mile from Annie’s.”
Bart knew every bar within ten miles of Annie’s. There were no Bridge Inns. And the little feller hadn’t said ‘doubling’ at all. At all.
“In Dublin?” he said.
“Of course you’re in Dublin, eejit.” There was a sound from behind the bright light. A sound that Bart knew. The sound of handcuffs. He licked his lips. Time for desperate gambles.
“You’ll be arresting me for indecency and being disorderly, then,” he said, holding out his hands.
There was a sigh and the light clicked off. “Piss off home,” said the gardai, turning and walking away.
“You’re a natural, an’ no mistake,” the little feller said, emerging from the shadows.
Bart knelt down and looked at him. “How come there’s no magic sparkles when you, y’know… do things?”
“On account of I’m not fooking Tinkerbell and this is not a flaming Hollywood vampire movie neither.”
Somewhere, a bell tolled.
“How does it work? You say not to do something and the person has to do it?”
“That’s the oldest law of laws. Do what I tell you don’t.”
“And the garda just said to go home, so I can’t?”
“He’s not got the voice.”
Bart rubbed his face. “Why? And why me?”
“It’s a grand way to travel, d’you not think?” The little feller whipped out a glass and a bottle of Guinness from somewhere, pouring it slowly as the bell continued its tolling. “You’ll be getting thirsty,” he said. “Stay and have a drink.”
Bart shook his head to clear it. The hell with that. His hand was reaching for it anyway when the twelfth bell sounded and he fell into the glass.

“Wake up, mate,” roared the Australian in his face. “You’ve won again, you canny, drunken bugger. You slung your dwarf so far across the pond they can’t even find him. I reckon he’s done a runner.”


Congratulations to the finalists.  You all did a wonderful job and I wish each of you the best of luck during judging.  Also, for those interested I have posted the stipulations for the next writing contest.  The theme is pirates.  Check it out if you are interested by clicking HERE.

~ by Suzie on March 30, 2013.

5 Responses to “March 2013 Writing Contest Finalists”

  1. Congratulations to the winners!

  2. *finalists.
    It looks like some solid work was put in here.

  3. Reblogged this on Venderley Family Thoughts and commented:
    A while ago I decided to start writing again. Not in my blog (obviously), but elsewhere. One of the ways I selected to motivate me to get my pen to paper: writing contests. I had chanced upon this one a few months back, and this month, one of my submissions was selected as a finalist.

    No, Mom and Dad, it’s not the New Yorker. But it’s pretty darned cool all the same.

  4. […] Our runner-up for this contest is Paul Venderley with his story, “The Paths of Dubh Linn”.  Paul has a family oriented blog you can check out here.  You can also read his story entry at this link. […]

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