The judges' feedback was, as usual for me, strange. I was expecting top points in Spelling and Grammar (as you would) but I forgot to use "Spell Check" on my new fangled computer (I didn't know where it was in Hungarian) and 2 really silly spelling mistakes were left in my 500 word story "Uncle Terence" (see below). That lost me many points. Plus the fact 2 of the 3 judges didn't "get" the story - which is a shame. That was quite possibly my last outing in the Iron Writer, though I stay on as a judge...methinks.
So, WITHOUT the spelling mistakes, here is my non-winning story...
(Elements: Venice, Astigmatism, Magma, a Solid Plutonium Halberd)
A cool breeze sweeping down the canal stirred Uncle Terence into action, awakening him with a snort. The gondolier continued on as before, propelling us skillfully through the water with each stroke.
"I say, it's a little chilly this morning." He wrapped his infamous Alpaca scarf tighter around his neck, allowing no room for any mischievous nip.
"Aren't we meant to be at Saint Mark's by eight?" I asked, knowing full well Uncle Terence had no intention of keeping the appointment. He hated anything to do with religion or the church, it reminded him of his own mortality and wicked, selfish life. Myself and the rest of our entourage blamed it on those Franciscan friars from his youth. Uncle Terence pretended to ignore my inquiry and gazed at the buildings we floated by with indifference. I went back to my Marlena de Blasi paperback.
"Ah, Venice. Such an auspicious city, full of wonder, full of history. My family's connection with this glorious place dates back to ancient times. There were Viscounts, Barons and Baronesses in my ancestry, even a hero or two."
"Oh yes, heroes. One I know well, Gerhardt Le Lorraine the third, twenty-second 'nobiluomo' to the Emperor himself." Uncle Terence brushed the gondolier's insolent cough off his Radford jacket.
"When was this, uncle?" Stories of his ancient noble ancestry were synonymous with the greatest of fragrant untruths.
"Oh, long ago, when men were men and women..."
"...were women, uncle?" I giggled at his clichéd manner.
"Quite. Gerhardt Le Lorraine. He slayed the monstrous Beast of Grotta del Cavallone! With his halberd made from solid plutonium forged by the magma of Mount Vesuvius, he boldly stepped into the cave where no man had ever returned alive before!"
"Uncle, how can you forge a solid plutonium halberd with magma?"
"He didn't, of course. It was Hephaestus, God of fire."
"Hephaestus was a Greek god, Uncle. Don't you mean Vulcan?"
"What's in a name? Anyway, it was said that many times Gerhardt thrust that great weapon at the beast. You see, he had blurred vision and was known as "Squinting Jack" by closer acquaintances. An inside joke, perhaps, as some of his earlier responsibilities were akin to those of a valet."
I couldn't keep up with all these connections and tangents. Sometimes Uncle Terence's mind would fly off on such an imaginative journey no one could grasp where he’d been or where he was going.
"He had astigmatism. Runs in the family, as far back as anyone can perceive. We are all blind."
"Well, 'among the blind, the squinter rules'," I replied.
"Quite." We passed under a bridge, making our gondolier duck. Uncle Terence shivered slightly as the bridge’s shadow brushed across his being.
"Wouldn't he die of radiation poisoning, uncle?"
"Plutonium, uncle. You said his halberd was made from solid plutonium."
"Did I? You are quite attentive, my dear," he smiled and settled down once more, taking only but a moment to return to his dreams.