09 December, 2014

A Christmas Story - 1225 Challenge

The children's author and blogging friend of mine, Simon P Clark, has set us a writing challenge. Last year he challenged us all to write a story of 1031 words for Halloween and, I kid you not, somebody who penned a short story for that ended up getting a book deal with Penguin based on the strength of it! In short, it's worth taking part in Simon's challenges.

This year, our task is to write a story either in 1225 words, or with some sort of connection to the number 1225 (the date of Christmas written the American way round!) As my Halloween Zombie Cautionary Tale was such a success, I thought I'd give this a go. And as I'm chronically short of writing time and long on idiocy, I also thought I'd challenge myself to write my story in less than an hour. First person to spot the link to 1225, gets a signed copy of my novel for themselves or someone they know! So now I proudly present to you...

Wise Man Four


“Only you could lose a star.” Melchior glared at Graham. “I’ll take the first watch, you said. You guys leave it to me.

“Not my fault.” Graham scuffed at the sand with the toe of his sandal. “S’cloudy.”

Everyone looked up at the clear night sky. A plethora of stars – perhaps even two plethora – shone above them. Orion looked down smugly. Ursa Major edged towards the horizon.

“Two hours you were on watch,” Caspar said. “Seven bleeding months following a star, and you lose it in less time than it takes Balthazar to point his camel in the right direction.”

“Wandering stars is different.” Graham pouted. “You take your eye off them and they wander off. And it was cloudy earlier, so there.”

“Of course it was.” Caspar rolled his eyes. “Just like it was windy when it was your turn to get the fire going. And it was early-closing when it was your turn to choose a present for the Messiah.”

“There were queues for the bank,” Graham said. “Anyway, the Messiah needs socks as much as the rest of us, don’t he? Not my fault I were the last Wise Man to get picked. Wh...”

“Wise Man? Huh!” Melchior picked up the box of frankincense he’d had engraved with hearts and bunnies for the baby king. “You think you’re a Wise Man? You’re a joke. What about that time you swore you’d invented the next biggest thing in stellar navigation?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Graham saw Caspar and Balthazar exchange glances with a snigger. His face grew hot even in the freezing night air. It was hard being a genius. He’d been born before his time, he knew he had. 

“Fine. You know what?” He grabbed his knapsack and started untying his camel. “You guys go on and find this messiah bloke, and I’ll follow the stars – the ones that DON’T bloody move all the time – back home and work on my invention.” He tightened Keith’s saddle and hauled himself up. “And, for your information, there are plenty of people out there who think using celestial satellites to navigate shouldn’t be limited to the stars, sun and moon.” He dug his heels in and the camel rose to his feet. “Come on Keith. We’re not wanted here.”

“If you think anybody’s going to go for your idea of shooting some sort of new satellite into the sky and then asking it to tell us the right way to go, you’re stupider than I thought,” Balthazar called after him, as Graham turned Keith eastwards. “What next, Graham? Get it to read out step-by-step instructions? Make it tell people where to go using a celebrity voice, perhaps?”

“Voices like Herod?” Caspar joined in. “You going to get the King to tell people to turn left at the fifth sand dune or make a u-turn at the next oasis? Tell you what – when we find the Messiah we’ll ask him if he’s got a mo to record some directions for your new navigation system.”

Everyone laughed. Still blushing, but with head held high, Graham rode away from the other three. They’d soon see. While they were chasing after a star, he’d be creating his very own star to guide people. In six months nobody would even remember they existed; he – Graham the Magus – would be a world-famous inventor. Give it a couple of millennia and kids would be taught about him in school. There might even be an annual GrahamDay, where they dressed up as him and acted out his life story for their parents. Yes. He spurred Keith into a trot. He had history to be making.

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