All week we are publishing (with permission), a number of the shortlisted entries from the 2022 Outsideleft Short Story Competition (details here). We will announce the winner on Friday. This entry, Alice is by Callum MacDonald.
She was concrete, steady, unwavering and unmovable, even in times when life had failed him, she had stayed. Their first encounter had been when he was still small, and while it was a distant memory, painted over with new experiences, he still remembered her skin, sandy smooth, cool to the touch. A new art installation already old in people’s minds, lovingly made and yet already unnoticed as people walked by.
While his mother had talked with friends, he had clambered on her, uncaring for the don’t touch sign he was too young to understand. Pulling himself up on her stone lap, he stared into two still eyes and for a moment felt a connection -as much as there could be between a child and sand and stone. As he had intensely stared with the lack of care that only youth can gift, he was shocked to find her unwavering gaze look back, deep dark eyes, two holes for irises drilled through the concrete itself.
Scared he had fell off as he scrambled down, skimming his knee and screeching in pain, Whisked off with kisses and worry. Though still shaken his small head had looked back, somehow enchanted by her, indistinct yet resolute, already being besieged by weeds.
It wasn’t until he was ten he finally learned her name. Over the years he had stopped by from time to time, for she had been placed at the edge of a small well-trodden park with a path that led to his local top-shop. A place stocked with all the promise fifty pence could buy, a small fortune he’d grasped eagerly in his palm each time.
She was called Alice, though why was lost to time, as the sign that had introduced her had long been vandalised. But a kindly old gentleman who prided himself on his local knowledge had ‘regaled’ him of the fact one day in passing, as he had stood and looked once more upon her.
“Poured into a mould, all concrete you know,” the old man chuckled, “not a real stone statue, not that we’re worthy of that here, no, no, no. Concrete, ‘that’s good enough for the likes of them’ they’d probably said,” the man had rambled on. The gentleman had meant well, but for some reason the words had irked him, so he left with a brief glance goodbye at ‘Alice’, who in a strange way, he’d known long enough to almost be family, and you didn’t insult family.
He’d stopped back on the way and placed in a nook between hands nestled into her body a small bar of chocolate, perhaps as an apology, before he ran on his way. The small chocolate wasn’t much in truth, only five pence and shaped like an odd frog, but for a young boy, as treasured as any jewels or gold, for all sweets were equal… well most of them.
He often found himself stopping by her, even on his wedding day, shaken with jitters and excitement. He’d taken a brisk walk to clear his head before he took a brave step into a new life. His step now found a familiar path, leading him to Alice.
The years had not been too kind to her, the smooth skin was pitted from rain and time, though the same could be said for his face wrought by terrible teens, in a way they had aged together.
He sat beside her like he often had, whether in shorts and a dirty t-shirt, or made up in a suit - his grandfather’s, taken in so it fit. Hand resting on her frame he felt himself calm a little, in a changing world Alice was a constant, concrete. He sat quietly, for words were unneeded and then in a moment stood up, moving on, with a small glance back at her like the small boy once before, looking at a statue that that had once been so tall.
The parked changed but Alice remained, for while she had arrived uncared for, time is a funny thing, making even the unloved cherished. She now had many names though few remembered her as Alice. The old chuckling man was long gone, but it seemed the tradition was being taken up, by a stub nosed boy who had grown into a stub nosed man who introduced her to his son.
“Why is she called Alice,” He asked, causing the man to shrug, he didn’t know why, she simply was.
© 2022 Callum MacDonald (all rights reserved)
About Callum MacDonald
Callum MacDonald is an aspiring writer from the north of England, who spends his spare time oil painting, growing vegetables and scribbling out books, hoping one day he'll manage to finish one.
The Outsideleft 2022 Short Story Competition: Concrete
Lisa Blower and Jenny McCann
Harriet Bradshaw - Always April
Sean Taylor - Fatum Divina
Callum McDonald - Alice
Claire Griffiths - Man on a Bridge
Alice Gregg - The Little Village Wall (unpublished)
Sourav Roy - The Chalky Bit
And the Winner is...
The winning story revealed here
Special thanks to the Bear Bookshop in Bearwood for helping out
Main image on this page from from pixabay