First prize: Helen McMahon
Second prize: Toni Minoza
Third prize: Tim Roberts
Liz Nugent, author of Unravelling Oliver
FIRST PRIZE: Only Water by Helen McMahon
Judge’s comments: This beautifully written piece illustrates how every day, we have the opportunity to make a more equal society, but we allow our prejudices to get in the way. The narrator gives the homeless character a nobility and grace which make his/her avoidance of him all the more poignant.
By Helen McMahon
You, crying, your mouth wide open, a silent howl. Like a child, in shock, the moment after a fall, before the hurt comes.
You sit in a shuttered doorway on the busy side street, the lower half of your body swaddled in a sleeping bag, filthy and ripped. Then the sound comes, the wail—a high, thin sound, unmanly. It catches me off-guard. I look at you. I hesitate. Then, though fearful, I cross the street to you. I kneel down in front of you. You do not see me. I say: are you okay? You do not answer. I reach across and put my palm on your cheek. I say: you poor man.
Slowly, you come from that place of grief, focus on my face. I take your hand. I say: come with me. I lead you down the street, taking you by the arm. You shuffle like an old man though you are young. In defiance of the manager’s hard looks, I sit you at a table in a coffee shop. I buy a pot of tea. You are surprisingly fussy about it. You insist, though your hands shake, on pouring your own milk. (more…)