Countdown by Julia Anderson
10 minutes of pleasure was all it took for Jimmy to be trapped forever.
9 weeks was how long Jimmy and Margaret had been stepping out for but Jimmy wasn’t happy. ‘Margaret’s too clingy,’ he told a couple of his biker mates as they stood by the jukebox in the coffee bar. ‘She drops hints the size of brick outhouses that I shouldn’t wear my leather jacket and jeans so often. Heck, last week she said I should dress more like Adam Faith.’ His friends slapped him on the back, laughing, ‘Next, she’ll tell you to sell your motorbike.’ And to make sure that didn’t happen, Jimmy ended it with Margaret that evening. No one would make him part with his beloved BSA.
8 pounds in tokens, equivalent to a week’s wages, was the amount Jimmy won the following month on the fruit machine in the pub. As he walked over to the bar to change the tokens into crisp notes, an older man, who Jimmy didn’t know, marched up to him and grabbed the money from his hand. ‘Hey, that’s my jackpot winnings,’ Jimmy said. The man shook his head as he pocketed the money, ‘Looks more like pram and nappy money to me, lad.’
7 Victoria Avenue, a tidily kept semi, fronted by well-tended rose-beds, contained Jimmy and his parents standing nervously in the front room. A red-eyed Margaret had shown them in and told them, ‘My parents will be with you in a minute.’
6 times Jimmy's mam whispered, ‘Stand up straight, m'lad, and take your hands out of your pockets.’ Jimmy’s father coughed, ‘It were taking his hands out of his pockets in the first place that got our Jim into this predicament.’
5 cigarettes Jimmy chain-smoked while his and Margaret’s parents decided what was to be done.
4 weeks later, a scowling Jimmy married Margaret.
3 times over the next few months, Jimmy stormed out of his and Margaret’s small flat. He went round to his parents’ house pleading to be allowed to move back home. They refused. ‘Go home, lad. Sell your bike and buy a car, it’ll be more useful when the baby arrives.’ The newlyweds continued to row almost daily about Jimmy spending his spare time racing over the moors on his beloved motorbike with his mates.
2 o'clock one night Margaret started her labour. Jimmy wasn’t home from his Newcastle bike run. Margaret struggled up to the telephone box and called an ambulance.
1 hour after their daughter was born, Margaret placed the sleeping baby into Jimmy's reluctant arms. After ten minutes of staring incredulously into his daughter’s beautiful face and marvelling at her perfect tiny fingers, Jimmy was trapped forever. For the first time in months, Jimmy smiled at Margaret; he’d reached a decision.
0 would stop him from selling his motorbike and buying a car. He wanted to show the world to his daughter and to show off his daughter to the world.
Second Place: After the Wake
Third Place: The Prisoner