Ashleigh Rajala of New Westminster, British Columbia, is the author of Working Title, the winning submission in Quarter Castle Publishing’s first short story writing contest.
Here’s a sample from the short story.
We fade in as the sun sets. In Hollywood, they call this “Magic Hour”. It’s brief but timeless in that way so few things are. The first we will see of Nick is a thirty-five-year-old man: some wrinkles but ultimately boyish. The production company ensnared a former portrayer of superhero sidekicks and sex-obsessed teens. “Nick” is the actor’s chance for emotional redemption, career resurgence, even an awards show run, perhaps. So Nick is now tall, dark, bankable and far-more handsome than he should be.
But in this world of magic hours he is awkward and pitiable. We know this because his suit is wrinkled and mismatched. He is wearing it only because it would not fit in his backpack. That lumbering thing pokes out over his head; it contains everything he still wants in the world.
There is a close-up on his feet as they stand an inch from the welcome mat. His shoes were once nice, but they badly need a polish. Welcome mat or not, this house is not much. It is easily sixty years old, which is old enough for the city not to have any records.
Sofia, the woman Nick has come for, once found an old inspection card in the basement when they were renovating the laundry room. She kept it and admired the faded ink scrawl dating to 1963. She felt an odd, sincere connection to the building inspector who had a problem with the dividing wall for the laundry room. She tried to explain to her husband this weird connection she felt and how she wondered if the inspector was still alive. If he was, when had he retired? What was he doing now? Did he remember their house? Her husband shook his head; no, he did not understand. She smiled politely and left the room. Three weeks later, alone in the shower, she suddenly and randomly cried about this.
All the camera shows is the welcome mat though.
The door opens. It appears empty until we pan down and there is the dark, curly head of an adorable moppet. There is no place for ugly kids in movies.
Nick freezes. He now knows. Not only did Sofia marry, she reproduced. He should have expected this, he thinks, but he did not. He only thought of Sofia as the transient waif, the big-eyed pixie of his youth. The one exempt from the realities of the present. If he had thought to search, he would have found her on Facebook; he would not be as shocked and guileless as he is now.
All the camera shows though is his wide eyes and slack jaw. Nick steps off the top step; the pain, the unease, the pure idiocy of his actions spread plainly across his face.
And it fades to black. Because that is what happens when the filmmaker doesn’t know what else to do.
Ashleigh Rajala has lived previous incarnations as bookseller, filmmaker, zinester and wayward traveller. Her recent publication credits include WomenArts Quarterly, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Redwing and Room. She lives in New Westminster (with her husband and a very fluffy cat) and blogs (alone and often with whisky) at sandpaperblues.wordpress.com.
The complete version of Working Title appears in the Quarter Castle Chronicles – Volume One with twelve other short stories.
Stay tuned for an interview with Ashleigh Rajala on Wednesday November 4th.