Short Story Competition 2022 School Years 8 to 10 Runner-Up Martha Taylor ‘The Platform’
I remember the day he left like it was yesterday. We were only sixteen, but to the recruiting officer stationed in our little coastal town, that meant nothing. His mother was devastated when she got the letter, and she did everything in her power to try and get him out of it. But it was never enough. The army were low on men, the officer had said, and every able-bodied non-essential man was to become a soldier.
The day on the platform was probably one of the worst days of my life. Crying mothers and sweethearts spanned the station for as far as the eye could see, all trying their best to be strong for their families who so desperately needed something to cling onto. I understood then, why my mother had never cried when my father was sent off to the Boer in South Africa.
My stomach dropped as I stared curiously around the platform once again. The boys who were being sent off to die were mostly people I knew, people I was at school with. Beside me, Effie was crying into an old handkerchief, her shoulders shaking as she pulled her three youngest into her arms. Teddy wrapped an arm around his mother affectionately,
"It's going to be alright, mum." He smiled broadly and wiped away her tears. He hadn't yet stopped growing and was already over a head taller than his mother, making them quite the pair to look at. The two shared a warm hug, before Teddy leaned down and pulled his siblings into a bearhug. I'd always liked the Shelby's dynamic. Never forced, never awkward but so natural in its strange casualness. Teddy stood up, and his bright blue eyes met mine for the first lime that morning. He took my hand and pulled me away from his family, murmuring something to Effie that I didn't quite manage to catch.
Teddy led me towards the edge of the platform before stopping abruptly. "I need you to promise me something." Ted took both my hands in one of his and lifted them to his lips, kissing my palms. "Promise me you 'II take care of mum. She can't do it all by herself. She's strong, my Effie, but no ones that strong."
I nodded my head. I loved Ted's mother like my own and I would do anything to help her relieve the burden she was facing. Then he hugged me. We had never hugged before. I hid my head on his shoulder, trying to hide the fact that my eyes were beginning to fill with hot, wet tears. When he let go, I felt colder, emptier than before. We walked back to the platform just as the warning whistle sounded. It was time for the damned to board the train. Teddy said his final goodbyes to his family, wiping away Effie's tears and whispering in her ear.
Just a she clambered onto the lumbering machine, I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and in a moment of blind courage, I kissed him on the cheek. He flushed and hugged me again. "I'll see you around, yeah?" I smiled, tucking a strand of hair behind my car. "Yeah, l 'll be back by Christmas." He nodded, and fora moment, I believed him.
Runner-up: Martha Taylor with The Platform. Few scenes are more heart-rending than seeing young men, still callow and innocent, saying goodbye to family and friends, when leaving to fight in a war. The railway platform becomes the setting for tears, hugs, confessions of enduring love, and mothers aware their sons will be far away from their protective embrace and exposed to the indiscriminate bullets of the enemy.
Our story is a classic example of such a poignant parting scene. . Sixteen-year-old Ted has been called up and the fateful day of his departure has arrived. The tearful farewell is seen from the girlfriend’s point of view. She is obviously a mature person, fully aware of the deep feelings, unexpressed emotions which lie stifled within people’s breasts. Ted, though a mere sixteen, comes across as a solicitous son, worried about his mother and asking his girlfriend to look after her.
Martha has written an emotionally charged story where the gathering at the railway station becomes an emblem of humanity, vulnerability and suffering. The war in Ukraine is a reminder that scenes like these are not just part of history.