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Monthly Short Story Winner: Writing In A Subgenre You Don’t Like

We chose this topic to achieve two things: First, to acquaint entrants with something new, and second, to help entrants identify what they normally don’t like about their chosen subgenre. We hoped this would force them to write something different, rejuvenating the genre for them. And we are happy to say, the experiment was a success!

Rules:

1. Entries can be prose or poetry.
2. The story must be set in a genre you normally don’t read/like.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.

This month’s winning story was by D_Bates, with “Donkey’s Destiny”. D_Bates wrote a children’s tale with a positive message, happy ending, and a stronger narrator presence than he usually does and wasn’t comfortable writing it at all! 😉

Congrats on your win, D_Bates! Apparently you’re good at writing that kind of story. 🙂

You can find all our entries here.

And now on with the story!

– – –

A Donkey's Journey by Jessie Parker (detail)

“Donkey’s Destiny”
by D_Bates

Far, far away there exists a colourful meadow run by a community of animals. The fastest was Horse, and he would carry the other animals on his back should they need to get somewhere quicker than their own two (or four) legs would take them. There’s Sheep, gentle and kind, who looks after the other animals whenever they get sick. The jolly pudgy Pig, who, when not lounging, snorts at his own jokes. Bull is big and powerful, and he builds shelters to keep the animals dry whenever it’s wet. Hen, both pretty and proud, likes to preen the herd, ensuring that they always look their very best. And down by the river, perched atop a lone and ancient acorn tree, Crow keeps watch, ready to caw a warning should anyone get into danger. Oh, and let’s not forget about Mouse, super smart, always there, but rarely heard and oft forgotten.

And finally… there was Donkey.

Now, Donkey didn’t know what he was good at, and when the herd moved one way he tended to go the other, plodding along, lost in his own whacky world, dreaming and fantasising in his self-imposed quest to find his place in life. He wasn’t as fast as Horse, nor strong like Bull, and unable to fly like Crow. He also lacked Hen’s imagination, as well as Pig’s humour, and he certainly wasn’t as gentle as Sheep. In fact, Donkey was as klutz as klutz could be, and whenever he tried to help there’d be calamity, a trait that caused his peers much anxiety.

“There’s bugger all I can do with him,” Hen would say. “His pelt’s like spaghetti and his smile… by cockerels!”

“It’s enough to fry my bacon,” snorted Pig. “Get it? Bacon? Because I’m a pig!” His snout turned down when the other animals groaned. “I know, I know, I’m a right boar…”

“He’s enough to turn my plumage pale,” said Crow. “One of these day’s he’ll gets himself into a right murder.”

Alas, Crow’s dire prediction struck one hot summer’s day, and while he was distracted by the herd splashing on the river’s bank he failed to notice Donkey on one of his lonesome endeavours at the other edge of the meadow. There’d been a short sharp shower the previous day, leaving the ground soft and riddled with trenches, and Donkey just so happened to trot head on into one of those ditches only to find himself unable to climb the slippery slope back out.

“Oh dear,” he said upon realising this. “Whatever am I to do?” This conundrum he considered on for a long while, and finally, with an excited hee-haw! the solution came. He’d dig his way out! None of his friends were good diggers, so this surely had to be his talent!

Night was fast approaching before Donkey’s absence was noticed and a search for him began. Horse found him, having heard lamenting brays during a lap around the meadow’s border. But by that time, though the ditch’s sides were dry enough to climb, Donkey had trapped himself deep in a hole so tight and claustrophobic that all he could do was stand there.

Once the herd gathered they spent a fair old while discussing the dilemma. But while they’re talents could handle the unexpected hurdles daily life laid before them, Donkey’s predicament was an entirely different beast, self-inflicted and worsened by his own efforts to fix the problem himself.

“I pity the mule,” said Pig. “But there’s nothing any of us can do for him tonight.”

This they agreed and retreated to sleep on the problem, but though the sun set and rose again, a solution to their clumsy companion’s plight failed to present itself. Twice a day Sheep tossed Donkey straw and acorns to eat while they sought a means to save him, but the sad truth was, though too polite to admit it, most considered Donkey a burden, and as the days turned into months some began to question how worthwhile it was to use their precious food keeping him alive.

“We should just bury him and put him out of his misery,” Hen finally said, a suggestion that horrified Sheep, though her protests fell on deaf ears.

Thus Donkey’s fate was decided, and in that week a combined effort was made to fill up the hole. During that time, Sheep was forbidden to feed Donkey, but she held back some of her own share of straw and acorns to sneak to him during the night while the others slept. She’d even stay to keep him company with songs, feeling great sorrow to see him so sad… even though Donkey always looked sad; such was just his natural face.

The dirt weighed heavy on Donkey’s back, the manure tossed over him stunk, and the occasional stone left a residual sting, but he never let it get him down, never gave up hope, and after every showering he’d shake the filth off and mash it into the ground with his hoofs, and as the earth and grime mounted up, so did it raise the floor of his pit, until eventually he was able to just step back out of the hole. This, of course, the herd claimed to be their plan all along, which made Sheep frown, though she was happy Donkey was okay.

The sordid ordeal was soon forgotten and the herd settled back into their usual routine… until Spring, that was, when the rains returned in a sudden and violent storm, and as a lightning bolt severed a great branch off the acorn tree, everybody retreated through the lashing winds and beating hail to one of Bull’s shelters. There they all lay, sodden and miserable, when it dawned on Horse that one was missing.

“Where’s Sheep?” he neighed.

“She was drinking at the river last I saw,” said Crow.

A cold dread ran through the herd, for the river’s banks had burst, and sure enough, on peering out from the shelter, guided by howling bleats, they saw Sheep, trapped on a clump of leaves at the end of the fallen branch that reached deep into the churning waters.

What could be done? Though capable of handling the unexpected hurdles daily life placed before them, this was a catastrophic event of mountainous proportion, one that none of their talents could deal with, and that realisation made them mournful for Sheep’s cruel end, a true friend who’d done much for them over the years, soon to be lost forever. One among them, however, refused to give up so easily.

And it was with a startling buckaw! that Hen exclaimed, “Where’s Donkey going?!”

“Crazy ass mule!” Pig cried as they watched Donkey plodding through the torrential rains towards the fallen branch Sheep was caught on. “He’ll drown if he tries to swim in that.”

Drowning would surely be the case to swim in those sloshing rapids, but Donkey had no intentions of swimming, and upon reaching the branch he found a smaller stalk growing out of it to harness so that he might pull the entire log up out of the water. The branch was extraordinarily heavy, far heavier than Donkey was capable of moving, but he kept trying nonetheless, grunting, growling, gasping as he strained against the dense wood, refusing to give up on Sheep no less than she’d refused to give up on him. All of a sudden the branch creaked, just for a second, and as it did Donkey glanced Horse now on the other side, adding his might to the push.

And Horse wasn’t the only one inspired to join Donkey, and very soon the other animals were filing in to assist. Crow dug his claws into the trunk and flapped furiously, and even Hen willingly got her feathers muddy to tug on a twig. The branch gave an almighty lurch when Bull added his brawn, yet still it defied them, even after Pig finally waddled in to add his weight.

The situation looked bleak, but Donkey still refused to give up, and head down he pushed… and pushed… and pushed, and with a resounding squelch the great branch moved a trot. Success! And as Donkey lowered his head for the next step, he saw Mouse, hanging from a leaf, little feet flailing, claws scraping at the shallow muck. And in one laborious step after another the herd pushed the branch out of the water, bringing Sheep along with it, and once she was safe Horse carried her back to the shelter where they all nestled down together until the storm was over.

With the storm passed, the herd held a huge party in celebration of Sheep’s survival. And though from time to time they still jest on that hole Donkey once dug himself into, so too do they rejoice the time when his bravery and perseverance inspired them to save their beloved friend.

– – –

Congratulations again to D_Bates! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.

Happy Writing!

Title image by Jessie Parker.

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