The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2011 Results

How to Write for an Audience

Copyright © Fiona Skepper 2011

Mr Norman Craggy

22 Liberty Lane,


Dear Mr Craggy,

I am very sorry your garden was damaged on the night of the 14th September.

It was not my, or anyone else’s intention to trample on your lawn, break your water feature, or damage your award winning lavender roses. I personally really like a beautiful garden. I often walk in the park. Not enough care was taken by us. The only excuse we can give is that we were in a hurry to leave a frightening situation next door.

Mark Tapley and I volunteer to come around on the weekend and help you with any home maintenance, including trying to fix your lawn.

If you accept our help, could you please let Mr Burke, the Principal of St. Augustine’s Ladies' College know, as well as the Melbourne Magistrate court’s CISP program?

Again, I just want to say we are sorry.

Melinda Rivers (aged 17).

P.S I truly don’t know who has stolen your Gandalf garden gnome, or who is using his name when sending you those postcards. I promise I don’t know anyone who has recently been in Paris or Moscow or Zimbabwe.


Principal Howard Burke

St.Augustine’s Ladies’ College

Rochelle Ave,


Dear Mr Burke,

You’ve asked me to write down what happened on the 14th September, at the home of Hannah Alberston, so you don’t have to listen to me explain.

To start, you might have heard rumours that have exaggerated the whole thing. I promise that as far as I know nobody was wearing any bit of the school uniform or seriously discussing setting fire to St. Augustine’s.

There was alcohol being drunk, but many of the class are 18 (I am almost). This close to the end of year we in fact spent a lot of the evening discussing exams and study plans. I never saw the Facebook open invitation that has been mentioned in the media.

Things got out of hand when gate-crashers came and spoiled the party for everyone. These people started a brawl in the front hall, I don’t know over what. The rumour that two St. Augustine Senior girls fought, or that some people lay bets on the outcome, is completely untrue. I also did not see any animals. It was a bad situation however, and I, along with Mark Tapley and others, attempted to leave out the front door but it was blocked by the fight so we went out the kitchen window.

In the confusion I was handed a porcelain object and told by someone to ‘take care of it.’ I thought it was some sort of statue that was valuable. To be honest I didn’t really think, but just put it in my backpack and tried to leave.

It was dark, as it wasn’t a suburb with a lot of street lighting, and the Alberston’s veranda light had been dimmed by a large blue-coloured prophylactic being put over it (I don’t know who did it). The two of us just followed everyone else. Then I tripped and fell in to the neighbour’s flowerbed. I got up, and was dusting myself off when suddenly, I was roughly grabbed and pulled to the ground, again crushing the rose bushes. My natural reaction was to attempt to defend myself as I thought I was being attacked. I looked up and heard someone yell, "Don’t move, this is the police." They took us (fairly roughly) to the police station. It wasn’t until it was placed in front of me in the police interview room, that I realised the statue I had been given to hold was in fact a bong!

As for my outfit, it did in fact belong to Hannah’s mother, but Hannah had kindly lent it to me to try on as a possible outfit for a Halloween party we were planning to go to. She promised me it would be all right with her parents if I tried, what she called, her mother’s ‘riding outfit.’ I had not planned to leave the house with it. I have already returned it (dry cleaned) and the accessories, including the batteries.

I have written a letter of apology to Mr Craggy for the damage I caused to his garden and especially his rose bush. Mark and I have offered to come and do work in his garden and around his house to help make amends.

Yours Sincerely

Melinda Rivers.


Dear Mum and Dad,

By the time you read this I will be camped out in Nana’s unit at Shady Oaks. She said I could stay there a week or a month maybe (she’s not the clearest on time frames, and she sometimes calls me Fluffy).

I wanted you to have a chance to calm down and consider my side of things before I get home and Dad takes my iPhone away from me again (it’s getting a bit old, Dad). Anyway, I know I said I’d be spending the weekend studying and the point I want to make is - I was. Going to Hannah’s was the first time I’d been out of the house the entire twelve hours since you’d left me. I didn’t even go to the milk bar.

I had just done a dummy maths exam and got 80%. I needed to eat and you hadn’t left that much in the fridge, Mum, so it was really lucky that Hannah suddenly called to say that they were having pizza at her house as part of a group study break. I went thinking I could exchange study tips as well as chat with my friends about the Middle East. When I got there, I found a few more people than I expected - and a band. It was sort of like a storm, it crept up on me, and I didn’t realise a full on party was occurring until I was already in the middle of it. I didn’t want to appear too rude; after all, you are always saying that young people don’t consider other people’s feelings enough. I decided to stay until midnight, and then quietly slip away by the time the vodka shots and flame throwing began. Then gate crashers turned up with those farm animals and ruined the night. I want to go on record here, that I didn’t see what the pig and the goat did and I never set my eyes on any donkey, so it’s a waste of time for the investigators from the RSPCA to keep leaving messages that they want to interview me.

I also have no idea how Cassie White or Lucy Lee received facial bruising and scratches, or why Lucy was given a trophy.

I think it’s wrong that the police showed you a photo of me in black leather and spurs holding a riding crop without asking me first, and I believe that we should take action for invasion of privacy, or something.

OK. Firstly the outfit isn’t mine. It happened like this; we started talking about what we were going to do when our exams were done and someone suggested we go on St. Margaret’s horse riding and trekking camp, which is happening after Christmas. Hannah kindly offered to let me try her mother’s riding outfit (remember you wouldn’t buy me one, or a horse). I got the clothes from the iron chest her parents keep in their strong room (which Hannah explained is for keeping valuables, which is why there are locks and chains). I think I got the wrong outfit, as the pants I put on wouldn’t be good for riding because they had a hole in the back.

Finally, I really can’t tell you exactly what happened to Mr Craggy’s (Hannah’s neighbour’s) garden, or how a sawn-off surfboard became jammed in the mouth of his fountain’s statue; or what happened to his garden gnomes; or who has started sending Mr Craggy postcards with pictures from one of them from different places in the world.

All I know was the lights suddenly went off, and I heard someone yell ‘run’ or maybe it was ‘raid’ and I was handed some sort of clay sculpture with a hose to take care of. I just went along with everyone, following the others out the back window and over the fence before landing on a rose bush in Mr Craggy’s yard. I ended up with some pretty severe scratches.

I was then assaulted by police in riot gear, although I didn’t release they were police until later. I thought I was being attacked by some sort of weird, parka-wearing, goggled gang and I naturally tried to defend myself by biting and punching, and as per Sergeant McCleod’s statement, kicking officers in the genitals.

I guess it was Mr Craggy or one of the other neighbours who called the police. I also guess he got the terms ‘crack house’ and ‘S & M cult’ from listening to talk back AM radio. Where the possibly terrorist link he mentioned came in I don’t know. There was nothing really like that going on.

I have already apologised to Mr Craggy, Principal Burke and members of the Moorabbin Tactical Response group. I now just want to say I’m sorry to both of you. I know you had to cut the whole twentieth wedding anniversary cruise thing; but it wasn’t me who called you. I’m sure you can do the cruise for your fiftieth. Please, let’s meet to discuss this, maybe at the Shady Oaks dining room (you guys like boiled chicken and mash, right?). Probably a Thursday would be best as Nana is normally more in touch on Thursdays. Then I’ll be able to promise in person to stick to my study plan for Year 12 set by you, and to my community based order conditions, set by the magistrate.

Your loving daughter, Melinda.



Dear Sas,

Hi, how’s Sydney? Is your stepmother still a bitch???? You missed a great party at Hannah’s, although now I’m totally in deep shit for going.

My parents are still like, "I can’t believe you did this, it’s only a few weeks before exams…blah blah…"

I mean whatever, I needed a break, OK?

They’re now complaining that they had to stop their cruise and come home. The QE2 will still be there the next big anniversary. As it was, I didn’t ask them to come home; in fact I tried to stop the cops calling them, but as I’m not 18 yet, they said they had to. It took them a while to locate them as luckily Dad is such a tight-arse that he doesn’t take his mobile with him overseas because of the cost of roaming.

Anyway, the lowdown - Hannah had been tweeting for weeks about how great her party was going to be. The invitation on Facebook was ‘If you like it funky and rough – come ’, yeah LOL - hysterical. Her freaky boyfriend and his band were performing seven new songs they’d written that morning. She added she’d meet some cool social group on a Twilight website that her Dad had in his favourites, and had invited them. They turned up, and they were all old and into all that weird S&M stuff, which was not really my thing but I went along with it because I was bored. Hannah’s parents are like heavily in to it; did you ever see they’ve got a whole dungeon thing they’ve created out of a walk-in closet? Hannah says her father built it himself from instructions from the internet and materials he got at Bunnings.

Anyway the party got a real kick when this bitch fight broke out between Cassie and Lucy over Brad. They were both totally pissed and kicked and scratched until Cassie drew blood and threw up. Brad is not even that hot! I personally had my money on Lucy and collected!

Things then got a little too weird. Some member of the Twilight cult turned up with a trailer full of animals for their ‘ceremony’. I wasn’t interested and went off to the veranda where they where passing around a bong Mark had got in Goa at the last Full Moon festival. It was in the shape of one of those native boys, with the mouth piece coming out of you can guess where. Julie thought it was hysterically funny, but she’s pretty immature and she’d already downed six Bundies and Coke. I was just sitting there with Mark and Julie when I heard shouting and the cops suddenly turned up. FYI the good looking ones are only on TV. They were all like, "Everyone calmly assemble outside in an orderly fashion." Yeah like sure, I’d love to go home in the back of the divvy van - not. Then some old guy, at least 30, in the cult group yelled,"Helter skelter, death to the pigs!!!"

What did that mean???? Anyway, then this guy and some of his weird women friends threw themselves at the police, screaming and kicking, totally freaking out. It seemed the perfect time to get the F out of there, so I followed Mark who said he knew a short cut, but we ended up going through the neighbour’s yard – the idiot. I had the bong in my bag (it seemed a shame to waste it), and I tripped and fell on a rose bush and got my pantihose and legs so scratched up I looked like a heroin addicted, leg woman. The old codger was ropable. Anyway he’d called the bloody police. I found out later he’d mentioned to the cops that there were some Middle Eastern looking characters carrying suspect packages, which got some armed response unit around (it was a few of the guys carrying eskies with beach towels around their heads because of the heat). Now we have to do community service in the old guy’s yard, after he bitched and moaned to the police and Burke. I wonder if they’ll make us wear orange jump-suits???

Julie got away and God knows how, but somehow got home. She said she woke up not remembering anything and with a demented wizard figurine from Middle Earth staring at her. She had nicked a garden gnome from the neighbour before crashing into his bird bath. Mark thought it was funny to give the garden wizard to a flight attendant friend of his called Quentin. They’re re-enacting something from some French movie, (I really starting to think the rumours about Mark are true), and sending postcards, pretending the gnome has gone on holiday or something.

Anyway see you when you get back. I’m at Nan’s at the moment as my parents are still doing the rant of the middle aged person, and Nana is more understanding, when she does actually understand what is happening around her.

See ya.

BFF - Mel.

I live in Melbourne. I work in criminal prosecutions. I study writing at TAFE, one subject at a time in the evenings. I would like more time to write, to write more, and to write better.