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by tractor 

Posted: 11 July 2009
Word Count: 395
Summary: For Caroline's challenge

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Simon lay in the grass. Above him, the deadly ballet of a dogfight cut white trails into the blue August sky. The distant whine of the engines was masked by the violin-rasp of South Downs grasshoppers.

Usually he'd rather be back home in Bermondsey, but today it wasn't too bad being an evacuee. Turning on his side, he could see far below him a crowd of people. gathered around a podium draped with the Union flag. They parted as the Parish councillor arrived, furiously pedalling a bicycle.

Breathless and red-faced, the councillor took the microphone. 'Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending. No effort has been spared to make this a most enjoyable occasion. I declare the village fete open!'

As Simon descended, a skylark rose, trilling its 'look at me' song but its music was drowned by the misfiring of an aircraft engine. The boy looked up and recognised the silhouette from the chart Mr. Tate kept at the farmhouse: a Messerschmitt 109.

Trailing black smoke, the plane flew low, keeping just above the trees. Kurt Seitz battled to keep the machine airborne. As he pulled back on the steering column, pain gripped him. Beneath his left arm, a fragment of cannon shell from a Spitfire worked its way toward his heart.

As a small valley opened up, the pilot's spirits lifted at the sight of flags and troops below. It was the opportunity for one last blow for the Reich.

Little Katy wasn't interested in the Boy Scouts marching, or the elderly Home Guards' drills. Her eyes were fixed on older brother James as he threw hoops at a goldfish in a bowl. If he won, he'd promised her the prize. She'd always wanted a pet.

As the sound of the stuttering engine grew louder, faces around her turned fearful. Suddenly people were running. James gathered her up and started up the nearby hill. Below them they could hear the pop-pop of the Home Guard Lee Enfields.

Seitz saw the children climbing, one clutching a doll, and recognised his error. He pulled back on the controls, and opened the throttle. Screaming its last, the engine pulled the aircraft higher, before suddenly falling silent.

The Messerschmitt gently banked to the left, and exploded against a chalk outcrop, a ball of orange flame.

Led by the councillor, people began clapping, until applause filled the air.

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Comments by other Members

choille at 11:13 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Yes this is good.

I found the start a little plodding, but it really warms & speeds up.

Just a quick read - rushed, but will revisit later on when quieter.


LMJT at 11:42 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Hi Mark,

I really like the language you use here. It's very evocative, particularly the penultimate line.

I'm inclined to agree with Caroline that perhaps it's a little slow to get started, though I do really like the descriptions you use:

deadly ballet of a dogfight cut white trails

masked by the violin-rasp of South Downs grasshoppers

Thanks for the read.


Bunbry at 12:29 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
A great tale, loved the ending especially. A couple of quick points though.

I'm not sure, but my instinct says if there was a dog fight going on, the fete would be abandoned.

Secondly, the point of view changes a few times in this story, which I know is something purists frown upon. If you intend to sub this, it might be worth looking again at that.


tusker at 12:45 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
I enjoyed this, Mark. Great atmosphere.

I disagree with Nick's comment that the fete would've been cancelled if a dog fight was going on.

Dog fights were common. Life went on too. My mother,a WRAF radar operator stationed on the South Coast, said folk stood and watched those aerial battles.

If it were me, I'd leave out the 1st sentence in the 2nd paragraph.


choille at 15:40 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Hi again,

Just had a slower read through.
It's lovely, but feel you may have a rash of commas in bits, where possibly you don't need them - but wot do I know.

As Simon descended - threw me a little, but then realised he was up a hill?

Asked Mr Choille - who knows these things about technical stuff in this ie Do Spitfires fire cannon shells & did the home guard use lee enfields - yes he says it's all correct & in order.

T'is a great flash.
All the best

tractor at 16:52 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Thanks for reading everyone. I take on board what everyone says. I think I'm going to keep the different viewpoints, but I suppose it could make it hard to sub. I love the comma, so I probably do use it too much here. I will review. The first sentence in the second para is definitely excess to requirements so I'll excise it if I sub.



Jordan789 at 17:51 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Hey Mark,

Smooth read, and exciting. Only piece of advice? Take simon out of the story. He doesn't do anything except provide an outside POV, but then he disapears. Cut him and start with an aerial omniscient view, and then focus in on the girl and her brother.

All good,


tractor at 18:26 on 11 July 2009  Report this post
Thanks Jordan.


tusker at 06:50 on 12 July 2009  Report this post
Glad you admitted to a passion for commas.

I seem to put them in everytime I draw breath. Perhaps we could start a Comma Fan Club.


Findy at 08:30 on 12 July 2009  Report this post
Hi Mark

Nice story...agree with Jordan about Simon, was a bit confused about his role in the story.

Enjoyed very much.


tractor at 15:07 on 12 July 2009  Report this post
Glad you liked it Findy.



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