Etcetera - 5/1/13

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"The Hobo,” a story by local writer Martin McCaw set in the middle of the Great Depression on a Prescott farm, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and won the $154.87 (100 pounds sterling) first-place prize in the United Kingdom’s Global Short Story Competition.

Timing for this news is perfect, as May is National Short Story Month, McCaw said.

Fiona Cooper, a British novelist and short-story writer, served as a judge for the competition. On the site’s blog about “The Hobo,” Fiona wrote, “atmospheric and haunting, this story has a cinematic quality.

“The writer simply states what is happening, with a remarkable economy of language that only makes the story richer. It is a little like a movie shot in sepia — the subtleties are intriguing and the unanswered questions make it linger on long after the first read. Well done.”

Submissions came in from around the world. On the short list with Martin were stories from writers in France, Norway, Scotland, Cyprus and England.

“Tramps kept leaving rock piles at the end of our lane, a signal that the people who lived here would provide a meal,” Martin wrote in the story.

“Daddy always kicked the stones into the ditch, but a new pile would appear the next time a tramp asked Mama for food. He trudged up the lane, a small man with a face like beef jerky. Daddy came out of the garage, wiping his hands on a dirty rag.”

The two made a deal that in exchange for pulling rye in the field of yellowing wheat, the itinerant fellow would get a meal.

In the evening after a macaroni and cheese dinner, the family got more than they bargained for when the wizened old fellow played guitar and sang.

“We brought kitchen chairs to the porch and listened to the hobo as the sun set and the sky turned purple. In a voice itchy as tarweed he sang about droughts and dust-bowl refugees, about a mining camp where families lived in tents, where strike-busters set fire to the tents and shot whoever ran.”

He and the mother teamed when she accompanied him on the piano in their home; many a song was sung that night.

Then, to send him off the next day, the mother made a special Sunday breakfast of waffles on that weekday, giving the extra one to their visitor.

She also made bacon sandwiches for the lunch she packed him and he marched away, turning for a wave before disappearing down the road.

To read Martin’s charming reminiscence from a long-gone era posted in November 2012, go to bit.ly/ZVY0p1.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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