Tag Archives: fiction

2039. A newsworthy photograph

What a conundrum for Haydn Rex Pratt. He had just published his fourteenth novel and the local newspaper needed a photograph. What photograph should be used? He had a substantial collection of self-portraits but it was a question of selecting one that verged on the academic.

For example should he supply a photograph of himself sitting engrossed at a desk with a pen poised between his thumb and forefinger and the other end of the pen just touching his lips? It was reflective and almost professorial. No, it would not do. What writer these days would be seen dead holding a pen? Hadn’t they heard of computers?

His snapshots sitting at a computer were humdrum. Many of them had the camera flash reflected on the screen. It was so amateurish. Besides, most of these photographs were several years old and the style of keyboard and mouse (not to mention the clothes he was wearing) had quickly become dated and unfashionable.

Then there were several to choose from that were taken outdoors. One of these in particular was his favourite (people said it didn’t look like him but he absolutely adored it). He was standing in front of a date palm. Everything in the picture was so natural. He was smiling. He knew exactly why he was smiling. His time in North Africa had been one of the most enjoyable vacations he had taken. That gladness was clearly reflected in the photo. But what did smiling in front of a date palm in North Africa have to do with his novel? And he couldn’t remember the name of the woman who was standing next to him.

There were several photographs that were unmentionable. He kept them hidden at the bottom of the pile. They were inappropriate of course, but he looked at them for some time as if they could serve some use to the local newspaper.

In the end, Haydn Rex Pratt selected a photograph of himself that didn’t seem to place him in any context or setting. It was a full-length photograph, but it made him look particularly handsome. Not that he wasn’t naturally handsome, but this photograph captured him perfectly. Perhaps it was the quality of light or the precise angle that encapsulated his fetching masculinity. Who knows? It was this photograph that he always thought should be used as a basis once the town decided to erect a statue of him; the resident famous novelist!

Haydn Rex Prat tucked the photo into his inside jacket pocket and set off for work. It was a busy life being the editor of the local newspaper.

2043. Nancy’s meringues

Nancy would dominate every situation; but, my word, did she despise anyone who criticized? Criticism may not have brought out the best in her, but it brought out her creativity. When the pub proprietor near the local golf club suggested she was too loud during the after match spree, she managed without detection to slash the proprietor’s car tires. Well, that’s what was suspected. It wasn’t the case at all; she had paid someone else to do it.

And now Audrey, the timid little chairwoman of the meeting, who also organized refreshments after the monthly meeting of the City Suburbs Women’s Institute, had dared suggest that the cupcakes Nancy had brought along were crumbly. How dare she!

“How dare you, you little twerp,” spouted Nancy in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the suburbs. “Meringues! Are these your meringues? They’re sticky and chewy. I‘ll show you how to make meringues.”

The next meeting Nancy brought along a large plate of meringues she had paid someone to make. Each was doubled over with whipped cream in the middle like a sandwich. The cream was Nancy’s contribution to the meringues. It had been designed to make everyone sick. (I don’t know what she used; I’m not a know-all). The whipped cream was infused with stuff that would make everyone get stomach cramps and vomit.

“This is how you make meringues,” declared Nancy, dumping her plate on the table prior to the monthly meeting of the City Suburbs Women’s Institute. “And they’re certainly not crumbly, nor sticky and chewy like yours.”

“The first item on the agenda,” said timid little Chairwoman Audrey, “is the removal of Nancy from the meeting.”

The motion was agreed to almost unanimously. (Is it possible to be almost unanimous?) “And don’t forget to take your plate of meringues,” said Audrey as Nancy passed the refreshments table. Nancy grabbed the edge of the tablecloth and took it with her. All plates of goodies clattered to the floor. Nancy swept into departure.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” said timid Audrey.

“I don’t know,” laughed Camilla the vice-chairwoman of the City Suburb’s Women’s Institute. “She’s a woman I admire so much for taking a stand.” Camilla laughed at what wasn’t even a joke. She giggled, and squealed, and shrieked, and twittered. And guffawed. “I admire her so much first and foremost for being a woman.”

“Perhaps, now that Nancy’s gone,” added Audrey, “we can start to get a few things done. But first, let’s get rid of Giggling Gertie. Hands up those in favour.” Camilla didn’t gather fragments of a broken plate of foodstuff as she passed the refreshments table, for she had brought nothing to the meeting.

2042. A secretary’s report

I never like it much when a committee I belong to elects me as its secretary for a meeting. It has happened quite a few times throughout my short life. It was an initial thrill to be chosen to represent Planet Earth at a meeting of COPP (Coalition of Populated Planets). There were forty-three other planets represented. These forty-three members had been meeting for years. This was the first time Earth had been invited to the discussion. It was exciting! but then they went and elected me as secretary. I presume they did so to shut me up. I guess I should be pleased, but a chore is a chore.

The subject of the meeting was “Whether to invite Planet Earth to become a permanent member of the Coalition of Populated Planets.” I should make it clear from the start that I had recused myself, even though I didn’t have the right to vote anyway. Oicurmt from Planet Cuzique suggested that my very act of recusal when it wasn’t even applicable was reason enough to bar Earth from joining. “We don’t want stupidity to enter into COPP. Nonsense! Complete balderdash! Utter rubbish! Silliness has reached new heights! It’s bonkers! Nincompoopery at the apex of ridiculousness!”

Pkjzqqht from Planet Bvdcjllp (these Bvdcjllpians always seem to have unpronounceable names) thought that leaders on Planet Earth were two-faced. “They haven’t yet proved that what they say and what they do is the same thing.” “Yes!” agreed Oicurmt from Planet Cuzique. “It’s stark raving stupidity! Madness! I’ve never heard of anything so loony in all my life!”

Yulululu of Planet Kangaflufu said that Planet Earth’s preference for war over negotiation was not something they would want to influence the deliberations of COPP. “They’re constantly at each other’s gardła (“gardła” is Kangaflufuvian for “throats”). “Yes!” agreed Oicurmt from Planet Cuzique. “It’s so very…”

This discussion went on and on. It is unnecessary to report on all forty-three negative comments from all forty-three member planets. Suffice to say that the result of the final vote was 43-1. You see, even though I had recused myself I voted anyway. I couldn’t believe the negativity of all these inferior planets.

The bit I didn’t like was having to return to Planet Earth and announce that our inclusion into COPP had been rejected. Instead (since I was the secretary) I told everyone that “it was a very easy call. The other planets love us and feel that they could learn so much by assimilating something of Earth’s over-powering magnanimity. The final vote was unanimous.”

As a footnote, it should be mentioned that the leaders of Earth were enraptured. We are certainly more powerful than other planets in terms of the military, and since our peaceful request has been accepted we shall now more easily influence the decisions of COPP by resorting to threats and violence.

2041. An incredible gift

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Craig, a great supporter of this blog.)

It was an incredible gift, to be sure, but there was the minor matter of how to safely store something so unquestionably dangerous!

For years Planet Earth had been Planet Tut-Tut’s most dangerous enemy. The Tut-Titians could have blown Earth to smithereens in seconds but they had always exercised restraint. Planet Earth had insulted them and ridiculed them and laughed at their incapacity to imagine things. A Tut-Titian could not imagine his or her own mother. They had no picture. Nature had evolved them totally bereft of imagination. That’s not imagination in the creative sense, but imagination as being able to picture physical things in the mind.

The Tut-Titians had grown tired of Earth’s scorn. To appease Earthlings they presented Earth with a gift. It was a weapon. Drop it on Tut-Tut and it would blow Tut-Tut to bits. “Now we are equal,” said the Tut-Titians.  “You have the power to destroy us as we for years have had the power to destroy you. You must learn to safely store something so dangerous with restraint. We look forward to working with you in peace and harmony.”

“Oh goody,” said Planet Earth’s President, and pressed the button.

2040. Erica’s flower salad

Erica was always one to surprise, so it was not unusual when her latest dinner party began with a salad made entirely of flower petals.

“It’s so pretty!” declared Erin.

“You’ve certainly exceeded all expectations this time,” said Eugene.

“When one dines at one of your dinners, “said Emile, “we can always expect to be surprised.”

Every guest, though daring, was a little tentative.

“Delicious!” expounded Evelyn stuffing a gladioli petal into her mouth. One suspected she made her declaration even before her taste buds had time to assimilate the mouth’s contents.

“Oh Erica! The mayonnaise!” glowed Emile. “Perfection!”

“Quite frankly,” said Savannah pushing her plate away, “I’m not a cow. I don’t eat everything I get put in front of me, and I couldn’t possibly stomach having to eat flowers. I have evolved a little further than being a muck-raking ruminant.”

Savannah was Emile’s partner. She was the only one at the table who (coincidentally) had a name that didn’t start with the letter E. It was only because of Erica’s largesse that Savannah was invited at all. No one liked her, not even Emile. Their relationship was one of convenience – whatever that meant. No one cared to ask.

“I don’t eat crap,” scorned Savanah. “I won’t touch this pile of disguised weeds.”

It was a pity because Erica had gone to considerable trouble to lace Savannah’s salad flowers with Poison Oak.

2038. Edna’s unsuccessful foray into murder

Edna wasn’t exactly made of money, but she could get by well enough in her old age. She still had her independence and lived in the same house she and her late husband had bought many years ago.

The only problem was that the garden, although not huge, had become too large for Edna to manage on her own. She figured that if she made a few adjustments on her grocery bill (for example, who really needs fabric softener in the washing machine every time?) she could afford to have a man come around once every couple of weeks and tidy things up in the garden.

Edna had been a keen garden and was especially proud of her raspberries. She had cared and fostered them for at least forty years. The harvest of raspberries each year was a phenomenon to be admired.

And then the very worst happened. The man pulled out her raspberries and threw them away. He was “tidying up”.

In her youth Edna had read a story by Guy de Maupassant (about a fisherman dozing on a riverbank being hit over the head with a spade and his brains seeping into the creek). She wasn’t a spring chicken (Edna) and had gone to school in the days when they were made to read proper books.

And then she saw her opportunity. The man she hired was kneeling down weeding the garden where the raspberries had been. There was a spade stuck in the soil next to him. Edna went out and spontaneously grabbed the spade.  She raised the gardening implement high.

An old lady (or man) doesn’t have much strength but the weight of a heavy spade should do the trick and slice off the top of his head.

Edna missed. She hit him fairly lightly on his arm. It caused more of a bruise than a scratch.

The man packed up his gear and said he wasn’t coming back. That was that. Enough was enough.

To some people murder comes natural; others need a lot of practice. One can’t blame Edna for missing; it was her first attempt. Maybe she’ll have better luck next time.

2037. We gotta git outta here

(Another challenging opening sentence, this time supplied by the Dumbest Blogger at the Dumbest blog ever. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

I married Prince Harry for prestige and money. I had no idea what other baggage would come along for the ride. Let me explain.

Getting the title Duchess of Sussex – and by appropriation Harry got given Duke of Sussex – was the first insult. Duchess of Success would have been much better, or even to have been the Duchess of Sexsucks. But Sussex, goodness me. I said to Harry the day after the wedding, “We gotta git outta here”. Harry agreed.

And then with all this money available to me and I’m not allowed to go shopping. Why bother having money at all? I said to Harry, two days after the wedding, “We gotta git outta here”. Harry agreed.

Harry too was sick to death of all the relatives and all the bowing and scraping that goes on. All these women who curtsy to me like they’ve got some bobbying-down disease. Then I was expected to curtsy first to the queen and she didn’t curtsy back. I said to Harry, three days after the wedding, “We gotta git outta here”. Harry agreed.

And food? Fish and chips instead of a Big Mac. I said to Harry, four days after the wedding, “We gotta git outta here”.

It’s now five days after the wedding and the queen won’t let me wear a tiara to a State dinner because only direct heirs to the throne or something get to wear them. How many of her tiaras can she wear at once? So I’m not going to the State Dinner for President Trump. Everyone seems to think it’s because I hate Trump. The hatred is true but I’m not going because I’m not allowed to wear a tiara. Kate’s allowed to wear a tiara. I said to Harry, “We gotta git outta here”. Harry agreed. He agrees with everything I say.

So here we are in LA living like scum in our multi-million dollar chalet. Harry hates it. He said to me, “We gotta git outta here”. What an incompetent, spineless wimp. I said as much to him. I said ‘You’re an incompetent, spineless wimp. I married for prestige and money and look at me now. I used to be a wonderful actress, and now I can’t even act like the Duchess of Sussex. You made the bed. You lie in it. I’ve got a date with Netflix’.”

Actually come to think of it, the Duchess of Netflix sounds like quite a nice title. And once I git Harry killed off, the Dowager of Netflix sounds even better.”

2036. A systemically insensitive Western

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Nitin from India whom I would like to thank for giving me this impossible starter. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

A trumpet, a crumpet and a horse walked into a bar.

“I don’t want to blow my own trumpet,” said the horse, “but I think my presence adds a touch of class to this bar.”

“That’s fascinating,” said the trumpet. “I hope they serve food. I could eat a horse.”

“It’s nice to get out of the cold,” said the crumpet. “It’s as warm as toast in here.”

This rather inane conversation continued. They ordered drinks and then several more.

Suddenly a systemically ethnocentric pink highwayman cowboy entered the bar flashing his pistol. “Hands up!” he shouted. “This is a holdup! Hands up!”

The trumpet, the crumpet, and the horse stared at one another in disbelief.

“Yet another systemically ethnocentric pink highwayman cowboy,” declared the horse. “Don’t you get sick of everyone thinking all drunks in a bar are the same? We’re not clocks. We don’t have hands.”

“Let’s gallop out of here,” said the trumpet. There were overtones of despicableness in his voice.

They began to trot out despite the dangerous pistol being pointed. The crumpet tarried. To be honest she was rather attracted to the systemically ethnocentric pink highwayman cowboy. In fact, it is possible the charms of the crumpet saved everyone in the bar from getting shot.

“Thank you, Crumpet!” everyone shouted (except for one German visitor who shouted out “Danke schön, Crumpet”, and a systemically ethnocentric aquamarine silicon valley CEO who shouted “Nothing beats a bit of crumpet”).

Outside, the trumpet commented that he thought the crumpet had hit the right note. He leapt onto the horse, and together they cantered off into the sunset.

2032. Raven Mad

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Uma of One Grain Amongst the Storm. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

Every time the one-legged raven returned to the village and filled the night with its grating caws, someone died the next afternoon and the skies wept till the funerals.

The entire village was more than aware of this phenomenon. It happened every several months. It wasn’t regular – like clockwork – but it was frequent enough not to be considered by many as a coincidence.

The local policeman had pointed out a few things during a village conflab called to discuss the matter. The victims (does one call them victims?) were all adults. Few had died of natural causes. Most had died as the result of an accident. And then the rain always began soon after. A few practical suggestions were made.

Madeline Clumski suggested that the one-legged raven was possessed. It was the work of the devil. The bird should be shot. In fact people had tried and it always disappeared only to return like Rasputin a month or so later. Madeline was well respected in the village. Perhaps she was right. If the village bank was a bit more generous she could afford to purchase a gun and shoot the raven herself.

Charlie Dalzell considered the coincidence of the deaths to be mathematically feasible. Such things happen. Charlie taught algebra at the local high school, so his understanding of coincidental possibilities was well regarded.

Mickey Dragnet suggested murder. Someone was releasing a one-legged crow, murdering someone for some reason, and running off with crow in hand. There was an outcry over this because it was really a silly suggestion. No one in the village had a pet raven, let alone a one-legged one. Mickey was regarded as a mean man who was a bit if a recluse. He was also the local bank manager. It was suggested that his natural bent for meanness went hand in hand with his profession. No one got away scot-free from owing the bank a penny in overdraft.

Sally Smith said that Mickey Dragnet clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. He had called the bird a crow, and it was obviously a raven. There was a difference, and if Mickey Dragnet was so sure of himself he would’ve known that.

So all in all, the meeting had not solved the mystery. And then it happened again; just two days after the meeting. The victim was the aforementioned Sally Smith. The raven made an appearance and the next afternoon Sally Smith was found hanging from a tree. This time there was no rain.

“Dam unreliable meteorological office forecasts,” muttered Mickey Dragnet, as he poked a piece of carrot into the cage of his one-legged crow.

2031. The open window

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Noelle of Sayling Away. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

The sky outside the open window was dark with the portent of a storm. Philomena went over to close it. Several times in the past she had left the window open and a squall had come and blown rain on the furniture. Not much mind you. There was no substantial damage, although she kept a doily on top of the sideboard to hide a small water stain.

The window was on the ground floor. The television news had recently announced the escape of a dangerous murderer from the local prison. “Do not approach”, they had announced. “Things like that never happen to me,” thought Philomena, “but I had better err on the side of caution.”

It would be easy for a lithe man to climb in through the window. She didn’t know if the murderer was fat, thin, or somewhere in the middle. Usually in prison the inmates are fit from spending too much time in the gym with nothing better to do. The television news had not shown a photograph, so she didn’t know if the murderer was handsome, ugly, or somewhere in between. Suddenly a great rumble came from the black cloud. There was going to be a downpour.

Philomena shivered. There seemed more to it than bad weather. She had goose bumps on her arms. She almost felt a presence. “How silly,” she thought. “It must be the combination of a black sky and the news of the murderer.” A blast of lightning forked. She began to count. Thunder came five seconds later so the storm was only five miles away. At least that was the method she had learned as a girl; count the seconds, count the miles.  Another lightning flash! She shut the window tight.

“Rain! Rain! Go away! Come again another day,” chanted Philomena. She turned back into the room. There was an ugly stranger standing behind her.