Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Ridiculous Story Competition ~ Third Place Winner

Third prize goes to this amusing tale from Sarah Williams:

(It may just have a familiar feel!)

“Ridiculous” Short Story Competition
She did not need a looking glass to know she must look a fright.  But really, she didn’t believe anyone could look their best after taking a tumble down a rabbit hole. 
She crawled to the brink, clawed her way over the edge, clambered to her feet and brushed herself down. 
Actually, now she thought about it, most of the damage had been done not by the fall down the hole in the ground, but by climbing back up.  She felt fairly certain, for example, that her hair had not been quite so disarranged until a root had caught in it as she ascended back to ground level. 
It really was such a jolly silly place to leave a large, unprotected rabbit hole.  There were no warning signs, no railings, it was simply an open-mouthed invitation to an accident.
Still, she’d been lucky, there was no real harm done, just a few scrapes and bruises.  Admittedly, her dress was rather stained and muddy, but it was such a beautiful day that she found herself unable to worry too much about that when the bees were droning lazily in the sunshine.
Listening harder, she realised the noise really came from her sister, who continued to read aloud from the deathly dull book she’d chosen to amuse them that afternoon.
Amy shrugged, straightened her apron and moved away from the sound of her sister’s voice.  She was sure Dinah would have done the same; unlike Amy’s older sibling, Dinah had very high standards of entertainment and was most selective in the company she chose to keep. 
It suddenly seemed terribly important to Amy that she find Dinah.  She looked around and tried to decide which direction a cat who liked hunting was most likely to have chosen. 
The main choices seemed to be either towards the lake, or into the woods.  As Dinah wasn’t a cat who generally liked having damp paws, Amy opted to head wood-wards. 
At first Amy was very pleased with her choice.  In fact she congratulated herself (and Dinah) on the decision.  It really was a rather hot day out in the sunshine, it had made her head ache somewhat, so the cool shade of the trees was most welcome.
Gradually, however, she realised there was a different kind of heat as she went deeper into the trees.  Although the sun was no longer beating down on her bare head, there was a damp mugginess which at times felt almost stifling and which made her head throb.
Also, she was still feeling rather wary about where she put her feet, she really didn’t want to fall into another rabbit hole, it had been enough of a struggle escaping the first.  But the undergrowth made it difficult to see where to tread safely.  And the low branches meant she had to be equally cautious about what she might walk into if she watched her feet too carefully.
All in all, after a while, Amy began to regret her decision to enter the woods.  She now felt sure Dinah had decided to cool her paws in the shallow water at the edge of the lake after all.
Turning quickly so as to try and re-trace her steps, Amy felt something brush against her cheek.  Her hand automatically sprang into action to wipe the thing away.
“Oi!” shouted a voice, “Mind what you’re doing, you could injure a body doing that!”
Amy lowered her hand as her eyes sought the owner of the voice.  Seeing him, she blinked.
“I – I think I might have met your cousin recently,” she said.  “Would he happen to live in a rabbit hole, perhaps?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, caterpillars don’t live in rabbit holes,” exclaimed the bright green caterpillar.
“Well,” mused Amy, “it really was a very big rabbit hole if that helps?”
“It doesn’t.  We’re creatures of the air, not the underground,” was the tetchy retort.
Amy considered.
“Actually, I’d never realised you were creatures of the air,” she began tentatively, “but I can see you are now.”
Indeed, her new friend was spinning from a thread which hung down from a tree branch. 
“Well some of us are, some of us aren’t” the green caterpillar pirouetted on his silk.  “But none of us lives in holes, however big they may be.”
Amy looked around her.  She was no longer sure from which direction she’d come and so didn’t know where her path out lay.  Really, she was now doubtful that her straight line route had been quite as straight a line as she’d hoped. 
She cleared her throat gently.
“As you have such a good view, being a creature of the air after all, I wonder if you might be able to tell me which way is out?”
The caterpillar rolled his eyes unsympathetically.  “All directions lead out.  It just depends where you want to be.”  
“Do they?” she wondered.  “How curious.  Well I’d really like to be out where I came in, if that’s possible.”
“Of course it’s possible.  Just tell me where you came in and I’ll point you the right way.” 
Amy pondered.  She didn’t really know where she’d entered the woods, it was just where she’d happened to be at the time.  Surely if she knew where it was, she could find it herself?
“Thank you for your help,” she said politely, “I think it might be best for me to just go backwards until I reach the point where I started from.”
“Yes, it might”, the caterpillar agreed and disappeared up his thread into the foliage.
Alone again, Amy looked around.  She turned one way, then another.  All directions seemed equally familiar and likely. 
Then the idea occurred to her.  Of course she wouldn’t recognise where she’d come from, it was all backwards now; she was coming from the other side! 
She laughed as she realised what she had to do.  If she was to recognise her route into the forest, she’d have to see it from the same direction.  It was obvious, she simply had to walk backwards to re-trace her footsteps!
Turning her face towards the deeper woodland, Amy tentatively put her best foot back.  Yes, she was sure she’d noticed that particular arrangement of branch and leaves on her forward journey.
Encouraged she continued, slowly and carefully, on her way.
Suddenly, just when Amy was beginning to wonder if she was actually going anywhere at all and whether all leaves and branches really did look rather similar, she felt something move against her ankle.  She shuddered, then froze, hoping that whatever it was would go away without eating her. 
Whatever-it-was wove between her legs and then, giving a little rumbling noise, rubbed against her ankle again. 
“Hello, Amy, why don’t you stroke me,” purred whatever-it-was.  “And what are you doing here anyway?  Little girls don’t belong in forests.”
“Dinah!” cried a delighted Amy.  “You’re here, I knew you would be!  Do you know which way is out?”
“Well, it all depends on which “out” you want.  After all, if you continue long enough, all directions lead out.”
“Even backwards?” Amy asked while silently wondering if Dinah might also have befriended a green caterpillar.
Ten minutes later, Amy and Dinah were dandling their feet in the cool, shallow water at the edge of the lake, when a familiar voice called “Amy, Amy, where are you!”
“Alice!” cried Amy in delight.  “I’m here, by the lake, with Dinah!”
Alice ran through the meadow and, flinging her book to the ground, threw her arms around her little sister.  “Where have you been, I’ve been so worried?”
“Well, I fell down a hugely big rabbit hole and …”
“Oh really, Amy, don’t be so ridiculous” scoffed Alice.  “There could never be a rabbit hole big enough for a person, even a small one like you, to fall down.  You’ve just been asleep somewhere haven’t you!  And, oh my goodness, you do look a fright!”

Well done, Sarah! Keep writing, everybody. Heather.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


The results are in...

Sue Johnson and I have waded through all the entries, decided on a shortlist and re-read those... It was difficult to choose between the top ones and we had to get picky, but in the end, after copious cups of tea and several packets of biscuits, we came to a decision.

1st.   A Night To Remember, by Keith Gillison

Many congratulations, Keith!

2nd.  The Meeting, by Margaret Evans

3rd.   Untitled, by Sarah Williams

Two runners-up prizes of Sue Johnson's Creative Alchemy go to Calvin Hedley and Brianne Hall.

Congratulations to all the prize winners and well done to all who entered. Give yourselves a pat on the back for trying! We hope to run another competition later in the summer, so watch this space!

Keep on reading, as below is the winning entry, A Night To Remember.

Keep Writing!


A night to remember

She did not need a looking glass to know she must look a fright. Nevertheless Judy couldn’t resist having another peek at the abomination on top of her head. It was her sister’s fault. Always going on about Karen and how well she was doing at Hairdressing College.
What had she been thinking? Here she was just a few hours away from a first date with Mike and she looked like she’d just cut her own hair blindfolded with a pair of rusty shears. She only agreed to it to save money. The bills were piling up, the car was in dire need of a service and Charlie was eating her out of house and home. The sooner he finished his A-Levels and got a job the better.
What could she do about tonight? Cancelling wasn’t an option. It had taken months of bugging her friend Carol to fix her up with Mike. A large hat perhaps? An excellent idea if she actually owned any hats. Judy frowned in thought. An idea presented itself. She picked up the phone and dialled Mike’s number.
Judy checked her make-up in the rear-view mirror and adjusted her hair. It was obviously a wig but it still looked better than what was underneath. A mop head would have been an improvement on her real hair. Mike hadn’t been thrilled at her proposed change of plans for the evening. He was a quiet dinner kind of guy. Attending a party full of strangers wearing fancy dress for a first date was the exact opposite of the kind of guy he was. Reluctantly he agreed to meet Judy at the party, on the proviso he could wear his uniform.
The car chugged into life as Judy turned the key in the ignition.
Just get me there you rust bucket.’
The party was on the other side of town. Judy’s plan was to leave the car there and get the train back the next day to pick it up. At least that was plan B. Plan A involved Mike being so overcome with lust they ended up back at his place. Her outfit was chosen with the express aim of seeing plan A reach a successful conclusion.
It was about two miles into the journey when things started to go wrong. As the car was passing the notorious Treadwell Estate Judy noticed the lights on the dashboard started to dim. A few seconds later the engine joined in on the act and the car crawled to a standstill at the side of the road. Just for the sake of pointlessly going through the motions she turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. It was deader than progressive rock.
Judy picked up her mobile phone and dialled a taxi firm. At least that’s what she would have done if her phone was actually receiving a signal. With as much fury as she could muster she slammed the car door shut and stormed off down the road, angrily holding her phone in the air. She stopped to consider her options. A pay phone, that’s what she needed. They used to be quite popular years ago. A quick glance around revealed a possible location for such an old-fangled device.
On the opposite side of the road was a pub. Judy crossed the road and glanced up at the pub sign before entering. The Whippet’s Ankle. An estate pub. She took a deep breath, pushed the pub door open and marched towards the bar. She was halfway there before her brain finished interpreting the information her eyes were attempting to relay to it with a strong sense of urgency.
Excuse me love,’ said the landlord, ‘we’re not open to the public tonight. Private party.’
Wahey,’ shouted a man dressed as Superman. ‘The stripper’s here.’
Judy quickly scanned the interior of the pub. It contained a pool table, a jukebox, a number of tables and chairs and about thirty men dressed as superheroes drinking lager. Then she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. In her rage against the ineptitude of her technological possessions to perform their basic functions, Judy had completely forgotten that she was dressed as Wonder Woman.
Deciding this wasn’t an ideal place to spend any time at all; Judy turned and walked towards the exit. It was blocked by a combination of The Incredible Hulk and Captain Marvel.
Now then lads, play nice. Anyone touches the lady and you’ll have me to deal with,’ shouted the landlord.
As if to strengthen his point the landlord reached behind the bar and retrieved a baseball bat decorated with numerous bloody nails. The occupants of the Whippet’s Ankle realised that despite being dressed as superheroes they were in fact not in possession of any powers that could outwit a baseball bat.
Sorry about them,’ said Spiderman, as he stepped forward with his hand outstretched to greet Judy. ‘We’re having a stag do for Brian over there,’ he said pointing at Batman. ‘I'm Daniel, the best man. What’s your name love?’
What’s with the outfit?’
Judy explained about her date with Mike, the bad haircut, the car breaking down and her mobile refusing to work.
Yeah, it’s a nightmare round here if you’re not on the right network. There’s a phone out back you can use to call a cab.’
Judy sighed with relief.
Thanks,’ she said to Daniel. ‘I was worried there for a minute.’
Daniel removed his mask and smiled warmly.
We’re a harmless bunch really. I’m actually a solicitor. I’m staying sober tonight to keep this lot in order. Would you like to join us for a drink before your taxi arrives?’
Judy smiled back at Daniel.
Well, maybe just a quick one,’ she said, looking at her watch.
What’s your poison?’
Quadruple gin,’ replied Judy. ‘Just to take the edge off.’

An hour and three quadruple gins later, Judy decided that perhaps it was now time to call a cab. She’d thrashed Thor and Captain America at pool, beaten The Incredible Hulk in an arm wrestle and had started a conga that was still in full flow.
One quick piggy back race and I’ll be on my way. You,’ she slurred loudly at Flash Gordon, ‘get Batman and Robin and meet me in the beer garden.’
The superheroes lined the perimeter of the beer garden, raucously cheering encouragement and obscenities at the competitors.
On your marks. Get set. Go,’ shouted Wolverine.
Batman and Robin stormed into the lead and were almost across the winning line when a combination of the fresh air and a full days drinking caught up with Batman’s central nervous system. He staggered backwards, lurched into Judy astride Flash Gordon’s shoulders and the four of them came crashing to earth. Judy landed on her head. She was out cold.
Is she dead?’ asked Thor. ‘Can I give her the kiss of life?’
Groggily, Judy opened her eyes, sat up and looked around.
Where am I?’

It was two hours of checks and scans in A&E before Judy was given the all-clear. As a head injury victim she was given the highest priority. Daniel drove her to the hospital and waited patiently for the news.
Plenty of rest and her memory should return soon. Bring her back in a few days if there’s no improvement,’ was the consultant’s verdict.
Daniel had just escorted Judy out of the ward when her phone rang. The name Charlie appeared on the screen.
Mum, it’s me. I’m in trouble. I went to this student party and, well, I’ve been arrested for impersonating a police officer.’

Sergeant Peterson walked purposefully towards the interview room. Another Saturday night, another hilarious student jape. He was supposed to be enjoying a quiet dinner in a nice restaurant with an attractive lady. Instead, his date had cancelled his dinner, invited him to a fancy dress party and then stood him up. He was actually relieved to get the call to come to the station at once. A group of drunks dressed as superheroes had started a riot in town. On his way to the station he had no choice but to arrest an inebriated student in police uniform who thought it was a good idea to stand in the middle of a busy junction and direct traffic whilst performing the dance moves to the song YMCA.
             Peterson entered the interview room and sat down. After a few seconds he pinched himself a couple of times to check he wasn’t hallucinating. This confirmed that he really was sat across a desk from Spiderman, a bedraggled looking Wonder Woman, and a swaying teenager dressed as a policeman.
I’m the boy’s lawyer,’ said Spiderman, ‘and this is his mother.’
Peterson leaned forward and stared in concentration at Wonder Woman.
What the blazes?’ he bellowed, suddenly recognising her.
Judy stared back at Mike, a confused look on her face.
Have we met before?’ she asked. ‘You look awfully familiar.’

Saturday, 7 June 2014

'Ridiculous' Story Competition

Thank you...

...for the huge amount of interest in the short story competition commemorating the release of A Sense of the Ridiculous and to those who sent in the amazing entries.

...and for waiting patiently!

Sue Johnson and I are currently reading and considering all the submissions and we will announce the results as soon as we can.

In the meantime...

Here is a short story of 1000 words I have written starting with the same sentence. I hope it demonstrates the sort of things a judge is looking for - imagery, humour and sensory detail. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Stable Mates

She did not need a looking glass to know she must look a fright. Joanne sighed and pulled off her kingfisher-blue poke bonnet before flopping down on the arbour's marble seat. The milky stone struck cold through her white muslin gown although the day was warm. She had signed on as an extra for the newest version of Pride and Prejudice, being filmed at nearby Heathway Hall, hoping for a glimpse of the stars Colin Fernyhough and Jennifer Healey. So far she had spent hours baking in the July sun while the director and camera crew had lined up shots of the park and house; gained blisters from tramping across a field in the wake of Ms Healey's understudy and been further desiccated by a repetitive ride in an open carriage up the sweeping drive. She was pooped, her hair must look as though blackbirds had nested in it and not a sniff of an autograph.

She sighed again and plucked dispiritedly at the deep turquoise ribbon at her waist. Her great plan had gone to pot. She had hoped to net one or two signatures to raffle at the Riding Club auction for the equine charity StableMates. Swiping the back of her hand across her damp forehead, she inhaled deeply, catching the summertime scents of mown grass and honeysuckle. Behind her an insect buzzed a desultory refrain and in the distance she heard the staccato crackle of a loud-hailer.

Back to it, she thought. It hadn't been much of a lunch break and they had started at 8am. She leaned forward, preparing to stand, when there was a squeal, accompanied by crashing and shouting. Rapid hoof beats drummed the hard ground. Seconds later, a handsome bay colt emerged between two enormous rhododendrons, a well-chewed rope dangling from his leather head collar. His momentum checked as he spotted Joanne; snorting, he swung to face her.

Her movements deliberate and speaking softly, she rose. "Hello, boy. What have you been up to? Sorry, I haven't got any mints. No pockets, look!"

The horse blew through his nose as though he understood. Joanne tentatively reached out her hand. The colt backed away a step but didn't appear frightened. She edged nearer; he retreated again. Whistles and calls floated over the yew hedge bordering the shrubbery.

"Where the hell has he got to?"

"Wickham? Is that your name?" Joanne questioned the visitor.

His attention was on the voices; his skin quivered where a fly landed. A sheen of sweat highlighted his fine coat. Taking her chance, Jo stretched for the dangling rope. As her fingers closed around the sodden twist of multi-coloured fibres, a designer-stubbled man in jeans and a teenage girl with a long blonde pony-tail pushed through the gap made by the colt. Taking flight, the animal sidestepped Joanne and shot down the path leading to the lake. She was hardly dressed for restraining half a ton of horseflesh, but despite her skimpy Regency slippers skidding on the gravel, instinct made Jo dig in her heels and hang on to its head. Dragged through another yew hedge, her hair now billowing in walnut-coloured hanks about her face, she managed to capture the horse's nose and squeeze the upper lip.

The colt tried to evade her grip, but as the released endorphins worked their magic, heaved a sigh and came to a halt some yards from the landscaped mirror of water.

"Good boy," she murmured, gasping for breath but keeping a firm grip on rope and nose.

"Miss Eliza Bennet, I presume." The young man with the stubble, also panting, had slowed to a walk and approached with the easy gait of the horseman. He winked and grinned disarmingly. "You crafty bugger, Wickham," he crooned, holding out some feed. "I'll find a knot you can't undo if it kills me!" The horse whiffled and took the offering as gently as a bird. "Darcy Williams," he said in the same coaxing tone. "Call me Fitz. I owe you one. This guy's one talented performer, but he's too clever for his own good. He could've caused mayhem and got me sued into the bargain!" In seeming afterthought, he added, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine... Thank you. Are the horses in the film yours?"

"No." He stroked the colt's neck and fondled its ears. "Only this one. I'm hoping EquinePerformers will buy him. You an actress?"

"No." She smiled as she mimicked his short reply. "An extra."
"You know horses, though?"

"I have two. Nowhere near his quality, but I love them."

"Fancy a career in films?"

"Not likely!" She grimaced. "I only did this to get autographs for a charity auction."

"The big-wigs will all be here on Friday. You'll catch them then."

"Oh, typical! I'm only here today."

"That's a pity. Well, I'd better be getting back. Thanks again... er..."


"See you around." Giving her a thumb's-up, he led the horse back to where Blonde Pony-tail was waiting, feed bucket in hand.

Later that evening, as Joanne was tiredly climbing into her Fiesta, she was astonished to be accosted by the harassed-looking recruitment manager.

"I've got something for you," she said, handing over a folded note.

"What...?" Jo began to ask, but the woman had gone.

Inside the stationery was taped a key, a car registration number and the words, 'Sell the item on the back seat at your auction,' scrawled beside it.

When she eventually located an ancient tan Discovery, she nearly fainted. On the grubby leatherette seat, wrapped in a white sheet, lay an ornate mirror. Tucked in the frame was a business card: Darcy 'Fitz' Williams, Equine Training with Sense and Sensibility and across the glass, in flowing script, the signature 'Darcy'. A yellow sticky note proclaimed, 'Dinner tonight?'

Joanne reached for her mobile phone and keyed in a message. "To Mr Darcy, Miss Elizabeth Bennet would like to express her sincere gratitude for your benevolence. Please also be advised of her Persuasion to accept your kind invitation."

© Heather King