Sunday, 17 August 2014

45) Literary Balls

Two English students are sat in the Bristol Pear in Selly Oak, Birmingham. Outside there is a light drizzle as a train rushes over the nearby bridge. A bus nearly hits an old lady off her bike who tells the driver where to stick the non-existent sunshine. One student drinks a cider. The other a beer.

‘I’m thinking of writing forty five stories in a day,’ the cider drinker says.

‘Forty five stories?’ the beer drinker says, ‘That’d take some literary balls.’

They let the new found phrase hang in the air. They both smile. It’s a keeper.

‘Who do you think has the biggest pair of literary balls?’ the cider drinker says.

‘Someone Russian,’ the beer drinker says, ‘They published their stuff even though they would be exiled from their home, friends and family for doing so.’

‘Plus it’s bloody cold there,’ the cider drinker says.

The beer drinker nods.

‘It’s pretty cold in Birmingham too.’

The beer drinker arches his eyebrow.

‘What’s your point?’ he says.

‘Nothing. Nothing.’

They both take long sips of their drink.

‘It’s just, forty five stories is a lot,’ the cider drinker says.

‘Really? You’re going to do this,’ the beer drinker says.

The cider drinker shrugs his shoulders: ‘Do what?’

‘Zamyatin had to leave Russia! You’re a middle class white boy who’s writing for a bit of fun.’

The cider drinker mumbles something under his breath. The beer drinker points to his ear.

‘I said I’m doing it for charity too.’

‘Oh,’ the beer drinker says, ‘Then yes, you are completely right. You definitely have more literary balls than a man who was forced out of his country for life! Writing forty five stories for charity definitely means you have the biggest literary balls of every writer who suffered war and famine just to get their work published ever. Are you happy?!’

The cider drinker sinks into his seat and takes a sip from his drink.

‘But they’re quite big literary balls, right?’

The beer drinker finishes his pint and walks out into the rain.

44) The Leopard Slug Next to the Bookcase

Weird things could come out of books. As a Librarian, now keeper of only his personal collection, Raphael knew this. He was not good for much else other than looking after books, and as a result spent most of his days indoors, only reading about the wonders out in the world. This made him happy; the world spooked him.

Naturally, the leopard slug startled him. It clung to the side of Napoleonic History, a shelf which he rarely touched, but which led to his books on volcanoes. Raphael liked volcanoes (reading about them, not experiencing them). He spent the morning sat on a stool. For as long as he stared the leopard slug did not move. Raphael sidled past it and grabbed a book called Volcanoes and Legends.

During his reading he was distracted by sobs. He glanced around the corner to wear the leopard slug clung to the bookcase. Its body was retching like a cat coughing up a fur ball. It was the leopard slug who was crying. Raphael wished he could help, but he knew there was nothing that he could do.

As he read through his book he came across the leopard slug in his reading. A creature birthed when the fumes were released during an eruption, the leopard slug thrives in the centre of volcanoes. Raphael learned they were also sociable creatures and if this need was no satisfied it could lead to depression.

The leopard slug sobbed, popping its slimy body up and down the book case. Raphael could not concentrate with this noise. The obvious solution was before him in the book. The notion of what he was thinking terrified him, but so did having to spend the rest of his days with a damaged soul. He closed the book and rang the local travel agent.

43) The Death of the Party

A glass was chinked. Vincent stood at the head of the table, his many violet rings clattering against the glass of red wind in his hand. He swept his long black hair away from his eyes and bowed ever so slightly.

‘Thank you all for coming, I hope you enjoyed your meals.’

Sniggers made the rounds from the shadowy figures sat at the table.

‘Tell me Garesh, what did you say the dish was?’

A hairy man wearing chain mail slammed his fist on the table.

‘It were Simon, the baker’s son,’

He threw the head of the baker’s son into the punch bowl, much to the amusement of the other guests.

‘Very good, very good,’ Vincent said, ‘Which brings me onto the last formality of the evening. It’s time to announce the Death of the Party.’

The dinner guests tapped their flagons against the table three times.

‘The votes are in. Garesh, your dinner was quite delicious but you’ve just fallen short. Tonight you are third.’

He cursed his luck under his breath and a long fingered female stroked his arm as a gesture of commiseration. Garesh perked up at this touch.

‘In second place is the darling Lara for her drowning of Farmer Pitchfork by making him chase an illusion of his dead daughter into the river.’

Lara was the long fingered female. She lapped up the applause by waving to the table and leaning forward to reveal her cleavage. Vincent lost himself for a moment. He was brought back by Garesh’s grumbling.

‘And yes, so that makes the ultimate winner me,’ he said, ‘For my castrating, skinning and crucifixion of the priest.’

Garesh made the loudest clap with his gigantic hands. He had wanted to win, but kudos had to go to Vincent this evening who drank up his wine. There was no way anyone could top that.

‘Actually Vinnie, I think you’re forgetting one death,’ Lara said, stroking her fingers on her chin.

‘And who would that be my dear,’ he said.

Lara tapped the glass. Vincent glanced around the room. He was the only one drinking red wine. He clutched his chest as the venom blocked his arteries. The glass shattered in his hand. His eyes flared red and bloodshot. A croak escaped his throat before he fell forward onto the table.

Lara looked around at everyone else. A golf clap was the appropriate reaction. They would miss Vincent, but a good deceitful death was always fun.

42) Estimated Time of Arrival

The ticket inspector pressed out the creases in his blue uniform as he stood at the golden platform. Puffy clouds hugged the railway lines. The clock didn’t move. There were no trains at the station. The inspector whistled to the tune of ‘We Three Kings’. He didn’t care that it wasn’t Christmas.

Finally, someone wandered onto the platform: a blonde young lady with a centre parting and an untucked Gillingham football jersey. She approached the inspector sheepishly who had his arms crossed.

‘Took your time didn’t you,’ the inspector said.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said.

‘Thought you’d hold on a little bit longer did you? Got some last words you needed to say eh? Well I’ve got a schedule to keep here.’

The lady blinked twice. She rubbed her forearms to check they were hers. She pinched herself. The inspector did not go away.

‘What is this place?’ she said.

‘Oh bleedin’ hell,’ the inspector said as he rolled his eyes, ‘This is the Holy Station, the gateway to Heaven. The trains run one way and are normally on time.’

He cleared his throat.

‘I’m sorry. The last thing I remember was laying in the hospital, holding my mum’s hand-’

The inspector waved his hand in front of the lady’s face.

‘You’ll have plenty of time to tell your story once you get upstairs. Now if you just give me your ticket I’ll send you on your way.’

The lady patted her pockets. Her forehead crinkled. She dug into her pockets.

‘I don’t have a ticket,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ the inspector said, ‘Odd, don’t normally get many of your getting through.’

The inspector grabbed the lady’s hand and stamped it with a black stamp he swiftly withdrew from his pocket. The girl’s hand read ‘VOID’ in big red letters.

‘Enjoy your trip ma’am.’

The floor opened up below her. She screamed as she fell into the black pit below. The station surface was restored to full purity by puffs of clouds covering the hole. The inspector went back to whistling.

41) Blue-Black Water and the Cracks in the Ice

They had reached the mountain top where the Raddlelink supposedly rested. The Raddlelink was a furry beast with the coat of a mammoth. The creature stood on its hind legs but ran like a gorilla, with four tusks ready to gorge anything that got in its path. Its tale was an ice breathing snake which froze its prey before melting through the ice to eat the flesh in stages.

The Raddlelink was truly frightening, which is why Wolff had to find it. He had done the boring stuff like sleep with lions and wrestle a bear. Now he wanted to become a legend. And the best way to become a legend was to find a legend.

The surface of the mountain top was cracked. Deep inside it looked like blue-black water was frozen and had formed an aqueduct. Beyond that was something hairy and woolly. Wolff was sure this was where the Raddlelink slept. According to the books, the only thing which could it was cutting of its tail; that was where the brain was centred.

He picked away at the ice until there was a crack wide enough for him to slip down. The ropes allowed him to abseil down into the cavern and perch on the aqueduct. He took a picture with a camera; the Raddlelink was massive, even when hunched over in its frozen state. He walked along the frozen water and round to where the tail was, baring its isosceles triangle fangs. Wolff leapt onto the tail. He slipped on the surface but quickly regained his balance. He lit a flame near the base of the tail to start melting the ice.

The snake wiggled and stretched, shattering the ice around it and causing Wolff to fall onto a lower aqueduct. Wolff took out his knife and waited. He could hear the snake hissing and feel the chill of its breath all around him. It coiled around the aqueduct Wolff stood on. Wolff charged towards him, but quickly backtracked when the snake breathed frost at him. He lit up another torch and once the snake had finished, threw it at his open mouth. Wolff charged. The snake couldn’t muster up anymore frost so darted at Wolff. The hunter rolled forward and clung to the snake’s neck. It writhed as it tried to get Wolff up, but he clung on and brought the knife across the unscaled flesh. The snake collapsed instantly.

Wolff took a couple of seconds to compose himself before looking at his kill. There was no way he could carry the head back to base with him. He took a picture and then marvelled at the rest of the beastly creature still encased in ice. Imagine fighting the Raddlelink in its prime. He would never know that joy.

40) Mr Ringtoss

The Carny folk have many a tall tale to tell. My favourite was of Mr Ringtoss. Maybe not the most glamorous of stories, but it has a charm.

His origins date back to a county fair in Florida around the 1990s. He was only just a man at that stage and had a young lass he wanted to care for. At the ringtoss game was a large stuffed panda with huge blue eyes that the lass desperately wanted. It were three rings to get the panda, so he threw down the last five bucks in his pocket and picked up three rings. The game owner laughed behind his stoic face because like his spine, he knew the game was crooked. Yet the little UFOs spun in odd circles as if moving backwards while moving forward and landed on the posts. All three of them. The game owner jumped over the counter and called him a cheat for winning at a crooked game. Realising his mistake, he tried to cover up his own misdeeds. The game owner ended up in jail and kicked out of the carny troop for good.

Although someone had tried to dupe him, Mr Ringtoss felt a tremendous power had been bestowed upon him. Another fair came the following month and once more he took up the ringtoss challenge for his darling lass. All three landed without fail. This game owner was smarter than his predecessor, and while he knew he had been played he smiled and gave the boy his toy.

It was an undeniable talent. County fairs came, as did the amount of stuffed toys. Mr Ringtoss and his lass had so many that they started selling them and making quite a bit of money. The idea came to Mr Ringtoss that he should go on tour, finding carnivals and winning toys on the ringtoss. His lass went along for the ride.

They rode around five states, playing ringtoss and having a whale of a time. Life was very comfortable for the pair of them over the next year. They built up a nice little nest egg for their future children and moved in to a flat near the Everglades. They didn’t tour anymore, but when a county fair came along Mr Ringtoss was sure to be there.

Without realising he went to the county fair where he had first discovered his talent. Waiting for him was the game owner who had been jailed. He didn’t wait for him at the ringtoss game. No, the back of an alley was better for breaking a man’s arm. Mr Ringtoss cried out in pain, but the game owner got away. His arm never recovered; the rings no longer floated like UFOs but dropped like apples from trees.

He and his lass lived out the rest of their days comfortably. Yet she could tell you that a little spirit escaped from Mr Ringtoss as the years went on. The last flicker of excitement in his eye was lost when people started calling him Mr Robinson.

39) The Adventures of the Time Travelling Talking Pie

No one could understand what the pie was saying. The Ambassador of Time Peace (a role which had been created and filled within two hours of the pie’s discovery) sat with his heads in his hands. He had been working a desk job for the FBI a few hours ago. Now he was talking to a pie. He could feel his grey hair falling onto his shoulders. The pie waffled through a gap at the crest of the lid of the crust. Its breath smelt like blueberries. The Ambassador reiterated to himself that he was talking to a pie.

‘What I need to know…Pie, is how you found this microchip.’

The Ambassador lifted a green microchip, cut off at one corner, to the pie. The pie mixed it’s blueberries around and moved its crust lips as a response. The Ambassador ran his hand through his hair and felt the strands nestle in between his fingertips.

The microchip was a brain controlling device that had not yet been invented yet. The first concern regarding the pie was whether it was made in Russia or not. The Ambassador insisted that Russian pies were not particularly renowned, but a background check had to be run. The blueberries were from a farm in California, but the pastry was a mystery. Therefore the pie was still suspicious.

‘What does a-’ The Ambassador stopped to groan, ‘What does a Pie need with a brain controlling device?’

The pie’s gooey insides squelched in reply. The Ambassador swore the noises were higher pitched, as if the pie were speaking with urgency. Then the Ambassador reminded himself, he was interrogating a pie. He could be at home with his normal human children and his normal human wife yelling at his idiotic normal television set.

He took the brain control chip between his thumb and forefinger. An idea came to mind. The pie’s crust trembled, as if it knew what the Ambassador was about to do. He placed the microchip onto the pie’s surface. This was probably outside of what was allowed but he had two excuses; he was still getting used to the job and the suspect was a pie and therefore had no human rights.

‘English. Speak English,’ The Ambassador said.

The pie’s mouth moved slowly, the blueberries churning.


The Ambassador clapped his hands together.

‘How did you get the microchip?’ he asked.

‘From the future,’ the pie said, ‘It is all over for you.’

The Ambassador leaned forward with his palms together.

‘Just what are you saying?’

‘The pie is the master race. The human’s time will end.’

The Ambassador felt his stomach churn like a collection of steamed blueberries which had been lightly sugared. Then, one last time, he reminded himself of the situation. He took the microchip off the pie and put it back into the plastic evidence bag. The pie was placed in a Krispy Kreme doughnut box and whisked away.

The Ambassador needed to go home.  There had been a steak pie in the fridge for him to eat when he got back, but he didn’t feel like eating it anymore. It would stay good for another day; what was the harm?