The publisher sighed. The author wanted to hear the fate of his recently-submitted manuscript personally.
“Well?” the author asked hopefully.
“Sadly, I’m afraid it’s not for me,” said the publisher. “450,000 words is simply too long for modern tastes – everyone wants flash fiction nowadays. Or diet books. Yours needs editing – four chapters simply repeat the same story, and it ends with a mass of letters.”
The old man looked devastated.
Trying to be helpful, the publisher produced a business card. “Look, why not try these people?”
Two boys from the local school broke into the nearby Semi-Chem drug store looking for diazepam, amphetamine and methadone. The drugs weren’t for themselves, naturally; they planned to sell them and spend their ‘earnings’ on dope and ecstasy.
They didn’t seem to know that Semi-Chems don’t have pharmacies, so they stuffed their pockets full of shampoo, aspirin and children’s nappies. Nor did they pay much attention to the alarm that sounded throughout their stay. They weren’t very bright kids.
They were later apprehended by the police making their way across a golf course with their swag in a supermarket trolley.
If you can recall your school mathematics lessons, ‘vectors’ are distances to which direction has been applied. Their practical use really only dates from the mid-eighteenth century, but they’re known as ‘Euclidean’ vectors because it was the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid who first spotted their importance.
A keen runner, he ran in the 10,000 metres finals at the 272BC Olympics. Trailing in a distant ninth, Euclid suddenly realised that after a great deal of effort running 25 laps, he was simply back where he’d started.
Euclid thus proved it was more efficient to be a couch potato than a runner.
With the rain off and the Ark berthed on Mount Ararat, Noah counted animals off: dogs, cats, snakes, lions, ocelots, meerkats…
Noah panicked when two dead mammoths were discovered in their cabin five minutes later. Shot, then skinned – their coats had vanished. “Call the animal detectives!” he cried.
“Please to help?” a little man with a waxed moustache asked in a French accent. (It later transpired he was Belgian.) Quickly, he gathered the suspects on the bridge, solved the crime, extracted a confession. Probably hypnosis.
Turned out it was the sheep. “We were feeling chilly,” they said… sheepishly.
Perhaps she’d outlived her time, for her sole remaining joy seemed to lie in criticising others.
Sometimes, she wrote letters to her neighbours detailing their faults: anonymously, naturally, but everyone in the community knew who’d sent them. If chided, she claimed she was “only joking”, but no-one was fooled. Once, she’d have been a candidate for the ducking-stool; these days townsfolk just spoke about her behind her back.
She died alone, her body lying undiscovered for several days before anyone noticed.
Pity, really: she wasn’t all bad, she just went off-colour towards her life’s end.
At ten o’clock on Wednesday 2nd July, the LinkedIn Board of Directors began its monthly meeting. Sitting smugly round the table, each looked forward to lunch afterwards in the city’s most expensive restaurant. None had noticed the curious boots directly beneath their chairs.
Precisely four minutes later, the boots exploded. Each of the seven directors shot over two feet into the air.
Apart from damaged pride and some bruising to their backsides, their were no injuries. According to the police, the attack bore all the hallmarks of FFFALI*. That, and the fact that the message claiming responsibility was in Scots.
Dragons, it turns out, have extraordinary powers to move emotions, especially when they choose to write. On the last day in May, Albert The Dragon came up with a tale to make any human cry: tears of laughter, tears of sadness, tears of joy, all within the space of one hundred words. Reading back through it, Albert realised he had created his masterpiece, the greatest piece of fiction ever constructed.
“Ahhh,” he said, reading the printout of his story. Sadly, his breath set fire to the paper, and in the ensuing panic he forgot it completely, and for all time.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked her. She’d been flitting in and out of sleep, and looked tired. She struggled a smile saying, “I could perhaps eat something.”
I knew what was required. First I dry-fried a cinnamon stick, ground cloves and cardamom seeds, added a little oil then gently sautéed some sliced onion. Next, I browned some diced chicken then added coriander, cummin, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli, salt and some chicken stock. Twenty minutes later, I served it with basmati rice.
“Ah,” she said, “to die for.”
I was like this every week. Next Friday, beef curry.
Tick, tock, tick, tock. I look up as the pendulum swings.
Back and forward, back and forward.
I’m out at night with my sister, a few years older than me. From a safe distance, we’re watching a familiar scene from the thirties: a solitary tree in a field, a bunch of white lilies stand below, silently gazing up as the tree keeps its own slow, rhythmic beat. The branch creaks in perfect time.
Back and forward.
My sister touches my arm. “Watch, Ellen,” she whispers in my ear. “Watch the lilies.”
“Aren’t lilies supposed to be beautiful?” I ask her.
I’m looking down a long corridor. Because it’s tea-break time, hundreds of people like me are walking from one part of the building to another. Gym to library. Farm area to education area. Anywhere to pass just another little part of the morning.
Everyone’s in uniform, although not the same uniform. Some in red, some in blue, some in green; a cynical group wear jackets and carry radios.
You wouldn’t like it here. I don’t, which I suppose is the point.
Actually, come to think of it, could you remind me again exactly what the point is?