The Witches’ Convention

Each Halloween, Clara and all her girlfriends met up to do some annual target-setting and review the previous year’s ambitions.  The targets could be small things, like redecorating, but were more usually big things like getting qualified in something or having a child or finding a meaningful relationship.  The Coven’s Convention, they called it, just for a laugh.

And it was really funny for a few years.  Funnier, in truth, Clara reflected as she peeled the label off her bottle of beer and watched two of her friends doing karaoke, when there was still the small chance things could work out okay for them all.

The Most Terrifying yet True Story Ever Told (Halloween Special)

The wise, old storyteller sat all the young people down around him in a circle to tell them the most horrifying story ever told.

“There was once this woman,” he began.  “And she lived for a while.  And she had a couple of children.  And then, before she’d done half the things she meant to do with her life, she found she was old.  And then,” he said, lowering his voice and speaking more slowly to maximize the impact of the ending, “she died.  And experienced complete oblivion for all eternity.  And after a few years it was as if she’d never existed at all.”

“But that’s not a proper ending,” one of the young people protested. “You said it was going to be terrifying.  Where are all the zombies?  Where are the ghosts? Just dying – that’s a really crap and miserable ending.”

“Exactly,” the storyteller said.

Framed for a Crime he did Commit (101 word version)

Martha had sent Mark round to have a quiet word with a neighbor about a noisy late night party.  But things had got a little out of hand and Mark had ended up shouting at their neighbor.

“I can’t believe you sometimes,” Martha said.  “Didn’t I specifically ask you not to shout at him?”

“I didn’t,” Mark lied.  “I never even raised my voice.  It was a civilized chat.”

“Look,” she said, “I know you did.  I can just tell. Just by looking at you.”

Which was completely unfair.

Because Mark could so easily have not shouted at his neighbor. Easily.

Albert learns that plants aren’t that stupid after all

Albert generally feels superior to the plants.  After all, they have no consciousness, they can’t plan ahead, their potential for debate and discussion is limited.  Name the last great plant novelist.  Exactly.  And you’d be waiting a long time for a cactus to make an important scientific discovery.

But then Albert thinks about questions of judgement.  Plants seem to know exactly when to sit tight and when to branch out, usually in the right directions.  Albert reckons that if he was a plant he’d have his roots embarrassingly exposed to the air and his leaves redundantly fumbling in the undergrowth.

Albert learns that some people’s career choices can seem a little surprising

Albert was intrigued by Sarah’s decision to specialize in stress management. One day he decided just to ask her.

“Sarah,” he asked, “what made you focus on stress management?”

“Jesus!” Sarah said.  “Why does everyone always ask me that same question?”

“Er, no reason,” Albert replied, a little taken aback.

It’s come to this

They came to the bench by the river and sat down.  Things had not gone so very well today, not nearly as well as Albert had hoped.

“So it’s come to this,” she said, sighing.

It was the kind of river that looked so beautifully English with its swans and rowers and the fading October dusk; the famous cathedral in the distance by the bend.  But it was also the kind of fast-moving river that would greedily draw you under and only spit you out again when you reached the open sea.

Albert was confused and anxious.  “It’s come to this” he repeated.  “What has?” he asked.  “What’s the it here?  Are we the it?”

“The whole thing,” she said.  “That’s what I mean.”

“So the it in your sentence refers to the whole thing?”

“Albert,” she said, “can you not just listen to me?  Just for once?”

“I’m trying to,” Albert said.  “I’m trying to understand what you’re saying.  It I’ve now defined.  Now we just have to work on this.  What’s the this in your summary?  Is this the now?  Here?  On this bench?  By this river?  Is that the this?”

“Albert, I actually wish you’d just stop trying to understand everything.  I really wish you’d just listen.”

“Right,” Albert said, nodding yet more confused than ever.  “Listen but don’t try to understand.  Noted.”

“Albert,” she said gently, looking across, as she spoke, at the overpriced houses on the other side of the river.  “Why are you such a complete dick?”

Albert glanced over at her profile and savoured the softness of her voice one last time.  She carried on looking straight ahead.  How he wished he could understand her.

“You’ve got me there,” Albert said at last.  “In a way.”

Spoilt for Choice

Through some cunning ‘look but don’t touch’ arrangements I can pretty much track down any music or writing in the known universe.  Now, finally, I can get exactly what I want when I want.  No more compromises are required.

So why can I no longer finish any book I’ve started?