All stories


by Dan

The end started way before all this corona palaver.

How it came to be that a serial communicator like myself should end up here.

64 years old, with only you lot for company. And now even you guys have mostly gone! Desserters! Disappearing hour by hour.

Look at these programmes! Wrighty’s hat-trick v Ipswich. Getting home it was nothing but “where you been Harry? Who you been seeing?” Like the bloody Gestapo she was.

Look at this! From when we supported Riot Firm at Brixton Academy 1985, girl cut off her ponytail and gave it me, here it is look. She was a stunner too, I could have, I should have, would have saved mucho grief. If you know what I mean?

What else you got in your little drawer of delights Harry? I ‘ear you ask. Well come on fellas, act respectful or you know what’ll happen next. It’ll be curtains for one or other of you!!

Billy the dragon! Crusted up with hair gel! I loved Billy the Dragon! Conned it off me brother when I was 9 and he was 4. Derek never forgave me. Teased him about it for years. Became our stage mascot!

If you start with the bravado you gotta keep it up! The analogy you’d understand is that you gotta look like you wouldn’t dissolve if I dunked you. I never dissolved, never. If you are Harry Harsh, punk rock icon, leader of the gang, you gotta walk the walk, act the part.

That’s why with all that solicitor stuff, I went for sole custody, bring them kids up free, proper kids, in my own image, not like Jonathan the Guardian remoaner, her new fella. Yeah, I laughed long on referendum night. Now Alfie’s probably a transgender-pooftah or something, world’s gone mad.

“I wonder where your sweet side went Harry, you used to be a decent bloke” was her last words as she walked off with the lot.

But that’s the problem, I had to choose. To make decisions. To protect them as much as me.

I’m me own man, true to my beliefs, through mates taking her side, through the band fucking off cos I wouldn’t put em in the writing credits. Through me heart attack. Now into lockdown………….and islolation.

And I won’t get online cos I ain’t giving fucking Bill Gates the pleasure!! My world has become old posters and shouting at the Telly. No one has phoned to ask how I am!

Now I’ve got one more decision to make.

There are so few of you left! Just two remaining loyal soldiers. I’ve taken you out the packet and laid you out, like you’re on parade. So which one of you will it be?

Corporal Chocolate! Captain Oats! Stand to attention! No slacking.

One per every hour was the decision, when you are gone your gone and after that so will I be. Well I ain’t going out for more in a fucking pandemic, am I? Corporal Chocolate! You shall be remembered!

Then it will be just me and Captain Oats. One more hour. Just the two of us. Butch and Sundance, Thelma and Louise! Age will not weary you, even if it’s a bit late for me. From whence we have come, we shall return!


testing testing

by Claire

Testing testing… by Claire

Thinking about the theme for this weeks story - hobnobbing- the thing my mind takes me is to biscuits. But that would be obvious, everyone is going to write about biscuits aren’t they? Of course, hobbnobbing means something else first – it means gadding about with posh people – possibly whilst eating biscuits. So maybe that’s what this story should be about? Then the naughty voice in my head starts getting all vaudeville on me, hobbKNOBbing – a rich vein of innuendo right there. Then I google “hobbnobbing” - and see that it is actually spelt with 1 b (well I mean 3 in total, rather than 4)– to hobnob. In which case does hobbnobbing mean something else entirely? Is it the name of a fairy tale dragon, Hobbeknobbin’ - a knobbly crusty one that looks a bit biscuity? Or could it be the name of a mischievous magician - Knobby Hobbins, who makes biscuits appear from his battered old felt hat. Maybe it is the name of a lame pony called Hobblydobbins, all skinny and unkempt, with no tail and fleabitten ears.

Perhaps the magician owns the pony and they live together in a house made of biscuits and get attacked by the crusty dragon? Actually though the story arrives and of course it’s all about biscuits and it goes like this…

Percival Smythe took the biscuit from the biscuit barrel when Nanny wasn’t looking. He had not eaten all day, so naughty had he been that he was banished to the nursery with only water. He had cut the tail off Elspeth’s toy pony and Nanny (the crusty old dragon) had marched him upstairs by the lobe of his ear. He was now officially as starving as the poor children from the broken-down cottage who sometimes played plantation owners and slaves with him – if they were lucky. Nanny had brought Elspeth to the nursery for her afternoon tea and the biscuit barrel had been momentarily put within his reach. His hand was in and out in a flash, the nobbly biscuit in his mouth and scoffed faster than a wizard’s spell could have made it disappear.

When Nanny looked around he sat innocently, all big blue eyes and dark curls. However, nestled at the top of his bow tie was a great big crumb – a giant nobbly tell-tale, signalling to Nanny what perfidiousness had taken place. Nanny was short sighted though and didn’t see it at first. But Elspeth did, she walked over to Percival as Nanny watched, picked the crumb from his bow tie and put it in her mouth. Percival realised that the game was up and was overwhelmed with rage at the betrayal – he pushed Elspeth so hard she fell headfirst against the corner of a particularly fine piece of Chippendale and died immediately. Percival was sent to a boarding school a long way away where biscuits were disapproved of. He didn’t eat another for 30 years until, on his very belated wedding day to a wealthy Russian widow, he took a ginger biscuit to soothe his nausea and choked to death on a piece that lodged in his gullet.

Slightly Detached

by Russ

The instructions had been clear. Do not say anything stupid, do not drink too much, and for Heaven’s sake do not tell any jokes. I hadn’t specifically been told not to flash anyone, but I got the feeling it was implied.

The roles were as rigidly defined as the rules. My partner would do what they could to talk themselves onto whatever committee they were obsessed with this week, and I was to be present, but not noticed.

I’d been scanning the room for allies since the first grating encounter with Baroness Crusty Dragon the Third from Upper Noseville in Toffminster. I’d locked eyes with one of the waitresses pretty quickly, her outsider status apparent from the ‘fuck-you’ eye-rolls whenever someone dumped an empty glass on her, and the neck tattoo she wasn’t quite managing to hide behind a clip-on ponytail, slightly detached. She’d spotted the anguish in my eyes and had been serving me whisky in a china tea-cup from the go. There were a couple of other spare-parts trailing their superior-halves about the room but, frankly, they looked duller than a Saturday afternoon in John Lewis.

My comrade in contempt refreshed my Scottish tea and I considered trying to push my luck for a fire-escape fumble, before quickly remembering my age and that my hat-over-bald-spot-trick was unlikely to be fooling anyone. She pitied me, nothing more.

I raised a hand to my face for a good yawn, having to swerve and swallow as it was intimated I should shake hands with Lord & Lady Skeletal Skin-Rack. The roll in my movement made me aware I had very likely now broken rule two of schmooze club; the gateway transgression. It became clear I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed when my partner ushered me away from the skeletors and started hissing in my ear like a scornful snake. The feeling of contemptuous spittle landing on my cheek was one thing, but the finger-wagging was a rebuke too far. I fixed my scolder with my most petulant of grins and tipped a nod to my dealer of drams.

Viscount Beach Ball and his Greater Breasted Midlife Crisis were next in line for toadying. I had to shake with my left hand because my right was being held in a vice of constraint, but that couldn’t stop my eyes rolling deep into the Crisis’ cleavage and looking for a place I might nest. The Crisis made a futile effort to draw the curtains of its dress, and I felt the full weight of my misdeed applied directly via a heel on my toes.

‘Lovely to meet you,’ I lied to the inflated old pervert. ‘And especially nice to meet your delightful escort for the evening!’

The shift in temperature to my right told me I was going to be divorced, or at very least sleeping in the car for a few nights. In for a penny, I thought.

‘That reminds me,’ I slurred. ‘Have you heard the one about the prince and the prostitute?’

Hobbs nobbing

by James

This was completely out of character for Susan – using her master key to slip herself into a guest’s suite while they were in the shower? Crazy. Madder still when she slipped out of her harsh navy blazer and grey skirt, and talk about rush when she slipped off her underwear and into his bed.

She had to smile at that last part. Maybe once upon a time that was crazy, but now, ever since the night before? It was kind of what she did, got into bed with genuine Hollywood A-list royalty and bonked them senseless.

She hugged herself tight into a ball, waiting for her body heat to warm his bed. Duncan Hobbs, in their out of the way backwater hotel? No way, couldn’t be. But then he took off his sunglasses, showed her the crinkles at the corners of his eyes. It wasn’t till he took off his trademark full length black leather coat to reveal his trademark jet black ponytail that she was really convinced.

Duncan Hobbs: two-time Oscar winner, and many time Hollywood A-list dater.

And he picked her!

As the bed began to warm, Susan began to stretch herself, revelling in the space of the super-super-king that came as standard in the top floor suite she had comped him. What a cutie, actually checking himself into a standard double half the size of his personal on-set trailer.

So what if he didn’t have quite the movie-star bod. For one, that was Hollywood movie magic, and for two, that was all in her head anyway, that was an image of him she carried from movies that were twenty years old. The guy was sixty now, maybe with something of a crusty dragon vibe going on, but still as randy as a guy who had not got a bit for months. Susan giggled, thinking to herself of what she would say when he walked back into the room.

Good morning, Mister Hobbs. How would you like to go for your hattrick?

She starfished in the bed, hands and feet reaching for all four corners, beginning to feel all tingly again as she pictured Duncan Hobbs slipping from his bathrobe and then stalking naked to her, desire writ large on every part that counted. Her right hand brushed against something under the pillow, something loose and silky. She grasped and then pulled it into the light, this jumble of black strands that only fell into place when she held it aloft by the spring clamp at one end.

It was a black clip on ponytail.

Susan thought about the talk show from two nights before, him sharing a sofa with Meryl Streep, not minding in the slightest as Meryl yanked on his flowing locks to prove to the audience it was real.

So warm in that bed but now Susan felt cold.

My Beloved

by Lewis

He held it’s limp form in his outstretched hands. Palm up for all to see, he slowly spun facing the group..

“i have finished. This represents my grief. We are pack.” His voice barely kept together as he spoke, his voice almost breaking. The ponytail in his hand was thick and full. His hair still bore the hacked remnants of its former pride of place.

“Thank you Mike, you’re welcome here. This is a safe space.” Janita smiled affectionately, her tattooed cheeks dancing with the swirl of a dragons tail, still had some crusty residue from the latest coloring work she had had done.

Mike stood a while longer, unwilling or unable to let go, whether to the ponytail or the characters that had been with him for so long. Slowly he turned his palm and the golden creature tumbled into a basket.

There were around 20 of them gathered today, to mark Mikes completion. His journey had ended but he would never forget the path that took him here. Tears flowed freely down his face as he walked back to the circle. Why does this pain feel so good, he thought, and a moments recognition of a song lyric helped to shake him from his reverie.

“Now my Couterie we will come together to help Mike through this time. ‘Here is where we are today, and we can only make our moves from here’.”

The group bowed their heads in the dim light


Suddenly a door swung open throwing daylight into the room. A nasal voice chipped in, “oo its a bit dark in here.” This was followed by a swirling mass of children screaming and running in the chaos of the dark.

Panic ran amoc, as children and Hobbknobbers tumbled into each other. One stray child clattered into the bin, which sent the golden locks of Mikes sacrifice sprawling across the floor, leading to cries of ‘rats on the loose’.

Kendra, quickly swooped down and grabbed the ponytail in the chaos, before someone finally turned the lights back on.

“Sorry we’ve got the hall booked this week, the scout hut has mice funnily enough.” Sandra the nasal voiced scout leader beamed proudly.

Janita and the group looked chagrin and felt a little silly in their beautifully hand crafted garments. The Hobbknobbers were a weekly support group that had been meeting in the town hall, every Tuesday evening to discuss the epic fantasy books of Robin Hobb. The trauma that participants had been through, was very real to them and the group had received several awards from the local health board for their recovery work.

“Ive had enough of this crap”, shouted Jake, his faux wolf skin, wrapped tightly around him. I’m emailing the counci secretary, we’ve had this booking for years.”

“Come now” Janita’s gentle voice calmed him. “Don’t do what you can’t undo, until you’ve considered what you can’t do once you’ve done it.”

“Park it is then,” Kendra said leading the way. Kendra looked almost normal, garbed in a simple linen green dress, with a fox pin.

“Bloody undo them,” Muttered Jake under his breath.

“It’s sunny, it’ll be fine.” Kendra gently coaxed them into the light.

“I can't believe it gone.” Mike said, a while later to noone in particular, as they were getting ready to leave the park. “I've had that for 20 years”.

“Well i know a good trick for sorting your hair out.” Kendra said to him coming up from behind quietly..

“Oh god is it really that bad?”

“Here ya are” She said laughing as she handed him a bobble hat from her pocket.

“Oh good one” Mike smiled and pulled it on. “How do i look?”

“You look good” She said.

“See you next week” Mike said as he headed home.

“See you next week” Kendra replied, before turning away and secretly taking out the ponytail. She stroked it gently, sniffing deeply and whispered. “See you next week, my beloved”.

Magic moments

by Jenny

Tonight was the night! Clarence had been looking forward to it since the notification had pinged up on his Facebook feed.

Those school days were never far from his mind. In fact, they were largely responsible for where he was today. If it hadn’t been for wanting to show Danny Walker that he, Clarence Thomas, could be cool too, would he ever have even gotten into performance magic? Clarence didn’t think so.

In fact, Clarence reflected, in a way he had a lot to thank Danny Walker for. Those toilet flushings had, after all, been character building.

And this was his chance to show them all, nearly thirty years on, what he had made of his life: School Reunion of St Swithun’s Academy, class of 1991.

He looked in the mirror and, oh my, he was looking fine. He had found a hat with a ponytail very cleverly engineered to hang quite naturally from the back, just like real hair. He checked all of the secret pockets dotted around his outfit and they were prepped and ready to go.

He couldn’t wait to show Angela Dickenson what he’d learned to do with a feather duster and a string of hankies. And then there was his very popular hat trick, but maybe he should save that for later, when they were alone...

With a swirl of his cape and a tap of his cane, Clarence Thomas, children’s entertainer extraordinaire, switched off the light and trundled down the five storeys of his apartment block to the bus stop. He was positively buzzing with excitement.

After all, who among his former classmates could boast such an interesting and varied career as Clarence? He had seen it all - he had stories to tell and tricks to enthrall. He might even have a glass of wine or two. The night, he thought, happily, was young.

When the bus arrived Clarence swirled on board, impressing the driver by producing the fare from behind the surly man’s hairy ear. The poor man had been too overawed even to smile! Still got it, thought Clarence, still got it.

The bus wound its way to the school, past the Crusty Dragon Arms where the older boys had used to drink after school, round along the rugby pitch, pulling up outside the Spar where Clarence had used to spend his pocket money on sweets.

He strode in through the school car park, dotted here and there with Range Rovers and a few sleek Audis. It hasn’t changed a bit, thought Clarence, how marvellous to return as something of a success …

He followed the thump of the bassline to the school gymnasium. Clarence was sure he recognised the song as some hit or other from the 80s. The party, it seemed, was in full swing!

Clarence peered in through the windows in the double doors. He saw a line of tables boasting cocktail sausages and crisps. Groups of middle aged men and women stood about holding plastic cups of wine, hobnobbing quietly. Clarence straightened his bow tie, seized the ends of his cloak and presented himself to the room with a flourish...