Casper’s Children

Casper Walsh caused yet another media uproar at the premiere of his latest film. Stood on the red carpet, surrounded by screaming fans and flashing cameras, he announced to the world that he was going to set up his own sperm bank.

‘I just want to give something back to the fans, you know. A piece of me – something personal –’

A reporter from Showbiz Weekly ambushed him with a microphone. ‘Sounds amazing, Casper. To be a patron for such a worthwhile cause – you will be helping so many women who are struggling to have children.’

‘Absolutely,’ said Casper, as he flashed his award-winning smile. ‘But I think you’re missing the point – the only donor at the clinic will be myself –’

There was a moment of stunned silence, followed by frenzied screaming from the fans and desperate cries from photographers who were trying to get his attention. ‘Casper! Casper – over here!’

Casper stood there in his tailored suit and waited patiently for the furore to die down. His eyes were concealed beneath dark shades.

‘It will be an honour to help those struggling to conceive,’ he went on. ‘For any who are interested, my juices will be available to the public from Monday onwards – hope you enjoy the movie!’

And so the film premiere began. But all that any of the critics and other celebrities could think about as they watched the screening was the idea of Casper Walsh wanking into a test tube.

Over the following few days, the internet and news channels exploded with fierce debate over Casper’s announcement. Some thought he had completely lost his mind, while others commended his generosity and willingness to donate something so personal. Teenage girls hijacked Twitter with the hashtag #daddycasper, each of them fighting over who would get to marry him.

‘It’s what we’re here for, you know – to spread our seed and procreate,’ said Casper, during a follow-up interview. ‘I want an army of little Caspers running around, writing emails to their famous daddy, fighting over my millions once I’m gone. Won’t that be amazing?’

Casper’s insemination clinic allegedly received over ten thousand applications in the first forty-eight hours. Some critics wondered whether Casper could keep up with the demand.

‘Oh, you don’t need to worry about that – I have plenty to give!’ Casper assured everyone. ‘I’ve been hard at work so that my clinic will be well-stocked.’

Women of all ages camped outside the insemination clinic, waiting for the doors to open, hopeful that they could jump ahead on the waiting list. Some were confident that they could cut out the middle-man entirely and convince Casper Walsh to impregnate them through direct means.

‘This is just the beginning,’ one young girl told Channel 6 News. ‘Once I give birth to Casper Junior, I’ll take him to meet his daddy and then he’ll propose to me and it’ll be so romantic. This is all I’ve ever wanted.’

‘My biological clock’s ticking,’ remarked a woman in her late forties. ‘And there’s no man on the scene either, so the thought of having that gorgeous hunk as the father of my child – it sends shivers right through me!’

Such was the hysteria of these fans that there were genuine concerns that they might try to steal the specimen jars.

‘Yeah, we’ve had to step up security,’ Casper admitted, on the eve of the grand opening. ‘But everyone will just have to wait their turn. We have a system, you know. There’s a plan – a natural order that we must follow –’

When Monday morning came, the doors of the clinic opened and the first set of women were inseminated. The crowd of fans outside the building were disappointed to find that they could not jump the queue, but they began screaming when Casper Walsh showed up.

‘The first seeds have been sown!’ he declared. ‘Do not lose heart, for you shall all bear my fruit! Make sure you’ve booked an appointment and you will be invited to the clinic as soon we can fit you in.’

The doctors in the clinic worked diligently over the next few weeks, slowly getting through their long list of appointments. At one point, they had to turn away a man who disguised himself as a female.

‘Please – just try it!’ he begged. ‘Casper is my idol – it might actually work! Humour me, will you?’

The oldest woman to be inseminated was seventy-two, while the youngest had just turned eighteen on the very morning of her appointment. The receptionists made sure to triple-check the identification of the younger girls, for fear that they were underage and carried fake documents. At the end of the first month, five hundred women had been inseminated, with many more scheduled appointments to follow.

‘They’ll make a movie about it one day,’ said Casper dreamily, as he lounged in an armchair during a late-night TV show. ‘Casper’s children – the greatest bunch of kids that America’s ever seen. And the world will be a better place for it. Such paradise – such joy – won’t it be wonderful?’

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Rod Rage

The No. 53 bus shunted along as a young boy crouched on all fours, sifting through a pile of crumpled tickets, with tears leaking from his eyes. Rod the bus driver watched him with a rush of satisfaction.

‘Have you found it yet?’ he called out. ‘Can’t stay on without your ticket – shouldn’t have thrown it in the bin, should you?’

‘But you saw me buy one!’ the young boy piped up.

‘Doesn’t matter. Could lose my job if an inspector comes on,’ Rod retorted. ‘Now find your bloody ticket or get off my bus.’ 

Making the young boy search for his discarded ticket gave Rod an untold amount of enjoyment. He drove along and whistled to himself, ignoring the general sense of hostility that radiated from some of his passengers. New people coming on to the bus were baffled at the sight of the young boy sniffling beside the ticket bin.

Eventually, the young lad presented him with a crumpled ticket, confident that he had found the right one. Rod snatched it from his hand and examined it at great length. ‘That’s not it – you got on three minutes after this –’

‘Oh, for God’s sake – you cruel man!’ someone exclaimed. An elderly woman shuffled up to Rod’s cabin and glowered at him as she reached into her purse. ‘I’ll get him a new one – you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.’

Rod took the money from her, annoyed that she had brought an end to his fun. As she went to sit down, followed by the young boy, Rod sped up the bus so that they both stumbled. To his delight, the old woman lost her footing and fell over. 

A few minutes later, a spotty teenager stepped onto the bus with an out-of-date bus pass. Rod swiped it from the boy’s unsuspecting hands. ‘Aha! This is two days out of date!’

‘I was on my way to renew it –’

‘Yeah – likely story,’ said Rod, as he pocketed the confiscated pass. ‘You know, it’s folk like you that are the scourge of our society. These bus passes put food on my family’s table, you know.’  

The spotty teenager was horrified. ‘Honestly, I was going to –’

‘Clear off!’ Rod yelled. ‘You’re a criminal and nothing less!’

The teenager cursed and slunk away. Rod shook his head and put his foot down on the accelerator, grumbling to himself as he drove off.

Later on that day, Rod’s bus was caught in terrible traffic and his mood blackened considerably. He ended up beeping his horn at every red light, as if each one was deliberately trying to ruin his day.

‘Bloody traffic,’ he grumbled. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed – shouldn’t be legal!’

He then encountered a very unwelcome sight in Harris Street’s bus bay. To his utmost horror, he saw that a taxi was parked there.

‘I don’t believe this,’ he muttered, slowing down the bus as he approached the bay. He hammered his horn, but the taxi did not move.

‘Get out the way!’

The taxi driver was busy helping someone take their shopping out of his boot. He completely ignored Rod’s demands. 

Rod gritted his teeth and snarled. His hands gripped the steering wheel and red hot anger rose within him. He hated it when people got in his way.

‘Right,’ he growled. ‘I’ve had it!’

Leaping out of his cockpit, he marched over to the taxi driver and gestured at the troublesome vehicle with animated exasperation.

‘Can’t park here, you idiot! What the hell are you playing at?’

The taxi driver chuckled. ‘All right, baldie. Calm down.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Rod fumed. He took a step closer to the taxi driver and puffed up his chest, but the taxi driver was at least a foot taller than him. ‘You’d better move, or else I’ll – I’ll smash your bloody face in!’

To Rod’s bemusement, half of his passengers were clearly laughing at him. The taxi driver shared in their humour.

‘Get out my hair, baldie. No need to cause a kerfuffle – I’ll get moving now.’

‘Yeah, you better had do!’

The taxi driver threw back his head and guffawed, not in the least bit threatened by Rod. He cooly climbed into his taxi and cruised out of the bus bay, leaving Rod as red as a lobster. 

After that, every little thing irritated Rod and he drove like an absolute lunatic. His passengers held on for dear life as the bus thundered along, fuelled by his uncontrollable rage.

‘Sorry about this,’ he called out to his passengers. ‘I’m doing this for your safety – there’s some right idiots on the road!’

A large car cut in front of him and he beeped his horn. He caught up with the vehicle at some traffic lights and wound down his window, shouting down to a mother and her two startled children.

‘You silly cow! Are you crazy? Do you realise you’ve just endangered the lives of my passengers?’

‘And do you realise that you’re upsetting my children?’ the woman retorted.

Rod was so outraged that he slammed down on the accelerator and drove straight through a red light, going well beyond the speed limit. Some of his passengers began to scream.

‘Oy – can you slow down a bit, mate?’

‘Excuse me, driver – you’re going too fast!’

Rod slammed on the brakes and brought the bus to an abrupt halt. ‘Everyone get off! I’ve had enough!’

The shocked passengers took a moment to register. Slowly, they began to stand up and exit the bus. Most of them were a delicate shade of green. 

‘I’m suing for whiplash,’ a frail old woman complained.

‘Yeah, you do that, love.’

Once all the passengers had disembarked, Rod continued on his way, driving aimlessly around the streets of his dull town. He caught the eye of several people who were clearly confused as to why the No. 53 had gone rogue.

Before long, Rod realised that he was being pursued by two police cars. They indicated for him to pull over the vehicle, but Rod was too afraid to do so.

‘What do they want?’ he cried. ‘I haven’t done owt wrong, have I?’

As he sped up the bus, he pondered bitterly over the day’s events. It seemed that everyone had been out to get him.

Loud sirens pierced his thoughts. ‘Christ, I can’t have any peace!’

Rod was driving so fast that he did not have time to slow down at the upcoming roundabout and hurtled straight across the grassy island. He heard cars screech and collide in his wake, yet the police cars still pursued him. Up above, a helicopter joined the hunt.

‘What the devil will Shirley think of me?’ Rod wondered, giving some thought to his wife. A grim smile crept across his face. ‘She won’t be best pleased, the silly old –’

Something splattered across the windscreen. Rod yelped, fumbling with the steering wheel as he tried to see through the explosion of white feathers. He slammed on the brakes and attempted to regain control of his vehicle, but it crashed through a hedgerow and capsized, skidding through a ploughed field and spewing up great clods of earth, finally coming to a jerky halt.

When Rod came to his senses, he realised that he was in the middle of a potato field. His body ached all over and he tried to climb out of his overturned cockpit, but he could not find the strength to lift himself out. His concentration was shattered by the shrill sound of approaching police sirens.

Several patrol cars raced onto the field and circled around the capsized bus. The police officers sprang forth from their vehicles and approached with great caution, but they soon realised that Rod posed no threat. To Rod’s embarrassment, they tried and failed to extricate him from the bus, and eventually had to summon the fire brigade. Once he had been hoisted out, he was handcuffed by a stony-faced policeman.

‘It’s been a terrible day, officers – you’ve got to believe me –’

‘Save it for the station, sir. You’ve got a lot to answer for.’

And so Rod ended up in prison for dangerous driving and also had his license revoked. He often grumbled to the other inmates about how his passengers and fellow motorists had pushed him to one moment of madness, but never – not for one second – did he think that he was to blame for any of it.

Feeding The Belly God

Four different coloured spoons clamoured around the dish, each wanting to feed the last mouthful of paella to the Belly God.

‘Step back everyone,’ warned Green Spoon, diving in first. ‘This last bit’s mine.’

‘Not a chance, you greedy scoundrel!’ protested Yellow Spoon, knocking him back. ‘You’ve had far too much already!’

‘And why should you be trusted with it?’ Green Spoon asked him, with a mocking smile. ‘You’re old and chipped and belong in an antique shop.’

Yellow Spoon’s eyes bulged. ‘How very dare you!’ he roared. ‘I’ll have you know that –’

‘Stop it, the pair of you!’ cried Red Spoon. ‘Everyone knows that Belly God loves me the most – I should have the honour of feeding Him.’

‘But – what about me?’ Blue Spoon mumbled, keeping his distance from the conflict. ‘You never let me do it.’

The other spoons laughed.

‘Darling, you know you’re far too clumsy,’ said Red Spoon, trying to suppress her giggles. ‘You’d just drop that paella on the floor.’

‘No I wouldn’t –’

‘Stop this petty squabbling!’ demanded Yellow Spoon. ‘There was never any trouble before you three came along –’

‘Back in the good old days, eh Gramps?’ Green Spoon scoffed. ‘Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we’re here to stay!’

‘Belly God will be wanting me,’ said Red Spoon, letting out a deep and longing sigh. ‘The way He feels when I caress His tongue – oh, it’s magical.’

Green Spoon sniggered. ‘You are deluded, Red Spoon. Do you think Belly God wants you fawning over Him when He’s trying to enjoy His food?’

‘We have a connection!’ said Red Spoon grumpily. ‘Something that you wouldn’t understand.’

‘Silence!’ commanded Yellow Spoon, stomping down on the ground. ‘This is shameful behaviour. Absolutely shameful!’

Blue Spoon cleared his throat. ‘I don’t think Belly God actually cares who feeds Him – as long as He gets fed.’

‘Don’t be so ludicrous!’ cried Yellow Spoon. ‘It takes talent to serve – I have seen other spoons come and go, yet I remain!’

‘Not for much longer, you old crock!’ Green Spoon sniped. ‘Your days are numbered.’

‘Indeed, that may be the case,’ admitted Yellow Spoon. ‘But it’s been a good life. And I’ll be damned if I let you have the last mouthful again.’

Green Spoon cackled. ‘But who better for the job?’

‘Perhaps we should draw straws,’ suggested Blue Spoon. ‘Let chance decide.’

Silence fell upon the spoons. They looked at each other, terrified by the idea of fair play.

‘Blue Spoon, you yet again spout your nonsense,’ Yellow Spoon grumbled, walking around the edge of the dish. ‘If we did it your way, then you’d be in with a chance!’

‘I promise I won’t drop it –’

Green Spoon howled with laughter. ‘You said that last time. And the time before that.’

‘Just face it, dear,’ said Red Spoon, giggling to herself. ‘You’re simply not cut out for this feeding business.’

Blue Spoon grew angry. ‘How can I learn from my mistakes if you won’t let me practice? You’ve never given me a chance! Ever since I arrived here, all you’ve done is judge and criticise –’

‘All right, young one,’ said Yellow Spoon, in a soft and gentle voice. He and the other spoons were shocked by the outburst. ‘Perhaps we ought to let you –’

‘No!’ Green Spoon barked. ‘Have you completely lost your mind? Blue Spoon will never learn!’

‘There’s no harm giving him the last bit,’ said Red Spoon, taking pity on their blue companion. ‘We’ll be seeing Belly God again in the morning – and they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.’

‘That’s settled then,’ said Yellow Spoon, beckoning Blue Spoon over to the edge of the dish.

‘Now hang on a minute,’ cried Green Spoon, barring the way. ‘I didn’t agree to this –’

‘You’ve been outvoted,’ Yellow Spoon told him. ‘Now move aside before I feed you to Belly God!’

‘Fine,’ snapped Green Spoon, storming away in a flurry of rage. ‘But don’t come crying to me when he messes up.’

Blue Spoon watched him leave, then turned towards the dish. Yellow Spoon and Red Spoon smiled at him from the sidelines.

‘I’ll try to be careful,’ said Blue Spoon, fumbling as he climbed into the dish. ‘I’m not as clumsy as you think.’

The last mouthful of paella lay waiting for him. Red Spoon and Yellow Spoon watched as he nervously approached it.

‘Go on, dear,’ urged Red Spoon. ‘We’ve kept Belly God waiting quite long enough.’

Blue Spoon nodded. He then stooped down and shovelled up the small heap of food, wobbling slightly as he did so.

‘There you go, lad,’ said Yellow Spoon, hardly daring to breathe. ‘You’re nearly there.’

Blue Spoon saw a few grains of rice tumble off. He tried with all his might to hold the rest of the heap in place.

And then a hand appeared from the sky, swooping down to collect Blue Spoon and his precious cargo.

‘Here He is!’ Red Spoon swooned. ‘Don’t forget me, Belly God – we’ll rub against each other tomorrow.’

The majestic hand lifted Blue Spoon into the sky. The other two spoons watched with awe as he disappeared from view.

Blue Spoon could not remember the last time that he fed Belly God, but he had been practicing in secret, preparing for the day that the other spoons would give him a chance. Now it was time to make up for his past clumsiness.

Belly God’s hand directed Blue Spoon up toward His mouth, which was above His big hairy belly. A large tongue came out to greet him and licked the paella off his metallic surface.

‘Mmm,’ a deep voice boomed. ‘That was goooood.’

Blue Spoon gasped. It was always a pleasure to serve the Belly God.

When the large hand returned him to the dish, the other spoons were waiting for him, barely able to contain their curiosity.

‘How was it, child?’ Yellow Spoon asked him. ‘Did He impart any words of wisdom?’

‘Did He have any messages for me?’ Red Spoon inquired.

‘I – erm –’

‘He probably wondered why I didn’t give him the last bit,’ Green Spoon grumbled. ‘Belly God likes routine. He won’t be happy that it was broken.’

Blue Spoon walked away from his squabbling companions, filled with a deep sense of accomplishment. Every mealtime was a battle, but Blue Spoon was growing stronger.

Grimble and Gombre

Two stone giants sat upon a drab grey mountainside, picking moss off each other’s backs. It had been raining for five days straight and they were both in very low spirits.

‘Wish it’d clear up,’ said Gombre, looking wistfully at the moody sky. ‘I’m sick of this green fluff growing all over us.’

‘Aye,’ said Grimble, finding a new patch of green upon his friend’s shoulder. ‘Can’t take it anymore – I’m soaked right through!’

The rain continued to pelt down. Grimble and Gombre tried to get a fire going, but their efforts were futile.

‘Can’t even cook our food,’ moaned Gombre. ‘Raw rabbit just don’t taste the same as cooked.’

‘Terrible, ain’t it?’ said Grimble, staring at his sodden limbs. ‘I’m as wet as a river bank.’

Without warning, the rain stopped. The two stone giants looked around in surprise, unable to believe that the downpour had ended so suddenly.

‘Thank goodness for that!’ Gombre cried.

‘Now we can get a fire going!’ said Grimble, picking up his tinder box. ‘Celebrate with a nice rabbit stew.’

‘Mmm – I like your thinking!’

As they set to work lighting the fire, the clouds began to disperse and the sun shone upon them, helping to dry off their rocky flanks.  And then the most amazing thing happened…

‘Look Grimble!’ cried Gombre, gawping at the colourful arch that had appeared across the sky. ‘What do you suppose that is?’

‘Don’t know,’ said Grimble, scratching his head.

The two stone giants had never seen colour quite like it. The multicoloured arch stretched all the way across the eastern horizon. Gombre reached out towards it and to his great surprise, he plucked it right out of the sky. It fell on to him like a shimmering rope.

Grimble edged towards it, his eyes wide with awe. ‘That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my whole life.’

‘Aye,’ said Gombre, holding the colourful rope in his grey hands. ‘More beautiful than the Mountain Goddess.’

‘Don’t be blasphemous now, brother,’ warned Grimble. ‘Old Nanny-Bird taught us to respect the Gods.’

‘But it is pretty though,’ said Gombre, admiring the rope’s many hues. ‘A beautiful gift after all that rain.’

‘What should we do with it?’ asked Grimble, for the rope was indeed pretty, but he could see no practical uses for it.

Gombre pondered for a moment. He then chuckled to himself and searched for the ends of the rope.

‘What you doing?’ Grimble asked him.

‘You’ll see,’ said Gombre, fumbling with the rope. He eventually found the ends and began to skip. The ground shook every time his large bulk crashed down and the multi-coloured rope was a spinning blur of colour. As he skipped, golden sparks flew off it.

Grimble eyed the magical rope with envy. ‘Can I have a go?’

‘Not yet, brother,’ said Gombre, who was having far too much fun with his new toy. ‘You get started with the rabbit stew. Then you can have a go!’

‘All right then,’ conceded Grimble, sloping off to cook dinner. He sat hunched on the dull mountainside, watching his friend dance with a whole spectrum of vibrant colours.

After a while, Grimble lost patience. But then Gombre needed to catch his breath and passed the rope over to him. Grimble took the rope in his hands and immediately began to skip with it. Golden sparks flew everywhere.

‘Didn’t know such colours existed,’ said Grimble, giddy with excitement. ‘Feels like I’m dreaming.’

‘Aye,’ said Gombre, coming over with his hand outstretched. ‘Give it back now, Grimble.’

‘But that’s not fair!’ Grimble protested. ‘I’ve only had it for two seconds!’

‘It belongs to me!’ shouted Gombre, snatching the rope from him. ‘I plucked it out of the sky!’

‘Give it back!’ cried Grimble, wrestling with his friend. ‘Don’t be greedy!’

The two stone giants brawled upon the mountainside, tugging at the rope and throwing punches at each other. The ground shook as they thrashed around upon it.

Suddenly, a large crow swooped down from the peaks above and circled around them. The two giants were too enthralled in their fight to even notice that she was there.

‘Stop this squabbling at once!’ demanded the crow, pecking at their heads. ‘The heavens bless you with a fine gift and here you are fighting over it like a pair of dogs – how shameful!’

The giants stopped what they were doing and looked up at her with remorse. ‘We’re sorry, Old Nanny-Bird.’

‘So you should be!’ the crow squawked. ‘Now put this nonsense to bed and make friends.’

Grimble and Gombre glanced at each other, realising the error of their ways. They decided to share the rope and it stayed at their camp for many moons, bringing colour to a place that very much needed it. Every time they used it to skip, golden sparks would fly off it and new worlds would be born.

The Realm of the Tooth Fairies

tooth fairy kingdom

Megan was scared of getting her wisdom tooth removed. A childhood incident had left her very wary of the tooth-tinkering profession, so she wanted to avoid dentists if she could help it.

But the wisdom tooth was causing great pain. It did not make Megan feel very wise and kept on burrowing through her gum without any regard for her feelings. Enough was enough. The wisdom tooth had to go.

So Megan went to the dentist, her heart pounding in her chest as she approached the dreaded place. The very thought of entering this torture chamber made her feel nauseous, but she mustered all of her courage and ventured forth into the unknown.

The tooth-tinkerer was much more helpful than Megan’s tooth-tinkerer of yesteryear. He removed the wisdom tooth in a jiffy and put it into a little jar for Megan to keep as a memento.

Megan left the dentist feeling very proud of herself. She had a numb cheek and could barely talk, but she had faced her biggest fear.

When she went to bed that night, she placed the wisdom tooth beneath her pillow and drifted off into the land of nod. She was greeted by a shimmering little creature in the heart of an ancient woodland.

‘Where am I?’ Megan asked. ‘What’s going on?’

The little creature fluttered its wings and landed upon Megan’s shoulder. ‘I am a tooth fairy, Megan. You were very brave today.’

‘Oh – thanks.’

‘Follow me,’ the tooth fairy said, floating off through the trees. ‘We have been waiting for you.’

Hesitating slightly, Megan followed the tooth fairy through the forest. She could hear angelic singing and the fluttering of many wings. Before long, she gazed upon a giant pearly white tooth, which hundreds of fairies gathered around like fireflies.

‘Megan, we wish to reward your bravery,’ said her fairy escort. ‘You have shown extraordinary courage and we are very pleased with this.’

Suddenly, there was a fanfare of melodic trumpets. A regal-looking fairy emerged from a balcony on the upper echelons of the giant tooth.

‘Greetings Megan – I am Queen of the Tooth Fairies,’ announced the fairy, wearing a sparkly crown. ‘In recognition of your bravery, I grant you one wish. Within the confines of my kingdom, by the power invested in me as divine ruler and custodian of all teeth, great and small, I declare that anything you wish will be possible.’

Megan was blown away by this proposition. She pondered over it for some time, wondering what to wish for. The fairies floated around her in anticipation.

‘I wish –’ Megan hesitated. ‘I wish to fly!’

‘Very well,’ said the Fairy Queen. ‘Then fly you shall, oh brave one.’

In that moment, Megan was transformed into a beautiful fairy. She revelled in flying around the giant tooth castle, stopping off for some luncheon with the Fairy Queen before venturing off deep into the woods. Dozens of fairies travelled with her, singing and laughing with pure childlike innocence. Megan forgot all about her pain and woes, for no evil existed in this realm. Only joy and love existed in the Tooth Fairy Kingdom.

The following morning, Megan woke up in a daze. She felt as though she had been flying and singing all night, but she couldn’t remember where or why. All she knew was that she had been a brave girl.

The Chipmunk and the Tree

The tree spoke to the chipmunk with utmost gratitude. ‘Thank you, my dear fellow. Thank you for watering my parched roots.’

The chipmunk grinned and showed off his large gnashers. ‘You’re very welcome, Mr Tree. I could tell that you were thirsty.’

‘Oh I was, dear boy,’ the tree sighed, his old branches creaking. ‘A terrible drought has fell upon the land. My roots have soaked up every last drop of moisture.’

‘I will bring you more,’ promised the chipmunk. ‘Give me a few days and I’ll be back with more.’

‘That would be marvellous,’ said the tree, overwhelmed with joy. ‘How can I ever repay you?’

‘Well,’ pondered the chipmunk, stroking his fluffy chin. ‘It would be nice to hear some stories.’

‘Stories?’ the old tree frowned.

‘Yes,’ said the chipmunk. ‘You have been here for hundreds of years. Tell me some stories of what you have seen.’

The old tree chuckled. ‘Be careful what you wish for, Master Chipmunk. Are you sure that you want to listen to me prattling on about winters gone by?’

‘Please, Mr Tree,’ begged the chipmunk. ‘I have always yearned to know what came before.’

‘Very well,’ said the tree. ‘But I warn you, Master Chipmunk – not all of my stories are pretty.’

The chipmunk made himself comfortable on one of the tree’s thick branches, nestled into a knotted groove. ‘What was it like?’ he asked, no longer able to contain himself. ‘What was it like before the world fell to ruin?’

‘Oh, it was beautiful!’ the tree exclaimed. ‘Many a rendezvous took place beneath my branches – secret lovers in the dead of night, picnics, children playing hide and seek – I was barely ever alone…’

The chipmunk gave him a sympathetic smile. ‘I don’t encounter many living things either. You’re not alone in that respect, Mr Tree.’

‘There used to be so many people,’ the tree cried. ‘But alas, they destroyed themselves – my boy, there has been so much death…’

The chipmunk bowed his head, weighed down by the sadness of the tree’s words. ‘Do you think the land will ever flourish again, Mr Tree?’

‘With creatures like you, Master Chipmunk, then quite possibly,’ the old tree replied.

Clogged Pipes

I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that steak. But when someone cooks a meal for you, it’s rude to turn it down. And so I graciously accepted the dense red meat.

Alas, the enzymes in my body are not trained to deal with such immense slabs of protein. For a week after, the steak crawled through my pipes, barely digesting at all. It felt like a block of steel.

Every meal that followed was held up by the congestion. Days passed by and the troublesome, slow-moving steak let nothing slip past its wide berth. I have never felt so bloated in my entire life.

All I could do was wait. I was at the complete mercy of this large vehicle and it took forever to travel through my system. Before long, I lost my appetite because literally nothing else would fit inside my body!

When the steak finally reached the end of its slow voyage, I braced myself for the release and sensed that it was going to be a difficult birth. Sitting on the toilet, I pushed with all my might. The steak seemed reluctant to leave. I squatted there for quite some time before it showed any signs of shifting.

There was no going back now. No matter how long it took, I would remain on the toilet until the bitter end. After many painful pushes, the steak finally dislodged and came out in one solid lump.

Now that the cork was gone, a week’s worth of backlog escaped from my bowels. For the following ten minutes, a steady stream of sludge poured out of my body, my clogged pipes becoming clear once more. The sudden emptiness caused a little bit of nausea, but I was glad that the ordeal was over. Curse my mother’s cooking.

Hearing Problems

Flashing her pass, Margaret boarded the bus and shuffled up the aisle, daydreaming about the ocean pie that she would be having for her tea. She was interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Oh hello, Margaret!”

It was Betty. Silly old Betty from Tuesday Club. Margaret couldn’t be bothered talking to her, so she began to edge away. “Sorry love, I can’t talk – haven’t got my hearing aid in.”

Margaret scurried off to the back of the bus. She thought nothing more of the awkward encounter until she bumped into Betty a week later.

“Oh hello, Betty! Do you like my new coat?”

Betty’s face tightened. It took her several long seconds to reply. “Oh sorry love, I didn’t see you there – don’t have my specs on.”