Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area

John grimaced. Every queue in Morrisons was trailing into the aisles. He’d only nipped in for a bag of prawn crackers, but he’d been seduced by the buy-one-get-one-frees, the two-for-£3s, the multipacks and the meal deals.

He’d been in there so long he wasn’t sure what day it was. He wasn’t sure who the prime minister was. He wasn’t sure who he was. Was his name even John?

His basket weighed him down like an albatross. Peeling himself from the kitchen roll section, he trundled exhaustedly towards the self-checkout machine.

We meet again, he thought, as he eyed the cold, calculating hunk of metal. I’m here to get my job done, you’re here to do yours. No reason for either of us to make things difficult. 

“Unexpected item in the bagging area.”

John reeled in shock. There certainly was not anything unexpected in the bagging area.

“Unexpected item in the bagging area.”

People were beginning to stare. A security guard unstrapped his walkie-talkie.

There is no fucking unexpected item in the bagging area…” John hissed frantically, tearing open the carrier bag.

Suddenly, he stopped. Nestled between his easy-peel tangerines and can of coconut milk was a baby. A mini-human. Un bébé.

It was pretty unexpected, John agreed begrudgingly.

*

From thereon, the Morrisons was declared a place of miracles by the Vatican. People flocked from all over the world to find their own unexpected item in the bagging area.

And they were not disappointed; the self-checkout machine threw out all kinds of shit. A koala bear. A velvet cape. A fried egg that looked a bit like Ed Sheeran.

All very unexpected.

THE END

The Christmas Advert

“Please, no more,” the man begged exhaustedly. “I’ve had enough.”

As tears slid down his face, the man’s entire body trembled. His eyelids were sellotaped to his forehead, his hands bound at the wrist. Strapped to a metal chair in front of a projector screen in a cold, dark room, he was at the mercy of his captors.

The John Lewis advertising team.

From their two-way mirror, the chief advertising executive turned to his colleague. “We’re nearly there. One more cute animal and a simpering, whispery remake of an 80s classic, and I think we’ve cracked it.”

His colleague eyed him nervously. “Are you sure he can handle it? You know, after what happened last time.”

The two shared a look.

“I mean, we already have a chinchilla in a wheelchair and a hauntingly sad soundtrack,” the colleague suggested hesitantly. “Maybe it’s schmaltzy enough now.”

“Maybe,” the executive pondered, stroking his chin. “Or maybe we’re one Ellie Goulding soundbite away from a viral smash hit.” He stepped away from the mirror. “What are his statistics showing?”

Ruffling through his notes, the colleague jotted down some figures and tapped them into a calculator. “Tears up 300% on the recently-bereaved pigeon advert, down 0.5% on the bewildered red squirrel. He’s 7.8 times more likely to buy a Russell Hobbs Heritage Standard microwave, but far less likely to go for the Swarovski cheese fondue gift set.”

“God damn it,” the executive said, slamming his fists on the table. “We’re so close.” He rolled up his shirt sleeves and paced the room. “That’s it,” he said, snapping his fingers.

“That’s what?” The colleague asked nervously.

“We just put them all together. The wheelchair chinchilla snuffs it, the pigeon is bereaved, and the red squirrel is bewildered by the whole situation.”

“But that doesn’t make any se…”

“It’s magic, pure fucking magic,” the executive said. “We’ll be shipping out those fondue sets faster than an Aldi till assistant, you mark my words.”

“I’m not sure he can handle it,” the colleague pleaded. “He’s becoming weak.”

The executive pushed his face towards his colleague until their noses met. “Fon. Due,” he said.

The colleague nodded resignedly. Typing some commands into his computer, he sat back, before pressing enter.

*

No-one knows quite what happened that day. Some say they heard the cries from miles away. Some say they have glimpsed the man, roaming the moors, sobbing incoherently. The advertising executives were never seen again. They just disappeared. Vanished, like melted snowflakes.

THE END

* This story was NOT sponsored by John Lewis. Although I would happily accept a cheese fondue gift set.

The Con Artist

“You are brought here today accused of a wicked, heinous crime. A crime that has shocked and appalled in equal measure. A crime that has sent a shiver down the spine of every right-minded person in this community.

“You stand accused of defrauding countless men across the UK. You stand accused of deceiving men with your lies, your illusions, and your deliberate concealment of your true nature.

“In your wicked pursuit, you have left hearts shattered, Oyster cards used for no good reason, and haircuts purchased in vain. You have cheapened saucy Snapchats, invalidated tentative sexts, and nullified restaurant reservations.

“In your heartless mission, you have wasted WhatsApp messages and hours spent carefully evading the Friend Zone by concocting the perfect formula of exuding sexual dominance without seeming like a complete a-hole.

“You have quashed men’s hope of finding The One. You have made them feel used and vulnerable – mere shells of what they once were. You have left them devoid of trust, no longer knowing whom they can believe.

“Lauren Alisha Williamson, you are hereby charged with the crime of looking absolutely fuck-all like your Tinder pictures. How do you plead?”

THE END

U OK, hun?

Detective Inspector Jose Mundalez knew there was something weird about this one. Just knew it.

He crushed his cigarette beneath his foot and moved one step closer to the body. Matty ‘MJ’ Jacobson had boiled to death in an enormous vat of baked beans, his corpse discovered in a desolate warehouse at just after 6am on a swelteringly hot Chicago morning.

Mundalez had worked some sick cases in his time. He’d been just a rookie when he’d solved his first serial homicide case: a psycho by the name of The Washing Up Liquid Killer (also known as Steve). Tortured by his memories, he’d drank too much, screwed too much, couponed too much. Ordered by his captain to take leave, he’d left Chicago P.D. to rediscover the convoluted sob story that had made him want to become a cop in the first place.

But now he was back, and something about this case had excited him. What was the victim doing out here? And why was he covered in beans?

Matty’s family, friends and co-workers had all confirmed that he didn’t even like baked beans. The CSI squad had recovered no beans from his house. So what was he doing dead in this warehouse, beans all up in his grill?

“Lopez,” Mundalez barked at the young detective examining the vat. “Have we confirmed the time of death?”

Lopez smirked. “In Heinz-sight that would have been a good idea.”

“Get back to work,” Mundalez snapped.

He stepped carefully onto the silver ladder attached to the side of the vat. Peering over the edge, he surveyed its contents.

Beans. Lots and lots of beans.

The smell was rancid. Like tomatoes and entrails and when you pull a load of hair out of the plughole and it looks like a small mammal. At the edge, a puffy face floated helplessly.

Teetering on the top rung of the ladder, Mundalez leaned towards Matty’s face.

“U OK, hun?” he whispered.

THE END 

cropped-blog-drawing-smallest.jpg

Deep in the Cornish countryside, there is a legend as old as time itself. A legend so ghastly, so blood-curdling, dear reader, that I am loath to utter it. For in the shadows, in the whisper of the trees, there resides a ghoul. Consumed with torment, she haunts the village with her anguished wails and icy breath.

Whether people are birthing a sheep, paying their respects at a funeral or watching reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC2, the ghoul will appear and start breastfeeding her ghoul baby indignantly. Only if you say “Please can you put your breasts away so I can eat in peace” three times will the ghoul float away, screaming, to the Daily Mail.

Living in constant terror, the country folk are unable to sleep or eat. The life expectancy is now 37. Crops are withering away. Cattle are perishing. So that’s where I come in. Timothy Rothchild, ghoul hunter extraordinaire, pleased to meet you.

*

“This’ll be your lodgings for the night,” Martin Jackson, the landlord of the local pub says as he places my suitcase on the bed. 

I glance around the room. It’s not much, just a single bed and a rickety wooden chest of drawers that looks like it will collapse at any moment. But there’s a pile of lovingly-folded blankets and a pitcher of warm milk to keep me cosy.

“This shall be more than adequate,” I say, taking off my flat cap. “I bid thee good night.”

Once the door closes, I change into my night garments and huddle beneath the blankets. Sleep is slow to come, but when it does, it embraces me fully.

Some hours later, I am awoken by a curious suckling sound. Striking a match, I light my candlestick and gasp. It is she. (The breastfeeding ghoul I mentioned earlier, please keep up).

“Be gone, ghoul,” I command, my voice wavering. “You are not welcome here.”

“But discrimination…”

“Be gone!” I shout, throwing some frankincense and eye of newt at her.

Her pale eyes glare in the darkness.

“You must leave this village and never return, do you hear me, ghoul?”

“It’s Sarah.”

“What?”

“My name is Sarah.” She floats to the window, gazing sadly into the distance. “I wasn’t always like this, you know. I didn’t assume that people were sadists if they’d prefer not to watch me lactate into someone else’s mouth while they’re eating a steak bake at Greggs. I wasn’t always hated so.”

“It can be so again,” I say, reaching my hand out to her. “Breastfeeding is a normal, natural part of life. No-one thinks it’s gross. Just stop being so smug and self-righteous about it.”

“You’re right,” Sarah says. “Thanks, Timothy.”

“Wait, how do you know my name?”

“I have always known,” Sarah says as she fades into the darkness. “I have always known.”

THE END