The Joke That Bombed

1945 punchline

Oh, I forgot to mention, at the start of this month I won two minor writing competitions with my short fiction. Both with a limit of 200 words, one story was based on the prompt: “a piano lesson” – I took inspiration from the Laurel & Hardy short where as removal men they deliver a piano. The second comp. story was prompted by the word “laughter”, I came up with this:

The Joke That Bombed

Moonlight cast a blue glow over the desolate quarry. The chain-link fence had been cut, dusty footprints formed a path leading into the disused mine, now a forgotten storage facility.

‘There it is!’ Jed and Sam’s phone lights rested on the unexploded bomb rumoured to be stored here.

Sam’s beam picked out the stencil writing on its side: “1945 Punchline.”

‘Punchline,’ said Jed, ‘also known as the “Joke Bomb”, developed by the Peaceniks to end WW2 in a nonviolent manner; through laughter. Made of rubber, the bomb was designed to burst on impact releasing a failsafe joke targeting both sides equally. Boom, war over: no one can fight when laughing that hard. And the clever bit is the addition of a memory-suppressant causing everyone to forget a Joke Bomb had even been dropped.’

‘Did it work?’

‘They never tried it… (??) What are you doing?’

Sam pushed the bomb over the edge of the mineshaft. After several seconds silence there came a distant fart noise.

Both boys sniggered. Then jumped as a whoosh of blue air erupted from the deep hole.

Sam guffawed, struggling to say: ‘What just happened?’

Jed rolled on the ground weeping with laughter, ‘Dunno, I can’t remember.’


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Zest For Life

A beautiful family walk serenely towards a perfect horizon where a wonderful new day dawns. A soft disembodied voice fills the sky:

“Zest, everything you’ve ever wanted. Zest for life.”

A crumpled beer can hit the television screen.
‘Life’s not like that!’ said Davey opening another beer.
‘You mean our life’s not like that.’ Rosie hoovered noisily, nudging the spent tin under the worn sofa where it clanked, joining the others. ‘But if we got us some Zest…’
‘Ah, Zest Schmest!!’

We interrupt this story – “Zest for ever. Zest for life.” The calm voice says.

A bed-ridden elderly couple bathed in flickering blue TV light. Commercials washing over them. Their glassy eyes fixed.
‘Zest is supposed to give you another ten years,’ said Frank.
‘Of what?’ Doris asked.

Zest board room:
‘Projected profits are looking astronomically good,’ announced the suit in charge of the figures. ‘They’ve made a giant leap.’
Applause filled the room.
‘Research has proven Zest to be the best thing ever for mankind.’

MetroLab Research:
Professor Walters flicked through the analysis report.
‘Zest contains no special ingredient to enhance anything.’
‘It’s a placebo effect?’ whispered his assistant.
Walters nodded and dropped the hefty document in the shredder. It was wise to not bite the hand that feeds. Walters didn’t want to end up dead. Zest paid for the report. Zest owned MetroLab. Zest was all.

“Zest for life,” says the calm voice.

Davey dialled the order line, ‘I guess there’s no harm in trying some. Rosie, I’m going to gets us some Zest.’

This story was brought to you by Zest. Zest for happiness. Zest for life.

If you liked this story and want to read more I have another short one published in Issue 3 of StrippedLit500

A Diluted Idea

bathroom scales dial

It couldn’t get any better, or worse: maverick scientist, Ron Archimedes, had won the World Esoteric Science Fair’s Innovation Award, the Indie equivalent to a Nobel Prize, except without the cash. He therefore couldn’t afford to fly halfway round the world to accept the honour. Unless, he found an alternative to regular travel. Think! Concentrate! Eureka! Yes, that was it: concentrate. Fruit juices were commercially viable exports only if the water was extracted first and shipped as concentrate to be rehydrated at the sales destination. Smart. He’d also read somewhere the human body was 90% water… Exactly. It might just work.

With the appliance of science and reference to Yogic texts, Ron followed a programme of meditation, urination, sweat and tears, safely eliminating water, and mass, from his body. When his dried raison-like form dipped below the affordable 10kg freight tariff, Ron Archimedes packaged himself on his doorstep and called the couriers. However, the box marked ‘Just Add Water’ was never sent. The van was delayed by a sudden torrential downpour, only a cardboard mush found at the pick-up point.

Ron successfully rehydrated but never acknowledged his award. There’s no money in esoteric science, but weight-loss… that’s a different story.


I wrote this for a monthly competition: write 200 words on a single word prompt. The word was ‘Water’.

Web-based Artist (another Drabble)

deck upI was getting fed up of working at my desk and looking out the window to see the dump of a garden we inherited with this house. So, I took some time off, got lucky with the weather, and took up the decking that covered almost the entire garden. Disappointingly I found only concrete and spiders underneath – no treasure, but at least no bodies either.

I’ve since recycled the deck boards, cutting them and making planters, a new deck and pergola.

I dodged one shower and one massive spider which inspired me to write a 100 word story. It has been published on the CaféLit site, here.

I must get rid of the shed.

the cube


Spotlight on Mr McGovern

spotlight on mr mcgovernWorse than the cane, out came the dreaded phrase: “Illuminate me, please do,” along with the trademark condescending smile; Mr McGovern towered over the twelve-year-old me. Caught in the shadow of this self-proclaimed genius, I’d drawn attention to myself. I should’ve kept quiet like everyone else, not expressed my ‘radical’ political theories in class. The teacher known as ‘The Master’ liked nothing more than to crush young ideals. It worked. I crumbled. I withdrew. I am an idiot.

But I don’t forget.

Years later the Civil War began. Physical conflict favours the young. Out with the old.

The elderly McGovern awoke in darkness. Cold. Cheek pressed against glass. Gagged and unable to move, his limbs were bound, not together but spaced apart like a starfish. And he was face down.

In the night sky enemy aircraft rumbled. I switched the giant searchlight on.

Upon impending death we are told to look into the light. McGovern had no option; brilliant white, his sight lasted barely a second. Skin crisping and crackling. Acrid fumes billowed in the beam. He vaporised, no trace of genius, merely a burnt shadow.

As bombs dropped, I snickered, ‘ “Illuminate me”, who was the stupid one now?’


This piece won a competition to write a 200 word story prompted by one. That word was Illumination. For such a bright word my story is a tad dark.

I wrote several other different stories first but these attempts weren’t really happening. I was off-course, fumbling about in the dark. Eventually I had a lightbulb moment. Now I realise why the idea had taken so long to mature: it was an energy-efficient bulb and therefore took longer to achieve full brightness.

Such a Lovely Place

hotel california

The last time they’d tried to escape they’d got as far as the lobby. Glen Eagle, his wife and young daughter had made the mistake of taking their suitcases. They looked like a family about to leave, and with good reason. This hotel was the worst: the dirty rooms smelled, the beds were lumpy and the general noise intolerable.

This time they walked out in just the clothes they were wearing; a normal family on holiday, going for a midnight stroll, out of the hotel grounds and onto the sandy plains beyond.

‘Where are we going?’ asked his daughter.

‘To a different hotel,’ answered Glen, heading towards the shimmering lights in the distance.

The family continued walking in silence. Hopeful.

As they reached the next hotel on the dark desert highway, a cool wind began to blow in Glen’s hair, telling him not all was right. They were back where they’d left, the same manager waiting.

‘Ah! The Eagles. Welcome to the Hotel California. Please sign in. We have only one rule…’

‘Yeah, we know, “we can check out any time we like but we can never leave”,’ said Glen, thinking: Damn! We should’ve left during the overlong guitar solo.


This was my entry for a competition to write a 200-word piece on the theme of ‘Desert’. I spent 40 days and forty nights working on it.

The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ is one of those cultural fossils – I mean it will still be there when mankind has collapsed and disappeared. You can check out the 2-minute+ guitar solo any time you like…


Hard Egg News does not advocate the use of the Eagles for enjoyment purposes.

The Nature of Government

nature-of-governmentAs the trees shed their leaves, the bankrupt government passed a bill demanding they pick them all up again.

With only the law of gravity as their defense, the trees lost their case and were all cut down to make way for a giant car park.

The government celebrated. You can tax motorists, not trees.


The Prodigal Story: The above was a 55-worder I submitted to a competition site earlier this year. It got a few nice comments but was in danger of getting lost in the ether. So, while there were still a few leaves left on the trees, I thought I’d bring it back home again.

This one’s for the people currently ploughing their way through the HS2 document before the deadline. Good luck.

If you need to laugh rather than cry, here’s another short (100 words)
published at the wonderful Café Lit. – Having A Rubbish Time

A New Vision


‘Hello, New Age Opticians…’

‘Oh hi, I’m having trouble with the contact lens you supplied me this morning.’

‘I thought we’d sorted this out?’

‘It’s still not right.’

‘So what seems to be the problem now?’

‘It’s making my eye water. A lot.’

‘I see…’

‘No actually, it’s more of an ocean. In fact there’s a dolphin in my field of vision right now.’

‘Oh how lovely… I mean: that is serious. Is it in the left eye or the right?’


‘Oh, the third one.’

‘Yes, my mind’s eye.’

‘Then there’s nothing to worry about, Sir, you’re imagining it.’


Friday Fictioneers (FF) is a challenge open to writers all over the world: write a 100 word story using the week’s unique photo as inspiration. This week’s picture is supplied by Jean L. Hays.

More hows, whens and whats of FF can be found here at Rochelle’s site. (Thank you, Rochelle, for hosting.)

Read more FF stories here.

The Blur of Celebrity


‘Have you done a lot of these?’


‘This is my first, as a stand-alone out-of-focus person.’

‘It’s ‘background artiste’.’

‘Do you ever get recognised?’

‘No, I’m a professional.’

‘Oh. Easy job though, isn’t it? Just stand at the back and look fuzzy.’

‘Hardly! This isn’t crowd work, my dear.’

‘No, you’re right. I used to be in crowds but my agent said I was better than that.’

‘Pah! Agents.’

‘He promised me I was going to be one of those two walking down the passage.’

‘No chance!’

‘I’d love to go foreground.’

‘Wouldn’t we all, darling. Wouldn’t we all.’


Friday Fictioneers (FF) is a challenge open to writers all over the world: write a 100 word story using the week’s unique photo as inspiration. This week’s picture is supplied by Kent Bonham.

More hows, whens and whats of FF can be found here at Rochelle’s site. (Thank you, Rochelle, for hosting.)

More stories here