(1100 words) It was evening on a cold, windy New Year’s Eve as Stephen Stein made his way along the drab downtown high street. There were few people about and the shops were closing or closed. He caught a glimpse of himself reflected in a dark store window. A wild mop of straggly grey hair, a thick beard of matching grey with touches of white, a black greatcoat, stained and smelly, and heavy brown boots, scuffed by hundreds of hours of tramping the streets. Stein adjusted an incongruous chequered yellow scarf at his neck, brand new, it even had the price tag – thirty pounds. He’d found it in a bin, put out for collection. Now he rolled it and put it in a pocket in case someone had second thoughts and came looking for it. “Hi Stevie boy, Happy New Year!” It was Robbie, the owner of the laundromat, a genuinely kind-hearted guy and one of the only people in this small town full of small-minded people who’d give him the time of day. Stein pulled his gaze away from the window and his eyes glinted at the twenty-pound note held out to him. “Get yourself some whisky on me.”
(1700 words) Oswald remembered his mother’s advice. “Never accept food from strangers.” “Why not mother?” he’d asked. “Well, if you buy it from Mr. Barmwell, the baker, you know he will have checked the ingredients and made sure they were all tip-top and wholesome. If you buy food from a shop, well they have important people who will have made sure the food is healthy and safe to eat.” “Yes, mother.” “But a stranger, well, they could have put poison in it, or worse!” Oswald scratched his head. “What’s worse than poison!” “Ah, well, there are potions that would turn you into a giant cockroach, or make your arms shrink to nothing, or turn everything you say into a scream of pain, or ….” “No, I won’t mother,” Oswald interrupted hastily, not wishing to hear further horrors. But now the wicked witch, for such was she, held out a crumb from the most delicious-looking cake Oswald had ever seen. “My mother said I mustn’t accept food from strangers.” “Ah, one little crumb can’t do any harm, surely?” Oswald, hesitated, then took the crumb from the old woman’s wrinkled hand and popped it into his mouth.
(950 words) Their mother's voice became serious. “Now the moon has gone through one cycle, it is time to make your own way in life. I will no longer be here to suckle you, and you must continue to wean on the fruits of the woods and farmers’ fields.” “But will we still see you, mother?” asked Blackberry, Sycamore’s brother, with a tear in his eye. “Yes, son, I will still frequent the same woods and fields, but it will only be a few moon-cycles before you will father leverets of your own. And just a few more before Bluebell, your sister, gives birth to her first litter.” “How exactly does that happen?” asked Sycamore, bemused. “You will find out son, never fear!” An older hare lolloped onto the moss. His coat had many curls and grizzled areas. Mother cleared her throat. “Now, I want to introduce someone to you. This is Uncle Ditch.”
(800 words) “Be polite and listen carefully,” said the old man to his four daughters, “and don’t speak unless you’re spoken to!” Their names were Anshula, Bakula, Chandhini and Darshini. By the grace of God they had been born exactly three years apart so that all four shared the same birthday – today, November 1st … Continue reading Promise Her the Moon