Comic Tragedy

(900 words) Monastic life had its ups and downs. At first, it had been quite exciting, rising at 4.30 in the old Abbey in the summer, seeing mist covering the expansive lawns, whilst a golden glow on the horizon diffused over the orchard. Opening a window with its ancient leaded panes and breathing in that air, the air of creation. Taking it deep, deep into the lungs, holding it, thanking God for this life, and exhaling with gratitude. As the months went past and summer turned to autumn and autumn turned to winter, it wasn’t quite so exciting. The attraction of getting out of a warm bed onto stone-cold flags, and seeing your breath misting in the candlelight, not so appealing. Then a trip down a dimly lit corridor to fetch a jug of hot water for washing and shaving. Today, there was something wrong, the water was freezing cold, an ordeal to do my ablutions. Then out into the cold wind of the cloisters to the church and Vigils, the first service of the day. Brother Cecil greeted me, his double chin wobbling beneath his round pink face. “Having a lie-in Brother Paul?” “No, the water wasn’t heated, it took me longer.” Brother Cecil’s laugh sounded like a dog barking. “When I was a novice the water was never heated!”

The Collecting Game

(800 words) “I’m here to talk about collecting,” said the man with a red face and a bald head with a couple of sandy tufts above the ears. He reminded me of an aged Tintin. “Why should you collect? you may ask, and what should you collect?” “Well, how would you like to fill your house with useless junk and annoy people?” my wife whispered in my ear. A very practical lady was Sandra. A place for everything and everything in its place. And if it hadn’t been used in six months, it was down to the charity shops or the tip with it, as I knew from bitter experience, looking in vain for my favourite mac on one – not to be discussed – occasion.

Lost in Translation

(1000 words) We’d come down to the stream to find there was no bridge. Instead, lumps of rock protruded from the water at semi-regular intervals. Stepping-stones. “We cross here,” announced Eric. “Hang on a minute, it looks quite deep,” said Jan. “And those rocks look slippery,” said Petra. “Come on, girls, you’re not scared of a little stream are you,” laughed Eric. “What say you, Saul?” “Well,” I said, “we can’t go back. I’ll go first.” I took off my boots and socks, stuffed the socks into the boots, tied the laces together and strung them around my neck. Then I rolled my trousers up to my knees. “Good luck,” laughed Eric, slapping me on the back.

Wounded Walking

(900 words) “What are you talking about, I don’t have a sister!” Maurice Humphries was taken aback. Surely this gentleman, the last of the group to arrive, was the Reverend Herbert Galton? Apparently to be accompanied by his sister, Dolly. “You are Reverend Galton, are you not?” “I am Colonel Galton. Kenneth. The reverend is my brother.” Humphries regarded the motley crew of walkers gathered underneath the old railway bridge at Woodman’s Hyde. They stood, shuffling, fiddling with maps and compasses, clad in brightly coloured tops sporting names such as North Face, Berghaus and Patagonia. The colonel, by contrast, wore a Barbour jacket and high leather boots, looking for all the world as if he were going on a pheasant shoot. “Oh, I don’t have you on the list,” Humphries said. “No matter,” snapped the colonel, “you can put me on it now.”