Get Real, by Michele Brenton
My name’s Cinderella;
my mates call me Cin.
I’m fashionably scruffy
and trendily thin.
I’ve got gorgeous skin
(it’s so good to be young)
a stud in my nose
and one more on my tongue
I’ll tell you my story
(go on, take a chair)
it’s worth hearing trust me;
I know, I was there.
I was in the kitchen alone
late at night
When a noise from the scullery
gave me a fright.
I opened the door and saw
in that room
an ancient old hag
speaking out of the gloom.
‘I‘m your Fairy Godmother,’
Yes, it was she
walking into the kitchen
and talking to me.
‘I have come to make sure
that you go to the ball,’
and she waggled her wand
at a hole in the wall.
She waggled it once,
waggled it twice
Sniffed and said sharply,
‘There ought to be mice’.
“Mice in this kitchen!
No chance. No way.
There aren’t even germs
thanks to anti-bac spray!”
‘Oh never mind –
I’ll improve on your clothes
and I’ll soon heal up that thing
in your nose.
‘Highlights in your hair
and a few well placed curls;
should result in you
being the cutest of girls.’
‘Excuse me! Whatever?
Do I count at all?
No-one’s asked me
if I want to go to this ball.’
‘But The Prince will be there
to make you his bride.’
‘Stay there while I run
to Bermuda to hide’.
‘But I don’t understand,
I’ve been thrown for a loop.
I brought this great pumpkin.’
‘Great, make pumpkin soup.’
‘I had planned glass slippers,
silk gloves and a hat.’
‘I’d rather be dead
than be seen wearing that.’
Well after a talk
she at last saw the light.
As *F. godmothers go
she wasn’t too bright.
I suggested she watch
some cable t.v.
then took her to concerts
and clubbing with me.
F.G ditched her wings
and got a jet;
lost lots of weight
but better yet,
She got a boyfriend – name of Vince.
Yup, you guessed it. He’s The Prince.
Princey’s happy with dear F.G.
I’m ecstatic just being me.
The Owl’s Lament, by Patrick Whitaker
I loved her; I killed her. I love her still.
If you think that perverse or contradictory, you’ve never been in love. Not the way I have.
Two years ago, we went to sea in a pea green boat.
Yeah, that was us. The Owl and the Pussycat. It happened much the way the poet tells it.
Our parents were against the match. Mine said: ‘She’s a pussycat. What the hell are you playing at? We’ve never told you this, but your brothers and sisters were eaten by a cat minutes after they hatched. They didn’t even have the chance to experience the delights of regurgitated mouse and earthworm.’
‘Mummy,’ I said, ‘and Daddy too. You know I love you and I wouldn’t hurt you for all the runcible spoons in the world, but I have met the love of my life and I would take death above losing her.’
‘You stupid, stupid owlet,’ said Mother. ‘Think of the shame you bring upon us – your dear mama and papa who have made such sacrifices.’
‘Mother, you are a tawny owl. Father is a barn owl. Have you forgotten the prejudice you faced when you declared your love for one another? Were you not disowned by your parents? And did it not hurt you like Sparrow’s arrow through the heart of Cock Robin? Yes, my love is a pussycat. Yes, her antecedents have done much harm to ours, but why should the crimes of the parents be visited upon the child?’
‘Begone!’ said Father. ‘And disgrace this family no more.’
For a year and a day. That’s how long we sailed. In a pea green boat.
The poet says it was beautiful. The poet is an arse.
The boat was barely fit for a boating lake, let alone the open sea. We were stuck in it for 366 days. Nothing to eat but fish. No water except what fell from the sky. No television. No Internet. No chance to nip down the pub.
No toilet. No shower. No privacy.
And pea green is an awful colour – especially for one who suffers from sea sickness.
Think on it.
And now for my dirty little secret.
There were three of us in that boat. The poet never knew. Never guessed the Passenger Pigeon came with us.
Yes. The Passenger Pigeon.
Makes sense now, doesn’t it? How the Passenger Pigeon vanished one day, never to be seen again…
I saw the way they looked at each other. And when they thought I was asleep, I heard him coo while my Pussycat purred.
But that wasn’t why I killed him.
I was hungry. Pussycat was hungry too. And we were carnivores.
We came to the land where the Bong-tree grows. And a pig sold us his nose ring for a shilling. A whole shilling for a bit of brass covered in pig snot! Then this turkey declares us man and wife.
The Pusssycat and I had much in common. We were both carnivores and nocturnal by nature. We liked the same TV programs and enjoyed online bingo.
It was the children that tore us apart. Half-owl, half-cat. Objects of derision.
Our neighbours took pity, but not in a nice way.
‘It’s not their fault,’ they’d whisper. ‘You have to blame the parents.’
The parents. One owl. One pussycat. Creatures who’d seemingly forgotten their place in the scheme of things.
When we moved into the neighbourhood, people mostly left us alone. A few showed some sort of friendship, but of the patronising kind. You know how it is. How certain folks open every conversation with, ‘Actually, some of my best friends are…’
At first, we had novelty value. People invited us to parties to show off their liberal leanings. But when the children died, our friends melted away.
A cat – felus caticus – has 38 genes. An owl has 26.
Our children should never have happened. They were freaks. 8 in all. 2 litters or broods. One litter of 5; one of 3. All died before they reached maturity.
Pussycat took it badly. Of course she did. Grief drove her into the arms of a Jumblie who saw a vulnerable pussycat and took advantage.
Yep. I killed the Jumblie. Then I killed my Pussycat.
And now I’m going to hang for it.
What a sorry, sorry way to end one’s life.
Scarlet Hood, by Anne Stormont
Saturday morning and Scarlet Hood pulled the duvet over her head when her mother called up the stairs yet again that she should get up. ‘Come on Scarlet, I need you down here now.” Scarlet sighed and gave in. She put on her blue jeans and red hoodie and went downstairs to the kitchen.
Her mum was loading the washing machine with one hand and the dishwasher with the other. Scarlet’s baby brother was in his highchair, spreading the contents of his porridge bowl all around the tray.
“At last!” said her mum, as Scarlet poured herself some cereal. “Can you take Robin’s bowl away and clean up the mess he’s made?’
Scarlet made a face as she mopped up. “I’m not surprised he just plays with it – disgusting stuff,” she said. The only person she knew who actually liked porridge was her best friend, Goldie. Porridge sure seemed to play a big part in her life.
But then Goldie was weird in lots of ways – nice but weird. Her latest porridge-based adventure – if you believed her and most folk didn’t – was that she’d gone into a deserted house in the woods, trashed the place, eaten some oats, fallen asleep and been awakened and chased by bears. The other girls at school didn’t know what to make of Goldie. Some of them tried to bully her and mocked her stories and her appearance. She dressed like someone out of a Disney fairytale – all gingham and ringlets albeit combined with biker boots and a whole lot of piercing. But Goldie was tough. She didn’t care what anyone thought. ‘I’m my own person,’ she’d say to Scarlet. ‘I dress how I like and I do what I want.’ That’s what Scarlet liked about her.
“I need you to go to Grandma’s,” said Scarlet’s mum.”‘I did some shopping for her.” Her mother pointed to a couple of plastic carrier bags sitting by the kitchen door.
Scarlet rolled her eyes, her mouth full of cornflakes.
“It’s not too much to ask,” said her mum. You can see how busy I am. And you like seeing Grandma, don’t you? ”
“Mmm, but I was going to hang out with Goldie.”
“You still can. Maybe she could go with you.”
In the end Scarlet arranged to meet Goldie at Grandma’s house, since Goldie hadn’t yet got out of bed when Scarlet texted her.
It was a couple of miles to where Grandma lived – just outside the village on the edge of the forest. The girls agreed to cycle there and then they could bike into town afterwards.
“Put your cycle helmet on and keep to the paths,” her mother called after her, as Scarlet put Grandma’s groceries into her panniers.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Scarlet under her breath.
When she got to Grandma’s cottage, she propped her bike under a tree, hung her helmet on the handlebars and unhooked the panniers. The forest seemed very quiet – not one bird was singing. There was a sudden gust of wind as she walked towards Grandma’s door and a startled, screeching crow lifted off from a treetop. Scarlet jumped at the noise and then shivered. The forest didn’t normally scare her but today it felt weird. She hoped it wouldn’t be long before Goldie arrived.
Scarlet knocked on the cottage door and went straight in. She expected her Grandma to be sitting in the living–room, sitting in her usual chair, doing her Sudoku – or on her laptop, updating her status on Facebook. But Grandma wasn’t there. “Hello,” she called.
“Hello,” her Grandma called back. “I’m in the kitchen, come through.”
Scarlet was very surprised to see Grandma putting away grocery shopping. There were still several full bags on the table. And sitting in a chair at the table was a young man, sipping a mug of coffee.
“Oh,” said Scarlet. “Mum asked me to bring you some shopping but it doesn’t look like you need any.”
Grandma smiled. “I told your mother last week that I’d make my own arrangements to get the shopping. She’s been very good since I’ve had to stop driving and they reduced the bus service to once every two months. But I know how busy she is.”
“Right,” said Scarlet. “What will I do with this lot?” She held up the panniers.
“Never mind that now. It’s lovely to see you anyway. And let me introduce you. Scarlet this is B.B.”
The young man looked at Scarlet and smiled. She stared back. His teeth seemed too big for his mouth. And his outstretched hand seemed unusually large and the knuckles were covered in hair.
“Pleased to meet you, Scarlet, ” the man said, grasping her hand in his and shaking it vigorously. “B.B. Wolf’s the name but everyone just calls me B.B.”
“B.B.’s the supermarket delivery man,” Grandma said. “It was great – I don’t know how he knew that I needed my shopping delivered but he knocked on my door and offered. All I have to do each week is give him my list and my bank card and he does the rest.”
“Really,” said Scarlet. She didn’t like the sound of this and she didn’t like the look of B.B. – all big teeth and hands. She frowned.
“Don’t scowl and don’t stare at B.B. like that. It’s not polite,” said Grandma.
“I can’t help it. He has awfully big hands and teeth,” said Scarlet.
“Scarlet!” gasped Grandma.
B.B. roared with laughter. “Yes, you’re not the first person to say that – but the teeth and hands come in very useful sometimes.” He smiled at Scarlet – a sinister, chilling, ghastly grin.
But she knew she must keep her wits about her. She sensed she and Grandma were in considerable danger.
“Grandma, how can he get your shopping without your PIN?” Scarlet asked
“Oh he has the PIN. It’s okay, he only uses it for the groceries and then gives me it back.”
Scarlet’s heart sank. She knew how trusting her Grandma was – always saw the best in folk. And it had been Grandpa who always checked the bank statements. Grandma wasn’t interested in that sort of thing. B.B. could easily have cleared out Grandma’s account. She decided to phone the police. She’d say she needed the toilet and then once in the bathroom she could call them on her mobile.
Her hand went to her pocket. Her mobile wasn’t there.
“Looking for this?” asked B.B. holding up her phone.
“What? How did you-”
“I took it when we shook hands – thought you’d prove to be trouble.” He laughed his horrid laugh, bared his horrid teeth.
“Give me it back,” said Scarlet. She didn’t let him see how scared she was. She tried to snatch it but he stood up, towering over her and holding the phone just out of her reach.
“He’s ripped me off, hasn’t he?” said Grandma. “How could I have been so stupid!”
“It’s not your fault Grandma,” said Scarlet. “Go and get your coat-”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” said B.B. He took hold of Grandma’s arm and pushed her down onto one of the kitchen chairs “I don’t think I can let you go.” He got between Scarlet and the door.
Scarlet was determined not to panic. She needed to think of a way to get her and Grandma out of the house and away from this creep. If they could get outside, they could perhaps take a forest path to the main road. Someone they knew was bound to come past in a car. She needed to keep him talking while she figured out their escape.
“There’s no delivery van outside. How did you get here with all the shopping?” she asked.
“Oh, I carried it. I’m very strong and I took a shortcut from town – through the forest – I know the forest very well – every path, every hiding place.” He reached out and grabbed Scarlet. He twisted her arm behind her back and pushed her towards Grandma. Scarlet was very scared but she struggled and kicked. She managed to get him in the shin. He let out a howl. “You little-” he raised his arm and she saw his huge paw coming towards her face.
Crash! The kitchen door clattered against the wall. Scarlet heard footsteps and shouting and Grandma screaming. “Get him constable!” came a woman’s voice.
Before B.B. could hit Scarlet, his arm was grabbed in mid-air. A policeman pushed him to the floor and handcuffed his wrists.
“Sergeant Woodman,” said the policewoman, going over to Grandma and shaking her hand.
“Good kick!” said a familiar voice.
“Goldie!” said Scarlet and she hugged her friend. “When did you get here?”
“Oh I was just behind you. But you know me. I like to look around the outside of a forest cottage – peep in all the windows before I go in. Especially after last time and you know…”
“Ah, yes the bears.” Scarlet smiled.
“Quite – and I was right to do so because when I looked in the kitchen window – I saw this – this creature and I didn’t like what I saw. I recognised him from ‘Crimestoppers’ – he’s preys on elderly ladies – cons them out of their money.” She pointed at the snarling B.B. who was being bundled outside.
“I’ll get him in the van ma’am,” said the constable.
“Your friend did well,” said Sergeant Woodman. “She called us when she saw what was going on – gave us an excellent description. We knew it had to be the guy we’ve been looking for.”
A few weeks later, Scarlet and Goldie both received bravery awards from the police and Grandma got a spot on Crimewatch warning other elderly people not to be taken in by doorstep conmen.
And when they grew up Scarlet became Head of the Fraud Squad and Goldie became Chief Constable – after a successful career as a detective investigating vandalism and burglary.