The latest challenge, prompted by the hashtag #RemoveALetterSpoilABook that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter, saw you at your best. Among many highlights in a whopping, inventive entry were Robert Schechter’s A Clockwork Orange, which featured Donald Trump’s manhood, and a turn by Ted Hughes in Katie Mallett’s Far from the Madding Crow. Other star performers were Mike Morrison, John Samson, Peter Bear, Toni Hinckley, Frank Upton and J.M. Wilson. Sadly there was room for just the six winners printed below, who take £25 each. Hugh King nets £30.
Hugh King/Bleak Ouse
In the chilly dawn, Seth Fluck limped past the glowering hulk of Ely Cathedral, down to the stinking mud and knife-cruel reeds beside the river. Mist hung over the water like foul breath greying a mirror. There were six plump rats already in the traps — simmered in vinegar they’d make a fine dinner for Gargoyle, his staffie cross.
There were wretchedly few eels nowadays. The sole victim of his illicit night-lines was a slimy, writhing tench. Was it rage or hunger that made him sink his jagged, blackened molars through its leathery scales and into the rank, bone-pricked flesh?
True fenmen can stalk and throttle a heron. Seth did so now, punished by its hideous scream and jet of fish-stench excrement splattering his moleskin breeches. Still, broiled heron was what it took to calm down Queenie when, as today, the madness was upon her — that or widgeon giblets mashed with turnip.
David Silverman/Lady Chatterley’s Over
Her first two deliveries went harmlessly past off stump. He grinned, bat raised aloft, holding her gaze with his, suggestive, challenging, as if to say, ‘I’ll show milady how we deal with t’fancy upper-class leg spin ’ere in Nottinghamshire, and a lot more besides…’ Sure enough, he caressed the third ball with the faintest of feathery glances, for four. The air was hot, heavy, sultry. She could hardly breathe. He hooked her next ball for six. She watched his masterful rippling muscles, imagining them holding her, against the oak tree behind the pavilion. She bowled again, lips parted, breast heaving with expectation. He drove straight, for three. She heard him, animal-like, as he brushed past. She realised her breathing was matching his, breath for breath, heartbeat for heartbeat. She barely had energy to bowl the last ball, which he gave a gentle exhausted forward defensive prod to silly mid-on.
Tom feels that ma concept ay acid rain is all a load of shite, due tae ma failure tae recognise Earth’s natural stratospheric phenomena. He didnae wantae accept ma complex environmental arguments. According tae Tom, it’s nae good tae gie a climate fuck. Ah say ye cannae be sustained by apathy, such a state ay affairs results in destruction ay this planet wi bad results. Ye huv tae care. Choose sustainability. Choose environmental goodness. Choose smokestacks and cow farts, car crap, aerosol cans, halocarbon refrigerants, foam-blowing freaking UV agents and huv failure, a short life ay misery. Choose science. Choose nonmelting polar ice. Choose slowdown ay global warming. Ah care for oor society, value ma life no end. Acid rain is nae good even wi drugs. A bigger hole in the ozone layer? That is tae recognise failure. And that’s that.
Jim Davies/Hard Ties
Mr Gradgrind was not to be reasoned with. ‘No, sir,’ he said. ‘Absolutely not, sir. No nephew of mine will attend the Mayor’s inauguration looking like a Persian diplomat. If you wish to avoid silk, I can furnish you with ties made of linen or calico or cotton, but a tie you must certainly wear. The topology of the ordinary necktie allows for no fewer than 87 separate and mathematically distinguishable ways of knotting. Now, sir, I grant you that not all of these are, by any means, to be considered as sartorially acceptable. Fashion must indubitably play its part. Today it is considered appropriate to have a small, neat knot — but no knot at all is no fashion at all. It is non-fashion, sir, and Gradgrinds have always despised non-fashion!’
Alan Millard/The Forsyte Aga
Despite Irene’s concerns, Soames applauded the unusually generous dimensions of what would eventually become their kitchen at Robin Hill. ‘Excellent, Bosinney,’ he said to the architect. ‘Well done, sir!’ Soames Forsyte, a man of foresight, saw kitchens as being the future in housing design. Times were changing. The kitchen would one day become the heart and soul of a house, a place where guests would naturally gather instead of the outdated parlour. All that a kitchen required was a focal point and for that he had an idea. ‘Imagine our guests,’ he said, ‘arriving and gathering around a modern oven with multiple functions, a new source of heat so intriguing and stylish that no one would wish to be anywhere else. Of course, I should have to coin a new name for it, something succinct like the Aga or even the Forsyte Aga since I would have been its inventor.
John Maddicott/Far From the Adding Crowd
Samson Bellwether had had enough. The week had not gone well. They’d laughed at his west-of-Wessex accent, his craving for pilchards and pasties, his belief in pixies, and his big rustic boots. And to think that it was only his noble intention to improve the calculating skills of the children of St Gizzy that had brought him to this dreary conference of elementary-school teachers. They had practised their practice, pored over their long division, puzzled over their decimals, sighed at the long columns of figures marching down the page, and wondered whether any of it had been worthwhile. Cui bono? said to themselves the two who knew Latin (not Samson). No, it had not been an inspiriting experience. Closing the door quietly behind him, and leaving them nodding over their graph paper, he shook the dust of Shaston from his feet. Next stop Lyonnesse!
Your next challenge is to submit an ode to a greasy spoon (16 lines maximum). Email entries, please, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 22 June.