The latest challenge was to submit an extract from a novel that chronicles the adult life of a well-known fictional hero from children’s stories.
I enjoyed Jess McAree’s account of Paddington Bear’s Conrad-esque voyage — ‘evicted by Brexit, residence visa revoked’ — to the heart of darkness in deepest Peru. Hugh King, D.A. Prince and A.R. Duncan-Jones also shone with their portrayals of the later lives of the stars of the Just William and Noddy stories.
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the play based on J.K. Rowling’s books, the boy wizard has grown up and become a father of three who works for the Ministry of Magic. David Shields, one of those who made the final cut this week, imagined him taking an altogether different path. He and his fellow winners take £30 each. The bonus fiver belongs to Bill Greenwell.
Mr Speaker glared. A glare from Mr. Speaker’s eyes, which were of an incandescent character, was generally enough to quell all opposition. It had the force of an arc lamp, the strength of a projectile sent forth by a ballista. Hannibal would have quailed.
But not William George Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Conservative party, against whom the said glare was most forcibly directed. Bunter, despite the heat-seeking glare repeatedly sent his way, gave no sign of being aware of it. It was a glare, indeed, of which he was entirely unaware. He merely shifted his tight trousers upon the green leather, staring, apparently vacantly, into the middle distance.
Bunter’s mind was not empty. On the contrary, it was full. It teemed. He was remembering the moment, that very morning, when his chum Jacob Merry had said to him, during chapel, Tu quoque Caesar eris. Bunter licked his lips.
Hundred Acre Wood seems smaller now, plagued by ramblers and their dogs, its silence irregularly shattered by Christopher Robin and his City pals down for the shooting. Pooh, paws over ears, hides his full-grown ursine bulk as best he can, not wanting to embarrass. Being a Bear of Little Brain once charmed; now Christopher Robin threatens eviction, via his solicitor, explaining that youthful affections must be set aside for adult status to be maintained.
Pooh has matured, in his own, eccentric manner; mead has supplanted honey, intoxication adventure, desultory masturbation the conviviality of friends. Pooh shudders, recalling Piglet’s transformation into snorting, gluttonous Pig, a decline uncomfortably mirroring his own. Poetry has not quite deserted him, though he chunters rather than hums, his subjects now arthritis, veterinary fees, hypoglycaemia.
Later, Pooh will lumber drunkenly up to the bridge, hurling a small log into the river with impotent fury. It will sink.
Revenge, like carrots, is a dish best served cold. Setting the final preparations, Flopsy remembered his dead mother’s grim warning. ‘Don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden. Your father had an accident there…’ Flopsy’s obsessive ten-year mission of retribution was almost ready for its murderous execution. ‘He was put into a pie…’ Flopsy stiffened.
McGregor’s garden was his pride and joy. He busied himself daily, weeding, hoeing, with little idea what lurked below his beloved root vegetables. Flopsy, using powerful hind legs and a deadly compound of fertilizers and weedkillers ‘borrowed’ from McGregor’s shed, had packed an elaborate system of tunnels with 43,000kg of explosives, recreating the deadly trench-tunnel at the Battle of Messines. Using Cottontail and Mopsy as bait, he lured McGregor into the garden, lit the garden string, retreated to a safe distance and settled to enjoy the view and a delicious, Proustian meal of blackberries and camomile tea…
Jemima’s seventh birthday party was an unmitigated disaster. She’d insisted on a magician, and I eventually found this character online (at WIZARDSRUS).
‘The Great Pottini’ he called himself, and seldom have I seen such a shambling wreck of a man. He arrived late — some confusion over his platform apparently — and I couldn’t be sure he hadn’t been imbibing. He had an alarming scar on his forehead, sustained, he claimed, playing ‘sort of aerial polo’. I didn’t know if this was a euphemism of some kind.
He then staggered through a series of lame tricks, with no age-appropriate patter, just a stream of cod-Latin incantations. I cut it short in the end, then he offered us discounted tickets to his ‘adult’ show, featuring his ‘glamorous assistant’, one Hermione. He said he was going to ‘split her in two’, and I didn’t like the way he said it, with an unpleasant smirk.
‘You’re clinically obese,’ the dietician announced severely. Pooh sighed. This appointment was clearly a Very Bad Idea. All those qualities that had seemed so endearing when he and his friends were young — his own chubbiness, Eeyore’s gloomy disposition, Tigger’s exuberant bounciness, and Piglet’s timidity — were now Problems That Must Be Addressed. Eeyore had been diagnosed with severe depression, Tigger was being treated for hyperactivity, and Piglet was doing assertiveness training.
He himself was middle-aged and decidedly stout. The dietician thrust a stack of leaflets at him, extolling the benefits of boiled kale, celery juice and daily exercise. ‘You may as well have this one too,’ she added, throwing another on the pile. Pooh felt more cheerful as he saw its title: ‘The Honey Diet’. He even started composing a song: Isn’t it funny/ How a diet based on honey/Can slim your ample tummy. Things were certainly Looking Up.
Your next challenge is to submit a short story of which the last sentence is ‘I feel like a half-eaten gorgonzola.’ Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 24 April.