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A Dozen Drabbles

Phlogiston Thirty-Nine, 1994

A Drabble is a short story of exactly one hundred words, not a syllable more, not a syllable less. In addition, up to fifteen words are allowed for a title. Hyphenated-words-will-be-argued-about. The idea and the name of the form were first set down in a Monty Python sketch. Since then it has taken on a life of its own and many famous writers have committed drabbles to paper.

Here are some of mine. Why don't you send in some of yours?

Alien 4

The alien was a traditional bug eyed monster with green warty skin. It had enormous fangs jutting from its upper lip. They hung half way down its chest and terminated in fearsome points. They bulged so large in its jaw that it couldn't quite close its mouth and great gobbets of whatever it used for saliva trickled down the fangs and fell hissing to the floor. Puffs of smoke erupted as they landed on the carpet.

"I dribble," it roared, spitting foam everywhere, "therefore I drabble."

And as I watched in amazement, it drabbled in every room in the house.

Modern Technology

John cut a wedge of lemon and squeezed it over the salmon steak on his plate. It was the largest fish he had ever caught. It would last for ages.

Someone knocked on the door. Damn!

A uniformed official stood there clutching a complex beeping apparatus. He pushed past John and went into the kitchen. The beeps became a solid whine and the official opened the fridge.

"Aha!" he said. He groped inside the salmon and retrieved a small silicon chip. "Another successful tracking. John Smith, you are under arrest for salmon poaching."

Caught by fish and chips, thought John.

Once Upon a Time in an Office

The photocopier was bored and lonely. All day long it had done nothing except copy a particularly dull memorandum. In an attempt to relieve the tedium of its existence, it decided to shuffle its sorting trays up and down as noisily as possible.

Clank, clank, clank; all the way up. Clonk, clonk, clonk; all the way down. Hour after hour. Clank, clank. Clonk, clonk.

"For heaven's sake shut up!" shrieked one of the workers, driven to distraction. A finger lunged for the switch, and as everything went dark, deep inside itself the photocopier smiled. At last someone had noticed it.

It Crept in the Crypt

John could not believe his eyes. In the middle of the crypt lay a terrible monster covered with cockroaches. The insects had eaten the softer, tastier portions of the monster and its empty eye sockets stared sightlessly.

As the sound of John's footsteps rang through the crypt the monster sat up in the middle of the cockroach swarm.

"Who's there?" it bellowed angrily.

It grabbed a handful of cockroaches and rammed them firmly into each eye socket. Feelers waved curiously from the holes as it got up and staggered towards John.

He turned and ran from the bug eyed monster.

Trade Secrets

The holy father shuffled his notes and looked out at the hopeful faces staring up at him.

"Now that you have ended your training," he said, "and you are about to go out and spread the word of God among the heathen, there remains only one more thing for you to learn. You cannot convert the unbelievers until your body language itself tells the world of your faith. Correct posture is vital."

With the support of a friend the holy father demonstrated his meaning, and a buzz of excitement filled the room as all the eager missionaries assumed the position.

Virtual Unreality

John was getting the hang of the game now. You had to time things just right to kill as many aliens as possible. The computer was unforgiving. One mistake and you were dead.

The computer was getting the hang of the game now. You had to time things just right to let the player kill as many aliens as possible. But you had to be unforgiving. One mistake by the player and he was dead.

John looked forward to killing aliens. The computer looked forward to killing John. Computer games are metaphors for life on both sides of the screen.

Alien 5

The alien spread its tentacles and sang a Wagnerian aria. The troops surrounding its flying saucer listened in awe as the perfect notes floated over them. When it finished, they burst into spontaneous applause. The alien bowed slightly and cleared its throat. Then it began to sing a selection of songs by Schubert.

Unfortunately the recital was interrupted by the arrival of the General, who was not a music lover. He strode up to the alien and growled, "What is going on here?"

The alien stopped singing, stared at the General and smiled.

"Take me to your lieder," it demanded.

(The pun in this one is so obvious that I simply can't believe I am the first person to think of it. If any of you are aware of any previous incarnations of it, please let me know.)


John stared angrily at the regular geometric patterns spread all over the field. His crop was completely ruined, the stalks flattened and split, pressed down into huge circles and spirals.

There had been no warning—John had slept though the whole thing and when he awoke this morning, there they were as far as the eye could see.

This sort of thing had been going on ever since the economy collapsed and the government had started selling military secrets to anyone who asked in order to pay for the social security.

Damn those village kids and their stealth motor bikes.

Dirty Dishes

The greasy plates slid into the scummy water. John scrubbed, and remnants of chili stained the water red.

Eventually he finished and reached to pull the plug. But before he could let the water drain away, more dirty plates arrived and he howled with frustration. He had been washing dishes for more than five thousand years and it would never end. So many dishes, such wrinkled fingers with the split white skin sagging. As fast as he cleaned the plates people removed them, ate chili con carne and dropped them back to be washed.

Washing up is an infinite loop.

Sink Duty

The water was drained, and the tea towels were folded neatly on the heated towel rail. The greasy remnants of the chili con carne had been removed from the plates and the sink was well scrubbed. Peter Smith turned up, smiling from ear to ear. "Oh," he said in well simulated surprise, "have you finished? Have I arrived too late again? My wife says it is my major talent." He sounded very proud of himself.

"No, no," murmured John as he drove a carving knife deep into Peter's chest. "Think nothing of it. You are merely the late Mr Smith."

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon

The moon loomed in the sky with a fat, complacent face. The man in the moon looked down on the planet beneath as he had for centuries past. John settled himself against a rock and stared up, looking the moon directly between the eyes. He raised a can of beer in an ironic toast.

"Lunatics Rule OK," he said, and drank deeply. "What do you really think of it all down here?"

The beer was smooth and cool and the moon was fat and yellow. John was flying high, happy and smiling.

The man in the moon winked an eye.

The Crew are Revolting

The mighty spaceship ploughed through the void between the stars. The crew were near to mutiny and the captain was deep in angry conversation with the artificial intelligence in charge of supplies.

"What happened?" he demanded. "Come on Marie, you stupid machine. How could you allow such a situation to arise? How did you expect us to travel five hundred light years with no toilet paper?"

"What is it to me?" said Marie haughtily. "I have no need for toilet paper."

The captain buried his head in his hands. "What am I going do?"

"Let them use cake," said Marie.

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