Furious Fiction was this month transformed into a comedy club, as we invited entrants to counter the prevailing 2020 narrative of doom and gloom and bring the funny! To help set up such a tee-hee-friendly scene, were these criteria:
- Each story had to contain HUMOUR/COMEDY of any kind.
- Each story had to include the words: DIZZY, EXOTIC, LUMPY, TINY, TWISTED.
- Each story had to include a SANDWICH.
There were a lot of blank faces caught in the haha headlights at the mention of ‘comedy’ with many stretching themselves outside their comfort zone. The judges were of course still looking for well-constructed stories, and at least the hint of an effort to locate the laughs, find the funny or summon up a smile. And the writer who this month rose to the comedy challenge best was Michael Sacco of Victoria, Australia.
Congrats to Michael on collecting his $500 chuckle-worthy cash. You can, as always, read his story below plus a small selection of other shortlisted offerings and longer list of highly commended stories. So, give it up everyone and get ready to heckle from the back of the room as we invite to the stage this month’s line up!
AUGUST 2020 WINNER
DIGITAL DIPLOMACY by Michael Sacco, Vic
INCOMING SIGNAL FROM THE STAR GLIESE 514, 24.96 LIGHT YEARS AWAY. Nov 13th, 2030:
Hello, I would like new friends please.
Hello neighbour! My name is Dave. The people of Earth are thrilled to receive your message and we’d be honoured to be your friends. We have many questions:
Can you describe your planet?
Can you describe your culture?
Are you capable of space travel?
INCOMING. Oct 12th, 2080:
Hi Dave, my name is also Dave. There has been a tiny misunderstanding. I meant Friends the television show. Of all the transmissions I have intercepted from Earth, this is my favourite. Please send more episodes.
Hi Dave, unfortunately our Dave retired thirty years ago, my name is Carl. Our planets are twenty-five light years apart, so it takes fifty years for us to get a reply. Human lifespans appear to be much shorter than yours and I’m sorry to say the cast and writers of Friends have all passed away. However we have made huge strides in life-like 3D motion capture and have created a hilarious new season just for you. (The rights weren’t cheap by the way.) One small request though. Given the time delay, could you please put as much information in your messages as possible? Thanks.
INCOMING. Aug 29th, 2130:
Get Lost Carl.
Pardon? If we offended you somehow, we are terribly sorry. Also Carl is no longer here, my name is Lisa.
INCOMING. July 28th, 2180:
Lost, the TV show. More episodes. The plot is quite lumpy, could you tie up all the loose ends? That would be great. Also, you humans do not last very long, all these names are making me dizzy. I will call you all Flurk.
Hi Dave, we’re sending the new series of Lost now. We have resolved all the plot holes, a near-impossible task, hopefully to your satisfaction. Please tell us about yourself.
INCOMING. June 30th, 2230:
Thanks Flurk. I am going on holiday to a nearby nebula for two weeks (my time).
Sounds exotic. Talk soon hopefully. . .
INCOMING. May 30th, 2580:
I’m back! Wassup?
That’s it? With all due respect Dave, if that is your real name, the people of Earth feel ignored and used. It’s been over half a century since first contact and so far this has been a very one-way alliance. You clearly have advanced space travel capabilities, but when we asked you about it a few hundred years ago you never mentioned anything. Could you please share something about your kind with us so that our friendship may blossom?
INCOMING. April 30th, 2630:
OK Flurk. In the spirit of friendship I’m sending blueprints for a starship capable of interplanetary travel that can be constructed using materials found on Earth. Enjoy.
These are blueprints for a toasted sandwich maker. You twisted little being. You’ve wasted hundreds of years for nothing.
INCOMING. April 1st, 2680:
That reminds me, has Days of Our Lives finished yet?
What we loved:
Ahhh true friendship – when you can go light years without speaking and pick up right where you left off. Our curiosity was piqued by the creative storytelling approach here and the ridiculous (albeit realistic) time gaps between the misunderstandings with the ever-rotating team of earnest astronomers. Across six centuries, they do their best to remain upbeat and hopeful despite their one-sided relationship with TV-loving Space Dave. A simple concept well executed and peppered with wordplay silliness – exactly what this brief called for. And best of all, you can tell the author had fun.
THE JAFFLE ROUND by Helena, QLD
“Welcome back to the finale of Bogan Chef. We’re heading into the all-important Jaffle round.”
“For the uninitiated Tom, that’s a toasted sandwich with sealed edges. The filling goes absolutely nuclear.”
“A rite of passage for any Bogan worth their salt, Tina.”
“Our three finalists, Baz, Shaz, and Daz, currently sitting on equal points. The flannel is out in force today.”
“And the grand prize on Bogan Chef is, of course, the 100-inch flatscreen.”
“No tiny tellys here, Tom.”
“Like pouring scalding Jaffle filling directly on your retinas, Tina.”
“Jaffles are all about the filling. Do you think our contestants will play it safe or try something exotic?”
“The pantry and garden are both in play.”
“We’ve yet to see a competitor use the garden on Bogan Chef.”
“As expected, they’ve chosen the pantry. Bazzer holding a tin there… is it… yes, spaghetti. Classic.”
“Shaz going for ham and cheese.”
“Now Dazzer. He’s been a dark horse in this competition. Will we see another weird, wonderfully twisted combo from the big man? Is that…”
“It’s peanut butter, Tom, with jam.”
“PB and J.”
“Not the weirdest thing we’ve seen this season, but will those flavours work in a Jaffle?”
“It’s a pretty safe bet they will. But I think he’s got another surprise for us… Bacon! There’s the extra zing we were waiting for.”
“Meanwhile, Shaz is considering tomato. But, oh no. In her words Tom: she simply can’t be *bleeped* cutting it up.”
“If there’s a time to be *bleeped* with ingredients you’d think it would be in the finale, Tina.”
“Yes indeed. Now will Baz heat the spaghetti or… no straight out of the tin and into the sanger. Classic Bogan. And Daz just threw that bacon in raw. Will it cook in time?”
“Who knows. All three jaffles are in. Now we wait.”
“I’m absolutely dizzy with excitement, Tom.”
“While we’re waiting, you can of course buy the Jaffle maker our Bogans are using at a super discounted price. Essential for any Bogan kitchen.”
“That number is on screen now.”
“First Jaffle coming out, ham and cheese. It looks good Tina.”
“Good texture and colour. The judges are smiling. They like the tomato sauce on the side.”
“At this level, those little details matter. The lack of real tomato apparently not an issue. She’ll be hard to beat.”
“Next up is Baz… he’s having some trouble Tom.”
“The sandwich is tearing! He’s forgotten to butter the outside of the bread, Tina.”
“A rookie mistake, it’s going to cost him. The judges are shaking their heads.”
“Last, Dazzer’s PB and J with bacon. And, uh oh, looks like the judges don’t like the lumpy texture.”
“He should have used smooth not crunchy, Tom.”
“So, our winner is the classic ham and cheese Jaffle.”
“Shaz takes home the flatscreen. And she’s celebrating by calling the other contestants ‘losers’ and making an ‘L’ sign on her forehead. Well, that’s about all we’ve got time for.”
What we liked:
A dialogue-only homage to Masterchef (which this year actually DID do a toasted sandwich round, albeit far more fancy), this story isn’t afraid to have fun with the premise – which we love to see. The result is an effective back-and-forth of priceless commentary that brings to life this toasty reality show… clearly a hit with Australian audiences. Using only dialogue in a story can sometimes be jarring and notoriously tricky to pull off, but the metronomic banter here is authentic and fun, propelling the story’s pace and keeping it jam-packed (PB&J-packed even) full of action. We were left chuckling and craving jaffles…
MEETING by E.G. Nesbitt, NSW
“Welcome to today’s meeting. Can everyone remember to mute themselves when they aren’t speaking? These Voom meetings are hard enough without background noise. Everyone muted? Thanks. I have to say, this quarter’s figures are really impressive! Shall we go around and hear from each department? Sloth? Why don’t you go first?”
“Okay, can everyone hear me? I have to say that this quarter has been fantastic for us. All the humans are sitting around in track-pants. We’ve had more sloth-based sins in the last quarter than we have for the last decade!”
“Great to hear! How about you, Gluttony?”
“It’s the same for us. While there’s been a decrease in trying exotic new things, we were swamped with the whole sourdough craze. The day-drinking trend is also giving us solid results.”
“Terrific, Gluttony! How about you, Greed? Greed? Greed, I think you’re still muted.”
“Sorry! That un-mute button is really tiny! Can you hear me now?”
“Yes, much better. How are things in your department?”
“We’ve had to put on extra staff in the online-shopping-related-sin department. The speed of those one-click purchases can make you dizzy! We’ve also done some inter-departmental work with Wrath. I might get Wrath to give an update on that project?”
“Wrath here. Yeah, we got some great figures with the ‘panic buying’ project. There were fist-fights in supermarkets, if you can believe it! A great project! We’re definitely keen to do some more inter-departmental work – we’re actually in early stages with Envy on a new idea.”
“Thanks, Wrath. Envy, you want to fill us in on this new project?”
“Sure. We’re doing a two-for-one arrangement. The people stuck at home get jealous of those who aren’t staying in. We get runs on the board for the Envy and then Wrath gets them when they start hurling insults on Facegram and Tweeter.”
“That’s good thinking! Now let’s hear from Lust.”
“We had some good results early on, when everyone started staying home. Things tapered off a bit once all those sourdough sandwiches started making people a little… lumpy but we worked with Netpix and put on that show with that guy in the bath – you know the one I mean?”
“Oh, everyone saw that show? Cool. It brought our numbers right back up, I can tell you!”
“Okay, last department. Pride, how are things in your area?”
“Well, like Lust, our numbers dipped when the home-baking started showing but what we lost in the self-respect area we made up for in the smugness stakes. Mask-wearing was the secret here. Doesn’t matter if people are pro- or anti-mask, they are smug about it either way. And that’s great for our sin scores!”
“Fantastic! Now, I know everyone had some questions about how all of humanity got their collective knickers twisted. I’ve invited Pestilence to give an update of the Annual Plan. I think you’ll be very excited to hear what’s in store for the rest of the year…”
What we liked:
Any stand up comic will tell you that the best material is the stuff that an audience can relate to. And thanks to the dumpster fire that is 2020, we’re pretty sure almost ALL of us can relate in some way to this Zoom-style meeting. We received many humorous takes on the COVID crisis but this one tickled our fancy with its play on the deadly sins doing their quarterly wrap up online. While humankind may be struggling, it seems that the sin business is positively booming and this story had fun pivoting tense times into a topical trackie-dak tale!
SPOONED by Russell McGilton, Vic
Harold Wiennerman woke one morning to find himself with his hands stiffly behind his head and feeling somewhat dizzy.
‘You’ve probably got some kind of exotic flu,’ said his wife, Estelle, who then bolted out the door for work, fearful of catching it. When she returned, Harold was still locked in the same position.
‘What’s wrong with you? You’ve been like that for hours.’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’ he sighed. ‘I’m a spoon.’
‘I see.’ And with that, Estelle whisked him away to Dr Willard, the psychiatrist.
‘Lick him on the back of the head from time to time,’ he advised.
‘What will that do?’ she asked.
Estelle had a much better idea. When they got home, she rammed her husband’s head in the kitchen drawer for several hours to see if he got the point. Unfortunately, it had a counter effect.
‘I’ve been talking to the other spoons.’ moaned Harold. ‘The dishwasher makes them nervous. From now on, you’ll have to wash us by hand.’
The next day, when Harold told her that he was going to go to work, Estelle baulked, ‘Are you mad? Who’s gonna take financial advice from a spoon!’
Unperturbed, Harold hopped to work, briefcase balanced precariously on his head and followed by a curious crowd of heroin addicts.
‘Are you going to serve me or what?’ croaked Mrs Glatsby in her white lawn bowls outfit.
‘How can I possibly do that?’ Harold said, staring at a lumpy sandwich on the floor, the sad result of trying to scoop it into his face. ‘I’m a spoon.’
He proudly resumed his stiff composure and didn’t say a word for the rest of the day. Not surprisingly, Harold was fired, wheeled out on a trolley, and left outside the bank.
‘I’ll take this to the Office of Fair Trading!’
He took it to the Office of Fair Trading, who instructed him to try the Equal Opportunity Board two floors down. Again, he found himself being wheeled out of a building.
Not having been home for several days, Harold finally arrived with two policemen in tow.
‘What happened!’ Estelle cried.
The officers explained that Harold had burst into Riviere’s Restaurant, flung his head into a bowl of French onion soup, and then proceeded to ram his head down a stockbroker’s mouth.
Three months later, Estelle had had enough and left Harold.
‘Off to greener pastures, are we?’ Harold yelled bitterly after her, as he lay in the sink with the rest of the dirty cutlery. ‘Hope he’s got it together!’
A letter soon followed from Estelle, filing for a divorce. Outraged, Harold hopped to Estelle’s new apartment. He rang the doorbell with his stiff spoony hands. The door creaked slowly open and there stood another man. He was tiny, quite thin, and twisted over. A large piece of paper was shoved tightly under his arm.
‘Who are you?’ Harold demanded.
‘Well, isn’t it obvious?’ the man sighed. ‘I’m a paper clip.’
What we liked:
Humour comes in all shapes and sizes, and ‘absurd’ is a size that fits all. Harold’s cutlery conversion being told in such a matter-of-fact way is humorous in itself, not to mention the very real effects that life as a spoon has on the people around him. This story dug deep and scooped up some serious issues for poor Harold. We enjoyed the humour sprinkled throughout – the other spoons fearful of the dishwasher, and the crowd of heroin addicts trailing Harold. Sometimes the sillier, the better – and this was an off-beat creation that you could picture with illustrations.
BE PRACTICAL by Damian Perry, Vic
Gary heard the low, mournful moan as he stepped out onto the porch. In the middle of his front yard lurched a living corpse. Its flesh was lumpy and pale, its arms outstretched. It caught sight of him and with an excited murmur staggered towards its prey.
He sighed and deftly doh-si-dohed the zombie, trotting up to the mailbox to collect the mail. Just bills. He looked up the street to see old Mr Peterson struggling and screaming under the weight of half-a-dozen of the hungry undead. Shaking his head, Gary returned to the house, again dodging a swipe from the yard-zombie. Gary growled and beat the undead pest with a stout cudgel.
‘Gerroffit!’ He stomped inside. “Have you been feeding that thing again?”
“Just leftovers from Tim,” Greta said, eyes down as she brought him tea and a sandwich. ‘He’s off his food.’
‘Ah, be practical, woman!’ Gary said, still frowning. ‘You know it just encourages them. Oh, Peterson got bit,’ he said, illustrating the statement by chomping on his mustard and beef.
‘Really?’ she asked, ‘How could he have let himself do that?’
‘Well, he is eighty-three,’ Gary said, ‘He was starting to look like one of them anyway. It’s a shame though. He was a vegetarian. Hmph. No more of that nonsense, anyway. What were you doing out in the backyard?’
‘Just re-filling the brain tray.’ Gary peered out the window. The brain tray rested inside a large treadmill, just beyond the reach of a decrepit-looking zombie. It shuffled along, hands outstretched, reaching for the brains. This charged the batteries for the house, affording the couple environmentally friendly light and heat.
‘Is that pig?’
‘No, human!’ Greta said, smiling. “I found a new supplier. It’s a tiny bit exotic, more expensive, but…’
‘Be practical!’ Gary snapped, waving a bill. ‘We can’t waste money on that piece of rubbish out there!’
‘Sorry,’ his wife said, chastened. ‘He is on his last legs.’ There was a thud from outside. ‘Leg,’ she corrected.
There was a tock tock on the door. ‘That’ll be the package I ordered,’ he said. He opened the door, grabbing his cudgel from the umbrella stand. Before him stood a large zombie, dressed in an Amazon uniform. Strapped to its chest was a metal tray and on the tray rested a package.
‘Finally,’ Gary grumbled. ‘The new Dizzy Rascal album.’ He reached for the package. As he leaned, there was a nudge from behind. Off-balance, he tipped forward into the zombie. The slow but strong arms of the Mail Zombie embraced him. He twisted, trying to pull free, but now the Yard Zombie was on him. Rotting teeth gnawed on his shoulder as he stared into the pitying eyes of his wife.
‘I’m sorry, hon,’ she said, ‘But Tim really is on his last legs, and this is the cheapest option.’ Her smile was bittersweet. ‘After all, it’s only practical.’
Gary’s wife closed the door on the screams, picking up the cudgel. And waited.
What we liked:
The idea of playing a normal situation off against something rather abnormal has always been a rich area for comedy and here it’s used nicely with a very apathetic apocalypse. The killer opening hinted at a cliche struggle between the living and the dead, but by quickly doh-si-dohing to a sleepy suburban scene complete with yard-zombie, it brought a fresh approach to all that decay. We particularly enjoyed the creativity of the living dead providing environmentally friendly power to homes, delivering packages (Amazombie?) and this story lands with a satisfying twist, echoing its title nicely.
THE KISS by Nikhil Mathew, NSW
Too much tongue. That was Rose’s first thought on waking from a century of sweet slumber. He had used far too much tongue. Then again, roaming princes were often vigorous kissers, as if expecting to overcome the curse with enthusiasm alone. This was her fortieth unsolicited kiss, and though none were particularly pleasant, she had been mercifully unconscious for the previous thirty-nine. Rose opened her eyes to see a tiny pencil moustache curled up in what appeared to be a smile. She shut her eyes quickly. But alas, he had noticed. His name was Troy and they were now engaged.
The turn of the last century had seen a spate of these comatose curses. Some claimed it was the work of the faeries, others said it was due to spindles and splinters. There was even talk of a particularly industrious witch cursing young women into catatonia. The true cause was lost to time but word of the sleeping beauties spread far and wide. From all the castles in all the lands young men sallied forth, princes in search of partners. And behind each prince, maintaining a convenient but respectful distance, a retinue of servants followed, bearing tents and sandwiches, fresh clothes and soft towels.
Over the years it became easier to find the sleeping beauties. Maps were drawn by the more entrepreneurial servants and sold to the less fortunate princes. Slowly but surely the lands gave up their mysteries. The first prince to find Rose had been a clumsy but well-meaning fellow named André. Back then, her castle had been encircled by thorny vines, wrapped tight in Mother Nature’s twisted embrace. André’s party had hacked, slashed, slipped and stumbled their way through. By the time he reached his prospective bride, André’s face was swollen and lumpy–more potato than man. He kissed her gingerly, wincing in pain, and left with an ego as bruised as his body.
Prince after prince came, each pruning the flora, each planting a kiss, each leaving alone. The shortest kiss had been the work of Imran, a prince from a distant and exotic land. As he bent and laid his lips to hers, Imran had realised that this strange practice of kissing unconscious women, recommended to him by all the local princes, was truly barbaric. He jerked back up, eyes wide with shame, and left with a soft apology.
So it was that Troy, the fortieth prince, found the grounds in good order and fortune on his side. Of course waking from a century-long coma has its costs. Rose was dizzy and delirious, slipping in and out of consciousness over the weeks that followed. Unable to eat a sandwich, Troy’s servants gave her soup, their master having long since departed to prepare for his wedding. In those lucid moments, Rose wondered if she could find a better life for herself. A better prince. A kind and noble man, perhaps trapped in the body of a frog, awaiting true love’s kiss.
What we liked:
Riffing off familiar stories is another great way to meet readers halfway in comedy, and this month’s criteria seemed to conjure the fairy tales – with no shortage of magical kingdoms and reimagined Snow White stories. Here we have all the ingredients of folklore, playfully treated with a touch of modernism and practical rationale. “His name was Troy and they were now engaged” hinted at the absurdity of fairy tale rules, with poor Rose forced to be betrothed to the first man who wakes her. Not to mention, those poor princes having to go to such lengths just for a kiss. One day they’ll discover Tinder and will live happily ever after…
Congrats to the following longlisted stories this month – you made it to the judges’ table. Next month it could be you taking top spot!
THIS MONTH’S LONGLISTED (in no particular order):
- JUST LIKE RIDING A BIKE by Hilary Ayshford, United Kingdom
- PREDICTABLE BURTON DANIELS GOES ROGUE by Joe Cushnan, United Kingdom
- UNTITLED by Karolina Kabza, NSW
- A SANDWICH LOST by Rebecca Mikkelson, United States
- FEEDBACK by Trl, QLD
- DEALBREAKER by Kate Hunter, QLD
- SANDWICHES WITH SATAN by Yadhusha Raman, India
- OLD AND COMFORTABLE by Sarah Edmunds, WA
- UNTITLED by Kait Britton, NSW
- STOP PRESS by Jane Hodgkinson, QLD
- REJECTION LETTER by Lucinda Carney, Spain
- THE WAYWARD HILL CREW by Isaac Menuza, United States
- 2020 SANDWICH by Dead Carcosa, United States
- THE FART FAIRY by Carly Taylor, NSW
- PAYBACK by Estelle Owen, NSW
- YOUNGER WOMEN by Melinda Nova, NSW
- SQUEEZE THE MOST OUT OF LIFE. by Jack Ralph, VIC
- AUDITIONS by Hannah Arney, WA
- THE FRIDGE by Gail Purdy, Canada
- A BLIND GIRL'S GUIDE TO A BLIND DATE by Julie Dickson, VIC
- THE PRIDE AND FALL OF HAM by Karen Downing, ACT
- DIRTY by Leigh Garrahy, QLD
- THE CASE OF THE UNFORTUNATE FELON by Janet Lowe, SA
- GUSTO SAVES THE DAY by Warren Miller, WA
- JUSTIN by Cody Lindenberger, United States
- WONDER WHITE AND THE SEVEN ROLLS by Louise Booker, QLD
- LORD FROGMORE GETS SUBMITTED by Di Taylor, QLD
- PALLIATIVE CARE by Simon Taylor, VIC
- LOVE IN LIMITED TIME by Beau Windon, VIC
- UNTITLED by Stephen Lynch, TAS
- IT'S ALL ABOUT MARKETING by Trey Dowell, United States
- BABY COT FIGHTS IN METRO AREAS ON THE RISE by Ferne Merrylees, NSW
- THE ONE WITH ALL THE PARENTHESIS by Carly Blenkhorn, WA
- THE PAUSE by Jenny Lynch, WA
- NIBBLES, LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD by Martina Trgovcic, NSW
- FAIRY BREAD by Kathy George, QLD
- PURPLE PROSE by Brenda Campell, QLD
- NINE INCHES by Tim Blomfield, NSW
- THE WRONG FAIRY TALE by Mei-Ling Venning, NSW
- THE MEGA MISSION by Frances Turner, New Zealand
- SECOND DATE by Sharrie Corcoran, QLD
- POND by Triona Diviney, NSW
- DYING BREATH by Benjamin Bode, ACT
- THE FINAL BATTLE by Thomas Coates, NSW
- MIKE'S MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS by Katha Villanueva, VIC
- UNTITLED by Pete Gailey, NSW
- MARVIN'S MALAISE by Paula Wescott, United Kingdom
- UNSUNG by Seetha Nambiar Dodd, NSW
- HOW TO RUIN YOUR FRIEND'S MEDITATION. by Olivia Panich, VIC