Furious Fiction: January 2024 Story Showcase

Welcome to the first Furious Fiction story showcase of 2024 – our monthly spotlight on collective creativity! Here were this month’s criteria:

  • Each story had to take place on a character’s FIRST DAY OF A NEW JOB.
  • Each story had to include something being stolen.
  • Each story had to include the words TRIP, TRIANGLE and TSUNAMI.

(Longer variations were okay if original spelling was retained.)

Love triangles, Bermuda triangles, trips overseas, trips over rugs and a tsunami of emotions all came flooding in. Accompanying this were stolen treasures, stolen stationery, stolen glances and stolen identities, to name just a few!

FIRST DAY NERVES

This month, we asked for each story to take place on the first day of a new job. From a story perspective, creating a construct of something new or novel is a great way to add a sense of curiosity and discovery for your character – and for your reader.

  • There are often many emotions on the first day of a new job. Nervousness, excitement, anticipation – perhaps something else. 
  • Not all jobs are created equal – and we received everything from meteorologists to masseuses, detectives to dishwashers, babysitters to brain surgeons. Oh, and a LOT of teachers!
  • Even though we asked for the first day of a new job, the story didn’t necessarily have to take place AT the job. It could be early morning or at the end of the day. Or in a flashback! (By the way, if you’d like to master the art of flashbacks, check out our upcoming online event.)

So, that’s your induction over with. Please enjoy our selection of stories below, followed by our longlist of highly commended pieces from the many hundreds received. Congrats to all those featured this month and we hope to see YOU lining up for our next challenge on Friday 2 February!


OF OLD FOES AND FAMILIAR FACES by Madelyn Grace, NSW

You’re never prepared for your first day in the morgue.

Alright, you think. I’ve studied for this. I’ve spent years getting ready. And after my last job, nothing in this world could trip me up anymore. I’m unshakeable.

You start your day like you’d have started any other shift in your old line of work. You slick your hair back, neat and professional. You keep your makeup to a subtle minimum, foregoing foundation and glitter for a thin powder and lip balm. You dress nicely, but with room to move and bend. You start your electric car up silently, and move soundlessly through the city, drumming your fingers on the centre console. Smooth. Casual.

Unshakeable.

When you arrive, the air harbours a strange chill that had not been there this morning. No matter—your last workplace had carried a cold atmosphere, and so you’re used to it. You strut through the front door with ease and confidence. A breeze, you think, dropping your belongings in an empty locker. Compared to my previous role, this will be child’s play.

Your very first body for the day is that of an elderly woman, who had passed gracefully in her sleep. Straightforward. Not one issue.

Your second body is somewhat more difficult. A toddler, with glassy eyes and blue lips—her mother had drowned her in a bathtub in a fit of rage, the report reads, and had coddled her corpse to her chest until the police arrived an hour later. It’s gruesome, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. You saw worse during your last employment.

So far, so good, you tell yourself, pleased with your efforts and with the simplicity of such a job. This is the type of work you’d be happy to wake up to. Perhaps a little stomach-churning, but once again—it holds nothing over the last job.

But then they give you your third body. And you recognise his eyes. And you recognise the clean wound across his throat. And, as a tsunami of dread floods your stomach, you realise you recognise his name.

You had made it a point not to know anyone’s names at your previous job. It made it easier to ignore their obituaries. But the client that had asked you to take this man out—the man now laid out before you like a mannequin—had insisted you know everything about him. He was a father. He was a husband. He was filthy rich. He was Andrew Bartelli, one point in a triangle of men who ran a money laundering scheme, the consequences of which had gotten your client’s wife murdered.

And you know, with unshakeable certainty, that you must not let this body fall into the wrong hands.

You’re never prepared for your first day in the morgue. You can prepare for the bodies, and the gore, and the sob stories. But you’re never prepared to recognise a body as your own kill.

And you’re never prepared to smuggle one home.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

What better place to begin than at the end – of life, that is. And here we follow the first day of our unnamed protagonist as she seems to effortlessly go about her work. The spectre of her mysterious previous job is ever-present but just out of reach, until the third body. With nice repetition of ‘unshakeable’, all is revealed and ultimately all is concealed in a killer ending.


BERNIE ROGERS’ TRIANGLE by Bill Boyd, NSW

Bernie Rogers is sixty-seven years old. Starting a new job. Today. Is he excited? Anxious? Nervous? Not in the slightest. Every year since he’d turned fifty, he’d started a new job. “Keeps me young,” he’d tell himself. Before fifty it was a new job every two years. “Just cruising,” he’d tell himself, “getting ready for middle age.” A new job was simply a matter of fact. Anyone else would have been excited. Nervous. Sleepless. But not Bernie Rogers. Cool as a cucumber.

You see, Bernie Rogers could do any job. Perfectly. He didn’t mind if the job is in an office. “Paperwork and bureaucracy were made,” he’d tell his friends, “for me.” No-one else gets it. Factory jobs are equally good. “Process and procedure is everything,” he’d explain. “Nothing like a well-designed process. Well-oiled procedures. Just follow them to the letter.” A tsunami could wash through his factory. Wouldn’t matter a jot to Bernie Rogers. So long as processes and procedures are being followed. Indoors? Outdoors? No matter. Just do the job. No shirking. No cutting corners. “I’m Bernie “Just-do-the-job” Rogers,” he’d tell himself.

Fact was, however, that Bernie Rogers could not hold a job. Any job. Didn’t take long for Bernie Rogers to lose every job. “They stole my job from me, again,” he’d calmly explain when he got home after another firing. They. Whoever ‘They’ are. Always ‘They’. He is, it turns out, extremely good at applying for the job. Extremely good at interviewing for the job. And, yes, extremely good at doing the job. For the first few weeks. Then along come the tripwires. Lazy colleagues. Incompetent managers. Shonky machinery. Suspicious invoicing. You name it, Bernie Rogers found it. And Bernie Rogers was not afraid to say something. “You’re a square peg in a round hole,” his managers would tell him, “You don’t fit in.” “No,” Bernie Rogers would think to himself, “It’s not me. Its you who doesn’t fit. This job is made to work. You just don’t want it to work.” And, unfortunately, he’d say so.

So he’d be back on the unemployment-employment cycle. Which Bernie Rogers didn’t like. He wasn’t bothered by the unemployment-employment bit. After all, he could get a new job with ease. It was the circle bit. Another black mark against the employment industry. “They should study geometry,” he’d mutter to himself. Bernie Rogers knew it was a unemployment-employment triangle: Get the job — Do the job — Lose the job. “It’s life,” Bernie Rogers would explain when he got home again. No-one else got it. But Bernie did.

So Bernie Rogers is sixty-seven years old, starting a new job. His orderly autistic mind had done its thing. Interviewed perfectly. Got the job. It’s just a matter of time before all the incompetencies, sloppiness, laziness around him trip him up. Another job will be stolen. Bernie Rogers doesn’t, however, mind. He’s starting a new job. A job to be done perfectly. That is all that counts.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

The curious story of Bernie Rogers works well in this short-sentence structure (17 in the first paragraph alone!). For this is a man who seems to enjoy short stays, or so it first appears. The plot thickens as we learn about his work ethic which flips the script on who you’d expect to be continually fired from a role. In a nice bait-and-switch, we realise that Bernie is not the problem – he’s simply too honest in a world of corruption and corner cutting. A clever, albeit hyperbolically (we hope!) cynical comment on the modern workplace.


THE BOSS by Jo Skinner, QLD

I’m careful to look confident like I’ve been doing this for years. It’s a trick Sandy taught me when I started my training.

Just look like you know what you’re doing, Boston my friend.

Lenny nudges me. I look straight ahead and remember the drill. Coffee first. We’ve been going through her routine and one of the first things she said was, Ignore anything I say or do before I’ve had my caffeine hit.

Her hand is shaking. It might be that she’s decaffeinated but it occurs to me that she’s as nervous as I am. It’s a first day for her too. We are getting to know each other and becoming familiar with how we approach things.

I step out and lead the way. Lenny follows.

That’s something else Sandy told me.

You’re the boss, Boston. Let her think she’s the boss but you’re the one making the big decisions. And sometimes, mate, they are life and death. Don’t ever forget that.

The boss. I like that, even though it makes me anxious as hell I’ll stuff up and be deemed unsuitable for the job. I don’t want to let Lenny down. I want her to depend on me. I hold my head up, proud to be here after all that training.

We weave through the morning crowd. Lenny is hesitant and I slow down and remember to let her believe she’s taking the lead. It’s harder than I imagined. Getting to the café is a relief to be honest. We head to the counter, and she places her order. A flat white, double shot. Just a water for me.

The place is heaving, and I scan the room for a spare seat. There’s a tiny table in one of the odd corners. I nudge Lenny. She nearly trips on a bag left lying on the ground and I panic, but she rights herself.

The table is tiny. A triangle wedged into the wall. I squeeze myself into the gap and wait for Lenny to finish her coffee. The radio is on in the background. She leans forward to listen to the news.

The thirteenth interest rate hike has been met with a tsunami of rage from the community.

Lenny sighs into her empty mug. ‘We might need to start doing overtime, Boston.’

She stands up and I’m by her side. It’s tricky to navigate our way around a pram the size of a small car. Outside, Lenny pauses. How about we work from home today?

It suits me. We turn right and go back the way we came.

At home she relaxes, unbuckles my harness, and scratches me behind the ears. Good dog, Boston. We did it.

I wait till she moves away then steal the ham sandwich she dropped this morning. I earned it today. I swallow it in one bite then nuzzle up against her. I want to let Sandy know she was right about everything. Lenny and I are good together.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Whether or not you click as to Boston’s identity early on or later in this story, that is never the point. Instead, it’s a reminder that all sorts of creatures great and small have first days on the job. We did enjoy some of the ambiguous misdirects however, such as reference to his training, being the boss and ‘taking the lead’. Thanks to the tight narrative and unique POV, we are guided Boston-style through the story with ease – a well told ‘tail’!


MAM by Molly Blunden, USA

The stars were disappearing that last morning she woke me. Eyes gluey, I reached for my bra, cloth triangles puckering against a stubborn flat chest. I dressed in a rush, holey wool no match for the chill, my breath pushing out opaque puffs. Mam’s back to me in the kitchen, hands busy. “Why so early Mam?” I tried to keep the whine out. Yesterday was Wednesday – the ‘getup early day’ so’s to beat the lines for the dole.

Tea mugs in hand, Mam turned, nodding to the rickety wooden 6-top table our family of 11 shared. Half-asleep, I slid onto the oak bench, unaware of the gathering tsunami, unobservant of Mam’s combed hair and careful makeup.

“I’m not going to lie to ya Ceildigh – ‘tis a job you weren’t askin’ to do. Truth is, I’m tired like no one my age should be.” Through the kitchen window, a grey car rolled to a stop – a shark parting the morning tule fog, idling. By the door, Mam’s brown leather purse relaxed on the back of the family’s only suitcase.

Mam kept her eyes on my face, steam from the tea wetting my cheeks. Mam clutched my hand, eyes urgent. “I’m takin’ a trip an’ I’m leavin’ things to ya for now. You’ll be Mam to the youngs an’ don’t take guff from the older boys. Make sure they hand earnings t’ya – not Da.” Her dark eyes pinned me into place. Outside, the shark revved in impatience.

Mam rose, sleeved her coat and wound her scarf. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, Mam gave me one last glance. “Remember to hide the whiskey from Da under the floorboard and fill th’other bottle only t’half like I showed ya.” Her hand reaching for the doorknob, eyes still on mine. “And no one would blame ya if ya take a nip from time to time. You’ll have earned it.”

I sat in the silence long after she left. The cold tea no comfort, I opened the top cabinet and on tiptoe, felt for the cigarettes stolen from Da. Picking tobacco off my tongue, I ashed into a jar cap the way I’d seen our real Mam do – that was before my sister Irene became the Mam that left today. I couldn’t remember real Mam’s face anymore, just her cracked palms and chapped hands flicking ashes into a jar cap.

Looking back, I’d been trained for this job for as long as I could remember – I thought it’d begin when I married or fell pregnant, whichever came first. I couldn’t fault Irene for leaving me to it, she’d no choice either, once.

I crushed the butt into the lid and pushed myself from the table. I began pulling beans and bread from the larder whilst I set the kettle to the flame. Clara shuffled in, red hair wild, rubbing her eyes. “Where’s Mam?” she asked behind a yawn.

“I’m Mam now,” I said, my back to her. “Come here and help me with the potatoes.”

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Loaded with descriptive details that furnish this humble abode, we too are stirred awake to take in our surroundings, beautifully brought to life in authentic fashion. Clues come slowly as we fill in the gaps – the ‘grey shark’ parting the morning fog outside and the hushed torch-passing ceremony in the half-light. A list of instructions does double duty as exposition and it’s only in the cold-tea silence that the true line of succession and expectation is revealed, our narrator finally earning her jar-cap as ‘mam’. A poignant slice of hard life and seamless use of all the prompts, with a perfectly simple title.


DATE_HUMAN_RESOURCES_WELCOME_ PACKET_TEMPLATE v.3 FINAL DRAFT by Erin Brandt Filliter, Canada

Welcome to [INSERT NAME OF NEW EMPLOYEE]!

You have successfully completed your first assignment by opening this handbook. Well done!

It could have ended much differently for you, with flesh-stripping gelatinous cubes, poisonous fog geysers, and the tsunami swarm of soul-stealing dementors barring the office entrance.

Management is impressed with your initiative to disarm the explosive canisters lining the high-security safe where this welcome packet was locked. And, truthfully, it is nearly unfathomable that you found the safe at all hidden in the piranha pond jungle exhibit complete with sabre-tooth tigers. Great work!

Take notes on how you circumvented these (and subsequent) obstacles; you might need to refer back to these later in your career if you survive the rest of the day

Through overcoming the death-defying task of entering the building, you have demonstrated resourcefulness and survival instincts and desperation. These are exactly the qualities that we, at [REDACTED] corporate headquarters, are looking for in an employee in [INSERT EMPLOYEE ROLE]..

Now that you have entered the building, please note that you will be unable to leave. Ever. We recognize the hardship in this circumstance, but it is a requirement of your position (see Section 6, Clause 12 of the fine print of your contract).

To ease your stress, we have equipped the building with the following amenities:

  1. Biometric sensors ensure we track everyone and everything entering and exiting the building. We will know where you are at any given time so we can extract your body should you  perish. 
  2. Climate control keeps the environment at a pleasant temperature. Occasionally we have to flush the coolant system. If you feel the temperature begin to drop dramatically, you can find extreme weather gear such as parkas, balaclavas, mittens, and boots in the storage closet on the third floor.
  3. The fridge in the break room is always filled with a selection of juice, exotic fruit, and prepackaged soft and hard cheese triangles. Crisps and crackers are kept on the shelf beside the coffee mugs and man-eating plant seedlings (please change their water once per week).
  4. The second floor break room offers dozens of games such as Twister (with a twist!), Operation (real scalpel included!), and Pictionary. We hope you take full-advantage to keep your skills sharp and instincts sharper!

Additionally, we would like to highlight some important rules and guidelines for the facility.

  1. Do not ever, upon penalty of immediate life-limiting consequences, enter Board Room #[REDACTED].
  2. Do not feed the gizmos after midnight and do not let them go into water unless it is the piranha pool.

You will have received a calendar invite for a full orientation session eventually. Meantime, please reach out to [INSERT NAME OF MANAGER] if you have any questions. You can speak to a bot/AI representative of Human Resources by calling our 24/7 toll-free line at 1-800-HELP-ME.

Thank you for your service to [REDACTED]. We are happy to welcome you to the team!

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Anyone who has especially worked in an office role may be familiar with the welcome pack – and this piece cheekily plays with the format (literally) to show just what employees of this particular company can look forward to. Along the way, thanks to the strikethroughs, we can see an attempt to hide some of the less palatable aspects – not unlike an actual first day orientation. Perhaps this story should have come with a trigger warning for anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment!


TV SPIRIT GUIDE by Molly B Rodgers, USA

Marvin’s first day opened with a drowned man arguing The Sopranos was the greatest piece of media ever composed.

“More than Fellini? Miyasaki?”

The man shrugged. Seaweed clung to his purpling skin; that tsunami had tossed him good. “When Tony smiles in the mirror… total body chills, man.”

Marvin rolled his eyes.

His supervisor, Sandy, poked her head in after the man had left. “Knock, knock. Marvin, we try not to debate the recently deceased, but I love your willingness to engage.”

Marvin met her enthusiastic thumbs up with a lethargic one.

A grandmother in a handknit sweater requested to finish the pornography that had given her a heart attack. “They seem like a nice couple,” she said. A jittery man asked to complete the Doctor Who series.

“How many seasons have you seen so far?”

“Um, one. Episode.”

So, only 39 published seasons to go, plus the 17 as-yet unmade ones. That would only set Marvin’s schedule back by an insurmountable degree. 

“Sure thing,” he said with a closed lip smile. The onboarding materials had said to give those swirling in denial special consideration, like Mr. Trip-and-Die. Marvin groaned as the Doctor regenerated for the umpteenth time. You can only stall so long, buddy.

Marvin had dreamed of the excitement of the field, but instead he was marooned at this B.U.N.C desk, pressing play. The Bureau for Unfinished Narratives in Cinema had been established to deal with the logjam of specters gumming the system, unable to cross over without knowing the ending to XYZ. His day’s only excitement was a man trying to pinch a copy of Barbarella to bring Beyond. But that’s what happens when you fail the Reaper physical three times.

743 down, one to go before close. 

“Hello, how can I help you?” Marvin monotoned.

“I wish to see a movie I haven’t seen in years,” came an elderly man’s quavering voice.

Marvin grumbled the whole 1.3 mile walk to the Single Use Section. When he returned, he shoved the VHS tape in and plopped into his chair.

The TV’s glow washed over the man. Onscreen, a wispy haired girl pointed to shapes in a book. “Circle. Square. Triangle. Daddy!” She rushed out of view, then the camera chased her to the front doorway where she clung to a man’s leg. “Daddy’s home!”

The man touched the screen. “She’s forty-two now, but she’s always four.” He stood and shook Marvin’s hand. “Thank you, son. Been looking for that for a long time.” Then he walked down the hallway to the double doors and was gone.

Marvin ejected the tape and looked at the label. 1986. From his seat, that was the blink of an eye. He held it for a long while.

“Knock, knock. Ah, home movie?”

“Hmm? Yeah.”

Sandy gave Marvin a thumbs up. “Do it all again tomorrow?”

The next morning, Marvin greeted his first arrival with a smile. “Never got around to the last season, I see? That Tony Soprano, huh? Chills.”

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

We love an inventive world – and this Bureau for Unfinished Narratives in Cinema is marvellous ( Marvin-lous?) story fodder. The old lady who just wants to see the ‘happy ending’ of her ‘nice couple’ was fun, as is the seemingly dusty public-servant-esque setting that has our main character so filled with lethargy. However, the home movie adds a sense of purpose to his job and the story – perhaps a reminder for us to savour the real loved ones in our life, rather than TV characters!


SUMMER SIZZLER by Lianne Darby, NZ

I was at the caravan early, standing outside on the pavement while the sea sssshhhh and ahhhhed behind me and a spiral of seagulls floated overhead calling in sharp, melancholy cries. The caravan was named “BEN’S CART” and was painted with random shapes and colours, giving it a psychotic appearance.

Ben, himself, arrived to open up. “Made it then?” he said, so glum I wondered who had died.

I was shown the counter, menu, the ordering system, where to find serviettes, plates, sauces and drinks, and the money jar.

“Cash only,” Ben told me. “Don’t want those bastards at the tax department knowing how much I make.” He threw open the hatch in front of the counter to show a splendid view of a shimming sea.

“You’ve got a great spot here,” I said.

“Not if there’s a tsunami,” he replied. I swear, the man was serious.

I was to take the orders, deal with the money, and hand over the food. Ben would be at the end of the caravan cooking over hotplates and deep fryers.

“Stay out of my patch,” he said, flicking switches on to start cooking. “There’s no room for two of us.” The kitchen area was clean and sparse, much as you would expect except for a small contraption hanging on a hook.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Slingshot,” he replied. “For thieves. I’m not allowed to use bullets.”

“Thieves are a problem?”

Ben curled his lip. “Gangs of the blighters. Keep your wits about you.”

The customers started arriving as the day heated up. I managed the counter as cheerfully as I could while Ben hissed and swore out the back, doing battle with boiling fat and fussy orders.

Then I saw them; three youths, looking suspicious in beach shorts and jandals. They were standing in a triangle, arms folded, but with their heads turned, watching me. My suspicions prickled. I pushed the money jar a little further under the counter as one approached.

“Chips,” he said, handing over a fiver.

I took his cash and gave him a punnet of hot chips.

He gave me a suggestive wink!

As he took his purchase, there was a sudden flurry of wings, a shove, a knock. I squealed, flinching. The customer yelled, tripped. Food was tossed. Immediately, a squabble of seagulls dive-bombed to claim the scattered chips.

“THIEVES?” bellowed Ben. He turned and ripped open the caravan door. “WHICH ONE?”

“On the pole,” I replied, pointing high to a smug seagull scoffing its snatched chip in great gulps. That was the prime offender. Then an odd thing happened. One moment the seagull was standing tall and satisfied, the next, it was a cloud of detached feathers and a tumbling, lifeless lump of poultry.

I blinked, stunned.

“Got him,” snarled Ben.

When I looked at Ben, he was hanging the slingshot back on its hook.

“One less bastard,” he said, glancing at me.

I could tell he was thrilled; the corner of his mouth twitched.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Complete with sound effects, our seaside scene is expertly set within the first sentence. It’s easy enough to picture this food cart – we’ve all either worked in one or purchased from one before – and with ‘jandals’ on feet, we’re clearly in New Zealand! The ‘tsunami’ line was great – no metaphors here – and the reveal of the real thieves was a nice surprise. A small (but not poultry) slice of seaside life, with a strong voice throughout.


SHOCK JILL by John Walker, NSW

It must have been scary – first day on the job – to follow the absolute master.
Anything less than a triumph would be seen as a total disaster!
A shock-jock’s remit is to stir up the rabble and generate tsunamis of hate.
But if that’s what the station heads wanted, they were sadly out of date.

Jill had fibbed a bit in her submission; stolen words from her forebear’s CV;
So it seemed to them that she’d carry on with their class warfare repartee.
But, instead of the far-right tirades they were used to, she displayed a more balanced style,
Enraging some usual listeners, but she countered their hatred and bile.

She placed herself in a triangle, with guest speakers from left and from right,
And she armed herself with proven facts, much to some listeners’ delight.
She’d constantly trip up polemicists who couldn’t support their positions,
And the radio station’s ratings climbed on the backs of these inquisitions.

But the management couldn’t abide her approach, which exposed their bias and greed,
And facts and figures on their radio station were things they just didn’t need.
They wanted conspiracy theories – the sort that appeal to the mob,
So they turned off her mike. It was indeed scary – her LAST day on the job.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Poetry and politics aren’t always the most compelling of story submissions we receive, however this one deftly balances the two much like Jill balances the left and the right in this well-paced, pocket-sized piece. The well constructed rhythm helps create a seamless storytelling experience, and the final stanza is a fair statement on the state of shock jock radio shows today!


WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE FRIENDS by Brian Parisi, USA

During her orientation, you explain to the summer intern that there are no firm “weekends” at this law firm. If Paul Bruce decides it’s crunch time, then it’s all hands on deck, no excuses. You worked until midnight last Christmas Eve. Paul is a full managing partner now, so there’s no point complaining.

You don’t tell her that she will end up crying in a bathroom stall at some point. It’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” You’ve been there. Everyone has. All the women, anyway. Probably some of the men, too, but you haven’t been in the men’s room enough to get an accurate sob sampling.

You explain that if she doesn’t like the long hours, there’s the door. Go clerk in the public courts. See how fast that pays for law school. Young lawyers get worked to the bone. The intern nods like she’s fully on board for this trip. Look at her; she’s probably on cloud 9. You don’t tell her you’re jealous that she gets to jump ship in August. If she’s smart, she’ll figure that out soon.

Glum portraits of the firm’s partners adorn the main conference room. Paul, his grandfather, and father. Bruce, Bruce, and Bruce LLP. Paul’s ascension to partner formed a perfect triangle of nepotism as if that outcome was ever in doubt.

As you’re explaining that Paul’s parents met while his mom was an intern here, your trainee picks up a pen off the conference table and casually slips it into her pocket. It’s one of Paul’s; a Montblanc Rollerball. You tell her it’s like a three-hundred-dollar pen, but you don’t tell her to put it back because you don’t care. If she already has a healthy capacity for larceny, maybe she’s picked the right career.

You tell her some good people are working here, truly there are, and they can be fountains of knowledge when they’re not getting drowned out by the assholes. She seems more interested in the espresso machine, which you tell her is broken even though it’s not.

You steer her away from Paul’s office for now. He hasn’t seen her yet, and she’s pretty enough that it would be best if he didn’t on her first day. You do not tell her that, nor do you give her a heads-up about Paul’s cocaine habit. The guy blows an absolute tsunami up his nose most days. It’s a wonder his heart hasn’t exploded by now. Anyway, she’ll find out about it soon enough. Paul will offer her a bump in the stairwell or maybe the lunchroom and she’ll either take it or not. Instead, you show her where her cubicle is and fake-apologize for all the document boxes stacked up inside.

You ask her how many late-night document reviews it takes for one to question their decision to become a lawyer. She laughs. That’s not a rhetorical question, you know the number.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Whereas most stories this month made the protagonist the one whose first day it was, this piece uses second person POV to great effect to put you in the place of the jaded existing employee showing the new girl the ropes. The law(firm) of the land is handed out in true orientation style, with our narrator’s inner monologue revealing plenty of insights the new hire will learn in time. A clever format, fun title and excellent final sentence!


I, BEAKY by Stephen Martin, VIC

It really stinks in here.

Not just a little bit, but seriously rank. It smells like 20 sweaty heads have been in here before mine – which is probably true, there have been six occupants in the 11 games so far this season. Today is my first outing as Beaky the Buzzard, noble mascot of the Clear Point Eagles high school basketball team.

The job is pretty basic. Lead the team out of the change room onto the court, high five the coach, then cavort.

In the first five minutes I learn that my cavorting skills could use some refinement. The 14 year olds in the front row of the stand certainly think so. The alpha male has blonde tips and wears a Def Leppard t-shirt. I loathe him instinctively. I will call him Brad. ‘Get a real job, loser’, calls Brad with his platinum-edged wit. His acolytes snigger as expected. I’ll teach him. I jump, spin and trip over my own ridiculously padded feet, slamming beak-first into the boards. Sniggers become a tsunami of outright mockery. I roll to my feet, straighten my beak and dance awkwardly to the other side of the court.

Half time comes – it's now the mascot race and I am up against Alvin the Aardvark. The result is pre-ordained of course. As the home team mascot I will win our three-lap race of the court perimeter. Also as pre-ordained, I cheat – as Beaky always does. As I round the third traffic cone I take a shortcut, turning the last lap into a neat Isosceles triangle. I comfort myself with the thought that Brad and his friends could not tell the difference between Isosceles and Ice Magic.

10 minutes of game time left and I have been wearing this headpiece for over an hour. The humidity is causing the dried sweat of previous occupants to condense, running through my hair and down my forehead and cheeks like a salty satanic lotion. My neck hurts – true to his name, Beaky is front heavy and I am feeling the strain of keeping my head upright. I wonder if there is a medical term for this affliction. Perhaps I can specialise in it.

The game ends. Alvin is doing a victory dance and the Eagles fans are trooping gloomily toward the exits, as they do most weeks. Brad and his crew left early. Great, I can avoid the indignity of a final taunting.

I retire to my private change room, otherwise known as the cleaner’s closet. I pull off the headpiece and the bleach-tinged air comes as a relief. I feel like something has been stolen from me. Dignity perhaps, self respect?

No, I’ll be fine. I’ve done plenty of lousy jobs over the last few months, and I can handle a few more games in the Beaky suit. I have been accepted to pre-med and I start next semester. Maybe I’ll tell Brad.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

A great opening line that could go anywhere – and perhaps inside a mascot costume is one of the last places you’d expect. But it’s a brilliant choice for a first day on the job occupation, loaded with funny observations and tensions. The prompts are worked in nicely, especially the late reveal of what has been stolen. Good luck in med school, Beaky!


THE BIGGEST JOB IN MY LIFE by Elizabeth Evans, NSW

The full force of what I had committed to felt like a tsunami closing in on me. The realisation left me panicked, but also slightly in awe. It was the job of a lifetime. The ‘one’ I had wanted for as long as I could remember. And finally it was mine.

When I found out I had landed the job I felt slightly nauseous and suddenly doubtful. Could I really do this? I talked to a friend who was in a similar role to gain some insight. ‘The job is unrelenting’, she had said. ‘Be prepared for long hours and not much sleep. Delegate where you can and don’t try to do it all yourself’. These were good insights. I made notes – I wanted to be the best. And yet as I sat in my chair, on the first day of the biggest job of my life, I felt woefully underprepared.

It’s not that I hadn’t had time to prepare. I’d had a substantial stand-down period before I could start the role. I remember the weeks that had stretched into months. It felt like it was never ending. Especially as my start date got closer. But my first day on the job had arrived with gusto – the induction had been overwhelming. I still felt a little dizzy at the pace of it all, as if I was coming down off a frenzied hallucinogenic trip. A dazed glance at the clock on the wall confirmed this. It was already 11am. I’d had a quiet couple of hours to myself in the aftermath of the morning's events and had achieved nothing. I could feel the mounting pressure of an impending summoning. Surely the boss was ready to see me now.

Gingerly I pushed myself out of my chair and crossed the white walled room. I stuck my head out the door and looked up and down the bustling corridor. Everyone that passed by my door looked busy and important. Suddenly I felt insignificant and unsure. An imposter. Then I heard it. Her call was unmistakable – one that was only meant for me. Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, I steadied myself and turned towards her call. It was time for some proper introductions.

I padded across the hard floor, passing the door to the triangle-shaped ensuite, to my chair where a bassinet lay beside it. Holding my breath I peered into the bassinet and smiled at her – my new boss. Uncertainty dissipating. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring at her big brown eyes. Picking up and cradling my tiny daughter I sat back down in my chair. Her pink chubby hands were waving sporadically, as if trying to gain their balance. Suddenly her hand latched onto one of my fingers and squeezed it. In that instant she had stolen my heart and I knew I was ready to take on the biggest job of my life with everything I had.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

We received a handful of stories this month that played with this particular idea of the ‘first day on the job’ – a wonderful take on the prompt! What we liked especially about this one is that it kept the reveal hidden, with nice clues throughout (“When I found out I had landed the job I felt slightly nauseous”). The intentional choice to create this ambiguous narrative was clever, as even if you cottoned on early, you could still enjoy the details. What perhaps sealed the deal however is meeting ‘the boss’ – a brilliant insight into who’s really in charge in those early days! 

REALITY by Adrienne Tam, NSW

As the tsunami rose above us, I thought back to what my mother had said when I’d called her to tell her I was going to be a contestant on The Bachelor.

“If you become a reality TV star, the world is gonna end,” she’d shouted over the phone.

“At least it’s not Married At First Sight!” I had yelled back, hanging up.

Those were the last words I’d said to my mum. Because she was right, of course. The world did end.

[See Exhibit A: The deadly tidal wave about to wipe us out.]

Everything had been going great before the tsunami. It was my first day as a reality TV contestant and I was excited to meet the Bachelor. I mean, what if he ended up being The One? I knew realistically he wouldn’t be. This may be reality TV but it wasn’t reality.

This year they were filming The Bachelor in Fiji to avoid paparazzi spoiling the ending like they had in previous seasons so I was up at 4am, at the airport by 5.30am, and sitting in the lounge with 20 other excited women by 7am.

I had never seen so many stunning women in all my life. It made me feel self-conscious.

“Have you been to Fiji before?” A beautiful woman wearing head-to-toe athleisure clothing asked me.

Before I could reply, she barrelled on. “This is my third trip. It’s OK,” she said, with a shrug. “It’s no Maldives, that’s for sure.”

“Oh… yes,” I stammered.

Luckily I was saved by the stressed-looking production coordinator who ushered us aboard the plane. Four hours later we were in Fiji and two hours after that we were sipping welcome margaritas at the hotel. An hour later we were standing on a beach in somewhat inappropriate ball gowns, waiting to meet the Bachelor for the first time.

And then there he was.

He was gorgeous. But more than that, he was funny and kind and sweet and he liked Pokemon and horror movies, and oh my god, this was it. This was what people meant when they said mushy, cliched things like ‘love at first sight’. The Bachelor had stolen my heart. And it was only the first day.

At the rose ceremony, there were rumblings of a love triangle between the Bachelor and two ridiculously good-looking women named Jessica and Lauren. They got roses first. And then everyone else got roses.

Soon it was just me and another Jessica – there were a few Jessicas – standing there on the beach.

The Bachelor picked up the last rose. Like my heart, it had begun to wilt a little.

And then he said my name.

“Will you accept this rose?” he asked, smiling so gently.

“Yes,” I whispered. One of the producers asked me to repeat my answer louder but I ignored her.

This was the start of something wonderful. I could feel it.

Above us, there was an enormous shadow.

It was the best day of my life.

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

We loved how this story opened – the classic “how did I end up here?” set up, made more perilous by the impending wave. What followed was a hilarious commentary on the state of reality dating shows, gently nudging at the format (“there were a few Jessicas” haha) and its total unrealness. The final line sums up everything, how getting a rose really can be more important than life itself! Now if the wave can just head for Love (and FBoy) Island next…


FEEF by Kate Gordon, TAS

“It’s rabbit’s first day,” Daisy said.

I looked down at her. Her peach-red curls were still wild from sleep. Her face was flushed and happy. She wore her pyjama top and socks. Her pants were who-knows-where and I probably wouldn’t find them again until I’d bought her another pair.

She proffered a drool-soaked bunny, one ear chewed in half. Its squat little form was squeezed into a Barbie’s black suit jacket.

I cleared my throat. “First day?” I asked.

She tripped over her words. “Brabbit … Rabbit has … one job,” she tried. She shook her head, cross with herself.

“Take it slowly,” I said, gently.

She stomped her foot, a triangle of annoyance between her eyes. “Rabbit has a job.” She smiled with pride.

“Oh …” I hid a tickling smirk. Daisy hated it when I boked fun at her, and I hadn’t had enough coffee for a tsunami of toddler rage. “Rabbit has a job? What is it?”

“Guess.” Daisy’s face turned serious. Her big blue eyes flashed with a steeliness I’d come to recognise as I dare you not to.

“Okay.” I smiled. “I’ll try. A teacher?”

Daisy shook her head, laughing. “You’re silly. That’s silly.”

I didn’t know why a teacher was silly. My father – her poppy – was a teacher.

He was a little bit silly, I supposed, when he was with Daisy. All funny dances and jokes.

I tried again.

“Lawyer?”

“What’s that?”

“Someone who …” I looked at her tiny, scrunched up face. How could I explain the law to her? “It’s like when Mummy says you’ve done the wrong thing.”

“Eating all the biscuits.”

I remembered when I’d found her in the pantry, covered in crumbs, an empty choc-chip packet on the floor. Protestations of innocence. “Yes. And I said no more biscuits until Wednesday. Lawyers do that but for grown-ups.”

“Who eat all the biscuits?”

I sighed. I chose the easier road. “Yes.”

“Rabbit is not a la-la.”

“Firefighter?”

“No.”

“Doctor?”

“Not today.”

“Soldier?”

“What’s that?”

This one, I couldn’t explain. Not without breaking her heart. And mine.

“Never mind. How about … an artist? A writer? A baker? An … IT Systems Development Operations Officer.”

Daisy blinked at me. “Def-nally not the last one.”

I scooped her up in my arms – my funny, dawn-haired baby girl, so full of big words now. “I give up,” I said. “What is Rabbit’s new job?”

“Feef.”

I cleared my throat. “Sorry, what now?”

“Feef. Rabbit is a feef. A stealing person. A … nasty crook.”

I felt my forehead tighten, my eyebrows raising. “Right,” I said. “And what is rabbit going to steal?”

“Already.”

“Already?”

“Rabbit has already feefed.”

“Oh. How clever Rabbit is, to have already feefed so early in his tenure. Well, then. What did this prodigious Rabbit feef so skilfully, on his first day on the job?”

Daisy smirked, her eyes twinkling brightly. She leaned in close to my ear. Her breath smelled of milk and sleep.

And she whispered, “Pants.”

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

Out of the mouths of babes… You have to love a cute speech impediment, and you also have to love a well-crafted back-and-forth conversation – easier said than done (literally). Here, the early-morning dialogue is effortless between parent and child as a pantsless Daisy delights in the make-believe world that kids are so good at, all while fielding a tsunami of questions. By the time we get to the ‘feef’ of it all, we’re totally invested in this bunny’s first day and the final reveal is perfick.


TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER by David Weiss, ACT

It took less than a day for my idealism to be stolen. A lot less to be honest – less than a morning.

Four years studying for a Bachelor of Meteorological Science, and now I was starting my dream job at the Bureau of Meteorology. Their mission, and now mine: to provide trusted, reliable and responsive weather services for Australia – all day, every day.

It was my first day. After getting my security pass, I was escorted through to meet my new boss, Bill Radford (‘but everyone calls me Radar,’ he’d said). We’d chatted briefly and then he took me to meet the person I would be working alongside.

‘I’d like you to meet Greta Wilson,’ he said as we approached a middle aged lady sitting at a window seat. ‘Greta’s been here almost as long as me, so she’s a great person to show you the ropes. I’ll leave you in her capable hands.’

Before he left he said ‘Greta, don’t forget to mention the bingo game.’

‘The bingo game?’ I asked when he’d gone.

Greta looked at me with pity. For a long time she was silent as she carefully weighed her next words. Finally she spoke.

‘Look, I hate to rain on your parade on your first day – sorry, a little BoM joke there – but you may as well know the truth. The job is boring, OK. Computers do most of the work – we just make sure the forecasts they’re spitting out don’t look stupid, and then put some commentary over the top that goes on the website and out to media outlets. There’s the occasional cyclone to look forward to, and we have fun adding “five percent chance of rain” to some of the forecasts just to mess with people, but for the most part it’s just boring.’

‘So, we spice things up a bit. For the commentaries, we have a daily list of words we need to weave in. Today, we’re up to T, and the words are trip, triangle, and tsunami. Radar’s taking it easy on your first day with only three words – he normally sets at least five. But wait until Friday when the words start with X. If anyone external notices, like we get feedback about a word not making sense, whoever’s responsible for that word has to put ten bucks in the kitty to subsidise the Christmas party.’

I could feel my idealism slipping away. Four years at university and she was telling me a computer did all the work and my job was essentially playing word games.

Greta was looking at me, as I suspected she had looked at numerous others like me over the years, watching as I processed the news and wondering how I’d respond.

I was cornered. Where else could I go with my Bachelor of Meteorological Science? I slowly turned to her, defeated, and said, ‘Do you think we could get away with saying there’s a five percent chance of a tsunami in Darwin today?’

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

While the technical details of this story may not be 100% correct, there is a five percent chance that they COULD be, and that’s fine with us. We enjoy seeing behind the scenes in some of the more unique roles, and also slow clapped at this sneaky way to use all three T words in one fell swoop! Don’t think too hard about the logistics of it all and simply let this homage to workplace games wash over you! (Like a Darwin tsunami…)


READY by Christina Abraham, USA

My girlfriend was asleep as my 4:30 alarm went off, and I slowly sat up in bed and stared out the skyscraper window. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t see any of the streetlights – I only looked out into the abyss of fog and stars. I don’t know if I’m ready for today. I don’t know if I’m ready for this job to become real. I should be proud of myself, shouldn’t I? I’ve trained for years trying to get here. So why don’t I feel ready? I am ready! Right? I’m ready? I wasn’t going to cry, yet my chest still hurt from heartbreak. I wasn’t afraid, yet I couldn’t stop staring out the window. I couldn’t start getting ready. A part of me knew this was going to happen, so I picked up my suit and stared at my reflection in a triangle copper pin. I’m ready. I’m ready. It’s not that bad. You’re gonna make it. You’re gonna make it. Right? I jumped at hearing my girlfriend’s 6:30 alarm.

She drove me to my flight that morning, and I remembered how I used to drive my dad on this trip. I also once drove my brother. But now it’s me in the passenger seat. Now I’m the one sinking in this suit, pretending to be ready.

No, no, no. I am ready. I am.

She jumps out of the car, and it insults me. Is she ready for me to leave? Is everyone ready? Is it just me? She sets my bags on the curb, and she looks at me with tears in her eyes. I don’t remember what she said, but I do remember watching her drive away, realizing this was it. She wasn’t coming back. I stole her lucky penny from the cup holder hoping she would turn around and think it was a sign, but maybe she knew I stole it. Maybe she knew I needed it.

No, no, no. I don’t need luck. I’m ready. I am.

I tried to fall asleep on the flight, but I couldn’t. I kept checking if my pin was undone and stabbing me, but it was in place. Why, everything was. I’m in this silent city on a sunny day, and yet I’m praying that the danger will be too much. A tornado would strike. A tsunami would hit. A family emergency would come up and save me. I know I’m supposed to be a savior, but I think I need saving right now. I’m heartbroken. I’m scared. I’m not ready. I’m not–

“Ready soldiers?”

“Ready!”

FURIOUS THOUGHTS:

We really enjoyed the build up of this story – that pensive early morning contemplation and recollection. The small clues but mostly obscure details about what this first day will bring. Reference to a father and brother in a similar role. A flight to catch. And a farewell. Without saying a single word about the occupation until the penultimate line, this story is so powerful in its foreshadowing. The repetition (including in the title) of the word ‘ready’ works well from start to finish, and it is of course a very real scene that is likely playing out somewhere in the world, every day.


THIS MONTH’S ‘LONGLIST’

Each month, we like to include an extra LONGLIST of stories that stood out from the hundreds and were highly considered for the showcase. Remember, all creativity is subjective, but if your name is here, well done! And to ALL who submitted stories, we hope to see you in the next challenge…

THIS MONTH’S LONGLIST (in no particular order):

  • UNTITLED by Isaac Freeman, SA
  • NEW TEACHER by Hannah Southcott, NSW
  • DIZZLO by Becca J, NSW
  • NEW BEGINNINGS by Jall Rangarajan, India
  • THE DISASTER EMPLOYEE by Bruno Lowagie, Belgium
  • HARD LESSON TO LEARN by Susan Sheehan, USA
  • A WILD TIME AT KINGDOM CINEMAS by TJ Edwards, NSW
  • THE FIRST FIRST DAY AT WORK by Kenneth Mann, UK
  • THE SHOW MUST GO ON by Anne Wilkins, NZ
  • ANTI CLIMAX by Amy Morgan, VIC
  • UNTITLED by Tanner Goldberg, USA
  • ALIAS by Djuna Hallsworth, NSW
  • HOW THE SAUSAGE GETS MADE by Averil Robertson, VIC
  • UNLUCKY by Athena Law, QLD
  • WATCHING by Nick Story, USA
  • SHAUN THE SHAPESHIFTER by Dylan Mudge, SA
  • SCATTERED DREAMS by Tanya Allen, SA
  • MY PRAYER by Freya King, QLD
  • DAY ONE by Dana Stewart, WA
  • THE DEVILS IN THE DETAILS by Megan Elizabeth, USA
  • THE HOUSE by Jennifer Adams, QLD
  • VICTIMS OF THE SEA by Jamie Gregory, USA
  • ANNIHILATION by Alison Elizabeth, NSW
  • LUNAR NEW YEAR 2024: ENTER WOOD DRAGON by Kristof Mikes-Liu, NSW
  • DON’T GO by Janet Preston, ACT
  • FLOWER ARRAIGNMENT by Autumn Bettinger, USA
  • JUST BAD LUCK by Claire Whitelaw, VIC
  • CLASS WARFARE by Simon Shergold, USA
  • CONFESSIONS FROM THE GROTTO by Jeff Taylor, NZ
  • A SONG FOR NAMAZU by Russell Mickler, USA
  • POSTPARTUM by Jenny Lynch, WA
  • FINE ANGLES by Thomas Fletcher, VIC
  • DISPATCHED by Deidra Lovegren, USA
  • THE NEW HIRE by Matt Best, NSW
  • THE GATE by Mark Tarantina, USA
  • UNTITLED by John McParland, NSW
  • SCAVENGER’S ODYSSEY: NOTES FROM 2084 by Nan Ho, QLD
  • PERFORMANCE by Courtney Bayer, USA
  • UNTITLED by Linda Demaagd, SA
  • CLEAR SKIES by Tina Mills, WA
  • LOOK AROUND by Amy Anshaw-Nye, NSW
  • PERFECT by Melanie Winklosky, USA
  • UNTITLED by Cameron Burnett, NSW
  • NO REAL COFFEE IN HELL by Suzanne Wacker, QLD
  • FINAL CALL by Jenny Baker, VIC
  • LIEUTENANT OGBOG AND THE EARTH HUMANS by Katie Ess, USA
  • UNTITLED by Maggie Brooke, QLD
  • A SLICE OF REVENGE by Pam Lonsdale, USA
  • BUCCANEER ME by Sally Eberhardt, QLD
  • UNTITLED by Louise, WA
  • POSITIVE SPIN by Sheryn Witney, SA
  • ON THE WRONG FOOT by Megan Hipler, QLD
  • GERTRUDE THE GHOST HUNTING CAT by KE Fleming, NSW
  • UNTITLED by Lisa Verdekal, Ireland
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