Well, it was a difficult challenge, some might say a little too ridiculously difficult, but several brave souls rose to the challenge of combining obscure furry rodents with understated snorkelling, with rather impressive results.
The mystery panel of judges managed to almost completely differ in their opinions, which just shows that a panel was a bad idea and that it was a tight contest. Below are the stories we thought to be the best of the bunch, with some truly ingenious shoe-horning in of the required vocabulary in a 250 word limit! Enjoy. Very nearly taking the coveted prize were Mark Perry’s The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene (“like snorkelling through lard” might be my all-time favourite simile) and Avis Hickman’s impressively succinct Absent Friend. But just pipping them to the post and taking home Five English Pounds of book tokens and the prize of intellectual satisfaction was the following tale by James Edwards-Smallbone. If you didn’t know, I don’t believe you would be able to tell that he was trying to include any difficult words in the slightest, and to manage that and raise a smile at the same time is good going.
Well done to you and to Chazubel.
Chazubel Brown, Marmot Entrepreneur
by James Edwards-Smallbone
As the great rodent philosopher Voletaire once said, “it’s not easy being a marmot”. You see we larger rodents occupy a peculiar niche here in Terrafauna. Our smaller cousins are thinkers, the Canids warriors, the Avians priests. But us? Well, we dance on the cracks. Selling to some, stealing from others and all with an understated grace.
Of course this gets us into trouble sometimes – take my current indisposition for example. You see that enraged fox attempting to throttle me? I took the opportunity to liberate a few of his shiny gold crowns, all in jest of course but judging from the pressure on my windpipe he isn’t seeing the funny side.
My eyes bulge in response to his merciless azure glare. My lungs burn, drowning in their denied exhalation like someone snorkeling with a blocked pipe. And then in a sudden puff of pistol smoke it’s over. The fox’s paws fall away and he slumps sideways with an uncomprehending gurgle.
Before me a friendly weasel face forms from out of the powder smoke and he lowers his pistol, a slight smirk lingering below his whiskers.
“You took your sweet time!” I gasp between breaths, gulping in the smoggy air like a bewildered newborn.
“Spot o’ grief wiv the law Chaz, ‘ope you ain’t too worse for wear.”
Too breathless to reply I simply glare at my scruffy accomplice. No, it’s certainly not easy being a marmot, but as I weigh up the day’s golden takings I know it’s worth it.
The Day Job
by Daniel Hill
The lagoon was bright blue and the sun was shining, the little boat worked its way out into the lagoon, making a heavy job of light work. It had needed a new throttle for quite some time but since the discovery Gary hadn’t had time to fix it, he also hadn’t been snorkeling for a long time, and his only hope, apart from the site being intact, was that he didn’t look too marmot-like on his return. He envisaged a graceful entry to the water but knew this wasn’t likely. The boat slowed down, and it’s sole member anchored near the reef which was flourishing with colour and life, the reef had been an understated and underprotected part of the archipelago, but Gary was one of many who had fought for; and gained protective status for it. He prepared himself, then engineered his drop into the water, he wasn’t entirely happy with the entry, but he still remembered enough to look respectable. He swam a little and gained his bearings, the reef was to his right and the discovery had been made a couple of metres in front of him, that was when his snorkel filled with water, naturally, he panicked, thinking he was in trouble he swiped at the soft sand below him and pushed up, he reached the surface and coughed up the water he had inhaled, he didn’t know what had happened, all he cared about now was the shiny dubloon in his hand.
The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene
by Mark Perry
There’s a party going on in my teeth. I haven’t slept for three days. Performing even simple tasks requires great effort like snorkelling through lard.
I’m sat in the dentist’s chair. He reaches for a couple of shiny dental implements before his upside-down face leans closer. As soon as I open my mouth a deluge of funk hits him full in the face. He can’t resist a quick dance with the dental nurse, before apologising and regaining his professional composure.
“Ah, Marmots.” He says in a surprisingly understated way. “When was your last check-up?”
“Over two years ago.” I mumble
“And do you floss regularly?”
I shake my head.
“Hmmm, that’s how they build up. They’ve burrowed quite deep but we shouldn’t have much trouble shifting them.”
He gives me a painkilling injection and asks me to wait outside.
My face numbs and music leaks from my mouth as I struggle to keep it shut. This irritates the other patients. They stare at me but say nothing.
After twenty minutes I’m called back in. The dentist reaches for his drill. It produces a high pitched whine, the kind of noise you’d hear if you tried to throttle a tiny mouse android.
The drill falls silent. There’s a brief pause, before hundreds of worse for wear Marmots stampede out my mouth. They rush into reception and continue off down the road.
“Right,” says the dentist “We’ll see you again in six months.”
by Simon Thomas
Don’t call me Marmot. I’m nothing like one. Not remotely stocky, wish I were sometimes. I’d rather you got me confused with David Mamet, but I’m nothing like him neither. M’name’s Mamot. James, if you must know, but everyone calls me Mamot – everyone who calls me anything. Yes, I was at the beach 22nd January – beautiful day. I’d call it understated or luminescent, only I’m no ponce. Sand was shiny, sea was shiny. Whole bloody lot looked like someone had been at it with polish. Hurts the eyes, to stare at it for too long. Addictive, though, staring until it hurt just too much, then blinking, and seeing the light still, burned into the back of my eyelids.
I did think I was alone, at first. No reason why anyone else should be there – sunny day, but January, and middle of the afternoon. Most people at work, earning their crust. Paying my way, suppose you’d say. First I knew of him was some splashing – quite a way out, but waves were gentle, so I knew it was a person. Or animal, could’ve been, but it weren’t. He were having trouble, could see that, splashing around at full throttle but in trouble nonetheless. Been snorkelling, turns out, hadn’t he? And didn’t know how. Shouldn’t never go out alone, especially if you don’t know how. Brought it on himself. And yes, I watched him drown. Perhaps I could’ve done something. But not doing nothing ain’t a crime, is it?
No further questions.
by Avis Hickman
I had a pet Marmot once, but he was a lot of trouble. Always wanting more – y’know? So I took him snorkelling at the seaside. And anybody who tells you they are gentle creatures is lying!
It was a definitely understated victory getting the mask on him. All he wanted to do was to stare into the shiny eyepiece and admire his lustrous coat. I just wanted to throttle him!
He left me in the end – just burrowed away.
I miss him.