By: Simon Morrell


Buy Simon’s Book: From Bullied To Black Belt here!


1/ What Can Happen In a Second;

A lot and then then some. A doctor could make the decision to pull the plug. Or he may make the decision to be brave enough to operate and save your life, changing the course of your family’s lives forever. It may take more than a second, possibly many agonising hours to arrive at that decision but there will be only one atom of a second when he draws his final conclusion. His word is final, you better hope he concludes in your favour. (Inspired by a true story.)

2/ A Houseplant is Dying. Tell It Why It Needs to Live;

“Come on man you are giving up to easy! All your ancestors and all your future siblings as well as you are important. Didn’t I read somewhere you guys make oxygen? If they all gave up just like you are doing what the hell are we going to breath? Dust? Plus you keep my wife occupied. What is she supposed to care for now the children have gone? What is she going to water? The oven? Don’t do this to me man, don’t make me breath dust and live with a cranky broad. Get better!”

3/ The Worst Thanksgiving Dish You Ever Had;

Jeez an easy one. Ma and Pa were at it again. The old man drinking too much watching the game before the bird is even out of the oven. Ma sees red and pulls the plug… The bird freezes to death. No point even setting the table as we hear mum in the kitchen yank out the corkscrew on her third bottle of Blue Nun. Before we move to the next level I spare my kid brother the blushes of hearing her curse under her breath. With that kind of language Blue is the only Nun she will ever be acquainted with. I steel a glance at my snoring, farting pop. He is out for a least another three hours. Turning to my baby bro (huh, ‘baby’. He is ten and has seen enough for a fifty year old).
“Come on kid, I’m buying.” He doesn’t reply, just zips up his parka and we hit the cold city streets in search of nutrition.

Zip, zilch, nada…nothing. Every food outlet crammed, all bars closed to a 16 year old and his snot nosed kid. The retardants downtown? Give me a break! I can’t even afford to look at the menu. Soup kitchens are out down to sheer pride. Pride in the face that despite our rumbling tummies growing into angry bears I wouldn’t be seen dead in one and that is what I would be if I tried to share with the clientele. Dead. They don’t take kindly to a couple of wise ass kids trying the break bread with them, not even on this great American holiday.

“Come in short stop. Home before we freeze. If we are lucky we will fall asleep before the hunger starts to hurt.”

But short stop does indeed stop and points at a donut house closing up. In the alley a worn out employee empties trays of hard,cold but jam filled treats. We wait him out. It’s an age as we watch for the lockup. If we are caught stealing from the bins a beating is what we will get, not a frosty filled treat.

Eventually the door locks and we scuttle like rats to our treasure. Jeez it is pitiful. Too kids better off orphans sitting in a piss filled alley eating stale dough but it fills a gap. We eat our fill of chocolate cakes, vanilla slices and other unidentifiable goodies. Short stop then fills his pockets. He has a bigger heart than me.

The warmth of the house, however meagre is welcome and before I head for the sanctuary of my dimly lit room I watch Short stop empty his pockets and share his leftovers with his two passed out, down ‘n dirty drunk role models. He finds two reasonably clean plates, wipes them with his sleeve and fills ‘em up, placing them on the arm rest of mom n pop’s chairs. Like a say, a bigger heart than me.

4/ Tell a story that begins with a ransom note;

“You know who we have, you know exactly what we want so make it happen. The choice is yours not ours. Don’t take your time over this.”

I turned to my wife and handed her the note that had just dropped ominously through our letterbox.

“What do you think love? It’s your call really.”

My wife looks angry and I immediately regret putting that kind of pressure on her but she stands tall.

“If we give in now they will just demand more.”

I nodded thoughtfully. “But I know how much you love…”

“Don’t,” she scolds interrupting. “That just adds to the misery.”

We sit and sip our, by now, cold coffee. I hate being put in a dilemma but what could we do? We knew we were up against three of the best and it would take some work to undo what had been done.

There was a bang on the door making us both jump. I opened the door to nothing. Whoever had startled us had gone. I got a feeling I knew where to.

“Let’s just do it. Give them what they want and we can bring her home. “

My wife looked as if she was trying to suppress an emotion. I couldn’t tell what. She nodded. “You know where we keep the goods.” I nodded. She continued “And you know where they will be?”

I went to collect the prize our tormentors demanded and we both left the house together, one destination in mind.

As we approached we could hear them. Three of them in total. Not good odds for us.

I called up to them. “We have what you want. Let her go and it’s yours.”

The sound of giggling was deafening as our three children smelt victory again. In return for three early Easter eggs we had her back in our arms (fourth catnap this month) Tabitha may only be a cat but she was our cat. As for the kids? They can live in the bloody treehouse for all I care.

5/ Write a scene where the only spoken dialogue is “Uh-huh,” “Umm,” “Urrrr,” and “Mm-mmm.”

Nodding toward the bag on the bar he got his point across by raising his eyebrows and grunting, “Umm?” Jimmy could never be accused of talking too much but then again neither could his associate. Their reputation did their talking for them, their actions even more so. A love of violence helped in these matters.

Tony confirmed the deal by handing over what needed handing over. “Uh-huh.”

Grabbing their charge by the neck they slammed him into the bar now devoid of the customers that filled it just hours ago. Still the stench of booze was not appreciated and Tony made his feelings known. “Urrr.” Jimmy just laughed. They had been partners in crime for years but Jimmy just couldn’t take to the broadly built Romanian so ignored his childish moaning.

In the meantime the wide eyed victim, mouth bound by gaffer tape started to shake. Too late for sorrow and remorse. The piece of crap had ripped off the wrong people.

As Jimmy took his tool from the leather bag the victim’s eyes grew even wider with fear. Pliers did the trick if applied to the right part of the body. With a grin Tony undid his clothing, namely his pants and the pliers were applied accordingly.

“Mmmmm!” It was not a pleasant noise from the now tortured thief but what did they care? Jimmy looked to Tony.”Umm?” came the implied question. “Uh-huh,” came the obvious reply but accompanied with a wide grin.

The final blow with the hammer did the trick. Another day at the office, let the clean up boys take over from here. They turned to leave but Jimmy stopped to relieve the now dead victim of his last cigarettes. He lit one for each of them and as Tony took his first drag he let out a satisfied moan, “Mmmm.”

6/Tell a complete stranger about a beloved family tradition.

“It started with my Gran. Long before these fancy first class carriages.” The girl opposite me smiles and decides to concede her book, closing it and putting it in her bag. For an hour I have tried to engage her attention and it finally seems to be working. It’s not a chat up line. I am just desperate to share our family’s tradition with someone as the train covers distance to the Scottish village.

“My Ma wasn’t too keen at first but eventually she caved in, gave in and joined in. Gran could be persuasive like that.”

“The same journey all the while?” she asks.

I sip my cold tea and nod. “No other way. Scotland is where it was best suited. The same train, the same day every year. Bolton to Scotland. Same time, same lunch, same location we eventually arrive in.”

“It sounds fascinating, “ she says all teeth and smiles. But I can see she is losing interest and I know I have to pick up my pitch.

“The best thing is the food and drink. Nothing like a secluded cabin in the woods to enhance the smell of cooking. Wash it down with a fine wine. Can’t beat it.” I could tell by her bloodshot eyes and slight odour that the mention of wine would do the trick. “We finish off with a lovely malt from the local distillery. 12 years of age. Mind you the one bottle doesn’t last long and is usually followed by many more.”

“Sounds like fun,” she admits. “Many people attend?”

I shake my head and reach for my bag, topping up my cup from the flask of whiskey. I offer it to her already knowing the answer. “No, family traditions are for family only, maybe one or two friends. This year it is just Ma, one sister and me. We will meet at the cabin. Plenty more booze for us since my eldest sister got fed up with it and moved to the States. We haven’t seen her for years.”

“That’s a shame,” she offers, knocking back her slug of Scotch. I quickly top it up and add another pinch for good measure. We are just ten minutes away and I so want to share our family tradition with this kindred spirit with my taste for booze.

“Say, you could take her place. You wouldn’t have to do anything, they are already there preparing and there is a spare seat now sis has gone. It’s a ten minute taxi but then a twenty minute hike.” I rattle the booze. “This will make the walk a little easier.”

She considered it and nods. “How about the food? Is it good?” I surpress a smile knowing how well Ma cooks.

“Oh it’s good.” And the deal is done. Half an hour later we are off the map and she is starting to get off her face as the Scotch is flowing. I am a generous host.

She starts to fade a little.”Jeez I need food real quick. This Scotch has gone to my head. How much further? We seem to be in the middle of nowhere.”

I don’t want my new friend upset, far from it. I want her happy and smiling when she meets Ma.

“Two minutes, no more. Look, you can see the smoke from the burner. Foods coming soon!”

She smiles a sickly smile. “Okay, but no more Scotch. Gotta have food,” she says surpassing a burp.And true enough just 120 seconds later we reach a cabin. There in her glory, with subdued young sister stood behind her, is Ma. Large caving knives in hand.
“Ma!” I shout as I rush to hug her. She smiles a cold smile which warms when I introduce my ever weakening guest. “Look who I bought for dinner!”

My friend smiles a grim smile. “Thank you for having me,” she says burping again. “Sorry too much Scotch courtesy of your son.Such a long walk to such a lovely isolated place. We haven’t seen a soul for a long time. I am dying to be a part of your family tradition. Listen, thanks for having me.”

My Ma grins.”Our pleasure. We love having strangers for dinner, have done since my Ma, his Gran started this shindig.”

My friend smiles again, brightening. “So what is to eat?” she asks expectingly.

Ma grins even wider and rubs the knives together. Could cut right through you they could. “Why you are my dear,” she says.