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Chris's Colossal Cliché Count Writing Challenge

Quick links on this page:

rules & how to submit - about the cliché challenge - read cliché overloaded stories

Cliche Writing Challenge

Chris Writefear, explaining the concept of cliché overuse to the legend that is Joody Higgins

Welcome to Chris's Colossal Cliché Count Writing Challenge, run in conjunction with the UK's first ever festival dedicated to flash fiction, which took place in Bath. The second festival will take place in Bristol in July 2018.

Flash Fiction Festival Logo

The cliché challenge opened for submissions on Saturday 24th June 2017, to festival attendees.

The challenge opened for general submissions on this website on Saturday 1st July 2017.

Rules & How To Submit

As sure as eggs are eggs, the rules are nice and simple:

  • 150 words maximum
  • please include a title for your story (not included in the word count)
  • use as many clichés as you can (clichéd phraseology, characters, plot lines etc.)
  • entry is the bargain basement price of: FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your cliché-crammed stories will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 stories, we'll publish them in a book
  • any money made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story using the comments form below
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

So far, we've received 192 stories. We need 8 more to publish the next anthology.

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About the Cliché Writing Challenge

Many writers overuse clichés.

To stand out from the crowd (see what I did there?), a writer needs to develop an original voice that the reader can identify and engage with. Clichés detract from this and often lead to rejection from magazine editors and competition judges.

What Is A Cliché?

The term 'cliché' doesn't just refer to overused figures of speech. Clichés can also be stereotypes or opinions or characters or plots that are trite and indicate a lack of original thought. For example :

  • hackneyed phraseology;
    • 'in the blink of an eye'
  • clichéd characters;
    • the drunk cop who wants to solve the case he's been working on for 20 years before he retires
  • clichéd storylines;
    • the woman who is secretly using a dating website and goes on a romantic encounter only to discover the man she's been flirting with online is her husband
  • you can see many more cliché examples here and here

To raise awareness of this common writing mistake, we are asking for flash fiction stories up to 150 words in length, stuffed with as many clichés as humanly possible.

The first anthology – Tritely Challenged Volume 1 – was published in April 2018. It contains the first 100 stories submitted to the challenge.

We are currently accepting submissions for Volume 2.

About the Charity the Cliché Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the cliché writing challenge anthologies will be donated to Book Aid International. A raffle took place at the festival, proceeds from which were also be donated to the charity.

Book Aid International Logo

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. The charity’s vision is a world where everyone has access to the books that will enrich, improve and change their lives. Every year, Book Aid International sends around one million, carefully selected books to thousands of libraries, schools, Universities, hospitals and refugee camps around the world.

How The Cliché Writing Challenge Came To Exist

I've been in contact with Jude Higgins for quite a few years. Jude is involved with running the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Bath Short Story Award and many other writing projects in Bath and the surrounding area. I list many of them in the competition lists on my website.

I heard about the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival via the Bath Flash Fiction Award email newsletters. I contacted Jude and asked if I could be involved. She said, "Yes," and invited me to run a flash fiction writing challenge workshop at the festival.

I presented and read at the festival on the 24th and 25th of June 2017. It was lovely to meet so many writers at the event, many of whom already had their stories published in the writing challenge anthologies.

Reading at Flash Fiction Festival

Chris, reading some adverbially overloaded stories at the Flash Fiction Festival

Like the other writing challenges on this website, the cliché challenge will continue running indefinitely.

Every time we receive 100 cliché-crammed stories, we'll publish a book. If we don't receive 100 submissions (this is highly unlikely, given how many submissions have been received by the other challenges I run, but I have to mention it in case...), it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know about Book Aid International and will feel compelled to give them money as often as you can.

Everyone wins.

You can read more about the cliché writing challenge in a post I've written for the Flash Fiction Festival blog.

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Clichéd Stories

Below you will find all the cliché-riddled stories submitted to the challenge. I hope you enjoy reading them.

The stories are published in the order they were received.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1

We received our 100th story on 5th February 2018. The first 100 stories submitted to the cliché challenge were removed from the website on 4th March 2018.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1 was released on 28th April 2018. You can learn more about the book here. It contains 100 flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Tritely Challenged Volume 1

You can read the stories that have been submitted to Volume 2 below.

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Tritely Challenged Volume 2

Below, you can read the stories submitted to the second cliché anthology, Tritely Challenged Volume 2.

TC V2 will be the last book published via the cliché challenge. The challenge will become website publishing only once this volume is full.

Story 101

The Pundit Tree

by Allen Ashley

"United were disgraceful. A bunch of pouting prima-donnas. They played like a load of strangers, Lee."

"That's true, Roy. City were shambolic. Keystone Cops defending. No organisation in midfield: four men all watching the ball; you could have thrown a blanket over them. No-one prepared to put a shift in."

"And Gilbertini got an early bath when he made his mark on Andy Hopkins."

"Plenty of claret."

"He's got his arm out for leverage. Sure, his elbow smashes the guy's nose, but football's a contact sport. Too many namby-pambies throwing themselves over, trying to con the referee."

"All we want is consistency, Roy. Still, Lucescu was marginally offside for the goal."

"Nothing marginal. You're either onside, Lee, or you're off."

"At least it picked up in the second period. The first 45 minutes was a snooze fest."

"It was the classic game of two halves, Lee."

"It always is, Roy."

Story 102

Fiona's Refusal

by Lesley Anne Truchet

"When I met you it was love at first sight. I fell head over heels." Edward attempted to move his right hand higher.

"Weel they dae say love is blind." Fiona clamped the inquisitive fingers.

"Busy hands are happy hands," Edward leered.

"Aam nae in th'muid, dinna think you’re gonnae to hide th'salami, ye willna be caught with ye keks doon this afternoon."

"But my heart, you're drop dead gorgeous and a thing of beauty is a joy forever."

"Empty flattery willnae gie ye whit ye want."

"Fiona, you're putting a fly in the ointment, I'm dead serious."

"I'm nae bowled ower by yer words, Edward."

"What about these words? Will you marry me?"



"Nay Edward, Ah couldnae marry ye tae save mah life. Ye gab tae much in clichés."

Story 103


by Michael Rumsey

Against all the odds the invitation came out of the blue.

Would some of us army veterans, now long in the tooth, be prepared to stand on ceremony shoulder to shoulder?

Of course, we were only too happy to take the plunge. It would be like being back in the saddle and we were assured of the red carpet treatment.

It was a case of best foot forward, spit and polish, get the lead out and, mark my words, no beating about the bush.

Several international veterans, some as tough as nails, had a vested interest. But to set the record straight and, in the long and short of it, not that it would be the end of the world and not due to a twist of fate, no Welshmen would take part. It's just that old Dai's never soldier.

Story 104


by Gavin Biddlecombe

Hank drew at Champion's reigns, directing him to the boisterous saloon, dismounted and moseyed up to the swinging doors, spurs clinking with each step.

The din settled within as the punters paused to examine their newest guest, silhouetted at the entrance. Hank ignored the rank, stale smell of sweat as he stepped forward, motioning to the barman.

"A bottle of sarsaparilla," he called.

The barman reached under the counter.

Hank gripped the handle of his Colt revolver.

The crowd held their breath.

The barman's hand appeared with a dirty brown bottle which he then slid across towards Hank. He released his grip and reached for the bottle. A slight nod put the barman at ease.

A spittoon rang in the background as the folk began to settle, prompting the piano's jovial melody to pick up where it had been interrupted.

Story 105

Can I Be Frank?

by David Silver

If the truth be known, I'm no great shakes with women. On the other hand, my pal Frank is a charmer. His signature chat-up line works its magic every time.

Frank makes a beeline for a pretty young thing and whispers into her shell-like, "There must be a thief in your family, because someone stole the stars and put them in your eyes."

One evening, I saw my dream woman across a crowded bar. Frank said, "Here's your chance. You must grasp the nettle when opportunity knocks."

I approached her, my legs like jelly, my stomach in knots, and mumbled, "Is there a thief in your family?"

The object of my affection burst into floods of tears. "I swear my brother is innocent. He was framed."

Frank took my arm in a vice-like grip and pulled me away. "Better luck next time. Now, let's get outta here."

Story 106

Mr Green Fingers

by Len Saculla

Even as a city dweller, I wanted to have my own little acre. Sow some seeds, put down roots, see the green shoots appearing.

So now everything's coming up roses. Grow your own, they say. Dig for victory. Make hay while the sun shines.

Into every life a little rain must fall. Pennies from heaven for us green-fingered growers.

Anyhow, for hay you need grass. I'm not growing that here. Mainly because it's always greener on the other side.

The other side, eh? Where you go when you're pushing up the daisies.

Blooming weeds get everywhere. The bane of my life as an urban gardener.

High-faluting title, actually. All I've got is a window box.

Story 107

The Non-Rhyming Couplets Of Zayn And Perry

by David Guilfoyle

Basically, at the end of the day, it is what it is. Simple as. I've been down this road before. It gets you nowhere fast. Crying over spilled milk, trying to be someone you`re not, it's not big, funny or clever.

The thing is, life's too short. In the grand scheme of things I know this is just small potatoes, but I've gone through this over and over again. I've got to get this off my chest. Before things take a turn for the worse.

The way I look at it is, me and you just aren't in it for the long haul. I can't put my finger on the why's and wherefores, and if I'm being honest , it's not you it's me. I just hope that when all is said and done we can still be friends.

Story 108

Dear Diary

by Sandra Orellana

Look at it on the bright side, it could be easy for both of us. Today is the day.

With a lot of feelings, I will tear you apart into tiny pieces. For you, it was all a dream, but I can handle it. Little do you know, it is coming. You will be thrown into the trash.

You fell head over heels in love with me. But I am alive and well. I've decided to start writing to others, rather than you. Our bed of roses is a cold comfort.

Thank you for being my process of writing to the world. Another day, another hope for me. A sea of change is my new outlook. It will be as easy as pie for me to be free of you.

Good night forever. Let's sleep it off.

Story 109

A Frozen Moment

by Ejder S. Raif

I'm standing in a busy building,

The radiator as cold as ice, surrounded by several others, wrapped up warm to avoid freezing to death.

An old man bellowing, his voice as loud as thunder.

A group of children playing, as good as gold, while a group of workmen work their socks off, as they try to repair the heating.

A young lady with personal issues, hoping that there's light at the end of the tunnel.

A baby who normally struggles to sleep goes out like a light.

Hooray, the heating has finally been repaired. Everyone's as happy as Larry.

Story 110

Frozen In Time

by C.I. Selkirk

It was all going up the proverbial creek. Sure, it was as easy as taking candy from a baby, so long as the baby wasn't screaming the house down and the candy wasn't my phone playing 'Frozen' on repeat. Daddy's girl had me between a rock and a hard place. Taking it would be like pulling teeth and I'd get nowhere fast. If I let her keep it, her mother would say I was spoiling her rotten and that would be another black mark in her book. There were no winners or losers, it was how you played the game. 

Just as I was at my wit's end, I was saved by the bell. The phone sang like a canary and in that split second when the apple of my eye didn't know if she was coming or going, I seized the day. I was on top. Case closed.

Story 111

There's A First Time For Everything

by Shirley Muir

When you turned up like a blast from the past, I feared you were flogging a dead horse – and were probably three sheets to the wind. I suspected we should let sleeping dogs lie, but you were determined to take the bull by the horns.

"I'm champing at the bit to spill the beans since the old man kicked the bucket," you said, happy as a sandboy. "His Will opened a can of worms." You looked like something the cat dragged in but were determined to talk turkey right from the off.

"Dad killed two birds with one stone," you said. "He wasn't poor as a churchmouse, despite his down-at-heel shabbiness." Apparently we both have to get hitched before we can enjoy a life of Reilly with Dad's Rich-as-Croesus fortune.

 We both pass muster – but hey, no pain, no gain.

There's plenty of fish in the sea.

Carpe diem.

Story 112

The Time Traveller's Lament

by Robbie Porter

It seemed to last an eternity, but was really only a matter of time. Travelling faster than the speed of light took nerves of steel. He was as brave as a lion. Everyone he left behind was as old as the hills and he was as fit as a fiddle. That's relativity for you.

'All for one and one for all.' That's the motto at the Academy. But when the neuron drive failed, he was scared out of his wits and frightened to death. No one had survived such a catastrophic event before.

"The writing's on the wall," he mused. Then he remembered: what goes around comes around. He just had to connect with the supply ship when it passed through the portal.

He lost track of time, but the Large Magellanic Cloud had a silver lining: the supply ship, and just 99 years overdue.

In the nick of time.

Story 113

Pain In The Neck

by Claire Apps

What a pain in the neck. Who would have thought that crashing her car would have resulted in a metal pole sticking through her slender neck? She would have to pay through the nose to have her Porsche repaired – that was if it could be repaired. Well, she could well afford it. She wasn't as poor as a church mouse anymore. She had a pretty penny saved in her bank account.

She sat there unable to move, wondering if she would be pushing up the daisies soon, as no one seemed to be coming to help. Out of nowhere a man appeared and, thanking her lucky stars, she had hope against hope of living again. She tried to speak but couldn't and then saw the axe in the man's hands as he raised it high and struck it downwards. He sure had an axe to grind. Nothing personal you understand.

Story 114

Never A Borrower Or A Lender Be

by Soulla Katsiani

What? Are you seriously going to bite the hand that feeds you?

Actions speak louder than words. I'd watch your step if I were you. Pride
comes before a fall.

I know two wrongs don't make a right, but the pen is mightier than the

By hook or by crook, I'll make you pay.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Please don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

You have crossed a line.

And now I know a leopard can't change his spots, just as I know this worm's
for turning.

No more Mr Nice Guy.

You're a wolf in sheep's clothing.

You obviously see me as a fool and his money to be easily parted.

But you sow what you reap and what goes around, comes around.

So I wish you well on your journey to hell.

Story 115

Season Five Syndrome

by Jake Kendall

"Victim is white, male. Cause of death... well, Ma'am, that's pretty obvious."

"What a blood-bath."

"Dismembered into 55 pieces. Most likely the home-owner, one Edward Richman, formally a succesful and prominent banker. I guess he thought himself the best thing since sliced Ed."

"Goddamit, you're a professional pathologist, Darren. This is a time for respect, not puns."

"Sorry, Ma'am. Please don't sulk."

"I wasn't. I was just considering my tragic backstory. My husband worked in banking."

"I remember he had an affair and went suspiciously missing when you confronted him."

"Wait... why tip us off today? What's the date?"

"May fifth. Good lord, 55. Kinda."

"My husband's birthday."

"How convoluted. It's like the killer knows you personally. Again."

"We never found his body. Could this be him, toying with me from beyond the grave?"

"Everyone's a suspect."

"Agreed. I can't even rule out myself, thanks to this accursed amnesia."

Story 116


by Hannah Brown

"Is that all you've got?"

"I brought everything but the kitchen sink. I'm armed to the teeth." Tommy smiled, revealing a row of knives in his mouth.

"You're up the creek without a paddle." Alf started shuffling a deck of cards. "The writing is on the wall and I'm a happy camper. I'm holding all the cards."

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Tommy pulled a long metal chain out of his back pocket, but it snapped in half.

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that one's about as useful as a lead balloon," Alf replied smugly. "You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn."

"I've still got an axe to grind with you." Tommy smirked, brandishing a pickaxe in the air.

Alf picked up a hammer and grinned widely. "I'd prefer to bury the hatchet."

Story 117

In The Eye Of The Storm

by Abigail Williamson

Far, far away and long, long ago it was raining cats and dogs. Stella lost track of time. The downpour seemed to last an eternity. One day rolled into another. In the calm before the storm, Stella's life seemed clouds with silver linings. Now she saw just clouds.

Her father said, "It's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all."

"Time heals all wounds," chipped in her mother.

Stella HAD been head over heels in love. No longer.

For weeks, she had the heart stopping, gut wrenching feeling she would never see dry land again.

"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink," Stella murmured.

Time was running out. Stella felt the writing was on the wall.

Then, in a blink of an eye, the rain stopped. Just as suddenly as it had started.

The ark screeched to a halt.

Story 118

How To Live Happily Ever After

by Anita Goveas

If you could read between the lines, he was always on the verge of something: a better job, a publishing contract, success. But all that glitters is not gold and one man's meat is another man's poison. Why should he tie himself in knots?

It took three marriages, two therapists and a patient bartender to work out he was immersed in a story as old as the hills. He'd got used to living on the edge.

Story 119

Back Against The Wall

by Jack Evans

It was now the moment of truth. After working on it 24/7 and even pulling an all-nighter, Tim's fate was now sealed.

Professor John Smith entered the room, his white-washed hair and flapping laboratory coat trailing behind him. He placed the report on the desk and sipped on his cup of tea, before shooting a disapproving look. Tim knew that some pearls of wisdom would be delivered.

"I am afraid to say your grammar is extremely poor and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to address the issue. Bottom line, as a ball park figure, you haven't scored more than 30. It boggles the mind, it is not rocket science."

Tim looked up meekly. "You're always moving the goalposts," he stammered.

"I know that you can do better. We won't beat around the bush. We all need to be singing from the same hymn sheet."

Story 120

What A Lily

by Gaius Rew

Keith saw her from across the bar and it was love at first sight. Her name was Lily. He couldn't gild her, and that man with her, Victor, was built like a brick house. A good one. The thorny issue to Keith was Victor treating Lily like a rose, though by another name she still smelled nice.

Keith knew he would have to reinvent the third wheel. If he wanted to jump her bones, he'd have to jump in with both feet without jumping the gun or jumping down her throat.

Lily held all the cards, so he'd have to play his cards right and keep them close to his chest, though he did have an ace up his sleeve where, as sure as the nose on his face, he wore his heart.

Lily looked to Keith and bit her lip. Keith bit his tongue. To Victor went the spoils.

Story 121

Thinking Outside Of The Box

by Nam Raj Khatri

My mind was all over the place. Nothing was crystal clear. I was trying to think outside of the box.

Looking on the bright side, an idea came. It became brighter and brighter – the apple of my eye.

I wanted to share it with my nearest and dearest, but no one appeared. I looked as far as the eye can see. A beautiful lady appeared. I was all ears. What was her name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I shared my idea at the last minute. She took it well. All's well that ends well.

My dream ended, my mind came back down to earth and this story became ready to share.

Story 122

Daylight Robbery

by Lindy Gibbon

"The thing is, Nick, only time will tell if we're gonna get away with it."

Nick stared at his father, a giant of a man with a heart of gold. "But, Dad, surely, in this case, the writing's on the wall?"

Nick's dad – as tall as he was broad – glanced around the gloomy dimness of the subway and noted the graffiti daubed across the tiles. "Smart as a fox, you are, my boy. But, I can tell, you're frightened to death as well."

Nick, so scared he trembled like a leaf, when all was said and done, could only nod in agreement. "Gi' us an 'and then."

Father and son, dressed like council workers with high-viz jackets and hard hats, carefully chiselled off the Banksy from the underpass wall.

"That's money in the bank right there, son."

They sprinted off at the speed of light.

Story 123

Winners Never Quit, Quitters Never Win

by KJ Walters

"Isn't it ironic?" my seatmate whispers.

The plane is going down like a hot potato. I'm texting like a banshee to friends and foes, loves and labours lost. I listen with half an ear. My seatmate doesn't see the forest for the trees.

"Ironic, isn't it?" she whispers again, her glass half empty. She thinks repetition is the cure to end all cures. 

As we sink like a stone, I glance over. Sweat pours off her like water under the bridge. I smile. "We're done like dinner," I answer. "Our cookie's crumbled."

"I was always afraid of flying," she says. We hug it out.

"The sun has set on this life," I say.

"Don't throw out the baby with the bath water," she says. "It's still a horse race."

I nod. "Let's fight to the finish."

We watch with the patience of Job, as the minutes stretch like hours.

Story 124

A Sweet Tooth

by Johanna McDonald

I have suffered at his hands for as long as I can remember. He was a thorn in my side from the year dot and he made my life a misery.

One day he pushed me too far. I couldn't take any more. I snapped. He had clearly underestimated me and was about to find that he had met his match.

I decided to teach him a lesson he would never forget. After all, what goes around, comes around. An eye for an eye and all that. I wanted to make him wish that he had never been born and vowed to hunt him to the ends of the earth.

Anyway, now he's swimming with the fishes because, at the end of the day, revenge is sweet and I have got a very sweet tooth.

Story 125

A Tale Of The Wild West

by John Notley

One-eyed Pete kicked open the bat wing doors of the saloon and surveyed the room, a gun in each fist. He eyed the customers, most of them hiding under tables, and stood toe to toe with the nearest man.

"I know you're here," he shouted, "you lily-livered, yellow-bellied, double-dealing son of a gun. Come outside and take your punishment like a man. This one-horse town ain't big enough for both of us. You're lucky the Sheriff ain't here. He'd hang you high, so I gotta do the dirty work myself."

"Steady on, old chap," the limey bartender interrupted. "Watch your tongue, there are ladies present."

"My trigger finger's itching so get on your horse and ride off into the sunset before I lose my patience. If you don't come out now you'll end up buzzard food in the bone orchard, pushing up the daisies."

Story 126

My Cheerleader Dreamcake

by Jamie Martin

She didn't know it, but she was the light of my life.

As she walked through the school doors, my heart jumped into my mouth. Her smile could light up a room. Unfortunately, Braden soon followed. Her boyfriend. Smirking slightly, he took her by the waist as they walked the halls together, his eyes darting elsewhere while she saw only him. He had 'player' written all over him…

Wandering in my directon. As the scent of her golden blonde hair hit my nostrils, I couldn't help but breathe in. Wonder what would happen, without Braden. I could treat her so much better. I could be her lighthouse, the leader to her cheer. She could be my world.

Then, the class bell rang, breaking me out of my stupor. Off to biology, where she would be and I could content myself with staring at her across the room once more...

Story 127

Bakers Dozen – Unlucky For Some

by Christopher Fielden

Bernard Baker was as big as a house. Long ago, he'd mastered the art of cooking his award-winning Duodecuple Chocolate Muffin. It contained more sugar and fat than most bakers knew what to do with.

Despite being a master of his craft, Bernard always baked an extra muffin, on the off chance one would go awry. His cooking was near perfect, so every day he would eat a breakfast of champions – the 13th muffin.

Doctor Foster said, "Bernard, you'll end up in an early grave."

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Bernard replied. His secret family recipe was too much to resist. He couldn't say no. Stuffing his face was the only option.

Of course, the inevitable happened – Bernard carked it. By now, he'd be pushing up the daisies, if he hadn't demanded to be buried at sea, with his friends Brian Butcher and Clive Candlestick-Maker.

Story 128

The Impressionist

by Valerie Griffin

Francois Monnay, aka Herbert Grimshaw, is an ambidextrous painter who's left hand doesn't know what his right is doing. After a hard day's night, he feels like metaphorically abandoning ship and going back to the drawing board. Having reached an impasse with his labour of love, he now finds himself well and truly stuck between a rock and a hard place.

At the end of his tether and having worked his fingers to the bone, Francois takes a step back from his painting, giving himself a bird's eye view. Hmmm. To be honest, it wasn't cutting the mustard. So much for coming on in leaps and bounds. He dabbed more paint onto the shiny rosy-red apples but it was too late, they'd already gone pear-shaped.

Story 129

Climbing A Mountain

by Kathryn J Barrow

"So, going forward, I'm only gonna say 100%," I said, sweat dripping from my forehead.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist about it," Tom said. "Because, at the end of the day, if it ain't broke don't fix it."

It's an uphill battle for us getting up to Clifton. I stopped to catch my breath. "Hold on a minute. First, you tell me off for sayin' I'll give it 110%, cos it just ain't possible. Now, it don't matter?" I said. We continue to the top.

"It wouldn't be right if you stopped sayin' it. Everything you do is 110%. It'd be like eating a cherry pie with no cream. I mean, how wrong is that?"

"Well then, I'm still giving the band my 110%."

"And that's the writing on the wall, Harry, just the way it should be," he said. taking the final step to our destination.

Story 130

Shut Your Trap

by Rhianna Gately

Once upon a time, a princess was locked in a tower and destined to be rescued by a tall, dark, handsome hero; a tale as old as time, if you will. So, this man (built like a tank) does the usual jack of all trades act: rides the horse, fights the dragon, etc. But I won't bore you to death. I'll skip to the good bit.

Reaching the top of the tower, he finds there's no door. So he's banging his head against a brick wall until there's a chip in the old block and it all comes crashing down.

The princess gives a sigh of relief and explains how a good man is hard to find.

Suddenly, our hero finds it hard to swallow. It turns out there's a frog in his throat, which hops out of his mouth, kisses the princess and steals her heart.

Story 131

Pulling Power

by David McTigue

Andy's eyes were on stalks.

"Don't fancy yours much," he said to Derek.

"The fiery redhead or the dumb blonde?"

"Either. Come on, let's strike while the iron's hot, and they're hot to trot."

Derek hesitated. "Mutton dressed as lamb," he quavered.

"You're as nervous as a kitten. Come on, let's do this."

The two lads set their stall out.

"What are you having?" asked Andy.

The blonde rolled her eyes. "A nervous breakdown."

"Do you come here often?" stammered Derek.

"Once every Preston Guild," answered redhead, fluttering her eyelashes.

Derek grinned like a Cheshire cat, but the smile was wiped from his face when he was lifted by the scruff of the neck by a Colossus.

Andy made his excuses and ran like the wind.

Derek cried like a baby.

Blondie laughed. "Put it down, Shep, you don't know where it's been."

Story 132


by Ian Richardson

"Edd, get out of there, that whole place is rigged to blow in ten seconds. The McGuffin is a massive bomb."


"Roger that."


"Edd. Don't play God, it's too dangerous."


"It's what I do. Danger is my middle name. Do I cut the red wire or the blue wire?"


"We don't have a manual for that, Edd. You can still save yourself. Run."


"Over my dead body. I'm going to cut the red wire... see you in Hell."


"Edd, we've got everything crossed for you."


"I'm opening up this can of worms. Oh, oh... this is a proper soup sandwich."


"What's wrong, Edd?"


"All the wires are the same colour."





"Ah, it's OK... there was an off switch inside."

"Bravo Zulu, Edd."

"Just doing my job."

Story 133

A Shot In The Noir

by Maddy Hamley

The grizzled detective took a generous gulp of bourbon, peering over at the dame who'd walked into his office like she was trouble.

"So, detective," she purred. "That's the long and short of it."

"Piece of cake," the detective growled. "But what's your beef with Mr White?"

She sauntered to the window, smoke coiling from her long cigarette. "Burned the wrong bridges, didn't pay his dues, then flew the coop. It's payback time."

"White's a cool customer. He won't come quietly."

"Oh, he'll face the music." The dame's lip curled. "I've got an ace up my sleeve."

"Well, sorry to rain on your parade, sweetheart."

Her eyes widened at the derringer pointed at her face. The detective grinned, lifting a cigar to his mouth. "Mr White, at your service."

Story 134

A Fair Cop

by Cathy Cade

It was hot as blazes. Flies circled my drink like bees around a honeypot. Charlie came out.

"We've another call, blondie. No rest for the wicked."

Charlie gunned the air-conditioned estate, and we were briefed on the way. We joined the other squad car, cool as cucumbers and already up to speed. The fugitives had supposedly run into a copse, but I smelled a rat and made a beeline for gardens nearby.

On seeing me, one runaway broke cover and ran like the hounds of hell were chasing. I took off like a bullet from a gun as his mate stood up looking sick as a parrot.

The runner yelled like a stuck pig as I took him down. Charlie ran up with the bracelets and the team all gave me a pat on the head. Then Charlie threw my favourite ball and I was off again, like a rocket.

Story 135

Wendy Of The Wanderers

by Alan Barker

"She picks up the ball on the halfway line. She's in acres of space, she really does turn up in those quality areas… She's hugging the touchline, with two United defenders for company… She sells a dummy and leaves them for dead…

"Big Bertha slides in with a scything challenge. She glides effortlessly past…

"Now she's bearing down on goal, going for the jugular… She shapes as if to shoot, but instead plays a peach of a ball out to the wing… She's looking for the return… And – she – absolutely – buries – it.

"Wow, that goal was right out of the top drawer. The keeper never got a sniff… And the referee has blown up.

"It finishes 5-4 to Wanderers. You just couldn't write a script like this… This girl is really going places, she’s got quality written all over her… Roy of the Rovers, eat your heart out."

Story 136

Too Darn Hot

by Jay Bee

Jake slouched onto the couch. "He's outside, under the umbrella, a jolly brolly," he'd muttered under his breath.

The waiter brought him a warm beer. One slurp and he hit the snooze button, and his eyes clanged shut. He didn't notice the tables filling up. Conversations drifted, trickling like treacle through his hot head.

 "He died, you know. Deader than a doornail."

"Oh, my god, the WiFi – free for three years."

"Went away to, err, find 'imself. Came back as hand luggage."

"It stopped working, just like that."

"Mustn't speak ill of the dead."

"Too good to be true, I suppose. And I broke my toe, sticks and stones..."

"We missed the funeral. They said no one waxed lyrical."

"Right pain in the neck."

"Ta ra, take care, you two. See you."

"Patience is a virtue, but not... Oh, look. It's... our Jake."

Story 137

The Quest

by Angela P Googh

The remains of a 150-year-old stone and mortar wall is foundation for rusted and broken wrought iron fencing. The evergreen hedge had long ago been suffocated by wild bushes and trees, and an un-harvested hay field has replaced the once proudly manicured lawn. The only sign of manicuring now is the town-enforced shearing where the micro-woodland butts against the sidewalk.

Of the once grand home, its beauty is long gone. The lore at the local primary school has the owner feeding children to her many cats.

A young warrior has stealthily reached the door and, lifting a shaking arm, reaches out to ring the doorbell. Thud. A large Persian jumps onto the sill of a nearby window. Our hero's heart skips a beat as he turns to escape, coming within a few feet of an old woman waving her cane menacingly.

The lore, it breathes and lives on.

Story 138

The Appointment

by Sarah Wilde

"Not enough room to swing a cat in here," she said loudly, squinting around the room. Rose settled her ample body into a chair, brushing tabby hairs off her skirt.

"Still, at least it's dry. It's raining cats and dogs out there. Sit down, Fred," she said sharply. "It looks like you've got ants in your pants."

"Yes, dear."

She nodded at a mousy lady across the room. "Wonder if her snake of a husband is back yet," she muttered darkly. "It's like the elephant in the room at Church and we're all tip-toeing around it."

"Really?" Fred managed, feebly. "Was he that bad?"

"I just tell it as I see it. He was always a bit of a dark horse."

Just then, the vet burst into the room, strutting like a cockerel. "Tiddles? Come on in."

"Yes please," Rose replied. "There are far too many animals out here."

Story 139


by A.H. Creed

The back of a stock-room, three editors sit around a table. There is a furtive air about them, but it is ink not nicotine that stains their fingers.

The first man drops a pack of corner-stapled paper onto a similarly-stapled pile on the table. "Switched at birth," he says.

The second man slaps down a manuscript, saying, "I’ll raise your switched-at-birth, with a feisty raven-haired beauty."

A much thinner pile lands. The woman says, "The detective was the killer."

"Hmmm," they say. There doesn’t seem to be a clear winner.

"Last go," first-man says, stealing a glance at the door. Drop. Thud. "Amnesia," he says.

"Hah," dismisses second-man, upping the ante with, "Tomboy princess who refuses to marry the prince."

The woman chews her lip. She shuffles papers. She slips something from the bottom of the pack.

"Pay up boys," she says, as she goes all-in with, "Evil identical twin."

Story 140

Cliché Town

by Steven Barrett

Being the sheriff of Cliché Town is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I'd vowed to move Heaven and Earth to maintain law and order and a high level of clichés in the town.

I looked around my office. I'd had a revolving door installed, and since then, I didn't know if I was coming or going.

I remember when things were different. I'd been an outlaw from the wrong side of the tracks. But one day, I arrived in Cliché Town and thought, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. My new life as the Cliché Kid began.

After a few years, I became the sheriff. I remember the previous sheriff's words on his deathbed. "You don't have to be mad to work here but it helps."

Now, I fight alongside my good friend, Doc 'I need a holiday just to get over my' Holliday.

Story 141

The Occasion I Somehow Passed My Geography Exam Despite Having No Sense Of Direction

by Mike Scott Thomson

Halfway through the test, my mind goes completely blank. A brain like a sieve, that's my problem. Everything in one ear, out the other. Sweat beads on my forehead. I'll have to repeat the year, no doubt.

I stare at the map on the answer sheet. 'Label the rivers.' Scaling the North Face of the Eiger would've been easier. At least I know that's in Wales.

I take a sneaky peak up. Everyone else is beavering away. Could I catch a glimpse? No way, José. Cheats never prosper.

Yet, hope springs eternal, as the Pope once said. Must give it my best shot. Eyes down. Nose to the grindstone. And...

One week later, I get the shock of my life.

"I passed?"

"Despite your rabbit-caught-in-headlights look," the teacher says, "it seems you DO know your Ouse from your Elbe."

Guess I'll take that as a compliment.

Story 142

Junior's Dad

by Justine Quammie

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

As a young boy, Junior grew up wanting to step into his father’s footsteps. He practiced talking like him and even pulling up his trousers like his dear old dad. Everyday, he would look in the mirror and repeat the affirmation, "I am the Champion. I am a winner. I'll be like my Daddy by dinner."

His father would walk him to and from the bus stop. When they played baseball together, his dad would say, "Junior, you're a right chip off the old block," as he play boxed with him.

Nights would fly by like this until his mother, Martha came into the yard. In a high pitched voice, she would say, "John, dear? You and Junior come into the house for dinner."

Junior always knew his dad was the greatest dad in the whole wide world. Yes, siree bob.

Story 143

Enough is Enough

by Valerie Fish

"Once a cheater, always a cheater," my best friend delighted in telling me. She was right of course; a leopard never changes his spots.

I should have seen it coming but they do say love is blind. I thought I'd found my knight in shining armour, I fell for his charms hook line and sinker. I was putty in his hands.

When I confronted him he didn't bat an eyelid, looked at me as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

This time his cock and bull story didn't wash with me; he'd led me down the garden path once too often with his lies and shenanigans.

No way, Jose, enough was enough.

At the end of the day there are plenty more fish in the sea. So I showed him the door, but not before hitting him where it hurts – literally.

Story 144

Why Me?

by Lee Kull

I used to be high on the hog, happy as a clam. Now I'm down on my luck, in the pits, and everybody asks, "Why the long face?" They should walk a mile in my shoes...

I got fired. My car got towed, so I walked home, only to find an eviction notice on my door. Walking inside, I tripped over the body of my dead dog. Stumbling into the kitchen, I found a letter:

Dear John, I ran off with the milkman. Love, Susan.

At a bar, drowning my sorrows, I told the bartender my woes. The seven-foot-tall buck-toothed hombre next to me wearing a sombrero, poncho and six-shooter, called me a liar. I shot him, because them's fightin' words. The police came and threw me in jail.

Now I'm imprisoned for life, although I ain't done nuthin' wrong. I'm crying my heart out.

I really miss that dog.

Story 145

Body Shot

by Clare Tivey

The call came in at 21:15 and was the icing on the cake of a particularly hard day at the office for Detective Armstrong. Tired, and hungry as a horse, she responded. Body of an unidentified male, aged mid 20's. Another day, another shooting, or so she thought...

She would drive by and collect her new partner, Andy, a rookie who was pleasant enough but very eager to please.

On arrival at the scene, forensics were still busy. The familiar metallic stench of blood hung in the air. Visibly pale, Andy put a hand over his nose and mouth. As she moved to enter the room, she stopped in her tracks at the doorway.

"Sarge, there's something you should know before you go in there."

With those words, she was immediately transported back to a case two years previously. The case that still haunted her to this day.

Story 146

Overcooked It

by Tony Thatcher

The wreckage from the mangled car lay strewn across the road like confetti. Same model as mine. Talk about there but for the grace of God.

The driver obviously hadn't honed his skills to my levels of perfection and had stuffed it. I'd been round that bend more times than I've had hot dinners, the massive V8 burbling angrily through twin exhausts, its gut-wrenching torque shredding the tyres as they scrabbled for grip, arms full of opposite lock keeping the mighty beast on the straight and narrow of the King's Highway.

But this guy had run out of road big time and now the emergency services were cutting open his pride and joy like a sardine can.

Nobody stopped me as I went over for a closer look. And nobody heard my anguished scream when I saw my bloodstained, lifeless corpse being zipped into a bodybag.

Story 147

Work Speak

by Lucy Morrice

"It is important to get everyone on board, engage with all stakeholders and remain jargon free, going forward. I didn't get where I am today by ducking and diving, whispering in corridors, hanging out by the water cooler. No, I put my nose to the grindstone, pulled up my socks, got my skates on and now I am top dog."

Had all my colleagues, hanging off the chairman's words, had frontal lobotomies?

This is not what I signed up for, working for the man, stuck in the rat race of global corporation and materialism. Perhaps they were all seduced by the thought of a suburban home with 2.4 children and a BMW in the driveway, but not me, I am a free agent.

I sprang to my feet, stripped myself of my restrictive officewear and streaked from the auditorium.

"I want to be a tree."

Story 148

A Cliché Moment

by Janice Eileen Morris

It was  raining cats. and dogs, and I was feeling mighty blue,

Waiting to hear the drop, of that dreaded other shoe.


Because my heart was broken, I'd become a couch potato,

Drowning in a sea of grief, over the split with my tomato.


I'd been a grumpy bear that day, getting up on the wrong side of the bed,

And I'd badly ruffled her feathers, with the hurtful things I'd said.


I should have bitten my tongue, which meant swallowing my pride.

Now my stomach and my chest, both had butterflies inside.


It was a bitter pill to swallow, when I finally reached out to hold her,

And she told me to get lost, giving me the cold shoulder.


I was on pins and needles, until she finally forgave me.

Now it's water under the bridge, just a bad memory.

Story 149

Weather Talks

by Valeria Lützow

The new girl, Gwyneth, was impossibly tall. She had to be larger than the players of the school's basketball team. Sage was so curious about her that he couldn't resist seeking her out during recess.

"Tell me, how is the weather up there?"

Gwyneth looked so exasperated that when she rolled her eyes, Sage was worried they would get stuck in her head.

"The same as it is for you, I imagine," she responded, before biting into her nice-looking cucumber sandwich.

"I don't know. I've never thought about it. Tell me, is it hard to find someone to date?

"I'm 12. I don't think about dating."

"You're pretty boring for a girl."

"You're pretty nasty for a human being."

"Tell me, do you play basketball?" Sage was looking at her with curious eyes, and he seemed to feel no shame.

"Tell me, Sage, are you self-conscious about your height?"

Story 150

Clichy Cliché

by Munib Haroon

This muse was not amused. It was a cramped garret in the writers' block of flats in Paris. The bed was occupied. She knew he'd be up at the crack of dawn, but the consumptive cough was consuming him. She had to inspire before he expired.

Why do I get the hard ones? The other muses get authors sipping lattes in coffee shops.

She approached his desk. Ugh, a mess ... bottles of whisky, unpaid bills, a prescription for mercury and a challenge to a dusk duel from a Parisian duke. And a Typewriter? It's 2018, for Zeus's sake. Annoyed, she grabbed the bulky thing and tossed it across the room.


The writer woke up with a jolt. "What a fine bogey dream. I dreamt my typewriter exploded, blowing off my hands. I feel suddenly inspired."

The muse grinned like the Cheshire cat that'd got the cream.

Story 151

Back To The Drawing Board

by Kathleen E Williams

Sara thought long and hard about putting herself out there again. She'd been on a wild goose chase for too long, like someone still wet behind the ears in the dating world.

"It's probably time I just take the bull by the horns and weather the storm instead of running in circles hoping love will find a way." Bob and she had had their moment in the sun until he'd pulled the wool over her eyes.

"He was a real snake in the grass," Sara admitted, "but that's water under the bridge. Today is the first day of the rest of my life," she proclaimed. "I'm putting my best foot forward, going out on a limb and meeting Lucy's newly available friend.

Later, when her doorbell rang, Sara was dressed to kill. All thumbs, she opened the door, smiled before she looked up and choked out, "BOB?"

Story 152

Young At Heart

by Helen Fawdon-Rochester

Bored to tears with watching daytime television, Doris decided to look for a job. Over the hill but still young at heart, Doris realised nothing ventured nothing gained as she entered the job centre. She knew that beggars couldn't be choosers at her age, when it came to finding a job.

At 84 she was no spring chicken, but she was up with the larks and looking as fresh as a daisy and eager to go to work.

Working like a dog to keep the wolf from the door, she wasn't wet behind the ear. She knew how to earn an honest crust. After all, the job was easy as pie, working in the pastry factory.

Story 153

You Can't Turn the Clock Back

by Maggie Elliott

Out of the blue, my ex-girlfriend turned up at my flat like a bad penny.

I dropped a right clanger by telling her she looked like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards.

She said she felt as rough as a badger's bottom. 

She hadn't slept a wink for days since her new beau told her to take a hike.

Her name was Primrose, but clearly she'd been on a bender.  She smelt like a brewery.

I gave her a sweet tea then showed her the door, telling her, "You dropped me like a hot potato weeks ago. Well, now your chickens have come home to roost. On your bike."

She wailed like a banshee as she left with her tail between her legs.

Story 154

All the Clichés One Story Can Have

by Rima El-Boustani

All that glitters isn't gold, my friend. Read between the lines, this money isn't yours, it's mine. In the nick of time, I see the truth.

Only time will tell if you worked enough, these past few days. Your tail between your legs, you go about begging for money at banks and on the streets to boot. Every cloud has a silver lining, but very few are made of gold. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and sell it for more. Your knickers are twisted if money is not what you want. Cat got your tongue?

You got up on the wrong side of bed and stepped on something that was left there. This time it wasn't money, but the dog's poo. We're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you. I swear.

And so, with riches in coins and paper and checks, they lived happily ever after.

Story 155

I'm Not Getting Too Old For This

by K. J. Watson

"You're a dinosaur, a fish out of water," N told me.

"Au contraire," I replied. "You still need agents like me to find the bad guys and terminate them with extreme prejudice."

N sniggered.

I continued, "Didn't I stop a manic billionaire from closing an orphanage this morning?"

"No, you did not," N said. "You were dozing like a baby at your desk. You dreamt you saved an orphanage."

To be fair, N had me bang to rights.

 "Wait," I said triumphantly. "There's a box attached to your desk. See? It's got a clock and coloured wires."

"A bomb?" N asked, trembling like a jelly.

"With 10 seconds until detonation," I answered, producing a pair of wire cutters.

"Do the necessary," N commanded.

"Oh, now you need me," I said, somewhat smugly. "Well, I only have to cut the red wire."

"The red?"

"It's always the red. Here we go."

Story 156

The Hairdresser

by Jill Sunter

The alarm, although expected, still managed to jar Trevor. His stomach knotted as he stretched over and hit the button silencing the deafening noise. He would give anything to be able to roll over and slide back into his dream of Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower.

Suddenly, his face screwed up as he realised it was Saturday – the longest day of the week. His customers in the hair salon were always far harder to please. Ladies wanting to be as beautiful as flowers for nights out, which he always pictured ending in disaster. Middle-aged women wearing sparkly tops drinking too many white wine spritzers and ending up with their head down a toilet.  

He shuddered involuntary.

If only something different could happen. Unexpectedly, like a bolt out of the blue, there was a knock at the door.

Story 157

After The Funeral

by Richard Betton-Foster

Jack: Poor old Fred, pushing up the daisies now from six feet under.

Pete: Knew 'is dad, salt of the earth. Our Fred, chip off the old block, eh?

Jack: No flies on Fred. Always the life and soul of the party. The tales he'd tell. Had me in stitches; I'd laugh like a drain.

Mark: But he'd not suffer fools gladly.

Jack: No way. Great bloke, reliable. Always count on his support. With his back to the wall he'd put his best foot forward to help.

Pete: Yeah, stiff upper lip and all.

Mark: Did so much for the town. Unsung hero if ever there was one.

Jack: Dunno about that. John's eulogy praised him to high heaven.

Me: Put a sock in it, or we'll all be talking like this till the cows come...

(Exit, pursued by a bear.)

Story 158

On The Wrong Track

by Paul Mastaglio

"Do you know where you're going?" Susan despaired. "You can't see the wood for the trees."

"Well, it was raining cats and dogs before," John replied.

"How long is this walk going to take?"

"How long is a piece of string?"

"Are you saying we're lost?" Susan cried.

"Not exactly. We'll get there in the fullness of time."

"We're lost."

"No, we've just got to take things one step at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day," emphasised John.

"You mean it's going to take longer than a day to get to the pub?" Susan wailed.

"Ah, you're always a glass half empty."

"Admit it. We're up the creek without a paddle."

"No, but I think we're between the devil and the deep blue sea."

"I'll ring Mountain Rescue," sighed Susan.

"Do you know roughly where we are?"

"Between a rock and a hard place."

Story 159

Saturday Morning House Cleaning

by James Louis Peel

It was child's play. But Bob couldn’t wrap his head around house cleaning. He just couldn't win for losing. Every time he called a spade a spade, he only opened a can of worms.

His wife called the shots. She blamed him for being a bull in a china shop. He couldn't cut it and didn't stand a chance. No more channel surfing. His wife was ready to crack the whip. Bob knew she wouldn't call off the dogs, come what may. She was known for chewing nails and spitting out tacks.

He sensed a dog eat dog world. Would he cut and run? No, that wasn't Bob. He decided to crack down, use the charm offensive, cut to the chase, buy into it, change his tune and be as busy as a one-armed paper hanger come hell or high water while trying to cut the mustard.

Story 160

Now That Was The Question

by Rachel Heaton

She shouldn't be here. She was out of her league. Tears burned behind her eyes as she struggled to read the strange handwriting in front of her, then the words danced before her eyes. She couldn’t even string a sentence together. She was messed up.

Everyone stared. Kind, sympathetic gaze. Don't lock eyes, soldier on, she could do this, she could read aloud the dancing words, tripping and slipping along the way. Did they see she was just a flash in the pan? A one trick pony? A walking disaster?

"Why are you here?" was the question asked by the teacher.

Why was she here? Now that was the question.

Story 161

The Cat That Got The Cream

by Beccy Golding

They were the golden couple.

Ruggedly handsome, with cheekbones to die for, Scott’s eyes were so blue you could drown in them.

Cherry was the girl of his dreams. Her tiny waist, pert breasts and slim figure weren't all though – she wasn't just a pretty face. Cherry had the voice of an angel, a fierce intellect, and the maternal instincts of a lioness.

Together, Scott thought, they could conquer the world. With her brains and his brawn nothing could stop them, they had the world at their feet, everything to play for.

They'd met at the law firm – she'd tripped, papers tumbling across the floor. As he knelt to help, his fingers brushed hers. Their eyes met and time stood still; he thought he heard a nightingale sing. The world changed for ever, things would never be the same again. He was truly the cat that got the cream.

Story 162

When Life Gives You Lemons

by Nichole Villeneuve

You could've knocked her down with a feather when Ruth found Gabe sitting at the back of the diner looking down in the dumps. He was a regular – one you could set your watch by, who usually enjoyed eating his corned beef hash while perched at the front counter, amid the hustle and bustle.

"You looked a million miles away there, Gabe – like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders."

"I've got a monkey on my back, Ruthie. I've bitten off more than I can chew, this time."

"It can't be as bad as all that. Wanna tell me what's eating you?"

"No, I'd bet my bottom dollar that you wouldn't understand."

"What am I, chopped liver? If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We've all got our crosses to bear, so count your blessings, look on the bright side and finish your hash, honey."

Story 163

A Recipe for Disaster

by Janet Pickett

Leaving his better half sleeping like a log, Arthur got on his high horse, bound for Merlin's smallholding. At the henhouse, he pulled a sling from up his sleeve and, killing two birds with one stone, he placed all their eggs in one basket. Ignoring a red herring, he snatched up a fine kettle of fish, then galloped away like a bat out of hell, pursued by the furious wizard.

His horse was frightened to death, and Arthur came down to earth with a bump.

Brandishing staves, the adversaries fought like tigers until Merlin got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Seizing his chance and the basket, Arthur ran like the wind.

Arriving home with neither fish nor fowl, he tried to use the broken eggs to make an omelette. Ravenous, Guinevere awoke, got out of the wrong side of the bed and dressed to kill.

Story 164


by Sean Bain

I'd been trailing the blonde bombshell down D aisle for some time now. She was a slippery customer and I was reeling her in, slowly but surely.

Butch Malloy always got his man, or woman. After all, I had a rep' to protect as store detective number one.

I saw her reach for the top shelf; it was going to be a long stretch. She stopped. Something wasn't right and she was clearly rattled. Maybe she could sense I was packing lead.

I played it cool and kept my distance. It was a game of cat and mouse and it wasn't too long before I caught her with her hand in the cookie jar.

She was all over the shop and flapped her gums in a heartbeat. I took down her particulars with the pencil from my pocket. This was one shopping trip that would cost her dearly.

Story 165

A Dog's Life

by Judy Reeves

Gary looked at me with that hangdog expression.

"Come on, Rover, it looks like I'm in the dog house again."

He and the missus, Sharon, had been at it hammer and tong since yesterday. I thought it was just a storm in a teacup and would soon blow over.

He dangled my lead and said, "Walkies."

It's a walk in the park so, yes please.

He could have talked the hind legs off a donkey, metaphorically speaking. I was all ears though.

He turned around and said, "We're the laughing stock of the estate. She walks around like mutton dressed as lamb."

Or a wolf in sheep's clothing, I thought.

"At the end of the day, she is a bit long in the tooth."

You're telling me.

He wasn't just barking up the wrong tree. A problem shared is a problem halved After all, a dog is man's best friend.

Story 166


by Khamis Kabeu

For a moment, I was transfixed. Finally, I decided always forward, never backward.

With bated breath and sweating like a pig, I reached the camp. As we prepared to sleep, sick as a dog, we heard people approach.

"Will you please identify yourselves before I blow you to shreds," barked our night watchman.

"Call off your dogs. I'm the chieftain," thundered their leader.

"Which chieftain?"

"You thick-headed fool. Who died and left you in charge?"

"It's an order."

"Shut up. We're looking for Khamis whom we fear might have been mauled by lions along the route to this outpost."


"Woe unto you. Scared dogs bark most."

"You're a sitting duck, sitting on the fence, and stinking to high heaven."

"You are now swimming against the tide. If you don't take care of your knitting, I'll have you wag your tail between your legs," the chieftain said, and left.

Story 167

Nail In The Coffin

by Daniel Purcell

On the stroke of midnight things took a turn for the worse. This time, he really put his foot in it: instead of playing the tape of his soliloquy for the girl of his dreams, he mixed it up and played the incantations of The Book of the Dead, unearthing a multitude of sins. He'd planned it to a T, and it was meant to be a no-brainer. Now, he'd bitten off more than he could chew (and so would a few zombies).

Moon glimmering, he hurtled headlong through the dark forest like a bat out of hell (of which there would soon be many) and didn't see the branch, which would be the death knell for him. Why can't forest floors be trip-free of flotsam and jetsam when in a hurry?

He was a stone's throw from the haunted house on the hill when the hand grasped him.

Story 168

Ashley, My Love And My Saviour

by Raymond E. Strawn III

Homeless, he walked around without a care in the world. Life had been cruel. He was a diamond in the rough. All he needed was a chance to prove to the world that he was special. Only time would tell if he’d achieve his goals, or if it was all a waste of time.

On his journey, he met a girl. They were opposites. A rebellious city boy from the west coast, moving around his whole life, and a good country girl from the east coast, living in the same town her whole life.

With heart-stopping fear, he opened up to her and shared his gut-wrenching pain. She accepted him and fell head over heels in love with him. In the nick of time, she saved him from his pain. And he loved her more than life itself.

They lived happily ever after, with some occasional bumps on the road.

Story 169

The Second Button

by Jessica Bowden

At the end of their high school graduation ceremony, Tetsuya pulls Asami aside to confess to her. His heart is pounding. They've been friends their whole lives. By confessing, he runs the risk of ruining their friendship, but if he doesn't, there's no doubt that someone will come along and sweep her off her feet in university. He doesn't want to have any regrets, so he takes a deep breath, musters up his courage, and tears the second button from the top of his blazer off.

"Will you accept this?" he asks, holding it out to her.

"You dummy." She smiles, her hazel eyes glistening with tears. Her neat, brown ponytail sways as she steps towards him. "What kind of question is that?" She takes the button from him. "Of course I'll accept it."

He sighs, happily, and holds her close. She fits against him like the perfect puzzle piece.

Story 170

Dream Boy

by Tracey Maitland

Everybody needs something to work for, to get out of bed for, a ray of sunshine, light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope. You were mine.

Even the poorest guys on the street, who have nothing, have get up and go, a mission, a purpose and usually a smile on their faces. Why, when they have the hardest lives and it's survival of the fittest?

Is it because God gave them a purpose? They have no choice? They want to do better? They're driven? It's do or die?

Each day they wake up it's the same old slog, the same mountain to climb, the same story, just a different day.

I commend them. To face a relentless race, to be the first, best, fastest, fittest – against all the odds. They're superhuman, demi-gods, elite athletes in the race of life.

I've lived the dream too – you.

Story 171

The Exam

by Josh Granville

You could hear a pin drop. But still it was as if the exam hall had feelings, jeering sarcastically.

Victorian architecture crumbling in academic failure. Overhead lights, glinting into the margins of my A4 lined paper. But they couldn't help me. They couldn't shine light on the situation. Only I could read between the lines. I had to work it out for myself. Even the two giant clocks, raised on pieces of cardboard packaging, told me it was my duty to think outside the box.

Having avoided revision like the plague, I'd now left it too late, shaking like a leaf on a wet winter's morning as raindrops of sweat plummeted to the ground.

I snatched my glasses off the table so I could look up at the clock, turning a blind eye to my incomplete exam. Half an hour left... I could do this.

Story 172

Time and Tide Wait For No Man

by Gail Everett

Having lost track of time, Dad was taking an eternity to get ready, and didn’t have a care in the world for the fact that we were running late.

I called him for the umpteenth time. "Dad, come on."

He shouted back at me. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, I'll be ready in two shakes of a lamb's tail – at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if we're five minutes late and, all things considered, I daresay we won't be alone."

"But Dad," I cried, "we're going to be about as popular as a fart in church if we're late for Uncle Jack's funeral."

"We're not going to church, it's the crem," said Dad. "Jack won't know, he's as dead as a doornail, and he'll be pushing up the daisies by teatime."

"You'd be late for your own funeral," I retorted. "Get a move on."

Story 173

The Bubblegum Poppers

by Rene Astle

"A toast to the success of an upcoming band," cried Mr Spheeris as he raised his glass of Coca Cola.

"The Bubblegum Poppers," everyone else agreed.

"The Bubblegum Poppers," laughed Mrs Cartwright.

"Cheers," they said together as they tipped their glasses.

With that word spoken, everybody drank their Coca Cola at great speed.

The Bubblegum Poppers got their first gig at Radio City Music Hall and were signed by G-Force Records to create 10 albums. Their managers, Mr Spheeris and Mrs Cartwright, weren't so sure they were gonna succeed until they heard the news.

"I can't believe it's happening so quick," said the lead singer, Max.

"Just think, guys," said the guitarist, Pauline, "our first album. We'll be the biggest band since The Beatles."

"Let's not get too carried away," said the second lead singer, Pam. "First, we have to make sure we get creative freedom for our new songs."

Story 174

Forever Poised Between A Cliché And An Indiscretion

by Geoff Holme

"Damn and blast. I will not take this lying down. If there's one thing I can't abide, it's people poking their nose in where it's not wanted."

"Calm down, Foreign Secretary. It will soon blow over."

"A week is a long time in politics."

"We can weather the storm."

"I know your heart's in the right place and you mean well, but I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. The press will have a field day if they get hold of this. Promise me you won’t breathe a word."

"What do you take me for, an idiot? You have my word. My lips are sealed."

"You’re a brick. Where would I be without you?"

"Up the creek without a paddle. But just in case you take it into your pretty little head to throw me to the wolves, just remember this – I know where the bodies are buried."

Story 175

The Golden Haired Boy

by Selina Mignano

Golden hair, a perfect flair for leadership, all the girls by his side and a beautiful home life. You name it, Adrian had it all. After all, he was the chosen one, even at the tender age of 15.

His black school jumper fitted exquisitely around his already muscular shape. Adrian knew he had a knack for being simply perfect.

The aura of perfection in its rawest form even reached the minds of the higher-ups. Adrian had been chosen as a saviour as a result of a prophecy involving an evil wizard. Because of this, he was sent to an academy for gifted students of the Wicca Regime.

Despite being pushed into an environment he didn't know and having greatness thrust upon him, he somehow made a significant number of friends.

Little did he know that the peace he loved would eventually be shattered...

Story 176

Prince With A P

by Alice Hale

Once upon a time there was a princess. Her father had locked her in a tower with a dragon to guard her. He was very overprotective of her.

The princess was lonely. She wished someone would rescue her from her tower.

Then, one day, someone came for her; a knight riding a beautiful white horse. Before the princess knew it, the dragon had been defeated and her rescuer had broken down her prison's door.

She saw a stretched out hand and heard the question she had wanted to hear ever since being locked away.

"Would you like to leave with me, princess Melody?"

She took the stranger's hand.

"I would love to. What is my saviour's name?"

Stormy blue eyes resembling sapphires seemed to look straight into her soul. "My name is Isabella Prince, though you may call me Isa if you wish," she said.

Story 177

Weathering The Storm

by Toni G.

It's always dark before the dawn. Change had come, just as predicted by the scientific community 50 years ago. The world was overpopulated. Resources were scarce. Food production was almost at a standstill. It was sink or swim time.

The world was now reaping what it had sown. This was the first solution to the problem of overpopulation in its most basic form: suicide. People threw themselves from roof tops, leapt out of windows and jumped in front of trains. No one knew what was driving this craze or who would be affected next.

Nonbelievers and believers alike could be found hiding in churches, praying to God or a higher power for answers. Others crowded into hospitals, begging anyone in a white lab-coat for help. Through the chaos, I held high hopes for mankind's survival. Through the chaos, I looked for a brighter tomorrow.

Story 178

Our Brummie Kid's Birthday

by Betty Hattersley

It's our kid's birthday today. He's as old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth. A right long thing and a thank you and as thick as two short planks most of the time.

But today he's in his best bib and tucker and as proud as a dog with two tails. We are having a trip up the cut in a canal boat. We are going to be two dirty stop outs.

Might have a beer or two later, but if he has too much to drink for two pins he'd give you a fourpenny one.

So I think we'll keep it short and sweet before he gets all over the shop.

Story 179

Good Ole Boys

by N.B. Craven

"Well, Jimmy, it's gonna be another hot one."

"Can say that again, Bubba. It's hot as Hades out here."

"Knees acting up, though. It'll be raining cats and dogs by noon."

"Heard Ole Joe's boy finished digging that ditch, round the bend there."

"Yep, that boy is strong as an ox. Must be all that steak and taters they feed him."

"Don't let him hear ya say he's an ox, he'd be mad as a wet hen."

"Speaking of angry hens, you hear Tommy's daughter failed her drivin' test?"

"Nope. Guess the cats out of the bag now, though. What happened?"

"Well, she was more worried about fixin' her pretty blonde mop than fixin' her eyes on the road."

"I'll bet she'll be cold as a witch's tit for the next couple weeks."

"Best avoid her like the plague."

"Yeah. If we don't, we might be dead as a doornail."

Story 180

A  Misunderstanding

by Klaus Gehling

After writing my memoirs, I was relaxing in a street café at the market place. I felt optimistic while sipping my latte macchiato. The sun was warming my skin and my heart.

At noon, a young man appeared punctually (as he should) asking passers-by whether they had seen his cliché. I got goose bumps. Halloween? April fool? No, it was summer, one of those shimmering hot days, in which time seemed to stand still.

Some responses were: "No, my hat is pretty enough." A man comforted, "It will be alright."

It wasn't his day. Dark clouds appeared.

Suddenly, he spotted a man with a cliché. He ran to him.

"Can I have your cliché? I've lost mine."

The cliché was a feathered hat from Bayern. I realised: Oh, I'm in Munich.

The worst was yet to come.

"It's not a cliché, it's a stereotype, you fool," the man answered.

Story 181

Above And Beyond

by Mark Stocker

"No, Rocky, it's too dangerous."

"Sorry, chief." Rocky Fettuccine, maverick NYPD cop, ran back into the flaming building. It was hard to see a way through, but he had to try.

Driven on by his personal demons, Rocky battled up the crumbling staircase, his impressively muscled body peppered by falling debris. If only my cruel father, who abandoned me following the tragic and untimely death of my doting mother, could see me now, Rocky thought. "I am not a failure, Dad," he growled.

Rocky reached the first landing and kicked a door in. Through the smoke, he could see Cindy sprawled on the floor.

"My hero," she swooned, as Rocky swept her up.

"All part of the service, ma'am," said Rocky, and threw her out of the window. "Hope they got that safety net ready," he chuckled, as bricks from the collapsing walls bounced off his glistening head.

Story 182


by Jayne Morgan

Once upon a time, Sarah was the love of my life. From the moment I saw her, I was head over heels in love. I loved her more than life itself. But, in the blink of an eye, she was gone and oh, how I missed her.

The day we met, it was love at first sight. I made it my mission to take her under my wing and bring joy, not sadness, into her life. She's only been gone a day but without her, my own life is emptier.

Sarah, however, is living the dream and doesn't have a care in the world. They say good things come to those who wait. Only time will tell, but I'm certain she will achieve great things. I may be sad but I am also immensely proud. Sarah, my baby, my little girl, is now an undergraduate at Oxford.

Story 183

Nice Guy

by Carla Vlad

He knocked on my door and I chose to answer because I didn't want him to send me a thousand messages over night.

"Maria, you won't believe what just happened to me."


"I met this girl and, against all the odds, she said yes to get coffee with me."

"Oh, that's—"

"They said I should follow my heart, but it's easier said than done. Maria, when she arrived, I was on cloud nine. She looked like a million bucks."


"I felt like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to make her mine with every fibre of my being. I asked her, 'Do you want to be my wife?' I swear, I meant to say girlfriend."


"I know. I started crying like a baby. I ruined my chances. She just left me. I guess good things don't come for those who wait."


Story 184

The Mysterious Boy

by Roberta Scafidi

"I can't love you," the mysterious boy with perfect hair told the stubborn yet sensitive girl.

"Why not?" she asked, perplexed.

"I have a dark past. I'm evil. I'm toxic." He looked out into the distance.

"Meth is toxic but I still do it."


"I don't care about your past. We all have our demons."

"But my parents died when I was little."

"So did everyone else's."

"I have duties. I gotta save the world."

"From what?"

"From evil."

"I thought you were evil?"

"It's, uh, complicated."

"Do tell. Just because I'm a cheerleader doesn't mean I'm dumb."

"I never said you were."

"Because you're different..."

"We still can't be together."

"Why not?"

"Because... End credits."

"Did you just say 'end credits'?"

"Seemed fitting."


"Look, I have killed."

"Boo-hoo. Anything else?"


"I'm OK with that. But I gotta warn you, everyone around me kicks the bucket."


Story 185

Time To Face The Music

by Matthew Bines

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, an unlikely band of heroes walked into a bar. A wise wizard, a bulky dwarf, a beautiful elf and a reluctant hero teenager, who was as fit as a fiddle, postponed their quest to lick their wounds.

Behind wrinkles that were as old as the hills, the wizard said, "Take a seat everyone, today is our day off."

"It's about time. This journey has lasted an eternity," sighed the dwarf.

They sat together, ordering a round of drinks, and rested deep in thought about the dark lord's intentions.

"They say that evil never sleeps," muttered the elf.

"Quiet, elf," snapped the dwarf.

"He is right though," said the hero. "He's going to destroy the world by tomorrow. What are we to do?"

The wizard jumped from his seat, storming out the bar.

"We must face the music."

Story 186

Stereotypical Slasher Story

by Olivia Ackers

Lightning crackled outside; the rolling thunder boomed in the forest that surrounded us.

We sat against the wall, holding our breath as the steady footsteps closed in on us…

A floorboard creaked. Our heads turned towards the door, praying it wasn’t him. My heart pounded, a rat scurried at our feet and Sam screamed at the top of her lungs as the door burst open.

A large man trudged in. His muscular arm grabbed Sam by the throat and threw her aside. I darted past him, my life flashing before my eyes, and flew down the stairs, tripping at the bottom and tumbling to the floor. I quickly recovered and fumbled with the keys to unlock the door, but before I could escape a hand clasped around my throat. As a knife impaled my back, everything faded to black…

I jolted up in bed, realising it was all a dream...

Story 187

Doused Dreams

by Ibukun Keyamo

"Make hay while the sun shines," they said

"Don't leave it too long," they said.

And I listened to them.

That's the part that gets me.

I listened to them.

Now, I have five children, aged nine months through seven years and a husband I barely see. This wasn't how my life was supposed to go. After moving to LA, my acting career was supposed to kick-off. I was supposed to have won one or two awards; maybe an Oscar before a modelling agency snatched me up and I started walking catwalks all over the world and then, one day, I would end up in Paris for a shoot and I would meet a handsome, rich, French artist and we would live happily ever after. Just thinking about Pierre (my imaginary French lover) almost made me forget reality.


Until I was doused in ice water.

Courtesy of my son.

Story 188

Ladies' Doubles

by Steve Lodge

Well, it just wasn't cricket, was it? We were at Foulbreath Park for the semi-finals of the cherished Dallimerski Lawn Tennis Cup to see our local heroes, the Wisby sisters, Charlene and Shirin, in ladies' doubles action against the seemingly ordinary pairing of Petunia Muncher and Honey O'Brian, both of Gravestutter in Hampshire. Winners take a place in the coveted grand final.

At the end of the day, Petunia and Honey deserved their win. To be honest, Charlene and Shirin slept through the match, basically without raising the female equivalent of a sweat, or our hopes. You know what I mean?

When I interviewed the sisters after the match, I was like, "What happened?" and they were like, "What just happened?" and they were like, "OK, we go again next match, bring it on, we'll totally nail it, we are a bottomless pit."

Gerald Reporter, Essex Coastal Independent Echo

Story 189

Time Flies When The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease

by Mark J Towers

"Run it by me again... why send a car into space?" Kelly asked. She thought her boss was yanking her chain.

"Have you heard the expression 'hitch your wagon to a star'?" Steve asked. "Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Space is the final frontier, the stuff that dreams are made of." Steve kicked the tyres for good measure. This type of project only came along once in a blue moon.

"You're living on another planet."

"Well, they do say men are from Mars, women are from Venus."

"So, what's my job?"

"You're my ace in the hole, Kelly. You know everything under the sun about this car, so you'll be the pilot. Drive at the speed of light in orbit, and come back down to earth with a bump."

Kelly wasn't exactly over the moon. In fact, this really drove her up the wall.

Story 190


by Jasmine Lee

I reached to push my glasses up and began to gather all my notes and textbooks.

"I'm really sorry."

I looked up to see Chase, dressed in his football uniform. "No, it's fine. It's fine," I stuttered, accidentally brushing my fingers against his while we both tried to pick up the same book.

He ran his free hand through his hair. "Crystal, right? Don't we have chemistry together?"

"Chem-chemistry?" I asked, feeling my face redden like a tomato.

"Yeah, chem class. Second period," he responded, brushing off his letterman jacket.


"Crystal. CRYSTAL."

I soon woke up to see my mum standing over me. She quickly wrapped her arms around me. "Thank goodness you finally woke up from your coma."

"Coma?" I asked.

"Yes, you were in a really bad car crash," my mum stated.

"So, it was all a dream?"

Story 191

Barroom Brawl

by Susi J Smith

He strolled into the bar, cool as a cucumber, a real smooth operator, and sauntered up to me.

"Name your poison."

I couldn't blame him for trying; I'm cute as a button and was dressed to kill. But he was all sizzle, no steak and barking up the wrong tree. "Take a hike."

He shrugged. "Bottoms up." He drank like a fish and was soon drunk as a skunk. "I won't beat around the bush, you're as ugly as sin but beggars can't be choosers so let's blow this joint."

I threw up my hands in disgust. "Read my lips, you're playing with fire. Don't push your luck."

"Well, feast your eyes on this." He darted to and fro, dancing with two left feet. "So? How do you like them apples?"

This was the last straw. I decided to drive the point home and bury the hatchet... in his head.

Story 192

The Last Plague

by Majella Pinto

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. A quarantined family that watches livestreaming mass on Facebook together stays together in order to save bandwidth. Stocked up for Armageddon, I find a lot of spare time on my hands.

"You are lucky," says my friend, over the phone, who made two trips to Costco but didn't find toilet paper.

"Three times is a charm," I tell her and, lo and behold, she followed the instructions to the tee this time and was there when the doors opened.

She's as slow as a turtle, so, when she reached the aisle, she was lucky to get the last two rolls. Everything that glitters is not gold, but this was more valuable than the free diamond ring that was on the meme being circulated along with a picture of a toilet roll with a purple bow on it. She felt like a lucky dog.

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Your comments:

Alan B
Hello Chris. It was so encouraging to see my short story 'Rocky' actually in print in Nonsensically Challenged Volume 1. Will be buying a few more copies for relatives.

It's obvious you work very hard to produce these volumes and raise money for charity as well. Thank you for giving so many writers like me a chance to appear in print.

Chris Fielden
Hi Alan. No problem at all. Thank you for submitting your stories. Without the generosity of all the writers featured in the books, none of this would be possible.

The challenges are all about encouraging people to have fun writing, so it's great to hear you feel encouraged. Thanks for letting me know :-)

Margaret E
Hi again, Chris. I really enjoyed reading about your new mobile office and your impressive work schedule - anyone who can harness a racing imagination to a self-disciplined realism deserves awe and respect. Unfortunately, I am finding your writing challenges so addictive that my writing 'pattern' now resembles word-grazing with no appetite for anything longer than a snack. The five-course novel is back in the freezer. I found the Cliché Challenge easily the easiest to write, which probably tells you everything you need to know. Best wishes.

Chris Fielden
Hi Margaret. Great, really glad to hear you liked the post about the mobile writing office. Yes, the challenges are addictive... I do hope I'm not stopping hundreds of novels being written by encouraging people to write flash fiction. Ah well... it's all for a good cause I guess :-) Maybe I should rent the writing office out to help get novel writers back on track? I'll put that on my 'to do' list..

Michael R
I agree with Margaret. These challenges may be the only game in town and  their variety tune us into a Jack of all trades. But Chris is right too, not to put too finer point on it, by and large, they do not signal the kiss of death to something longer.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Michael. The challenges are the low hanging fruit of publication opportunities. However, one should not be discouraged from reaching for the stars. At the end of the day, take the tiger by the tail and, thick as thieves, follow your dreams. Every dog has its day.

Michael R
Hi Chris. Thanks, smart clever reply. We must be careful not to start a trend.

Sandy P
I really enjoy this challenge because I can use all the cliches I'm not allowed to use in normal offerings, great.

Chris Fielden
Fab, glad you enjoyed it Sandy - thanks for submitting :-)

Ron S
Story 015 line 6 has a 'You're' that should be a 'Your'.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Ron - corrected :-)

Michael R
Hi Chris. For a while I  thought cliche stories were coming in at a snails pace. Were we dragging our  heels, perhaps? Was it just that time of year? And yes, I  did realise Rome was not built in  a day, but with just 4 to go I see it is coming to fruition and you'll soon be able to put a lid on it, so all's well that ends well.

Chris Fielden
Yes indeed, Michael. Submissions always come in fits and starts. It would seem that the New Year has resulted in pens being put to paper. Nonsense 2 is almost full too. I see lots of book editing in my near future... :-)

Jay B
Hi Chris. I hope this one nails it.

Chris Fielden
Nailed. Like the final item needed in a coffin lid.

Richard BF
Hi Chris, just thought I'd point out that the last story, I guess, should be no. 158 as you have two story 157s.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for this, Richard - much appreciated. Fixed!