Tag Archives: story

Story Soup 1.6

Standard

Thank you to everyone who voted for whether or not Gregory should follow the bag lady’s mission… A hearty 67% of you decided that Gregory should indeed take this opportunity to make something of his life and go for it!

I’m going away for a short Easter break so the next instalment will be posted upon my return, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page. All comments and suggestions welcome! In particular, how is Darren magical??

Gregory encounters some little-known scientific history.

Gregory said nothing for a while. In the silence that followed, Darren the diplodocus came over and began to sniff his hand. Gregory couldn’t help but smile as Darren sneezed and fell over. Gregory had never been allowed a pet. His father didn’t like mess and his mother was allergic to fur. One summer he had ‘rescued’ an earwig in the park and had kept it in a woolly hat until it ran away, but anything bigger than a fish was sincerely out of the question. He hadn’t even been granted a sibling for company. As a result he was both lonely and selfish, as many lone children are. If he’d had his choice he would have preferred a dog or a wolf but he had to admit, this little dinosaur was rather cute. Even cuter than this:

And to think it had magical powers! Gregory couldn’t help feeling intrigued.

“Alright,” he said finally. “Let’s do it.”

“Yes!” the bag yelled, punching the air in delight.

“So, what should we do first?” Gregory muttered, turning the exam papers over uselessly in his hands.

“Maybe we should follow the sign,” the bag suggested.

“What sign?”

“That one,” the bag pointed a grubby arm.

“Oh!” said Gregory in surprise. “Well, I guess that’s a good start.”

They followed the sign and soon came across another. This one led them down a dried up stream. Eventually they came upon a third notice. This one pointed between two bushes and was inscribed with the words, ‘Keep going, Gregory.’

“Huh!” Gregory uttered in mild disbelief. He could not help feeling a little bit disgruntled, as though the bag lady was teasing him somewhat. Nevertheless, it was good to have a bit of direction.

The next sign was quite high up, nestled in the branches of an old oak tree.

“For someone who has lost all sensation in her arms and legs, this bag lady sure is agile…” Gregory muttered dryly, feeling as though he were sinking deeper and deeper into some kind of trap. He wondered whether it was too late to back out, but morbid curiosity got the better of him and he pushed on.

They followed the trail for quite some time, venturing further into the dark forest. They had to stop once or twice so that the bag could sew up some scuffs on his feet. Gregory had carried him for a while and then put him down, complaining that he was too heavy. Darren was sitting on Gregory’s shoulder, swaying from side to side in a contented manner. Gregory gave him a tender pat every now and then. “Isn’t this exciting, Darren!” he said, forcing a smile. He hoped he sounded braver than he felt.

Eventually they came to a small hut. It looked as though it had been hastily assembled using a collection of sticks and moss. Gregory glanced around with a shiver, wondering if the bag lady was nearby. The light was beginning to fade and, without his father’s watch, Gregory had no idea what time it was. He took a deep breath and entered the hut. Beside him, the bag gave a little hiccup and followed. They expected to find the hut occupied or at the very least decked out with utensils, weapons, or other fancy tools intended for their use. But to their surprise it was as good as empty. All they could see was a photo pinned to the wall. It was of this chap:

“Oh, not him again!” the bag sniffed in annoyance.

“Isn’t that Albert Einstein?” Gregory asked in confusion. “What’s he got to do with anything?”

They went over to the photo and examined it more closely. Under the picture was one last sign, engraved with the words, ‘Give me my brain back.’

“Ah, yes,” the bag said tiredly. “Now I remember.”

“Remember what?” Gregory exclaimed in frustration. “What on earth am I meant to do?”

The bag yawned and leant against the wall. Then he began to explain. “So this guy was some kind of big shot apparently. Well, when he died his brain was taken without permission by scientists wanting to discover the secret of his great intelligence. His family came and demanded his brain back so the sneaky doctors swapped it for the brain of a child at a local orphanage. They named her Alberta and she became the property of science. She was incredibly gifted and was examined and prodded daily. She clearly did not enjoy this very much because she ran away as soon as she could and has lived as a bag lady ever since. She was always grumbling about who she might have been with her own brain…” The bag paused for dramatic effect and then concluded with a little chuckle, “Maybe she wants you to travel back in time and restore her original brain!”

Advertisements

Story Soup 1.3

Standard

Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory should do with the poor bag lady. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘take her home for tea’, ‘switch clothes with her so he can spend a day being a crabby old woman’ and ‘learn to play the saxophone’, but a massive 46% voted for Gregory to conceal the bag lady in the tree.  (I love that absolutely nobody voted for him to do the honest thing and phone the police!)

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory’s day gets a little bit worse.

Gregory felt awful. Of all the stupid things he could do he had gone and knocked out an old lady. Not just once but twice. He beat his head with his fist, blinking back tears as he muttered, “Idiot! Idiot! What have I done?”

He felt that perhaps he should stay and try to wake her, but he could not bear to look at her, afraid that at any minute she would open her eyes and say his name again. Racked with guilt, he was about to run away when a sudden, more terrifying, thought came to mind. If somebody found the bag lady and managed to wake her, she would be sure to say, in that eerie rasping voice of hers, “Gregory Bedcarrots did it!”

What awful bad luck to assault a stranger who already knows your name!

“Who are you?” Gregory whispered fretfully, “How do you know my name?”

But the bag lady lay ominously still.

Gregory looked around frantically, searching helplessly for an answer. His friend, the apple tree, seemed to beckon like a loyal ally. In a blind panic Gregory hoisted the old lady onto his shoulders and dragged her over to the hollow trunk. He shoved her inside the tree; pressing her in as far as she would go in the hope that nobody should spot her before she came to her senses.

Gregory stepped back and shuddered. The bag lady looked truly gruesome.

A small note in the bag lady’s defence: She was not really as frightening as you might imagine. She may have smelt funny and had a creepy face but she was actually a rather jolly bag lady. She could make a box into a bed in ten seconds flat, she could tell you what time it was without ever looking at a watch, and she knew several good jokes about a man with a dog. On a good day, she might look something like this:

But on a day when she has trudged through a muddy forest, been punched in the face, and then stuffed into a tree, she looked understandably worse for wear.

Gregory’s next thought was to hide the old lady’s bag. He reasoned with himself that he was actually doing a kind thing; keeping the old lady and her possessions safe until she awoke. And where better to awake after an assault than in the safe hug of a cosy tree trunk? Gregory turned and reached for the bag. But, to his horror, the bag was gone. A sudden terror took hold of him and he spun around wildly. It was nowhere to be seen. A chilly wind began to blow through the forest and Gregory shivered with fear as the leaves fluttered round him and tickled his ankles. The trees no longer looked warm and inviting. They seemed to point at him in accusation. Even his friend, the apple tree, appeared to leer at him as if to say, “I give you sanctuary all this time and this is how you repay me?”

Gregory gulped and began to run. He ran so fast that he was frightened he might turn himself inside out. It was a terrifying run, the kind of run I hope you never have to endure, where everything around you threatens to attack and consume you. His chest hurt wildly and he had a stitch in his side, but still he ran, never once looking behind him. He ran so fast that he nearly threw up Penny’s pie and barely noticed when his shoes fell off. By the time he got home he was sweatier than a soggy southerner sweltering at the World Sauna Championships.

Blinking back tears, Gregory dragged himself up his street and breathed a small sigh of relief. He felt as though he wanted to have a long bath and wipe the whole sorry episode from his mind. But as he walked up the garden path, an astonishing sight met him. There on the front porch sat the armadillo bag.

Gregory gaped at it in shock and muttered in a panic, “How did you get here?”

To his utter surprise the bag snapped back, “Same as you, Idiot! I ran!”

Gregory’s heart leapt into his mouth and he almost collapsed in shock, but the bag kept on speaking.

Story Soup 1.2

Standard

Welcome to the second Story Soup instalment and thank you to everyone who voted for who or what was following Gregory! There was an awful moment when the poll first opened and the only vote was ‘Other— Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys’ which would have led to much necessary research and confusion. Perhaps he will pop up at some point though… Other suggestions also included ‘a block of cheese’, ‘a barrel on legs’, ‘A girl’, and ‘his neighbour after the pie Gregory had stolen’. It was all incredibly close and it looked like Gregory might be meeting three people at once, but a spurt of more than twenty votes came in overnight and a clear winner emerged! So with 52% of the vote, let’s see who was following Gregory…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory chooses an unfortunate moment to be brave.

Gregory had not been in the apple tree for very long when he heard a scuffling from somewhere close by. He strained his ears to listen, wondering if it was his neighbour, Penny, who had begged him earlier to show her his hiding place in exchange for some pie. Gregory had refused but had stolen the pie anyway, sprinting off with it under his arm before Penny had had time to fetch her shoes. Gregory quickly wolfed the pie down and waited to be found. But as the scuffling came closer he realised with a jolt of fear that the footsteps did not belong to Penny. In fact, they did not sound human at all. He held his breath as the sounds came closer. He had no idea what kind of animals might lurk in this forest and a whole host of gruesome creatures immediately sprang to mind.

Pretty soon, the mysterious animal began to circle the tree. It would not be too hard, Gregory realised, for the creature to climb into the tree trunk and devour him. He began to tremble in terror at the thought.

But many minutes passed and the creature, whatever it was, showed no signs of tearing down the tree to eat him. Round and round the tree it went, grunting and wheezing, and dragging something heavy (its tail, Gregory imagined) behind itself. Perhaps it wasn’t anything dangerous after all. Perhaps it was a friendly wombat, or a shy woodland deer, or a miniature diplodocus that had lived unseen since the beginning of time. In a moment of excitement, Gregory wondered if maybe he was on the brink of discovering a whole new creation. He would name it after himself and everywhere it went people would exclaim, “There goes a Gregory! What a wonderful creation!” Of course, if the animal looked anything as hideous as the beasts above, then Gregory would soon regret having it named after himself. ‘As ugly as a Gregory’ is not the kind of saying one would like to be known for.

Gregory edged towards the crack in the tree trunk to attempt a peek but he lost his nerve and shrank back again. He counted to ten and tried again, but once more fear got the better of him. The time went on and Gregory started to feel less curious and more infuriated. “It’s probably just a badger,” he scolded himself angrily. “I’m so stupid to be hiding from a badger!” He took a deep breath and rolled up his sleeves and determined to be bold. So in a moment of spirited daring and sheer unadulterated madness, Gregory leapt from his hiding place with a mighty roar and pounced upon the mysterious creature.

“Yeeehaaaaah—!”

In the instant before he landed, Gregory caught sight of his target, gave a yelp and tried to abort his fall. But it was no use. He landed heavily on the creature and it dropped lifelessly to the floor. It was an old lady.

She lay perfectly still and heavy dread filled Gregory’s heart as he thought frantically, “I’ve killed her!” He stood up, heart beating fast and sickness rising in his throat, and assessed the situation. He saw straight away that she was some kind of beggar or tramp for her clothes were filthy and torn and she smelt of smoke and vinegar. She had the kind of face that makes you want to cry and she looked like a regular bag lady, apart from her bag itself which looked like a stuffed armadillo.Gregory stood over her, blinking back tears and murmuring over and over, “I’ve killed her! What do I do? What do I do?” He wondered whether he would go to jail for this and shook with fear at the thought of being branded a murderer and locked away with violent convicts. Tears started to stream down his cheeks as he whispered over and over, “I’m so sorry, it was an accident…”

Eventually he decided he would write a little note explaining what had happened and leave it by her body. Hopefully she would be cleared away by the weekend and he could return to his tree to hide. He was just about to run home and consult Google, when suddenly the old lady opened her eyes and said in a deep rasping voice, “Gregory…”

Gregory gasped and leapt backwards in fright.

“Gregory,” the lady repeated. “Gregory Bedcarrots…”

In a panic, Gregory lunged forward with a punch and the bag lady fell unconscious once more.

Story Soup 1.1

Standard

So here we have the results of our first poll and with 41% of the vote, the chosen location to begin our story is in an Apple Tree. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘in a forest’, ‘in a kitchen’ and ‘down a well’. I will keep these locations in mind— keep your eyes peeled as they may feature in later chapters! I also liked somebody’s suggestion to start ‘at the end’… so let’s see if we end up back here… Oh, and Rachel was the first person to comment so she had the honour of naming our main character, and she chose the name Gregory Bedcarrots, so let’s meet him!

Tune in for the next instalment later in the week. If you want to keep up with the blog, don’t forget to subscribe using the links at the top left. All suggestions are welcome; any arty types amongst you are most welcome to submit visual suggestions or inspiration to the Story Soup Facebook page!

Gregory Bedcarrots is hiding in a tree.

Once upon a time there lived a boy called Gregory Bedcarrots. He was probably cute as a baby but at the age of twelve, Gregory was short and podgy with orange hair and beady grey eyes that stuck out like pips in the middle of his face. On the morning of this story, Gregory was red faced and panting. He had just run for several minutes and was now wedged firmly in the trunk of an old apple tree. He looked something like this, but without the bow and arrow, sense of adventure, or boyish charm. He was thoroughly dejected and miserable.

To begin to understand what Gregory was doing in this apple tree we need to go back to his roots.

At some point during the thirteenth century when every second man was named Tom or John or Harry and most women were named Alice, it was decreed that each person should take a second name to help tax collectors distinguish between them. These surnames were generally based upon one of four things: occupation, location, one’s father’s name, or some personal characteristic, such as Short, Strong, or Wagglebottom. If Gregory’s ancestors, Tom and Alice, had been a little brighter, they would have named themselves Mr and Mrs Farmer or Hill or Johnson. But Gregory’s ancestors were rather daft and merry and prided themselves on growing the largest carrots in the whole of Yorkshire. They requested the name ‘Bigcarrots’ but this was misspelt by the inept registrar and from that day onwards they were known as Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots. Their neighbour, a so-called Farmer Sweetpotato, took no time at all in composing this short ditty:

Their hands are soiled and their cheeks are red,

They grow their carrots in an unmade bed!

This resulted in a steep decline in trade for poor Tom and Alice who then had to work very hard to make anything of their once prosperous livelihood. With money tight, the fourteen Bedcarrots children were always very hungry and all the family could afford to eat were their own carrots, which of course did not help their reputation. The youngest children, who had learnt nothing of pride or keeping a stiff upper lip, would stand and peer over the wall at the sumptuous summer banquets enjoyed by the Sweetpotato family. And the triumphant Farmer Sweetpotato would bellow raucously and hum his cruel rhyme.

Tom Bedcarrots vowed to get his own back on Farmer Sweetpotato. He sneaked into his neighbour’s field one night and created a monstrous scarecrow out of many sacks of new potato. He had in his mind that Farmer Sweetpotato would rush at the scarecrow with an axe, believing it to be an intruder, and inadvertently destroy his own produce. But one thing led to another and both men were killed. That, however, is another story. Let us return to poor Gregory.

All his life, Gregory had suffered for the mistake of his ancestors. If only he was Gregory Johnson he would have had a normal life. He would have been average at maths, and normally proportioned, and good at sports, and reasonably well adjusted socially. But a boy named Gregory Bedcarrots can never be expected to amount to much. Gregory was simple, ugly, and rotten to the core. On this particular day he had broken a plate and told three large lies before breakfast. This tree was his hiding place; the place he stored his grubby homework, his sacred packed lunches, and his heart wrenching secrets. He came here most days and contemplated his pitiful existence. Sometimes Gregory wished that he was a tree. He wished this because he was under the sorry delusion that trees are content. But this is a lie; trees, on the whole, are neither content nor discontent. They are like cars; they might look happy but they are not. They were just made that way.

So when poor Gregory said to the apple tree, “Thank you for looking after me,” he was very much speaking in vain. The apple tree could not hear him. It is not that kind of story. Poor Gregory was very much alone. However, he wasn’t going to stay alone for much longer for somebody was following him.

Story Soup 1.0

Standard

Cooks Wanted — no experience necessary!

It has been said countless times that too many cooks spoil the broth. This is generally taken to mean that if too many people try to do something then they will make a mess of it.

I can think of times when many cooks would actually be an advantage. For example if you were a postman at Christmas, a team of policemen facing angry animal rights protesters, or a thrill seeker attempting to break the world record for highest number of people in a mini.

But what about many people coming together to cook up a story?

Would the end result be a stylish piece of literary genius appealing to all tastes and senses? Or would it be more like a bowl of mud which makes you gag to look at it?

To answer this question, I come before you tentatively holding out an empty bowl which I wish to fill with a soup. A Story Soup, to be precise. And I need cooks, lots of them. So bring your dry wit, your bitter irony, your pickled wonder, your full-bodied cheese, just a little bit of thyme and your own fat spoon.

I will endeavour to add a piece of the as-yet UNKNOWN story in bite-sized chunks like this post every few days. You can make story choices by participating in the daily poll (as demonstrated below). You can even suggest more sophisticated plot twists, character notes and other ideas by leaving a comment. The first person to comment on this post can name the main character.

Let’s go!