Cracker by Damian Christie

Put Your Hands Together For:

Those who have been following the competition over at Public Address System might have your own opinons, but you're not the ones holding the prizes, are you now? No, no you're not.

The runners-up first, then for those of you who haven't read it already, the winner in all its illustrated glory:

Honourable mentions (but no prizes sorry):

Robyn - for having a great last line.

Ben - for putting a romantic spin on my favourite automatic rifle.


Muriel really picked up on the romance angle I was getting at and wrote a lovely story.


A good idea, well written - bonus points for keeping it well linked to the pictures.

Both Muriel and Diana get a Rough Guide of their choice.

THE WINNER (who will take home the lovely Traveller's Atlas AND a Rough Guide of their choice):

ANDREW via the email. For imaginatiion, weirdness and incorporating the story into the pictures. Well done. For those who haven't read Andrew's entry....

Feel Free to Suggest a Title Here, Andrew

When Hank came to, he found himself sprawled upon a spongy mattress. Beads of sweat trickled down his shoulders as he hauled himself up onto his elbows. The surface of the mattress clung to his skin. His first thought was that he had, somehow, been swept up from his comfortable deckchair beside the rose garden and deposited in the sauna at the Paltry Street Baths, with its blue tiles and matching towels. But as he squinted into the light, he caught a whiff of salt spray and heard the sound of crashing waves, and realised that this was not the sauna.

It was only then that he noticed the woman lying behind him. She was awake, and he stood up as she spoke. "Oh" she said, seemingly to herself, with a hint of concern in her voice "sand....the beach? Yes, a beach. I'm at a beach. Goodness." She squinted up at Hank, a puzzled expression on her face. "Are we in Blackpool?"

Hank considered. "Well, no, I don't believe we are in Blackpool," he replied. "I think this is a...well, a tropical beach." He gazed at the azure ocean, perplexed. The woman scrambled to her feet. "A tropical beach...Goodness. It is very warm." She stepped towards the water. Unsure of what to do,and not seeing anyone nearby, Hank followed.

The woman continued: "How on Earth did I get here? I was just walking to the shops to buy some jam, and....oh, yes, I was passing the umbrella store when a black cat ran across my path, and next thing I know I'm on a tropical beach. Goodness, how very strange!"

They waded into the water. It was warm, soothing. "How very odd," Hank replied.
"I was just sitting in the garden, doing the crossword. I think I must have gone to sleep, and I am. Very peculiar indeed. I weren't dressed like that going to the shops, were you?"

"Oh, goodness, no!" the woman exclaimed. "I was wearing my cardy and hat!"

"Indeed. I don't know where my trousers have gone, and my shirt - well, it was an uncomfortable shirt anyway." Hank felt relieved that his underpants hadn't vanished into thin air with the rest of his attire, although he then noticed that they had been rolled up to expose the tops of his thighs, as if he was about to sunbathe.

"At least you've still got your boots", the woman said.

Hank agreed, although quite how he came to be wearing a pair of neoprene dive booties was beyond him.

The warm sun and sea made Hank feel tired. He announced that he was going to return to mattress. The woman puffed slightly as she followed him over the soft sand.

"Might I ask what your name is?" Hank enquired.

"Mavis Winklepicker," she told him, "I'm a retired seamstress. And you?"

"Hank. Hank Haddockgrubber. I used to be in the Navy, but nothing like this ever happened before, not even when we sailed around that Bermuda Triangle." Hank heard a splash and turned to see a man squatting in the shallows just along the beach.

"Well, he seems unconcerned," remarked Mavis.

Back at the mattress, Hank reclined on the warm rubber, which trembled as Mavis perched on the edge. He peered into a black bag which sat between them. Inside it he found a towel, a rubber duck and a yellow lunchbox containing pieces of fruit. Lying back in the sun, he offered Mavis a piece of pineapple. A young couple strolled past.

"At least the weather's nice here," said Mavis.

"So it is, so it is," Hank replied. "I wonder how long we'll be here. If it gets much warmer, I might have to take a swim. Now, I wonder where a man might get a drink around here..."