The Short Story Exchange - Share, Read & Comment.

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The Short Story Exchange - Share, Read & Comment.
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Let's galvanise an energetic, experimental and enjoyable short story group.

I would love to read your work, give comments and get the ball rolling: so send them through!

The idea is for it to be open to anyone, writing in a general, literary style. But as long as you're proud of it and excited to share, genre is quite irrelevant. Get sharing, get sharing, get sharing!

Harvey

Hello Writers and Readers.  

Feedback on the piece below would be much appreciated!  Thanks so much.


Keys and a Mustard Pot

The small restaurant wasn’t crowded yet.  A few locals, a few business people from out of town.  He was sitting on one of the high stools at the counter; his son – the only child in the place – on the one beside him.  He knew one of the owners.  That, and the fact it was early, made it possible for the boy to be there at all.   

There would be a jazz group playing in the cellar later.  The father and son would be home by then, Nolan fast asleep between superhero bed sheets and Peter watching something on tv.  

Nolan kept up a steady stream of chatter and commentary in which he just as often proposed answers to his own questions as prodded his father for replies. 

“Have they left all the pretty things in the stands?  Will they come to open the market tomorrow morning?  Won’t any bad men come in the night to steal the pretty things?” 

Peter suggested that there might not be anything valuable left overnight, that the outdoor market stalls were restocked every morning. 

“But the police watch over the whole town, don’t they?  They look for bad men.  When they see one, they catch him.  They put him in jail.  With a lock.   Do the police keep all the keys of all the locks of all the jails?” 

“I don’t know, Nolan.”  He wanted to change the subject.  “Are you thirsty?” 

“No.” 

A young woman asked if the barstool next to Nolan was free.  Peter nodded.  She sat down. 

Her attractiveness fleetingly registered in some part of Peter’s consciousness.  He did not remain aware of it.  Nolan was oblivious. 

“Do the police keep all the keys, Dad?” 

“I think the keys to the jail cells are kept at the jail.  The jailers or guards have them.” 

“What’s a jay-sell?”  Nolan asked. 

“A cell, jail cell.”  His father articulated, detaching one sound from the next.  “The room a prisoner’s in.  One cell for each prisoner, lots of cells in one prison.  In one jail.” 

Nolan was trying to figure it out.  He swung his left leg, bumping its heel against the leg of the stool at regular intervals.  “One prisoner, one cellroom, one key. One prisoner, one cellroom, one key…” 

A waiter put a plate with two sausages and a stack of French fries down in front of Nolan, nodded to Peter’s request for a second beer and asked the woman if she was ready to order. 

“Do you want something to drink, Nolan?” Peter asked his son. 

“No.  One key…” 

“You should have a glass of milk.”   

“Milk and French fries don’t go together.”  Nolan was definitive.   

Peter asked the waiter for a glass of water.  

“Can I have the salt, please?” his son asked, looking into his father’s face. 

Peter picked a fry up from Nolan’s plate and bit off half of it, chewed, swallowed.   “Tastes plenty salty already, Nolan.   I don’t think you should put any more on.  I’m sure the sausages are salty too.” 

“Can I have the mustard, please?” was the immediate response. 

Peter looked down the counter to the right, then past his son to the left.   

“Excuse me,” he said to the woman, “could you pass us the mustard, please?” 

“Yes of course,” she said as she reached for it and handed it to him.  She leaned slightly forward to look at Nolan and asked if he liked sausages.  

The child nodded, two quick bobs of the head, with his eyes riveted on his plate.  His father spooned a little mustard onto the edge of it, then cut the sausages into bite-size pieces, put the knife down and handed Nolan the fork.  His son began eating.  Peter placed the lid back on the mustard pot and slid in further toward the inner edge of the bar.  He smiled at the woman, then picked his beer up again. 

The young lady, still tilted toward the man and the boy, seemed about to say something, but then turned back to her own glass and a detached observation of the other patrons.  After a few moments, she asked the bartender for the menu and whether she, too, could eat at the bar.  She looked at Nolan again, smiling.  The boy held her gaze for several seconds with large, serious eyes.  Then he said, “I like these sausages with French fries and mustard.  Sometimes with cabbage and mustard.” 

“Well I can understand that,” she told him.  “I like sausages a lot myself.” 

“Milk is good for children,” the youngster went on.  “Beer isn’t.”  He transferred the last piece of sausage from the plate to his mouth.   

She nodded in agreement.  “That’s very true.” 

“Please drink your water,” Peter said to his son.   

A group of university students made a noisy entrance.  They hailed two people already sitting at a table across the room, asking why they hadn’t saved enough seats for all of them, then slowly made their way deeper into the restaurant with boisterous energy and bursts of laughter.   Peter encircled Nolan with his left arm to protect him from being unwittingly jostled.  There was neither tension nor defensiveness in the gesture, which seemed to go unnoticed by the boy, intently draining his glass.  Once finished, he put the glass down and wiped his fingers on the napkin next to his plate.  His father picked it up and wiped his son’s mouth, crumpled it into Nolan’s empty plate and swiveled off his stool.   

“I’ll be right back,” he said to the boy, passing behind him on his way to the register. 

Nolan watched his father briefly and then turned to the woman studying the menu.   He looked at her silently until she became aware of his gaze and, putting her menu down, leaned closer to him with an encouraging smile. 

“Have you ever been to a jail?” Nolan asked her. 

“Well,” she said with raised eyebrows, “no, I haven’t.  Why?” 

“Because of the keys.” 

“The keys?” 

But Nolan was already on another track.  “The police catch bad men and sometimes they kill them.” 

“Yes,” she said nodding slowly.  When no further remark was forthcoming, she added, “That’s one of the things policemen and policewomen do.” 

The waiter asked for the woman’s order and Peter came back at the same moment.  He lifted Nolan off the stool and helped him into his jacket.  Hand in hand, father and son made their way toward the door.   

Suddenly Nolan dropped his father’s hand, saying, “I’ll be right back.” 

He turned around and came back to stand beside the woman.  She looked down at him and he stretched his right hand toward her. 

“Goodbye.” 

She shook the small warm hand, meeting the steady gaze. 

“Goodbye.   I enjoyed talking with you.” 

She watched him return to his father’s side, nodding at Peter in answer to a second rapid smile.  Her eyes followed them as they went through the door and into the evening darkness.

 

 

 

Hi everyone, in case you are looking for a place to be the home for your microfiction 101 Words are  friendly and professional. And they just published 101 words of dark fantasy of mine, titled Ersatz. Hope you enjoy it and do check them out for your work too.

https://101words.org/ersatz/









Hello,

I've written some short stories over the years, one of which I think may be appropriate for this group. I've added it below. It's called 'Sight and Sound' and concerns a young man who wakes to find his world has just been turned upside down. It's 3,000 words long, so shouldn't take too long to read through if you're interested, and near the end the POV changes from one character's thoughts to another's before switching back to the main character once more. 

Given the context of the story I don't know if I could have avoided doing so, and please bear in mind that at the time I wrote this tale I knew nothing about the 'rules' of POV. So if you find it jars at all then please let me know, along with constructive suggestions about how to avoid the POV swap.

-----------------------------------------------------


Sight and Sound

Opening his eyes slowly Mark noticed that all the lights were very bright, and everything was blurred. His head hurt like hell, and he became aware that he was no longer standing up, but lying on his right side, with the smooth marble tiled floor against his cheek. The coolness of the stone on his skin helped to revive him, and in a second or so he found that the images were starting to sharpen a little as his eyes adjusted to the light. However things remained blurred, particularly around the edges, and he guessed it would take a little while for his eyes to focus properly.

He noticed that his glasses had fallen off, and his eyes felt unprotected and vulnerable, so he brought his left hand up to shield them from the brightness. At the same time, he tried to lift his head from the ground, and noticed that it seemed to stick to the floor. There was blood in his hair, and this had started to congeal, temporarily gluing him down. The effort of moving was also more than he had expected, and he found it quite a strain to lift his head up, and then try to raise himself to a sitting position.

People stood around him and watched his actions, and two or three of them even tried to help him up, but a man appeared in the small semi-circle of bystanders and gesticulated to them to stop, and let him stay seated. The man then knelt down in front of Mark and stared into his eyes, presumably in an effort to see if Mark was concussed. The man then started speaking to him, but Mark couldn’t hear a thing he said. Suddenly he realised that the reason why he had not been bothered by people so far was because his hearing seemed to have deserted him for the moment.

Mark found himself feeling as though he was floating, even though he could plainly see that he was anchored to the ground by gravity. He felt detached from reality, as though he were watching television with the mute button pressed. The trouble was he couldn’t find the mute button to turn the sound back on. Mark’s head was still spinning slowly, and he was confused; then looking round he saw his familiar stick lying on the floor a couple of feet away, and his glasses lying broken nearby, bits of dark plastic like tiny shadows littering the shining tan of the polished marble.

The sight of his familiar companions cheered him, but then he thought, 'Oh damn! I’ll have to buy some new ones now. Thank goodness my stick is OK. At least I’ve still got that, so I’ll be able to get around at least.'

The bizarre nature of his predicament suddenly dawned on him and he decided to take stock of his situation. He was sitting on the floor of a large, well lit, and well attended shopping mall, with blood in his hair that slowly trickled down onto his collar. His glasses lay broken on the floor, but his stick was now in his hand. He could see, but not clearly, and his hearing seemed to have gone. There was a man kneeling in front of him who was obviously talking to him, but not a sound penetrated Mark’s consciousness.

Mark was troubled. It wasn’t the fact of whatever had befallen him, as he was quite obviously not in any physical danger, but something had changed in his world. A profound change had occurred that was only now beginning to impinge itself upon his psyche. He had gone deaf! His universe had completely changed. He could no longer make out who was around him, or whether he was in any danger from people or objects hidden by walls or round corners. In fact, the reason he was now sitting here was because a group of kids had run out of a shop and knocked him flying. So even his now defunct hearing had not been able to save him from this.

The other shocking thing that Mark noticed was that he was wearing odd socks. He felt embarrassed. He had put his socks on this morning as usual, and no-one had said anything to warn him of his blunder, so he had gone about his normal business, without a care in the world, with odd socks. The thought made him laugh, but the sound of his mirth only came to him through the vibrations in his skull.

'This is really weird,' he thought.

Then said out loud to the man in front of him “I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you. I've gone deaf!”

He wondered if he was shouting at the man, because he gave Mark a very peculiar look, and then produced a handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe the blood off Mark’s head. As he did so, he moved round so that he could look into Mark’s right ear.

'I don’t know what he expects to find in there,' thought Mark, but he didn’t try to dissuade the man, as his head was throbbing, and each stroke of the man’s hanky down Mark’s hair brought fresh waves of pain from the right side of his head.

Suddenly Mark jumped, as if a loud bang had scared him nearly out of his skin. He looked suddenly frightened, and with eyes wide like a child he took in the world around him. Then he smiled at the man in front of him, and grinned at the assembled crowd of onlookers.

“I can see!” he shouted. “I can SEE!”

Just then a security man appeared with the standby nurse, and they helped him up to his feet. Then the nurse took one arm, the security man the other, and they tried to lead him to the first aid room.

“I’m alright,” protested Mark, but they wouldn’t listen, and they bustled him into a lift and up to the top floor of the complex, where he was led down an anonymous grey painted corridor and into a small room.

There on one side was an examination couch, and the nurse motioned for Mark to sit on it while she went to get some water in a kidney bowl, and a sponge. She came back and carefully washed the blood from Mark’s head, and parted his hair to get a good look at the large bruise that was swelling up just above his ear. All the time she was doing this she spoke to him, and he didn’t hear a word. He had hoped that his hearing would start to return by now, but as yet nothing could make its way into his head except as vibrations in his teeth.

Mark didn’t care though, he just sat there and grinned. He could see! His white stick was leaning against the wall, and he looked at it with curiosity, as he had never actually seen it before. It was about five feet long, and tapered, with the white paint chipped off it near the bottom. The handgrip had worn shiny, and the leather wrist strap was beginning to look frayed.

'Bout time I got a new one,' he thought, then realised how ridiculous the thought had been.

He didn’t need a stick now that he could see where he was going. The novelty of his situation kept him amused for some time, and eventually the nurse gesticulated for him to get down from the examination couch and look in the mirror.

What a shock that was. Mark had forgotten what he looked like during the four years since the accident, and looking at the stranger who stared back at him from the mirror gave him some cause for concern. The scar on his left temple that had been a legacy of the accident, had faded to just a thin line going up to the hair line from the outer end of his left eyebrow. It was smaller than he imagined, and not quite as deep, but would be with him forever, so he might as well get used to seeing it. The hair would have to change though. He preferred it shorter than it appeared in the mirror, and the lines around his eyes seemed deeper than he remembered them. That was the price of growing old.

He had been nearly twenty when he and Dave had been out skateboarding around the square by the Town Hall. The collision between them had left Dave with a broken nose, a fat lip, and two broken teeth, but it had left Mark blind. The doctors couldn’t explain it, but had admitted defeat when they couldn’t find anything wrong with his eyes, or the function of his optic nerve.

Well, now it had returned with a bang, or more precisely a bump, on his head. A severe impact had blinded him, and now another had returned his sight, but deafened him. So Mark wondered what would happen if he got hit on the head again. Would his hearing return, or would he just go blind again, and end up blind and deaf? The prospect did nothing for his mood, but he decided to worry about that another time. For now it was good enough that he could see, and once more appreciate the world as he always had before his accident.

Good news travels fast they say, but for Mark it couldn’t travel fast enough, and he pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket to call his girlfriend Sheila and give her the good news. It was only after he had dialled the number and held it up to his ear that it dawned on him. He was deaf, so he couldn’t hear whether anyone was answering or not. Instead he asked the nurse to take the phone and pass on the message that he had regained his sight, but was now stone deaf, and could Sheila come and get him from the mall.

The nurse wasn’t keen on this, as she wanted him to go to hospital for a proper check up. The last thing she needed was for Mark to drop dead from a fractured skull that had gone undiagnosed due to him not going for a proper examination. So instead she asked Sheila to come and join him for the trip to the hospital in an ambulance. She then called for the security guard to come around and make sure that Mark didn’t try to run away. While they waited the nurse went off for a couple of minutes and returned with cups of tea for the three of them.

“Where is he?” said Sheila as she rushed into the small room. “Oh, I thought you were at death’s door. The nurse told me you had had a whack on the head and she was afraid you might have concussion and a fractured skull.”

Mark just sat with his mouth open and said nothing. He had never seen Sheila before, so he wasn’t even sure if this was her. However, she came straight over and started fussing over him, turning his head and parting his hair to get a good look at the cut and bruising. Meanwhile, all he could think of was how much smaller she was than he'd imagined. Her hair was totally different from his mental image of her, and her eyes were brown. He always thought of them as blue, even though she'd told him she had brown eyes, he just had a picture in his head of a girl with longish fair hair and blue eyes.

The actuality was completely different. She had dark brown wavy hair, brown eyes, and a lopsided mouth. Not very lopsided, but a bit, in fact her whole face was a bit lopsided. This jarred with his imagination, and it wasn’t helped when she smiled and showed a crooked tooth and fillings.

'Wah! What have I been doing going out with this woman for the last three years?' he thought, but managed a weak smile in return.

The stranger continued to mouth words at him as though he could hear, and bustled around him as though he was still blind. This was bizarre. He couldn’t accept her as the person he had grown so close to in his world of sound and smell and touch, and she obviously hadn’t yet accepted that he could see. Or perhaps she didn’t even know that he could see. The nurse may not have told her. So Mark decided he had better make sure and grabbed Sheila by the arm. She looked startled, and turned toward him.

“I CAN SEE Sheila, I CAN SEE!” he said.

She looked puzzled for a moment, then started saying something, but Mark put his finger on her lips to stop her.

“I can see but I can’t hear. The bang on my head has given me my sight back but left me deaf. Do you understand? I can see you for the first time in my life, but now I can’t hear a word you’re saying, so you might as well stop talking and write down anything you want to tell me.”

Sheila was in shock. She didn’t quite know what to do. Mark was no longer the helpless but determined man she had befriended and grown to love. He was now able to look after himself, and be completely independent. In her innermost thoughts she had always thought of herself as being a Florence Nightingale figure for him. Someone he could rely on to drive him around, and guide him through the obstacle course of restaurant tables whenever they went out for a meal. She had imagined herself guiding him through the rest of his life in the same way, but now he wouldn’t need her anymore to do all the little things for him, and if he didn’t need her, she worried that he might not be attracted to her either. She didn’t consider herself the most attractive girl in the world, but as Mark couldn’t judge her by her looks, she had always felt safe with him.

That had all changed now though, the new situation they were both entering could easily put strains on their relationship that might cause it all to fall apart at the seams.
Apart from anything else, Mark was still disabled, only now instead of her having to describe the visual world to him she would have to be his ears, and learn to sign in order to communicate with him.

'That’s a thought. He'll have to learn how to sign too, so we can learn together!'

With that she felt better. She could relax knowing that Mark would still need her in the future, so all was not lost yet.

Mark watched her face as the thoughts raced through her mind, and wondered what she was thinking. Did he see a fleeting frown of disappointment flicker in her eyes as the enormity of it all hit her? He couldn’t be sure, but he thought she was avoiding his gaze, as though she didn’t want him to see the emotions welling up inside of her. She seemed sad all of a sudden, as though she had lost the wind from her sails, and he couldn’t quite understand why.

She should be happy for him now that he could see again. She should be laughing and grinning like him, full of joy at his return to the world of the seeing. Instead she seemed to withdraw into herself, and put on a mask to hide behind. Her smile seemed forced somehow, as though she were having second thoughts about him and their relationship.

This irked him. He was finding it difficult to look at a face that didn’t match up to his dreams, and a figure that, although not bad, was not the perfection he saw in his mind’s eye. This little woman, with the nondescript hair, and lopsided smile in front of him was a stranger. She wasn’t the warm, soft, sweet-smelling comfortable human duvet he had snuggled up to for the last three years. Her skin had imperfections, her eyebrows were too thick, and met in the middle. Her eye shadow was the wrong colour, and her eyelashes looked as though someone had plastered mascara onto them with a trowel. Furthermore, her clothes were not immaculate and smartly tailored as he'd always imagined, but faded and slightly scruffy looking, and her skirt was twisted, as though she didn’t take pride in her appearance. But then again, she hadn’t needed to, as he was none the wiser. Well he was now, and what he saw annoyed him. He felt betrayed. He wondered if she had been like this for the last three years. Slouching around in any old clothes, with her hair not properly brushed and make up thrown on from a bucket.

That would all have to change now if they were to continue going out together. He didn’t want to be seen out with her if she was going to look like this. She was a mess. Just then she put a piece of paper in his hand. The writing on it made him feel guilty immediately.

“Sorry I look a bit of a mess, but I was in the bath when the nurse rang, and I just grabbed the nearest clothes I could find, and came straight down here. I don’t normally look like this, honest, so stop giving me those funny looks! :-D”

Mark was totally deflated. His high moral ground had crumbled beneath him. His resolve to take charge of the situation, and her, had deserted him. He was the helpless blind boy once more, even though he could see, and he meekly followed her out to the ambulance, holding on to her as he always had, with his arm locked through her elbow, to make sure she could guide him safely.

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So  I write a little but am still new, especially short stories and hope it's OK to post here's it'll probably be a bit trash.

I love short stories! As a writer and as a reader. As a NaNoWriMo challenge I wrote short stories collection. In December I wrote another short story and now I'm adapting it into an animated short film script. I didn't share any of my stories yet. And this is one of my main goals for 2021: to overcome shyness and share! 

Hi I am an absolute beginner and have written a few short stories, is this forum suitable for my level?

If anyone is interested in looking at work by a complete newly please let me know.

Thanks


Hi Folks,

I am a happy creator of romantic smut (do we have to call it erotic fiction?), and I have a few short stories I'd love some constructive criticism on. Before I post, though, just wanted to check. Is this group smut-friendly? I totally understand if the answer is no, and in that case, didn't want to put forth some perfectly good smut and then have someone's reaction be EW! I AM MENTALLY SCARRED FOR LIFE! I am committed to being appropriate to my audience(s).

Just published a collection of seventeen of my stories as an eBook on Kindle. I‘ve called it The Late Shift Specialist. I hope you’ll like them. Do let me know what you think, either way, if you have time and inclination. Thanks, guys.

Hi Harvey and members,

I have a short story to offer to the group for feedback. It is currently offered to a couple of competitions, but regarding publication, I do have a somewhat pathetic strike rate-12 out of 76. Towards the end, I change the POV. Not sure how well that works. It's titled Leaving Without Looking Back-1500 words

Bryan

Hi everyone. I'm new to the group today, though I've been with JW for over a year. Just published my first novel ( a crime thriller set in Crete called The Unforgiving Stone) but I'm also interested in short stories and have written over twenty. I'm planning to publish a collection of these as an eBook in a few weeks' time. It'll be called The Late Shift Specialist. Here's one as a taster: The Garage Job. 

Schoolboy Kit lands a cushy weekend job with some lovable rogues, but, when events take a shocking turn, he has to question his ideas of right and wrong. 

Do let me know what you think.

https://www.alexdunlevy.com/newsletter-garage-job.pdf

Best regards,

Alex




Hi guys, hope you are all well. Haven't been on this site for too long (definitely not actively, though I've been on one or two of the JW courses etc). Anyway, thought I'd put this short story on the site to 'test the water'. It was written a few years ago in what seems a simpler and almost nostalgic time (pre-covid, pre-brexit, pre-a lot of things really. How times fly.

From what I recall it was a short story competition entry about creating a new fairy tale about London. There is a myth that if the Ravens leave the Tower of London, then The Crown will fall, and that, I guess is what this is all about - sort of... Anyway, if I remember rightly I'd been reading some Neil Gaiman and 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' at the time which may or may not explain something. Enough excuses - This is called:

"The Unkindness of Ravens"

Once upon a short time ago, beneath a blanket of night four ravens met. Wind wails as they eyed each other suspiciously. Their names were George, Grog, Rhys and Mabel.

A street-lamp fizzes overhead.

Rhys finally speaks, "No-one saw you?"

"Next stop the taxidermist tray?" George squirms, "No chance!"

"Why here? Why now?" Grog grumbles.

Rhys glances at Mabel who utters a single, chilling word, "Insurrection."

The street-lamp flickers and dies.

George and Grog are silent.

“Revenge?” smirks George, “For real!”

"London looks after its own," Mabel sighs, "but she’s forgetful, needs reminding."

"This is the time!" Grog chuckles excitedly, hopping from foot to foot.

“We are London’s Guardians,” Mabel continues, "Our duty is to help her. You sure about these two?”

The street-lamp fizzes into life.

Mabel nods, "It is decided."

With that, she launches herself northwards.

Rhys bows to George and Grog then flies south. George and Grog then take flight: George going east and Grog west.

Insurrection had wings.

****

Outside The Tower of London, a glassy frost lay on the ground. Bells chimed seven times and in the raven enclosure, the largest, proudest of the brood opens its steel sharp beak, bellows, “Ready!”

A flurry of feathers and the ravens circle the grounds.

Below, each raven spied the blood-red tailcoats of the Yeomen and Raven Master before landing on the pedicured grounds.

Today would be unforgettable.

Every raven scanned the sky while pecking and prodding the frosty ground searching for food.

Naturally, the ravens were the first to see the tiny black specks in the distance and hear the low shrieking calls carried on the winter sky. 

Soon the humans spotted them too. Tiny spots gathered above them, growing larger, then raven-like. Two ravens became four multiplying until there were too many to count. The sky was a carpet of black as long as a football pitch, and loud as match day. And still it grew.

"Ravens United.. LOL! " one joker tweeted.

Soon the grounds were alive with a scratchy whooping chorus. Ravens churned like bubbling oil, and trapped in the slick, the topcoats of guards bobbing up and down as ankles were beaked and pecked mercilessly.

The media drank in the spectacle, viewers checked calendars to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool stunt. Others mumbled doom-laden omens.

Quick as the flood of ravens arrived, it’d gone.

Not a single feather remained.

Social media was alive with speculation about what this meant: Would The Crown really fall? Was some kind of abdication in the ether? But more importantly, “Where were the bloody ravens?”

Pretty quickly, ravens became all the rage.

The Queen called Downing Street, the PM convened cabinet, and they called for… an inquiry.

Interviewers snubbed Hollywood in favour of ornithologists and twitchers. Journalists plundered arcane sources of information and anyone who'd ever fed a bird was touted as an ‘expert’.

Everyone had suggestions, but nothing worked. No-one knew where the heck they were. Or how to get them back.

Day One: The ravens' favourite foods were food-parcelled to the grounds.

Day Two: Kestrel trainers swung lures over their heads 24/7 to entice the ravens home.

The Palace grew anxious and the Queen refused to watch Countryfile, in case her "blessed birds" were mentioned... Emmerdale and The Archers became hits with hastily improvised raven-storylines. Even Corronation Street swindled in a ‘retired Yeoman’ subplot into the mix. Eastenders tried to get in on the act but the writers couldn't quite figure how to merge Peggy Mitchell or Phil for that matter, a garage and a Raven's appearance into the mix - Hollywood CGI might've helped cut the mustard but the producers just didn't have the budget. So..

The world wobbled uncomfortably.

Then half way through day three something otherwise unremarkable happened: A twelve-year-old called in to Tony Kincade’s talk radio spot:

"Hi Tony," the kid stammered, "I'm calling about the ravens."

"Everyone is… What’s your idea?"

"Well,” the kid stuttered, "We should all say sorry to each other."

"You what?"

"My teacher says that many ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, right. And that doesn't seem fair. I mean, they're birds, they don't know what's kind and what's not, so, we're blaming them for just doing what they're meant to..."

"I hear what you're saying, but..."

But the kid seemed undaunted but quickened his words. In the background a bell could be heard, "So maybe we need to call it something else. I'd feel bad if I was always told that a group of us is not nice, and anyway, if you feel bad about being unkind to someone, you... say, sorry..."

"And that’s what we should do?" Kincade sniggered, "Just say sorry?"

"Maybe they'll see we mean it and return. If not, at least we’ll feel a bit better."

The kid abruptly ended the call - he was going to be late for his next lesson - leaving Kincade in silence.

Then Kincade smiled, "What do you think, people? Let’s ‘av’it. Should we I don't know, ah sod it folks, let's make HashtagJustSaySorry happen!"

The broadcast got reported, repeated, and facebooked and re-tweeted. Even before the end of the kid’s next lesson HashtagJustSaySorry had built up pace and shockingly started going viral.

Even the Queen played it twice on her IPad before personally phoning Number 10.

The PM listened and choked, "But we have an inquiry to..."

He was about to argue the point forcefully when his aide reminded him who he was speaking to. The PM meekly answered, "Right away, Ma'am."

Hotlines buzzed with many languages, some growled, "From a child," others shrugged and finally answered, “Why not."

Five raven-less days was too much. Three was bad enough.

 So, on Day Four, at 11 o'clock, HashtagJustSaySorry occurred.

 ****

10:30am (BST): Roads are cleared for cavalcades to reach the place of Mutually Agreed Apology.

10:49am: The first dignitary cautiously arrived, glad to be the first since this would show they were ‘up for it’ as the kids would no doubt call it, but also cursing his earliness.

10:55am: Long-mutual enemies edged towards each other. Religious leaders of all denominations pixie-stepped towards those that until that point were in acid opposition. 

10:56am: Feuding neighbours nodded at each other, began saying, “This has gone on too long.” Most, if the truth be told, had no idea why all the fighting and bad-word bantering had actually begun in the first place, and even if they could, maybe now wasn't the right time to bring it up.

10:57am: Hands quiver readying themselves to shake another while saying that word. Sorry does seem the hardest word.

10:58am: Cameras take sneaky-peak searches for anything remotely Corvid in the background. Nothing.

10:59am: The world waits.

Finally…

11:00am: Bells chime; a Mexican wave of handshakes and a single, sincerely spoken word echoes across the globe:

“Sorry!”

For a second, everyone forgets about ravens and enjoys the warm flood of joy coursing through them. Even the PM chokes back a tear. For a second the world felt fuzzy, warm, safe.

That kid was right; saying sorry really did feel good.

Then, everyone coughed… Everyone remembered: Ravens!

****

Had it worked?

Everyone waited.

Screens across the globe showed a continuous unending screensaver of empty sky above the Tower.

Then… 

“Over there!”

Cameras frantically spun, woozily focusing on a distant black dot. It grew gradually becoming a non-descript black bird, then…

“It looks like… I think it is…. It is. It definitely is a… Raven. Wherever you’re watching, I’m happy to report… The… Ravens… are… back!”

The ravens chuckled as they listened to the jubilant celebrations below.

Grog and George smile, “Home at last!” then chows down on his luxury rations.