All stories

Eddie Bear #2

by Russ

‘Erm, I think it’s…’

I was ignored, which was frustrating but understandable, everyone was in a fluster. The kid was screaming; Mum was rifling through bags at a frenzy, their contents tumbling onto the pavement; strangers were hesitating as they passed, feeling an impulse to help but overriding it in the cause of self-preservation.

‘Don’t panic, baby,’ Mum said, panicking. ‘Eddie Bear will be here somewhere!’ Following under her breath with ‘It fucking better.’ Occasionally her head would lift so she could scan the surrounding floor for the escaped bag of stuffing.

‘I think, if you…’

This time she batted me away with one hand. Not in a rough way, more distractedly than anything, a clumsy sort of stroke down my face. There was affection, I could tell. I thought I’d try again while I had her attention.

‘Honestly, I think we just need…’

She cut me short with her hand again, this time not quite reaching but supplementing the gesture with a shushing sound that fell somewhere between soothing and stern. I took it as it was intended, she had her hands pretty full with the distraught daughter. I knew the pecking order.

Thing is, I knew exactly where Eddie was, and so did the kid. We made eye contact when she pitched him away as we passed the Elephant & Castle. I always knew the Elephant & Castle, I’d had plenty of refreshment in there on trips out with Dad. I did shout up at the time but nobody seemed to think it was an issue back then, not even the kid.

‘I’m so sorry, baby,’ you could hear the fear in Mum’s voice as she abandoned the bags and picked the kid up instead. ‘We must have left Eddie Bear at home.’

The kid looked at me, I looked at the kid, and we both looked at Mum who was failing miserably to keep her poker face. The kid let her head drop until her face was right next to Mum’s ear, opened her toothless mouth, and roared.

I opened my mouth to try again, then stopped, lapping the words back up while I considered mounting a solo quest to fetch the toy and cease the tantrum. I knew I wouldn’t get ten paces before Mum started panicking for a new reason, and I couldn’t let her do that while she was holding the kid, even if a quick bounce on the floor might do it some good.

There was nothing left for it.

‘We need to go back,’ I yelled, as assertively as I could without causing more alarm. ‘Eddie Bear is over there,’ I stiffened and pointed with my nose. ‘This way. This way!’

Mum was now staring straight at me and waving her arms towards the floor in a way I knew meant I should calm down. I stopped talking but motioned to walk back in the direction of the pub.

‘What it is, Jasper?’ she said. ‘What are you barking at?’

This was my opportunity, I pulled against my leash, paused as it went taught, and pulled again. Mum put the kid into her pram, turned it around, and motioned that I should lead.

‘Let’s go! Let’s go to Eddie Bear!!’ I yelled into the wind, waving my tail behind me.

Esme, the Chaste

by James

I was wearied to the bone, the welts raked across my neck were aching abominably, but even as I fleetingly considered abandoning my horse in the courtyard and staggering to my chambers the voice of my old mentor began to nag through my mind. Horse first, lad, and then your own comfort. I guided the mare towards the castle stables, found an empty stall and then began the laborious task of settling her in for the night. Tackle off, nosebag on, water poured, and then the stroke, stroke, stroke of brush through her hair as I smoothed free the dirt and the dust of the road.

Her comfort satisfied, I turned to my own. A trip to the guardroom to gather meat and cheese and ale from the permanent spread set out for the guards of the castle. It was bright and noisy and warm, the atmosphere thick with drink and men’s laughter. I thought I might have snuck in unseen but as I began to hack at a loaf of hard bread I could hear the sniggering begin.

They were laughing of my latest “quest”, sniggering the name of the Sir Reginald’s daughter. Oh Esme. Esme the Chaste, only the way they all muttered the word, it came out as “chased”, and that set their laughing tones to outright mockery.

Esme the chased? More like Esme the throw herself down in the bushes and-

I escaped with my food and trudged my weary steps up to my chamber. It was wonderful inside; the fire was crackling merrily, and joy of joys, a basin of steaming water awaited me. A bottle of light spring wine sat on the table, and next to it was set a fine silver cup. These quests of Sir Reginald were thankless, but the rewards could be wonderful.

The wine fortified my spirits. I stripped my soiled garments from my body and washed some of the stress and strain from my face with the hot water. A mistake. The sting of the water as it found the marks on my neck cut through my pleasant mood and I felt a tremble come to my belly at the thought of the knife as it whipped past my ear and plunged itself into the rough wood of the door in that tumbledown cottage.

After that, my fury had known no limit and I had easily bested the ruffian I had found within. There was a man would never both my lord’s daughter with his unwanted advances again. I dabbed my neck with a cloth, wincing as I did so. Esme the Chaste was a wildcat, and no mistake.

I settled down at last for food when an apologetic tap sounded at my door. It was Sir Reginald. He cleared his throat. He thanked me for my fine efforts in rescuing his daughter from the clutches of that beast. Several seconds of silence followed and my spirits sank.

Esme needed rescuing again?


Time to grow up

by Dan

Why did Ed look forward to their holidays so much, when they were always so predictable? It would start with the forecast of unending sunshine on the weather app about a week, then day by day with the recognition of ages, he'd watch the clouds and rain drop graphics until only one day of the week,Thursday remained with a sun graphic on the forecast.

When they got there, his eldest - Bryony - spent the whole week re-affirming that she had not asked to be born and staring at her phone, or tutting in disgust at his suggestions that they go to the petting zoo or one of Wales's 9 billion ruined castles.

Dylan - his son and middle child - would spend the week in a wetsuit befriending local kids and loving every minute but with little spare time for the bonding moments Ed fondly dreamed of. His youngest daughter Flavia (named after her Italian maternal grandmother) meanwhile dreamed endlessly of a magical tatty souvenir shop in which one day she'd achieve her lifetime quest of finding anything, a keyring even, with her name on it.

His wife Guilia who had not spent her childhood at the British seaside didn't feel love for rock pooling, sandy shoes and damp salty tee shirts the way he did although she tried mightily. In all, while not disastrous their summers at the seaside never quite matched the heights of the myth Ed had built round his own imagined youthful holidays and it made him unaccountably angry with them all.

On the second morning when Bryony refused to play nicely with her little sister, Ed's veneer of easy-going dadness cracked hopelessly and he shouted at the 14 year old that it was"about time she fucking grew up".

On the second afternoon during a miserable squall Ed sat on the beach. He was moodily building an intricate drainage system for his latest sand castle system when he noticed that Flavia who had been whingeing about getting wet had gone missing.

Within seconds he'd have settled for complacent familial disgruntlement. As panic and desperation seeped through his defences like waves through his sandcastle’s ramparts, he ran the length of the beach kicking small boy's body boards aside in desperation.

Where was Dylan?

Where was Giulia?

Where was fucking Bryony?

Of course if he'd been able to think straight he'd have remembered Dylanwas playing crazy golf with his holiday mates, Giulia had gone back to the cottage for a lie down and Bryony had gone for a misery filled mooch around the shops.

Ed cried out to the coastguards who immediately started a search but it was hours, or at least a full five minutes before, a small girl was spotted upon the shoulders of the weird but harmless old beachcomber guy who was carrying her back to safety from the rockpools.

Ed cried real tears of happiness as Flavia was handed to him and it also struck him that it was fortunate for him that Giulia had not been around. He would never be such an arse about the seaside again he decided.

"oh my brave girl," he declared, hugging his oblivious daughter happily before turning to see his other daughter Bryony who had arrived beside them with studied nonchalance.

in her hand was a gift for her younger sister: a pink plastic unicorn decorated with shells and the name Flavia written upon it in glittery writing.

"you are absolutely brilliant Bryony," said Ed before squeezing her shoulder in the way she would find least embarrassing and turning towards the crazy golf to reunite his family.


by Jenny

There! There was the beast! Its dripping maw gaped wide when it saw Sir Dagonet perched upon the high rocky cliff face, and it roared tongues of flame and fury as it charged through the air. Sir Dagonet had seconds to act as the beast flew towards him. He threw himself from the precipice, plunging down, down into the cavernous abyss.

But, at the very last second, he landed on the beast's back just as it lunged at the spot he had been standing seconds before. Maddened by rage the beast lurched around to attack, but Sir Dagonet was too quick. With a single stroke of his mighty sword he lopped the head from the beast’s neck and leaped to safety and to victory.

Now he could return to the castle with the beast’s head, his quest fulfilled, to claim the hand of the King’s daughter, the beauteous Princess Felicity at last.

Oliver closed the book and leaped up, ready to take on all the dragons and beasts the world could throw at him. He ran downstairs and out through the front door with a half-hearted cry to his mum.

It was week two of the school holidays. Ahead lay four more weeks of perfect unbroken sunshine and time to do exactly as he pleased. Mum was too busy with work to pay much attention to what he did, so Oliver had the run of the village until the streetlights came on. Then he had to be home for tea, bath and bed.

He ran down to the river swooshing at the beasts with a large wooden stick bellowing and leaping. He had a lot of adventure stories, but Sir Dagonet was his favourite. He loved the idea of the brave underdog defying the odds to win the day.

He wasn’t really sure about Princess Felicity, because girls were gross and he wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to do with her once he got her, but he was happy slaying beasts and not really worrying about what came after..

Oliver soon found himself on the bridge, hemmed in by its high stone walls. But his feet found footholds in the stone, and, with a bit of a scramble, he soon found himself staring down at the rushing water below, the wind blowing in his hair and the sun beating down upon his face.

Exactly as he imagined the heat of the roaring tongues of flame and fury must have felt for Sir Dagonet.

He was too high and he knew it, but now he could see the beast’s burning eyes, hear the thunder of its roar when it saw that he, Sir Oliver had come for him. He forgot the height and stood fast as the beast turned and charged through the air towards him.

Timing, Oliver knew, was everything. He waited until the beast was nearly upon him, just like Sir Dagonet. Then, summoning every last drop of knightly courage, he leaned just a little too far out to swipe at the beast's sinuous neck, stepped one foot just a little too close to the edge...

And brave Sir Oliver slipped and tumbled into the abyss, waiting for a sturdy, scaly, monstrous back to catch him up and break his fall.