In Competition No. 2863 you were invited to recast a well-known nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author. The entry was evenly split between prose and poetry but in general verse worked better. Commendations go to Chris Port, Mike Morrison, Max Ross, Nick MacKinnon, Adrian Fry and Mark Shelton. The winners earn £25 each. Chris O’Carroll takes £30.
Once upon a sturdy tuffet sat a maid
the world calls Muffet,
Dining on a wholesome bowl of dairy
oddments, curds with whey.
On a sudden, just beside her, she espied
a loathsome spider;
Cold abhorrence surged inside her.
She could find no words to say,
No ejaculations suited to convey her
Not a single word to say.
Vile arachnids, large and hairy, tender
lactovores find scary,
So the frighted maid abandoned all her
curds and all her whey.
Muffet gazed upon the spinner of silk
traps to snare its dinner,
Felt her vitals churn within her, knew
she could not stay and play.
In the presence of this insect-eating
fiend she dared not stay.
Up she sprang and ran away.
Chris O’Carroll/Edgar Allan Poe
Smiley shook out his umbrella before entering.
‘Raining,’ said the constable at the door. ‘Indeed pouring, if I may venture an opinion, sir.’
The old man lay in bed upstairs, making a gross, piggish noise. The room smelt of mothballs and a picture of Brighton Pavilion hung lopsidedly over the mantelpiece. A medic was already there.
‘Occipital damage,’ he said. ‘In lay terms, he bumped his head. Odd thing is, it seems to have happened after he went to bed.’
‘He’s in a coma?’
‘Probably. He certainly couldn’t get up this morning We’ll know more later.’
‘Snoring in a coma?’
‘That will happen if the airways become obstructed.’
Smiley watched the raindrops slide down the window, then vanish. It had the smell of one of Karla’s sandbaggers. Or was that too obvious? It could be a decoy, a trap. Either way, it would take all the tradecraft he had.
G.M. Davis/John le Carré
Legs doubling as fingers,
The spider felt its neat way
Into a downspout’s black maw.
Settled, it spun silk lashings
To work as a homely abattoir.
Tuned to a fly’s writhings
It sensed no sluice until
A bolt of water struck it down
And out into the bright air.
Then it was jetsam, grounded,
Limbs and body a draggled tangle:
It upped itself like a wet foal,
Touched drying land and ran
Frantic in its mortal panic
Out of the open light
And back inside the sheltering mouth.
W.J. Webster/Ted Hughes
He who would rodents three
Spare from disaster,
Let him, though blind they be,
Bid them run faster.
There’s naught so cruel in life
Than some foul farmer’s wife
Who wields her carving knife
To maim a mouse tail.
True ’tis, that lacking pace,
Three mice, unsighted,
Struck thus while giving chase
Now languish blighted.
So, pilgrims, armed with knives,
Forewarned of farmers’ wives,
Strike down whoever strives
To maim a mouse tail.
Alan Millard/John Bunyan
They fucked me up, those soldier chaps;
It may have been unwittingly,
Or then again — who knows? — perhaps
The bastards had it in for me.
They glued me back as best they could,
But got it wrong; they stuck my nose
Right up my arse, which isn’t good,
And testicles in place of toes.
So when they saw what they had done,
Did they apologise? Not half!
They thought it all tremendous fun —
Even their horses had to laugh.
If you’re an egg, avoid great falls;
You’d be irreparably cracked.
Take my advice: don’t sit on walls,
And try to keep your shell intact.
Brian Allgar/Philip Larkin
Is there anybody there, said the Blackbird
With a vengeful look in its eye,
While the smell of its baking colleagues
Rose up from the royal game pie.
But nobody answered the Blackbird;
No voice, downstairs or up,
Spoke out to admit to the plat du jour
On which they would shortly sup.
But the greedy King in his counting-house
And the pie-cook washing her smalls,
Plus the Queen with her bread and honey,
Had heard the Blackbird’s calls.
And they heard the screech of its fury, too,
And the sound of beak on bone
And how the birds began to sing
When the pie-cook’s nose was gone.
Martin Parker/Walter de la Mare
No 2866: prose poem
You are invited to pick a well-known poem and write a short story with the same title using the poem’s opening and closing lines to begin and end the story. Please email entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 17 September.