40 minutes stories · Short Stories

Hor mok hoy – Martha Supajirawatananon (40 Minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompt – Tell the story of the relationship between a chef and her signature dish. 

Hor mok hoy – Martha Supajirawatananon

Her heart sank when they announced her name for the award.

“And best all-time dish goes to…Suwanee “Sue” Supanburi for mussel hor mok hoy!”

Huge applause erupted all around with whoops from several of the scattered tables.  A shadow of a frown passed briefly over her face before erupting into surprise and delight as she felt the spotlight fall on her.  She stumbled up a bit too quickly and made her way to the stage.

“Kap kun ma ka, thank you so much!” she began.  “Thank you for this honour.  I am just so grateful.  I just never expected it to take off in this way.  I know one thing though, you’ve never forgotten it!  Thank you, thank you!”

She muddled her way back to her seat, award in tow, her friend next to her giving her a congratulatory nudge.  She continued to watch the rest of the show but with a furrow in her brow that progressively furrowed more and more deeply, despite her best efforts.

At the after party, Ben Smith, one of the judges, congratulated her.  “Sawadee kap,” he greeted her in his broad English accent.  “There really was no contest.  It was unanimous.  We can’t wait to sample more Thai delights in the new season.”  Suwanee smiled a smile that imperceptibly did not quite reach her eyes.  

Just then her agent, Sally Maxwell, blustered in, all red lips and big beads.  “About bloody time Ben!” she boomed.  “Finally, not only a woman, but a woman of colour!”

Ben’s face took on a pinkish hue.  “Yes, ahem,” he cleared his throat, “Well, it really is a splendid dish.”  He adjusted his collar and politely took his leave, muttering something about the arrival of a new plate of amuse bouche.

“Well,” said Sally, grasping Suwanee firmly by the shoulders and kissing her first on one cheek, then the other, “Isn’t this just wonderful?!”  She took out a rather large chintzy handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes.  Suwanee took a large gulp of her cocktail and nodded.

Sally gathered herself once again and said, “Well, that confirms it then.  They love your Thai.  So let’s have no more of this crazy French talk, okay darling?”

Suwanee disposed of her cocktail glass on a passing waiter’s tray.  “Sally, I’m lost for words,” she said sincerely.  “I’m going home.  Need to process.”

The taxi driver’s chatter was quite unwelcome.  Suwanee took a breath and feigned interest.

“What you got there?” he asked, his dark eyes falling on her trophy.

“Oh, it’s an award,” she said, accidentally nonchalantly.  “They love my home cooking.”  She gave a half giggle, half sob and an apologetic shrug of the shoulders.

“I got an award once,” the driver said, “for piloting.”

“Oh,” said Suwanee, puzzled.  “So how did you become a driver?”

“Well, people thought I drove better, so here I am…”

“Yes, here I am…” echoed Suwanee, heart breaking as she thought of next season’s Thai menu.


40 minutes stories · Short Stories

All Good Things – Luke Ryan (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompt – Tell the story of the men represented as statues in this photo: breadline

All Good Things by Luke Ryan

My grandchildren were staring at the photograph. Their first question wasn’t asking who the men in the picture were but why the picture was black and white. They were most amused to find out that photos weren’t always colour and lo and behold not always digital. They were equally amused when I told them that televisions used to be black and white and one had to get up and manually change the channel on the television before the advent of remote controls.

They had settled down after a sumptuous Sunday dinner prepared by my wife who despite now being into her eighty-first year, still navigated the kitchen like a prima ballerina, concocting the most glorious of recipes which were positively sinful for the family’s waistlines but nobody minded!

My wife was slowly nodding off after her morning efforts in the kitchen, helped by the crackling fire burning in the living room. The children’s parents had taken the opportunity to get some Christmas shopping done and I got to spend a few wonderful hours with two of my favourite people in the world, Michael aged nine and Elizabeth aged seven, though they were always known as Mikey and Betty in this household.

Once the novelty of the photograph being in black and white had worn off, their attention turned to the five gentlemen in the picture and who they were. And that has always been one of my favourite stories to tell. The picture itself was taken in 1959 by my mother when the most recent statue was added to the line, that being the statue at the back, my father Thomas Senior, I being Thomas Junior, though commonly called Tom in the family.

My father had died a few months before the photo was taken and befitting a man who had the position that he had, his statue was added to the line. He died quite young, in his early sixties though he looked older but years of working in coal-powered factories put many extra years on a man’s face.

The door in the photo, I told them, was one of the few doors on the main street of our small town without a name above it yet it was one of the most well-known doors in the town. It was the working men’s club and it had been open since the industrial revolution, providing a social outlet for the men of the town. Of course we have always had a great community spirit and women had long been allowed in the club, with the exception of the public bar which was strictly men only, though by the time I took over from my father, there were only a handful of the fossils which still solely frequented the public bar.

There were a couple of other bars in the town when I was younger, often favoured by the younger folk and the small number of more upwardly mobile, affluent people who chose to live in our quieter town and commute to the city every day. But the working men’s club was always where the life of the town was on any given evening.

The man, second left in the photo, was my grandfather, your great-grandfather, I told them. He was also Thomas and was the second Thomas Senior, my father being the third Thomas Senior when he was promoted upon my birth. My grandfather Thomas Senior died in 1938, not long before I was born. In fact my mother was pregnant with me at the time of his death. You know what pregnant means you two? They both nodded.

The man in the middle was the original Thomas Senior, the first of a line of Thomases in our family. Therefore he was my great-grandfather. Your grandmother and I, we had two daughters so unfortunately that’s where the line of Thomases ended I’m afraid. You wouldn’t want a mother called Thomas would you and they both chuckled.

The original Thomas Senior died sometime we think in 1916. He fought in World War 1 and his body was never found. When they made the statue, they had to get descriptions of him from his family. That’s why he appears taller than the rest of them. From what I’ve heard, he wasn’t particularly tall but he had a loud, booming voice that would easily fill a room, probably fill the town from what some people say. Everybody said the voice made him about five inches taller. Maybe that’s why the sculptor did it, or maybe after he had been away, fighting in the war for almost eighteen months, people couldn’t quite remember what he looked like. There were very few photos back then, far more important things to spend money on at that time.

The man on the second right is my great-great grandfather, William, I’m not sure when he died but I think it was in the late nineteenth century. It’s hard to try and remember all the dates. I’ve got it written down somewhere but it doesn’t matter for now. And finally the man on the right was my great-great uncle, Edward. He was William’s older brother and the founder of the working men’s club. He had no children so it was decided that William would take over when Edward died.

The children were still curious why these five men were lined up in the picture. Those five men have all been the president of the working men’s club at some stage I told them, one after another from the start of the line to the end of the line. No matter what was happening in the town, in the country, in the world, you always knew that whoever was the president would make sure it opened its doors every evening at five and always make sure there was some beer and maybe a nip of something a bit stronger for the men and women who worked hard to keep this town going, raise their kids, put food on the table come rain or shine.

These were working men themselves but it was with great pride that they ran the club day after day, year after year. Even if it was something as simple as making sure there was a pack of cards or a set of dominoes available, they kept the place ticking over. And when they died, their contribution was acknowledged with a statue.

Of course the club closed down many years ago now. The mines closed, the factories closed and the town, well it felt as if it closed too. Of course it has picked up in recent years but people want coffee shops and internet cafes now, fancy wine bars and the like. Things change I guess and they have certainly changed a lot in my life time.

It’s shame now, those statues used to be cleaned and polished every week, now people use them to stick their chewing gum on or worse things which young ears don’t need to hear.

I was the last president of the working men’s club, I took over after my father died although I was still a young man back then, it had just always been part of my family. And it was with great regret that I had to close it some time ago. By then we couldn’t afford the rent to the council.

It’s a shame, as a boy I always looked upon the four men standing there with such pride as my father told me about them. I used to imagine that one day I would have my statue there and when my father’s statue was added in ’59, it gave me great comfort in my time of grieving that one day I would be standing behind him, upholding the tradition not just of our family, but of the town.

But I guess when I go, there won’t be many left around who will remember what those men stood for. So I’m telling you two in the hope that wherever you end up in life, that maybe one day you will bring your kids back to the town and you can tell them a little bit of your family history. But as the fire crackled away, Mikey and Betty had drifted off during the story and I decided that I too could do with a nap.

40 minutes stories · Short Stories

Pleased to Meet You – Luke Ryan (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompt: You are a homeless man that can hear other people’s thoughts. 

Pleased to Meet You by Luke Ryan

All I wanted was some heat, some warmth. Three degrees outside and I’m wearing a coat which I found in a clothes bin more than three years ago. I think my trousers are older. Still damp from the morning rain. Fucking rain beating in at an angle. Hard to find a doorway to protect against that. Should have gone around the other side of the block when I woke up but I was already wet. All I want is some warmth. One fucking seat on the tram, keep myself to myself, just want to get warm and dry.

Nobody else can keep themselves to themselves. I can hear what they say. Nobody believes me but I can. Gypsy blood is what barely courses through my veins. Gypsy blood and the knowledge that every person that has passed me today has wished me dead.

They are fucking horrified when somebody dies unnecessarily of course. The man in the local shop, stabbed in the chest during a robbery gone badly. It’s horrific. The family man driving home after a long day work, another vehicle ploughs into his, victim of a drunken driver half asleep at the wheel. Horrific. The climber, whose rope broke, falls to their death in the quarry. Horrific. They are horrified at the senseless nature of these killings and accidents. They wouldn’t wish anyone dead. Except me. Literally everyone today has wished me dead.

It’s always worse when it’s cold and wet. My clothes smell but the newer recycling bins where people can leave unwanted clothing are now better designed to prevent the likes of me getting it open to get some new clothing. Designed to keep out the people who would most benefit from getting something that the normal people no longer deem good enough or trendy enough for them to wear.

I have heard seven people thinking that it would be better for me to be dead this morning. One man actually whispered it to his wife. He didn’t need to because she had already been thinking it. Somebody thought that the transport company should have people going around to force any homeless people off public transport. It should be kept for respectable people she thought before thinking it would be better if I was dead.

It’s not so bad in the summer. I don’t get wished dead so often in the summer. I guess all the normal people are happier, with their nice new summer clothes billowing in the gentle summer breeze and they flutter about the city like wisps of fresh cotton candy, luxuriating in their pristine existence. Until they see me. The most common thought at those times is that the police should round up the homeless, take them to the poorer parts of the city, or get them away from the parks or the river front. Out of sight, out of mind. But at least not dead. Not in the summer.

Autumn and spring are much of a muchness. Generally I hear them thinking about the smell. And then a mix of the homeless should be isolated in some different part of time or the homeless should be killed. It often depends on the weather. The colder and rainier it is, the more likely it is I am wished dead rather than just relocated.

A lot of younger men, when out with friends and drunk at night, think it would be hilarious to urinate on me as I huddle into a doorway. Occasionally they actually say it to their friends. Fortunately the friends tell the guy to cop on and I feel relieved. One time a guy actually pissed on me. It woke me up. He was very drunk by the looks of it. The way he was slouching against the side of the doorway and his poor aim. I growled at him. He said sorry and immediately went away. He actually thought to himself that it was a bad thing to do. He actually felt bad about it and that he hadn’t seen me. Strangely, it felt quite nice that he had thought that as I wiped his urine from my face with my sleeve.

A lot of people think I must be on drugs, or a former addict, or an alcoholic. I’m not or never was addicted to any substance. I have never taken illegal drugs. Anyone who wants to pass comment of the state of drug and alcohol abuse need only gaze into the windows of the bars and clubs in the centre of any big city. I’m not saying there aren’t some homeless people who have been or still are addicts. But you’re just as likely to find somebody desperately scrounging together enough money for the cheapest bottle of liquor possible as you are likely to find somebody dressed to impress with a credit card to match it. A credit card to buy the fancy cocktails and chop up the marching powder.

I went from home owner to homeless because I made a mistake. I married the wrong woman and got talked into taking out a mortgage that we couldn’t manage and working in a job I hated to finance a lifestyle that she wanted while she was fucking somebody I didn’t know and when I lost my job, we lost the house. She took whatever meagre savings we had and fucked off with the kids. We couldn’t even afford a divorce. I still have my wedding ring in my pocket as a reminder. I could sell it but what would that get me, a couple of weeks in a hostel and some proper food. I would feel like I’m flying to close to the Sun. Once you get bogged down by this life, you get used to it. Doesn’t seem so bad.

Occasionally people look at me when I’m rooting through a bin and I hear thoughts such as, ‘poor bastard,’ or ‘Jesus he must be hungry.’ It’s quite rare to hear sympathetic comments, and even in such comments, I’m often referred to as a bastard.

One of the upshots of being able to hear other people’s thoughts is when you see fresh blood on the homeless scene. The new guys who are desperately on the prowl for food, clothing and somewhere warm to kip at night. They see me with my three year old coat, my filthy blanket and four or five sheets of cardboard and I hear them thinking, ‘that guy, he’s got it made.’ Sometimes I hear the drunkards and drug users among the homeless, as they make fleeting returns to consciousness look at me and think who the fuck does he think he is with his half eaten fucking burger and his sleeping bag.

One of those bastards stole the sleeping bag a few months ago. Poor bastard fell asleep inside it with a cigarette lit in his mouth. His head was half inside the sleeping bag and the thing burnt in minutes. The guy had melted sleeping bag burnt onto his skin as well as horrific first degree burns. He died a couple of days later. The fucking sleeping bag was ruined and they are like gold dust.

Do I regret things in my life? For sure but It could be worse. I know what you think and even if you’re not close enough for me to hear, I can have a pretty good guess at what you’re thinking. I know you can’t control it all the time. Society has made us that way. But next time you’re passing don’t be afraid to give me a little nod and maybe surprise me!