Read, Write, Pass


During the MA Professional Writing ‘Novel’ module, we created a selection of collaborative stories. We started, as you’d expect, with a beginning, then a middle, followed by an end (not forgetting the inciting incident, of course); we threw in a timer for some added pressure and learned what happened when seven writers try to write one story. Genius or nonsense? You decide. We certainly had fun and managed to write seven stories in just under an hour.  Here is the first one and here the second one.


Part Three: Birds of a Feather


 The queue inched forward. She tried to assess which of the border officers to go for. Hot flushes were passing over her in unnerving frequency and the bloody parrot in her armpit meant she couldn’t take off her sweat-shirt. Eventually, she got to the front of the queue and both border guards were free. She went for the young guy with the beard. He looked so bored she figured he wouldn’t notice her distress. She felt she was wearing her guilt as brightly as the red feathers on that bird’s head. 

            ‘Move to the side,’ he said. ‘We’ll need to search your bags.’

            Frankie did as she was told and moved towards the area the guard pointed to.

            ‘Place you bags here, please.’

            She did as instructed. I hope they only look in my bag, she thought. I don’t really want them to find Gilbert. It would be too awkward to explain what he’s doing there. Just then, she felt a movement starting in her armpit. A slight ruffle of a feather, followed by a trembling. More feathers fluttering now. She knew what usually followed this and had no way of stopping it. 

            She felt herself die inside as the squawk emanated from her armpit. 

            ‘It does that when I’m sweating. It’s a rare condition.’

            The guard didn’t look convinced, but carried on looking through her bags. He then held up a bright pink sex toy. Her cheeks flushed the same colour. 

‘It’s…um… Do I really have to say what it is?’ 

The guard looked at her for a moment and she could swear he was looking at the movement in her armpit. Finally, he put the toy back and went to check her second bag. 

The moment he’d finished with her bags she ran through the barrier, thanking God Gilbert had not been discovered. Just then, she heard a noise behind her. A man was standing with his hands in the air, several guards pointing their guns at him. In his case, dozens of toilet paper tubes could be seen, each containing a brightly coloured budgie.

Fourteen months later, Frankie awoke as usual to a dank cell and proceeded to smash out her usual morning routine of push-ups, pull-ups and crunches. She notched another tally-mark on the wall and went outside her cell to line up with the other inmates for role-call. 

‘Work detail, one hour,’ shouted the guard. Frankie went out to tend to the garden. Later, during exercise. She was walking the perimeter of the fence that bordered the yard of the men’s minimum security prison for customs offences. She saw a devastatingly handsome older gentleman driving a stake into the ground. It was the budgie man from the airport.

‘It’s you,’ he said, his eyes alive with desire. ‘I was just setting up this birdhouse I made in the workshop, but I have no way of attracting birds without any seeds. 

‘Well, as it happens,’ said Frankie, ‘I’ve been planting seeds in the garden during work-detail. I’d be happy to share them with you for your birdhouse.’

‘What a fine idea,’ the man said, then: ‘How long did they give you?’

‘Fifteen years,’ said Frankie.

The man smiled. ‘Plenty of time to get to know someone.’

Frankie smiled back. ‘Yes, plenty.’

by Alison Frater, Yage Nieuwmeijer, Harry Webster, Alex Mawson-Harris, Evelyn Gascoyne, Nicki Wheeler and Amy Lilwall