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Jan Hurst-Nicholson



If Only...

Idleness and Mischief were downing pints at their local pub and complaining about the lack of jobs.

At a nearby table, Hard Work and Perseverance were in earnest discussion about their next project. Opportunity joined them and offered some ideas, but advised they employ extra staff.

Luck arrived and, seeing Idleness and Mischief, she suggested them as likely candidates. But they had been joined by their good friend Misery and were so engrossed in consoling each other that they failed to hear Opportunity calling to them.

Luck and Opportunity gave disappointed sighs and simply passed them by as they left.

Deadly Error

The bestselling author was now frail and aged, but still producing books. Her only relative, a niece, moved in to help the old lady.

Three months later the author was found dead, an empty bottle of painkillers beside her. It seemed she had committed suicide. To support this theory the niece produced a suicide note typed on the author’s aged typewriter. On reading it the detective arrested the niece.

The note contained the phrase ‘I’m afraid my latest titel won’t sell.’

The niece was a child of the computer age. Unfortunately for her there is no spellcheck on a typewriter.

A Loathsome Job.

With a battle cry the Viking warrior swung his mighty axe and brought it crashing down, deftly severing the outstretched limb. A hated task - but it was his duty. It wasn’t his first – and it wouldn’t be his last.

It was heavy work, and even though there was a layer of snow on the ground he wiped the sweat from his brow as he leaned on the long-handled axe and surveyed his work.

Readying himself for the next one he raised the axe, but before he could bring it down a voice called, “That’s enough firewood for today, dear.'

All in the Planning

He’d planned it meticulously. She had the code to the vault. He wooed her and won her trust; promised to marry her - if only he had the money.

She could smuggle him into the vault on Friday. He’d load the money and valuables and leave the building during the night through an unlocked window. The theft wouldn’t be discovered until the following Monday.

She could join him overseas later.

Everything worked out as he’d planned - until he punched in the exit code to the vault. *Incorrect Code*.

He hadn’t planned on her seeing him with his real girlfriend.


Her constant whining drove him to distraction. On and on she went, stopping only for a momentary lull, and then she was off again. Whine, whine, whine. What more did she want of him? Hadn’t she had enough! Day and night whine, whine, whine. Provoked beyond endurance he snapped and let her have it.

Her blood spattered the wall. A satisfied silence followed. Finally he had peace and quiet. Calmly he disposed of the body and cleaned the wall.

While washing the blood from the murder weapon the handle broke. Drat. Now he’d have to buy a new mosquito swatter.


Was he getting rusty, slow? He was past pension age; maybe it was time to hand over to a younger man. He pondered on this as he set out on his usual route along the High Street.

“Your wallet old man – and hurry!' came the threatening command, a knife pointed menacingly at his chest.

There was a flurry of movement. Then, stepping over the writhing, groaning body of the would-be thief, the old man carefully re-adjusted the black belt under his coat.

Still quick enough for thugs like you, he thought with a satisfied smile, hurrying to his waiting pupils.

Lost at Sea

He overheard his young wife and her lover planning his demise - and what they’d do with his money.

He changed his will and bequeathed everything to Douglas L. Bradshaw. He left a note instructing his executor: “If I should die in mysterious circumstances have the police investigate my wife and her lover.'

Then he took his wife on a cruise. Two weeks into the holiday he disappeared during the night, believed to have fallen overboard and drowned. Despite a search his body was never recovered.

Douglas L. Bradshaw was at the inquest. The plastic surgery scars were healing nicely.

The Competition

As soon as the boy saw it he knew it would be a winner - but it was well out of reach. He stared longingly through the high fence surrounding the manicured private estate.

He saw his opportunity when the gates swished open and a shiny black Mercedes glided out. He quickly slipped inside, careful not to be seen. Technically he would be a thief.

It stood before him, laden with its huge spiky seeds. The biggest horse chestnut tree he’d ever seen. He hurriedly filled his pockets. Bound to be a ten-er amongst them.

He came. He saw. He ‘conkered’.


The poacher tracked the spoor for many kilometres. He knew the terrain from his years as a terrorist in the Rhodesian bush war. Emerging from the thicket of thorn trees he spotted his quarry across the open plain. A rhino and her calf. Her horn was worth a year’s pay.

He readied his rifle. A few paces forward and he took aim. The explosive sound was followed by the terror-stricken cry of the calf. It fled into the bush, followed by its panicked mother.

The poacher’s blood seeped into the dry earth, his body blown apart by the forgotten landmine.


“Why can’t you get a decent job?' “You’re useless.' “I don’t know why I married you,' she screamed endlessly.

Her name was Hellen and he called her Hell, because for 30 years that’s what she’d made his life.

She scoffed at his efforts to help cook and clean. “When will I ever please you?' he pleaded.

“When hell freezes over,' she sneered.

He bought her the new chest freezer she wanted, but she complained, “It’s not big enough.'

“Yes. It. Is,' he said, stuffing her body inside.

Smiling, he wondered how long it would take for Hell to freeze over.


“You look just like your father.'

“You take after your father.'

“Like father, like son.'

I grew up hearing it all the time. But I knew I could never become the calm, patient man who had raised me. Who had loved me even during my rebellious teen years when I’d hurled hurtful insults.

It was only after his funeral that I found the adoption papers. Everything fell into place. I finally understood that he had loved me for who I was, and not because he had spawned me. And I realised I loved him. If only I had told him.

Annual Holiday

For 25 years they’d argued over the holidays. He liked the sea. She liked the mountains. Each year they went to the beach. Now that the children were grown and had left home he decided it was time to holiday on a yacht. She didn’t argue. There were few passengers, but there was no privacy. The bunks were tiny and uncomfortable. The galley was crammed and awkward. She went up on deck. He joined her. “How do you like sailing?' he eagerly asked. There was a splash and muffled shout. Next year she would go to the mountains.


“You’re going to be the death of me!'

He heard it for the first time when his boyish exuberance resulted in a visit from the police. It was repeated when he was expelled from school; when he was sent to a remand centre; when a pregnant girlfriend turned up, and when drugs were found in his room.

He heard it for the final time as a ghostly whisper in his head after his mother refused to give him money and he stood over her crumpled body with a bloodied knife in his hand.

Finally, he’d lived up to her expectations.

The Job Application

I waited nervously for the sedate elderly man to finish reading my letter of application. With an ailing mother and four younger siblings to support, I desperately needed the job even if it would take me away from home. He was friendly and charming and my hopes rose. But then he enumerated his misgivings. I was far too young, I was too attractive, and it was not the life he would recommend for a young woman. I tried to argue, but the answer was still, no. Regretfully, he could not employ me as a stewardess on the newly-built SS Titanic.


Bill’s nerves were taut as he nosed the Spitfire down the runway, remembering his last flight after the war. But as the plane soared upwards his confidence returned. George had warned him to keep to simple manoeuvres. He circled the airfield to give his grandson a better view. But the manoeuvre sent the plane into a diving roll and it slammed into the ground. Two men raced over to the fallen aircraft, followed by a small anguished boy. Surveying the wreckage, Bill said despondently, “You were right, George. These model aeroplanes can be just as tricky as the real thing.'