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Ken Magee

Answers the question 'what happens when ancient magic meets the Internet?


Ken Magee Merits

9 most prolific5 most esteemed5 top drabble

The Dancer

The music starts up, the crowd hushes and I begin my dance: strong, elegant and honed by years of training.

Happiness abounds, but not for me. I am so very sad. This is my life, as it has been since my birth, for I am the dancing bear.

One day I get sick and they don’t make me perform. I love not dancing, so the next day I pretend to be sick, and the next day too, and the next. Life now is so good, I wonder if feigning sickness hard enough would kill me.

That’s when I’d find happiness.

School Leavers

The school bell reverberated through the corridors. Principal Kirk stared out of her office window and watched the parent volunteers taking up their positions by the front gate. Lunchtime was always the riskiest period for runaways, but her new security measures seemed to be doing the trick.

Mind you, the CCTV cameras and special electronic locks had put a mighty dent in the school’s already-squeezed budget. And there had been a number of complaints about the electrified fence.

But in Kirk’s mind, it was money well-spent because it had been over a month since one of the teachers had escaped.

Holiday Calm

“This holiday’s doing you the world of good,' purred my wife as she stroked my arm lovingly.

“How do you mean?'

“Well, I’m seeing your softer side again.'

“Softer side?'

“Yeah, your angry side seems to be under control which makes you, ahmmm, much more manageable.'

Was it the sunshine, the food, the lack of stress?

I thought about her words. Softer. Under control. More manageable.

I checked the bathroom and realised that for two weeks I’d been mixing up the hair conditioner with the shower gel. Those little bottles all look the same when you’re not wearing your glasses.

Dealing with Apartheid

“You’re looking very happy.'

“Yeah, I’m still elated that apartheid has ended.'

“Everybody is.'

“But I’m particularly pleased because I never knew where I was meant to sit.'

“I know what you mean, nobody really thought about how apartheid was going to affect us zebras.'

“Anyway, they’ve changed the system so now nobody cares if you’re black or if you’re white, apparently everybody’s to be considered grey.'

“That’s all well and good but I’ve been told that there’re fifty shades of grey.'


“Well, it seems that all the light greys have to sit at the back of the bus.'

The Rhinoceros

The lion rushes towards me.

“Hey, Leo,' I say.

“Hey, Neal.'

“Please, not the Rhino Neal joke again, or I’ll make jokes about zodiac signs.'

Savanna banter, eh?

The excruciating pain rips through me just before I hear the crack of the rifle. I crash to the ground, blood spurting from my shattered shoulder.

The poachers swarm round me, sawing at my horns. Another bullet would be merciful but I guess they’re scared of alerting the park rangers. As they disappear back into the bush, large birds circle above me. Please let me die before they peck out my eyeballs.

Gym Ninja

The look she threw me mixed scorn and pity in equal measures.

“You promised me you’d sort out your weight.'

“I did,' I said, “and I have.'

“What have you done? You still eat too much, drink too much, and you and exercise are total strangers.'

“That’s a bit unfair,' I said. “I’ve become a gym ninja.'

“What the hell is a gym ninja?'

“Well,' I said, “if you look for me at the gym, you won’t find me.' And the voice in my head added ‘well played, gym ninja, well played.’

“Idiot,' she said as she walked away… forever.

The Perfect Drabble

I was so proud of my creation. I’d undoubtedly written the world’s greatest Drabble. No writer, future or past, could compete with my gem.

Similes bounced off the page like frantic fireworks. Emotions reached out of the story and squeezed tears from the readers’ hearts. And, to put the cherry on the cake, I’d already added the appropriate amount of alliteration.

But wait. There was a problem. The word count was wrong. I needed two more words to take me to the magic hundred. What could I do? Think, think. I know what the extra words should be… ‘the end’.


A cold fog drifted down the darkness of the Hollywood hills and engulfed everything in its murky gloom. The young actress clambered up a rickety maintenance ladder onto the big sign before swan-diving off the top of the letter H.

Another Hollywood dream dies.

Her broken body was found along with a single shoe and suicide note which read: ‘I am afraid. I am a coward. I am sorry for everything.’

The second shoe was never found although rumours say it is buried at the foot of the letter Y… a poignant reminder to keep your feet on the ground.

Universal Chicken Farm

In 1915, Carl Laemmle bought a 230 acre chicken ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles and built Universal film studios. He kept the chickens just in case the business failed.

Soon, Universal was raking in the money with nightmarish films like Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman.

Things were going so well, Carl gave the chickens to his uncle, a retired colonel, on the basis he’d pay for them when he could. The colonel’s business failed miserably. Apparently there was no appetite for Californian Fried Chicken so his uncle retired again and moved to Kentucky. The chicken loan was never repaid.

Paris Execution

It’s time… time to die. Life brought me to this place and this place will take my life.

“Last meal?' they bark.

“No,' I say. I have no appetite.

My ankle chains clank as I’m led shackled through the baying crowd.

“Last words?'

“No,' I say. I’ll not perform for the tricoteuses and sans-culottes.

Tears fill my eyes as I offer up a silent prayer to my maker.

‘Forgive me. Please let me see you when this is over.’

I kneel and immediately vomit when I see the face of my daughter staring dead-eyed at me from the blood-soaked basket.

Money from Nigeria

The Nigerian email seemed genuine although it was littered with spelling mistakes and bad grammar.

“It’s a scam,' said his wife.

“What d’you know?' he said as he hit the ‘send’ button and his bank details whooshed off into the Internet.

Within a day, cash arrived in his bank but this was no time for ‘I told you so’. He had been tricked, he’d expected twenty-three million pounds and he'd only got twenty-three million US dollars.

A man in Nigeria smiled. At last, someone had responded so he'd been able to return the UK aid before it was fraudulently taken.

Traingate for the Ordinary Man

“Tickets, please.'

“I’d like to complain.'


“This train is ram-packed, there aren’t enough seats.'

“You’re sitting in a seat, sir.'

“Yes, but what about my wife?'

“There’s an empty seat beside you.'

“Useless, my wife’s at home. Anyway, what if my whole family was here? Including great-grand-kids, there’d be seventy-nine of us.'

“A standard carriage only has seventy-four seats.'

“Exactly. Anyway, look at those people standing.'

“They’re waiting at the door to get off.'

“They should have seats.'

“Then passengers couldn’t get on or off.'

“You’re full of excuses, son.'

“You don’t have a ticket, do you?

“Not really.'


Last night’s storm had littered the beach with thousands of starfish. Ahead of me, a young boy stopped occasionally to throw one back into the ocean.

“They’ll die if left on the sand,' he told me when I caught up.

“There are too many, you’re not going to make much of a difference,' I said.

He tossed another starfish into the sea. “I made a difference to that one!'

He hadn’t seen the seals which were catching and eating every one he threw. I hadn’t the heart to tell him. He was too young to have his idealistic dreams crushed.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

“I’m sorry, he’s gone,' said the doctor. “We did everything we could.'

Sobs of sorrow filled the waiting room as the family digested the devastating news. Anger and sadness engulfed everyone in equal measures.

A different screaming and shouting could be heard in the administration section of the hospital.

“It was just unlucky,' said the young nurse.

“Change it now,' shouted the senior administrator.

The hospital would have to rethink its new time-saving policy regarding using nurses’ initials rather than their full names when filling in the patients’ charts.

Nurse David Neil Richardson would probably never get over the trauma.


They hadn’t been in my restaurant before.

“What would you like?' I said handing them menus.

“Actually, we’ve already decided.' They pointed at the seafood special poster.

“No problem.' It was synchronicity… or serendipity. My new recipe trialled by new people.

“Delicious,' they said as they left. “We’ll be back.'

No one else ordered the seafood special and I never saw my Guinea pigs again. I binned the seafood recipe and replaced it with vegetarian lasagne.

‘Couple Die of Food Poisoning’ proclaimed the newspaper headline a week later. ‘Authorities Investigating.’

Serendipity, indeed. I could have lost two of my regulars.

Not Taking the Fifth

“D’you know why I stopped you, sir?'

“Nope,' I said. “Wasn't really concentrating.'

“Not concentrating?'

“Too busy texting.'

“Texting, were we?'

“Yep, about the weed.'

“Cannabis user?'

“Nope,' I said, “grower and seller. I used to just grow but my partner died so now I sell too.'

“Mmmm,' said the cop, “I stopped you for doing thirty-eight in a thirty zone.'

“Not the murder?'

“You really shouldn't take the piss, but my shift’s about over and who needs the paperwork? On your way and drive carefully.'

“Thanks,' I said as I wondered where to bury the body in the boot.

Why We Must Leave the EU

Ignore the unwinnable debates about economics, migrants and sovereignty because, in all these areas, there’re perfectly reasonable arguments which back up either the ‘in’ or ‘out’ points of view. Instead, let’s examine some indisputable facts which will show why leaving the EU is the only option.

Romania is a member of the EU. Fact.

Transylvania is part of Romania. Fact.

Vampires come from Transylvania so they’re EU citizens. Fact.

All EU citizens have the right to free movement within the EU. Fact.

We must get out before the vampires arrive… although if we leave, garlic will probably be more expensive.

The Final Showdown

The clangs and clanks drew ever closer. The air vibrated with a deep metallic thunder and the ground itself throbbed. The enemy was close, it was just a matter of time before the epic battle would begin.

They stood proud, packed together closely, forming a perfect square – just like their forefathers and their forefathers’ forefathers had done. Ten thousand blades glistened in the sun. How could a mighty army such as theirs ever be defeated?

Within an hour, the carnage was over. It seemed that the lessons from history had still not been learnt. Flymo blades always beat grass blades.

The Carny Code

“There’re two dog foods in China.'

“Big deal, we've got hundreds here,' said my mate preparing for another beer-inspired debate.

“No. Two categories – one’s pet food and one’s for dogs you’re planning to eat.'


“Why ‘ugh’?'

“You shouldn't eat dogs, that’s why. It’s the Carny Code.'

“What? I remember that from the Simpsons. What've the rules governing carnival folk got to do with eating dogs?'

“Different Carny Code. I mean the code where carnivores don’t eat other carnivores.'

“What about lions? Lions eat people.'

“Only vegetarians and vegans.'

“I guess that’s why they’re the kings of jungle. They’re smart.'

Taking the Lead

I took my lead from him, unshed tears blurred my vision.

“It was his time,' he said.

The floodgates burst open and my uncontrollable sobbing started. Shoulders shuddering and heaving, I felt his arms pull me into the warmest hug I’ve felt since my dear wife passed away.

“It really was his time.'

He may have been right but neither his words nor his arms did anything to ease my grief.

I shuffled and stumbled to the door, avoiding the looks of the others in the waiting area. They knew the significance of leaving the vet’s with an empty lead.

The Science of Weather Forecasting

Deep in the bowels of the British Meteorological Office, two senior Met men met.

“We should discuss the accuracy of our forecasts.'

“Lack of accuracy, more like.'

“Exactly. We can’t predict the weather an hour ahead never mind a week.'

“And everyone knows ‘changeable’ just means we've no idea what’s happening.'

“Yeah, they say we should just look out the window.'

“How about getting a big computer, like the Americans have?'

“Way too expensive.'

“Fair point, maybe we should stick to how we've always done it.'

And so it was… fresh cow pats and willow sticks produced the next forecast.

Comfortable Silences

Time changes relationships, it does. In the early courting days with my now-wife, we were besotted with each other, we did everything together and shared our most intimate secrets. But what I valued above all, was our ability to enjoy comfortable silences. Some people need to fill every second with inane chatter, yet we could enjoy long periods of shared, blessed quiet.

As I said, things change, and not always for the better. For example, I haven’t spoken to my wife for over three months. She complains endlessly, because apparently now, silences aren't as comfortable as they used to be.


Our local council introduced fines for dog-walkers not carrying poo bags. Yesterday, Rover pooed and, as I pulled the bag from my pocket, a gust of wind snatched it from my grasp, depositing it in a nearby bush.

“Excuse me, sir,' said the council enforcement officer who’d appeared from nowhere. “That’s an £80 fine for not picking up your dog’s mess.'

I explained what’d happened.

“No bag? Another £80 fine.'

I explained again.

“Over there in the bush? Have an £80 fine for littering.'

Smiling smugly, he swivelled and marched off, straight through the poo. Priceless, but not worth £240.

Newspaper Headlines

The first news headline to catch my eye stated ‘UK Slipping Down Global League Tables in Mathematics, Reading and Science’. Apparently we’re languishing (a word few of our children would understand) behind Estonia and Poland. Why did the newspaper name those two countries? Who knows?

The next headline read ‘Overuse of Antibiotics is a Ticking Time Bomb’. It seems bacteria are cleverly adapting and becoming resistant. The growing resistance poses a bigger danger to the nation than terrorism.

Depressed, I stopped reading, it seems our kids are getting dumber, bacteria are getting smarter... this is not going to end well.

Lounger Lizards

The honour among lounger thieves is enforced on ordinary sunseekers. The power of the towel on a sunbed is undeniable.

Personally, I like to move towels. I sneak down after the fanatical thieves have bagged their loot, but before the amateurs have ventured forth. I reposition a couple of towels. These newly empty prime locations are soon snapped up by delighted amateurs.

Yesterday, the ensuing argument turned violent. One man was stabbed to death.

Some folk might say I was partly responsible. Maybe, but I certainly can’t take all the credit for ridding the world of another lounger lizard pest.

Cheaters Never Win

Brian had had the operation; more than one, actually.

Webbed feet came first, a simple procedure which added flaps of skin between his toes. Webbed hands followed. The lung enlargement came next and then a pair of gills. The back fin was the finale. It looked stunning, but it did frighten people at the beach, and the swimming pool for that matter.

The pain and the sacrifice had all been worthwhile. He won eight Commonwealth swimming gold medals. He was proud of himself and he’d achieved it without any performance enhancing drugs. Using drugs was cheating and he hated cheats.


The newspaper headline proclaimed, in big bold capitals, ‘Punch in head turns man into maths genius’. The article told how a college dropout who’d suffered a brain injury in a mugging had emerged from a coma to find himself transformed into an academic egghead.

Debates raged.

Cynics pooh-poohed the report. Theologians discussed miracles. Neurologists explored theories about brain re-wiring. Prison reformers considered the possibilities of the baton as a method of rehabilitation. Lexicographers devised another three letter acronym… ASS - acquired savant syndrome.

Thugs, on the other hand, invented a new threat. ‘Hey pal, do you want to be Einstein?’

The Leprechaun

“Hey mister.'

I lowered my gaze and found myself staring into the green eyes of a Leprechaun.

“Do you want to buy this magic jug? It endlessly refills itself.'

He demonstrated by pouring out glass after glass of delicious red wine. I drank until I could drink no more. Incredibly, the jug was still half full... same as it had been when he’d started pouring.

“Five pounds and it’s yours,' he said.

“I don’t think so,' I slurred.

I turned and walked away. Did the daft Irishman think he was going to sell me something which was always half empty?

The Show

“Today, Beth and Steve join us on the show,' announced the host, a cheesy grin spread like Dairylea across his face.


“Steve’s here to find out the results of the DNA test to tell if he’s the father of little Jamie. Beth says he is, but Steve says she’s been sleeping around, so God only knows who the father is.'


“So here are the results...' he opened the gold envelope.

“Steve,' pause for effect, “you are the father!'


“And hold on, this is unusual,' longer pause for bigger effect, “Beth you are not the mother.'

Rapturous cheers.

First flight

“Mum says we’re going to fly today.'


“Yes, fly. We’re birds, so that’s what we do, we fly,' said Bill, the stupid one, stating the bleeding obvious.

“But what about gravity... and aerodynamics?' said Bert, the clever one, analysing the problem. He understood the world.

“I don’t know, but Mum says it’s OK, so I'm off.'

“Don’t forget about Bernoulli's principle.'

Bill leapt from the nest and managed the short flight to the next door tree.

With questions weighing heavily on his mind, Bert leapt. The impact with the ground smashed his little face. He could have predicted that.

When authors kill

She said she hated him. She said she would break his arms. Then she said she would break his legs. After that, she said she would scream abuse at him and then she would kill him. Then she said she would have a glass of wine and toast his demise.

The claw hammer swished almost silently through the air and caught her with a sickening, bone-crushing blow on the nose. Her whole face exploded in a starburst of blood spatter; pasting the wall with a gory, dripping pattern of steaming brains.

"Show, don't tell," he whispered into the corpse's ear.

The recording (an actual recording found on a mad scientist’s Dictaphone)

"... and that's when I discovered that the time machine actually works.

"Let me explain what I'm doing. I'm recording this experiment on my Dictaphone. I'm doing it because this thing may well kill me. As well as that, I believe that time travel causes amnesia, so I need a record so I don't repeat any mistakes I make. Okay, here we go. I'm pressing the 'activation' button.

"Damn. Nothing. I obviously need to adjust the equipment parameters. First, I'm going to rewind and play this message to make sure that at least the sound on this thing is working."

Sisters, Sisters.

'Sisters, sisters. There were never such devoted sisters.'

The song lyrics resonated in her head as she stared through the glass. The nuns looked out of place here.

'When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome,'

"Will I ever be forgiven?" asked Sister Theresa.

"Definitely. He should never have touched me..." In front of you, she added silently.

"I don't have my glasses. What does your badge say?"

Sister Mary looked down. It was upside down to her, but she knew what it said.

'Arizona State. Death Row visitor.'

'And Lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man.'

This’ll be the day when I die

My knuckles tensed white as I gripped the bridge's outer railings. The wind lifted my hair and the crashing sound of rushing waters, hundreds of feet below, assaulted my ears. Thoughts of numerous pathetic attempts filled my brain.

'This time I will do it,' I told myself. 'No more failures.'

I leaned forward and let go. I accelerated earthward as gravity took a hold. Terror engulfed me, but serenity quickly replaced the fear.

Ironically, I'd never felt so alive.

'The bungee rope should tighten soon' was the last thought I ever had as my face smashed into the freezing water.

50 Shades of Denial

"Her best friend saw me out with a blonde."

"And that's when the row started?"

"No. 'Just business,' I said. Then she saw the love note."

"OK. The note sparked the row?"

"No. 'It's obviously a joke,' I said, but then she smelt the perfume."

"OK. The smell brought the hell?"

"No. 'Got squirted in a department store,' I said. That's when she found the panties."

"Right! That'll be the row now, then?"

"No. I told her they were a present. 'For me?' she asked. 'Nope,' I said, 'sure you'd never fit into those'. and that's when the row started."

The big gates

It was my first day. I held my mummy's hand tightly as we walked towards the big gates. Mummy was crying and I wasn't really sure why. There were loads of other mothers in the same situation, but that wasn't my problem.

"You have to be good and work hard," she said. "Pay attention to the sign."

I looked up and read the writing above the gate. black, wrought-iron letters, stark against the sky.

"Look Mummy, the 'B' is upside down. I can write better than that."

Her crying became inconsolable.

"Arbeit Macht Frei," it pronounced. "Work sets you free."

The naughty seat

He'd been a bad boy; a very bad boy. They needed to sort out his behaviour before it got out of hand.

First, they'd tried giving him a good telling off, but he'd just ignored them. Then they'd tried fining him. They'd even tried locking him in a small room for ever-increasing lengths of time. Nothing had worked, in fact his behaviour seemed to have got worse as each day passed. There was only one thing left to do. He had to go on the naughty seat.

The naughty seat always worked. Two thousand volts always sorted out their nonsense.

Not just for Christmas

He dropped the puppy and a big stone into the sack.

"You said you'd look after him. I'm off to the canal."

Sarah wailed and pleaded, but he was gone.

He parked just around the corner and opened the bag.

"Sorry pup, but she has to learn."

The puppy bit him and escaped.

No-one believed his story. He was jailed for animal cruelty once the Tetanus had healed. Sarah never forgave him. At fifteen she left home, got herself pregnant and developed a chronic alcohol problem.

And the puppy? He bought some boots, ran off to London and became mayor.

Peace on Earth, good will to all trees

The big fir stood tall, watching over his siblings; mere saplings really. Heaven.

Then the men with chainsaws arrived; cutting a swathe though the forest. Soon it was his turn. The harsh metal teeth ripped into his bark. They tore through his trunk. He fell; felled. He screamed silently for his mother; Mother Nature.

He was tossed unceremoniously onto a truck with other fallen comrades.


Then he was standing again, but the sky was gone. No wind. No friends. His roots amputated. Glittery foreign objects weighed heavy on his branches. This was hell on earth.

Please let me die.

Just one question.

"I'm so sorry, love, but your twin sister is going to die."

The little girl studied her daddy's face. Unshed tears filled her eyes.

"The only thing that can save her is a bone marrow transplant and you're the only match. So you're her only chance."

The doctor then explained the procedure. He explained the needle. He explained the pain.

The little girl listened intently, hugging her Daddy tightly all the while.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked.

"Yes, of course, she's my sister, but I have one question."

"What, love?"

"Do I die straight away?"

The seasick seagull

I bob up and down, rather majestically, on a wave. Up and down.

Baaaaaaarrfff. There I go, sick again. This is ludicrous. I'm constantly seasick and I'm supposed to be a SEA-gull, for goodness sake.

I can't take this anymore. There's nothing else for it. I spread my wings and start my funny little run across the top of the water. Eventually, I lift off gracefully before the next wave drifts in. I climb steadily up into the clear, blue sky and soon catch a warm air current. I soar, rather majestically, above the hateful ocean.

Baaaaaaarrfff. Damn this vertigo.

Trapped in a vicious cycle

I need to get home and I need to get home as quickly as I can. I really don't know where I am and I am frightened.

I race down the hill. I pray I'll find somewhere familiar soon. I spot the river. I've definitely seen it before. I follow its course. I round a bend and suddenly I see the sea. I'm nearly home; safe.

I fall into the cold embrace of my mother. She hardly notices that I'm back.

Then the sun comes out. Please, no. I'm evaporating. I rise towards the sky.

Bugger, here we go again.

The day the lawnmower turned.

His lawnmower had been a trusted friend and faithful servant for many years... very faithful, until the day it turned.

To be fair, it had always turned, because that's what rotary lawnmowers do. And, of course, it'd also turned at the corners of the lawn, because straight on would have destroyed the tulips and the lupins.

I am not talking about those happy days when they cut the grass together in the sunshine (the other man's grass was never greener or shorter). I'm talking about the day his lawnmower turned bad. That was the day he gave it the fingers.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem

The "Infinite Monkey Theorem" states that a monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will eventually type any given text, such as a complete William Shakespeare play.

To find out if this was true, I applied for a government research grant and then set thirty-five thousand monkeys off on the task.

After nineteen years, one monkey brought me a complete play, except he had 'Help Me' as the title instead of 'Hamlet'. That was pretty close, but I will keep the experiment going until one of the little primates gets it totally right.