You still have until Dec 31 to vote for your favourite story in the Brentwood Gazetteshort story competition.
Writers had to pen a tale in 250 words that included beer in some way. This Senior Scribes category of ourcompetition, for those aged 18 and older, was sponsored by Brentwood Brewing Company.
Send us your choice to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Xmas Lights By Veronica de Heer
SHE was walking along looking in the shop windows at the glitter and sparkle associated with the run-up to Xmas and then she was flying through the air.
Her shoes had caught on a cobble and she'd failed to right herself. She landed with a thump on the hard stone.
Hurt, dazed and feeling rather foolish, she managed to get herself into a sitting position.
Two kind passers-by loomed over her, offering to help her up.
With their assistance she found herself bruised and battered but upright.
Her leather handbag was scuffed and one of the fastenings had broken off.
Her jeans weren't torn, but she wasn't sure if her knee was still in one piece or not.
A thin line of blood trickled across her palm.
She limped to the pub where she'd agreed to meet her husband.
In one dramatic fall she'd gone from an agile fifty 50-year-old to a veritable OAP.
He was standing at the bar with that familiar expression that says, "I've ordered my beer, what are you having?"
She mouthed across the noise that she'd fallen over and hurt herself. No longer trying to hide her fear she went to the ladies to inspect the damage.
She emerged grateful that her knee seemed to be intact if swollen and badly bruised.
Later, fortified by a brandy and with the aid of a new fold-out walking stick, she stood watching the switching on of the magical Xmas lights.
Expiration By Frances Clamp
"GO to hell," said the bishop. I stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind me. He was my father and you'd think he'd want to help me out of a tight spot. After all, I'd only asked for a measly hundred quid. He could well afford it.
Well, Let's be honest; I was a deep disappointment to him. My life of crime was well known and he was always trying to keep details away from the press. Anyway, after that I went to the nearest pub to drown my sorrows in a few beers and to plan how to raise the money before the heavy mob arrived. Gambling bosses don't have much sympathy with unpaid debts.
After leaving the pub I saw an off-licence. Only one man was working there and he' d just served someone with a crate of champagne. A useful wad of notes had changed hands. Excellent!
Pulling on my ever-handy balaclava I strode in, bringing out my replica gun. The man was terrified. In seconds I was behind the counter and emptying the till. Then, suddenly, I felt a whack on the head. That mild-looking little man had an iron bar hidden behind the counter. He used it with all the force he could. Then Everything went black.
That was how I ended up here. I'm making a real success of things now. The boss loves the schemes I think up.
"Go to hell," my father said, so I did!
Leaving By Julian Goode
HE opened the bottle, placed it on the table in front of his friend and sat down opposite him, saying nothing.
"I don't even like lager," was all the thanks he finally received.
"You looked like you needed something," said Tom. "It's all I had."
Quiet in the kitchen was broken by the rain lashing against the windows in the dark.
"You're dripping on my floor, you know? You want to take that off?"
A gloomy silence descended again.
"What is that you're wearing anyway?"
"Her poncho," the grunted reply.
Tom's expression was one that succeeded in drawing further explanation.
"It was by the door. I saw the weather as I stormed out, didn't want to go back in for a coat, so just picked this up."
"At least put the hood down," said Tom, suppressing a smirk. "You look ridiculous."
It was pulled back with an accompaniment of drips, wiped from the face with one hand, drink swilled from the other.
Tom didn't want to ask, but it was inevitable. "What happened this time?"
A huge sigh, then: "Don't say it like that. You make it sound trivial."
Tom rubbed his hands over his face, summoning his most tactful tone. "I don't know, you two are always arguing about something."
A long swig drained the drink, discarded without comment in one sweeping movement up and out of the chair.
"You off then already?" asked Tom.
"Better had. Before she notices I'm gone."
A Fine Palate By Richard Offer
SOME people like to race model cars, some like to weave raffia mats (weird or what!) but I like to drink beer… Well, to be specific, "real" ale. OK, I know it's something that most of the male population does on a fairly regular basis, but with me, it's not just the drinking; it's the tasting… the identification of the various flavours hidden within the ale.
My friends reckon that I'm a cross between an anorak and a wine snob. Tasting the ale requires the same palate as a wine drinker, except that to fully appreciate it, you have to glug it down your throat to get the true "finish". Catch a wine snob doing that!
"Just drink the bloody stuff," they say to me. "Can't you just drink it without all the slurping and sniffing?"
"But it's a hobby," I say plaintively. "Look, give it a go – you'll be well surprised."
One or two of my friends have taken my advice and eschewed the cold, fizzy, tasteless lager. Now we can't wait for the beer festivals to come around so that we can indulge our hobby.
We're especially pleased that there are as many new breweries opening up as there are older ones being swallowed by the big chains.
I haven't even got started on enthusing to them about draught cider.
A Quick Half By Sheila Melvin
HE decided to call in for a quick half. Looked in The Swan, saw Martin and thought "can't stand his moaning" so moved across the road to O'Neills.
Not one of his favourites but good enough.
No sooner on his stool when next to him slid Mavie, best mate of his ex-girlfriend.
He didn't want to talk to her either but didn't have a lot of option.
"Where you living now?"
"I'm still sharing with Dan."
"Things not settled yet?"
"What do you think?"
She made a sympathetic noise and looked down as people do when they want to say something but don't quite know how.
After a minute she started up again.
"Not seen Julie around?"
"No", he said, "but don't suppose you'd expect me to?"
He watched her discomfort.
"She hasn't been at work, had some sort of accident."
"Oh." He took another couple of swallows.
"They contacted her brother and he's been staying, looking after her."
He began to feel warm around the collar and loosened his tie.
Mavie was looking directly at him.
"I thought you should know."
"Why?" He finished his beer and shrugged on his jacket making ready to go.
"You seem to have been the last person to see her."
"I dropped her off and was waiting at the lights."
They looked at each other, taking measure of each other's thoughts.
"Yes, really," she said.
"Right," he said moving to the door, wondering who or what was waiting for him outside.
Ice Cold in London By Debbie Smith
"IT'S too big; you can't swing a cat in there."
"It's fine not too big and we haven't got a cat." Tom pushed the refrigerator into the pantry and stood back to admire it.
"It'll keep things cold; stop the milk going off for a start."
"Everything goes off in this heat! It won't work and I don't want it – it's new-fangled!"
George glared at his son and stamped off to listen to the wireless.
His father always resisted anything new, he was so pig-headed sometimes.
As Tom finished filling the refrigerator with food he noticed some bottles of beer on the pantry shelf.
He chuckled to himself. An idea had occurred to him – he'd enjoy that beer later.
That evening both men went outside to escape the heat indoors.
"D'you fancy a beer, Dad?"
"I do, son," said George, mopping his brow. "I've not known London this hot since before the war."
Tom handed his father an ice-cold bottle of beer.
George took a sip.
"Love a duck! This is good stuff, where did it come from?"
"The usual place. It tastes better because it's been in the refrigerator. Shame you think it's new-fangled, I'll take it back tomorrow," Tom said sadly.
"Oh!" George looked startled and then said hurriedly, "Well, it is new-fangled and I don't want it but we'll keep it for you. Er, is there any more beer in it? I think I'll have another one later."
The Price of a Pint By Claire Buckle
MICHAEL pushed open the door.
"Here we are, Dad. Welcome to my local."
Jumping Joe's greeted them with raucous laughter, loud conversation and pounding rock music.
Huge TVs slung on the walls, screened different ball games.
They weaved their way through the crowd, towards the bar.
"Beer?" Michael's voice rose above the noise.
"Wouldn't say no, lad."
It had taken Bill a day to adjust after the flight.
Now he was looking forward to a fortnight with Michael who'd recently relocated to Florida.
Bill had to admit, the endless blue skies, graceful palm trees and winter sunshine were captivating.
"Here we go." Michael handed a bottle of ice-cold lager and a large plastic cup to his father.
Bill raised his eyebrows at the substitute for a glass as he poured his drink.
"So, Dad, what do you think about my idea?"
"Not sure, Son. It's a big step at my age."
"But if you sold Cedar Cottage you could buy yourself a flat in the UK and a place here. Some of the owners of the condos near me are retired Brits – 'Snowbirds' escaping the cold winters. You'd fit right in."
Bill frowned as he glanced around at the sea of baseball caps and colourful Hawaiian shirts.
He sipped his beer and grimaced.
His mind wandered to a crackling log fire, threadbare carpet, sagging sofa, gentle conversation with his old pal Joe and Bessie pulling a pint of The Swan's finest, maltiest, tastiest Real Ale.
He knew his answer.
Bad Boy By Christine Sutton
SEEING the man lounging in the pub doorway, Laura did a double-take. Mike? No, it can't be. I put a knife in your ribs, left you lying in a pool of blood. You're supposed to be dead.
"Come on, lad," said Gentleman Jim Boyd, trying to squeeze past, "I'm spitting feathers 'ere. Let an old 'un get to his beer."
Mike didn't budge.
"I asked you to move," Jim said, jabbing at the exact spot where the knife had been plunged. Instead of doubling up Mike gave the old boy a shove, sending him sprawling. Laura had seen enough; she snatched up the phone.
"Bernie, it's Laura."
"Laura, sweetie!" Bernie trilled. "How was Oz?"
"Fine," she said curtly. "The point is, so's Mike. I left him with a breadknife in his heart, so what happened?"
Bernie chuckled. "Anya happened, my darling. Vetoed the whole storyline. Seems she and Mike, or rather his alter ego Jack Rich, have been having a fling. A whole year of fling. So the nation's favourite bad boy stays. Who'd be a scriptwriter, eh? Ciao, sweetie. Catch up soon."
Laura replaced the phone. A year? Tears welled in her eyes. On the TV, the scene had cut to the cemetery and the row of gravestones marking the last resting places of much-loved former Bankside characters. She swallowed hard. Time to add another, that of her two-timing boyfriend. Only this time his death scene was going to be a whole lot more realistic...
Mrs Robin's Christmas By Lianne Mizen
GENTLE white snowflakes fell from the sky forming soft crystal rugs and fences heaped high with snow.
Mrs Robin's beautiful
orange-red breast glowed as she puffed up her feathers to keep herself warm in the blistering wind.
She watched the snowfall from a shivering perch in a bush covered with tiny, red shiny berries that were almost frozen and covered in ice snow.
She excitedly hopped through the holly tree branches selecting the very best.
Mrs Robin decided it was time to go home and soared over glistening hedge banks and lonesome trees that shook their naked arms.
Cushions of crystal snow buried tearful strands of grass.
Robin hummed as she saw her magical brick house with twinkling lights glistening through the cosy window.
The huge *****ly tree smiled out at her Mrs Robin with his red and green twinkling eyes.
She tapped her beak on the window glaze and saw her little boy raced to turn the latch.
Dinner was dished up and Mrs Robin took her perch and ate more delicious berries, cheese cubes, seeds, mealworms and juicy insects and washed it down with beer from a teacup.
There was silver and gold wrapping and pretty bows and ties around the presents.
Mrs Robin pecked the tie undone on her present to reveal a shiny teapot with leaves, grass, twigs and cotton wool inside.
Placed next to the blazing open fire; Mrs Robin went straight inside and fell asleep happy, with a full belly.