Punchlines – the advice to the flash fiction writer is generally to avoid them. But sometimes it’s the best option. Our rather cryptic writing prompt at the Off the Cuff writing group was ‘I’ve got a hundred in the shed.’ A hundred what, we all wondered? It just begged a long wait and a punchline…
“It was a bargain, truly. Nobody could have turned down such an offer.” Mr Biggleswade, who fancied himself as a canny trader, was ecstatic.
Bernard, his young assistant and would-be business partner, tried to look enthusiastic but this was a crazy acquisition, even by Mr B’s standards.
“Do you think there’s enough demand, sir?” Bernard asked. It was important, he thought, to ask the obvious question. He would never say I-told-you-so if it all went awry – but it was business-like to enquire. “After all – the late war with the French…”
Mr Biggleswade shook his head. “Mark my words, young fella – they will sell like hot-cakes! And there will be no storage fees to pay, either. I have them all at home. It will be pure profit!”
“At home, sir?” Bernard was astonished. “But surely, Mrs Biggleswade…”
“I’ll grant you Mrs Biggleswade is not best pleased. But I explained to her that this is merely a temporary arrangement. I am master in my own household, you know.”
“Oh, sir!” Bernard was picturing the wrath of the fearsome Mrs Biggleswade. “But where can you have put them? It is a bulky consignment, is it not?”
“Anything can be done with good planning, lad. I have a hundred in the shed, which is a sizeable construction, as you know. They wouldn’t all fit in, so I have placed a handful in each bedroom – one has to show some consideration – a couple in the hall, a few more in the drawing-room, three in the pantry, a quantity in the cellar and a round dozen in the scullery. The last few are in the coal-shed, but the dust will come off quite easily.”
Bernard was stunned. “But the weight, sir. Can the house stand it?”
Mr Biggleswade waved this notion aside. “It is a sturdy building,” he said airily.
“And… you have a buyer for them?”
“Not yet, Bernard. But I am confident of a most advantageous deal at any moment.”
Bernard hoped so. And he knew Mrs Biggleswade would be hoping so, too. For himself, he doubted there was quite such a ready market for one hundred and fifty life-sized marble busts of Napoleon.