wrote a satirical piece about one of my writing groups. Names have been changed below in order to protect the innocent. Perhaps you could try it yourself?
‘Put out a hit on him,’ Sandra said.
‘What?’ Elaine’s outrage spoke in her voice. ‘Why would I do that? Why would anyone?’
Donal’s eyes grew narrow as he voiced the opinion of each and every other member of the group. ‘It’s right to do. We’re on the side of good, and he’s evil. We must remove him, but can’t risk doing it ourselves. We must tread carefully.’
Hilary smiled and in her quiet voice she backed him up. ‘Yes,’ she said with some insistence. ‘We must do it.’
It was gradually dawning on Elaine that she was the only group member who felt any empathy with Bob, their proposed victim. How ironic it was that she herself had been Bob’s victim, and that it was also her who had brought the subject of Bob Taylor to the group. She’d mentioned him in passing at first, but the conversation became heated and, one by one, each group member’s desire for her protection became an equally active desire for Bob’s downfall. He had done the unthinkable. How could he do it? How could he walk the streets? How could they all allow him to walk the streets knowing what they knew? It wasn’t a case of vigilantism; it was a case of godly, righteous vengeance. And we all knew how the British judiciary felt about that. Any criminal sentences, should we get caught, would be lengthy and catastrophic but if someone else did the deed, perhaps we could get away with it.
Kate rummaged around in the pencil case in which she kept the group’s treasury of money. ‘How much do you think we’ll need?’ she asked in a whisper. ‘I’ve never ordered a killing before.’
All shook their heads and mumbled in agreement. Not a one there had even considered such an atrocity, never mind actually carried it out. ‘So, what do we do?’ Melanie asked, ‘I mean, surely it isn’t something that’s in the Yellow Pages, under Contract Killers?’
Lucy checked Google. Nothing. ‘How do we find out?’ she asked. Evan looked down at the desk then clapped his hands in glee. ‘I have some mates who have mates who have mates. They’re in Toxteth. Nobody would ever tie them to the crime and nobody would ever tie us to them.’
All nodded their approval (in theory, at any rate) for the course of action that Evan had suggested. ‘How much have we got in the kitty?’ asked Mary. ‘Just under £200,’ replied Kate. She’d reconciled the accounts in full not too many days before, and had only to add on the day’s takings before coming to her answer. ‘One hundred and ninety eight pounds and 12 pence. But we’ll need to buy tea, biscuits and powdered milk before the next meeting.’ Each member (with the exception of Elaine) worked it out in their head. You could almost see their brain cogs cogitating. So, about £190 would remain.
‘Will that be enough?’ asked Mary. ‘We could each put in a little of our own…’
‘No. No. No,’ shouted Elaine. She’d been keeping her head down during the previous conversation, too upset at Bob Taylor’s actions and at the Write You Are group’s uncharacteristic over-reaction. ‘We can’t kill him, and we can’t get anyone else to. What’s wrong with you all today? It’s just a problem. I can sort it out. Am I on internet camera or something?’
Ten faces looked back at her, almost blank in their lack of understanding. It was as if Elaine’s words on entering the meeting had hypnotised them into a sense of incredulousness that anything other than their new state of mind was acceptable.
Bill, who till this point had been relatively silent, was the next to speak, and when he did so it was with dignity and strength: the kind of dignity and strength that would incite a nation to stand behind its wartime leader. It was a rare quality. Mary shook as his words boomed from him.
‘He needs to die,’ he said, ‘and we need to order it. It’s the least we can do, as citizens of the UK and residents in the glorious county of Lancashire. It’s the least we can do for our fellow group member. It’s the least we can do for our own self regard. For who could, or indeed would, stand by while gross transgressions are carried out on our beloved Elaine?’
He was standing by the time he reached the end of his brief oration, with hands holding the trestle table in front of him. The rest of the group were staring enthusiastically (some might say maniacally) at him with enthralled expressions.
‘Let’s do it,’ said Lucy with resolution, grabbing Melanie by the arm. ‘Where are we going?’ asked Melanie, ‘I need to finish a drawing today. I can’t do something right away. I need to get the drawing finished first.’
Hilary reached into her bag which usually contained books and writing materials, and pulled out a sawn-off shotgun. ‘I’ve been saving this for a special occasion,’ she said. ‘I don’t think we need to ask the Toxteth lads. I could do it myself. What’s the worst that can happen? I would be sent to Australia so could be with family.’
‘But transportation of criminals ended in the nineteenth century. You’d get put into a prison. Please put that gun away,’ shouted Elaine, unbelieving that gentle Hilary would act in such a manner. Don, who had been sitting next to Hilary reached out and took the firearm from her hands. ‘Don’t let our grandchildren grow up visiting you in jail,’ he said.
Mary, Melanie and Kate burst into laughter and, unbelievably, the spell was broken. Elaine’s complaint about Bob had become an unintended incitement to action. Then, when the laughter calmed down, the group realised it had merely been a simple complaint about the window cleaner who had done her wrong by peeping through open venetian blinds while she dressed. Bob Taylor was a decent man, but had been temporarily possessed by his desire to watch the lady he enjoyed chatting with, and when she had shouted and thrown a bottle of Dior’s Poison at him (it cracked the window pane, then fell to the floor, being soaked up on the carpet and causing intense headaches for some months afterwards) he had himself fallen onto the patio (he’d been on a stepladder at the time) and remained concussed for the rest of the day.
‘What happened to us?’ asked Donal, always the most analytical member of the group, especially when it came to double meanings inherent within our writings. ‘It was Elaine’s poem,’ said Mary. ‘It must have been. We were talking normally about Elaine being spied on, and then it was her turn to read.’ Kate agreed. ‘And I remember when she read the poem, I felt kind of weird. It hypnotised us. It must have.’
Bill was rubbing his eyes. ‘I don’t remember that. I just remember standing and preaching. I felt like the führer: like I could change the world.’
‘Such is the power of quality writing,’ said Evan. ‘I can’t believe I was going to offer the Toxteth boys the job. They scare the bejesus out of me.’
‘And I can’t believe I came up with the idea first,’ said Sandra. Her usual creativity came out in poems and stories of a comic and insightful nature, in which there was not usually any aggression at all.
‘How the hell did this happen?’ asked Mary.
Elaine sniggered. ‘Such is the power of quality writing,’ she agreed. ‘Perhaps Donal was right. Perhaps I used a temporary word spell or hypnotic suggestion to put you under my power. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so effective.’
‘What were those words?’ whispered Melanie. Silence. ‘What were the words?’ whispered Melanie again. Don joined her, then Evan, then Sandra and Lucy and Bob and Kate. ‘What were those words?’ they chanted. And again. And again. A mantra of enquiry.
And Elaine laughed with a strong and hearty laugh. She was the woman-crone, the creative force, the gale wind of influence and they remained a little under her power. She would tease them. She would entice them. She would contain them in the palm of her hand till she broke the hypnotic spell with her five very special words, ‘Who’s coming to the Black Bull?’!