Sammy Reid

The best-laid plans…
When I decided to restart the blog by unearthing the occasional story, I’d imagined it being maybe a weekly exercise, but…
Here, 4 months later, is offering number 2.


Sammy Reid didn’t seem to have much going for him. He wasn’t particularly good at any subjects in school, didn’t play for any of the sports teams. His girl friends (there were only ever two of them), were unexciting, and he seemed quite content to tag along with local gangs of kids who were almost as unpopular as he was. The only grown-up he’d ever respected was Mr Henderson, an English teacher who was teased and laughed at by most of the other kids

In his teens, he didn’t have enough qualifications to get to university so when he left school he didn’t move away from home, had no job, and the little money he made came from delivering goods to homes in the neighbourhood and running errands for the local grocer.

By the time he reached his seventeenth birthday, some of the few friends who’d stuck with him through all his youthful hopelessness started actually to feel sorry for him. He’d always been such a loser. They supposed it wasn’t his fault. It was just a fact. Also, because he’d never known anything else, he sort of accepted that life was predictable, unexciting and nothing ever changed much.

When change did come, though, it was a big surprise. His mum and dad, ashamed of his regular failures and resenting the fact that he was costing them money and not doing anything to contribute to the expense of running the house, were always nagging at him to get a job. He didn’t mind that. He couldn’t remember a time when they hadn’t been complaining to him about something or other. But one day, he saw an advert in the paper for a factory warehouseman’s assistant at a business just on the edge of town. ‘No qualifications or previous experience necessary’ it said. He would only have to work Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, there would be regular wages, and two weeks holiday whenever he chose to take it.

So, just for something to do, and without really thinking whether he was capable of doing the job, he phoned the number at the bottom of the advert, and arranged to go to the factory to meet the boss.

On the evening before the interview, he was in the pub with Derek and Judy, Derek’s fiancée. They were two of the five people who were still his friends from school. Derek was an electrician and Judy worked in a dress shop. When he told them his news, he wasn’t surprised that they didn’t seem as excited as he was about it.

‘You’ll be a dogsbody, mate,’ said Derek. ‘Bottom of the heap.’

Judy nodded and said, ‘Yeah, it’s probably better if you don’t get it.’ Then added, ‘Never mind, you probably won’t, anyway.’

It was insulting but Sammy didn’t take it that way. It was typical of Judy. She’d always been like that with him, making remarks about how ordinary his (two) girl friends were, laughing at the awful way they dressed, yawning at the feebleness of Sammy’s attempts at jokes. It was pretty obvious that what she felt for him wasn’t really friendship but contempt (or, on better days, pity).

Derek wasn’t much better.

‘I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high,’ he said. ‘There’s lots of unemployed guys about nowadays. There’ll be plenty going for the job. And they’ll have all the stuff you haven’t got – experience, qualifications, personality.’

Sammy nodded along with him, seeming to agree with Derek’s assessment of his chances. He was used to it, after all. Derek had been saying that sort of thing to him since primary school.

Strangely, though, he hardly heard Derek’s words. He’d been staring at his shirt and only just noticed how ugly it looked. Its stripy red design clashed very starkly with the orangey-yellow of the tee shirt underneath it. It made Sammy wonder why Judy hadn’t noticed it.  She was supposed to work in fashion after all. Why hadn’t she told Derek how horrible it looked.

And, even though it seemed such a trivial thing, that’s when, at last, Sammy started to become the person who would eventually get the job he was going for and start making his way up through the company ranks until he’d become sales coordinator for the whole of the south-west. Because after he’d said his goodbyes to the two of them and started to walk home through the darkening evening, he began, for the very first time, to wonder why he’d always accepted the insults and opinions of others as being true. Judy, as usual, had been rude about his chances of getting the job, but what was her opinion really worth if she – a person who worked in a dress shop – could bear to be engaged to someone who had no idea of colour co-ordination? How could she find Derek and his horrible shirt attractive? As for Derek himself, what the hell did he know about working in a warehouse? He’d passed most of his electrician’s exams but no others.

And, on this gentle evening, after all these years of insults and put-downs, Sammy suddenly remembered something Mr Henderson had said when he’d chased away a couple of sixth-formers who were bullying Sammy in the playground.

‘Don’t worry about them,’ he’d said. ‘They’re not as tough as they think they are. You’re OK, Sammy. It’s like Oscar Wilde said, “Quite often, your real life isn’t the one you actually live”’.

Sammy didn’t understand it at the time but, thinking about Derek and Judy made it seem clearer. He’d always listened too much to what others had said. Like all the rest, Derek and Judy expressed opinions about him as if they were true facts. But none of it was what he was feeling inside. They didn’t really know him at all. Their ideas were just that – ideas. Their own ideas. But they were warped, twisted, wrong. They couldn’t know what was going on inside Sammy’s head, what he was thinking, who he was. Only Sammy knew that. And suddenly, he realised he’d never really been the person that other people thought and said he was. Like every one of them, he was an individual, special. There was no-one else like him.

So the Sammy who sat at the interview the following day felt confident, looked good, talked well, even misquoted Oscar Wilde and was so impressive that he got the job. They even paid him more than the advert had offered.


In the early days I used to write regular blog posts but my basic idleness cut in. Then for a while, I posted stories, either stuff I’d just written for the sake of it or when I co-wrote 800-word stories with my good friend Eden Baylee, but then it all stopped. So, just to keep the site alive I suppose, I thought it might be an idea to post the occasional story from amongst all the hitherto (unseen by anyone else) stuff that was lurking in my files. There’ll be no theme or philosophy or advice or anything useful in them; they’re just for entertainment.

I’ll pick them at random and they may last for a while or this might be the only one before the idleness cuts back in. We’ll see.  The first is one I wrote a couple of years or so ago. I called it…



“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” OK, everybody’s heard that. They don’t all know it was Aristotle who said it, but they’ve heard psychiatrists talking about it or seen TV programmes about it. And it’s true. The person we become when we grow up was already there in the kid we used to be. There are a few things I can remember from back then that prove it. Maybe not when I was seven, but certainly when I went to secondary school. And definitely when my mate Billy arrived. I was fourteen by then but that’s close enough for me.

He came when I was in second year and his house was on the way to school so I used to wait for him and we’d walk there together. He had a big influence on me. I haven’t seen him for years now but, back then, we spent all the time together. He was a Catholic, which was interesting because I wasn’t anything. I sang hymns and stuff at Boys’ Brigade and went to Sunday School, but Boys’ Brigade was just so that I could play football and Sunday School was because Pamela Biscombe went and I liked looking at her.

But Billy went to Mass, and confessed, and ate and drank Jesus every Sunday. Well, that’s the way I understood it at the time. It sounded brilliant. Sitting in the dark, making up stories for this shadowy priest behind a screen. Stories about all sorts of stuff, like touching Pamela Biscombe, or peeing in the classroom during playtime.

At the time I thought Billy said his father was a priest. It was only later that I realized it was the other way round. But what I think now isn’t important; it’s how we were then that matters for what I’m telling you.

Billy’s the reason I’m so successful in the magazine business. Well, not the reason but he helped me to write stuff, set me on the path, if you like.

The time I’m thinking of was when we had to write this essay for Miss Blore. Today they’d say she does Religious and Moral Education, then it was just called Scripture. We had to choose one of the seven deadly sins and write a story about it for her. She gave us a list of them and we had to find out about them and pick one. I had no idea where to start. No Google then, remember. It was all books, libraries, encyclopedias.

I was moaning about it to Billy on the way home, but he was a godsend (maybe literally). He knew the list already, knew what they all meant, too. So, the same evening, he came round to my house and we just talked about it. The trouble was, another thing Miss Blore had said was “Write about what you know”. So we went through the sins one by one to see whether I knew anything at all about any of them.

Sloth was easy. Boring, too. I did it all the time. Or, rather, I didn’t do it. It’s true, I think in those early days I was too idle even to be slothful. And nothing’s changed. Pride was the same. I couldn’t see how you could write an essay or a story about that. I mean, back then I didn’t really know what pride was, but my mum often used to tell me off about something, then say “I hope you’re proud of yourself”, so I suppose I must have known something.

Anyway, it didn’t take long to cross them off the list. The next one, Wrath, looked better but not much. I thought it just meant getting pissed off at something or somebody, but Billy said it also meant being vindictive, taking revenge, and I really liked that idea. So I reckoned I knew what that was and it sounded more promising. I could write something about when Miss Blore said those nasty things about me in front of the class and I got angry, but in the story I could maybe kill her. I’d change her name of course. Maybe make her a budgie or something and step on it.

The other four seemed easy on the surface. I thought I knew them, sort of. They were all the same really, all about wanting something. I said so to Billy.

“Envy’s just wanting what somebody else has got, isn’t it?’
“Well, yes,’ he said, “But…”
“And greed and gluttony are the same thing.”

Billy was shaking his head.

“No. They’re different,” he said. ‘Greed means wanting too much, but gluttony is actually taking too much.”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “So gluttony is sort of doing greed instead of just thinking about it. Is that right?”

Billy didn’t seem sure. But it seemed clear to me.

“Yeah, that’s it,” I said. “You start by being greedy and gluttony sorts it out for you. You want a piece of chocolate, so you eat the whole bar, or maybe two of them, and you’re not greedy any more. It’s been cured.”

Billy wasn’t sure. The priest (or his Father) had never said that.

The only one left was Lust and, I don’t know why, but that seemed to me the most interesting one. The others were just wanting, but Lust was… well, desire. You had to have it. I think I may have had it for Pamela Biscombe already. And when Billy said “Matthew says that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”’, I knew I had. I knew Lust was my best sin.

“So that means,” I  said, “if you’re already guilty, you might as well do it”.
“Not really,” said Billy. “Dad, (or he might have said Father) says it’s about unspiritual not just sexual desires”.

But I’d already made up my mind.

“Listen,” I said. “Jesus died for our sins, right? Cross, crown of thorns, all that. That means these sins, we can just go ahead and do them.”

He protested, but I’d made up my mind. I went home, got out the photo of Pamela Biscombe which I’d cut out of the class photo and wrote about Lust. I was expelled.

Nowadays, they pay me big bucks for basically writing the same stuff. Thanks, Billy.


This is the last contribution of what’s been a fascinating two years of story-telling. Between us, Eden Baylee and I have written 43 800-word stories,  14 of them solos, the rest with each of us taking turns to write  segments 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. We’ve had various minor debates – mostly provoked by different usages and/or meanings of various words in North America and the UK – but a lot of fun with it all. I think it’s also sharpened some of our general thoughts about the whole process of writing fiction. We genuinely hope that, whether you’ve looked in lots or even just once, you, too, have enjoyed your visits. You’ll find Eden’s final solo effort here.

The prompt for our final 2 solo stories is the rather forbidding : I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.



From a very early age, it was clear that Andy was different – and not necessarily in a nice way. He seemed to want to test the limits of what he could get away with, make his own rules about everything. His parents frequently did things of which he didn’t approve, such as insisting on feeding him porridge when he’d already turned the plate upside down to show them he didn’t want it. If they scolded him for anything, he’d go for days refusing to respond to anything they said or did. It applied to the simple, kind things too. For example, if either of them used what he judged to be the wrong voice for a character when reading him a bedtime story, he’d take the book from them, slam it shut and leave it on the landing outside his bedroom door for days. Quite often, his actions were actually dangerous. Once, he piled all the toys in his cupboard on top of one another one by one, climbing first on a chair then a table to add more. He then climbed down, sat next to the pile and pulled out the bottom one. This led to the first of many visits to Casualty.


But those early aberrations only seemed to set the tone of who he was because they persisted and got worse into adolescence, becoming more and more bizarre. Needless to say, he infuriated his teachers by his constant refusal to conform to orthodox behaviours. In History, he handed in essays about 1066 which he’d copied mostly from books about archery, his French translations were into an unrecognisable language based loosely on a mixture of English and gobbledegook, and, when the Biology teacher drew a diagram of an amoeba on the blackboard and labelled one part of it ‘inner cytoplasm’, every subsequent sketch Andy made – a bee, a stork, a mackerel – everything in fact – had a prominent protrusion on it somewhere labelled ‘outer cytoplasm’.
He could be ‘normal’ if he chose to. In fact, when it came to getting a job, he had to, but he did so reluctantly and was easily bored, which meant that most of his time outside work was spent doing things that made no sense, things that his few friends called his ‘escapades’ and usually led to yet more hospital trips, one of which at last made him change his ways.


A hang-gliding accident had hurt a lot but he’d still decided to try a straightforward parachute jump. That, too, though, had ended badly. He’d very much enjoyed floating freely down but paid so much attention to the sensation that he forgot to control his ‘chute properly, landed awkwardly two fields away from his target zone, and burst several veins in both legs. At the hospital, the doctors and nurses welcomed him back with muted greetings. They weren’t looking forward to yet more bizarre anecdotes about impossible activities. But Ursula, a newcomer to the nursing staff, was a revelation. First, she was gorgeous, more beautiful than any woman Andy had ever seen. And, at first, she listened and even appeared interested in his tales. But the more extreme and unlikely they became, the less impressed she seemed to be.
For his part, Andy would do anything to keep her talking as well as listening and when, one evening, she described a house on the corner of her street which someone had bought and turned into a maternity clinic, his mind jumped to thoughts of her having his babies.
‘If you had a baby, what would you call it?’ he asked.
Ursula frowned and  said, ‘I don’t know. Probably Hercules or something.’
‘Brilliant,’ said Andy.


In a way, it was a sort of turning point. She had no desire for marriage and was certainly too young to be thinking about offspring, but Andy was too self-centred to recognise the curl of her lip which greeted his approval of her choice of name. For him its outrageousness made her seem even more attractive. Indeed, his enthusiasm for it led to him moving from his tales of ordinary derring-do to hints of a possible relationship between them and, typically of him, he reverted to descriptions of what he saw as his uniqueness.
‘When I worked offshore, I got things done more quickly by not bothering with safety gear…’ began one memory. Another had him driving his car on the wrong side of the road to bypass a long traffic jam. Yet another involved a waterfall and a rubber dinghy. His enthusiasm for them brought more, thick and fast.
At last, in a rare pause, Ursula yawned and said, ‘Yesterday I went in that maternity clinic I told you about. I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.’
‘Really?’ said Andy, with seeming admiration.
Ursula stood up, said ‘Of course not’. Then she left.