Wowza. That was a LOT of fun. Despite the beautiful weather, there was a lovely crowd more than happy to sit in a dark basement and it’s probably a lot to do with the absolutely brilliant writers who came out to read for us.
First up, Tyler Keevil read us a passage from his second novel, THE DRIVE, and then from a short story, ‘Hot Feet’. You can buy THE DRIVE here, and if short stories float your boat (and they should), you can buy Tyler’s latest collection, BURRARD INLET, right here. ‘Hot Feet’ was published in Black Static magazine, and after explaining its super creepy real-life origins – which you can read about here – Tyler handed over the mic to our second author, M. R. Carey, who read a beautiful and chilling extract from his novel THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, which you can and must buy here.
Before we headed into the interval, and the important business of quality-testing some of Drink Shop Do’s new cocktail menu, we needed a theme for the even more important story challenge. As usual, we put it to the audience, and as usual their suggestions were wide-ranging and wonderful. There was ‘camping’. There was ‘tigers in space’. There was ‘beards’. Somehow along the way, this became ‘beards go camping’. We asked lovely Greg, one of the managers at DSD, to choose between these two fine and strange options: spacey tigers or camping beards. He chose.
The theme was ‘Beards Go Camping’. Of course it was.
Huge shout-out to Linda Carey, who volunteered to be a member of Team Ellard to even things up, marking the first time ever we’ve had a husband and wife competing against each other in the challenge. As if we needed an excuse to be obnoxiously competitive about it…
After the interval, and the obligatory cocktail sampling (we do it because we care, guys), Viv Groskop took to the stage and picked on everyone with a beard and filled us all with joy by reading from her memoir I LAUGHED, I CRIED. Buy it. We insist. Right here.
And then it was time to reveal our bearded wonders. Two extremely different and yet equally hirsute offerings, which are reprinted in full below. For your pleasure.
TEAM ELLARD (Ellard, Groskop, L. Carey)
‘Stan, you big girl’s blouse!’
‘What do you mean, Jeremy, I’ve been growing this beard for my stag weekend here in the forest, camping as we are, for knocking on three weeks!’
‘And it still looks like peach fluff,’ said Jeremy. ‘You’re a blouse. A lady’s blouse.’
The other guys came out of the trees with their slingshots, tatty combats. You could have knitted an Afghan out of their combined beards. Lovely beards.
‘I just, like, I don’t see why we have to grow them at all.’
‘Stan. It’s BEARDS GO CAMPING. Shut the fuck up.’
‘Jeremy,’ said Stan.
‘Do you trust me?’ said Jeremy. ‘Do you trust me? Am I your best man? Or not? I am.’
‘You are,’ said Stan.
At that moment, Jeremy, Stan and the other bearded stags felt a cold wind ruffle their beards. Apart from Stan.
It was the icy breath of the King of the Goblins, Evadne, yes, Evadne. He stood before them, his six foot beard quivering in the breeze.
‘Foolish stags! How you doin’, alright? Out on a stag, yeah?’
‘Yes,’ said Jeremy, very bravely, to the Goblin King.
‘Yeah,’ said Evadne. ‘It says it. On your tee-shirts.’
And so the Goblin King did kill Jeremy, on account of his being extremely beardproud. Unbearably beardproud. And Evadne – that’s the Goblin King – did proclaim the groom, Stan, his chief stylist with special responsibility for beards, singing:
‘It might be bumfluff
But it’s nicely curly
TEAM CLOKE (Cloke, Keevil, M. Carey)
‘I don’t think the truck is coming,’ said Zap, the Chair of the Annual ZZ Top Conference.
It wasn’t. It had gone off the road five miles before the campsite, in a tragic beard-related accident. Those of the gathered fans who remembered Grace Kelly couldn’t help but compare it: a beard around the front axle.
‘But that truck had everything.Tents, pegs, tarps, groundsheets… Everything,’ said Zizzle, the Secretary of the Annual ZZ Top Conference. ‘There’s a storm coming in,’ continued Zizzle, in an expository vein. ‘A hundred fans are gonna get very wet.’
Everyone looked to Zap, who was staring thoughtfully into the middle distance, stroking his beard. The silence lengthened. It was a long beard.
Finally he looked at them. ‘We might have to improvise.’ A visionary glint came into his eye and he gave the command.
‘Merge the beards.’
As storm clouds rolled in, brown was braided with black. Strangers became friends as blonde was plaited with red. And thirty minutes later, they stood under their sweeping canopy of facial hair: dry, happy and ready to rock.
As ever, it was down to the audience to select a winner. They did and it was a victory for Team Cloke and ZZ Top fans everywhere, taking the running score to six to five. Most happy-making (not for Ian).
We’ll see you next time, Challenge Fans. When is that next time, you ask? Why it’s July the 8th, from 7pm, at Drink Shop Do. Full author details coming very soon…