Red socks, silver keys and exquisite corpses: A Birthday Story

#1 Jellyfish Books: Matilda by Roald Dahl, Let the People Sing by JB Priestley

Alabama Redsock hated playing the tuba.
It was the most unattractive instrument in the world. When she was playing it, it looked like she was wearing a large, golden dog poo wrapped around her body.
The Walla Walla Middle School Concert Band was hardly the coolest musical ensemble to be a part of, but it would have been more bearable if she'd had a better instrument - a clarinet, maybe, or even a cello. But she'd wandered in to music class late one day as usual, and found Miss Jbunic, her insane Polish teacher, shoving the massive tuba in her direction. 'Remember to practice!' the crazy woman chanted at her, before handing over a 'Learn to Play Tuba in any Key' book that dated from about 1970 and featured a lot of photos of a fat German man called Alphonse in lederhosen.
Great, thought Alabama. I am doomed to years of music practice, trying to draw inspiration from some tubby old Nazi in braces and knee-high socks.
Which was pretty much how it had turned out.
To make matters worse, you couldn't just throw a tuba in your school bag like a flute - you had to drag it along behind you on a trolley.
This must be what it's like having a disability, thought Alabama as she miserably heaved the instrument into the school bus each day.
And so Alabama made a promise to herself: I will find a way to get out of playing the tuba before my fifteenth birthday, if it kills me.

#2: Canoe Books: The Story Girl and Anne of Avonlea, both by LM Montgomery

And so Alabama made a promise to herself: I will find a way to get out of playing the tuba before my fifteenth birthday, if it kills me.
She then sat herself down in the old faded armchair and took up the sheet music she was supposed to learn. Outside it was raining and the colour of the sky was a dark forbidding grey. She took out a pair of scissors and proceeded to cut the sheet music to pieces. She used the notes and letters of the title, pasted them onto black pieces of material and then arranged them on a piece of paper that read:


The white 'T' on the black background looked particularly threatening.
She placed the note in a box, locked it with a padlock and sent it and the key to the music teacher. The music teacher unlocked the padlock and the lid sprang open.

#3 Snaz Books: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

The music teacher unlocked the padlock and the lid sprang open.
Just as quickly, tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks like a cup too full.
Inside, she had found an infant's sock, red as a pomegranate and as small as the foot of the child she had lost not yet five years hence.
Taking the delicate object in hand, she closed her eyes and remembered.
After one extended, exquisite moment, she opened them again and let the monotony of the past five years flood back in; numb, even and familiar. Her curse.
But then - oh! - she spied one more object, nestled unassumingly in a corner; a tiny silver key. How cruel! How infuriating!
To remind her of a wound long since healed, and scarred over, and then confront her with this...
The key had been her undoing, and it filled her with rage.

#4 The Short Man Books: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, by Peter Biskind and Away With All Pests, by Joshua S Horn

The key had been her undoing, and it filled her with rage. Intensely, he took the key back downstairs to rejoin the party. After reloading his camera with the film he approached her to confront her about their situation.
After the many months and years working independently on film sets in far-flung parts of the earth, it was obvious that all their indescretions would come to the surface.
The key had been to their best friend's apartment, which they had stayed in numerous times. For him to find the key at that time, in that place, had made it obvious what was going on.
He hadn't even been to the continent for eight months. She had been 'away on business' for a month previous to the party.
With no real destination, flitting from office to office, he never really knew where she was, even though they spoke daily. This situation would be the making of his next major solo photo exhibition. So this had been more than a little fling.

#5 The Munkey Books: The Silmarillion, by JRR Tolkien, and The Pirate, by Some Hack I Forgot to Write Down.

So this had been more than a little fling.
'Damn them both to Hell!' cried the Count, pounding his fist upon the sideboard. For a moment, he was overcome by jealousy and grief at Marion's infidelity.
But quickly this gave way to anger - a white hot malice directed squarely at his competitor.
'How dare that shabby stable-boy have his way with my bride-to-be?' he fumed aloud.
He reflected on the first time he'd met Jonathan - when he had first hired him as a stable-boy at the manor. The Count remembered the cheapness of his clothing, the unrefined awkwardness of his speech.
'It cannot be!' he cried. He ran past the marble statues of the Manor House, rushing into his study.
He dug his finest dagger from the drawer of his desk, and tucked it inside his boot. As he stormed from the house, his blood boiled in his veins. Images crept through his mind, images that made his fury grow hotter and more hateful by the second. The lips of this common country lad had touched his beloved! It was intolerable.
At last he reached the stable-house. He scrabbled in his vest pocket for the key and opened the door. In his rage, without pausing to think, he thrust himself towards the cot where he knew Jonathan slept, drew the dagger from his shoe and plunged it into the sleeping body.
But the shriek from the bed was not that of a man, but a boy.
Drawing the covers back, the Count was appalled to find not the stable boy, but his brother David - just twelve years old. The hilt of the knife protruded from David's head, the blade buried deep in his eyeball. The Count reeled in shock - instead of his rival, he had mistakenly murdered a harmless child.

#6 The Mistress
Books: Hollywood, by Charles Bukowski, The Dark Angel, by Mika Waltari

The Count reeled in shock - instead of his rival, he had mistakenly murdered a harmless child.
That night, upon concealing his crime and fleeing on horseback (at such a speed that branches and thorns scratched at his face, his horse's mouth foamed and the cold wind numbed his face), he returned to find a great banquet underway in the main hall.
Beseeched to attend, he sat in morose silence. Consumed by thought of his ill deed and tirtied soul; while those around him caroused and cavorted like garish drunk meat puppets - expelling filthy air from their insides, masticating the meat of slaughtered beasts in their vile, cavernous mouths.
A ruddied blonde, with meaty folds of weathered skin spilling out every which way from the cheap fabric of her ill-fitting dress, tore a mouthful of bloodied beef from her fork and proceeded to lick the oozing red juice from her chin.
He could feel the acid rise in his throat as he fought to calm his heaving stomach. The world was folding in with overwhelming sounds and smells. His head spun. But then, he saw her.
She wore crimson velvet with a matching feather in her glossy dark hair.
Esmerelda, with her long neck and bright eyes.
He thought of velvet ropes twined tightly around her creamy thighs - the golden lock cinching them togheter. Metal and velvet, both biting into her milky skin.

#7 Byron Books: The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, Biggles Sees It Through

Metal and velvet, both biting into her milky skin.
The pressure on her wrists was almost unbearable. With every movement, the cold steel cut deeper into her flesh.
As she glanced in the mirror opposite, she noticed the colour of her wrists matched the deep crimson of the scarf binding her mouth. She bit down hard, and her tongue stuck momentarily to the warm, wet fabric, stifling her speech.
Her eyes traced their way up. She was mostly intact. Broken in places nobody would see, but outwardly still the same woman who had walked so willingly into this mess. Her hair, slightly out of place, hung limp, framing her angular face like the deep red welts eather side of her.
His foot was the only thing she could see on the other side of the room. The ankle with the strange 'Q' design imprinted deep beneath those first few layers of skin.
Once white, now a greying yellow, it was the only thing she had left of him, both in her mind, and in the cold, damp room with so little light.
So little fucking light! How Where was the key? How on earth was she supposed to locate the tiny silver object on the damp concrete floor?
She couldn't move. She tried to scream, but realised it was perhaps the one thing that would do her no good.

#8 Lili

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, and The Forgotten Story by Winston Graham

She tried to scream, but realised it was perhaps the one thing that would do her no good.
She was stuck there. Stuck in this trailer park that for the little boy was a house... a home.
She stared at him.
He held up a hand, and she bit her lup.
His fingers were webbed, with a fine greenish film.
He sat in the mud, a webbed, finned child in a trailer park, oblivious to the world around him. In his green webbed fingers he held the key. She felt the knots unravelling before her.
'Really?' she asked him. 'Is this really finally the end of it all?'
The little boy smiled, and held out the key.
She could hear the distant strains of a reality tv show wafting down from the pimped-up caravan. The child scratched his nose, leaving a streak of mud wiped diagonally across his face.
The woman reached out and took the key, sighing.