Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Short Story: A Dog and Duck Story

Recently I've been exprimenting with short crime fiction, initially for a competition but I've been enjoying it and have written a few more than anticipated. The competition wanted a maximum of 1000 words so this is the only criteria I have set myself and naturally it's allowed me to create a diverse range of stories and styles. The following story is my most recent and won't be entered in to any competition so I thought I'd see how posting it here goes. 
EDIT: Since initially writing this post I have adapted the story in to a screenplay, with a few changes, and it is currently with my producer in England. I admit that this upturn in enthusiasm for my previously stalling film career has a lot to do with the great work Alex Withrow has done with Earrings. If you are yet to see it, you simply must, it can be found here.
Feel free to critique, criticise and give feedback in the comments.

A Dog and Duck Story (2012)

The Dog and Duck, a traditional English pub; brass pans hanging from mock Tudor beams, old wooden tables surrounded by mismatched chairs, fruit machines lined up flashing their jackpots at naïve punters, jukebox playing the greatest hits of Robbie Williams, Karl the barman wiping down the bar and eyeing the couple in the corner.
Under her beret she displays her poor eyesight with pride, spectacles from the seventies that Michael Caine would be proud of, lips painted red and smiling constantly. You’d be forgiven for thinking the navy was in the way she flaunts her nautical stripes, not quite horizontal thanks to the fascinating way it clings to her chest.
She clings to him and his matching glasses, his flatcap and hunting blazer worn with irony, unable to disguise the pasty face and weak chin of a man who’s never done a days hard work in all his life. The delicate fingers of one hand play with his pint glass whilst the other rests in her lap.
Now Karl has work to do, the arrival of Mikey always signifies the start of the lunch rush. His footsteps on the original wooden floor can be heard over the whine of the jukebox. The lager top is ready and waiting as Mikey arrives with a grunt of thanks.

-Look at this guy
He nods his head towards Mikey
-What an idiot
She giggles
-This is not the nineties anymore guy
-I know right, where did he find somebody to give him that mushroom cut?
- And somebody should tell him that cargo pants are fugly
-Look at him acting tough
-What’s that scowl for? Is he trying to intimidate people? It’s not working
-No, he forgot his walkman, the soothing taped voice reminding him “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out,” is still in his white van
This is too much for the couple, their jokes causing hysterical laughter between them. A few minutes pass and Sharon trips her way over to the bar calling for a Bacardi and a bag of nuts.
-Woah, looks like he’s in there
He starts again
-Look at her face, so gaudy
-Bit too much fake tan yeah
-Yeah but no she don’t score high
-And those earrings!
-Prison guard keyrings more like
-Stripper heels for a lunchtime drink?
-No wonder she stumbled in to him
-There’s no other excuse, he looks like the missing link
-But with hair
It’s enough. They love the sound of their own opinions and can’t stop laughing.

Karl is worried. He can hear them. He can see the veins in Mikeys neck bulging, his face going red. Any minute beer will be spilt.
-Calm it Mikey, they’re just kids
-Nobody talks about Sharon that way
-Fair play, I can’t dispute that, but not in here yeah?
Now Mikey is off, pushing Sharon to one side and stomping over to the corner table.
-I believe you owe my wife an apology sir
This is greeted by the suppressed laughter of the hipster couple
-I said I believe you owe my wife an apology. Sir
The laughter only gets louder. Mikey is forced to smash an empty glass on the table but before he can do any more damage Karl is there at his side like a good barman.
-That’s enough Mikey, outside and don’t come back til tomorrow
Turning his attention back towards the couple
-And you two aren’t welcome here, sling your hook
Settling the situation is what a good barman does. Back behind his bar he watches Mikey drag Sharon out. He watches the hipster couple wrap themselves up in duffle coats and slowly leave, giggling the whole time.

Outside in the beer garden Mikey is resting his weight on an ancient looking picnic table. Scowling at the couple as they leave the pub. He stands and flexes his muscles at them. The hipster boy pulls a straight edge razor from his pocket.
-Didn’t you see John Hammond in Brighton Rock you damned dirty ape?
The hipster boy doesn’t give Mikey a chance to react, the blade cuts through the soft flesh of his face as a boot crushes his testicles.
The hipster girl watches Mikey fall to the floor in pain and laughs. She pulls a meat cleaver from the pocket of her coat and in one movement buries the blade in the fallen mans skull.
-That was fun, which pub shall we go to tomorrow?

Creative Commons License
A Dog and Duck Story by Toby Halsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Ah this was great, completely different from what I expected. I love the kind-of experimental sides to it, too, as that gives it a little flavour of something original!

    Out of interest, are you based in England, or does your Producer just live here, as I've always associated pubs with England and what have you!

    Either way, loved this, and you should put up more short stories on your blog! You've got yourself a fictional-writer fan, here! Well done!

    1. As I mentioned on Twitter, thank you so much for the kind comments.

      I really do have to film this in England as there's nowhere really appropriate to set it here in Perth, it's lucky that I'll be in England for a month soon. Another factor in my decision to film this one.

      At the moment I'm a little uncertain as to what to post on here and what to save for competition/collecting for a book. But there will definitely be more as I go forward.

  2. The Dog and Duck story is really interesting. After reading it I have laugh it for a while. Because its completely thrill oriented for me, which I never forget in future.

    1. Thank you Marks, very much appreciated. The intention is to give a thrill with an unexpected conclusion afterall.

  3. Wow, first off, thanks so much for the link Toby. It makes me so happy that the movie has inspired you.

    As for your story… dude, intense. I dig it a lot. Very different (I agree with Cherokee, the experimental vibe to it was refreshing). It made me want more, which I think is a very good sign. Are you going to publish more of your work? You definitely should man.

    Also, I just gave you the Liebster Blog Award on my site, jump over there to check it out!

    Really good short story here.

    1. Hey thanks Alex, much appreciated. It's something different to what I usually write that's for sure and content wise it doesn't automatically lend itself to my pensive visual style so it should be fun to produce.

      As for the Liebster I was given it by Dan Heaton last week and it's about finished (loooooong post!) so I probably won't do it again but I will stop by yours and maybe answer a few questions in the comments.

  4. Nice little story there, Toby. Really liked your form of dialogue, and the twist at the end was a good surprise.

    Got any more of these in the pipeline? I always dig a good short story.

    1. Thanks Eric, I really like this European style of presenting dialogue at the moment, I know a lot of people don't (Leah included) but for me it seems to have a nicer flow and leaves the page looking cleaner too. Charlie Huston has been using it for his Joe Pitt novels recently and his novel "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" was optioned by HBO, it's is very definitely worth your time.

      I've got a few more lying around, some days I'll just get inspired and write a few in an hour or so. It's easy enough for under 1000 words but more than that takes a little time and planning.

      I'm working on something a little longer at the moment, trying to work through back story on a novella by writing separate short adventures. Everything I write at the moment is with the idea of making movies of them because I'm having difficulty finishing scripts.