100-Word Fiction: ‘The Populist Trick’

In a pub, the winner of a popularity contest, as captured in a reporter’s photograph, balances an empty pint glass on his head and grins a rubbery wet slop of a grin. In the background, unwitting members of the public, alongside some of the man’s friends, are also grinning. Their mirth has been caused by an off-camera remark, now forgotten. The winner has taken a vow of silence. His agents say it is nothing tactical: let his plastic expression speak simply for itself. He has never said anything and never will. And silence will amplify silence, if he’s truly won.

100-Word Fiction: ‘Vipera Berus’

There is a way to construct a speech – to put words together, to make people smile or clap or think you’ve said something new or important. You get taught it at management seminars. You just use the same words everyone uses. Swap them around a bit. Don’t worry. Look confident. Don’t take risks. It’s smoke and mirrors. The truth is a fuzzy outline, bent out of shape. Left becomes right.

Geoff Oborne laughed as he switched channels from the news to a nature programme on the courting rituals of Vipera berus, the common European viper. Now there was a creature!