A Janie Cobweb Free Sample



Back in December 2007 I wrote a short story that I posted as a blog on Myspace. The story, to start with, didn’t mention the girl child who was eventually to dominate my Christmas and New Year as she grew with the telling of yet more stories, but it was to be the seed from which she grew.

Janie Cobweb was a precocious, self-centred young madam who lived in a fictional and surely mythical society that had as its main punishment for wrong doers a good old burning at the stake – no wonder she grew up to be the monster she became! Anyway, encouraged by my friends, I issued the sagas of the wretched Janie as a 200-odd page Lulu paperback after reworking the stories (Janie now puts in a brief appearance in the first one). The sad thing is, she still lives despite numerous attempts on my part at killing her off. There’s something about the wretched person, some chink of charm amongst a welter of cruelty, that endears her to some people (myself included). I’ve a nasty feeling I’ll eventually accumulate enough stories to be able to publish a sequel! Anyway, what follows is the first story in its paperback form, and I hope you enjoy it!

Just to emphasise things, it is a collection of short stories but they have a common character who just happens to be detestable!

For more details and a chance to avail yourself of the book go here


“We live,” said Artie Archer, nodding his head sagely, “in a selfish age.”

“I couldn't agree more,” agreed Millicent Mower, pouring tea from a beehive teapot and producing, as if by magic, a tin of ginger—nut biscuits and a few marshmallows.

“The trouble is,” muttered Archie, “everybody wants to dominate everybody else. Take me, for example. I'm a writer as you know. Kids stories and the like. But what happens? I get despised for my stuff, that's what happens! I put in something funny and I'm either racist or sexist or anythingist. I include a few chapters about murder and blood and gore and I get called irresponsible. Me, irresponsible! I ask you!”

“You can be a bit over-the-top,” ventured Millicent. “After all, my Mickie read one of your stories and it gave him a heart attack. Died, he did, clutching his chest and cursing like a trooper. But he still died, and that was one of your stories as did it.”

“He'd have died anyway,” replied Artie defensively. “After all, he was ninety-seven. And anyway that Janie what’s-her-name used to scare the living daylights out of the fellow and he reckoned she’d be the death of him. Maybe she was. Maybe that’s why he pegged it. Anyway, ninety-seven is a big age! “

“And a half. He was ninety-seven and a half!” put in Millicent proudly. “And he could still read, at that age too! He read that story from start to finish without a break, you know the one, it was about a kingfisher!”

“There's not much in that one to scare a man to death,” muttered Artie. “I can't see what was in it as would give anyone a heart-attack unless it was the part when Curly the Kingfisher pecked the scarecrow's eyes out. But it was only a scarecrow and the eyes weren't real, you know. There’s nothing scary about a couple of nuggets of coal!”

“My Mickie thought it was real,” mused Millicent. “Millie,” he said to me all bright-eyed and the like, “Millie, listen to what your mate Artie's written!” And he went on to tell me about this scarecrow, a lovely fellow with coal black eyes and a wife and kids at home. And the way an old kingfisher zoomed down out of the skies and pecked away at those eyes of his, like a drill he said it was, rat-a-tat-tat-tat!”

“Then your Mickie was a twallop!” almost exploded Artie. “I write for kids, not old men, and I've not had a single report of any kid being damaged in any way by a single word in any one of my stories! I wouldn’t write them, else!” His eyes were blazing as he spoke, and Millicent might have taken note had she been looking, but she wasn't. Instead, she was munching on a ginger-nut and knitting pearl and plain stitches with rainbow coloured wool.

“Our Mooney was damaged,” she chuntered. “Only last week he was damaged. He was reading that story of yours about a fat man climbing down chimneys with a sack on his back, and he came on the word 'footprint' and he was damaged. We had to have him locked away, we did, he was so damaged. He became like a loony, he did, all shouting and raving because of that word 'footprint'. You should be careful when you use words like ‘footprint’. And ‘chimneys’. You should be careful when you put ‘chimneys’, too.”

“There's nothing about 'footprint' or ‘chimneys’ or any old word to drive a kid mad!” scoffed Artie, clearly upset by the way the conversation was going. “If you ask me that loony kid of yours, Mooney you called him as if you knew in advance he was going to be a nutter sooner or later, anyway, as I was saying I reckon he was three sheets to the wind before he ever picked up my Christmas book!”

“That he wasn't!” wept Millicent, wiping her eyes on a brand new rainbow sock. “And as for you being rude about my one and only little boy, our Sadie was damaged by one of your words too. And I've heard as your books have been banned by the library down town! It's said your words are like knives, cutting away and stabbing the youth of today! I've heard them say that you should be locked up on account of the damage done by your words! I’ve even heard old Ma Cobweb say as you should be burned for it! Burned, I say, burned!”

“You're as mad as a drain,” exploded Artie, “saying things like that when my only aim in life is to add a little colour to the lives of future generations!”

“Colour?” squawked Millicent, “is that what you call it? Colour? Why, I was talking to old Mrs Henderson down at the flea market only this very morning as is, and she reckons you made her Angela's little lad turn blue! She said as he picked up one of your stories, just a little one about peas and beans and a greedy little princess, and he turned irreversibly blue! Daren't go to school daren't even go out to play! As blue as a summer sky or a warm tropical sea! So what do you say about that, Artie?”

“I say she's bananas,” muttered Artie. “I say she should never have kids in her care, not blue ones and not green ones and not yellow ones. I say she should be taken to the burning field and put to the stake and set light to. That's what they should do to the Mrs Hendersons of this world!”

“That's not such a nice thing to say,” said Millicent, pausing with her cup half way to her lips and dropping at least two stitches and a ginger-nut. “To say that the poor woman should be set light to! To suggest, suggest mark you, that a good lady like dear Mrs Henderson should have to suffer a burning! It's beyond belief what some folks say, and that's a truth!”

“That's why I say we live in a selfish age,” grunted Artie. “We live in the kind of age when a woman like you can tell tales about my words damaging kids and actually killing old men, and that Henderson woman not being burned at the stake for suggesting that my innocent stories sent her brat mad! Next you'll be saying that my tales have unplaited some girl or other's hair! And that would be the most selfish thing anyone's ever said to me, worse even than the day old Ma Biggead wrote to the papers on account of her hair turning grey when she read my little book of nursery rhymes!”

“Well, it did!” insinuated Millicent, darkly. “I saw that hair of hers, and it was as grey as the sky in November when it's raining cats and dogs!”

“She's eighty if she's a day, and ladies of that certain age often have grey hair!” scoffed Artie.

“Not Ma Biggead until she read them rhymes of yours, and then she went white as snow!”

“I thought you said grey as the November sky when it's raining cats and dogs,” growled Artie.

“Yes, that too!” nodded Millicent. “Them books of yours ought to be banned! They ought to be piled up on the burning field and set light to!”

“You're nuts!” raged Artie. “Nobody's come to any harm whatsoever after reading my little tales of gentle life and sweetness and light. I wouldn’t allow it! I’m too sweet a soul to put up with such nonsense!”

“I've been stalked,” pounced Millicent. “I've been stalked, and I'd just read 'Gertie the Lonely Duck'! And out of the blue he came, a stalker with a willy so big you could have called it a python without lying, and he stalked me!”

“A willy, you say?” asked Artie, suddenly interested. “That’s a new one on me, that is! Fancy that! A willy!”

“Like a python! Like a gigantic snake wafting around inside his pants! Like nothing you've ever seen before! It enraged me! It filled me with fear! I had to chase him for seven miles on my own feet just to check!”

“And he was stalking you?” asked Artie, cynicism or something like it suddenly leaking out of his eyes.

“Every time I looked he was there,” she confirmed.

“Well, he would be if you were running fast as a serpent after him,” commented Artie. “It might be said, I suppose, as you were stalking him!”

She looked at him reproachfully. “How could you say such a thing!” she shrieked, and started weeping. “How could you say anything as spiteful as that! It's you as should be taken to the burning field! It's you as should be punished!”

“You're crazy,” he conceded.

“I may be, but you know who my old man is don't you?” sneered Millicent. “He's the Chief Burner! That's who he is! The Chief Burner, and he'll have you burned, just see if he don 't! He’d do anything I asked, would my old man, ‘specially if he’s after summat…”

“You said he was dead,” laughed Artie, “You said as your Mickie died after having a heart attack as a consequence of reading one of my stories!”

“Ah, but Mickie weren't my hubby,” whispered Millicent, “he were my special, secret friend, he were. No, my hubby's Billy of the Big Belly, and he's a-coming right now! Hey, Billy, lover of mine! This prat's trying to seduce me and he needs a good burning! You'll see about it for me, won't you, lover? Then you’ll see just ‘ow nice I can be to yer!”

A huge man, so fat he might never have fitted through a door, came up to the two of them.

“Nah,” he said to her, “He's okay! He's my mate! It's you as is mad!”

“Then I'll keep me legs shut…” she ventured, her eyes gleaming at him.

“Ooops,” he muttered, thoughtfully. “Can't have that! Okay, honey, if it means that much to you,” said the greasy fat man, and he turned to Artie. “Sorry about this, mate,” he said regretfully. “I know we’re drinkin’ chums so I'll get it over quickly, just see if I don't, but it's a burning for you!”

“You mean…?” asked Artie, his eyes suddenly swelling with ala “Yes, mate,” said Billy of the Big Belly, “So come along quietly, and don't think of running because if you were to do that a bloke of my size'd stand no chance of catching you!”

“Of course not,” replied Artie meekly. “I'll come quietly, just you see if I don't.”

And he walked off, hands in the air submissively, towards the burning field, where a crowd had already started to gather.

There you have it, then. To return to the main menu click here