Contemporary Funny Fiction

(Content warning: Strong Language)

The London Underground heaved with bodies as Poppy chased a train departing for Soho in her pink stilettos. 

A strobing fluorescence washed over the entire station before the lights cut out completely.


Poppy caught her heel in the gap between two platform edges. Her knees buckled and she lurched forward, looking for a pair of shoulders to grab onto.


Craig was being lulled into submission by the queue of sheeple when ten fingernails gouged through his duster jacker into his trapezius. Not fond of being molested by strangers in the dark, he whirled around to berate his assailant.

‘Get off!’ He said, ‘Where are the bloody emergency lights?’

An echoing caterwaul was followed by the crunch of a body contacting the track ballast. Someone had slipped over the platform edge. 

The resounding groan of drunk travellers filled the station. No trains would arrive until the power resumed. 

Spirits and blood alcohol levels were high for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, but the masses in the tube station couldn’t resist channelling their anger about the power going off with a chant.

‘The station master’s a wanker, the station master’s a wanker.’ 

Decisively parting a group of inebriated meat popsicles, Craig hopped down onto the tracks. One of the groaners had his phone torch on and was curious enough to illuminate Craig’s valiant act. All the while, throngs of ignorant bystanders wobbled in the dark, stomachs sloshing with beer.  

By the pale light, Craig sized up the lanky blonde woman that had fallen and was almost talked out of lifting her by his weak back. The sound of an impending train, however, overrode any doubt about his capabilities, and he channelled the ‘mind over matter’ strength that he’d read about in National Geographic magazine. If mothers could lift cars to save toddlers, he could lift this skinny adult. 

The woman in the pink ensemble was as limp as a tranquillised Orca—a total dead weight. Craig heaved her up and scrambled onto the platform mere seconds before the unpowered carriage came coasting into the station and screeched to a halt. 

Then, the overhead tubes fluoresced once again, illuminating the incident for the lizard brains to see. Bleary-eyed bystanders sought vicarious thrills, surrounding an unconscious Poppy. 

Craig attempted to revive her. No such luck. Lager breath and flatulence stifled the tube station air. This was no place for anyone to coalesce. Craig took steps to extract the woman in pink from the scene. Fighting his way through the crowd, he hauled Poppy up the steps to street level, imagining himself a faithful android carrying an unconscious space-wench on the cover of a 60s sci-fi novel. 

People laughed at the dwarfish man with the surprising strength and the swishing ponytail, legging it up the steps with a tall blonde in his arms.

Craig noticed that not a single ignoramus down in the station had thought to call an ambulance, but that was fine with him. The thrill of being a vigilante paramedic was immensely exciting to an IT technician.

Above ground, he followed his auto-pilot to a coffee shop near his work’s office. He lay Poppy down in a corner booth, in the hopes that she might be revived by caffeine and sugar. 

He checked her pulse again. Still beating.

He looked down the length of her long body, her legs dangling over the edge of the red pleather booth, and watched her chest rising and falling. He undid the buttons of her blazer to free up her breathing. 

While Craig waited for Poppy to come to, he scribbled some notes in his pocket diary.

The packrat synergy of the drunken masses travelling by underground rail on Jubilee day is a given. 

A 70 year reign for Queen Liz. 

Whoop-de-doo. . . 

But what is this? A damsel in distress? She needs a hero!


Poppy emerged from her cocoon of unconsciousness looking rather more refreshed than Craig had anticipated.

‘Where’s my train?’ She asked, attempting to piece together what had happened. She saw the profile of Craig’s slight shoulders and matched them to the tactile memory she’d had when attempting to grab them.

‘I’m sorry I wasn’t a very good banister to hold onto,’ Craig apologised.

The drone of Craig's voice contrasted with the mellifluous lilt of Poppy’s. Anyone eavesdropping on their conversation might have mistaken it for a jam session between a flute and an MRI machine. 

‘You were supposed to stay still!’ 

Craig stayed silent while Poppy brushed her pink blazer down, removing any railway detritus.

‘You were a good pin-cushion though,’ She said, pointing to one of her fake nails lodged in the back of his duster jacket.

Craig casually plucked the nail out and gave it to Poppy to reattach, but she discarded it. 

‘A phalangeal pin cushion eh? I’ve been called worse.’ Craig said.

A waiter brought over several pastries and two black coffees. Poppy eyed the swirling froth in her drink. It was nauseating. She breathed deeply and scanned her body for pain, but found none. The liquid breakfast had limbered her up nicely for a roll on the tube station tracks. 

Poppy, gingerly sipping her scalding beverage, had a thought which Craig happened to voice.

‘It would be prudent to wear more practical footwear when imbibing alcoholic beverages in the future,’ he said.

She nodded in agreement and looked down at her bare feet. The gravel had ripped ladders in her tights.

How Craig had managed to salvage both of her shoes in the dark was a mystery. Had he kept hold of them? 

Poppy resisted the urge to check her reflection in the café window. Her wavy hair had gone rogue and the end of her nose was embarrassingly red from drinking.

Fishing Poppy’s footwear from his jacket, Craig snapped the last remaining heel from her shoes like an angry cobbler. 

‘There you go. Flats to walk in. Far more practical.’

Craig's brows angled up at forty-five degrees, like stuck windscreen wipers, as he inscribed letters onto a wooden coffee stirrer in black marker. As he concentrated, his tongue wetted the thick black stubble at the edge of his mouth. His eyes were piercingly child-like. He had such focus. 

‘What are you writing?’ Poppy asked.

Craig pursed his lips and held it up for her to see.


‘Very apropos. You have been—‘

‘Eat these,’ Craig pushed three pastries on plates over to her. ‘Sugar for the shock.’

While Poppy self consciously nibbled, Craig systematically busied himself by boldening the typography on his coffee stirrer.


When finished, he slotted it behind the clear plastic screen in a photo album next to rows of other coffee stirrers. Each was labelled with a date and a corresponding mood, a bit like a diary. Most days, he appeared to be FLAT, BORED and INDIFFERENT. 

In the few minutes that Poppy had known Craig, her attempts at reading him had felt like folding paper cranes with her feet. But his childish preoccupation with small things, like the coffee stirrers, was endearing. 

She was indebted to him. She needed to think up a way to reward him for his selfless act.

‘Do you like tennis?’ She ventured, ‘I’ve got season tickets for Wimbledon. Or I could take you to Vesuvius for a meal. You’d be welcome to—‘

She stopped because Craig was miles away. He was eyeing the pregnant sky through the window, willing it to rain.

‘Do you think running or walking through the rain gets you wetter?’ he said, ‘Running involves less time in the rain. But more contact with droplets.’ 

Poppy continued to nibble at her pastry, listening keenly.

‘Walking involves more time in the rain, but, potentially, contact with fewer droplets.’

Craig and Poppy witnessed the grey sky erupting through the steamy, translucent café windows. Umbrella-less people dashed by and cars splashed pedestrians with puddles. 

‘Care to test my hypothesis?’ Craig asked.

Poppy saw no other way to repay the man who refused Wimbledon tickets and meals at Vesuvius. He had saved her life. The least she could do was join in with his little experiment. 

A rousing cocktail of adrenaline and caffeine made her quite impulsive and she accepted. Getting wet would be nothing compared to almost becoming a train waffle. 

She was reminded of the limbering effects of the Jubilee hooch—without which, her fall on the underground might have done her some serious damage. My saviour—Poppy thought—floppiness be thy name. She refrained from saying it aloud for fear of appearing strange to Craig. There was no danger of that, though.


Craig braved the downpour first, quickly running to the corner shop and back, then Poppy donned her refurbished flats and walked the same route casually. 

The pair managed to briefly compare degrees of soddenness on the café entrance-rug before being expelled by the owner for making puddles. 

They didn’t, however, manage to conclude which speed of bi-pedal locomotion kept you drier in the rain. They were both equally soaked. 

Banished from the café into the downpour, Poppy slid a business card into the dry folds of Craig’s canvas rucksack.

—Poppy Eriksson— 


—Art Gallery—


She revealed that the gesture was one of cordial invitation, not sleazy self-promotion.

‘Anton Gill is exhibiting at my gallery this Friday night. We’re having a showcase. You should come.’


Craig arrived at the hoity-toity affair wearing his National Geographic subscribers fleece, clutching a copy of July 1992. It was wise of him to take something to read for when he would inevitably get bored. The paintings would probably take all of two seconds to analyse and then dismiss. As far as he was concerned, nature was the greatest artist and could not be beat.

After a perfunctory perusal of the paintings, he set up shop on a stool in the corner and began reading.  

‘Are you the artist?’ A well dressed lady with high cheek bones had asked.

‘No, I’m Craig.’ 

‘But are you an artist, though?’ She said, waving at the abstract canvases smothered in paint drips. 

‘Well, I curate.’

Do you?’ She sucked in her cheeks, making the bones stick out almost as wide as her shoulders, ‘For a gallery?’


‘Abstract or figurative?’

‘I create albums of memorabilia in a diaristic fashion, that, when viewed as a whole, highlight the ephemeral nature of existence.’ 

Craig was surprised at his own eloquence. He’d unintentionally captured Cheekbone’s interest and wanted rid of it immediately.

‘Is that sparkling water you’re drinking?’ Craig asked.

‘Er, yes,’ said Cheekbones.

He explained that such highly acidic beverages vigorously erode one’s enamel and should be avoided for the good of one’s oral health. 

‘Ridley Scott’s first draft of Alien had the Xenomorph bleeding sparkling water. The stuff could melt through the hull of the Nostromo, no problem. Your poor teeth must be cursing you.’

At that, Cheekbones turned her nose up and hovered away to hoover up more canapés and champagne. Craig knew that throwing in a few pop culture references would repel her.

Sat on his corner stool, adjacent to the dapperly dressed art elite, Craig resembled a diligent gallery guard waving away offers of champagne. He pretended that he was on duty. Really though, he was just catching up on some reading about deforestation. 

Poppy flitted about the gallery, schmoozing artists for most of the evening. When the dilettantes had exhausted her with their nebulous rumination, she finally got around to engaging Craig. He would tolerate the pretension and tedium of the gallery for as long as necessary if it meant spending time with her. 

Having been a loquacious hostess all evening, Poppy approached Craig rather sheepishly. She was guilty that she hadn’t introduced him to her friends as the man who saved her life. Craig, however, was oblivious to such a faux pas.

‘As you can see,’ Poppy said, pointing at her feet, ‘I’ve reverted to Doc Martens.’

‘Good choice. A sturdy boot.’  

Then, in what could have been mistaken for Dadaist performance art, Craig stood, lifted his fleece and revealed his belly button to Poppy. He received a few looks from lingering patrons. 

‘Today is a good yield,’ He said, referring to the dark fluff collected in his navel. 

Poppy’s loud smirk drew the stink eye of the artist Anton Gill, who was judging her déclassé fraternisation. He was loitering to squeeze a final compliment or two out of the remaining kiss-arse patrons.

Craig’s outward display of absurdist belly fluff humour had Poppy stumped. But was it humour? She wasn’t sure whether his goofiness was unselfconsciously earnest or intentionally zany.

‘I’ve been collecting it everyday since I was thirteen.’

‘Do you keep these cotton chrysalises in albums as well?’

Craig nodded. ‘I only wear black t-shirts for best results.’


Craig wouldn’t have given up his albums of belly fluff and coffee stirrers to anyone but Poppy. He agreed for them to be displayed in the Besotted Gallery on the condition that they be returned looking pristine.

Poppy received several snarky texts from her friends about Craig’s behaviour at the showcase. His rudeness, dishevelled appearance and casual attire were unacceptable according to Anton Gill and Cheekbones. 

The general sentiment was that an outsider like Craig didn’t belong in such Bijou Soho establishments amongst the art elite. Evidently, he’d ruffled the feathers of the elite, and Poppy was all the fonder of him for it. 

Though Craig’s coffee stirrers and albums of fluff were a drastic departure from Poppy’s regular fare, she went ahead and displayed his work anyway. She firmly believed Craig’s work to have more humour and heart than 90% of the tax write-offs that she pedalled in her Gallery. 


When it came around, Craig’s exhibition was a one hundred percent, total flop—snubbed by everyone in the Soho art community. Word had got out about an impostor—a conceptual artist who was ‘playing the autistic card’—and they chose to put an embargo on him and his ‘art’. 

The damage to Poppy’s reputation and livelihood upset Craig, and he manufactured an escape route for himself. He claimed to have been transferred to Manchester by the IT company that he worked for. But in reality, he had no intention of moving up north, and figured that because he kept such a low profile in London, he’d probably never run into Poppy again. 

So he gifted her with a piece of memorabilia before parting with her. 


Upon unlocking Besotted Gallery, Poppy leafed through the junk mail and circulars. She saw a package addressed to her in familiar handwriting, but couldn’t place the wobbly script. 

She opened the package. 

Two clear plastic bags slid out; a pink stiletto heel in each. They were labelled in black marker—‘L’ for left and ‘R’ for right. 

She tipped the package upside down, expecting a letter to fall out, but instead, a wooden coffee stirrer clattered onto the counter. 

It was labelled in thick black ink: 


June 09, 2022 15:34

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L.C. Schäfer
17:49 Jun 17, 2022

I love it! I find it really hard to write humour. This one earned you my follow 😁


Jim Firth
18:05 Jun 17, 2022

L.C, Thanks for reading and for your kind words. I'm focusing mostly on humour, so there'll be more to follow!


L.C. Schäfer
18:15 Jun 17, 2022

Looking forward to reading more!


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Aeris Walker
17:59 Jun 13, 2022

Effortlessly hilarious, and such a great ending! I enjoy your writing style; it’s intelligent, witty, eloquent, but still relatable. Well done.


Jim Firth
18:31 Jun 13, 2022

Thanks Aeris! That's very kind of you. This one took a lot of polishing. I always find that when writing in the third person, my first draught sounds like a child telling a story, something like 'and then, and then, and then.' I think I find writing in first person much easier. Still figuring it out. I've been reading a few things from your back catalogue, so expect a few comments...


Aeris Walker
18:34 Jun 13, 2022

Oh gracious, well don’t read too far back, it only gets worse. I absolutely find writing in first person to be easier, though I guess it does limit you to one perspective. And I agree, first drafts always sound a little juvenile. But that’s what most of the great writers recommend, to just get the story out there and come back to polish it later.


Jim Firth
19:07 Jun 13, 2022

I went pretty far back. I've gone back to your first one! It's very good. About first draughts--your absolutely right. It probably sounds very basic, but as I'm pretty new to this, I'm getting used to the process of getting the story out, not panicking that it's juvenile, or a mess, and coming back later to refine and transform it. Sometimes it's so tempting to fiddle with it during the first draught, but then your'e going into 'edit' mode and not letting your subconscious get into a flow state. Woah, didn't expect that to come out. I guess...


Aeris Walker
19:15 Jun 13, 2022

No I absolutely understand! I think it’s Stephen king who says that you just have to write and get it all out in order to “outrun the doubt.” And he’s so right; when you hang yourself on every little word that didn’t come out the way you wanted, then you doubt your ability to finish the whole story. And I feel like whether you race through it or trudge through it, the practice just makes you a better writer no matter what. What is your favorite story you’ve written so far? I’d love to read more of your stuff!


Jim Firth
19:25 Jun 13, 2022

'Outrun the doubt'--I like that. I'm not sure I have a fave of my own. 'It's the shoes' and 'Chiming in' are in similar territory (1000 words, first person comedic stuff). I haven't been back to read 'Memorabiliac', since submitting because I can't see the forest for the trees after doing so many passes on it! I've only submitted those three, so you could have a gander at the first two. If you're a speedy reader they'll probably only last about 30 seconds, haha.


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Beth Jackson
08:18 Jun 13, 2022

I loved this Jim! It was hilarious and quirky, a great read! The ending was brilliant, tied everything up nicely and super satisfying. Thanks for sharing. :-)


Jim Firth
09:19 Jun 13, 2022

Thanks for reading again, Beth. I'm grateful for the encouragement!


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Mike Panasitti
23:44 Jun 09, 2022

No better word for the humor in this than "brilliant." It should be seriously considered for an award this week.


Jim Firth
09:29 Jun 10, 2022

Mike, thanks for the kind words--it's great to know that the humour hit home. I really enjoyed your submission this week. Pussycat Janks for the win!


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