Rugby Cafe Writers were challenged to write a piece, maximum length 300 words, about an experience they have never had. Here is a selection of their contributions:
A first time for everything by David J Boulton
‘Only one go at this, no second chances.’
There were others present, but they couldn’t hear. The conversation was going on in his head.
“Could be worse, I’m pretty comfortable. Better than a few weeks ago. But then, I didn’t expect to try this out.”
A distant voice said something about ‘rambling on’, but what he was saying was clear enough in his head, he was trying out something new… new to him anyway, and he was going to make the best of it.
‘Fresh as a Daisy’, that’s a saying isn’t it. Quite appropriate really, they talk about pushing up daisies.
The distant voice said ‘he’s talking about flowers, I think’.
“That’s strange, he’s not much of a gardener.”
A familiar woman’s voice this time. She was right too, he thought, she’d been right about most things over the years. He’d be one up now though, she certainly hadn’t tried this one.
‘Pity there won’t be a mobile connection. I could tell her all about it’
“I think he’s on about his mobile.”
Once muffled voices were clearer now, although he couldn’t hear them.
“We’ll never know; he’s gone. At least it was peaceful.”
The Gift Token: A Trip in a Hot Air Balloon by Theresa Le Flem
The wind was getting up as I followed five others and clambered into the basket. Immediately the gas ignited and fired up with a deafening roar as the basket rocked like a racehorse, impatient to be let loose. I gripped the side, afraid to join the conversation which was going on behind me: shrieks of laughter, joyous enthusiasm for their first flight in a hot air balloon. It was my first time too, but I’d never asked for this. The trip was a gift token, given to me at Christmas, with a gesture of pure love. I had to accept.
The basket lurched, the fire roared again and we were being dragged along the ground until suddenly the whole party of us lifted up and up with a swoosh and a feeling of being elevated without the safe confines of four lift walls. Cries of sheer delight pierced my shroud of terror.
Then the basket sort of calmed down, drifted like a bubble in the warm summer air. We hung there suspended. My companions murmured and pointed out various landmarks, the fields of Rugby School, St. Cross Hospital, and we floated on – Daventry Reservoir passed below but we were climbing higher, and higher …I felt totally helpless. I was a pigeon clutched in the claws of a giant eagle. At any moment the great horny beak would come down and tear into my flesh.
Perhaps I fainted because the next thing I knew we were falling quite rapidly. Those behind me were shrieking. Trees came into focus, the tops of trees, even the leaves, telegraph wires, and chimneys. Then we were gliding in a downwards sweep towards open farmland where a tractor was so close the driver looked upwards and shouted at us in alarm. A horrible scraping sound thundered in our ears as the basket hit the ground. We were hauled along by the balloon in a ridiculous, almost comic limp to a final resting place in a blackthorn hedge. It was over.
Grace by John Howes
I’d taken the Northern Line down to Embankment and walked across the bridge to the Festival Hall. This was one of my favourite places for coffee, looking out along the Thames, watching the people go by. Grace had already sent a message saying she would be late.
I was in a quandary as to whether to get the coffees in and risk them being cold, or sitting there, occupying a desirable spot, with nothing on the table in front of me except a telephone and The Guardian. I opted to wait.
It was a dull day. The river was grey but still magnificent. A dredging barge glided by at a funereal pace. The cops sped in the opposite direction, their solitary blue light flashing. Body in the water, I assumed.
The minutes ticked away. Then, there she was. The sun appeared, the lightning flashed, fireworks filled the air, the band struck up a glorious anthem. Grace was here, smiling, wonderfully disorganised as ever, shoulder bag bursting with books. Between lectures.
“Hi, dad,” she says.
Let the heavens be praised for the daughter I never had.
An Experience You’ve Never Had by Simon Grenville
“Is it safe?”
“Darling, this is the cutting edge of science , “
My wife was sounding doubtful.
I explained as carefully as I could and then she got it.
“You’re going to be placed in a body scanner, they will completely
recon figurate your DNA and you will emerge changed. Completely changed into a
different species. A fish “
“Why a fish ?”
“It’s more of a biological challenge, and besides you know how much I like the water.”
“And then after 30 days they will repeat the process and you will re emerge as you
“Just think of the accolades, And think of the book deal My life as a fish!”
It all went very smoothly. A moment of darkness as I went into the body scanner, a
sudden flash, a sudden headache and a desire to wipe my brow.
Except I couldn’t. I no longer had arms but gills. Before me swayed fronds of sea
grass, I inhaled and exhaled oxygen perfectly, and oh, that feeling of lightness in the
water, the sheer delight of just existing without exam papers to mark, students to
scold. There was no doubt about it life as an aquatic species was pure bliss.
My wife posted notes of reassurance on the side of the tank and I’d nod my head in
recognition. The university were delighted.
The children were impressed. They had a celebratory father. They transferred
me to a smaller tank inside my own home.
I just wished the cleaning lady hadn’t left the back door open the way she did.
The big tabby cat from next door sneaked in, and was sitting inches way
from the lip of the tank. Staring at me. And not in a nice way.
I Sang To My Daughter As Bombs Fell by Madalyn Morgan
I hadn’t been asleep long when I was woken by the roar of aeroplane engines. I dived out of bed, pulled back the blackout curtains and looked up at the sky. A formation of Messerschmitt’s came into view. My heart began to pound. I ran out of my bedroom and along the landing, pushing open the doors of my young brother and sister’s bedrooms and shouting, get up. Mum’s bedroom was the last. I burst in. ‘Mum, take the children to the Anderson shelter.’
While my mother put on her dressing gown, my brother and sister stumbled out of their rooms half-asleep. ‘Go downstairs, put on your shoes and coats and go to the shelter,’ I ordered.
‘What about Lily?’ Mum asked.
‘I’ll bring her.’ I work long hours in an armaments factory, and mum thought it best for my daughter, Lily, to sleep in her room during the week.
Mum left her bedroom as quickly as her legs would carry her and followed the children downstairs. Lily began to cry. I lifted her from her cot and cradled her. I heard the high-pitch wail of the air raid siren followed by the low drone of heavy aircraft before the deafening sound of exploding bombs. The house shook, the windows blew in, and the bedroom door slammed.
With my crying child in my arms, I laid on the floor and wriggled until I was under the bed. Choking from brick dust and smoke, and shivering as much from fear as from the cold, I held my baby close. I sang to her, as wave after wave of German incendiaries tore through the city. I felt an excruciating pain in my back. It soon passed. Lily stopped crying, and I closed my eyes.
Lucky Break? by Steve Redshaw
At first, I thought the letter had to be a scam. What do they say? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I do not purchase National Lottery tickets. Getting gullible people to gamble is a deceitful way of raising money. And… the odds of actually winning anything are so pitifully low, a ticket is simply not worth wasting your money on; so I don’t! My son bought me a ticket though, for my birthday. It was a joke really, to heckle as I preached from my soap-box, to topple me from my hobby horse.
He texted me the other day, “Hey Dad, looks like your number’s come up, what you going to do now?” I didn’t bother to check anything, anywhere. I wouldn’t know where to even start. But now, thud, right on my doormat. What will I do with 1.2 million quid? Can’t just stick it in my bank account, can I?
Blimey though, the holidays we could have, Maureen’d love it. The car I could drive. The house we could get. Crikey we could employ a cleaner! Presents, gifts galore for the whole family. The grandchildren, my old workmates, our neighbours. Everyone…. every damn person I know!
Everyone? All the family? The entire neighbourhood, that we would be moving away from? How many of us worked at the factory for a start? And where would I stop? How much should I give? Do you pay tax if you win a load of money? I’d have to hire an accountant!
Publicity! You get known, don’t you? You get pestered by ‘good causes’. Begging letters? Threats even! I’d have to go into hiding.
My phone buzzes. I stare at the screen, but I can’t answer. Son, what have you done? What have you done?
Never before! Never again..? by Simon Parker
“Bored! Bored! Bored!” she exclaimed, as they lay in bed on that fateful Saturday morning, enjoying a leisurely breakfast.
“Did you know,” he said, leafing through The Economist, “there are 8780 communes in France with less than 200 inhabitants each?”
“Didn’t you hear me?” she said. “I’m BORED! We never do anything new anymore and I’m BORED!”
“What exactly are you bored with, darling?” he said. “Are you tired of this brand of marmalade, or do you want to buy a big yacht and sail around the world? Where exactly are you on the marmalade-yacht boredom continuum?”
“Oh I don’t know.” she said. “It’s definitely more than marmalade, but less than yacht. I think. We used to be wacky and exciting. Now we’re respectable and BORING!”
“OK,” he said, realising that this couldn’t be batted away with more coffee and amazing facts from The Economist, “let’s go away for a weekend and do something new, like hot-air ballooning.”
“We did that once, and it crashed!” she said. “Darling, that’s how hot-air balloons land!” He explained. She wasn’t amused. She hadn’t been at the time either.
One week later She found herself dressed like a trainee astronaut, strapped to a guy half her age, communicating by sign on account of being at 12000 feet in a light aircraft with the door open. The guy, in turn, was attached to a large parachute. A green light flickered on the ceiling of the aircraft. In one movement, they tumbled out into free space.
He was waiting below, filming the tandem free fall parachute drop. “That looks exciting, but rather her than me,” he thought.
On the back seat of their car lay a beautifully wrapped package. It contained three of the most expensive jars of marmalade he could find.