Dad was flabbergasted. ‘Fifty million?’ he said. ‘Your school is selling Ms Fosdyke to West Chirnside Primary for fifty million dollars?’
I enjoy writing short stories a lot. They’re a great change of pace between novels, and you get to play with enjoyable and interesting and sometimes silly ideas that are not quite big enough for a longer work.
Perhaps ‘not quite big enough’ isn’t the right way of saying it. Perhaps ‘not quite sensible and believable enough’ is closer. Some short stories grow out of very big ideas, but when you’re only asking readers to hang in for a few pages you can present those ideas in a slightly more exaggerated and comedic way. In a way that, if stretched over a couple of hundred pages, might well have readers thinking, hang on, that’s not very believable and not even that funny any more.
In Pizza Cake for example, there’s a story called ‘Saving Miss Fosdyke’ set in a modern day world we all recognise. Except for one thing. In this story schools sell teachers to each other for fifty million dollars or more. We like that idea for a few pages because, let’s be honest, that’s what teachers are worth. But if I tried to drag it out for too long, we’d all start remembering that’s not how our society has organised things.
Same with ‘Tickled Onions’, another story in this collection, about a boy called Clyde Craddock whose parents make him eat porridge with stewed apple and sun-dried tomatoes for breakfast. Followed by goat sausages with pig-liver marmalade. Good fun for a few pages, specially as we read what Clyde does about it, but if it went on for too long we’d start checking the Masterchef schedule and wondering where they got the recipes.
Another Pizza Cake example is ‘Stationery Is Never Stationary’, about a family who has all their problems solved by stationery. It’s fourteen and a half pages long, which is fine because for fourteen and a half pages we’ll believe stationery can do anything. But much longer and ... No, hang on, I’m talking rubbish. We all know stationery can solve any problem, any time, anywhere, even if it takes five hundred pages. Damn, I should have made it a novel.