Dialogue Only Short Story Competition - Winner

Terry Lowell

Just a Kiss
Dialogue Only Short Story Competition


Born and raised in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Terry Lowell left school without qualifications but went on to secure a Masters in creative writing at Bretton College. His working life includes stints making bricks, selling double glazing, lecturing at university and been a hypnotherapist, management consultant and writer, though not all at the same time, he adds. He has sold comedy material to British and German television shows (Russ Abbot Show, Grumbleweeds, Hale and Pace, Blankety Blank, Samstag Nacht and The Rudi Carrel Show), and once won £1,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
His children’s story My Zombie Best Friend was published by Bobaloo Books in 2017 but has now reverted, and he is seeking a publisher for a new book, The Boy with a Girl in his Head.

Just a Kiss By Terry Lowell

“Gah! What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”
“I am kissing you, fair princess.”
“Well, don’t.”
“I am freeing you from the evil spell which has...”
“And who said you could, eh? Was there a sign saying please kiss this sleeping woman?”
“No, my life’s desire, but…”
“Did I have friends begging you to nip over and snog my face off?”
“No, oh perfect object of…”
“And I am not a bloody object, all right?”
“Please accept my profound apologies. It’s just that in my experience women seem to appreciate the more flowery terms of…”
“Never mind all that. I want to know where you get off thinking you can slap skin on my lips without permission. And this’d better be good because two bars of ‘Whistle While You Work’ and this glade’ll be filled with dozens of animals with very sharp teeth ready to bite into whichever bits of soft tissue I tell them to. Get my drift?”
“Er, yes, erm, well… I was riding through the forest and I espied you in your glass coffin…”
“And that’s another thing. I was in a coffin for God’s sake. I mean, do you make a habit out of kissing bodies in coffins? “
“Of course not!”
“Because if you do that’s not normal.”
“I don’t. You just looked so beautiful.”
“So you thought you’d swoop in for a quick necrophiliac smooch? Weirdo.”
“I am not a weirdo. I am a prince.”
“Oh, and that gives you the right to assault sleeping women does it?”
“Madam, this is what I am trained to do. I go on quests and fight dragons and attend balls and if I see a beautiful woman in a magically induced sleep I kiss her on the lips to wake her up.”
“Well for future reference, when I want waking up I’ll set an alarm clock, all right?”
“I am sorry. I clearly misunderstood the whole situation, but you must understand, my cousin woke a sleeping princess and he inherited her father’s entire kingdom. It’s traditional.”
“It’s non-consensual is what it is. How would you like it if I came to your room when you were asleep and woke you with a kiss?”
“You need to take a long, hard look at yourself.”
“All right, I said I am sorry. It was just, an enchanted forest, a beautiful princess…”
“And that as well!”
“All this ‘beautiful princess’ stuff. What you’re saying is, if I was ugly you would’ve just left me here.”
“Oh, come on. I mean yes, I am obviously stunning; perfectly symmetrical features, adorable button nose, ruby red lips, jet back hair, flawless skin, yada, yada, yada. I can understand that anyone would want to kiss me. I get that. My point is, if I were a bit of a troll you would’ve taken one look and ridden straight past.”
“That is just not true.”
“Oh, yea?”
“Yes. And for your information, your skin is not flawless.”
“Yes, it is.”
“I’m afraid not. You have a nasty spot on your chin for one thing and your nose is quite frankly looking a little bit flaky.”
“And, pardon me, I certainly wouldn’t describe it as ‘button’. That implies your nose is quite small and cute whereas actually it is a bit long and pointy.”
“Long and pointy? You think my nose, my nose, is long and pointy?”
“Out of proportion to the rest of your face.”
“Really? You think so? Well, let’s ask the expert shall we? Where is it? Here we are.  Mirror, mirror on the wall…”
“It’s in your hand.”
“Shut up. Mirror, mirror in my hand... Mmm? Who is the fairest in the land?”
“Whether black or brown or golden hair, you are the fairest of the fair.”
“And there it is!”
“There it is what?”
“Proof. I am the fairest of the fair. You just heard it.”
“And exactly how is that proof?”
“It’s The Magic Mirror! Duh!”
“I see. So, some green-faced goblin in a mirror tells you what you want to hear and somehow that makes it true. Do you think that would stand up in a court of law, because I really don’t think so?”
“Don’t you know anything? Look, the Magic Mirror contains a trapped spirit which is under a spell that means it can only tell the truth.”
“And you seriously believe this?”
“You’re a prince. You should know this stuff.”
“May I? Thank you. Magic Mirror in my hand, who is the handsomest prince in the land?”
“In this land of handsome men. You don’t come in the top ten.”
“Hah! You see, it clearly has no idea what it’s talking about.”
“It only speaks the truth.”
“For your information, dear girl, my mother has told me many times that I am the handsomest prince she has ever seen and she is a queen so she should know.”
“She’s your mum!”
“And I would rather trust her word than some childish not very magic mirror, thank you very much.”
“What are you doing?”
“I am trying to swipe left.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just how long have you been asleep?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been asleep, haven’t I?”
“Well, it must have been very long time if this is the magic mirror you were using. The ones you buy now are far superior.  If you don’t like the trapped spirit you have you just swipe left and select a new one from a whole range of trapped spirits that are desperate for contact with the outside world.”
“I don’t want a new spirit. I like this one.”
“Yes, and he certainly likes you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“He hasn’t taken his beady little eyes off you since the moment you summoned him. If a mirror could drool, my hand would be dripping spirit spittle all over my best hose. Do you know what this creature was before it became trapped in the mirror?”
“I don’t know. Just some man or other.”
“Some man or other?”
“Tell me. Did you keep this ‘some man or other’ in your chamber?”
“In your bed chamber?”
“So when you were undressing for bed, or changing clothes or strolling in naked and dripping from a relaxing bath…”
“I wasn’t watching!”
“Were you spying on me?”
“Watching me undress?”
“I may have… inadvertently… occasionally… over the years…
“You sir, are a blackguard.”
“You’re a bloody pervert!”
“Look, I’ve been stuck in this bloody mirror for three centuries. You put me in a bed chamber with an attractive woman, what do you think I’m going to do. I’m only, used to be, human.”
“Hang on. So, am I the fairest of the fair or not?”
“To be honest, you’re the only woman I’ve seen in the past twenty-six years so I don’t have much to compare you to.”
“Well, that’s just great, that is.”
“But I do think you’re really fit if it helps.”
“It doesn’t.”
“Look, why don’t I just pop him in this pouch and then…”
“No, please, not the pouch, I…”
“Aaaand he’s gone. So, it seems your friend in the mirror was a bit of a Peeping Pete. Terrible, unforgivable behaviour.”
“Almost as bad as kissing an unconscious girl in a coffin.”
“I have apologised for that.”
“Yea, all right. I accept your apology.”
“Thank you. So… Here we are.”
“I suppose so.”
“Are you, that is, would you be, perhaps, hungry at all?”
“I am as it happens. And my breath smells like a dog farted in my mouth.”
“No. No, no, no. Not a dog. Exactly. A little food and drink and you’ll be tickety-boo. Actually, I know a smashing little boutique restaurant on the edge of the dell if you’re interested. It’s run by seven chaps who live together and they do a fabulous kiln-smoked barramundi floated on a bed of sautéed aubergine. It really is to die for.”
“Is that The Seven Dwarves Inn?”
“Oh, you have been asleep for a long time. In polite society we don’t use the D word anymore. No, it’s called A Shovel and A Pick. Faux rustic and very up-market.”
“OK, that sounds nice. But it’s not a date.”
“No, no of course.  It is certainly not a date. It’s just two people having lunch and getting to know each other. And just to be clear, may I say, without wishing to cause embarrassment, that your nose is, in fact, actually, really, quite… cute.”
“Cheers. And I’m sure you are in the top ten of handsome princes. Maybe eight. Or nine.”
“That is very kind of you to say so. I’m sure you will love A Shovel and A Pick. I try to dine there at least once a month and I highly recommend the suppression of hand-shaved chorizo for starters. It’s absolutely divine.”   
“Do they do chips?”
“Triple-cooked, obviously. You know, all this talk of food has got the old tummy rumbling. Is that an apple I spy?”
“I only want a nibble, I, aagh…”
“Don’t swallow it!”
“That’s the apple the witch poisoned me with, you bloody idiot.”
“That’s what put me in the coma. Hello? Can you hear me? Oh, come on, you can’t do this to me. All right. Yes, I know what I said but I can’t just walk away and leave you, can I? And it doesn’t mean we’re engaged or anything.
“It’s just a kiss.”


Judges Comments

Terry Lowell neatly subverts the well-worn tropes of fairytale romance in his very entertaining story Just A Kiss, the winner of WM's competition for dialogue-only short stories. Deploying the voices of the prince, the princess and the mirror on the wall, Just A Kiss presents three clear, defined characters and points of view in a comic conversation that takes fairytale clichés to the cleaners. Just A Kiss doesn't need any authorial intervention to press home the message the author wants to convey – it's all done through the really well-created character voices.

The prince is pompous and stupid in his adherence to his given role. The princess is a snarky delight, bursting the prince's conventional expectations with every utterance, and pointing out the wrongness and lack of political correctness that makes the original story problematic for a close contemporary reading. The talking mirror is a surreal touch that deftly fits with the expectations of a fairytale whilst allowing Terry to explore another way of undermining the traditional tales.

The progression of their dialogue from animosity to possible affinity is well-paced and works well, and the twist at the end is neatly effective. The relationship between the prince and the princess needed to develop after the conversation that contrasted his spouting of stereotypes and her bursting his bubble. Deploying another fairytale element - the poisoned apple - enables Terry to wrap up his darkly witty satire on fairytale romance in a way that is black humourous and nicely subversive.


Runner-up in the Dialogue-Only Short Story Competition was Tony Domaille, Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, whose story is published on www.writers-online.co.uk.

Also shortlisted were: Amelia Brown, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey; Becky R Collins, Weybridge, Surrey; James Ellis,
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire; Roy Jackson, Painswick, Gloucestershire; Yasmine Lever, New York; Joanne Mallon, Brighton;
Saskia van der Tas, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.