Mystery Shopping List Writing Challenge

Submission deadline: July 7, 2013
Voting deadline: July 14, 2013

Write a story not exceeding 3000 words based on one of the shopping lists below (respectively, write a story about the character that wrote the given shopping list).

Anyone is welcome to submit. Just insert your story as a comment.

Anyone is welcome to vote. Just reply to your favorite entry and write "VOTE" in the comment text. Don't vote for your own entry.

Please, only constructive criticism; no bashing or venting.

List 1 List 2 List 3 List 4 List 5
1 pack of sausages
1 pack of rashers
1 each black and white pudding
1 bottle of Ballymaloe relish
160 box of tea, Lyons Gold Blend
6 cans of Club Orange
Multi-pack of Hunky Dory crisps
Pack of Tayto cheese n' onion crisps
2 200g bars of Cadbury's choc, one plain, one fruit n' nut
Some sea water in a bottle
Irish Times crossword photocopies that Dad's been keeping
a ball of string
a box of 3" nails
a hammer
a hatchet
20 wooden planks - 10x200x10000 mm
6 wooden posts - 2 m long, 20 cm in diameter
8 pulleys
4 miniature crossbows
40 crossbow bolts
1 can anchovies
1 bag carrots
1 extra large bag of salted peanuts
1 bag shoelaces
1 pair fingerless leather gloves
1 hammer
1 box of nails
1 good rope
Pack of 6 Aloe Vera drinks (2l each)
5kg bag of brown rice
1kg of blueberries
1 hat
500g Angus beef
2kg jar of forest white honey
1 pot fresh garlic
1 pot fresh basil
1 pot fresh rosemary
1 sack of apples
3 jars of blueberry jam
5 loaves of bread (any)
1 extra large bag of roasted seeds
5 jars of pickles
Pack of gum
Chocolate bar
Dog treats
Organic milk
Pack of cigarttes
Rubber ball
Hiking boots
Sunflower seeds
veggies for salad
Chanel No. 5
evening gown
leather thigh strap and sheath for dagger


Mystery Shopping List writing challenge submissions

Re: Shopping List Story

Iris | 24/07/2013

it's a sure-fire way of making something interesting though - being all dark and sinister :D I find writing delight and joyous things actually much more difficult.

Thanks for

Luke | 17/07/2013

Interesting stories Charise and Iris, nice twists at the end, especially the dagger one, I really didn't see that coming!

Shopping list story

Sharise Cunningham | 12/07/2013

It was to be the first dinner party of the season for Marcello Montevalli. His garden parties were always well-attended by the town’s social elite. Exactly who would receive an invitation was a closely guarded secret that quickly became the talk of the town once the tiny handwritten blue envelopes started arriving in the mailboxes that perfectly lined the streets.

Young ladies giggled with anticipation at the thought of meeting the tall, dark-haired Marcello. Men too looked forward to the invites, if not to meet the young ladies who would attend, then at least for the bit of status that receiving an invitation could garner. Recipients left intentional trails of blue paper bits leading from their mailboxes to their front doors. A result of excitedly ripping the envelopes open to expose the silver card inside. And, which also served as a quiet thumbing of the nose to those who didn’t make the list.

The day had finally arrived and as guests strolled in, trying to be casual, they saw the veggies had all been cut with precision and laid in individual salad bowls. The steaks were seasoned and ready for the professional-size charcoal grill. The champagne flowed freely and as dusk turned into night, the candles were lit. They cast a warm glow over the crowd of laughing, smiling faces. Everyone was happy. The men appeared as if they were all dressed for golf with their matching polos and khakis, while the girls were delicate and pretty in their summer dresses.

But Priscilla was different. She was grotesquely out of place in an evening gown and stilettos. As Marcello saw her coming through the gates he raced to confront her and direct her away from the merriment before anyone noticed. “What the hell are you doing here?” He huffed. “I told you, it’s over. You need to leave,” he snapped.

As he grabbed her arm he inhaled an overpowering cloud of Chanel No. 5, the last gift he’d given her. She’d obviously been drinking and crying for hours. A ridiculous smear of lipstick ran haphazardly across her angry lips and her mascara ran down her cheeks like black blood oozing from a wound. Suddenly she screamed, “NO, NOW it’s over!” as she reached for the dagger tucked into the sheath strapped to her leg.

But… there was no dagger! In her drunken rage she’d forgotten to put it in the little holder. Marcello laid her carefully on the ground as one of the guests, Dr. Richardi, came to assist. Priscilla was quietly taken away as the party continued late into the night with various discussions of how Marcello’s first garden party of the season nearly became his last.

Re: Shopping list story

Anonymous | 24/07/2013


Shopping List Story

Iris Ka-Yan Bakalar | 30/06/2013

By Iris – June 2013
Shopping List – inspired by Sharise’s list
I heaved my shopping onto the kitchen counter with a grunt. “Darling, come help me with the shopping!” I called.
There was no reply. I looked out of the window into our garden, giving myself a second to catch my breath. Perhaps David was working hard in the garage again, fixing up that loose nut in the tyres. I smiled to myself, a sense of warmth glowing inside me. Sweet, strong David, always so attentive to the little details. Leaving the shopping, I skip to the garden. It was June and the roses were in full bloom, beautiful milky peach and starlight blue cascading all down the back fence like some fairytale out of a picture book. I wasn’t sure if David had a favourite flower, but these roses were breath-taking, who could refuse? I plucked several from the bushes, careful not to prick my fingers. Wouldn’t want blood to ruin these beauties, would we? I counted five. Five roses, all of them ready to burst open, their hearts taut with the need to be free.
A loud bang came from the garage door. Bagel, my German Shepherd, began to bark. Perhaps he was becoming agitated. I liked to keep Bagel with David, but sometimes that meant the poor animal got stuck in one place for too long!
I returned to the kitchen, placed the flowers in water. I began to organise my day’s shopping: sunflower seeds for roasting with the eggplant, put to one side ready for tonight, the milk into the fridge.
As I was about to put my new packet of dog treats away, the doorbell rang. I sighed and went to answer the door.
“Hi, Annette,” I said, plastering a smile across my face.
My neighbour stood there with a lasagne in her hands. “Hey, Stella. I made this just now, thought I’d pop by and give you some. I know how you hate to cook.” She winked.
“I was actually planning on cooking tonight for a change. That lasagne, however, looks delicious.”
“You’re cooking tonight? Well that’s different! Take some of this anyway, you never know when you could use some ready-made food.”
“Sure. Give me a second. How much shall I take?”
“As much as you like. I’ve got another one for my family.” She handed the lasagne over to me. “You know, you’re welcome to come have dinner with us any time as well. Tomorrow I’m making creamed potatoes baked with salmon.”
“No, no, Annette. I couldn’t intrude.”
“Hey, I know how hard it is. I didn’t marry my fella til three years ago, and I’m thirty-eight. You think all that time living alone, eating ready-meals with the TV being my only company was easy? We all need company from time to time.”
I forced myself to keep my smile. I wanted to tell her, I’m not alone. Not anymore. I found someone.
But I couldn’t tell her that. David wouldn’t like it.
Pause. I was about to close the door.
“Just one other thing,” Annette said, pushing at the door. I gripped the handle. “Just thought you should know. There’s been some strange noises coming from your garage.”
I arched my eyebrows. “Strange noises?”
Annette nodded. “Yeah, scraping, moaning. I wasn’t sure what it was. Bagel’s been barking all day long. I’m not sure. Is Bagel all right? I haven’t seen him out here for a few days.”
“Bagel’s fine, thank you. I don’t know why he’d be barking and moaning so much.”
“Maybe you should take him to the vet.”
I suppressed a sigh. Nosy, meddlesome neighbours.
“Thank you for your advice. I’m sure Bagel’s fine.”
A metallic bang rang into the air.
Annette jumped. “What was that?”
More barking.
I dismissed her question with a wave of my hand. “Just Bagel. He’s taken a liking to the garage lately.” I indicated the lasagne. “If you don’t mind, perhaps I’ll take the whole thing?”
“Sure, sure, Stella! Go right ahead!” A bright smile lit her face. “Well, I better be going then!”
I closed the door with relief. Hastily I shoved the lasagne into the fridge, but all I wanted to do was break the dish, hurl it across the room and hear that satisfying smash of glass against stone. I didn’t need ready-made food anymore, I didn’t need her pity! I found someone, I’ve found David. I would start cooking, I would cook everyday. David would be a happy man. He wouldn’t know what’d hit him, how he’d managed to be so blessed with a woman like me.
I pocketed the gum and lifted the chocolate bar. It was wrapped in black paper with gold running through it, Carte Noire’s special 80% dark chocolate with caramelised almond pieces. David would be so thrilled. It was his favourite. I know, because I’d seen it in his house, the wrappers scrunched up into shiny tinfoil balls in his bin, and another stash of dark chocolate in his cupboard like a guilty craving. I found other things too, of course. I found his girlfriend’s perfume in his bathroom. I found her bra thrown over his bedpost. I found a magazine of engagement rings hidden in the bottom drawer of his desk.
“You’ll never guess what I got you!” I called into the silence.
I moved out into the lounge, turned on the TV. The five o’clock news was on. Second story item: missing person. David McGill, 34, last seen on his way home from work, taking the tube from Piccadilly. Elise, his girlfriend, sobbed on screen.
A smile curled my lips. She should cry. David was a wonderful man, and he left her.
I left the news on, got up to prepare dinner.
Through the garage door, a weak, rasping moan hung above the broadcast.

Re: Shopping List Story

Anonymous | 24/07/2013


Shopping List Story

Luke Ryan | 23/06/2013

Story by Luke Ryan

Shopping List by Philip Prentis.

I put the coin into the little slot to free the trolley. I slide it out from the trolley in front and direct it towards the door. And with that, the slow march towards death continues by way of a Saturday afternoon excursion to a home improvement store. My wife is striding ahead and I am eyeballing all the other vacuous fools who seem quite happy to wander about in this stronghold for the eternally average. A bunch of idiots, pure bred, from long lines of ancestral idiots, trying to keep up with all the other idiots who live on their street, or who send their kids to the same school, all content in their idiocy. And me. I am not saying I am any better than these fools. Society would probably say I am lucky to grace the company of normal, reasonable people, who tolerate the likes of me with a gritty perseverance. But I do know better than these fools, that's for sure.

They descend here en masse weekend after weekend in their Subaru Foresters and 4x4s, load up on all sorts of useless rubbish and go back and drink ice-tea on their decking thinking how wonderful they are. Probably the closest these vehicles ever get to off road are car-boot sales at the local sports grounds. People getting rid of DVD box sets and Stereophonics albums, because they have finally realised they are awful. Usually to raise money for some good cause. The last one was for a terminally ill child whose father is on the School Board. Of course we had to go. A morning spent listening to the idiots saying how tragic it is, and how they are only too happy to help, when really we all know it is pointless and we are only helping to delay the inevitable. But I am sure when their heads hit their eiderdown pillows that night, they can congratulate themselves heartily on giving something back. In reality, they are probably more delighted that all the community saw them giving something back. I posted an anonymous envelope with to the families postbox with a sizeable cash donation. At least I earn the right to be bitter.

My wife wanted to get a Forester. I told her we can get one if we ever move to a forest. Then she suggested a Renault Scenic and I said when we move to somewhere with a view we can get one. Besides, I refuse to buy a car where the model has a name. A number is fine. The name is just a vague suggestion of how much more dynamic or interesting you wish you could be had you not thrown it all away and decided to become a complete and utter fool like all the other sheep out there. In the end we got a Volvo. Not the most exciting but their safety record speaks for itself.

A ball of string.

The item lands into the basket part of the unmanageable trolley. Are the wheels really trying to move in different directions or am I just not bothered enough to steer the bloody thing? I couldn't care less to be honest. All the other idiots seem quite happy to wield their trolleys across the floors with delirious abandon and absolutely no regard for anybody else. Why can't I join in the fun? The ball of string rolls to the other side of the basket. And with that I spend the next two minutes imagining my life as a ball of string that has slowly unwound, and come apart, and become frayed, getting chopped into many different pieces for use in many pointless tasks, until there is nothing left. And then I congratulate myself for being so poignant. And then I chastise myself for bothering to care. Then I hear her shouting at me to keep up. I resist the temptation to make a face and push the trolley along.

A box of 3 inch nails.

The item lands into the basket part of the trolley with a clunk. And I think to myself, this trip this afternoon is another nail in my coffin, just like all the other trips, and dinner parties with people who like Sudoku and rave about how better their life is since they cut out caffeine from their diet. We were at one last week, four couples, all parents of children in the same class. As usual it was a dull affair. A group of middle-aged parents trying to demonstrate how much better their children are. In an attempt to join the conversation, I remarked that our youngest had recently taken up the violin, only for my wife to cut across me and say, 'viola dahling, it is called a viola'. To be honest I wouldn't know if there was difference, it still sounds like a dog trying to have sex with a cat. And when I said that, my wife just glared at me and the rest of the idiots looked nervously into their wine before somebody exclaimed how delightful the dessert was. And yet, if I just sit in silence at those dinner parties, speaking only when I am spoken to, she gives out to me for not being more sociable. Probably the only good point of these parties is to have a look in the bathroom cupboards and the laundry hampers to see if there is anything interesting in there. There never is though. Why should I expect anything else from the most ordinary people on the planet?

A hammer.

The items lands in with an even louder clunk than the nails. I thought we had a hammer. Probably that idiot from next door borrowed it and failed to return it, as usual. I decide not to ask her why we need a new hammer. The price of the hammer is not very expensive, certainly not worth having a conversation with her. I learnt a long time ago that these expeditions were better suffered in silence.

A hatchet.

Again I thought we had one of these but best to keep my mouth shut. At least something interesting has made it into the basket. As I see my wife ahead of me comparing the prices of various planks of woods with all the focus of a laser, I imagine the hatchet firmly lodged into the back of her miserable head. I afford myself a little smile, but not too much, because if she saw that, she would become suspicious. I then start looking around at all the idiots and imagine bludgeoning them repeatedly with the hatchet too. Fun times.

20 wooden planks - 10x200x10000 mm

My help is required here and I load the planks on the broad base of the trolley, trying to organise them so they all face forward and won't get caught on the shelves as I push the trolley around. My wife is telling me they should go the other way as it would be more compact and rather than bother question her spatial reasoning skills, I reload them her way and deliberately push the trolley into the side of another trolley, knocking off some of their merchandise. My wife apologises profusely to the couple and tells me to be more careful and I tell her it wouldn't have happened if we had packed it my way, and she tells me not to be ridiculous and storms off. I turn the planks so they face length ways, as the couple whose trolley I crashed into look at me as if saying please pick our stuff up. And I look back at them as if saying ugh and I go on my way making a point of checking her ass out on the way past.

6 wooden posts - 2 m long, 20 cm in diameter

This time she starts loading them lengthways, like the planks, but without any suggestion that she knows I am right. The worst thing is, once we get home with all this rubbish, I am going to have to do something with it. Specifically, I have to build a new rabbit hutch because apparently the door on the other one is broken and Floppsy or whatever the hell it is called got out last night. Luckily he was found in the garden. It also happily coincides with a request from the kids earlier in the week for a second bunny. I told them that unfortunately the hutch wasn't big enough for two rabbits. They pleaded, and pleaded and their mother said she will see what she can do, and lo and behold, the current hutch, which has been the very secure home to three different rabbit in the last four years turns out to useless and I have to build a new one. And of course the trip had to be this afternoon despite me telling her all week that I was meeting a couple of friends to watch the Rugby this afternoon. I was presented with the argument, who is more important, your friends or your children, and of course I lied and said the children.

8 Pulleys

I am not even sure what they are for, but again, the price is quite reasonable and not worth actually talking to her. The current hutch doesn't have any pulleys, and I can't really think how they could be incorporated into one. She probably doesn't know herself. No doubt one of the other mothers said that her life hasn't been the same since she bought pulleys, so now all the other mothers are rushing out to buy them. It was the same when one of them started reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. I was mortally afraid that it might make her start wanting to have sex again. And then my mind wandered to Analise, the Scandinavian beauty who is my secretary. She is absolutely useless at her job but that wasn't exactly why I hired her. I had hoped that after the rugby, I could swing by her place this evening for an hour or two, but apparently the hutch must be built this evening in case that glorified rat escapes during the night again.

I see her making her way towards the cash desk. I make my way over and get out my credit card as the store assistant scans the various items and my wife makes banal small talk with him. I toil all week so my wife can laze around at home trying to find new and more useless ways to spend the money. Recently it was 'let's gets another car'. I told her we live in a small city with a centralised population and an excellent transport system. I am happy to take the Metro to work, she can use the car during the week, it would be completely unnecessary. Of course I know she wants a second car because most of the other families on the street have two and god forbid they would think we are too poor to afford one. I do manage to siphon off a little bit of cash each month into a secret bank account so that when this sham of a marriage explodes magnificently in my face in a massive cloud of bitterness and exposed infidelities, and she tries to screw me for every penny I have, I won't be completely ruined. And then Analise and I can elope to somewhere that is hot, dangerous and cheap, and I can continue the slow march towards death, at least a little happier.

I push the trolley out to the car and load the stuff into it. I put the larger pieces of wood on the roof rack and secure them and she gets into the car. Then her phone rings and she says it is her sister, an even more venomous parasite, so I am sure the call will take at least half an hour. While she starts chatting away I slip back into the shop. There are a couple of things I need to get which she doesn't need to know about. I just take a basket this time. I quickly locate what I need and I pay in cash.

4 miniature crossbows
40 crossbow bolts

I get to have my fun too.

Re: Shopping List Story

Philip Prentis | 21/07/2013

It was a difficult choice. For some reason all three stories seem to be about characters who are mentally unhinged, bordering on psychopathic (not sure what that says about us authors of the shopping lists!), so I'm going for the one about the guy who hasn't actually attempted to commit a felony. Yet.

Re: Re: Shopping List Story

Sonya Lano | 24/07/2013

I was thinking the same thing! After reading the other two stories, the ending of this one seemed to have a sinister feel to it, too!

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