Short Story: The Feast Of Margaret

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About this Short Story

Written by
Adam West


A day of celebration in a not too distant future - speculative fiction paying tribute to one of my favourite authors. A story that contains adult themes and one swear word.


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March this year was freezing. No snow just cold, cold nights and raw, raw days.

I went down to the allotments every morning to check on the hens. Feed them.

I don't go anymore. All the hens are dead. A virus Harry sez.

When I used to walk down to the allotment along the narrow paths the Gardeners keep free of weeds the frost made that sound under my feet only walking on frost makes.

Crunchy-crackly Jen calls it.

Like Jen would know. She rarely gets out of bed these days. Too cold she sez.

Keeping warm is an obsession with her.

You get cold and you might never get warm again and then you die. That's what she says. Sometimes I think it is the only reason we do it as often as we do it. To keep warm. I don't tell her that. We go on. Don't get me wrong. The sex is good. And we…

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Tobias Haglund said "Very good! This kind of story really sets the wheels in motion within me. The world and setting of the story, the imagery, relationships in such a torn up place - very interesting and a great piece of writing. Would have like to see this amongst your own picks of finest works, but all of your works are great. Truly enjoyed this one. Very well done. All the very best my friend / Tobias"
3 years ago
Tobias Haglund replied saying "Yes it really did. I always wondered what to call the genre. Often times it is called just Sci-Fiction. But Dystopian is probably the best word, right?"
3 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thanks Tobias - I know you are into speculative fiction/dystopian/Urban fantasy like fare so I guess it ticked those boxes - ATB - Adam"
3 years ago
Sandy Wardrope said "Hi Adam, Good stuff once again, I know I keep using this type of endearment but all the good plaudits have gone, see below. Great stuff from one of my favourite writers, all the best. Yours ,Sandy W."
3 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Hi Sandy - another of my favourite SBS writers from North of the border! Thank you - good stuff once again, is one of my favourite plaudits - thanks for reading and commenting as always - ATB - Adam"
3 years ago
Hugh Cron said "Hi Adam, this is your least imaginative writing. All that you have done is write about someone spending a night in a hostel in New Cumnock!...In July!! Dead chickens, eating dogs, unclean sex...Yep New Cumnock!! Sorry mate, I hope you have no distant relations there! On a more serious note, I do like this. The place functions, barely, and the feeling of hopelisness is lost to acceptance. Your descriptions are as vivid as it gets. I thought of the constant cold as much of a loss of humanity as the climate. The only heat they get is when there is a sexual connection, the most human experience giving them a memory of the humanity that their society has lost. I don't know why this came into my head but there is a book by De'Lacy called 'Meat'. It deals with a time when the bible had been re-written and it spoke of 'The Chosen' being a gift from god. 'The Chosen' were people who were only bred as food. I know that you have said that you have your christmas list but if you ever come across it, I think it is worth a read. What can I say Adam, another excellent piece of writing and sorry about my nonsense at the beginning...Heed my warning though and NEVER go there. All the very best my friend. Hugh"
3 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Hugh - you are an example to all us would-be writers that reading- intelligent reading that shows that the reader has perceived and translated thoughts into word - yes I know I am rambling BUT the best way to become a better writer is to read and read and read and aim as high as you can when writing. I might give New Cumnock a miss when I next go north of the border (only been once) - it's probably on one of those lists of top ten places not to live - thank you for reading - I will look up Meat of course - ATB - Adam"
3 years ago
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Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Cheers Robert - I'm not that prolific these days to say the least - just the occasional burst. Thank you for sticking this on your book shelf. Don't know if you were party to the conversation a little while back but several of the regulars have deleted all their favourite authors (but kept favourite stories on their shelves) in order to speed up recent activity - and it works! ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
This comment has been removed; this user is no longer a member of Shortbread.
This comment has been removed; this user is no longer a member of Shortbread.
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thank you Mr. Donaldson - Sunday's were never meant to be enjoyable so it's a good job you read it today. If I had a quid for every time I had deleted capital A and the preceding full stop THEN reinstated it - ad infinitum (almost) - before hitting the send button I'd be taking Lee Child out to lunch and not the other way round. Get your coat Lee! - It's been too long since Out Of The Blue? - your last piece, so...?"
4 years ago
Vernon Fulham said "loved it. Sorry, didn't get the Atwood thing, never read her, but thought it was a great bit of post-apocalyptic bleakness. Liked the stunted sentences, and snappy storytelling, reminiscent of another great writer, and the references to the cold which I felt gave a constant theme of hopelessness. And sorry to be a pain but also thought the sez thing should have stayed, and maybe more sense of the character's idiolect needed to be maintained. But not a issue. Vern"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "I'm in good company then as my story - The Unholy Trinity - got rejected by Asimov's after 12 weeks (I was beginning to think they might say yes but they were probably just inundated) oh well - I look forward to reading it. If you are brave enough why not submit it to Rachel for the Critical Collective here on SBS for some very frank feedback. It is tough laying yourself bare to the CC because folk don't hold back BUT in the long run it could prove most valuable - ATB - Adam - PS - love Scarbados - never heard it call that before!"
4 years ago
Vernon Fulham replied saying "(BTW) you have already critiqued a work of mine. And I thank you..."
4 years ago
Vernon Fulham replied saying "We love Scarbados. Not so warm/dry today, though. I wasn't trying to be critical, and it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. And to be fair, even the pros have editors and it seems SBS are not currently editing like they used to (?). Don't know if I'd dare recommend anything of mine now. I need positive acknowledgement of my greatness and think I've thrown down the gauntlet of censure now. (Got a new story in the queue, that I'd like feedback on, though. It got rejected by Asimov and Lightspeed, but pah, know needs them? If you can wait for that...) Vern"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Cheers Vernon - I see you live in one of my favourite spots in the whole world - Scarborough, Filey, Whitby et al. Thank you for the read and comment. The sez/says issue is an important one and just goes to show no matter how much you try to edit and polish you can still miss something that an eagle-eyed reader will notice and that has marred their enjoyment albeit slightly and this is one of those issues that separate us from the pros. Oh well - you must recommend me one of yours I will enjoy. Sc-fi and Crime are my favourite genre but in all honestly I would read chic-lit if it is done well - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Steven Lewis said "Before writing any comments I cheated and read all the others so rather than repeat everything that everybody has already said (and wow...people are getting really technically critical nowadays) I just like to say I loved the simpleness of your writing, allowing the reader to accept this new and alien world as if it were the norm which in turn allowed us to concentrate on the characters rather than pondering as to what had happened to make the world change. Oh and one more thing - I only managed to get back onto SB yesterday for the first time in nearly 6 months - The website wouldn't accept my password and the forgotten password facility wouldn't work either (even though I hadn't forgotten my password) and then yesterday it just did. Anyway great to be back. - Steve"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Great to have you back Sir - I thought you were absent due to long-term writing projects/commitments and work etc. and was sad that you (and one or two others who went AWOL were not around) so welcome back and thanks you for the read as always. I think you are right that I got it right with 'the less is more make up your own background story here because I think it better that way' approach. The technical criticism goes back I think to the forerunner of the Critical Collective (which you of course took part in the original member-led forum thread many months back with James, Diane et al) and also the fact that I don't mind telling folk where I think they might have erred to they certainly don't mind telling me! Glad you found your way back in. Look forward to reading something of yours soon - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Willie Douglas said "Oops...both involuntarily and possibly voluntarily seemed..."
4 years ago
Willie Douglas said "First, Glad you are writing once again. It is a treat to us, your audience. This story has several layers to it, IMO. I do believe that there is a significance to the character's names (Margaret, Mohinder, Harry, The Gardeners) - Mohinder's shop burning also has me wondering about his affairs with the Community, whose occupants must have all shared a commonality separate from outsiders. The implementation of sterilization, both voluntarily and possibly involuntarily seemed a factor. In short, I can almost describe this as an experience in hell. Profound hopelessness. For me, the light in their dark existence is the caring relationship between Jen and the main character. I absorbed the apocalyptic theme, but I sense there is more. Has me thinking, and I love it. Sad but foretelling story of perhaps the fate of mankind. Thank you for sharing!"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thank you Willy - you are too kind to me, anyway - it is a pleasure for me to read your remarks/observations - all members thoughts/view/ideas etc. on my writing and everyone else's for that matter - revealing & informative and sometimes a blow to the ego and other times a timely confidence boost. I hope mankind has better prospects but in the meantime we can all speculate as to how it might pan out - thanks again, Adam"
4 years ago
Desmond Kelly said "Ah Adam, do I detect strains of Margaret Attwood? The Gardeners and the post apocalyptic world? This is a good, evenly balanced piece of writing and something that deserves a follow up. I wish you well. Des"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Hi Des - email Rachel. She is only very p/t volunteer not f/t like Fiona was but is essentially the face of Shortbread for the time being. Rachel@shortbreadstories.com - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Desmond Kelly replied saying "Adam, please advise. How do you contact the editor at Shortbread these days? If I try the tab it comes up with Fiona, and she's long gone. Hope you can help. Des"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "You do, Des. God's Gardeners in fact in the trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake. You are right about the follow-up. I could do what Atwood did (in The Year of the Flood) and tell the same story from a different perspective. I have not read book three yet, but really I should as it is called MaddAddam! Thanks as always for the read and comment"
4 years ago
Peter Heppo said "This was really good Adam and I think the best of your work that I have read to date. You have quite beautifully portrayed a landscape and a mood with stunningly clever simplicity. I could very clearly visualize and feel what you were describing and that is no mean feat. I have read it twice and think I will now read it again. Many thanks for the pleasure ....."
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thank you Peter. I have reached a point where I wonder if I have achieved (in terms of how far I can go with improving my writing) as much as I can - so it is good to hear I have moved on. I value all opinions but your opinion comes near the top of the pile. Here is something else you might enjoy. News on the Ashes. According to this 'documentary' Pisswiddle - not Australia - won it, beating Germany in the final. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUyK_J_W4BI"
4 years ago
Victor Smith said "I enjoyed the simplicity of this, Adam. You've painted as clear a picture here as other writers need thousands of words to achieve. I hope that some of our younger members can learn from your example. Vic."
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Very kind of you, Victor, thank you. I am reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian at the moment. A 'wild west' odyssey set on the Texas/Mexico border in the 1850's, described by one critic as 'Miltonic'. I mention this because his incredible writing is the antithesis of my efforts. The vast landscapes and the magnitude of the barbarous story McCarthy tells demands of him epic sentences. Huge swathes of descriptive paragraphs whereas my story is small in nature and is better told in a tight focus - that's the theory anyway! ATB, Sir - Adam"
4 years ago
Anthony Wobbe said "Just a ton going on here my friend. I think for me, your style represents the potential. If you don't mind the metaphor, your writting voice tends to be a shiney object on a chain that swings before me, while I hear you telling me "You're getting sleeeeeeeeeeeppyyyyyyy.... I certainly see this as a great example of showing and not telling. Nice work coach!"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "No lie, Anthony, your comments actually make me feel like a coach! (in a Hollywood film that is). So that is decided - I am going to get myself a baseball cap and do a 'selfie' (if I can work out how to take a picture with my phone) Watch out for a new avatar of Coach West coming your way soon. Thanks as always, Sir for the read and review - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Sam Kandej said "I'm glad I read a new story written by you :-)"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Hi Sam - thank you and i hope you too have more writings on your desk being honed to perfection (see from the comments on my story how easy it is to slip up no matter how hard you strive) - we should all have our own Editors! - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Diane Dickson Guest Editor said "This was bleak and so very full of atmosphere that I sensed the cold and could "see" very clearly the sleeping quarters, I had a very clear picture of that in my mine. What struck me very much was the phrase "we go on" because this was so very much a story about hopeless acceptance and "going on" in the way that I think we will and have and will again. I am glad to see a piece from you Adam it's been too long and this is up there amongst some of your best stuff in my very 'umble 'pinion. Thanks for this - Diane"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thank you Diane. Hope it was not too bleak. Yes you picked up on the 'we go on' which is a mantra for humankind. I am fascinated by post-apocalyptic scenarios and could not help myself - I have another grim offering in the pipeline, too! Thanks as always for reading and your thoughts, Adam"
4 years ago
Kate Smart Guest Editor said "You're an excellent writer Adam and I think you should make an effort and get your stuff published! You've a large body of very good quality work. I suppose the question is, where? I don't know but there must be 'somewhere'. As soon as I started reading this I thought of Margaret Atwood. I don't actually like Margaret Atwood! but I thought this piece was really good."
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Kate - you are too kind. Have you read any of Atwood's early stuff BTW? Before her speculative fiction? You might enjoy Cats Eye or The Edible Woman - her early 'feminist writings?' If you start a website called TributeActs.It'sNotReallyFanFictionAsSuch.Com you can have first pick of my stuff! - ATB for now - Adam"
4 years ago
Nik Eveleigh Guest Editor said "Liked this a lot Adam - more so because of some of the reading tips like Oryx and Crake you've given me over the last few months. The clipped, matter-of-fact structure worked very well and added to the general hopelessness of the situation. For me the paragraph ~~~There are war lords. Quasi councils. Gangs. Death and hunger. Plenty of drugs. Hangings. Stabbings. No courts. No gaols. Lots of weapons. Very little ammunition. Lots of disease.~~~ is a great example of where less is very much more. Easy to fall into the trap of writing several pages to convey what you've summed up perfectly in 20-odd words. I would echo the point about "sez" and "says" as it was the only minor negative for me. Great stuff - glad to see another story from you. Cheers, Nik"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Cheers Nik - knew you would spot Atwood's 'Gardeners'. The summary paragraph is a useful tool isn't it - thanks as always for reading and commenting. - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
James McEwan Guest Editor said "My life in dystopia and survival of the Gardeners, I felt this was an interesting snap shot and I felt the writing, short simple sentences, brought out the tone of their reluctant acceptance of the situation. I thought the use of 'sez' being phonetic kept us inside the character's mind and gave him a form of low status. Not that the War Lords and the gangs would be intellectuals, who were most likely killed off years before as the break up of humanity began. I did feel the tension rise towards the end because of the Gardeners aversion to meat. I sensed that they would become the meat meals for the raging gangs very soon. If there is a moral to this then I would argue that it is about the 'prophet Margaret', no one listens to prophets until it is too late. I would have liked you to have been consistent with 'sez' and replace all the 'says' and 'tells me' with the word as this would firm the internalised character more. Glad you have continued to write Adam, I enjoyed this. James."
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Thank you, James, as always for the detailed analysis/critique. As you know I value your opinion. You are right about sez/says/tells me - I should have been consistent on that score. I enjoyed reading your take - and the gap-filling so to speak. There is some satisfaction for me as a writer in knowing I have left sufficient space for the reader to 'fill' as they see fit. I am only an occasional writer these days but nonetheless enjoy reading and commenting on SBS (probably more than I do writing, which I find a drain at times) - thanks again, Adam"
4 years ago

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