Napkin Story: ‘Dunked’ by Hannah Roche

As part of the Napkin Story Project by McBookishness, The Leeds Big Bookend Blog is showcasing some of the fantastic flash fiction works that are now published in napkin format. The competition asked Leeds writers to write 300 words of their spookiest imaginings, and they would be published in time for Halloween 2013 for various coffee-drinking readers in cafés to peruse. This story is by napkin competition winner Hannah Roche, with her story ‘Dunked’. Read it – if you dare . . .


The trick, Grandma said, was to drop them in boiling water.

“But only for a few seconds,” she warned. “If the flesh starts to turn, you’ve had it.” She pressed the skin with a bony thumb. The nail, I saw, was long and yellow. “It’s just to take the wax off.  And then” – she grinned – “we can get to work.”  The kettle let out a shriek at her side.

I watched as thirteen apples were dunked and wiped dry.  “Perfect”, Grandma said. “Now the toffee will stick just fine.” She pointed to the bubbling pan and winked.

“It’ll cover up everything.”

I counted out thirteen skewers.  We might have been good. But then the clock chimed, and Grandma turned to me and snarled. “Where are the needles, the pins, the screws? Hurry up!”

We worked together. “Force it in, right through the flesh,” Grandma ordered. “That’s it. And another one. Oh, you’ve got it.”  She gripped my shoulder and cackled. “Just imagine! When they bite into these apples, they won’t be bothering me again!”

We plunged the fruit into the scalding syrup.

I thought about the olden days, when witches would be strapped to boards and dunked into rivers and ponds. I thought about screaming children. I thought about Grandma.

“Have you ever bobbed for apples?” I asked.

“No, of course not. I don’t play games. I hate Halloween.” Grandma stabbed the steam with a speared apple and glared.  “You’re lucky I’ve not given you one of these.”

At last, somewhere within me, a child screamed. I seized Grandma by the hair. The apple in her hand splashed into the pan. “You witch!”

It was wicked, I know, but it couldn’t be helped.

Her deadly creation exploded.


Hannah Roche with her napkin story 'Dunked'

Hannah Roche with her napkin story ‘Dunked’

Hannah Roche is a PhD student at the University of Leeds. Her research explores the various manifestations and functions of distance, displacement and dislocation in modern lesbian narratives. Visit her profile here.

Originally from Keighley, Hannah has lived and studied in Glasgow, Bordeaux, and Brighton. She is now back home in the north, where she likes it best.

Hannah also writes a blog.

Fiona Gell

Fiona is a lifelong reading enthusiast and book lover. Her career started as a bookseller and has never really veered away from the written and spoken word. It was a dream for her to be a founder member of The Leeds Big Bookend and the Northern Short Story Festival. She continues to be its Director.

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