Issue 10, 2023

2023 Touchdown Writing Competition Winners

TSM Agents

We received hundreds of wonderful entries to our writing competition! After lots of reading and rereading and thinking hard and long, we selected two winning entries and five honourable mentions. Congratulations to everyone who entered—there were so many clever, creative submissions.

Read the story starter below and then enjoy the terrific continuations by our winners!

A Bad Place to Sit

PENCILS BARRYMORE was exhausted. He’d been rushing about all morning, trying to find a beekeepers’ society, where he hoped to get some ideas for a story on bees for an upcoming magazine.

‘I can’t understand why I haven’t been able to find the place,’ he muttered sweatily. ‘Here I am at the address given to me by E, but there’re no beekeepers here, let alone any bee hives, and certainly no jars of honey. Humph. All I found was this molasses factory … sticky, gooey molasses everywhere. Oh, my, I’m tired. I think I’ll just plonk myself down on that bench over there for a little rest, before I continue on this wretched quest …’

That was not the cleverest idea Pencils Barrymore had had that day …


A Bad Place to Sit

story by Chanelle | illustrated by Greg Holfeld

Pencils Barrymore sank wearily onto the wooden bench.

‘What a day!’ he grumbled. Suddenly, he heard a squelching sound and felt something sticky seeping into his trousers.

He leapt up with an unfortunate yelp only to find his clothes coated in molasses from the bench.

‘Nooo!’ he wailed dramatically. He frantically tried to wipe off the mess but only succeeded in spreading it further.

Undaunted, Pencils decided the best thing to do was carry on his search. With each squelching step, his molasses-covered shoes threatened to stick to the floor, causing him to break into a jiggly dance. Factory workers doubled over with laughter at the spectacle.

Rounding a corner at a run, Pencils collided with a factory worker carrying two huge barrels of molasses. The barrels went flying through the air in slow motion, drenching Pencils head to toe in a thick layer of the sticky substance. It was a true catastrophe! Pencils emerged from the river of molasses
like a vengeful swamp monster, roaring and chasing shrieking workers, pandemonium ensued as molasses flew everywhere! After what seemed like hours, kind employees helped Pencils into an industrial shower.

He scrubbed frantically but the molasses clung stubbornly. Finally, Pencils emerged from the shower, molasses still squelching in his shoes. Though defeated, he had an idea.

Retelling his adventure to the bemused beekeepers, Pencils had them in stitches. The beekeepers thanked him for the levity and introduced him to their fascinating world of bees.

Reinvigorated, Pencils realised laughter can transform even the stickiest of situations.

As Pencils left the beekeepers, his quest continued with renewed spirit. Though his misadventure had been unpleasant, joy had emerged from the mess. And that, he thought, would make a perfect beginning for his story of life’s sweet lessons—lessons learned in a molasses factory, from the stickiest of benches. With a smile and sloshy step, Pencils continued on his way.

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Aaron | illustrated by Greg Holfeld

… Crash! The bench rapidly gave way under his weight.

‘How unfortunate, I’m not that fat am I? I only weighed myself yesterday and it said error.’ As Pencils thought, he noticed sticky, gooey molasses all over the bench, all over the joints and small remnants of honey. As he touched the squelching liquid Pencils smelt the rich aroma but then he smelt something strange and out of place. Pencils collapsed and the last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was the very thing he used to contact help, the very thing he used to connect himself with E. He saw E on the small yellow background crash to the floor and split into shards. He’d lost his watch!

The first thing Pencils noticed when he awoke was the dilapidated room he was in. He struggled to get up but found that his hands and legs were bonded together. All he could do was wait for help; he knew shouting wouldn’t help, wherever he was he was far from anyone. Pencils waited and after what seemed like hours he then heard chatter.

Two rough voices were talking outside.

‘You brought him here!’

‘Nigel really was right about you.’

‘Why … what did he say.’

‘He said you had a brain the size of an ant and that you’ve got no common sense.’

‘I still can’t believe you brought him into our abode.’

‘What’s an abode?’

‘It means lair, you buffoon.’

‘Out of my way, you idiots,’ another deeper voice commanded. Then everything was muffled. Who were these people? Why did they want him? Pencils’s mind was about to burst. Before he could answer anything he heard several locks turning. Couldn’t get out of here even if I tried, he thought to himself.

A burst of light caught him offguard. Pencils saw a man in a Ralph Lauren suit; he was well built and very tall.

‘Move!’ commanded another man. The man was as fat as a sumo wrestler but as short as a dwarf. This guy wouldn’t even fit into a monster truck. Not waiting another second, Pencils charged at the man. This man didn’t even flinch, but took out a jar of honey. Pencils instantly knew the smell, the rich aroma with something out of place … before he could think any farther … black.

Pencils woke up again. ‘Great. Tricked twice by a man who can’t climb stairs. Why do I keep getting into catastrophes like this?’

He scoured everywhere possible, even in a hole. Nothing. What would James Bond do? Pencils thought. Well, first he would go and use a laser ring or something like that to break the locks. Plant some timed bombs, and call his Aston Martin and ride out with explosions behind him. But sadly I’m not James Bo—Before Pencils could finish his thought he saw something on the floor and with that single thing Pencils knew what all of this was. Pencils knew what he needed to do.

Honourable Mentions

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Emeline

He woke up to the sweet scent of sedatives wrapping around his mouth and nose suffocating him from fresh air. His blurry vision restricted him from making out his surroundings. He frantically flailed as he tried to stand up– tried to do anything really, but struggled when he felt the itchiness of the rope not letting him separate from the chair. A sickening wave of panic hit him as multiple terrifying thoughts flew through his head. Was he still in the factory? What had happened after he sat down? Who did this to him? Question after question just led to more and more worrying thoughts.

His unsettling questions were interrupted by footsteps growing louder and louder. The footsteps made a squelching sound that brought Barrymore a whole new level of nausea. ‘Well this is unfortunate isn’t it?’ a deep, rich voice said.  Barrymore couldn’t identify where the voice came from and the darkness smothering the room wasn’t exactly helping. ‘Who are you?’ Barrymore trembled. ‘Now do you see what being a fool does to you? Look at this catastrophe you're in as we speak.’ That didn’t answer Barrymore’s question, although…the voice sounded strangely familiar– of course that could just be his paranoia creeping into his mind.

Barrymore opened his mouth, ‘Are you… E?’. Silence followed. ‘Please, I mean no harm. I’m just trying to write a story for my magazine.’ This time the silence was deafening. It had been so long this mysterious person could have already left for all Barrymore knew. Maybe they were figuring out what to say? Maybe they were choosing which question to answer?

‘Unfortunately for you, I’m going to have to leave you here. You know too much.’ The deep voice said– interrupting Barrymore’s thoughts. He wasn’t entirely sure about ‘What he knew’ but all Barrymore wanted to do right now was get out.

You always got it your way! You got what you asked for, got everything you could have wanted, and because of that you left me in the dust. So I’m simply having revenge.’ They chuckled, as Barrymore started to feel queasy. ‘I honestly couldn’t care less if you died in this dusty old factory. I never liked you.’ That was when Barrymore's heart started to crumble. He may not have known who they were, but those words still stung. At that point, he didn’t even have anything to say. ‘Ugh, fine. You’re taking all the fun out of this.’ The voice said, followed by footsteps growing louder and louder. Then suddenly, the footsteps stopped for a few seconds before they stepped into the light where Barrymore could see them. Barrymore gasped in horror as the colour drained from his face and an evil, smug smirk crept across the recognizable man's face. ‘B-Brother?!

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Benji

Pencils lowered himself onto the bench. There was a loud, gooey squelching noise.

'What was that?' he cried as he looked down to see yellow syrup all over the bench. 'And what is that?' Then he groaned. 'It’s honey!' After all the terrifying adventures he had survived, this was humiliating. Pencils D. Barrymore. Beaten by a puddle of honey! Pencils slammed his fist down on the bench in frustration. Then he remembered his communication ring.

'That's it! I can use my ring to call E! I’m saved!' Pencils pulled up his hand to click the button on his ring. But to his horror, his hand was stuck.

'How did I get into this catastrophe?', he thought bitterly. Pencils attempted to prise his hand off the bench several times, but had no success. After trying to push the button with his nose, making it stick more firmly, if possible, Pencils gave up. His only hope now was that someone would come by soon and try to free him. Hours flew by and the sun began to drift behind a cloud.

The ground was shaking. Dust started to rise from the ground, and then without a moment's warning, the ground exploded. Perhaps Pencils would have had the moment's warning, if  he was in the group of scientists led by Alfred Einstein II, working in an underground laboratory exactly underneath Pencils. They were trying to make a new type of honey. The following unfortunate events probably wouldn’t have occurred if a scientist, who forgot his glasses, poured phycomatical acid, a liquid that turns things alive, into the mixture ,instead of pycimaticol acid, which keeps things from spoiling. To make it short, the stuff exploded and the explosion took Pencils with it.

Pencils flew up into the sky, honey, debris and cracked test tubes flying in the air. For five short seconds, it seemed like he was Superman, but then he started to plummet. Before he landed, he remembered he could have used his left hand to activate his communication ring. He sighed, pushed the button and yelled, ‘Help!’ , then suddenly remembered that he was still falling. He felt the impact for a few short seconds then he blacked out.

Pencils woke up in bed.

‘Where am I?’, he said wearily.

‘Well Pencils, it looks like you’re in hospital. That looked like a nasty fall!’ exclaimed E. ‘When we arrived, it was like another Pompeii! Except with honey! That was a very bad place to sit. You’ll be in hospital for a few days.’

‘Thanks E,’ said Pencils, and E left. Pencils sighed, and looked around. His suite had nothing but a few chairs and a window. Some movement caught his eye. He looked out the window. Outside was a large yellow thing. Then a doctor burst into the room.

‘Mr Barrymore!! Get out! There's a ... a ... thing out there! We’re in full evacuation!’

Pencils started hyperventilating, wishing that he had some jelly to calm him down. Pencils gulped

‘Too late sir, it’s here.’

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Aadhya

Pencils Barrymore walked over to the bench, and lied down, but what he didn’t know was that that bench was completely covered in bumblebee eggs. So much that they were utterly camouflaged into the bench. The bench made a horrible squelching sound, and Pencils Barrymore sat up abruptly. Not because of the eggs, but because now, a swarm of bees were attacking him. He hurriedly jumped off the bench and darted to the molasses factory, where he was sure the bees wouldn’t find him.

‘Curse you E’, he muttered, he was furious at him, but he couldn't focus on that now, he had to get out of the place, and away from the bees. The Molasses Factory was old and dirty, but that didn’t stop Pencils Barrymore’s curious mind from exploring. There were various jars of honey and molasses, and LOTS of chairs, ‘too many chairs, in my opinion’, he thought.

He really wanted to sit down, he had been running from the bees for so long, but he was afraid that the chairs had bee eggs on them too. Finally deciding to take the risk, he sat down. But as soon as he did, a bunch of arrows shot at him out of nowhere. Luckily Pencils Barrymore managed to dodge them all. ‘A booby trap?’, he thought. 'That’s unusual for a Molasses Factory ''. Thinking it was probably just a coincidence, he sat down on another chair, but this time, a trapdoor appeared under him, and he fell into it.

Eventually, he landed in a small narrow tunnel.

‘Alright’, he said, brushing himself off. ‘Let’s find that beekeeping society, or whatever else is down here. He walked along for a while, exploring the place, looking for a way out. He eventually reached the end of the tunnel, where there was a door labeled OFFICE. There was pretty much nowhere else to go, so Pencils Barrymore slowly opened the door, as he did he thought ‘please don’t let this be another trap, today was already a catastrophe.' But when he opened the door he only saw…..

‘E?’ Pencils Barrymore sure was confused. ‘What are you doing here?’

E was speechless. ‘How did you find me?’ he asked.

‘This is where you said I could find the beekeeper's society,' Pencils Barrymore replied, ‘you gave me the address.'

He gave E the little paper that he had given to him.

‘This is the address to my secret office here,' he said, after reading it. 'I must have accidentally given it to you instead of the beekeeping societies address.

‘Oh’ Pencils Barrymore replied, there seemed to be an awkward silence, broken by his weary voice.

‘Oh well, guess I’ll be going, and just to be clear, we won’t tell anyone about this unfortunate mishap, will we?’

‘Nope, definitely not’, E replied.

And with that, he left.

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Tristan

As Pencils sat his behind down on the sticky, dry bench, a horrid squelching sound filled the air. Pencils leapt up in shock, as the squelch was quickly drowned out by an angry buzz. ‘AARRGH!’ He screamed as a large, stripy bee crawled out from between the gaps of the bench.  It had coffee brown stripes, running down it’s fat, fluffy body. It had large, white wings covered in veins, with thick black legs sprouting from its soft, honey coloured belly, while big, charcoal eyes wrapped around it’s box like head. Scariest of all, a gargantuan, curved fire red stinger was sticking out from the big bug’s body, dripping poison like a wet katana.  The bee eyed Pencils angrily, staring at him with deep, void like pupils. He stepped back. Pencils had never been stung by a bee before, and he didn’t want to know what it felt like.

Suddenly, a dark black leg popped up next to the bee, and another, until another huge, hairy identical bee unearthed itself next to the first. ‘This is a very unfortunate situation!’ he said, as more and more bees spawned. At last, at the mind-boggling amount of 20,000 bees, the original bee let out a buzz of anger. All the nearby bees flew up at once, swarming around Pencils like a tornado. ‘Help!’ shrieked Pencils, as the bees buzzed and flapped around him. Although he was not wearing protective clothes, he was not stung at all. In fact, they seemed to be guiding him!

‘What on earth?’ He yelled as the bees levitated Pencils up through a window … into the molasses factory. But then catastrophe! The bees lost grip, and Pencils Barrymore went tumbling into the sticky, sweet smelling darkness of the factory ...

A Bad Place to Sit

story by Georgia

…as the moment he sat down, the bench he had been sitting on dropped. Felt like he was going to fall through the bottom of the earth, he said afterward. At last the bench finally stopped, landing on a hard concrete floor. ‘Ugh’, Pencils Barrymore moaned. Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes and looked around. ‘Agh!’, he yelped. Pencils bit his lip as he surveyed his surroundings. ‘What’s happening?’, he mumbled. ‘Surely this is just an effect of the fall; I must just be dazed and disoriented.’ Really, he had every right to be as frightened as he was; for every which way, he was surrounded by enormous bees! Buzzing around, making quite a racket, delivering honey to hives and whatnot. Still timid, Pencils Barrymore took a few steps forward into the honey covered ground, making an awful squelching sound. ‘Oh, it’s always me who gets into these kinds of messes. Though this is even more unfortunate than usual. Why, this is a catastrophe!’, he exclaimed, throwing his arms out and knocking a bee nearby. It bumbled away, offended. ‘Oops.’ Pencils sat down with a sigh. ‘What would Fran do?’, he thought. ‘She would be able to fix this’. Pencils Barrymore concentrated as hard as he could, but try as he might, he could not think of a solution. ‘Oh well.’ He sighed to himself, but then jumped up, decisively. ‘Oh for goodness sake! E sent me on a mission to acquire a story about bees, so that’s what I’m going to do. Besides, what better way to discover facts about bees than to be amongst them.’ And so, there he was, Pencils  Barrymore; recovered from his rest, determined to finish this wretched quest.

‘Oh my, how interesting. Yes indeed, fascinating,’ Pencils Barrymore muttered as he scribbled fact after fact about bees. ‘I feel I am learning a great deal here.’ As he continued to plod along noisily, jotting down notes, eating honey (which was good, but no substitute for jelly), Pencils noticed a gap between the huge hives. ‘Huh. What's that up over there?’ Walking closer he realised that the shiny knob sticking out was actually a door handle! Pencils Barrymore turned it, but the door wouldn’t budge. ‘Hmm. What’s going on here?’ He looked up, noticing that the edges had been sealed shut with honey! ‘Deary me!’ So, Pencils Barrymore heaved at the door with all his might, bursting it open back into the molasses factory. ‘Oh goodness!’

‘... and then I looked up to notice that the door was stuck!’ E chuckled hearing Pencils Barrymore’s tales of the giant beehive. ‘Well at least you were able to get a few facts about bees; I think these might just be enough to write our next Touchdown article!’, E said as he looked over the notes. ‘Well one thing’s for sure’, Pencils Barrymore said. ‘What’s that?’, E asked. ‘Next time you’re sending Fran!’

Facts about bees:

  • They live in hives
  • They have 3 body parts
  • They produce honey