WORDYSOD : Michael Lawrence                                    www.wordysod.com

A Writer's Website                                                                                                

Delius Gripe is a gelf. Gelves were around long before humans, which they call 'hominids'. It is from gelves that we adapted the goblins and elves of mythology. Goblins are usually characterised as squat, ugly, grumpy and cunning while elves are generally seen as lean, willowy and rather mischievous. Gelves possess some characteristics of both of these non-existent species, plus the ability to change into almost anything by scratching their bums. Delius scratches his bum more than most. His shapeshifting ability has got him out of many a scrape, though he does make the occasional poor choice. For instance: 'I once made the mistake of turning myself into a toilet. Never again. I was very ill-used.'

Here's the first chapter.


A concept and character that no children's book editor was interested in.

Pity. I would have had great fun with Delius.



When the Giant's Fist exploded, I didn't know what hit me. One moment I'm as fast asleep as a person can be, the next I'm flung high into the air in a cloud of volcanic ash, holding onto my hat and screaming. Up I go, through the clouds, into the stratosphere, half way to the moon, then over I tumble, over and over, and –


     – down and down, twirling and twisting, twisting and twirling, and seconds before I hit the ground I scratch my bum and turn into a feather.

     As a feather I drift the last few yards, or metres, or whatever hominids call their measurements these days, and land much more softly than I would have done if I couldn't shape-shift so brilliantly. Only then do I resume my proper shape and find that I'm sitting among all these torn black bags and covered in used food and stuff.

     What a rude awakening after a mere three years of slumber!

     And then...

     'Where did you come from?'

     I look around. Behind me stands a weedy hominid kid with colourless hair sticking out in all directions, freckles all over his stupid cheeks, and glasses with one of the lenses blanked out. The bright blue eye that isn't blanked out is staring at me like I just dropped out of the sky (which, by sheer coincidence, I have).

     I sit up and straighten my hat. 'You mind your business, I'll mind mine!'

     'And what's all this dust?' he asks, as if I haven't spoken.

     'It's not dust, it's volcanic ash. Where in Girk's name am I?'

     'Our back yard,' the kid says.

     'Well, you should be ashamed of it. What are all these bags?'

     'Rubbish. The Refuse Disposal Technicians have been on strike for weeks and the cats got at them.'

     'The cats got at the Refuse Disposal Technicians?'

     'The bags. That's why you're covered in egg shells, bacon rinds, rhubarb, mashed potato, pasta, curry sauce – '

     I hold up my hand. 'I do not need a complete inventory of the sartorial additions to my clothing. What I do need is a wash. A creek would be nice.'

     'A creek?'

     'A small stream, with water, not something a door does when its hinges need oiling.'

     'We have a hosepipe if it's any use.'

     I get to my feet, kicking rubbish away. 'A hosepipe? Do I look like a rockery? You hominids don't improve with time, do you, in grey-matter or looks. As for the latter, I don't know how you can bear to look at yourselves in mirrors, any of you.'

     'What do you mean?'

     'What do I mean? I mean your entire race is as ugly as half a hundred sins, that's what I mean.' His sad little face fell at this. 'Oh, I know it's not your fault,' I added kindly. 'Evolution can't always get it right. But when I say I can hardly bear to look at you, I'm being polite.'

     'Have you looked at yourself lately?' the brat asked.

     I shook my handsome head. 'I've been asleep. Tell me what you see.'

     'What I see?'

     'When you look at me.'

     'You don't want to know,' he said.

     'But I do. After that tumble from the stratosphere, I could do with a spot of praise.'

     'All right. What I see is a scrawny old wrinkly with a nose like a beak.'





     'Nose like a beak?'



     'You really want me to go on?'

     'I do indeed.'

     'Well, your ears are about twice normal size, and very pointed – and one of them flops over, did you know that?'

     'Yes. It's what I call my “character ear”. Continue!'

     'Your mouth reminds me of an open drain,' the boy said, 'your teeth are the colour of mouldy cheese, your eyes are like purple marbles, you have the raggediest beard I've ever seen, your fingernails are like blunt kitchen knives that could do with a good soak in vinegar, your hair's like grey straw, your hat's like a floppy tea-cosy, and the rest of your outfit is like something from a bad joke shop.'

     'Is that everything?' I asked.

     'I think so. Apart from your eyebrows.'

     'What about my eyebrows?'

     'They're like thick lengths of rope that have got badly unravelled.'

     'I'm very attached to my eyebrows,' I said. 'Well, strictly speaking they're very attached to me, but you get my drift.'

     'You're proud of them?' the boy said.

     'Of course. My eyebrows are two of my natural highlights.'

     'And your skin's sort of greenish,' he added.

     'I'm not surprised,' I said. 'You'd be a little green yourself if you'd been so unceremoniously lobbed out of a volcano. You know it hurts me to say it, but you've just provided as fair a description of masculine gelvish beauty as ever I heard.'

     'Gelvish?' he said.

     'Stuff to do with gelves, of which I'm one. A gelf, that is.'

     'And a gelf is...?'

     I sigh. Do hominids teach their kids nothing in school these days?

     'You've heard of elves?' I ask the boy wearily.


     'And goblins?'


     'Well, there's no such thing.'

     'I know that. They're made up.'

     'Correct. Elves and goblins do not exist. They are – and always have been – non-existent. Gelves, on the other hand, have been around since way before your mob swung down from the trees and discovered trainers and fried chicken in boxes. Some time after that, some no-account hominid met a group of us and decided that we were not attractive – the nerve, coming from him! – and called us “goblins”, because it's an ugly word. Then another useless hominid saw some of us leaping through the woods (it was a leap year) and was so amused that he dubbed us “elves”. Then a third waste-of-space hominid starts making up stories about goblins and elves, and before you know it, they have their own mythologies. Now are there any further questions, or can I go now?'

     'Did you know that bees can fly backwards?' the boy said.


     'And that a teaspoon can hold a hundred and twenty teardrops?'


     'And that it's illegal to be drunk in charge of a cow.'

     'Why are you telling me these things?' I ask.

     'I can't help it. I have all these facts in my head and they jump out of my mouth whether I want them to or not.'

     'Well, close your teeth. Imprison them. Say no more. There's enough garbage around here without junk like that. Now listen. I have egg yolk on my nose, spaghetti over my left ear, Swedish meat balls down my tights, and I'm not even hungry, so I'm going to find that creek. But before I do... it's been bothering me... why is there a patch over one of your lenses?'

     'I have a lazy eye,' said the kid.

     'Well, that'll teach it,' I said. 'Now good day to you. I wish I could say it's been a pleasure to meet you, but gelves do not lie.'

     I tipped my hat, and, dusting myself down and dashing odd bits of second-hand food from my person, I left him to his rubbish.