Scutwork – Gregg Chamberlain #amwriting

Jenni picked this one and brought it to my attention. She rather liked it and if she likes it, well, I (usually) like it too! I really do love the way this piece starts. It jumps right into the action and the beat follows.  Take note, writers:  This is what you can do with strong dialog. Show, don’t tell right? Well…sorta.  Fletch works pretty damn good and that’s a whole lotta telling. I like how this style for a story plays out and Gregg Chamberlain is rather masterful here.

Scut Work


Gregg Chamberlain


“Okay, Sully, let’s go over the checklist.”


“Steel-toed boots?”


“Shin guards?”

“Front AND back!”

“Good. Some of those little Green Hell Amazon buggers can really sneak up on a body.”

“Yeah, tell me about it, Jake.”

“Uh huh. You got yer hockey pants?”

“Used, but still got all the stuffing.”

“Okay, should be good. You made sure to stuff the leg holes too? Remember what happened with Mitchell?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. Used up all the dirty socks in the laundry bag.”

“Well, if nothing else, the smell should make any creepy-crawlies clear off.”

“Hardy-har-har. Funny like a broken crutch you are.”

“Just remember when you’re around the unicorn…”

“I know, I know, never turn my back on him.”

“Yeah, and he’s got the ‘Itch’ now too, and he ain’t feeling too particular. So don’t bend over neither.”

“Uh, right.”

“Lessee…chest protection. Says here Kevlar vest best option.”

“Yeah, right, as if.”

“What? Thought you were gonna borrow one from your cousin the cop?”

“I asked. Bugger said he’d see then next day he up and says no way he can get one without proper requisition b.s. paperwork. And forget the local Guns-R-Us army surplus. No way I can afford what they want, even for a used flak jacket.”

“So? What’s under the sweatshirt?”

“Got my kid brother’s motocross chestplate. Industrial-strength molded plastic. Hard enough to bust your knuckles on.”

“That the rig looks like Star Wars stormtrooper armour?”

“Yep. Pretty much, almost the same thing, really. Even Erich’s claws should have a tough time scratching through.”

“Erich? What’s he doing in the Pen?”

“Blue moon month. My craphead cousin the cop loaned me his nightstick. Least that he could do, the putz. Got some silver wire wrapped around the end to tap Erich with if he gets owly.”

“Okay, guess it should work. Arms?”

“Football shoulder pads and hockey elbow pads.”


“Yeah, bit of a problem there. Hockey gloves are okay when I’m using the shovel or pitchfork. But, y’know, if I gotta do something that involves manual dexterity, well, there’s a reason those guys throw down their gloves when they wanna mix it up on the ice.”

“Yeah, okay. So?”

“Well, I thought about those leather half-gloves like some of the biker guys wear. But my fingers feel all exposed, right? So, I gotta pair of those heavy-duty rubber gloves like chemists use when they’re handling beakers of acid.”

“Okay. What about the head?”

“Motocross helmet with detachable face guard and a pair of heavy-tint goggles.”

“Right then, okay. So, you got your shovel, pitchfork, buckets. What else?”

“Uh, lemme think. Two sling bags. Right side, I got three, no, four small bleach bottles with spray-nozzle caps. Left side’s where I got the hair spray canisters. Half dozen should do, I think. Four Bic lighters strapped around my left wrist with rubber bands, and a Zippo inside the pouch of my sweats.”

“Y’know, Doctor Prospero doesn’t much like us using the homemade flamethrowers in the Pen.”

“Hey, what the Doc don’t know won’t hurt me. Some critters–like that damn cockatrice–little taste of fire’s the only thing they understand enough to back off.”

“Whatever. Your funeral if he catches you using them.”

“My funeral I go in there without ‘em.”

“Mm hmm. What else?”

“Water pistol full of fresh-squeezed garlic juice.”

“What? No holy water?”

“Ever try to sneak a squirt gun into a holy water fountain?”

“Ah, yeah, right.”

“Got a bag of rock salt in the right hand sack too.”

“Not slug bait? Shoggoths take a little more than a bit o’ salt.”

“Gardening shop was out. Been a wet summer this year.”

“Well, I guess. Just remember to wing the stuff where the face is supposed to be.”

“Yeah? Which end’s that?”

“Hey, if you’re close enough to tell the difference, then you’re too close already.”

“Managed to score a couple vials of anti-venin.”

“Well, that won’t work fast enough if the basilisk gets you.”

“I don’t plan on getting close enough for ol’ Fangface to get me. But he spits worse than a camel. First sign he’s getting ready to hawk one, I stick myself and run.”

“Got a mirror too then?”

“Little sister’s compact.”


“I use the mirror to look around and behind me. Then close my eyes, spin, blow a big puff of face powder into whatever big ugly’s there, and hightail out.”

“Okay, that’s not too shabby thinking.”

“I get an idea now and then.”

“Must die of loneliness sometimes.”

“Oh, you’re wasted here, man. Oughta be writing for Leno or Seinfeld.”

“Well, that’s the checklist. Got maybe three hours until show time. Ready?”

“No, but I’m going in anyways. Gimme a hand first putting these earplugs in.”

“Nah, you won’t need them. Siren’s got a cold and can’t sing for spit. But you might wanna play deaf around the Sphinx.”

“How come? She’s a pretty nice sort, most times. Not hard to look at neither. Leastways, half of her is.”

“Ah, her and Doc Prospero got into a riddle contest last night. Doc stumps her with this one about whether or not a tree makes any noise if it falls and there’s no one around to hear.”


“Well, what?”

“Does it?”

“How the hell should I know? Ask the Doc, ‘cause the Sphinx didn’t know an’ he wouldn’t tell her either, an’ it’s put her in a right pissy mood.”

“Man, I hate doing scut work in the Pen.”

“Could be worse. Mitch got stuck with spring cleanup in the Doc’s office.”


“And you know what Harry’s doing?”


“Scrounging around for a really big pair of pliers with the longest set of handles he can find. And a big case of the cheapest whiskey he can afford.”

“Pliers and rotgut. What’s his deal?”

“Erich’s been complaining about a toothache.”

“Oh, shit!”

“Oh, yeah.”


Gregg Chamberlain, a community newspaper reporter four decades in the trade, lives now in rural Eastern Ontario with his missus, Anne, and their clowder of cats, who allow the humans the run of the house. He enjoys writing genre fiction in the sf, fantasy, horror, and mystery fields, and also indulges in writing zombie filk. He has a couple dozen stories and poems in print in such venues as: Daily Science Fiction webzine, Apex, Weirdbook, and Pulp Literature magazines, and various original anthologies.

2 thoughts on “Scutwork – Gregg Chamberlain #amwriting

  • March 7, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Just in case anyone is curious… dialogue-only stories are not too common, but I do seem to have had success with a few of them in the past. The trick is maintaining the atmosphere of the story, providing some detail for the reader’s imagination, without the dialogue degenerating into “lecture mode” or “talking heads exposition” which is downright boring.

  • March 8, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Love it Gregg!

    Mike Gilgan


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *