Heather Smith
I recently decided to step away from my young adult novel, Ballycatters and Bugs, and write a fictional piece about life in the Yorkshire Dales. Here is an excerpt:

She told me this place would be good. She had escaped to this place once before and had told me that the air was fresh, that it smelled healthy... and I believed her ... she was known for her incredible olfactory system. Even now, as she stands at the top of the hill, it's her nose that takes in the beauty of what surrounds her and when I see that familiar wrinkle form on the bridge of her nose my heart skips a beat.

She catches me looking at her. My instinct is to look away in embarrassment but I can't - she is so beautiful. She looks at me cheekily. I am momentarily confused as to why but when she smirks and runs away I get it - a race! As we run through the grass I feel so much happiness that I can't help but give little jumps of joy no matter how dumb it looks.

We reach our destination. It's perfect. A rustic, cosy cottage. It's been a long journey. We curl up together in a quilt close to the fire. I try to rest but in these new surroundings I find myself alert, edgy almost. A knock on the door and I almost hit the ceiling. We look at each other and freeze. Only when the footsteps fade do we exhale.

She tells me she is hungry. No fancy dinner will be served to us here. How will we cope on our own? Perhaps we should have stayed where we were ... perhaps we shouldn't have bit the hand that fed us.

She becomes increasingly more vocal about her hunger. I must go find food. But the footsteps are back followed by a high-pitched voice at the door ...

"Chet? Is that you? Nutmeg? Are you there?"

It's the mad woman.

"Mama misses you, my itty-bitty babies. Come back to Mama. C'mon my iddle-widdle piggie-wiggies."

I look into Nutmeg's eyes. I'll let her decide. I'd follow her anywhere. The eyes say nothing but the nose goes into overdrive. The mad woman has stuck a piece of curly parsley through a crack in the door. Nutmeg's favourite.

I guess this is it. Bye bye Yorkshire Dales, hello life behind bars. And I didn't even get a chance to look dapper in my miniature Barbour Wax Jacket. Pish.
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Heather Smith
So I had a long conversation with the new guinea pigs, Chet and Nutmeg, last night. It went like this:

Here's the skinny, guineas, I'm gonna tell ya three things - listen carefully, learn well, and we'll get along just fine:

1. The Youngsters aren't going to wait forever for you to come out of your hiding spots and become the cuddly creatures that we promised them you would be. So get over yourselves. The coy thing is getting a bit old.

2. I promise to feed, clean, and cuddle you critters but in return I expect happy noises and "
popcorning". I want entertainment, damn it!

3. I hope you are adventurous little piggies for in your future is a trip is to the Yorkshire Dales. Sitting in the pockets of my Barbour Wax Jacket you can enjoy the countryside, protected from the birds of prey that circle above. Perhaps you can even wear mini Barbour Wax Jackets of you own - how cute - rugged, yet dapper.

Basically, piggies, your cute faces and adorable furry bodies will only get you so far. It's time to start acting like you like us.

Chet and Nutmeg listened quietly during my entire speech, nodding with interest at the first two points, and tilting their heads quizzically at the third. When I was done I stuck a finger through the cage bars and said "Deal?". There was a slight lifting of each of their paws. I took that as "shaking on it".

Not yet used to guinea pig noises and their meanings I heard what sounded like a chuckle as I walked away. Perhaps it was the happy noise I had asked for in point two. Yes, that's it. They really listened to what I had to say. What obedient little furballs!

But as I walked up the stairs I heard it again and couldn't help but shake the feeling that perhaps I was being mocked...
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