By David Bussell


When the waiter poured the man’s wine and offered a casual ‘Say when,’ the man did no such thing.

Instead he watched, steadfast as the wine filled the glass, until eventually it found the rim and overflowed onto the tablecloth. The waiter cocked an eyebrow as if to say ‘Play fair, sir, say when,’ but the man remained staunch as the wine cascaded off the sides of the table, soaking the carpet and pooling at their feet.

Soon the wine collected around their ankles, then their shins, and still the man said nothing. Sweat beaded the waiter’s brow as the wine flooded to the edges of the restaurant and began pressing at the windowpanes. Say when, the waiter’s eyes screamed. For God’s sake say when! The bottle faltered in his hand but still the man said nothing, so still the wine flowed.

There was a sound of splintered glass, then the windows gave way and the wine gushed onto the streets; a claret tsunami. Traffic overturned, buildings toppled, civilians disappeared beneath the crimson riptide. Soon the Earth was drowned in wine – a wet ruby glistening against a jeweler’s black velvet.

‘When,’ the man said.


– David Bussell is an award-winning British humourist. Born in 1976, David spent his early years growing increasingly larger until he reached adulthood. Among his interests are amateur parkour, the Oxford comma, and writing about himself in the third person. Rumours that David was conceived on an Indian burial ground remain largely unfounded. David would beat you in a fight.

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5 thoughts on “When

  1. […] “When” by David Bussell via Oblong […]

  2. Tony Press says:

    So “simple” yet exquisite. Great story.

  3. Reblogged this on Shermie Rayne writes… and commented:
    What a great micro-read to start the week with…

  4. […] favourite online short story was When by David Bussell, featured on Oblong.  A beautifully short, gently comic surreal piece of writing with a […]

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