Jack knew he'd win the Online Short Story Competition for two reasons. First, his was a brilliant submission. Second, having won the immediately previous contest, he was acknowledged as the website's most accomplished wordsmith.
Logging on a minute early, Jack refreshed the web page repeatedly until – finally – the short list appeared at exactly noon.
Jack stared at the screen, nonplussed. There was no sign of his story. He counted the stories – twice – to see if they'd simply missed his out by mistake, but no, the full six were there, but not his. Jack Douglas hadn't made the short list.
It took him less than three minutes to grasp the obvious. The judges were incompetent idiots. In a flash, he'd found the competition's 'Contact Us' details, and fired off an email to the competition editor:
With all due respect, I couldn't bring myself to vote for any of these unimaginative and cliched entries. Perhaps you need to re-invigorate your judging panel.
Regards, Jack Douglas
Louise, the editor in question, had never seen anything quite like it previously, far less from a past winner. At first she reacted with shock, but in no time found herself giggling uncontrollably at Douglas's display of arrogance.
Then an idea popped into her head. Louise's day job was as an English teacher, so the next day she took the email, name redacted, into her 3rd year class and invited them to compose a polite reply. That kept the class busy for a little while.
But then an extraordinary thing happened. One of her class, a boy called Callum, put his hand up and asked a question.
"Miss, by any chance is this from someone called Jack Douglas?" When he saw Louise hesitating, he went on, "Because if it is, don't worry. That's my Grandpa. He's like that all the time, a complete pain. I'm really sorry. He thinks he's some sort of comedian but he's really just an annoying, sad old man."
Louise explained that Callum wasn't to say sorry. She explained that she'd blocked Callum's grandpa's emails and future entries. Turning to the rest of the class, she advised them all to treat internet pests the same way.
"Good call, Miss," Callum said. "My family all wish we could just 'block' Grandpa. Even my mother thinks that, and Grandpa's her own father. That's the good thing about the internet, though, isn't it – you can just switch people off. Not like real life."