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Tuesday, 29 April 2008


 (published 'Space & Time' 1993)

The boy was browning off at the close of a long day in the hot sun.

His companion, a svelte girl without a stitch, turned her head as if to speak, but was stopped in her tracks, since the sun had abruptly disappeared behind the distant mountain and cast a long monster’s tail of a cold shadow over them both.

They squinted at each other,
since the backs of their eyes retained the imprint of the scorching orb.

“We’d better dress.”


Their words were in a foreign language.

They fumbled for their clothes since, having been taken unawares, their fear was mixed with confusion. They were no older than it took to be alone together in barely less than innocent nudity.

As the darkness gained further purchase, all they could see were the whites of the eyes; their pulse rate doubled in intensity; and, through the gloom, their hands found comfort in each other’s.

Towards the girl and boy, a shaft of sun hurtled, like lightning - from the side of the mountain, through a cut-away in the uniform rock but only for a second. It was sufficient to establish that their clothes had evidently been snatched whilst they were dozing in the torrid afternoon. The darkness, once renewed, engendered goose-pimples the length of their limbs and violent shudders along their spines. The cold was doubly cold fromt he contrast...

They had grown up together, since their respective sets of parents had been more than just good friends. During the endless nights of Winter, the grinding of their parallelograms of sex had disturbed the youngsters’ sleep and mingled with the snorts that the beasts made when they tested the peripheral defences of the camp¬site.

And the snorts were approaching now and the camp-site was more than a mile away. They never thought it would happen to them. Love childer, blessed with complementary grand trines in their natal maps, could never meet a nasty ending ... together.

But they soon discovered that nasty ends come to us all; the art of life is merely in the timing ... and death comes deadlier than expected.

Another sun-shaft beamed through a more substantial cut-away further down the mountain’s flank and lit the feral plain…picking out the still twitching shambles of rare to medium flesh. It glinted upon the scuttling carapaces of star-born winterer beasts, having eaten to their fill and no more. The sun finally slid behind the bulky foundations of the mountain, only to be gathered into the bosom of the earth for the closed sesame of night.

The parents were preoccupied, as they turned together in the hinged beds. They did not bother to pray that their children might discover erotic pleasure in the mutual perpetuation of interwoven ectoplasm.

“Burnt to cinders amid the shyfryngs” was only one line of a forgotten song, hardly decipherable amid the lowing of wandering winterers.

Posted by wordonymous at 4:15 AM EDT
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Martin and Me


 (published 'Trash City' 1991)

The mask was identical to the face Martin wore beneath.

They’re meant to be uglier than your own mug. Martin. No point otherwise -especially at a Hallowe’en party. I said this with a tongue in my cheek, as he knew I knew his face was nothing to write home about. And it would probably scare strangers shitless. particularly those of the gatecrasher variety...

‘0K. OK, joke’s over. You’ll be laughing the other side of you face before the evening’s over.’

If I didn’t know Martin better. I would have suspected something sinister in that loosely veiled threat. I could even have believed he wasn’t joking.

We were not exactly gatecrashers ourselves, but it was a bit like a friend of a friend of a friend thrice removed who was holding the party in King’s Langley. if you know what I mean. We’d heard at least the rumour that all and sundry were invited. So, here we were, climbing off the M25 in Martin’s 2CV. Neither of us had been North of Watford before and we were eager to discover whether there was life up there...as the saying goes. We knew there would be. but that didn’t stop us chortling on the joke as the rubber band inside Martin’s jalopy finally unwound, bringing us to a halt in the car park of the Rose and Crown, where many of the guests would be tanking up in readiness for the long night ahead.

I turned to Martin and kidded him about all the badges he was wearing on his Albanian Flapjacket. I think he must have belonged to every club and society going

including both the Foxhunters and the Anti-Blood Sports Associations. Whether it was just another of his silly jokes or he genuinely didn’t know his own mind, even now, after all the events have finally finished unfolding. I remain unsure.

It’s the story of my life, I know, but to cut a long story short, we’ll go straight to the party which turned out to be a pretty drab affair. Even the strobe lighting in the room dedicated to disco dancing was about as limp wristed as my next door neighbour’s dead mother. Martin and I carried out a few desultory jigs together, but the hotel foyer muzak was not exactly conducive to a real shake-out. On top of this, there were next to no birds. Even Alfred Hitchcock’s film had Tippi Hedren going for it. Unless there was a room upstairs where they had all congregated: packed like kids in a Sardines game to escape Martin’s ugly mask. Every guest at that shindig wore trousers and hugely dated floral ties. Not one badge between them, to gauge the fellow feeling, if any. Furthermore, not even one backslapping howdyado from a hale and hearty host, eager to make his guests feel at home. But thinking about it, I could have felt at home anywhere, given an amorous nature.

Eventually. Martin gave me the nod. Back down the M25, to see if we could catch up on a bit of real nightlife in more familiar territoiy. We felt like fish out of water, or at least I did. Martin, well, he was just Martin, as inscrutable as ever.We walked off the dance floor and thus out of the limelight of the torch that the DJ was flashing upon us from his plinth.

Suddenly we were accosted by a bright young spark who called himself Aretha Franklin.

‘That’s a funny name for someone who looks as if he’s just walked out of one of Hitler’s gas chambers.’

‘Hark who’s talking. With a face like that...’ - Aretha pointed at Martin’s mask - ‘I bet your face wouldn’t win a beauty competition against my bum.’

I looked quizzically at Aretha’s backside, but could find no clue as to why he had made such an outrageous statement.

Martin evidently decided this was it. He was standing no nonsense from the likes of this Northern upstart and he immediately made a hefty kick at Aretha’s backside.

‘That’ll change the odds somewhat - I hear judges don’t like bruises on the merchandise.’

Or that’s what Martin’d probably have said, given half the chance. For, in the event, his leg was left stuck up at right angles, the foot sunk to its ankle in Aretha’s buttocks. The trouser seat had disappeared with the merest ripping noise, leaving the weltering cheeks literally to munch up Martin’s calf. I tried to steady my friend, as he hopped precariously on his free leg, as the others watched this amazing fandango in which the three of us were participating. I noticed the arrival of the Bad Crowd. Every shindig’s got them, even down South. But this lot were the worst I’d ever seen. Plug Uglies to the bone. Undergrunts to the letter. Martin’s face was not even in the same league. The fact that made them seem particularly horrendous was the female gender they wielded. Fresh from girl talk, no doubt, in that Ladies Room I’d imagined earlier, they were-waving red-stained panties as if this were some preliminary to a mating dance. If I’d ever fancied a bird, now was the time to stamp homosexual authority on my proclivities...

To come clean, it was a good job that Martin’s really only my alter ego and his leg, if I can put it this way, my metaphor for manly pride. Aretha (whose real name turned out to be Digory Smalls) wasn’t all that bad looking, despite my earlier misgivings...and the Bad Crowd eventually skulked off churlishly, presumably crestfallen, hopefully back to the Ladies Room where they belonged together.

Posted by wordonymous at 4:10 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 April 2008
The Black Drought

(Published 'The Bloody Quill' 1999)


In these hard, awkward days in your distant future when a Vampyre cannot even get a decent drink, my plight brings tears of a pink cast to my eyes and faint quiver of the upper lip upon my toothsome fangs.

It's the Black Drought that did it. I cannot bring myself to syphon up just any blood unless I know where my subjects have been. Creatures from the ancient past, such as yourselves, are no use to the likes of me. Too much of the bad blood, if you see what I mean.

My suffering is becoming so piquant, I'm having to find other means of sustaining my undead soul ... this soul which is the Way Station of the mutated veinwork of my carnal body. Only in Vampyres can the logic of Nature really be seen for what it is; only on being born an Undead, can one truly follow the uncharted mazes of God's work.

Anyway, enough of philosophy?back to my urgent theme, the plight of my kind in your unreachable future.

You may well ask: why is the wasting away of a Vampyre deprived of its external blood sources not as bad as that of you unfortunate victims of the Black Drought?

Well, we vampyres (note the spelling) know full well why.

Ours is an infinite wasting-away whilst yours is finite.

Let me lay it on the line: in periods of Cosmic Menopause, we can, at least, like a parthenogenetic camel, as it were, survive upon recycled blood. Perhaps I should give you a lesson in the biology of the Undead. Blood in, blood out. That's our catchphrase. Most food that you used to consume turned dark brown on exit. On the other hand, blood that we imbibe stays bright red, as pure as the day it was pumped by the young supple hearts whence it came. But, until these post-Drought days, it has always been deemed crudely cheating and almost unchristian amongst we Nosferatu Fraternity to recycle blood. But when needs must...


I'm in terrible trouble. Aeons have now gone by, since I last wrote to you. And still no supply of fresh blood. What I have left is growing pinker and pinker like paraffin the more I use it.

As even the tiniest moments of time pass, I am sure my bowels are growing their own teeth between the various byways of the intestines. Even the most unlikely inner and outer orifices of my body seem to be cutting a molar or two. It may be in my mind, but my innards are so desperate they are moving about like creatures within me, searching for the nooks and crannies where real blood - my original birthright as a mortal - is secretly hoarded.

Am I to experience a real death for the first time? I feel my own bifurcating bones suckling gently upon the slowly emptying sump within my innermost reaches, the last refuge and sanctuary for my own blood from the thirsting jaws of you ancient creatures within me.

Posted by wordonymous at 7:30 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 April 2008 7:32 AM EDT
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Sunday, 20 April 2008
The Optimum Pose
A collaboration with my father, Gordon Lewis (1922-2007)

The painter erected the easel whilst the subject of his inspiration wandered in the background seeking the optimum pose.

“Stand there Isabel... near the lamp.”

“But isn’t the light all wrong? I thought you wanted a subtle silhouette rather than a full frontal!”

The painter — a paunchy man with a goatee — laughed out loud.

“I’m not a photographer. I’m an artist. Things will shape up from my mind as much as from what I actually see.”

Isabel — a rather tall woman in a dressing gown — took an ungainly stance, leaning on the arm of a sofa.

“Is this OK?”

“I’m not sure… perhaps you “

The man pointed at the tassel of the dressing-gown, hinting at what her next move should be.

Abruptly, there there was a banging from above. The ceiling shook and the light fitment twirled. This was an earthquake region, after all, but there had not been anything quite as formidable as this particular tremor within his years living at the foot of Attic Slope — a meandering forest that reared into the sky on one side of the valley.

Mrs Arkson — the cook and general domestic help — rushed into the room without knocking.

“Mrs Arkson, I’ve told you never NEVER come into my studio like that!”

“I’m sorry Mr Williams, but... I was scared… the saucepans fell, didn’t you hear them.”

Jonathan Williams shrugged — still furious at the interruption.

The model, meanwhile, was standing by the window, staring into the distance

“There are two people on horses coming,” she said, as if nothing had happened. “One’s got a big tall hat.”

“Isabel you had better change back into your outdoor clothes,” said Jonathan Williams, as he simultaneously hustled Mrs Arkson towards the kitchen. He absentmindedly picked up an ornament that had fallen off the mantelpiece. Luckily it was of a bronze statuette and not one of the porcelain figurines dotted about the room, some of which had been dislodged from the positions they had been in before the earthquake tremor. Just as he was in the process of straightening them there came the sound of loud knocking at the front door followed by the insistant clamour of the front door bell.

Jonathan hurried in response knowing that Mrs Arkson was hard of hearing (or pretended to be deaf when it suited her purpose). Opening the door he was confronted by a man and woman in riding habit; the woman near to swooning was being supported by the top-hatted man who was the first to speak.

“May we rest here a while, perhaps you’ll be good enough to let me use your telephone. My wife and I have become disorientated after our horses bolted during that blasted earth tremor. They had been skittish before it happened, seeming to know there was one coming. I am Sir Malcolm Youngman and this is my wife the Lady Sarah. She is still in shock I think after our experience and I would deem it a great favour if she may rest here a while.”

Accepting that they were who he said they were, Jonathan invited them into the drawing room.

“Would you like a drink, perhaps a brandy would help settle her Ladyship’s nerves?”

“You are too kind” said Sir Malcolm but I do agree it would be a great help, especially for my wife.”

“You may use the phone whilst I see to the drinks if you care to.”

With that Isabel entered the room clad now in a smart tweed suit. She was introduced to the unexpected callers and made aware of why they were resting in the drawing room.

“We are the guests at Lord Arthur’s place, some miles from here,” said Sir Malcolm. “I thought it wise to let him know we are safe and comparatively well, and that we will return to The Grange when we have regained our composure.”

He then picked up the phone and proceeded to do just that and was already seated when Jonathan entered with a tray of drinks.

“I think brandies all round are called for, that tremor upset us too, just as I was preparing to paint a portrait of Isabel...”

“I thought I recognised you,” interjected Sir Malcolm, “aren’t you Jonathan Williams the artist?”

“I have been addressed as such among other things, and I like to think I do paint portraits passably well.”

“This is extraordinary,” replied Sir Malcolm. “My wife and I were thinking of having our portrait painted in Hunting Pink riding habit. Could we see some of your work whilst we are here? Perhaps we can make arrangements to commission you to paint us sometime in the near future.”

“In the near future? Why not sooner, Sir Malcolm? Why not now? Mrs Arkson can soon clear up the minor collateral damage...” The Painter swung his arm in a semi-circle as if to demonstrate how minor. “And then you can sit for me. Both of you can sit, indeed. I am always ready to oblige. And, of course, your dear wife...” — the Painter turned with a smile towards the blonde bombshell who had been introduced as Lady Sarah—

“would look exceedingly well in Hunting Pink, set off by a rosette... ah yes.”

“Have you then, such costume at your beck and call, Mr Williams?” boomed Sir Malcolm. “This natural glitch, shall we call it, in earth’s tectonic plates must mean we have time to spare on what was otherwise a pressing matter for my wife and I. We have to be sure there is no looting, no loose morals... waiting for such behaviour to be quashed by the authorities might allow time to stay and sit...”

Meanwhile, Isabel, the erstwhile sitter, was busy attending to household duties alongside a now calmer Mrs Arkson — who, no doubt, had quickly righted the saucepans before returning to the domestic fray in the sitting-room (or drawing-room, as the painter called it). Isabel was no slouch as far as the main chance was concerned — and she had spotted the glinting gems at Lady Sarah’s throat. But she took care, also, to balance Sir Malcolm’s chimney-hat upon the mahogany claw-stand… as if this very act issued a stamp of approval to Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah sojourning, albeit temporarily, at the foot of Attic Slope.

The phone suddenly sounded out an old-fashioned ring. This proved, at least, that the lines had not been damaged during the earth tremor. The painter waved it aside, but, in defiance, Mrs Arkson hobbled over to answer it.

“Yes?” she croaked, holding the mouthpiece as far from her mouth as viably possible. She listened for a while — then, putting her hand over it, she turned to the assembled company and made a simple annoucement. “I cannot hear exactly what they’re saying — but the gist of it is that the army have surrounded us!”

“The Army?” the painter asked dumbfounded.

Mrs Arkson returned her attention to the phone and again took up a listening pose. Isabel had simultaneously scooted over towards the nearest window and reported spirals of smoke rising up beyond the ridge of Attic Slope. Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah appeared bewildered — either by the antics set in motion by the telephone call or by the decided lack of attention they were receiving, evidently, eager, as they were, to sport the clothes in which they were to sit. The painter, however pulled himself together and hustled his guests towards the nearest wardrobe, where a whole selection of garb in Hunting Pink did hang.

There was obvious disappointment at what Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah saw in the wardrobe.

“They will not do at all,” they said, almost in unison, “They’re a bit old fashioned don’t you think?” said Lady Sarah pointedly. “We have our own tailored outfits at home, I think we ought to wait until we can get them before you start painting us,” she concluded.

“It really was not our intention to pose for you at this time, we have not discussed terms, and we really ought to find out if we can return to Lord Arthur’s place; they’ll be worried at our prolonged absence... Perhaps your servant got it all wrong about us being surrounded by troops.”

With that there came a knocking at the front door. Jonathan hurried to see who was there knowing that Mrs Arkson would only respond to the ring of the bell in the kitchen. He was surprised to see a group of soldiers standing on the forecourt. The officer in charge touched his steel helmet in salute as he spoke.

“I hope the noise of our manoeuvres hasn’t upset your household, Sir. They will soon be over, but I would advise you to remain within the confines of your property for the next hour or so as the exercise passes this way to the final phase.”

“Thank you officer,” said Jonathan, “we wondered what all the kerfuffle was all about, especially coming so soon after the earth tremor we experienced, I hope it didn’t affect your exercise...”

There was relief all round when Jonathan took the news back to the drawing room, and as Mrs Arkson came into the room he spoke irritably to her.

“You must have had one of your deaf moments when you answered the phone; you got the message all wrong; the army is mainly on a training exercise. Be off with you and prepare a light meal for our guests.” Then turning to the two visitors he invited them to bide a while until everything settled down.

“You’ll have to stay a while now, perhaps we can discuss terms about the portrait you want me to paint. We could fix a date for later in the year. Would you consider adopting a pose for me now; I could draw a preliminary sketch while we wait for tea to be served. It would give an idea of what attitude you would like to adopt.”

The temporary pose was thus swiftly conducted by both Sir Malcolm and Lady Sarah. Despite the need to remain frozen, Sir Malcolm was continuously fidgeting, evidently concerned that he was showing his ‘best side’ or he wasn’t being sketched to the full effect of what he considered to be his winsomeness. Lady Sarah, in turn, nervously fingered the studs at her throat, darting glances to either side. A watching Isabel decided Lady Sarah was acting like a frightened rabbit, sufficiently attractive, however, once to have been a bunny girl in the suspiciously salacious establishments that were said to exist beyond the sedate realms of Attic Slope.

The ground, though, was hardly sedate, continuing, as it did, to suffer a series of after-shocks. The Army fellows seemed to be patrolling outside, taking part in mock salutes and practice parades. The punctuating shouts of one of their number was decidedly irritating to those currently billeted — in strange tableau — within the painter’s house. The painter himself continued to scribble vigorously with his pencil, making overt shading manoeuvres with the well-handled lead-point as well as more suspicious streaks and strokes apparently trailing across the whole expanse of his pad-top, skidding against the grain and against the splintery knots in the recycled paper. He hardly seemed to look up at the fidgetting poseurs... to check whether what was emerging on the coarse drawing-surface bore any resemblance to the actual reality it purported to imitate.

There followed some fitful discussion on the Philosophy of Aesthetics before the guests eventually left, staggering as they did, against the onset of further after-shocks — acting as if they were on a wind-tossed ship. A groundswell of applause filtered from the army fellows as the guests departed on fresh horses (steeds supplied, indeed, by the army authorities, as a token of good will).

Isabel waved to the couple from the front door.

“Don’t worry — I think the worst is over,” she called, as she fiddled with the shiny splinter in the palm of her hand which she had picked up off the carpet near where the couple had been posing. She had spotted it glinting within the pile, just as the couple made their farewells. She did not think they had spotted her prising it from between the tufts.

Isabel returned to where Jonathan was meticulously tidying up his pencil-box. She then took one glance at his preliminary efforts regarding the anticipated full-blooded portrait of the just departed couple.

“You’ve left out the jewels,” she observed.

“Of course,” Jonathan said. “I saw you staring at them and I thought they would look much better on you.”

And he quickly snatched off the pad’s top sheet revealing a second — more accomplished — sketch which he had surreptitiously drawn, no doubt, under the cover of seismic confusions which had earlier ensued. This second drawing depicted a scantily clad Isabel, sporting Lady Sarah’s sparkling paraphernalia — all evidently, executed from imagination alone. At which point, Isabel opened her hand, to reveal nothing... nothing except a fatal fleshy pinkness.

The ground shuddered.

Mrs Arkson was the first (and last) to realise that pride always came before a fall or, in this case, the worst after-shock of all. At least, the war had been fought — not won, not lost, but finished. She smiled. The optimum pose. The ultimate one, too.

The claw-stand toppled over, squashing the forgotten chimney-hat. Then the drawing in of night, hunting tremors through the body of the earth.

Posted by wordonymous at 5:26 AM EDT
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Monday, 7 April 2008
Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Llanelli R'lyeh

Published 'Crypt of Cthulhu' 1995



He felt as sane as ever, whilst recognising the fact that he was feeling quite the opposite.


Bryn was a family man. Nobody could argue against that. He lived in a semi-detached with a reasonably typical wife and children. They loved him, despite his faults. They trusted him, hanging on his every word. Ordinary people, all of them, including the most extraordinary one—Bryn.


Until today.


His wife was so ordinary, he had even begun to take her for granted.


But not today.


He desperately needed her help. Not that it wasn’t an ordinary day to begin with. Yet, he had woken up with an awful headache, one that seemed to affect not only him but everybody else he met during the day—by suggestion, as it were. Or so it seemed. Nobody had really complained of a headache. It had probably been wishful thinking on Bryn’s part that they may have had the courtesy to share his pain.


It had also turned out to be an awkward day at work. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing. When his colleagues in the office, including that giggly pair of junior filing-clerks, answered the damned trill­ing beast, the callers seemed to be relatively sensible people, judging by the words spoken at Bryn’s end. Or as sensible as it was pos­sible to be in the commercial world. However, when Bryn randomly picked up calls himself, there were complete madmen at the other end, talking in a strange language which was quite a few more notches to­wards nonsense than even Welsh was.


Now, at home, he found himself flailing his arms about and scream­ing blue murder, which, although not completely out of character, rather startled his wife by the un­usual ferocity. She had scuttled the children upstairs whilst she rang for help. 666 she had dialed, instead of 999, all her fingers being thumbs. Whilst Bryn was quite un­aware of such a detail, he did know that he was the same as ever inside. Yet he desperately needed his wife to recognise his desperation.


His mind was besotted beyond even obsession.


Amid his farts and flings, jab­bing limbs and croaking burps, the tongue curving back like a swallow—amid all such reflex traumas of mind and body—Bryn simply knew he was sane: the sanest man in the whole world, even if it were a san­ity insufficient to plumb his plight.


Indeed, he would’ve required a hefty dose of crude insanity even to reach the correct angle of ap­proach so that he could diagnose his dire predicament. And then, of course, such insanity would need neatly to revert to its sister sanity, for the benefits of such an angle to be reaped.


He watched his wife return to the living-room, a look of panic on her face, only for her to shoot out again as she remembered that the children were cowering upstairs in a state of confusion. Their erst­while rock of a Dad frothing with the tossing rapids of his own mind was not exactly conducive to a bal­anced upbringing, was it? Bryn shuddered with a shame he almost felt. Once upon a time he remem­bered acting quite normally—arms moving in methodical tune to the actions his brain dictated, his mouth master of its own lips, eyes seeing the things they were actually see­ing.


Unlike now.


With everything stalling, except the mind itself.


Suddenly, Bryn found himself single-mindedly seeking out those he loved. He needed to squeeze their bodies in one final paroxysm of love. Humans were separated by the mere walls of the skull: a pitiful, if sometimes pitiless, plight.


He stormed up the stairs of the semi-detached he and his wife had bought together soon after their honeymoon. The tears in his eyes were simply his mind crying, not the eyes. The tears were wrung out via vessels of the body that normally carried blood or marrow or, even, waste. Such vestiges of sorrow did not prevent his hands wringing similar fluids from his loved ones—just like his old mother used to do to the washing on her now legendary wash-day. (She had insisted on even the last tinge of dampness to be painstakingly expunged, before hanging them out.)


Eventually, Bryn surveyed the strained fruits of his work. But, being at the wrong angle of juris­diction, all he could see with his bloodshot eyes were dead bodies, as opposed to murdered loved ones.


Hanging on his every word.


Welsh sounding words.


Posted by wordonymous at 12:09 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 7 April 2008 12:13 PM EDT
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Monday, 24 March 2008
Off Beat



 Published 'Premonitions' 1995


Like a suicide pilot, he had climbed to the top of a tall smokstack and wondered if he was meant to jump.


Robin knew he had to keep quiet, maybe tell a few old drinking chums at the Black Fen pub—because, the sooner uttered, the sooner forgotten.  The evening had been blowy since about six, but when the storm actually hit home at ten, everybody knew they were in for a rough ride.  Robin had just tucked his kids in, telling them that wind in England, even on the East coast, could not hurt anybody.  Tracy looked up with her large innocent eyes and swallowed his words, along with the dregs of the orange juice. 


            "Night, night, Daddy," she squeaked, snuggling under the covers, as if nothing could harm her now.


            "Night night, dear."


            Tom in the last room along the corridor made a teenage grunt as Robin knocked to say goodnight to him.  Tanya in the middle room was already asleep, so Robin only lingered a few seconds after tucking in the thick bobbly sheet around her neck.  It was no ordinary wind.  By midnight, as he lay in his own bed, he could feel the house vibrating around him.  The windows shook as if they were desperate creatures thrashing to escape their frames.  In the distance there was a crash which on an ordinary evening would have sounded like an aeroplane nose-diving into the suburban streets.  The chimney roared like a giant hoover.  There was something churning around inside the blocked off chimney breast.  It groaned like a prisoner in the condemned cell, wailed pitifully and, in evident panic, leapt up and down the inside of the disused flue, a crazed monkey-rat.


            "Daddy, Daddy," he heard from within his head: a plaintive call that had no direction.  He blocked his ears, but still heard the call that had no direction.  He blocked his ears, but still heard the call, sharper now, almost rabid.  It seemed to be a creature that could not escape the walls of his skull, the sound bouncing from left to right and back again in horrific stunted stereophony, like a young woman having a mastectomy at the hands of a clumsy surgeon.


            The storm in fact left no sign of its damage.  Robin wouldn't have believed it anyway if he'd seen trees down, with their roots shamelessly exposed.  No, there was indeed no wind in England sufficient to harm anyone or anything.  But that idea about having three children was really something.  Weird.  But like all ideas, as soon as remembered forgotten—and he went off to have a chat about chimney breasts.  He wanted one of his do-it-yourself chums to come round and remove one for him.


            The wet pavements ran yellow with the city night.  He idled at the corner of Bay Crescent, waiting, waiting, never ceasing to wait for an excuse to wait ... until he was moved along by a dark faced policeman. 


            "Move along, move along, that's all I get!  I'm waiting for ... yes, for a girl friend, and how will she find me?"


            "Where's she coming from?"


            Robin thought hard and eventually muttered: "Frinton-on-Sea."  He moved along, away from the policeman, speaking to the slanting shadows of the lamp-posts, not waiting for their replies.  He thought they were more policemen stalking him out of their precinct.  Abruptly, he reached an unlit area, indicating the outskirts of the city, but there was just sufficient residue of illumination at the back of his eyes to see a narrow slick guttering down the back wall of some factory.  He relaxed and listened to its slurps, knowing that the policemen would not venture this far after minor prey such as Robin.  Neither would the girl friend.


The sky lit up with a thunderflash, frightening Robin with a vision of his own face reflected in the puddles.  It was not raining, but it seemd that recently it must have torrented from the biggest darkest black cloud that some called night.  His thoughts were items he could not himself quite fathom.  He took after his mother who had also been a thinker and had taught him the correct way to cross a thought, looking both ways, then marching straight across without fear of the monsters encroaching from the wings.  Smiling, he wished he had been older and his mother younger, then they could have courted each other.  She would not have kept him waiting. She may even have borne him three lovely children of his own to cherish.  She'd always wanted grandchildren.


            He went towards the wall to sniff the redolence of the slurry scumming down it.  No smell, but that, Robin decided, proved nothing, for his nose was bunged up to the nostrils with its own characteristic stench.  He placed his little finger in the flow and tentatively placed its tip to his tongue.  Quite sickly sweet, with an under flavour reminiscent of seaside rock mixed with his late father's home-made wine, and a consistency of curdled milk.


            The storm had evidently passed over without even one gust.  The highly coloured lemon wedge of the moon was dodging between the scuttling patchwork of night's covering.  Standing on tiptoes, he stretched up his hands, ignoring the lancing pain set in motion along his arms by the jagged glass embedded in the top of the wall, and levered himself into a position whereby he could see over it.  The place looked more like an asylum than a factory, with one tall chimneystack limned coldly against the whitening and spreading of the misty moon.


            He was grasped by the scruff of the neck as he toppled over inside the grounds.  He heard a screech in his ear and a face of running boils peered closely into his.  "When you crossed the road near St Paul's, you didn't look both ways, did you?"  The words hissed out, as the creature proceeded to squat on Robin's open mouth.  A policeman, far off his proper beat, whistled as he passed along on the other side of the wall...


            The skylights blazed.  The best-boy waved.  The lens-shifter dropped the tea tray.  The assistant gaffer lurched into the wardrobe ... and Robin's Show began.  Millions of TV sets were switched on all round our green and pleasant land to watch the nightly trip into good conversation and famous faces.  Someone, looking like Robin, sat opposite, with a wide open plate of a face.  The frothing tankards of special brew seemed to breathe and pulse in time to the underground steam train rattling away beneath them ... en route between stations that had closed their entrances for fear of too many war evacuees herding along the platforms and brimming over on the tracks.  There were not enough outlets for the smoke.


            Robin's companion indicated he was dying to relieve himself and, whilst crossing, uncrossing and re-crossing his legs, he propounded the theory that if cows are left unmilked for too long, they explode and thus do away with the butcher's art.  Robin, his eyes pure white and sightless, announced: "Good evening, Ladies and those in the Gents..."  A light chortle took itself one by one across the studio audience.  "My guests tonight you may not be too familiar with, but, after tonight, who knows?"  And as his guests tugged and pulled each other in the guise of actually shaking hands, the audience suddenly realised that the pair of them were joined at the waist, like Siamese twins.


            "Now, Mr Fenn, what can you tell me about boils?  Sorry, I didn't mean to say that—can you tell me about what you actually saw?"  (Could it be that the famous TV chat show host and his guests were speaking in perfect unison?  On a live, unrehearsed show?)  "This is a historic moment, dreamfolk, when host and guests are one—tune in, blow on the screen to brighten it up and turnstile your private parts 'gainst unseasonable interruption.  The great dome of St Paul's Cathedral had bigger got, 'cause of the war.  They needed it like that to deflect the bombs on to the houses.  But I was the one who thought of putting up high-rise office blocks a-straddle it by Ludgate Circus—to stiffen it further, for not only did the alien monsters plan to float in like giant hang-gliders and use it as the basin for their further entrenchments into our green and pleasant land—but they were to lead in wider, more shadowy storm critters with long skinny legs which would eventually brood on our roofs to hatch out those that cringed within—that's you and me, folks.  We needed protection, but the high-rise blocks took on a life of their own, bred other high-rise blocks, nurtured nasty natty men who paraded themselves in mock of us, dealing in shares, stocks, trusts and junk bonds.  Those towering office monoliths sprouted arms with mighty hammers that pounded at our poor St Paul's dome until they cracked its big end like a skull..."


            The audience silent grew, for what they had feared would now surely happen—and their favourite host waved a fond farewell.  The pupils of Robin's eyes began to prick out as he heard thousands upon millions of clicks that indicated the switching off of millions of TV sets across the land.  Bedtime drew on apace and the nation could unravel its private parts for a while in needed exercise, prior to making tourniquet knots of them 'gainst night piss.  Getting purchase by means of the chimneys, the thin winding monster-legs tightened around houses and homes, as the last tube train hissed to a halt below the foundations of the city.  The creatures brooded long and hard, since nights doubled-up on themselves then, and days were just selling themselves short, peddling Futures in the black markets of despair.  Meanwhile amid the Essex marshes...


"Get thee gone to Jaywick Sands!" they'd said.  And so, Robin became the TV reporter commissioned to employ the forces of the media to stimulate action against the increasing use of seaside resorts as sewage outlets.  Swimming was like being force-fed, they'd said.  The Weirdmonger, Black Fenn, Lavatory Todger, Dosserman Weggs, Feemy Cat's-Meat and Jack O'Lantern were there to meet Robin, where creek and land merged ... to ask for TV publicity to formulate the election campaign of their new pressure group, temporarily called the Condom Party.


            But to whose votes did they aspire?  And was there to be an election anyway?  And, if so, on what platform would they stand?  The Weirdmonger was all in favour of hiking through South America from hustings post to hustings post.  But that, some argued, would be pretty useless in garnering support round Clacton way.  Perhaps he thought Southend was in Argentina or, more likely, Tierra Del Fuego.  Black Fenn vigorously suggested that Walton-On-The-Naze should be their jumping-off point, till someone who, if Robin reported correctly, was himself, mentioned the small problem of the Nazemen, sworn enemies of throwbacks such as human beings.  The Nazemen could indeed do more than a mischief to the campaign by spreading scandals relating to the pressure group's peccadilloes.  Black Fenn, who was at this very moment wrapped up inside a blow-up rubber doll with makeshift chimney-breasts, wondered what Robin was getting at.  Lavatory Todger, who had in fact had some dealings with conglomerate advertising agencies (i.e. when marketing his sewage toting services in the unplumbed parts of the East coast) suggested a high profile campaign.  Black Fenn grunted agreement, but the Weirdmonger said he would have nothing to do with nancy-boys nor the self-confessed wankers of the City near St Paul's.  Dosserman prepared to put in his two halfpence worth: but with odd socks on, his views were not taken too seriously.  So, the debate turned again to South America and whether there were likely to be any joy-rides from off Walton pier and, if so, would they sail into the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro (a port city currently twinned with Leigh-on-Sea)?  Jack O'Lantern, fresh from throwing light on affairs in the oldest part of Colchester, waved about a used flag.  It was soon furled however to prevent it becoming easy meat for any foe currently eye-wigging.  Robin offered his tongue instead but that was too long and stringy, no good for getting round words.  Feemy Cat's-Meat burst forth with a tour de force.  He proffered a view that the marsh folk, the Punch and Judy attendants, the side-show tattooists, the deck-chair imitators, the promenade slickers, the bent solicitors, the shanty town drifters et al, all those seed merchants, seaview purveyors, marshy back-enders and the whole gamut of Low Essex life from creek to beach, from Roman Wall to the South's bottom end, were only likely to vote for the campaign if policies could be created for which they wanted to vote.  No good setting up images, quite beyond the common men of coast and parlour, an image like one of alien monsters from outer space taking over this blind corner of the world called Essex in some half-cocked attempt to further the arch-monetarism of some devil which lurked in the pipes underground.   Why not keep it simple and teach them how to read fortunes in those new-fangled water closet bowls after its skimpy flush failed for the umpteenth time? 


            The others stared, each lost in his own thoughts, with no obvious way out.  Padgett Weggs had the last word, but not even Robin was sufficiently compos mentis to appreciate the true importance of what he said, which was this: "I think we should hitch to Frinton-on-Sea and lay a few chicks, before it's too late.  We'll be past it, otherwise, and everybody else'll've got their own personal bit of skirt, bar us." 


            And they all got up en masse and frantically sought a paddle-train to catch as it churned away from the endless dripping marshes.  But not quite en masse, for Black Fenn didn't want to come.  He preferred to meditate and gently suck the involuted teats on the inside of his costume, gently puffing smoke from out the nipples of the breasts.  The Weirdmonger said he would have preferred Buenos Aires, but Frinton, he had to agree, was, on the face of it, next best.  So off they traipsed, most of them, alongside Dosserman in his quest for love and beauty.  Jack O'Lantern lit the way with his fireflies, Feemy Cat's Meat not far behind as he masticated contemplatively upon his own chewed-off boils.  Robin felt that none of it really had the quality of a proper memory, but that didn't mean it wasn't one.  Then, they heard in the distance the lonely drone of an aeroplane...


            Robin found himself thankfully, if peculiarly, alone.  He saw the aeroplane crash at approximately four o'clock.  It banked steeply over the marshes, then just seemed to splutter to a halt, smoke billowing from the cockpit.  No sooner seen, it sliced into some far-off trees with a splintering roar.  He couldn't believe it.  He must be the only person around these parts to see it happen.  It was literally hours since he had viewed a Colchester with its uncharacteristic domed cathedral nesting in a distant valley.  He felt responsible somehow, as if merely looking at the aeroplane had caused the accident.  Worse than that, it would be up to him to scramble across the squishy terrain to see if there were any belated survivors.  Would it not be preferable to forge straight back to where he recalled Colchester being and raise the alarm there.  That would get the experts on the job.  Better than him making amateurish, mock-heroic attempts at rescue himself.  Caught upon the prongs of a dilemma, he decided to do neither; he merely sat on a tussocky weed, pulled out his pipe which always seemed to help and puffed away, assuming that the world and all its troubles would wait for him to catch up. 


            The smoke continued to spout from amid the shattered trees.  Robin was horrified when he arrived there.  The flaming trough which the nosecone of the plane had divotted was at least a highrise-block deep.  There were a number of passengers still trying to clamber out, despite the ferocity of the sporadic fire around them.  But it just couldn't be!  The whole scene was beyond comprehension.  The survivors appeared to be flickering shadows actually part and parcel of the living flames.  Not even TV pictures alongside his report would make anyone believe this news story.  He had indeed tried to reach Colchester but, by getting lost, found the crash-site instead, deceived into thinking that the smoke was emanating from the town's central factory chimney.  The plane itself seemed to have disappeared altogether.  Surely it could not have taken off again, after allowing the maimed and half-dead to disembark?  Robin squinted into the sky where he could just discern the wrecked aeroplane gliding with the large black birds. 


            He pulled out his pipe again and proceeded to fry a new-laid egg upon the scorching earth.  Embedded in the semi-hemisphere of the yellow yolk bulb was the translucent body-shape of a miniature human still twitching.  Thank goodness things couldn't get any stranger.  In due course, he slowly rose to his feet.  The fire-pit created by the crash had gradually relinquished its imitation of a long vertical volcano, but dark perforations and fragile black sculptures of ash still floated upwards intermittently from the erstwhile core.  Robin wondered how, why and if he had seen a plane crashing in the first place.  No doubt they would tell him at Colchester if there were any flights missing.  But would he ever reach Colchester at the leisurely pace he now assumed?  He deposited the bony carapaces of some insects into the stained bowl of his pipe.  All was silent as he teetered upon the brink of his own thoughts ... except for the gentle nuzzling voices inside his head calling "Daddy!"


            He felt the balance of a hand upon his shoulder and, turning, he found it was that damn policeman, off his beat again.

Posted by wordonymous at 7:26 AM EDT
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Sunday, 9 March 2008



Published 'Sepia' 1994 



You know what it’s like. As soon as the family gets home, I’ve got no time even for the natural bodily processes, or almost! Alan always arrives first (he comes on the overnight coach), clutching a potted plant - sometimes I think he must be shy, hiding behind the biggest bloom he can buy. I soon packed him up to his old room to get ready for dinner while, with nose duly pegged, I drop a whole term of his dirty washing into the twin tub. I don’t resent doing it really - I know how hard students have to study.



Harry and Peter are late. Christina’s come, of course, bringing me a bumper box of Black Magic, I can’t tell her, can I, that I’ve been off chocolates these last two years, because I suspected a link-up between them and migraines. You can understand, can’t you, Eunice, you of all people, You have to steer clear of so much with all your allergies, I must break off now, as 1 can hear the sound of Harry’s Citroen coming up the drive, I expect Peter’s with him.



Alan’s potted plant looks so pretty in the middle of the dining-table. I’ve cooked a hearty breakfast - I know how Harry likes mounds of fried bread when he’s here at home. Alan will be a bit annoyed when he discovers I’ve no mushrooms.  Went clean out of my head yesterday. Christina still avoids cooked stuff for breakfast, but there’s plenty of fruit juice and cereal for her, It’s a pity, though, her feeling a bit off colour this Morning. I’m a bit worried that Peter’s a day late, Harry says he wasn’t waiting outside Clapham South tube station at the appointed time to be picked up in the Citroen. I must say Harry could have waited around a bit - something about the parking being bad in that area though. Alan came down late for breakfast of course, if you’d had a son of your own, Eunice, you’d understand. Despite the lack of mushrooms, it was good to see him tuck into a plateful of eggs just done to the turn.



Christina’s in the garden, sun-bathing, she says, Easter’s a bit early this year, I told her, she’ll only catch a chill, I must say, though, I love her wide-brimmed hat, her Basil bought it for her in Toledo. But Basil’s persona non grata these days. Pity, I liked him - ever a good card at whist. He was fond of me, too, always untwirling my apron strings when I’m in the middle of something dangerous in the kitchen. Laugh? I nearly died! Harry and Alan (who, I may have told you, never got on together as little boys) have gone off in the Citroen. Peter’s still not arrived! He could have tried to give me a ring. All the boxes must have been vandalised by those lager louts, I shouldn’t wonder, I don’t like using phones.



Raining pretty hard now. Christina stayed out in the garden till the very last moment. She hasn’t told me yet how her little florist business is going these days, I expect she’ll get round to it. The Citroen’s not back yet - they said they might be late for dinner, Something about finishing up visiting you, of all people, They’re probably with you now, I hope they’re not too much of a nuisance, They always called you Auntie, I know, but they shouldn’t have visited you unannounced like that.



I’m not tired at all. Though it is time I made the Horlicks. Nice of you to ring, Eunice, with the news that Harry and Alan are staying over with you. I know you said it’s no trouble, but I can’t help thinking that they’re imposing on you. Christina’s here, sat by the television, I hope she won’t be left on the shelf. Good Friday often seems the right time to take stock. I wish Bob was still alive. My bed’s been more lonely the last two years. I know you had a soft spot for him too, being a real gentleman as he surely was. Peter’s not rung.



It’s taking me a long time to finish this letter. Peter’s absence is now really beginning to worry me. Christina’s gone off to meet the next train, she says. How she knows he’ll be on it, I don’t know. Perhaps she has some other errand in town while she’s there. You rung up again, told me the boys were OK, The potted plant looks a bit worse for wear. I think it was dying on its legs when Alan first bought it. He’s got no common sense between his ears. A bit like his father. But there’s no good trying to change people. It’s a nice blowy day - I think I’ll hang out the washing. It’s hard to make plans for meals, when everybody’s out and about and doing their own thing. Must go now, phone’s ringing. I’m a bit slow these days, Ooh, I hope it’s Peter.


Two days later

Sorry - I’ve been very busy cooking. But I promise I’ll get this letter off in the post today. Christina’s in the garden - it is certainly warm for the time of year. But I do wish she wouldn’t go topless - I don’t know what the neighbours must think. Peter rang at last. Apparently not coming. Something cropped up. Youngsters have a lot of commitments. I’m glad you kept me informed about the Citroen. Broken down in your drive, apparently. They’ll go back to college straight from yours. Well, it’s on the way, any rate. When I next see you, I’ll give you the Black Magic for looking after them. But what about Alan’s washing? He’s probably forgotten, He’ll live in those jeansful of holes for the whole of next term. You say I shouldn’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I wish Bob had never smoked. I think I’ve got a migraine coming on, I shouldn’t have got so much food in, Christina eats like a bird. Well, Eunice, I hope the boys weren’t pests and that your rash is under control again. I’ll write you a proper letter tomorrow, when I’ve found your address and Christina’s gone,

All my love,

Mrs Tidy






Posted by wordonymous at 11:29 AM EST
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Sunday, 24 February 2008
The Benevolence of Fate

Published 'The Banshee' 1994


He was known as Mop. 

"Hiya, Mop, going to the Pictures?" asked the girl he fancied, though he didn’t admit he did, even to himself.

            He nodded; more wishful thinking about Saturday Morning Pictures than anything else.  His father expected him to clear out the drains this Saturday and expectation was tantamount to fulfilment, as far as his father was concerned.

            "Can I do it 'safternoon instead?"

            "No, you do it 'smorning, me lad, and lump it!" retorted his father who was that moment under his push-bike, changing the oil. Mop got a bucket of suds from his mother - who would have handed out such devices to any bob-a-job upstart who happened to call at the front door expressing a wish to clean out something or other.  She had a brain for such matters. 

            He stumbled outside, with the warm water slopping from one side of the bucket to the other, which almost unbalanced him if it were not for his steadying use of the long-handled hinge of a sponge thing. Attacking the drains, he pretended they were Flash Gordon's worst enemies (so frightful that the Saturday Morning Pictures manager would have banned their appearance, soon as look at them). 

            It wasn't as if the drains didn't need doing, for they most definitely did.  Even though the family was poor, there were bits of Mother's meals that were simply created for no other purpose than to be left-overs ... and these bits had ended up half-suspended down the drains, seemed put there  merely for such snagging, one of those devices God made humans create to annoy other humans. 

            Mop, who had missed Flash Gordon for real at the Pictures in favour of such unsanitary delights, wondered why they were called storm drains.  A real storm could never have squeezed through such ridiculously narrow gaps. He plummetted the sponge into the coagulating suds ... and, oh horror, there was that girl he didn’t admit he fancied – a real humiliation, even if ‘humiliation’ wasn’t in his vocabulary.

She pouted her lips, which she expected him to read. He turned back to the drains as if, by ignoring her, she'd ignore him and go on her way towards the Pictures, perhaps to hold hands with the boy he’d seen with her during the last summer holidays.  But, no, her beaming face just hovered there, like a dream teetering on the brink of becoming a nightmare.  He tried to think her away.  Childhood was a self-inflicted fiction, anyway.

            His father, wiping his greasy hands on his back apron, shouted about something or other, a complaint of sorts, but nothing could be heard beyond the eventually fading undergrunts.

            "Hiya, Mop."  He turned away to the drains, where to his delight the tail-ends of the left-overs disappeared faster than he could see them.  The hinged Sponge Thing would have been no good, anyway.

            "Didn't you hear me?  Coming to the Pictures?"

            He shrugged, shook his head.   She had probably decided that she would not ever want to hold hands with the likes of Mop, anyway, considering the state of them.  A tear, that she had not felt coming, was upon her petal cheek, proving perhaps she'd not known her own mind.  She hid this behind a gust of laughter that took her on to the Roxy.

            If she had known her own mind, she'd have married him without second thoughts and lived happily ever after and had loads of tousle-haired children looking like Mop to give odd jobs to ... come Saturday Mornings.

            Strangely unpredictable is the nature of Fate: but whatever its benevolence, it cannot possibly soak up the many mucks and messes that most humans get their lives into – even if ‘benevolence' is part of its vocabulary.


Posted by wordonymous at 4:18 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 24 February 2008 4:22 PM EST
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Friday, 11 January 2008
Carving The Fish


 The fish had been poached perfectly and Rachel turned from her atlas to scrutinise its potential edibility.  Bill had prepared it for her - and had sprinkled several herbs and whole peppercorns over it.  Bill was currently her Ex.  But they were still fast friends. 


.            Bill taught geography which was Rachel’s worst subject at school -- but she enjoyed the shape of maps more for their aesthetic quality than for their representation of reality.  She hated reality.


              The atlas she had been browsing through was one of Fantasy Worlds, where all literary maps had been collected together.  Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.  Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.  Samuel Butler’s Erewhon.  James Hilton’s Shangri-La.  Cervantes’ La Manche.  And so on.  Rachel adored poring over them with studious grins – lovingly tracing their margins, imagining herself in the various purlieus of mindscape. 


            “You want to read a real atlas one day, Rachel,” announced Bill as he carved the fish: thick-slivering fillet after fillet upon each of their plates. 


            “I’ve always wondered how anyone reads a map?”


“Real places on maps are like words, too. Full of meaning, nuance, history, language...”


“Well, this bloody place we live in is not spelt properly then!” Rachel joked with a wince of seriousness.


            The reason for them falling out as soul mates had been caused by their lack of sympathy regarding these very maps.  Bill was fascinated by the salt-of-the-earth disciplines of physical geography.  Political geography, too.  Brown contours that swirled around outlandishly tall peaks.  The bright primary colours dividing chance nations.  The pastel ones depicting exports, customs, geological features or striations, irrigation projects, hydroelectric dams, forestry conservation preoccupations and so on. 



          But Rachel loved nothing better than the more nebulous worlds that occupied her precincts of thought. 



            She grabbed the fish knife and, in a desultory fashion, prodded her share of the mutual meal.  



           Bill, by now, had taken a whip from his wide-mouthed briefcase.  It was a snaky, quirky terrier of a whip.  It snapped and coruscated.  It almost had a life of its own. 



            Bill positioned it on the table in the map-outline of the place whence the fish traditionally derived. 


Posted by wordonymous at 4:47 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008 4:49 PM EST
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Wednesday, 2 January 2008
Nags and Knitting

Nags and Knitting

The race was between some scurvy nags. Point-to-Point. Pointless. But there you go. Just some down-in-the-mouth, dyed-in-the-wool farmers and their workers, a loose gathering of faces in the dishevelled dusk – discussing their various nags, which to bet on, which to gainsay. Not much more than 5 shillings each way.

The day had been sodden. Going good, now good to heavy. Fences straggly – some beaten flat by unknown feet or, perhaps, a short-lived storm. Indeed, more like a flat race than a jumping one. A chase without chairs. The other course, the hurdle one, was being repaired from some unseen skirmishers of the night. Or from pub yobs hopping along in the dead of night, drunkenly kicking down any obstacle in their way.

Farmer Watts was putting his money on Blackberrypie. For him, it couldn't lose. The other nags were so out of salts, they looked as if they had been broken in quite clumsily and too often. Robbed of all their filliness or coltitude or geldinghood. With saddles covered – for whatever reason – with the knitting from the local old people's day centre.

However, Farmer Coughlan was tantamount to putting the whole of his farm itself on Sausageandmash. The property was only worth 5 shillings at the best of times, bearing in mind the never-ending saga of food scares even scaring God Himself. No exaggeration.

Farmer Watts and Farmer Coughlan stemmed from rival farming clans since time immemorial. They stared steely-eyed – as the makeshift racing steward (a man in a dungarees whom nobody seemed to recognise) lifted the tapes for the forty odd scrawny steeds to start running.


One immediately started munching the grass. Another unseated his jerk of a jockey. Yet more careered off in all directions - except towards that of the finishing post.

Blackberrypie and Sauasageandmash were leading a small pack who were drifting, one guessed, generally in the right direction. A few even in this contingent of mediocrity-masquerading-as-might stumbled on the flat fences. Leaving the two main contenders (Blackberrypie and Sauasageandmash) to negotiate the home strait, in vile vying brays and wicked snaps of the whip from what they saw as unseen yet weighty powers above.

Blackberrypie was leading by a head. Then Sausageandmash by a neck. Then Blackberrypie by two heads. Then Sausageandmash by a head and two necks.


The croaky crowd uttered their approval amid catcalls and whistles from some flatcapped locals who did not seem to have backed anything at all – merely graced the day with their presence. A disinterested crowd is better than no crowd at all, some claimed. In actual fact, it was becoming, if belatedly, rather a good race between these two nags, bearing in mind the general standard of Point-to-Points hereabouts.

Farmer Watts and Farmer Coughlan actually roared. The first time either of them had managed this throaty evidence of their lungs for years and years. The usually mumbled, these days, and grumbled under their breaths. For the first time in a tandem of eternities, fire shone in their eyes.

Yet, imagine their deflation when they spotted Blackberrypie and Sausageandmash grazing in a field, never having reached the finishing post.


Either illusion or wishful thinking had created the mass hysteria. The sunset (with the rain clouds in retreat) made the grass the two nags gnawed look a gooey red-black. Natural processes caused the horses to appear to ooze long black things which coiled to the ground to form a mass of wriggling moonlit maggots.


Two short human-like shapes eventually separated themselves from the nags in a slow-motion unknitting action, and very slowly raced off to the pub – followed (as now allowed in tradition) by the two farmers and their cronies, slapping each other's backs, guffawing, nay, laughing, gloriously laughing at the pointlessness of Point-to-Points, at the sheer animal absurdity of God's gift called life.


Only later did they go back to muttering.



Posted by wordonymous at 10:14 AM EST
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