Thursday, 24 September 2015

A SHORT STORY


A SHORT STORY
 
            Given the lengthening list of writers desperately wanting to win The 2016 Sunday Times Short Story Prize of £30,000, I’m getting my entry in early to avoid disappointment.
 
            Once upon a time on a dark and stormy night, a big black crow flew over a wicked witch in the woods stirring her cauldron with curses.  Unbeknownst to anyone but the witch, a beautiful damsel in distress with flaxen hair and a fair turn of ankle was running desperately through the woods in her thorn-torn diaphanous white nightdress.  She became more distressed and ran even faster on hearing the sound of heavy breathing thundering up behind her, whereupon she tripped over a frog waving a magic wand.
            As she picked herself up, but feeling quite faint, she fell straight into the strong arms of a tall dark handsome highwayman, who had been galloping home on his horse after robbing the rich to give to the poor. 
Her prince had come, well almost.  He put his pistol to one side and swiftly lifted her up onto his steaming steed.  She blew a big kiss to the frog and then wanted to reward the highwayman for coming to her rescue.  But she had no money, jewels or valuables except a precious little empty velvet purse which she always kept for comfort. 
            So for saving her from the wicked witch’s curse, she could only pledge her troth to the highwayman, and perhaps her velvet purse, for his princely plunder at the stroke of twelve or as soon as the moon was high, but no later than the cock crows. 
            Meanwhile, the people in the village were as snug as bugs in rugs, sleeping soundly in their warm and cosy beds.  So no-one noticed the dark and stormy night life, not even the gamekeeper out hunting for hairy hobgoblins. 
In the morning, with the dawning of the milkman, the sun shone brightly on frosted gossamer webs and over the fields forests hills rivers and meadows.  The birds were singing their sweet songs, and everyone lived happily ever after.
           
Well, how short does it have to be?
           

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

THINGS TO DO AT THE WEEKEND


THINGS TO DO AT THE WEEKEND

Shotguns

              This weekend, I might saw off both barrels of grandma’s old 12 bore shotgun, using my brand new heavy-duty Black & Decker do-it-yourself high-speed angle grinder de-luxe.  Advertised as – Made for real men who don’t eat quiche’.  

            Grandma says that because of her failing eyesight and frail arms, she now needs a shorter lighter sawn-off shotgun, to hide under her dressing gown and shoot straight from her new dicky-hip replacement.  Then, with her remaining trigger-happy finger, she’d be sure of shooting whole groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses at her door at short range, without having to re-load. 

            I might accept her offer of non-ecclesiastical sherry, cannabis and carrot cake, and her house when she’s gone – a reasonable reward for my weekend work.  But due to the risk of scratching the blade on my brand new shiny angle grinder – I might not.

            It’s Friday after lunch, and as I nearly-nakedly laze on a sun-drenched sunbed with a stiff drink to hand, I get a funny feeling that my private pondering on things to do this weekend is being observed by someone over the high estate wall.  Sure enough, that feeling is soonly confirmed, and my concentration is interrupted by an unexpected alternative to a long hard dirty weekend of angle grinding.

            From out of a clear blue sky comes the snort of a horse followed by a feminine voice with a softer option to ponder on:

            “Hallo, sorry to disturb you, I’m Myoni your new neighbour.  The lady in the village Post Office said that you are good with a gun.  So if you’re not too busy this weekend I wonder whether you might like to come and have a look at mine.  It’s a big gun made by someone called John Dickson and it’s got three triggers and three barrels.  I think it’s quite a valuable 16 bore shotgun, although I’m not sure about how many bores I need to shoot the migrating Mormons who’ve been pecking at my front door bell since I moved in.”

            Methinks she has a good sense of humour but doesn’t know much about guns.

            “I’ve tried using it to shoot the mice in the butler’s pantry, and they just sit and stare at me standing on a chair, clicking the triggers without getting any big bangs.  It does sometimes go off, and then my knees start trembling.  Am I doing something wrong?  I enjoy being on my own most of the time, but when the staff go home I do feel a bit vulnerable.  So I need the gun for protection, especially against those Mormons coming from a single missionary disposition.”

            Sympathetic as I am to her predicament, but with another good chuckle, I’m thinking that I may need to test the triple trigger sensitivity and then adjust and lubricate the internal mechanisms for easy breech loading, effective firing, and the ejection of large 16 bore spent cartridges – a process which I’ll have to carry out using each one of the three barrels in sequence.  This is quite a lot of concentrated work.  However it is a very unusual opportunity, because double barrel shotguns are easy to come by, whereas triple barrel shotguns are rare valuable and highly sought after by enthusiastic collectors.  She then anticipates my assistance:

            “While you’re over here, you could tell me if the barrels need rifling or whether I need ready rifled slugs, and perhaps you’d teach me how to hold a powerful weapon properly, as I haven’t had any lessons from my dear old dollar boy who is always away on ‘business’.” – says the lovely young lady high up on her horse.

            Nevertheless, and further to my much suppressed mirth, she goes on to say:

            “I do hope you can come and show me how you pull, or should it be squeeze, the triggers and then give a good polishing to all three barrels. Oh, and have you got some special lubricating fluid that I’ve heard shooting men use to keep their guns in working order?”

Well, what’s a man of my standing supposed to do this weekend? 

            I might take up her tempting offer of Bolly champagne, Beluga caviar and the permanent loan of her Lamborghini as adequate recompense for my good neighbourlyness.  Yet on swiftly considering the possibility of getting involved in regular weekend shotgun servicing depleting my reserves of high-grade easy-flow super-fine grease-free ultra-light trigger lubricating fluid – I might not.
 
            Although I might, if I get a more tempting offer. 

            Anyway, I thank her for such a generous suggestion and say I’ll give it some thought, here’s my phone number, call me later when the sun goes down.  She says bye-bye with a twinkle in her eye and returns to her house astride her horse.  I resume my horizontal pondering, and after a few short or maybe longer minutes the phone rings with such penetrating insistence that I pick it up, albeit with much reluctance.  Whereupon I hear in my ear the worldly voice of a man over the global phone:

            “Myoni tells me you’re good with guns and she needs some help with the gun I gave her.  You could just carry on pondering – but if you do me a favour as my lady’s good neighbour, I’ll give you a Bentley and a thoroughbred horse.” 

            So if he’s not worried about one of his wanton wifelets looking wonderful wandering around wondering what to do with a weapon at the weekend – then perhaps I should stop pondering.  But I might not.


Meanwhile, somewhere on a sandy beach the sun shines brightly on the buttocks of beautiful girls, and for a few local moments all is well with the world.