A Royal Feast

 Imagine a feast. A feast from long ago. A stone room, lit only by a firepit and a hundred tallow candles. The light flickers, shadows twist and turn like backlit monsters on a screen. A table. A rough, wooden table laden with game and grease and mead. A king sits at the table. Madly bearded, dressed in his wedding day finery. An ogre of a man, at home with his own power. Beside him his new wife. Dressed in ceremonial, almost sacrificial, blood red robes. Small. Timid. Fragile beside her new giant. Her eyes full of apprehension as the wedding bed approaches. Surrounding them, The Court. Rough warriors to a man, in their cups and boisterous with it. A cacophony of drunken revelry. The king stands, abruptly. Bangs his fist on the table for silence. He gets it. He holds the royal mead cup aloft, savouring it with his eyes. Struck from finest gold, it glows orange in the overwhelming firelight. Beautiful. Holy. Kingly. He turns his eyes to his followers. Picks them out one by one, asserting his dominance. He speaks. In a terrifying, Brian Blessed like voice, he speaks.

 

BEHOLD!

MY CUP OF ORANGE!

‘TISN’T YELLOW! ‘TISN’T GREEN!

 

Behold my cup of orange!

Hear ye BELLOW! Here ye SCREAM!

 

I hold my cup of orange,

I, Othello! Royal sheen!

 

BEHOLD!

My cup of orange.

Fair thee well… my Crimson Queen.

 

 He turns and bows to his new bride. Kisses her hand. Holds her eyes with his. She sees nothing but flames beneath those close knit brows. She nods gracefully. And inside she weeps.

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Midwatch (AKA Warts and All)

A short (300ish words) story I wrote whilst walking home from work.

Midwatch

The hand was small, and wrinkled, and had a wart on the third knuckle. I didn’t like the look of that wart. It spoke of disease, and a life submerged in others’ filth. I looked across at Shaw. He had a calf, and was face deep in flesh. Lucky bugger.

Jenson hadn’t opened his carton yet. He was eyeing my wart-ridden hand with unconcealed distaste.

“Blind swap?” I asked, without much hope of success. I was right to be pessimistic.

“Not a chance.” Jenson was emphatic. “That wart is horrific.” He patted his carton. “Whatever’s in here, it cant be worse than that wart.”

“Last chance? You could have toes in there. Or even a scrotum. Is it worth the risk?”

Jensen grinned in pity, and began to fiddle with the seals of his lunch.

Summarily dismissed, I turned my full attention to the hand. It still disgusted me. I picked it up and tilted it into the light. The fingernails had been removed, of course, but looking closer now I could see that the cuticles still remained. Once covered by carapace, the now exposed half-moons were a filthy, discoloured yellow speckled with flecks of red. Blood or disease, probably. Neither option was appetising.

I looked across at Jensen. He’d lucked out and got a forearm, complete with faded naval tattoo. He caught my eye and held up his prize in mock salute. Bastard.

I contemplated the hand once more. I still didn’t want it. I had the duty watch next though, an all nighter. I’d never make it through without some food in my belly. Beggars can’t be choosers.

I held the hand close to my nose and sniffed. Quelled a moment of nausea. The wart seemed to be winking at me, it’s sparse white hair like an old man’s eyebrow.

But beggars can’t be choosers.

I held the hand up to my mouth.

I closed my eyes.

I ate.

Burning The Wife

I hate Time. Not in an abstract, oh doesn’t time go too fast type of way but in a real, tangible sense. He’s my arch nemesis.Think Churchill and Hitler. Holmes and Moriarty. He-Man and Skeletor. I hate him, loathe him, despise him and I would cross burning coals to get the better of him. I would sellotape my nipples to a train-door and tell the guard to blow his whistle if it meant that I could, just once, look Time in the eye and stick my fingers up his nose. He’s a bastard, and someone needs to take him down.

The thing about Time, you see, is that he’s relentless. Like the Terminator. A massive steam-roller, flattening the 3D ‘Now’ into unreachable 2D ‘Then’. Just rolling on and on and on forever, turning real life into memories, mistakes into regrets. There’s no arguing with him. No pleading with him. No way to avoid him. All you can do is keeping on running ahead of the roller, trying not to get flattened. And, in the end, you’ll run out of steam and you will get flattened. Because Time always wins. Like I said, he’s a bastard.

Almost everything bad in life can be blamed on Time. Sour milk. Rotten apples and brown bananas. Body odour, dandruff and halitosis. Hunger. Degenerative illness. Regret, unfulfilled ambition, tiredness, boredom. Long days at work, short days not at work, monthly bills, interest rates, inflation, out of control debt and the ever present, nagging sensation that doors are closing all around you and that you’re being funnelled into a test tube in an experiment that you never signed up for. None of these would be possible without Time.And that’s just life itself. What about death? There would be no death without Time. And when it comes to death and Time, the most annoying thing –  the most annoying, unforgivable, inhuman thing – isn’t that he kills you, but that he refuses to leave you alone once you are dead. He worries away at you like a dog with a bone. Erasing your existence, wearing away people’s memories of you until you’re nothing but a footnote in history. Gnawing at your earthly remains, bringing decay and degeneration and a return to the dust from whence you came. Give me Hitler over Time any day – at least he had nice legs.

I was thinking about all this today, and I realised that there IS a way to get one over on Time. A way to win a small victory, even if it is a pyrrhic one. There’s no way to do it whilst you’re alive, of course. Not without going all Doc Brown and messing with the space-time continuum, anyway. That war is unwinnable, lost before we start. But you can win a battle once you’re dead. All you have to do is be cremated. Just have yourself burned, it’s as easy as that. Burn your remains so that Time can’t get his hands on them. Turn yourself into ash so that he can’t turn you into dust. Deny him your body. Leave him with nothing to play with and to ruin. It’s a small victory, as I said, but it’s a victory none the less. Something to savour. One in the eye for Time, and a finger up the nose to boot.

I urge you. I implore you. Join me in this rebellion. Have yourself burnt, not buried. Deny Time his small pleasures, and regain control over your own inevitable demise. “Ash, Not Dust” shall be our slogan, and we shall march through the streets with placards and banners, baring our naked buttocks at the steam-roller behind and refusing to be cowed. He may take our present and turn it into past, he may take our youth and turn it into infirmity and he may even take our life itself – but he will not have our dust.

I can only ask this of you, of course. I cannot demand or expect it. Everyone’s corpse is their own to do with as they please. But, having said that, I am a modern man and my wife is a modern woman – so I’ve made an executive decision and decided that she will be burnt too. I’m sure she won’t mind. I love her, and Time isn’t having her dust, it’s as simple as that. This was quite a momentous decision, so I wrote a poem about it. It’s called Time Shall Not Win, and it’s below.

Time Shall Not Win

Your hands shall not decay, my love
Beneath the mud and dirt
Those hands that oft caressed me,
Smoothed the creases in my shirt.
Those hands that held our children
Shall not rot, exposing bone
They will not lie unclasped, my love
Beneath the earth, alone.

Your hands shall not decay, my love
Dread Time will never win,
I shall snatch your hands from his, my love
And kiss the soul within.
Your hands will burn with fire, my love
The flames will set them free
To rise into the sky above
And wave goodbye to me.

With apologies to Kenneth Grahame…

I was thinking about assisted dying and Dignitas and all that stuff, and I remembered that I’d written a poem about the true end to The Wind In The Willows. I re-read the poem and still liked it (which isn’t always guaranteed when I read my older stuff) so thought I’d post it here.

(Incidentally, if you want to read any of my older writing – and there’s a fair bit of it! – then you can find it on ABCTales.com, under the usernames Primate, Jonesey and Cloven Hoof. There’s also some on UK Authors under the username Kris)

Anyway, here’s the poem:

Heading Downstream

“Oh Ratty,” said Mole. “Are we ancient?
All wrinkled and nearing our last?
With my heart and your liver
Are our days on the river
Just memories fading too fast?

Now Badger is buried in woodland
And Toad’s in the Pond Of The Sky,
There’s only us left
And I’m feeling bereft
And I’m dreading our final goodbye.”

“Oh Mole,” said the rat. “Don’t you worry –
I’ve thought it all out, don’t you fret:
Before we are sacked
We will both make a pact
To resign and then seek out a vet.

They say that there’s one in Geneva
He lives by the lake, on the shore
We could bid him hello
And then take one last row
Before quietly shipping our oars.”

“Oh yes, my dear friend,” said old Moley
“A pact is the way to the light.”
So they set off together
Before once and forever
Rowing softly downstream to the night.

445 – The Butcher Rises Early

Poem number 445

The Butcher Rises Early

.

The Butcher rises early

Tiptoes gently from the room

Leaves behind his Mistress

Snoring softly, in the gloom

.

Washed and dressed he breakfasts

Natural yoghurt, branflakes, fruit

Hat, coat, shoes and keys to van

Embarks upon his route

.

Butcher tools beside him

In a bag upon the seat

Drives around the district

Peeling eyes, a hunt for meat

.

A tramp is sleeping by the road

The van slides to a stop

The tramp is swiftly slaughtered

Boxed, with ice upon the top

.

The engine starts, another mile

A postman in a trap

The van pulls up, an open door

A neck, a twist, a snap

.

The hunt goes on, a paperboy

A milkman, hikers two

The van is at capacity

Before the sun pokes through

.

Harvest chores complete at last

The Butcher mops his face

A pristine linen hankerchief

With trim of scarlet lace

.

Drives back home through rising dawn

Parks neatly by his shed

His mind already skipping

To his Mistress in their bed

.

Stock transferred to freezer bags

Refrigerated store

Shed locked up behind him

Combination on the door

.

Butcher tools rescrubbed, away

Slaps on some aftershave

Climbs back in with Mistress

And it’s time to misbehave

.

Mistress gives a little grunt

A negligee so sheer

He slides a trotter to her rump

And nips a hairy ear

.

Waking slowly, Mistress

In an early morning bliss

Snout slides from the covers

To bestow a snuffling kiss

.

Bristly cheeks together

Oinking softly, lovers now

The Butcher and his Mistress

Killer Hog and hungry Sow.

You can still drink spilt milk

(just suck it up with a straw)

This is a poem I wrote about being middle aged, and not letting it worry you.

Perhaps

I could have been James Bond, you know –
Martinis, girls and guns,
I could have been Paul Hollywood
A lifetime kneading buns,
I could have been Roald Dahl, they say
The king of childhood rhyme,
Or even Albert Einstein
With his mastery of time,
Linford Christie, Ranulph Fiennes
The list goes ever on
But now I’m nearly 40
And it seems my chance has gone –
I’m stuck with being me, it seems
And maybe that’s all right
Perhaps it’s good to be anon
Perhaps success is shite,
And who’s to say those other folk
With names that strike a chord
Are happy with their lot in life –
Perhaps they’re really bored?
Perhaps old Albert Einstein
Grew quite sick of bending time,
Perhaps Roald Dahl got rather down
With endless days of rhyme,
Perhaps James Bond, when lying
With a bullet in his knee,
Regrets his life of danger
And just wishes he were me…