Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Tale About Thomas

Mount Catanak was a mostly extinct volcano, poking a nose-cone above the plateau that verged on the outer homesteads of Parsimony township. A pendulum swung from generation to generation, thereabouts and, today, the kids were told to straighten their backs and put their index fingers upon their busy inky-black lips as a little reminder of the sanctity of silence. Until then, it was hubbub amid the plasticene; but, the age of the class being around eleven, it only took a little pressure on the tiller of discipline for sweet silence to reign supreme. It was deep summer, and the renewed quiet revealed the richly varied throstling of the resplendent bird-life outside. Mr Brown, the one-eyed gardener, was just to be seen through the window, licking his teeth as he tended to the blossomy tendrils coiling in and out of the school railings.

The teacher, Mr Asquew by name and nature, was in a tidy sweat, since he had just needed to rummage behind the blackboard for a box of rubbers, which were about to be handed round the staring pupils, in a mistaken attempt to prevent errors rather than cure them. All different pastel shades the rubbers were, and he knew that the kids, if left to their own devices, would fight over having the pinkish ones - in the same manner as they did over blackcurrant flavours in a tube of Spangles.

Tales about Mount Catanak did abound in Mr Asquew's schoolroom, tales which really should have been part of the history lesson but had, over countless years, evolved into Religious Education. In the front double desk - and they were there because they were within smacking distance - sat two nose-crudded boys by the names of Murky and Thomas. Both lived in the outskirts of the township nearest to that part of the plateau where timber trees marched along the banks of the Mercy ... towards a thicker forestation that concealed the river's further whereabouts. They were first cousins but none the friendlier for that.

"You may remove your fingers, children, but fold your arms upon your desks ... neatly now."

Sloping Mr Asquew had often considered doing something about the desk-slopes themselves, for they were scored with ink runnels, curlicue engravings, tags and pieces, depicting the childhood dreams from centuries ago. He'd see to them before Christmas, he vowed. He'd require some pretty stiff scrubbing brushes, plenty of toxic bleach, a carpenter's plane, rutted files of various torques and mounds of heavy-duty sandpaper.

For a moment, Mr Asquew's mind returned to the class and he wondered why that kid Edalpo in a double-desk on his own seemed to be shadow-boxing. The scallywag had been removed to the back of the classroom by the window, since rapping Edalpo's knuckles with the yardstick was like beating steak to tenderise it. No response.

But today's today, no time for slipshod thoughts. The hand-bell would soon be shaken by the Headmistress in the corridor to mark the end of the current period. Mr Asquew had a soft spot for her, but he could not endure her in the role of schoolmarm. She pretended not to acknowledge Asquew as the man who attended to her on some evenings after the kids had gone home. Daytime saw her storming through the school building, with wide unpleated skirts, twill twin-sets and booming voice.

Mr Asquew allowed his desultory gaze to wander out the window, where Mr Brown was now looking up into the sky, scratching his head as if expecting rain. Mr Brown hated sunshine. It played havoc with his met-tab-bol-ism, Brown claimed to Asquew when they met in the playground. But surely there'd be no rain on a glorious summer's day like this. Ah, well, the end of the lesson - enormous clattering like dumb-bells being rattled in an oil-drum. The kids (Murky and Thomas included) immediately collapsed into a body profile more comfortable to their in-built stoops. Their many bones clicked upon release from the strict, hour-long régime imposed by Mr Asquew. They lifted their desk-lids, placed their heads within the dark horizontal cupboard spaces to seek out their lunch-boxes and, on flat feet and with wild chatter, filed out unrulily from the formroom.

Lunch was indeed more than a ritual. They dragged out the thick bristly exercise mats from the bicycle-sheds, rashered them out haphazardly over the playground and forthwith prepared to picnic in the hot summer air. But the real ritual was in the eating. The Headmistress clumped a large soup-ladle along the school railings to permit the lifting of lunch-box lids and the gentle ensuing of the nibbles. The mats chafed the kids' flesh, since the girls' gym-slips and the boys' flannel shorts did nothing to protect their knees, calves - nor, even, thighs. The food, packed that very morning by their loving parents, were fillingless sandwiches rounded off by a single crab-apple.

The munchers simply took on a melted mutter of fitful undertones, which assumed second place to the chomping teeth. But, today, one little bright spark scared the girls silly by hinting that in the desk ink-wells lurked creepy-crawly-coily things, each with a single eye only for the fair sex.

Eventually, renewed clattering along the railings announced Grace, which the Headmistress proudly intoned:- "It’d’been for what we have moved our teeth through may the One True God find us genuinely thankful for His small mercies." The kids' response, in practised unison, was: "It’d’been for our bellies to stay full till they are ready to empty in His good time." Then, with a sharp blast on a hard-pea whistle, the kids rose from their mats which they packed away and, in twos and surreptitious threes, crocodiled back into the school buildings. Mr Brown watched them go. He was now up on the roof oiling the weathervane. He scratched his head and dug a fingernail into his protrusion of teeth to reclaim some red gristle from his erstwhile breakfast. The day being so calm, he caught the under-hum of the honey-bees in his flower-beds. Folk of his ilk had sensitive hearing.

Murky collected his own smackaroos like notches on a whip and was jealous of each and every one that his cousin Thomas received, especially if they were harder than his. And he literally seethed with jealous anger if Mr Asquew should draw Thomas's blood. Whilst Thomas fiercely loathed these cruel smarts upon himself, he smiled for he knew, in this way, they would hurt Murky more.

But one day, with his ear almost hanging off, Thomas let forth a screech fit to strangle a chicken. The class was in uproar. Murky and Thomas banged their desk-lids in unison. Some other boys barged up and down the aisle like warriors with their bloodlust in overdrive. Murky merely stared ahead. Mr Asquew had at last given up the ghost and was seen to be cowering under his desk, gnawing the chalk duster. Edalpo, as usual, was nowhere to be seen.

The summer went on all year, it seemed.

One day, all the boys, enemies and friends alike, huddled in tree-dens along the banks of the Mercy River. They could faintly see Mount Catanak through an early dawn mist. Murky suddenly slipped and fell headlong into the untamed river. As he was swept along further into the plateau land, one could hear his dying snorts for help. But he did not die. Asquew will tell you that. For Asquew had jumped in, half an hour before.

The River Mercy never let anyone die, you see.

The afternoon timetable, thereafter, invariably included Scripture, where Mr Asquew had to scale a step-ladder and hand down the hefty Bibles from the top of the huge Nature Study cupboard. Each kid then toted the tome to his desk, opened its stiff gold-tooled covers with a mighty creak, pored over the close print and learned each verse parrot-fashion for blind recital the next day. Later in the afternoon, Mr Asquew remembered that Health Education, as the Authorities stipulated, should be included within a Scripture lesson, to give the required context. He had only broached the subject once before, when that Edalpo kid brought something out in class, saying he thought it was to be a Practical. So Mr Asquew was a trifle nervous this time. "Health" could cover a multitude of sins ... such as "cleaving", as he called it, whilst drawing esoteric symbols on the blackboard, one of which reminded some of the girls of the way they imagined the ink-well creature to look like - a fact which confirmed the boys' fears about their own prospective manhood.

And the afternoon wore on, the heat of the day shimmering forth wet puddles across the playground. Mr Brown sat with his back to the wall, munching on some bodily, if not culinary, leavings he'd found stuck to the exercise mats. The drone of Mr Asquew’s voice filtered through to him from an open window, talking it seemed of a box of rubbers, and which particular colours the boys preferred. The sun was making everybody rather strange. Mr Asquew later shambled off to the Headmistress' office, hoping against hope that she'd give him a tantalising glimpse of her navy-blue knickers. Or, heaven, oh heaven, their contents. It had indeed been peculiarly hot today. And it was equally hot for many days to come.

Cousin Murky was the one that made the difference on the day of the near drowning. With a lungful of river weed, he dragged himself and Mr Asquew from the squally river right at the foot of the rearing Catanak volcano. They both raised their eyes in awe, for none from Parsimony had ventured this far out before. Murky decided to stop playing dumb and, for the first time in his life, he made sense out of the words he spoke: "It's about to go up! The ground's moving, ain't it? We're dead monkeys for sure!"

Mr Asquew, who was now sitting at the river's edge, wringing out his black gown, looked up with shillings in his eyes. Meanwhile, Murky saw a man walking down in great strides from the topmost cone of Catanak. And this man was laden with an oar as big as himself. As he grew nearer, the man's upper black lip turned to a hair-curling snarl and, staring with flame-shot eyes, he began to wheel the oar around him like an ocean liner's giant propellers threshing those bottomless seas towards which Mercy surged. And Murky smiled as each cataclysmic oar-thwack bit harder into his own spineworks.

Mr Asquew had already run back towards where he thought the township lay.

Cousin Murky returned to school the next day, much to everybody's amazement. In fact it was even more amazing that anybody was there at all, since it was still the summer holidays. He told the other boys in his gang that he'd had a heart-to-heart with Uncle Hairlip and that he was going to be good in class from that day on. What was more, he'd had his fill of smackaroos, enough to last a lifetime and a half.

Thomas squirmed in his desk. He had secretly hoped that his cousin had been drowned, meaning more money for him when the inheritances came round in due course. Instead, just a drool of cuckoo-spit could be seen at the corner of Thomas's mouth, as he sat and stared at nothing in particular.

Some hands were held under the double desks. Their owners feared the words that Murky (with Mr Asquew's help) had scrawled across the surface of the dark blackboard in crude indelible chalk: UNCLE HAIRLIP LIVES IN HERE.

Mr Asquew had no further discipline problems, despite his sitting in the nature study cupboard sucking on dissected rats. All he had to do was intermittently point at the blackboard and the legend upon it.

Edalpo, that boy who was only half-noticed and then only half the time, had a half-twin, a concept which was beyond most people's comprehension but, indeed, this half-twin existed by means of some paranormal quirk of miscegenation. Nobody, including Mr Asquew, had seen both of them simultaneously and, what was more, each boy himself did not believe one hundred per cent in the existence of the other. Nevertheless, their existence was an ageless curse, since they never really grew up, despite History passing through their tousled mops like wind. Mr Brown, the odd job man, seemed to know more about their true condition than met more normal eyes. But he didn't let on. He had different geese to cook.

Quite a nightmare to Mr Asquew, because each boy was so different mentally, if not physically. Edalpo represented a quieter, more polite version of his half-twin; but, even so, Edalpo possessed the knack of making his own bones crack loudly during prayers; and his inch-wide tie with frays teased out like a Chinaman's goatee, together with the crud-encaked nostrils and tongue of wicked wicked innocence were enough to make Mr Asquew bring out the veins of Edalpo's calves with the willowy cane. Boys those days had trousers especially shortened to allow such disciplinary behaviour and Edalpo's knuckles were likened to pork-cuts at the butchers, from the rapping they had received.

But, Edalpo's half-twin, he was a different ball-game altogether. He indeed attended school less often, God be thanked, but when he did arrive, with every clear-thinking adult assuming that it was still Edalpo, the shock became thus more acute. He smiled more sweetly than Edalpo, in fact, and that should have been warning enough. And after the smile, an onlooker would soon spot that the crudded nose twitched, as if alive by its own volition with the hardening mucus bearing a soul of its own: squeaking in restful rhythm with the boy's heart. His eyeballs were nut brown conkers revolving on their axes, dizzying anybody he looked upon. His insides not only began noisily to crack like Edalpo's, but also whine, grind, judder and splinter in the manner of a godawful bonemill. But the smell was the worst. At first, it was merely the typical redolence of 'Boy': the brown skidmarks decorating his underclothes, the ripe heady sweat, the careless lettings - emitting their almost pleasant cocktail of scents. Then, he began to mouth off words of sufficient mind-numbing filth that the breath that accompanied them filled the classroom with such utter foulness and fœtor, it was easier to suffocate than to carry on inhaling it - as if all the stinks of Hell's unflushed latrines were emptied in one go, after an eternity of use, at the back entrance of Heaven.

But Edalpo and his half-twin are not our concern. Far from it. Not even Thomas figures all that much in our moiderings. Our story is of Murky. And during one particular summer, the days were still endless, the laughter unbridled and the adventures usually wild and hair-raising. Murky wanted to be an artist when he eventually grew up. But, in those dog days, like his schoolmates, he had nostrils that hung below his mouth and threatened to dangle lava upon his T-shirt from a volcano back somewhere in his head. His ma and pa had a Christmas tree going all year. Its fairy lights flashed slowly on and off, so slowly in fact that the darknesses in between were reckoned to be "as long as death itself..."

Thomas may have suffered from non sequiturs. Thomas may have answered each question with another. But who cared? Thomas wasn't important. Not even important to himself.

"What you mooning about, Thomas?" Murky asked as they followed each other across the frozen seas of hills around Parsimony township.

Silence. Nothing but the birds on high riding a low rumble of thunder or the surging of an underground torrent reaching blindly towards a heel-off with the Mercy River.

Eventually, Thomas answered. What did he say? Nobody ever remembered. Often, Edalpo wandered with them, older than both Thomas and Murky put together, by the look of him. His bones cracked as he walked, but Murky and Thomas put it all down to the deadfall trees that Edalpo trampled through in preference to the relatively open paths. There were a lot of upended trees about that year, following a particularly violent wind-storm that nobody had seen coming from over the hills beyond Catanak. Some even said Catanak had erupted for the first time since the Crusades and had added its power to the Twister which later flattened most of the poorer districts of Parsimony.

One day, during that endless year of their lives when all stood still except themselves, the three actually walked closer to the foot of Mount Catanak than they had ever been before. Arriving beyond the more customary haunts, one or two trees seemed to have their roots where the branches used to be.

"Phew! That must have been a mighteee storm!" shouted Murky.

The trees' fallen husks were stranded around. Edalpo did not remark on this strange phenomenon. He just ran to where some of the fir-cones had pyramided against each other.

Murky was still yapping on: "The storm's turned the whole wide world upside down." And he felt his head to see if it was at the right end of his body. "Thomas, let's play that game. You know. I'll be Uncle Hairlip and you can be the naughty boy. And when we've done it that way round, you will be Uncle Hairlip and me the boy."

Then, silence. Only Edalpo cracking nuts between his knees.

"Will you let me beat you with the biggest piece of wood I can find, when you act the boy? Will you, will you, Murky?" hooted Thomas

"Only if I can use it, too ... on you, 'tother way about.

"Come here!" suddenly shouted Edalpo. "Here's the biggest piece of wood in the world!"

They ran instinctively to where Edalpo was pointing into a cave-like structure formed by several deadfalls. Murky had to hold a large handkerchief to his nose for the smell of ripeness gone wrong pervaded the woven culvert Edalpo had discovered. Thomas stood right behind Murky, but boys being boys, physical contact between them was never acknowledged. Murky's body being in constant motion from point to point did not retain for long the impress of Thomas's along his spine and buttocks, for he had surged into the opening. There, within the makeshift darkness of the cave, was a fresh fir tree fit for a thousand more Christmases. His ma and pa would be chuffed to be able to get rid of the scruffy version from which they had dangled coloured lights for as long as he could remember. This one had crimped-up foliage, sprung branches and a sturdy trunk, reaching a pinnacle as high as the Star of Bethlehem itself ... if it could only be dragged from its den.

"Thomas, will you help me tote it home?"

Meanwhile, Edalpo had decided he was not interested in Stars of Bethlehem or anything else like that or anything at all really what seemed so important to Murky. Edalpo had taken it upon himself to play at Uncle Hairlip and was pulling Thomas along towards the now towering Catanak.

All endless days do in fact end.

Murky found himself alone in a twilight with which the forestland fed its intrinsic birdsong soul. He crouched inside the dark, dripping oubliette that was still forming naturally around him in the shadow of the spluttering Catanak. Alone, that is, except for the Star of Bethlehem Christmas tree, lighting up intermittently with the new-found rhythms of Catanak.

But the darknesses lasted longer and longer. And during the leading edge of one darkness, where some light was still lingering as the memory of a dream, Murky caught the glimpse of a boy's face with streaming hair from its chin, a mouth in the top of its skull whence cracks came and a long up-rearing tongue which had been ill-taught to speak let alone lick. It evidently had a message but, too late, for the head's contents shot out like an exploding fountain towards the heavens, and splattered Murky's dungarees with what looked to him like the produce of a wet dream.

He closed his eyes, hoping it would take itself away. And, on opening them, in a short space of light, he had time to see the familiar, non-committal face of Thomas staring at him from outside the den. Thomas had evidently found himself suddenly alone outside.

"Yes, Murky, can I help you tote it home?"

Mr Asquew felt despair on any day when Edalpo's half-twin replaced Edalpo himself in the distant desk at the back of the classroom, at the back where, despite the nearness of the window, it appeared even darker than where the shadowy blackboard stood. Mr Asquew often wondered about the desks, the lids of which unaccountably sloped the wrong way. Mr Brown himself often shrugged and scratched his head over the matter. He ever seemed to be around doing more odd jobs in the classroom, when the half-twin was in session. And 'odd' was the operative word, Mr Asquew thought, when the job entailed, say, repositioning the blackboard for no obvious reason other than the seasonal adjustment of the sun's direction.

It is true to say that Murky and Thomas could never remember Edalpo. For there had never been more than themselves in their gang of two.

For a time, the Headmistress had a job soothing the other kids back to school, for they had started to believe in a Thing called Uncle Hairlip lurking inside the blackboard. Whatever it was, it would crackle through their dreams ... even into maturity ... into old age ... and beyond.

Christmas was no longer celebrated in Parsimony. Nobody being able to afford it was the reason given ... the only reason that could be believed. However, one family kept a rather splendid fir tree, in the outside toilet, in case the festival was reinstated one day.

Murky did grow up to be an artist (a writer), but he rarely returned to those areas that huddled in the shadow of a volcano that remained ever extinct - from the Crusades onwards. Whatever the case, at the end of the particular heat wave in question, Mr Brown wandered the playground squinting out the whereabouts of long lost property. The sky began to blacken on this otherwise cloudless day. Soon after, years passed through each other, often not touching the people themselves and leaving them stranded between archipelago inkblots of recorded time. Only the desklids leave a record with their etchings. Mr Asquew died from a broken spirit, still bewildered by matters that should have appeared sensible enough. And in fact the half-twin finally killed off Edalpo and sat in the empty classroom waiting for the last teacher to arrive in clouds of chalkdust. The Authorities needed to keep at least the rudiments of a school going, even if there was only one pupil left to make a teacher's life a misery. The late afternoon slipped into its evening clothes - but bars of weak daylight still rippled through the curdling fumes of the air and splattered the parquet with puddles of yellowy green pus. Suddenly, the Headmistress herself strode in, her wings flapping like an academic gown, her skull sufficiently flattened out by a bonemill to look like a mortar board. "Where's the usual teacher?" asked the boy, his high-pitched words punctuating the caul of snorting snot that now covered his whole face. They stared at each other, listening to the frightened silence. High Noon at Dusk.

The Headmistress lifted one wing to reveal a long bony cane - but the boy had faded into the foreground, only to fall backwards with a whoop of delight into the deep sucking darknesses of the blackboard. The Headmistress smiled as she administered corporal punishment to her own backside, causing parts of her intestinal tract to erupt from the easiest orifice like live lolloping eels. And then she placed her eager mouth to a particular desk's ink-well...

An older Thomas, one who had sloughed off a hopefully fictitious boyhood, swept his eyes across the plateau: this was his land and nobody was going to take it from him. He pulled the rucksack higher on to his shoulders and adjusted the strap around his waist to balance out the weight more regularly and to prevent the sharp end of one of its contents from digging into him. Having walked miles from the farmhouse, including a night's fitful snooze at Wanderer's Point, he could hardly believe that the land upon which he now gazed was still his. He had bought the farmhouse with money left to him by his late God-mother. He knew that the land attaching to it, although worthless for crop, grazing or development was, nevertheless, "mighty big" (as his Cousin Murky, in his cups, had described it to Thomas, perhaps with a tinge of jealousy clouding his eyes).

That particular Wake had turned into an all night shindig. Mix the ingredients of a family accustomed to stiff drinking, a corpse nobody had cared about except for the money it had owned, a large rambling house in the more salubrious purlieus of Parsimony and a Cousin Murky with an entrée into wine cellars ... then a thin sorrow easily turns into something far more dangerous.

Thomas, as he stood surveying the outer margins of his new property, felt his cheek tentatively: still badly bruised, which the last few days' weathering had done little to disguise. His own fingers were sore from the whupping he had given in fair exchange. He could have killed Murky - and, for all he knew, he might have done irreparable damage to his cousin's face, if that were possible. He smiled. If only they could see him now: their "poor old Thomas", the kid with the loose ear, whose beard was only just starting to show through the skin like desert ants.

The treeless plateau stretched before him. It had been a long climb from the lightly forested banks of the Mercy which had wound, in a small way at first by the farmhouse, to this point where it had become a surging, back-breaking beast of a torrent. The river had been Thomas's guide and would, at the end of this first (and perhaps last) foray into the lands he was so proud to own, guide him back again.

He did not know the exact machinations of riparian law, but he was convinced that he actually owned the river itself. But, at the back of his mind, he was unaccountably irritated by those parts of the river which did not happen to flow through his lands.

He sweated with a memory of ancient knickers. The sun was at the high point. Releasing his rucksack, he pulled out the biggest kerchief, almost a child's bed-wetter sheet, and mopped up his face. The foliage across the plateau appeared as if it had been there years and years, never growing, never dying, only yellowed and scruffed out by the changeless winds. In the distance, Thomas could see the faint nose-cone of Catanak. Although still extinct, it granted the horizon a spark of character: a relief to the otherwise unbrokenness stretching around him like an empty washing-line.

His eyes followed the river beyond the boundaries of his land. And, to his consternation, he found himself looking at a boat ploughing a course towards him. At first, it seemed as if there was nobody in it but, soon, he just made out that what he had previously taken to be a sail was in fact a woman in white, the wind billowing her drapes.

Still too far for more exact scrutiny, he sat down upon a tussock and sucked mindlessly on a hollow stalk he had snapped from a dried out clump of weed-choke nearby. He spat it out again as he felt something small walk down his throat.

The party had gone on and on. All had received bequests from the late-demented, but none had done so well as Thomas. Nobody could understand it and they were all irritated by the half-smile that hovered around his mouth the night long. Cousin Murky in particular wanted to sort something out.

The fights had erupted without warning - but, whatever the reason, the back-biting so commonly prevalent on such occasions became deeper ... and home-truths coiled like worms in shells too small for their bodies. And the thin veneer of civilisation shattered like a thousand lying mirrors.

Cousin Murky, acting out a character in one of the books he yet planned to write, took the opportunity to hustle Thomas: "I hate your face and I aim to skin it good and proper. I'm going to stick my fingers up yer nostrils and yank it off!"

Thomas lightly touched his nose with one hand and with the other reached for his huge kerchief which hung from his chin. Snorting into it, he quickly wrapped whatever had emerged into its ample folds. Murky suggested that Thomas's brain had just erupted.

Thomas had rarely participated in fisticuffs but he put up a good show. They both ended up whining on the floor.

Earlier, it’d been a day hotter than ever. Yearning for a bit of shade, Mr Brown peered into the classroom and saw an ink-smutted darkness emerging from the blackboard. He remembered a teacher with some affection from his own school days, who used to speak like a new nib's scratching and with skin like blotting-paper. He taught Biology when it was called Biology. He was Swiss and enjoyed skiing. Mr Brown peered again into the classroom and, sighing with unaccountable relief, fell to the ground in a black hairy heap. There was not even the sound of birdsong to break the regathered silence of the empty wind. The heap that had been Brown rose and snickered, licking its teeth's protrusions. The heap had seen, through the window, that there was the suspicion of boy-meat, one tasty glance of which was surely not enough. Glimpses or gulps, the heap thought, were merely degrees of sensory perception - and it followed its urgings towards the classroom. What else could folk of the heap’s ilk follow other than its own urgings? The ultimate lesson, when worlds collapsed.

But that was then and this is now. Head bent, almost weeping, for hours, Thomas did not see the arrival of the lady. She toted an oar all the way up to the plateau, but now she dropped it to the ground. And, as Mount Catanak gave off a faint belch, she crouched by his side, clearing his brow of wayward hairs. Thomas looked up and found himself the nearest he had ever been to a beautiful female. He could even see her navy-blue underwear which the woman did little to conceal as she sat side saddle upon the world’s snickering steed of a bucking planet.

But she had sailed on his river.

She smiled and, despite the now cooling wind, she unshouldered the white satin, shook her body like the river whence she had come and seemed to incite him to join with her in the teasing out of her nipples.

He did not need to see the dagger hidden behind her back. He knew it wasn't there. But he quietly unfastened his rucksack, pulled out his shotgun and created a neat hole in her forehead like unto an oriental beauty mark.

He never forgave himself. But, it was surely still his river, wasn't it, to wherever it rolled?

Nowadays, Thomas can only cry himself to sleep. Yet his sleep at first flows mercifully free of murky dreams, a premature burial quite as blank as an unused school blackboard - except, eventually, for a half weathervane’s swirling bonecrack spark, followed by twin lights shining within a wrinkled heap of translucent skin, hairy lips hooting black words ... whilst Catanak sported twin peaks (rather than the single cone which history books claimed).

There remained separate eyes in the Nature cupboard: two Stars of Bethlehem, not one. Murky? He didn't concoct this; he only wrote fiction.

"Were I writing merely for American readers, I should not, of course, have introduced Mr Brown's name." Edgar Allan Poe (from essay on Thomas Dunn Brown)

(Published ‘Psychotrope’ 1999)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now I've got "Little Star of Bethlehem' stuck in my head...