Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Threat of Rain / A Sale of Red Wellington Boots

A Threat of Rain / A Sale of Red Wellington Boots

Can there be any point in telling you this story? A story needs either to be entertaining or instructive, although instructive alone is rarely entertaining, while entertaining can remain entertaining without also being instructive. But instructive increases its instructivity by being entertainingly conveyed. This story, meanwhile, is probably neither entertaining or instructive. But I'll let you be the judge of that. You may even think it cruel.

Once upon a time, there was a man called Manny who made a living from making red wellington boots, making them from water creatures who kept their insides dry by means of their skin. His day was spent catching them from his spinning coracle, and his night spent skinning them in the curing-plant attic of his house. The skin itself somehow became thick enough for boot-soles which was half the battle for good solid walking. 

The lake that nearly surrounded his house seasonally teemed with bright narrow slants of light reflecting an internal threat of rain as an intrinsic part of the lake's body of water yet separate from it, close enough to the surface for Manny to harvest with his waterproof nets.  He called this phenomenon rainfish: as good a name as any.

 It was only when the slender silvery rainfish were thus caught that they began to blush either with pain or panic, gradually taking on the swollen redness that stayed permanently with what had by now become their bodies but only as long as they were smothered during that blushing or bloating period before they had the chance to fade or deflate. A skilful task of deft timing. Well targeted branding. Sensitive to their pain or panic at the various stages of smothering and branding while having to remain thick-skinned enough yourself not to worry about the extent of pain or panic that was being induced by such processes.

Manny was was the only experienced harvester of the rainfish. It was as if the  threat of rain created its own repellent, as it were. 

He once sold what rainfish skin he could not himself make into red wellington boots through lack of space  in his attic or through  lack of time to cure it into the required sealed units , yes, he once sold any such surplus to raincoat and rainhat and leggings manufacturers all over the land, but, by the time these manufacturers received their consignments, the redness and thickness had faded or depleted. Only by quickly making them into wellington boots would the redness as well as it thickness maintain colour or consistency. A mystery that not even Manny could solve. As if the skin understood something we didn't. 

Redness was not only the fashion in wellington boots but proof of their waterproofness. So when he sold the surplus no longer because nobody would now buy it, he just returned it to the lake once its redness and thickness depleted. Whole layers of old rainfish skin probably smothering fresh rainfish within the water itself, killing them before they could be killed properly by smothering them in the air.

And thus Manny's business was inadvertently  an end in itself. As Manny was an end in himself - eventually. So if you want a pair of Manny's red wellington boots, just look into the sky for the next threat of rain and you may see him up there smothering the clouds. His new sale of red wellington boots. Catch it if you can. 

And if the moment is ripe, if the dream is at its perfect pitch of belief and non-belief, if your mood is precisely balanced between the optimum synergy of worthy instruction and pointless entertainment, you may hold out your hands, if more in hope than faith, and harvest your own uniquely wonderful red wellingtons as they float down in increasingly heavier rates of falling - eventually to become a single defeathered pair of red rainbirds with your boot size cruelly branded upon them. Not only water-proof but proved by water. 

1 comment:

Nemonymous said...

RIP Iain Banks.

Just preordered the hardback QUARRY. I also have an instinct it mentions red wellington boots, this month's homework title for the writers group I'm in.