Like a fish
Yet still afloat
Like a fish
Yet still afloat
Me and the boys found her on the valley floor, dappled in the leaf-light, droplets of dew beginning to dribble down her cheek. It was a cool June morning, not too cold to be out and about, but still too early for the flies, so me and the boys had the place to ourselves.
Less than a mile away her parents hadn’t slept, and they were beginning their second leaden hearted day questioning themselves – had her seventeen years of life really come to nothing ?
To a beetle though, nothing is nothing. We got to work.
He has a knife in his hand. In front of him, on the porcelain, lie the targets of his attentions.
He will cut the left one first. Cleanly from top to bottom with a single, decisive movement of the blade. Not so deep as to cut straight through, but deep enough to loose what’s within and send it spilling outwards, bleeding hot, life giving gold over the crunchy brown beneath and spilling over onto the plain white plate. Pools of life to be mopped up when the cutting’s over.
He dabs the corner of his mouth with the napkin and smiles.
The sole of my shoe, free of the bounds of nail or glue, claps out of time with the nervous tap of my foot in the gutter. Something somewhere smells of piss. This is the city, so that’s almost always true, but there’s a strong possibility that this time it’s me. It’s “I don’t bloody know” in the morning, it’s cold and I’m damp everywhere. It probably is me. Whose piss it is is less clear. Getting home’s going to be tricky, no cab driver will pick me up looking like this. Thank God it’s Saturday … Oh shit. Is it ?
Granny Joyce died last weekend aged 88.
For the last two years she has had a sealed envelope on her mantlepiece labelled in her famously spidery handwriting
“To be opened in the event of my death”
She made sure that her children, her neighbours – everyone in fact who visited regularly, knew about the envelope.
Her son was concerned that the envelope was going to tell him some terrible secret
“Your father was a Russian spy”
“You were adopted. We found you in a shopping basket outside Waitrose”
The time came when the envelope had to be opened.
Her son poured himself a large whisky, sat down with the envelope in his hand and his wife in support, took a deep breath and ripped it open.
He pulled out the sheet of writing paper and slightly nervously unfolded it.
Turn off the gas.
Turn off the electricity.
Tell the DSS I’m dead.
Peter’s father was a pilot, his grandfather too, and today Peter stood at the launching grounds for the very first time.
Pre-flight checks done, his heart beating hard at the danger, excitement and expectation of his ancestors, he levelled his gaze on the horizon and stepped into the unknown.
He fell ten feet before his wings caught the breeze and he swung his tail round to steer. Not so much flying as controlled plummeting, but he was safely down. Peter had earned his wings.
All he faced now was the not insignificant matter of getting back up to the nest.
Brawn, son of Tower, was the only giant he knew.
His parents had been taken from him by Evil Jack, the Beanstalk Killer and his world was filled with loneliness and trying not to be angry.
Humans took one look at him, his size and strength, and decided he was cruel and stupid, ignoring the possibility that he might just be sensitive and a bit upset. He wished he could lose himself in a strong, loving embrace, but there was no-one left big enough to hold him.
Human girls just screamed when they saw him and they were so very … breakable.
Welcome to Picton Drive. Listen. There’s something I ought to tell you.
Ginger lives next door but one with her son Fred. Her feeders live there too, but they’re not important. She runs this end of Picton Drive. If you have territory at this end of the Drive, it belongs to Ginger first and you maybe. She will patrol every morning and every evening – mostly to check if your feeders left a door open for you and you left your food out. If I were you, I’d let her eat whatever she wants. She’s beautiful but … cruelly persuasive.
Daniel Taraxacum, Baron of the Greenlands, slammed his fist down on the table and roared at the rest of the Star Council.
“The Cirsium must die. Every last one of them. Every adult, every child must be torn from their home and burned.”
There was an uncomfortable silence from the other council members.
Some were silent because they agreed with Taraxacum but did not want to be seen to support his violent and extreme views. Some wanted only peace.
“This vulgar horde must be stopped. They have moved into the Greenlands and now they spread.” He spat the word.
“We cannot stand idly by while they steal our land, our food and water. We must kill them. Kill them all !”
Lady Aster cleared her throat, placed her white gloved hand on the table’s edge and drew her elderly frame slowly upward until she stood, posture perfect and eyes fixed on the agitated baron.
She did not use his title. She spoke as if to an intelligent but wayward child.
“Daniel, your family and mine are as one. Clan Cirsium is of our family too if you look back far enough, yet you would cut them down and feel nothing but the smug glow of the victor.
You hate them because they are strong and they take care of their own. You hate them because when we are attacked by the beasts, they are left alone and your children are not. You bristle because they are quick to take advantage of new opportunities and slow to be taken advantage of – who does that remind you of Daniel ? Who is always there soon after new ground is broken ? You Daniel. And yours. And me and mine. Every one of the Asteraceae on this council.”
The Baron’s head hung low. He could not bring himself to look his accuser in the eye.
“I would have you bring their Chieftain here and tell him he is welcome in our lands Daniel. If you are not willing to lead our Council in opening our faces to the newcomer then I will have to ask you to pass the Star of Aster on to one of your cousins.”
“Daisy …” he mumbled.
“Lady Aster Daniel” came her sharp retort.
“Lady Aster, I will meet with the Scot and welcome him”
He raised his head and the two of them nodded in assent.
He puffed out his yellow mane and spoke as if he had always intended to say:
“I, Daniel Taraxacum of the family Asteraceae and subfamily Cichorioideae do call Lance, Chieftain of the Cirsium of the family Asteraceae and subfamily Carduoideae before this council and I, and all my kin do welcome him to the Greenlands.”
Lance, Chieftain of the Cirsium threw open the doors of the chamber, his bold voice rang out across the room as he strode towards the high table.
“Dandy you wee pussy. It’s about time ye called your own kin.
Now, let’s have a cup o’ your famous wine and celebrate.”
Every day Derek Jenkins, 45, takes a train ride and a step step change on the tube and spends the day surrounded by younger, smarter, better qualified people and pretends not to be intimidated.
They help of course by repeatedly demonstrating that their training, brains and youth mean little when not alloyed with guile, creativity and aggression.
Derek would love to tell them where he developed his alchemical skill, but he can’t. He must carry it with him. Hidden. But every now and then his feet belt out a Shirley Temple & his eyes flash with the thrill of the contraband.