Archive | March, 2016

GRISELDA AND A POST OFFICE

30 Mar

“What them there young folks don’t realise is the pain in a soul’s bones as she gets old,” muttered the old lady who had decided to accompany Griselda on a stroll into town.
It would be quite a long stroll because they lived in Swanspottle and the nearest town (and their intended destination) was Brumpton some miles away. What the elderly lady (Gladys Grumble by name, if you must know) didn’t know was that Griselda had a special string to her metaphoric bow.
The walking stick she was carrying was hardly needed as a support for her elderly bones but could easily double as a broomstick if she felt like flying. You see, Griselda was a witch and knew full well that witches can fly on anything that’s long and pointy and don’t actually need it to be a besom broomstick at all.
“Then you should get one of these,” she muttered to Gladys Grumble, waving her walking stick under the old woman’s nose.
“Hey! You mind what you’re doing with that!” squawked a suddenly enraged Gladys who didn’t like anything being waved under her nose. “You could do an old lady some considerable damage doing that sort of thing!”
“Bah!” thought Griselda, but “it’s all right, you poor old soul, I won’t hit you with it,” she generously assured her unwanted companion. “It’s just that sometimes I have to get to places quickly and this don’t half help!”
“It’s a fair walk to Brumpton,” moaned Gladys. “And I need to go there seeing as they’ve closed our local post office.”
Griselda stopped dead and frowned. “They have?” she squawked in mock horror. “They’ve shut out post office? Whatever will they do next?”
“I hardly ever use the place, except when I need to post a letter to my grandson in Hinckley and have to buy a stamp,” sighed her companion. “And stamps ain’t so cheap any more, but an elderly person needs a post office to buy them from.”
“Outrageous!” almost shouted Griselda with the kind of look on her face that might have suggested to any sensible person that she meant the exact opposite.
“They say it’s down to computers.” grumbled Gladys Grumble who was far from being a sensible person. “They say everyone does stuff with computers, but I don’t. I can’t understand the things! Why would an old soul like me need a computer? I’ll be eighty next birthday, you know. Eighty years old, and I don’t need to know anything about computers, not at my age, not when there’s a post office to go to and stamps to buy.”
“I was that twenty years or more ago,” sniffed Griselda.
“You were what?” demanded Gladys, confused.
“Eighty years old. Twenty years or more ago I was eighty years old,” murmured Griselda.
“That makes you … let me see … more than a hundred!” exclaimed the widow Grumble. “Well I never! More than a hundred and you’d forgotten they’d shut the post office! You poor thing, you!”
“I never did!” snapped Griselda.
“Never did what, dear?” asked Gladys as if she was talking to a blind, deaf and dumb creature who was slowly and painfully entering the hereafter.
“Forget that they’d shut the post office!” glared Griselda, looking nothing like a potential corpse and everything like an enraged witch.
“But you just said, dearie…” droned Gladys.
“I never said anything about them closing the post office because I never go there so it’s of no concern to me whether they open it, close it or send it to Hinckley! In fact, I wish they would send it to Hinckley then I might get a bit of peace from miserable old women who think a place should be kept open at huge cost to everyone exclusively for them to use once in a very blue moon!”
“Well, there’s no need…” began the Grumble woman, but Griselda cut her short.
“No need for me to find out what gives us slightly more mature ladies a bad name?” she demanded. “It’s that kind of attitude, that’s what it is! Thinking the world owes you a post office just because you might use it for buying the odd stamp now and again!”
“Well, I never….”
“…Never thought,” battered Griselda, “never gave it a moment’s consideration. Well, I’ll tell you what! We’ll get a nice new post office and put it right here, on this road, and see how long it lasts, shall we? Then you won’t have to walk into Brumpton, and every time you need to buy a stamp it’ll be right here specially for you…” And under breath and very secretly she whispered the devil plonk a post office with stamps and stuff right her…”
A wind started blowing and for a few moments the air was filled with the sounds of builders building, carpenters sawing, plumbers plumbing and plasterers plastering, and suddenly, in a slightly long twinkling, a post office with a shiny red door and accompanying hanging sign advertising what the building was appeared only feet from where the two old ladies were standing.
“Now what might that be?” asked Griselda.
“A post office! I never knew there was one right here!” shrieked Gladys Grumble. “Fancy that! It’s come as if by magic, though everyone knows there’s no such thing, don’t they..?”
“If you say so,” murmured Griselda as her erstwhile companion tottered into the shop.
Meanwhile, she moved her walking stick to the horizontal and slightly awkwardly sat on it, caressing its shiny wooden shaft with two centuries-old cheeks.
“To Brumpton!” she hissed.
And right there and then she rose majestically into the air and zoomed off in the direction of Brumpton and whatever it was she planned to do there.
Meanwhile, Gladys Grumble exited angrily from the brand new post office, holding a letter aloft.
“There’s no post box!” she wailed, “whoever heard of a post office with no post box? So I’ll still after walk my old bones into Brumpton to post it! Now where’s that silly old bird I was talking to gone?”
But Griselda was no more than a speck in the distant sky and there was no way Gladys Grumble would be able to make her out.
She’d have to walk on her own.
© Peter Rogerson 30.03.16

GRISELDA AND A FAT MAN

21 Mar

Summer was quite clearly just round the corner. The sun was highish is a bright blue sky and a songbird was tweeting away as if there was going to be no tomorrow, no doubt in search of a feathery mate.
And Griselda felt an unusual (for her) wanderlust starting to suffuse her body.
It started inside her head when she spotted an obviously very foreign gentleman driving a very foreign car on the wrong side of the road as if he were used to driving on the wrong side of the road, which he probably was.
“That’s a foreigner,” she told herself. “That’s why he hasn’t a clue about driving on the left side of the road, which everyone knows is right.”
Then another thought poked its way through the cobwebs that normally inhabited the part of her brain to do with empathy and the understanding of her fellow creature. “I wonder where he comes from, what clime he enjoys when he’s at home, what he eats and drinks instead of fish and chips and cold beer?”
And that got her to wondering what it would be like living anywhere but where she actually did live, in her little cottage in Swanspottle, a decent broomstick flight from the local pub.
And before she could tell such thoughts to go away and trouble her no longer a young woman dressed most flamboyantly in colourful cottons breezed by her, singing a catchy little calypso song and smiling at the entire world from brightly lipsticked lips.
“What a happy soul,” muttered Griselda darkly. “She’s clearly another foreigner! What has become of the world with there being more foreigners around than Swanspottle natives? And I wonder what it’s like to be like them?”
And no sooner had she thought that than she got the idea, from nowhere, that she really should find out.
“I know,” she decided in a very croaky hundred and one year old voice, “I’ll go abroad for my holidays! I’ve never been abroad before, and there’s got to be a first for everything…”
She happened to know that there was a company that owned rather a lot of bright and sparkly coaches not far from her cottage and before you could mention Jack Robinson she was climbing aboard her ironing board and issuing brusque commandments to it under her breath. She usually rode a broomstick, either her best one or her second best one, but today she was in too much of a hurry to unlock the shed where she kept them both so she grabbed the nearest thing which was longer than it was wide, and that happened to be her ironing board.
The staff at Greenfern Coaches were wonderfully helpful when she told them she had a surplus of pension that she felt like disposing of. The two ladies sitting behind important-looking desks both thrust a catalogue into her hands and started enthusing about alpine regions of half the world.
“Mountains,” she sighed, elaborately. “Yes … I think I’d like to see mountains before I peg it, though I’m not planning to do anything quite so exasperating just yet.”
“You’d like Austria,” smiled the blonde lady assistant.
And that was all it took. Three little words, and Griselda was hooked. Within half an hour she’d used her best spell to produce enough money to pay for the entire trip plus accessories – when the two ladies weren’t looking, obviously – and was given labels for her luggage and warned that she would definitely need a passport.
“It’s quite soon and most of the coach is fully booked, so you’ll have a seat near the back,” she was told.
“I’ll see to that when we go,” she grinned back at them.
Griselda felt the tingle of excitement mixed with anticipation rising inside her as she prepared for her holiday. She used her most powerful spell in order to get a passport that would pass muster under official scrutiny, she packed her best thermals and, at the appointed (and very early) hour made her way back to Greenfern’s bus depot where a shiny coach was waiting for her, its engine whispering with the promise of untold power.
The driver was a cheerful man who was clearly looking forward to driving the many miles that lay ahead of them. He pointed Griselda’s seat at the back of the coach out to her and the first thing she did was mutter something darkly magical that made a passenger on the front seat offer to swap seats with her. Griselda wasn’t particularly fond of seats at the backs of coaches, and to her there were always ways and means of getting what she wanted.
She found herself sitting next to an extremely fat man who really ought to have had two seats to himself.
“It’s a good job you’re a skinny old bird,” boomed her travelling companion in a deep and smoky voice. “I need my space to be comfortable,” he added. “It’s a condition I’ve got, being so big. The doctors can’t explain it.”
“I can,” warbled Griselda.
“You can?” His fat smudgy eyebrows raised through a sea of salty grease that was forming on his head.
“Pies,” said Griselda. “Meat pies, fruit pies, fish pies, pastry pies, potato pies, all sorts of pies.”
He glared at her. “That’s offensive!” he snapped. “I’ve never been so insulted in all my life! I’ve got a medical condition!”
Griselda fixed him with her eyes at their most piercing and incisive. “By the devil let this man’s excess body fat and cellulite be changed into waste!” she whispered to herself. Well, almost to herself. A satanic power heard it, and so did the huge man sitting next to her.
“What are you… help!” shrieked her overweight companion. She smiled grimly to herself as she noticed how his body started to be seemingly rippling under his skin.
“Stop the bus!” he shouted.
“Just a minute!” barked the driver. “I can’t stop here on the motorway! It’s against the law!”
“I’m melting! I’m dissolving!” he blabbered.
“He’s stinking,” added Griselda, wondering if she’d overdone the spell.
“I can smell it!” growled the driver. “Heaven help me! I’ll pull up on the hard shoulder! Just you keep that inside you…”
“Help!” wept the man.
“Come on! Behind that tree!” urged Griselda as the coach screeched to a halt.
The large man wibbled and wobbled off the coach and had his trousers round his ankles before he reached the tree that Griselda had pointed out.
“Oh, mercy me… oh I’m dying… the Heavens take me…” wept the man and the sounds that emanated from him together with the accompanying stench were enough to make the driver shut the door.
“Oh dear,” murmured Griselda. “Maybe it was a little extreme of me…”
And she could see just how extreme it had been as a very thin man with vastly oversized trousers hanging from a bony backside eventually staggered back from a very smelly tree and clambered back onto the bus when the driver had opened the door.
“My, you look better,” quipped Griselda as he settled back down next to her.
© Peter Rogerson 21.03.16

GRISELDA AND SOME LITTLE BLUE PILLS

14 Mar

Griselda, a craggy old witch who lived in the picturesque hamlet of Swanspottle, needed a few ingredients for a brand new spell she’d read about in the “Witchy Times”, a plush and mysterious publication from News International, which was why she was in the Funeral Parlour on this particular day.
She had read that she needed to carefully simmer a cat’s whisker, a mouse’s ear, an elephant’s toenail and three dozen ant eggs in half a bottle of best white wine in her cauldron (which was in the back yard on account of the toxic fumes it produced), but she didn’t know what to do with the other half bottle of wine.
Her intention was to produce some little blue pills for a near neighbour one Barney Bumptious, who had complained of needing his spine stiffening before he collapsed altogether whilst labouring over his lawn mower. She was pretty sure she had an answer because she’d read of the stiffening effect of little blue pills, which was why she was where she was and scratching her head.
She had the problem of surplus wine, and her arch-enemy/friend Henrietta Blackboil was due round. Henrietta was an alcoholic’s alcoholic and it had been decades since she had consumed anything that wasn’t alcoholic. Griselda was afraid for her life if she carried on imbibing like she always did, and the half bottle of wine might be one temptation too many.
“Feckin waste to pour it away!” she grumbled, and then she remembered that Scatterbrain Johnson had died through drinking an excess of white wine, though she didn’t think he could have afforded the best. But best or worst, white wine was white wine, wasn’t it, she reasoned. Maybe even in death he’d appreciate a top-up, a little aperitif to assist has stagger along the paths that led to whatever hereafter he believed in.
So here she was in the Chapel of Rest at the funeral parlour with her broomstick parked tidily outside.
She came upon a problem almost straight away. The small staff of the tiny funeral establishment were all out collecting new bodies for their collection and she had to find her own way around. She didn’t mind that until she came upon the first open coffin, and that made her stomach churn.
It was Eliza Pomfrey, and she was only in her twenties and consequently far too young, in Griselda’s opinion, to have to spend eternity lying in a wooden box. And beautiful. She was definitely beautiful, or would be if it wasn’t for the hideous scar left by some cack-handed pathologist who had delved into her insides in order to find out why she had died.
“As if it matters!” squawked Griselda to herself. “She was dead and that just soddin’ well had to be that!”
Then she thought a little bit deeper, and the start of a particularly mischievous grin started to cross her ancient, wrinkled face.
“By the devil wake up, child,” she whispered. And those of us who know of Griselda and her strange Necromantic magic will know that the body in the coffin was about to stir and yawn and open her eyes and look around her…
…And scream.
Most people would scream if they found themselves waking up, cold like ice and lying in strange surroundings in a coffin with their best frock uncomfortably on them and a dirty great scar running angrily from neck to naughty bits.
“It’s all right, child,” grizzled Griselda. “You were dead and now you ain’t! I’ve seen to that and you ought to be grateful!”
“But I wanted to die…” wailed the young woman, “I wanted to end it all, I wanted to go to Heaven and meet my Maker and Auntie Agnes!”
“Who’s Auntie Agnes?” Griselda asked.
“My tortoise, of course!” shouted the newly-risen corpse. “But she died and I wanted to go with her! I couldn’t bear the idea of one day without her, but she had to crawl into the bracken and wood pile on our back yard, and I had to set light to it without knowing, and she had to get roasted alive … and it was all my fault!”
“Poor Auntie Agnes,” muttered Griselda, “but that kind of thing is what pet tortoises do when they get fed up with living! They find somewhere snug and comfortable and wait for some thoughtless young woman to bring a box of matches to them…”
“Oh noooo!” shrieked Eliza, and she ripped open the long scar that ran, as I have described, from her neck to her naughty bits and pulled out her own heart, which as chance would have it was still beating.
“I wanna die!” she howled, and started chewing at the veins and arteries that were attached to that throbbing organ. And what a mess she made! Who would have thought that any attractive young woman could have so much blood in her. Even Griselda was shocked, and very little got past her cynical guard.
“All right, die then!” she cackled, and muttered a reversal spell, once again invoking satanic help which never let her down even when Satan might have wanted it to. Young Eliza fluttered her eyelids once or twice, the many fountains of blood paused in mid-squirt and began returning whence they had come, the scar magically reformed as soon as the heart was back where it should be, Eliza returned zombie-fashion to her last resting place and Griselda heaved a sigh of relief.
“That was messy,” she muttered to herself. “I’d best be careful what I wish for! Now let’s go and find that Scatterbrain Johnson and get out of here before I see enough blood to give me nightmares for a fortnight!”
There was only one other cold and grey figure in the Chapel of Rest and he possessed a mighty stomach that even in death wobbled to the throbbing of the refrigeration machinery that prevented him from turning to goo before he was actually interred in the Earth.
“Ha. Mr Scatterbrain, I presume,” muttered Griselda.
Now she’d been a canny old witch long enough to know that the last thing anyone should do was start presuming. Instead they should read the little label attached to a corpse’s toe, which might stand a better chance of actually reflecting accurately the name of the deceased. This one, unnoticed by Griselda (who had decided to speed things up quite considerably and get out of the funeral parlour before anything else went horribly wrong) suggested that the owner of the toe was one Reverend Philious Pugh who had passed away as a consequence of too many late nights performing unmentionable exercises with Mrs Philpot, his housekeeper. He had suddenly and almost unexpectedly suffered a gigantic heart attack whilst vertically above her and she had inherited everything he owned that didn’t belong to the church.
Griselda was about to wake him magically and ask him if he fancied a glass or two of good white wine when caution interfered and she glanced at the label on his toe and pulled herself to an amazingly adept standstill.
“The wrong stiff,” she muttered. “Sod this for a waste of time! Barney can keep his unstiffened back and do without his little blue pills! I’m away from here!”

© Peter Rogerson 14.03.16

THE VICAR AND THE HANGMAN

12 Mar

It was 1957 and Howard “Thrasher” Smith was the village headmaster, and what follows is a step-by-step dramatisation of his murder. I like dramatisations, don’t you?
Mr Smith’s nickname was well earned and back in the era when the following events took place there was a great deal of corporal punishment in schools and the persistence of capital punishment in society as a whole. Things were going to change, but not yet. Not in time for Mr Smith.
The Reverend Pugh had every reason to dislike the headmaster. His own son had come under the tender ministrations of “Thrasher” and been thrashed for accidentally causing a blot on his exercise book and the good Reverend was of the opinion that accidental blots can’t really be blamed on small boys who try hard to master the vagaries of school-issue dip-in pens.
The first thing the Reverend Pugh did was pray long and hard and he was still praying when two things happened at once. Firstly, his son’s bruises faded to a series of murky brown lines that looked uglier than they felt to the boy and secondly Gwendoline Owens passed away at the grand old age of eighty-seven. And it was that second event that ate away at the contents of the Reverend Pugh’s mind.
“Why should a dear old soul like Miss Owens have to die when monsters like the Smith creature still walk the Earth administering pain and anguish to those too small or weak to defend themselves?” he asked himself, and it was, he supposed, God who replied in quite succinct and unambiguous thoughts.
“You could use the dear departed as a trigger,” said God. “I like triggers, don’t you?”
There was nothing, to the Reverend Pugh’s mind, less ambiguous than that, and being an order from above it had to be obeyed.
So he wandered into the Chapel of Rest with a hypodermic syringe (unused and empty) and inserted it into the bare flesh of the cold Mrs Smith where nobody could miss it before calling on the local constable and asking what the mark it left might be (without mentioning his syringe or giving a clue as to what he’d done with it).
“Could it be that the dear lady was poisoned with one of those undetectable toxins that Agatha Christie mentions in her thrillers?” he asked the constable. Agatha Christie was quite popular back then, and she still is, spookily enough, and her favourite murders seem to involve undetectable poisons.
“They did a test … I think,” opined the constable
And when there was no satisfactory explanation for the mark on Miss Owen’s exposed arm he put into operation the second part of his plan.
“Mr Smith might know,” he suggested, “he being an educated man and a headmaster, with books in his home.”
“I can’t abide the man,” rumbled the village constable, P.C. Blither. “Would you mind coming with me?”
Of course he wouldn’t! It was, after all, in his God-given plan and if not invited he most certainly would have asked. Also in his deity’s plan was the small handbook detailing toxins and poisons that he’d had since his own schooldays with one page seriously marked by his spending the fifteen minutes of last night’s “The Archers” (everyday story of country folk) folding and refolding and dribbling on it. That one page was headed “Undetectable Poisons” and although the little book was certainly out of date, the Reverend Pugh thought the local constabulary might take its contents as gospel.
So the two went round to the Headmaster’s house (where he was beating his wife for some domestic misdemeanour) and as the constable made enquiries about poisons and what the educated man might know of them the Reverend Pugh slid his own little book together with his cunningly concealed hypodermic syringe amongst some papers on the Headmaster’s desk when nobody was looking. Then, as the Headmaster had denied all knowledge of the subject of poisons, undetectable or otherwise, he pretended to discover the book where he’d secreted it.
“What have we here?” he asked in his best vicar’s pulpit voice, booming nicely and contriving an echo where no echo ought to be.
“That’s not mine!” snapped Mr Smith, reaching for his bamboo cane.
“It’s on your desk,” preached the Reverend Pugh, still booming and echoing.
“I don’t know where it came from!” barked Mr Smith, suddenly twitching dangerously. “Someone must have left it there, some mischievous little twerp in need of a sound thrashing!”
The Reverend Pugh shook his head disbelievingly and the constable took the little book, and they left the house, shaking their heads, with the constable, in his slow and thorough way, starting to ponder…
Policemen can be thorough but they can also be influenced by personal experiences, and P.C. Blither had personal experiences. He was local and had been chastised by the Headmaster in his school-days. In fact, he’d been chastised several times and still felt he ought to have the scars to prove it. So he detested Mr Smith as much as anyone else detested him, and inserted, quite unconsciously, some of that detestation into the reports that he wrote.
And to sum it up, “Thrasher” Smith found himself being arrested and cautioned and eventually tried for murder. The evidence was irrefutable. He had a book detailing various undetectable poisons and a syringe from which any one of them could be administered, and both items were on his own desk and discovered by the two most honest men in the village they being the policeman and the vicar.
At his trial the judge placed a black cap on his wigged head and looked sombre.
“You will be taken from this place to a place of execution, where you will be hanged from your neck until you are dead,” he intoned.
And that’s what happened a few weeks later.
There was a great deal of celebrating in the village and the vicar was carried shoulder-high by a party of schoolboys and became quite famous for nine or so days whilst Constable Blither became Sergeant Blither.
And in his prayers, on his own and privately, the Reverend Pugh apologised to his God for arranging the prosecution of the Headmaster.
“I know it was technically murder by one of your servants, but he was a bad man, my Lord,” he prayed, “and the world is better off without him. Maybe he’ll meet his match in the Hereafter.”
And he swore, for the remainder of his days, that a spooky, ethereal voice whispered “in hell” as he muttered his own “Amen”.
© Peter Rogerson 12.03.16

TALK OF THE GODS

7 Mar

The god looked down
It was an awful long way for him/her/it to look, but the god focussed alright. It was quite important. There was trouble afoot and he/she/it knew he/she/it was to blame.
“I should have been less boastful,” he/she/it (to be “he” from now on, though his gender was indeterminate, possibly because he didn’t have one) said sadly. His goddess looked on and shook her head (it might have been her/his/it’s head, but we won’t confuse matters by going down that road again. Anyway, she had every appearance of femininity, choosing to have long golden tresses and breasts.)
“But, my dearest, being a deity you can do no wrong,” she soothed him, glad that a unisex body still gave him male genitals for her to toy with during times of stress, and as that was their only function she toyed well.
“I did, though,” he grumbled. “It was way back at the beginning…”
“Which beginning, dearest?” she asked, needing to be clear.
“Oh, not the big bang one. There was nobody to boast to back then, though I did enjoy the monumental noise it made.” he replied.
“It gave me a headache,” she interjected. “Sounds like that always give me a headache. It’s the cataclysmic nature of them, the way they echo through the vacuum of nothing until time’s almost ticked away…”
“Time doesn’t tick!” he growled.
“Well, it might, and so don’t be so bloody picky!” she snapped back at him. “After all, it’s you who’s full to overflowing with self-pity!”
“I can’t help having regrets…” he moaned.
“Which beginning are you on about, then?” she asked. “Surely not the Garden of Eden fairy tale that makes you chuckle as you fall to sleep?”
“Of course not!” He glowered at her as only gods can glower. “It’s what I boasted to them…”
“You mean, about creating everything? Well, you did, so what was wrong with that?”
“I mentioned that I might be omnipotent…”
“Well, in their terms you are. So powerful it’s only natural they should want to keep you on-side, so to speak.”
“It’s never been a game of football!”
“Touché.”
“I described it the way it was. You know, making light and stuff, creating matter and so on and so forth out of a big bang during which every damned thing ever was forged in the most monumental act of creation since last time.”
“It’s what you did!”
“I know it is, but they were too simple-minded to take it in properly. I told them about ordering light into being with a few words, you know, let there be light and there was light… and they took that as something so great it needed worshipping…”
“What did? The light?” She was getting confused. “How could they do anything but worship it when, suddenly, it was there, light in their darkness…?”
“They didn’t see it, silly! I told them about it. It happened, oh, billions of years before they came along! And I wish they hadn’t, because they’re spoiling everything. But I happened to stop by on the smallest scrap of the place, the Middle East they were to call it when they learned language and directions and stuff, and just happened to mention to the burliest, most primitive hominid you ever did see that it was me that made everything. I even intimated that I made men…”
“Which was a darned lie if ever there was one…”
“An exaggeration, darling, rather than lie. I even gave my first man a name and fed the hominid’s ego by suggesting that if anything went wrong it was down to females. Original sin, they called it – and still do even though they’ve moved on a bit and even invented the Internet. But they do say the old stories are the good ones….”
“And old stories can stick,” she added.
He nodded. “And someone went to the trouble of writing it down…”
“You should have snatched the pen from his hands! It was a him, I presume?”
He nodded again. “I couldn’t do anything about the writing because that was centuries after my little bit of boasting and I was in bed with you at the time. You know how we need to sleep occasionally, and anyway, there are a few little games we like to play together…”
“Less of that! Someone might overhear and jump to … conclusions.”
“There’s nobody else around!”
“Anyway, there’s nothing you’ve said that suggested you did anything wrong. Putting your wonderful big bang into the sort of language the hominids might grasp wasn’t a mistake! It was a generous thing, if anything.”
“I thought the same at the time, darling angel. But the aeons have rolled on and they still read the damned words, but, of course, there’s been a great deal of Chinese whispers going on. Books have been copied, translated, recopied, re-translated, lost, rediscovered, forged by ne’er do wells, manipulated by politicians – and my words are nothing like what they were! They fill entire books in more tongues than you could dream of in the worst nightmare ever! And all I told them was the simple truth, that I said, in the beginning long before they came along, let there be light, and there was light…”
“Don’t go blaming yourself…”
“And now they’re killing each other over it! They’ve bred into endless tribes that are sure they’ve got the story right and that everyone else is wrong, and they’re blasting away at each other… and it’s all my fault!”
She took him by one hand and squeezed his fingers gently.
“You can always put things right…” she whispered. “Or I could do it for you…?”
“It might come to that,” he sniffed. “I might have to create dark. Real, unending, unforeseen, endless dark, like a night trapped forever in Eternity … a new, ending, a concluding big bang…”
She shuddered. “If you do that give me some warning and a really good set of ear-plugs,” she begged him.
© Peter Rogerson 07.03.16

BILL AND BEN AND A LIFE TO BE LIVED

5 Mar

Bill and Ben were brothers, though you’d be hard pushed to know it if you were to meet them casually. The contrast was even more stark when you realise that not only were they brothers, but they were twin brothers.
Not identical twins, though!
No: far from it. Bill was to grow into a youth as lithe and fit and fond of exercise. He was off jogging round the neighbourhood as soon as he heard that jogging might be good for you. He was still in his teens when he equipped himself with a wardrobe appropriate to one who enjoys trotting along streets and down country lanes. Summer and winter alike he wore a track suit and because he felt the need to be noticed it was a yellow track suit. And he stuck to a variety of yellow track-suits for the rest of his life. He believed in uniform!
“I need to be seen,” he explained. And he did. He most certainly needed to be seen almost as much as he needed to be heard. His was the sort of mind that got itself cluttered with notions he couldn’t shake as easily as many would have liked, and when he discovered the Internet whilst in his middle years he began plaguing the virtual world with his theories and beliefs.
And he was a great one for repetition. He repeated just about everything so many times that most people switched off.
Mostly his preoccupation was with politics.
Like many pretentious people he saw himself as being a tad more socially elevated than reality had made him. He tended to behave as if he wasn’t the offspring of a working man in a working family, where ha had spent his childhood in a working-class home. He was too good for that!
And when it came to the pontifications and elaborate pretences of those with a background in high finance and who were born with silver spoons tumbling from their mouths he was sucked in. It mattered not a jot that the world they inhabited was a quantum Universe away from his far more humble little patch of land. It was of no concern to him that the things they most desired involved taking from the poor and further enriching the already wealthy. He identified with them because he simply had to.
He wanted to be one of them, plain and simple, and anyone who suggested there might be something wrong with his thinking was dismissed out of hand and for good. His list of friends became shorter.
Ben, on the other hand, was cut from a different bale of cloth. He may have possessed virtually identical genes to those owned by his twin brother, but he was as different to him as chalk is to cheese.
He didn’t go jogging everywhere but it wasn’t that he was particularly lazy. He had a keen mind and, on occasion, an acerbic wit. But he could see little point in the huge amount of jogging his twin shoe-horned into his life and even less point in yellow track-suits. Yet if he were called to perform some feat, like walking to the shops or scrambling up a scree-slope on holiday in some dales somewhere, he managed all right.
No, his delight was in rational thinking, which meant his mind was extremely cynical about the political aspirations of his twin. Rather than imagine himself in a place he’d never go (both physically and figuratively) he let the world roll him along, though he did have quite a few critical words to say about his brother’s choices when it came to political elections, but that was Bill’s fault for repeatedly elaborating on them.
So we have two brothers, and they both grew old – not together, they were hardly ever together. But the years did what years do, and they became old.
As he grew older Bill, who was so convinced of his very rightness about everything and who quarrelled with everyone who showed any signs of gainsaying him, began to wonder why nobody sought his company. Oh, he’d wander to the local pub (in his yellow track-suit) and treat the few equally lonely men he met there as bosom friends, but that wasn’t so often. And when he left they chuckled about the absurdity of such a pretentious man.
Ben, though not absolutely surrounded by a panoply of obsequious and sycophantic friends (what man is?) entered old age with what almost amounted to contentment. In fact, he barely noticed it.
Neither of them had ever been religious men or possessed any great comforting faith, and Bill started to worry that not so far ahead might be the end of his life, and he didn’t believe in any kind of afterlife, so what might be in store for him? When he lay in his coffin, what might people think?
Ben, though, knew his own afterlife.
Ahead, beyond the few years bracketed by his life, lay the good and loving memories of his family and friends, and even though he wouldn’t be there to bask in them he knew they’d be there all right.
© Peter Rogerson 05.03.16