THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter three

7 Feb

THE RATHER FETCHING KILT

Dawn had barely flecked the sky with a thunderstorm and its accompanying summer blizzard when Brother Imageous was awoken from a dream in which he was twenty-one again and filled with youthful ardour in a flowery glade with at least one Lady of the Night. And the worst part of it was he was awoken by Bertie the Novice and not a nymph with shining eyes and almost unmanageable breasts.
There were few Novices within the sacred walls of the Monastery these days because they were traditionally the offspring of whores who got caught in the grips of unwanted pregnancies, and efficient contraception was rife in this enlightened age. But Bertie’s mother had been careless and he’d been born in a bus shelter in Cheadle, a town so many miles from the Monastery that the distance was widely considered to be incalculable. Anyway, nobody at the monastery fully understood the purpose of bus shelters or even buses. They were an ignorant order.
“I have my instructions, Bother Imageous,” he said with such suave politeness and gravity of demeanour that Imageous almost but not quite fell in love with him.
“Tell me, Novitiate,” he asked, rising from his bed as a particularly large flurry of summer snow tumbled from the roof and cascaded past his window, a savagely unglazed affair that always seemed to face the right direction to catch the least pleasant aspects of freezing winds, even in summer. One might have thought that Brother Imageous could have contemplated doing something about it, but contemplations of that sort were alien to the atmosphere prevailing in the Monastery. Personal comfort just wasn’t important.
“The Father Superior has sent me to you with a new habit for your travels,” explained Bertie. “It seems you are off to warmer climes than we detest here and need little more than a pelmet to hide your wedding tackle.”
“Language, Novitiate Bertie!” chided Imageous, trying to scowl and not quite managing the feat. “Referring to those parts of a monk is a mortal sin, and you will find yourself spending Eternity in the bowels of Hell if you’re not more mindful of your speech!”
“Chance would be a fine thing,” mumbled Bertie, “here, Brother, is your new habit. Your are to try it on and I am ordered to make any modifications necessary to ensure it fits.”
The habit he proffered to Imageous had been, in an earlier incarnation, a tiny wrap-around kilt belonging to Imageous’s own mother before she had passed from the realm of life into the Kingdom of Death several years earlier and enjoying her life in a cardboard box in the withers of the Monastery, and it was really rather smart. It was of a bright traditional Scottish tartan design and had the sharpest pleats this side of Heaven.
“I can’t wear this!” exclaimed Imageous, “for a start, it belonged to a prostitute and I’m not one of those, and secondly you can see my various varicose veins and the way they pulsate so obscenely! I don’t know what the Father Superior can be thinking of, expecting me to disport myself so revealingly!”
“He said the desert’s a very hot place,” mumbled Bertie, “he said that if you are wrapped in your traditional burlap habit you will be fried by the sun until you are a dehydrated string of dead flesh! No, you must wear this, and I deem that you will look most fetching in it, and folks will swoon for miles around if they catch the least glance of you.”
“I’d best try it on, then,” growled a reluctant Imageous, and he pulled his black habit over his head and fixed the tiny kilt round his waist, adjusting the shiny steel pin so that it looked about right.
“It’s very bright…” he began, twirling his ancient body in front of his only mirror, a piece of cracked glass that had once adorned a landfill site until an earlier inhabitant of his cell had rescued it.
“The Father Superior said it must not be black because black absorbs sunlight, and this is the only other colour we have,” explained Bertie, and, blushing, “I think you look rather sweet,” he said. “What are you going to wear under it?”
“My best codpiece, of course,” growled Imageous. “It’s bold and leather and holds my bits and pieces in place so that not even a gadfly could catch a glimpse of them! Not tell me … did the Father Superior issue any further instructions?”
“He said you were to go before noon today and make for the turn-style where the trail across the Desert begins,” said Bertie slowly, “he said you must take some coins for the entrance in order to pass through the turn-style without cheating and climbing over it. And he said you must not waver on your way but go forth as an honest ambassador of our Monastery…”
“As if I’d be anything else…” stuttered Imageous, frowning because he knew how easily he could be distracted.
“Then you must go!” declared Bertie, and he sighed before grabbing hold of the Brother and hugging him tightly. “I wish I were coming with you,” he said convincingly, “for I’d loved to be dressed as you are with my bronzed legs open to the eyes of all who cared to stare at me…”
“Nobody’s going to stare at me!” declared Imageous, “Now off with you, you silly tart! I have my prayers to say before I set forth into the world. Why, it is seventy years since I was the other side of the main gates to this place, and know nothing of the world beyond. Is it so filled with sin like they say it is, I wonder? Are the men all greedy for what they cannot have and the women all prostitutes? For so it is told in some dark corners, that the world beyond our portals has long been condemned by our Lord as a haven for sinners…”
“I’ve heard it can be amusing,” suggested Bertie, gathering up Imageous’ Burlap robe. “The Father Superior said I am to launder this for just in case you return, though he doesn’t think you will. But he was always a pessimist, don’t you think?”
“When he’s not pissing into his own robe,” growled Imageous.
“I rather think that’s the real reason for him wanting yours to be rendered nice and clean,” grinned the novice, “so that he can pinch it when his gets too smelly!”
“But I will be back,” declared Brother Imageous with more determination than he felt. “Now excuse me, young tyrant, for I must make for the main doorway, and the world beyond our bounds!”
And with that he strode away, much more purposefully than he felt, and made his way to the huge oak portal that led to the world outside. He paused for a moment, his heart gripped by a sudden fear of the unknown.
“To my adventure,” he growled to himself, pushing the door until it swung open and taking one step out, and his tartan skirt blew airily hither and thither in a breeze that seemed to come from everywhere, revealing the ugly contours of his leather cod-piece, and he took his first steps in seventy years into the wide free world where the sun was actually shining and there was no snow anywhere.
“Well I’ll be blowed,” he growled, and marched tentatively on.
TO BE CONTINUED
© Peter Rogerson 27.01.17

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