THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter four

8 Feb

INDECENT EXPOSURE

It’s quite nice outside the Monastery,” almost blasphemed Brother Imageous to himself as he sauntered away from the vast and ramshackle building he’d spent all his adult life praising a disembodied deity in. Glancing back it looked to him more like a vast pile of ancient roughly-hewn stones scattered by the casual hand of nature than a building and he thought the apparent disguise helped. It gave his home an aura of anonymity.

He rather liked the feeling of a cool yet sun-filled breeze against his naked legs and the only thing that irritated him was, to his surprise, his old leather cod-piece, which he wore for the sake of decency. He’d never noticed the annoyance before, but now with the additional freedom of a tartan mini-kilt swishing around his thighs in a way that in his mind he thought nothing should because it felt so pleasant, he became hyper-aware of real discomforts.

Then he almost got killed.

He was on the verge of undoing the thong that kept his aforementioned under-garment in place and totally ignoring the rumbling noises that surrounded him because they were even evident from the inside of his cell, an almost continuous accompaniment to his world, that he’d always thought was part and parcel of the universe he’d been born into.

What he hadn’t realised was that something caused that rumbling. What he had never dreamed of supposing was that there was any such thing as traffic. That there was, in fact, an alternative to walking.

So he scowled, pulled on the leather draw-string of his cod-piece, and walked down the middle of a road in front of a rather impatient bus. That bus would never have run his down unless its driver was suddenly stricken by heart failure, but the sudden blast from its hooter might have had perfectly predictable consequences.

And the sudden blast from its hooter was mere feet from where Brother Imageous was strolling and fiddling and generally imagining there was nothing that might trouble him within a hundred miles of where he was. The noise hit him like a sledgehammer might hit a flea and sent him jumping and running and leaping and howling this way and that. This way took his in a direct line with an approaching car travelling at almost the speed limit and that way launched him towards a motor cycle complete with its helmeted alien rider.

Get out the way, you moron!” shouted the alien whilst the front wing of the car brushed against his right thigh with the sort of violence Imageous didn’t understand. Any closer and it might have done more than cause a light patch of bruising that would be gone within a week and a complete miss might have caused him to leap in the pathway of something more likely to cause damage of a fatal nature, travelling on a busy road.

As it was he sunk to his knees in total shock and looked around him, suddenly taking in a world that was so confusing he couldn’t understand even one percent of it. So he rubbed his slightly bruised right thigh and started banging his head on the road, which was so unyielding that got bruised as well.

You trying to do yourself in?” roared the driver of the car, “you fuckin’ idiot,” he added with tremendous venom wrapped in naughty language.

A crowd started gathering as crowds will when there seems to be something more interesting than breathing afoot.

Mummy, why is he dressed like that?” asked a small girl’s voice from somewhere in the crowd.

Because he’s mad,” came a positive reply.

What’s mad, mummy?”

When there’s something wrong inside his head,” came the calm reply, “come on Suzie, let’s get away from the mad man in case it’s catching.”

Brother Imageous chose that moment to surrender to his first bit of good luck on a day that didn’t promise very much of anything remotely good.

Come ‘ere, squire,” grated a voice in his ear, and he felt himself being firmly guided from the place where he was kneeling to the very edge of something he didn’t understand, a main road.

It was a tramp, a hobo, a vagrant . Gadabout (not his real name, but he’d long forgotten what that might be) had walked the county he was in for most of his life, scraping a sort of subsistence from kindly souls and wheelie bins as he went.

Now what are you about, dressed like a girl?” he asked, “and you with a beard long enough to weave into something more manly?”

Imageous had a considerable beard on account of the simple fact that nobody at The Monastery ever shaved. There were no blades or anything sharp enough to sever a single whisker let alone a face full of the things. The problem, I suppose, was that everyone at the Monastery was similarly equipped with facial hair and adorned by ever-lengthening flowing locks, and thought nothing of it any more than an eastern mystic would be particularly fascinated by absurdly long finger nails.

I am going to the desert,” croaked Imageous, feeling the need to make some sort of explanation.

What desert? There ain’t no desert near here…” grunted Gadabout, scratching his head and dislodging an army of lice.

It is my duty,” explained Imageous, who by then had uttered more words to another human being than he normally did in a year. His order, though not a silent one, was one not overburdened by population and sometimes weeks passed between actually seeing another monk. It had long been like that, so he had never found it particularly peculiar.

I reckon as you’re a nutter,” said the tramp conversationally. “Are you a nutter?”

Brother Imageous had no idea what a nutter might be, so he tried an explanation. “I’m from the Monastery,” he said, indicating the barely cohesive pile of stones with its huge oak door, still glowering just behind him. “I’m on a pilgrimage,” he added, grandly.

You’re from that mad place?” gasped Gadabout, “you’re a nutter, then, you’ve got to be, there’s only nutters in there and that’s a fact. ‘Ere, I’m getting away from you afore I catch it and become a nutter too!”

And with that Gadabout scurried off.

Meanwhile Imageous, in a state of almost total confusion, sat as close to the edge of the road (he didn’t know it but he was safely on a pavement and hugging a hedge) as he could, and wept.

The world outside the Monastery was insane. As he peeped left and right great metallic machines hurtled back and forth, spraying him with fumes that had about them the flavour of the cabbage stew mixed with burnt oil that was his normal diet.

Fear had long done one thing to his body. He had known fear on one or two odd occasions, usually when the Father Superior was in the mood for exercising his many chastising rods on specially bared backsides, and that fear usually made him want to urinate.

I need a piss,” he muttered to himself, and he finished unlacing his complex leather cod-piece and pulled it free. Then he sighed a beautiful sigh of relief as he aimed his stream of urine towards the road and squirted.

“’Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello, what have we got here?” asked a suddenly guttural voice, and he looked up.

The man standing there with a wooden truncheon dangling from his waist sported a dark blue domed helmet like a gigantic pimple of his head and was glaring almost angrily at him.

Indecent exposure,” he grated, “and there’s a proper loo not twenty feet away! I’ve gotya, lad!”

© Peter Rogerson 28.01.17

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