Monthly Archives: June 2013

There And Back Again

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “doing it right”…

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The bar door opened, and Isaiah walked, no, slouched in, shoulders hunched, looking every inch a man with a sad story to tell. The barman groaned inwardly, but hoped for the best.

“The usual, Isaiah?” he said hopefully, reaching for the bottle of fig-juice.

“Stuff your fig-juice,” said Isaiah, “it isn’t worth a shite.” He thought over that sentence. “Well, it is, obviously, but it’s not what I need right now. Give me a cup of wine.”

The barman sighed. Isaiah hadn’t drunk wine since the time a plague of frogs had flattened his entire field of corn, and on that occasion he had been eventually carried home by his arms and legs singing a lusty version of “Danny Boy”, a song that has been around for a lot longer than most people think.

The barman didn’t actually want to know, but it is born into all barman to ask. “What’s wrong, Isaiah?” he said.

Isaiah knocked the wine back in one swallow and nodded for another. “The prodigal son has returned,” he said.

“Oh,” said the barman, who had no idea what that meant.

“Zebedee’s home,” explained Isaiah.

“Your brother? Yeah, I’d heard he went away.”

“Yes, Father divided his fortune between us and Zebedee went off on a “gap year” with his half.”

“What did you do with yours?” asked the barman.

“I’ve bought two of every type of animal,” said Isaiah. “I hear there’s a guy going to be looking to buy some soon.”

“Anyway, you say Zebedee’s back,” said the barman. “What’s he been up to?”

“Everything, as far as I can make out,” said Isaiah. “he drank, back-packed, pearl-dived, visited four of the wonders of the world, swam with dolphins -”

“Dolphins?”

“They’re some sort of big fish,” explained Isaiah. “And then there were the women.”

“He swam with women?”

“No,” said Isaiah. “Not unless that’s a euphemism. And there’s a joke in there somewhere about the breast-stroke that I’m in too bad a mood to make.”

“Sounds like he had fun,” said the barman, a bit wistfully.

Isaiah snorted. “Of course he had fun,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

“Er, have you ever heard of brotherly love?”

“Look,” said Isaiah. “He’s not home because he missed us, or realised the error of his ways. He’s home because he ran out of money, and was having to live with pigs.”

“What, the Ephesians?”

“No, actual pigs,” said Isaiah. “He was so hungry thinking of eating their food, then thought, hang on, our servants get to eat better than this.”

“How come you still have servants, if your dad divided his fortune between you?” asked the barman.

“Coz he made another fortune after that,” said Isaiah. “Remember the plague of frogs that destroyed our crops?”

“Do I ever,” said the barman.

“Well, Father sold off all of the legs to some French guy,” said Isaiah.

“What did he do with the rest of the frog?” asked the barman.

“Search me,” said Isaiah. “That’s one of the world’s great mysteries, where the rest of the frog goes. Maybe there’s a frog mountain somewhere. Anyway, my brother came home. He didn’t even bring souvenirs, unless you count the year’s laundry that he brought home for Mother to wash.”

“Were they thrilled to see him?” asked the barman.

“Thrilled? They killed the fatted calf for him to eat.”

“Ah, not thrilled, then,” said the barman. “It can’t be much fun eating a cow fed on fat.”

Isaiah looked at him as if he were mad. “It’s the best food we’ve got,” he said. “Father said that he had been lost, and now was found. It made him sound like an umbrella from the Lost Luggage Room of a camel stop.”

He stared gloomily into his drink, then muttered something.

“You’re right,” said the barman. “Sod ’em.”

“No, the town,” said Isaiah. “I was thinking I should have my own gap year. I’m going to go to Sodom. That or Ibiza.”

“Much of a muchness,” I hear, “said the barman.

“I mean, look at me,” said Isaiah. “I stayed at home, the good son. I worked in the fields, I minded the farm, I spent my evenings down here just drinking fig-juice. And they wouldn’t even give me a goat when I asked for one.”

“Well, you have two of them already, apparently,” said the barman.

“Shut up,” said Isaiah. “WI’ve always been the one doing it right.” He took another long swig from his wine.

“I’m the Laura Ingalls of our family,” he said.

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Ear To The Ground

“So,” said the doctor, “what seems to be the trouble?”

He leaned back in his chair, looking across his desk at the man sitting opposite. The patient wore a bandage across the top of his head, down over one ear and under his chin, like a head-tyre, if such a thing exists.

There was a reason why the expression “down over one ear” was apt in this case.

“I’ve got ear-ache,” said VanGogh.

“I see,” said the doctor. “Well, given your, er, circumstances, I must say that’s singularly unlucky. I’ll take a look.”

He went around the desk and peered into the patient’s ear. “I can’t see any inflammation,” he said.

“Um,” said Van Gogh, “it’s not that ear.”

“Pardon?” said the doctor.

“Was that supposed to be some sort of joke?” asked VanGogh. “Because I get that all the time. People think it’s hilarious.”

“No, no,” the doctor assured him. “I simply didn’t hear you correctly. I thought you said the ear-ache wasn’t in that ear.”

VanGogh sighed, then slowly, Jacob-Marley-like slowly, unwrapped the bandage.

The doctor’s jaw dropped, almost as far as Marley’s had.

Van Gogh had two ears.

“You’ve got two ears!” exclaimed the doctor.

“No shit,” said VanGogh.

“How come?” asked the doctor. “Did it grow back?”

“Of course it didn’t grow back,” snapped VanGogh. “Who do you think I am – the Terminator?”

“Then how can this be?”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” said VanGogh, “isn’t it obvious? I never cut the ear off in the first place.”

“But why would you pretend you had?”

“It was my gimmick,” said VanGogh. “We artists have tough lives. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and you need something to stand out from the crowd, especially if all you can do is paint fields of flowers, or a starscape that looks as if you’d sneezed mustard onto the Swedish flag. Ever since I (his fingers made quotation marks) “cut my ear off” sales have rocketed. People reckon someone mad enough to do that must be a genius.”

“That’s great,” said the doctor.

“Well, yes,” said Van Gogh, “apart from the ear-ache.”

The doctor stared into the offending, in so many meanings of that word, ear. His expression became grave.

“I’m afraid it’s dying,” he said.

“What?” said VanGogh.

“Was that a joke?” asked the doctor.

“No,” said VanGogh. “I can’t hear as well as I used to.”

“That’s because your ear is dying, said the doctor. “It’s been pressed against your head for four years, with no blood supply and no oxygen. It’s like a sunflower starved of sun, rather ironically.”

“But that’s terrible,” said VanGogh. “What can we do?”

“There’s only one option,” said the doctor. “We’ll have to cut it off.”

The Prototype

Sidey’s theme for last weekend was “should that be there?”…

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“Should that be there?” asked Gabriel.

“Should what be there?” asked God.

The two stood, Frankenstein-and-Igor-like, at the slab upon which the body of what would become Adam lay, for the moment inert.

“That little dent in the middle of his tummy,” said Gabriel.

“It’s called his belly-button,” said God.

“Ah, a button,” said Gabriel. “That explains it. What happens it you press it?”

“Er, well, nothing,” admitted God. “That’s just it’s name. I just thought his torso looked a bit featureless without it.”

“Not really,” said Gabriel, “because there are these two…”

“…nipples,” said God.

“Nipples,” said Gabriel. “And what do they do?”

“Well, on a man,” said God, “ also nothing.”

“I see,” said Gabriel, in the tone of somebody who doesn’t often get to poke fun at his boss, and is determined not to let the chance go by. “What are these?” he went on.

“Ear-lobes,”  said God.

“And they do what, exactly?”

“Um,” said God, then realised that he was tugging at one while he was trying to invent an answer. “They help you think,” he said, a bit desperately.

Gabriel raised one eyebrow, which at least stopped him asking what eyebrows were for, which had been going to be his next question.

“Ok, said God. “The ear-lobes don’t do anything either.”

“I see. Is there any part of him that actually does stuff?”

“Of course,” said God. “He can carry things in his arms, walk on his legs, stand on his tippy-toes.”

“Why would he want to do that?” asked Gabriel.

“So he can reach up to things that are too high for him,” said God.

“Why not just make him taller?”

God, who hadn’t thought of that, decided to ignore the question. “Then there‘s his arse,” he continued. “He can sit on it, scratch it, and talk through it.”

“How can he talk through it if he’s sitting on it? All you’ll hear is a muffled noise, he’ll sound like a railway station announcer.”

“Like a what?” asked God.

“Um, no idea,” said Gabriel. “The term just popped into my head.”

“I suppose you’re right, though,” said God. “I’ll have him talk from someplace else.”

“Where?”

God though for a few seconds. “His nose,” he said eventually.

“Then how will he smell?”

“Terrible,” said God, straight-faced.

“Oh, come on, not that old joke.”

“How can it be old? This is only the sixth day.”

“Some things are just always old,” said Gabriel. “Anyway, is there anything else this apparently multi-talented arse can do?”

“Yes,” said God. “It’s also for farting.”

“Why?”

“To keep him amused. Man will find farting funny, at any age. Don’t ask me why, even I don’t know, and I know everything.”

“And this bit here,” said Gabriel, and God groaned inwardly. “What’s it called?”

“Er, it’s his thing,” said God.

“His thing? That’s the best name you could come up with?”

“It’s just so odd looking, I haven’t been able to think of anything else yet.”

“And should it be there?”

“I think so,” said God. “I have this idea that it could be used in some sort of procreative way, though I’m not sure yet how, or with who.”

“But at the moment it’s just a load of balls,” said Gabriel.

“Actually, that’s not bad,” said God. “That’s what I’m going to call it.”

“Let’s face it, he’s a bit of a mess, isn’t he?” said Gabriel.

“Yes,” admitted God. “Look, I spent a whole week creating the sun and stars, and the earth, and beasts of the field, and even the firmament, after I’d looked up what a firmament is. I just threw Man together at the last minute, so that I could have tomorrow off.”

He looked down sadly at his creation, then frowned. “Hang on,” he said, “that shouldn’t be there.”

“What shouldn’t?”

“That rib,” said God. “There’s one more on this side than on the other.” He took the rib from the body (“Eeeuuwww”, said Gabriel) and looked thoughtfully at it.

“I’m going to have another go,” he said. He waved a hand, and another body, like the first one yet not quite exactly, appeared beside Adam. “This is Man 2.0,” said God. “though I‘m going to call it woman. I’m going to find uses for the nipples, and the ear-lobes-”

“Really?”

“Yes, she’s going to dangle things out of them.”

“Why? So she can pick up long-range radio?”

“Shut up,” said God. “She will be a better model in every way. In fact some women might become models.”

“And will she fart?” asked Gabriel.

“Women won’t fart,” said God. “They will be quite definite about this, even sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

“Then what will her arse -”

“It’ll be called a bottom on a woman,” said God. “What it will do is sway when she walks.”

“What good is that?” asked Gabriel.

“It will change the world,” said God. “Just watch.” He waved a hand, and Eve got up and walked across the room. God and Gabriel watched in silence.

“Wow,” said Gabriel eventually. “I see what you mean.”

The Once And Future Tin

The prompt at our Inksplinters Writers Group this week was to write about ancestry…

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Great-great-great-to-the-power-of-about-ten-Grandfather Tin was one of the Knights of the Round Table.

He was short, as I am, so he was never sent into battle, since his suit of armour was so small that if he wore it he looked like R2D2.

Instead he became the Scribe of Camelot, writing a daily journal which he published under the title Worth Doing Nightly. He didn’t mean anything rude by this, he just wasn’t very good at spelling.

His interests included quaffing, wenching and rolling cheeses down a hill. In this he and I are very different, as here in Ireland we don’t have round cheeses.

Like me, they say his heart was in the right place, but since everyone’s is this is not all that interesting. What is interesting is that, like me, his heartbeat could be erratic, so as a pacemaker Merlin conjured up a small ball of fire inside him, which would power him should anything go wrong with his heart. After this Tin cut down drastically on his wenching, you don’t want to do anything too exerting when you’re wearing what is basically an internal volcano.

Tin used to take part in the Weekly Portrait Challenge, in which he would write a story inspired by that week’s portrait of Guinevere. It was after he unluckily made up one about a queen falling in love with the king’s most trusted knight (“they kiƒsed, then went at it like bunnieƒ”) that he was banished forever from Camelot.

He was forced to live in Penury, a small town in Gloucestershire, with a square table and with his bride, Lady Missustin. He had met her when she was a handmaiden (what we now call a manicurist) to Guinevere.

And there he started the Tinfamily, leaving a lineage of a love of writing, a dearth of verticality and a tendency towards volatile cardiology.

I realise that I have forgotten to explain how he became a Knight of the Round Table in the first place. Arthur knighted him after Tin saved his life, killing a boar that had been about to gore Arthur. He did this by stabbing it with a sword that he found stuck in a nearby stone.

Arthur had then taken the sword, looking thoughtful, then dubbed Tin on both shoulders with it and then said “let’s say nothing about this.”

Sir Tin, as he now was, had agreed. We were never a very bright family.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Another of Tinman’s camera-free attempts at the WordPress Photo Challenge….

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The Ambassador’s Ball was in full swing.

Men in dress-suits looked like penguins, women in ball-gowns looked like wedding-cakes, Ferraro Rocher in pyramids looked like piles of golden sheep-poo.

And in her own dress, almost princess-like in its beauty, Secret Agent Barbie fitted in perfectly.

She always did. No matter where the mission was – an après-ski, a gymkhana, a Hells Angels rally, Barbie had an outfit for the occasion.

Double-Oh-Seven may have had his Walther PPK, but Agent Thirty-Four-Double-D was unrivalled as a mistress of disguise.

Now she slipped un-noticed from the ballroom and into the small billiard-room (another type of ball room, I suppose) where she was to met her contact.

She had hoped it wouldn’t be him, but it was.

“Hello, Curves,” said Action Man.

That was what all the other agents called him. He was the archetypal alpha-male agent – a tough, wise-cracking womaniser. Barbie was his total opposite (especially about the womanising, much to the disappointment of Secret Agent Sindy and a generation of boys who’d have played much more enthusiastically with their sister’s dolls).

She always called him by his real name, Ken, just to annoy him. She tried to hate him, but it was hard not to be drawn to his perfect hair and his piercing blue eyes. Even now, though she tried not to, she found herself gazing longingly at his six-pack.

He gave her one.

She took the beer that he had offered her (I can’t help what you were thinking), sat down on the sofa and casually crossed her legs, or at least tried to.

“Our mission, Curves -” he began.

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that, Ken,” she said.

“It’s just that you have such an amazing figure,” he said, leering openly at her. “Are those boobs real?”

“As real as the rest of me,” Barbie assured him.

“Wow,” he said. “Well, anyway, our mission is to go to Russia and steal the plans for Squirlsh.”

“What’s that? Some sort of poison?” asked Barbie.

“No, it’s some sort of fruit drink,” said Ken. “The Russians plan to flood the market with it, This would severely damage the sales of Robinson’s Barley Water, and since the end of the Cold War MI5 will take work from anyone.”

Two days later, having been shot at, car-chased and had raspberries blown at them (through a blow-pipe, the fruit-drink market is highly competitive), they were in the Squirlsh laboratory in Moscow. While Barbie, in her Lab-coat outfit, fought off her Russian counterpart, the evil Babushka (whose disguises weren’t in the same league as Barbie’s, since when she whipped off her mask she had exactly the same face underneath), Ken fiddled with the machines until they began to smoulder and spark, and a voice started intoning “T-minus twenty seconds, and counting.”

Barbie and Ken escaped just before the whole lab exploded, and an hour later sat in her hotel suite grinning at one another. The whole adventure had been a bonding experience for them, meaning that they both felt like James Bond.

“I suppose we have to get off with each other now,” said Barbie.

“Really?” said Ken.

“It’s obligatory at the end of a mission,” said Barbie. “It’s in the handbook.”

She started to walk towards the bedroom. “I’m just going to slip in something more comfortable,” she said. At the door she turned and looked at him.

“Come on, Action Man,” she said. “It’s time you met Catwoman Barbie.”

All The Birds In The Air

Sidey’s Theme for last weekend was “a little bird told me”…

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I walked into the interrogation room, slapped a file down on the table, and stared at the suspect.

“They call you the Sparrow, right?” I said. “How come?”

“Er, it’s on account of me being a sparrow.” he said.

“Makes sense,” I said. “Anyway, I hear that you killed Cock Robin. With a bow and arrow.”

“Oh yeah?” he said. “Sez who?”

“Let’s just say a little bird told me,” I said.

“Not the Kite?” he said, “because he just talks a load of -”

“It wasn’t the Kite,” I said. In fact it was the Cormorant, my confidential informorant, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

“Look,” said the Sparrow, “you ain’t gonna make no stool-pigeon out of me over this. Word in the tree is that it was a hit, ordered by the Parrot.”

“Why would the Parrot want him dead?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Cherchez la femme,” he said.

“Meaning what?” I said, since I don’t speak Spanish.

“Tits,” he said.

“Er, what?”

“The Parrot’s nieces are the Tit sisters,” he said. “Bridget and Ingrid. Cock Robin was moving in on them.”

“And why would they go off with Cock Rob -” I began, then the full impact of his nickname hit me. “Oh,” I said.

“Exactly,” said the Sparrow. “Bridget is with egg now. Weren’t no way the Parrot was gonna take that, so he put a price on his head.”

“A carrot?” I suggested.

“Yeah,” said the Sparrow. “How did you know?”

“Lucky guess,” I said. “Just like I’m guessing there isn’t going to be a ptarmigan in this story, is there?”

“Of course not,” said the Sparrow. “The Ptarmigan’s on holiday. In Lake Michigan.”

I felt myself starting to get a headache.

“Look, you’ve got nothing to hold me on,” he said. “I bet you don’t even have a body.”

“We do, actually,” I said. “We found it in a shallow grave. The Owl dug it, unsurprisingly with his trowel.”

He looked a bit worried at that.

“Listen, we know it wasn’t you,” I said. “It’d be too hard for you to shoot him with a bow and arrow, what with you having no hands or anything.”

The Sparrow snorted, which caused a disgusting worm of snot (probably consisting mostly of worm) to shoot out of his beak. “Too hard? Listen, the guy had a red breast, he might as well have painted a target on his chest. I couldn’t miss.”

There was a brief silence, then the Sparrow uttered one word, which he had probably borrowed from the Rook.

I smiled at him. “You’re Bustard,” I said.

As Write As Rain

At our Inksplinters writing group this week we had the challenge of picking a hobby or interest and write about it using as many clichés as possible. I don’t fish, by the way, but it was easier than writing about slumping in front of the telly….

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I used to think that fishing was as easy as falling off a log, especially if, as I do, you do it sitting on a log. In fact it I thought it was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

Then yesterday morning I woke up and smelled the coffee, then I got up with the lark and shot from my bed like a bullet out of a gun, grinning like a loon, ready to carpe the diem, and indeed hopefully the carp. I made my toast as easy as pie, then hopped into my car and drove off like a bat out of hell.

I whipped out my rod and opened a can of worms. This was because I hadn’t yet reached the lake, and whipping out your rod on an open road certainly does open a can of worms.

I made my apologies to the traffic cop and finished my trip. I sprang from my car and looked out at the lake.

There are more than fish in the lake. There was a line of ducks, all in a row.

I slung my hook, then got a nibble, but it slipped through my fingers like water through a sieve. I watched  its rear as it swam away, like a vet looking up a cow’s arse.

I was not a happy bunny, nor a ray of sunshine. I was crestfallen and down in the dumps. I was not as happy as Larry, who was fishing thirty yards away and had just landed a ten-pound mackerel.

Because you should have seen the one that got away. He was the size of a house. A big house, obviously, otherwise that sentence means nothing.

I was so pissed that I went to the pub, to get pissed. In the Depths of Despair (that’s the name of the pub) I drank like a, like a, well, like a fish actually. I got as drunk as a skunk, that well-known species of heavy drinkers. My barmates tried to tell me that there were plenty more fish in the sea. They told me keep my chin up, to cheer up and to buck up. I told them something that rhymes with that.

Going forward I’m going to fish with dynamite. There’ll be a big bang (no, not that one), there’ll be a whole new meaning to the expression “the fish are rising” and they’ll shoot from the water like a bullet from a gun, a sentence that’s as old as the hills, since I used it in the second paragraph.

Then it will rain fish, like it’s raining cats and dogs.