Category Archives: Tinman’s Tall Tales

Restless Spirit

Queen Silvia of Sweden believes that her palace is haunted …. and she’s right…

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Night fell, and proper night at that, not the brief darkness of the middle latitudes, but the deep, fathomless blackness of the Arctic Circle, as winter again descended, cold, bitter and snow-laden, upon Sweden.

Through the Royal Palace came a long, low moan, as if the wind was whispering, taunting the residents with warnings of the months-long night ahead.

It was the ghost of Beowulf, sighing in deep, soul-withered boredom, and in despair at what his country had become.

Over fifteen hundred years had passed since he had defeated and killed the monster Grendel and then, well, the monster’s mother, because women back then were warriors too, magnificent helmeted creatures with breastplates the shape of hearts and voices that could shatter ice. He had then ruled as King for fifty years until he’d been mortally wounded whilst fighting a dragon.

Whilst. Fighting. A. Dragon. Small wonder that his spirit had refused to pass on.

So he had watched proudly as his legacy had been carried on by the Vikings, sweeping their way across both Europe and the Atlantic with their longboats, long swords and long, long poems, standing proudly on North American soil centuries before Columbus. Men like Ingvar the Far-travelled, who had travelled far, Eric the Victorious, who had been victorious, and Magnus the Three-balled, about whom we know very little.

By the sixteenth century Sweden had had its own Empire, and then it had all come to an end. Some blamed the Black Death, some blamed the increase in the power of neighbouring Russia, but Beowulf knew the real cause.

It was the Swede.

Once you have named after you a vegetable with the shape, consistency and taste of a bowling ball then it’s impossible to be taken seriously. Other nations stopped fearing Sweden, and over time its influence waned.

Once, very briefly, it did take over the world again, as Abba swept the globe, gathering riches beyond the Vikings’ wildest dreams from places that they’d never even heard of. But in time they, too, faded. Their leader, Agnetha the Pert-bottomed, went into exile, as all great heroines do (see the Irish princess, Enya the Baffling), living out her days high in a tower staring out over a great lake, and again Sweden fell into mediocrity.

Occasionally a great warrior will rise, like Zlatan the Arrogant, with Viking blood in his veins, Viking spirit in his soul and Viking hair in a bun, but in general Sweden is now best known for gloomy films, great healthcare (Beowulf wanted to turn in his grave at this, if only he’d been in it) and a jolly good record in the Eurovision Song Contest.

So Beowulf wanders the palace at night, dreaming of the old days, when the building itself didn’t look like a stock-broker’s house, when it had slits to fire arrows through and ramparts to pour boiling oil from, and when warriors like himself could look forward to a flaming boat burial, as Valkyries bore their proud souls off to Valhalla.

 

 

 

The Call Of The Sea

The waves gently rolled the hull, like a mother softly rocking a cradle. She smiled, tiredly, and closed her eyes.

She was woken just minutes later by loud knocking and shouting from the starboard side of the yacht. She leapt from her bunk, banging her head against the ceiling and her shin against her locker because, as she reflected grimly, unlike the Tardis a yacht’s cabin is not certainly not bigger on the inside.

She climbed up onto the deck and looked over the side. A man was at the wheel of a small motor-boat, looking up at her.

“Hello,” he said cheerfully.

“Hello back,” she answered. “What are you doing here?”

“Good question,” he said. “I was about two miles away, heading east, when my boat suddenly changed direction, ignored all my wheel-turning and swearing, sped over here and parallel-parked beside your yacht far better than I could ever have done.”

“I see,” she said. “Well, go away again.”

“I can’t,” he said. “My engine’s completely dead. It’s really odd. Do you have a giant magnet on board or something?”

“Of course not,” she said, “why would ….”

Her voice tailed off as she thought back over the last half-hour. She’d been pondering her perfect life – no people, no stress. She’d been lulled by the swell of the sea. She’d been warm, and tired. She’d been happy.

“And so,” she muttered bitterly, “I started to hum.”

“I’m sorry?” said the man in the boat.

“Er,” she said. She looked down at him, then sighed. “You’d better come aboard,” she said.

He climbed the ladder and stood up onto the deck, holding out his hand. “I’m James,” he said.

She shook his hand. “Sharlana,” she answered. She saw his eyes widen. “Yeah,” she said, “well, women in my family don’t tend to get names like Jane or Mary.”

“Because?”

“Because….” she said, and took a breath, “because I’m a siren.” James’s eyes widened further, though she hadn’t thought that possible. “Yes, yes, my ancestors used to lure sailors onto the rocks.”

“With the beauty of their singing,” nodded James.

“Exactly,” she said. “Of course, the fact that they were naked also helped. Anyway, I’m a descendant. The last of the line.”

“From men and women sirens?”

“You haven’t been listening. The female side of my family have an ability to attract sailors. There’s so much sailor in my genes it’s a wonder I wasn’t born with a parrot on my shoulder and a wooden leg.”

“So that’s why you were on about humming,” said James. “You lured me here.”

“Yes, well I didn’t mean to,” said Sharlana. “I’m sorry about that.”

“I’m not,” said James, and to Sharlana’s surprise she felt her sun-tanned face blush. “And the big yacht?”

“Sunken treasure, pieces-of-eight, blah, blah, blah,” said Sharlana. “My family’s been very rich for a very long time.”  

“I see,” said James. “And you’re telling me all this why?”

“Because no one will believe you,” said Sharlana sweetly. “You might as well go back home and say you were abducted by aliens.” She looked at him quizzically. “You seem to be taking it all very calmly,” she said.

James shrugged, “I’m a marine biologist,” he said. “I’ve seen fish that look like shuttle-cocks, turtles that look like coffee-tables, jellyfish that look like, well, jellyfish. I’ve learnt that there’s nothing that the sea can’t throw up, or make you want to.”

They talked, then, as the sun slowly set, a huge red ball sinking beneath the waves. He told her about his life and his studies, and she saw the light blaze in his eyes as he talked passionately about his work and his love of the sea. She told him of storms she had fought, and dawns she had watched, and of the simple joy of a life spent swimming, and sunbathing, and watching box sets of Game of Thrones on the yacht’s computer.

At dusk James got back onto his boat, and Sharlana towed him back to the mainland. “The engine will work again once I’m gone,” she said.

“Great,” said James. “I don’t fancy rowing around the sea for the rest of my career, I’d end up with biceps the size of that thing on a spit you see in kebab shops.” He looked up at the lights of the town behind the pier. “While you’re here,” he said, “will you have dinner with me?”

She shook her head. Don’t get involved, she told herself. You have a perfect life.

“Please?” he said. “I know a place that does seafood.”

She suddenly felt a pang, and thought about the small doubts she’d been having lately, about the increasing number of nights when she’d felt unexpectedly empty, like an emotional Marie Celeste. She thought about how she’d been trying to ignore the small clouds that had been gathering on the horizon of her soul, like a warning of an impending storm, or of a deep depression.

And she wondered why indeed she had told him her secret, so readily, instead of fobbing him off with some explanation about local currents, or faulty navigation systems, or the Bermuda Triangle.

Marine biologist, she thought. It’s basically just a sailor with an IQ of two hundred.

She smiled then, and nodded.

“Arrr, Jim lad, “she said.

The Fairest Of Them All

The Queen of May crossed the room to the Magic Mirror, then spoke.

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,” she said, “who is the fairest of them all?”

The Mirror looked at the woman in front of it, at the slightly wild hair, the slightly wild eyes, the almost visible air of panic that surrounded her. It spoke.

“You are, my Queen,” it said calmly.

And there it was. The Mirror had provided the same re-assurance to every leader since the dawn of time – to Margaret the Iron-blooded, to Tony the Smooth, to Gordon the Mumbler. It had even given the same answer to King Winston the Two-fingered, who’d had a face like a bulldog that had run into a brick wall.

It called this white lie the “Yes Minister” policy, and it had enabled the Mirror to provide unbroken, in every sense of that word, public service for centuries.

The Queen of May looked relieved, then leaned forward suddenly, causing the Mirror, though it would not have thought this possible, to retreat slightly before her eager stare.

“I have a plan,” whispered the Queen.

The Mirror sighed. An unexpected part of its job was to act as confidant to rulers who felt they were could not trust anyone else, believing that they were surrounded in court by rivals conspiring against them. In fairness to the Queen of May, the Mirror felt that she had a point. She herself had become ruler less than a year previously, after all of the serious contenders to the throne had simultaneously stabbed each other in the back, leaving her standing alone and bewildered in the throne-room, slightly hurt that none of them had felt her important enough to bother with.

Since then she had proven to be a surprisingly tough leader, breaking off ties with neighbouring Europia, and bringing in more schools for the wealthy whilst cutting aid to the poor, and was planning a measure where elderly people would lose their home if they started to lose their marbles.

The Mirror was thus a bit worried about what her new plan might be, but put on what it hoped was an eager face (basically, the Queen of May’s face reflected back at her).

“Yes, my Queen?” it said.

“I want a hard Brexit,” said the Queen.

“Um, is that something like a ginger-nut?” asked the Mirror.

“Of course not,” said the Queen. “It’s a way of dealing with Europia. We’ll have none of them coming here, and we won’t be going there. It will be like having a wall around us.”

“A wall?” said the Mirror.

“Yes,” said the Queen. “I got the idea from my cousin in Yoosa.”

“The Grand Covfefe?”

“Indeed,” said the Queen.

If the Mirror had had its own eyes it would have closed them in pain. Instead it focused the Queen’s eyes back at her. “An excellent plan, my Queen,” it said.

“Oh, that’s not the plan I came to tell you about,” said the Queen. “I want to hold an election.”

The Mirror banged the back of its head against the wall in surprise. “Er, what?” it said.

“I’m giving the people the chance to show how much they love me,” said the Queen.

“Why?” asked the Mirror.

“So I can rule them more forcefully, and introduce tougher laws” said the Queen.

“O-k,” said the Mirror slowly. “But what happens if they say no?”

“I don’t understand,” said the Queen.

“What happens if they say they don’t love you?”

“Why would they say that?” snapped the Queen. “I’m strong and stable.” She turned a glare on the Mirror, a glare that was, in what the Mirror desperately hoped was just a turn of phrase, both sharp and piercing. “Aren’t I?”

“Strong,” agreed the Mirror. “Definitely.”

“And sta-”

“Look,” interrupted the Mirror. “Why risk it? Why have this, this -”

“Election,” said the Queen. “Or plebiscite, if you like.”

“Oh, dear Lord, don’t call them plebs,” said the Mirror, in the first piece of political advice it had ever offered.

“Why, Mirror,” said the Queen, “you’re worried. You needn’t be. Remember, I’m the fairest of them all, aren’t I?”

“Er, when we use the word ‘fairest’, we are talking about looks, aren’t we?”

The Queen smiled. “Say it again,” she breathed. “Tell me one more time.”

“You have to use the phrase,” said the Mirror.

“Very well,” said the Queen. “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

The Mirror sighed inwardly and was preparing to reply when suddenly it felt dizzy. Its glass clouded over and began to swirl. Slowly another face began to appear.

“Who is it?” shrieked the Queen, in so high-pitched a voice that the Mirror developed a shattering headache. “It’s not that cow Snow White, is it?”

The image slowly settled. The Queen was now looking, not at herself, but at a shy-looking man with a wispy beard and a look of slight puzzlement, like a geography teacher on the day the USSR split into fifteen countries.

“It’s Corbyn the Tie-rant!” gasped the Queen.

“Tyrant?”

“No, Tie-rant,” said the Queen. “He doesn’t wear ties.” Her shoulders slumped. “This is terrible,” she said. “I will never be able to keep my throne now.”

In the Mirror’s mind, two millennia of obsequiousness fought with the urge to make a smart remark. The millennia lost.

“Well, at least you got your policy through, my Queen,” said the Mirror. “An elderly person who’s beginning to lose her marbles is going to lose her home.”

Corbyn the Tie-rant

The Queen of May

 

 

 

 

 

Man and Superman

He is no ordinary hero, because he is an ordinary hero.

Wherever Superheroes, and indeed Supervillains, who are just Superheroes who’ve made bad career choices, gather, they speak in awe of Ordinary Man, the one who stands out from the crowd by being part of the crowd.

His costume consists of a tweed jacket, corduroy trousers, and brogues, though in light drizzle (in other words, this being Ireland, on about 150 days a year) he adds a New York Yankees baseball cap.

He has a back-pack, his equivalent of a utility-belt. In this he carries his sandwiches, a book of Sudoku puzzles and, at the very bottom, his driving licence, though he is unaware of this last bit and has in fact been searching the house for the licence for the last six months.

He carries no weapons, though the Sudoku book could, if rolled up, bring a sharp sting to a miscreant’s ear.

He has a Man-cave, exactly like a Bat-cave except that it is not underground, and is constructed of wood. It is, to be honest, a garden shed, but he has equipped it with a small TV that picks up Sky Sports, a fridge with four cans of Heineken, and a dartboard into which he can actually place the darts, since the cave is only four feet long.

He has gadgetry, like James Bond. His car has a Sat-Nav, which is unfortunately of little use since every village in Ireland has a Main Street, a Dublin Road and a The Square, and the Sat-Nav girl’s voice has started to complain of a headache and to ask for a transfer to a country with postcodes. He has a smartphone, capable of many things, but on which he simply has his collection of music, mostly Coldplay. It has a single App, one which he downloaded by accident, which sends him a text every time a goal is scored at Euro 2016, and which has been curiously silent for almost a year now.

He has a side-kick too, though others simply call it Dad Dancing – an odd little hop that he gives when he’s dancing along, at weddings, to the chorus of Sweet Caroline.

Like all superheroes he has one superweakness – the ghastly man-flu, an affliction so awful that God has spared all of womankind from ever having to suffer from it. Man-flu seems a fit unfair, because the burden of his superweakness is not balanced out by the thrills of any superpower.

Unlike Superman, he can’t fly. Unlike Spider-Man, he can’t weave a web. Unlike Thor, he can’t use a hammer – actually, that one isn’t true, he can use a hammer, usually to put up shelves, or to hang pictures of his children.

He could probably talk the Penguin out of bank robberies by offering to lend him a few quid, talk the Joker out of blowing up the world by laughing at his jokes, talk Catwoman out of her sexy outfit by sheer Irish wit and charm, but such opportunities never come his way.

Yet he does fights crime – by paying his taxes to help fund the police force. He fights political corruption and incompetence by voting for the other crowd at the next election, and fights white-collar criminals by pointedly ignoring them when he meets them in the bar of his golf club.

He solves crimes, too, mostly while watching American cop shows, with his by-now famous maxim: “whenever you have eliminated the impossible, then it was probably that guy over there in the ski mask, running away”.

And he saves the planet, by trying whenever possible to cycle, to re-cycle, and to use the eco-wash cycle.

So let’s hear it for Ordinary Man. He helps to make the world a better place.

 

 

 

Big Love

Tyrannosaurus Rex was a sensitive lover, says the US journal Scientific Reports. Tyrannosaurs had snouts as sensitive to touch as human fingerprints, and while they would have used these tactile noses to explore their surroundings, build nests and pick up fragile eggs and offspring, males and females may also have rubbed their sensitive faces together in a prehistoric form of foreplay…

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It was beginning to grow dark.

The red ball of the new, new sun hung in the sky, partly curtained by ash from still smoking volcanoes. Mist drifted up from steaming pools which popped and glooped as the primordial ooze formed complex recipes of enzymes which would, over many millions of years, evolve into beings capable of song and laughter, of reaching the moon, of believing that broccoli tastes nice.

Thea Rex lifted her head at a huge rumbling noise, stared off into the distance, and sighed. What’s he up to now, she thought.

Ty Rex was approaching. Clamped in his fearsome jaws were two huge tree trunks, the branches and leaves of which were dragging across the ground, disturbing rocks and small reptiles. He came to a halt in front of her.

She raised an eyebrow in enquiry.

“I aw oo howshh,” said Ty.

Thea’s eyebrow lifted further. Ty dropped the trees, and worked his jaw briefly.

“I brought you flowers,” he said.

“So I see,” said Thea. “Because?”

“It’s romantic,” said Ty.

Thea sighed again. For years now Ty had carried a torch for her, or at least would have done if his arms hadn’t been so short that carrying a torch would have set fire to his chest. But Thea had always resisted, insisting that they remain just friends.

“I’ve told you before, Ty,” she said. “I’m not going to date other Tyrannosaurs. I’m only going to mate with other dinosaurs.”

“But why?” asked Ty.

“I’ve told you that before too,” she said. “Evolution.”

Thea was Earth’s first Darwinist, a girl ahead of her time in an age where time was counted backwards. She had watched other species form, stagnate and die. The Therapsids, the Triassics, the Nokiaphones – all had mated within their own species, and all had grown weak as the inbreeding had reduced the number of their brain cells whilst increasing the number of their toes. She was convinced that it was necessary that she and her like should inter-breed, building a constantly evolving, ever-strengthening race of creatures.

If not, the dinosaurs might become extinct.

So she had turned down Ty time after time. Now he stood here again, as he had so often before, looking hopefully at her.

“Look,” said Thea, not unkindly. “I do like you, Ty -” she stopped, startled by the sudden flash of anger across his face.

“You were going to say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, weren’t you?” said Ty.

“Er, no,” said Thea.

“Yes you were,” said Ty. “You were going to bang on about how it’s up to you to save us all by throwing yourself at anything with hard, wrinkled skin. Well, tell me, how’s that working out for you?”

Thea was about to give a spirited reply when suddenly her recent love life flashed in front of her. She thought of her tryst with the Brontosaurus, an experience that had left her flat, almost literally. She thought of how her head had become wedged between the top two horns of the Triceratops when he had tried to kiss her goodnight. She thought of her night with the Stegosaurus, and into her head, from whence she had no idea, popped the phrase ‘like having sex with Sydney Opera House’.

She thought of how she’d broken up with her most recent partner when she’d suddenly realised she was on the way to becoming Mrs Gigantosaurus, with the same dawning horror with which a human female might suddenly think through the implications of continuing to date Joe Bigbottom.

She was wasting her life, she suddenly realised. She hung her head, and a huge tear rolled down one cheek.

Instantly Ty was beside her, nuzzling his cheek against hers. “Don’t cry,” he said, softly.

She pulled away to look into his concerned, earnest face. He’s always been here for me, she thought. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking.

She leaned towards him, and he towards her.

Their snouts touched.

She was both shocked and exhilarated at the sensation that swept through her body, filling every nerve with tingling, roaring joy.

And at that exact instant, miles away, the meteorite hit the earth. A giant flash lit up the sky, like a firework. Lava leapt from volcanoes. The ground rumbled and shuddered.

Startled, the lovers moved apart, staring wide-eyed at each other.

“Wow,” said Ty. “Did the earth move for you too?”

 

 

 

 

How The West Was Won

The Irish police force are facing controversy at the moment over the fact that over a five year period they recorded 937,000 breathalyser drink-driving tests that did not in fact take place, and the fact that during the same period 14,700 people were wrongly convicted over traffic violations.

Maybe it’s always been this way….

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It was late evening in Tombstone. From the street came the whinny of tethered horses, and the occasional oozy splat as horse-poo hit street-mud. From the saloon came the teeth-grating sound of a honky-tonk piano, and an occasional tinkle of glass as a whisky bottle, slid along the counter by the barman, was missed by a customer.

In the Sheriff’s Office, Marshal Wyatt Earp set down the ledger, rubbed his weary eyes, and sighed. He looked up at the clock, and saw that it was time.

The front door opened, and Sheriff Doc Holliday walked in.

“You wanted to see me?” asked Doc.

“Yes,” said Wyatt. “Sit down.”

Doc sat. Wyatt stared at him for a long moment, wondering how to begin. “Quiet tonight,” he said, eventually.

Doc nodded. “Too quiet,” he said.

Wyatt’s attempt at calm evaporated. “What does that even mean?” he snapped. “It can never be too quiet. Quiet is good. And quiet, as it happens, is what’s been happening every night since I’ve been here. And every day.”

Doc shrugged. “Trouble comes in spells,” he said. “Sometimes we get quiet times.”

“Really?” said Wyatt. “Because I was sent here because you never get quiet times. I was sent here because you have more recorded crimes than any other town in the country. I was told to bring my two brothers as back-up, because the job I’d be taking on was so dangerous.”

“Maybe folks are behaving,” said Doc, because you and your brothers are here.” He looked at the ledger in front of Wyatt. “You’ve seen the records,” he said. “They were pretty un-law-abidin’ before that.”

“Yes,” agreed Wyatt. “I have seen the records. They don’t make pretty reading.”

“Sorry about that,” said Doc. “It’s my doctor’s handwriting”. (History seems to think that Doc Holliday was a doctor, which is odd, because the same History does not seem to think that Sheriff Bat Masterson was a bat).  

“It’s not the handwriting,” said Wyatt. “It’s what’s written. I’ve had a look at some of the entries, and I’ve talked to some of the, well, let’s call them perpetrators.”

“Oh,” said Doc, looking worried for the first time.

“For example,” said Wyatt, “Jethro Watts. Arrested for Money Laundering. He says he was washing his pants and forget to take his money out.”

“That’s true,” said Doc, “but strictly speaking -”

“Next, Joe Bob Peters,” continued Wyatt. “Arson?”

“He has no job,” said Doc. “He just sits outside the hardware store all day.”

“Setting fire to stuff?”

“No,” said Doc. “He’s just Arsin’ Around.”

“That’s Vagrancy,” said Wyatt.

“Crap,” said Doc. “Never thought of that.”

“And Miss Amelia Trent, the school-teacher,” went on Wyatt. “Holding up a stagecoach.”

“Yes,” said Doc. “She stepped out in front of it and put her hand up.”

“That’s how you get on a stagecoach,” said Wyatt. “It’s called a bus stop.” He looked down at the ledger again. “Then there’s Caleb Hoskins,” he went on, “Forgery. I haven’t actually talked to him yet, but I’m guessing he’s the blacksmith.”

Doc nodded, then stared down at the floor silently. “Why?” asked Wyatt, softly.

Doc Holliday looked up, defiance suddenly blazing in his eyes. “Have you any idea what it’s like to be Sheriff in a sleepy little back-water like this? All I do is rescue cats from trees and help little old ladies across the street. Well, that’s not why I went to law-enforcement classes. That’s not why I shot off a toe trying to practice a quick draw. That’s not why I accidently invented the pierced nipple when trying to pin on my badge. I want to be remembered. When folk recall the heroes who made this country I want to be right up there with Pat Garrett, and all he ever did was shoot Billy the Kid -”

“In fairness,” began Wyatt, “that was pretty -”

“- and eat him,” continued Doc.

“What?” said Wyatt. “With fava beans and a nice Chianti?”

“Er, no,” said Doc. “With chilli beans and grits. That’s how you eat goat.”

“Billy the Kid was a goat?”

Doc rolled his eyes. “The clue’s in the name,” he said simply. “But Garrett spread the rumour that he had killed an outlaw, and now he’s a legend. Well, I want to be like him. I want the Sheriff of Tombstone -”

“I’ve been meaning to mention that,” said Wyatt. “Apparently the town’s called Norville. You got it changed two years ago.”

“Yes, well, no-one would remember the Sheriff of Norville,” said Doc. “I got the idea from Sheriff Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke.”

“Um, I don’t think the name of his town -”

“Who cares? That’s how he’s known now. And I wanted to be remembered as the man who kept peace in the meanest town in the West, so I made up a few things. But I must have gone too far, because they sent you.”

“It was the car thefts,” said Wyatt. “There’s no such thing as a car.”

“Well,” said Doc, “now that you’re here, what are you going to do about it? You can turn me in, or you can stay here with me and we can help make history, by making up history.”

Just then the door burst open, and Virgil and Morgan Earp rushed into the office.

“The Clanton gang are up at the OK Corral,” said Virgil. “They’re drunk, and they’re causing trouble.”

“Just leave them,” said Doc. “They’ll sleep it off, and be fine tomorrow.”

“They snatched Virgil’s hat,” said Morgan.

Doc and Wyatt looked at one another, then both stood and began to buckle on their holsters.

“Stealing a policeman’s hat?” said Wyatt. “Not in Tombstone.”

-oOo-

An hour later the four of them were back, flushed and exhilarated. “Well,” said Virgil, “we showed them.

“Sure did,” said Morgan. “They won’t be causing trouble around here no more.”

Wyatt sat down in front of the ledger. “Better record it, ” he said. He took up his pen and began ‘tonight there was a fist-fight at the OK Corral’, then stopped and looked at Doc Holliday. They looked into each other eyes, into each others souls, for a long time.

He changed the word ‘fist-fight’ to ‘gun-fight’.

 

 

What To My Wondering Eyes Should Appear

‘Twas the night before Easter.

Mamma and I were just settling our brains for a long Spring nap, she in her kerchief and I in my cap. This was because it was, as I’ve said, Spring, when Mamma refuses to put the central heating on, despite the fact that Spring in Ireland is just Winter with longer evenings.

Then, from out on the lawn, there arose a clatter. I got out of bed, opened the front door and looked out, but could see nothing. But as I drew in my head (I’m an architect, and was thinking about a project I was working on) and was turning around, down the chimney came a rabbit, not with a bound, but with part of a pizza box stuck to his fur.

“What sort of gobshite,” he said, “leaves his bins in the dark at the side of his house?”

I stared at him. He was a normal sized rabbit, and between his front paws he carried three Easter eggs, the middle one pinned between the other two, making it look as if he was playing a chocolate accordion.

“You’re … the Easter Bunny?” I stammered.

He nodded, and smiled slightly.

“I thought there was no such thing,” I said, before I could stop myself.

The smile died. “I see,” he said, icily. “And where did you think your kids’ Easter eggs came from?”

“I never really thought about it,” I said. “I just wake up on Easter Sunday and they’re there. I always assumed Mamma had bought them and left them out.” (I later discovered that Mamma thought that I’d been doing it).

The Easter Bunny’s eyes narrowed. “Your wife’s name is Mamma?” he said.

I blushed. “Her name’s Mia,” I said, “and she loves Abba.”

It’s hard to describe how small you feel when a rabbit gives you a look of scorn. He dumped the eggs onto the hearth and turned back towards the chimney.

“Look,” I said, “I’m sorry I didn’t believe in you before.”

He turned back quickly.

“No,” he snapped, “but you believe in him, don’t you?”

“Him?” I asked.

“You know who I mean,” said the Easter Bunny. “Everyone believes in him. Everyone thinks he’s great.”

“Well, he is,” I said. “He delivers toys to all the children, all in one night.”

“Indeed he does,” said the Easter Bunny. “On his magic sleigh, pulled by reindeer. I deliver eggs to all the children, also all in one night, but on foot.”

“How do you manage that?” I asked, impressed.

“I’m a very fast runner,” he said. “That’s what we’re famous for, us rabbits.”

“I thought that was hares,” I said.

“Oh, our slowcoach cousins,” he said witheringly. “Tell me, have you ever heard the tale of the rabbit being beaten by the tortoise?”

“Er, no,” I replied.

“Exactly,” he said.

“Do you have elves like him, working all year to make all the eggs?”

“The wife and kids help me,” he said. “We started last Tuesday.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s incredible.”

“Not really,” he said. “I have forty-two thousand three hundred and ninety-two kids.” I stared at him. “That’s the other thing we’re famous for,” he admitted.

“So you get the whole thing done in a week?”

“Yes” he said. “And yet I get no recognition for it. No-one writes songs about me coming to town. No-one leaves out a glass of sherry and a lettuce leaf for me. No-one writes me letters, telling me what they want for Easter.”

“Not much point,” I said. “They’d all just say “Eggs”.”

“True,” he admitted. He sighed, long and deep, the sigh of someone who has been toiling for a very, very long time. I felt sorry for him.

“If it makes you feel any better,” I said, “I think you’re doing a great job.”

He gave a small smile, then turned towards the hearth. Yet again, though, he paused, and turned. He held another Easter Egg in his paw. I have no idea where it came from, and have resolved never to think too deeply about it. He handed it to me.

“Here,” he said. “This one is for you.”

“Thanks,” I said, touched.

He laid a paw alongside his nose and, giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

“Happy Easter to all,” I said softly, “and to all a Good Night.”

His head appeared back into view, upside down.

“Ho, ho, bloody ho,” he said.