Category Archives: Tinman’s Tall Tales

Horse Of A Man

Vladimir Putin woke early, as real men do.

He sat up and stretched, his magnificent pecs extending as he did so. He sat for a moment, planning his day. He might ride a horse bareback, and indeed bare-chested. He might head off into the woods to wrestle bears. He might ski across Siberia wearing only a pair of Speedos. He might climb every mountain, ford every stream. He might sing the song that that line comes from, in a deep Russian baritone, while performing a Cossack dance. He might swallow swords. He might eat fire.

Whatever he did, it would reinforce his position as the strongman of the First World, a giant among pygmies, the true Beast From The East.

Vladimir Putin threw aside the single sheet he slept under, strode across his bedroom, and threw open the curtains.

It was raining.

Vladimir Putin went back to bed.

During the torrential downpour at the World Cup medal ceremony yesterday, host President Vladimir Putin stands snug and dry under an umbrella, leaving the Prime Ministers of France and Croatia to get absolutely soaked

 

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The Perfect Fit

Anger flashed in the man’s eyes. Thought processes were visible on his face as he contemplated the manner of his exit – would he shout, would he rant, would he throw a glass of water into the face of the man who had just fired him. Dignity fought with anger fought with humiliation, and, rather to the man’s surprise, dignity won.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, “for the opportunity to serve.” He stood and walked out of the door.

Donald Trump breathed a sigh of relief. Not all of his sackngs had gone as well.

The man just leaving was Trump’s forty-third Secretary of State, in the sixth year of his eight year reign. In total he had used the expression “you’re fired” two thousand three  hundred and fifty-seven times. His catchphrase from the Apprentice was really coming back to haunt him.

Some had, like the person who had just left, taken it relatively well. Others had not. Trump remembered fondly back to a time where being called a “dotard” had been the worst and most esoteric insult he had ever received. Since then, the words “lunkhead”, “lamebrain”, “dullard”, “ignoramus” (he had thought that was an animal, the offspring of an iguana and a hippo) and “gobshite” had been added to his vocabulary by departing staff, and that wasn’t even counting the words he’d already known.

And they were just the people he’d fired. Others had quit, citing stress, or frustration, or  the realisation that they had lost all self-respect as reasons for their departure.

And then each in turn had appeared on Oprah or Ellen pushing their quickly cobbled-together book, telling the “exclusive” inside story of life inside the White House, each portraying an administration running around in panic as if the building was on fire. And then each book in turn would top the bestseller lists, especially the one that portrayed an administration running around in panic because the building was on fire, on a chilly day when Trump had decided to microwave his socks to warm them.

And as they came and went, Trump would replace them, from an ever-dwindling pool, or a gradually draining swamp, if you like. He had long exhausted the supply of seasoned politicos, fellow millionaires and family members, and had taken to hiring ordinary Joes, having found that hiring only people called Joe made it easier to remember their names.

So his staff declined in experience, knowledge and age. Trump looked at his phone, at the tweet that he had sent out that very morning:

The media say that my new chief-of-staff (Joe) is a 17 year old sophomore student. FAKE NEWS!!! He’s actually a 17 year old studying semaphore, for his boy scout badges. His motto is BE PREPARED to make America great again!!!

He sighed as he read it. He had hoped it would sound defiant, but even to him it sounded lame.

And now he needed a new Secretary of State. The person would have to visit other countries, form bonds with other countries, occasionally bomb other countries. It was not a job that any idiot could do, he told himself, or he would have done it himself.

The Donald (no-one is sure why he called himself that upon taking office, Dick Chaney didn’t have the same inclination when becoming Vice-President) sat looking at the phone on his desk for a very long time. To anyone watching he would have looked like a great statesman deep in thought. In fact he was trying to remember how to get an outside line.

Eventually he picked up the phone and decisively pressed a button. This resulted in a short and confused conversation with the White House souvenir shop, during which he unintentionally managed to buy a bobble-head Eleanor Roosevelt.

He hung up and tried again. This time he heard the phone at the other end ring, and eventually a voice said “hello??”, two syllables that somehow managed to convey so much, that the person at the other end recognised the number but couldn’t quite believe it, that the person was both offended yet intrigued, and that the person hadn’t been in the public eye for quite a while now and was not happy about this.

“Hello, Hillary,” said Donald Trump.

 

 

If You Want This Choice Position

To celebrate the news that the film “Mary Poppins Returns” will be released later this year I am re-posting this story I wrote in October 2013, when mention was first made of a sequel…

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Mary Poppins reached into her carpet-bag.

Mary PoppinsShe took out a box of tea-bags, a sugar-bowl, a pint of milk, a packet of McVities Digestive Biscuits and a mug that said “Old Nannies Never Die, Their Knitting Just Unravels”. She made herself a cup of tea, then reached back into the bag, pulled out a rocking-chair, and sat into it.

Her mobile rang. She looked at the number, smiled to herself, then rejected it.

They wanted her to go back into the field again.

For years she had been the star employee of the Miss Chivers Till-The Wind-Changes Nanny Agency. Rescuing the Banks family from themselves had been only one of her achievements. It was she who had invented the naughty step, the restorative lollipop as a cure for grazed knees and the imaginary friend for shy children.

She had invented “quiet time”, a boon for parents all over the world.

But the world had changed, gradually, and younger nannies had come to work for the agency. They had laughed at her, at her hat, at her apron, and at her flying umbrella, which they referred to as “Virgin Airways”.

Which had been not just cruel, thought Mary, but totally inaccurate. Bert had been her lover for many years now. He was always cheerful, utterly devoted to her, and had an astonishingly long brush, which was useful for hard-to-get-at cobwebs.

He did still sound as if he was trying to chew toffee in Australian, but you can’t have everything.

Such as job security, for instance. Over time more and more of the work that came in had been allocated to the younger women, and one day Miss Chivers had called Mary into her office and had broken the news to her.

No-one wanted a nanny anymore. They wanted an au-pair.

The new star employee was Maria Poppinska, a blonde Eastern European with long legs and a longer list of things that were bad for children. Top of this list was the spoonful of sugar, which caused dental cavities and hyperactivity. She was a great believer in muesli, carrot smoothies and a vegetable she called broccoli, which Mary was sure she had invented herself.

Whilst Mary had believed in children being allowed to laugh themselves to ceiling-level, Maria believed in them being grounded, especially if they had done something wrong.

And Maria laughed scornfully at the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, on the basis that her own middle name was longer than it.

But now her job was vacant.

Mary had been, in her own words, kind but very firm. Maria, on the other hand, was a strict disciplinarian. It turned out, though, that this was only with the man of the house, and it had been the discovery of that by the woman of the house that had got her fired.

Now Mary sat in her rocking-chair on the balcony of her Cote D’Azur home, looking out at the sea.

She and Bert had lived here for many years. Having been made so suddenly redundant after spending her life grind, grind, grinding at that grindstone, and therefore facing an old-age of poverty, Mary had decided to take action. One night Bert had reverse-torpedoed himself down a chimney into the Dawes Tomes Mousely Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and had opened the door from the inside. With the Little Old Bird Woman keeping watch from the steps of St Paul’s across the road, Mary had stepped in and had emptied the entire contents of the safe into her cavernous carpet-bag.

They had escaped to France in a fishing boat belonging to a man with one leg named Smith (he had lost his other leg to a shark, so its name was irrelevant), and had made their way here.

Mary’s phone rang again, and again she rejected the call.

They wanted her to go out into the field again.

They could go fly a kite.

Written In Stone

“…. and finally, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods,” read the Burning Bush. “Got them?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Moses.

“I suppose you’ll want me to explain what ‘covet’ means,” said the Burning Bush. “It means-”

“It means ‘yearn to possess’,” said Moses.

“Oh,” said the Burning Bush, a bit crestfallen. “You’d be surprised how few people know that.”

“You reckon?” said Moses. “Over the past few weeks I’ve had the sea open in front of me, had manna drop from the sky whenever I’m hungry, and I’m now talking to a flaming shrub. You’d be surprised how hard I am to surprise.”

“I see your point,” said the Burning Bush. “Well, anyway, what do you think?”

Moses looked at the list for a long time. “It’s a bit all over the place, isn’t it?” he said at last. “I mean, why is thou shalt not kill number five? I’d have thought it would be higher than ‘go to church on Sunday’ and ‘don’t forget Mother’sDay’, but it’s stuck down near the unimportant stuff like don’t fart in public. Which, not that I look at it,” he went on, “doesn’t seem to be on the list.”

The Burning Bush looked at the stone again. “You’re right,” it said. “We may have to do an addendum later.”

“Also, my neighbour seems to be coming out of this better than I am,” said Moses. “Which is ironic since we live in the desert at the moment, but in any case the nearest thing I do have to a neighbour is Aaron in the next tent, who’s about a hundred-and-seven, and whose wife looks like a donkey, and whose donkey looks like a clothes rack. I can’t see myself over-coveting there.”

“Yes,” said the Burning Bush, “but you have to remember that you are Aaron’s neighbour.”

Moses thought about this, and about the lovely Mrs Moses, and about the way Aaron sometimes looked at her. His eyes narrowed.

“The dirty git,” he muttered. The Burning Bush was so startled by the vehemence in his voice that its flame momentarily popped out, then back on again. The effect was rather like a sneezing firework.

“Anyway,” said the Burning Bush, “I want you to take them back to your people -”

“It’s you, isn’t it?” said Moses.

“Er, who?,” said the Burning Bush.

“God,” said Moses. “You’re just God in disguise. I mean, Zeus does it all the time, appearing as swans and stuff -”

The Burning Bush glowed white-hot, as if in fury. A single finger of flame snaked out and pointed at the First Commandment.

“Er, not of course that Zeus exists,” said Moses hastily. “I just thought that you were so amazing that you had to be him.”

“Well, he does like his messengers to make an impression,” said the Burning Bush. “He feels it helps re-inforce the message. After I’m done here, I’ve to go off and start practicing to be a Star in the East.”

“Really?” said Moses. “Well, I suppose I’d better get back to the others. Let me run through these one last time. ‘First, I am the Lord thy -‘”

“Oh, you don’t have to memorise them,” said the Burning Bush. “Take the tablet with you.”

“Tablet?” said Moses.

“A flat thing with information on it,” said the Burning Bush. “We’re expecting them to be very big one day.”

Moses put his two hands under the stone and lifted it. The top caught him under the chin, ramming his jaws against each other.

“Very big?” he snorted. “It’s smaller you should be making them.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” said the Burning Bush.

Moses started down the hill, but had only gone a couple of yards before he caught his sandal in the hem of his robe. He stumbled, and the stone dropped onto his toe, then lay face upwards on the ground. Moses yelped and hopped in a circle, holding his foot.

“Ah-” he began, loudly, then quickly scanned the stone. “-bollocks!” he continued, almost triumphantly.

The Burning Bush sighed. “The list really does need work,” it said.

 

It’s A Surprise

“It’s called what?”

“Secret Santa,” said Adam.

“Why is it called that?” asked Eve.

“Well,” said Adam. “because it’s a secret.”

“And Santa?”

“I’m not sure, really” admitted Adam, “though whenever I hear the word I get an image in my head of a man with a beard, giving you stuff.”

“God, you mean,” said Eve.

“Not quite,” said Adam doubtfully. “Anyway, do you want to do it?”

“Guess so,” said Eve. “How does it work?”

“Well, you draw a name out of a hat -”

“What’s a hat?” asked Eve.

“It’s something you wear on cold days,” said Adam.

“What are cold days?” asked Eve.

Adam sighed. The perfection of the Garden of Eden very occasionally had its drawbacks.

“Forget that part,” said Adam, holding out one closed fist. “You can draw the name out of my hand.”

He opened the fist and Eve looked into his palm. “There’s only one piece of paper,” she said.

“Well, of course,” said Adam. “You can’t get yourself.”

Eve picked up the paper and opened it. “It’s you,” she said.

“You’re not supposed to tell,” said Adam. Eve glared at him. “This is a stupid idea,” she said.

“It’s tradition,” said Adam.

“Tradition?” snorted Eve. “This is year nought.”

“Well, traditions have to start somewhere,” said Adam. He picked up another piece of paper, and studied the name written there.

“Why, honey, whoever did you get?” asked Eve sweetly. Adam ignored her. “Meet you back here in an hour,” he said.

They met an hour later. “You go first,” said Eve, excitedly.

Adam handed her a fig-leaf.

“Seriously?” she said. “in a garden that has absolutely everything, including roses, diamonds, adorable kittens, and everything that you would need to build an iPhone 8, and I don’t even know what that last thing is, I just know that I want one, you decided to get me a leaf?” She sat it on the top of her head. “Perhaps I could wear it as a hat,” she said scornfully.

“I’m sorry,” said Adam. “For some reason I thought you’d really want it.”

Eve raised her eyes to heaven. “Look what I got you,” she said, handing him an apple. “It’s the only one of its kind.”

“Oh, wow.” said Adam, impressed. “You shouldn’t have.”

“You’re not wrong there,” muttered God, looking down unnoticed from above.

Adam and Eve sat in silence for a few moments. Then Eve spoke. “It’s strange,” she said, “but I suddenly feel that this fig-leaf is the best present anyone’s ever been given, ever.”

“Me too,” said Adam, surprised. “In fact, will you get me one for Christmas?”

 

The Tooth Is Out There

The return of Docc the Neandertal Doctor, and his patient patient Ugg…

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Docc’s practice had improved since we last met him.

He was now an expert in aromatherapy, clearing his patients’ sinus problems by getting them to sniff small bowls of sloth-poo. He used faith-healing, with his catch-phrase “trust me, I’m the Docc”. He used reflexology, rapping people sharply on the knee with his club, though he did use this only on people who hadn’t paid him for the aromatherapy.

He even dealt with womens’ complaints, learning as he did so that most of their complaints were about the lack of help with the cavework that they got from their menfolk.

And he had moved into dentistry, which is why we find Ugg once again walking hesitantly into Docc’s cave.

“Ah, Ugg,” said Docc. “What seems to be the trouble?”

Ugg pointed to his mouth.

“Your ugliness?” said Docc. “Can’t do anything about that, I’m afraid. I don’t do cosmetic surgery.”

Ugg shook his head, which elicited a sharp stab of agony that caused him to yelp in pain and slap his hand to his cheek, which caused him to yelp again.

“Toothache?” asked Docc.

Ugg went to nod, thought better of it, then simply raised one thumb.

“No problem,” said Docc. “Sit up onto this slab and open your mouth.”

Ugg did as he was asked, and Docc held a torch up to his mouth while he looked inside. Ugg began to sweat, which is what usually happens when someone holds a flaming torch a few inches from your face.

“I see the one,” said Docc. “I’m afraid it’s going to have to come out.” He handed Ugg a small stone goblet. “Here, take a mouthful of this.”

Ugg looked into the goblet, which contained a luridly pink liquid. He poured some into his mouth, and discovered that it had a tangy, metallic taste.

“It’s just water from the stream behind the cave,” said Docc. “I’m not sure why it’s that colour, I think some dying animal might be bleeding into the water somewhere further upstream.”

Ugg spat the liquid violently across the cave.

“Very good,” said Docc. “I was just going to ask you to do that.”

He started to work in Ugg’s mouth. Ugg could feel poking and tugging, had Docc’s fingers in his mouth and had his jaws open so wide that they were beginning to ache. Clearly, he was in no position to speak.

“So,” asked Docc, “how’s the wife?”

“Hiii,” said Ugg.

“Fine, eh?” said Docc. “And what about work?”

“Hay ho hay ho,” said Ugg.

“Same old same old?” said Docc. “I know how you feel. Going anywhere on holiday this year?”

Ugg came out with a long unintelligible sound that Docc guessed was a probably a village in Wales. “Very nice,” he said. It was only many hours later that he realised that Ugg had said “oh, for feck’s sake”.

“Now,” said Docc. “This isn’t going to hurt a bit.” He stepped away from the slab and thrust his right hand towards the cave mouth. Ugg roared in pain.

“See?” said Docc. “It actually hurt a lot.”

Ugg opened his mouth to shout at him in anger, then stopped in surprise. He realised that the pain in his mouth had gone, as had one of his back teeth. “That’s amazing, Docc,” he said. “What did you do?”

Docc went outside the cave and returned a few moments later holding Ugg’s tooth, which was attached by a piece of string to a small round object. “The idea,” said Docc, “is that you attach the tooth to a door and then slam it, but since I’ve no idea what a door is I’ve come up with this.” He showed Ugg the device. “I’ve made it circular so it will roll. I throw it out of the cave and it runs down the hill, taking the tooth with it. I called it a ‘wheeeel’, because of the noise it makes when it’s rolling.”

Ugg was almost hopping up and down in excitement. “This is an incredible invention, Docc,” he said. “We could put it on the sled that we drag carcasses back from hunting with.”

Docc stared at him. “Nah,” he said. “Sleds don’t get toothache.”

 

Blood Drive

I’m in the car. Alone. I’m driving towards the local hospital.

I look down. There’s blood on the passenger seat beside me.

My blood.

I take a deep breath and keep driving, for what seems like forever. Other cars pass me, filled with normal people doing normal things, like listening to the radio, or picking their nose.

I’m not doing either of those.

At last I reach the end of the motorway, and there it is, my final destination. I turn left at the roundabout, past the sign that says “St Colmcille’s Hospital”, past the front entrance, and past the Accident and Emergency Department.

They cannot help me, not today.

At the very end of the hospital driveway I park, badly, because that’s all I can manage, in front of a sign that reads “Mortuary”.

I climb from the car and, with blood on my hands, go through the door next to the sign.

Could it BE any more Friday the Thirteenth?

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Ok, so this morning I went to my doctor for a routine check-up and she took blood samples (that’s the kind of thing that happens when you’ve had stuff happen with your heart). She was concerned that they wouldn’t get to the hospital before the weekend and, since I don’t work on Friday, I offered to deliver them to the laboratory there, a room which is located, as it happens, beside the mortuary.

 

 

And the bad parking? Oh, I’ve never been able to park properly.