The Elixir Of The Gods

Elrond told Sam to get in the barrel.

“But its full of piss, Sir Elrond.”

“IT IS THE ELIXIR OF THE GODS.”

Sam looked terrified by the shouting elf, and apprehensively climbed into the barrel. The elixir of the gods soaked through Sam’s rubbish hobbit clothes. It was horribly warm. Suddenly Gandalf popped up from behind the barrel, and dunked Sam’s head under. Gandalf and Elrond started to laugh.

“Hobbits really are amazing creatures,” chuckled Gandalf. “You can learn all there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years you can dunk them in a barrel of piss and you will laugh and luagh and laugh.”

Sam started to cry. “Oh, Sam” Frodo said indulgently, laughing. Boromir looked on from the doorway, scowling. Gimli started to sing about gold.

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Notes:

1. Written on February 9th, 2009

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Flood

I was returning to my house after the flood. I’d been warned about the possibility of wild animals having taken up refuge in the building, scared and lost and possibly slightly mad with hunger and terror and post traumatic stress and all the other things animals feel I suppose. Badgers, especially, we were warned about, washed out from their setts and forced up into our homes here halfway up the hills.

On the bus I dreamt a bit about rabid pine martens trapped in the pipes, about bedraggled cats clawing at my hands as I reached under the bed. Rats in the bathroom, crows in the loft. The garden a writhing marsh of eels, the patio a croaking pond of frogs.

None of my dreams involved badgers because I’d never seen a badger and didn’t really believe they existed round here.

I approached from the back, stepping through a gap in the trees that lined the garden. The shed was a write-off, half sunk down into the mud, the lawnmower sodden in a puddle of filth that I didn’t have the heart to try and rescue it from.

I never really used it anyway.

At this point I feared the worst. I could see that a side window on the garage had been smashed, and one on the back porch, too, and I had a quick vision of the house being knee deep in sludge, slugs and snails spread thick across the walls, everything rotting beyond the hope of salvage or repair.

But inside the house everything was largely okay. There wasn’t even that much damage really. The lino in the kitchen was a bit damp and stained, but the sandbags had mostly done their job. And the carpet in the hall was miraculously unharmed. The house must tilt upwards from the back to the front, I thought. I never knew that before.

In the living room there was an alligator on the settee, watching tv. He seemed to be wearing one of my shirts, all neatly buttoned up down the front as far as I could see, which wasn’t far, because he was lying down, his head hanging lazily over the armrest.

He was also wearing a pair of my jeans, his back legs poking out through the pockets, his tail stretching one of the legs near to breaking point. The other trouser leg hung down onto the floor like a half-discarded skin.

“What are doing in my house?” the alligator said.

“This is my house,” I said. “I live here.”

I was talking to an alligator.

“No you don’t.”

How could you argue with that, I wondered.

“You’re wearing my shirt,” I tried. “And one of my shoes.”

“I’m wearing my shirt,” he said. “And my shoe.”

His voice had that quality whereby everything he said made you want to punch him in the face, but you knew you never would and also knew that if any punching occurred he’d be the one to instigate it and there’d be nothing you could do about it, because you’re a fucking coward and he hates you and everything about you.

And also he was an alligator. Alligators bloody love punching people.

“I’ve lived here 12 years,” I said.

“Yeah well you weren’t here when I came in.”

“I don’t have to be all the time. It’s still mine.”

“Nah,” he said.

I started to say something I think but he turned the sound up on the tv really loud and I couldn’t make myself heard over the sound of Jeremy Clarkson sarcastically crashing a car.

I noticed he had a shoe on the end of his tail. No sock though.

I’ve never really trusted men who wear shoes with no socks.

I’ve never really trusted alligators that much either.

Another alligator bustled into the room through the hatch that leads to the kitchen that you can pass food through if you want but which I never had because I lived on my own and If I wanted to eat in here I walked round from the kitchen holding my plate in my hands because it was only about 5 metres away.

She was the most beautiful alligator I’ve ever seen.

She was 100% nude.

I blushed and looked at the floor before I knew what I was doing and then I realised what I was doing and I thought what am I doing of course she’s not wearing any clothes she’s an alligator.

But then why was the other alligator wearing clothes.

It was a confusing situation.

“How come you aren’t wearing any clothes,” I shouted to the naked lady alligator over the sound of Richard Hammond’s xenophobic laughter burbling out of the tv.

“She’s a fucking crocodile,” said the beclothed male alligator. “Of course she’s not wearing any
clothes.”

He switched off the tv and glared at me.

“Well, you’re wearing clothes,” I said.

“I’m an alligator,” he said. “Are you fucking stupid, or something?”

The sexy crocodile giggled and I could feel my face go all red with shame and my heart ache with unrequited love for a crocodile I never even knew existed 33 seconds ago.

She flopped down from the hatch she was hanging half out of and flapped across the floor towards what I hoped now was her father or maybe her brother and not her husband or boyfriend or whatever the correct alligator/crocodile relationship term would be and she rose up on her hind legs and awkwardly kissed him on his huge lizardine lips and my heart nearly broke in two.

I’m sure the alligator turned to look at me smugly at this point but I might well have been imagining it.

“How did you get that shirt buttoned up, anyway?” I said.

“Clara did it up for me. She’s surprisingly dextrous,” he leered, as Clara held up her arm and wiggled her fingers at me.

“This really is my house, you know,” I sighed. “You can’t just barge in here and claim it as your own. It’s not right.”

I stopped then because I was afraid I might cry and I didn’t want to cry, not in front of Clara, even though she was a crocodile and wouldn’t even know what tears were let alone what they meant.

I was pretty sure crocodiles cannot cry.

“What’s this guy talking about, honey?” Clara said to the alligator. “You told me you bought this place with your insurance payout.”

“I never said I bought it,” said the alligator, the smug confidence drained from his voice.

Somehow this made me want to punch him even more. “I just sort of implied it, I suppose. I thought they’d all gone for good this time.”

“You nothing but a goddamn liar and you always will be,” Clara screamed. “Mother was right about you.”

At the end of this outburst she burst into tears and I realised I knew much less about crocodiles than I thought.

“Are you okay?” I said

I crouched down so as to be nearer to her face while I spoke, as I thought it seemed a bit threatening looming over her really. But now I was all the way down there at ground level I felt slightly absurd, like I was infantilising her in some way. So I stood back up sharply and took a few steps back and, basically, knowing what to do with your body while you’re talking to a crocodile is all a bit confusing. It’s a whole new fucking ball game really.

Body language has a long way to go before it’s universal.

She probably thought I was acting weird just by standing up on two legs anyway. She could probably see my socks and was busy wondering what the hell they were.

“Im fine,” she sniffled. And then she started wailing, “Oh my god it’s so unfair I can’t believe you could treat us all like this!” and thrashing her tail back and forth and it was heartbreaking to see.

“I’ll, er, get you a drink from the kitchen,” I said. “Is tea okay?”

She nodded her big teary-eyed face up at me and I resolved to make her the best cup of tea the world has ever known.

I got a couple of mugs out from the cupboard and went over to give them a quick rinse in the sink. Then I’m ashamed to say I screamed and dropped the mugs and they smashed all over the floor.

“What the fuck is going on in here?” the alligator bellowed, his head poking through the hatch and looking right at me with its cold dead eyes and its fixed unnerving grin.

“The sink’s full of crocodiles,” I said, feebly, realising as I said it that that’s probably not actually particularly scary at all for a crocodile.

“They’re alligators,” he said.

“But they aren’t wearing any clothes,” I said.

He rolled his eyes at me. “They’re babies.”

“And you said Clara’s a crocodile.”

“Are you suggesting I’m not the father?”

He lunged forward aggressively but luckily he was too wide to get much further through the hole and into the kitchen.

“I thought maybe, I dunno, parthenogenesis, or something…”

“That’s snakes, you cretin.”

“And komodo dragons,” I said. “I saw it on a David Attenborough programme once.”

“Do I look like a komodo dragon?”

I shrugged.

“Make mine a coffee will you.”

And with that he slithered back into the living room.

When I brought the drinks in the two of them were all coiled up together on the settee, smiling, laughing. Kissing, too, I think. I slammed the tray down as hard as I could on the coffee table without spilling a drop. The spoons rattled deafeningly against the saucers.

The kissing went on and it went on and I’d almost finished my tea and still it went on.

“Your tea’s getting cold,” I said finally.

There was one more kiss and then they turned towards me and their cups of tea. It was a mess of tongues and broken china and spilt milk and sodden biscuits but they looked happy enough with the result. Probably a bit sweet for my liking but there’s no accounting for taste.

“We’ve been talking…” Clara said.

“Maybe we can come to some arrangement,” the alligator finished.

“What sort of arrangement?”

“About the house,” said Clara.

“We could have the living room,” said the alligator.

“You can’t sleep in here,” I said.

“Yes I could.” That was the alligator again.

“There’s no bed,” I said.

“We don’t need a bed!” Clara said. “We could sleep under the coffee table. You wouldn’t even know we’re here”

“But it’s glass,” I said. “Wouldn’t you rather something more private?”

They shrugged their shoulders, which was quite frightening in the alligator and incredibly charming in Clara.

“And what about your children? They aren’t living in the kitchen sink.”

“The bath?”

“No!”

“We could keep them in here,” said Clara. “In a big bucket.”

“I… actually that might work,” I said. “I think I’ve got a paddling pool in the garage.”

“What’s a paddling pool?” Clara asked and I tried explaining it but they didn’t know what rubber was and they definitely didn’t understand what I meant about inflating something and in the end I gave up trying to explain and just said I’d get it out from the garage and show them the stupid bloody thing and they could make up their minds about whether it would be suitable or not for their children to live in.

I went out the front door and walked across the front garden, which was slightly overgrown but otherwise perfectly okay.

I was just opening the garage door when I thought to myself that maybe I’d been tricked and this whole thing was a scam. The tears, the children, the coquettish smile, everything. Why was I coming to an arrangement with them. This was my house. I didn’t have to let them stay just because they’d broken in and spun some ridiculous story up out of nothing.

They’d probably stolen those children like they’d stolen my clothes.

What even was their story?

Fuck it, I’m going to go back in there and tell them to get the fuck out of my house. I’m going to yank that shoe off that fucking fuck’s fucking tail and smash his fucking brains out. Watch top gear on my fucking tv would you? Put your feet up on my fucking couch? You fucking cunt. I’m not fucking having it. I’m not fucking having any of it.

The garage door swung up. A badger exploded out of the darkness and bit out my throat and I bled to death right there on the drive.

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Notes:

1. Written on September 6th and 7th, 2017

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A Play

I was watching a play. It wasn’t a very good play. We were sat up in the rafters, looking down at the room below. It was set out like a school classroom – rows of grey desks, uncomfortable looking green chairs, a blackboard. A pupil, oversized in his chair, uncomfortable in his uniform, a pen gripped in his fist like a crucifix. And a teacher, standing, impassive, implacable, administering the punishment with no hint of pleasure, just blank indifferent duty.

An hour of near silence, of tedium, of watching this man, this boy, copying down the text from the blackboard, from a textbook, from the teachers recitals of poetry and history. An hour of growing unease, a slow and steady increase in the animosity of the teacher towards her pupil, verbal hectoring blossoming into physical violence, torture, finally excruciating bloody death for the schoolchild beneath the barrage of her blows.

I left hurriedly at the end, baffled by the enthusiasm of the crowd around me as they rose en masse to give the performers a standing ovation, baffled by what they could have found to appreciate in such an empty and unpleasant performance. As I reached the bottom of the stairs and began the long walk down the corridor towards the exit I heard a door open behind me, footsteps on the tiled floor. And a voice, loud, clear, condescending.

“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”

And I stopped and turned and followed her into the classroom.

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Notes:

1. Written on 26th February, 2016

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Tale #8: The Three Wishes

In the country hereabouts there lived a poor farmer with twelve children and a loving wife. The children ate so much that the farmer always went to bed hungry and one day he said to his wife, “I wish, just once, that I could have a whole meal to myself.”

That week a sudden snow fell, and all of his children were overcome by illness and died. On Sunday, his wife roasted a turkey but in her grief she could not eat, and the farmer had it all to himself. He packed it in a basket and took it out into the woods with him for lunch.

Under a willow tree he sat down, and remembering his ill-spoken wish, wept with guilt and said, “I wish my children were here with me now to share this meal.”

The basket by his side began then to shake and looking inside he saw the turkey begin to judder and dance, and then, one by one, all twelve of his children emerged from the turkey’s ragged carcass.

They stood around him in a circle and he fed each one in turn until there was no more meat left. Seeing them all before him again, the farmer was overcome with joy and said, “I wish that all of you will always have enough to eat, no matter how little is left for me.” At this, the children grabbed hold of their father and pulled him deep beneath the ground and in the dark places there fed forever upon his soul.

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Notes:

1. Written on October 9th, 2013
2. The premise of this is taken from (I’m probably supposed to say inspired by) the short story Macario, by B. Traven, published in 1953.
3. There’s also clearly an element of The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs (first published in 1902)
4. And also of course Charles Perrault’s The Ridiculous Wishes (from 1697), and all other fairy tale variants thereof.

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The Videotape

He held the videotape up in the air and said “This is the most important artefact in the world” and then he put it in the videoplayer and then he pressed play and then we watched a lost episode of doctor who where colin baker took his trousers off and put them on his arms and over his head and said he was an elephant now a two trunked elephant from the planet elephontotunk.

Peri screamed and so did bonnie langford.

Before the end the videotape got chewed up and everybody cheered.

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Notes:

1. Written on September 22nd, 2016

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