Digital Ischemia

01/02/2019

Father Episodes

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 15:00

The perils of parental cohabitation: vignettes of eccentricity

Ten years ago, my father arrived for a few months. He stayed five years. He found the place comfortable? Oh no, it was “tolerable”.

——

My concern was always aroused on returning home to find my father sitting in the hall. More so if both front and back doors were fully open allowing a

30mph wind to flow unimpeded through the house, and windows ditto. He was inevitably monitoring some disaster recovery operation / resting during a more active course of same / awaiting my return to explain some destruction / awaiting same to register his dissatisfaction with my substandard domestic furnishings or appliances.

If he was sitting in the hall with the doors closed, he was awaiting the postman.

As soon as I reached the threshold, he would pronounce a well rehearsed summary.

“A blue smoke episode!” This coinage described the regular occurrence where he had commenced frying a slab of meat, become bored with waiting, wandered off, and returned to heavy smog and charcoal. This was attributed to my hob being “peculiar”.

A frequent alternate was: “your washing machine has added a tissue to my laundry, shredded it and deposited it evenly throughout the load. Consequently, in carrying the finished load through to my room, I have scattered a fine layer of bits of tissue along the full length of the hall. I have been picking them up for twenty minutes now. I’m exhausted.”

——

One time I had spent a good hour shovelling snow to clear the drive. I found kneeling more comfortable for my back as it meant less bending and lifting. When I re-entered the house after this practical but style-unconscious exercise, Father was in position in the hall, having well mulled his commentary in anticipation.

“Bad genes. … Your mother’s.” Chuckle. Exit.

Notwithstanding that pragmatism coupled with utter disregard for appearance was closer to his mode and the antithesis of other parent, the highlight was the midway pivot as he realised that the mulling had failed to anticipate the elephant trap.

——

On my return from work I was greeted by the old boy standing in the doorway with the bottom half of his trousers sopping wet.

“The showerhead got away from me.”

What he was doing in the cubicle fully clothed was never explained. (It wasn’t cleaning; such meniality was outwith his purview. In any case, his shower wasn’t dirty. The “black bits” arrived in the water, just as the layer of grey dust that rapidly accumulated on his piles of everything derived from lorries and came in through the windows. The fact that these symptoms were not expressed anywhere else in the house was ignored. More of windows anon.)

——

Early one summer morning I noticed a shimmering on the kitchen counter at Father’s end. My kitchen had been combined with a utility room by replacing the dividing wall with a ‘breakfast bar’. This allowed dual use and served as a convenient demarcation between zones: mine being relatively clean and organised; his being a total clutter of packets and jars and spills. The most frequently used were at the front ranging back to those entirely forgotten, pressed against the wall. The cupboards were already stuffed full of unused crockery and groceries he had brought with him and also forgotten about. I usually avoided looking at that end because I felt like the walls were coming in at me.

On this occasion the counter surface was moving. Among the sticky jam jars, stained cutlery, spilled sugar, splashed juice, biscuit crumbs and residual chocolate powder were ants. I peered in.

The ants were fascinating. They were actively surveying and collecting crumbs and sugar granules. Once loaded, each set off along the counter over the cupboards, around the wall, in front of the sink, under Father’s fridge, diagonally down the bin cupboard door and into the skirting by the back door. This was a well established highway in both directions, connecting somewhere beyond the door to some hidden metropolis under the slabs.

ants on kitchen counter

I felt a curious mixture of concern and elation. I was fascinated and revolted. I carefully checked my end and with relief found it all clear. Amusement recommenced. Before leaving for work I wrote Father a short warning note. I imagined him stumbling in for breakfast, his bleary eyes failing to detect small legs and antennae until they were well up his spoon arm.

Sadly there followed a chemical genocide as we were past the point of tools of dissuasion. The pied piper himself became weary of crushing them individually with a paper towel as they encroached, following their irresistible urge to climb the sugar vapour gradient. Plus I had spotted one or two intrepid explorers in the vicinity of my cupboards. Unacceptable. Still, I’m impressed by their foraging capability.

——

“The bathroom light shade has disintegrated.”

This seemed unlikely. It had been recently installed by an electrician to replace two spotlight fittings which were restricted to 60 watts each, and thus apparently insufficient for Father’s shaving activity.

The electrician had been introduced because the fusebox had blown, and continued to blow despite being reset. The fuse culprit was traced to … the lights circuit. Father had ignored the warning sticker and pushed in two 100 watt bulbs. Being incandescent, the fittings had quickly overheated, the wires in the ceiling had melted into each other, and we were lucky the loft hadn’t caught ‘light’.

I think he was after a theatre dressing room style mirror, framed by two dozen 40 watt bulbs. He made similar demands of his adjustable reading lamp and became incensed when the weight of the galactic strength bulb caused it to constantly droop.

You can understand, then, his disappointment when this new bathroom installation provided only one diffuse 60 watt equivalent CFL bulb, further obscured by a clear glass cover. He decided to ‘upgrade forthwith’ to a 100 watt equivalent bulb. Frustratingly this new bulb was larger and prevented the glass dome from reaching its holder clips. He had carefully wrestled and shoved until it shattered over the bathroom floor. Ideal place for broken glass.

——

Things became a little less humorous with the heating. This was required to be on 24 hours per day just in case the temperature should dip below 22°C. I had turned off the radiators in my rooms as the infrared radiation from his quarters was plenty. Simultaneously, and counter-intuitively, windows fore and aft were required to be ajar to allow a gentle, fresh breeze to flow through at all times. This arrangement came to my attention early on when a repeatedly creaking door kept me awake. He was unmoved by my ‘hyperbolae’ about heating the entire neighbourhood and the remarkable 80% increase in oil consumption.

In the height of summer, during a rare heatwave, from the garden I was astonished to hear the boiler fire up. I swiftly came indoors to query with himself.

“Yes. As I usually do before my shower.” And he would not budge despite persistent argument around the fact that it was actually very warm and he would be complaining about it later, a portable heater could heat just the bathroom if that was necessary, towels could be warmed elsewhere, etc. It was a habit and not to be interfered with.

——

Father was sitting at the kitchen counter scrabbling with a plastic bag of bananas. I wondered if he was having trouble opening it. But no, he liked to keep his bananas in the bag, so they could sweat for several days in the bowl. He would then notice they were brown, complain with disgust about their lack of longevity, and throw them neatly away, still in the bag.

On this occasion it was the bag itself that was cause for concern. He looked up.

“Where do your bananas come from?”

I’m interested in the provenance of my produce, and anticipated a new nugget of ethical consideration. My bananas were loose and helpfully stickered, so I reported back immediately.

“Costa Rica.”

Still scrabbling, with increasing frustration, he explained, “avoid Colombian bananas. Laced with cocaine.”

——

As usual I reversed at full tilt into the drive, stopping just short of crushing a gutter down-pipe. This cathartically expunged my last vestiges of my office tension. I noticed with alarm that Father’s parked car was occupied and its engine running. A few seconds later and our similar reckless reversing habits could have collided. Moving swiftly on, I waved to the coated and hatted phizog in the wing mirror but zero response. He seemed to be concentrating.

After about 25 minutes I noticed his car was again sitting in the drive, chugging away. Shortly thereafter himself entered the hall, removed coat and hat, and expressed surprise that I had snuck past him.

“Entertaining trip?” I enquired, imaging perhaps he’d whistled along to the post box or other local destination that took longer by car than on foot.

“I was tuning the radio.”

——

Unfortunately the entertainment value of the episodes increasingly soured. First there were several occasions when I found the freezer door had been open all night. The compressor had been powering away to no avail. The fridge was tepid. The freezer contents were soft and damp. Father had been the last to visit the kitchen for his statutory sugar-laden ‘supper’. J’accuse!

Having found the fridge at his end of the kitchen insufficient, he had commandeered the top half of mine too, and a reasonable two-thirds of the freezer. Sometimes, when lifting things out, he fumbled the fridge door and slammed it with his elbow en pirouette. This created enough air pressure within the fridge compartment to reverse the flow of chilled air from the freezer below, and, on particularly vigorous occasions, force the freezer door open. When I pointed this out, he naturally countered with “poor design”.

There were also several instances which conclusively revealed his freezer drawer jutting out and preventing the door closing. He denied any awareness. Mind on higher things.

I became tired of trying to consume all my carefully baked and frozen cakes, assorted produce and leftovers in one day. I installed a temperature alarm. The problem didn’t recur, but Father frequently swore at the continual beeping while he stood for 20 minutes with the door wide open, restocking his provisions.

——

He perpetuated an irrational war on insect invaders. He was usually more successful with stealth tactics, picking them off individually, as with the ants. Yet they had their revenge. Swatting flies often resulted in disorder and destruction around the battlefield, and many distant expletives.

The crushing of large spiders was the greatest folly, however. He would leap out of bed late at night and fall into a crouch, poised over the skirting with a carefully funnelled paper towel to absorb the blood—rather like gravy actually—and collect the carcass.

This sudden rush of activity and change of attitude from the horizontal unfortunately upset his balance. With the spider looking on, Father slowly somersaulted backward across the carpet and came to rest against the bed, woefully disoriented. Defeat was admitted pro tem until his blood pressure and proprioception returned to operational levels.

——

One morning I was surprised to find him at breakfast before me. He was already chuckling at his prepared report.

“Upon waking, I looked at the clock, which said 8AM, so I leapt out of bed. Having been through my bathroom routine, I returned to collect my supper plate, and saw that it was in fact 6AM. I shall be ahead of myself all day!”

——

Meanwhile Father’s stock control methodology became extreme ‘just-in-case’. This was ironic at the same time that mine became conversely extreme ‘just-in-time’ to reduce wastage during Father episodes or power-cuts. As my space requirement diminished, he filled any additional available fridge space. However, like the counter tops, unused packets inevitably migrated backward and coalesced like a layer of sediment beginning its geological phase.

Sometimes prompted by my complaints of noxious drippage, sometimes just from an eery sense of losing storage capacity, Father would investigate the deeper recesses of the fridge. He would find cucumbers liquified in their plastic bags, potatoes having valiantly sprouted, withered and returned to primeval slime, cheese that was no longer hospitable to mould and had desiccated to pumice. He found these discoveries hilarious.

——

If I was not present to be regaled, and he grew tired at his post in the hall, he would pen a memo. Another of his habits, retained for its perceived professional prestige, was illegible script, even in capitals. “HALL LIGHT BUSTICATED.” Appended to this was either a small alien emoticon, his self-identified caricature, or his initials, if his timeframe had lapsed and he found himself joyously revisiting the 1950s, dictating to his secretary.

Sometimes the original message would be overlaid with a different colour of scribble to the triumphant effect that he had resolved the problem. When the second colour was the grey of one of my handy pencils, this would involve considerable scratching and scoring of the paper, culminating in a barely visible complaint about the quality of my writing instruments.

——

When snow was swirling but the lights were still on, I would work from home. This included telephone conversations with colleagues. Often, in the middle of a desperately dull discussion of business process revision to ensure the capture of… by which point my forehead was resting on the keyboard with demotivation, we would be interrupted: a click, a series of beeps, and a pause with heavy breathing as the expected dialling noises failed to sound.

Once the departure from standard operating procedure had registered—the ongoing conversation not having registered—I would loudly insert my request.

“Could you possibly wait until I’ve finished?”

“Ah. Forgot you were here. Apologies.” Click.

Luckily this never happened while I was speaking to my manager, or it would have precipitated yet another discussion on business process revision to ensure that my home working environment was conducive to…

——

How he eventually came to depart is another tale of eccentric bafflement. He continues in much the same fashion elsewhere.

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05/01/2019

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 12/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

I was fizzing with excitement as I approached Svendsen’s glasshouse. My hand floated to the door handle of its own accord. It was a turner, but so slack as to be redundant. The shiny, worn push-plate above it had survived better. I adored these and the missing paint from the edges. Carried away by the romance, I expected to be greeted like an old friend, a favourite customer or a revered benefactor. No-one made eye-contact.

That is to say all eye-contact was with the near end of assorted binoculars and telescopes. All focus was on the ridge of small hills. Ah, the birds. A party of twitchers? No cakes, then.

I tentatively enquired, “what have you got?” Then a final inspiration struck: “Dunlins?”
Drumhaugh’s dunlins?! I really was too excited. “Twelve?”
“Naw. Drumlins.”
I hadn’t seen that coming. And yet I had seen every single one of them coming. Every single one of the twelve of them, lining the blasted glen, as I came up the road: ‘mounds or small hills in a group.’

We, that is to say, they watched the small hills for a considerable time. I sniffed among the neglected foliage: I was prepared to lick a tropical flower if it tasted of vanilla.

Eventually I pinpointed the rear of Svendsen’s head and casually enquired about the provenance of the nimps.
“They kindae go with the territory.”
“Because it’s such a wonderful wilderness?”
Svendsen turned to look at me like I was half-baked with bodged icing.
“Because you’re living in a hag’s hoose?”
I stuttered, “It’s a fishing hut!”
Another ornithological obsessive cried, “crone’s cottage!”
I continued bleating. “It’s called ‘ha’e grouse’ or something…!?”
“Hag house.”
Obvious now. Rotten, crooked… ‘h’ becomes ‘r’. “I’m leaving tomorrow anyway.”
“Dinnae think so.” I didn’t know which of them said this, or rather mumbled into the recesses of the opticals.
“Who’s going to stop me?! Imaginary creatures twelve centimetres tall?!”
Svendsen quietly muttered, “try them.” At some unseen signal he continued, “but first, try this.”

There followed the smack and shudder of a door over-opening, an angry rustle of foliage, and a small group cheer of self-congratulation at disaster averted. An enormous celebratory meal of a cake, with several courses served in several articulated constructions, lurched into view, borne upon several pairs of very small legs. Woohoo!

On the twelve days of Christmas my new hov-el gave to me…? I’ll get back to you.

END

04/01/2019

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 11/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

My advent aviary and I enjoyed our afternoon sleigh rides so much that we have continued our daily strolls along the glen tracks since the snow melted. Not very far initially, what with inappropriate footgear and, well, feet. Consequently I exhumed a pallet and filched a couple pairs of ladder wheels from the shed emporium. We now have a wheeled sleigh with more comfy straw and we trundle until I get tired of the rattling. I pull the affair with a length of twine. I like the walk and have no desire to sit in bird shit as the nine of us free-wheel into a bog.

We headed downstream.

Bad choice. Error. There were probably only one or two, but they sounded like a whole herd of rabid cats in heat. Nimps banishing the last vestiges of their hangovers with the absolute worst tiny bagpipe-playing.

I had a nauseating vision of the laddies troupe reeling to this cacophony. Yet they would need to be going about the place pretty soon to prepare their grand finale. Santa, the hens, the collared doves and I about-turned and instead made a small foray in the opposite direction.

We found ourselves on the road, as the sound seemed to carry along the water like Sirens wailing. Before long we reached the limit of Svendsen’s estate. His sign was in much better condition: Drumshaugh. Drums, eh? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We wandered in, curious about our new-found favourite neighbour’s activities the day before the party. It all looked quite different coming from the other side, and what I thought was the mill turned out to be a bakery, but on a scale of stupendous proportions. The smell had us all salivating; me for the vanilla; them for the grain.

We tilted toward the first window, pressing our noses/beaks in the traditional fashion. Through the steam we could make out industrial scale conveyor belts of cakes, tarts, pies and patisseries. A collective of feathered confectioners attended the production line… with pointy ears.

What were these fellows: Turnstones? Snipe? Goblins? I’ll look it up, but what was more remarkable was how they were skilfully operating shiny chrome levers with their long, elegant toes, whilst manoeuvring shiny chrome nozzles with their long, elegant beaks, thereby producing the most enchanting rainbow of sugar-based decorations. Cakes of all sizes were being adorned with the fanciest of furls and flora. A thoroughly diabetes-inducing team icing effort.

Elven Sandpipers Piping.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas concludes at part 12

03/01/2019

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 10/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Woke up far too early. Excited. Drat. Festive spirits probably dripping through the roof. But I was confident against all probability that today would be a quiet and amusing-encounter-free day.

After fearlessly performing feeding duties, I took a wee wander around the yard; what had seemed neglected and empty to begin with was growing on me. Things I hadn’t noticed before began to seem enchantingly wild: an old oak tree trunk enmeshed in lattice of ivy stems. I peered.

Something I was definitely sure there hadn’t been: a little fold of sparkly pink paper. At a node where two ivy stems crossed, the postage stamp sized origami was carefully tucked to sit as a diamond backdrop. I admired the shapes, the lines and the weaving; the pink, grey and green. But these were all a mental smokescreen: my hand was reaching for the paper before I even admitted my curiosity.

Blank. Unfolded, flipped about, held up to the sky where the sun should be. No message.

Folded or oriented? Origami after all? Geometric puzzle? Was the message even actually intended for me? Disappointed, I furtively glanced about, then re-folded the paper and returned it to its position. I tried staring at it from different angles and distances.

From about twenty metres away the artwork was pretty fuzzy, but I caught the blur of movement. I strode back up to the trunk and practically bumped my nose into the arse of the mover. The nimp was wrestling the paper that was bigger than his arm. He muttered invectives, but these seemed less about his task and more about the halo of flies buzzing around his head. He noticed my shadow.

His head flicked around with a resentful expression that clearly said “mine.” The pink paper came free, he pressed it over his face like a flannel and inhaled. He then crumpled it into his mouth, chewed briefly and swallowed.

The nimp scurried down the ivy lattice like a sailor navigating rigging and disappeared into a root crevice. A phone was ringing.

I reached the golden mobile just before Narcisse swept it off the bunker onto the floor with her tail feathers. The fascia already looked lightly clawed; apparently not a hens-free model. Ho ho.

The caller was Svendsen inviting me to a party on Saturday. Of course he knew about the pink paper diamond. Nimps can’t read, so he communicates with them via a trail of vanilla or other bakery scents. That was some hangover to sanction eating cinnamon-doused paper.

And so it was quiet. As always follows from nimp laddies carousing.

Tender heids a-lowping.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 11

02/01/2019

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 9/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

I awoke to ice crystals whisking the glass. I bravely extended one arm to open the curtain and watch the soothing swirl. Everything became transfixingly silent.

As the snowfall abated, I emerged to attend les poulets Française. A glint of movement drew my eyes straight to the pens, but it seemed to be just a snow sparkle. As I trudged nearer, there appeared very small footprints, forming a loop. Neither bird nor mammal. Reptiles unlikely to be abroad in snow.

Nicole and Narcisse were cluckling habitually. Noelle, however, was perturbed. Unsettled. I respectfully rummaged in her nest, wondering if I had accidentally introduced an uncomfortable stone or similar indignity with yesterday’s fresh straw.

A very small voice complained, “ooh-yah!”
I retrieved a warm, round, egg-sized object. Not an egg. Rather startled, I let it roll back on to the straw. There it unfolded to about twelve centimetres high, expressed its own startlement, emitted a very quiet “shite” and vanished into the woodwork.

I decided to walk the road solo as the promised convolutions would suit my cogitations. Nimps. Mysterious bird migrations? Nimps. Other random translocations? Nimps. Nimps could explain the lot. Mischief. Magic. How inevitably seasonal.

I turned back to the hut. I missed the entire scenery in reverse as well. But for the first time I noticed a rotten, crooked sign beside the rotten, crooked fence by the hut. “Hagrouse”. Bit of Scots there? Theme of country hunting? My thoughts returned to things that go whump in the night. And clatter.

If I timed this exactly right, turned off all the lights, pretended to be away to bed as usual… Tum-ti-tum… Snuck back to the kitchen door, turned the handle so very quietly… Stepped silently into the yard…

How does the verse go again?
When up on the roof there arose such a clatter,
As yon dafty nimps were aye gettin’ battered.

Something like that. And there, on the roof, in the statutory moonbeam: a ring of tiny rollicking revellers. Ice crystals whisking their glasses too. Plenty whisky-ing their glasses.

Nimp laddies dancing.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 10

01/01/2019

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 8/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Svendsen was a fellow feather fancier, although not as sordid as that sounds. He said he collected them. At first I thought he meant for shooting or just for having captive. But after being caught seemingly stringing some up, I tried not to jump to conclusions.

Indeed I had misunderstood: the ‘collecting’ was a sort of passive magnetism as the assorted birds arrived as refugees from neighbouring estates, and were welcomed with food and shelter. And were free to leave. I suspect some of my recent companions had wandered over from his hostelry. Annoyingly I found all this heart-warming.

In any case, we were all invited over for New Year tea; to share, not to be roasted for.

Svendsen had advised that we follow the river upstream, rather than the road, which was more circuitous. I should stress that I stuck firmly to the river bank. The gentle incline was a decent work-out and none of us were water-going.

As we passed alongside a wider, slower-moving section, three ducks—–one drake——kept pace with us, hugging the far bank, weaving in and out of the weeds and exposed tree roots. In fact, they seemed surprisingly purposeful in their speed and direction. As we wound upstream a regular splashing——bigger than any of our efforts——grew louder.

The looming of a giant wooden wheel suggested that we were approaching chez Svendsen. We pulled up to admire the renovated mill-wheel. Svendsen had created a New Lanark for the 21st century: birds of all shapes and sizes were offered not just food and shelter, but also employment as water-mill engineers. And they made flour that made very nice buns.

The vista was bird-boggling. Like one of those tedious maths puzzles where you have to work out where to place a minimum number of individuals around a building so that the number in view from any window etc. I tried to focus on ducks. Some ducks appeared to be clocking-off and heading back downstream. Our three companions appeared to be starting their shifts. Somewhere in all that milling…

Eight mallards milling? Any creaking you may hear is not the mill-wheel, but the sound of puns being stretched to the limit.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 9

31/12/2018

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 7/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Yesterday’s inaugural sleigh run was a tame affair and thoroughly exhausted the flat area around the hut. Having converted all that snow to an ice rink, and itching for a little reckless speed, we set out along the track seeking a slope.

Obviously we are surrounded by slopes, being situated in a glen. However, we were after ones that went down. Not really concerning ourselves with the having to come back up again afterward.

Entering unexplored territory, the fluffters seemed quite content as passengers, and the dove made occasional navigational recces ahead. What she’d seen remained secret.

The landscape unfolded slowly until, as we emerged through a half-dozen spindly old pines, we spied a water body, a loch, well, pond, well, to be entirely truthful: a swampy puddle. Not fussed. Downhill all the way and remember to brake before your feet get wet.

We wasted no time lining up on the banking. Santa, the hens and the dove took the forward positions; I wedged myself in the back, feeling much like ballast. I rocked the sleigh back-and-forth a little, checking the grease.

“Brace yourselves, girls!”
We were off. Accelerating through degrees of amusement, excitement and mild palpitations. How wonderfully refreshing to feel the wind through your feathers. And where I was sitting the feathered breeze was not unpleasant. The scenery moved fast enough to be interesting and the ride was sufficiently cushioned by straw. Certainly there was enough interest to keep my mind well off the subject of swans.

Two-thirds of the way to the pond, my glance took in a blackened, splayed, dead tree trunk. In the fraction of a second that my brain took to suggest that a tree was unlikely to grow in the middle of a pond, one of its branches moved. Instinctively I dropped both my feet off the sleigh and into the snow, unafraid of snapping like a wishbone, and waited for the braking effect. Left foot won, we slewed around, and were all gently deposited on a white crispy blanket, to the right of the sleigh.

I wobbled upright, and re-orientated myself. The dark, sodden human figure in the pond flailed again. I frantically grasped at the rope and set off toward the edge of the pond, pausing only briefly when the end that was still attached to the front of the sleigh yanked me back.

I was watching my feet so carefully that when I reached the edge of the pond and looked up, the figure had vanished. The feathered entourage soon caught up, making assorted sympathetic noises. I gathered the rope in an effort at preparedness. I tried to persuade the collared dove to take the end out across the water à la sleigh-lasso. Tricky when she could see no destination. I willed the figure to resurface.

“Are you trying to drown the bird?”
The voice completely startled me, and had to repeat itself. When I calmed myself down from full alert, and explained unconvincingly about the dove and the noose, my newly-discovered neighbour introduced himself——Svendsen——and his penchant for wild swimming. Waving not drowning.

Svendsen swimming.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 8

30/12/2018

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 6/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

Things often go whump in the night. Two or three days later I discover a fallen box or a crockery avalanche or small dazed bird. I now had a surfeit of dazed birds. We were getting used to each other.

The morning seemed bright so I got cracking with feeding duties. Reversing my new grain supply trolley (mini wheelbarrow) out the back door, my heel stepped in something crunchy and soft. Not a creature, thankfully. Snow. A considerable whumpful, having built up on the roof edge beyond teetering point. Apparently that north-easter had collided with the more usual sodden south-wester. Abandoned wheels. Inappropriate vehicle.

The chickens were most patient as I brought their grain in unsteady scoopfuls. This day was Narcisse’s turn to present her effort. However, her egg was more a cylinder; a tub with a screwed lid. I unscrewed. A generous dollop of goup. Slightly melted across the top by warm nether regions. I cautiously sniffed. Goose fat. That one would be past her laying days then. Cooked.

I turned toward the hut. An ominous shadow fell across the sun. Something on the roof was eclipsing the sun. Something new. Tricky to identify, what with the snow albedo and the sun corona. A scintillating lateral thought prompted me to walk around the other side of the hut and look from there.

A sleigh. All wooden curlicues and shiny varnish. Perfectly balanced on the roof apex. Rather seasonal. And impressively quietly landed.

I completed the feeding round with my mind on the roof. I spent the rest of the morning fretting over whether the sleigh was less unsafe to be left where it was or to be dislodged. By the end of lunchtime the allure of the snow had won. I hoped the pilot wasn’t wanting it back just yet.

Santa Partridge, and Nicole, Narcisse and Noelle were persuaded into a makeshift bunker constructed badly from empty grain sacks and old planks at a safe distance. Two collared doves were co-opted to lasso the front of the sleigh. I cleared an escape path and tentatively pulled the rope. A crunch, a scrape, a shuddering crash and a lot of luck.

One of the collared doves found this such a thrill she alighted on the ‘windshield’ and perched there like a mascot. Partridge and chickens settled with a little stability straw for corners. Tow rope sorted. Somewhat resistant to gliding initially, but I’m sure you’ve figured the solution to that more quickly than me.

Six go greased-sleighing? Ah, who cares?

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 7

29/12/2018

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 5/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

After yesterday’s excitement, I had silently subsided on to the sofa, fallen into a ninety minute hypnogogic hallucination, and woken with five squares of chocolate smudgily imprinted on my cheek.

This day I was looking forward to a bird-free encounter, at least after my rapidly-becoming-habitual rounds of the advent aviary. It’s not that I’m irritated that my time isn’t my own; I have absolutely nothing else in my schedule. Deliberately. The problem is I’m quite enjoying the game.

My traipsings in and out needed wiped up. I slightly overdosed the floor-mopping detergent. Nicole, Narcisse and Noelle (on day release) became fascinated with the bubbles. I had to physically restrain them from launching in and paddling against all evolutionary directives. I felt like I was dealing with a reverse oil spill. The indignant clucking reached a crescendo.

In the middle of this storm of froth and feathers, a phone rang. I say ‘a’ because I wasn’t aware there was one. By concentrating extremely hard and firmly blotting out the collective umbrage of Nicole, Narcisse and Noelle, I located the ringing to behind a full length curtain, in an upholstered basket, on the back of the front door. Never used it. Apparently there’s a letter box.

Basket found to contain: two colourful leaflets of unmissable offers on biscuits, fizzy pop and bog roll from the village shop (what more could I need?), a hawker’s card advertising roof/drive/tree-meddling (the hut has none of these; its roof is a ‘living sward’ or somesuch; probably not by design, but enough moss has established to enable a proper botanical succession to get going), a considerable amount of fluff, and … and a mobile phone. Ooh.

By the time I’d segregated all these deliveries into appropriate waste streams (what are the constituents of fluff?) the phone’s tootlings had long since subsided. The one missed call was just a meaningless number. I put it on the counter and returned to the foam party just in time to witness Nicole moonwalking at an increasing pace on the bucket’s drainer.

A splash, a fountain of foam, launched one impressively large soap bubble into serene orbit past my nose. My eyes crossed as they irresistibly tried to focus on the looming, shimmering, metallic, curved reflection. The bubble popped, the tiniest soap splash sailed into my eye, and the origin of the rectangular golden reflection hit me: I hadn’t been counting, but I would bet there had been five rings.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 6

28/12/2018

The Twelve Days of Twistmas part 4/12

The Christmas song twisted into a series of linked short tales, fabricated around tortuous puns. Begins at part 1.

I’d checked on Nicole et al of the Advent Aviary the previous evening and found them all snug in their individual ventilated and insulated abodes. Santa Claws remained content in her quarters, with turtle comforters, so I closed the window, and fed and watered all. I wondered if they wouldn’t prefer to be in communal accommodation but not everyone’s an extrovert. I wasn’t after more chores. This whole bird business was growing … wings and legs.

The night had been whistly but apparently also productive as there were two eggs courtesy of Nicole and Noelle. With hungry gratitude I yoinked them for my breakfast. On toast. Not French.

While fruitlessly pondering the origin of the expanding menagerie, I found I was whistling. Not like the wind, more like a warble, mimicking a whirling, ascending ululation outside. With resigned curiosity I peered out the window, expecting to see… well, birds; yet more blasted birds. But, no. Nothing.

I would not be enticed outside. I would not go looking. I would not accept ‘curlew’ as ‘calling birds’. Feeble. Whoever was concocting this ridiculous feathered festive frivolity would have to try harder. Harder than choreographing curlews. Easterly wind makes me grumpy.

By mid-afternoon I still hadn’t settled. This blasted invasion was contrary to my hermitage. I stared at a bar of resolutely non-festive chocolate, knowing eating it wouldn’t make me feel any better. Wishing I knew what would. Then I heard a gunshot.

I became totally rigid. I couldn’t process an unfamiliar sound so my mental activity seized up entirely. Waiting for something to happen that I knew how to respond to. I heard another shot. Closer.

Two gunshots apparently does mean something to my subconscious. By the time the sound of a further shot had cracked through the walls I was at the kitchen door, incandescent with imagined injustice. I believe I shrieked several inarticulate obscenities.

I suppose I had in mind some Buchan-esque bored baronet, planting the assorted feathered fauna about my abode as an elaborate shooting gallery. My bobbing about among the targets merely added to the sport.

A fourth shot ricocheted off the hill. It seemed further away. Les trois mademoiselles seemed completely unmoved. No blood. No falling birds. No tweed. I strode about the yard a bit, burning off my adrenaline, as an afterthought eyeing the area for disturbance. Nothing.

I rounded the corner and peered in the pantry window. Santa was going at her seeds with oblivious regularity. I suddenly felt less rigid and more … flaccid. My knees failed as I vividly recollected myself steaming into the line of fire. Unfounded embellishment. I must have been hypoglycaemic. Should have had the chocolate. I leaned into the hut wall for a while.

The fizzing in my ears subsided and my eyes began to discern shapes through the white mist. From above came a bubbling sound. I could just make out an off-white tail feather poking from the gutter. I staggered a few paces away from the hut and looked back.

On the roof edge were perched four collared doves. Near enough.

The Twelve Days of Twistmas continues at part 5

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