Digital Ischemia

21/06/2019

Parathought

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

A very short, timeless fantasy

Come and sit beside me. Look at the water. Just look at the water until it stops moving. Now we’re in what I call 5D, because I’m aware of only four other dimensions: space and time.

It feels strange not to be able to move, doesn’t it? Don’t worry about it. It makes sense if you think about it: if we’re in zero time, movement in zero time – how fast is that? It’s infinite. You’d experience a lot of friction. That’s what’s stopping you from moving. If you did have enough force to move, you would evaporate with the intense heat, so you probably don’t want to try it.

I’ve been able to do this for – who knows? But I’ve been doing it for a while. I find any physical or mental effort in too little time leads to exhaustion. So I thought: what if I could remove the time component altogether?

Thought doesn’t need any movement. Thought in this form isn’t even electrical; there isn’t any movement of subatomic particles; there isn’t a transfer of energy. It’s para-thought – beyond thought. It is an instantaneous conceptualising and communicating. How does that work? I don’t know. Even if I did, I couldn’t possibly put it into any linear language. Annoying, isn’t it?

How do I do it? It’s a kind of intensity of thought that becomes a detachment. When it’s available to me, I feel this sensation in my forehead, right in the middle. It’s like a pressure a few millimetres inside my skull. Not like something is pressing on my forehead from the outside or inside, it’s just a sensation, not something I usually feel. At first I thought it was my brain getting tired. When I feel it, I can pay attention to it, really focus on it. It becomes increasingly intense and after what seems like a few seconds, but probably is no time at all, everything stops. There is this perfect stillness and quiet.

I’ve not brought anyone with me before. I had intended not to force it on anyone else. I never say never, but, then, you made it rather difficult. You’re too observant of the little incongruities in my behaviour. And I can’t have you thinking I’m psychotic.
You’re the first person I brought. I have met some others who can do it. There’s something in their faces that I recognise. I suppose it’s the same thing that you saw in me.

As daylight stops stretching and begins shrinking, as daytime makes that imperceptible tilt from extending to contracting, at that moment of suspended change… I thought you might like a new trick to play with.

You need some time to think about it? No you don’t.

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21/02/2019

Pigs

My daughter acquired a piglet. On her way home from school, there was a commotion: a livestock transporter had taken a wrong turn and jackknifed around the mini roundabout at the bottom of our hill. With the precarious leaning and the altercation with a lamppost, one of the doors had swung open and some disoriented captives had spilled out. Piglets make an attention-grabbing noise at the best of times and one in particular was stumbling in a circle and squealing its distress most querulously. My daughter couldn’t resist trying to comfort the poor creature. Assessing the scene, she decided that the lorry was destined for the abattoir. Fired with a passion of injustice, she took the executive decision to liberate the piglet by stuffing it up her jumper.

I peered around the door frame of the back kitchen, wondering about the source of the splashing and squeaking. Molly gazed back with the frozen terror of anticipated parental diatribe. Actually my only injunctions were that she could not move it from one place of captivity to another, i.e. it was not going to live in a cage, and that unfortunately she could not release it into the wild, it not being wild. Here she pointed out that ‘it’ was actually ‘she’, because of the neat array of studs across her belly.

Not knowing what stage of weaning the piglet was at, we could only offer water, but that seemed welcome, along with an old towel for comfort. Whatever exactly had happened to her, she must have been traumatised having been separated from whomever and whatever she had been familiar with. The distressed squealing only subsided while Molly was with her so we found ourselves at that impasse. 

My best advice was that she contact the farmer whose land abuts our wilderness garden. Angus Strachan has a gait you can recognise literally a kilometre away. You can’t stride across heather moor and machair. Consequently he has achieved this efficient pumping effort, so that he appears like a tweed-upholstered steam engine: pistons at the bottom, whistle at the top.

Less than an hour after Molly called in our predicament, Angus scissored over the back fence, dragging an empty plastic bin and bearing a huge sack over his shoulder. Apparently this feed would cover all the basics, and could be supplemented with a wide range of kitchen scraps.

By this time Molly had named her new companion Penelope. Recognising that Penelope sharing her bedroom would not be an option, she plotted and presented me with an irrefutable plan. She would set up her brother’s sleeping bag in the back kitchen and the pair of them would magically and hygienically bond.

While we pondered what would be required for a longer term solution, with Angus contributing his invaluable knowledge, Bill Janney, our community policeman, rang the bell. He was trying so hard to stifle a smirk that he appeared, quite misleadingly, to be winking at me. He carefully explained about the navigational incident, the wandering livestock, the chagrined driver, the irate farmer, and asked if I’d seen any unattended farm animals. He seemed less concerned about welfare and more about the repercussions of transport stupidity. I stifled my own smirk and equally carefully responded that, notwithstanding my personal philosophy that one creature cannot be owned by another, I had not seen any domesticated animals owned by any local livestock farmers wandering about unattended. There was no comedically-timed oinking off-stage, but I feel it would not have changed anything. Still smirking, Bill issued the standard advice to call him rather than approach any such individuals, and set off back down the hill, to visit the houses on the other side.

I returned to the back kitchen conference, where Angus had just been struck by inspiration. A land owner over towards the Cairngorms had recently established a herd – if that is the correct collective noun – of pigs to roam about certain areas of his estate, performing land management functions such as thinning out scrub and saplings from the wooded areas and churning the boggier soil to increase the diversity of wild flowers.

Fairly soon we met Trish, the land owner, approved her livestock-conservation experiment, shared ethics and thankfully found Penelope would be welcomed as the member of that herd. Several visits ensued to acclimatise Penelope and gradually leave her with her new family for longer periods of time.

For a couple of weeks Penelope settled in fine. Molly visited her at weekends by charming Angus into giving her a lift on a series of pretexts. We were all happy that she was squealing less and gaining weight.

Then. The third weekend my son Nicky and I happened to go along too. I delayed the outing by some tedious domestic admin. When we arrived Jim the herd was just coming into view, so Molly was excited to greet Penelope on her return from foraging. However, Penelope was missing. Jim tried to cover his concerns. Standard procedure in these circumstances: settle the rest of the herd in their quarters safely, then head back out to search.

Penelope, bless her, we could hear from some distance. With Molly echoing, we reached a crescendo of cacophony. Jim and Nicky triangulated Penelope’s squeals to a drainage gulley surrounded by a few ancient pines. She was standing in the base of the gulley, among long grass, beside a pile of scrub trimmings, quivering with terror. The gulley wasn’t especially deep or enclosed, and Penelope didn’t appear injured, so we were baffled why she hadn’t rejoined the herd.

Molly rushed up to try to comfort Penelope. Jim and I wandered around looking for any indication of the cause. I didn’t know what I was looking for and Jim was similarly non-plussed. For once, being lifted and petted made Penelope even noisier. Any attempt to take her away produced unbearable squeals. Nicky ranged through the scrub clicking his camera compulsively and somehow the lens saw what we didn’t. Hiding, cowering under a thick bush was a smaller piglet with a darker complexion.

Molly’s eyebrows lowered just like her father’s. The obvious accusation was that Jim couldn’t count or didn’t count carefully enough. He tactfully, and with relief, pointed out that this piglet was not one of the herd.

Leaving Nicky circling Molly and the two piglets, in a kind of camera corral, Jim and I searched further. We were so thankful that we had left Molly behind when we discovered the carnage. A sow with mutilated head and limbs lay at the side of a small clearing. Several similarly eviscerated piglets were strewn nearby. I was overcome with nausea and had to walk away. Jim had a stronger constitution and could make a detailed visual assessment.

Jim told me that this massacre was not wild animals: no fox or wild cat would do such damage and leave the meat. Realising what he meant brought me another wave of nausea. The only animal that tortures other animals for amusement is humans.

We would need a vet to confirm with autopsies and we would need a trailer to recover the bodies. We collected Molly; the two piglets seemed less distressed so long as they were together. Jim quietly asked Nicky if he felt able to chronicle the massacre.

In the dazzle of shock, I found myself standing inside the fence around the pig pen, staring out across the moor. The fence wood felt less comforting than I needed; it hadn’t been enough protection. Some of the herd wandered around oblivious. Molly had taken the two piglets somewhere dark and cosy to try to soothe them. My mind homed in on one incongruity: how did a pregnant or nursing sow end up there?

When Jim reappeared, he looked horribly haggard, and was thinking along the same line: he’d contacted the three neighbouring farms and enquired carefully if they were missing a piglet. Farmers value livestock, even if only financially, and none of them were missing anything. Jim had made a joke of it, as if it was as likely, as Molly had silently accused him, that he had simply miscounted. The fact that he hadn’t mentioned multiple piglets or the sow confirmed my fears. He wasn’t ready to announce the find yet.

Livestock owners don’t misplace sows. I thought of the livestock transporter: was it possible that this sow had escaped from there? Jim thought it hugely unlikely that any pig would walk thirty miles. I called Bill Janney, the policeman, and used the same line about a possible extra piglet. Like the farmers, he had no claim. The contents of the transporter had been accounted for, apparently notwithstanding Penelope.

Whoever ‘owned’ this terribly unfortunate creature didn’t care. It appeared that the sow had been released by someone who didn’t know or didn’t care about her condition; not that her treatment was any more acceptable had she not been pregnant or nursing. We stared at each other, trying to penetrate a mindset that was entirely alien to us.

Jim surprised me by asking me what we should do. It wasn’t deference; I didn’t employ him. I think he was genuinely bewildered. All I could think was “get them, get them, get them.” I asked him if there was such a thing as a forensic pathologist vet. He knew someone at the University, and she was on her way over. She could advise who else ought to be notified, but despite the glaring wrongness of the situation, we couldn’t assess which crime might have been committed.

Jim took Helen, the specialist vet, over to the discovery site. The three of us made to go home. I expected Molly to make undeniable demands for Penelope and Peter, the new orphan, to return home with us. However, without having seen the full horror, she seemed to accept that they were in the least worst place, on condition we came back the next day.

When my husband saw Molly’s face he feared the worst. I had to elaborate some sign language until I could get him out of her hearing and explain the full details: the truth was even worse than that.

As promised, the following day we all went, lugging kilos of bruised apples from the garden, as if that could somehow make up for the trauma. Molly introduced Peter to her father, and I could see his brain forming a pun about Parma, and thinking better of it. We were so horribly nervous, trying not to anthropomorphise, yet still hearing echoes of Penelope’s cries.

Penelope and Peter have settled in together. Inseparably. It’s hard to say how well as they are both clearly different from the rest of the herd, but not isolated.

Reports were made, appropriate officials notified, investigations launched. Jim gave me sight of Helen’s report: impressively technical – I didn’t know science was so advanced in this area, but then I wouldn’t – and a straightforward conclusion. Many of the incision marks on the pig flesh were caused by dogs, most likely terriers.

The local newspaper picked up the story from the police. Right on cue local game shooting estates spluttered their umbrage at implications and bleated that they mostly used spaniels or labradors, apparently the classier hunters’ dogs. Their shrill defensiveness, rather than sharing our horror at the atrocity, said a lot. The only animal that tortures other animals for amusement is humans. And some of them train dogs to assist.

Jim is being interviewed by local radio. He has hinted that he may overstate the case in the hopes of putting the wind up somebody. Perhaps it is easier than you’d think to track the buying and selling of pigs. Perhaps the perpetrators were not local, although moving a pig is not easy. Ask that livestock transporter driver.

Ask yourself: when is butchery business and when is it barbaric?

25/01/2019

Teeth, or How I Helped Fix Granny

Not my usual brand of caustic fairytale (Truthache series) but a wide-eyed innocent enchantment.

Part One

When I was two my Granny gave my Grandad a massive tooth. It was a whale’s tooth for their anniversary. It looked like an elephant’s tusk. We were sat on a park bench and I was fascinated so my Grandad let me touch it. It was too big for me to hold. My Granny told me a story about how she got it.

When she and Grandad were just married, they went on holiday to Norway. One day Grandad, my Dad and Aunty Marianne went skiing. Granny went with a man in his boat to see some whales. The man stopped his boat in the middle of a sea loch with white mountains all round. Granny leaned over the side and looked into the water through her goggles.

Granny could see surprisingly far into the water. Some shadows would swim across. Suddenly one of the shapes got much bigger. A huge whale whooshed out of the water and touched her nose to Granny’s nose. Granny showed me a photograph that the boat-man took of them nose-to-nose. She said the whale was showing how well she could swim.

Granny was quite excited. The whale swam around the boat on the surface of the water with her big black eye looking at Granny. Then she disappeared so Granny leaned further to look for her. The whale had gone around the other side of the boat and suddenly it tipped and Granny fell into the water!

Granny was surprised and cold and confused by the water rushing round and round her. She wasn’t scared though, because she had her wetsuit and life-jacket on. The whale came up to her and kept nudging her. Eventually she realised the whale wanted her to take off her life-jacket. The whale swam underneath her and blew some bubbles up to her face. Granny tried catching the bubbles in her mouth – they tasted revoltingly fishy – but she could breathe the air.

Granny held on to one of the whale’s fins and they swam away. She lost her grip a few times but got the hang of it. The whale was very patient. Granny thinks she should have been worrying about Grandad and the kids, but she was so amazed by the experience, there was nothing else in her head.

The whale swam with Granny for ages through all these different underwater landscapes. Granny says she can’t put most of it into words: it was so alien. The whale kept stopping and turning to blow air bubbles up to Granny.

Eventually they came to a big cave which was half full of water. The whale showed Granny things she had collected and kept on shelves of rock in the cave. Some were beautiful treasures – intricate shaped stones – but some were sad memories – plastic-wrapped bones.

The whale seemed to communicate with Granny by pulses of emotion. She doesn’t understand how – maybe it was sound that is too deep for us to hear – but she would suddenly feel a certain way. She felt the joy of the pretty shapes and colours. She also felt sadness as though the bones were from other whale people this whale had known.

The whale lifted with her lips this massive tooth. Granny felt it was associated with somebody with a big heart – as we would say it. The whale gave the tooth to Granny as a gift.

The whale brought Granny back through the water the same way, and although Granny tried to pay attention, she says the journey is mostly a blur. In a whoosh the whale pushed Granny in a big wave up on to the beach of the loch. The whale couldn’t come all the way up herself or she would get stranded. Granny said goodbye and held on to the tooth, then just sat there for a while feeling odd.

Granny remembered the boat-man and looked out across the loch. Eventually she got his attention and he brought his boat across. He had been really scared and had been looking all around where her life-jacket had bobbed up. He was very relieved to see her.

When Grandad and Dad and Aunty Marianne arrived, Granny told them her story. They all agreed it sounded daft, and none of them could explain about the tooth. But Granny said she knew she had to work to put some things right in the way we treat whales.

Part Two

When I was six, one day Granny said she was going to walk up the headland. My front tooth had just come out and I remembered her story about the whale tooth. I said I wanted to go with her but I didn’t say why because I felt a bit silly.

We wandered around the headland for a while. The wind was blustery and Granny got frustrated. She said it was the wrong place so we walked down to the beach. We watched the waves coming in until one had a whale in it. Granny seemed startled but I knew the whale had come for my tooth.

I showed Granny the tooth in my hand and she smiled. She said I wasn’t to go into the water because my wellies would fill up. She asked if she could take the tooth to the whale because her wellies were practically waders. The whale who was riding the waves was just a wee baby. He was small enough to get close to the beach. Granny went up to him and bent down to offer my tooth. He took it in his lips and Granny gave him a shove to get back to deeper water.

We couldn’t see the baby whale swimming out because he was under the water and the waves were quite choppy. Granny said to keep on looking though. Far out there was a big splash. Granny said that was just to get our attention; keep watching. A huge whale did a somersault right out of the water. I was so impressed. Granny was smiling too. She said she hoped that might be the same whale she met in Norway. I felt a weird fizzy pressure in my head but I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t put it into words. I thought it was excitement.

Part Three

Now I’m ten and Granny still isn’t very old. A few days ago she got quite unwell. There was nothing we could see wrong with her; she just felt really tired. We all sat about not knowing what to do.

The next morning I woke up wanting to go to see the whales. I have kept all my baby teeth that fell out. My Dad drilled tiny holes into them so we could put them on a wee bracelet. I wanted to give this to the whales so they would make Granny better.

I told my Mum and she wasn’t totally convinced, but she said she would chum me to the beach for the walk. We walked the usual way round the headland and saw lots of people on the beach. We walked down and Mum started speaking to them to find out what was going on.

I wandered away towards the rocks. I knew the kerfuffle was about sightings of whales but I wanted to be with the whales by myself. I remembered Granny saying they would be splashing to get attention, but I felt like it wasn’t for me, it was for all the other people, to distract them. I had on my big wellies and I picked up a stick on the way.

I wandered around near where Granny and I had met the baby whale before. Right at the edge of the rocks there is a big pool. I poked my stick into the water and felt something spongy. I peered in. There was a neat pile of leaves – huge thick leaves with big veins through them. On the top, in the middle, was my first tooth.

Mum had followed me and when she saw what was in the pool she called Aunty Marianne to come with a bucket. When Aunty Marianne arrived she filled her bucket with seawater and stacked the leaves in it. I kept that tooth but put the bracelet of my other teeth into the rock pool.

When we got home, I showed Granny my tooth and told her about the leaves. She reckoned the tooth meant we’re to eat them. Aunty Marianne said maybe but let’s check – she knows herbs but she didn’t know these.

While Granny was resting, we all sat round the kitchen table while Aunty Marianne checked through her encyclopaedia. Suddenly she said it’s a Caribbean sea palm. The leaves are used in native medicine – people who are unwell chew on a piece of leaf.

Grandad looked up startled. Aunty Marianne read that we should keep the leaves in fresh salty water then they would last for ages. Dad was asking did the whales bring the leaves all the way from the Caribbean or have they cultivated them locally? Aunty Marianne gave him a look and said that wasn’t in her encyclopaedia.

The next day Granny was feeling improved, as she says. As I was about to go to school, she called me to the sofa to thank me for listening to my big heart. I was puzzled. Granny explained that she had thought the first whale calling the tooth big heart meant it was for Grandad. Granny thought the whale she met in Norway had somehow recognised him from when they had stood on our headland and waved, before they were married. Not recognised visually; some other way whales use.

I suppose the whales were passing on their migration and used this sense they have to know granny was unwell. Maybe one day I can figure it out.

The next weekend I went back to check the rock pool. Aunty Marianne said obviously there have been several high tides since we found the leaves but anyway my teeth bracelet was gone. I hope it’s on some whale’s treasure shelf.

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

For two SPs.

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

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