Lynton Cox’s “What The Dickens?” Part 5.4 – It Ends Here

 

Until Next Time Folks!

Until Next Time Folks!

Episode 5, Last part! (And thanks so much if you have come this far)

They took off over hills now and valleys, across seas, deserts and forests, through clouds into a sunset and the air became warm and balmy and full of the scent of flowers, and finally they landed on a mountain top overlooking a city of white buildings. There was a large columned building gleaming in the orange sunset. It looked vaguely familiar to Cox. They sat there on the hill in the soft grass among the white rocks. There was silence apart from birds singing.

“THE HOME OF DEMOCRACY. OF QUESTIONING AND PHILOSOPHY.”

Said the apparition who sat there next to Cox looking very much human now and as if a weight, if not his muslin bonnet and Confederacy cap, had been removed from him. He looked more like a monk in contemplation now than the original awful apparition and the breeze was blowing the wisps of his greying hair on his lined pink forehead.

“This is Greece! Exclaimed Cox, I thought I recognised it, It’s where all our poets and artists go for inspiration, I’ve seen it in a magazine; that’s the Acropolis, but wait, isn’t it supposed to be a ruin?”

“THAT IS TO COME.”

Said his companion, because it seemed to Cox that since they had travelled on a journey together in discovery of this place they were now more friends and companions on equal terms rather than tormentor and victim.

“LET ME SHOW YOU SOMETHING”

He rose, with a curse, and Cox realised Jordan no longer had his walking frame. They turned away from the view and had an observer been watching he would have seen time turn back on itself and the stone city, once solid and strong, “unbuild” itself stone by stone and the stones dissolve and fall to dust and be gradually replaced by a vista of peaceful green fields and groves of trees leading down to the water’s edge.

They took a narrow path through a grove of pines that resembled so many green umbrellas, through a narrow rock gorge where a spring bubbled and on downhill to a small cliff where Cox saw a cave. There was a noise and he saw movement at the cave mouth. There was a young girl with tumbling dark hair emerging backwards from the cave dragging a large heavy box which she finally set down outside. From the girdle around her waist she pulled out a large key and proceeded to open the box.

As she lifted the lid there came a strange mad buzzing, which grew louder in to a manic chattering then the sound of thousands of angry voices rising to a strident ear-splitting screeching cacophony and the lid was suddenly forced right open, violently, throwing the girl some yards away from it. A cloud of swirling transparent black smoke flew in a whirlwind from the depths of the box, screaming and arguing voices, cries of anguish and pain, sounds of weapons clashing and bones breaking echoed in the small valley resounding from the cliff face. The frantic sound became louder and louder as the whirlwind grew and grew and the black revolting vapour filled the air like a monstrous flock of black birds wheeling around faster and faster until suddenly, sucked up, it disappeared, swallowed into the sky and out to contaminate the world beyond.

The girl coming to her senses and apparently unharmed went to the box and quickly, looking furtive and ashamed, closed the lid, desperately, as if it might have some effect on the vile and monstrous evil she had let into the world.

Cox heard his companion’s voice come in that deep authoritative whisper.

“AS I SAID, WE NEED TO HAVE A START AND A REASON FOR ANYTHING JUST TO COPE. IT DOES SO WORRY US. THIS OF COURSE IS JUST ONE VERSION.”

The girl looked quickly, furtively and fearfully around her and then ran off into the trees.

“SHALL WE HAVE A LOOK?”

They walked over and stood looking at the box.

“Yah know it wasn’t really a box. In the Greek version it wuz a jar, but hell ever’body thinks it was a box, so it’s a box now.”

Cox’s companion, his friend, nodded to him to open it.

He stooped down and gingerly opened the lid

The sun had nearly set, the box was in shadow and the interior was dark. But in the corner was a small glimmering light.

“YOU SEE IT? IT IS ALWAYS THERE….HOPE. IT COMES IN MANY FORMS….”

IT IS ALL THAT WAS LEFT ONCE ALL THE ILLS OF THE WORLD WERE ALLOWED TO ESCAPE. WE HAVE MANY MYTHS. I COULD HAVE SHOWN YOU A GARDEN WITH AN APPLE AND A SERPENT, AND A MAN AND A WOMAN. I COULD HAVE SHOWN YOU A MAN CLAD IN FUR CRADLING EMBERS OF FIRE AND ANOTHER CHIPPING SHARDS FROM FLINT WHO CONDEMNED US TO OUR ENERGY SLAVERY.

BUT IT IS ALL THE SAME. CURIOSITY. THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE. THE BIRTH OF SUFFERING AND EVIL. CHAOS RELEASED AGAIN INTO AN ANCIENT WORLD OF ORDER. AND THE BIRTH OF OUR SLAVERY TO USING THE ENERGY IN THE WORLD TO TRY IN FUTILITY TO OVERCOME THAT INCREASING CHAOS TO WHICH EVERYTHING WILL RETURN.

LOOK CLOSELY AT THE LIGHT, THE HOPE THAT IS LEFT

Ebenezer found his arm being grabbed tightly by his companion’s hand and at the same time his head was being thrust by the other hand into the corner of the box towards the now brightening light. There was a rush and he found himself clinging for dear life to Jordan as they were being propelled through a tunnel of concentric rings of alternating light and dark faster and faster in a rush of howling wind. After an inestimable time they fell in a crumpled heap.

“What the…..?”

Cox was still reeling and confused and somewhat concerned. The landing had been soft, too soft and the smell was bad.

“Godammit! Shiyut! Holy shiyut!” Came Jordan’s voice, “Nuthin’ is predictable? There, this proves it but it was those bastards who planned this! Fuckin bunch o’ hoody creeps round a table. Nuthin’ worse than a bunch o’ hoody creeps with a twisted sense o’ humour, ass holes!”

It was night, it was dark.

And it was a manure heap.

Somewhere a baby was crying and Cox could feel the disgusting, smelly warm breath of something on his neck. He turned and started as a rather large scrawny brown cow decided to use his sweaty face as a salt-lick. But he had no time to complain, Jordan was pulling him to his feet.

“Lookit!”

In the dim light cast by a small oil lamp there were two people dressed in rough robes; a woman and a man, sitting looking at a wooden trough in which a baby lay crying. The woman was propped up on one elbow, obviously just recovering from delivering the baby that the man had wrapped in tight sacking and placed on the straw. Looking on were a few animals, an ox and an ass and there was a pigeon in the rafters fluttering. Just outside the glow he could see the faces of three boys holding lambs their mouths open in wonderment.

The woman said something in a language Cox couldn’t understand.

“What was that?”

“I THINK SHE SAID SOMETHING LIKE “IF IT WASN’T FOR THE TAXMAN WE COULD HAVE BEEN AT HOME AND DELIVERED HIM IN OUR OWN BLOODY BED INSTEAD OF THIS STINKING STABLE!”

“Is this…? Is that…..?

“YES… BUT AS I WAS SAYING… THE LIGHT OF HOPE COMES IN MANY FORMS. THIS BABY IS JUST ANOTHER ONE. THE ONE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVED THAT EVIL AND TEMPTATION CAME IN THE FORM OF AN APPLE AND A SERPENT.

A QUITE UNIQUE ONE TOO SINCE NO OTHER HUMAN EVER GAVE SO MUCH UNPUNCTUATED HOPE TO SO MANY OTHERS BY SETTING AN EXAMPLE AND AT THE SAME TIME FACILITATED REAL CIVILISED PROGRESS THROUGH MAN’S OWN EFFORTS IN HIS NAME TO IMPROVE HIMSELF RATHER THAN REMAINING ENTRENCHED IN THE PAST.

IF INDEED ALL THIS HAPPENED WHICH MANY DO NOT BELIEVE AT ALL OR BELIEVE THAT OTHER WAYS ARE THE BEST PATHS TO LIVING THE BEST LIFE POSSIBLE.

HOWEVER, WE HAVE TO REALISE TOO THAT THERE HAVE ALSO BEEN HORRORS PERPETRATED IN THE NAME OF ALL SO-CALLED BEST PATHS BY THOSE WHO ARE LESS IMAGINATIVE AND FAR TOO CERTAIN ABOUT THE INTERPRETATIONS OF THE ACCOUNTS OF THEIR SHAMEN AND PROPHETS AND THEIR PREDICTIONS.”

“Did he exist? Really exist?

“AGAIN I REALLY COULDN’T SAY. MOST LIKELY, OTHERWISE WHY WOULD SUCH STORIES COME DOWN TO US? BUT AS TO ACCURACY, WELL…..”

The voice changed. Cox was not sure why but he had a feeling he was being manipulated

“Hell Coxy it was a time when life was nasty brutish and short and little under one’s control, people were enslaved, others a killin’ each other in hard-ass brutal regimes, then some rebel, prepared to sacrifice himself despite self-interest and self-preservation bein’ the main instinct o’ most people, must o’ made one helluva impression. But like I said it’s hope fer some and meaningless fer others. And fer others still it produces a big burden of guilt ‘ticularly ifn they’re the thinkin’ kind. But there’s some that jest chooses it fer no other reason than they feel more comfortable ’bout it coz they don’t have ter think about beginnin’s an’ endin’s and purpose an’ shit like that coz it’s all explained for ’em in some book. But it ain’t without danger ifn there’s those who are so goddam certain that they starts a hatin’ those who ain’t exactly how they thinks it says that you oughtta be in their good books. Good intenshuns, and willingness to recognise when yah wrong. Yeah, we need directions sometimes, we ain’t got no map. We need signposts, like laws an’ values ter keep us on the right track an’ we can follow the footprints that others, such as the babby there leave, an’ it ain’ never too late ter turn back an’ start again or ifn ya miss a signpost an take the wrong track bo’, cuz there’s really a million roads ter redemption in the world. Thinkin’s real important when yah lookin’ for a right road an’ you ain’t too good at that, nobody is much cuz they don’ use their fuckin’ heads right.

“BUT I FIND IT STRANGE. STRANGE THAT MAN WHO HAS CREATED SO MUCH THROUGH HIS OWN EFFORTS ALONE STILL CANNOT FIND ENOUGH FAITH IN HIMSELF BUT NEEDS THE INSPIRATION OF DEITIES AND SAVIOURS IN ORDER TO STRIVE FOR GREAT THINGS IN THE REALMS OF BEAUTY AND KNOWLEDGE AND ITS APPLICATION.

WE ARE LIKE CHILDREN LEARNING, AFRAID TO LEAVE THE COMFORT OF HOME; TOO UNSURE OF OURSELVES TO TAKE THAT FIRST STEP AND PROVE TO OURSELVES THAT WE CAN INDEED JUST STRIKE OUT AND BE OURSELVES, ALONE IN THE WORLD OR THE UNIVERSE AND JUST CARRY ON.

WE ARE THE VICTIMS OF OUR OWN CONSTRUCTION, FOR WE ARE INDEED FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE.

THIS THINKING CONSTRUCTION THAT HAS BEEN THE REASON FOR OUR PROGRESS AND WHICH LEADS US TO QUESTION OUR OWN EXISTENCE AND WHETHER THAT EXISTENCE ALONE IS ENOUGH FOR US.

WHETHER WE CAN REALLY JUST BE, OR BE ONLY BECAUSE OF SOMETHING GREATER, EXTERNAL, SUPERNATURAL TO US AND SEPARATE FROM US, RATHER THAN BECAUSE OF SOMETHING SIMPLY WITHIN US.

OR DO WE REALLY NEED THEM BOTH? THE SPIRITUAL AND THE SECULAR EACH TO PROP US UP IN TIMES WHEN ONE OR THE OTHER THE FAILS?

FOR WHAT IS LEFT IN THE ABSENCE OF BOTH BUT NOT TO BE?”

Cox was distracted by the reflection of a very bright star shining in through the window on to the water in a trough beside them and didn’t see a flash as three important looking men carrying gifts entered the stable. But also because before he knew it, Jordan had thrust his head down into the water and he suddenly found himself once again in a tunnel moving rapidly backwards this time away from the bright starlight and, after a moment, equally suddenly hit a soft object from which they bounced on to a very hard floor.

Jordan hauled him up from the floor and when he had gathered himself again and looked around breathlessly he could see that they were in a very bright, very clean room with a bed in it but not one made of wood that Cox was used to but of metal. There was a table next to the bed with a vase of flowers. In the bed was the outline of somebody but quite unrecognisable, almost transparent and connected to strange machines making beeping noises and bags of what looked like blood. On the wall was a brightly lit box with some sort of large, as far as Cox could make out, magic lantern slide.

“See this?”, Jordan was pointing to the slide, “Its a brain, my brain, don’t worry how they made it; look, you’ve seen brains before, you eat them fer chrissakes, although you call ’em sump’n fancy like fuckin’ “cervelle” or “sweetbreads” no doubt.”

Cox could indeed make out what looked like the picture of a slice of brain, cut down the middle.

“LOOK AT THIS PLACE. LOOK AT THE BED THE PERSON IN IT.

THESE ARE THE LENGTHS WE GO TO TO ASSURE OUR BEING.
MACHINES TO HELP US BREATH? MACHINES TO FEED US WHILE WE ARE HELPLESS AND BUT A HAIR’S BREADTH FROM NOT BEING.

GOOD PEOPLE DONATE THEIR LIFE BLOOD TO OTHERS SO THEY MAY LIVE.

YEARS OF PEOPLE’S STUDY, KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL GO INTO IT.

WHY DO WE DO IT? WHAT WOULD THE WORLD LACK FOR LOSS OF THIS INSIGNIFICANT SHELL LAYING HERE?

YES PERHAPS HE IS OWED A LIVING IN SOME WAY FOR HIS SERVICES. BUT WHAT IF IT WERE A TRAMP FROM THE STREET? PEOPLE WOULD OFTEN DO THE SAME.

YET THERE ARE PEOPLE DYING AT THE SAME MOMENT IN THE WORLD FOR LACK OF CARE, FROM LACK OF FOOD AND CLEAN WATER, NEGLECT AND INDIFFERENCE, AND FROM THE VIOLENCE OF OTHERS.

IN OUR HALF OF THE WORLD WE GIVE LITTLE THOUGHT TO THEM.

YET, WHAT IF ONE OF THOSE NOW DEAD OR YET UNBORN GHOSTS HAD THE ANSWER TO ALL THOSE ILLS THAT AFFLICT US… ALL THE EVIL IN THE WORLD?

DO WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL ONE AMONG THE MORE FORTUNATE FINALLY DISCOVERS A NEW NATURAL LAW THAT IN SOMEWAY CONNECTS US TOGETHER AND WITH OUR UNIVERSE?

SOMETHING THAT UNITES US ALL AND SHOWS THAT AT THE LOSS OF JUST ONE PERSON OR OTHER LIVING THING IN THE WORLD WE ALL BECOME THE LESS FOR IT?

THAT THERE REALLY IS A WAY OF LIVING TOGETHER PEACEFULLY AND LOVING OUR FELLOW LIVING BEINGS?

“See this at the front here?” Jordan outlined the part he meant with a finger, “That’s all that stands between you an’ bein’ a chicken or a ‘coon or a monkey or a ape!”

Cox hazarded a question.

“APE? Are you a follower of Mr Darwin then? He caused quite a stir by saying something like that.”

His friend’s irascibility reared once more, but Cox didn’t mind. He found it strangely comforting.

“You shut the fuck up and listen and watch!”

He pointed to another bit at the back.

“This bit is your ‘inner chicken’, the brainstem, it controls yah breathin’, heart beart, gittin’ angry bein’ scared, and panickin’ when a stone is thrown in the hen coop or a chicken hawk flies overhead. It says you’re hungry, thirsty, full-up or horny, an’ it tells you how ter walk straight and upright an’ scratch around in the dirt. All those things that yer might say keep yer goin’ and a whole lot more.”

“Now the bit at the front is what ya think with, what tells you that you are you; ya conscience and consciousness an’ shit like that. That bit which tells yer “no, perhaps it’s not a hawk but a cloud goin’ over the sun so I’ll take a look see befo’ a cluckin’ mah ass off”. It says ter yah “maybe it’s better that ah don’t jump on that good lookin’ woman in the street because ah feel real horny an’ she is sooo hot wigglin’ her l’il ass like that”. Or, “no, perhaps ah’d better pay fer this pie ‘afore I takes it out o’ the shop”, or, “dang it perhaps ah’d better not jest beat this guy’s butt coz I don’t like what he’s he’s a sayin’ and jest maybe he has a point or two we can discuss, and maybe too even then we can agree to disagree cuz it ain’t the end of the world if he thinks its flat an’ ah don’t, an’ only then ifn ah cain’t git sense outta the asshole maybe then ah might jest bust his ass cuz ah feel like it”. It does a danged lot more other shit we ain’t even got the first idea ’bout, yet we use ever’day it an it’s there ter look at and analyse ever’thang we see or do. Thinkin’ proper can be learned but d’ya know most people in the world don’t use this part, they don’t bother learnin’, they use the other cuz it’s easy and they think like animals, with their primitive emotions, with their chicken brains! They’s assholes JEST LIKE YOU.”

He added another seemingly very satisfactory “ASS HOLE” obviously fuming and angry now and Cox noticeably cringed

“Take that Chamone chick. You thought with yo’ chicken brain when you took up with her. You thought of yerself with yer chicken brain when yer ignored her an’ went ter those hifalutin’ meetin’s. She thought with hers when she saw that male stripper. An’ all that feelin’ o’ self pity, self hate and spite? CHICKEN BRAIN! Think asshole THINK! That l’il rugrat thought wi’ his chicken brain when he didn’t git what he wanted jest like his ma an pa thought wi’ theirs a spoilin’ him jest ter git a bit o’ peace an’ quiet an’ a cheap rent.”

“SO WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THEN FROM OUR LITTLE MEETING THEN?

WILL YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT OUTLOOK ON LIFE?

BECOME SELF AWARE?

AWARE NOT ONLY OF YOUR OWN NEEDS BUT THAT OTHERS WHO SHARE OUR WORLD BOTH NEAR AND FAR REQUIRE TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT?

THAT OTHERS’ TRIUMPHS AREN’T YOUR DISAPPOINTMENTS?

THAT GOOD THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU?

THAT THE WORLD IS NOT AGAINST YOU AND DOESN’T NEED PUNISHING JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE HAD A TEMPORARY SET BACK IN SOMETHING LIKE A RELATIONSHIP OR LOST A DOLLAR AND FOUND A CENT?

THAT EVERYTHING ISN’T NECESSARILY YOUR FAULT, AND NOT NECESSARILY THE FAULT OF ANYBODY IN PARTICULAR SINCE THERE’S NOBODY LOADING THE DICE AGAINST YOU?

THAT YOU MAY NOT BE THE ONLY ONE WHO GOES THROUGH SHIT AND YOU SHOULD TRY PURPOSELY TO SEE THE SHIT OTHERS GO THROUGH TOO TO GET SOME PERSPECTIVE?

YOUR INDIVIDUAL HAPPINESS DEPENDS ENTIRELY ON YOU AS DOES THAT OF THE WHOLE WORLD.

DON’T THINK WITH YOUR CHICKEN BRAIN!”

“Will I be redeemed? Eh?… If I change my ways? Think? Stop feeling sorry for myself? Try to do things with good intentions? Help my fellow travellers on the same route and always be prepared to accept it when I’ve gone astray and never press-on too certain that I’m right and get everyone in the shit? Eh eh? Will I will I WILL I?”

Asked Cox rather too enthusiastically for his own liking and his usual personality

“OF COURSE YOU MUST REALISE TOO THAT IF YOU ARE HAVING GREAT TROUBLE NOT BEING HAPPY, TO SEEK HELP BECAUSE THERE IS CERTAINLY SOMETHING DEEPER THAT NEEDS TO BE RESOLVED.

YOU WON’T KNOW THEM BUT THERE ARE MEN IN MY WORLD WHO ARE ALWAYS UNHAPPY.

AMBITIOUS MEN. MEN WHO THINK WITH THEIR CHICKEN BRAIN AND ALLOW IT TO DETERMINE ALL THEY DO.

THEY USE THEIR OTHER BRAIN TO PLOT AND SCHEME WITH NO THOUGHT FOR ANYTHING BUT THEIR OWN AIMS AND GRATIFICATION; MONEY AND POWER AND DOMINATION AT ANY COST.

MEN WHO SEE FIT TO TORTURE OTHERS AND KILL INOCENTS TO OBTAIN THEIR ENDS.

MEN IN WHICH ONE PART OF THEIR BRAIN IS MISSING OR DEFECTIVE,

THEIR CONSCIENCE.

HUMANS DEFECTIVE IN THE EXTREME.

WHO ARE AFFLICTED WITH A MADNESS.

AN ILLNESS AS REAL AS THOSE WE WOULD NORMALLY CALL MAD

MEN WHO PROFESS EVEN A DEEP BELIEF IN A DEITY AND THE GOOD BOOKS.

MEN WHO CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO OCCUPY POSITIONS OF POWER.

WHO SHOULD BE NEUTRALISED.

BEWARE OF THEM, THEY ARE AMONG US!

THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES TO WHOM WE SHOULD NEVER BE WELL-INTENTIONED BECAUSE THEY FORCE US TO ACT LIKE THEM.”

An ifn ya realise that ifn it feels like y’ain’t a carryin’ no burden then y’aint thinkin’ proper like those fuckin psychopaths. An ifn yah burden is a weighin’ real heavy then perhaps y’all oughtta sit, rest a while an think again ’bout where yer goin’ an’ how yah gonna git there an’ never be afeared o’ seekin’ help and talkin’ ter someone an’ learnin’ to trust an’ not be too trustin’. An’ ifn ya’al havin’ trouble still gittin’ along on ya way perhaps yah need ter see a fuckin shrink!”

Do that an’ yer jest might git somewheres asshole! But who knows an’ who knows where it’ll be godammit? One thing is fer sure though, good generally begets good as sure as Jesus was begat of the Virgin Mary an’ how sure is that eh?

“Now don’t start that friend.” said Cox, “Not now I’m feeling more optimistic at Christmas than I have for years! And, by the way Sir I really, from the bottom of my heart, I should thank…..””

Francois J.D. Abraham, etc, etc, Jordan III grabbed and shook Cox’s hand hard and said

“Yah can cut-out that shit right now asshole! Been mighty fine ter know yah Sir.”

He took off his soldier,s cap and handed it to Cox and then did a half-stoop and bent at the knees. He then launched himself on to the foot of the bed in a single jump yelling,

“YEE HAW!”

A strange but fine sound indeed, Cox thought, but one that could only be done by someone “in good health, with false teeth and a belly full of pork and beans”; someone preparing for a battle, someone very much alive.

As Francois J.D. etc etc, Jordan III stood gathering his equilibrium, perched on the metal foot of the bed, the black robe fell away to dust to reveal a rather fetching Spiderman nightshirt. He looked up questioningly towards the ceiling, gave a military salute and said;

“Wuz that alright you sumbitch, horse-assed hoody creeps,” and then fell back in slow motion, arms now rigid at his side, right into the outline in the bed, who Cox now realised had all along been the form of his new found friend.

EPILOGUE:

How Ebenezer Cox found himself back in his own bedchamber he was quite at a loss to know. The grey cap grasped in his hand proved that night’s events had not just been a dream.

Light shone in through a chink in the moleskin curtains. He leaped from the bed, opened the frosty window and shouted down into the crisp, cold, snowy street, the fog having been chased away by the bright day.

“Hey you, Barrow Boy, what’s your name? Winterbourne? Damn fool name, yes you! What day is it today? Christmas day you say? Yippee! Stay right where you are, NO, come up here straight away, I have an errand for you and there’s a bright new sovereign in it for you if you do.”

He scuttled back to a table in the corner found some paper, dipped a quill in his inkwell and started to scribble, uttering as he did little squeaks of joy at each of the lines he wrote. When he finished he blotted it and turned around. The barrow-boy was standing sheepishly at the door looking puzzled wringing his cap in his hands not certain whether to be afraid of this lunatic hopping around squeaking and smiling manically before him and asking himself whether the lure of a sovereign was worth what might be going to happen to him.

Cox skipped and hopped over to him with the paper in his hand and holding it in front of the boy’s face he ran his finger down the errands one by one reciting them.

“A new sovereign for you boy, no make it two, if you do all this right away there’s a good fellow!

Run down to Buxton the poulterer and ask for his largest Welsh goose and take it round to Augustus Cox’s house and tell him I’m coming to dinner!

Then straight round to the Zoological gardens for a Tiger, the largest mind, don’t let them palm you off with a Rhino or a Crocodile! Take it round to Shuttlecock’s place for Tiny Tim. Just make sure the spoilt little brat says thank you and if he doesn’t box his ears soundly and say it’s from me and tell him too that I have a few things to say to him!

Get a hamper of food and a box full of toys too for Bob, Ma and the other kids and tell Bob he can take the week off from work and when he comes back we’ll talk about a pay rise.

Oh, and you’d better get a carpenter up there first, the floor’s rotten, no, wait, I’ll do that, there’s one just over the road opposite.

Then go to Nigel Cook at the iron monger’s, you know the one who has daft Viking swords and chain mail in the window, and get a case of spray paint round to the Chapel of the Grand Posse in the Sky with my compliments and tell them too my house needs doing up if they have a spare hour or two and want to earn a bob or two as well as have some fun. And for goodness sake don’t forget’ they won’t understand you unless put “like” or “innit” after every other word and finish of with “wickid”.

Then to the bookseller and get a copy of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Caroll, that Jabberwocky stuff should keep Sir Derek busy finding fault for years. You can find the old sea dog down at the Opera House or if not he’ll be at the docks looking for sailors in Puddy’s bar.

Go down to the Fire Station and, if they aren’t on strike still, get Mick Saunders and the lads to get my under-clerk Sketchesby-Soz out of the privy in my office, it’s Christmas after all, goodwill even to him, the scoundrel. Then hose him down quick and get him to the nearest barber post haste, he’ll be needing a whole body shave, if he hasn’t already suffocated. And you and Saunders might need a quick trim too if you get too close!

Oh, I nearly forgot! Go round to Benson the wig-maker, he’s good with false hair for women, and get him to make a ginger merkin for Madame Bitters down at the John O’ Gaunt and take it round yourself with my compliments. Tell him the only the silkiest mohair will do and don’t forget to get a bottle of superglue to go with it! And yes, while you are at the pub give this sovereign to the Pot-Boy, Chambers, and tell him to go see Dr. D’Agostino the Urologist in town, he really needs to see someone before something really nasty happens down below. Tell him if it costs any more then it’s on me! Tell him not to worry that he’s not a real doctor, he’s very good with germs and viruses and things like that.

Oh yes, just one more thing, when all that’s done, go to the Apothecary and buy a bottle of Oil of Ulay and bring it back here – if I’m not in just leave it on the step. Now here’s a ten pound note, that should be enough for all of that; if there’s any left just keep the change.”

The boy skipped happily away and Cox went to the wardrobe, took out his Sunday best clothes and put them on. He sat on the side of the bed and pulled his boots on. He then went for his hat and walking cane. The cat was watching and seeing this, stood up,stretched heaving a resigned sigh then walked over to Cox. Standing at his feet in front of him the cat turned and offered his rear end up in a gesture of submission. Cox, seeing this, bent down picked the cat up in his arms, tenderly stroked its head and planted a big kiss on the end of its nose. He then put the extremely confused animal back on the floor.

As he left the house, the cat watched him, thunderstruck, and if an observer had been there when the door shut, he would have seen the beast, fur bristling, start rushing around madly crying “woof woof woof woof”!

Ebenezer’s breath shone steamily as he shouted out to two gentlewomen, the Mistresses Cobb and Bristor across the street,

“Good day to you both, good ladies, a fine and a very Merry Christmas to ye!”

They responded somewhat hesitantly in kind and bustled off hastily to buy some smelling salts thinking that at last the old misanthrope Cox had gone quite mad.

At the Carpenter’s shop, he met a rather flustered carpenter who greeted the announcement of Cox’s urgent order for a load of floorboards with a sharp intake of breath, saying,

“You’re lucky sir, normally I wouldn’t, with it bein’ Christmas an’ that but I’ll do it sir, straight away. I have to, got another mouth to feed. I dunno, Christmas Day, and what happens? Me missus, has a baby boy, an’ I got a bloody big tax bill to pay too. Worried out of my mind I’ve been and then you come along sir and solve my problems with this big order! Don’t you worry sir, I’ll get me donkey cart and nip round straight away!”

Cox paid him cash on the nail there and then added,

“A boy you say? Today of all days! That’s good! You know, er, what did you say your name was?

“Joseph sir”

“Well, Joseph, er…. your wife’s name wouldn’t be Mary by any chance?”

“It is Sir, how…”

“Well, Joseph, it just goes to show, hope springs eternal; aye that it does too!

Later that day all Cox’s Facebook friends received a message. A picture of a cute mouse snuggled up to a fluffy kitten, itself snuggled against the breast of a cute dog, in a stable surrounded by cute oxen and cute asses, cute shepherds, cute kings on cute camels and a proud Mary and Joseph with cute baby Jesus lain in a manger and in which you might have seen in the gloom at the back of the stable, two other shadowy visitors sitting on a pile of manure.

Under this was written,

“Merry Christmas, peace, love and above all HOPE to you one and all.

From your most sincere friend….

THE END

Or is it?

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