Lynton Cox’s “What The Dickens?” Part Three

 

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree...Humbug!

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree…Humbug!

(In which Ebenezer Cox having been spectrally forewarned by the ghost of his dead writing companion receives the first promised visitation. Another spectre appears to remind him of happier times and we learn about his decline into misanthropy and bitterness.)

Dear reader, by means of our most humble hand you have read of the visitation experienced by Ebenezer Cox in the spectral form of his long-dead former writing companion Obadiah Shuttlecock.

They each contributed many years ago works of little merit that masqueraded as satire but which were really designed to obtain readers’ attention through the promise of titillation by salacious reference to the pulchritude of female celebrities on the very worst of the worst satire sites of the ethereal communications network that is the Internet and which is called thespoof.com. He left these poor works of infantile content and orphan code to rot, moulder and die; neglected, to haunt a dark corner of the infinite cyber-void of forgotten information of no particular use but to those who might absent-mindedly or accidentally search for keywords such as “vagina”, “breasts” or naked”, quite accidentally or absent-mindedly alone or even randomly combined with names of famous female celebrities of popular culture such as Cheryl Cole, Susan Boyle, Miley Cyrus or other such popular human refuse of the modern culture of celebrity.

Cox did this through both laziness and in the vain hope that immature pimply cyber-vagrants might run across them from time to time and thus be plunged unconsciously into the insidiously wicked net of his activities to rule the world. He also left one more fictional character, Alfred Frimley, to undeservingly rot, forgotten and underdeveloped; something that he should have regretted because with a little care he could have become a strong character. A mild-mannered pensioner Frimley cared for his aged bedridden mother and her equally bedridden yet occasionally lucid sister his aunty Vi. The cares and evils of the world just washed over this innocent, such that even the Devil himself would be sympathetic to his plight and have pity on him. Perhaps that is why Cox included him in the business name Shuttlecock, Frimley and Cox, in guilt of the memory. Or perhaps because his name was fraudulently entered on the tax returns and thus wholly responsible for any financial irregularities that might have been overlooked or over-cooked by Cox’s Eagle-eye for figures.

When Ebenezer Cox awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber. He was endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened for the hour to sound through the milk of the fog pressing insistently on the window pane.

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and then regularly up to twelve; then it stopped. Twelve! It had been past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have got into the works. Twelve! Humbug!

He lay in this state until the chime had gone three quarters more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie awake until the hour was past; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his power.

The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At length it broke upon his listening ear.

“Ding, dong!”

“A quarter past,” said Cox, counting.

“Ding, dong!”

“Half past!”

“Ding, dong!”

“A quarter to it”

“Ding,!”

“The hour itself, said Cox, triumphantly, “and nothing else!”

There was a sudden whoosh of air and the bed curtains opened just a crack, enough to reveal an apparently disembodied face and the fingertips of two hands.

“DONG! He he! Ooo-er I GOTCHA there didn’t I!?” The face thrust through the gap!

Cox, started up into a semi-recumbent attitude and noticed he had a painfully tight sphincter and momentarily sympathised with the cat. He found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor perched on the end of the bed and who now drew the curtains fully apart with a flourish.

“Taaa Daaa!”

It was a strange figure; like a child, yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance sometimes of a white pencil sketch upon black paper, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet, the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin.

Cox started up as the visitation spoke with an odd nasal tone, head tossed back and its eyes looking askance at him across the shoulder and down its slender nose, which had strangely flaring nostrils

“Hellooooo Coxy! ‘Ere, wait a minute! You’re ogling my skin aren’t you!” exclaimed the somewhat diminutive and rather undernourished spectre rather shrilly and putting on a false scandalised air.

“Ogleogleogl…Wa what?” spluttered Cox, half flabbergasted at the appearance of the thing and half at surprise that he could see into his very mind.

“S’alright ducks, they all do it and I’m very proud of it, my skin that is. Regular washing with Wright’s Coal Tar Soap and Oil of Ulay morning and night and you can’t go wrong. Would do wonders for your sore arse; and the cat’s mm yeess. Disinfects too it does.”

The rather uncomfortable erotically suggestive way that the apparition ran his hand up and down his arm and the following overall imitation of the application of something upon his whole body startled Cox and unease passed into anxiety on the road towards outright panic at the sight of such a pantomime.

“Oiloiloiloil of wwwwhat?” burbled Cox somewhat interrogatively, reeling and confused.

He saw the spectre shimmering before him looking rather satisfied with itself or rather himself although in impression the supposedly male phantom seemed both of no gender and ageless. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like the upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white with pink piping around the hems and stitch lines and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt with a silver filigree buckle on which he could make out the letters D-O-L-C-E, E-T, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand but in singular contradiction of that wintry symbol, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible

“You’re ogling again you are, stop messin’; about! I know I look like something carved by Michelangelo but that’s no excuse for ogling me, an’ at your age too! Should be ashamed! Although who could blame anybody? You ain’t one of those paedo thingies I ‘ope”

“Ssssorry.” Cox spluttered again.

“Come on ducks we ain’t got all night there’s twelve dongs, there’s three of us ghosts so that makes four dongs each tonight. Oooooo four dongs each oooooo er! ‘That’s generous’ I said to the boss. When I was alive that only happened once in a blue moon and then only when I went on me holidays to Thailand! Four dongs, ooooh sweet memories! Anyway, enough of that deary, I got me orders so look lively sweetheart!”

“Orders?”

“Yes dear, orders!” He said emphatically, looking at Cox pointedly as if it should be the most evident fact to the trembling wreck in front of him.

The phantom drew out a paper from his belt and started to read:

“To the Ghost of Christmas Past: (that’s me, ducks, but you can call me Kenny) You are to proceed to the apartments of one Ebenezer Cox and therefrom conduct him on a mysterious voyage through four dong’s worth of time to relive selective Christmases from times past. This is in order to allow him to recall happier days and reflect on the reasons for his misanthropic decline to his present sorry state. You are also to warn him that if he doesn’t mend his ways he and all his cyber-doings will be doomed to walk undead in spectral form through cyberspace or until such time as he is finally cached on some derelict server. Remind him too that there will be two more spectral visits this night and thus he should not make any alternative arrangements for at least 8 dongs worth of time before the stroke of the hour. So you see deary, it’s all there in black and white, I got me orders; it’s all official so shake a leg!”

At that the phantom took him by the hand, led him to the window, and as if leaves in the wind they were swept up, floating through the sky which as they went became light and dark alternatively, faster and faster like the flickering of a guttering candle flame.

“’Ere you’re not epileptic are you? You know, got the falling sickness or anything like that? You know, foaming at the mouth tremblin’ an’ all that?” asked Ken.

“No, w-wh-why do you ask?”

“Can’t be too careful these days you know, all this flickerin’ can set ’em off bitin’ the carpet and shakin, ooooh; shakin something rotten, convuuuuuulsions I tell you! Before you know it you’re being sued for negligence, new false teef and new carpets an’ stuff – an’ we couldn’t have that could we? Then again, you might not know you’ve got it so close your eyes love, just in case; there’s a good boy.”

Cox felt the wind rush gently past his skin and in his ears, sussurating as if calling his name. Ebeneeezer Ebeneeezer Ebeneeezer!

After a short but indeterminate time he felt a light bump and opened his eyes. He found himself standing in the parlour of a large family house. The walls and ceilings of this welcoming homely room were bedecked with greenery and garlands. In the corner a large Christmas tree stood, hung with silver and gold, and twinkling lights. Gaily coloured paper-wrapped parcels were piled in a tumbling mass beneath the fragrant branches and candles were aglow in profusion on the mantel shelf from which hung stockings full to bursting with a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and candy canes.

“Why! I know this place!” Cox exclaimed.

He had no chance to say more before a pretty lady dressed in a shimmering green shot-silk gown came bustling into the room calling out in a tinkling, laughing voice, “Ebby, Gussie, you may come in now! I do believe that Father Christmas has been.”

“Mama!” Gasped Cox as a tear of remembrance and realisation came to his eye.

There was a clamour in the hall beyond the door and two little boys came running in, one, in a sailor suit and the other dressed in bright blue satin knickerbockers and a lime green silk smock shirt with billowing sleeves, ruffed neck and cuffs, and black patent leather shoes with silver buckles. One boy was slightly bigger than the other indicating the two years that separated them.

“Hurrah hurrah!” they shouted in unison, eyes widening with surprise and wonderment at the festive sight before them.

The scene faded and Cox turned to the spectre at his elbow with tears in his eyes and said,

“Oh my dear mama, oh how those were happy times!. That was the year I got my very first computer, an Amstrad CPC with GEM operating system, cheaper than IBM but that was all Papa and Mama could afford, he was only a lowly Mole catcher.”

Ho Ho Fucking Ho!

Ho Ho Fucking Ho!

(This, dear reader,was something of an inaccuracy that many in positions of wealth and power tend to exploit so that others believe them to be of similar lowly stock. In fact, although Cox’s father had indeed been apprenticed to a Mole catcher in his youth, his ambitions and shrewdness in the catching and skinning of various rodents and other wild creatures had provided him with a growing and successful business in the fur trade. His products had clothed the rich and famous and one could guarantee that if you saw a fine lady wearing fur that Cox’s father had been somewhere behind her Beaver.)

“Yeah crap weren’t they!” the spectre rejoindered, adding, “I was more into Barbie dolls meself but there you go luv.”

The spectre looked at him strangely and asked:

“Was that reeeally you in those blue satin knickerbockers Coxy? If I didn’t know better I’d have said you were a bit ginger, you know like, a bit of the old mutual ma…” The apparition broke off suddenly

“Oh my gawd look at the time! Come on you, there’s more to see!”

The scene passed from light to darkness as if a curtain had closed on the tableau and when the darkness cleared after a moment Cox found himself beside the spectre in a large room full of electronic gadgets and screens.

“I know this place too exclaimed Cox it’s where I studied-where I did my programming PhD, look, yes! There it is on the shelf over there!”

The spectre took the thick book from the shelf and looked at it and then looked at Cox accusingly. He read the title with a rather disdainful and exaggerated gentrified voice which as he proceeded turned into an accusatory nasal whine full of irony

“On the Accuracy of Inferring Location in IEEE 802.15.4 Networks? It’s all Greek to me, but I happen to know that this is what gave rise to the embryonic idea of the Cox Clickomatic. But instead of being a force for good why did it all go wrong Ebenezer Cox? what was behind it? could it be anything to do with that photograph in the frame on your desk?”

Again with tears in his eyes Cox reached out and grasped the silver frame and clutched it to his breast weeping.

“Oh Cham.. Cham…” he was breaking down

“Go on say THE NAME COXY, say it!” Yelled the spectre at the weeping crumpled heap of a man before him.

“Chamooooone Chamone Chamone Chamone !” Cox wailed dolefully to the heaven above, his arms outstretched, the picture in his hand tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Yes Coxy boy that was when it all turned sour didn’t it! When you were abandoned by the only person you ever loved apart from yourself and your mother. Chamone! That’s HER! Chamone O’Leary from up on the estate at the back of the recreation ground. CHAMONE who dumped you for some male stripper called Darren who she met down the pub while you were off at yet another technical symposium! You lost her, through your own stupid indifference and then descended into bitter misanthropic spite aimed at the whole world because you couldn’t face the outcome of your own actions! Bitter and twisted you were that she could have gone off with that dimwitted idiotic vaudevillian with those pumped up pectorals and bulging biceps (an’ I bet they weren’t the only muscles either that ‘e ‘ad that bulged when they were pumped-up!). The hate and disgust you felt for YOURSELF Coxy go on, GO ON ADMIT IT! You used her rejection as an excuse to turn against everyone, to slander all those well-meaning nice politicians, all those talented journalists at the Daily Mail; to bore all your Facebook friends with your long words, philosophy and moralising. Have you no shame Ebenezer Cox, NO SHAAAAME?”

Cox looked dejectedly at the spectre, he was a pitiful shadow of himself, his chin flecked with the desperate dribble caused by him seeing again after all these years the image of Chamone O’Leary and her excruciatingly sufficient GGGG brassiere, seismically straining like Vesuvius. About to erupt her pulchritudinous pink pumice on the floundering plinian wreck of a man sheltering in its lee.

“But she just left me! LEFT me dammit! And I had just installed surround sound in her cleavage too, cost me a bloody fortune too for the plastic surgeon to sew the sub woofer in her fanny and the tweeter up her bum.”

The spectre sharply rebuked him,

“Shame on you Ebenezer Cox, SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOOOOOOU! Face the consequences of your own actions, your own omissions!” Shrieked the by now hysterical spectre, his voice raising in a reproachful crescendo rising in cadence to a high falsetto as the spectre itself started rising slowly. Then at the same time as he flew up into the black void and disappearing above Cox’s head his voice became a gradual diminuendo.

As the darkness and silence closed in once more around him Ebenezer Cox found himself back in his room; in his own bed again, sobbing, his body racked by tremors that shook the cat (who was sat, still attending with diligent care to its rear end, on one corner of the counterpane and wincing with every lick of its tongue). The echo of the phantom voice still resounding in his head, he found himself in urgent need of a piss.

To be continued…

With even more apologies to Charles Dickens

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