Lynton Cox’s “What The Dickens?” Part 5.3

Is It Finished Yet? My Eyeballs Are Melting!

Is It Finished Yet? My Eyeballs Are Melting!

Episode 5, part 3 (I do hope you are bearing with me.)

The apparition gave the tearful, sobbing Cox no time to gather any argument and once again they took off into the blackness and the tableau below faded away. This time thankfully no demons assailed them and after a short time they alighted at a large wrought iron double gate with two stone pillars set in a high wall overgrown with ivy. It was still night but the whole scene was thrown in stark, eerie shadow by the glimmer of a gas light. The the gate creaked and clanked open and the spectre led Cox along a narrow gravel path. It had started snowing but a mist was hanging low on the ground and swirling as they moved through it. The spectre stopped and pointed and Cox looked at it questioningly.

“Move yah fuckin’ ass! We ain’t got all damned night! Go take a lookee see, I ain’t a pointin’ fer the fun of it asshole!”

Cox moved towards where the bony finger pointed and he saw protruding up through the mist and snow a stone, a headstone, of the cheapest kind. He brushed away the accumulating snow and what he saw froze his very heart.

Ebenezer Cox, born 1820, died….. it was the very next year.

“Yup Coxy it comes to us all sho nuff. Oh yeah, we all thinks we’s gonna live forever, ‘ticularly when we’s young. We push it ter the back of the mind until we cain’t help but think about it. But there you lie Ebenezer Cox like the rest round here. No epitaph, no “beloved father and brother, uncle”, o’ shit like that. Jest another victim of naichur, the eternal war. Did yah think yah’d have anythang else? Some eternal legacy? Look at me. Ah’m no different to anyone else. Ah lived mah life an’ ah done things that ah shouldn’t an ifn those hoody bastards round that table are right, then ah’s well weighed-down with sin jest like you. Within a few generations even those who have epitaphs, big tombstones an’ shit, gits fergotten an nobody brings ’em flowers anymore. Ifn nobody don’t remember them fer the good they did d’yah think anybody’ll remember their sins?”

“B..b..but surely people do good things in their lives sometimes? Does nothing count?” Asked Cox.

The apparition grabbed his hand abruptly and they were off again over the rooftops and shortly they found themselves in a large room full of people. They alighted next to a couple of old crones knitting and gossiping; One said to the other,

“They say ‘e laid there weeks afore anyone found him poor ole bugger”

Her companion replied nodding her head.

“Doesn’t surprise me, ‘e wuz such a miserable old git nobody went near the place, not even the neighbours, till they smelt something funny that didn’t smell of curry and didn’t go away by the mornin’ an’ then called a policeman. They say they found ‘im in ‘is bed strangled by his own nose hair. Curled right round ‘is neck it was and went down to ‘is feet it did! Crawlin’ wiv maggots the place was”

Another voice shouted from a dais at the front of the room

“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to Snuffit, Clearit and Floggit Auctioneers. Today we have a mixed sale of effects from the, ahem, “estate” of the late Mr. Ebenezer Cox, gentleman of this parish.

Jeers and laughter went up from the room and shouts of “Gennelman?” and “Bloody hateful ole skinflint!” rang out along with boos and hisses.

Cox mumbled forlornly,

“Did nobody like me at all?”

“DID YOU DO ANYTHING TO MAKE ANYBODY LIKE YOU?”

“Now, now, ladies and gentlemen, let us ‘ave a little respect for the er sadl… er .. dearl…. The deceased… purlease!”

Said the auctioneer, bringing the room to order with his gavel, rather too peremptorily, for Cox’s comfort

“We have some, er, um, yes, very interesting lots today ladies and gentlemen. I’d like particularly to DRAW your attention to a lovely set of bed curtains, real moleskin they are, as good as new. Would do someone a good turn those; could make several pairs of lovely fashionable trousers those or a few nice gentleman’s waistcoats.

Groans from the crowd greeted the feeble pun.

“We have also an interesting and rare example of taxidermy; an Owl. Nearly new it seems since one can still smell the mysterious oriental spices used to embalm it. One never quite knows with people what their private hobbies and interests are and Mr Cox seems to have been a dark horse in that department. Quite what it was doing on the ground outside Mr. Cox’s house is a puzzle but, it has nevertheless not suffered at all from the recent snow and would fittingly grace any cabinet of curiosities.

As would likewise this box of er, what looks like coarse ginger hair but, which we have on good authority from the local museum, is genuine Mammoth hair, a very rare item indeed and for which we already have substantial interest and an absentee bid placed by Madame Bitters of the The John of Gaunt public house. A bid, may I say, so impressively high, that anyone who wants it will… and I am giving nothing away here, will indeed have to go it some today to beat her obvious palaeontological passion to possess it.

There are many more items of interest, boxes of assorted slightly stained underwear, gentleman’s hose, a walking cane and stand (the dead mouse comes free by the way), a gold half-hunter watch, etcetera, etcetera, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let us pass to lot numb……”

The scene faded as Cox and the spectre once more shot away into the darkness and they found themselves hovering in the void

“Is this what it all comes down to in the end?”

Bemoaned Cox in a low sorry voice, bitterly shaking his bowed head

“What the hell d’yah think happens when you croak asshole? Where ah come from there are hundreds of charity shops with shelves lined with the books, trinkets and ornaments that belonged ter dead little old ladies an’ men who led blameless, downright evil or somewhere-in-between lives. Ev’thing that they didn’t go to the grave wearin’ is hung up in public view fer sale there. Ever’thin, that is,what their money-grabbin’ relatives didn’t care ’bout an’ others’ll pay good money fer. It all ends up in another charity shop or yard sale when the new owners ‘ventually die an’ so on forever or till each sad l’il trinket smashes or piece o duds wears out an’ in the end not even the least invisible trace of the memory of the lovin’ touch of someone’s skin on cotton or admiring hand on porcelain remains.

“It’s so sad so so so sad”

Cox whispered forlornly.

“I REALLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE THINKING!

ALL THIS RUBBISH ABOUT POSTERITY! FOR GOODNESS SAKE! DO THEY THINK WE’LL EVEN GET NEAR APPEARING IN SOME FUTURE FOSSIL RECORD?

DON’T THEY KNOW THAT ONLY VERY FEW GET REMEMBERED AT ALL FOR ANYTHING REALLY GOOD OR BAD THEY DID?

EVEN THEN NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE OUTCOME MIGHT BE OF ANY OF THEIR ACTIONS!

GOODNESS KNOWS, DESPITE THE ABE LINCOLNS AND WINSTON CHURCHILLS AND ALL THOSE OTHER SO-CALLED HEROS OF ONE THING AND ANOTHER IN HISTORY THAT WE RAISE UP AS GIANTS IN STONE ON PLINTHS, MY WORLD OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME STILL FINDS ITSELF IN A SORRY MESS REGARDLESS OF THEIR GREAT VICTORIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE PAST!

“You mean I’m right about all those bloody politicians and celebrities and stuff? That my ideas and philosophy are right?”

Cox interrupted mocking and rather gleefully surprised, but the spectre cut him off

“RIGHT! RIGHT? WHO KNOWS WHAT IS RIGHT?

ALL WE KNOW IS WE FIND OURSELVES HERE WITH NO IDEA OF HOW WE GOT HERE OR HOW IT WILL ALL END.

WE THINK THERE MUST BE SOME PURPOSE TO THINGS. BUT WHAT IS THE PURPOSE, IF THERE IS ONE, OF A BUTTON OR A BEGONIA OR A BEETLE IN THE GREATER SCHEME OF THINGS, IF, AGAIN, THERE INDEED SUCH A SCHEME?

FOR ALL WE KNOW, THE IDEA OF MEANING OR PURPOSE MIGHT BE JUST SOMETHING THAT EMERGES ACCIDENTALLY FROM THE MESS OF CHEMICALS THAT WE ARE MADE OF.

THE WAY OUR BRAINS DEAL WITH THOSE THINGS WE CANNOT KNOW.

JUST LIKE WHEN THERE IS DEAD SILENCE WE THINK WE HEAR THINGS.

OR WHEN IT IS DARK WE SEE FLASHES OF LIGHT THAT AREN’T REALLY THERE.

OUR EYES AND EARS CAN’T COPE WITH NOT DOING THE JOB THEY ARE EVOLVED TO DO AND SO “INVENT” THINGS FOR COMFORT BECAUSE THEY CAN’T SEE OR HEAR ANYTHING. THEY JUST AREN’T MADE TO BE IDLE.

WITH THOSE THINGS WE CAN’T KNOW, IT IS THE SAME BECAUSE OUR BRAINS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS RATIONALLY AND FIND THE HOW OF THINGS. TO WORK OUT PURPOSEFUL ACTION TO ACHIEVE GOALS.

WE THUS IMAGINE THERE IS PURPOSE BECAUSE WE ARE HARD-WIRED TO LOOK FOR CAUSES AND EFFECTS.

BUT PURPOSE IS THE WHY OF THINGS THE GOAL OF AN ACTION.

HOW DID EVERYTHING START? WHERE WILL IT END? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE , WHY ARE WE HERE? WHY IS THERE SOMETHING AND NOT NOTHING?

WE CANNOT COPE WITH UNKNOWABLES – IMPONDERABLES.

JUST LIKE THE ANCIENTS DID FOR THOSE THINGS THEY COULD NOT CONTROL LIKE DISEASE, THE WEATHER, NIGHT AND DAY, OTHER NATURAL PHENOMENA.

THEY IMAGINED THAT THERE WERE UNSEEN GODS THAT DID CONTROL THEM

BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THAT SINCE HUMANS CAN CONTROL SOME THINGS BY APPLYING PURPOSEFUL ACTION THEN THERE MUST BE OTHERS, SO AGENCY MORE POWERFUL, WHO CONTROLLED ALL THOSE THINGS THEY COULDN’T AND TO THE SOLE PURPOSE OF CAUSING HUMAN FEAR AND SUFFERING.

THEY COULD NOT IMAGINE ACTION WITHOUT PURPOSE. THEY FEARED HAVING NO CONTROL. AND THOSE WHO DID CONTROL WHAT THEY COULD NOT MUST BE FEARFULLY POWERFUL

THEY IMAGINED GODS WHO WERE DISPLEASED WHEN NATURAL FORCES WERE UNLEASHED UPON THEM. THEY THOUGH THEY NEEDED TO APPEASE THEM. SO THEY BUILT EFFIGIES AND TEMPLES AND MADE SACRIFICES TO THEM IN THAT HOPE.

IT DID NOT ALWAYS WORK OF COURSE BUT IT WAS ENCOURAGED BY THE PRIESTS BECAUSE IT GAVE THEM POWER OVER PEOPLE

IT’S THE SAME WITH THE GODS OF TODAY. WE APPEASE THEM BY DOING WHAT WE THINK THEY WANT OR WHAT THEIR PRIESTS TELL US THEY WANT.

AND SOME OF US EVEN STILL LIVE IN FEAR BECAUSE OF IT.

SOME MAY WELL INVENT RELIGIONS AND BELIEF SYSTEMS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES BUT THEY AREN’T PROTECTING THEMSELVES FROM THE WRATH OF SOME ANGRY GOD;

JUST FROM FEAR OF THE IDEA THAT THERE MIGHT BE NO PURPOSE TO ANYTHING. NO REASON. NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THAT TUNNEL OF THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. THE COMFORT THAT, DESPITE ALL THE BAD THAT HAPPENS, THERE IS A PURPOSE TO OUR BEING AND OUR SUFFERING AND THAT THERE WILL COME A TIME THAT WE WILL FINALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT PURPOSE IS.

FOR IF THERE IS NO PURPOSE WHAT OTHER REASON IS THERE TO CONTINUE TO EXIST?

WHY CARRY ON IN THE FACE OF ALL THE PAIN THAT THIS MESS OF CHEMICALS THAT WE ARE ALSO INFLICTS UPON US IN OUR INTEREACTIONS WITH THE WORLD AND OTHERS AROUND US?

ARE WE REALLY JUST THE PRODUCT OF NATURE? THE ECONOMY OF WHICH MANY WOULD VAUNT AS ULTIMATE AND EXQUISITE, WITHOUT WASTE. OR ARE WE THE PRODUCT OF A DIVINE MIND THAT PUT US HERE FOR SOME MYSTERIOUS REASON ONLY IT KNOWS?

WHICH OF TWO SUCH ALTERNATIVE GREAT FORCES COULD HAVE SEEN FIT TO PRODUCE AS AN ABSOLUTE AND NECESSARY PART OF ITS UNFOLDING UNIVERSE; ITS GRAND EXPERIMENT, A SPECIES THAT REQUIRES SO MUCH SUPERFLUOUS TINSEL IN ITS LIFE SUCH AS DEVICES FOR TAKING SPIDERS OUT OF BATHTUBS, JUST TO ELIMINATE MINIMAL SUFFERING TO ITSELF AND ITS FELLOW BEASTS?

IS IT HUMANS THAT ARE GOOD OR NATURE OR GOD?
I DO NOT KNOW, BUT IF IT IS NATURE THEN WE ARE DOOMED ALREADY.

IF IT WAS GOD, HE REALLY HAS A STRANGE SENSE OF HUMOUR AND IS NOT VERY NICE AT ALL.

IF IT WAS MAN THEN PERHAPS THERE IS SOME HOPE AT LEAST SINCE, OF THE THREE, ONLY WE POSSESS THE POWER TO CHANGE THE AMOUNT OF HAPPINESS IN THE WORLD.

BUT WHAT IS HAPPINESS?

Cox was listening intently, warming to this argument since it made him feel far less guilty than he had been up till then;

“So can I be criticised for behaving as I do, bad or good, if it doesn’t matter? How could people tell whether in some so-called “morality tale” about me behaving as I have it gives them some positive direction in which to point themselves in the labyrinth of their lives if it’s all pointless? If self-gratification is the major thing in our lives then why not pursue it good or bad?”

“I AM AFRAID I AM REALLY NOT SURE I HAVE AN EXACT ANSWER TO THAT. BUT THROUGH TIME, IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN THERE HAS BEEN A NEED FOR ORDER WHEREVER THERE IS MORE THAN ONE PERSON AND PERHAPS EVEN WITHIN US ALL ORDER IS REQUIRED.

WHAT HOPE MIGHT THERE HAVE BEEN FOR THE HUMAN RACE HAD THE FIRST MAN AND WOMAN SEEN FIT TO SATISFY EACH THEIR OWN SELFISH GRATIFICATION BY JUST BEATING EACH OTHER OVER THE HEAD?

TO SEEK NO COMPROMISE? TO COOPERATE?

THAT IS REALLY ALL ONE CAN SAY. WE NEED SOME RULES AND VALUES. SOME ORDER TO RUB ALONG WITH EACH OTHER.

WE MUST IMPOSE ORDER ON EACH OTHER AND ALSO UPON OURSELVES

HOW CULTURES HAVE SOUGHT THIS DIFFERS. IN SOME DISORDER MAY HAVE PROVED DETRIMENTAL AND THUS THEY EVOLVED TO BE ORDERED, BUT, ORDER WE NEED AND MUCH MORE THAN WE HAVE CURRENTLY JUST TO PREVENT OUR OWN PROFLIGACY.

WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IN LIFE EBENEZER COX MAY BE FROWNED UPON BY SOME OR INDEED LAUDED BY OTHERS OF A MORE RUTHLESS BENT; BUT IS IT BAD? CAN ANYONE REALLY SAY WITHOUT SOME SORT OF FRAMEWORK OF ORDER?

YOU HAVE NOT ACTUALLY BROKEN ANY SECULAR LAW. BUT THERE ARE SOME WHO WOULD SAY YOU HAVE BROKEN SOME INNATE UNIVERSAL MORAL RULE ”

“Bloody hell man you’re making no sense! Is it good to be good? or good to be bad? or bad to be good? or bad to be bad dammit?”

“I SEE YOUR MORAL COMPASS HAS BEEN PUT SOMEWHAT IN GIRATORY MODE BY THE LODESTONE OF SUCH PHILOSOPHY.

BUT AGAIN I REALLY DO NOT HAVE ANY ANSWERS FOR YOU.

IF WE AGREE THAT THERE ARE SUCH THINGS AS GOOD AND BAD AND RIGHT AND WRONG AND THAT THESE ARE STATES OF MIND GOVERNED BY THE CHEMICAL SOUP THAT FORMS US.

THEN, SINCE THESE CHEMICAL REACTIONS ARE GOVERNED BY UNIVERSAL PHYSICAL LAWS THERE MUST LOGICALLY EXIST A STATE OF MIND THAT WILL LEAD TO GETTING THE RIGHT ANSWER FOR ANY MORAL QUESTION.

BUT HOW WORSE THAT STATE OF MIND, HOW ABNORMAL, IS THAT STATE OF MIND THAT LEADS TO THE “WRONG” ANSWER THAN THE ONE THAT LEADS TO THE “RIGHT” ONE?

I HAVE NO IDEA. AND IF WE EVER FIND OUT, WHO IS TO BE THE JUDGE OF WHAT BRINGS GREATEST BENEFIT OR HAPPINESS TO THE GREATEST NUMBER?

DOING THE RIGHT THING MORALLY SHOULD ALWAYS BRING MOST HAPPINESS TO THE MOST PEOPLE

EVEN SO, SOME WILL STILL INEVITABLY SUFFER AS A RESULT OF OTHERS’ FINDING HAPPINESS. SUCH THAT THOSE WHO END UP SUFFERING, EVEN IF MINORITY WILL FOMENT DISCONTENT AND CONFLICT.

CONSIDERING ALL THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES THAT MIGHT FOLLOW AN ACT “GOOD” OR “BAD”, CAN WE REALLY SAY WHAT THE FINAL OUTCOME OF ANY ACT WILL BE?

IT IS ALL CONTINGENT, LIKE THE REASONS WHY THE BOY TIM DIED.

OSTENSIBLY BAD ACTS LIKE KILLING IN WARS CAN POSSIBLY HAVE GOOD CONSEQUENCES AND VICE VERSA.

FOR INSTANCE IF YOU GIVE A BEGGAR MONEY WHO THEN GOES AND GETS DRUNK AND KILLS SOMEBODY. THAT WAS NOT YOUR INTENTION ONE PRESUMES.

SO CAN ANYTHING BE GOOD OR BAD OR RIGHT OR WRONG THEN?

IT SEEMS WE HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF SKILL AT AVOIDING SUCH DIFFICULT ABSOLUTES.

WE HAVE TO, OTHERWISE PEOPLE WOULD BE AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS ALL THE TIME FIGHTING OVER SOMETHING OR OTHER.

WHY DO WE CONSIDER IT A CRIMINAL ACT IN OUR OWN COUNTRY TO FORCIBLY HOLD DOWN A LITTLE GIRL OR BOY AND MUTILATE THEIR GENITALS, YET IN A COUNTRY FAR AWAY WHERE IT IS PRACTISED BY MILLIONS WE FOB IT OFF AS “CULTURE” OR “RELIGION” AND THUS NOT INTERVENE AGAINST IT AS BARBARITY AND MORALLY WRONG?

SHOULD DISTANCE FROM US MAKE AN ACT LESS WRONG?

IT SEEMS THAT THROUGH HISTORY WE HAVE SPLIT INTO GROUPS THAT HAVE DIFFERENT VALUES AND WHERE SOMETIMES THOSE VALUES DIFFER GREATLY.

WE HAVE NO PROBLEM IGNORING SUCH RELATIVE VALUES HOWEVER DIFFERENT AS LONG AS THET REMAIN WITHIN THE FRONTIERS OF SUCH GROUPS.

IN THE END WE HAVE TO COMPARE SUCH GROUPS AND SEE WHICH VALUES HAVE LEAD TO THE MOST HAPPINESS FOR THE MOST PEOPLE AND COME TO CONCLUSIONS ABOUT WHERE WE SHOULD BE GOING.

ALL I CAN SAY THERE IS I WISH YOU MUCH LUCK!

SO PERHAPS WE SHOULD THANK EITHER SOME GOD OR OUR SOCIAL EVOLUTION FOR POLITICIANS AND PEACEMAKERS WHO HAVE TO DEAL WITH SUCH DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GROUPS. AND ASK OURSELVES IS IT ANY WONDER THEY SEEK NEVER TO BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE DECISIONS THEY HAVE TO MAKE?”

The voice changed.

“’An don’t you go thinking that ah’s goin’ soft neither. Not Francois J. Delamare Abraham, Jefferson, Jackson, Jordan III! Ass hole! Right ‘an wrong good ‘an bad don’t need no goddam Almighty, they’s jest as easy come by with secular ethical philosophy than bah some stoopid idea that they’s dictitated bah some invisible sooperior fuckin’ bein’ that y’all should be afeared of. An evolution don’t have shit ter do with it neither. Don’t forgit neither that them Bible-bashin’ “true believers” reckons you can sin even in thought an’ it ain’t no coincidence that in mah time we’s fought many a war agin countries wi’ governments who tried ter stop their people a thinkin’; an’ those that did think they stuck away in mental institooshuns for it. At he same time all those who think we should all become some world-wide lovey-dovey community all a doin’ o’ the same things an’ havin’ the same values is gonna have a helluva war on there hands!

Obviously thoughtful, Cox said

“Well I have perhaps sinned in thought enough but never passed to the act. And yes I haven’t been particularly nice to my fellow man and there is no secular law against offending people or being reclusive and misanthropic.”

Then he looked up miffed

“But you seem to be forgetting that you and I are here together doing this and that it doesn’t seem to be related to any secular ethic as far as I can make out. There was your mysterious committee remember, talk of Purgatory, Limbo etc., who were they then if not the supernatural guardians of some moral code? Not very secular THAT so what is all that about if you’re so damned sure? What about all the weight of sins you have to shed by this paranormal work-out involving me they condemned you to? You must have been a real bad bastard in life! What did you do that weighs you down so much?”

“’Taint none o’ yo’ fuckin business asshole what ah diyud! Anyhows, ‘taint half as bad as some. I was a Marine an’ proud of it. Got nuthin to regret! ‘Taint my fault ah didn’t manage ter dodge the draft by goin’ into a fuckin’ Seminary but hell Nam wuz nuthin’ compared ter that place! They had just enough time ter indoctrinate me with enough o’ that shit ter have an effect afore I wuz sent out there. Ev’thing ah did wuz right at the time! But war an’ religion both fuck yah up!

You git ter searching fer yer men taken pris’ner bah the Kong you don’t ferkin care ifn you blow the hayud off someone jest ter git yer men out o’ the clutches of those murderin’ torturin’ madmen. Yer don’t care ifn later yer guide some missile ter blow some ragheads on a desert road ter kingdom come. It’s yer job not to moralise yer paid ter do it whether like what yer leaders have gotten yer into or not, yer do it! Someone has to! We’re pieces in a board game, actors in a play. We’s individuals but we has ter act as groups. ‘Taint important what each man thinks, we got not choice, we have ter leave our real selves, our humanity at home.”

He continued, visibly upset despite his protestations of right

“But it wasn’t ME, not ME I tell yah who put cameras on the ends of missiles jest so someone could show some po’ fucker’s face on CNN in front o’ forty million people jest before he gets blown ter smithereens. And what good did that do? Did it change the world? Did it make people think all that fightin’ was wrong all that murder was wrong and vow to never go ter war agin’?

The bastards took the things I love, Cameras and images and they corrupted ’em, they trivialised the horror instead of pointing it out in snapshots that tell a thousand words an’ really make people think! My images are my legacy to the peace I fought for. They tell stories, they affected others in the right way. They were taken with love and good intentions whether a dawg in the street or a baby cryin’ or a couple getting’ married, a vase o’ flowers or jest a turkey in the woods. Fuck this!

Cain’t yah see I wuz weighed down by what others, governments an’ religion loaded on mah back not what ah put there, from mah own thinkin’ mahself. Ah wuz a good man, ah did what ah did an saw as right but also cuz I had no choice. MAH INTENTIONS wuz good an’ yeah, the road ter Hell is paved with ’em. But yer cain’t help not foreseeing consequences good or bad. Yer jest has to have no ill in mind.”

The spectre seemed to be almost weeping but nevertheless seemed to be carrying less of his burden and his features seemed to have solidified into the normal recognisable one of a human being.

“C’mon asshole we got few mo’ thangs to go see.”

To be continued…

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Lynton Cox’s “What The Dickens?” Part 5.2

This Must Have Taken Ages - The Author At Work

This Must Have Taken Ages – The Author At Work

Episode 5, part 2. (No, I’m not giving you a recap! this isn’t some sodding TV program made for the benefit of morons!)

At that; sparks and smoke shot from the four feet of the walking frame and they rose into the void like a sky rocket. There was still no noise, just the black emptiness, but out of this to Cox’s horror came flying directly at them the most grotesque figures. The wraiths and phantoms assailed Cox all around, poking him and taunting with fearsome horrible faces thrusting into his, whispering, glaring at him with their glowing red eyes and hissing,

“Repent Cox, repent, repent, repent!”

Other entities, imps and demons, more ferocious still, snapped and harried at his heels and others, each one more horrific than the last, came at him, pinching, poking and biting whichever parts of his body they could reach.

Cox screamed and struggled but Francois J. D etc, etc Jordan III, “Ghost of Christmas yet to come”, gripped his hand so tightly on the crossbar of the frame that it hurt him as much as the bites and scratches of the massed tormenting imps and devils that writhed all around them in that void. With his other hand holding the walking stick Jordan was frantically, very accurately and extremely violently batting away the assorted imps and wraiths and shouting vile obscenities, such as;

“Mo’fuckin’ hoody bastard ass holes can take those fuckers to the taxidermist” and

“Where’s mah Kimber 1911 ah’ll shoot yo’ ‘nuther two assholes, you sumbich bat-winged devil’s shit red-eyed midget!” at them.

Eventually, the Ghost shouted, pointing his stick, which now had disgusting oozing fragments and dripping strands of miscellaneous diabolical flesh hanging from it.

“Look down asshole!”

Cox looked doubtful

“Are you sure you will be alright?

“ Look down asshole! Ah had relatives who whupped ass at Fort Sumpter in ’63; these cotton-pickin’ pointy-eared, red-assed flyin’ Yankee shitbags don’t know shit ’bout layin’ siege ter no wimmin’s fuckin’ panty shop. Git on with it dammit!

Through the gloom Cox could make out some buildings and human activity. He thought the sight was somewhat familiar. As they descended he perceived something written on a wall

“ ‘ollocks”

“That’s Shuttlecock’s place, I’ve just been there!”

The ghost looked at him still waving his stick around ferociously beating off sundry devilish entities

“Shit man look closer!”

There was activity, lots of it. There was a fire engine and people running around, an ambulance was drawn up and people were tending to others who were looking dazed and confused, injured, sitting at the kerbside wrapped in blood soaked bandages.

Cox recognised some of them, Bob had a sling and the Colonel was leaning on a first-aider being led to an ambulance while Sir Derek, uninjured and at full action stations, seemed to have taken charge and was ordering people to do things. Suddenly the bustle stilled and from the door issued two men bearing a stretcher with a blanket draped over it and a sobbing Ma, bent and broken withered to half the woman she had been, walking bereft beside it with two women trying to comfort her.

The ghostly walking frame swooped slowly, the diabolical onslaught now abated, until it hovered about ten feet above and to one side of the stretcher. Bob had stood and walked slowly to the stretcher and lifted the corner of the blanket. It was then that Cox saw the lifeless pallid face of the boy with the grey pussycat toy in his limp arms.

Cox turned his head to the apparition with a questioning look of disbelief

“Yup, sho’ nuff its the rug rat what did y’all expect to see?”

“But b b b b but.” Cox started blubbering, “It’s all MY FAULLLLT! If I’d paid his father a living wage… been more thoughtful…”

“Ha! If if if if if s’always fuckin’ IF!” Exclaimed the spectre, mocking and going on,

“Yah think it’s all about YOU don’t ya? You you, you, you, po’ l’il Ebenezer Cocksuckin’ Cox, you ass hole, yah full o’ crap!”

“But it IS! I’ve been horrible to them all. ALL of them. They hated me for it and they were RIGHT! I gave no thought to the consequence of my actions. I was mean, selfish, full of bitterness and spite because of THAT WOMAN and how through my selfish indifference to her she left me. ME! I was too blind and proud to admit my own failings! I even insulted my OWN brother and those poor charity workers.”

“Cain’t you see nuthin’ bo’? Those beggin’ bastards after money fer the po’ is jest a bunch o’ ass holes. Oh yeah they’s a comin’ round at Christmas a preyin’ on the guilt o’ other po’ folks but they don’t tell yah that their boss gits paid mo’ in one year than the whole o’ the po’ in yo’ country can git in their whole lahftimes. Charity mah ass! What right they got ter prey on peoples like thayut? An’ that sumbitch bro’ o’ yours he’s happy ’nuff. What right he got a judgin’ you, cos judge you he does, a makin a effort ter invaht yah fer Christmas jest so’s he feels better that he tried an’ cain tell evr’body ’bout it! What’s thayut ifn not some smug holier than thou treasure-seekin’ in heaven thang?”

Cox looked at the spirit askance

“Are you sure you understand what you’re meant to be doing? Those instructions? What your spooky committee told you?”

“Sho’s hayull ah am bo’! Ah’s a Atheist, tho’ praps ah”m a startin’ ter think ah oughta change a few o’ mah views on thangs, but th’ain’t nuthin’ less Godly than those bastard ass holes who comes aroun’ a tellin’ yah what you oughta be a doin an’ hows yah oughtta be a doin’ it an’ shit’. Bet none of ’em take mo’ than a glimpse in a mirror ter tittivate themselves, ‘stead o’ lookin’ deep at what the mirror don’t show unless yah’s a real honest mayun.”

The spirit spoke once more, but this time the authority in it’s voice returned

“NOW COME COME COX SURELY YOU SHOULD HAVE GOT ALL THAT SELF-REVELATION AND AWARENESS BIT ALREADY FROM MY RATHER CAMP COLLEAGUE WHO I MET IN THE WAITING ROOM! THINK MAN! BUT ARE YOU TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING HERE?

HERE, WE HAVE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A LITTLE BOY COSSETTED BY HIS PARENTS AND WHO NEVER LEARNED ANYTHING ABOUT THOUGHT FOR OTHERS JUST THE GRATIFICATION OF HIS OWN DESIRES.

HIS PARENTS PANDERED TO HIS EVERY WHIM AND THEY NEVER TAUGHT HIM THAT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO WITHOUT AND YOU CANNOT ALWAYS HAVE INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

THEY WORKED THEIR FINGERS TO THE BONE FOR HIM, STRUGGLED TO GET HIM HIS PUSSYWUSSY FOR CHRISTMAS AND WHAT GRATITUDE DID THEY GET?

HIS SIBLINGS TOO WERE FORCED INTO SACRIFICE BY CIRCUMSTANCE BUT DID THEY COMPLAIN?

CRUTCHES AND WHEELCHAIRS AND HANDICAPS DON’T MAKE PEOPLE GOOD!

AFTER YOU LEFT HE STAMPED AND STAMPED IN HIS TANTRUM AND THE ROTTEN FLOOR GAVE WAY. THAT WAS AS MUCH HIS FAULT AS THE FAULT OF BOB AND MA THEIR SINISTRALLY BIASED LANDLORD MITCHELL.

“What d’y’ mean?”

Asked Cox, surprised and irritated and a bit confused.

MITCHELL WAS QUITE HAPPY TO GROPE MA’S AMPLE STRUCTURAL ATTRIBUTES AND IGNORE THE OBVIOUS STRUCTURAL DEFECTS OF THE PREMISES HE RENTED TO THEM.

SHE IN TURN WAS HAPPY TO BE GROPED AND BOB HAPPY TO TURN A BLIND EYE FOR THE SAKE OF A CHEAP ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS.

NO, COX, NO ONE PERSON IS OF IMMEDIATE BLAME HERE IT EXTENDS BACK IN A CHAIN AND OUTWARDS IN A NETWORK.

INDEED, SHOULD ONE BE OF SUCH A POLITICALLY CRITICAL BENT ONE MIGHT GO BACK AS FAR AS GOVERNMENT WHICH CREATES THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT OR EVEN TO SOME DEITY WHO ALLOWS SUCH THINGS TO HAPPEN EVEN THOUGH HE KNOWS THEY WILL HAPPEN AND SUPPOSEDLY HAS THE ABILITY TO PREVENT THEM. HIS EARTHLY “REPRESENTATIVES” EXPLAIN THAT AWAY BY FREE-WILL (BUT THAT IS JUST OUR WRITER BORING US WITH PHILOSOPHY AGAIN – TAKE NO NOTICE).

NO COX, THE RESPONSIBILITY IS SHARED BY AS MANY AS ONE WISHES TO INCULPATE. WE ARE ALL, IN THE END, ANSWERABLE, FOR THE FATES OF EACH OTHER AND THE WORLD. BUT WE ARE ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR OURSELVES AND ONLY EVER OUR OWN VICTIM.

To Be Continued…

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Lynton Cox’s “What The Dickens?” Part 5.1

 

This Shit's Getting Really Evil Now.

This Shit’s Getting Really Evil Now.

(The really loooong one – soo long in Fact Facebook has to handle in it separate posts (Twats pandering to short attention spans and trivia! Furry pussies? Bah Humbug!)

(You really thought you were going to get away with it didn’t you readers. All I can say is Mwahahahahah! )

Episode 5 Part one (dammit!)

(In which our tale reaches its conclusion………….eventually)

It was dark…

It was still dark…

The spectre of the boy had been gone, Cox knew not how long. He had expected to find himself as before in the familiar surroundings of his own bedchamber, something that had punctuated the flow of the narrative of his spectral visitations this night and which although it had done nothing to allay the dreadful unease and fear that the experiences and events he had witnessed had engendered in him, it had at least given him the convenience of not having to trust his dubiously constructed absorbent oriental underwear. Furthermore, due to the sudden cold, he felt the same oddly sympathetic and urgent male reflex that for some reason also happens when a man comes across running water.

It was still dark…

And cold…

And Silent…

The silence to Cox was that of popular simile- of the cold cold grave. Only this was no grave, he was not surrounded by the cold earth and clay, just dark nothingness, profoundly cold and silent. It was a silence of piercing clarity; so clear it was plainly audible and it drowned even his heartbeat and together with such darkness of striking visibility, annihilated his very being. The only evidence of his existence he had was his flesh, which crept like an anthill. Those same black insects were marching over his skin slowly and invisibly, covering and suffocating him. Insidiously his nerves slow-marched in step with them from unease and uncertainty, and crawled on, bearing him helplessly like some prey, through increasing degrees of anxiety at the feel of those innumerable, relentless little feet swarming over him, and taking him on to fear, then terror and finally to the edge of abject gibbering panic in that overwhelming dark, cold, nothingness.

“AHEM!”

Cox’s horrified near-somersault left him with his internal organs in complete disarray. His heart found itself in his mouth and his stomach hung like wrinkled breeches around his ankles. Yet, his bladder, he could feel was still in its usual location since a warm feeling was now spreading across his lower pelvis like ink on Asiatic blotting paper.

“Who is it? Who’s there? Who are you? Show yourself!

Cox squeaked and squawked in blind panic turning about him rapidly, arms flailing in defence
“AH THERE YOU ARE!”

The disembodied voice boomed again.

It was a deep and sonorous almost-whisper, a voice, possessing great authority. Smooth and viscous but without unction. A voice without menace but one that definitely commanded capitalised attention of the sort one knows that, if ignored, will result in “consequences”, rather than that “shouty” capitalisation Cox was more used to in the readers’ comments sections of the newspapers he tended to frequent.

“ABOUT THIS LATE UNPLEASANTNESS…”

“What do you mean? What do you want of me! Who are you?

Cox was panicky, anxious and trembling still but getting very annoyed; a common result of fear and the fact that the absorbent capacity of his inscrutable oriental underwear had been exceeded and was now somewhat audible and thus very scrutable were there anyone in that place to “scrute” it.

“LOOK, CAN WE PERHAPS BE CALM ABOUT THIS?”

The voice had a definite accent about it. Like an American from the Colonies yet, trying very hard to put on an almost fruity British accent, rather like an American film actor playing an the oh-so-English villain. As if Walter Cronkite were trying to imitate Stephen Fry or Donald Sinden. But it was pleasant and mellifluous, charming; a voice of authority, a voice to be trusted even were it recounting the greatest deceit, slander or untruth. A voice who could convince the Pope himself that the Holy Mother Mary was a common whore, and that this was just a mere matter of universally accepted common fact acknowledged even by the Saviour himself. It was exempt of any shadow or suspicion in its tone or inflection of anything to be understood that was euphemistic, unsaid, cryptic or concealed in its mellow depths. A voice of the sort to be feared. A voice of the “true documentary”, a voice that confirms and affirms the truth deep within you of all those things you didn’t know you already believed. A voice that sends men happily to death and helps them greet it with an enthusiastic welcome; eternally grateful to it for having shown them there and given them such a unique privilege. A voice that kills yet takes no life. A voice of integrity beyond reproach. The perfect criminal voice responsible for and that gets away with all crimes since it commits not one of them.

Even so, in the throes of instinctive fight or flight, the angry, wily old Cox was having none of this voice.

“Who are you? Show yourself! Don’t think I’m going to make a fool of myself shouting into complete nothingness at some disembodied Colonial apparition who for some reason doesn’t want to appear! Damnation!”

He had stamped his foot petulantly, but there was nothing there, he was still floating.

“I AM REALLY DOING MY VERY BEST HERE…”

Sighed the voice with great forbearance but as if speaking to some middle distance or to someone else who might have been watching with a disapproving look.

“You ARE a bloody Yankee! I kne..!”

It seems in his minuscule triumph of blind ethno-linguistic classification Cox had failed to measure his words despite his knowledge of the recent civil troubles that had afflicted those former colonial parts of the world and the sensibilities that lingered as a result. The voice cut him dead.

“Who you callin’ “Yankee” you sumbitch, mo’fuckin’ hoe’s son. You horse ass’d cocksuckin’ Limey faggot!!??”

Came the rather overheated reply in an accent one might surmise to have been a better approximation of the one habitual for its possessor than the language of its first approach. It stopped as abruptly as it started, the resulting silence echoing with the sound of another even more profound. Cox was rendered speechless. A man never lost for a cruel put-down was struck dumb. It wasn’t that cursing, sometimes extremely vehement and vituperative, particularly when it came to shopkeepers and pot-boys with no concept of service (and particularly the latter who allowed body fluids to seep all over his evening meal) was not Cox’s habitual turn of phrase. It was just that his cursing and oaths were more limited in creativity; restricted to those most common Anglo-Saxon expressions considered acceptably profane in a rather repressed Victorian England.

Apparently now having regained some composure the voice came back again

“OH DEAR I AM TRYING MY BEST, I REALLY AM, BUT I’M RATHER A BEGINNER AT ALL THIS.”

Cox eventually found his own voice hiding, somewhat shocked and afraid, and trembling somewhere in a hidden corner of his throat but managed to say,

Am I dead? Is this purgatory then?

“NO, I THINK THEY THREW ME OUT OF THERE”

“Then where the He…. are we there, in that place?”

“NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, I THINK IT DOESN’T QUITE WORK HOW PEOPLE THINK? AT LEAST SO FAR AS I CAN TELL.”

Well where then?

“LIMBO, I IMAGINE. I’M NOT SURE. IT’S AS I SAID, SOMETHING OF A LEARNING CURVE FOR ME.”

“You got thrown out of Purgatory? Ye Gods ! You must have been some sort of monster if you got thrown out of there. Stay away from me, be gone!”

“NO, I SAID IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT AT ALL, AT LEAST SO FAR, TO MY POOR KNOWLEDGE!”

“Are you like that fat angel in that bloody silly film then; got to earn your wings or something? You’ve come to the wrong man if you have.”

“I’VE NO IDEA! WHY DON’T YOU LIST…OH IT’S NO GOOD, I CAN’T GO ON TALKING LIKE THIS IT’S JUST PREVENTING ME BEING ME.”

This was the first hint the commanding voice had given that its owner might possess any feelings like frustration, exasperation or irritation. But whomsoever the unseen bystander to whom this latter comment was directed, they would surely have been left with no other impression than that the apparition was in no mood for playing by the rules of their “silly little game”. If “game” it was.

There was a glimmer from far above and a ray of light came down, rather like in a theatre Cox once visited. He found himself at the edge of a pool of light, the other side of which stood, or rather floated, a figure. Cox could make out in the gloom that it was garbed in a long, hooded, black robe. The apparition’s hands he could not see since they were shrouded in the long voluminous sleeves of its robe but they grasped a silvery metal frame rather like a small table with no top. The apparition seemed to be leaning heavily on this object for support. Hanging from one of the bars there was an object Cox recognised, a walking cane of bent wood, and another he didn’t, a white plaque with a large letter L inscribed on it.

The apparition’s face too was in shade, being covered by the capuchin which came below the forehead and full over the nose so in the penumbra, made darker still by the brightness of the light separating them which shone in Cox’s eyes, he could make out little other than that this was a drab dark figure about his own height that seemed, unless his eyes deceived him, to have a bushy white moustache. He did notice too that pinned somehow to the front of the robe was a small piece of threadbare tinsel that glinted somewhat half-heartedly. The sort of feeble decoration one might commonly find at Christmas in non Christian-run establishments such as, oriental restaurants, Levantine grocery shops and Israelite Tailoring emporia, gracing a minuscule, pathetic, scrawny, Fir tree equally threadbare and bereft of needles. A token and very economical way of making a concession to the season of the religious majority and a signal, that however “heathen” or no the proprietors might think others think they are (but usually don’t), they are still quite magnanimously prepared to take your money even should you wish to part with it in the name of your abominable blasphemy. Furthermore, they might even wish you a Merry Christmas too if they thought it would help their pockets jingle more festively.

Cox continued his bravado.

“What sort of confounded wight are you? C’mon speak up! Thrown out of Purgatory? Only think you’re in Limbo? Explain yourself! I assume because of that tawdry bit of glitter on your rags you’re another sort of spirit of Christmas! You don’t seem to be very professional at it.”

The voice rejoindered more comfortably in its unusual, Cox supposed it to be regional, vernacular.

“I see yah usin’ mo those hifalutin’ words that bastard writer done puttin’ in yah mouth! I ain’t none o’ that fuckin’ man, witch or elf shit. I’m Francois J.D etc, etc, Jordan III and don’t you forgit it! Mess wi’ me an’ you’ll end up gaitor bait you mean, shrivelled, miserable, sinful Limey asshole!”

Cox flinched as there was a sudden movement

The apparition threw back it’s hood to reveal a head, yet not a normal head, almost disembodied, one moment skull-like and the next incarnate; appearing and disappearing alternately as if composed of vapour, with a face lined with age yet, Cox estimated, he could not be much older than himself but aged due mainly to the burdens upon him and many trials and tribulations experienced during life.

“Now yah listen to me ass hole, I ain’t got no idea much what’s a happenin’ here. One minute there’s this guy sticking a mask over my nose and the next I’m in some tunnel movin’ towards a bright light. Then I find myself waitin’ my turn in some room with a bo’ from the hood and some faggot stinkin’ o’ smoke an’ smearing himself with some white gunk, and then at a table with a bunch o’ faceless mofo’s dressed in black a tellin’ me that that I’m, I cain’t remember where an’ ah don’t wanna know either.

Apparently I cain’t be weighed in no balance seein’ as how they ain’t come across nobody with such a soul-burnin’ burden of sins and hows if they WUZ to weigh me then it would likely screw up their goddam weighin’ machine and hows they couldn’t risk makin’ wrong decisions because of the demand for places exceeding the supply since they have ter be fair ter Mankind or some shit like that. They said they wuz goin’ ter put me on a “little diet”, sarcastic ass holes. They tole me that mah mo’fuckin soul needed some exercise – dumb ass pieces o’ dung!” And what better way ter do it than savin’ the ass of some other overweight mofo soul, an’ then they put a paper in mah hand. They dressed me up like some Grand fuckin’ KKK Wizard and pointed out this sign sayin’ “Redemption thataway” an’ then said I’d meet someone an’ I had to show him the way an’ they said I’d better lose the “accent” else it might take longer than I wanted.

Now I’m here an’ you’d better listen to me ass hole, cuz accordin’ ter this paper here we got places to go an’ ah’m in a hurry! And by the fuckin’ way I’m the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” an’ much good may it do for you to know it ass hole that Frankie the J. don’t stand fer no sumbitch shit an’ nonsense from nobody! Speshully a sumbitch Limey faggot like y’all! SEE!”

The apparition stood before Cox in a temper, with it’s moustache bristling, obviously very angry and impatient. Cox noticed for the first time that on its head it wore a sort of strange muslin bonnet on top of which was placed a military cap with a red badge with crossed blue bars with white stars that he thought he vaguely recognised but he had no time to think because the spectre, having gradually got nearer to him with the help of its walking frame, shot out its bony hand and grabbed Cox by his own equally bony arm forcing his hand to hold the bar on the frame saying,

“Git on the hog ass hole we’re a goin’ for a ride or d’yah want ah beats yah like a red-headed child with that stick there?!”

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

 

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

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree…Humbug!

(In which Ebenezer Cox meets a second apparition and is confronted with the happiness possible at Christmas and all year round.)

We have become acquainted with Ebenezer Cox and his uncomely character and, dear reader, we have discovered together that early traumatic experiences can completely colour an individual’s psychological development during life. The loss of his darling pneumatically over-endowed Chamone, due to his own indifference so traumatised the young Cox that he had transferred the shame of his own actions into vengeance and it made him become the man that you see before you who further sunk into the mire of his own despondency and self-hate and thus who took to a life devoted to the torment of others. Explanation this may be, dear reader, but certainly not exoneration. That can only occur through self-realisation: self-awareness and true repentance. Thus, you, dear reader, and his many victims, should decide whether he is worthy of pardon or forgiveness by the end of the tale.

Cox’s neat but gnarled knees knobbled in the right places and thus they found themselves tucked knobbly, gnarly and neatly under his chin under the bed sheets and hugged by his bony arms to arrest the recurrent seismic fits of shaking that racked his frame. He had found himself, shocked, within the security of the four oaken posts and their dark moleskin curtains and now, despite his quasi-malarial trembling, he was nevertheless in more comfort than before, having let loose a veritable geyser of urinary relief into the enamel chamber pot that resided, now silently steaming, beneath his current place of tremulous repose. Indeed, the resultant sudden warm humidity in the room had given rise not only to an increase of ferny ice fronds on the window pane but also weather of its own in Cox’s in bedchamber, for a small dark cloud seems to hang above his head.

He must have napped for when he woke he heard the stable yard turret start to chime, Dong! Dong! Dong! Do…!

A glow appeared at the end of the bed and the curtains parted. Cox saw the whites of two dark eyes and a toothy grin and he recoiled with fear and horror…

“Yo! Brudder Cox ! Is dat yo’ name? Is yoo ready?” An adolescent black boy, with a voluminous woolly Father Christmas hat barely covering his dreadlocks perched precariously on the back of his head stood there beckoning – “Come on we’s only got till de eighf dong to do dis, so yoos best get on yer Doc Martens and be ready to do some serious moovin wid de ghost of Christmas present – dat’s me – but yoo can call me ‘Chris’ grandpa!”

“Who are you? Are you another phantom?” Asked Cox taken aback, though he really didn’t know for what he should have been prepared,

“Aren’t you too young to be dead? I mean….”;

“Firstly brudder Cox, me is wot’s called de ‘token black’. Everybody ‘as to ‘ave one. It’s called comic relief brudder or racism dependin’ on yer outlook an’ fings, but yoo wudn’t know nuffink about dat yoo ain’t too funny in dat way so’s dey’s tellin’ me. Anyway I fink dey call it bein’ incloosif or sumfing but I ain’t bovvered, I’s all for incloosion and stuff like dat.”

“But you y- y- you’re so young?”

“O alright brudder dey always asks about it. Well, like, there we woz, me an de posse like, doin’ some serious graffiti on de Brixton railway arches, an’ me mates woz watchin’ an’ rappin in de street like, an’ then the Old Bill turns up wiv de bloos an’ twos innit? Well me is wanted for de breakin’ and enterin’ already; an’ missin’ me probashun appointment like, so I legs it like. Well, I legs it up Electric Avenue coz I knows de plod can’t get the car up dere wit all de markit stalls an’ dat an’ I runs out into de road next to de toob station an’ dere woz dis big red bus see?”

“Yes I see,” said Cox

“Well like – I didn’t – geddit it? Eh? An’ ‘ere I am; I can show yoo de tire marks if yoo want. So Grandpa yous comin’ or not?”

Cox swung his bony legs creakily off the bed and before he realised, he was falling, screaming, into a dark void. In a few seconds the boy was beside him

“Always takes folks like yerself oo ain’t used to it a couple of minits like”

“To do what?” asked Cox

“Flyyyyyy maaaan! Wot else?”

“Should I close my eyes again?” Cox asked rather wearily.

“Nah grandpa, no need dis time, you done awright the last time so dey tells me.”

The boy took Cox’s hand and up and up they went flying past moon, planets, stars and galaxies or so it seemed. No noise could Cox hear, apart from what seemed like a distant treble voice getting nearer and nearer. Then whoooooosh!!

“ ‘..king in the air!”

They were suddenly buzzed from above out of nowhere by a little boy and a snowman.

“Hey, holy shit man! Oops sorry gramps.”

The boy looked a bit sheepish about his exclamation.

“Gotta report dat one; dat was a near miss situashun dat one! Should be at least a fousand foot between us! Guess they mussed up de communicashun again. Always the bloody same at Christmas, de skies are crowded an dere’s no air traffic control. Although we can’t complain, it’s teemin’ wiv stuff at Halloween; an’ dey can whack you wid dere broomsticks and all!”

“I was thinking,” said Cox

“First time fer evryfink bruv!”

“Oh very funny. I just wondered if I’d seen you before somewhere”

“Me older cousin is an actor, ‘e’s bin in East Enders, an’ ‘e’s bin in Hollyoaks too. Oh yeah an’ I fink ‘e woz a corpse in Casualty once. I’m a dead ringer for ‘im, no pun intended – well cool dat is, used to get me a bunch of bitches that did.”

“That must be it then. What?… Bitc……at your age!!?”

“Right gramps we’s dere. Goin’ down!”

They hit the cobbled street running.

“Right,” said the youth. “I gotta leave yoo ‘ere. Dem’s me orders.”

“More orders?”

“Yup,”, He read from something written on his hand.

“Ghost of Christmas present, dat means me like, an’ present as in right now like, not a gift thingy- like somefink you give someone if yous nah’t I mean.

To those accustomed to the only three looks possible on Cox’s countenance; of profound irritation, malevolent glee or flat indifference, it would have been with much astonishment were they to have seen Cox’s face at that moment because they would have detected the most unusual regard of benign forbearance in the look Cox gave the boy, who was obviously concerned that he understood fully what he was saying.

“You are to conduct Mr Ebenezer Cox to de premises occupied by his assistant Mr. B. Shuttlecock where he may learn somefink to ‘is advantage, or not as de case may be. It will den be decided wevver ‘e is in need of more guidance from a furver spectral visitation. Respect, da boss. P. S. I’ll phone ya later when I’ve made up my mind about the old bastard.”

“Bloody cheek! I’d like to meet this boss of yours! Who is he?”

“Don’t ask dat grandpa, I defo wouldn’t advise dat. Nah gramps, I defo fink yoo four would NOT get on at all.” replied the youth with conviction verging on warning.

“Right man, I”m off ter do some serious graffiti,” said the boy removing a spray can from his pocket

“Should you be doing hooligan stuff like that?” asked Cox dubiously.

“Hey gramps, gotta reputashun ter keep up even in de spirit world. Supposing one of me posse cops for it an’ I ain’t dun nuffink on dis side ter, like de soshiologists would say, ‘Delineate our territorial area?” Anyway don’t do no ‘arm, de spray jus’ goes froo everyfink, even walls! Real bummer dat fer a graffitti wizard like meself. So dey promised me dat if I didn’t muss dis mission up, although, fer some complicated technical reason such as deadness, I’ll still be a ghost, they can at least get de paint to stick ter fings so I can ‘ave a bit of fun.”

“Well what now…. er Chris?”

“See dat building over dere gramps? Top floor window – I know dere are twelve floors but yoo can fly now – so jus’ jump like. Seeya!”

Even the first arthritic hop took Cox straight up in front of the window that Chris had indicated. He looked through the misty pane.

Inside the mean abode every inch of space was taken. The pullulating throng of cheerful humanity present belied the small space. The room glowed with the warmth of festivity, there were flowers on the mantel and goodwill abounded in the very air. Red faces beamed, and bewhiskered faces smoked opulent cigars, pipes and cheroots while voluminously attired ladies bustled about their seasonal business in and out of the back scullery as only corpulent matrons can do. The large table was groaning under the weight of a fine gander, golden and steaming, right in the middle of the damask tablecloth, with sprigs of holly adorning glass vases and beset by the numerous accoutrements of baked apples, turnips roast potatoes and parsnips; a veritable garden of vegetable accompaniments.

Before him spread this chaotic festive scene of mirth and jollity. An ant heap of growing humanity, male and female; beset around this great table, and more, yet smaller ones, (the latter results of the combined effect of Pa Shuttlecock’s fashionable, alluring but above all, opportunistically convenient button-up codpiece and Ma Shuttlecock’s ample bosom and ever-active libido), crawled among the table legs. In the centre of the scene were Bob Shuttlecock and his laughing wife and beside them sat an aged relative asleep, her mouth agape, snoring.

Hovering, somewhat uneasily and ungainly before the casement, hoping for the comfort of a steadying experienced hand, Cox turned briefly to see if the spectre might have decided to join him and when he turned back the remains of the great goose lay already demolished in the middle of the table. Time to Cox seemed elastic, having snapped forward of a sudden.

A young voice piped up “Where’s the pudd’n Ma?”

“Lawks a mercy,” cried Ma and bustled off to the scullery whence steam issued billowing from the door like the funnel of the Humber Packet.

“PLOCK” came a sound and a great youthful cheer arose from one side of the table.

“I win!” shouted Little Katie Shuttlecock, “Ten minutes and twenty-nine seconds.” She held up a half-hunter that she handed back to a gent in a fine uniform with gold braid epaulettes.

“Thank the Colonel for the loan of his watch Katie,” said Bob Shuttlecock

Usually it took the aged grandparent’s top set of dentures less time to fall on to the bottom one and give the awaited performance of buccal castanets, but today’s chestnut stuffing had glued up their performance a bit.

“It’s very unkind to do that, children,” Ma’s voice chided from the scullery.

“Make way! Make way!” Ma cried, as she sailed out from the scullery like a stately Royal Barge laden with the “King of Puddings” steaming on a charger. “Hurrah!!” shouted the throng and walking sticks banged the floor and cutlery hit wine glasses and table top in rhythmic approbation. She placed it in the centre whence the goose had already been swept away by helping hands.

Bob Shuttlecock took a full quart of grog warming by the fire grate and poured it over the steaming mass, now complete and bedecked with a sprig of holly and, with a Lucifer at the ready, he nudged the aged relative saying “It’s your time of year granny.”

Bob struck the lucifer on the aged relative’s chin, lit the pudding with a whoosh of flames and the ancient grandparent, without opening her eyes lent, chin foremost. With a rush of sparks a whole year’s sparse white whiskery prognathic growth disappeared in seconds from her face and chin; it was much less painless, and less expensive than a pair of sharp tweezers, that’s why they all enjoyed it so.

“Smells like a fire in a mattress factory”, someone yelled from the back of the room. It was Mr. Stuart Mitchell, the kind landlord of the Shuttlecock apartments who because of Ma’s fine cooking and ample chest, leased to them the whole, lock, stock and barrel for a peppercorn rent. THE Mr. Stuart Mitchell, who, because he had only his left arm and left leg, (having lost their dexter counterparts in a somewhat beer and stronger alcohol-fuelled battle with porters at Waterloo after the Portsmouth football team had lost yet again), could not be doing with artificial aids to locomotion and who thus needed support from time to time to negotiate stairs. He was therefore never without a good woman by his side because he preferred his crutches warm. THE Mr. Stuart Mitchell for whom rolling home alone was no problem, indeed a must, should he ever unfortunately find himself unaccompanied.

Meanwhile the Colonel was in deep animated conversation with Mr Birbee. So dusky was the latter that he could have hailed from the Demerara cane fields. But it was really due to the make-up he wore, and his hailing from parts North around Seaton Carew. In such parts, to go unmade-up would result in one having to show to the world one’s perpetually black eyes, the result of the local population’s unfair but understandable persecution of those who pursue “poovy” pursuits like the art of the Daguerrotype. Besides it enabled him to blend in on building sites in Bradford where he practised more manly travail, toiling with Lascars and Navvies building canals and dark satanic mills. Undaunted and uncomplaining about the endless queues of cabs and carts on the turnpikes he would return to the love of his life,Ms Liza Bedde, however distant his workplace, daily and without fail so that they could prepare together the pictures for another ill-fated exhibition.

Several others were animatedly contributing. Mrs Patti Gamp, inebriate in a corner, propped on her duck’s head umbrella handle, suddenly regained consciousness and joined in, brandishing her large glass of Glen Coma double malt, saying,

“Don’t be bloody stupid Colonel, he might be dusky, he might take blurry pictures, BUT, that’s no reason to take him out and drop him from a helicopter into the Thames estuary!” She then fell to the floor, settled herself next to the sleeping dog and fell into a deep sleep.

There was a booming knock at the door and one of the little Shuttlecocks went to answer and came back tearful and screaming, “It’s a monster, waaarrgh”!

Everyone looked and Ma Shuttlecock let out an exclamation, “Well lawks a mussy me if it ain’t Uncle Philpott and Wilf!”

Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited

The hulking apparition at the door was Uncle Philpott. Admiral Sir Derek Philpott, to allow him his rightful title, was a brute of a man of gladiatorial stature in full naval uniform brandishing the sword of righteous indignation in his right hand and a piece of sheet music in his left and upon his cocked hat pivoted the scales of justice. Uncle Philpott; so called because his ability to consume copious quantities of ale coupled with a weak urinary constitution led him to fill rather more pots than he emptied since, unlike Ebenezer Cox he had NOT been fooled by the imported absorbent incontinence wear from the port of Wang King in China. No, Sir Derek had little time for the the Wang King pants manufacturers and rubber goods exporters of China!

Uncle Philpott and his steadfast partner, mentor and comrade in arms Admiral The Lord Turnbull of Boscombe (begowned in scarlet and ermine and a flat cap betopped by a golden coronet also with the scales of justice). A dynamic duo, (who one of the more flippant of the guests referred rather too loudly to as “Oh no it’s the artful codgers!”) unswerving bastions who selflessly protect the unsuspecting public against the lyrical crimes of the modern troubadours who litter the streets and the Ether, braying out their songs from broadsides and pamphlets to the music of nose flutes Crumhorns, Rebecs and Flageolets. Songs and ditties which are little more than randomly juxtaposed words and ideas with no meaning and designed to confuse all rational right-thinking persons. Such had been his valour as the bulwark of righteousness in the many musical skirmishes against the marauding minstrels of melodic mayhem and harmonic harassment of the popular parole that he had been dubbed a Knight of the Realm by Her Majesty the Queen herself (Long may She Reign,Hip hip Hurrah!).

“What have you two been up to then, you’re both looking as flushed as the bogs in Brewer Street?” asked Ma, “Haven’t seen you for ages!”

“Fighting the good fight Ma, fighting the good fight! It gets the blood up Ma! Right up!” Uncle Philpott replied.

“In fact we have just returned from a highly confidential mission to the ancient and venerable University of Oxford where we were asked to cast our critical eyes over a document residing in the dusty recesses of the Bodleian Library. A document which since the sixteenth century has formed the very vessel, aye, the very superstructure, of all that issues from the mouths of Englishmen! The same tall masts with hearts of English Oak and the sails that have guided Fair Albion’s Galleon through the stormy seas of speech and language and which by gathering the very dictational energy of the capricious winds of linguistic change has borne us safely to the port of current modern English usage…. er…innit?”

The throng were silenced at hearing this stentorian announcement and all present looked at Sir Derek aghast.

One lone voice dared to speak, it was the Colonel. “You cannot mean, not not, not the First Folio!?”

“INDEED!” Roared Philpott triumphantly, accompanied by vigorous nodding from the Lord Turnbull, and the tinkling of the scales of justice on his Coronet became deafening.

“We find the very Bard of Avon himself GUILTY! Guilty of the same heinous crimes against all that is lyrically rational and sensible, as GUILTY as the mean and common minstrelsy of modern times! Even at this blesséd time of year Shakespeare made no concessions at all to common comprehension. I have here in my hand the very proof!” he boomed, brandishing the sheet music in the air.

“He has been weighed in the balance and found WANTING!”

He flicked the tail of his blue coat, composed himself and putting one foot forward he braced himself as if a figurehead against a rushing wind. When there was complete silence but for the squeak of his sea boots he began.

“Listen to this my dear friends, my epistle to the late Bard of Avon, progenitor of our very English tongue, yet perpetrator of many a corrupt canticle, and dare to tell me he does not merit such opprobrium or to have contumely copiously heaped upon him!”

He cleared his throat loudly like a Pathan spitting a Betel quid

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,”

“So far,so comprehensible my friends! In “As you like it” the Bard throws out a defiant challenge to do their worst, to the mobile frigid hibernal masses of mixed Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, Carbon dioxide and traces of extraneous Noble Gases that, in our maritime climate at such high latitudes, issue from the the northern Arctic wastes and from the north eastern Taiga of Siberia, to career across our beloved Arcadian paradise and which, should they be part of a Polar Vortex system, may sometimes bring profuse blizzards of light crystalline water to drift into our lives to blight our very existence.”

His mood changed from light to dark in a moment

“However, dear friends, despite a glimmering ray of hope in this cogent statement, the clouds of gloom I fear are gathering on the Bard’s poetic horizon to dash all hope of a fair passage;

“Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.

“I put it to you Sir as a fellow peer of the Realm; Would any man, woman or child in this Kingdom, nay, in the whole World of Humanity, make claim that they would be most preferentially prepared to withstand the pressure differences that give rise to a sudden onrush of icy air from whatever frigid latitude, if given the choice? To suffer the pressure of a profoundly refrigerated tarsal blow to the inter-inguinal regions, (wherein reside Man’s most exquisitely sensitive organs), and to suffer the dreadful result of this? Is not the witnessing of the loss due to frostbite of one’s pudenda as they become progressively ischaemic, necrotic and moribund and then piece by blackened piece dehisc and undergo abscission ultimately succumbing to the Newtonian forces that affect all objects and fall forlornly to the earth with a dull thud – Is all THIS for you sir, far LESS a catastrophe than for a man to be spat at by an unkind, ungrateful and churlish beggar to whom he has just given his last farthing as an act of charitable intent in the season of peace on Earth and goodwill to all Men!? If you opine or hold fast to such ignorant absurdity then FIE ON YOU SIRRAH, it could ne’er be so!”

The silence in the room was deafening. Uncle Philpott continued his invective vituperation, his face flushed and ruddy and his eyes wildly gleaming. While Lord Turnbull sitting stern-faced and arms folded still nodded his campanological assent daring anyone to differ, Philpott began again in a still menacing tone.

“Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.”

“How dare you imply Sir that, due to invisibility, the metaphorical dentition of the breath of the hibernal Anemoi be anything but acicular in the extreme, when practice shows clearly the effects of the acuminate jaggedness of their strigiliforme edges and pulverising cusps! Ye, Sir do nay-say such claims in your very own songs! Did not, in your ‘Winter’s Tale’, Jack the shepherd himself notice, when he blew his nails, that the frigid boreal air masses had bitten them to the very quick? Was it not common knowledge in your time that the Lapps when herding Reindeer at the winter solstice orient the the male beasts towards the Aurora Borealis during the cold wintry night so that by morning the cruel mastication of the gnashing gale has rendered them into eunuchs and the resultant amputated scrotal remains when recovered from the snowy ground are made into purses for their womenfolk and marbles for their children’s Christmas stockings?”

He harrumphed indignantly, mopped his now florid face and, straightening cocked hat, he continued his bardic harangue like a welsh demon escaped from some manic Cambrian Eisteddfod (only with more vowels).

“Was it yet unknown, in the Renaissance that itself gave birth to your greatness, that the metalsmiths and mongers of Micklegate in York in our northern shires, needs must take the pelts of the Otter to hibernate their extremely detailed brass simian effigies, thus assuring they could pass from November to February intact of their gonadal simulacra? If not Sir, then you surely did not emerge sufficiently often from your theatrical proscenium arch to observe the world about you and your song would thus be more undeserving of such a coruscating, choleric and contemptuous condemnation by your most humble and modest servant!”

He continued, now building up in a crescendo of indignant exasperation:

“I fear too, oh respected Bard, that you confound the God Boreas, whose breath is the north wind itself, with that same emanation which issues from his own tracheo-pneumonic depths, for breath can have no breath itself and, MOREOVER, can utter no profanity or impudence, although it may indeed be raw and crude. I urge you to greater clarity Sir for you risk yet again to confound your very audience contrariwise to the aim of the seminal dramaturge and tragedian you are proclaimed to be.”

He took a breath and then proclaimed in a jolly and sing-song fashion that left nobody in doubt of the foolishness to be suspected of a person who might even entertain the slightest notion of uttering such an absurdity,

“Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly.

“Verily, Sir, you may indeed sing ‘heigh-ho’ to the Ilex aquifolium, (of which many clothe the hedges of our country lanes in winter) in the manner of the seven dwarfish companions of the Snowy maiden of repute in an old Teutonic folk tale. However, you will be at pain of being thought lunatic and insane, and if you might entertain the expectation of even the least riposte from the said dendritic evergreen you would have to be endowed with a faculty of patience possessed by few men, not even Job himself.”

The rapt audience of huddled heads rippled with giggles at this mild biblical plaisanterie. He went on;

“Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.”

An ominous glint of anger was in his eyes despite the levity of his next exclamation that warned the onlookers that this was only the calm before the storm.

“FIDDLESTICKS! STUFF AND NONSENSE SIR!”

Now the thunder started to rumble in the firmament of his metaphorically meteorological disgruntlement.

“Such an outrageous and egregious melancholic cynicism is worthy only of that misanthropic scoundrel Ebenezer Cox who is devoid of mirth and knows the cost of everything yet the value of nothing. No Jeremiad, no fulminating admonishment, berating or tirade, no diatribe, could sufficiently do justice to that wretch, that pessimist and DOOMsayer! That miser, that skinflint that PINCHFIST! Whose mere misandric presence like some diabolical calf’s stomach curdles the milk of human kindness and is a very wilderness in human form barren of all munificence and largesse!”

Building up to the denouement of his philippic and reaching the epitome of censorious wrath, Philpott readied himself for a terrifying coda, his lightening strike of condemnation. His lips parted and the candlelight glinted upon four viscid harp strings of saliva in his increasingly cavernous buccal aperture, struggling like sailors on scaling ladders against the storm of his heavy breathing and his increasingly tremulous labial oscillation. The spume, foam and spindrift of his ocean of indignation gathered at the corners of his mouth as his head bowed slightly and his eyes stared thunderous and glowering from under his lowering brow as this Man- o’-War for made ready for the broadside volley.

“SIR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE! FOR SHAME! AND MAY YE BE DAMNED!”.

The huddled crowd leaped as one, like Porpoises from the deep simultaneously startled by the roar of his tempestuous words and several in the crowd ducked to avoid the four elongated rotating viscous salivary cords that finally lost their hold of his labial gunwales and flew glistening across the room like liquid-silver Stormy Petrels skimming the crests of the swell.

He raced on like a bow wave

“Your dire expression of the most precious of human feelings SIR leads me to the only conclusion possible! That YOU SIR and that miserable example of purported humanity Ebenezer Cox must be of common descent! CONSANGUINE SUCCUBI FROM BEELZEBUB HIMSELF!”

The room burst in a breaking wave of uproarious glee and cheers and peals of laughter and derision flew from its crest at the mention of Cox’s name and the diabolic similitude, and if they could have seen him observing them at the window they might have been astounded to see such an otherwise mean and hard-as-nails individual quite lachrymose at the outburst. Finally somebody shouted:

“Shut up he ain’t finished yet:”

Composure regained, his storm now broken and passed, he dried his mouth with a handkerchief passed to him by an ever-prepared Ma. As the bitter brine of his ire subsided and dripped through his scuppers he tightened his urethral sphincter, putting aside thoughts of the immediate lack of a chamber pot, and making a brief mental note that perhaps there could be occasions when oriental protective wear could have some short-term advantages, he resumed with marginally more levity through gritted teeth:

“Then, heigh-ho! the holly!”

“Sir I will not be provoked into repeating myself concerning this futility; your attempt to do so is thus as futile. I warn you Sir, I am slow to anger, but when my blood is roused by idiots and ninnies my sword is unsheathed like lightening!”

More giggles ensued and the wind stood fair for Philpott, his mainsail billowed and he was now westering home. A more mirthful and ironic crusader now continued, sure of a safe passage.

“This life is most jolly.”

“In this regard, Mr. William Shakespeare esquire, I am most flabbergasted to find myself in complete concord with you, Devil’s spawn be ye or no. Although I must necessarily hazard churlishness for the sake of accuracy and precision and observe that it is indeed stretching credulity to the extreme to imagine you in such vivacious mirth, given your most cynical Ebenezer Cox-like comments concerning friendship and loving about which you have ere been roundly reproved. Be warned, however, Sir, that notwithstanding this present admonishment, you are still firmly in the sights of our choral collimator for we have not overlooked by any means the anthropo-entomological confusion of Human and Hymenopteran ethology in “Where the bee sucks there suck I”, neither the probable bucolic pornography of “There was a lover and his Lass” (which also has some serious ornithological misconceptions as well as much ‘hey nonney nonsense’) nor ”Full fathom five” which completely contradicts the process of decomposition described in the “Naval Mortician’s Handbook” for bodies buried at sea and corrupts it into some phantasmagoria of faerie marine metamorphosis. Beware, Sir, this, our warning, we shall not be so gentle another time!

Then in perfect unison like two conjoined twins Uncle Philpott and Lord Turnbull uttered the much-anticipated familiar tinkling finale.

“We bid you Good Day Sir!”

“Hurrah!” went up the cry from the gay assembled throng, hats flew into the air and a happy, garrulous hubbub ensued.

“Oh Uncle Philpott and Wilf, that was one of your best, I tell you! I loved the bit about him being a Wilderbeest in human form barren of all wodyacallit! Gawd fancy ‘aving a go at him! Anyway, can I get you two gents, a piece of pudd’n? A pint of cherry brandy?” Asked Ma beaming.

“Ma,” said Sir Derek, “We would indeed be honoured to join you in your splendid repast and the warm comfort of a small libation but we must, I fear, haste on our way to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, for our work continues even at this festive season! We have a veritable Charnelhouse of bones to pick with a certain Messrs W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. “Tit-Willow indeed! Did they also think that two men of the sea would not notice their nautical non sequiturs and inaccuracies in HMS Pinafore? They shall be belayed! ”

“Tit-Willow? We’ll give them blooming Tit-Willow! And “Three little maids from school!” Interjected Lord Turnbull accompanied by affirmative tinkling.

Addressing the crowd, his arms outstretched in almost papal benediction Sir Derek announced:

“Ladies, gentlemen and young people!”

And everyone together cried :

“WE BID YOU GOOD DAY!”

And Philpott added smiling warmly:

“And a very merry Christmas one and all!”

“Must be time for THE present!” Shouted a voice among the Shuttlecock minors.

Another child in the throng piped up whom Cox had not noticed before.

“What present? He squeaked, “We don’t get presents, ever!”

So pale, so wan, so sickly, Tiny Tim Shuttlecock was clinging to his father’s coat tails supported by his little homemade makeshift crutch.

Remember your wish my dearest boy, the one you have been singing about all year? Whispered Bob.

“That papa? But that’s only a song! I know we can’t afford things like that.”

“Will you sing it again for us?”

Bob hoisted Tiny Tim on to the table by his crutch and it was then that Cox saw his terrible deformity. Bogdoor’s syndrome, a hideous misshapenness of the foot particularly prevalent in large families living in small accommodation with few locks and only one privy for every hundred residents. The need for privacy and jamming one’s foot incessantly against the door to avoid embarrassing interruptions had taken its dreadful toll on the poor pale boy’s piteous rachitic bones.

The pure horror struck Cox to the marrow.

“The poor boy!” he sobbed.

It was then he heard his reedy refrain…or at least he thought it was, until he heard a familiar voice by his side say, “Yeah Chris ‘ere, oo is it? Oh it’s yoo boss.”

Chris had silently appeared at his side, his spray can now by some miracle having become a telephone.

“Tell da troof boss, I can’t really tell, it ain’t quite finished yet, da skinny kid ain’t sung yet like. Yeah I know, but yoo know ‘ow dat Philpott bloke goes on. Ya know boss dat ain’t really fair, ‘e’s not such a bad ole stick I don’t fink. Awright, man, you is de boss. I’ll tell ‘im later but ‘e ain’t gonna like it.”

Cox was distracted from his eavesdropping by a tiny melodic voice. It was Tiny Tim.

“I want a little pussycat for Christmas!

Only a little pussycat will do

Don’t want a car,

No inky dinky toy

I want a little pussycat to play with and enjoy

I want a little pussycat for Christmas!

Only a little pussycat will do

No Crocodiles,

No Rhinoceroseroces

I only like little pussywussies

And little pussywussies like me too!

I can see me now on Christmas morning coming down the stairs

Oh I really think I’d laugh a lot

To see a Tiger or an Ocelot

Or a Jaguar or Mountain Lion There!

I want a little pussycat for Christmas!

Only a little pussycat will do

No Crocodiles,

No Rhinoceroseroses

I only like little pussywussies

And little pussywussies like me too!”

“Here you are my petal, my dear heart” Sang out Bob holding out a parcel to the neuraesthenic- looking child.

Tiny Tim took it and proceeded to open it, took out the contents and then screamed

“What the @@##+&@§§ is THAT!”

“It’s a Pussycat dear your OWN cuddly toy Pussycat dear!” exclaimed Bob,

“Don’t you like it? We couldn’t get a real one, not a Lion, nor a Tiger, not up here the floor won’t take it! And just think of the size of the litter tray!”

The aged relative sat bolt-upright, her top set falling with the shock, and exclaimed to a clacking accompaniment of furious dental flamenco.

“Droppings, piles of droppings, God Save The Queen, The Bitch!”

And promptly fell back contently comatose.

“Snottapussy Snottapussy Snottapussy! Wanted a real one! If you didn’t work for that old pile of poo Cox you’d have the money to get me one. Mean, rotten fuming old dunghill he is!”

Tiny Tim squealed in a tantrum, and, stamping his good foot hard on the table, promptly fell off and on to the floor leaving Bob Shuttlecock glancing alternately from his wife’s shocked face to the infant’s crutch still in his hand.

Tiny Tim’s terrible crestfallen tantrum continued inconsolably. He stamped the floor with his good foot and whacked it with his crutch until the whole room shook, ornaments fell from the shelf and an ominous creaking could be heard. The matrons bustled round him but he was having none of it. He was there alone in his furious temper in an empty circular space surrounded by a sea of shocked spectators.

The “Pussycat” that so exceedingly disappointed the child was made of rough grey cloth. This had been weaved from the spun gleanings of Bob’s afternoon sorties from his place at the computer screen during Cox’s customary afternoon nap, when, armed with comb and scissors, he surreptitiously harvested the prolific length of hair that issued from Ebenezer’s nostrils in a twenty-four hour period.

Bob, being ignorant of Charles Darwin and the progress of Science, didn’t know it but this was the result of Ebenezer Cox working so near to the earth closet and the fact that a complex biochemical reaction to produce copious nasal hirsutism, had evolved in the human body over millions of years, to protect it from those more potent gaseous emanations of the human gastrointestinal tract that even an extra strong peppermint cannot disperse.

Bob had always worked by the window so, although his nose was clear of hair, much bristliness sprouted from his chin, top lip and cheeks but generally only down the side facing the mephitic cthonian pit. He had put that down to having inherited an otherwise rare trait in the family.

The pussycat had taken a long time to make, relying as it did on regular afternoon collections of nose hair which was borne home to be spun into yarn by Ma in the until the early hours of the morning and finally woven into cloth on a loom made from spent lucifers the children found in the street or begged from local publicans and shopkeepers. Nightly collections of the belly-button fluff of the numerous Shuttlecock progeny had to be gathered each morning without the knowledge of Tiny Tim. All this, and the creativity of Ma and the aged relative with sewing needles fashioned from mutton bones, made for fine piece of ersatz taxidermy. But to the guess of any onlooker, without the feminine Shuttlecock imagination of what a wild feline looked like it might have patently resembled a merkin.

Cox was once again aware of the boy Chris by his side.

“C’mon Grandpa I fink you’ve seen enuff – home to bed”

“But it’s tragic, and there’ll be more of this doleful spectral haunting tonight!?”

“Great! Now funny yer should menshun dat granpa. Er dat was de boss on me blower jus now an ‘e er didn” seem to be as er optimistic as me is about ‘ows yous might be learnin’ yer lesson, so yeah ‘fraid so it ain’t over yet.”

“They all hate me so!” Whimpered Cox “Why do they all hate me so? And the poor little boy Tiny Tim? What about that poor poor child? What will become of him so cruelly deformed?”

Cox wailed, tears running down his cheeks. The adolescent spectre turned to go but Cox implored him,

“Tell me! Tell me Chris how does it all end? Tell me; tell me now!”

“C’mon gramps don’t take it like dat. I can’t tell you nuffink; I’s sworn ter secrecy I got me grafitti ter fink of”

Cox wailed and sobbed even more loudly and if he had not been hovering in mid air, dear reader, one might have be moved to think he would have begged on bended knee.

The spectre sighed.

“Aw, awright, look ‘ere gramps I ain’t told you nuffink if anyone asks, nuffink right? But I ain’t givin’ nuffink away eever by tellin’ yer dat it ALL depends on you wot ‘appens, got dat? Right, I’m sayin’ no more innit.”

“But who were all those people in there? Were all those people my facebook friends? I thought I told Shuttlecock to invent them.”

“Yeah gramps, dey wasn’t invented. Old Bobby boy couldn’t invent nuffink ‘im, ‘e’s ‘onest as da day is long, daft sod. ‘E went out implorin’ and beggin’ people ter befriend yous on Facebook cos you was jus’ a sad an’ lonely old git like. ‘An ‘e made sure dat dey didn’t get none of dat nasty stuff dat Sketchesby-Soz sent out neever. Cor summa dat would of curled their tea-time sandwiches an’ put ’em off sausages an’ apple juice fer life. You’s lucky to ‘ave old Bobby boy. “Before ‘e croaked ‘is old dad told ‘im ter take care of ya like.”

“So many? So many kind souls?”

“Yep, too many to mention and all pretty wickid folks from what I ‘ear.”

“Wicked?”

“Nah not like wickid, wickid. WICKID wickid nah’t I mean? Right cheer up Grandad. You’s off ‘ome.”

With Cox still not quite having got his head round the goodness of “wickid” folks, they floated down to the ground like leaves, passing the dark wall, on which was sprayed:

“ ‘ollocks.”

“See grandpa it’s started ter work already? Just as I woz finishin’ it the paint started ter stick.”

Everything went black.

To be continued….

More and profuse apologies to Charles Dickens…

Alright…

I’m sorry OK!….

WHAAT?

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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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Magazine Editor Freaks Out Over World’s Longest Christmas Sub

Would you want this coming down your chimney?

Would you want this coming down your chimney?

Martin Shuttlecock, editor of top quality online magazine Cafe Spike is quietly recuperating at home after being faced by the world’s longest online submission and almost losing his mind in the process. Insiders say that Shuttlecock has been under a great deal of stress lately and that he was hoping that some of the Café Spike writers would step up to the plate and submit some copy for the festive season.

Rather than leaving it all to him while the team go out and get pissed/stoned/arrested or beaten up.

Which is the festive norm for Spike staffers at this time of the year.

“He’s been moaning about it for weeks,” long suffering wife Anne told me. “The team have either all thrown sickies or they’re off tracking down long lost maiden aunts in various far flung corners of the world. It’s always the same. I’ve told him to give the whole thing up time and time again, but he won’t listen. He seems to think he’s some kind of undiscovered literary genius. The truth is that he’s a bit of a delusional bell-end so I just let him get on with it.

“Then one of the writers submitted a lengthy and hilarious seasonal skit and his head almost exploded. One minute he was hunched over the laptop – as usual – and the next he sort of liquefied and slid right off the couch and onto the floor. For a moment I thought he was dead, but then he got up and walked a tad unsteadily to the kitchen. It was as if he was drunk.

“Come to think of it – he probably was. He usually is. Then he cracked his head on the doorpost and fell flat on his face onto the kitchen floor. He pissed his pants at that point. The filthy old sod.”

Further investigations revealed that the cause of Shuttlecock’s rapid onset deterioration was a submission by a certain Mr Lynton Cox, a parody of the Dickensian Christmas classic novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ entitled ‘Lynton Cox’s What The Dickens?’

Shuttlecock explains the reasons for his perplexity:

(As he drinks cup after cup of instant coffee and munches on a seemingly endless supply of chocolate digestive biscuits.)

“It was the length of it,” Shuttlecock groaned. “It’s more like a bleeding book than a magazine article, and I’m expected to have it all edited and published by Christmas day! It’s like War And Peace! It’s an enormous chunk of text. And not only that – it’s written like an actual Dickens, but with a sense of humour. I laughed out loud reading it several times…”

So what’s the problem?

“It’s Coxy,” Shuttlecock groaned. “I’m sure he just does it to wind me up. He loves anarchy, lives for it. It’s even got quite a bit of gratuitous swearing in it – which he puts in there specifically to piss me off. He knows that I like to have inoffensive content on the site so he does it just to piss me off. The bastard.”

But there is quite a substantial amount of ‘industrial language’ distributed all over the net…so what’s the problem with that?

“Don’t get me fucking started!” Shuttlecock ranted, as he almost choked on a chunk of chocolate digestive. “The first part is long! Then it gets longer…and longer…it won’t even fit on me hard drive for God’s sake! I’ve filled up two laptops, a PC and a fucking iPad already and still there’s more! Part five makes Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ look like a novella! If I get my hands on Cox I swear to God I’ll fucking strangle him! TIS THE SEASON TO BE FUCKING JOLLY MY ARSE!!!”

At which point – with Shuttlecock seemingly on the verge of bursting a blood vessel – long suffering wife Anne intervened, insisting that I leave the room.

“Best leave him alone for a while,” she advised. “If you keep on pressing him he’ll probably shit his pants and muggins here will be left to clean the daft bastard up. The bottom line is that quality writing makes him feel insecure, and Lynton delivers that in spades. As for my pathetic excuse for a husband…he’s just a talentless twat really, but I haven’t the heart to tell him.”

At which point I made my excuses and left.

You can read Lynton’s magnum opus in the ‘Running Shorts’ section of cafespike dot com if you have a few years to spare. You could also ‘like’ and ‘share’ it on Arsebook or reTwitter it or whatever. Anything that makes that insufferable pillock Shuttlecock feel even more inadequate than he already is, is fine by me.

Reporter:- Paddy Berzinski

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Lynton Cox’s “What the Dickens?” Part One

 

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells etc etc etc

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells etc etc etc

Well friends, it’s December so I suppose there’s no longer a reason for an old misanthrope like me to moan about Christmas decorations in the shops and seasonal stuff going on when it isn’t yet the season to be jolly. But hey, I can always moan about not being able to moan, even being a misery has its bright side! Day by day we can get jollier and jollier and spite miseries like me who continue their miserable shenanigans until such time, as like Gary Cooper, we get sent a wingless angel to show us the error of our ways having first rescued us kicking and screaming from a wintry river where we wanted to end it all.

Anyway my friends I have prepared for you a salutory seasonal tale that warns of the dangers to miseryguts like me and what might happen if we don’t mend our ways. I shall publish each installment in true Victorian magazine fashion, weekly, up to Christmas when the denouement will be published and by which time you will all be on the edges of your seats or have got bored and gone down the the pub . Amen to that!

Here is the first of several installments of:

What the Dickens?

Part1. In which we become acquainted with the parsimonious misanthropic Ebenezer Cox and his activities.

The sign over the door of the backroom of the shop says “Cox”. Well it actually says “Shuttlecock, Frimley and Cox”, but the other two names have been crossed out. Shuttlecock and Frimley were long years dead. That you have to understand, dear reader, for if disbelief you do not suspend, no wonderment can come of this tale.

Cox knew this fact as sure as he knew the tattoo on his left buttock said “I’m the funniest man on Earth” and the one on the right said “Rhetoric rules is that OK?” The one in the middle said “Bollocks” but that was more by way of a reminder than a pithy statement.

The register of their burials was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner, Cox himself, signed it too. Old Shuttlecock, old Frimley were as dead as door-nails. I will not query this simile for, dear reader, you would consider it an odd Victorian pedantry, fit only to be read in pompous tones by an ageing but venerable homosexual actor in the guise of an overly sanctimonious, bearded and coiffed literary “giant” and social reformer who needs to use verbiage and long words as sure as an ursine mammal requires to defaecate in a highly wooded area.

The shop window, grime-covered, allows in, grudgingly, what light is left of this three o’clock snow-rapt, frosty Christmas Eve and outside the gas lamps twinkle into existence as people wrapped against the icy air hurry about their business to carry joy, gifts and seasonal blessings to their friends and loved-ones; halloo-ing and hailing compliments to fellow city dwellers known and unknown with blythe looks of anticipation.

The shop is dark and cold and the cold seeps into each abode and workplace through every crack and crevice in wall, window and wretched damp floorboard. Perhaps this is not quite true for chez Shuttlecock, Frimley and Cox because the cobweb-draped gloom and dust-decrepit misery that pervades this place has a chill of its own that, whatever the temperature, defies nature by flowing; flowing out and polluting everything with its mean frigidity contrariwise to the laws of thermodynamics.

The doorway to the room is vaguely lit from within by the dim glow of candles and as one enters in, the glow of two glass screens makes silhouettes of two men and the only sound to be heard is the scuttle of mice among discarded bread crusts on the floor and the rapid tap tap tapping of long spindly fingers on two keyboards.

A voice is heard.

“Erm… Mr. Cox, Sir? I… I..”

It is the voice of Bob Shuttlecock, Cox’s clerk. A bright cheerful being who, out of grudging pity, Cox took on, contrary to his usual innate spite, since it was a condition of the last Will and Testament of his dead partner Obadiah Shuttlecock. He had been the lad’s ward and Great Uncle, having sheltered him and fed him and saved him from the workhouse after the death of his poor parents who had died during the “Great Stink” of ’31. Shuttlecock the elder and the previous clerk Martin Fuckwitt had met their end together whilst walking in the street when a passing Carpenter’s cart had shed its shed-load of prefabricated sheds upon their unwitting persons who then rather rapidly shed rather than, shuffled off, their mortal coils. Dead they were and so flat they could have posted them to the mortuary for the price of a penny black rather than the exhorbitant florin that shocked Cox who had to hand it over to the undertaker.

“Out with it Shuttlecock! I know! I suppose you’ll be wanting Christmas day off as usual this year. Can’t think what Shuttlecock and Frimley were doing letting clerks have it off in the first place! But I shall expect you in at five the next morning! You can have it off, Shuttlecock , as no doubt you do, frequently, with all those sprogs of yours, but you know the terms, five o’clock! Right? Go on say it! SAY IT!!”

This same scene was played out year on year as Shuttlecock stood head bowed

“Go on Shuttlecock I want to HEAR it!”

A mumbled response

Louder! LOUDER man!

“Five o’clock, Sir, on the dot sir, thank you Sir you are kind and generous to a fault Mr. Cox Sir.”

“Christmas? Humbug! You won’t catch any of the writers or my Facebook friends taking a day off from Facebook, sad bunch of bastards! Oh no! He he he he!”

The frosty rime of this cold cold place was on Cox’s head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He exuded his own low temperature; and with it he iced his office in the summer; and didn’t thaw it one degree at the depth of the Winter Solstice, making no exception for Christmas. Even the candle flames shrunk at his approach.

Cox glanced at the clock on his computer screen, it was ten past three. He glanced at the dull window. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: there was fog on the Essex marshes too, but that was a bleaker story still. He could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. But what did Cox care? It was the very thing he liked! Fog, cold fog. To edge his way along the foggy crowded perimeter paths of life, warning all human sympathy and frailty to keep its distance. Telling everyone how ridiculous they are and calling people names and spreading vile invective and untruths, being steeped in the misery of the World and its vile people and events, was what the knowing ones call nuts to Cox; as were the consequences and responsibilities.

“A merry Christmas, brother! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Cox’s brother Augustus, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

“Bah!” said Cox, “Humbug!”

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this brother of Cox’s, that he was all in a glow and steaming; his face was ruddy and handsome; his blue eyes sparkled like icicles, and his breath smoked again as he spoke.

“Christmas a humbug,?” said Cox’s brother. “You don’t mean that, I am sure.”

“I do,” said Cox. “Merry Christmas! What RIGHT have you to be merry? What REASON have you to be merry? You’re poor enough. Look at all the misery in the World! All those people on Facebook, bowling along pretending life is good, sticking up pictures of every nook and cranny of their boring private lives to human view, oblivious of the realities of the doom about to fall upon them all.”

“Come, then,” returned the brother gaily. “What right have YOU to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Cox, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with: “Humbug.”

“Don’t be cross, brother,” said Augustus.

“What else can I be,” returned Ebenezer Cox, “when I live in such a world of fools as this Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas. What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Cox indignantly, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. They deserve it! They can see what’s going on in the world, they don’t care about it and can’t think further than the next episode of the latest bloody soap opera on telly. Bollocks to them all, they don’t deserve saving, nor peace nor goodwill none of ’em!”

“Ebenezer!” pleaded the brother.

“Brother” returned Cox, sternly, “Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it!” repeated Augustus. “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Cox. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you! Much good has it done anyone!”

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, and there are many ills in the World about which I may not continuously give thought nor cogitate upon the morality thereof” returned Augustus: “ But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys and out to wreak evil. And therefore, Ebenezer, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket on Black Friday or any other day, I believe that it HAS done me good, and WILL do me and others good; and I say, God bless it!”

Shuttlecock who had all this time been steadfastly tapping his keyboard, revolved around in his seat and involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he pretended to fiddle around with his mouse and erased a whole hour’s work with one click.

“Let me hear another sound from YOU,” said Ebenezer Cox, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation. Testament or no bloody Testament!”

“You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir like many of those misguided souls that haunt Facebook,” he added, turning to his brother. “I wonder you don’t go into Parliament with the rest of the moronic bunch of ’em.”

“Don’t be angry, brother. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.”

Cox said that he would see him in….. – yes, indeed he did, loudly so. He went the whole length of the diabolical expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.

“But why?” cried his brother. “Why?”
`
“Why did you get married?” said Cox.

“Because I fell in love and discovered that there was more to life than the Internet.”

“Because you fell in love!’” growled Cox, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a Merry Christmas. “Good afternoon!”

“Nay, Ebenezer, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?”

“Good afternoon,” said Cox.

“I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends brother?”

“Good afternoon,” said Cox.

“I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute brother Ebenezer. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So a Merry Christmas to you brother!”

“Good afternoon!” said Cox.

“And A Happy New Year!”

“Bollocks and now just fuck off!” said Cox.

His brother left the dingy room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greeting of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than his employer; for he returned them cordially.

“There’s another fellow,” muttered Cox; who overheard him: “my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas? Lunatic he is! I’ll retire to Bedlam.”

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

This ‘lunatic’, in letting Cox’s brother out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Cox’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

“Shuttlecock, Frimley and Cox, I believe”, said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list with his finger. “Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Cox, or Mr Shuttlecock or Mr. Frimley?”

“Er er…that depends”, said Cox, hesitating, “If it’s about copyright, it’s not me you want, I’m not responsible for those idiots who write comments on my page. Anyway if it is, you must be the only ones who read that rubbish because nobody else visits it and all the “friends” and “comments”are completely made up. That’s what Shuttlecock does all day.”

“No it’s for the poor people, the orphanage”, said the most rotund and rubicund of the three.

“Well in that case the three of you mendicants can bloody well fuck off and don’t let the door hit you in the arse as you go out. Go on sod off!”

Cox stamped back toward his desk, only stopping to squat and defaecate profusely into the small earth closet dug into the centre of the floor. “Humbug” he grumbled again. “Shuttlecock! Did you remember to put all the Christmas comments up and the links to Christmas films and stuff?”

“Yes sir”, came the reply

“Can’t have anyone enjoying things like Christmas can we Shuttlecock? Not when there’s so much misery in the world eh? They need reminding now and then! Nice people expecting to be confronted with a suicidal Gary Cooper and some fat wingless angel soaking wet by the side of a freezing river. Likewise, a happy family gathering, grandma, grandad, mum, dad, all the kids waiting for their annual dose of Christmas tear-jerking schmaltz. It’ll wake them up to see Tracy Lords stroking some great big cock all over the screen or to go to some page about human trafficking or female circumcision. Show the kids what their parents really get up to, what all those “noble savages” in far off lands are really doing to each other. Bloody hypocrites!”

His very words thickened the very fog and the darkness so, that people ran about with flaring torches, proffering their services to go before horseless carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Cox out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, around which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture.

“Fuck the lot of them”, thought Cox. But for tap tap tapping, silence descended on the two men and the gloom and darkness closed in once more.

At length the hour of shutting up the shop arrived. With an ill-will Ebenezer dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk.

“Remember, Shuttlecock, five o’clock!” said Cox..

Cox too donned his coat, hat and cape, scarf and gloves and ignoring the cheery “Merry … er… sorry sir” as Shuttlecock skipped into the night, he snuffed the last candle, stepped out of the door and locked it behind him, before making his way to his usual tavern for a meagre dinner.

Cox was unaware because his back was turned but the water-plug being left in solitude in the horse trough, its overflowings sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice which flowed and moulded itself, distorting into the glimmerings of words the glows and the twinkles of flares and braziers. The words read, Cha…. and were then swallowed by the fingers of threading fog.

To be continued…

With apologies to Charles Dickens

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