Artisan Kaftan


“Would you like to take your kaftan off, Mr Wallace?”
“It is warm in here,” said the policeman.
“No, I’m fine,” insisted Mr Wallace. “It is part of my soul.”
DC Fleming ignored this comment. He’d read out the rights after making sure the tape was recording. He’d filled in the forms detailing the arrest, dated, timed, signed and authorised. He had three pens with him, all black, and he’d done his ‘I am capable and confident’ speech to himself in the station toilet mirror. All was under control. But dealing with kaftans being part of a person’s soul wasn’t something in which he’d been trained. Ignoring was best, he thought.

“So, Mr Wallace, can you explain how you came to be in the Autumn View Retirement Home this afternoon?”
“I was invited,” said the perfectly calm interviewee in the cream and brown kaftan, with tassels.
“By whom?”
“The universe”
“Right.” DC Fleming made a diligent note of the answer.
“And your intention in being there was?”
“To visit Mr Reginald Carter.” The grey eyes of Mr Wallace almost sparkled at some thought that seemed to have jolted his expression into one of calm delight, but whether that thought was remembered one or a new creation, DC Fleming was unsure.
“Why were you visiting Mr Carter, Mr Wallace?”
“He needed to give me something.”
DC Fleming’s recollection of the something which Mr Carter had given didn’t fit with any kind of need on his part whatsoever. “And did Mr Carter specifically ask you to take what you think he needed to give you?”
“In a way, yes.”
“What does that mean?”
“Look, Mr Policeman,” said Mr Wallace…
“Er, it’s Detective Constable actually.” DC Fleming even managed to pronounce the capital letters of his title, in a bold and somewhat italicised way.
“I don’t abide titles,” said Wallace. “They are a social construct designed to exhort control over human beings.”
“Nevertheless, Mr Wallace…”
“Nevertheless, Detective, yes, Mr Carter did request my presence through his communications with the universe. He wished to supply me with some materials.”
“Materials for what?”
“My art.”
DC Fleming sighed at his neatly written notes, wishing that answers would come as straight as his Ts. “Your art being?”
“Yes. Tequila.”
“Right.” Couldn’t get much straighter than that, thought DC Fleming, even if the sense was yet to settle in. “I wasn’t aware that such materials were required for the making of Te-qui-la.” The pronunciation of this pivotal word was said as read from DC Fleming’s extremely neat handwritten statement.
“It is, if you want to have a real experience with one of the most culturally historical drinks the world has ever produced, Mr…” Mr Wallace lent forward slightly, furtively looking into the policeman’s face with much heart felt sincerity (well, some). “Sorry. I mean, Detective Constable Flem-ing.” DC Fleming noted the plagiarism of his previous inflection and chewed on the inside of his bottom lip just enough to satiate the craving he had to flare his nostrils aggressively. The kaftanned artist grinned, and continued. “You see, to make such tequila that can change a person’s state of mind requires a special additive that can only be given by a life-filled participant willing to sacrifice by his own wish.” There was a pause. It was somewhat dramatic. “No…. Desire,” said Mr Wallace, thoughtfully placing his stick-like fingers about his face. “A desire. That’s what it is. They must desire it. It affects the taste.”
DC Fleming, unable to bring himself to write these flowery words into his neatly written statement, placed his pen in line with the straight lines of the straight lined police issue notepad and folded his fingers.
“And this is why you felt able to take Mr Carters left toe from him is it, Mr Wallace? ”
“Yes. In exchange for the knowledge that a part of him will live on in others.”
The dramatic pause reappeared. Then ran away. The pen was retrieved, and hovered above the paper, shaking only once when Mr Wallace spoke…
“It’s quite beautiful really, if you think about it, Detective Constable. Don’t you think?”

DC Fleming studied his notes.

Mr Wallace studied his kaftan tassels, and wondered about the state of DC Fleming’s right toe.





A Good Bun


“So, Maureen, how do you feel about this morning’s events?”
“Well,” said Maureen thoughtfully, “I suppose I feel quite excited really.”
“Excited?” said Sandra, trying not to look too puzzled so as not to crease her thickly applied-for-television makeup.
“Yes,” said Maureen. “Things like this don’t happen every day, especially in Pontefract town centre. I mean, I only came out for half a pound of liver and a couple of onions. I never expected all this. And it’s only Tuesday!”
“Yes,” said Sandra, wondering how she’d found herself in a half backward town interviewing half backward people about a half backward story that nobody would remember.
The naked man still lay in the middle of the precinct. The police were still waiting for the gazebo to turn up. The ‘Death Tent’ they called it, Sandra knew.
“And did you witness the event, Mrs Johnson?”
“Well, sort of. I was looking at one of those nice cakes in the baker’s window, the ones with lots of cream and a lovely red cherry on top. I do like a good bun. Not too many mind,” said Maureen. “Got to look after the waistline after all,” she said with a toothless cheeky grin and wide watery eyes, “But I do like a treat occasionally. One must never feel deprived you know, and…”
“Hahahah,” laughed Sandra, breaking the old lady’s flow of irrelevant nonsense. “So can you describe what you saw, for the viewers?” Sandra nodded at the camera in an attempt to remind Maureen that she was live on the national TV news.
“Oh yes,” chirped the woman, “He just fell from the sky.”
“From the sky?”
“Yes.” Maureen did a long drawn out whistle, as much as she could manage with a lack of teeth, and then… “Smack! Right in the middle of the precinct. Made a big splat noise he did. Even I heard it! And my ears aren’t what they used to be you know. I’ve tried those hearing aids but they don’t work properly. Get a lot of feedback. I went to the doctor about it but…”
“So the naked man fell from the sky,” interrupted Sharon.
“Oooh yes.”
“But the police said he just collapsed after running through the market, towards the town hall,” said Sharon informatively, to camera.
“Oh no,” said Maureen, nodding knowingly at the nice young lady with too much mascara. “He definitely fell out of the sky. Just like that horse did last week, the one with the horn on its nose.”
Sharon handed back to the studio and quickly took herself and her cameraman away from this obviously senile old woman. Maureen watched the tightly dressed young lady with excessively shiny hair waddle away on her tremendous heels, and let out a little giggle.
“Stupid media types,” she said to herself, and made her way towards the bakery.





The Train


Unqualified expectation of a relaxing journey, engulfed in book and flying scenery.

I get on my false pretence of a booked coach, bundle through the heaving crowd, find my false pretence of a booked seat. Seat taken by large old bloke, whom it would be rude of me to ask to move – and rather cumbersome for everyone else. So I make my way to the carriage joint and place myself in an awkward comfortable standing position.

I look through an art teacher’s wet dream of perspective example into first class, as does the other bloke who stands rigidly in starched suit. We abstractly create standing class, which we believe we should get a discount for. The seats should be clad in gold for the price we’ve paid not to sit in them! Amused smirk bloke joins our joint and eats his chips in his iPod world. Standing starch gets more and more agitated, checking the carriage for seats every 4.2 minutes, and then checking if the scenery is still passing by, then repeating his ritual in my awkward, now uncomfortable presence. A timid conductor hurries through the whooshy door and doesn’t bother to ask for our tickets, already verbally berated in coach B probably and realising fully that we deserve better, but he is a mere employee, enchained by bureaucracy.

The first stop approaches as I unpin my foot from its numb needle ready to pounce on the first available seat. Standing starch gets excited and exclaims joy at the amount of people departing and the many bum resting spaces soon to be made available. He lets me go first, which is nice, and I find a seat next to the luggage. Musty Murray Mints engulfs my nose hairs, along with the breath of last night’s vodka, with her Sony Walkman phone and imitation plastic bag. The ‘innit’ girl asks ‘Can I sit there?’ I refrain from consulting her as to whether she has a problem with her knee or hip joints that may prevent her from carrying out her wish, and I affirm her poor, held up with cheap scaffolding and bubble-gum, question with ‘Yes, of course.’

I am absorbed by my book, enclosed by hair. Innit girl gets on her phone; probably feels alone, but not for long. ‘About 15 minutes, innit’, she says, twice, then once more to her ‘innit’ companion from the same school of Like, Innit dot Com (LOL).

A dog whimpers in the carriage joint; we’re all able to empathise as he expresses the emotional and physical pain we’re all feeling, like the folded up bike in the luggage rack.

I need the loo, but I’ll definitely wait.

I like the way you can watch people through the reflection in the window.

I decide to call myself a nutritionist. Apparently anyone can. And anyone does, it would seem.

I think councils waste money on the latest fads in ‘health care’, or ‘alternative care’, and should concentrate on communication skills in schools.

It’s time to change as we all pile out of the metal tube – design inspired by the gas chamber at Auschwitz. The train oozes its people flatulence out onto the platform and up the stairs. We walk for miles to find the screen with the appropriate information, only to have to go back to where we nearly came from. I hear ‘Excuse me, madam’ – a very outdated label for a female – ‘You’ve come in through the exit. This is the exit. The entrance is there’, as he points to the space on the other side of the 4×4 wooden pole that marks the not very well made point at which exit ends and entrance begins. How dare I, I think, as I flash my ticket, say sorry, and continue through the exit to enter the landing strip of abused commuters trying to find hope of their destination through the maze of platform numbers, WH Smithses, and pigeons.

Awaiting the train on the dark, resounding, underground platform of 4B. I don’t know which way to look expectantly. Neither does anyone else. So we all look expectantly both ways, avoiding eye contact but trying to catch if someone knows something we don’t as the mass of heads waggle from side to side like we’re at Wimbledon after dark. But the smiling metal tube arrives, from the right, and we ingress and are spoilt for choice as far as bum cushioning.

The safety announcement cackles at us to please notice the many ways in which you may die in the next 30 minutes and the ways in which you may further exasperate your panic by pressing various buttons that probably don’t work. I note all the unattended luggage, some bigger than the train door; a mystery in itself.

The trolley makes its way down the slender isle pulling a neatly turned out woman behind it, every hair straight as a Conservative party leader. Would you like to be ripped off further from the trolley? She exclaims something like this with much corporate pride. I dramatically ignore her.

The musical sound of muffled live and tinned voices, the rhythmic wheels beneath, against the dead metal tracks mingles together like milk and sherry. The quickness of change of scenery from extensive fields of creative green and munching cattle to the dereliction of disused buildings with untold and forgotten history covered in dirt and buddleia plants, where the death of human ingenuity gives birth to a more natural, plodding paced life with a whole different set of worries and deadly stressful strife.

Visual tastes of undiscovered territory passes by; some that intrigue, some that repulse; some that make me want to pull the big red handle to stop the train now so I may explore, some that make me want to contact the driver via the little red button to tell him to hurry through this irascible landscape.

The boiled sweets crunch and the over-flavoured crisps are munched. The boys sit there with their Stella, scratching their bits, talking tits, void of wit.

An exclusive crossroads of organic (mostly) human life contained in a manufactured metal tube for a relative second in the time of their lives. A shared experience we create together that’s relatively inconsequential and briefly noted as ‘train journey’ going to or from somewhere, to new opportunities, away from past lives. Significantly insignificant.

The winter sun occasionally blinding through the fast paced landscape makes me wish I’d sat on the other side.

I feel relief as the door pishes open like air-locked Tupperware and I am released, intact.

I watch as they leave while I arrive.

I don’t wave.




Yellow Brick Road


He drowned in the relentless rain. Streams trickled from his inadequate hat, down his unshaven face, into his ears. He felt the drip, drip, drip from the top of his nose. About right, he thought. If he wanted cake, he’d get broccoli. If he needed a holiday, more work piled in. If he fell in love, she’d be already taken. If he thought it would be sunny, it would rain. Typical. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. He watched the people eating cake in the cosy cafe he couldn’t afford. He saw the sun blessed pictures in the travel agent window proclaiming cheap holidays full of laughter, love-filled couples, and blissful half board happiness. He was hit in the head several times by passing umbrellas remembered by those who knew it would rain. Why did he never get what he wanted? Why was he the one who always got it wrong? Why was he the one destined to be alone in this world?

The streams turned to trickles, and the trickles to drops. The skies changed from dark grey to white, and as the sun ventured a peek he saw it right in front of him. The once dull concrete that had been running like a murky river suddenly reflected a bright yellow path. He peered through his straggly hair, following the light that drew his feet, and walked.

The path didn’t lead to anywhere, so it seemed. It went on and on into nowhere. But he still followed. Then, just when his feet started to complain, there she was. In the middle of the yellow path, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, holding a large piece of chocolate cake and a train ticket.
“Where does that go to?” he asked.
“To the rest of your life,” she said.





She watched the other children playing on the swings. Their laughter seemed so easy to them. How did they do it? She sat on one end of the seesaw, the end nearest the floor. The end that would stay nearest the floor because there was no one on the other end. She didn’t have anyone else. Her mother, who wasn’t really, sat on a bench a few feet away, engrossed in her online social life. She wondered if her mother would even notice her disappearance. The seesaw sprang back to its balanced resting place as she made her way towards the slide. She started climbing the steps and noticed a boy was already at the top. On the edge. He stared at her as she approached the top step. Then sniggered.
“You’ll never fit down there,” he laughed. “Fatty!”
He carried on laughing as he slid down to the bottom, immediately getting up and making his way to the steps again shouting “Fatty, fatty, fatty on the slide,” as he skipped along. She sat at the top, the warm metal on her legs, the beating of her heart as it broke one more time. She could hear his footsteps approaching. The clang, clang, clang of his shoes on the hollow steps.
“Fatty! Fatty! Fatty! You’ll never got down there!” he shouted.
Other kids started to turn and watch thanks to his commotion. Once she’d felt it so hard that it overwhelmed her whole body, making her shake with despair. A burning embarrassment about herself, instilled from a lifetime of being told the same thing. Now the unhappiness had turned to numbness. Her heart didn’t beat like it would explode any longer. She felt his shoes kicking her bottom.
“Fatty, fatty, fatty! Can’t fit down the slide! Hahaha!”

When she grabbed his ankles she didn’t feel a thing. When she shoved him from the top of the slide she felt it effortless. When his cries filled the playground she still didn’t feel any sense of care. To prove him even more wrong, she slid down the slide with ease. His crumpled body lay to her side, surrounded by adults. Adults who cared.





“But you’ve done it the wrong way round!” said God.
Brian stared at his paint tins. He was sure he’d put them in the right order. The order that God had directed. The correct order. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. God was still shaking his head, rubbing at his eyebrows, his fingers getting lost in the thicket of grey hairs.
“But sir,” ventured Brian, “This is the order you said, sir.”
“Is it?” God roared. “Is it really, Brian?”
Brian glanced at his brush in his trembling hand, unsure of his sureness. “Er, yes, sir.”
“Brian,” said God, “When I promoted you to Head Angel in charge of Sky, did I not say to you that this was a great responsibility?”
“Yes, sir, God, sir.”
“And did I not remind you that with such responsibility comes a great need to listen carefully, Brian?”
“Er, yes, sir, God, sir, you did, sir. Listening is key, sir, you said, sir.”
Brian looked pleased with himself at such recall of important information. His memory was somewhat hazy. Being an ethereal being has that effect.
“So then, Brian,” said God, “How does it come to pass that you could get this task so horribly upside down?”
Brian looked at his work as he hovered within the pinkish sky. Red at the top. Violet at the bottom. Red at the top. Violet at the bottom. Red at the… Oh.
“You see now?” said god.
As the two beings floated down to the Earth to see from below Brian felt the full force of his mistake. He looked up, and followed the colours he’d so diligently painted from top to bottom. Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red.
“Oops,” said Brian.


Pulcinella – Part III


[Not read Part I or II yet? Why not?! Get your eyeballs round THIS]


The kitchen spat out Judy is a Punk as Mr Pulcinella entered, grabbing the pepper grinder from the table on his way to his wife.
“Oh, Pol, sei bellissima, my succulent one. Bit lower, eh?” moaned the baby in pleasure as Polly’s bulging breasts pressed against his chest and chin. They fell away as the amalgamation of baby and high chair hit the tiled floor with a thwack thanks to Mr Pulcinella’s efficient kick as he went past. On reaching his wife she turned from chiselling the sausage remains from the frying pan. “Ah, husband. You are looking spritely, and all dressed and ready. My joy is munifico! And what did the good Dottore prescribe, dear?”
“A good dose of the physic, my lover,” and the pepper grinder went about demonstrating this most excellent of cures across the body of Mrs Pulcinella.
His parents being otherwise indisposed, the baby, truly miffed by the sudden recumbent position of his being, let out a whaling cry which alerted all nearby wildlife to the hideous unfairness he felt from within. Although being a three hundred year old baby did have its up sides – not having to do much for one’s self – it also had its irritations, that of not really being able to do much for one’s self. He had invented many contraptions with which to manage the everyday adult built world, and his mother seemed to enjoy carrying out the tasks he set for her. But being stuck in a high chair, the current prison of his torso, and being wedged beneath a sturdy adult chair did require some help from which to escape.
“Pol! Pol!”
He continued to wail and sob, for being a baby held certain tropes no invention could assist. “Help your loved one from this death trap! I must be free! Free! Waaaa!”
Polly sprang to her lover’s aid, throwing the adult chair from his helpless body and lifting him to his towering position. He continued to scream with discontent until she enveloped his round head in her bosom.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re feeling better, husband.” Thwack. “I was worried about the show.” Thwack. “You are of course irreplaceable.” Thwack. “Truly unique.” Thwack. Thonk.
“I am! I am! And don’t you forget it! Irreplaceable! No me, no show!”
Mr Pulcinella continued to beat the robust body of his wife, the woman who he’d endured for all these years, who he could not disregard. The agreement said so.
“Without me there is no show, and that is surely the way to do it, my wench of discontent, my grassone trota.” Thwack. “But shhh, my dear. Worry not about it in your head.” Thwack. “For all you know about it we shall perform, and we shall dazzle, and we shall collect what is ours.” Thwack. “We shall pay our dues, and we shall live forever!” Thwack. “And thus your husband, padre to your children, will provide selflessly. The years of surrender has brought sustenance to our little family, and so it will forever be, my crepa of sorrow, my femminile noose, my weight of fleshy burden! Thwack. Thwonk. Crack.
Mrs Pulcinella gazed into her devoted husband’s wide eyes blurring and refocusing every blow of the pepper grinder. Everything he’d done had been only for love. Once, anyway. But still, if she directed her thoughts thusly, which with three hundred years’ practice wasn’t difficult, she believed in his unending loyalty to his duty. The show must go on.

Having regained himself thanks to the intermittent breaths from within his girlfriend’s chest, the baby grabbed his meat tenderiser from the tool belt attached to the leg of his high chair, and hurled himself as fast as his tiny gait could manage towards his father’s bony ankle. The piercing pain took Mr Pulcinella to the floor with an agonised screech, just as his son had intended. Mrs Pulcinella reached for the antibacterial wipes, a new-fangled invention she admired, and started to wipe the splotches of ankle and accompanying splatters from the cupboard door.
The baby, grinning manically, took advantage of this playtime opportunity with his favourite toy. He enjoyed the pattern it cut in the flesh of his father while he hopped around and over the grappling hands like a dance of the fleas. So caught up in the moment that he didn’t notice his mother had left her cupboard door debugging for the knock of the front door, until a pencil-like policeman stood over him with a quizzical look. The baby stopped instantly, looking at the policeman, and then at his father’s battered body which now revelled in the lucky cessation by grabbing him tightly round his own ankle and hoisting him into the air like a poached rabbit. The baby calculated for a moment, and then let out a huge cry, that of which could be heard in the Otherworlds.
“Now then you,” said the policeman, the passion of ridding scum from the world in these three words. “Let that baby alone and appropriate yourself for arresting.” He removed the handcuffs from his belt and dangled them before Mr Pulcinella. The withered figure dropped the baby on its head as he stood. The baby, still in character, screamed dramatically as it writhed about, unrestrained.
“We’ve had complaints about the noise emanating from this property, and rightly so it seems.”
“Oh, Constable, I wholeheartedly agree! These creatures who invade my nest could do with the force of the law about them,” said Mr Pulcinella, sweeping his hand across his family.
The policeman laughed in disbelief. “You seek further punishment than that which you have inflicted? How truly debauched you are!”
“Haha! Yes, yes, I do my best, but I’m sure your establishment is better equipped for such deserved debasements.”
“Right, that’s it. Put your hands to your back and turn around. Shackles are where you obviously belong.”
Noting the two immersed in conversation, the baby ceased its floor based writhing and crawled stealthily towards the cigarette packet with the ounce of Slugger’s finest secreted within. Having noted the policeman intended to incarcerate her husband, Mrs Pulcinella paused her antibacterial wiping to settle on the worrying thought of his absence at tonight’s show. Having settled upon the same thought, though with less worry and more determination, Mr Pulcinella set his mind to a scheme of escape.
“Ah, grazie, grazie, but I am sure I do not seek to procure your services after all, Governatore. I will settle this matter without need of your assistance.”
“Oh, but I am in need of you, Mr Pulcinella. There’s a cell with a drain problem that has your name on it!”
“Such a kind offer, Signor, but I am proficient enough to deal with these problems you so unselfishly seek to rectify for me. Thank you all the same.”
Growing increasingly frustrated at the lackadaisical attitude of the violent psychopath before him, the constable went for the wrists that he intended to cuff.
“Oh, yes please!” screeched Mr Pulcinella, and grabbed the truncheon hanging from his assailant’s belt. The first hit bent the constable’s body double, affording a satisfying second blow to the spine. Squeals of delight blended with oofs and ughs over the Ramones’ rhythmic ranting of Wart Hog, both ceasing simultaneously to leave the battered Constable groaning into his own stomach beside the fridge.
“Oh, a fine job, marito impotente,” praised Mrs Pulcinella before resuming her now more cumbersome cleaning frenzy. Mr Pulcinella beamed with satisfaction. “And don’t you forget it!” he snarled triumphantly, throwing the truncheon like a proficient bowler towards the baby’s head. Tobacco with green flecks scattered across the highchair table and surrounding floor tiles.
“You assoluto bastardo of a father! I’ve just got that! And on my meagre wages you think I can afford to just throw it about like spent ashes!”
“Oh, son, you need to learn some respect for your father,” said Mr Pulcinella in mock kindness as he edged through the sweet smelling floor scattering, “I am your provider, your protector, your educator, and…” he melded into a scowl as his face met his son’s, red nose to snotty nose, “I am your boss! I am in charge of you, and you will obey me, boy!”

The Constable’s belly bubbled with thunderous rage. Even to his own detriment he was dedicated to crushing the evil from the world. Well, from his patch anyway. And this…this…animal… No! This creature! This devil in fancy dress! He wasn’t going to let him get away. Using small movements to test out where the hurt would radiate from most, he cajoled his body into rising.
“You will not get away, you evil incubus!”
Disabled as he was from his injuries the Constable swiftly rose to his feet ready to grab and contain his catch. But his catch was slippery and spry and dodged his outstretched arms, vaulted over his wife and out the back door. The Constable gave chase and found himself in a dusty high fenced back yard with an out of place patch of grass on which stood a cockerel, Mr Pulcinella, and a tiny grey and white speckled horse.
“You think you’re so strong, so clever,” said Mr Pulcinella mockingly, “You think, ‘oh, now I have him, he cannot escape’, and you think you of all this world’s inhabitants will win over myself. Ha! Bless you and your ignorant sort.”
Like a suburban cowboy Mr Pulcinella swung his leg wide, concluding in a rolling crouch with his feet firmly on the ground either side of the small horse.
“What is that thing?” enquired the incensed constable to the wife of the deranged man.
“Oh, that’s Hector, our cavallo,” said Mrs Pulcinella, “He’s a HORG.”
“Yes, a HORG breed. Horse of Restricted Growth.”
The policeman raised an eyebrow, unsure he’d ever heard of such a thing before, watching it being kicked in the rear end with its rider’s pointy shoe.
Mrs Pulcinella smiled warmly. “A fine breed. Bellissimo! Look at how strong he is, carrying such a load.” And the constable had to agree that the ridiculous view of a horse the size of a child’s tricycle carrying the relatively mountainous load over the six foot fence did remind him of the remarkable feat of the flight of a bumblebee.

Sitting round the gingham table, the Constable, the baby, and Mrs Pulcinella watched the clock meander its way towards show time. Fully abreast of the situation, the Constable still didn’t really understand Mrs Pulcinella’s overly anxious demeanour.
“I’m so worried, Constable. He’s never done this before. We will be late! Late! Oh, the thought is just…” Mrs Pulcinella broke under the weight of worry and sobbed into her apron.
“There, there, ma’am. I’m sure he’ll return shortly.”
“No, no, you don’t understand…”
The clock seemed to tick louder than usual.
“You may be a little late, but what does one show matter, eh?”
The shocked faces blinked at the Constable in time with the second hand of the clock, which caught the minute hand in an embrace that took them both to the hour. Eight o’clock. The ticking stopped.

The curtain twitched as Elsie Savant tried to catch a stealthy glimpse towards the ground shaking rumble emanating from next door, yet without musical accompaniment. She watched as the house began to vibrate violently. Lumps of plaster revealed abstract patterns of grey brick as it crashed to the pavement in puffs of white dust. A gap appeared between the foundations of the house and the ground on which it stood. The grimy door knocker banged furiously as the gap widened and the house lifted into the air, dangling roots of pipes and wires with tattered red and white stripped wallpaper floundering beneath. Many curtains twitched up and down the street as the residents watched the house fly off into the stratosphere, never to be seen again.

In a cobbled backstreet, the dusty boards of the Regency Theatre advertised an obscure show from long past. Layers of cobwebs seemed to hold the decaying wooden overhang in place above the small red doors at the foot of which a dune of black dirt had accumulated over the years of disuse. Yet from deep within this derelict aesthetic came the sound of a mistuned music hall piano, plinking and plonking a happy tune.

Inside the dark theatre the tatty blood coloured curtain rose to solitary applause. Upon the red and white stripped stage stood four figures, their gregarious faces captured within the grain of a tree. Their hinged joints instantly creaked into animation as they were revealed and danced in time to the twang of the piano. The sound of their wooden stumps on the boards echoed around the nearly empty theatre, their movements across the stage seemingly matching the flicking and gliding of fleshless fingers attached to the solitary dark figure sat in the dress circle, who, for the first time in three hundred years, felt a great sense of enjoyment in his new role of ‘Director’. Better to be in complete control than have to deal with the wants and wills of others, he thought. A shrill laugh emanated from the hook nosed character on stage, which was dressed in a ragged red and yellow suit intricately decorated with gold thread, as it bashed a long slapstick about the carved heads of a baby, a policeman, and a robust woman holding a frying pan full of sausages.
“That’s the way to do it!” it shrieked.