Chick Litoris Dickorifice Dock
As he watched the portly priest rush through the gates of the convent across the road and make a beeline for the public lavatory, Jason Cross shook his head in disgust.
'H'm... Abstinence in its basest of forms,' he muttered beneath his breath. Regardless of the fact that that which he witnessed often served to insult his sensibilities, he liked to sit out on the porch, weather permitting, and keep an eye on the neighbourhood.
'Did you say something?' inquired Evangeline Wilderness, his scantily clad companion. She stretched her lithe young body and smoothed her rucked-up black satin chemise over her slender sun-kissed hips.
'Thou shalt not masturbate!' thundered Jason. He scowled, his fine blond eyebrows meeting over his pale blue eyes.
'I wasn't intending to,' replied Evangeline, her rocker creaking the porch floorboards with each push of her long, lissome legs.
'I wasn't talking about you.'
Jason stabbed out a finger. 'That fat bastard.'
'Where?' asked Evangeline, looking up from her book to find the street deserted.
'Father Davjak. Fat bastard. He's in the shitter again.'
'Best place for him.'
Jason lips turned up and he snorted in amusement. 'What are you reading?'
'Chick lit. It helps fill the void between—'
When a passing car backfired, Jason sprang to his feet and reached for his piece.
'Son of a bitch!'
With a deep sigh, he sat back down in his chair, struggling to hide his disappointment.
'Sports exhaust,' said Evangeline. She tipped her head to the side. 'A fart in a tin can.'
Jason snorted again. 'You're not unintelligent, Eve,' he said. 'For a woman, that is.'
'Wow, thanks, Jay!'
'Take it as a compliment.'
'I'll try my best.'
Jason shook his head and smirked. 'Coffee?'
'I'd prefer something a little stronger,' Evangeline replied. She chuckled and picked up her empty glass. The breeze was cool, her delicious lips moist, and the Chateau Mouton Rothschild still buzzing delightfully through her veins.
'It's a bit early for me,' said Jason. 'Perhaps later, eh?'
'I don't know about unintelligent,' said Jason, 'but sometimes you're too clever for your own good.'
'Ah, now there is a compliment!'
'Yes. And so, given your undeniable level of intellect - whatever level that may be - surely you must be able to see the logic in the ditching of the Old Testament?'
'Oh, good lord, Jason! What's brought this on?'
'Bloody Jehovah's Witnesses.'
'Oh dear! Have they been pestering you again?'
'Yes. This morning. While you were in the shower.' Jason frowned and looked towards the garden gate. 'There's just no stopping the buggers,' he continued resignedly. 'Save for a bullet in the head.'
'It's worth a try, I suppose.'
'So you agree with me?'
'About a bullet to the head?'
'About the Old Testament.'
'I can't say that I've given it much thought.'
'Perhaps it's about time that you did,' Jason suggested. 'The thing is jam-packed with mixed messages.'
'Yes—to the point where one must seriously question whether The Almighty, as depicted in the Christian Bible, the ''Word of God'', is not bipolar.'
'I didn't think that that was ever in question,' Evangeline said nonchalantly. Licking the tip of her slender finger, she turned over the page of her book and nestled deeper into the cushions of her wicker chair.
'I wonder,' she continued, without looking up, 'do you not consider your war on organised religion a somewhat one-sided affair?'
'They’re a soft target, I know,' replied Jason, 'yet still one worthy of a good kicking every now and then. However, I will admit that I walk a well-worn path.' He reached for his packet of cigarettes, but then thought better of it. 'Besides,' he continued, 'where would be the challenge in attacking disorganized religion?'
When the front door of the convent opened, Jason looked on with interest. Mother Superior Monique Bellucci stood in the doorway, smiling coquettishly as she tossed her long raven hair and waved to the driver of a United Dairies delivery van. Stepping down from the cab, the young, muscular milkman held up a family-sized carton of strawberry yoghurt and winked suggestively. Soon thereafter the couple disappeared within the inviting walls of the Convento de Santa Katerina Price.
Jason's scowl returned with a vengeance.
'How it is that one can walk into a church and find Bibles just lying about the place, where any impressionable fool might stumble upon them, is beyond my powers of comprehension,' he said. 'And God forbid that some simple-minded soul should actually pick up a copy and read it!'
Evangeline puckered her brow. 'Isn't that what libraries are for?'
'Precisely. I'm surprised Rome didn't brush the O.T. under the papal carpet years ago. Vast chunks of it, anyhow. Admittedly, they made a few alterations – where it suited their cause to do so – but ninety-nine per cent of the doggerel's still there.'
'I like the story about Jonah and the whale.'
'Fishy stories aside, Eve, I will concede that the O.T. has a few key elements; the creation of the world, for instance. The creation of man being another. However, it also contains the deluge; the destruction of both mankind and his world.'
Evangeline nodded. 'Creation, destruction and annihilation, all in one handy volume. It beats a Mills and Boon!'
'And then there's the Decalogue; it reads like a list of criminal offenses. Exhibit four: ''Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above.'' Jason fidgeted in his chair. 'Why is it, then,' he continued, 'that this world has witnessed a never-ending supply of statues, icons, crucifixes and fetishes? Even pieces of dead saints!'
'It's consumerism gone mad,' conceded Evangeline.
'Exhibit five: ''Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.'' In answer to which I would like to draw your attention to “The Pope”.'
'No thanks. You can keep him.'
'Exhibit thirteen: ''Thou shalt not kill'',' continued Jason, clearly feeling himself to be on somewhat of a roll. 'A tad hypocritical, perhaps, when one considers the aforementioned deluge? Not to mention all the other cases of ''God's Mercy'', such as the Calamities. And what about the War in Heaven, eh? Talk about leading by example! The term ''Pot and Kettle'' springs to mind.'
'Indeed it does.'
'Exhibit fourteen: ''Thou shalt not commit adultery''. I believe that Joseph would have something to say about that particular commandment.'
'Undoubtedly. However, he's only a bit-part player in the great scheme of things. If you ask me, he's the literary equivalent of cannon fodder.'
'Exhibit seventeen: ''Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house''. Unless, that is, you're Jewish, and can argue that it is ''Promised Land''. I rest my case, your honour.'
'There's never been a bigger wig than you,' said Evangeline. She placed a bookmark in her paperback and set it down upon the table beside her chair.
'Oh, here comes Sister Rose,' Jason said excitedly as he leaned forward on the porch swing to look around Evangeline. He grinned. 'She's real pretty.'
'The prettiest,' Evangeline agreed as she continued to rock in her chair. 'She comes quite often, from what I hear.'
'Keeping you awake at night?'
'Only when you don't,' cooed Evangeline. As she spoke, she leaned forward and began to stroke Jason's upper leg. Many hours in the saddle had given him long, strong thigh muscles, across which her fingers danced in a most provocative manner. 'Would it stand up in court, do you think?'
'I realize that I may have a sad lack of information on some very important issues,' began Jason. 'So I must gather empirical data, so to speak, to allow me to make better informed statements.' He reached out to skim one finger along the swell of her bosom, just above the top of her chemise. 'In the meantime, however, I'm of a mind to fill your void.'
As he pulled Evangeline against him he leaned in to nip at her earlobe, then whispered, 'How do you fancy working on a Mills and Boon?'
'I'd prefer something a little stronger,' she replied.
Jason wrapped his arms around her and kissed her cheek, her neck, and the tops of her sun-bronzed breasts. 'What did you have in mind?'
'Perhaps I could tempt you with a few chapters of a Jackie Collins?' suggested Evangeline Wilderness.
Strewn across the bedroom floor, detritus of voracious desire, tatters of a scarlet nightgown emulate the scattered petals of a silken rose.
Upon a bed of vice a fallen angel lies - bracelet of thorns about her wrist, snakes of smoke ascending from her slender fingertips, unblemished flesh a sun-kissed golden brown. Beads of sweat adorn her naked breasts, as avaricious fingers fly like arrows to her quivering lips.
Snakelike, a gluttonous tongue flicks out, to cunnilinger at the mouth of ecstasy, then probe the moist, enticing depths of bliss.
Lacerating nails rail against deluging waves of rapture.
Darkness descends, and with it the angel - that expertise gleaned from an apprenticeship served on seaside rock might bring her love to bedizen her tender cheek with the spoils of his sated voracity.
Fallen, upon her knees, an angel crafts the latest chapter of her erotic treatise.
All Quiet on the Papal Font
The puppet king shuffled through Shyster City, an AK47 slung over his right shoulder and a host of tiny angels impaled on the thorns of his makeshift crown. In days of yore he had been placed on high, that the hoi polloi might have someone to look up to. Ultimately, things hadn't turned out quite as planned; they strung wires through the holes in his hands and played him like an ill-tuned violin.
It was long past time for a little payback.
Stood on his balcony, a smug expression buried beneath the layers of make-up that brought a whisper of colour to his otherwise pallid, porcine features, Pope Pompous Filcher III waved to the faithful masses who stood in the square wearing Cartier watches and Gucci sunglasses.
A circle of convex glass glinted in the sunlight. Cogwheels turned cogwheels turned cogwheels. Unfeeling hands moved clockwise. A dispassionate eye moved towards an iron sight. Indifferent, time advanced.
As the Bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed one o'clock, five shots rang out: a bullet through each wrist; two through the ankles; one between the eyes. The flailing arms and wailing hysteria of The Pope's adoring fans was promptly followed by a Mexican wave; the paparazzi were about to have a field day.
Conspiracy theorists would debate this day’s events for years to come: Smoke on a grassy knoll; spent cartridges from two different makes of semi-automatic; the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk; an Italian bolt-action rifle found on the 6th floor of a book depository; a King James Bible burning in a trashcan.
Seated at a glass-topped table outside a local bistro, enjoying the sun and going alfresco, Jeremiah Corns sipped an espresso and contemplated who best he could find to take the wrap for his latest venture. Who the stooge, the fall guy, the patsy? Gavrilo Princip? Too long in the grave; the paper's would never buy it. He knew only too well that the stench of death never truly leaves a body. No, he would need someone a little less stiff.
Perhaps I could resurrect my old associate Lee Harvey, he mused.
Frowning, Jeremiah threw in a few extra sweeteners and stirred anticlockwise: Now that he had whacked both the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and The Pope, legitimate targets would be increasingly hard to come by.
Downing the remains of his coffee, The Machine Gun Messiah tossed a handful of greasy coins on the table and strolled away through the hustle and bustle of Vatican Square in search of a friendly bookmaker.
When next his mobile rang, Jeremiah Corns was taking a cold shower.
And They’re Off!
Reformed paedophile, Bishop Luigi Lacoste: 5 – 2
Alleged Serbian war criminal, Bishop Drago Milovanović: 7 – 1
Raving homosexual, Bishop Julian Pinkerton: 50 – 1
The Rag Publisher’s Nightmare Song
♫ — News unreported, robs me of me wrist.
News, headline news, life's pleasant views outnumbers.
Lies, deadline-like, so tricky to resist;
I write them all while in my midnight slumbers.
When I'm lying awake with a fearful headache brought on by a night of insobriety,
It's at these times I choose to invent headline news full of cases of base impropriety.
But then in my defence, sir, I mean no offence, sir, it's simply a way to sell papers:
it’s that most of the time there's a lack of sex crimes - scarce few lap dancer, football star capers.
Cut & Paste
Coroner attacks army inadequacies over blast that killed four in Iraq.
Coroner records verdict of unlawful killing for a Birmingham soldier and his colleague who died on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
From Origami to Papier-mâché
'There’s no limit to the amount of dead Ragheads one can throw at a front page,' said former drowned newspaper tycoon Rupert Maxwell-House. 'It’s all just a matter of timing.' He poured out a healthy measure of Chivas Regal and unwrapped a Cuban cigar. 'War has ever been a one-sided affair; objectivity all depends on which papers one reads.'
Jerry Cornhill leaned forward to shake the thin arthritic hand of a man whose nose was a map of the London underground. 'Thank you for finding the time to see me, Rupert,' he said.
'Anything for an old friend,' replied Maxwell-House. 'Though the stench of saltwater never leaves my nostrils, ever shall I be grateful for your prompt action in retrieving me from the locker of one D Jones esquire.'
'Good disciples are hard to come by, Rupert. You of all people should know that. And believe you me; there are a lot worse things in life than smelling like a fishmonger. Besides, dead men have certain privileges, yes?'
Set like pearls in an oil spill, the tycoon’s small but vicious eyes gleamed. 'Tax evasion has never been so easy,' he beamed, and commenced to fiddle with something below the level of his leather-topped mahogany desk.
Jerry Cornhill raised an eyebrow. 'Are you texting or wanking, Rupert?'
'It is all much of a muchness,' replied “rag” head Maxwell-House. On the wall behind his desk was hung a monochrome montage of collectible newspaper headlines: The short-lived “Baby M” affair; the ill-fated civil war in Turkey; the “Free Lego Model For Every Reader” promotion.
'It doesn’t take a genius to work out,' he continued, still fiddling furiously, 'that the lawful killing of Muslims in a theatre of war sells papers. It’s as simple as that. However, if one of them dies in a street fight then we sell it as a racially motivated crime. It’s all just a matter of swing. Sadly, in this world of consumer pulp, the shelf life of war can be measured in days, if not hours. Of course, there are those who would argue that the only good news is no news. However, in the absence of sensationalist journalism the great unwashed and uneducated of the Lower Class would be left with nothing to read.'
'By “Lower Class” I assume that you mean all but the Upper Class, yes?'
'Naturally,' replied Maxwell-House. 'After all, the all of them work, do they not? The Working Class and Middle Class are one in the same; working twenty-four seven, fingers to the bone, while we fat cats get all the cream. Middle Class is simply a no-prize awarded to the poor by we rich. It’s a simple case of Robin Hood asking the peasants to bend over and take one up the arse for King John.'
'On the subject of buggered,' began Jerry Corhill, 'the global economy is well and truly fucked up. I’ve been investing heavily in top of the range sports cars, prostitutes and designer men’s wear and then selling them on to the wealthy families of the OPEC nations, in the hope of easing the burden on the credit-crunched man on the street.'
'And how is that working out for you?'
'Terribly. I just cannot get the morons off scratch cards.'
'The rehab clinic of today is far removed from that which it was.'
Jerry brushed a speck of ash from off his sleeve and then moved to smooth out a crease. 'I should have whacked the Fords when I had the chance.'
'Indeed,' said a consolatory Maxwell-House. He sipped at his whiskey. 'Peasants, eh! Who’d have them; other than the taxman, that is.’ He lit his cigar. 'Still, if there weren’t any peasants you’d have to invent them, yes? Can you imagine one trying to muddle through a classic! David Copperfield; Moby-Dick; Ulysses; Don Quixote; War and Peace? — To the peasant, peace holds little or no entertainment value.
'The word ''literature'' is as alien to them as the idea of safe sex,' suggested Jerry Cornhill. 'It really is such a sad state of affairs.'
'It certainly lends weight to the argument in support of selective breading,' offered Rupert Maxwell-House. He drained his glass. 'Look, Jerry, as it’s you I could probably stretch to giving your story a couple of days on the front page of one of my redtops. But, after that... Well, let’s just say that I have it on very good authority that the coalition has found itself a new target in the Middle East. And, as well as that, there’s word on the mean streets of a new development in the case of the missing kiddie. I might be able to maintain public interest in you for a couple of days longer with a small splash on page seven. But I can’t make any promises, Jerry. News is as news does, I'm afraid.'
'As long as I don’t find myself relegated to a side column on page 3 I’ll be a happy man,' said Jerry Cornhill. 'The bourgeoisie rarely see past tits.' With his eyes drifting towards the door he stood up and adjusted his fly. 'It’s time I should be going.'
Rupert Maxwell-House jerked spastically and reached for a handkerchief. 'What next for the legendary Machine Gun Messiah?' he inquired optimistically. 'Some head of state? Perhaps another presidential cavalcade?'
Reaching inside the jacket of his Brioni three-piece suit, Jerry placed his piece on the desk. 'I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm,' he replied. 'I’m going to join a rock ’n’ roll band, camp out on the land an’ try an’ get my soul free.'
'But that would be sacrilege, my dear boy! The news just wouldn’t be the same without your bumping off a monarch or two.'
Jerry Cornhill smiled a self-assured smile. 'Everything in time, Rubin. Everything
A Google-eyed View of Timbuktu
Due to the threat of terrorism, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has urged tourists not to visit Timbuktu. However, I am not your typical tourist. Far from it, in fact.
When a local journalist heard that I was travelling there, to ''write'' about the Fowler kidnapping and the terrorists who captured him, he warned me, 'Al-Qaeda is a small but deadly presence in the Sahara. They have committed acts of terrorism in Timbuktu, among other places. This has been devastating for the local economy.'
In Timbuktu, about sixty per cent of the economy is based on tourism. However, the threat of terror attacks has pushed it on to the UK travel blacklist. Despite its illustrious history, modern-day Timbuktu is an impoverished town, poor even by Third World standards. A chimerical Shangri-La - where romantics seek love, and the sinful, redemption - the reality of Timbuktu is harsh, cruel and ugly—as the South African citizen kidnapped there on Friday discovered. These days, the stock in trade of much of The Republic of Mali is banditry. The activities of armed groups, including terrorists, and the threat of kidnapping, has left this landlocked country in Western Africa teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
'Timbuktu and northern Mali have long been attractive to adventure travelers,' the journalist continued, 'but now the United Kingdom is warning Westerners not to go there.'
'I'm not a Westerner,' I replied, sipping an espresso with milk and no sugar.
'This latest attack has prompted the town's authorities to order a plane to evacuate all foreigners from Timbuktu.'
'In which case, I should find things a little less crowded. I've never been one for hustle and bustle.'
'Only last week the Mali police arrested three suspected terrorists accused of kidnapping five Westerners and killing one other in late November. The tourists had been staying at the Hotel Amanar. The gunmen burst in as the men were dining.'
'Eating out can be a risky business,' I suggested.
In the ancient caravan city of Timbuktu I was summoned to a rooftop to meet the salt merchant, Col Ascofare.
'Absinthe?' he enquired of me, lighting a cheroot.
'Tea,' I replied. 'Hot and sweet. I never touch the hard stuff.'
'It's an old story....'
The town of Timbuktu sits just above the sluggish brown Niger River. Founded one-thousand years ago, and famous as a major trading centre for gold and salt, its books and letters are historic, magical, romantic. However, in reality it is neither mythical nor exotic: There is a dark side to modern Timbuktu. Meanwhile, the Republic of Mali is a country on the front-lines of a new war on terror, with al-Qaeda in the Maghrib operating freely in its northern regions, including cities like Gao and Kidal. It is yet another frontier in the global struggle against transnational terrorism. Kidnapping stories - and myths - are told, seen in the movies, passed from mouth to mouth, generation to generation, all over the world: Russia, America, Cambodia, Great Britain, Uganda, India, Spain, Sierra Leone, Germany, Israel – the list goes on and on and on. It is pure, ontological terror.
I had heard that the merchant had information about a Frenchman who was being held by terrorists somewhere deep in the folds of Mali's northern desert. Terrorists had been involved in kidnaps in the region on a number of occasions recently, including cases in the city of Mopti.
'Who are these Mali terrorists?'
Col Ascofare nearly choked on his lamb stew. 'They are on a desert strip,' he spluttered. 'They source fuel and food from three or four known cities, including Timbuktu and Gao.
'And what of their threat?'
'All foreign tourists have been evacuated from Timbuktu. That was last Saturday. The terror threat is also currently high in Bamako, our capital city.'
'I know that, sal macaque; I'm not here for a goddamn geography lesson.'
'No, of course not. My apologies,' mumbled the salt merchant submissively. 'In a bewildering turn of events,' he continued, toying with his food, 'a terrorist reportedly associated with the Indian Mujhadeen surrendered to the Timbuktu police. This, also, was on Saturday.'
'He sounds just the man to have a little chat with.'
'But he is not al-Qaeda.'
'They're all in it together,' I replied, lighting a Madison. 'Where are they holding him?'
'The prison in Taoudenni,' Col Ascofare replied, spooning up a mouthful of grissle and gravy. 'It was built in nineteen-sixty-nine, during the regime of Moussa Traoré. Up until ninety-eight it was used to detain political prisoners, many of whom were government officials accused of plotting against the then regime. The prisoners were forced to work in the salt mines. Many of them died. The prison lay in ruins for many years, but was recently rebuilt. To the east of the prison building is a cemetery containing one-hundred-and-forty individual graves, of which only a dozen display the name of its occupent.'
'One name is all that I need,' I said, tossing a handful of coins on the table and standing up. 'I'm sure that a little gentle persuasion will have our friend singing like a bird.'
Humanitarians may shun waterboarding, but it certainly does have the desired effect.
Ansongo, here I come.
Ansongo, a rural commune in south-eastern Mali, lies on the left bank of the Niger River, 90km south of Gao.
'Well, well, well. If it isn't my old mucker, Abu,' I said, addressing the hook-handed cleric. 'I always wondered where you'd gotten to after Davey-Boy kicked you out of Finsbury Park.'
With a grin that spoke of retribution, I reached for my heat. Blindsided, the fat bastard never saw it coming.
Job done. And now I'm of a mind to see the sights of ancient Timbuktu. After all, one never knows for how much longer it'll be standing.
Wearing a pair of najdi sandals, I tread gingerly as I make for the exit, skirting the shards of his shattered left eye.
Jeroboam Cornute gambolled across the rubble of Sankoré mosque bringing to an end the lives of those unlucky enough as to have survived the explosion. It was a bullet to the temple for each and every one of them, locals and tourists alike. He had never been one to discriminate.
Architecturally, the mosque, built during the declining years of the Empire of Mali, in the early 15th century, had been of the traditional Sahel style. Considered remarkable for its large pyramidal mihrab, it had been demolished in the style of the Carlton Hotel, Beirut – twenty-five tons of TNT on an old Bedford truck.
The weather for the time of year was hot and dry. He despatched the last of the whimpering Malian Muslims and took a sip of ginger beer from his monogrammed hip flask; an action which served to remind him of the fact that he was late for an appointment at Djinguereber mosque. The initials on the flask were not his own—Jeroboam had liberated it from a fellow that had had no further need of it; not now that there was a hole where his throat used to be.
A woman in yellow robes walked past, accompanied by a child of indiscernible age and sex. He tossed the child a couple of live rounds and gave it a crafty wink.
'Get some practice in,' he said. 'You never know when I might decide to pay a return visit.'
Whistling a tune by Jamie Cullum, the Machine Gun Messiah took out his pocket map and compass and headed off into the sunset.
The New Nature of Existence
It is mid-afternoon in the sleepy village of Westbury-sub-Mendip and a sultry sun warms a bed of many colours. There are tulips of red, blue, yellow and mauve, pansies, peonies and posies, daffodils of cream, chrysanthemums, rhododendrons and pink and scarlet roses. Beside these would-be bouquets and wreaths, within the confines of a white picket fence, contrasting nicely with the grey flagstones and black tarmacadam, lies a handsome Kashmir silk carpet featuring a garden pattern influenced by the Persian carpets of the Qum region. The field consists of a lattice of dividing lines symbolizing irrigation channels, with trees and flowers growing in the ground between. The floral designs are intricate and varied: cypresses; weeping willows; flower vases; floral prayer arches. The border design is one of small flowers connected by delicate shoots.
'Well, that was certainly a most pleasurable way in which to while away a half hour,' said Eve Adams, dabbing at the corner of her mouth with a polka dot handkerchief. Placing the handkerchief back inside the breast pocket of her white cotton blouse she then rose to her feet, brushing away a stray thread of silk that had attached itself to the knee of her jodhpurs, the knee patches of which were a Union Jack print.
Jeremy Corns set about buttoning his fly. 'I'm just pleased that I managed to find you a window; I've been incredibly busy of late.' With a casual stroke of his rod he sent a green sparkler upstream, to where the current slowed from fast to medium-fast. 'My diary is all but full until the end of the year.'
William Port-Cullis, the influential CEO of Cybersoft, has died after being shot at close range with a sub-machine gun by a member of his Elite Force bodyguard as he got into his car at The Pierrot Centre, a shopping arcade in Islington popular with tourists and A-list celebrities.
Further down the hill, outside the redbrick walls of the village primary school, single mothers stroll the pleasant paths that lead them past decorative flowerbeds set like picturesque, exotic islands in an untroubled sea of freshly mowed grass; each of them casting a nervous glance at a creature who, as if it reigns, scurries fearlessly to-and-fro about the schoolyard collecting discarded crisps and savoury tidbits; all this in earshot of their misfit offspring's caterwauls.
Inside the halls of learning impatient clocks await their call to chime. It is drawing close to home time.
'I read in this morning's paper,' began Eve, as she set about packing away Jeremy's tackle, 'that another member of the legion dollargod has shuffled away to push up daisies.'
'A soul that cannot be saved is best erased,' Jeremy replied sagely, fishing around in Eve's box for a reel of 10lb catgut and a chub float. 'Anyone I know?'
'Knew,' suggested Eve. 'Past tense.' She winked knowingly. 'In all probability, yes.'
'How much was he worth?'
'A decent enough bounty.'
'Small change, in today's market.'
'Every little helps,' suggested Jeremy. 'Money has e'er been mankind's god.'
'But can a man truly be deemed guilty of the sin of greed when the deities themselves crave wealth?'
'Not if the houses of the holy are anything to go by, no. Where was he shot.'
'In the head.'
'No, what I meant was—'
'Canary Wharf,' cut in Eve. 'A Dragunov sniper rifle was discovered in an office on the 7th floor of Poundstretcher House, beside which was lying an anatomically perfect reproduction of Lord Charles.'
'The ventriloquist's dummy?'
'A ventriloquist's dummy! Anatom—?'
'Indeed. Right down to his little quiff. It had his trademark monocle, too.
'A dummy hitman! It certainly is a first.'
'Don't try and kid me that you didn't have a hand in it, Jeremy.'
'I may have pulled a few strings, but... A Dragunov, you say? Russian! It has all the makings of the beginning of another cold war.'
'It even had a little wooden pecker,' added Eve, but Jeremy had already lost interest in the pseudo toff.
'There is little in this world as cold as a banker,' he said. 'Black, base-born, iniquitous men whose stock-in-trade is the abolition of man's liberty.'
'Whilst on the subject,' said Eve, 'do you prefer fishnets or—?'
'Fishnets,' Jeremy replied enthusiastically, not even waiting for Eve to finish her question. 'It goes without saying.'
'What's with this sudden craze for all things fishing?'
'A man's got to have a hobby, Eve. And it's hardly sudden: You may recall the time near Bethsaida when—'
'It's hardly the same.'
'This isn't anything to do with your trying to compete with the Miracle of the Herrings, is it?'
'Not that I'm aware of, no. And I'm pretty certain I'd know a pilchard if I tasted one,' Jeremy said emphatically.
Returning to the water's edge he dangled several lines in a stream of conciousness but came away with nothing more than an ill-conceived yarn about the one that had gotten away. It was at this juncture that he came to the conclusion that he was in dire need of a new telescopic sight.
Ornithologists say they are increasingly concerned about the "alarming" decline of some of Britain's woodland birds species.
"Something is happening in the dappled glades and airy canopies of Britain's woodlands."
Approximately one half of a mile to the west of the village, just to the right of McDonalds farm, lies a mandatory 18 holes, a place for the exercising of legs and the exorcising of egos; for there is no other leveller on this Earth quite like a handicap.
Two vast and leafless trunks stand in the top field. Near them, in the sand trap, half sunk, a can of cola lies, half drunk, whose scratched and crumpled aluminium tell that its drinker looked with contempt upon the nearby DO NOT LITTER sign. What little remains of this duo of once proud elms now hang like the bones of haggard old men, clearly defined, like skeletons suspended before a black dropcloth. Beside them stands an English oak, whose tier upon impressive tier of acorn-heavy limbs stand it proud among its peers. On summer afternoons ill-clad young golf girls wander into its shade seeking respite, if only for the briefest of moments, from their appointed task of selling cups of tea to the wealthy businessman who wander the greens. The girls' gaudily patterned dresses clash horribly with the rich palette of the local flora; at the foot of the oak, in the rich earth, grow a selection of flowering shrubs, and there is also little rainwater pond to which ducks descend; the petals of some of the taller flowers are shrivelled, as if something of immense heat has singed them as it passed their way, and a shroud of fine, grey mist hangs in the air above them - it is a shroud in which the careful observer might discern the facial features of a bearded young man.
'There was also an article,' continued Eve, examining the contents of Jeremy's keepnet, 'which suggested that the European Union intends to cut its losses short by selling off Greece to the highest bidder.' She reached in and plucked out a bream.
'Word on the street is that China will be making an offer,' said Jeremy. 'It seems that they want to turn the country into a giant car factory.' Unhooking his WW1 British trench club from its belt chain he set about bludgeoning an overzealous pike. 'Although the smart money is on India,' he continued. 'They're still smarting from having lost out to Taiwan in the bidding war for Ireland.'
Splaying wide her fingers, Eve turned her nose up at the sight of her manicure-deprived hands. 'How much longer before—'
'There must be an easier way to acquire a fish supper,' said Jeremy.
'We could always try the High Street,' said Eve. 'I'm pretty certain that fish and chips is still very much a British tradition.'
Moving to the water's edge Jeremy stuck out a toe to test its viscosity. 'Fancy going for a walk?' he asked.
SPIRIT OF THE AGE
Scientists close to finding elixir of youth
Some put their faith in expensive face creams, while others go under the surgeon's knife. But, no matter which route they choose, they will never regain the dewy skin of their youth.
Now scientists may have found a way of turning back the hands of time, returning ageing skin to a more youthful state.
Eve turned a caustic eye towards the shoal of brown trout. 'Are they taking the bait?' she inquired.
'Swallowing it hook, line and sinker,' replied Jeremy excitedly.
Across the sprawling lawns of Davina Dowager's Health Farm Resort sprawled the sun-bronzed widows of the financial world's deceased elite, all of whom were wrinkled beyond recognition and under treatment for alcohol abuse - while at the same time being treated for chronic depression, with chlormethiazole edisylate in tablet form.
'Ever has the promise of “Life Eternal” reeled in the disciples of desperation,' continued Jeremy.
'If a coffin dodger can swallow the concept of Heaven, then it can swallow just about anything,' suggested Eve.
'But have they swallowed it? Above them hangs faith's ultimate carrot - the infinite and eternal abode of their God, His angels, and the spirits of the righteous. Yet still the old wrinklies remain petrified by the very idea of their mortality.'
'Perhaps they're not feeling particularly righteous, Jeremy? After all, they are all of them gangsters' moles.'
'It has nothing to do with feelings of righteousness, Eve. Within their senile minds a war between common sense and blind faith rages, much as it has raged in the fragile minds of men since the advent of religion. It's logic verses theism. Botox verses the confession box.'
'It must be hard for the poor dears to muster up a coherent prayer with a face full of botulism.'
'Thank the Lord Harry for silent prayer, eh?!'
'On the subject of swallowing,' began Eve. 'I wonder if you fancy a quick—'
'Not now, Eve,' Jeremy chided. 'I have prunes to prune.'
Scientists discover Easter Island 'Fountain of Youth' drug that can extend life by ten years.
In tests on animals, the chemical increased life expectancy by a staggering 38 per cent.
The following day, up with the cock, Jeremy and Eve strolled hand in hand along the village high street in search of high jinx. Passing swiftly by Ethel M's Pie Shop and P. E. Smith Eel Shop they loitered momentarily outside Pile's Theme Shop so that Jeremy might study a collection of business cards that were displayed in the fancy dress outlet's window.
His eyes were drawn to a card advertising the benefits gained from using E.M.H Pet Polishes. 'Have you noticed how there seems to be a proliferation of local businesses whose names are an anagram of Mephistopheles?' he said.
'Your point being...?'
'My point being that, of all the places we might have chosen for our getaway break, we find ourselves here, surrounded by Mephistophelean word puzzles. Mephistopheles: He who comes not to seek out men to corrupt, but rather to collect the souls of those who are already damned.'
'It sounds very much like the author of Faustbuch may have modelled his demonic creation on you, Jeremy,' said Eve. 'Regardless, I see nothing of relevance in what is, in all likelihood, merely curious coincidence. However, I will admit that I am warming to the idea of paying a visit to ''Peephole'' Smith's.'
One eye on an open window on the 5th floor, Jeremy began to shimmy up a drainpipe of the Ship & Sheep Motel. 'We stand all alone,' he muttered. 'Humming softly. On our fire escape in the sky.'
'Speak for yourself,' Eve replied coolly. 'I'm taking the lift.'
Jeremy sighed. 'Another case of progress trampling on tradition,' he said softly. 'C'est la vie; all our leaves turn to brown.'
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NEWS
Red Squirrel Drop: Are Gray Squirrels to Blame?
Though some naturalists believed a virus was introduced with the arrival of the gray, its role in contributing to the red squirrel's decline had been largely discounted. Now, according to new research, the deadly parapoxvirus may have had a much greater role in the century-long decline of the red, than previously supposed.
"Competition over food alone is not a mechanism of sufficient strength to account for the rate and pattern of red decline and gray squirrel expansion," said Daniel Tompkins an ecologist formerly at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Somali militants 'block UN food aid'
Islamist militants in Somalia are stopping convoys of food reaching more than 360,000 displaced people, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) says.
The agency says trucks travelling from the capital Mogadishu to camps in Afgoye have been stopped by armed men.
DYING CANCER VICTIM WAS FORCED TO PAY
Early morning. August 4th. Shots ring out in a Mendip sky.
'Who was that?' inquired Eve.
'A local investment banker.'
'The brevity of life is a common theme of human existential thinking,' said Jeremy. 'It's just a shame that they don't spend more time in contemplation of its sanctity.'
'And yet the book of Exodus lays sanctity squarely at the door of marriage,' Eve offered in reply. 'Although it stops short of actually carrying it over the threshold.'
'Biblical hogwash aside,' began Jeremy, 'more often than not the fate of the modern marriage, common law or otherwise, is brevity.' He unscrewed his silencer, then reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out an unopened packet of cigarettes. 'Is there nothing that remains sacred?'
'You made the point yourself that progress has scant sympathy for tradition. These days, Jeremy, the exchanging of wedding vows is considered somewhat of a pagan ritual. Some have gone as far as to suggest that it has its roots in ju-ju, or even witchcraft.' Pausing at the roadside to examine a dead squirrel, Eve studied the lie of its entrails. 'It looks like rain,' she said.
'It figures,' said Jeremy.
'Which ''family'' was he with?'
'Your dead investment banker.'
'Scottish Widows; they've not been the same since devolution.'
'Even so, I'm surprised that you can be bothered with such small fry. You normally have much bigger fish to—'
'A sprat to catch a mackerel, my dear Eve.'
Eve placed the spent cartridges inside the side pocket of her Fendi "Baguette. 'I've heard that the Bank of England is thinking of converting to Islam.'
'It'll be some form of tax dodge,' suggested Jeremy.
'I wonder,' began Eve, 'what your view is on commemorative coins?' Tilting her head down, her eyes looking up and her fingers intertwined, she displayed an expression that fell somewhere between coy teenager and abandoned puppy.
Jeremy's frown was one of disapproval. 'Please don't tell me that you've indulged?!'
'Why yes, indeed I have,' enthused Eve, her demeanour brightening. 'I paid the knockdown price of three pounds fifty for a fifty pence coin commemorating Henry Cooper's knocking down of Cassius Clay. The man behind the counter insisted that I had gotten myself a bargain.'
'Men behind counters often do,' said Jeremy, adding: 'They are a whole different kettle of fish compared to the hapless punter.'
'I much preferred him as Muhammad Ali.'
'As did the Nation of Islam's propaganda machine,' said Jeremy.
'Business is business,' suggested Eve. She glanced down at her Cartier wristwatch. 'What's the time?'
'Post global depression, by the look of things,' replied Jeremy. 'Although the absence of rats in any significant number would suggest we're pre-double dip.'
BBC NEWS TODAY
The business of death
Screening an advert for funeral services on television would, ten years ago, have been unthinkable for a business model defined by discretion. But the funeral sector, it seems, doesn't want to hide any more.
'I like to think of myself as a man of intriguing paradoxes,' said Jeremy. 'However, far too often have I found myself labelled a reactionary.'
Eve raised an eyebrow. 'Oppressive, or obsessive?' she asked.
Jeremy's reply was one of silence.
'It is ever the lot of a great artist to be misunderstood,' Eve said sympathetically.
Beyond the primary school's wrought iron fence, in the garden of a neighbouring cottage style retirement bungalow, 83-year-old Martha McGonagall totters aimlessly about her lawn, cursing under her breath at the angry corns on the balls of her arthritic feet. Slumping onto the little wooden bench beside her ornamental pond, she turns concerned eyes towards the empty gravel driveway. Her son, Ian, is late home for his supper.
Sleepy Somerset village left in shock after man shot dead
A wealthy businessman has been shot and killed by a lone gunman as he strolled in a village churchyard.
SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
Northern Rock, the lender nationalised during the financial crisis after the first run on a British bank in more than a century, is to be sold.
The taxpayer will continue to own Northern Rock Asset Management, the separate “bad bank” created last January, whose assets are being run down over time.
'I feel no remorse for what I have done,' said Jeremy, 'Nor, indeed, for that which I will do in days to come. I am a performer. An artist. I simply give the public what they want. If I discover that a house has fallen into disrepair then I take it upon myself to redecorate. It is my duty; a splash of colour here and a splash of colour there. You see, I know a thing or two about the banking fraternity: They live their lives according to the principle that there is little equity in an equitable life. So every now and again I give ’em a bit of stick. Put the frighteners on ’em. A dash of finesse here. A dash of finesse there. A splash of claret on the walls.'
Eve rolled over onto her back. 'Would you be so kind as to rub suntan oil on my breasts,' she asked.
Jeremy grinned boyishly. 'I do enjoy a bit of a cavort,' he said, revelling in the subtle aromas of the countryside. The banks of the river and the fields beyond were carpeted with celandine, buttercups and daisies, while Eve, coated in Coppertone, smelled of coconut.
Row over 'pay-off' for NHS scandal hospital boss
The former chief executive of the scandal-hit Mid-Staffs hospital trust received a £400,000 payoff, it was claimed.
IMPROVISATION ON FIVE VOWELS
Bob McDonald lay spreadeagled in pig swill, a pained expression on his porcine features. His jig was up. Old McDonald had a farm. And on that farm he had used an African food crisis aid scheme as a front for laundering the ill-gotten gains of several highly-paid and highly-influential NHS doctors.
Jeremy had gatecrashed their AGM: For someone with his calibre it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
♫— “With a dead quack here and a dead quack there,” he sang, gambolling about the farmyard, a Kel-Tec Bull-pup cradled in the crook of his right arm. “Here a quack. There a quack. Everywhere a croaked quack.”
Richard the 3rd Year
by Bill Rattlepike
A Tale of Treachery in One Act
SCENE I. England. Before Half-term.
Alarum. Enter RICHARD, ESTER, BEDFORD, GLORIA, and Children, with scabies and nits.
Red Squirrel, O, Red Squirrel, oh! wherefore doest thou Roam-e-o?
Alas, poor Sciurus Vulgaris! I knew them: extinct, they go; rodents of finite zest.
CAROLINENSIS the GRAY:
"Once more unto the beech, dear friends, once more.
Fill the graves up with their English Red.
In trees there's nothing so becomes a Gray
As scurrilous Sciurus Vulgaris vulgarity!
But when the horn of car sounds in our ears,
Then let us imitate the hedgehog:
Stiff in the gutter, some on the verge;
Disguised fair nature under soft compound rubber.
No more unto the branch, dead fiends, no more!"
SCENE 2. England. Behind the Bike Sheds.
Alarum. JEREMY enters EVE.
WAKE UP, DEAD MAN.
It is night, and a man and a woman lie naked on a bed of roses, entangled in lover's knots; the starless sky their black satin sheet, the moon their window to the world.
Tomorrow is another day.
CROSS? DAMNED STRAIGHT, I AM!
Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, his flailed flesh weeping blood and twisted over broken bones, they dragged Jeremiah along the road to Camberwell and nailed his remains to a cross of wood whose timbers had been hand-hewn that very morning from the gnarled trunks of the wizened old men of olive who once stood tall and proud in the garden of Gresham Cemetery.
And at about the ninth hour he cried out in a loud voice: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God... Shit! This really hurts!"
It was then that his father chose to finally put in an appearance, saying unto him: "Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son? Where have you been, my darling young one?"
Jeremiah looked to the heavens and rolled he eyes. 'Where haven't I been,' he replied, the tone of his voice coloured by ire. 'It's been two thousand years, dad. Two thousand years as a wandering Jew: going unnoticed and unheard; going alfresco and, oft times, au naturel. I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains. Walked... nay, crawled on six crooked highways. Stepped in the middle of—'
'And what did you see,' interjected God. 'What did you see, my blue eyed son?'
'Well, among other things I saw a new-born baby with wild wolves around it,' Jeremiah replied, recalling the young feral boy, Ramu, who he had met in the 1950s during his time in Lucknow, India. 'I saw a room full of men,' he continued, 'with their hammers a bleedin’. Saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children.'
'Brixton,' Jeremiah murmured absently. 'Where black is the colour, and none is the number.'
'Go figure,' said God. He tut-tutted and then added, 'Oy vey, that it should have come to this!'
'Move along, sir' said a passing Bobby. 'Nothing to see here.'
Retrieving a Filofax from the folds of his long, flowing robe, God licked the tip of his pencil and then wrote the policeman's name at the bottom of a list headed ''Sudden Heart Attack''.
'So what now, dad? inquired Jeremiah. 'Are you going to be there for me, this time? Will you be there to hold me like the River Jordan: Carry me; kiss me and free me; save me; heal me and bathe me? E-Hee! Ow! Will you be there when I need you? Will you still love me tomorrow?'
'Yes, of course. Trust me, son. Everything will be different — in time. However, and as the great Cat Stevens once said in the days before he became a Muzzie: "It's not time to make a change. Just relax, take it easy. You're still young - that's your fault - and there's so much you have to know. Find a girl. Settle down. If you want, you can marry. Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy." Comprendez? Good. Now, what I want you to do is to go up to Bethnal Green and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from the realm of human life, again. And, just in case you're in any doubt... that means that you must build a temple to me, the One True God.'
Jeremiah took a deep breath and said: 'Father, tell me, honestly, is it correct that we are one in the same. That the two of us form two thirds of The Holy Trinity?'
'Aye, my son. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The father is the son and the son the father - I think I might have stolen that from Jor-El, but it's—'
'In which case,' cut in Jeremiah, 'you can build your own poxy temple, you lazy git. And then, perhaps, when you've done with that, you could suffer a turn on this sodding cross.'
The Doppler wail of sirens heralded the arrival of a team of paramedics who, sadly, could do nothing to save the unfortunate PC6688870.
'My arms are bloody killing me!' groaned Jeremiah, but his father had stopped listening - or, perhaps, he was all through with talking to himself?
Finding Jeremiah lying in anguish
Beside a naked nun, stroking a handgun,
The portly preacher placed trembling hand to cross
And sang ''Glory be to God on High'', his life
Suspended on a thread born of webs of lies.
A well-placed round found a home between his eyes.
Sister Tina cried with joy, her distant eyes
Misted by lost virginity's tears, anguish
At the priest's demise now buried with his lies
Of chastity's rewards. Astride the handgun
She received the sweetest pleasure of her life:
Such a lust as to quash her love of the cross.
Jeremiah reached out a hand to the cross
Which swung about his conquest's cleavage, his eyes
Fixed on breasts that danced as if imbued with life
All their own. Nestled in silk sheets, his anguish
At having discharged his favourite handgun
Spent, he lay, the joker, in a pack of lies.
Having been raised in an institute of lies,
Novice Tina's sole relief came from the cross
She fell upon. Yet the kiss of a handgun,
And cordite's sweet bouquet, opened her young eyes
to her naivety in thinking anguish
Suffered by The Christ as he gave up his life
For mankind's sins was worth devoting one's life
To. Climaxing again, she mused: What good lies
In worshiping the symbol of Christ's anguish?
Repudiating her former crutch, the cross,
The novice laid hands on her newfound crutch, eyes
Flitting from erect penis to moist handgun.
Wasted, Jeremiah turned to his handgun
To supply pillow talk: It took the nun's life,
This lead-talking lothario whose hard eyes
Slept in full metal jackets, preaching their lies
Of retribution, tips engraved with a cross,
Knowing no life but death, feeling no anguish.
Behold the man's eyes, held fast by a handgun
Devoid of human anguish: Its art, still life
Swathed in fetid cloth, lies cold beneath a cross.
Post Coital Musings
For a novice, she boned like a pro, mused Jeremiah.
And I would be a liar if I said I wasn't tempted
By fair birds of the cloth who flock to worship the Messiah.
But, when my lust is spent and all my magazines are empty,
It's good to rattle sceptic bones beside an open fire.
So bring me gifts of budding tits
On girls who live next door:
I've had my fill of kingly gold,
Your frankincense and myrrh.
I edge towards a pound of flesh
That's virgin on all fours:
I'll not go fourth when multiplying.
Sloppy seconds? No, sir!
DEAD MAN WALKING
'Someone's been digging up graves again,' said Yvonne Cain, as she sashayed into the drawing room wearing a lavender mini dress by Polly Shrimpton, black platform boots by Benny Belucci, and a seriously hot white Biba hat by Yves Saint-Moritz. Dropping several overfull multi-coloured carrier bags onto the cream shag pile carpet she then made for the 'Art Deco' inspired drinks cabinet by the late Luigi Longevitti.
Jerry Corndell looked up from his copy of Petrolhead Monthly. 'Where?'
'St. Mark's,' replied Yvonne. 'The undead are up in arms about it — even those without arms.'
'It's the thought that counts.'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'Fix me a cocktail, would you, cara mia,' said Jerry, reaching for the packet of Black Panthers which sat at the centre of a faux marble coffee table designed and built by the late Toby McGuinness. 'I hate to think how you would react,' he continued, peeling away the cellophane seal, 'if you returned home from a hard day's shopping only to discover that, while you were out, someone had broken into your house and gone down your drawers.'
Yvonne arched a brow of disapproval. 'I would like to see someone try,' she hissed in a voice laced with venom, menace written in the depths of her eyes.
'So would I,' said Jerry and grinned mischievously.
'What will be your poison, my love? Wine mixed with gall?'
Yvonne brightened. 'Coming right up,' she chirruped sweetly.
'So, where did your shopping trip take you to?'
Jerry fiddled with a cuff. 'Good choice. Busy?'
'No. Not really. Pretty quiet, actually. High street retailers are finding it tough at the moment, what with most of their clientèle being dead - although the charity shops seem to be making the most of things.'
'Go easy on the Tabasco, eh, mon chéri.'
Yvonne unscrewed the top from a bottle of Stolichnaya Elit. 'You've got to feel sorry for the poor zombies, haven't you.'
'Have you,' replied Jerry nonchalantly.
'Sometimes, my love, you can be so cold,' chided Yvonne. 'Worcester sauce?'
'A dash.' Jerry lit his cigarette with a table lighter by Syzygy International. 'I'm sorry, Eve,' he continued, 'but I have no sympathy for the undead. You give them that which ever they have craved, that which they prayed long and hard for, both day and night, and what do the buggers do, eh? They wander around, bile dribbling from their fetid maws, moaning and groaning and eating one another's brains out, that's what.' He drew hard on his nicotine-heavy smoke. 'Frankly, my dear, I find their attitude towards eternal life quite appalling.'
'Yes, I know how ungrateful they must appear, Jerry, but... grave robbing?! Surely everyone is entitled to a little privacy?'
'Not in my book.'
'I can fully understand why you might feel a certain amount of animosity towards the undead, Jerry. But—'
'Of course I can.'
'Because you are, after all, the original dead man walking.'
'That's not entirely true.'
'No. Osiris is one of the earliest examples of a resurrecting god. Tammuz, too, was identified as a practitioner of resurrection. Even Mithra, the Iranian god of light and wisdom did it before me.'
'That's just hearsay, isn't it?'
'Isn't it always?'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'And then there is the argument as to whether a god, or, in my case, a son of god, can really be classed as a man; walking, or otherwise.'
'Regardless; resurrection's a neat trick if you can master it,' said Yvonne and handed Jerry his Bloody Mary. As she sat down on the arm of the settee her dress rode up, revealing the filly lace tops of her white stockings. 'Talking of your book,' she continued, tugging at her hemline, 'you don't think that maybe your dad could be involved in some way, do you?'
'What, with grave robbing?'
'No, Eve, I do not. I know how he likes to have a bit of a tinker, but he's no Frankenstein. Besides, I think he's given up on that sort of thing since the fiasco with Homo sapiens. They never did turn out quite the way he wanted them to.'
'Certainly not in his image, no - I never did understand what possessed him to use a monkey in the recipe.'
'I think he was all out of dinosaurs at the time and so had to make do with second best.'
(What's the Story) Morning Glory?
The radio was on.
Jeremy awoke to midday sunlight streaming through the cracks in the venetian blind. Yvonne was lying beside him, the crumpled white sheet draped across her midriff. He reached out a hand and cupped her left breast. Moaning softly, she rolled on top of him.
♫—'Inside every teenage girl there's a fountain.
Inside every young pair of pants there's a mountain,' sang a twenty-seven-year-old David Robert Jones.
'And I'm never ever gonna get old,' murmured Jeremy with a sigh of contentment.
The Life & Times of Salmagundi Mélange
THE CEO'S MUSINGS
Was it his desire that you betray me, my friend?
If so, then you have been done a grave injustice;
your good name forever tarnished to his ends.
For without your unwavering devotion to “The Cause”
I could not have paid for their sins: Rising up again,
from death-like slumber, to front his ailing business.
We, the both of us, were made to make sacrifices:
You, to deny me, my friend: I, to deflect attention
away from a vengeful father and his insidious devices.
STANDING IN THE ROAD
Depositing her collection of gaily-coloured carrier bags behind the cream faux leather sofa, Eve placed her Personified Plum-coated lips to Jeremy's crown—an action accompanied by the near mandatory sound effect of an onomatopoeic mwah.
Looking up, he smiled warmly.
The lights were dimmed down low, but—by using chromapixel colour-matching magnifiers to saturate each shade with multi-faceted shine—the ultra rich colour of Eve's lipstick gave her lips extra oomph and mega-watt brightness, even at night.
'What are you watching?' she inquired with disinterest.
'It's the signing in of—' began Jeremy Corns, but Eve cut him off.
'Oh, isn't that Morgan Freeman II? Is this his new film? The one about—'
'No, Eve, it's—'
'No, don't tell me... I've got it! It's Samuel L. Jackson. The Clone Wars.'
'No, Eve, it's—'
'Denzel Washington? The Book of Eli?'
'Eve, please do shut up for a moment,' growled Jeremy. 'However brief.'
With an irritable drumming of fingers and thumb upon the plump arm of the sofa, he turned his attention back to the widescreen 3D LCD television.
'What I'm watching, or should I say ''trying to watch'', is the news. And NOT some silly bloody film.'
'Sorry,' Eve murmured sheepishly.
'And so you should be,' chided Jeremy. 'This is history in the making.'
'Really.' Jeremy patted the faux leather cushion and gestured for Eve to sit. 'What we are witnessing,' he continued, 'or could witness, should you decide to stop for a moment and draw breath, is the inaugural speech of incoming US president His Royal Highness Chief Sitting Bull the Third.'
'But he's not black!'
'Clearly,' replied Jeremy churlishly. 'The Yanks have decided that it's long past time a native American had a crack behind the desk of the Oval Office.'
'How very magnanimous,' said Eve. She sat down and began to unbutton her blouse. 'So what happened to their last one, Edward Murphy?'
'He was sacked.'
'Yes,' replied Jeremy. 'Sacked—over the Middle East fiasco.'
'And about time too. Who's idea was it to level the Gaza strip, anyway?'
'Disney, I believe. They were looking for some cheap freehold land on which to build—'
'Shh,' hissed Eve. 'He's about to speak.'
Nonplussed, Jeremy shook his head.
The short yet distinguished Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man stood on the podium behind a lectern of carved marble, his right hand placed to his chest and his long black hair tied in two ponytails which fell gracefully in front of his shoulders. Gracing his war bonnet was a single white feather plucked that very morning from the tail of a Bald Eagle.
“I pledge allegiance to the United States of Israel, and to the promised land on which it stands: one Nation irresitible, with Liberty and Justice for all save towelheads, camel jockeys and sand niggers. And I...'
Yvette gasped. 'Did he just use the “N” word?!'
'Yes, I believe that he did,' replied Jeremy.
'Little wonder, then, that the American public warmed to him. They just adore all that streetwise gangsta shit.'
“...pledge allegiance to Mickey Mouse, the Story of Johnny Appleseed, Baseball...'
'I mean, just look how well Schwarzenegger performed in the polls following his Girlie-Men address to the UN.'
“...Apple Pie, Fat Man and Little Boy, the McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese...”
'Although, I'll concede that he was certainly no Konigsberg where trade and industry were concerned.'
“...Colonel Sanders' Finger Lickin' Chicken...”
'Woody Allen was always going to be a tough act to follow,' suggested Jeremy.
“...Thermobaric Munitions and the Ghost Dance Movement.”
Eve raised an eyebrow. 'What on earth is he doing now?'
'I believe it's a rain dance, my love.'
'He certainly has the moves! Who are his accompanying dancers? The Sihásapa?'
'Blackfoot Sioux? No, I believe they're the Black-eyed Peas.'
'H'm, well if that's the case,' said Eve, reaching over to unzip Jeremy's fly, 'all I can say is that poor Fergie has aged terribly!' She turned her eyes to the window. 'Is that the pitter-patter of rain I hear?'
'No, my love, it's cluster bombs.'
'Bang goes our quiet night in,' sighed Eve.
'If there's one thing I've learned,' began Jeremy, 'it is that one must make the most of any situation, good or bad.' With a boyish grin, he sprang from the sofa, zipped up his fly, and then made towards the patio doors. 'You go grab the tinnies from the fridge and I'll slip a few shrimps on the barbie.'
'God bless America,' cheered Eve.
'And pigs will fly,' muttered Jeremy.
PSALMS FOR SWINGING BELIEVERS: I
lying awake in bed and turning myself on.
I felt such empathy with you, an only son.
They sold you down the road and raised you up on high:
When you cried out “Elohim”, how it made me cry!
I'd like to find that Judas, punch him in the eye.
I've met your children,
What should I tell them?!
Pontius Pilate nailed the media star.
Pontius Pilate nailed the media star.
Christian Bale has played your part!
Oh a-ah-ah oh.
One day we'll meet in an abandoned Catholic school,
you, Fili et Spiritus Sancti, me, a lonely fool.
A tiffin-time epiphany – oh boy, won't that be cool!
You were the first one.
Played by Martin Donovan!
Hollywood made you a silver screen star.
Hollywood made you a silver screen star.
In my mind and in my car,
I'm following the Magi's star,
Christianity killed the wandering star.
Christianity killed the wandering star.
In my car and on my mind,
the world should not be so unkind.
Film stars came and stole your role:
Lay the blame with Robert Powell!
Hollywood made you a silver screen star.
Hollywood made you a silver screen star.
Oh, Willem Dafoe
Oh, Max von Sydow
Oh, oh, Jeremy Sisto!
Pontius Pilate nailed the media star.
Pontius Pilate nailed the media star.
SWING TO THE RIGHT
Decked out in patriotic red, white and blue bunting, the colonnaded interior of the festival hall throbbed to the sound of live music. ''Somewhere, beyond the sea, somewhere, waiting for me,'' sang Captain Tommy Lockheed, the Bobby Darin-lookalike front-man of West Point swing band The Starfighters. ''My lover stands on golden sand...''
Easing his way through a throng of straining pink blouses adorned with ''Vote for Peace'' button badges, Jermain Carpenter made his way towards the dais. It was as much as he could do to keep his hands by his sides.
♫—“...If I could fly like birds on high...”
Warren Peace thrust out his right arm, attached to which were five sunburned pork sausages adorned with a collection of gaudy rings fashioned from rhodium-plated platinum.
'Jermain, old friend!' he beamed. 'I haven't seen you since way back when... when... when...'
'Wednesday,' cut in Jermain. 'Slaughterville, Oklahoma.'
'Really! Is it as long ago as that?' muttered the deputy vice-president. 'Time flies when you're having fund-raisers.' Uncoupling his hand from Jermain's he scratched his furrowed brow. 'Life on the road is certainly no cake tin. Quite often I wake up in bed not knowing when and where I am.'
'I speak from experience when I advise you to put from your mind such basic existential questions as ''What time is it'', ''Where am I'' and ''How long have I been here?''. Put aside questions of where, when, why and how, Warren, because it is only when a man questions who he is that he can be said to have truly lost his way.'
'I hear you there, JC. Of course, I know exactly who I am and, armed with that knowledge, can state most categorically that I'm nobody's fool but my own.'
Jermain Carpenter removed a white handkerchief from the breast pocket of his white DuBois blazer and began slowly to wipe his hand. 'I'm glad to hear it, Warren,' he said. 'After all, you're soon to follow in the footsteps of such legendary statesmen as George Dubbya and Cowboy Ronnie. Even a chap of your caliber may find it challenging to live up to the high standard set by them.'
'Believe you me, JC, I'll make this nation great again, or die trying.'
'You won't be the first.'
♫—“...Then straight to her arms I'd go sailing....”
'Indeed I won't. But let foreigners and faggots do their worst, Jermain, old friend, because, rest assured, they cannot keep a good man downtrodden. Nor, for that matter, his nation.'
'The notion of nation undergoes a subtle mutation with each new generation born of immigration,' suggested Jermain, as a pair of buttons bobbed by, tantalisingly close. Sensing that there had been little conviction in the Republican's voice when he spoke the word “faggots”, he leered lasciviously.
'Regardless,' continued Peace steadfastly. 'It is in the name of nation that the American people strive for concord through conflict. Should the cowardly terrorist strike again while our back is turned to the wind, then he will find himself stuck between a rock and a fireplace. For, like the flamingo, we shall rise up from the ashes of despair to wage bloody war on he and his children. And his children's children. And his children's children's children.'
♫—“...I know beyond a doubt, my heart will lead me there soon...”
Republican candidate Warren Peace drained his tumbler. 'Let us not forget that revenge has ever been a dish best served—'
'Have you tried vichyssoise?' cut in Jermain.
'No. No, I haven't.'
♫—“...Happy we'll be, beyond the sea...”
'I suspect that cold turkey's not something you've had to suffer, JC, but take it from someone who served in the cook house aboard a troop carrier during the Third Gulf War: Live life to the full, buddy, because you're a long time in the gravy.'
'Grave,' corrected Jermain insistently.
'Our economy? Indeed: Hence these fund-raisers. War's a costly business.'
'Of course, in my case it was only a few days.'
'The grave. War, however, I intend to savour. A few decades would be nice. There's simply no point in rushing these things.'
'I couldn't agree with you more, JC. I've always maintained that if a job's worth doing it's worth doing for a six-figure salary. I'm all in favour of a century-long crusade. A millennium, even. A man cannot expect to make his fortune overnight.'
♫—“...We'll meet beyond the shore. We'll kiss, just as before...”
The Republican plucked his fifth tumbler of bourbon from the tray of a passing waitress and scanned the room for people he considered non-hostiles. 'The world is our oil depot,' he mumbled, from behind a smile.
♫—“...and never again I'll go sailing.”
As the band struck up the last note a ripple of applause spread through the hall.
'Here's one you'll know,' said Captain Lockheed. 'A song made famous by a true American hero. A man who, save for a perforated eardrum, would have been in Europe in nineteen-forty-four, kicking Nazi butt with the rest of our brave boys, not sitting back home, surrounded by beautiful women, raking in filthy lucre. The only child of Catholic Italian immigrants, Frankie epitomised...'
Jermain Carpenter's eyes were drawn to a large red button pinned to a tantalisingly over-stuffed blouse.
'I understand, Warren, that you struggled to raise support during your foray in Fanny, West Virgnia,' he said, reaching out with his right hand. To his joy, the young woman reacted favourably. 'Word is,' he continued, fondling away merrily, 'that it turned out much like the fiasco in Faggarts Crossroads, North Carolina—where, according to your critics, you lacked direction.'
♫—“And now, the end is here... and so I face the final curtain...”
Warren Peace sniffed his bourbon. 'It is of little consequence,' he said. 'I'm still ahead in the polls. My getting a foothold in Fanny would merely have been the icing on the cakewalk. NC is a different matter altogether. I had grand designs for the place. As it was, I ran it up the flagpole to see if it would float. It didn't. ''Ce la rie''—as they say in Louisiana. My experience in Faggarts has taught me never to count my chickens before they're hatchets.'
He took a sip of his bourbon and looked around the room again out of boredom. 'I hear you've been poking about in Big Beaver, Pennsylvania.'
'A man has to have his little pleasures in life, Warren,' beamed Jermain, his right hand thrust inside the blouse of the young, buxom Republican cheerleader.
♫—“The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
Come the steed of pestilence, to plow the virgin hills and dales and plant infecund seeds of rape within each scarlet-weeping furrow.
'Hello, my child,' breathes Jermaine, his voice pure liquid seduction.
Trembling with virgin anticipation, a manicured hand of bone white nails creeps slowly across a whitewashed wall toward a softly humming dimmer switch of unpolished brass on ivory.
'No, leave the light on, my child—after all, you'll spend your entire life kept in the dark. Bid ''farewell'' to ignorance, “farewell” to your beliefs. Say “hello” to temptation.'
Beneath a cool white cotton sheet, a labyrinth of coiled steel waits to cushion curves of pristine porcelain.
'What do you believe, I wonder? That, which your nation dictates? To trust in your God? Please, allow me to shatter your naïve faith—to demonstrate how, more often than not, trust is misplaced.'
Overhead, a sea of silvered glass reflects a mane of bleached-blonde hair that bobs and sways to the rhythm of the beast.
'And if you need to know my name, girl, just right me up as the hand of pain.'
PSALMS FOR SWINGING BELIEVERS: II
He said: "Now, there's a face that I don't recognise."
The monkey tried to throw Jehovah off his scent
Jehovah grabbed his neck and said: "Now listen, sapient.
The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness
and confusion of mind. And I will execute great vengeance
on thee with wrathful rebukes; and you will know
that I am the LORD when I lay My vengeance on thee.
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities
serve as an example - by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire
- brimstone, hail and thunder shall I rain down upon thee, along with
plagues of frogs, lice, flies and locusts. And on that same night
I will pass through England and strike down every firstborn
- both men and animals – and for forty days and nights
shall I rain down my Godly water, to wash thee all away."
The monkey looked Jehovah right dead in the eye
And said: "Well now, there's an attitude I recognise!"
Your Jesus story's touchin', but it sounds like a lie,
and when we pray for mercy you're too busy to reply, so...
Straighten up and fly right.
Straighten up and reign right.
Straighten up and rule right.
Cool down, Jehovah, don't you blow your top.
Straighten up and stay right.
Straighten up and play right.
Straighten up and deity right.
Cool down, beardy, don'tcha blow – your
— top-bop she-scooby-dooby-dop
an' that's all!"
PSALMS FOR SWINGING BELIEVERS: III
Creation by a nutjob
Need an evil nemesis?
Old Nick is such a hot dog!
Let's do the last supper - five fishes, bread an' butter
Catch some, fetch some, disciples shallow fry some
Talk about, Messiah
Shoobie doobie do wop
They're gonna crucify him
Pop pop shoo wop
Judas thrice denies him
Shoobie doobie do wop
Pop pop shoo wop
Or serving his creator?
Newport Pagnell, Calais, Dover
Everybody's looking for Jehovah
Sing about, Jehovah
Psalms about, Jehovah.
God, god, god, god muzak
Bombers on a subway
Israelis shelling Palestine
Mix them a molotov
Another godless headline!
Wanna be a warmonger?
Let the kiddies die of hunger
Eenie meenie mynie moe
Where did the Messiah go?
Talk about, Jehovah
Shoo bee doo bee doo wop
What a rotten meanie
Pop pop shoo wop
Never ever seenie
Shoo bee doo bee doo wop
Turn on the TV
Pop pop shoo wop
''I Dream of Jeannie''
Do you know what I'm saying?
Preachers know what to say...
Lies about, God's musings
Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, pop Christian.
All over the world, nectar is flowing
Sweet wine with gall, poisonous liver bile
Only the unseeing swallow Christ's blood with a smile
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
La la la la la la la
Prayers in a super Mosque
Diggers in a graveyard
Selling plots in heaven
Evangelists and blowhards
I can't find Calvary
Can you ''Stop the Cavalry''
Advent chocolate knick knacks
Christmastime, pap muzak
Sing-along, pop muzak
Shoobie doobie do wop
They need to resurrect him
Pop pop shoo wop
Pilatus went 'n' nailed him
Shoobie doobie do wop
An Easter egg!
Shop shop shoo wop
O Little Town of Bethlehem, William Blake's Jerusalem
Everybody's waiting for the baby in the barn again
Waiting for - Jehovah
Waiting for - Elohim
Pop, pop, pop, pop culture
Meh, meh, meh, Messiah
What a Wonderful World
When Soviet tanks rolled through Walsall, Jerald Cornwallis witnessed a young mother crushed beneath caterpillar tracks; her baby buggy squashed like a bug on a windscreen.
After, he lounged on a bench, cheerily, nibbling at a rusk, with candy floss vapour trails drifting in the blue sky above him. And he thought to himself how peaceful it was.
When Yankee bombs rained down on Harrow, Sheering and Newtownabbey he gazed out over fields of spiralling soot to see two young lovers, entwined, beneath the skeletal remains of an umbrella - their naked, writhing bodies fused in one final, dying embrace - and above whom swooped a pair of amorous swallows. And he thought to himself how serene they appeared. Near them, in the ash, half sunk, the bones of a fat man and little boy lay. Two friends, shaking hands, saying: How do you do?
When firebombs sleeted down on Debden he turned his back on the pillars of salt and recalled a time when a bobby stood on every street corner; Sergeant Dixon's opening soliloquy, to camera, "Good evening, all"; shiny vending machines that dispensed Cadbury's chocolate bars, cigarettes, Mickey milkshakes and "loverly" Jubblies.
Then, when bombs fell like winter snow on Peckham, he drew thick, black velvet curtains on this wonderful world, wound up his old gramophone, placed a well-worn Satchmo Louis Armstrong upon the turntable and settled back to walk a path into a vale of silence.
The times they are changed now.
Jerald Cornwallis sees no more trees of green, red roses, skies of blue and clouds of white. He finds the day is so blessed bright; the colours of the rainbow seared upon the faces of the people. He hears babies cry; but shall not watch them grow. Nought but a lazy eye remains to disclose where London stood; what powerful race once dwelt in that annihilated place? They are gone, all of them gone.
Jerald sits alone now, moodily, nibbling on the crumb of a memory, and thinks to himself: Who, from amongst the dead, shall sing of all the wonders I have seen?