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THE BEARKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

A NOVEL BY TORQUIL BARKER


THE BEARKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

OVERVIEW BY TORQUIL BARKER


This novel explores the repression of the teaching of reincarnation by the Empress

Theodora in the 5th century Byzantium. I follow the lives of the characters through different

incarnations. It is an attempt to unify the vatic possibilities of the general theory of relativity

with quantum mechanics and time travel.

Each chapter represents a progressing hour of the night commencing with 1am. Events are

then related within a month of the year, beginning with January. This takes the form of a

cutting from a local newspaper. The 3rd section of each chapter projects the lives of the

charactersin the 1st section several incarnations into the future. We are able to experience

within one chapter a symbiosis of different lives that are changed by the passing of time and

fate.
1

THE CEREMONY
There was a woman called Grillparzer who lived in a town beside the sea. Night fell
with an ill grace; a bruised hell of sodium and drizzle. Her friend had left and had not
returned. A great sorrow opened her heart. A green rain fell there. She slept with the
light on and often recited garbled prayers, her sobs drowning the words so that talking
stopped in the room next door. At night she cried out: 'Lead us not into temptation. Us

deliver from evil!'


Radio music replaced the voices. Sorrow rose from the green place, choking her
gullet. There could be no denying the crow that stood heavy on her eyes these days. It
had beaked deep grooves in the mirrored sideboard. It had frayed both sash ropes on
the window frame. These ropes, stiff as imprisoned pendulums, which she had once
tried to hack free.
I must accept and not expect, she said, and tried to sing but the words turned upon
themselves. Her body shook but no sound came. Her eyes quartered around the
window avoiding the view beyond. Yellow drizzle clouded the pain, then merged with
the walls.
The last strip of curtain had been torn down five months before, furnishing sails for
a white hulled yacht. Many months passed as she carved and smoothed the hull. Then
the first milky wash of paint and a waterline of finest emerald. It shone brightly, merry
as promenade flags in a midsummer breeze.
The end of July had been hot but with a soft zephyr from the south west which
picked out wavelets on the bay's edge and fluted strange notes through the broken glass
of the deserted bathing station. A dog had drowned. Its body floated in the half drained
pool. She had dragged it up onto the tiled slope but a purple stain remained on the
water. The launch was cancelled. She hurried back through hot streets, the yacht
concealed in a grey rucksack. Children splashed in a palm ringed fountain. She
hesitated but dismissed the idea. It would have to be special. A place where there was
silence and beauty.
Outside, the falling rain. She crossed obliquely to the window. In the cobbled square
a statue of a large winged matron appeared to be about to hurl a deck quoit at the
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railway station.
One is no number, Grillparzer sighed. The nearest roofs shone black as armoured
water beetles. The angel threw the deck quoit. It curved up into the murk with fire
trailing. To her right a drowned street plunged into a world of glistening amber where a
woman stood with a white suitcase. The jeweller's window had been stripped of
watches. A notice on a wall said, Bread is Bliss.
On Fridays the young men filled these streets, roaring like bullocks, raw liquefied
faces jostling at bars. A ferocious greed in these rows of glossy distended features;
their eyes popped hard as stones into meat red sockets. They would swim up, peering
in at the window. Even in the rain, sweat ran from their pores.
Below the Low Church and Ixion's moving neon, the railway platforms lay with the
dull glint of fallen chisels. There among the mops and buckets Cherry Haze worked on
the night shift. Although no passenger trains halted at Kelloch, dirty carriages were
shunted there for cleaning. Gangs of shouting women bruised their way through the
night, scrubbing, scouring, scraping out ashtrays; their buckets clanking in the long
sour corridors.
Cherry Haze worked with her copper hair tucked in under a pale green headscarf,
Grillparzer had tried so hard to win her back, but as it is with these things, once done, a
world changes. Cherry Haze had stood for a moment, suitcase in hand, Grillparzer
began to get out of the bed but was motioned to stay. The door was left open. Her
clicking heels faded on the stone stair. Grillparzer sat for a moment, watching in her
mind.
So, from memory, came Selene. She had wished an abstraction for Cherry Haze,
Such vagaries of heart and weather encompassed within the wood's womb. The blue
sails suggested hope. Perhaps another time? Twigs sprouting from a leaden keel. Yet
something argued it was hopeless. A web of memory. How quickly we reinvent the
past.
The strap dug into her shoulder. Barely a mile up the steep slope and sweat had stuck
skin to collar. While climbing the padlocked gate, a man with a gun stopped her and
asked to see in the rucksack. He handled the yacht carefully as if in search of a hidden

trigger.
3

Hobby is it? he asked.


Grillparzer nodded. Sweat ran into her eyes. Reluctantly the yacht was handed back.
A black dog scampered from the dense undergrowth. Its sudden appearance startled
her. It was the same dog that she had dragged from the pool. The black glossy coat was
quite dry now. Yellow agate eyes looked up at her.
She climbed hurriedly through the bright green veins of fern, panting with effort,
head down, not sure for minutes at a time whether the course she took was accurate.
She was often startled by the roar of deeply cut streams that burst into life at her feet.
Far above, deer stood like stones on the mountain's shoulder.
She began to climb a high hill of tufted grass. This proved to be much steeper than it
appeared. In the next hour she could not count the number of times she lay, body
numbed with exertion. Near the top the grass turned a violent orange. Instead of lying
on her front, she lay in a curled position, for though there was no need to fear falling,
the steepness of the slope frightened her. This position also kept her eyes away from
the strange coloured grass. When she was exhausted like this, the man with the gun
could shoot quite easily, and then the dog would drag her from the mountain.
On the top she rested on hands and knees. The wind chilled her sweat. Clouds curled
on the far side of this ridge. She crawled, dragging the rucksack and through shifting
veils of light saw the lake far below. It lay in the shape of an iris leaf with a silver outlet
stream for a stem. The surface glowed and when the sun broke through, the ice began
to steam around its edges. The lake became a glare of mercury, perimeter hissing,
splintering to leave a ragged hoop as if a dragon had dived through in an attempt to

extinguish fire.
The journey downward proved much easier and by the time she'd reached the lake's
edge, the waters had turned a sharp electric blue. To cut a long story short, said
Grillparzer, her cherry blonde hair on the floor, the tobacco brown suit and a first love

unresolved.
She stood quite still among the reeds. The sails filled. A duck watched the boat pass,
and then with a smack of wings, took to the air. She put her hands to her ears. The
sound echoed, rebounding among the hills.
It was then the white mirrored hull switched course, tilting off towards the north.
4

She took a printed pamphlet from her pocket and in a voice she had not used in years

recited:
White dove of dreams, beloved by moon, caressed by waves, shadow god of fish
armies lost in the deep, friend of the feathered ones who feed on wave. Hunger comes
to them. Come to me now. Bring peace with love. Grant that this womb will float us
free from pains of earthly birth. Bright space of light and laughter, where sorrow
cannot hide, hold me now in white cupped hand. Earth into water, water to fire, fire
gives to air, light to light. Bring her with you to me. Absolve! Absolve!
The yacht which had almost reached the far side of the lake, hesitated, caught in a
downdraught from the opposite mountain. Then with an agitated shaking of sails, it
juddered around. At first movement was scarcely perceptible, then the white craft
began slowly to move towards her. For a long time she stood still, listening to the wind,
far above in the roof of the sky.
5

CHAPTER ONE

Come in! Come in! shouted Denny as he ushered his tenants into the attic room.
Take your places. Please take your places. They did as he asked and pulled in chairs
around the table. Several pails were positioned on the threadbare carpet so as to catch
the leaks from the roof. Denny sat down between Sophie and Marie. A bottle was
opened and port tumbled into beakers.
Stop! cried Sophie. I'm half gone as it is. Marie laughed as the red liquid kissed
the brim.
To new beginnings,' exclaimed Denny. 'Here's to old times and great new times. Be
welcome to this, the first hour of the year.'
He clinked his beaker with the Major, who reciprocated with Miss Chalmers, who in
turn reluctantly connected with Mr Dauble. What a motley crew they were, somewhat
improved by candlelight, knees nudging as a gale battered at the shuttered windows.
While Dauble cursed softly to himself, Marie dealt out cards from a dog-eared Tarot
pack.
Symbols of the coming year, said Denny. He rested his hand on Sophie's shoulder.
She shrugged to be rid of it.
What history teaches is that it teaches nothing, muttered Dauble who scowled at
his nails. Miss Chalmers withdrew her foot from his.
I think we learn to mind our own business, she snapped. The Major tried to frown
and cough but swallowed a cloud of cigar smoke. Miss Chalmers allowed herself an
inward smile. The hairy though diminutive Dauble swilled the port in his beaker.
Thus Denny sat in his eyre and watched as the dark haired Marie spread the picture
cards. Timeless faces surveyed the tenants of the house; the Juggler, the Priestess, the
Lovers, the King, and Death.
The year had roared in mad as a lion, blew buses off the road and toppled the festive
Christmas tree which quickly burst into pagan fire. Each morning a leap from the
womb as the town of Clarion huddled from the cold. That morning a selection from
Handel's Messiah had been played in the gloomy howling church to an audience of five.
6

The seabirds shrieked and empty boxes tumbled down deserted quays.
The cards fell to create a cruciform.
Each of these, said Marie, 'describes an hour. She looked around the table. A
theatre of possibilities.
I have a proposition! Denny raised his beaker.
I thought thered be a catch, said Sophie, her chin tilting. 'I'm only here for the
wine. I hope.
'Shush and listen,' Marie interrupted, then began to stir the cards in a clockwise
motion. The Major followed the Lightning Struck Tower as it slid under the pack.
Vividly it brought back a morning during the Battle of the Somme. The church had
been taken but a thousand soldiers perished.
Let us re-knot time, said Denny. Imagine if we had a double whose emotions
mirrored our own. For instance, take the essentials of love. A daughter might become a
wife. A husband or father might become a son. The brother changed perhaps to lover.
The carapace of self tossed back into a melting pot.
The Major nudged Marie. I'd be a baby and lie at your breast, Marie responded
with a studied magnanimity. Mr Dauble leered at Sophie who looked away. She
wondered what had become of Biffo who had agreed to take Marie's dog outside
before the doors were locked for the night.
This town of course would have another name. It would be reformed around these
altered relationships. Kelloch, I think; it suggests a cockerel. From Clarion to the
cock's crow.
King of the farmyard are we? asked Marie cynically.
On the contrary, I envisage myself as rather transparent. Essential if one is to enter
this realm. I'd have a common name but with connotations.
Sophie began to worry about Biffo. She hoped the dog had not run off into the storm.
She and Biffo were experiencing one of their quiet passages in a relationship which
often resembled rounding Cape Horn.
Well what sort of name then? demanded Dauble.
'Have you read 'A Glastonbury Romance?' Johnnie is a good name. Perhaps the

blood of fiction will help to flesh me out.'


7

Miss Chalmers jabbed a finger at Dauble. 'He'd sit in a cave and tell boring stories.
Suprised by this unexpected foray, Denny took up the theme.
'Or a hut deep in the woods, rooting about in the undergrowth. Still the gardener but
a poorer man returned to primordial honesty. If such things are possible, given that first
ghastly garden.'
'Come Spring, you'll have no complaint,' growled Dauble, who had not quite caught
the allusion. The port had made him rather aggressive. His broad hands opened and

closed.
'I'll cast no stones when none are thrown,' said Bauble pointedly. But I say a garden
is for growing things, and not for chasing each other round, Miss Chalmers
experienced a flutter of guilt. Many years before there had been a slight
misunderstanding with a Botany teacher. She had thought his interest lay in her
Viburnum. This had not been the case.
'We are all caught in time,' said Marie. 'We have all been each others mothers.'
Carefully she reversed a card.
'The Empress. The number three. In the third verse of Genesis, God said, 'Let there
be light.' She looked at Denny, 'You had a thought?'
'Theodora, Empress of Byzantium, upholder of the Holy Trinity. Sadly the triangle
was reversed, and thus were conjured the three degrees of the damned, the three
infernal judges and the three infernal Furies. What was pure became political,
'You are getting boring,' protested Sophie.
'Then we'll talk about Marie,' said Denny. 'Her father, Rafaelle now immensely
powerful; the Corona Cafe is quite forgotten. He owns Ixion Corporation: a gambling
conglomerate with offshoots in chain stores, vice and advertising. A mind tuned solely
to the service of Mammon. You are no longer his daughter, but a young and ambitious
wife; spoiled but not reckless. Those wedded to the worldly gods are often no more
than well clothed slaves,'
Steady on, said the Major. 'There are limits,'
'Without the illusion of subject and object,' replied Denny, 'we are in a sense each
other. Fragments of one experience.' Puzzled, the Major attempted to recover his

equanimity.
8

Suppose the array was a bit like that. All boys together. Dauble had fallen to
cantankerous silence. His red hairy hands like paralysed carnivorous spiders rested at
the table's edge. Denny frowned then sipped decorously at his port.
So this other world will be a parallel; a chronicle of causation. A journal which we
all may dream. A distorted simulacrum of Clarion which we rename Kelloch. Ha!
Even now our doubles stumble into life.
What happened to mine then? cried Sophie. It was as if a baby had been snatched
from her. Marie began to shuffle the pack.
'The Lovers,' she whispered. 'The paths of virtue and vice. The double life. The
engram of Sappho. Your lover is shown as a handsome youth but with a look of
indecision on his face.
Denny came up behind Sophie and rested both palms upon her hair.
'I name you Cherry Haze.' This time she did not flinch but twisted her head round
and stuck her tongue out at him.
It's an odd sort of name. I'll need a hooded overcoat.
You are my sister, said Denny. That is to say Johnny's sister. In a sense mutable yet
numinous. A cypher of past and future.
'So long as it's fun,' said Sophie, little knowing what awaited.
'Time I had some fun,' grumbled the Major.
'It's not really your line,' Miss Chalmers retorted.
'Your recreation will be considered.' Denny began to stride between the table and the

mantlepiece. 'I know! Dictator of the floating world. A movie director!'


Could be worse, grunted the Major.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present, Mr Fascine.
There followed a round of applause, during which Dauble grunted, 'Foreign pig!'
then returned to his wine beaker.
You've got to know how to handle men,' said the Major, winking at Miss Chalmers.
'Women are so nervous of decisions.'
As a natural bully you assume you can judge,' she replied.
'Got to, right or wrong,' he retorted. 'You should try it.
'Evelyn won't have time,' said Denny. 'Not even to bat your fingers with a wooden
9

spoon. Too busy as the venerable A. Grillparzer, who resembles a decadent headstone
around which our plot revolves. Grillparzer is undoubtedly middle-aged, but also
androgynous. A reluctant ringmaster, whose whip causes fiction to stand on end. Amid
the tigers and parakeets, a reversible translation in lovat green.'
'Id prefer it were someone else,' snapped Miss Chalmers, and pushed back her chair
as if to leave.
But it's just a game,' Marie pleaded, catching hold of her sleeve. 'A three
dimensional walk in jigsaw.
'If you don't agree, then none of us can play,' said Sophie crossly.
In her mind's eye Miss Chalmers saw herself dressed in the spangled ringmaster's
coat with top hat and a whip that practically cracked of its own accord.
'You have nothing to lose,' whispered Marie. A tiger with a splendid erection walked
past proudly on his hind legs. The crowd began throwing their clothes into the ring.
It's my first time, said Miss Chalmers.
Take a chance, urged Denny. You don't know what you don't know.
'It will be fun!' cried Sophie.
'What was that about a ringmistress, mumbled Dauble, now somewhat preoccupied
with Sophie's cleavage. In his eyes swam a delicate suffusion of crimson. Sophie
reached out to touch Miss Chalmers.

'Oh, very well then!'


Everyone cheered except for Dauble who seemed to have sunk into a world of his
own. Sophie smiled at Miss Chalmers, who looked away.
'You won't regret it,' said Sophie.
'I'm only doing it for you,' the older woman replied. The door opened and Biffo
entered, his coat covered in snow. Marie's dog, the treacherous 'Crowbar' followed
close at heel.
'That is a criminal dog,' said Biffo and swiped it with his dripping coat. Denny
poured a beaker of port while Biffo slumped infront of the fire. The Major launched
into a verse of Will Ye No Come Back Again Marie began to shuffle the picture cards.
Biffo unlaced his boots. Sophie's eyes narrowed, annoyed that he had not only worn
her scarf, but the gloves as well; both were wet.
10

Biffo met Sophie Skevington in a doctor's waiting room. As chance had it her visit
was connected with an application for a contraceptive device and the apparent
synchronism of their attraction for each other so disturbed her that she kept herself
distanced from him for much longer than intended.
Sophie had been born in her father's school, a crumbling neo-Gothic castle, named
Dunscaith. It was now a draughty second rate hotel, with raucous tour banquets held in
what had once been vaulted dungeons.
Until the age of twelve Sophie had played rugby with the boarders. This had
knocked out any shyness she might have felt towards the opposite sex. Running past,
she would pull towels from boys as they stood in the changing rooms. Marie had
known Biffo when they both attended the local education establishment; this was not
the grandiose private school operated by the late Rattray Skevington for sons of the
aspiring bourgeoisie, but resembled rather a decayed piece of railway architecture,

finely cut from slabs of coal.


'There's not a fish could live in that sea,' moaned Biffo.
'I think you exaggerate,' replied Miss Chalmers.
'If they can't catch the fish, then where are they?' mumbled Bauble.
'In the bloody shops,' said Biffo.
'We should cast him as a concrete litter bin,' suggested Sophie. She smiled at Biffo
who looked puzzled.
'The Terra Nova could lose her moorings,' he countered. 'Wind veered west and

rising, they say.


'We are reinventing Clarion,' explained Denny.
'Not a bad idea,' Biffo replied. 'You could start with the weather.'
This other town will be called Kelloch. In it our desires will be similar, but
circumstances different. A costume box in which we rummage. The Major as the great
dictator, calling as it were, the shots. Parallel lives, in which causation is punctuated by
months rotating outwith the hours; fiction's orrery. Rafaelle, Marie's father, grown
from cafe owner, to Mammon's empire builder. Rafale, meaning the sound of guafire
in rapid rounds.'
Bottle in hand Denny followed an intricate figure of eight, avoiding pails placed to
11

catch the leaks from the roof. Snow cascaded.


'Rafaelle in blooded hieroglyphs, so much a component of his own greed, that
psyche disappears in smudged telephoto. The clacking of machines within mirror glass.
Marika's plush lips as she intercepts this cypher at his work. How fast the snow falls!'
He turned and glared at the fire.
'Rafaelle has never loved. The experience sets him in a curious pose, as if a bronze
statue had climbed down from its plinth and could be seen crouched, about to defecate.'
'I'll settle for peace and quiet, said Biffo.
'Always difficult,' Denny replied.
'He'd die of boredom with nothing to curse,' explained Sophie. 'Never happier than
when stuck in the guts of some horrible engine. An aroma of stale oil issued from
Biffo's boots. He had placed them close to the fire. Biffo wriggled his stockinged feet.
Hughey the Hog, pronounced Denny, and tapped Dauble upon the head. You shall
have a hut and Biffo shall have a cave. Biffo, you will be called Nemeton; a learned old
gent, something of an astrologer. Hughey the Hog is his last remaining friend,
Why can't I have a tree? Biffo complained.
You're not ready for a tree, Denny replied. In time to come perhaps but for now,
lets see how you fare with a cave.
Biffo, tall and lank haired, a Jack the Lad of lost weekends, could sleep almost
anywhere, except in his own bed.
Anyhow. I'd never get my bike up a tree, said Biffo. His motorcycle, named 'Elke'
after a starlet he admired, had woken many a worthy citizen as it roared through

Clarion after midnight.


Caves are generally considered places of retreat and celibacy. said Miss Chalmers
somewhat pointedly. 'How would you manage?' It was quite clear she did not approve
of his liason with Sophie. A part of her still maintained a protective interest in the girl.
'You'd need basic cooking skills, said Sophie. 'Banana sandwiches don't count.'

Biffo tilted his boots towards the fire.


'Can't wait for my casting couch, burbled the Major, determined to maintain a
priapic profile.
'I've always fancied teaching actresses to kiss. Garrick Club tie, a green fedora.
12

Steadying hand to the great unacted.


'There's far too much of all that,' grumbled Mr Dauble.
And wars, continued the Major. 'Lots of bloody marvellous wars, with wenches
among the straw and boots marching. Bayonets and shrapnel! Yes, by Jove and

uniforms. Uniforms!'
Nothing to do with Jove, snapped Miss Chalmers. 'Don't be such an absolute
buffoon.' The Major swayed in his chair.
'Ah, Miss Chalmers,' he sighed. A very sad baboon.
'You are quite ridiculous. At times I doubt you were in the army.' He tried to rise to
his feet, then thought the better of it.
I can assure you. No one has ever...and I've photographs. If you weren't a lady I'd

show you my wounds.


Denny began to feel drowsy. Marie took a card from the pack and flipped it towards
him. His hands trembled. The Lovers dissolved. The features of those present seemed
to be transparent. Marie's voice drifted off in a mellifluous jumble of words. And in
the Pentacle of Cups, we find a ghost of extenerated truth.
Their faces pressed forward then began to dislimn as if melting back into the sloping
walls. The positioning of furniture became unclear. He tried to sit down but found
himself tumbling through space. Upon painted cards ancient faces came towards him;
a vortex thickening, then floating into darkness on abstracted whispers.
I was sent forth from the power,
And I have come to those who reflect upon me,
And I have been found among those who seek after me,
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me.
And you hearers hear me.
You who are waiting for me take me to yourselves,
And do not banish me from your sight,
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing,
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or anytime.
Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.
13

For I am the first and the last,


I am the honoured one and the scorned one,
I am the whore and the holy one,
I am the wife and the virgin,
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one and many are her sons,
I am she whose wedding is great,
And I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labour pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
And it is my husband who begot me,
I am the mother of my father,
And the sister of my husband,
And he is my offspring.
I am the slave of he who prepared me,

And I am the ruler of my offspring,


And he is the one who begot me,
Before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in due time,
And my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
And he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible,
And the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold,
And the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.
Why, you who hate me, do you love me,
14

And you hate those who love me?


You who deny me, confess me,
And you who confess me, deny me.
And you who tell the truth about me, lie about me,
And you who lie about me, tell the truth about me.
You who know me, be ignorant of me,
And those who have not known me,
Let them know me.
Perplexed, Denny awoke to find himself sprawled in front of a dying fire. The
mantle clock read thirty five minutes past midnight. The room had changed, but try as
he might, he could not identify what it was that disturbed him. Then he saw that there
were no chairs around the table. His only guest appeared to be the half finished bottle

of port.
How he hated these abject empty hours; the treadmill of New Year's night. The
crowds gathering as if for a hanging. He could have invited guests; supplied the basic
fuel of food and wine. It was such ball games of reciprocal maintenance that kept the
paradiddle of human intercourse alive. It puzzled Denny that he found it so difficult to
play. Somehow it did not seem worth the effort. Yet there was no denying the gloom he
felt on waking and finding himself alone. Outside, a silent perspective. The chill dawn
of that first day.

CLARION HERALD JANUARY 1959

While attempting to rescue a lost sheep, which had become trapped between rocks,
Mr Mathew, a shepherd at Hazledeam, discovered what has since proved to be an
ancient grave. The artefacts found with the remains consisted of an engraved clay
tablet upon which is written a meditative poem or prayer, which purports to be the
words or teachings of an unknown goddess. Experts are examining the find.

AN INGATE TO KELLOCH
15

Dawn was breaking. Johnny stood outside the Corona Cafe, staring across at the
disused bathing station. From the east a faint scent of marigold eased the pungent drift
of oil and fish. He noticed how low the seagulls flew, scything the streets at head level.
To his left Main Street snaked off into darkness, and if he were to walk the ten miles
out, taking the southern fork that dropped to Drumvega Head, here he would find the
shackled gates of Mallachdaig; and beyond that sheltered from the north east wind by a
terrace of pinewood, the pinnacled remains of the great house itself.
The previous day he had walked in the ruined gardens. It had been more than two
years since he last kissed Marika. In part he hated himself for succumbing to sentiment.
Yet here he stood, fists clenched, while in the curtained bedroom above the Corona
Cafe, Marika lay asleep; hair splashed black on white, as one perfect stroke from a
Chinese brush.
She and Johnny had gone through school together, and when he left for the city and
she stayed behind in Kelloch, with its one laundrette and war memorial tall as a moon
rocket, a space came between them which could not be bridged or talked out over
telephones.
After eighteen dissolute months Johnny had abandoned the Metropolis and returned
to Kelloch, working afternoons in the Corona Cafe.
On a card pinned to the door of his top floor flat was scribbled the name A.
Grillparzer. Grillparzer received a curious post, all of which Johnny read. For instance
closely printed journals on 'The Stockhausen Theory of Heavenly Bodies,' and other

such riveting stuff.


On Dull days he would read aloud from these papers to irritate his half sister Cheryl,
who seemed fearful of the late tenant Grillparzer.
Grillparzer had taken flight suddenly, leaving only a scabrous toothbrush and a pair
of tattered hiking boots.
It was during Johnny's sojourn in the city that Marika had unexpectedly married
Rafaelle, who was now his reluctant employer. Marika argued that Johnny should have
the job and with ill grace Rafaelle had agreed. He guarded Marika with a fierce
jealousy. In the past year it had taken a month of squabbles before Rafaelle let his new
wife away for two weeks, so that she might spend a holiday with her mother in
16

Ravenna. Marika was no casket with the jewel absent, and Johnny could not help but
lust after her, albeit with a certain hangdog sadness, which much to his annoyance she
ignored. How long it seemed since they had made love in the ruined gardens of

Mallachdaig.
The shadow of the old house darkened his memory. Thus he waited, a hopeless
sentinel beneath Marikas curtained window. At this very moment Rafaelle's great
belly would be rising and falling beside her.
Johnny started walking slowly. Recently he had written some pseudo-scientific
claptrap, and posted it to the journal Grillparzer subscribed to. The last had been on the
problems of Porphion, a sexually demented whale, whose attempts to copulate with
passing shipping had made it the terror of the Bosphorus during the sixth century. He
had learned of this creature from Marika. Since her return from Ravenna she had taken
to smiling at him in a conspiratorial manner. There were scarce words to describe it,
but he imagined he felt much the same as the whale must have, while attempting to
court an impregnable warship.
He loitered beneath the bathing station wall. In previous summers he and Marika
had swum in this pool together. On sudden impulse he pulled himself up over the top of
the wall. Johnny now stood on one of the many sun balconies. The square corner
towers reminded him of a French Foreign Legion fort. Orange sodium street lights
filtered through to the flooded deep end of the swimming pool. The diving platform
trailed spidery reflections on still water.
Marika had told him the story of Porphrion after her return from Ravenna. Johnny
noticed mischief in her eyes and imagined some aged racing driver, who had bought
her gold chains which she threw overboard when on the ferry home. More remarkable
than the possibility of this cafe romance was her claim that she had seen her own
likeness depicted within the Church of San Vitale. The mosaic pictures of the Empress
Theodora and her husband Justinian had been there since the sixth century. Marikas
interest in this dubious pair had quite perplexed her mother. Theodora for instance at
times ordered the castration of astronomers, while her husband, the demented Justinian,
was anxious for war in time of peace, but once slaughtering commenced took no
further interest and busied himself with arcane researches into the true nature of God.
17

Johnny followed the steps that spiraled to the poolside. Here he sat on one of the
wooden benches. Recently he had shared his room with his sister Cheryl. His flatmate,
an unemployed vegetarian chef had regarded this intrusion with mournful silence,
retreating to his room where he consumed cans of beer, pulling the tabs up the leg of a
pair of trousers, so as to muffle the noise.
Now that Cheryl had left to nurse her sick father, the flatmate had reappeared and in
a less than lucid moment complained that Cheryl had used the bathroom towel rail as a
ballet barre. As far as Johnny could remember, for he often forgot to listen, this was to
be the extent of the protest.
Johnny shambled off along the poolside, half thinking to swim, then deciding
against it. Instead he climbed the vertical ladder to the top of the diving platform. From
there he could see Marika's window. Ironic she should now live so close to where they
had spent happy times together. She had been lying beside him on the seaward balcony
when news had come of Bagoe's death. Bagoe the sadistic games teacher, whose
clipped speech and brass buttoned blazer would never be forgotten. He had a trick of
twisting a boy's nipple so as to make him squeal. Johnny could smell the warm aroma
of sun oil on Marika's skin. Then a boy's voice had rung out.
Hey boys, listen! Bagoe is dead. Honest hes dead. Topped it! A shrill response
came from the surrounding balconies,
He's dead, croaked it, snuffed, kicked the bucket! Then came yelps of delight and
ragged cheers as scores of boys threw themselves wildly into the water.
It might have been the memory of this, or of walking some polished gymnasium
beam that drew him along the diving board to the very end. He sat down. Nearby the
harbour lights sent anxious scribbles into the mast prickled basin. Johnny let his feet

dangle.
At this moment a light snapped on above the Corona Cafe and in a twist towards it
his body slipped. He was suddenly unbalanced, falling, arms grabbing for the end of
the board. A thump as it caught his jaw.
23.
A spasm of nausea, blood salt in his mouth, then the realisation of the pull on his
arms and the uncertainty of the depth of water beneath. Already the first pin prickings
18

of cramp spread through his hands. A thought occurred that Marika could see him and
stood naked at the window, amused by this hanging man, stretched between firmament
and first water. He pulled upwards but nothing happened. 'Why not let go?' he said

aloud.
He had jumped from this high board many times. True there had been an audience; a
certain bravado. The muscles tightened in his arms. Below lay the dark water with its
slippery wrinkled depths.
'Let go,' he argued, but he could not. He had not chosen this, and the inevitability of

it all appalled him.


An engulfing weight dragged at his fingers, stretching joints so that they buzzed
with numbness. Then without his being aware why, the fingers slipped. Down he went,
a trapdoor plummet, shock of impact, gasping, limbs threshing darkness. All sense of
surface gone, he swallowed too much, tried to gulp out, swallowed again, nose
bubbling, his body sinking slowly into a chemical slime.
Marika's voice wavered from a vast shimmering window. He tried to kick upwards
towards it. Exhausted, sluggish, his arms reached out for her. As he turned to molten
wax she sank towards him, mouth moving, and then quite slowly the curtains closed.
A moments bewilderment; then nothing.
19

CHAPTER TWO
The series of gales which visited Clarion brought blizzards which buried the high
capacity snow ploughs and tore the roof from the Rural Workers Hall, where only a
few hours previously the Rev. E. Davies had spoken from the text in Ecclesiastes,
'Remember your Creator while you are still young.'
Denny Thriepland no longer felt young, compared at least with the delectable
Sophie, a tenant in the blue room, three quaking floors below. Sophie with thighs like a
Minoan bull, and a shock of curled hair the colour of old pine shavings.
During restless July he had undertaken an epic feat of memory in his recital to her of
'Adonais,' with tragedian hand actions, and though she appeared to be appreciative, it
was clear this had not won her heart. In fact, she returned to Biffo the next day. Their
quarrel had as usual been fiery but short lived. No doubt even in the height of this
storm they lay fankled in each others arms. Although Biffo was rather offhand in his
affection for Sophie, she could with little effort bring him to heel. Their liason
resembled an open sandwich with various people nibbling around the edges.
Many a bitter winter night Denny sat reading 'Dante's Inferno' with the hair dryer
stuck down his trousers, wishing Sophie would materialise through the wardrobe
mirror, a chain of wild daisies round her neck and nipples hard as silver thimbles. He
imagined sleepwalking his way to her bed. Could he be accused of stealing sex from a

sleeping girl?
Sophie was at times unpredictable. Once when Biffo was away on the prawn
grounds she'd found the key to the sherry cupboard and turned up raving in Miss
Chalmers room dressed only in a plastic bin liner and brandishing a large pair of rose
clippers. Perhaps the song that the Major taught her had something to do with it.
'And my fause lover stole the rose, and left the thorn with me. As Sophie
serenaded, the tweeded six footer hurled her into the corridor. Somehow she was
forgiven, partly because Denny needed the rent, and as luck would have it, Miss
Chalmers was due to go on a foreign walking holiday the following week.
I like small men, Sophie later whispered. 'I can hear what they are saying. Denny
had been sitting on an old chair in the greenhouse, trying to mend an upended bicycle,
20

but her grin had disconcerted, and as he attempted to lecture her on the fleeting
impermanence of her life, she added quickly. 'Butterflies don't bleed. I want to be like
that. A moment later she was gone. It was then as he tightened the spokes he realised
clinical madness was directly connected with a fear of being mad. In her own loopy
way Sophie was perfectly sane. She had no fear.
No doubt the August heat had much to do with all this. The sap had risen and refused
to fall. Among these summer crowds even dogs had eyes like whores and at dusty
corners young girls flirted, their garish dresses mocking the rain pitted stone.
Denny unscrewed a bottle of ink. Over his shoulder the snow flurried moon
disappeared behind black cloud. On his desk lay a copy of 'Dante's lnferno,' so
mildewed when he bought it, that he had sprayed perfume between the pages. It now
smelt rich as a busy whore.
On nights when he felt lonely he would take it to bed with him. This was not to be
such a night. He filled his pen.
'And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again.
Denny got up and kicked at the embers.

CLARION HERALD FEBRUARY 1959

The assumption that a newspaper can be read at Clarion Gross without aid of
artificial light at 6pm on Candlemas, has been scientifically disproved. A newspaper
cannot be read on any evening before 13th February at the hour mentioned. It is hoped
that though our local superstitions may be humorously referred to, they will not all be
taken as gospel. For instance our so called Yeti, said to inhabit Scarefla Wood, though
useful as entertainment for passing tourists, should not prevent us from going there to

pick flowers.

IXION

Marika became entangled amidst her sheets. The more in sleep she tried to struggle
21

free, the tighter they twisted around her. A pain burned deep between her shoulders,
unbearably sharp, at times shooting down her spine then spreading so that she thrashed
and rolled. Then oddly a part of her separated and this too struggled among the sheets,
rolling this way and that, aware of the other body yet independent, so that she was not
sure which she belonged to.
A moment later she was standing in the centre of the room; her room but different
now. A luminescence was emitted by objects, varying in intensity, which allowed her
to see many outlines clearly which would normally have been obscure. On her way to
the kitchen she snapped down a light switch. Nothing happened. In the kitchen the
false moonlight was brighter. Water in the basin had transformed to a startling
mercurial swirl. Sure that she must be unwell, she dipped her hands in the water and
tried to splash her face. Her hands and face remained dry.
Something has gone wrong, she said, and padded through to her husband's room. It
lay empty except for a pile of old shirt boxes in a corner. He has left, she thought. 'I
wonder why I didn't notice before?' A chink of light showed from the library. A man
and a woman appeared to be arguing. She would have opened the door but
remembered she was naked. It sounded like Rafaelle's voice but she knew it was not
him. The words were not those Rafaelle would have used.
Leave these matters to me,' the woman insisted. 'Content yourself with building
churches. They'll hold the people surer than any army, and at considerably less cost.
'Such purity of thought, the man teased. 'Yet still you move. The woman laughed
at him.
'At times I suspect a good flogging has a much more immediate effect than all the

impending fires of hell.'


'Give them both,' he replied. We must be good or bad by combination, left hand
tricking our right. Juggle a little. Byzantium lives for a circus. We must make sure it is
a good one.
Marika turned away, thinking to put her clothes on. Her room still glimmered.
Spaces seemed to have subtley changed. She decided to phone for help. There was no
one she could think of phoning except for Grillparzer, the ex-tutor who kept waving at
her as if cheques still arrived by post. How Grillparzer managed to see through the
22

limousines smoked glass windows remained a mystery. It infuriated her that


Grillparzer was the only one she could trust. Former friendships had dissolved since
her marriage to Rafaelle. He did not mix with local society but preferred to remain
hidden in the upper reaches of Ixion. As she passed the end of the bed she realised she
could not remember Grillparzer's number. Then swift as a bullet through the heart,
there came a catapulting effect as if she were hurled into the void. Slowly awareness of
drowning came in a struggling spiral, choking, a body surfacing then pulling together.
She lay gasping upon her bed, skin wet with sweat. Above her, Ixion's neon shot
molten red signals across the ceiling.
She sat up carefully. The soft mercurial radiance had gone. Marika left the bed and
walked unsteadily to the door. The room light worked. Only half believing she hurried
to the library, switching on each light as she went. Sparks from the fire touched off a
thousand points of ruby upon the walls of leather books.
Through glass the town of Kelloch unrolled below in an ill defined maze of roofs
and chimneys. She could hear her husband's voice; the warm concerned one he used
for the telephone. Often he would work until dawn. She pushed the glass doors and
slipped out onto the terrace. The book with the illustration of Theodora still lay on the
parapet. From the page a woman with hooded eyes stared back at her.
Wandering in a circle she read aloud from the book.
The hippodrome of Byzantium packed in a hundred thousand souls, all eager for the
bloody chariot races which united the passions of so many nations. Byzantium, home
to so many, Armenians, Greeks, Romans, Syrians and even flaxen haired Goths, who
were often made servants in the richer households where they gained a reputation for
extraordinary sexual endurance. There were other interests united these people:
Christian faith, Roman citizenship and the laws imposed by the Emperor Justinian.
Other vices were to a greater or lesser degree shared, not so much according to rank or
status, as through inclination.
Marika leaned back on the parapet. A sea fog curled in over the town. A line of
seagulls stood on the far wall watching her. She spoke to them as if they were an
audience.
'Between these people moved a showground madhouse of dancing bears, pimps and
23

prostitutes. Mountebanks dressed as girls rode strutting lilac ostriches. Clowns led
gilded crocodiles whose eyes were inset with precious stones. Acrobats balanced on
human monstrosities. Five year olds sold baskets of coloured mice. The rich and poor,
elbow to elbow, walked down stall lined streets, where prostitutes sat on wooden

stools.
At the age of fifteen Theodora had established herself as a favourite with the circus
crowds. Her sister Comito who was already a whore, proved to be a skilled teacher. In
short tunic with long sleeves, Theodora would carry the bench on which her sister sat
while touting for trade. Theodora was at this time too young for conventional
intercourse but devised other means by which she could satisfy men's desires.
However by the time she was fifteen no such restrictions applied.
She would delight the crowd with comic burlesques of Leda and the Swan in which
trained geese pecked away at handfuls of barley thrown down between her naked
thighs, while she squirmed with exaggerated ecstasy. A rather curious training for the
future ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Unlike the crowd her fellow actors found her
bad tempered and difficult to deal with. It was from this harsh underworld that
Theodora, daughter of Accius the Bearward, ascended to absolute power, not only over
the fate of Byzantium, but over the future course of Christianity.
Marika put down the book. Beneath her, Ixion, a webbed maze of neon hummed
with a relentless round the clock activity, mostly transacted over the heads of the local
people. Delegations came and went, had conventions, then disappeared, hardly setting
foot in the town, whose inhabitants were allowed access only to some of the ground
and first floor amenities. Dockers trudged in under a reluctant dawn, wolfed down rolls,
gulped pints of brown ale then retreated to their beds. At noon shopgirls and traders
filled a first floor cafe where painted monkeys leered from every wall. Men's names
had been scrawled under some of the uglier primates. Evening brought youngsters for
the dance floor, and lost souls for the cellar bar, with strip dancer and crimson alcoves.
Others preferred the Juggler's Arms where the barmaids scurried clad in gaudy
dermathistic corsets. It was here at a corner table that Johnny held court, hands
gesturing as he made a point, or apologising profusely to a brandy glass he had just
dropped and broken. He often had the appearance of someone who had just been
24

thrown from a fast moving car.


In the past year he had pretended a weakness for a certain kind of part time blonde,
pink and blue with wrap round bumpers in her brain. Long legs frail as candy floss and
a vocabulary of perhaps two words. This kept him reasonably safe from distraction as
the fairground only visited Kelloch once a year.
Marika put down the book and laughed.
Men are such fools, she said.
25

CHAPTER THREE
In three hours a trinity of sleepy postmen would pussy foot over grey reptilian
glaciers, on the final circle of hell, before the uniform and loaded sack gave their lives
a kind of tangential meaning. Denny expected no letters. He knew that to receive letters
you have to send them. His mood snapped, quick as a tumbler rolled in scalding water.
He thought of Biffo and Sophie immured in their complicated algebraic couplets. A
chanterelle of envy. Her lips of fair cerise. Outside, the long grey rolling moonlit
waves. Her cursive breasts. Emotions of a tied heart wishing to be free.
Biffo, land bound and trawling other fish in the midst of this storm. Slippery skins,
mouths gaping at the immensity of heaven. Biffo's boat, the Roxy Lass christened
after some early conquest, but which one of them, the girls were not sure. He could see
Biffo, legs astride, hauling in the struggling net, a big grin and raw wet hands, as blue
holes the size of emperor's heads looked down briefly from the ranks of marching

cloud.
However it was not all cherry pie. They had their black days when every word gave
offence. Biffo would chop off the silver grey heads and throw them overboard. Later,
in her room, Sophie skidding around with harsh complaining cries. The thump of
separate skulls on pillows, then that silence as the sheets strain either way. A limping
tick from the marble clock. Biffo already half asleep.
'Wake me up if you feel like it,' he says.
Outside in the snow flurried garden the trees moan as if upon racks of ecstasy. Miss
Chalmers cannot sleep. Standing in lamplight she whacks a newspaper down on her
teddy bear's head. On a chair at her bed end lies draped her brown tweed suit. It
belonged to her first lover, killed by ack-ack over Boulogne. These had been hot
bicycle days with endless fields of wheat, where hidden tractors droned, her body
tensing when he first touched her arm. All his letters lay in a brass box. On the last
Friday of each month, from the cupboard under the window, she slid a pile of chipped
gramophone records, locked the door of her room and lying on the bed by the light of a
four bar electric wall heater, listened to forgotten music until dawn.
At times between records she would speak to herself.
26

It is remarkable that many people on their death bed recall not their hundred lovers,
but a long forgotten family pet, calling out for it and being comforted, once assured it
was by their side. Tibs, Tibs, Tibby, where is my little Tibby.
The record clicked round in endless circles.
I'll try to be cheerful, she enthused. 'Get involved, join things. Take on some higher
purchase payments. Learn to play golf.'
Cursing, she got up and began searching for the photo of her sitting on a promenade
bench. 'When will I see you again? he said. A couple walk against the darkening sea.
Two children leaned back then rose upon the creaking swings,
It all seems so long ago, she said.

CLARION HERALD MARCH 1959

Clarion Sheriff Court was broken into last weekend and the Sheriff's chair was
stolen. The incident occurred late on Friday night and when police were called they
eventually found the chair, a magnificent ornate structure, placed in the centre of the
town cemetery.

THE MICE DISCUSS GOD

The girl pulled on a black stocking, her leg so white; a cherry blonde wig fallen on
the floor. She paid him little attention, turning absentmindedly in the centre of the
room, one leg black, the other white, all soon to be hidden beneath brown tweed. Her
left eye was dark with mascara, the other undecorated.
I couldn't sleep, she said. 'Too many trains.'
Johnny knew then that he would walk her quickly to the station, with no time to kiss
goodbye. The platforms would be crowded and they would lose each other. He would
hear her name cried out over the loudspeakers, and then in the crush he would stand
with a hundred others, amid loud cheers, as she alighted befurred and smiling from an

incoming train.
Moments later he recalled her breasts smudged in the mirror and tried to remember
27

if they had made love. In challenge to the day Johnny approached the window. Beyond
Drumvega Head a fleck of crimson marked the centre of a pale space where a three
island steamer sailed with the tide, her rusted hull suspended between ocean and sky.
The S.S. Griski, ex Abby Palmer, ex Regina Elena, ex Germaine, ex Claudia, ex
Tamara X, ex Almora sounded her horn. Johnny switched on the radio, then made an
adjustment to the volume control.
'She stepped amidst translucent marble, her toes curling on a carpet of ivy, crushed
laurel and rosemary. Perfume filled the air. Two white robed men with gold tassels
round their waists motioned for Marika to join them, but once she sat on the bench they
continued talking as if unaware of her.
'No, no,' said the smaller bearded one.' I demand definition. If we have Christ in two
natures, one human, the other divine, they would co-exist side by side as the son of

God.'
But wait, countered the other. 'If your son is the son of the Father and in his
likeness, absorbed in the Spirit, you can only have but one.'
'But it's not just one!' the little man complained. 'There are three. Father, Son and
Holy Ghost. Plain as the nose on my face.'
That's as may be, his companion agreed. 'Both God and man, but with the human
nature absorbed into his divine nature. Into God the Father.'
'And what about the Holy Spirit?' came the irate response. The larger man took a
deep breath and gazed upwards in what Marika imagined might be a plea for divine

intervention.
'Why say Holy Spirit if there's not one? Why not say God? He is not defined as such
for nothing. I cannot abide this love of complication; this endless theoretical division.
Causes nothing but conflict. There is but one transcendent God. No image and no
likeness. This human obsession with images! So safe, so very comforting.
God is divided up like a side of beef in a butcher's shop, while a bunch of ignorant
housewives squabble over what to call each part, unaware that they have merely
sketched out this supposed carcass on the shop wall, and are now at loggerheads as to

the best way to divide it up.


The small man regarded his companion warily.
28

I'd keep these thoughts to yourself my friend, or you may well lose them, along
with the receptacle that holds them.
'Well so much for debate,' sighed the tall one.
'Look, it's perfectly clear that Christ was a man, but he was also the son of God. The
evidence is quite against all this monotheistic nonsense.'
The other laughed.
'Evidence? Are you trying to tell me He is measureable?
'Could I ask a question?' enquired Marika, but was ignored.
The small man got to his feet and stood hands clasped behind his back. 'We must
define the natures, aspects and co-relations of the Trinity. We must not fail to do so.'
The other shook his head.
'Rubbish! You sound like a tax inspector. Complications are easy, but only because
they become quite impossible to understand. So naturally we give up, which suits the
powers that be exactly. It is ridiculous. A religious equation based entirely on
multiplicity and thus burying any hope of truth under vast reams of working out. In
terms of human nature, all too Orthodox and sadly human.
His companion leaned forward and cupped his hands under a small bubbling
fountain. Marika had never seen a fountain quite like this one. The head was carved in
the shape of a golden pineapple and it sprayed red wine, which spattered into a silver
bowl, filled with almonds and pistachios. The man drank then made the sign of the
cross. Marika moved closer to the man on the bench and though he turned and looked
at her, he said nothing.
'All is one, he muttered, 'and through it is all, and into it goes all, and if it lacks
nothing, is all,'
The other wiped his beard and frowned.
'Wouldn't let Justinian hear you.'
'The world has gone mad,' came the reply. 'Can't even buy a bit of fish without
having to argue some ridiculous point of doctrine. It's not enough we have angels, but
we've got to round them up and count them like sheep.'
The bearded one tried not to listen.
'It's this shepherd mentality mixed up in everything. No one is counting the beggars
29

on the streets.'
'Barbarians outside the city, heretics within! You astonish me.'
'I'm astonished there are heretics left. When one considers the forcible baptism of
seventy thousand souls in Asia Minor alone. Though I do suspect that Justinian would
much rather have drowned them. Pleased both himself and his god.'
The bearded one glanced anxiously around but his tormentor continued.
'It is all very well building churches, but I'm sure Christ did not intend them raised
upon a foundation of human bones.
He got up and crossed to the fountain.
'Martyrs bones! We are fighting for God. A good and glorious fight.
The tall one spat out some wine.
'Christians slaughtering Christians. Would Christ allow that to happen? One cannot
help but feel a vital message got mislaid somewhere. In the heat of battle perhaps?'
He took a few steps towards the bearded one.
'Curious wasn't it, how our dear Emperor's mother died at such a opportune moment?
Euphemia, bless her peasant boots, was damned if her son would marry a whore. Not
when he could have the smoothest virgin in the land.'
Anger showed on the bearded man's face.
'If you weren't my brother, he warned, facing up to the other's advance. The large
one stopped then turned away, perplexity in his eyes.
'It is as if an apple has grown around a worm. There's beauty in it and form, an outer
shape most pleasing to the eye, but we cannot change that other part. The human mind
at the centre of things.'
'You mean Justinian? he asked, a quizzical softness to his words.
'No Theodora, came the reply. 'Some say that a demon cannot inhabit human flesh
for long. The sulphur burns the body up. But while they have that body, we alas, must

live in their hell.


Marika turned the radio off, and listened to Rafaelle splashing in the bath. The
notion of him naked still repulsed her, though she now found it possible to smile at him.
Her tricks with the eyes, well practised in the bathroom mirror, seemed to be working,
for he paid her frequent compliment and there was altogether a softer formality.
30

She realised that if progress was to be made, concessions of a physical nature would
have to be considered. He could not be manipulated quite so deftly as other men while
that vital ingredient lust was missing. To be fair he had honoured the agreement; he
had not turned up drunk and naked in her bedroom, as she had fully expected, keeping
an iron poker under her folded clothes in anticipation of this event.
Rafaelle glared at the bath duck, unsure whether to bomb it, or drag it down between
his toes. The problem in so far as he could see it was that Marika seemed to be
developing a sex. Quite intolerable. Abstinence cannot live with desire. He lay for a
while smoothing soap on his belly. He thought of Marika sitting with her skirt rucked,
upon the counter, while he totted up the till. She had begun to take an interest in the
shelves and he would leave her in charge for an hour or so. Rafaelle became less
possessive and Marika could wander off for an afternoon without being subjected to
the Spanish Inquisition.
It was on such a day that she pulled back the doors of the ruined conservatory at
Mallachdaig. This curious structure nestled in a hollow between the house and a
rampart of pines. Sunlight filtered down through layers of vegetation. Toppled statues
stared from the undergrowth. A goldfish wavered on the surface of a circular fountain.
She parted a cluster of pink rhododendrons and moved carefully around the perimeter.
Something glinted in the undergrowth. Kneeling down, she picked up a curved
machete. Playfully she swiped at a nearby flower. Petals floated away. She cut again.
Another head flew free and settled on the water. A branch crashed down, then another.
She began to hack a space around the fountain leaving a belt of dense vegetation to
screen the outer glass walls. This would ensure privacy, should anyone happen to stray.
This was unlikely as a particularly fierce spirit defended the approaches, an old
retainer of Lord Pendreich who would suffer no intruders, except the one named
Hughey the Hog, a gentleman of roughly his own vintage.
Marika's clothes stuck to her skin. She peeled them off. Flowers fell thick at her feet.
She brushed them back to form a slope around the fountain. Rafaelle would never find
her here.
Fragments of sky appeared above Drumvega Head. A flash of time when she and
Johnny picnicked on the beach. It had been a laughing day, arms crossed taking off her
31

top, so sure they had been of their privacy. Nemeton didn't count, in much the same
way as a fox. Practically invisible, even when there. It was he who guarded this region.
Nemeton had been butler to the last of the Pendreich family. He now inhabited a cave
at the foot of Drumvega Head.
Marika naked, breathless, hair streaked on forehead, leaned on the curved machete.
Though her eyes were open she was already dreaming.
32

CHAPTER FOUR
Both delighted and afraid like a dog eating hot butter, Denny stood in Sophie's room
and listened to her breathing. The gale drummed upon bolted shutters. Out in the midst
of the storm street lights scribbled and he imagined Biffo wading through the drifts, a
rat tailed sword ready for vengeance. Biffo, who usually measured his love affairs by
the life span of disposable cigarette lighters, though somehow Sophie gained an
extension. Perhaps her hundred games with diverse music, tricked Biffo into thinking
there was more than one of her. Often they quarrelled. One night in a fury she'd taken a
pair of scissors and lopped off one half of the cat's whiskers. By morning Biffo
returned, frozen with cold, asking to be fed. She'd had to reinvent him them. 'I need
you,' he said. 'It's too bloody cold out there.
In the morning, pale sunlight, the lawns soft with snow, shadows of branches, sky
brilliant blue, and the crisp gunfire of rooks circling so high they were scarcely visible.
While the penitent Biffo slept, Sophie looked out upon the garden. The trees held
hands as they only do in winter.
Denny left her sleeping, then climbed the stairs past the Major's room with its pall of
cigar smoke and Wellingtons standing on permanent guard. 'Are our wars as sweet as
birdsong to the Gods? he would ask. Some nights he would lie in his bath reciting
battle lines. 'Ypres, the Somme, the Dardanelles,' a murmuring chant. A heavy clunk
from the cistern above, told him when the tank had refilled. Once Marie in more than
her usual hurry had rushed upstairs and popped the inadequate lock, to find the Major
surveying a floating armada of saucy playing cards. He'd looked up brightly and asked
if she cared for a hand.
Denny sat on his bed. Tonight Grock the Scran would be crouched in his hollow tree
above Scarefla Park, wadded with newspapers, a living history of the town, Denny
remembered in earlier days while out on a sulking walk through the woods being
attracted to the sound of harmonica music. Slithering through undergrowth he found
Grock sitting on the bank of a stream. Without looking up the old man had called out
that he should join him and they had spent an hour or so discussing life. Grock said he
had once been a rat catcher but got the sack. 'Started letting 'em go.'
33

Denny expressed some astonishment at this.


'Everything has a right to live. Even we have and look at the damage we cause. As a
species, I mean.'
Denny raised his beaker in salute. It puzzled him, this affinity with Grock the Scran.
The house that Denny lived in was an awkward house with many landings that led
nowhere. Grocks tree was a twisting tree, that looked as if it might grab a cloud and
eat it. Denny pulled on a third sweater. Under the eaves a sleeping bird died.

CLARION HERALD APRIL 1959

A disgraceful occurrence has come to our notice. It is evident that during last
Sunday's fine weather, some greedy persons sought to take the countryside home with
them. On the well loved scenic route to Dunscaith they dug up a gross of primroses.
This is indeed an act of premeditated barbarity and is a serious and direct contravention
of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, rendering these furtive diggers liable for
prosecution.

JOHNNY JONGLEUR

Grillparzer travelled in as straight a line as possible, given the winding streets that
fell to dockland. The tower called Ixion held her in shadow for a full minute. She cut
across a play park where two girls walked in perfect step, one unexpectedly reaching
out to touch the other's hair. She passed shop fronts filled with chimney cowls, dress
shops bright as aviaries, a photographer's with bridesmaids hands pressed in prayer,
and next door grave stone marble flower receptors. Another window was filled with
fine legged china horses. In the old harbour small boats bobbed on their reflections as
daintily as they had one hundred years before. Coming down the steps to the quayside,
Grillparzer spotted the 'Selene' moored on the outmost wing of many craft. She
clambered on decks of teak one moment, oiled ropes and slapping bilge the next.
Grillparzer could see Hazlewood seated on the afterdeck, his face hidden by a
newspaper. She wondered if Cheryl would be somewhere below, perhaps preparing
34

lunch for the old reprobate, who preferred life aboard a creaking gaff ketch, to
existence within a large stone mansion on the north shore. Such obduracy would do
nothing for his health, if this was a relapse and not a ploy to have Cheryl back in his
company. A striped awning overcanopied his pink pate and as Grillparzer boarded the
motorlaunch alongside 'Selene', the old man glanced up, then roared out a welcome,

'By the hounds of hell! It's my favourite lunatic.


They shook hands, clasping hard, like combatants with gloves off.
'Sit with me in the sun. Let me recommend this delicious Italian white. He shouted
for Cheryl who appeared with goblets. She wore a black swimming costume and wide
brimmed straw hat.
'To old wine and young women,' said Hazlewood pouring. A brightness in his eye
suggested that he was not entirely joking.
'The life force returning, eh? chuckled Hazlewood as Cheryl walked forward to sit
at the base of the wooden bowsprit. He had noticed Grillparzer's appreciative glance.
I've always thought your voyeurism suspect. This pretended celibacy for instance.
Just damn laziness.'
Grillparzer thought of her telescope shrouded under travelling rugs and said nothing.
'I've never regarded sex as a sport.'
'Useful though. Witness young Marika and that rascal Rafaelle. Before she met him
she'd swan off with mother to Gastaad and wipe out a regiment of waiters. And word
has it, she took no prisoners.'
Grillparzer reached for the glass of wine. Her hands now had a slight tremble,
masked by the swaying motion of the boat.
'A baby must feel like this,' she thought. 'Rocked in a crib.' How often in the past
week she had longed for a house with coal fires and tea things being clattered. In the
garden a long tailed dog. A knot of sadness tightened. Something would have to
change.
I keep suddenly feeling afraid, said Grillparzer. 'It's as if I've gone to the wrong
house and it's filled with people I don't know, but somehow they all know me.
'You need a job,' said Haalewood. 'There's nothing worse than a moderate
inheritance. It leads to the cancellation of mornings. Life must have some exchange;
35

like good tennis, one can't spend too much time looking for the ball,
If Cheryl had not stood up at that moment, arms stretching, then Grillparzer might
have sworn at this self possessed little man. It was true though. Each morning brought
with it a depression, as if the heart's machinery lay beneath some distant bog.
Hazlewood suddenly stood up then sniffed the breeze.

'I think we might take a walk. Yes?


Grillparzer swallowed the last of the wine, happy now for any exit. The old man
kissed Cheryl noisily on both cheeks and promised to return by dusk. As they
clambered over the moored craft he explained.
'I like the French way of kissing. It is something intimate between two people. None
of this, boof, and that's it over. One, two, both cheeks. A moment of peace in the

storm.
For someone suffering a relapse Hazlewood was disconcertingly nimble. They
climbed the quayside ladder and set off at a brisk pace, taking the shore road to the
south. They walked between decaying merchant houses and an incoming sea.
'That boy Johnny is a problem, said Hazlewood, his jaw jutting slightly.
'Determined bugger. Wants his mother's name back. Damned if I could remember.
Have to check it with the home. After the money I spent on him. Seems to have opted
out. The thing is, you never know what you're getting when you take these characters

on.'
Grillparzer glanced to see whether her companion was joking.
It seemed that Hazlewood was not.
'Mind you, could have been the same, if I'd had my own sons.'
Grillparzer noted the plural and watched the pavement passing.
'Hard to tell though,' Hazlewood muttered.
'I'd say guaranteed,' Grillparzer reassured. 'Sons tend to be over rated commodities.'
'It's his eye for Cheryl that worries me. Less than brotherly. They were sharing a
room. You know the kind of things that can happen.'
'What on earth is the problem? Grillparzer shot him a look that indicated she would

not be bullied.
'Under some circumstances, almost acceptable, but not in this case. The blood is by
36

name only. Cheryl is aware of that. I didn't guess what was going on, not until later. I
thought it was all this bids for independence nonsense.'
'You'll make a fool of yourself,' Grillparzer warned. Hazlewood snorted. He had the
appearance of a small fighting cock, broiled in the sun and all set to claw its own
shadow.
'Cheryl is her own person of course, but the young should be protected from their
enthusiasms.
'Absence and the heart,' Grillparzer recited. 'If you want the people to worship God,
then simply close the churches.'
A silence ensued, broken only by the rustling of overhead flags. Children ran,
leaping over the incoming waves. Grillparzer listened carefully to their cries. There
were times at night when she thought her head might explode. There had once been a
time when her world was clear and devoid of smoke.
'When I was fifteen,' said Hazlewood, 'I'd no doubt that everything would work out
perfectly. By twenty five I'd have married the most beautiful woman in the world and
by thirty I'd own this large house; which happened. It was all so very obvious, but
somehow something went wrong. Women are so much less predictable than stone.
They passed a drunk peeing in a telephone kiosk.
'Yes,' sighed Grillparzer. 'Unless we come to terms with fear while it is heartily
munching us, then we will never realise its illusory nature. I can't accept my pain or
other people's suffering.'
'You have not been listening, Hazlewood complained.
'I once described a dog as an illusion that bites.
'Look, who has the problem here? snapped Hazlewood.
They crossed the road and descended to the beach. The gusts whipped their coats to
a frenzy. At the water's edge Hazlewood played old salt dog and stayed quite still,
staring at the changing patterns, oblivious to the stinging wind, while Grillparzer
turned tail and stood, hands deep in jacket pockets. Her shouts were whisked away.
Grillparzer, cold and bored, threw her hat in the air and ran after it. At last standing,
legs soaked, shoes ruined, but oddly happy. After a while she saw that Hazlewood was

watching.
37

On a converging diagonal they began to walk back towards Kelloch. These peeling
mansion houses with their palm trees and peculiar names reminded Grillparzer of her
father's home and that space as a kid between coming in from play and sitting down to
five oclock tea. Why so plagued by these feelings today. A world of respectable
people who would seldom use that large ground floor room overlooking the sea.
It would be kept to house the out of tune piano, volumes of aged encyclopaedia and
faded wedding photographs.
By the time that Grillparzer and Hazlewood arrived back at the harbour it was high
tide with gulls screaming and the 'Selene dark and proud as an abandoned galleon.
Hazlewood led the way as they clattered below decks to a wood panelled saloon
where furnishings glimmered and a caged theatrical parrot, resplendant in orange and
green, screeched as they entered.
'Bound up the usual suspects!
On sighting the table laid with food Hazlewood smiled in anticipation.
'I've walked the hind legs off a horse, he exclaimed, then set about liberating a cork

from a bottle of Chablis.


'Sometimes I feel I'm feeding a cuckoo, said Cheryl and placed one of her famous
decorated cakes on the table. It was topped with a most unusual combination of orange,
blue and purple icing. Grillparzer was reminded of statues inside a Roman Cathedral.
Pale light from the deck hatch touched Cheryl's hair, illuminating delicate strands of
gold, intermingled with deeper reds. One of Botticelli's wood nymphs, netted perhaps
by Savanarola and lighting her first reluctant candle at the foot of a dark provincial
altar.
The parrot screamed. Grillparzer noticed that several bent six inch nails lay at the
bottom of the cave.
'Old Bearhop left him,' Cheryl explained. 'He was drunk as a dredger, and never
came back. Not suprised. Probably hadn't the heart to strangle it,' The parrot eyed her

very coldly.
38

Hazlewood settled himself at the table, then his hand shot out for the fruit bowl. He
stuck a banana in between two apples,
'He's so obvious,' complained Cheryl. 'No wonder he finds all women a mystery.
Hazlewood shrugged then let the fruit fall.
'Without mystery they disappear, become their mothers.
He roared with laughter then turned to Grillparzer as if in appeal. Grillparzer barked
like a dog. The parrot screamed.
'Round up the usual suspects!
It was with the slow ebb of a buoyant tide that their exchange was fed, then allowed
to mellow, food giving way gradually to wine. The old boat seemed to nurse them in
their dreams; the cries of a newspaper vendor faint by the time the sun touched the sea.
As they talked, faces from the past strolled in as brief guests, happy to linger in this
curved space within wooden walls.
'Old Gilchrist, recounted Hazlewood, for a moment forgetting his own age. 'An
hour before closing, somewhat overexcited. Takes me aside and most gravely says,
'Your face is all blurred my son. Why don't you go home?'
'It was the other way round,' protested Cheryl.
As candles wavered Cheryl sang a song, then Grillparzer attempted to follow but
was convulsed with laughter. There were faint stirrings from the quayside. The muted
chug of fishing craft. The parrot, night's prisoner, was covered in a blanket. Kelloch
shuffled in upon itself, treading down edges that would smooth a way to sleep. They
sat slumped in armchairs, smugly satisfied, yet also sad, knowing it could never again
ever be like this.
39

CHAPTER FIVE
Major Gillow had barracked himself awake, then realised that he had already drunk
his evening ration of whisky. He staggered up to Penny's room in the hope that he
might borrow some. Together they had come back down the stairs, Denny holding
aloft the emergency supply as if he were leading a Roman Legion. The Major swore it
would clear the tubes, no doubt recalling the sink in his room, waste pipe solid with ice

all week.
'Got something to show you, he confided. 'You are not to tell anyone. Can I have
your word on that?' The window lay open, and beyond in darkness they could see the

falling snow.
'My word as a gentleman,' replied Denny in a slurred voice. The Major poured with
a generous though unsteady hand, suspiciously holding the glass against the light, as if
some of the amber liquid might have escaped through a secret trapdoor in the table.
Gillow then took a carved cigar box from a niche by the window and plonked it down
in front of Denny.
'Guess who that box once belonged to? and without waiting for an answer said,
'Herman Goering.'
Denny managed to look suitably surprised.
'I also own some of his fur lined underwear. Damned useful when the nights draw
in.
Denny now understood why the window was open. Gillow gave a bark of a laugh
then flicked open the box to offer Denny a cigarette.
'Don't touch 'em myself. Must have been his own make.'
Denny picked out one of the cigarettes which were an ochre shade of yellow with
short silver filter and an embossed eagle around the stem.
'End of the last war during the wipe-up, I commanded a small jeep section in Austria.
Well actually Bavaria. Intelligence unit; at night we'd pull in at some town,
commandeer the finest house, and then after making what we termed 'inquiries' set off
for the next place. Looking for Nazis you understand, S.S. chaps, that sort of thing.
Well you can imagine our surprise when we rolled up at this bloody great pile and were
told by the housekeeper that it had been Herr Goering's mountain retreat. So of course
40

we searched it but most of the stuff had been carted off. Picked this up though. False
compartment in his desk.'
He ran his fingers over the carved box.
'Remember we got to the top floor and found a circular room, done out in white,
carpet, everything. Round the room were at least a dozen doors. Opened them up and
in each one was a shower. That had us stumped. Why would a chap want a dozen
showers? So we tried them. All eight of us. And you know what? Each one was scented
with a different perfume. My God! We smelt like tarts for a month.'
Denny laughed and lit one of the cigarettes. It tasted extraordinary. Sweet yet
aromatic; he swilled the whisky and held it to the light.
'Must go a place,' exclaimed the Major and swayed out. He still held his glass. The
door slammed. Denny took another of the cigarettes from the box and slipped it into his
pocket. Snow vanished as it entered the electric light, somehow magically dissolved
when confronted with this fixed universe.
In the last few days the snow had filled in the children's trampoline pits on the north
shore. The swimming pool remained closed, and in his mind he wandered the deserted
balconies.
When Gillow reappeared he seemed slightly unsure of his wars and had mislaid his
whisky glass. Instead he attacked one of the packets of butterscotch piled in neat
ramparts on top of a plugless radiogram. In exasperation he tore at the layers of
packaging.
'We were surrounded, he remembered eventually, as the paper burst and a dozen
golden tablets spilled over the floor,
'All these bloody Germans in their pincer movement. The complete 51st nailed
down tight. I was behind a dunghill, rifle barrel red hot, firing wildly to keep them
back.'
He poured more whisky and grinned.
'Never actually shot anyone. At first fall of night the Navy was meant to lift us, but
they didn't make it. There were shells and all the rest. The Germans weren't far, just a
field length away. I can still remember a horse on the opposite hill. The poor beast was
crazy running in circles. This way and that all over the place. We surrendered next
41

morning and were marched all the way to Poland. Funny that; how I never forgot the
horse.
They filled their glasses and drank a toast to the king over the water. A jug served as
the makeshift ocean.

Denny noticed how oddly the highlights on the Major's bayonets sparkled. They
were winking out in a code of some kind. A loud knock came at the door. Denny,
marginally the more mobile got up and opened it. A thin man with a white face and
orange hair marched in with a length of rope rolled over his shoulder.
'Mind if I use your window? he asked. He tied one end of the rope round the table
leg then disappeared out of the window.
Reminds me, mused the Major. 'Clifftop Gallipoli, waiting for the dawn. Hundreds
of men, all silent mind you. Magnificent!
Denny was not sure whether he was referring to the dead but was saved from asking
by the reappearance of the orange haired stranger, who untied his rope from the table
leg and bid them good-night. At the door he paused for a moment while drawing in the
last of the rope. 'Locked myself out, he said.
Denny looked at the bottle, the half sleeping frowning Major, the open window with
snow blowing, then decided to retire upstairs. Gillow insisted on making him a present
of a cigarette from Goering's box. This rather embarrassed Denny. The Major stared at
the door as if trying to remember.
'Escaped from a circus,' he muttered.
'If he did lock himself out,' thought Denny, 'then who let him in?' He could not
remember such a person. Taking the bottle with him he climbed the gale buffeted
stairway to his own room. Opening the shutters he stared out on a wilderness of tented
snow, spindrift hissing from the crests. He imagined Father Gilfillan, half a mile away,
skimming over the garden walls, screaming the town's every confession, as the weather
cock revolved on one demented leg.
'Marry or burn, said Denny, and then as if on cue a loud crack and grinding roar
came from outside. A flash of light as he hurried to the other window and saw that the
garden oak had fallen, one massive limb impaling a snow bound truck, which burned in
42

a fierce downdraught from the Low Church and whipped up from the wreckage what
seemed like a score of pink and violet pigeons.
They fluttered into the snow, climbing this way and that, some settling in trees while
others winged off into the darkness. One flapped lazily overhead. Another caught in
the updraught spiralled around the church tower trailing brightly flickering flames.
They appeared then disappeared like phantoms through the veils of snow. Yet still they
came, a flotilla of wings sailing out over the storm. The oak tree crackled and burned
pointing a fiery finger at the Low Church spire.
Someone spoke. He turned and saw that Miss Chalmers stood at his door, her naked
body wrapped in a tartan travelling rug. Her hair was astray. Denny had hardly time to
close his mouth when she said in a petulant voice.

'I want a drink for my teddy bear.


He had often considered school teachers unique in terms of their eccentricities, but
the sight of this large lady advancing on him wrapped in a plaid, bear dangling from
one hand, caused an accelerated panic he had not experienced for some time. Taking
him by the hand she led him in sleep back down to her own room where the wall heater
etched the furniture in a harsh manner as if it were the set of an end of term play.
Then suddenly he was in her bed with the warmth of her flesh as they rolled tight as
combating fighter planes; tobacco brown fields, staccato kisses on neck and ear. Then
a banshee wail as Father Gilfillan sprang up from behind an easy chair. He thumped his
fist and roared.
'And the Protestants kicked them out! So your book that is called a Bible, is seven

books short!
'Can't remember when you last took your clothes off,' whispered Miss Chalmers as
they climbed through cloud.
Father Gilfillan's fists smacked down. The dust rose like cordite.
'According to those who know, he shouted, 'these seven books were not inspired.
Well how did they judge that? They never gave reasons for kicking them out. They just
decided they didn't like them'
Juddering now, a sharp left turn, crosshairs got her in sight. Pull back, arms numb as
the nose climbs.
43

'The Prophet Daniel. It has only twelve chapters in this version, but in the original
version of the Bible, it had fourteen. What happened to the other two? I'll tell you! It
didn't suit their theology so they kicked them out!'
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat!'
They broke through cloud, a blast of blue and below on an endless desert floor in
dust great armies wheeled and fought. Their armoured plumes trailed back far beyond
where the eye could see.
'As I am a sinner then so are you! - and I am quite sure that you have all looked at a
beautiful woman and have felt a raging tide of lust and desire arise in your evil hearts!'
A wing tip caught fire then sharp explosions racked out through the body of the
plane.
'I'm sure you have. I have!'
It spun now, billowing fire and he followed it down, both thumbs stabbing hard.
'According to the book you have already committed the sin if you have even thought
about it. So next time you see a shapely damsel going by. You've already done it! All I
can say is, you miserable sinners! I'd rather have the reality than the thought any day!'

CLARION HERALD MAY 1959

Wednesday last was the occasion for the celebration of the annual reunion of
thirteen veterans of the Galipoli Campaign, who once again met in the Templar Hall.
The meeting was addressed by guest speaker Major Gillow, who went over some of the
more memorable retreats with the aid of several coloured maps.

MARIKA

Rafaelle sat behind a pile of business papers which had spilled to the edge of his
desk. His eyes were bloodshot. At seven that morning he had almost fallen asleep,
when Marika's warmth tunneled in beside him. Much to his surprise he found he was
developing a need for these diversions. For several years he had not even thought about

sex but a forgotten mechanism had now been triggered that agitated and disturbed his
44

mind. Even when he was exhausted her presence created an organisational malfunction,
and when he did fall to the inconsistencies of sleep, her face followed, illusive, leading
him through crowded rooms. Confused, he attempted to talk as he might to a pet dog.
She had become quite distinct about her likes and dislikes. She found his bouts of
silence insufferable and told him so. Unsure whether to fight or feign dead Rafaelle
rearranged the piles of papers. 'I fear being eaten alive, he said.
Grillparzer awoke in her own room. Hazlewood had walked back the previous
evening and when Grillparzer had drunkenly expounded on the futility of life,
Hazlewood had attempted to pull her in front of an oncoming bus. There had been at
least directness in that.
Outside the day was much like the one before but with the added excitement of rain.
A wedge of brilliant sunlight smeared the tip of Drumvega Head.
'Do you want to get better? Hazlewood had asked, as she swayed in the doorway,
wondering whether to punch him in the eye.
'The decision must come from you.'
'If I liked all this I'd sell bloody tickets, she snorted.
Grillparzer glared at the rain. She was aware that Marika would soon be arriving,
Rafaelle's cheques were welcome but lately she had curiously resented this unearned
largesse. Recent conversations with Marika resembled that of fellow travellers who
communicate by way of mutual courtesy. It was no longer the role of paternal guidance.
Marika was more the former pupil made good in the world, returning with amusement
to a rather grubby school.
A horn blast from the street then a two seater car swerved alongside the kerb.
Marikas long legs touched the street. This was not the mobile mausoleum that had
docked outside Grillparzer's home in earlier days. Marika now eschewed Rafaelle's
bullet proof limousines. She cursed and kicked the whisky bottle under the bed.
'Visions, said Marika. 'To imagine with open eyes. I've been dabbling.
Interrogating the poppy.
Grillparzer said, 'Ah,' and thought of the bottle under the bed.
'Opium, Marika continued. 'Rafaelle does not know.
'Of course, said Grillparzer, nodding in a quick nervous way. Initially she had
45

suspected a prank but there was an undeniable restlessness in the other woman's face.
Not quite sure how to proceed she frowned, an expression that seemed to irk Marika,
who perhaps suspecting condescension, snatched a pen and paper from the desk and
declared she would prove what she said.
Together they crowded on the floor and tentatively Marika traced an outline upon
the sheet. Grillparzer watched face as close as pen and within a minute Marika had
become completely engrossed in mapping out an intricate pattern of corridors and
ante-chambers.
'Hormisdas Palace, she said.
After a short while she began darkening the principal apartments, crossing in
windows and doors and on occasion scrubbing them out.
'I've only been in this part once,' she said, pointing. 'It's mostly used by the guard.'
Grillparzer's eyebrows lifted in feigned surprise.
'On the other side of this arch there is a great domed entrance hall. There are eight
arches, four supporting the roof which has beautiful mosaic pictures. Animals, battles,
that sort of thing, and in the centre...'
She stared in wonder at the ceiling.
'I stand with Justinian.'
'Of course, your husband, responded Grillparzer.
'How could he be my husband,' she snapped. 'I've got one.'
Grillparzer did a mental side step and began to talk quickly.
'I'm married to Rafaelle,' Marika said.
'I know that, Grillparzer assured her.
Marika then sprang to her feet and began an animated pantomime. As she spoke she
acted out what she saw.
'If I condescend to see someone they have to crawl towards me, then kiss the instep
of both bare feet. '
Grillparzer didn't move.
'If I do not ask the person why they wish to see me then they must retire. Crawling
on all fours. Just like dogs do.'
Grillparzer discovered she was frowning again.
46

'They'll wait for days,' Marika continued. 'It's wonderful.'


Grillparzer felt little sympathy with that conclusion. She filled two glasses of water.
Marika gulped half of the liquid then looked at her but Grillparzer avoided the gaze. It
was all much more than her hangover could stand.
'Gould I keep this?' she asked, picking up the sketched map of Hormisdas Palace.
'I'll draw you a better one,' Marika replied. 'The people bow to me in the corridors. I
have been ill but I'm not sure from what.'
She stopped short and stared at the door hands trembling. As Grillparzer handed her
the coat, the Town Hall bell began to mark the hour. Marikas face was pale.
Together they walked out to the street, shouting farewells as the engine fired. The
Kelloch Brass Band stood at a corner of the square playing a rousing rendition of
'Onward Christian Soldiers.'
Several people in shapeless hats stood watching.

'Marching as to war!'
Some of the onlookers stamped their feet. Marika's car gathered speed and skidded
around the statue scattering members of the band, who, instruments braying, shook
their fists in reply to the musical horn. Grillparzer laughed. In hope of placating her
hangover she began to walk. Luminous rain clouds crouched upon the heights of
Kelloch Moor. From behind concrete walls children chanted regular verbs. A brief
flash of light upon an upstairs window. Somewhere far above, the sun was trying to
break through.
47

CHAPTER SIX
As Clarion slept, past and future intermingled. Denny saw Field Marshall Goering
land on Clarion Moor. He tumbled out of the plane, his big face beaming, arms piled
with cartons of hand made cigarettes, Denny had watched as the plane circled to land.
On the final approach it had nonchalantly bombed a fleet of fishing boats off Dunscaith

Head.
A small circle gathered, applauding loudly as the fat man stumbled towards them,
his boots squelching into the bog. It was announced that congratulations were due to
Rafaelle and his wife Marika on the birth of an unexpected baby boy, who it was
discovered shared the same birthday as the composer Wagner. Rafaelle after inviting
the distinguished visitor to partake of a free meal at the Corona Cafe, mentioned in
passing that he had met his wife on a sponsored bed push. This pleased the Field

Marshall immensely.
The next Denny knew he was amid a snow storm as the Latvian steamer, Griski of
Riga went aground on Dunscaith Head. Her lights blazed and huge black waves
crashed down upon the decks. Breeches buoy were used to drag survivors from the
rocks. The burial of dead men in Clarion cemetery changed somehow to a row of
empty trampoline pits. A memorial plaque was unveiled by the Latvian Consul who
presented the lifeboat coxswain with the Latvian order of Three Stars.
Upon the purple draped stage of the Town Hall, Harnesses McMillan accepted a
cheque for the repair of the trampolines.
'It would be a crime to have them filled in.'
He went on to say that they were an indispensible feature of the town and should be
retained at all cost.
Denny and Harnesses plodded homeward through driving snow. Ramasses would
have a long walk back to his hill farm. He unscrewed the top from a walking stick and
swallowed the amber nectar within, remarking as he did on the low pedal cycle
accident rate in Clarion.
'Due no doubt, he added, 'that most of them prefer to use the pavement. It would be
a marvellous aid to our failing economy, if they could be persuaded to purchase front
and rear lights!' Apparently one had zoomed past in the blizzard. Taking a step back
48

Samasses had slipped and fell. As Denny helped him up, it became clear that he had
lost the top to the walking stick. They clung together, Ramases craftily fishing in
Denny's pockets, convinced he had stolen the spirit flask. They both staggered as in a
dance. Drifts crept in around them. A voice boomed from above,
'Denny Thriepland of Main Street Clarion, found guilty of burglarising the Rex
Cinema and stealing one hundred pounds in loose change. The accused was
apprehended after a short chase.'
Denny became aware of a stifling presence of criticism. He saw a theatre in Scarefla
Wood. Across the stage hung a banner which read.

Thoughts for Critics.


'To poison plays, I see them where they sit, Scattered like ratsbane, up and down the
pit. Denny counted the prison bars and sighed.
Leaders were the original sin,' he heard Grock the Scran say. 'Truth has no path.
Obedience to a path means conflict. You must strip away conditioning. Begin with
knowledge of self. Any method or system is a pattern that takes away responsibility.'
Grock the Scran pointed towards the theatre,
'Look at the activity of your own illusions. Human beings have always been self
centred. Truth has no path,
Denny could hear the gaoler's boots echo.
'And always remember we are together in this beastly business of living. There was
laughter. Grock's face faded. Scarefla Wood lay covered in deep snow, Denny realised
that he had somehow escaped from the prison. The only black verticals were the trees.

CLARION HERALD JUNE 1959

The rocky reaches around Clarion Moor will be used for location shots in a
multi-million dollar film to be financed by Ixion Studios this coming spring. It was
confirmed that the principal reason Clarion had been selected was due to the landscape.
This is a dubious compliment as the company were looking for landscape that
resembled the barren wastes of the Ahaggar, They will have need of several hundred
extras and these will be drawn from Clarion itself. It seems that either an Arab or
49

Teutonic look is called for,

THE STRANGER

Johnny and Cheryl sat in the Juggler's Arms. Barmaids in their quaint beribboned
corsets tottered past smiling. From a corner the flic flac of playing cards. At the bar sat
a line of men; a livid neon pinkness to their faces. Johnny had been drinking cocktails,
which in truth he could not afford, but excused this extravagance on the grounds of
celebration. Cheryl had switched to lime allowing him the luxury of garrulous
incoherance, Cheryl invented pictures that went along with the sounds. They had not
met for six days and it was only on account of her father falling unexpectedly asleep
that she had telephoned arranging this meeting. At times when Johnny punctured a
melancholic vein that might lead to self pity, she would lean over as if to whisper then
gently bite his earlobe. This had a curious reviving effect, so that he staggered to his
feet and advanced on the bar. It was while he was ordering drinks that a young woman
seated on a stool brushed her foot against his leg. As he turned she smiled.
'We've met somewhere, she said in such an insistent way that this was clearly a
hope for the future rather than a statement of events passed,
'Ah, good,' said Johnny, then found that all facilities of speech had left him.
Grinning madly he backed away.
'We'll talk later,' she promised, as he turned about and walked into a table. He
nodded back at her, pleasantly thrown by this sudden attraction. She winked in a way
that suggested all manner of unspoken possibilities. He returned to the table and with
grandiloquent bluster greeted Cheryl. She began talking of her need to pursue a career
outwith the influence of her father.
'I wanted to be a hygienist, that's what I really wanted to be, but I didn't get the
grades at school, and dad wouldn't hear of it. You know what he's like. It's got to be a
dentist or nothing.' She stared at the lime juice then drank from Johnny's glass instead.
'Best they could offer was dental assistant and you don't get doing anything
interesting there. No drill work, removing plaque or even teeth polishing.
65.
50

Johnny squinted at her, decided he was not hearing things, and plonked his hat down
on her head.
The woman at the bar had managed to reflect herself upon three of the mirrors. To
either side drinkers sat hunched at the buttoned vinyl; all practitioners of the thousand
miles stare. Her legs were twisted around the stool. A fat man in black shirt and yellow
tie leaned over to speak to her. The barman tapped him on the shoulder then muttered
in his ear. The man immediately resumed his slouch,
'I thought I'd try photography, said Cheryl. 'Become a clicker. The woman at the
bar watched Johnny in the mirror. Her tongue flicked onto her upper lip. She smiled.
I wonder why it is?' said Cheryl, 'that a man behind a camera always reminds me of
a butler peeking through a keyhole,' 'Hard and smooth,' thought Johnny as he watched
the stranger, 'Thighs you could fry an egg on.'
His sister stroked her fingers slowly back and forth upon his knee, The woman
watched as if she were in fact touching him by some remote process of puppetry.
Johnny noticed her shoes and wristwatch were of expensive design and not available in
local windows. Her hair had the sheen of a crow's wing. He was certain she did not
come from Kelloch though she could be one of the rich agricultural wives. The barman
mixed her another drink and with surprise he saw that she did not pay for it.
'Yes,' thought Johnny, 'an older husband who left her alone in one of these big
houses in the backlands. Worn Persian carpets and a staircase you could train a fleet of

salmon on.
This reinforced his intention to visit the lavatory, which he announced rather loudly.
Cheryl offered him the hat crown downwards.
I am but mad, nor nor west.
'Then go hawk your handsaws, she replied.
The gentleman's room stank of disinfectant. It was lined with contraceptive
machines illustrated with diagrams of the strange sub-oceanic creatures that could be

found inside.
As he washed his hands he pondered the choice now looming. Should he leave with
his sister or wait and hope that something might develop. To be caught between the
two would be denial through indecision.
51

He pushed out through the swing doors and collided with her in the corridor.
'Phone me ,' she said. 'Tonight. A card was slipped into his hand. She turned and
hurried through a side door. Sweat broke out on his brow. He steadied himself against

the wall.
'Something is wrong,' thought Johnny. 'Why am I nervous?'
When he returned unsteadily to the bar Cheryl suggested that perhaps it was time to

go.
'Anyway,' she added, 'your friend has gone. So you wouldn't have anything to look
at.'
She smiled a coy dagger smile and Johnny did not even pretend. As they walked
back to the boat his hand felt inside his pocket fingering the card. Yet still he was
aware of an unsteadiness.
As if reading his thoughts Cheryl said: 'We are walkers into the night of this world's
dead. A sign on a shop window went out.
They turned out onto the quay. Wooden hulls creaked in rows. A slip slap of water
on worn stone steps, A fine rain fell. The cobbles glinted.
'I think he is still asleep,' said Cheryl. 'No light showing. Johnny kissed her then
watched as she made her way over the gentle sway of craft. She was a slight sure
footed figure, at times invisible.
Emptily homeward glides my boat, sighed Johnny, and began to walk. 'All I hold
is Stardust. He was trying to pretend that the invitation in the bar had never been made.
This disappeared on sighting a telephone kiosk. He half hoped he was out of change,
but this was not the case.
Grillparzer sat in Hazlewood's gloomy house on the north shore.
'What I need is a rest,' moaned Hazlewood, determined to be rude to this unexpected

visitor.
A good kick up the backside, retorted Grillparzer. 'There is nothing so destructive
as rest and if persisted in, you must alter the vowel. It becomes rust and eats the very

fabric of the heart.


'You know nothing, replied Hazlewood.
'Far too much money,' growled Grillparzer. 'It has made you bored. Take a cure.
52

Send me some.
Hazlewood gave her a hangdog look.
'Come to think of it, you don't look well,' she persisted cheerfully. Hazlewood
grimaced. 'I don't look my best when I'm ill.
In an attempt to divert his self pity Grillparzer began to read aloud from one of the
books she had brought with her.
'When a love affair which Theodora had been conducting with a slave was about to
be exposed, whispers having reached the Emperor, she had the man flogged on a
charge of committing offences against young boys.
As if this was not sufficient, she then had him castrated, an act from which he died.'
Grillparzer banged the book shut and Hazlewood jumped. 'This is the woman Marika
seeks to emulate.
Hazlewood stared at the windows. Outside rain shimmered in the half dark.
'Rafaelle must be nervous having a Byzantine murderess as a wife. Amazing how
people find each other.'
Grillparzer nodded. 'It's odd to think how different the Christian religion would be
today if it had not been for the intervention of one cunning harlot. A pornocracy that
damned us forever with the fixed geographical concept of heaven and hell.
'Not the first whore to end up with her back on the throne,' Hazlewood responded.
He got up and kicked at a smouldering log.
'She gave up men in the collective sense,' Grillparzer added, 'but only once she had
power over them. No need for bed. General Belisarius ended up begging for his life. A
hardened soldier reduced to a quaking imbecile. Though I must say, before she died
she had the foresight to have herself declared a saint.'
'Which reminds me, said Hazlewood. 'Cheryl seems to be back with Johnny. Not as
if I can keep her in chains, poor girl. She's fed up pretending to look after a man

pretending to be ill.
He sighed then crossed the room to shake Grillparzer's hand. The interview was over.
'So you've had to put up with my bad temper. Do you good!' He then wound up the
grandfather clock.
They walked down the hallway, past the counterfeit heraldic banners, escutcheons
53

and crossed halberds. He had named the house 'Marmion.'


'At times, said Hazlewood, 'I feel like a jack rabbit searching for a hat. We all have
a need to belong somewhere.' A bow legged suit of armour stood beside the umbrella
stand. Hazlewood opened the front door. The fact that Grillparzer was leaving had
cheered him up. Spits of rain slanted against the electric light.
'Our hopes and wishes are like trains. Always late in arriving. Never late in leaving.'
'Grillparzer nodded, then bid him good night.
When Johnny awoke all he could remember was that he had been taken to some
place totally unknown. The fast car ride, a lurching track, her dark hair blowing over
his face. He'd swigged a drink from her silver flask. After that it had all become rather
peculiar; as if he were living under the sea.
The heat was tremendous. He became aware of a surrounding jungle. Orange and
blue flowers were tangled within a wilderness of weeds. He rolled onto his knees,
choking now in this equatorial warmth. Light filtered down through fronds of palm and
fern. He could hear a fountain. Sweat poured as he crawled through the vegetation,
somehow sure that his presence had been noted. A fountain in the shape of a pineapple
occupied a small clearing. Without hesitation he stripped off the sodden clothes and
stumbling on the rim fell back under a hail of icy water. Gasping he lay there, the
coolness touching the lobes of his ears. If this was a hangover, it was the primal beast
of the species. His hat floated beside him. He put it on, able to see more clearly as the
brim deflected some of the spray.
The dark haired woman sat on a plinth within an archway. As Johnny stood up he
could see that a large bath had been cut into the stone. Naked, she slipped down into it,
motioning for him to follow, which is what he did, staggering, hat dripping, then
faltering on the edge, for the hollow had been filled with rose petals which swirled
around her, partly covering her breasts,
'Come in and get dried, she said.
He sank down into this velvet hollow. Her long legs tangled around him. Petals
flurried in their hair and eyes. They locked together swaying. He recalled her nails
scoring into the nape of his neck.
In time a gurgle of fountain returned. Needle points of birdsong punctured the outer
54

world. He lay weightless, hardly sure which of these limbs were his. Softly she
whispered,
'A warrior leaves the white flower in my womb.
Her fingers traced faint curves upon his neck. Bright chlorophyl greens sparkled
beneath closed lids; her warm hands gently moving then a sudden coldness,
Beauty as the body, she said. 'Benign as the right arm, severe as the left.'
Again that touch of coldness. He frowned, 'Glory as his left should be.
She came down upon him. He saw the machete blade balanced in both hands. She
held the edge between thumb and forefinger, then kissed.
'Foundation, she said,
She lowered the machete. Dark blood had smeared along her lips. She kissed him
upon the mouth.
55

CHAPTER SEVEN
Perhaps Denny stared too long at the theatre in Scarefla Wood. For a cast had
suddenly arrived costumed and as he scribbled in the margin of a script they crowded
around the edge of the ballroom which had been strewn with green leaves. He saw
Grock the Scran in the guise of a wizard king carry each performer in turn to a scarlet
carpet which stood at the centre of the floor, Denny did not join the others on the island
but stood at the perimeter. He cleared his throat and spoke. 'Can we take it from the top
please? Positions! Marie it's you, and, Hormisdas Palace, night falling,' THEODORA-
I'm afraid he loves me.
ANTONINA- It's how they are darling. Hungry? Eat! Gobble, gobble,
and not a thought of how you feel. Take a can opener to a Swiss watch half of them.

THEODORA- Men are a bit like jewellry. At times a necessary adornment.


ANTONINA- If that silly boy hadn't gawped at our theatre, we wouldn't
have to go through all this.
DENNY- Just keep to the bloody script!
ANTONINA- Men expect so much. It's such a bore bouncing about trying
to be everybody's little ray of sunshine.
THEODORA- We have fun though. In between times.
ANTONINA- When resting on the laurels.
(SHE SITS ON HER HUSBAND BELISARIUS WHO IS ON HIS HANDS
AND KNEES FORMING A HUMAN BENCH.)
DENNY- Fine! Can we hold it there? Mr Gillow. When Sophie sits
on you. Could you give a yelp of pain? Like a dog.
THEODORA- (SINGING. AS SHE DOES SO SHE WALLOPS THE GENERAL
ON THE HEAD WITH A BULGING XMAS STOCKING)
On the eve of Xmas with presents round the tree.

I wonder who we give them to,


Little you or me?
And you won't get any if you're not good will you?
If you can't last ten minutes, then no supper.
ANTONINA- I always get my sock filled.
56

THEODORA- Tart! Not me. No puzzles, pins, mirrors or beads,


though I once got a chocolate mouse. Bit its head off,
Left it on daddy's plate.
ANTONINA- Always told how grateful we should be. Some little girls
got no-oh presents!
(SHE KICKS BELISARIUS'S BACKSIDE.)
Because the big fat Santa Daddy didn't love them,

on account of their wickedness.


THEODORA- I used to wonder how all us poor kids always managed
to be so wicked.
ANTONINA- No presents. If you are poor, then you must be wicked. THEODORA-
Only the good get rich. Someone loves them, even when they are bad.

GEN. B.- They poisoned me. They destroyed me.


ANTONINA- What about these parsnips darling?
THEODORA- (SCOLDING) There's millions of little boys and girls
in China would be glad of that.
ANTONINA- (PICKING UP A DOG BOWEL) Why won't you eat it? There's
nothing wrong with it. Come on, eat it up for me.
THEODORA- Be a good little soldier. Soldiers always eat their
dinner. (GIVES HIM A KICK. HE HOWLS)
ANTONINA- Did a silly thing today. Bought two eye shadows almost
the same colour. Both to go with my angora dress.
GEN. B.- I'm starving.
ANTONINA- One though is certainly nicer than the other. One is mauve. Infact it's
Mauve! - and the other one is a smokey lavender with the slightest overtones of a
lilac purple. Really much more subtle. (SHE SHOUTS IN THE GENERAL'S EAR)
More me I think!
DENNY- Okay, let's hold it there. That was a nice surge. Marie darling, you
don't have to kick him quite so hard. Relax Major Gillow. Get off him for God's sake!
Okay. This is where you take the shopping trolleys and
circle around him in opposing directions.
57

ANTONINA- Breast feeding. Theodora- Sweet sucking.


ANTONINA- Aggressive cigarette smoking.
THEODORA- Lips pursed. (PUTS HAND OUT AS IF FOR A COIN)
ANTONINA- Wide in smile.
THEODORA- The conquering hero's bronze profile.
(SHE POINTS TO BELISARIUS)
ANTONINA- Such a nice tan.
THEODORA- It's his best side.
ANTONINA- He's just a man.
THEODORA- We'll manage fine.
ANTONINA- When we want someone to go and die.

CLARION HERALD JULY 1959

Full houses greeted the presentation of the one act play 'Alpha Draconis which was
enacted most effectively in the High School gymnasium. The play was produced by
Denny Thriepland. In the cast were Major V. Gillow, Miss Sophie Skevington, Miss
Marie Pelligrino and an unidentified player who refused to give his name. As he made
a most delightful wizard king, perhaps he could be persuaded to return for the Xmas
pantomime. Special effects were by the Rev. Ernest Davies, who also provided biscuits
and tea. A splendiferous evening!

SINS OF THE FATHERS

High above Kelloch Moor clouds weaved the shape of a horse. Hughey the Hog
stopped to look upwards. The sack of mole traps dropped to his side. A lapwing rose
then circled. In an hour the wind would increase but the tide would not turn until
mid-afternoon. This fact was crucial to his plans.
He was following a track that led to Mallachdaig, former ancestral home of the
Lords Pendreich. From where he stood he could see the terraced pleasure gardens and
some distance from the house, a pavilion style railway station which had once
58

disembarked weekend guests, white frocked and tail coated, sure of an escape from the
cares of the world. How impressively permanent the granite towers must have seemed
to them then?
Once a week Hughey the Hog left his shack in Scarefla Wood and went to visit
Nemeton who within living memory had been butler to the last Pendreich. Nemeton
had set up residence in a cave at the foot of the cliffs which bordered one side of the
mansion ruins. This cave could only be reached during certain times of the tide. Here
Nemeton trapped game or fished and on chill nights a blaze of driftwood brought
warmth to his bones. Hughey would sometimes donate a bottle of firewater and there
would be meat and potatoes to eat. Through the years these meetings had acquired a
ritual solemnity, with the stroll along the crescent of white sand, tide allowing and then
as the pot spat, tales from the halcyon days of Mallachdaig. How the scented people
had mingled, while below them in the mines others toiled so that they could have the

privilege of dining in a hall of Italian marble.


The Pendreich fortune was based on the spoils of war and had then expanded to
ownership of land and coal. So it went, from harrying the Spaniards off the Philippines
to the organisation of slave labour for the mines of Kelloch. The wearing of black hats
by men on Sundays was compulsory. Children in order to gain employment on any of
the Pendreich farms had to know the history and illustrious pedigree of this most
beneficiate family. 'The History of the Lords Pendreich, was of course a highly edited
volume which went on a great deal about the erecting of various churches but said
nothing for instance of Torfinn Pendreich, who in 1775 had locked himself in the great
tower for eight days with seventeen serving girls. At sunset he could be seen on the
battlements waving his august wand of office while reciting from the Gospel of St.
Thomas.
He left behind a son, believed legitimate, who became Lord Osgood Pendreich,
better known as the 'Gibbet Feeder. Judge Osgood was undoubtedly mad. In one
afternoon he had caused sixty people to be executed. They died in threes,
simultaneously, by a device of his own invention. In later years his insistence on
celibacy for all in his employ gave way to bouts of depression during which he might
order the seizure of a kitchen cat for fornication.
59

In the last year of his life, he filled his pistols and shot every animal on the estate. He
believed they were the souls of those he had executed, come back to harry his sleep
with their barking and yowling in the night. Thus through obsession the blood line
withered.
Nemeton, who wore the final Pendreich's engraved gold watch filched from the
deathbed, would draw out the branch and correspondance of these tales upon the sand,
arguing as to this detail or the next, which foreign wife had brought the pox, or pantry
maid given birth, only to have her offspring hurried away to some institution. Nemeton
insisted that Pendreich blood still lived on in Kelloch, unaware of their connection with
the biled intestines of the old house. Once Mallachdaig had defined the law, making
laws within laws, yet obeying only those which were to its advantage.
The sea was a glistening parrot green. Nemeton drew on the white sand with a stick.
The point whirled this way and that so that Hughey perched on a nearby rock could
scarcely follow what was happening.
'The sins of the fathers,' shouted Nemeton, above the waves, 'passed even unto the
daughters. Amalia Pendreich squandered a fortune on jewellery while the local
children were barely kept alive.
Spray spouted on the rocks behind them.' Saturn wears pretty rings and beware of
anyone that does the same, He moved deftly to the other side of the pictogram. 'Jupiter!
Next to Venus, second only in order from the sun. When Argot Pendreich murdered his
twin brother. Sent him rolling asleep in a car over the cliff. It was Jupiter with Saturn.
One benign the other insane.
Mad as a pork chop,' yelled Hughey irritated by all this erudition. It was getting
chilly on top of the rock. His thoughts were with the pot of mullet bubbling on the cave

fire.
'Mars, got to watch him. The third Pendreich, born April, slaughtered more people
than the breaths he drew. His reward was these lands. Poison to the seed ever since. It's

the devil's work when they send honest men under the earth for coal. Now Mercury!
He came with the fourth. The spirit of merchants and of thieves. Eloquent though,
could talk himself out of a gamekeeper's bag.'
'They'll be just about cooked, thought Hughey the Hog.
60

'Mercury was more like us I'd say. Not that our thieving robs anyone. But they'd say
it was thieving all the same. There's not a gamekeeper alive or dead who could make a
fish or a pheasant. We're not thieving from anyone, except maybe God, and he don't
mind. If he did, it wouldn't be us here, and all these Pendreichs roasting in hell.' He
stuck the stick into the sand.
'That might remind him of the mullet,' thought Hughey.
'Are you not hungry?' shouted Nemeton, Hughey climbed down from the rock.
'All these Pendreichs will be selling Satan his coal, no doubt, said Hughey as he
shoved both hands in enormous pockets and set off towards the cave. After a last look
at the diagram, Nemeton followed, As they scrunched up the steep slope of shell the
breakers closed in behind them. It was rare except during storms for the sea to
approach the cave mouth. Even so, Hughey felt apprehensive when the tide turned and
the rocky approach path sank beneath deep water. It would be morning before he could

leave.
61

CHAPTER EIGHT
Denny awoke at eight. His mind traced back to the time when Sophie had hit him
over the head with a bottle of whisky, and wasted half of it. Sophie who was scared of
no man but was feared of moths, since one flew up her nostril at a candle-lit dinner
dance. One of his more notable failures. All the more cause for lament, given her deep
keel, just built for the southern oceans.
He was vaguely aware of hoarse cries from cars attempting birth in the street. Then
shouts and screams from small boys and girls who excited by the light and lack of
camouflage became instant enemies, hurling snowballs, shouting names, or pushing
each other over like rutting reindeer. In the whiteness targets were so well defined.
Snowballs smashed into tottering shoppers. The youths thought it was great fun, and
later in the day were attacking trains.
Two old ladies swathed in scarves poured pails of boiling water upon their doorsteps,
then stood shouting over the buried fence, excited as schoolgirls at a jeweller's window.
Pennants of spindrift blew on the high ridge above Scarefla Woods.
A lorry with a load of rabbit hampers slid out of control down New Quay Lane,
crashed through the back of Boag's Boatyard and impacted with the ancient release
mechanism causing the premature launch of an eighty five foot seine net trawler.
Owing to a strong ebb tide, coupled with a force five north easterly, the vessel was only
momentarily spotted, before disappearing into a snow storm, some miles south of
Dunscaith Head.
The cry and rattle of the snow chained ambulance reverberated through the streets.
Denny rolled in his bedclothes and heard the yap of passing schoolchildren. A mist
poured in and by the lamp of a battered car he stood with others while boys sped by on
sledges. Occasionally a splash would come from the darkness as a sledge failed to turn
the tight corner and flew into the river. Now he remembered. It was a school he had
been told about, but by whom, he could not be certain. Major Gillow stood with a
cricketing jersey under his arm and a cocker spaniel bounded around him. In the
distance he heard the sound of games whistles. They marched back in twos along the
rhododendron shadowed path that led to the turreted building now dark against the
evening sky. Sledges whizzed past in doubles, one boy holding a torch while the one
62

below miraculously steered down through the pines. Small bats flitted overhead.
Gillow hurried them along. 'You'll miss tea if you don't get a move on.'
They filed in through an arched doorway, legs numb with the cold, fists clenched
under sodden cuffs. The changing rooms with their hooks and wooden benches smelt
of mud and sweat. It was a harsh electric light and as they stripped off, Miss Chalmers
in a brown tweed suit, began shouting out names from a long list. The boys answered
when their names were called. All this puffing bright eyed enthusiasm did not come
easily to Denny. Through the swing doors the smell of cooking mixed with the odour
of wet games clothes.
Denny found it alarming to realise that at this moment he could not be more than ten
years of age. Naked boys trotted off to line up. In a windowless concrete room they
queued for the hot bath, where under the sharp eyed Miss Chalmers they would sit
three a breast: in black water adrift with green soap and scrubbing brushes. On her
order 'Next!' the one at the end would leap out of the hot bath and submerge himself in
the cold bath. If the head failed to go entirely under the water they were ordered to
repeat the exercise. She watched the various reactions to this ordeal with an amused
detachment.
Later in her room she sat on the bed, legs crossed, smiling at him. He stood with his
hands clasped behind his back.
Why are you so unhappy?' she asked. There were magazines on the bed and a warm
electric fire. Such luxury astonished him.
He remembered the length of corridor that led to her door. On one side the Spanish
serving staff and on the other the Major, with his whisky and hoard of butterscotch.
Had he and Miss Chalmers an arrangement? Their creakings masked by the
unintelligable curses shouted from the foreign principality next door. Arm in arm
they'd walk, these black curtained Spanish women, down the snaking snowy drive,
singing snatches of wailing song and cooking the cats on feast days. He'd seen them
throwing stones at the birds and cursing the very skies.
'You can tell me,' said Miss Chalmers. 'No one will know.
'There was a woman called Grillparzer who lived in a town beside the sea. Denny
cleared his throat then continued. 'Her friend had left her and had not returned. At night
63

she cried out. 'Lead us not into temptation. Us deliver from evil.
'Ah. But you must continue, said Miss Chalmers.
Grillparzer felt the hardness of the ground beneath her. She sat on a rise that
separated the lake's western boundary from a cliff hung valley below. Coldness
pricked her face. Getting onto her feet, she stared at the iced lake and the yacht
imprisoned at its centre. The sails formed a blue triangle. They were sinking into the
haze. Once they had disappeared she turned and began to walk. She felt the cold at her
back but ahead lay the warmth of a veiled sun. Clouds of white butterflies scattered to
left and right. She laughed aloud.
The next moment she had plunged into a hidden pothole. With some difficulty she
climbed out, leaving the rucksack behind. There would be no need for it now that the
yacht had gone.
The heat increased. Often she paused on her erratic course to wipe sweat from her
eyes. Words swam inside her head until they became one continuous tune.

'UM-AH-EH-YE-YA, UM-AH-YE-YE.
In the bedroom Cherry Haze had stood for a moment, suitcase in hand. Grillparzer
had been about to get up and persuade her to stay. Cherry Haze put a single finger to
her mouth indicating silence. As she left, high heels echoed on the stair.
Grillparzer skidded on the downward scree, grabbing out at the rocks. One of them
rolled her head over heels. As she lay winded she became aware of strong arms
dragging her body across the ground. Then that also passed. She squinted up at the
ridged slopes of the mountain where flocks of sheep stood watching her. Sometime
before falling she thought she remembered two shepherds who had stopped and asked
to search the rucksack. With great courtesy and smiles of friendship she had pointed
back to the valley. They had muttered then waved their sticks, setting off in the
direction indicated. She heard a sound not unlike her own breathing but harsher. It
came from high above. A huge bird's shadow flipped by and was gone.
She continued. It was a battle with gravity and it made little difference whether
Grillparzer was ascending or descending. Brilliant red flowers shone from the shadows
of boulders. Their rich intensity matched that of the sun now dropping like a blooded
stone. It was steep and the mountain lost light quickly. Her eyes flooded with tears, so
64

that she could not see where she descended to. Suddenly the scree gave way. Rocks
tumbled around her. Her body crumpled in the heat, mouth filled with salt. No sound
came as she tried to speak. Then blackness followed.
When the visions came they began in shaky sequence, stabs and sparks that crackled

within the darkness. She saw the shepherds carefully lift her rucksack from the pothole.
It arose hooked to four crooks as if they performed a burial service in reverse. Behind
them many black dogs sat in rows on the steep slope. She turned away but other dogs
now sat behind her watching. Her rucksack had bloodstains. Grillparzer could not
remember who she had killed. The dogs kept arriving. There were no sheep to be seen.
Part of her wanted to stay, to find out who she had killed, but the other part feared the
dogs. They sat, black and glossy, agate eyes bright in the gloaming.
The shepherds gave a roar of delight. Their crooks jabbed upwards then touched to
form a spoked wheel. They circled slowly. She could hear the chanting. It was the
circular tune she had been aware of before. The hills had turned black with dogs. The
chanting became an uncontrolled song. The shepherds began to dance. Cloaks flashed
as they leapt in close together, then jumped high in the air, sticks clashing as they

turned.
Grillparzer tried to remember what she had left in the bag. It annoyed her to think
she had left it behind. It still belonged to her, therefore she had every right to demand
its return. She yelled at the dancers loud as she could. The hills boomed back and hands

to her ears she screamed at the intensity of the echo. The dancers tumbled as if their
puppeteer had suffered a heart attack. The agate eyed dogs all turned towards her. The
shepherds picked themselves up, squabbling as to whose stick was whose, while others
peered suspiciously towards the hills.
Grillparzer walked determinately towards them and much to her surprise they
formed themselves into two ragged lines on either side of the pothole. They all
muttered as if caught out at school. The bracken scratched her ankles. A moon was
rising. The rucksack lay at the tallest shepherd's feet. The nearest dogs began to bark
but were quickly quietened.
'I have come for that which is rightfully mine, she said. The tallest shepherd
regarded her with great sadness, then reaching down pulled from the rucksack, the
65

severed head of a woman. Her eyes were open and her long cherry hair fluttered softly

in the moonlight.
Grillparzer screamed. The head smiled. Dogs jostled in on either side, pressing
against her. A shepherd prodded and she tumbled backwards into the hole. Agate eyes
glowed in darkness as the dogs looked down upon her. The number of these animals
was so great that those at the edge began to fall in beside her. Their breath smelt of
dead lambs. Down they came, paws scrabbling, while those at the bottom began to
howl as more animals crashed down on top of them. The hole filled quickly with black
struggling glossy coats. It became one living body, so densely packed that it scarcely
moved. Within the stifled breathing came that genethliac circular song.
UM-AH-EH-YE-YA, UM-AH-YE-YE.

CLARION HERALD AUGUST 1959

On Tuesday, a cow while being driven to the slaughter house, broke away and
stampeded at full speed down the quay. The turbine steamer happened to be newly
arrived and the dangerous appearance of the cow created considerable consternation
among the passengers, a number of whom took refuge in the pier shed, where they
were followed by the infuriated beast. As a result of this a rush was immediately made
for the opposite door and though there were numerous narrow escapes, no personal
injury was sustained in the stampede. The goods in the shed however did not escape
the violence of the animal, about sixteen cheeses being damaged. The animal was, after
some difficulty secured and taken to the slaughterhouse.

THE PAST REVISITED

As Grillparzer came thumping back into consciousness, it felt as if a triple


expansion engine had been installed overnight in her skull. She tried to close her eyes
but the pain increased. Her hands clutched for blankets but none could be found. She
rolled slowly and hit the floor. Here she noticed a portion of red carpet which she
recognised as her own. The bed from which she had fallen seemed inconceivably far
66

away. Halfway to the bathroom she sensed iced linoleum on her palms, then once more
a surrender to the vortex.
It could have been five hours or five minutes later that the telephone rang, and while
she was being sick, it continued to ring. In the kitchen a chair lay overturned. She
groped for her wallet and saw that it contained no money. Then by a miracle of
co-ordination she managed to brew a pot of black coffee, drink two pints of water and
put her shoes on. Memories from the previous evening juddered past. She rubbed her
brow and Hazlewood's face swung up, then disappeared like one of these fairground
clown heads that do a back flip when the ball strikes them. Hazlewood's nose had been
much the same colour. The coffee cup clattered against her teeth.
On trembling legs she retired to the shower where she stood panting under the
onslaught of water and when almost on the point of fainting, was rescued by the
insistent cries of the telephone. She sat on the floor, both shoes sopping for she had
forgotten to remove them and listened as Rafaelle's measured tones induced sobriety.
'You can come here or I will send the car. Whichever is convenient.
Confused she prevaricated and was quickly told of the others intention to visit
within the half hour.
Rafaelle arrived in an ugly limousine. The chauffeur rang her bell then led the way
down quickly, his gloved hands curled as if in readiness for a steering wheel. Rafaelle
did not turn when Grillparzer slid in alongside. A moment later they were off down one
of the deserted side streets. Grillparzer realised that they were not heading for Ixion but
were taking the southern coast road. She stole a side glance at Rafaelle who twitched
and settled back into the dark of a buttoned leather corner. It was not until they had
passed the last of the delapidated merchant's houses that Rafaelle leaned forward and
undipped a lid of polished walnut. From a cabinet he removed a whisky decanter. A
large double was poured, ice added, then the glass thrust into Grillparzer's shaky
hands.
'Take it,' he ordered, as if she were a child refusing medicine. The walnut lid
snapped back into position. His lizard eyes watched as she drank. She found the
countryside looked unreal through these tinted windows. Everything seemed to be
fixed in a permanent state of twilight.
67

'My wife,' he began, 'seems to have accepted you.' Grillparzer managed an


inquisitive side glance.
'She is infatuated with me,' continued Rafaelle, 'and for a man in my position and
time of life, that. Well if it could be managed discreetly. However that is not to say that
her conduct has been anything but becoming. You understand my meaning?'
Rafaelle nodded to indicate that he at least understood his meaning.
'It is not however possible to conduct business and entertain such a lively eh, mind. I
seem to have lost one woman and gained another.
Not a fault I assure you. Quite the reverse. But I have to consider my health. The
heart can be delicate. '
'If overtaxed,' replied Grillparzer. Rafaelle continued as if reading from a prepared
script.
'I'm sure certain persons would be amused by my wife's preoccupations, but I've
never considered myself to be an object of fun. This does not mean that I cannot

laugh.
The big car veered from the main road and followed one of the high hedged lanes
that intersected the lower farmlands.
Kafaelle decided he should not attempt the delicate business of explaining how his
over exposure to marital delight had proved unconductive to the practice of commerce.
'Marika has been devising maps, said Grillparzer. 'A form of theatrical therapy.
One does worry that it may reinforce the illusion.'
'If it keeps her occupied, growled Rafaelle, 'then that's okay.' Grillparzer sucked at
her whisky with a scholarly frown. The ice was beginning to melt. The horn brayed as
they swept past a tractor on the crest of the hill. Rafaelle, despite his wealth had never
attained what he considered the upper echelons of society. To them, he would remain
the gangster, and was dealt with at the trades entrance, albeit with incredible
politeness.
'Mallachdaig,' said Grillparzer. The turrets swam by, stark within a fold of
corrugated hill. Rafaelle smiled, then fell back.
'Hollow ruin bound in madness,' continued Grillparzer inverting the whisky glass
upon her knee.
68

'I will fill these ruins,' murmured Rafaelle, 'with whatever my wife cares to dream.
Obsession's playground. Don't look so worried. It is not an asylum I have in mind.'
His words tailed off as the car drew up before a pair of emblazoned iron gates, set
beneath a semi-circular stone overthrow. With a great deal of pushing and kicking the
chauffeur managed to part these twin sentinels.
Ahead lay the drive, a river of wind blown grass overhung with great elms. As the
car crawled forward Grillparzer could see the heraldic figures depicted upon the gates.
A robed lady on a throne held a sword and in the other hand balanced the scales of
justice. It appeared through a freak of oxidisation that the sword had been blooded.
Rafaelle craned forward as the car cleared a rise. Here the elms gave way to a slope of
rough grass which ran to the first of three ruined terraces. A brace of hares bounded out
from under the car. Towering above them, Mallachdaig was a shadow trapped against

the sky.
They pulled up under the walls. A boyish excitement showed on Rafaelle's face. He
was out of the car before the chauffeur could open the door. Grillparzer followed,
walking gingerly through waist high weeds and thistles.
'I take it you know this place? she said as Rafaelle strutted up a flight of moss
covered stairs. The entrance consisted of a high door set in a carved stone arch, from
which gargoyles peered.
Rafaelle looked smug. 'Must be twenty years since I was last here. I offered
Pendreich a deal. A handsome sum of money and his guaranteed occupation until death.
He responded with a hand written note threatening to shoot me if I ever set foot on his

estate.
A hare sat in the driveway watching them.
'Inevitably there were problems with death duties, the establishment of heirs,

litigation, the usual thing.


'Yes,' said Grillparzer. 'Relatives turning up from Hobart with trunks full of
mildewed letters.90
'Yes, said Rafaelle, 'I advertised.
Meanwhile the object of desire rots quietly but quickly, as only these large
properties can. I must admit, a degree of satisfaction.
69

Two eroded lions guarded the doorway which was padlocked. Grillparzer looked
upwards and experienced a tottering sensation of vertigo. The house leaned out from
the sky, a pitted structure blackened with rain, ground and basement windows heavily
boarded. Rafaelle took a bunch of keys from his coat pocket.
'I didn't know it was on the market, said Grillparzer uneasily.
'It's not, he replied, turning the lock. 'I've already bought it. Rafaelle pushed and
the door reluctantly scraped back. They squeezed inside to an aroma of rotted plaster.
An octagonal stone flagged entrance hall gave way to a double staircase illuminated by
a circular window depicting the planet Saturn. They walked side by side, past the
Renaissance style hearth piled with dead leaves to the foot of the stairway, where a
flight of stag's heads glared down with a glassy indifference.
'I'm not exactly sure what I've bought,' said Rafaelle quietly. 'Of course in its day
things were different.' He stared at the glowing window. 'According to the agent there
is a swimming pool. He shrugged as if it might well be an impossibility. 'Also a
billiard room with hand tooled leather walls.' Rafaelle pulled a document from his
pocket and read aloud. 'The dining room consists of an imported Italian Renaissance
chapel. He shook his head. 'What sort of people want to eat in a church?'
'An interchange of flesh and spirit,' quipped Grillparzer. Rafaelle ignored the remark
and continued reading.
'In the garden to the south stands a large greenhouse where once grapes, pineapples
and other exotic fruits were grown, watered by an intricate system of fountains and
streams.'
Rafaelle started up the stairs, hesitating at a dead bird which had fallen on a branch
of stag's horn. Grillparzer waited until the footsteps faded in the upper galleries. The
house had a chill emptiness which disturbed her, as if the heart had been sucked from

it.
'Naked to laughter once the leaves had fallen. Her voice did not echo but stayed in
place, feared to stray. It did not seem likely that Rafaelle expected her to stand like a
gundog among these decaying antlered heads, so more out of nervousness than
curiosity she opened a green baize door set in to one side of the hall. A narrow corridor
led to a grey window. She walked slowly. The smell of crumbling plaster grew
70

stronger as she rounded the corner and came to a room strewn with threadbare rugs.
Several wooden chairs sat round the table. A freckled dance class mirror took up one
wall. A cardboard box much soaked by the rain lay in a corner and from it she pulled
the remains of a ballet dress. It had been partly shredded by rats. She held it up against
her and stood before the mirror. The freckled face that confronted her seemed young in
this wan light. She laid the dress carefully over the back of a chair. Wooden steps led to
the left. She climbed to what must have been a first floor landing. An oriel window
overlooked the gardens. As she approached she was sure she caught a glimpse of two
figures hurrying to take cover in a distant break of trees. She turned. This was a
shadowy place where gilt ancestral frames enclosed a greater darkness. A slurred
whisper from the sea.
Outside the overgrown topiary swayed in a breeze. She wondered if she had
imagined the two figures. Through broken panes, needle points of rain tipped at her
face. A small pony grazed with its backside facing the shower.
A door was set in at one corner of the landing. Turning the handle she slithered
through, fully expecting more dismal apartments, but stopped in astonishment.
Standing on a terrace she overlooked a large swimming pool. Tinted light came
through a stain glass canopy.
'How extraordinary! she said aloud, reduced to banality by the unexpected
spaciousness. Relief wall panels painted with mythological beasts supported a
progression of interconnecting balconies, some of which opened onto interior spaces.
Coloured lights and bunting were strung around the perimeter of the pool. Grillparzer
could hardly comprehend such splendour set within this vast unlit house. At one time
glittering water jets would have fizzed in prismatic starbursts, and guests would have
laughed and swam, oblivious to the harsh realities of the world outside.
Then came the memory of a tale, apocryphal perhaps, of the Pendreich between the
wars whose greatest joy was to throw apprentice serving maids into the pond, hauling
them out in a salmon net then dragging them to a locked and heated bathhouse, where it

was said, they were stripped and ravished by his pet baboon. That is, if one believed the
stories told in pub backrooms. Hazlewood spoke of meeting a lady, deep in her cups
who insisted on showing him ragged scars, caused she said by this demonic animal.
71

The baboon was certainly feared. Grillparzer remembered having seen a yellowed
photograph of it, dressed in a tail coat and top hat, chewing an ebony cane.
During a winter in the late thirties it was found stone dead in a turnip field, stuck
through with over a dozen arrows.
She wished that Rafaelle was within hailing distance. This stillness required another
presence. It was as if time waited in ambush. A black book lay at the end of the diving
board and she might have dipped into her pocket for spectacles, had not the clang of
alarm bells caused her to grab at the balustrade. She spun around, no one shouted, no
smell of fire, only the deafening clamour that chased her as she retreated along the
peeling corridors; these warrens where lives had come and gone, ruled by bells. Then
the sound ceased as unexpectedly as it had begun and as she scuttled out through the
green baize door, she caught sight of Rafaelle, who had appeared simultaneously at the
top of the stairs.
'What the hell was that? he demanded.
Not guilty,' she sang back.
Rafaelle came down the stairs slowly in an attempt to restore equilibrium. He had
been musing in the billiard room, fascinated to discover the mahogany framed table
complete with cues and rests. He had been about to line up a shot when the cacophony
interrupted his stroke. For one disconcerting moment he had thought himself to be an

intruder.
'One of your jokes I suppose, he continued. 'No one told me the electrics were

connected.
Grillparzer tried a switch but no lights came on.
'Sounded more like a fire alarm. A fault in the wiring perhaps. Rafaelle glanced
anxiously up at the massive staircase. In the gloom the stag's heads looked down

mocking him.
For some reason neither felt inclined to continue the exploration that day, and it was
with some relief that Grillparzer slipped past the front door and stood inhaling the sea
air. As Rafaelle walked to the car he recalled the coloured balls on the faded baize and
the pattern they had made around the single white; armorial planets drawing around the
mother moon. The car doors slammed loud as duck guns, and Grillparzer, frowning,
72

poured herself a shot from the back seat decanter. 'As wealth requires insulation from
the cruelty that feeds it, she thought, 'then that would argue a power based on a
foundation of guilt. Hence the obsessional attention shown to heirs, for they have not
only the blood, but also for a while, the redeeming grace of innocence. Innocence of
their parents, due to isolation from them, caused by nurses, servants and tutors. Twenty
years lived out as puppets on a parental stage. One cannot know the parents that are
scarcely seen. They exist separate from the day to day battle of cause and effect. They
live in a provisional god-realm. In the past the misdemeanours of privileged children
were abstracted so that parents were not involved in corrective tactics. The young
master has been more than obstreperous today. I think we might strangle one of the
kittens. Which one was he particularly fond of? '
They stopped while the chauffeur closed the entrance gates. Two urchins stared in
mute wonder at the car. Grillparzer refilled her glass, and the mode of thought
continued. 'In Bohemia a score of virgins were flogged when the young queen failed to
conceive for the third year running. Prayers were said in all the churches.
It did not occur to anyone, or perhaps they were not foolish enough to mention it,
that the old king might be a contributing factor.'
She spat out of the window ignoring a startled glance from Rafaelle who had been
sitting with a sly smile on his face. Grillparzer noticed how flattened by rain the crops
were this year. No secret arenas in the August cornfields; lovers engulfed by the blue
sky. A girl walking with a handprint on the left breast of her white blouse, stiff in the
thighs, golden chaff between stocking and flesh.
There was an old song sung of the wheatfield that would grow once Mallachdaig
was pulled down forever.
'The bosom of the field a golden sea
With the nests of lovers hidden at play,
The children run singing, merry they go,
As straw ropes dancing on a windy day.
There was more needed than songs and festivals. Rafaelle was merely the first
impregn of a recurring cycle. It had after all taken the Pendreichs several generations to
become established. Grillparzer thought of Marika. No doubt a suitable vessel for sons.
73

Thus they arise on the sins of the fathers. 'Ich dien.'


74

CHAPTER NINE
As curtains opened to snowy gardens the citizens of Clarion staggered back to their
dreams of a summer still to come. Biffo wearing a thick wool jersey oiled his upturned
bed, while Sophie, wrapped in army blankets lay curled under the rubber plant. It was
not in a true sense Biffos bed though it was in fact where he usually slept. He claimed
that he slept much better in other people's beds. They seemed much more like home
than his own. Oil dripped on the carpet and every so often he'd give this hefty raft of
springs a kick. A sullen Sophie stared at the ceiling. The knocking had stopped from
the room above. It was not so much that which had caused these impromptu repairs,
but rather Miss Chalmers irritating habit of playing loud country dance music every
time they attempted to make love. The ceiling would vibrate with something like the
'Duke of Perth,' in jackboots. In a more vicious mood she would crank up 'Merrily
Danc'd the Quaker's Wife,' a particularily exhausting tune. Sophie wouldn't have
minded quite so much if Biffo when pissed, hadn't entered so completely into the spirit
of the thing, by giving wild banshee whoops every so often. This made her laugh and it
is not easy to make love and laugh.
So there she lay, Sophie Skevington, ex-headmaster's daughter, educated with a
hundred boys at her father's school, now bankrupt and masquerading as a hotel. She
knew old Evelyn, for she seemed old to her, only banged on the ceiling out of fear of
her liason with Biffo, who wore unacceptable shoes and spoke in what she termed a
'course manner.' 'Your father would not have approved.'
Dunscaith, as the school was called had failed due to falling rolls, inadequate food
and the headmaster's passion for fast motor cars. Sophie could see Biffo's purple shoes
among the lines of polished brogues and hear her father's roar as he called for the rat
catcher so that they might be safely removed.
Miss Chalmers when not driven mad by chirruping bed springs, took the trouble on
birthdays to acknowledge Sophie's presence by baking her a high walled cake in the
shape of her father's bankrupted school. Sophie's room contained a collection of
fox-fur wraps which hung on hooks between the many mirrors. The black window
blind was decorated with a pattern of silver spirals which sparkled with a hidden life
once candles were lit and the day forgotten. In the cold reflected light of dawn the room
75

had a glacid quality as colours floated in isolation unable to lend any warmth. Biffo
took one of several crumpled holiday posters from the bin and wiped the oil from his
hands.
Soon they would return to bed, back to a montage of dreams, both reluctant to face

the falling snow.


Later, lying naked, covers thrown back, heat rising from their bodies they would
argue as to who should buy the morning rolls. This was how blizzards should be
treated, not with the dismal striking of matches at car locks and slow motion waltzes to
places of work; where those that have arrived glower at each other like unacclaimed
artic explorers. The rolls were soon forgotten and pulling up the blankets they returned
to sleep.
As if sensing that somewhere there was contentment, Denny in his loft remembered
the room where he had first made love.
Was it the first or second floor? From the window he could see a triangle of grass
and trees with traffic moving on the far side. Each morning these rythmic waves of
sound from the intersection. Draped on a chair an orange dress and on the floor a rabbit
skin handbag. She was sitting up in bed quite straight, face tanned, body white. A dark
room with a purple carpet. On Sundays they would visit the zoo but if it rained they
stayed indoors and outside beyond the trees a lion and a unicorn watched from pillars
on either side of the road.
'You'll look funny when you're forty. Maybe we should arrange to meet. An empty
carpark somewhere. Twenty years from now. I wonder if you would remember?
Six months later at a deafening all night party, bedrooms full of strangers and
sickness in the lavatory. Near dawn they had just wanted to go to sleep. The drunks
were still lurching and a couple undressed in the other bed. A rinsed blonde attached to
a mumbling salesman who forgot to remove his socks and shoes. Denny could see her
white legs juddering out from the sides of the covers. An obese friend pulled up a chair
and watched. In one hand he held a beer bottle and in the other an open umbrella. He
sang a song as brown ale trickled down his chin; and all the time the white legs jerking
to either side of the bedclothes. Denny felt both sadness and sickness.
His friend had gone off to Rome, dressed in lime green, waving for the last time
76

from the mouth of an underground tube station. She had not returned. After that, even
though it had been his fault, he was determined not to be abandoned by the firey stripey

spirits.
The ones that send lovers on overnight bus journeys. There is a last time to walk out
of every room. Years later on a park bench he sat under that window writing letters to a
unicorn. The past had been carefully tinted...and yet. A bouquet from the heart to the
mind's eye. At the time such dreadful jealousy, so suspicious in his ignorance that he
had poisoned himself with doubt.

Dear Denny,

When I wrote that, I meant you were scared I would go out with someone else-infact
it's you that went out with someone else. Then I thought the reason I went down to the
Jazz Club was really to meet men, so in fact I suppose I have been seeing other folk as
well as you. Then I went on to define it, and if you want it in plain language without
finding subtleties in your behaviour or my behaviour, I'm back to my original
statement- the thing you were frightened I would do (ie. go out with someone else.)
you've done yourself. No I have not slept with anyone since I last saw you. (or before!)
I have not gone out with anyone, in fact the only man I have spoken socially to since
Christmas has been my father. I did not ask you whether you had slept with anyone so
as not to make things more complicated than they were. It should have been something
sorted out later. Why did you have to ask me whether I had slept with some person

unknown?
I hope that sorts out all your little problems quite satisfactorily for you.

Love C.

CLARION HERALD SEPTEMBER 1959

It is with pride and excitement we remind our readers of the Grand Flower Show
which is to be held in the Templar's Hall on Saturday next.
77

The aim which the organisers have in view is to encourage a taste for floriculture
among the masses, for surely there is no pastime more pleasing or elevating than the
cultivation of flowers, even of a humbler character, as it is eminently calculated to
soothe the turbulent passions of man (which must be quelled) bringing unbounded joy
to the domestic circle and promoting health and hygiene within the community.
Members of the male sex are particularly welcome to this forthcoming event and Miss
Fiona Woofington will be on hand to suggest which flowers might be suitable for
particular types of personalities. Refreshments will be served.

THE RETURN OF MALLAGHDAIG

Grillparzer had been summoned to Ixion. On the phone Rafaelle had made no
mention of a car so she walked taking a route through dockside. It was here in the old
days that pirates and merchants had gathered along with riff-raff and wandering
foreign nobility. Many a barrel of pickled Portuguese heads had been landed as a token
of respect for the Lords Pendreich. It was they who had declared unofficial war on that
country and provided ships in return for booty.
The young women who scurried by looked old beyond their years, Weeds sprouted
high on the buildings and on a desolate corner she passed the place where the begging
Hospitallers of St. Anthony had lived and worked. They threatened the sacred fire or
erysipelas to any person who refused to give them alms. Needless to say their
collection methods were highly successful.
In this quarter of the town their remained brief islands of history which had survived
the municipal plans for improvement. The past was allowed no sentiment in Kelloch.
Change when it came was abrupt and brutal. Councillors had rejected a proposal to
increase the number of protected buildings within their care, saying they could not
afford to maintain the existing buildings and needed funds for the next generation of
bus shelters and litter bins.
At Ixion a uniformed man opened the lift doors and a moment later they were
travelling at speed to the top of the building.
Rafaelle came forward to greet her. A frown followed by a brief touch of hand. He
78

turned, speaking as he retreated in behind the desk.


'My wife wishes me to finance a film. I am to rebuild Hormisdas Palace as she calls
it, within the shell of Mallachdaig. She wishes to play Theodora. Why should I argue?
His fat fingers drummed the polished desk. 'She has hired a Mr Fascine as director. I
wondered what you thought. To me, it sounds speculative.
Absolutely, echoed Grillparzer. 'I've always believed there were two things most
deluded people imagined they could do. The first to take photographs and the second to

act.'
'Though the idea has possibilities, said Rafaelle. 'It was my intention to rebuild the
house in any case.'
I can't help feeling that as the house has buried itself in a past age, it might be better
to leave it alone, Grillparzer was not sure what had brought this feeling on. The stink
of the rotted plaster perhaps still lingering in her nose.
'The point is,' said Rafaelle. 'Can she act?
Grillparzer recalled a reference to actors as rented schizophrenics and nodded

gravely.
'She is a splendid actress.
Rafaelle's mouth twisted slightly. He picked up a framed photograph.
'I was sure I had married someone else.
'Change is quite natural,' she replied, adopting the soothing tones she used with
unknown dogs.
The phone rang. He gave a sudden laugh then touched Grillparzer on the shoulder. It
was a friendly gesture of dismissal which she obeyed.
As Grillparzer returned to her flat she reflected on the man and woman who had
once ruled Byzantium. Justinian building churches then murdering those who sought
refuge in them. Theodora strangling her son with a loop of pearls while he unwittingly
made love to her.
Grillparzer waited at the roadside while a convoy of cement lorries thundered past
on their way to Mallachdaig. The old house was reinventing itself, slowly rewarming
the poisoned blood of its youth.
Johnny tried to stay asleep; to remain in the garden with its glowing fruit and hush of
79

fountain. Reluctantly he admitted defeat and got up to face the grey at the window.
Pink sodiums shivered through the drizzle. A milk float whined in the distance. He
coughed then spat into a tissue.
Soon Cherry Haze would return from a night of cleaning railway carriages. All day
in the bath her clothes would soak, covering the water in a thick melanic scum. For a
while she'd sit hunched on the edge of the bed, smoking a rolled cigarette before
crawling between the covers. The evening before she'd asked where he was going, and
he'd shrugged as she kissed goodnight; the donkey jacket a size too large, her red hair
tucked up under a pale green headscarf. She looked at him with sadness, the smile
unsure, though still determined to go out into the rain, with its endless grime smeared
trains, loud with female oaths and the clang of many pails.
The guilt came suddenly. He decided to make her breakfast. It was bitter cold on the
street. He pulled at the coat collar, face muscles tightening. Neon scribbled behind the
trees. A glow came from the shop. On the door a notice read, 'No Dog. The three
brothers seated behind the counter appraised him as if he approached a customs post.
He dumped milk and rolls in front of them. They read out the price on the cash machine.
These men had the patient courtesy of refugees still travelling. His handful of change
was returned with ceremony.
Cherry Haze scooped at her breakfast, glancing at him from time to time. Johnny
feigned sleep, his body curled on the sagging settee.
'My father's better than he was, she said, 'but he's still not very well and doesn't say
much. Not to me. She bit on the toast then laid it down on the white plate, stared at the
shape it made, then looked up sharply. A self roll cigarette burned in the ashtray,
Couldn't you sleep then?
'Just wandered about,' mumbled Johnny. She regarded him, eyes hooded with

disdain.
'Some of us have to work. No time for thinking and things like that. Life is a matter
of paying bills. Nothing else to it.
She left the rest of the toast. Her father's strangeness worried her. His growing fear
of fire. She did not usually think of him. Now she phoned every second night,
collecting coins so that she might hear his voice in the empty hall.
80

It's my mother I feel sorry for. She's had to put up with it every day. He could burn
the house down. As it is it's just little things like odd socks and newspapers.
Johnny tried to look sympathetic but she avoided his eyes. In fact it then occurred
that she rarely looked at him. A vague suspicion bobbed then disappeared. He could
think of no reason why she might be tired of him. Johnny found the concept of
someone growing tired of him rather difficult to assimilate. He found himself infinitely
interesting.
A muted sun reflected from wet roofs touching her hair, now greyed with dirt from
the carriages. She had never told him that she loved him, but he pretended that she did,
reminding himself of the few letters she had signed with the word. She began to
unbutton the blackened overalls.
Think there's someone following me part of the way back from work,' she said.
There's a footpath before I turn onto the road. He seems to stop then. That's the second

time this week.'


She looked directly at him as if expecting an explanation.
'How do you know it's a him?'
She blew a smoke ring.
Have you looked back?' She shook her head.

What's the point?


'You'd see who it was,' he replied with mock patience.
'I just don't want them to be there, said Cherry. 'I don't want to see anybody there.'
Johnny did not reply. He was reminded of the unsettling effect she could have on
some individuals.
While working at a temporary job in an out of town petrol station, gift wrapped
offerings had appeared overnight on the steps of her caravan. The van lay axle deep in
rubble at the back of the pumps and once when he'd arrived late at night he'd heard
gumbooted feet pounding off across the ploughed field.
Stubbing out her cigarette, she went through and turned on the bath taps. She would
first wash herself then leave the clothes to soak, Johnny felt suddenly both sad and

vulnerable.
At length she returned wrapped in a dressing gown, let it drop to the floor then slid
81

into bed. Lying beside her Johnny sensed how she turned away from him, an airliner's
final pirouette, nose to wind before take-off. She sighed then burrowed into the
blankets. Even after eight hours of scrubbing out trains she still had a wan desirability.
To his annoyance she fell quickly asleep. He heard a train in the distance. Cherry Haze
curled tighter into herself. Much to his own surprise Johnny began quietly to cry. The
beginnings of a heart's miasma he could scarcely comprehend.
82

CHAPTER TEN
The Major splashed amid the soapy drifts of his weekly bath. The playing cards
were spread then gradually submerged beneath the mountains of rose scented bubbles.
The gravity of the poses pictured upon the cards was made almost festive by the
mounds of sparkling soap. He wiped the dial of his watch and puzzled on why the time
in adverts was always nine minutes past ten. The cold tap dripped with a steady beat
upon his big toe. He pressed the soft lump of soap into the primal shape of a woman
and thought of Marie. The floral wallpaper shimmered in the haze, a kind of false
Spring. A mirage of renewal; an illusion he had long wished to trap. Marie with her
dark glossy curls, who reminded him of a back-flipping Cretan acrobat. For a moment
he listened imagining her footsteps on the stairs.
Instead there came a roar from Biffo's motorcycle. 'In this weather, suicidal,' thought
the Major and smiled. His impression of Biffo was that of a crafty fox who had set up
camp in a chicken run. The lad was making a lot of noise, though it was doubtful if the
machine would be going anywhere. A situation somewhat akin to his musings on
Marie, A journey imagined. She had a body just ripe for hotel rooms,
'As a soldier and a man,' he said. 'This is the time to plan the Spring Offensive, A day
to day campaign, until she is inexorably surrounded by bed sheets. He remembered
that Marie played the piano. A crash course then in the lives of the great composers.
Ask her in for a quick basso profundo. The room would need something done. It lacked
the finer touch. He would maybe remove the display of Prussian bayonets. A vase of
flowers perhaps, though they always reminded him of the fallen. The harvest of war in
endless rows.
Miss Chalmers had walked to school. Heavy snow brought out the best in her. As
she stomped through the double glass doors the janitor looked up and glared at her. The
less teachers the better his chance of a day off alone with his tank of tropical fish. He
had not, despite some effort managed to make the heating system malfunction. Miss
Chalmers left a trail of wet footprints along a corridor lined with children's drawings of
the circus. It would soon be Christmas.
No snow then, she thought. 'Only frozen rain. From the second floor she saw the
distant chimney stacks, stark as refugees against the sky. There were no cars in the
83

playground. A hooded child trudged through the gloom towards the bicycle sheds.
There would be ice in the milk bottles and a mouse trapped in the storeroom cupboard.
They ate a lot of paper in winter. She ticked her name off on the list and without
entering the staff quarters climbed the stairs that led to her classroom. Here she would
sit, curator of room sixty-six, frowning at the rows of empty desks, the sour cream
walls, one grey door, seventy three panes of glass, twenty three stools and a sweating

rubber tiled floor.


To her left the local graveyard with its gravel lined avenues of stunted marble.
Regimented rows of stone, each a full stop, with the occasional embellished
exclamation mark, signifying the resting place of some two shop family butcher. No
doubt that was where she would end.
It was at times like these, alone with the juddering heaters that she wondered if the
kids would crowd to the windows when her coffin was lowered. What on earth would
they say? Funerals seemed to excite them so much.
Miss Chalmers accepted that her knowledge of the world was in many respects
limited. She had not frequented the child-brothels of Bangkok as had many of her past
clients, who on occasion fantasised about her, dressing small oriental girls in suits of
brown tweed. Miss Chalmers believed that a certain distance and firm decorum was
necessary in dealing with all kinds of natives. The names on the war memorial were

proof of that.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Major tracking Marie across the snow
covered cemetery. He flitted behind her from stone to stone. Marie was throwing
snowballs for her dog. Miss Chalmers stood on top of her desk. She could now see the
Major quite clearly. He was fumbling with a pair of circular sunglasses, trying to hook
them over his nose. Surely he could not think they were a disguise? At that moment
one of Marie's snowballs exploded on top of the tombstone behind which he crouched.
The heavy jowled 'Crowbar' skidded by, and seeing him in deerstalker and gestapo
specs, tumbled in fright then began to bark. Marie watched in astonishment as the
Major, with as much dignity as was possible, slowly arose from behind the tombstone.
'Good morning,' he boomed.
With a yelp of delight she bent down, pressed both hands together, then hurled a
84

snowball at him. It splattered on his chest and as he staggered in zig-zag retreat further
projectiles chased him between the stones. Splat! Another caught him. He roared in

protest.
Marie could hardly run for laughter and her aim had gone wide by the time he
reached the gates. She fell to her knees and laughed so hard that the black dog fell
silent. Marie picked up the fallen black glasses and slipped them into her pocket.
From his perch in the branches of the hollow oak within Scarefla Wood, Grock the
Scran tilted the underside of a polished biscuit tin and watched as the Major retreated
through the streets of Clarion.
'Hung upon my gross desires,' he mumbled, and remembered an abattoir in
Wyoming. A trained baby pig led the new grown porkers in through a metal tunnel
where chains swung and trussed them by the feet; while the little one gobbled a carrot
and continued on its circuit, the grown ones were yanked onto a conveyor belt and a
guillotine sliced off their heads. This continued for all of the day.
Grock the Scran breathed on the tin, sighed then recited.
'I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts and I delight not in
the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or of he-goats. Your hands are full of blood. For ye
shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth and as a garden that has no water. Woe to them that

join house to house and field to field till there be no place that may be placed alone in
the midst of the earth. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth
without measure: and their glory and their multitude and their pomp, and he that
rejoiceth shall descend into it. Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil: that put
darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Grock watched the moss thicken on the bark. Too many days spent facing the north,
undistracted by the crawling sun; a creator of shadows.

CLARION HERALD OCTOBER 1959

The Festival of Harvest Celebrations was as fine as has been seen for many years.
The weekend's activities included the crowning of the Harvest Queen who accepted a
sheaf of corn and a carton of pasteurised milk from Mr Harnesses McMillan. A Grande
85

Finale Harvest Dinner was held on Saturday night. Harvest Gift baskets of fruit and
vegetables added colour to the frontage of the hall. Enveloped gifts were placed on the
alter. The Rev. Ernest Davies preached from St. Luke's Gospel. 'For everyone that
asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be
opened.'

THE TRICKS OF TIME

'Luck,' Grillparzer explained, 'is the result of positive causation. Our every act has
some effect.'
'Undoubtedly,' thought Hazlewood and wished he had stayed in bed. He found it so
irritating when Grillparzer went dogmatic.
'Let us deal with the notion of repression,' he countered, but she spotted the
diversion and smiled to let him know.
'The notion of repression is theoretical. Repression suggests a reality. What reality?
Thoughts come and go. It is illusion. A play of the mind. The overall validity of your
system is not evident.
He cursed having buttoned his coat up incorrectly.
'You proffer a system which in the kindest terms could only be described as

extremely fanciful.'
'Well, she insisted. 'If it fails to be convincing, I must ask you where you think all
this devastation comes from? You say pain is evil. Suffering intolerable. So where
does it come from?'
'Our childhood, growled her companion.
'And Marika? What quirk of childhood has caused her to have an abandoned
mansion rebuilt as a Byzantine palace? A hundred other women could have tried to
marry Rafaelle and would have failed. Marika hardly tried. Yet she has acquired
power.
Hazlewood rammed both hands deeper into his pockets.
'A kind of pathological need!' he shouted.
'We all have our clusters of traits,' insisted Grillparzer. 'Our luggage if you like. The
86

point is we bring a lot of it with us. Minute fragments of bone that can irritate long after
the damage has occurred.'
'Fairey tales,' spat Hazlewood. 'Completely unprovable. I'm astonished that any
intelligent person should be taken in by this.'
'A rather parsimonious view,' said Grillparzer, 'to suggest that the incredible range
of human conditions, ailments and fears are a result of breast feeding, potty training
and the perils of our bodily self exploration.'
'At least it is observable, snapped Hazlewood, lengthening his stride.
'But is it? Who knows what a two year old actually feels? Who knows whether they
are touching themselves for sexual gratification or merely confirming that they are part
of this odd thing called a body. We have no real recollection of why we did these things
at that age.'
'I follow cause and effect so far, but let's be practical. Events after death are simply
not observable.
'True, agreed Grillparzer. 'So you have this curious question of what luck is, or the
lack of it. Why do certain conditions befall an individual, who is perhaps suffering but
has no memory of having done anything wrong.'
Hazlewood took a kick at a stray cat which bolted under a car.
'I've no idea why some people are rich and others are poor. Chance one would guess.
Why are we happy or sad? After all the greatest fear we have is of other people. The
first person who hit you, cheated you, laughed at you, was another human being.'
Grillparzer grunted in agreement. 'Yet lives refuse to fit into the crafty mechanisms
of mental functioning. There's a lot more to it than control of the anal sphincter.
Imagine you are a ball on a roulette wheel and at birth you drop into a particular slot. It
may be high or low, rich or poor. What matters is what you do with what you are given.
If people abuse you, it is often because at some level you have agreed to let them do

so.
'Tell that to the poor,' said Hazlewood. 'They'd stone you.'
'We are our own judge and jury,' insisted Grillparzer. The sum of our assumed
identities. Responsible for every hat we have ever worn.'
'So we are born, damned by events that we cannot even recall.
87

'Yes.' Hazlewood whacked the hedge with his stick.


'I'm not suggesting parental influence is of no importance,' said Grillparzer.'There is
no doubt we acquire courage from our parents.
They can teach that or fear. It depends on how they relate to the offspring. At times I
get this hint that the whole thing is terrifyingly simple in that we bounce from life to
life, fitting into the first slot that will take us. After that we are on our own.
They parted on the edge of town, shaking hands formally, Grillparzer pausing
awhile to watch as Hazlewood continued out the shore road towards 'Marmion his
detached villa surrounded by rhododendrons. Grillparzer climbed on a narrow road
that curved behind town, rising to roof height within minutes. It seemed that something
was about to change or had in fact changed. A blurred feeling as if stars pressed down
upon her head.
A moped screamed past, deliberately swerving into a flooded pothole so as to soak
her. Then it seemed that the driver lost control for the machine swung wildly across the
road, clipped the far kerb and disappeared in a side hop over a grass embankment. A
crash followed. Hurrying across the road she saw the bike had landed on top of a tin hut.
The driver sat disconsolately halfway down the steep bank. Small flames flickered
around the moped's petrol tank.
Whistling aloud Grillparzer continued on up the road. She was amused by the
instant nature of the retribution. She could still hear the moped engine. It sounded like
a wounded milkfloat. At times she wished she drove a milk float. With a job like that
one must be in bed at a decent hour. None of that hanging on in the space that hides
between the days. The dark dead hours when police raid houses. Only invisible
airliners creeping across the night skies. 'The morning cometh and also the night.'
88

CHAPTER ELEVEN
'In love, the eyes dilate and common sense contracts to a pin head.' Grock the Scran
sighed. Sitting in the heart of his oak he took a sheet of newsprint from beneath the
leaves and read aloud. 'The Martinmas hiring and horse fair was held on Friday last
when Clarion took on the appearance of a bustling city street. Wages for all classes of
labour were much the same though good servants were difficult to obtain. Grock's
nose turned like an eroded lugger's keel towards the roofless Rural Workers Hall.
'No leaders, no servants,' he said. A firework display had kept him up the night
before. Bonfires blazed in a score of gardens and many a family tortoise was
inadvertently barbecued. The creatures crawled among the sticks in hope of
hibernation. Once the snow melted they would be utilised as coracles for loose pins
and buttons.
No doubt in the festivities some little whelp had for the first time come to orgasm
under the bandstand. A month would pass and he would take to drinking Celestine
Lager and she to stealing from coats at parties. Grock gave a crackle of a laugh. It was
the variety of human weakness that astonished him. 'It is as if when Denny falls in love,
a part of him ceases to exist. Takes to arranging gramaphone records in alphabetical
order and watching children's television.'
That morning he had heard a helicopter clatter overhead on its way to Hazledean
where Mr Mathews had become trapped in a snow filled gully. The hills around
Clarion were treacherous in winter. No doubt Mathews had been searching for a herd
of buried sheep. Grock remembered in earlier years himself and young Mathews thigh
deep in snow, prodding with sticks, searching for these entombed creatures. Then the
stench as the flock was uncovered, snow-blind in semi-trance, breathing as one
beneath the drifts. At the half yearly payment of wages the shepherds came into town
to spend their hard earned money. It was then the landowners who worked them
handed then over to the merchants who fleeced them.
'Leaders,' said Grock the Scran. 'They were the first crime.
He could see the bare roof of the Rural Workers Hall. The contractors when
finishing the building in late August had taken a cost effective shortcut by neglecting to
nail down the roof tiles. Until the winter gales the project had every appearance of
89

being completed, the builder having fled in good time, no doubt to a warmer climate,
where roofs could be more safely laid without help from nails, 'Followers were the
second crime, said Grock. 'They blindly believe everything to be as it appears.'
In the garden the Major was shovelling snow. Steam snorted from his nostrils. Soon
the cleared path would be solid with ice. He thought of Marie chirping in her bath of
scented bubbles; a sly smile on her face as she washed each slippery curve. On the
flyleaf of Denny's 'Inferno', she had written carefully in red ink.

'My first is in pain but not in glass,


My second in gold but not in brass,
My third in pencil but not in slate,
My fourth in love but not in hate,
My fifth in harlot but not in boy,
My sixth in peace but not in joy,
My seventh's in runner and also in race,
My whole's a most peculiar place.'

Denny stared at the church spire. It had somehow managed to shrug off the snow. In
the ashtray he noticed the butt of a yellow cigarette. Fragments of memory returned.
The roofs were quite devoid of quilted smoking jackets. He scratched his head. There
was also the question of the man with the orange hair. The sensible thing would be to

try and find him.


On the landing beneath the Major's room he found a door. There was a problem in
that it was attached to a large unframed painting which leaned against the wall. On a
chair by this door sat the man with the orange hair. He was wearing a quilted smoking
jacket. Denny tilted back the painting, half expecting to find a door on the other side.
Marie came out of the bathroom, her limbs wrapped round with towels.
'Do you like it? she asked, but before he could answer had passed by. He walked to
the bathroom door and inhaled the scented vapours. Clouds of steam, tale on the floor,
a vision of Marie dusting these equatorial armpits. Snow crashed down from the roof.
The frosted windows quivered. Denny climbed the stairs and seeing the Major's room
90

open, went inside. He found the carved box and opened it. The gold cigarettes were
still there. From his pocket he took the one which he had stolen and replaced it. With
some surprise he noticed the display of Prussian bayonets had been removed from
above the bed. Hearing steps approaching he retreated, closing the door, almost
reopening it, so as to leave it as it had been, then changing his mind.
Major Gillow caught a glimpse of his tail coat as he fled and was about to shout
when a propeller drives aircraft passed low overhead. The house trembled. The Major
dropped his dripping spade. Marie's dog began to bark. Benny could hear her shouting.

Crowbar! Crowbar!
Bloody Goering!' yelled the Major. 'Bugger off!
Denny collapsed amid the ruins of his bed. Notebooks and crumpled balls of paper
were strewn between the sheets. On the carpet Dante's Inferno lay like a crimson
trapdoor. By comparison he thought of the snow filled trampoline pits on the
promenade and the swimming pool empty as an abandoned liner. He picked up mirror
and stuck his tongue at it. The face he saw did not please him. The north light perhaps
or the image incorrectly reversed. He chucked a ball of paper at the Inferno.
It was at this juncture that Major Gillow burst through the door, and began an
agitated tirade about someone having been in his room. Denny explained that he had
seen the door open and had thought it prudent to close it. The Major's head tilted back
then his feet stamped, as if some equestrian had reined him in. He rattled away about
the weather in Poland, the cost of torch batteries, greatcoat swirling as he turned,
knocking a mug of cold coffee from the table.
'In prison camp they sent us off to work on a farm. Young girl, daughter of the house,
could tell she had an eye for me. We didn't waste time. One seldom does in war. When
the guards took a stroll outside she'd slip in under my coat, three sizes too big and I'd
button her in. The pockets went through to the inside. Jolly useful.
He paused in his stride then frowned, buttoning up the coat.
'You see, thing is, pretty sure must have made her pregnant. Our lot got moved on,
middle of the night, three hundred miles. All that bloody snow and Christmas as well.
This time of the year I get reminded, might be the only family I have.
He began picking up pens and laying then out in neat lines upon the desk.
91

'Mostly for children, Christmas. Odd that, I didn't use to bother, these days it's
sadder somehow.
He shook his head, then avoiding Denny's gaze moved towards the door.
'Thanks for clearing the path,' said Denny. 'Stay for coffee.'
The Major mumbled that he hated the snow and would have to go out new and buy
some torch batteries.
His encounters with Major Gillow had become more frequent of late as if something
between them had to be resolved. He wondered if a plot was being hatched in that
tattered military tent of a brain.
So somewhere in the wastes of Poland the Major imagined he had an offspring. His
own face at the age of twelve. Uncollected property, sprung from an army greatcoat. A
son behind enemy lines, infiltrated, sleeping, part of a greater plan.
A fresh fall of snow had covered the path. For some reason it occurred that the girl in
Poland had been the Major's first experience of the female sex. Now kept as food for

imagination.
Denny recalled a first floor window with a view of trees, unblemished yet hazed, as
dust on mirrors long in storage, prevented him from ever getting there again.

CLARION HERALD NOVEMBER 1939

An excellent Yuletide Recital was given at the Templar Hall.


There was crisp tonguing and unexpected tonal contrasts on the woodwind, overlaid
by a thrilling reverberation from the horn. The audience was soon humming along. The
second movement of the piece entitled 'Crowbar,' written by the talented Marie
Pellegrino, could be described as a conversation between the various instruments. This
opened with a harsh barking discord, handled confidently by the group. Then the
imperial bassoon was joined by the inscrutable clarinet and the flirtatious flute sought
in concert to seduce the celibate oboe. Butting in whenever possible, the tipsy horn
made fun of the more intense debate. The final piece was like beach in August, both
brash and lively, with excellent tonguing by Miss Pellegrino, wearing a red beret. This
brought to a climax a most memorable evening which left us all marvellously satisfied
92

and quite limp with satiety.

THE YETI OR THE PUDENDA'S PITILOSIS

Three miles off Drumvega Head the yacht named Selene pounded into a stiff north
easterly. Hazlewood sat to windward and recalled a time when the Kelloch fishing fleet
with combined crews numbering forty had sailed on that fateful summer morning. A
freak storm overtook them on their way back from the fishing banks and though almost
within hailing distance of Kelloch they were unable to make the turn that would take
them into port. The entire fleet was driven out to open sea,
A great spout of water parted as the bows dug into the rising swell. In the bows he
could see the outline of his daughter, hair streaming as the clouds crowded up into a
blue-black hammer head that already clawed towards them. The storm gods were
casting down a gauntlet. At Hazlewood's side Johnny saw that the old man had become
transfixed by the black racing glass of this oncoming sea. The Selene strained, alive in
every bolt and sinew. The starboard deck was now completely awash.
Hazlewood went below for his heavy oilskins. Johnny took the wheel, unconcerned
as if on a holiday cruise and then as Hazlewood reached the foot of the companionway,
judged the next rolling crest and put the wheel hard over. The sea reared above them
then a wild lurch as the yacht slewed broadsides. Hazlewood thrown headlong as
Johnny fought the weight of the wheel. The boom slugged over and the Selene lifted
her skirts, suddenly freed from the drag of the ocean.
He would have killed us both, yelled Johnny as his drenched sister made her way
towards him. To his surprise he saw that she was laughing.
They made harbour with difficulty, using the full kick of a diesel engine for that
crucial swing into sheltered water.
Ropes were thrown then tied. Hazlewood said nothing as the three stretcher men
carried him to the waiting ambulance. As he was lifted onto the pier he saw Johnny and
his sister embrace. His eyes widened as if united in them were some unspeakable
cypher. An imprint of the jongleur between his daughter's thighs.
'He wanted as to die with him,' she said softly.
93

Hazlewood heard rain lash on the seaward windows. Then the twin metal doors
clanged shut.
'He wanted us to continue with him,' thought Johnny. 'A crew to sail his ship through

the underworld.
Grillparzer began to visit the cellar bar in Ixion where Griski gyrated thrice nightly.
The young bloods crowded in upon the stage, whistling and cheering, spilling beer,
peering as she strutted or flicked at them with imitation silks. Closer they crowded like
hanged men upon their judge. They pressed ten deep to the bar, roaring for their pints
while she floated safe as a vampire through their midst. The red mouth and raggled
locks that none dared to touch. It was only on the platform that they could abuse her.
Yet Grillparzer had arrived back late from Ixion a bit befuddled and found this
dancing girl curled up in her bed, half asleep, still in fishnets and cursing her in a
foreign tongue. With characteristic aplomb Rafaelle had bestowed this gift along with
a bottle of champagne which Griski had already drunk.
The girl did not speak but watched as Grillparzer poured herself a stiff one and tried
to rationalise the situation. The girl turned on her back, singing quietly, when it was
explained she was free to leave. Later Grillparzer could have sworn that the slant eyes
glowed dull red in the dark. After several disjointed days she learned that the stranger
came from an obscure port in the Eastern Baltic, and at night after she'd danced and
fallen into bed, refusing to shower, Grillparzer could smell the brine and tar, sweating
up from beneath closed hatches.
Hazlewood was loudly critical, refusing to believe his friend's story. 'A sort of
broken-wing Pigeon English,' Grillparzer explained. Hazlewood sniffed at his wine
corks in disgust, then slapped his wallet on the table, for he had taken to eating in a
Indian Restaurant and the volcanic curries lent fire to his moralising. At times he
greatly missed his daughter, and talked to himself more than usual. The parrot had
learned new phrases. 'That bloody boy! Bloody Johnny!'
Griskis History
Mosquito bombers strafed the cattle trucks. The German soldiers had been mown to
the ground. Many prisoners were also killed. From the burning wreckage in a remote
Polish siding walked Griski. Under an assumed name she worked with her parents on
94

the farms. Her father died shortly after the war, drowned while skating on a disused
water tank. They moved to the ruined city. Those who were left begged food, or
walked the streets, their children dressed in red, white and black; disinterred symbols.
Rough makeshift clothes, cut and sewn from the flags of a vanquished army.
Grillparzer was intrigued by the way Griski followed her about the house. The odd
thing about this master and slave routine was that Grillparzer seemed to have less
freedom than Griski, The girl's absence filled her with jealousy. At night she would
hide in a doorway waiting for Griski to leave Ixion. She could not bear to watch her
dance amid the stench of men snorting smoke, their hooves skittering upon spilled beer,
Griski had a slow way of smiling that reminded her of a lizard, then knees together she
would slither between the sheets; her hands covered in rings which she took off and
swopped about her fingers. They were gifts from admirers, though some she admitted
to having bought herself. Especially if a lover had left her. But with others she would
turn them slowly and say.
'Some of these are okay memories.'
Grillparzer hated the fact that she was unable to accept that what Griski brought was
sufficient in itself. The pains of love are the pains of possession. In love our hearts are
like birds in winter trees. Ho leaves to protect us from the arrows.
While Grillparzer paced and fretted, Grock the Scran sat outside his winter oak and
ate wild berries. Legend had it that he had once been seen in a clearing dancing with a
large bear like creature. The story spread through town, for Grock like the so called
Yeti was not easy to catch a glimpse of. Over a span of fifty years the creature had
established quite a reputation for itself. The previous winter a chicken run had been
raided and strong posts torn from the ground. The farmer while claiming insurance had
thought it more prudent to replace the Yeti with a falling tree.
On Griski's day off, when not diverting Rafaelle's more important guests, she
walked into the woods and left circles of buttered bread on the banks of a stream. She
hoped this might attract the Yeti. A tribe of water rats had attempted to poach her
offering and she'd rum from cover, waving her arms to chase them away.
Then under an outcrop on the opposite heights she saw the shape of a large creature
standing watching her. Without warning the sun disappeared and the rocks were
95

plunged into shadow. She stood as if vitrified, but the light did not return and a chill
went through the wood so that she turned anxious to gain open ground. She kept
glancing back, half expecting the Yeti to be on her trail, then for an instant terror as the
thought flashed that it might be waiting for her at the end of the path.
The creature did not pursue her and she returned in thought to the vexing morula of

Ixion.
96

CHAPTER TWELVE
When the workmen left Dunscaith Castle, transformed to a hotel with vast floral
carpets and dormitories turned to flounced boudoirs, they could not know that Miss E.
Chalmers, after an inspection for the local Tourist Association, would stumble out
through the courtyard door and weep as if her life had been sold to strangers. The case
of stuffed birds, the hundred antlers and mouldering African spears, had all gone,
replaced by glossy paint and swirling carpets in purple and gold.
Even now, as she sat in her empty classroom gnawing a cheese and tomato sandwich,

a fury came to her that such a central pivot of her existence should change so quickly
into a realm of memory. A few children mewed and scampered in the corridors; but she
had not the energy to scold them. Outside there were tilted brooms for trees and a
snowy sky pressed flat to the edge of town.
Her mind strayed to the garlanded school Christmas dinner. The dining hall tables
candle-lit and lined with crackers that seldom cracked. The music on nervous recorders
and a waft of hot mince pies from the kitchen. People discussing their frozen turkeys.
No doubt the Head of Biology would once more make a fool of himself and she would
walk home alone, saying that it was time to feed her dog, a terrier, which had in fact
died many years previous.
Miss Chalmers dropped her apple core into a jar of dead geraniums. She then recited
aloud: 'For thence, a paradox which comforts while it mocks, shall life succeed in that
it seemed to fail; what I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me.'
Wearing his striped pyjama top, the Major was attempting to arrange some
overpriced cut flowers in a milk bottle. He had wrapped gaudy festive paper around the
glass and with a bayonet split the flower stems. He had decided that lust must live with
war and a fan of deadly steel once more decorated the wall above his bed. He suspected

the incident at the cemetery had been a direct result of having banished his pointed
friends. He rammed another abnormally bright flower into the camouflaged bottle.
Biffo's goose honk of a laugh floated up from the garden. Bayonet in hand, he crossed
to the window. Sophie and Marie were doubled with laughter. Marie's dog was barking
and dancing as Biffo marched up and down the Major's black glasses perched on his
nose. Gillow wrestled with the window which shot upwards with a loud bang, and thus
97

heralded, directed a tirade at the little group which gaped at him from below. Biffo
gave a Hitler salute. That did the trick. The Major was off, clattering down the wooden
stairs, bayonet in hand and a bright yellow flower sticking out of his top pyjama pocket.
He was vaguely puzzled when Marie screamed 'Save Crowbar! for the creature with
its boomerang tail and grinning teetk was now sporting a pair of circular sun spectacles.
It sat up the far end of the garden, tail swiping the snow and as the Major strode
towards it, stood up suddenly, hair on end.

'Get these bloody things off!' boomed the Major.


The dog took one look at him and bolted.
Come back you brainless cur!' and as he raised his fist he noticed the bayonet for
the first time. Rather confused as to how it got there, he tried to slip it up his sleeve,
apologising in a blustery way but as he turned, still full of indignation, he saw that the
garden had magically emptied. Biffo had stuck the broom through the snowman. The
Major pulled out the broom and mended the hole. He felt rather foolish now, sure that
everyone must have seen the bayonet. The flower fell out of his pocket. On his knees
he carefully pressed it to the front of the snowman.
Marie's dog peered at him over the fence black glasses still in place. The flower
reminded Major Gillow of having medals pinned to his chest. Snow seeped through to
his knees but he hardly noticed. It was odd how flower arranging had brought all this
on. He resolved never to do it again.
They all crowded into Denny's room and stared down at the Major as he knelt in
front of the snowman.
That man is not well,' said Sophie. Marie began to giggle. Biffo who had never been
in Denny's room strode around looking at things. On impulse he picked up a pencil
from a carton and slipped it behind his ear. He was then aware that Sophie had seen

him.
'We perceive each other as darkness against the snow, said Sophie. Targets in our

little theatre.'
Denny tried to open the window but it wouldn't budge.
'What are you doing?' Sophie cried. Biffo dropped the pencil back inside the
container.
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'I thought we should ask him if he was alright,' said Denny. Marie drew two fingers
across her throat.
He just stuck a flower on the snowman, she said.
Where would he get flowers? asked Sophie. Denny shrugged.
Marie's dog was whining. The sudden eclipse of its known world due to the
spectacles, had given it premonitions of the lost dog home.
Perhaps we should have a party for him, suggested Sophie.
'He'd be better off with a bone,' said Denny.
Plenty of bounce in him yet,' replied Sophie, 'The way he stalked Marie across that
graveyard,'
'Well why not, added Denny, somewhat mystified by Biffo, who was now
searching through his gramophone records.
We'll dress up like it would have been when he was young,' enthused Sophie. 'If we
can find out when that was exactly.'
Yes,' continued Marie. 'Let's take him back with us.' Somehow the idea of a party
for the Major had never seemed feasible before. He was on his feet now saluting the
snowman.
'A formation dance called the Maginot Line,' suggested Denny.
'We'll get it organised first, then let him know,' said Sophie, who had that
determined frown adopted by young ladies at pony gymkhanas.
As the others left, full of ideas for the party to be, Denny touched Sophie on the arm,
indicating that she should stay.
'Join me for a stroll on the roof,' he whispered.
Sophie laughed.
'Make me a coffee instead,' she replied.
'I'd rather walk on the roof, he replied,
Oh no you wouldn't! She grabbed him by the hand and pulled him to the landing.
As she manoeuvred the ladders he began to bluster and complain. He tried to stall,
pretending the ladder wouldn't reach, but as she was half way up he had to follow. A
curious numbness began to afflict his legs.
Like wirewalkers, arms outstretched to balance against the biting wind, they moved
99

along the roof apex. Denny knew that he dare not look down. At the chimney head she
turned expertly then smiled at him. Flakes of snow hung lightly on her hair. She
watched his approach.
'Let's make love now. she shouted. He almost slipped. The drop plummeted to
either side. His fingers had gone completely numb. He reached the chimney stack and
hung on as best he could. A slanting greyness swept across Clarion. The nearest lighted
windows seemed to be suspended in space, Sophie tickled his ribs then kissed him on
the nose. As he clung there terrified she began to stroke his trouser leg.
'Well maybe not this time, she teased.
I can't move,' croaked Denny.
His frozen fingers tried in vain for a grip on the masonry.
'I was only joking. Bloody hell, I could fall!'
Sweat began to chill on his back. The snow collected around his mouth.
'But I thought you liked me,' sang out Sophie, moving deftly around him so that she
stood once more on the apex. 'If I'd known you were only pretending, and she skipped

off along the rooftop.


'Wait. I can't move,' he bellowed, but she did not look back.

CLARION HERALD DECEMBER 1959.

A Mr Ivan McConnkerr made a number of nuisance calls to the emergency services.


Once police eventually arrived they found him engaged in the business of burning
telephone directories. When cautioned the accused said that he was 'fed up with it all.'
Mr McConnkerr showed the Court an embroidered picture of Broughty Ferry, as
evidence of his return to the straight and narrow,

LET THE CIRCUS BEGIN

Once the workmen left Mallachdaig a stillness emerged from the earth which caused
an absence of birdsong within two miles of that resurrected building. Grass shoots
sprouted upon the muddy furrows of the main drive. Blue sky reflected sharply from
100

the upper windows. At sea, fishermen remarked how the house re-emerged from the
landscape, as if guarding the approaches to Kelloch.
It was spring. Marika and Rafaelle stood an arms length apart on the southern terrace.
Daffodils were clustered under nearby trees. Their thoughts however, remained behind
the walls, wandering through hanging attic galleries and narrow sunken corridors so
magically wrought from that labyrinth of hardened stone. This frenzied homuncular
birth had flipped reality upon itself, as if the sundial's shadow crept in reverse, Marika
dreamed of that other palace whose windows overlooked the Bosphorus.
The people of Kelloch greeted the awakening of the house with a day to day
dumbshow, as if a man had returned reprieved whom they had once attempted to hang.
'So long as the walls stand a Pendreich will remain,' Hughey nodded as Nemeton
spat from the shadows of the pines where they now stood spying upon the two figures
pacing the southern terrace.
'They say the dead remain where they did most harm. Hughey glanced at Nemeton.
'Forced to be both criminal and victim.' A hare loped past, hesitated, then looked at

them.
'There's old Tom,' said Nemeton. 'A poacher in these parts, died must be three years
back. See the limp. That was Tom. Caught his foot in a trap. Always took more than
was needed for the pot. Havent had the heart to shoot him yet.' The hare suddenly
realised how close they were, broke into a sprint and disappeared.
Marika led Rafaelle along the terrace. Off Drumvega Head a school of whales
spouted in response. The sprightly ramblings of a harpsichord, as yet untuned,
followed them as they passed through the double doors which led inside. From a
catwalk that spanned the swimming pool she led him between roofs to the old summer
house re-erected among the topmost pinnacles of Mallachdaig. She ushered him
through a blue door to a room where the furniture was all child size. Rafaelle had
difficulty remembering exactly how he had arrived at this part of the house. He tried
retracing his steps but it seemed Marika kept sliding the rooms around, altering the
dimensions of whatever he tried to visualise.

The filming trucks rolled up at noon. Cameras and costumes were taken indoor upon
101

trolleys. Shapes were chalked upon polished floors. Lights were clamped to
scaffolding. Then screams as an actor was thrown into the swimming pool. Fascine
strolled among the unloading gangs.
His electric loudhailer occasionally gave out piercing shrieks.
'My father had people killed, said Rafaelle. 'I have not yet found it necessary. This
was his warning to Fascine.
Marika undressed Johnny as if he were a child, singing softly as a nurse might, on
the evening before her night off. The pip of buttons, then her falling dress.
'There was once upon a time, she whispered, 'a lady whose name was Theodora,
who conceived a child that had defied the abortionists. The father went with the child
in search of work. Years passed and it was not until his teens that the boy learned that
his mother was now Empress. He refused to heed the warnings, and set off determined

to meet her.
Marika's head tilted back; she inhaled deeply. He felt her suck him in. His teeth
parted as her nails dug into his flesh.
Theodora, bride of Christ, married in the Church of Holy Wisdom. Filled with the
red veined marble saints! Johnny felt her coalesce with the slippery grey of a lamprey,
he had once gaffed off Drumvega Head. He hardly heard her voice. Choirs of infants
rose in song.
I had the youth brought to me, and in the guise of the Empress's closest friend,
promised him an audience with his mother, if he would comfort me. Johnny sensed
her body surface white above him. 'A boy with promise. A son of the whale.
Afterwards, as he lay half sleeping, I took a string of pearls, from around my waist. I
think he smiled. Scarcely a struggle. Simpler than drowning kittens.
Fascine with predictable eccentricity had replaced the actors with extras. The
actors now stood in a sullen muttering line holding spears. They looked more fearsome
than the local tradesmen had.
Captain Bearhop manoeuvered himself aboard a bauble studded throne which might
have been decorated by an over enthusiastic infants class. Bearhop was reading aloud.
'The Imperial Court of Byzantium is an exact replica on earth of the heavenly realm
above us.' Bearhop banged the book down on his knees and bawled. 'Speak up man, tell
102

us your dream!
Marika dressed in a monk's habit but wearing crimson lipstick, shuffled forward
then smiled. Bearhop began to fumble within the folds of his robe. 'Oh, how strange
and peculiar the light was,' sighed Marie. 'We walked through this city which was but
was not Byzantium. At the edge of town we came to a most remarkable building. It was
your palace and yet it was not your palace.
'Well make your mind up!' yelled Bearhop.
'Hold it there! interrupted Fascine. 'You must let us see your hands. They need not
be such covert extensions of your personality. Take it from, 'Oh, how strange. Marika
licked her lips then nodded.
'Oh, how strange and peculiar the light was. It was your palace and yet it was not
your palace. We entered a hall broad as a river, much like your own hall, and yet...'
'Yes, yes, yes, shouted Bearhop, who had begun to pick his nails with the pointed

bits of the crown. 'Next!


A tent like creature holding a red mace was now pushed out onto the stage on roller
skates. Smothered under a huge hat Johnny tried to remember what it was he had been

told to say.
The attendants who guided him were both attired as long eared hares.
They fell to their knees and began to pray. Through their mattering
one word was occasionally audible. Grass, grass, grass, grass, grass,
Bearhop put on the crown and squinted at this newcomer.
'Who do you know has a motorcycle combination? Never mind! Talked to your
monk friend there. Odd mouth. Is he fond of raspberries? No use having visions if you
can't pay your taxes. Makes it awkward as regards putting your case before God. At the
moment this vision is doubtful. It may well have to be reallocated.
Johnny began to bark like a dog. In truth he had forgotten his lines but this was a
trick which an old Shakespearian roarer had taught him.
'If in doubt dear boy, bark like a dog. Someone's bound to chip in.'
'By the bones of the saints,' roared Bearhop. 'Calm down man. Recite at once your

Telonian Tolls.'
Johnny almost toppled from his roller skates. The hares grabbed hold of him.
103

Bearhop whirled the crown around his wrist.


'The custom posts of the soul and don't forget detailed ledgers are kept regarding
transgressions.'
Johnny began to recite. 'First the toll of slander and abuse, second the toll of envy,
third the toll of falsehood, fourth the toll of wrath. Sixth the toll of pride, seventh inane
speech.'
Not forgetting,' snapped Bearhop, 'the sin of laughter and obscene jokes. Have you
heard? Proceed! Proceed!'
The Bishop began to gabble as a child might reciting poetry. The sins were counted
out upon his finger tips.
'Provocative gait and licentious song, ursury, despondancy, vanity, avarice,
drunkeness, remembrance of evil, sorcery and magic. Thirteen of course gluttony!'
'I only eat herbs! shouted Justinian, throwing a handful of grass into the air which
the hares leapt upon, causing the Bishop to lose his balance and tumble to the floor.
'Idolatry! he sang, 'heresy, homosexuality both sexes, adultery, murder, theft,
fornication, and hardness of heart!'
Justinian adjusted his robes then took a leisurely stroll around the fallen Bishop. He
paused from time to time, as if examining him for cracks. 'To remember so many
sins,' he croaked, 'suggests an inordinate interest.
'One must know the devil,' replied the Bishop, 'how else can one combat him?
'There are those, mused Justinian, 'who maintain the best way to fight evil is to do
good. So boring. Much more satisfying to seek it out. Them destroy it!' He drew his
sword, and in one blow killed the hare that crouched at his feet. 'Something different
about that one.'
'It was only a hare,' whined the Bishop. His second long eared attendant was now
flattened against the floor.
'Lurking about, can't be trusted, these certain sons of aristocrats.' Justinian frowned.
'Bloody thing messed up my sword.'
It will need a proper burial,' said the Bishop. Marika entered with a burning candle.
She let a few drops of wax adhere to the hare's side, then placed the candle in position.
The Bishop began to recite a prayer in which the words glory and love were frequently
104

mentioned. As the Bishop tried once more to get to his feet, his robe caught the candle
flame and began to burn.
'Cut! ordered Fascine. 'We'll take a break. Everyone back in twenty minutes.
Someone douse Mr Bearhop please. Thank you everyone.
105

Chapter Thirteen

Wearing a white dress blown by the breeze Sophie Skevington stood beside the wire
of the abandoned aerodrome and watched an empty oilcan gently rolling to and fro.
Reluctantly she shook herself free from the mesmerising influence of the oilcan and
trailing her fingers on the twisted wire continued to walk the perimeter. She could hear
Biffo on his motor cycle as he clawed up the black pyramid of mining waste which
stood between her and the sea. Biffo liked to gun his motor cycle up the steep slag
screes, then snake back down, engine howling in protest, his body swaying left and
right as he attempted to keep control. He was quite content to do this for entire
afternoons. When he descended on the far side the harsh crackle of exhaust was
blanked out completely.
'Boys must have their toys,' said Sophie, slipping through a break in the fence, where
wool waved tattered flags and a bubbled notice read, 'Keep Out.' She wandered
towards what had once been the control tower. The skeletal remains of a Vickers
Valentia lay tail upwards, commandeered by a squadron of seagulls. There had been
much more to this sparse cage when she was little and she could remember her father
lifting her up inside it so that she could view the fangled cluster of wires and switches.
Now, like her father it was mostly bones. As she passed the seagulls scrambled off into

the sky.
At the base of the control tower a door swayed back and forth. She scraped through
sideways and found herself in a musty entrance hall. A glass case containing tagged
keys stood on a table to the right. She picked out one which read, 'Recreation.' Down
the long corridor a skirmishing wind played tunes through the shattered window glass.
She moved up the stairs, the key held tightly in hand. The concrete caverns echoed
as she walked. It was difficult to make out which doors were which but she tried all the
locks and eventually one of them turned. As she pushed, wood scraped on the concrete
floor. It was a grey space lit from above. In a corner stood the remains of a cocktail bar.
Several chairs had been overturned as if on the last night there had been a celebration

of some kind.
Ihe pungent damp made her turn for the door, but then she heard a slight scraping
106

sound. It came once more, reminding her of something that had just woken and was
now stretching, preparing itself for that grey world. She moved forward quietly and
behind the bar among shredded paper saw a small eat. It was not more than a kitten
with emerald eyes and half an ear missing. It was still preoccupied with scratching
when she said, 'Hello! It leaped up the wall, missed a shelf, howled and scrambled for
a window ledge, where it crouched in the shape of a spitting ball. Sophie spoke and the
cat spat. She laughed.
Sophie opened one of the sandwiches she had brought for lunch and taking from it a
morsel of ham threw it to where the cat crouched. Much to her delight the creature did
not hesitate but gobbled this offering, all the time keeping green eyes fixed on her face.
Each time a piece was thrown she moved one step closer until she stood within six feet
of the cat. It no longer spat but watched as she ate the remainder of the pillaged
sandwich. After a short while it gave a cry of protest. She placed another morsel
between herself and the cat.
It considered this carefully, then sprang down and backed off with the food in its
mouth. She realised that such a small creature would not be able to bring down a rabbit
or a rat and would have to live on whatever was left by other animals.
'Once you are strong. You will dine on rats, she said.
Biffo roared south towards the circle of woodland which lay some two miles from
Clarion. Here in a clearing stood Marie, cape around her shoulders and not entirely
sure why she should be there. Biffo approached on the motorcycle and she turned as he
circled her. Then opening the throttle he lifted the machine upon its back wheel. She
whistled and clapped. Satisfied, he dismounted laying his helmet upon the seat. At that
moment they both remembered the last time, when they made love in an unlit church
while Sophie packed for a holiday in distant Rome. Marie kissed him on the cheek. He
smelt of warm oil. As they walked into the trees his boots crunched through the layers
of rotted leaves. They followed the dismantled railway line which curved on a rampart
through the wood. He remembered how she had shrugged the dress off in the church,
rain water gurgled in the gutters outside and a barely definable translucence mottled
the arched stone ribs; as if they lay within the belly of a whale. She'd brought a torn
branch of laburnum in with her and the perfume stupefied his senses.
107

All that had passed. They walked towards the mouth of a railway tunnel. For Marie
the week had sped by and she had thought of little else except this assignation with her
girlfriend's lover. It made her feel more a part of Sophie to have what she had.
If she could manipulate Biffo then the envy she felt, when Sophie stayed with his
longer than one day, could be charmed, somehow eased by a secret memory. The east
wind was crying up on the old hill fort called Quinnoch. There shepherds had built a
windbreak using stones from the ancient walls. She hoped they might wander up there
afterwards. Then she checked herself, surprised by such presumption. She felt
increasingly distracted, unsure of this meeting. There was no reason why she should
create a physical bond with Biffo, except it made her feel less in awe of Sophie. Girl
talk and instant coffee just couldn't compete with the attractions of an illicit orgasm. It
was something akin to stealing apples. No matter how sharp the taste, they were so
much better. It did seem however, that Biffo had taken this scenario for granted. Even
as she glanced at him she saw his attention wander back to the tunnel mouth.
Suddenly she grasped his arm and half turning him towards her said: 'Let's go up
there. It's ages since I've been to Quinnoch.' He looked puzzled and she laughed,
poking with one finger at his zippered jacket. The exercise will do you good. Come
on!' Biffo shrugged, trying not to look too taken aback. This was certainly not the
exercise he had imagined.
Marie led him down from the railway track and up a steep wooded slope which
levelled onto a field. They lengthened their stride to keep warm and as they crossed the
rounded shoulder of the fort saw snow storms driving in upon Drumvega Head. Once
they reached the crown they could see how the ocean curled in upon the crescent of
field and moor which encircled Clarion. Biffo put his arm around Marie's shoulders.
She could still sense the hope within him.
'Much better to be friends,' she said. She knew this meant little but it had an effect.
I've got plenty of friends,' he replied, rather irritated,
'Don't you like me enough to be my friend? she replied.
It's difficult. I don't know,'
Which end of me to believe?' she asked.
'I'm not scared,' said Biffo. 'Maybe you are?
108

'You don't really like me then.'


He swore then turned away.
'Why else would I be here?
'All sorts of reasons. To be one up on Sophie. I know you don't trust her. Otherwise
why would you be so jealous?'
'It's you who wants to be one up on Sophie! snapped Biffo.
'All I did was answer an invitation.
Biffo gave a short laugh.
'What's wrong with that? Why do you feel so threatened?'
'It's not me who is saying no.
'But you are. You are saying no to us in a big way. You are the one dictating terms. It
has to be this way or that.'
They descended the hill slightly apart. The disagreement had gone much better than
Marie expected. At least he had not started shouting, which he often did with Sophie in
an attempt to dominate. Being on the hill had helped. It was hard to shout above the

wind.
Had things gone differently it would be over by now, mumbled words of goodbye
and a conspiratorial embarrassment. They might even have ignored each other for
Sophie's intuition could be most uncanny.
Marie waited as he started the motorcycle, then waved as it bounced off down the
rutted track. Calm returned. Shafts of pale sunlight slanted down through the densely
planted trees. Something of the afternoon had stayed, remained intact and now with a
childlike innocence she walked on in thought, amused yet sad.
He had seemed so disappointed, forced to reassess her like a so called expert caught
out by forgery. It was not so much that she had triumphed over herself but that his
certainty had irritated her.
The church had been a time of desperation. It was better that they kept the
remembrance of one place. Somehow she knew he would return there, perhaps in
twenty years to scribble lines in a visitors book.
'Men take this power from a sense of place, she thought, 'while women remember
only the men. Then in contradiction she recalled having said. 'I don't think I could
109

make love to you in this room. Couldn't you give it a coat of paint?
She hoped Biffo would not sulk. For a moment she considered what she had refused.
It niggled that perhaps morality had crept in. Are the needs of beauty and truth
sometimes at odds? She was reminded of a clergyman who shotgunned a sparrow in
his church so that a virtuoso violinist could be recorded upon a gramophone record.
The sparrow, a perky little fellow might well have improved the performance. 'If only
we didn't remember. That is the addiction.'
'We did it three times yesterday and you don't even remember!' Biffo had yelled at
Sophie. She could hear them through the wall. After a time she went through and found
Sophie sitting on the bed cutting paper chain men from old newspapers.

Through the window an aqueous shroud descended on the roofs. Chains of paper
men tumbled down from the unmade bed. Marie talked while Sophie deaf as a
beautiful blue eyed cat snipped with scissors. Biffo sat in a corner unpicking paper
clips. In answer to Marie's unasked question he replied.
'What I'd really like is a tool for taking the backs off watches. Lamplight, the drizzle,
the clip of scissors, a train in the distance. All so far from this afternoon. Thus it was
Marie followed her shadow on the road back to Clarion.

CLARION HERALD. MAY. 1960

A most interesting lecture illustrated by hand tinted slides was given in the Templar
Hall by Miss Maeve Elphinstone, the eminent Egyptologist. Among many other
interesting topics the legend of Osiris was discussed. These Gods seemed to quarrel as
much if not more than the human beings who worshipped them. In all a most delightful
afternoon and special thanks must go to Mr Bauble who conquered a treacherous

electricity supply.

TURNING CLOCKS BACK

Hazlewood viewed his visitor as he might a potentially rabid animal. Grillparzer


110

breathed deeply. The waistcoat buttons twisted.


'Through the mirrors a bitter moon. Whipped ballerinas anonymous as dogs.' She
wiped her brow with a spotted hankerchief. Hazlewood continued going through the
motions of preparing tea. 'All this parallel existence,' he muttered, 'wears the nerve
ends out. A good walk is what you need. Forget all the old hat.
Since the appearance of Hazlewood's woman there had been nobody to listen to
Grillparzer anymore. 'The girl is a pest,' she thought.
The aluminium caravan at the back of the cafe had housed Hazlewood for many
years. He paid Rafaelle no money for the site yet remained, like a scrapyard cur kept
for his well loved bark. Hazlewood's face was deep in shadows thrown by the walls of
books, which also made up the tables and chairs. During blizzards Hazlewood burned
the less interesting volumes and while stirring the soup would hurl one into the stove's

belly, shouting: 'Potboilers! To hell with them.


The old man began to shred newspapers, stuffing them into a pair of Wellington

boots.
'The trouble with extensive reading is that it does tend to facilitate the process
disposed to retrieval of information one might desire.'
'No fish to be had,' replied Grillparzer gloomily.
'Interesting though, this transposition of Rafaelle's wife to sixth century pornocracy.'
A smile followed within these walled shadows of mildewed leather. 'She's too young
for you of course.'
What about Rafaelle then?'
Flesh for florins dear boy. Its why these chaps all work so hard. They know what
buys a marriage bed.' Hazlewood sailed and inserted a wad of paper into the boot
interior. Grillparzer glared at him.
'As for this Theodora business. It would seem Marika has provided you with a
convenient historical mask. If you choose to rape her in your dreams, then so be it.
Such a fleecy little shepherdess.'
Grillparzer heard distant hyena laughter. With relish Hazlewood continued. 'If
everyone thought they'd get another chance at life they wouldn't bother their backsides.
Put it off until next time. So they made it simple for us. You take that lift up or down.
111

One is marked heaven, the other is hell.'


It doesn't make sense you see, interrupted Grillparzer. 'When you get a five year
old child playing the violin as well as the master. That would suggest an accumulation
of knowledge or skills. I for one was born with the most unholy passions that I scarcely
understood. The whole process of cause and effect is far too complicated to be judged

upon one life.


Hazlewood waved a half stuffed boot at him. 'The mechanisms of repression are
there for a purpose. They protect us from the trauma of remembering. You don't
understand these early passions because you can't remember what caused them.'
Too much frame and not enough mirror,' thought Grillparzer. Hazlewood glanced
hastily at his pocket hunter. Griski slipped through the doorway like a slim black
cormorant. Hazlewood had been teaching her how to play the recorder and when bored
her fingers moved upon an invisible instrument.
Oddly enough the notional theories of repression are in the main part theoretical,
boomed Hazlewood, deciding to show off.
Heretical! snapped Grillparzer and the girl looked up with vague interest.
Very dubious, Hazlewood countered, getting up in a brisk way that indicated lunch.
'Do drop in, perhaps next week sometime,' he said, a deliberate hesitation in his voice.
Grillparzer went out, glancing at Griski's cleavage in passing. Hazlewood followed,
shaking hands at the door, as if to truly mark the end of the visit.
'See you shortly then, said Grillparzer, somewhat unsure. Once the door closed
Hazlewood subsided among his literary fortifications. Griski leaned gently against
him.
Reality problems,' said Griski with distaste then played an E flat. This dronken
dronken all the time. Is no good. If can't sleep then should drink milk. Agitated she
swung a long leg over a table of encyclopaedias. 'Always she complains of her burning
feet,' sighed Griski. Is much too biblical. Burning feet and performance problems. If
not happy then stay home.
'I once travelled by ship,' said Hazlewood sadly,'with a friend's ex-wife. Before my
fall. I remember vividly making love in the teeth of a force ten.' He paused as if
searching for the right cabin. 'Her on top and the old tub rolling. Did all the work. The
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Organdy or something the ship was called. One of these names awash with romance.
Originally in the Beaver Line. Liquidated in 1900. Triple expansion engines with a
stroke of four foot and it was rather interesting that the port and starboard boilers were
given as slightly different in diameter.
Griski nodded with appropriate concern.
'Why not we take off the cloth,' she said.
His arms were raised and the white shirt fell. Griski returned to a twilight filled with
the chirrip of birds. Barrel organ music drifted over the Gulf of Riga. Smoke rising
quietly in the still air above Salis.
She rode astride delirious froth mouthed wooden horses, her grandfather applauding
like a bofors gun. The mad old man with his scandalous maids in wardrobes, who had
taken her to the abandoned tunnel where he grew mushrooms. Afterwards skirt torn,
running through the night. She'd screamed with excitement at the lurid eyes, blood
rimmed, sharp as demons. How these wooden horses chased her. He bought her sweets

at the fair. A gift for silence. Her white summer shoes sinking into the slurry that had
once been grass. After the steam powered swinging and twisting machine her legs
trembled. Candyfloss, goldfish trapped in violet bags. All the time a jangling music
and the smell of toffee apples. Such brazen exhilaration as she had never felt before.
The lascivious horses flew off the roundabouts and galloped with her into dreams.
113

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

'Parties!' said Denny. 'Paper plates balanced as carefully as opinions. A celebration


of the possibilities of change.
'I lost my virginity to Bach,' sighed Marie, recalling a holiday in Saltcoats and the
first drumming bubbles of lust.
'It's curious,' thought Denny, 'how groups allow themselves to be tweaked and
smoothed into cryptic conversations. Five has expounded to twelve for much too long,
I'll mix them about. Soon the weak are loud as dingoes, thigh against thigh at the salad
table. In the children's bedroom from within the wardrobe, the ding, ding, dang of coat
hangers. A hand across the doorpost as the grinning husband is intercepted. His wife
and best friend are closeted within the jangling wardrobe,
'I say. Jolly nice. They've wind chimes is the bedroom.
Come on! I'll fix you another drink.
Exit husband in search of disappeared wife, the one who dropped ice in her wine and
had a most distinctive laugh.
'I'd say there is something seriously wrong with a country where the trains actually
run on time.'
'Ding-dang, Ding-ding dang-'
'Then the travelling hairdresser, whom nobody can recall inviting throws up in the
bath. The most boring man in the world is standing beside the fridge. Food stuck to the

kitchen floor...'
'It won't be one of these,' said Sophie, frosting the rim of a glass with sugar. Further
down the table, Denny mindful of the Major's military preoccupations arranged the
canaps in a flying V formation.
Centre of the table sat the 'Coronation Chicken,' a culinary orrery of spices and
curried mayonnaise. This dish was specially invented to celebrate Queen Victoria
becoming Empress of India. No one was quite certain which wars Major Gillow had
taken part in. During conversation he tended to jump from the Bengal Lancers to the
seige of Stalingrad. As a compromise Miss Chalmers had baked him a cake in the
114

shape of a Napoleonic cannon.


'One can't help but feel that perhaps she's expecting too much.' sighed Denny.
'Sugar for your Cobblers,' said Sophie, handing him a filled glass. She then dipped
into one of the tiny mounds of Turkish Delight. The buffet had been dressed in a
splendiferous arrangement of ferns and winter roses. The Major had not yet been told
of his celebration, but the life he led was so set within predetermined limits that there
would be no difficulty ambushing him, once his time of reckoning had arrived. The
plan was that Marie would slip a note under his door, asking him to meet her incognito
behind the curtained stage which occupied one end of the disused ballroom. He must
be dressed for dancing and sport a flower in his buttonhole. A sketched map indicated
how he must enter by a side door, last used by jazz bands in the thirties. She would
stand by the painted backdrop of a heron beneath a waterfall. The letter had been
written in a formal hand then sprayed with expensive scent.
In truth, what had begun as a private party, blossomed by some quirk of mid-winter
madness into a full blown event, which seemed to include half the town. It was with
great difficulty that word of the celebration was kept from the Major, who knew many
people 'to nod to.'
Of late he had wondered why shy smiles had hurried past him on the street. He then
reflected on Marie's altered expression. On two occasions that week they had talked
with enthusiasm despite a bitter wind.
'I Marie, being sought in mind and body, do solemnly swear, to make everybody
happy.' She raised her glass and toasted Sophie.
That afternoon they had renamed all the drinks.
'It's called an Amylniterain,' said Sophie. 'It was hellish hard to make it go black. '
'Twenties style dress, even for the men and absolutely no exceptions,' said Sophie as
she gobbled another Maraschino.
Miss Chalmers began to complain that there were not enough soda siphons for the
Dubonnet drinkers.
'Worcester sauce for the Bloody Marys!' bellowed Denny, thumbing between the
ranks of bottles.
'Crab meat with scrambled egg!' responded Sophie in her grand vibratory manner. A
115

plate of half shelled oysters eyed her suspiciously.


Marie hurried to the full length window and let the band in. Breath steaming,
dumping snow off their boots and cases, they made their way to the front of the stage.
They had climbed over the garden wall to avoid the risk of being spotted from Major
Gillow's window. The percussionist had rolled his drums across the snow. Once they'd
struggled out of their overcoats Sophie saw to her consternation that they all wore
tartan jackets and lemon coloured trousers.
'It's meant to be twenties jazz, she wailed.
'We used to be country dance,' the leader explained, 'but we haven't saved up for the
new suits yet.'
Miss Chalmers smiled. She had the notion of them breaking into the 'Duke of Perth,'
halfway through 'Louisiana Baby. As the guests arrived they were arranged by Miss
Chalmers, who had worked out with mathematical exactitude how many people the
ballroom would comfortably hold. They would each have a space about the size of a
large tea tray. Doubtfire's Dancing Academy, had been rehearsing en masse their
version of the Clarion Tango. This boasted the fascinating innovation of both partners
standing on one foot, head thrown back in a rooster like pose, followed by the raucous:
'Cock-a-doodle-doo!' This sudden exultation was accompanied by flapping elbows and
bobbing chins. Then back once more to the strutting tango. In rehearsal at a local hotel
the sound of this massed clarion call had caused waiters to drop their trays.
Marie see-sawed the note under Major Gillow's door, hesitated long enough to hear
his grunt of surprise then hurried back down the wooden stairs. The rendezvous would
take place enclosed within the curtained stage. Denny had arranged suitably romantic
lighting. On a small table sat a wind-up gramophone. Marie had decided on a short
black dress.
To this she had added an assortment of coloured feathers and three strings of
imitation pearls. The effect was rather startling.
'Black sulphide of antimony!' exclaimed Denny. 'Victrix Cornucopius! You look
splendid.' In a sudden fit of warmth she embraced him.
From the ballroom came the sounds of dozens of scuffling feet. In the pre-curtain
gloom the chandelier shimmered. Then came the strict time tango. Entwined couples
116

revolved. Mrs Doubtfire, her paste jewels winking quartered the dance floor. The
twang of her nether garments reminded Denny of the vast yet invisible forces at work
beneath icebergs.
It was then that someone entered dressed in a bear suit. Heads turned, as a result of
which several dancers collided. As bears are not easily confined to one period in time
the lady on the door had been forced to let it in. It was quite without shoes and oddly
silent.
'Didn't speak a word dear. I even tried some Latin.
It must have been hot for the fur was thick and matted and of a rather muted orange
colour. Bits of twig and vegetation still hung to it. The suit enclosed a figure which
must have stood at over six foot. Various people tried to guess who it might be.
In they came, the wind bitten hordes, stamping snow from their feet, eyes red from
the December cold. They left behind them, fighting children, arctic bathrooms and
next year's calendars piled upon sideboards.
Puddles from draped coats were forming on the edge of the ballroom. They
reminded Denny of huge tears. Other guests stepped through the full length windows,
some having climbed with difficulty over the garden wall. Others had for a while lost
their way among the shrubs.
Beads of sweat shone on Major Gillow's brow as he twisted at the black bowtie. His
nails were discoloured with shoe polish. He would recite to her. Yes, something from
Richard Three. The sound of a band playing puzzled him. Out of the corner of his eye
he imagined the white garden was alive with creeping loonies, all trailing black tails, as
if his past were clambering out of ditches to greet him. Behind the mottled shaving
mirror field guns bellowed in the snow. Inky shadows encircle the town of Clarion. He
thinks of revenge. Gil low the Conqueror, sabre poised as he surveys the town; an old
grey Persian cat lying in a crescent of burned out pearls. Main street tumbled in a
thunderclap. His binoculars were faulty. He was trying to find Marie. With all the
smoke it was hard to make out faces as hundreds ran for their lives. Men danced in the
ringing blast of machine gun fire. From his tank he could see it all. An ambushed bus
slewed across a bridge then crashed through the parapet landing upon a passing train.
He gave the binoculars a shake. The Town Hall was devoured with flames. Inside the
117

bus he could see Marie wearing battle dress, her pockets filled with chocolate bars. He
slammed down the tank's armoured slit. Two soldiers were loading the gun - a
complicated process which involved the turning of many wheels. He had been waiting
for half an hour and still hadn't heard the gun fire.
Gillow struggled into his best pair of elasticated boots- it had been such a miserable
day that he had stayed by the fire and now his feet were swollen. He dropped a wallet
into his inside pocket.
As he hurried across the gloomy landing he could not help but notice a man with
orange hair turning the hands of a grandfather clock. It began a sonorous chiming.
Almost immediately the muffled sound of jazz ceased. Voices shouted, doors were
slammed. Major Gillow walked briskly along the back corridor with its flaking cream
paint and dusty light bulbs. A cracked glass case of stuffed birds stared at him with
indeterminate sadness- then the sharp smell of polish from the boot room.
The door to the stage lay ajar. He sauntered in, trying to appear at ease. At first he
was so preoccupied with this that he did not see Marie. She coughed. He turned and
saw her standing beside a waterfall. She smiled at him. A tree hung with golden apples
occupied the space between them. Marie put the needle on the phonogram. A perilous
drunken music issued from the horn and then as the turntable settled he recognised the
beat of the Tango. Very deliberately she walked towards him. He wiped his hands on
his trousers. Then with a robotic ferocity she gripped hold of him and they jerked in
time to the music- so close a coin would have stayed between them. He staggered as
the stage revolved. Her dancing quickened.
Blood rushed to his temples as they see-sawed into the apple tree. A greater noise
resounded behind the velvet drapes. The music boomed in his head. Then they were off
again, her body pressed to his, the perfume turning his head. Then it came like an awful
clarion, a musical skull and crossbones.

Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Every rooster in the world cried out at once. He was quite sure he had gone stark

raving mad.
118

CLARION HERALD JANUARY 1960.

It is with great sadness we report the closure of the Clarion Lowland Church. At the
final service of dissolution there were about six hundred in the congregation. The
largest attendance for many years. The cost of maintaining the building has proved
prohibitive, the present active congregation numbering only fifty persons. The Rev.
Ernest Davies spoke of his belief that it was not necessary to have a particular sort of
building in order to meet with God and to praise Him, but hoped that the congregation
would find other places of worship suitable to their faith. He went on to say: 'We are
thinking of this place which was built to the glory of God, but which this evening will
have its doors closed for the last time.

TRANSMOGRIFICATION

Grillparzer changed gear fractionally too late. The tyres skidded. Through gaps in
the hedgerow they glimpsed Belisarius's armoured soldiers, halberds glinting, banners
snaking like airborne spermatozoa. The car drew in to a steadier gait as four helmeted
horsemen plunged across the road. Grillparzer moved up through the five gears. The
road opened before them. Marika's hair spilled out in the wind. Insects spattered across
the screen. They lurched over a cattle grid. Twin exhausts boomed as they sped uphill,
tilting at the sky. The car swerved round a bunch of marching soldiers, some whacking
at the hedgerow with their spears. In fifth the car sped down an avenue of trees.
Marika's fingers stroked Grillparzer's lobes. Grillparzer stayed with the steering wheel,
its whips and spins as they went through bends, while Marika teased at her neck with

fingertips.
The car skidded as clods of earth rained down upon them. In the fields came ragged
explosions. They both ducked as the car spun on a tight corner, switched head to tail
and flew out through a hedged embankment into space. They battered down onto the
field, bounced twice, almost overturned and hurtled on towards an advancing column
of infantry. Then it came, numbing blasts to the eardrums as enemy cannon opened fire.
The car rocked, Grillparzer slammed down the accelerator, while directly ahead the
119

soldiers broke ranks, confused by this unscripted bolide careering down upon them.
Some still clutched their halberds while others with no such scruples, took to their
heels and ran. Both exhausts having parted they set off at a barking gallop cutting a
swathe through packs of fleeing soldiers. For a few moments a massive moustachioed,
man on horseback kept up alongside, beating upon the car roof with his sabre. In the
distance they could hear Fascine's electrical expletives. Then that too disappeared as
the car bumped and scraped onto a narrow rutted track.
The car could be persuaded to go no further so reluctantly they got out and began to
walk. The scent of Marika in this late afternoon warmth drew Grillparzer up through
the wooded valley, which narrowed towards a steep darkening cleft. They followed a
path which bordered a fast river. Swaying trees sent mottled shadows through long
grass. They could hear a waterfall. Grillparzer thought of Marika's breasts, smooth
rounded, sweating slightly now, like ripe fruit stored overlong in a darkened shed. The
waterfall drummed in their ears. Grillparzer felt a peculiar anger uncoil from the depth
of her gut. She thought of the burial mound that formed Marika's hips. The anger
increased slithering from gut to heart. They walked between primal rocks, carved out
by the elements. The river was a torrent of white; the violet void in which they moved
strangely ambiguous. The walls of the cleft closed in on either side. A sullen thunder
rolled overhead. They began to stumble in the darkness. The waterfall reared before
them; a white plumed serpent. They locked together in a kiss, falling, rolling, screams
drowned by the torrent. Grillparzer's tongue ballooned inside her mouth. She was
choking, spitting blood, as they fell to a swirl of water, Marika twisting around her
neck. The serpent rose, between them, within then. An intolerable brightness, then
carried away, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, all melted in the mind's furnace,
tumbling in that vortex at the heart of the river.
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CHAPTER FIFTEEN
'Cock-a-doodle-doo! The Major sprang upon Marie and they tumbled to the floor.
Astonished, she tried in vain to fight him off. There they were, entangled together,
fragrante delicto as the curtains hushed back and the lights blazed on. Marie and the
Major amidst the fallen tree, petrified in pink and blue. Marie with her nails deep in his
hair, then a roar from the crowd as the band struck up. Rameses McMillan,
imperturbable as ever, raised both their arms in mutual salute. Blood gushed from the
Major's nose, while Marie tried to rearrange her dress. The band blustered into a
ragtime version of 'Happy Birthday To You,' while couples grabbed each other and
galloped about to the tune. The Major's jaw stiffened and it seemed at any moment he
might be about to lead a cavalry charge. He began to nod this way and that like a
mechanical manikin sprung loose from a loony Swiss clock. The band scrambled for
the stage, delighted to be back in the swing of things. Some wag had lobbed a truffle
down the clarinet. Starched dust cloths were whipped back from the buffet. Exquisite
jellies quivered to the tread of dancing feet. There were finely sliced salmon framed in
their garnish and chocolate cakes rich as the Alhambra. Above, the chandeliers wove
languorous blizzards of light.
Snail men with shiny; bald heads pressed forward to shake the Major's hand. Sophie
rushed from the crowd and embraced Marie. Feeling inexplicably nervous, Denny
gulped down a double Glenmorangie.
As the Major was led through the crowd by Sophie, bewilderment distorted his
features for all around him the dancers had donned animal masks.
'We remembered you were a hunting man,' Marie whispered.
Chita! heads bowed to lead him through this confused herd. For a moment the 'Dark
Continent, pivoted within his brain. He could hear the wind singing, see the blush in
the eastern sky, scented' grass and the slick oiled bullets smooth as skin. Stars at
sunrise, mist to drowsy; afternoon and a distant beat of wings. It brought tears to his
eyes. The herd was merging back, changing to human shapes again.
Soon he danced with a zest of bygone summers, Sophie leading; staring up at his
rigid, statue head. High on his forehead, one blue vein pulsated, reminding her of
school maps and the Zambezi river. As they wended within the packed dance floor, the
121

bear watched, glass in paw, eyed by nervous girls in thin black clothes. Surreptitiously
they'd giggle at the splattered red mud on his massive feet. The dance formations wove
and parried, turned on their axis; the atmosphere charged with expectation. Perfume
warmed on necks and thighs as bulky shadows hovered on the edge of the floor. These
were the single men from the farms.
On a fold down chair by the side of the stage Miss Chalmers consulted her watch,
crossed her legs then shot an insolent smile into the Major's eyes. A tray full of
scalding 'Mafeking Punch' was carried in by Mr. Dauble, the gardener. A spasm of
applause from the shadows as large hands engulfed the delicate glasses. The drinks
table had not yet been officially unveiled.
Major Gillow was having trouble with his Tango. In truth it was Sophie's proximity
which seemed to be mixing up his arms and legs. In desperation he tried out a
preoccupied Shakespearian mode.
'But I who am not shaped for sportive things, amble now before a wanton nymph.'
'How was that?' cried Sophie, pulling him in closer.
'Infinitely better, mumbled the Major.
From the snowy garden Denny watched a phantasmagoria of prancing shadows.
Then he heard the cheer as the drinks table was revealed.
The ballroom windows had misted with the warmth within. Slices of snow slithered
from the rooftop. Hands deep in pockets he crossed to the bones of an ancient car
buried in the midst of a rhododendron bush. Denny slumped on the remaining seat and
lit a pale gold cigarette. He could hear the steady thump of music from the house. To
begin with he had thought he might enjoy himself but when Mrs Doubtfire had
whipped the burial sheet from off the bargeload of food, his mind had gagged at the
thought of such culinary perfection being devoured. That, after all, was what was
meant to happen, but perhaps because of the animal masks he had thought instead of
jackals crunching through meat and bone.
The ambulance was busy that bleak afternoon for in the space of the hour's quarter
he twice glimpsed it's flickering light. A dead man's donkey, it hee-hawed through the
flurries of snow.
'The old leave so quickly in this weather.
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He remembered Sophie dancing with Major Gillow and felt jealous.


'She only does it with strangers to punish the ones she loves.' Denny sniffed, feeling
rather sorry for himself. On the stone steps a cat sat watching the dancers within. For
no apparent reason it suddenly bolted.
'Old Gillow. Just like a squashed lizard in the morning.' The thought made him feel
rather ill. The pyjama tops that don't match the bottoms. Cornflakes trodden underfoot.
An ancient radio tuned to Hilversum.
'How could she? Even dogs keep clear when he's on the street. They must sense his
room full of Prussian bayonets.
At length he could not picture her there. Spring could not break in that reeking room,
choked with cigar smoke and cheap off sales port.
'This is quite ridiculous! Then perhaps the sudden stroke. His face with that
surprised look, bulging like a freshly caught mouse.'
Ashamed, Denny tried to trace what had caused this inner disquiet. There was an
offhand quality in Sophie's manner that infuriated him. It was as if she had never taken
trouble to recognise him. At that moment, that was all he could decipher. The rest was
mostly bleeps and insane laughter. Those week-ends with Sophie in make-believe

rooms.
Marie swallowed three canapes in a row, then slugged back an inky concoction she
had mixed herself.
'It'll make you go blind,' Biffo warned, dipping into it with a straw so as to depth
charge the glass with bubbles.
Out in the darkening garden amid the rhododendron bush Denny hugged his armpits
and drove a cherry-red Eldorado into the Boy's Town of Nuevo Laredo. In truth his
nose was raw with the cold.
'That's what I call air-conditioning,' he said.
In the ballroom the Major sat on a chair, swearing softly. It seemed the safest thing
to do. The antelope masks swam past on the edge of his vision. He had been talking
aloud about circuit training, cold morning baths and the old Analyticon; a splendid
device by which two projectors threw images simultaneously upon a screen, which
when viewed through special opera glasses created an uncanny three-dimensional
123

effect. The films had been of animals at the zoo or church interiors. Behind the curtains
a young couple had begun to kiss. For some reason this irritated him. He poured a stiff
whisky then raised his voice.
'Didn't do me a jot of harm sweeping out the barracks with a shaving brush! Got
plenty of time to think why you're doing it. Consider the consequences!' He snapped
his fingers and a Bath Oliver fell to the floor. He placed his foot over it.
Some renegade dancers had switched to the Foxtrot but at the first sign of Mrs
Doubtfire's interception would crunch back to a stilted Tango. Oddly the bear did not
dance, but consumed vast quantities of food. Infact it had practically cleared one end of
the table. Several tipsy bon viveurs had attempted to converse with it, but in vain. It
would tilt it's head daintily to one side, then put both paws up over its ears.
When Mrs Doubtfire in miming dance school fashion had mimicked this gesture, it
had hoisted her up by the waist, then thrown her into the air. To give her credit she
landed well, with a substantial thump like aircraft wheels. There followed a
hammering squeal of laughter, caused more by shock than genuine hilarity.
Her eyes turned bright purple and a batwing of eyelash flapped down. Rather
nervously several members of her school hauled her onto her feet. They knew what
that murderous laughter meant. In close convoy they guided Mrs Doubtfire through the
crowd; her handbag trailing like a glossy reptillian familiar. Sophie and Marie began to
search for Denny. Since Mrs Doubtfire's unexpected crash landing many dancers
would glance around then break into a sequence of forbidden steps. Half a dozen of
these renegades were crowded in the middle of the floor. The band tried to ignore them
as their peculiar twisting movements put them completely off the beat.
'I'm just a sort of sieve through which things pass. said Marie adjusting Biffo's tie. 'I
have very few preferences apart from brandy.' Balloons spun out over their heads.
There were hoarse cheers then explosions when some were punctured by stiletto heels.
This woke the Major up, who shouted: 'Well played Sebastian!
He had been dreaming of the Somme. Miss Chalmers leaned over and asked how he

was.
'Two goals down, he growled, and tried to focus on the luminous spheres rising
slowly to the ceiling. His blue eyes swivelled to meet hers. It seemed he thought she
124

was someone else.


'If it hadn't been for the war we'd never have met. All these lads strangers to each

other. Think of that!'


She patted him reassuringly on the arm and he nodded profoundly.
'No Remembrance Day. Just think of that.'
She said nothing. It was after all his birthday.
In the snow flaked blur of the garden, Denny said.
'Let the crystals of each flake tell that we are different but made the same; intricate
constructions, we disappear without trace. Created from desire and lust the energy that
drives us, lives on want. Objects in time dissolve. So how can it be that all this nothing,
can appear from nothing and return to nothing. The void has no choice but to see itself.
Are we no more than particles within a living mirror?'
He began to kick at the snow angrily. Shadows bounced in the ballroom windows.
He stubbed his toe on a hidden root, gave a yelp of pain then fell down. There he sat
growling, holding the foot in both hands; somewhat ape-like in the falling snow.
The bear had been at the 'Mafeking Punch' and somehow half pissed it seemed more
real, as if the earlier awkwardness had been part of an elaborate act. It whistled and
growled when it danced with the girls. Their shrill laughter cut through the smoky air.
Even Rameses McMillan had tried to make conversation with this furry stranger. At
one point exasperated and slightly threatening he had demanded to know its name, as a
list of guests was necessary for compliance with fire and licencing regulations. The
bear stood on his foot. Biffo remarked that whoever it was must have a bucket in with
them under the zippered fur, for they had not yet visited the lavatory.
It was Marie's turn to dance with the Major and he quoted quietly to her upturned
eyes.
'I judge not the mussel by the fastness of it's shell. So tight a prize and yet how
delicate the heart that lies within.'
'I am strictly inedible,' replied Marie. The Major massaged her finger tips then
chuckled.
'Ah! I am grown haggard and with age my temper troubleth me. But mark it not! For
this anger brands me, with the tongue I would inflict.'
125

'Cheeky arent you? observed Marie, navigating with skill through the dancers.
Their skins were shiny now. Some had the animal masks hung around their necks.
Scraps of food clung to several shirt fronts. The emerald jelly seemed to have been
particularly in demand.
In the retiring room Mrs Doubtfire weaved her arms about in an attempt to subdue
her great tusks of black lacquered hair. Piped garage music seeped down from
somewhere near the ceiling. The dense smell of the place, over laden with perfumes
caused her to keep blowing her nose. It reminded her of trunks full of rotting clothes.
She spat in the sink then opened the bulging handbag and pulled a snub nosed revolver
up through the debris. A souvenir of her early days in Las Vegas. The unexpected
shock of being hurled up into the air had turned now to a hysterical anger. She was
determined to unmask this disgraceful intruder.
Her shrill whoop of a laugh sent a rat scurrying back into the skirting board. Even as
she sat she could hear the commotion caused as the intoxicated bear bumped about on
the dance floor.
'Thoroughly enjoying itself!'
There followed some delighted squeals, then a scurry and clack as girls were picked
up, then spun like tops in the air.
Biffo and two of the men from the farms had attempted to intervene but others had
pleaded for a more politic solution. They hoped that as time wore on the intruder would
overheat in the suit and perhaps retire gracefully. Major Gillow for one, thought it was
marvellous. He could be seen applauding the creature. Flourishing a bottle of best
Spanish red he strode up to the bear as it paused to scoff half a chocolate cake, and with

a grandiose gesture, much in the tradition of the great actor managers cried:
'Indeed there is much reason in this skull of yours, that would import the world's
wild manners and make wine of them!'
The creature stooped slightly and patted Gillow on the top of his head.
'Were you at Eton, by any chance?' enquired Gillow.
The bear's head tilted for a moment, appearing to consider this, then a paw snatched
out and snatched his bottle of Spanish red.
'You were, by Jove! boomed Gillow, then gasped in admiration as the wine
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disappeared in one long gurgle.


Suddenly above the music and babble could be heard the outraged cries of Mrs
Doubtfire, incensed at the pupils who had abandoned the Tango and opted for various
sorts of jigs. She tripped up several such recalcitrants on her way towards the bear, who
seemed to sense her destination, for he threw aside the chocolate cake and tried to hide
in the shadowed alcove where a full length window looked out upon the garden. It was
blowing a blizzard outside.
Mrs Doubtfire thumped her handbag into the back of a waltzing gentleman's knees.
He collapsed with a yelp. Several couples then tripped over him.
'You Tango or else!' she screamed. Others stopped to watch as she closed in upon
the bear. He definitely expected trouble, for a paw now rattled at the handle which
would release the window.
'Bear! Stay where you are! she yelled, disentangling the revolver from the depths of
her handbag. The Major shot up from his chair. Marie who had been sitting on his knee

went tumbling.
Nobody was exactly clear what happened next, except that Mrs Doubtfire ripped
back the fur panel of the bearsuit head, screamed and fell back loosing off a shot which
splintered through the chandalier. The lights flickered then failed. The person in the
bearsuit turned and walked straight through the window. There was a crash of glass
then screams in darkness. Mrs Doubtfire staggered back onto her feet. Her revolver
swung dangerously back and forth.
'It's an animal! I saw it! It's an animal!' she howled and began firing wildly into the
blizzard. With difficulty Gillow twisted the gun from her gloved fingers and a large
pink gin was ferried in as a replacement. At one point she grasped hold of his tie.
'It was a bear, a bear, a bear,' she gabbled, the blowing snow beginning to circle in
her glass. 'With orange eyes!
People began to laugh. Others were hugging each other in an attempt to squash out
their fright. A brush was found and the window fragments knocked out by Mr Dauble,
who had experience at that sort of thing. The band sat back down on their chairs. A
nervous burp issued from the trombone. Gradually the chatter increased.
'A bear in a bearsuit? The woman's mad. Bears ill for her brain! Ha!' Though when
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they saw the unfortunate lady, they could not help but feel she had seen something.
Several of the men led by Gillow, now holding the revolver went out into the snow.
Mrs Doubtfire's shooting had been venomous. Five shots in as many seconds. There
were those who considered this rather an overreaction to a gate-crasher. Fanning out
with a lighted candelabrum they found only Denny who emerged from the
rhododendron bush and claimed to have seen nothing.
'Odd cove,' thought the Major. 'A strapping great man runs past in a bear suit and he
sees nothing.'
'No boot prints either,' mumbled a puzzled Mr Dauble, who had come armed with
the brush.
'How'd he get over that wall? Snow on the top hasn't been disturbed.'
For a moment they all regarded Denny with suspicion.
'No! Must have been twice his height,' said Gillow brusquely.
What? asked Denny, his eyes on the Major's revolver.
'Just as well you didn't tackle him,' said Gillow frowning at the snow topped wall.
'You don't suppose the blighter jumped it?
'Walked straight through that window,' muttered Dauble taking a firmer grip of his
brush. They all moved closer together and for a while looked out over the garden,
mesmerised by the dance of whirling snow. Then hesitantly the band began to play
once more.

CLARION HERALD FEBRUARY 1960

Unfortunately the town cemetery is full and no more sanctified earth can be made
available for burial. A crematorium is in the process of being constructed for those
unlucky enough to have lived too long.

THE BATTLE

Cherry Haze trudged through the space between the railway wagons. No footsteps
followed her. Johnny would not be there when she got back. His part in the film had
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been expanded to include the words: 'There are a lot of people look like me.' This was
to be followed by laughter. She had heard him repeating his lines in the kitchen, first
one intonation then another. Previously it had irritated her to find Johnny asleep in her
bed when she returned, but now he was a rumpled shape she missed. A quick sadness
to see the blankets as she had left them. She hoped he was not going to become famous,

or something awful like that.


A pale dawn crept up behind the church towers, two of which were undergoing
repair. Their spidery scaffolding suggested a couple of granite moon rockets. As she
turned off the tracks the trees had a peculiar green brilliance in contrast to the leaden
greys of the emerging buildings. At first Johnny's persistence was flattering. Then of
course that night when she said he could stay. 'But only to sleep mind you. It's almost
morning.' To her alarm he had settled down as if that was exactly what he was going to
do. Tricky when you've not the slightest intention of sticking to your own rules.
Johnny pushed into line. Fascine insisted they all march to location. 'We must
experience from the beginning. Awake to recognise.' At first light of dawn this was not
always easy. They formed up at the mobile canteen with its bubonic coffee and stick to
the wall pies. They were to regroup on one of the angular slopes above Drumvega
Head. In ragged lines they marched between the hawthorn hedges, singing scraps of
rugby songs. In the distance the sporadic clatter of cavalry. After three days Johnny
knew the entire unexpurged version of the 'Ball at Killiemuir. He did not join in the
singing this morning, not from a sense of shyness, but because to his surprise he had
begun to miss Cherry Haze. She had just been there, comforting, yet in her own way
undemanding. A garden he scarcely attended.
A farmer hauled his tractor in to the side of the road, impatience turning to
consternation as a battle plated legion of Byzantine soldiers marched past roaring out
in unison the words to Eskimo Nell. It was the best part of a minute before they heard
the tractor kick into life. A truck went past with full size equestrian cut-outs stacked in
the back. Johnny saw that one resembled a dark haired woman similar to Marika.
Several fields away they could hear the sound of bugles.
The field was sodden and their boots sank in, turning the military might of the road
into a stumbling disarray. Fascine swore at them from a nearby hillock. As the men
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were marshalled into ranks, a jeep sprayed thick ochre dust on what was to be the battle
field. A dishevelled camera crew struggled to set up their railed equipment. Several
giant cut-out cypress trees tumbled as a helicopter landed and Rafaelle climbed out. He
walked away from the helicopter and even at a distance Johnny could not help but
recognise him. He was not capable of blending with anything.
'What we are about to experience, intoned Fascine, carried away by his own echo,
'appear to be meaningless as is so much of our lives. There is nothing older than war,
except perhaps birth and death. So when armies clash, they must slay each other. There

must be no victor. A field therefore of murdered men. When from the silence, having
killed and been killed you sense the endlessness of war, I want you to stand up and
leaving your weapon return to the lines where you stood before.'
The bearded man next to Johnny cursed and spat.
'That bloke's not the full shilling. Whose ever seen a field that colour?
'It's meant to be abroad,' said Johnny without enthusiasm.
A pile of dead bodies were being arranged to one side. Several anoraked advisors
were arguing over the possible combinations of arms and legs. Further up the field
explosive charges were being planted in the soggy red ground. Fascine walked around
the human pyramid prodding the tangle with his stick. He saw Johnny's stare, laughed
then walked over and put his arm around him.
'We must be brothers. You and me! Art is not for armies or for the people. Armies
are for the people. What people! There is no such thing. They are all individuals. There
is no people. Only dictators. They are the ones that need the people. We directors are
the same. Dictators invented the people. Otherwise there would be no people in whose
honour they could commit their atrocities.'
Fascine turned, licked his lips, then bawled through the megaphone.

'Hurry it up there, Move!'


Horses splattered past, jostling for position, their riders holding the reins
ridiculously high. A company of archers clung onto the cypress trees as the helicopter
took off, tail erect. Johnny watched, relieved to know that Rafaelle had now left.
Through the chatter of nearby walkie-talkies he managed somehow to return to the
room he had first shared with Cherry Haze.
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'When I first saw that space, the radio prominent, a breadspread of many colours, old
fashioned sewing machine, mantlepiece cluttered with pictures and decorated boxes, a
plaster statue of a small cat washing, chalky unfinished on a spread of newspapers, pale
green pillow cases, all the books read ages ago; I knew it would be with me always.
Fascine commenced shouting. Smoke machines were being hauled into position.
There was a chill to the morning. Soon the day would be pink and welcoming and if not,
that could also be arranged.
'Good morning! thundered the megaphone. 'And welcome my friends to the Battle
of Daras. That lot up on the opposite hill are the Persians, and you chaps down here
don't like them much. When we come to the battle do try and keep it real. Alright?
Quiet please! We'll break at twelve for lunch.'
Johnny gazed up at the opposing army silhouetted against the sky. They seemed to
be having trouble getting onto their horses.
'Where'd they get that bunch of yo-yo's,' complained the bearded one next to Johnny.
'You'd think they'd give us a bit to eat. There was bugger all for breakfast. I don't call a
pie breakfast.'
Horses stamped and shifted, men shuffled in the ranks, cracking jokes, prodding
each other; in truth nervous of the clash to come.
'Much as it would have been,' thought Johnny.' This tension, breath steaming in the
cold air, everyone anxious to get started. The muttering dying down in the ranks as the
banners tilt forward. To be fair though, Justinian's troops did not break for lunch.'
Below the cliff, Wolfman listened to the sounds of battle. He and Hughey the Hog
had retreated to the crumbling front seats of the corroded Hispano Suiza. The
Pendreich family were never aware that this car had been dredged from the ocean. The
murdered twin had been put to earth quickly and the machine erased from memory.
The screams of dying men intermingled with the gulls. Nemeton was displeased at
having his world invaded by past history. He blew his nose then fixed unblinking eyes
on the luminous mouth of the cave. It made him feel safe to be snugged down in the
walnut bones of the old car, with its salt encrusted bonnet and tarnished brass rimmed
dials. The dashboard boasted an altimeter. Ironic considering the final plunge from the
clifftop. There were nights in his dreams when Nemeton was sure that Argot Pendreich
131

took the wheel, with his twin brother giggling in the back. Together they climbed
through a landscape of scabrous ravines.
'They've breathed the power back to Mallachdaig,' said Hughey. 'Not such a clever
thing to do. Only feeds ghosts.
Should have tipped it over the cliff, muttered Nemeton. 'Built a small stone
harbour.' He rubbed thoughtfully on the steering wheel, as if in touch with the spirit of
this lamed machine.
'Ressurrection. There's Pendreichs yet alive in the living. If you built a harbour. No
telling what might land. Laws of attraction. Enough in that granite to tear the flesh
from bone.
132

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
It took three of the hill shepherds considerable effort to lock Mrs Doubtfire in a
parked car. She had turned dangerous, throwing chairs at the chandalier and glugging
back bowls of Mafeking Punch; all this punctuated with shouts of 'Bravo!
Mr Dauble threw his gardening coat in beside her. As she unrolled a window and
began to scream, the Rev. Ernest Davies put down the plastic bag which contained the
cat and recited a hurried prayer in Latin, his hand placed in blessing upon the snowy
car roof. Much to the surprise of the shepherds this had no effect. He brushed snow
from his famous Bible, the one he had bowled at a sneak thief, knocking him senseless
over the roof repair fund box.
'Sorry to hear you've lost your church,' said Dauble cheerfully, as he pulled back the
wooden doors which led inside.
'We must move with the times, intoned the Reverend. 'There is nothing in the
scriptures which says the House of God cannot be mobile.
As Dauble latched the door, a faint scream arose from the locked car. The shepherds
shook their heads and made the sign of the cross, while the Rev. Davies pretended not

to notice.
Mrs Doubtfire goggled up through the open window to the topmast line of the roof,
and there, faint yet massive amid the whirling snow sat the undoubted shape of a large
bear. She let forth a long hysterical squeal and it seemed to peer down at her, then

wave.
Bring my revolvers' she screamed.
The creature, arms and legs splayed, slid slowly down the slope and then skilfully
hung for a moment on the guttering, before swinging in through an open top window.
She sat transfixed.
Suddenly it reappeared and blew her a kiss. Her chins all quivered. Quickly she spun
the little handle which would close the window.
Denny danced with Sophie. It was much more pleasant than standing under a
rhodedendron bush. Since abandoning his vigil in the garden he had taken rather too

much to drink.
'We two must be alone,' he whispered, glancing across at Biffo. 'Why let yourself be
133

scrimshaw to some sea-booted oaf?'


'Just tell me one thing,' she replied.

'Anything you desire.'


'Which pocket do you keep your heart pills in?
He tried to ignore her sudden hee-haw of laughter.
'As one gets older one sees further.'
'You take me far too seriously,' she sighed.
He increased the pressure at the base of her spine. A quizzical expression came by

way of reply.
'I'm reading about a certain Agostini Amali, a Venetian code master who was shot
for refusing to be serious.
'I saw him,' said Sophie. 'He came dressed as a bear. Perhaps we should not be too
silly.' She winked at him. 'Remember what happened the last time?' Denny shivered
and tried to look unconcerned.
'Anyhow, I'd catch my death in this dress on the roof.'
'But it doesnt have to be on the roof,' he protested.
'Well why didn't you say so?' she exclaimed. She appeared so serious he was taken
aback. Then she whirled and tapping Biffo on the shoulder, began to dance with him
instead.
There was a flint edge of resentment in Denny which rebelled that night, became
angry with all the waiting. At that very moment if he had by chance found ten thousand
pounds in a telephone kiosk, he would have abandoned all these people and set sail for
Valparaiso; to be lost among a thousand streets whose names he could not pronounce.
Perhaps a mangy room pulsed with the rigorous tedium of uphill trams; blue monastic
shadows towards evening, when he would emerge as a tail-thumping libertine. A
scented whiff from the cavernous churches as he strolls down Redondas to the red
candle-lit bars where matelot dwarves play cards and a dog sings.
In mid Foxtrot the band unexpectedly teetered into a scrimash of sound which
eventually emerged as a full-blooded Eightsome Reel. Partners who had previously
believed themselves to be exhausted once more took to the floor. In all the excitement
one of the farm girls threw both her shoes at the chandelier, extinguishing some of the
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lights so that the dance took on a Rabelaisian quality with savage whoops as the giddy
circles engaged in a mutual hari-kari. The Major and Miss Chalmers spun at the hub of
this demonic round-a-bout. It was as if the Charge of the Light Brigade was being
performed upon a whizzing gramophone table.
Amid the clash of buttocks and bones Denny was buffeted upon the knees of this
roaring family. Harnesses McMillan lost his grip in the circle and smashed into a
jungle of potted plants. Meanwhile the Major and Miss Chalmers had somehow within
the heat of this cacophany, discovered each other. They jigged like long lost
marionettes in the midst of a yelling circle of six. Denny could not recollect them even
speaking to each other before. The barking heathen tunes had triggered some powerful
mutual attraction. Sophie and Marie could be seen rising and falling graceful as
dolphins, while Biffo rowed behind in a ragged but enthusiastic pursuit. Exhausted,
Denny managed to push his way through the throng and after some difficulty found the

door.
Thumps and howls chased him out into the corridor. Here he trod through a chilly
gloom. A young couple were kissing hungrily; the girl's head thrown back like a
drowned cat. A frail gleam defined the snow glazed windows as a clock rapped out the
third hour of the afternoon. He thought of Sophie, kohl eyed, hurrying to meet him.
Such imaginings! At the foot of the stairwell he paused and listened; the wind sighed
among the upper landings. He felt apprehensive as he might if in search of an intruder.
Denny mounted the stairs and climbed slowly, for some reason aware of a need for
ceremony. Too many hours spent in the mythical Torre Marina, his wooden chair
lowered over the battlements; a water sketching pad on his lap. It was harmless
moonshine if of a somewhat shady kind; echoes from an imagined apolaustic life.
On the shabby first floor landing with its rufescent carpets and gloomy stain glass
window he peered outside to where the snow danced around the nearest church spire.
The granite tower stood stiff and disapproving whether from the cold or the feather
touch of the flakes, it was hard to tell. The upper reaches of the spire were completely
obscured.
'I have an inability to deal with what appears to be my destiny, he thought. 'The
butcher who said I should not eat, the teacher who said I should not teach, the judge
135

who said I should always plead. Guilty. We don't change much but we do get tired. We
can slave and believe only in that. Useful robots, convinced we are alive. Some are
created lucky. Their fingers are born on the hidden catch. For the rest of us destined to
one holiday a year and a seat on a bus, there can only be dumb acceptance. No more or
less than that. To strive becomes obscene. The Roxy is now a lemonade factory. So
much for dreams; so many bubbles. We were not main event. So in this obscurity,
shared by gutted stars, and so on... Anyway, death comes soon enough. Give the little
man time to change the reels. He gets very hot locked up in there, with his singed tails
and charred top-hat. The roots of desire grow with desire. Simple as that.
Then with a jolt he realised that someone stood close behind him. Sophie smiled,
serenely unconcerned.
'Schadenfreude,' she said.
'Miss Skevington, he replied.
She clasped his hand in hers.
'Do you remember the loft with the parrot's cage, trunks and all the bits and pieces, at
the back of the north landing?
He nodded, feeling unaccountably afraid.
'I'll meet you there. When I've left the ballroom, then you will know. There are
people I have to say goodbye to.' She left on an in breath of scent, dispersed by the time
the sudden roar sounded as the doors swung open, then closed behind her.
A flight of stag heads winked at him from the upper stairways.
'We have been the same,' they sighed. 'We too have known erections.

173.
Denny hurried down to the hall and taking a stick from the iron hat stand went out
into the darkness.
A claw edge of scarlet cloud hung in the western sky. The day had hurried off in
thankful retreat. An ambulance brayed from beyond the trees. He watched the brief
sparks of blue as he carefully descended the steps. Mrs Doubtfire spied him and began

to bellow.
'Up on the roof! she cried hoarsely. 'Up there! Up there!
'I've tried that, replied Denny, then suddenly raised the stick and brought it down on
136

the car roof.


'Get in the back,' he commanded. 'Now! Quick! No time to lose.' As she scrambled
over the seats, he reached inside the window and opened the passenger door. The
starter button fired first time. An ancient engine began to grumble. Amber bulbs
flickered from several portholes on the instrument panel. He reversed the beast then
found by chance a lever that worked the windscreen wipers. For some reason Mrs
Doubtfire began to laugh. The seat springs creaked in simultaneous hilarity. A
grampus on ice, the black car slithered down sideways through the front gates, then
finding traction began to gallop through the pelting snow. The process by which they
reached Main Street was closely akin to sledging and on the invisible round-a-bout
they executed three graceful double reverse turns before ploughing off down a twisting
side street. At last, momentum spent, the car came to a standstill opposite the Roxy
Cinema. Here, without prompting, Mrs Doubtfire reached into her handbag then
shoved a pile of banknotes down Denny's shirt collar. Slamming the door behind her
she hurried off towards the brightly lit cinema. An usher waved her through in front of
a long queue of children, some shoeless, others wrapped in makeshift tubes of
corrugated cardboard. Someone at a barrow was shouting out.
'Hot eels! Eat my lovely red hot eels!
Sadly the patrons of this cinema had no money to buy them. He noticed the film
poster, lit in pink and blue, and the title, 'Abbadon.'
The car started of its own accord and set off hungrily along the narrow side streets of
the town. Flakes of snow drifted through the open window and rested upon his hair and

eyelids.
He sang sea shanties beating in time with his fist upon the wheel, noticing that no
matter how hard he pushed the accelerator the car's speed remained constant. People
digging snow from their gardens leaned on their spades and waved. Some had hung
lanterns on nearby trees. On a steep track that skirted the edge of a disused railway
tunnel he saw the house standing amid a copse of ancient beeches. He had opened both

windows as even with the wipers flapping it was difficult to make out the road ahead.
A false impression of warmth came from the amber instrument gauges.
In his mind he entered the loft cradled atop the house; an upturned wood ribbed boat,
137

where all the detritus of past years had lodged. He recalled that a parrot had once
inhabited the cage, smashing to pieces every mirror given to it. One Polly unfooled by
its own publicity. There were wooden puppets with no heads and paintings of ancestors
with no frames. How the rusted lawnmower had got up there he could not guess. At
one time a wardrobe had concealed the entrance to this place. He was surprised that
Sophie knew the location as it was out with the usual territory of residents. In fact
Denny found difficulty remembering the last time he visited it. A rainy afternoon
perhaps while leafing through layers of exercise books. Cloying damp, water dripping
from broken gutters. It reminded him of discarded clothes, mildewed summer fabrics
that could never be lived in again.
* * *
It occurred to Biffo as he stumbled around the ballroom that he was having some
trouble recognising Sophie. Twice he had approached young ladies and on both
occasions had to mumble an apology. Their acid smiles followed him into the crowd.
The women all seemed to look like Sophie. The other detail that disturbed him was that
the room itself was gradually enlarging to accommodate the swelling crowd. It had
become rather circular and there were a great many more mirrors. Whiskered
gentlemen in old fashioned military uniform danced with verve and by the time he had
completed a circuit, other officers had entered, shaking snow from their cloaks as they
stepped through the open windows. Their medals glinted with rainbow colours.
A few of the original dancers remained but they appeared tired, almost translucent in
their face and limbs. Perhaps the shooting had discouraged the others, but attracted
these gentlemen, some of whom sported elaborate dress swords which got in the way
of the other dancers. Biffo's heart began to quicken for each girl in the ballroom had
assumed enough of Sophie's features to be remarkably like her but insufficient for him
to be certain it was her. He resolved that he must at all costs find his motorcycle. He
threaded through the bystanders. These people were not interested in making way for
him. Their medals flashed, hurting his eyes. His shoes kept slipping on the spilled
drinks. The sword hilts caught at his clothes. He grasped the back of a chair and
unsteadily straddled the seat. A blonde girl glanced down at him, frowned, then smiled.
Too late he recognised Sophie. In a moment she had gone, guided by a gent with a
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brindled moustache and scarlet uniform. The closer he tried to look at her the more his
vision blurred. As she danced her cheek rested against medals, her mouth a mocking
smile, fingers barely reaching round the leather strapped waist. Slowly, still clutching
the chair, Biffo fell. Unnoticed he lay on the ballroom floor.
Denny found the front hall crowded out with yattering couples. Where on earth had
they all come from? He had abandoned the car in the ruins of a rose bush. No doubt
there would be questions in the morning. This gabbled conversation, some in a foreign
tongue, puzzled him, for all the cars apart from the one in which he had arrived, were
gone. The snow was not yet quite deep enough to have covered them. A girl in a pink
and pearl striped dress grabbed him then tried to waltz. She wore a small mask of
bleached bones threaded with silver bells but it could not hide the prettiness of her face.
Her gilded eyelids flitted. He gazed up at a large oil painting. There were several, each
with an ornate frame so finely carved as to be in competition with the work itself. This
one in particular caught his fancy- or was it that the girl had looked up at it while they
danced. She rested her chin on his shoulder and slipping off a ruby ring put it onto one
of his fingers. 'It will remind you of someone,' she said.
A dark haired lady in summer clothes sat astride a tame leopard. She had a
remarkable resemblance to Marie. Her face was pale, slightly pointed with wild hair
tumbling to either side. A red dress was wrapped around narrow legs. At that moment a
fat military gentleman nudged his elbow and said in a confiding way.
'It's rare when women come to riches, except through sin.
'Who is she? asked Denny, hoping this might lead to a more satisfactory answer.
The man blinked then stared at him closely.
'Art thou here by invitation?' Denny tried to edge away but the man caught hold of
his sleeve.
'Scroggins!' he shouted. 'Got a yokel here. Chuck the rascal out.' Without hesitation
Denny punched him on the nose and before the guards could arrive had scurried
through the swarm of guests that came out through the open ballroom doors. In the
ballroom he could see no sign of Sophie. He tried asking some of the less formidable of
the officers but they spoke in a language he did not recognise. He thought it rather odd
that all the girls were blondes.
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'She must be waiting for me,' he thought and going up the steps at the side of the
stage, went in behind the velvet curtain. His idea was to use the side door as an
unobtrusive access to the servant's corridor. Then the back stair would take him up to
the northern lofts.
A gentleman and lady adorned in long purple wigs but little else were frolicking
around the stage tree. For a moment he toyed with the notion of pulling the lever which
would send the curtains rattling apart, but then he remembered the guards, no doubt
still hot in pursuit. As the couple danced they tossed violet apples to each other.
'Volo non valeo,' sang the lady in a shrill voice.
'Viva voce, boomed the reply.
'Resurgam! Virum volitare per ora.'
Denny hurried on his way. He was not entirely happy about the way things were
shaping. At the end of the narrow bell lined corridor he found the entrance to the back
stairs. Boards squeaked as he made his way upwards in the dark. Through various
wooden doors he heard the sound of whispered conversations but by the time he
reached the top landing, all was silent. In the darkness he felt for a door. Much to his
surprise there was none. He tried the light switch. It was out of order. It then occurred
that perhaps the loft had opened from one of the two side rooms. The first door jerked
short on a latch chain. A woman's voice inquired who it was. Denny explained that he
was looking for Sophie. She replied that he would have to wait. A scuffled change of
lovemaking came from within a bed. Denny withdrew to the second room. Here the
light worked but he could find no trace of an entrance to a loft. A bed with bare springs
stood in the middle of a cigarette pitted linoleum floor. On the washstand stood a large
white jug. There was not even a wardrobe to look behind. Both sash ropes on the
window were frayed as if someone had been sawing at them with a blunt instrument.
Sweat broke out on his brow. The rooms surfaces began to dislimn into abstraction
then at the corner of his vision he saw a picture of the Hindu God, Yama; the appointed
judge and punisher of the dead. Here was the embodiment of power without pity, the
dispenser of stern unbending fate. Through the wall came the low keening sound of
orgasm. Yama was seated on a buffalo which he guided by the horns. In one hand he
held a mace and in the other a noose used to draw out from men's bodies the souls
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which must appear in judgement. The panting through the wall guttered out to silence.
Then after a while came trills of laughter. He could hear someone dressing clumsily
then a rattle of chain as the door was opened. Denny reached the landing in time to see
the man with the orange hair, clothes dishevelled, hoisting up his trousers as he hurried
down the back stair. The silence was broken by raucous laughter, singing, then the
splash of water on flesh. A voice called: 'Hurry up precious! I don't want to get cold.'
Denny edged forward. He recognised the voice as Sophie's.
She sat in the bed, one leg twisted out from beneath the covers, her right hand
winding through the tousled hair. Painted tin toys were strewn across the floor. On the
bed end hung an empty parrot's cage. Two headless puppets sat on the pillow either

side of her.
Denny clicked the latch chain home and before he really had any idea of what he
was doing, his left shoe had clunked to the bare boards.
'I can't quite remember when you last took your clothes off, she said. 'A good few
years at any rate.
'Who was that? asked Denny.
'A close friend,' she replied, 'but in a hurry. He says he's late. She reached down and
pulled the patched quilt up to her chin.
'Let's hope you take your time.'
The infuriating thing was that he had no sooner stripped off one article of clothing
than another would replace it. He kept changing his mind about the colour of the shirt
he had on, and as he did so he would find a shirt of that colour still on. The socks
proved impossible. One moment they were a pale lime green and the next they
reappeared with black and white stripes. He had removed at least three jackets and
almost a dozen ties. At last in a fury he tried to get into the bed wearing a tartan
waistcoat and a pair of hiking boots. Sophie shrieked and would have none of it. White
woolly combinations had somehow grown on his legs and the boots were replaced with
rubber Wellingtons. He could see Sophie was getting impatient.
'It's -alright if I've got my boots on,' she explained, 'but do let's try to have some
etiquette. You'll want dogs and eels next!
'You certainly know the right clothes to wear,' sang Sophie from the bed. 'It's a pity
141

you can't forget them.'


A polite knock sounded at the door. Denny spun round then stared imploringly at
Sophie. A pair of kid gloves appeared on his hands.
'Another time perhaps,' she said.

CLARION COURIER. MARCH. 1960.

The Town Council today sought assurances from the Military that nuclear
armaments would not be carried by aircraft operating from the base outside Clarion.
Squadron Leader Bill Bosworth said that the report was entirely untrue. He added that
people should not believe what they read in the newspapers. Squadron Leader
Bosworth went on to explain that there were normally a great many military aircraft
operating from the base and that the authorities could not discuss operational activities
as such. He reminded the meeting of how many people were indirectly employed by
the base and of how many local businessmen provide services for the base. 'A great
deal is paid into local coffers in the form of rates.' Squadron Leader Bosworth pointed
out that this military establishment contributed much to what would otherwise be a
struggling provincial town.

CIRCLES OF HELL

The drunks were worse than usual that night. They bellowed at the herds of shop
girls that scattered from the dancehalls of Ixion. Hoarse cries echoed in the uphill
streets. Couples lurched into the paths of taxis, arms whirling even once the vehicle
had stopped. Grillparzer recalled Griski's words. 'I do like fashionable boots.' The girl
had extended something akin to a cloven ski.
Griski seemed to know he had been searching for her. Grillparzer turned the key in
the door. It had been quite a night, succulent with fumbled avocations, the driver
having taken the long way round.
On the table a bottle of brandy waited to be defused. He switched off the lamp and
went to the window, pushing it up carefully, so as not to disturb the telescope.
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The cellar bar had been unbearably warm, with several scuffles and an attempted
theft from the charities bottle. Grillparzers umbrella had mysteriously disappeared.
'Bloody Bolsheviks, stole my umbrella!'
From behind the telescope Srillparzer clung to the edge of his world. Another much
brighter, beckoned from within Ixion. Could he perhaps walk that invisible one mile
wire? This little platform with its faded walls and overflowing ashtrays seemed so far
removed from the upended blazing liner that filled the lens. Within lay Marika of
whom he could scarcely think, for if he should contemplate too long, he would be on
the ledge and walking, teetering through the void to Ixion. Winged messenger or
great-toed sloth, he could not tell.
The thing is, he said aloud. 'Is she redeemed without me? then collapsed in a fit of
laughter. A noggin of brandy restored equilibrium. Glass in one hand and eye to the
telescope he peered towards Ixion. It danced then bloomed as he fumbled with the
focusing ring. Through a halo of light he saw Marika enthroned in a great hall. The
words he heard had a harsh mechanical twang as if they issued from an obsolete
museum recording machine.
'To assist the Bishops in making the correct decision Justinian summoned one
hundred and fifty nine of them from the Eastern Church and six from the west. Pope
Vigilius refused to leave his cell where Justinian had imprisoned him and was
consequently threatened with loss of life. The Bishops then began formally cursing the
works of many of the earliest Christian teachers. Anaethema! To send into ever lasting
hellfire the souls of men no longer upon the earth. The souls of men who had done

humanity no harm.
The voice ceased with a grinding sound as if locks were turning. Grillparzer saw
Rafaelle draw a cross of blood upon Marika's forehead. Brush fires of cheap brandy

flared within his gullet.


What is happening to me? he asked, wiping his brow. In a panic he began to read
the letter from Griski aloud. As he stood up the chair fell over, 'Had Rafaelle sent her as
a decoy to keep him from the pert slippery smiles of his so called wife? ' He was paid
handsomely for doing nothing. Grillparzed stamped his foot, then began to pace the
room. 'When I took my medicine to smooth over my soul after having to leave so fast.
143

How is your sex? Is it the same with other girls? Bet they can't do the gold coin trick so
good as me. Went on the moped along the river and the setting sun among the clouds
was so great and I forced myself to enjoy what is given free, well, and the pools, and a
fab trout fish did the healing balm and so I could be friendly and positive when I came
back, and I decided to show the fairey tale riverside with grazing deers to some people
of the guests, who really got well on it too.'
Qrillparzer sucked on his glass and tried to envisage her with ferns and flowers but
she metamorphosised back to harem harness. Griski's sudden conversion to the Sun
God unsettled him.
Once more he crouched behind the telescope and levelled the barrel. When he
touched the focusing ring it was as if Rafaelle sprang from within a pool of neon. He
stood on Ixion's parapet, staring down at the streets, his dark suit flapping with the
breeze. Grillparzer tried to bring the face into focus but it remained indistinct as if the
features were constantly shifting position. He fell back into the chair and groaned.
Rafaelle perched like a black suited headless fly upon the topmost edge of Ixion. The
telescope became a sniper's rifle. Such a simple solution. Arms jerked skyward then
one of these ridiculously enormous pools of blood that seem to occur when dangerous
men die. He thought of Mafia chieftans sprawled like pillaged Pharoahs beneath bullet
riddled cafe tables. Why did they always insist on eating out? Grillparzer was not
convinced that Rafaelle even ate. The face he had seen was net one that could be fed.
Rafaelle was grinning at him. He leaned forward and squeezed the trigger. The bullet
whizzed off but became exhausted in space. Rafaelle began to walk slowly along the
parapet.
'Jump!' shouted Grillparzer. 'Go on. Jump!
Grillparzer splashed out another glass of brandy. It was either that or the long walk,
high above the roofs to Ixion. He began to laugh, acting up to the cracked wall mirror.
'I shrunk shrink, by desire will appear invisible to all and sundry, Doctor of Sublimity,
with fly rod and waders. Dropping the glass he lurched in an uncontrolled diagonal
towards the lavatory.'I Grillparzer, pork chop of oblivion, curses missed, who saved
himself from shipwrecks by always travelling on trains...' He leaned against the door,
hearing a bell ring and after some difficulty managed to swing it back, but welcomed
144

nobody. The stairway was devoid of humans. He waited but none materialised. Patting
his pockets for key and wallet, he closed the door behind him, and was rather surprised
to find himself descending to the street.
He went into the Corona Cafe and ordered a baked potato. A thin woman with
turquoise nail polish prepared the order. She shaked out the skimray soft polythene
bags. This rustle of gossamer transported him back to a tall grassed field in July. Griski
had been seared of the flies and complained that the sunlight hurt her.
On a television screwed to the wall they were showing Cocteau's Beauty and the

Beast.
'Only a bad man would set a gorilla loose,' he muttered, drawing a smile from the
woman behind the counter.
Late might?' he asked carefully.
'Didn't use to be, she sighed. 'But it's money I suppose.' She looked at him intently,
'We all need paid. Hot the same without it.
He managed a nod. Sweat broke out along his hairline.

Sot any kids?'


'Just the one.' She smiled her smile again. 'I found out what caused it. Grillparaer
looked suddenly nervous.
He left hurriedly, zigzagging away from, and then towards Ixion. For some reason
there were no street lamps, but when he looked up there was in fact a glow, though not
sufficient to provide light on the street. After several turnings it came to him that the
woman in the cafe had been wearing Griski's rings.
There were no people, darkness, the soft echo of his steps on the sloping cobbles.
The shortcuts got confusing and he felt convinced that sometime back he had taken a
wrong turning. The streets were increasingly difficult to recognise.
Suddenly, there was a girl in a doorway, white raincoat, head tilted downwards. She
was deep in thought. Red hair tumbled over her face. She remained motionless. He was
aware of his footsteps and was concerned that she should not be alarmed. Her hair
shone with a luminosity alien in these darkened streets. Both hands were thrust in the
raincoat pockets. He was about to pass when he stopped and stepped close to her. The
head came up, skin glistening stretched on bone, a sacrificial skull of blood. She smiled
145

and an empty gash appeared. He tried to scream, but his heart was spat out, scattered in

the sky above.


146

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Denny stumbled from the room with, the most vivid impression of Sophie's white
vacant face, abstracted, yet disdainful.
Couples were dancing on the darkened landing. An accordion played. Each floor
was packed with people and when he sought refuge in his own room, he found it full of
uninvited guests. His bed was piled with discarded coats and with a start saw Marie's
head staring out from beneath the layers. Much to his relief she jumped up and taking
his hand, said it really was time he learned to live.
She hurried him downwards through the house. Small fires had been lit within
rooms around which people sat in circles. Soon guests were cooking food. Denny
presumed that all the food in the ballroom must have been eaten by the bear. A girl in
dark purple velour dress and white plastic shoes danced alone. Marie led him along a
brightly lit corridor, the marble floor of which reminded him of railway stations late at
night. He realised she was wearing a scarlet dress identical to the one he had seen in the

picture. He was about to joke about this when the pet leopard appeared at her side. It
trotted along, bells tinkling on the blue leather collar. From time to time it would
glance up at Denny as if expecting to be spoken to.
'To dare, still to dare and ever to dare! exclaimed Marie as they passed the entrance
to the ballroom where women extravagantly gowned and feathered, flirted with
circling herds of men. The music was now a horrendous cacophony. Several gentlemen
asked her to dance. The leopard growled at one of them. The gent bowed and backed
off. Marie's glance flicked back and forth across the crowd. The leopard growled,
curling protectively around her bare legs.
Top hatted strangers jostled to either side. Lights began to falter as if something was
beginning to interfere with the electricity supply.
'It's in here, she cried suddenly, and opening a door hurried down a flight of stairs.
The air smelt warm and sweet. Denny guessed that they must be entering the basement
boiler house. He had thought it disused for many years, but lanterns hung from hoops
of rope and the ancillary chambers with their barrel-vaulted roofs were packed out with
uniformed soldiers. These were not the men he had seen upstairs. Their faces were
147

strong but worn, the faces of men who had worked the land, who knew hunger. These
uniforms were undecorated with medals. There were no silver eye-glasses or slicked
back aniline crowns of hair. The ones nearest to the boiler house were waiting patiently,
waiting their turn to move inside, where shouts and cheers could be heard. It was
obvious that someone was having a good time. Those in the vaults sometimes joined in
with applause.
'Like to try one on sir?' cried a burly Sergeant, pointing to a pile of uniforms on the
table.
'Turn you into a man, sir! The ladies like a uniform.' 'Go on,' urged Marie, 'you look
so out of fashion in these clothes.' 'What did I tell you sir?' and the Sergeant gave him a
nudge then a knowing wink.
'Try it on for size! See if you're the fit for it sir.' 'Then we'll get you to join in the fun,
said Marie, laughing as if it were all an enormous joke. The winking Sergeant held out
the uniform for Denny to slip his arms inside. He felt the grey epauletted jacket fall
heavily upon his shoulders. A belt was pulled tight. Still laughing the Sergeant helped
put the boots on, Marie clinging to Denny's neck, her scent filling his head with all the
thoughts appropriate to soldiers. 'Ah, how tantalising that scarlet dress and wasn't it
strange that there were no other women in here?'
The men slapped each other on the back, told ribald jokes and glared lecherously at
Marie, who just smiled back. The leopard now growled continuously. A sword was
strapped to Denny's side. Marie took his arm and they went to claim their place in the
queue.
Shouts and roars of appreciation came from inside where a red glow showed upon
the stone walls. The soldiers began a marching song, their boots stamping on the
flagged floor. Marie squeezed his arm. Pots of ale were circulating, each man taking a
deep draught before passing it on. Their whiskers frothed and they wiped raw lips.
Suddenly there came a push forward and he found himself just within the entrance to
the boiler house. Soldiers were lined up, two deep around the walls. A Sergeant, much
larger than the first, and decidedly more fierce was bawling out numbers from a list.
Then Denny realised that he also had a number on his tunic. Two men at the head of the
queue stepped forward and were ushered into a wooden enclosure which had once held
148

the supplies of coal. Denny could not understand what kept the furnace burning so
strongly, for the doors were wide open and a stinging heat issued from its iron belly.
Already sweat trickled on his neck and brow.
The two men who had been called into the wooden enclosure drew their swords. The
Sergeant shouted out a command and they began to fight. The blades clashed, then
parted and at that moment Denny knew that this was to be a fight to the death.
Instinctively he turned towards Marie. She had gone. Instead a tall man with a scar on
his cheek looked down at him and grinned. Sparks flew as both blades met, the two
combatants swaying, then one toppled backwards against the wooden wall and in an
instant was impaled. Mouth and eyes wide he screamed until the sword was pulled free
from his body. As he fell a great cheer went up. Orderlies hurried in and stripped the
loser of his uniform, then picking him up at the head and foot, carried him out of the
enclosure. There were jokes and shouted obscenities as they swung the body back and
forth before hurling it into the open furnace. The soldier who had so expertly caused
his companion's death was then ordered to the end of the queue. The dead man's
uniform was folded neatly and carried with great reverence out of the boiler room.
Denny twisted at his jacket buttons and to his dismay discovered a gash an inch below
the heart. The thick grey material had been lovingly mended. He realised now, that
there was no turning back. His furtive attempts at removing the jacket were in vain. It
seemed to have been fastened in a way he could not fathom. There followed whistles
and catcalls as the next pair of men were ushered into the enclosure. Once more a
soldier was slain; this time hacked to bits in a most amateurish fashion. He was
shovelled into the boiler while waiting men cursed and grumbled, as if they had
somehow been cheated.
I like to see 'em with arms 'an legs. Know what I mean John? In desperation Denny
scanned the door for Marie. Perhaps she could explain to someone that it had all been a
misunderstanding? Marie was nowhere to be seem. He remembered the story of a
piglet that had led grown porkers to their execution for the sake of a fresh carrot. It was
disturbing how rapidly he found himself at the head of the queue. His partner nudged
him and smiled, but there was a brittle glint in his eye, as if he relished the thought of a
fight. In this soldier's look he saw the prelude of a perpetual horror show; tricks played
149

with cruel mirrors, where anger and pride trip at each others heels.
The Sergeant in charge had expanded grotesquely though his head remained the
same size. He grew with each corpse tossed upon the fire. Denny felt hands push him
forward. The tall man with the scar flexed his shoulders in preparation for combat, then
made a show of drawing his sword from the scabbard. Denny did not follow his
example, for he walked slowly to the furnace and tossed the weapon, inside. Suddenly
a roar accompanied by a whirling motion twisted the soldiers this way and that. A
fragmentary gale, torn limbs and screams as the pressure crushed Denny to the floor,
and then as if from a point in infinite space, he saw Marie float through inky darkness
towards him. Her features were quite calm with a tranquility and radiance that
astonished him. He lost consciousness.
Biffo woke up in the road, snow inches deep on his face and coat. His motorcycle
hung in a tangled heap among the branches of a tree. With difficulty he began to crawl.
An ambulance passed, siren howling. He could hear whispering. He saw Sophie in bed
with a stranger. The clock told him it was four in the morning. It was so cold his tears
burned. He tried reaching out for Sophie. There were rooks in the trees. The lion and
the unicorn would be sitting on their pillars which overlooked the road. With the
birdsong came a soft cool calm. A clear light untainted by the fumes of traffic. He
sensed also, listening to the stranger's breathing a peculiar lengthening of sounds as if
the time past had suddenly hurled itself into a tunnel.

CLARION HERALD APRIL 1960

The magnificent weather over the Easter week-end provided a splendid start to the
holiday season with shops and boarding houses all doing a roaring trade. Clarion Brass
Band put everyone in the mood for spring. Dwarf varieties of bearded iris will be
blossoming now, and the warm west winds will favour those who like to be up and
about.
Clarion Walkers Club will meet at the Town Hall next Saturday and persons wishing
to take part in the spring walk will be conveyed free of charge to the lighthouse at
Dunscaith, where the keeper will take interested members to the top.
150

DEATH SENTENCE

Johnny was awakened by lightning which revealed an unfamiliar room, lined with
ranks of gilded frames, from which stared anonymous ancestors; a uniform coldness in
their eyes, glacial blue, chill as summer Dresden. Two guards burst in, and twisting his
arms behind his back, propelled him down a dark corridor. He was thumped like a
battering ram through double doors into a brightly lit room flanked by rows of Bishops.
The guards struck him and he fell to the floor. A rotund man whom he recognised as
Justinian stared at him.
Sir, you are here before us, accused of a crime against the Holy Roman Church. It
has been revealed to us that you have been engaged in the pursuit of heretical views
held by those known to be our sworn enemies. Johnny glanced to the left and right.
The Bishops appeared disturbingly authentic. Johnny's lips moved but the power of
speech had gone. 'Furthermore it was known to you that membership of this group was
punishable by death.' A bored smile appeared on the face of the nearest Bishop.
Justinian turned a ring on his finger and continued. 'It seems death holds no terrors for
you. The thick eyebrows arched as if expecting denial. 'You merely slip into another
body. How convenient. Was it not sufficient that your leader was flayed alive; but you
desire like fools to deny Christ. To deny his love and charity! 'Johnny felt the lights
begin to burn his eyes. Justinian smiled. 'When you come back, please do not hesitate
to let us know. Our response will be similar. He pulled a sheet of parchment from
within a tied roll. Johnny closed his eyes and listened to the voice, unable to decide
whether this was an actor or someone else. Justinian arose and read aloud in a
melancholy voice that rose and fell in a way that made it difficult for Johnny to
concentrate on what was being said.
'If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls and shall assert the monstrous
restoration that follows from it: let him be anathema. If anyone say that Christ had
different bodies and different names- became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a
Power among Powers, clothed himself in different classes of reasonable beings with a
form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is
become man for man, and does not profess that God the Word humbled himself and
151

became man: let him be anathema.'


Johnny in a sense hardly heard Justinian, aware that in listening vague feelings of
guilt would only increase. His mouth remained closed. Tears pricked at the back of his
eyes. The rounded words recited with an inexplicable courtesy, taunted him. It was as
if he had already died. The Bishops were viewing a corpse.
'If anyone shall say that Christ is no wise different from other reasonable beings,
neither substantially or by wisdom, nor by his power and might over all things, but that
all will be placed at the right hand of God, as well as he that is called by them Christ, as
also they were in the feigned pre-existence of all things: let him be anathema!'
As Justinian looked up, ruby sparks came from his finger rings. His small white
hands had tightened into fists. Johnny felt the first tears begin to flow. 'Why? Why was

he crying?
'If anyone say that the life of the spirits shall be like to the life which was in the
beginning, while as yet the spirit had not yet come down or fallen, so that the end and
the beginning shall be alike, and that the end shall be the true measure of the

beginning...'
Justinian paused then spoke slowly. 'Let him be anathema.'
Johnny wasn't clear what happened next, more words or a sign to the guards but he
was hauled onto his feet and all the Bishop's faces had become identical, and
Justinian's was also that face with its thin sad smile of inner guilt.
In pain he cried out and tears ran hot as brands. The guards bundled him from the
hall and then into the outer darkness. Marika's voice floated soft with promises. He was
sure she was close behind but the guards did not seem to hear. The voice weaved after

them.
'I am the honoured one and the scorned one, I am the whore and the holy one, I am
the wife and the virgin, I am the mother and the daughter, I am the members of my
mother and I am the barren one and many are her sons. The scent caught the edge of
his senses, more a memory than a presence. He saw now that the concrete blocks from
which these walls were built had a regular mechanical precision that reminded him of
military bunkers.
'I am she whose wedding is great and I have not taken a husband, I am the midwife
152

and she who does not bear.'


'Surely this could not be Mallachdaig?' Her perfume followed; so close. How he
wished for a friendly world of amber and glistening pavements, chip shops and the
moan of buses changing gear. The smell of wet hedges and piano polish. Getting on the
bus, jostling Friday night. The excitement of pretending to be someone else.
The guards tightened their grip. They were marching in step and it was up to him to
stumble along as best as he could.
He remembered Marika's insistence on the use of correct glasses for brandy, and
how he had teased such pettiness as a way of glorifying irrelevance through ritual. Or
had that been Cherry Haze? No. She would have glugged it from a jam jar. 'How will
they kill me?'
There came then a mournful sound of people singing and through vertical wall slats
he saw the roofs of a town that might have been Kelloch if it were not that the houses
were dull red and the streets of a burned out cinder. His impression was that this
corridor must be part of something moored over the town. Johnny found that the
singing scared him. It had a hysterical hopelessness about it. It was the singing of
people who had already died. He began talking to himself, repeating whatever words
there were.
'Organised functions under the influence of the id, or the if, cannot be organised into
structures. Quite so! Manifestly repressed oral stage, extinction of voice- going to hang
me. Me? Surely not.
Must achieve control over the sphincters. Forgotten my lines. Going to hang me. If it
takes fifteen men three days to dig a ditch five foot...'
The larger of the guards elbowed him in the ribs.
'Quite so, he gasped, hardly feeling the contact.

'Shut your bloody mouth!'


'Unparsimonious theorising, clearly implausible. Exactly! On the other hand could I
say that this cluster of traits tend to collaborate an extremely fanciful and speculative
argument.'
They pulled him out upon a concrete roof garden, which was rather surprising as he
had expected a locked cell. The possibility of a choice of final meal before the
153

sleepless dawn. Then it occurred that they might be about to throw him over the edge.
The paving stones were silver in moonlight and then in a far corner, rather too large for
perfect scale, he saw Marika and Rafaelle sitting under a yellow table umbrella. Writ
with neon the cypher Ixion towered high above them. A young man with a drinks tray
walked towards Marika and Rafaelle. The guards dragged Johnny towards the far
parapet. He could see that Marika and Rafaelle were close in conversation. They had
either not noticed him or had chosen not to. Their bodies were tilted together;
enigmatic conspirators. The guards tightened their grip on his arms and then as they
reached the parapet, it began to rain, fast heavy drops that danced on the concrete. To
Johnny's astonishment the guards let go of him and stared skywards in consternation.
As he twisted around he could see Marika hurriedly push down her dark glasses. He
took his chance and slipping free he took off at a run towards them. He shouted out
greetings, arms flung wide, aware that the guards were hot on his heels. As he came to
a halt at the table he realised that this man was not Rafaelle. The guards pinioned his
arms but Marika motioned for them to stand aside. They did this with reluctance.
Johnny smiled at her, but she regarded him without expression.
'It's a mistake, said Johnny. 'I'm not who they think I am.'
'That could be your problem,' said the man. 'A lot of people look like me,' muttered
Johnny.
Marika glanced at the dark suited man at her side.

This is Mr Grillparzer,' said Marika.


'I think we've met, said Johnny, hoping that at last things might be improving. 'I
read something you wrote once. The man gave a peculiar smile. Marika reached over
and took Grillparzer's hand. For a moment Johnny feared this person might
re-materialise as Justinian.
'I can explain, he said to Marika, but this annoyed her and she gestured so that the
guards held him,
'Next time perhaps.
As they dragged him back to the parapet he could hear her whisper. Johnny sensed
the lights of Kelloch far below, the breeze was cool on his sweating face. He knew he
must not allow them to cast him over the edge. His left knee dipped and he struck
154

upwards with his right elbow, catching one of the guards under the nose. The guard
yelped then staggered back. Johnny broke free. The second guard became entangled
with the others legs and stumbled. Johnny jumped onto the parapet. The guards
scrambled to their feet then stopped in astonishment as they saw him sprint along the
full length of the wall then leap out into space, arms spread, soaring gently to begin
with, then spiralling upwards at a leisurely pace.
He could see the entire top of Ixion now. Moonlit rain soothed his skin, the guards
were running for the stairs, hoping perhaps to catch him in the street. Johnny was not
sure that he would go down there again. Marika stared upwards, the dark glasses mimic
skull sockets on a white face.
He travelled through luminous cloud, rolling unfolding, seemingly endless, with
fleeting glimpses of blue black sky alive with stars. Below, the dappled surface of a
moonlit sea. The stars were so much more beautiful than city lights. Even as he flew
the whispered words caught at his heels. 'I am the solace of my labour pains, I am the
bride and the bridegroom, and it is my husband that begot me, I am the mother of my
father and the sister of my husband, and he is my offspring.
Grillparzer awoke to a sullen thunder. Rain drummed and wet lace curtains were
twisted in a filigree knot. Then came a pounding of triple expansion engines trying to
give birth in his head. He was not sure he would make it to the fridge with its ice cubes
and carton of orange. A dozen distorted faces broke surface then turned turtle. He
rolled from the bed then crawled to the light switch. The room was roughly as he
remembered it.
In the kitchen he felt less at ease, as if some essential but unassuming item had been
stolen. In the freezer he found a scribbled note from Marika. He unfolded it and then
drank some orange juice.
I am the slave of he who prepared me, I am the ruler of my offspring and he is the
one who begot me, before the time on a birthday, and he is my offspring in due time,

and ray power is from him.


Grillparzer peered closer at the page. The words faded to nothing leaving only pale
blue lines; infinite Aegean horizons.
155

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Marie entered the garden and found Sophie playing with an emaciated cat. They
were beneath the withered apple tree whose gnarled branches prayed fervently for one
more Spring, the cat was chasing a milk bottle top attached to a piece of string. Biffo
seated on a bench, looked up from his comic then arose and walked slowly towards
Sophie. She paid no attention to him. Biffo glowered at the cat as it chased the bottle
top and if Sophie had not been so entranced by its acrobatics, he might well have
kicked it. She seemed to pick up on this and slapped at his booted feet.
In her room Marie took off her clothes then stood face on to the mirror. Sunlight
patterned the wall above the washstand. Through the partly curtained window she
watched Mr Dauble at the helm of the lawnmower as he see-sawed through rough grass
behind the fish pond. Sophie had the cat cradled in her arms. Biffo stalked away in
disdain. The cat peered into the waters of the pond. All the fish had died during the
severe winter. These fat lazy golden fish she had loved to watch. Even though the
garden was aglow with sunlight, a spearhead of ice still glistened on the upper reaches
of Clarion Moor. Muted cries came from children in a field beyond the trees. Marie
began to wash herself. The swirl of water in the basin set loose a dancing pattern upon

the wall.
A jet warplane from the base went screeching overhead. She put both fingers to her
ears and glared up at an empty sky. Shivering, she dressed quickly. At times she was
sure they were playing at bombing the house. Such ugly brutes with hunched wings.
On the stair the aroma of cooking drew her to the kitchen. Here the Major was
indulging in one of his fry-ups. He grinned as she entered, Marie stole a scrap of bacon
from amongst the tomatoes and bowing exited through the garden door.
Since the return of sunlight the Major had become more manageable and did not
speak so often of war. As a treat Marie would let him take the boisterous Crowbar for a
walk. In the evening he played gramophone records, especially when Marie was alone.
The power of music extends beyond poetry, he explained. 'It is a dance for the
heavens. Humans are hardly consulted, Having said this he would lift the needle in
order to play some favourite passage.
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Denny paced his spartan loft. A one bar electric fire spat in the corner. His bed was
strewn with screwed up balls of paper.
'It is less dangerous for a woman to become a man, said Sophie. 'For she cannot in
body become a man. Yet in spirit it is possible.'
'Does the accumulated ironmongery of our labours really affect us, he replied.
'Those metal births. I'm not sure there is much difference between a bicycle and a
Mercedes Benz. Yet we slave to bridge the gap.'
The previous evening he had discovered Grock standing at the foot of his winter oak.
His arms were outstretched and he seemed to be in communication with a small
hawthorn some distance off, Denny sat on a tuft of grass thinking of what had not
happened in his life, and some of the things that had.
'So much of what we term happiness depends on how we see what surrounds us,
Grock explained. 'Human beings are always comparing things instead of experiencing
directly. It is a basic cynicism,'
'How can I overcome fear?' Denny asked,

You must try to enjoy life, Grock replied.


Somewhat surprised Beany nodded in agreement. Before he could remember the
other question, Grock had arisen, shook his hand and disappeared between the trees.
Light on the foliage had a clarity, as if he were seeing it for the first time. A luminosity
emitted by the leaves.
Yes,' thought Denny as he flopped upon his bed. 'Much more bougainvillaea and
warmth at the windows. Then as if down a trick trapdoor he fell asleep.
Lions romped towards him; large golden maned beasts which snarled. There was a
fluidity in their movement. It became quite clear that they would not hesitate to eat him.
In fright he ran for the wall, a part of him knowing that it would be too difficult to scale.
As he reached it, Sophie leaned down and pulled his to safety. The lions bounded and
roared, then grinned up at him as if it were all a joke. He was aware of her white dress
and then of a drone, perhaps of the big eats purring as Dauble passed with the

lawnmower.
Denny opened his eyes. Sophie was stroking his hair and for a moment he dared not
move or speak. When she saw that he was awake she frowned, then rested her palm
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upon his forehead.


'You were mumbling and groaning,' she said.
Thank goodness for that, he replied, then smiled.
She tweaked his nose. Denny closed his eyes.
'I came to borrow from your rainy day money,' she said.
They were going to eat me, he replied.
'I want a chocolate cake.' She crossed to his desk and rummaged about in a jar, then
with a cry pulled out a banknote.
But that's money,' Denny protested. She slipped it under her watch.
Come back, he protested. 'I'll be eaten by lions.'
Much to his surprise she returned and kissed him long enough for him to wrap his
arms around her. She came down slowly upon the bed. Her tongue slipped into his
mouth, hardly pausing when Biffo's voice was heard calling in the lower corridors. Her
eyes wide, emerald in the gloom. The sharpness of blood nipped at his tongue. They
rolled slowly, elbows jutting, breath tightening, patterns emerging in the play of hands.
The heat of breath on skin as their bodies locked together, hair meshing, as scatter
cushions fell like plump pheasants to a barking gun. 'Sophie! A pause. 'Sophie? Biffo
drew nearer.
They merged outline to outline, heads buried deeper than hollow hills. After the
zigzag speed of zip and nail came the rhythmical ascent. Expanding notes on a jade
flute. The final inhalation then a floating world set free.
Below them Biffo slammed doors. They lay as if chipped from volcanic ash. Traffic
scurried on the road outside. The steady beat of the mantle clock.
Marie heard Biffo calling in the garden and was reminded of the lambs on Quinnoch.
She bleated out his name through the open window. He turned around, unsure of where
this noise came from. It followed him at intervals around the garden; a mocking echo.
In frustration he kicked out at the apple tree. Taking a knife, he hacked his initials upon
the bark. He felt completely alone. This had never happened before. He dared not call
her name again. The sound of his own name being echoed only amplified his panic. He
hurried for the gate that led out of the garden.
Sophie departed, changed rooms so quickly that Denny was left staring at the ceiling
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wondering whether she had ever been there. He peered over the bed to see if she had
left even a shoe behind, but there was nothing; not so much as a hair upon the pillow.
He got up and stared at the rumpled bedspread. This was the only evidence he had.
When Biffo pushed open the gate in the wall he stood on the verge of a field of uncut
gorse. In a far corner a hare sat up on its hind legs, looked at him then bounded off into
the wood. Then he heard his own voice calling out for Sophie. Fists clenched he
shouted for it to stop, but it continued, weaving somewhere ahead. He ran in pursuit of
it, dodging between the gorse and when halfway across the field the voice vanished,
fast away from him, as if into space itself. He slowed down to a walk and then with
stealth moved in upon the edge of the wood.
Sophie heard his screams and putting down her needle and thread hurried froa her
rooa, tugging the dress on around her as she went. On the stairs she collided with Marie
who had also been alerted. Side by side they moved towards the open gate. Marie
spotted Biffo sprawled in the shadow of the wood. It was only when within a few yards
that they saw the jaws of a trap with its chain attached. They pulled apart the rusted
teeth. Biffo lay dazed, having struck his head in the fall. His ankle was swollen and the
boot would have to be carefully prised away. Together they lifted him up and with
Biffo limping made slow progress towards the house. From long grass the hare
watched this transformation of man to its own hopping motion. Mr Bauble appeared
with a large wheel barrow and seated in this Biffo was propelled towards the kitchen
door.
His foot was bruised but with no bones broken, the thick motorcycle boot haying
taken most of the impact. Marie fetched the Major's medical box while Sophie boiled a
pot of water. Biffo's ankle was beginning to darken. He was warming to all the
attention, feigning bewilderment even when concussion had worn off.
'You shouldn't have gone into the field, said Marie. 'There must be some reason the

crops wont grow in it.


'Never stopped you going there, he replied.
'Havent been in it since I was that high.' She indicated the height of a gorse bush.
'Remember we used to play there. You chased me all over the place.
'You didn't tell me that,' scolded Sophie. 'Something to hide?
159

Our Biffo has a short memory,' said Marie. 'When it suits him.'
She waited for the moment of panic in his eyes, then laughed.

It's what's called relative truth.


Seated at the table the two women watched him as they might a sick ape newly
delivered to a run down zoo.
'They aren't very good at being ill,' said Sophie. Marie pinged her teacup with a
spoon. Biffo looked at her.
'Lamb chops for dinner,' she said.

CLARION HERALD JUNE 1960

With sadness we hear of the forthcoming demolition of the Rex Cinema, which has
been used for some years now as a lemonade factory. Grandparents will recall its
transformation from silents to the talkies and then to the epics of the silver screen. In
early years the stalls were dark crimson, the circle purple and the balcony antique gold,
while extras included a Chinese Tearoom and soda fountain.
Later in the fifties the auditorium was redesigned to represent a Greek amphitheatre.
An atmospheric starlit ceiling completed an illusion of space open to the night sky.
On the 5th September 1956, the Rex showed 0n The Waterfront with Marlon
Brando, which was sadly to be the last picture in this illustrious and well loved
building.

THE CORONA CAFE

Eventide. Across the withered lawn blown leaves dance upon their shadows. Some
whirled upwards, scraping at the windows. Next door a muted pianoforte. The glimmer
through trees deepened to shadows and the last sharp cries of the garden birds caused
him to look up from the page. He had been reading from the Death of Theodora.
'The Empress knew she had not long upon the earth. Justinian had condemned the
teachings of Origen relating to pre-existenee of souls. Theodora could not accept that
she might be judged on her actions, so had taken the precaution of having herself
160

declared a Saint.
Our own judge and jury, Grillparzer muttered, 'According to what we have caused,
we suffer. It catches us eventually,'
He remembered Cherry Haze like a ghost from the past. They had met at a dance in
the Pavillion; bleached turquoise paint, iron balconies and pagoda roofs. Through the
years it had provided an arena for lovers. The draughty toilets were lined with
contraceptive machines. These had been dressing rooms in the days of Variety and
gilding could still be seen where tiles had fallen.
Kelloch Town Council had attempted to demolish this building in order to erect
more trampolines. The town fathers ever mindful of the need to provide a stable moral
platform for the young, believed that the trampolines served as a harmless diversion of
the sexual energies. A conservation lobby had succeeded in having the building listed,
so once more the usual week-end scufflings could be heard at the back of musty
balconies.
Grillparzer breathed on the window pane. Soon it would be time for the night's work.
No more speculation. He looked at the painting of three orange haired sisters playing
hockey on an evening beach, then recited aloud. 'He will seduce you and you will fall,
for all the flags and all the speeches and all the things that won your hearts before. You
pay the price for a celebration to end all celebrations. This earth a vast revolving
bonfire, playing happy host to all the stars and planets, at last sending its warmth to the
furthest reaches of the galaxy. What fun they'll have...and us with all our kisses blown
out. Forgotten guests.'
The painting was scarcely visible now. Faint cries echoed from the running girls.
The sky faded. He put on the coat of fawn with pale red check and felt safer with its
weight upon his shoulders.
'Work is both sanity and slavery,' he sighed.
Marika sat atop the swimming pool wall, her hair a scribbled tangle against the
western sky. She wished she were not Rafaelle's daughter and she also wished that she
had Johnny. Her father did not approve of Johnny, with his indeterminate religion and
curiously changeable accents. If only she could steal him from Cheryl.
In the distance she saw Grillparzer wearing the shapeless ochre coat that gave him
161

the look of a down at heel comedian. Mocking gulls scythed at his head. The last hour
of daylight. The bloody sun recalled the blistering inferno that had destroyed his wife's
house. The rose window transformed to a globe of molten glass, which the firemen
kicked about in the chill dawn. Each year the upkeep of the house with its frequently
flooded basements had taken what money would have been available to allow him the
luxury of travel. The trip back to Stargard had been cancelled so many times.
Eventually his mother died and he realised there was no sense in returning. So five
hundred years of ancestor worship had been put to the torch. How the old house had
cursed and spat its vengeance. Before she died, with that peculiar blueness in her eyes,
his wife had accused him of her ruination. 'My father will avenge me! The last
Pendreich male, dead at fifty though he looked a hundred. A victim of his inclinations
they said. Sulphuric ether and live conger eels, or so the tale went, relayed by a terrified
pantry girl, who though never entirely lucid, could at times be persuaded to tell the
truth.
Grillparzer did not see Marika sitting high on the swimming pool wall. She watched
him as a cat might a fat yet inedible prey. He saw the Corona Cafe with Rafaelle
crouched over the till as if in the midst of symphonic composition. As Grillparzer
entered the cafe Rafaelle greeted him in the usual brittle manner.
'How are you boss? Okay? There was a bullet like concentration that came to this
ball headed man when he was counting money. Grillparzer placed his hat on top of the
till, then snatched it back when Rafaelle attempted to swipe it to the floor.
'I'm counting!' he shouted, then snatching an ashtray hurled it into the waste basket.
'It's your wages come out this till.' He glared at the window reflections, unable to see
beyond.
'Now tell me my friend. Did you mention me to your daughter.'
Taking Grillparzer by the arm he led him through to the back shop. The smell of
cooking and confectionary gave way to disinfectant. Rafaelle was anxious to shoot the
feral eats which roamed the grounds of the burned house.
'She doesnt like people shooting animals,' said Grillparzer.
Vermin,' shouted Rafaelle. 'Rabies! Tom want rabies? Then they would pay me.
Pay me to shoot everything.' This was a concept which greatly excited him.
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The previous evening, while Grillparzer stirred the bubbling oil, Rafaelle had
graphically enacted his slaughter of a nest full of young birds.
'Then the next sticks his head out. Wants to know what's going on. Bang! His hands
smacked together. 'Bang! Bang! Bang!'
163

CHAPTER NINETEEN

A bell tolled. The rumbustious clanging caused delicate china ornaments to tremble.
These sat in polished display cabinets throughout Clarion. Dustless in their glass
emporiums, whey faced girls ripe for the hayshed gazed wistfully at sturdy bulls.
These and a dozen other equivalents for sex which could not be portrayed, occupied

empty front rooms.


Afternoon sunshine touched the edge of Denny's desk. He felt a brief longing for the
desolation of winter, then rattled the cardboard box filled with old letters. He was
sorting them into manilla envelopes upon which he wrote the name of the sender.
Several of these were packed while others held only a few postcards. A girl whom he
remembered with great fondness had written only in pencil which had faded to
practically nothing. Perhaps she had considered this. Blunt lead squeaking on the x-ray
paper; a garish yellow which gradually ate her words.
Muffled laughter came from Marie's room. It had been her birthday the previous
week but Sophie with wayward memory had been unable to obtain the gift on time.
Marie held the beribboned basque and silk stockings in front of her. It reminded her of
a cowboy outfit she had once owned when a child with paste stone studded gun belt
and scarlet lined tassel holsters. The sides of the basque were inset with fine lace. The
fastenings were hidden and intricate.
'It's Dognin-Racine,' said Sophie, 'Absolutely barking mad. It was soon apparent
that a would be seducer would either need lively co-operation or a pair of rose pruners
to pluck the hidden bloom.
She suspected these trappings of Venus represented a form of self inflicted bondage?
an immolation of the flesh under stricture of thong and lace. Sophie embraced her.
'Men are a puzzle. she said. 'So attracted by exaggeration. She undid one of the
bows. 'Something to do with adolescence and the thrill of foreign hotel rooms.'
'New clothes are new beginnings, said Sophie. 'Though I will feel rather wrapped
up like a present.'
What kind of fool I am,' sang Marie, 'who never kissed a frog.'
They danced together in the curtained room, brightly coloured wrapping paper
164

clinging to their heels.


For a while the sudden sunlight had driven the residents in upon themselves. They
resembled hares crouched on the edge of an unknown field. The fantasies of a summer
coming. As always it would be jucier than the one before. Dreams had not

compromised with truth.


Denny shuffled the letters, some marked with dates, others less sure, postmarks
having blurred. The past swam, darting in odd and unexpected patterns. Miss Chalmers
amid the scented flower shop or Biffo alone in a motorcycle showroom. Both victims
of lives lived out through catalogues.
Miss Chalmers had gone to choose the flowers which the Major might have sent her,
had he remembered her birthday. In keeping with what she guessed might be his choice
she selected a hideous bunch of fleshy roses which she stuck uncut in a jar by the sink.
On the next morning the Major admired them and she congratulated him on his taste.
He left to play a round of golf, not on the first course, but on one which he claimed had
superior character.
The difficulty in trying to join the other club was that members of the committee
came to visit your place of residence and if decoration and co-habitants were not up to
scratch, the application was refused. One gentleman with a background in scrap metal
switched craftily to import-export and told the interrogators that his wife was of noble
Portuguese blood and had not yet mastered the intricacies of English. Imagine the
astonishment when on being elected the said member's wife picked up the language
with amazing rapidity and in a pronounced Cockney accent.
As he dragged his pram filled with scarred irons he reflected on the outcome of a
visit by the golf committee. It did not bear thinking about. Why only the previous week
Miss Chalmers had spotted Biffo watering plants on the third floor landing without as
much as a stitch of clothes. It seemed more likely that Sophie had thrown him out for
some reason and he was pretending to do something useful until she passed. However,
this sight had somewhat alarmed her and she had asked the Major to stay with her that
evening in her room. Armed with a book on dog breeding he sat awkwardly by the door.
She reclined on the quilted bed cover, reading glossy magazines and smiling up at him
with disconcerting frequency.
165

He hadn't known quite what to think but remembered how well they they had got on
at his birthday party. Until he passed out. That had been rather a technical blunder. Not
that he had planned any sort of mediaeval grotesqueries, but given certain peculiar
circumstances that sort of scenario was not altogether impossible. The following
morning he had not liked to ask who had put him to bed.
In his room Denny thought of the early morning people going to work and returning
drained beneath the penumbra. In between, it is tight deadlines and suicide. Those
without love exist as dreams, walking extensions of the night. He could hear the
scuffling of birds building under the eaves. A sudden breeze shook the curtains;
sunshine in the garden, silvery clouds travelling overhead, some in the shape of
sleeping warriors. Blades of grass twinkled beneath the twisted apple tree.
'Life is not sad, he thought. 'It is us who try to stamp our angst upon a ceaseless

river.

CLARION HERALD JULY 1960.

At last. They are here. Ixion Pictures are ready to begin work on their new film to be
called The Bearkeeper's Daughter. There is a need for fifty extras to be recruited
locally. The location manager informs us that the first action scenes will show the
landing of survivors from a torpedoed ship. This will take place on the beach below
Drum Head.

THE LAST PICNIC

It was one of these luminous days which leave an impression of childhood returned.
Constellations of white tipped daisies were pressed underfoot as Cherry Haze, having
squeezed through a break in the hawthorn hedge, ran down the steep field which led to
the sea.
A shout came from Johnny. She turned, shading her eyes, the other hand clutching
the canvas shoulder bag which held their picnic. He came galloping down beside her, a
six forked branch held like stag horns to the front of his head. She took his hand and
166

they descended to a fringe of white shelled beach. Here they spread the bath towel
within the sculpted shelter of a large sand dune. Dark spears of marran grass waved
against the sky. Cherry Haze lay flat on her back while Johnny sat, hands clasped
round his knees, counting the incoming waves.
'This reminds me of when I used to skip school, she said. 'I'd walk miles along the
beach. There was a wrecked car up among the rocks. It had tattered leather seats and in
summer they were lovely and warm. I'd curl up with my favourite book and pretend I
was somewhere else. Silly when I think how beautiful it was.
'Fair well spoken days,' he replied then kissed her and thought of Marika. Irritated,
he picked up the canvas bag and threw it to one side. He stood up brushing sand from
his legs, then took off towards the waves in a loping run which made her laugh. A
moment later he was wading waist deep through the breakers, both hands conducting
the incoming waves. Cherry Haze lay back and let the glassy whiteness of the sky float
down beneath closed lids.
Johnny's face drifted in dusty sunlight. It was curious how he kept reappearing. The
last time he had pinned her to a slot machine and declared his love within this
chattering garish aura. The hush of the sea took her thoughts. She imagined a time long
before when a young man from Crete loved her.
'We used to play among the fields, sometimes climbing high into the hills to a
natural arena bounded on three sides by white cliffs. There was no vegetation, only
boulders carved by the wind so that they appeared in the evening light as twisted
human shapes. When the sun went down the rays were reflected back from the cliffs,
the rocks throwing long shadows, thus creating a vast irregular maze. There we played
chasing games, one keeping to the light, the other to darkness.
'It's maybe Johnny who is chasing you,' said Hughey the Hog. 'I can see him coming
through your eyes.'
'And heir to the curse of Mallachdaig,' Nemeton added mischievously. They sat
together in the cave beneath the cliffs. Cherry Haze shivered and Neraeton playfully
pinched her thigh. Embarrassed by this Hughey kicked at the burning driftwood.
Shadows started up the rough walls. She could feel rain tipping at her hair and cheek.
Johnny the bastard heir. Sounds a mad bugger. Better if he is not to know. Having
167

said this Hughey stared at Cherry Haze. She spat in the fire. Behind them hovered the
twin headlamps of the beached Hispano Suiza.
'There have been times when I wanted to tell him, she said. 'When he is destroying

himself or lost.
Nemeton grunted. 'Would forge him half brother and the dark side would spur his
madness. There's nothing like tradition to sanctify insanity, Nemeton struggled to his
feet then rubbed at his knees. Once he had steadied himself, he leaned on the car
radiator and began to recite in a loud voice: 'Only the bark of a plunging seal, only the

curlew's cry Hughey the Hog threw a burning stick at him.


'Give you a tune later, he chuckled. 'Wouldn't do to spoil you.'
Saw it in his face, said Hughey, 'first time I caught him with the nightlines. Only a
nipper then. Far too damn alive for his own good. No mistaking Pendreich eyes. Cold

as owls.
Cherry Haze shrugged, then felt irritated.
'My great grandfather did some good in Kelloch. Housed homeless children, built a
railway line.
It ran from the harbour to Mallachdaig,' said Nemeton, 'and the other line brought in
coal from the mines. Mines worked by children. Certainly he housed them. They
weren't much use to Pendreich dead. He glowered out at the darkening rain blown
mouth of the cave.
'He did good, said Hughey 'but only where it was seen. Orphans parading for a
prayer and a slice of bread; and that statue of him up on a horse. That cost the town a
few years dinners. He spat in the fire. 'You can't eat bloody statues. It was a show of
giving that depended on maintaining a hunger.
Cherry Haze drew the cloak around her. Since inheriting Mallachdaig she had spent
many hours at the cave. Her family history, locked within a dozen iron trunks had been
destroyed by the fire. Her mother with the Pendreich eyes, blue as the sea might turn
before a great storm had suffered from terrifying hallucinations when memory of the
house and its burning returned. It was at such times she would recite the family tree,
singing parts when her recall failed.
You could pull down the walls, suggested Nemeton. 'I've had a breakwater in mind,
168

something to take the east wind off the beach.' His conviviality was no more than a
pleasing scabbard in which the knife was held. 'Push the whole damn lot over the cliff.
A spasmodic twitch of muscle jerked her back to the sunlit beach. There was warmth
and brightness after the darkness of the cave. Through one scarcely opened eye she
could see Johnny sitting beside her. 'You've been sleeping, he scolded. She sat up and
frowned at the cliffs. 'I don't know. I was sure.
Food, said Johnny. 'Eat don't think. He rummaged among the wrappers for scraps
that he had not already devoured.
Suddenly a black dog bounded over the crest of a dune, skidded around them, then
set off at full pelt along the beach. Johnny looked around hoping to find an owner he
could yell at. There was no one.
Seems to know where it's going,' he said as the animal ran towards Drumvega.
Cherry Haze pulled Johnny in beside her.
What will happen to us?' she asked. He shrugged then kicked at the sand thoughts
flitting back to the previous summer when he had made a pittance repainting stolen

bicycles.
'It's now that matters,' he replied. 'Watch the bow wave not the wake.
At the horizon edge the soft blues had given way to an encroaching darkness. 'Make
sense to me,' she insisted.
'The past won't change anything,' he said. 'It's a diversion.'
'But everything does come back,' she insisted. Even the ocean is curved. The ships
seem to disappear but reappear somewhere else.'
Dust to dust,' intoned Johnny letting sand trickle between his fingers. She slapped at

his arm.
'So why are men so desperate to make things into straight lines? Because it hardens
their grip on what they imagine is reality. It provides a trapeze to catch them and a box

to put the world in.


Johnny sprang to his feet and turned several cartwheels. She smiled recognising his
panic. He was not keen on thinking. It was a diversion.
With the heel of her shoe, he drew a circle on the sand. Inside this circle they grasped
hold of each other, pushing and turning, each trying to throw the other out. The
169

struggle exhausted most of his nervous energy, for Cherry Haze was more than a match
for him, twisting unexpectedly at the edge so that he west sprawling. Eventually they
both collapsed in laughter; sand in their hair, bodies tangled.
They raced each other to the sea. Here they splashed and swam, coming equal in the
races which Johnny always insisted upon, and which Cherry Haze occasionally let him
win. The wind increased and the water quite suddenly chilled. They retreated to the
shelter of the sand dunes and dried each other vigorously, noticing how quickly the
darker water, which had been like a split vein upon the horizon flooded in to Drumvega

Head.
'One minute we're basking like seals,' cried Johnny, 'the next like bald men in a hail

storm!
As if to reinforce this change a troop of horsemen thundered past, dark and angular,
shouts blown on the rising breeze.
'Theodora's bodyguard!' exclaimed Johnny. 'Must be a tea break.'
'What is this Marika really like?' asked Cherry Haze, trying not to sound interested.
'A lady on stage and an actress off it.' He laughed nervously. They climbed together
from the beach to the hill.
'She creates mayhem. The schedule is in chaos. You're liable to find half an army
pissed in the pub, when they should be off slaughtering Goths.
They scrambled through the hawthorn hedge then walked along the lane to where a
blue bus waited.
In a window seat as the gears engaged she waved good-bye aware of how troubled
Johnny seemed when they parted. She felt he had wanted to return to Kelloch. It was a
week since his leaving. On the last morning they had awakened with nervous laughter.
'Be funny, she had urged. A day of butterflies and hours that went too fast and slow.
Curious how all the songs on the radio had seemed so relevant. Then the slow walk
downhill. A smudged kiss beneath the pink street lamps. In the distance music from the

fair.
'Be good,' he had said.
'At what exactly,' she replied.
170

CHAPTER TWENTY

I left Kelloch with its empty eloquence of rain washed streets, meaty agricultural
sex, tundric cinema with monochrome flickering films and fur coated usherette, at
halftime alone with her tray of-ices. Outside, in the rain, an argosy of rusted cars
around the Town Hall white as a lighthouse driven far aground. Twenty months of
inward winter breath, expelled in one long golden laugh, A quick affair, so passionate
it cannot last, love's kisses mangled in a hunger, shredded edges of a summer dress.
Lives that wriggle in a sperm dance, each trying to merge. Couples find themselves,
bridled and gowned in the local rag. Happy as kids on Christmas eve, alone with their
apple and cuddly snake.
Wooden boats nudge the quay. The sighs of old men who hear the music but cannot
dance. They are drunk on the past hands held on a summer's eve, whose bones now
sleep. In August, grass as green as parrot's wings, and tourists who'll do anything once
the lights are out. A sound of live fish tails. Father's ghost is cutting trees. The hee-haw
of a long blade. Bed ends tapping at the wall.
Denny threw aside the exercise book. Bauble was singing in the garden. At times the
words disintegrated into curses as he struggled to start the ancient lawnmower.
'We come along a Saturday morning, Greeting everybody with a smile,
We come along a Saturday morning, Knowing that life's worthwhile!'
A knock at the door. Denny opened it. Wearing a red dress Marie stepped into the
room. He remembered their last conversation had concerned original fragments of the
Holy Cross. 'If all the fragments of the cross were brought together, they'd amount to
something like Birnura Wood and with any luck might be persuaded to walk.
Outside Bauble's song grew loud with frustration.
'As members of the Bexy Club, we all intend to be, Stout citizens when we grow up,
and champions of the free!' Denny groaned. He had been trying to put this part of the
day out of his mind and consequently it had acquired the nagging insistence of a late
afternoon dental appointment. A proportion of the town were now climbing aboard
buses bound for the beach at Drum Head, where the motion picture was being filmed.
The money offered had been too tempting to be refused, though Sophie had changed
171

her mind twice as to whether she should go or not. They all stood waiting in the
entrance hall. The Major, Miss Chalmers, and Sophie standing slightly apart.
Hurry up or we'll miss the battle, cried the Major and banged his stick on the black
and white tiles.
He was trying to forget, said Marie, gripping Denny firmly by the arm. For some
reason Dauble had not been chosen. He stood forlornly by his lawnmower as they all
trooped out to the main gate. Biffo whose foot was still injured had offered to help him
mend the engine.
As they went downhill towards Main Street various unlikely people were hurrying
from their houses. Some had taken a great deal of trouble over their appearance, while
others were slouched and unshaven.
They all converged on the hired buses where men ticked off names on lists. Lining
up for the bus, Miss Chalmers tried to ignore the rest of the rabble and concentrate
instead on what she might buy with the money. To begin with, a replacement copy of
Fleur de Lys as the first recording given to her by her father had blurred with time. On
the corner a man wearing a hare mask was playing the violin.
Benny sat beside Sophie and Marie rather than be alone perched on Sophie's knee. In

the bus there were eager teenagers as well as elderly people. Several had brought
parcels of food and thermos flasks. Instructions were shouted out and the bus rattled
into life, the view through the windows affected by a quivering motion. Outside the
crowd waved goodbye. Briefly through a gap among grinning heads Denny was sure
he caught a glimpse of Grock the Scran. He had raised the hare mask and so intense
was his look that Denny's heart skipped a beat. All this in a flash that he scarcely
believed then the bus jolted forward and all was lost in a multitude of waving hands.
An excited chatter arose among the passengers, most of whom knew each other and
in no time screeches of laughter could be heard from the back seats. Behind Denny the
Major expounded as if to a junior drill squad. 'I could take you round a machine gun
same as another man would read a clock. Carrying handle, barrel, front sight, gas
piston, locking lever, cocking handle, trigger, operating rod yoke, buffer, firing pin,
rear sight.
'How would I know,' said Miss Chalmers sharply. 'You could be making it all up.'
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The Major began searching his wallet for photographs.


As the bus circled Clarion Cross someone began singing and before long others had
joined in. Denny wondered what it was about buses that made people sing.
On the grass between the road and the promenade, the fairground revolved. There
were sparking dodgems crammed with children on holiday from school. The bus
staggered into third gear. Music was heard then drowned in a buzz from the chrome
rimmed seats. Sophie stared at the joyrides undulating in dabs of ruby and emerald
light. On the central roundabout there were unicorns and lions to sit astride.
In the distance a grey sea merged with darkness. For some reason sadness squeezed

the beginnings of tears. She hardly heard the singing.


The bus swung sharply left then ascended the steep hill which would take them
towards Drum Head. A man in a striped shirt got to his feet and said: 'Alright! What
we are this evening is refugees. Survivors washed ashore on rafts. The landing craft
will take you into position. Now the catch is this. You've been mistaken for a bunch of
renegade soldiers whom the Germans are hunting. Once you land you'll hear machine
gun fire. Nothing to worry about. We're not trying to get out of paying you. Come on
folks, that's worth a laugh!'
Whistles came from the back of the bus. The man grinned.
'Don't worry. It will all be explained nearer the time. So be patient. We're doing it at
dusk. That way one beach looks much like another. You pull the rafts ashore. On
comes a searchlight. Germans caught by surprise. Absolutely no problems. Alright?
An elderly man turned to his companion and said loudly.
'I've heard that before.'
Within the hour's quarter the bus had crested the hill. Below them they could see the
cliffs, a matrix of the approaching night.

CLARION HERALD AUGUST 1960

The appearance around Clarion of several units of the German S.S. may have caused

panic among older readers, while delighting those who have only known recent history
through the pages of comic books. Three tanks of the 12th S.S. Panzer Division
173

Hitlerjugend, quickly attracted a crowd, while parked outside the Kirk Street public
conveniences. It was heartening to know the enemy is partly human. Mr Max Wunsehe,
technical advisor to Ixion Films said that every effort would be made to maintain the
highest standards of authenticity.

MALLACHDAIG

It was the night of the full moon. The yellow lamped Hispano Suiza with muffled
driver open to the elements, that picked up Grillparzer from his doorway, then paused
to collect Cherry Haze alone on the edge of the railway sidings, embraced them both in
its leather padded catafalque, the invitation, by way of a card trimmed with damson,
carried an unavoidable quality, made only more unnerving by the message in Marika's
cursive hand. 'Bibere venenum in auro.
That evening news of Johnny's death had occupied the town. The authorities had not
yet made a statement though there was a disconcerting rumour that the youth had been
strangled. Grillparzer remained silent, unsure of how to tell Cherry Haze.
She sat huddled in her corner fearful that a sudden change of direction might
glissade her alongside her father. They could not tell who navigated the vehicle for the
vanity lights threw back their own reflections upon the glass partition.
'You know,' sighed Grillparzer. 'We should try to be together more often. Tonight
we must find time to talk.
'You must not judge me,' she replied.
Reluctantly he nodded then stared out of the window. Before long the car was
crunching up Mallachdaig's thickly gravelled drive. At the top a score of windows
spilled out light. To their left a garden of incomplete topiary passed by in stark
silhouette.
As they came to a halt at the foot of the steps a liveried attendant hurried forward to
open the passenger door. It was only once they were ushered into the entrance hall that
Cherry Haze thought there had been something familiar in the brief glimpse she had
caught of their chauffeur. Armed soldiers stood around the outer arches while others
with plumed hats flirted with black stockinged young ladies whose beauty took her by
174

surprise and left her feeling less defiant in her decision to wear her everyday clothes.
This gesture had been more to annoy her father than anything else. Then it came to her
who the chauffeur had reminded her of. 'Surely it could not have been Johnny? She
glanced at her father suspecting a plot.
The vaulted heights of the hall shimmered as cigar smoke curled towards the
chandeliers. Opaque perfumes criss-crossed their path. Involuntarily Cherry Haze
moved closer to her father who nodded briskly this way and that at people whom it was
quite clear he had never met. She tried a smile but it came to nothing. It was irritating
how none of these women with their elaborate hair and expensive clothes seemed to
see her. It was as if what she wore had rendered her invisible. Baffled by the
unexpected brilliance of the surroundings Grillparzer strutted and beamed, desperate
for someone whom he recognised. Confused they sat side by side on metal folding
chairs at the end of the hall. It was obvious no one else would have sat on them.
Almost immediately one of the doormen hurried up and hustled Grillparzer away,
apologising for having missed him on arrival.
Cherry Haze hardly noticed her father's departure. It was not really that she was
depressed. It was more that sad albatross feeling. Again she thought of Johnny. Could
it have been some ploy of Marika?
A perspiring butler knelt at her feet and offered drinks from his tray. Cherry Haze
swallowed three in succession before he managed a hasty retreat.
The doorman led Grillparzer through interconnecting shuttered rooms.
'Much happier among your own,' he said. No harm done. There in a jiffy. He
laughed and continued to propel Grillparzer at top speed up to a door which he opened
with one hand, while the other pushed him into the space beyond.
Here a thick fog blurred the many people who were struggling to either dress or
undress. He could not be sure which sex they were. Several of these creatures searched

frantically for misplaced clothes, picking up then discarding from those that carpeted
the floor. He was sucked further into the crowd. Phantasms bumped him with buttocks
and elbows. Soon, he was part of their lunatic dance. Someone hopping on one foot
placed a clammy hand upon his arm for support. As he tried to get back to the door he
glimpsed Hazlewood's silhouette. A second later as he called out it melted to nothing.
175

Clouds billowed upon the whiteness from what appeared to be a corridor somewhere to
the left. Sodden clothes stuck to his skim; his eyes stung with the heat. Through gaps in
the steam he could make out familiar faces. Captain Bearhop for instance, quite naked
and waving a bottle of rum. Most seemed to have accepted what had happened and
milled about in a blind droning conversation, held with whatever voices happened to
be nearest. Now and then one voice would recognise another further away, and there
would be a slapping and sliding as it tried to locate the other, which often fell silent in
hope of escaping detection.
Wet buttocks and chests shuffled this way and that. Within this murk he was aware
that everyone was groping around, determined not to appear as if they did not know
where they were going. Then a yelp of pain. He had stood on somebody's foot. Without
waiting to apologise he squeezed through a gap in one of the queues. As if through a
mirage Cherry Haze limped in a veiled diagonal of greyness. But then as he shouted
and she glanced back, he saw Johnny's face. Blindness followed, then a man's voice

yelled out.
'Which one of you ding-a-lings is wearing shoes? Come on! Who's got the horses
hooves?'
Grillparzer went down on one knee, heard another yelp and fumbled with the laces.
'Empress don't go for people wearing shoes!
The wet laces on Grillparzer's interview brogues proved impossible to untie. In
desperation he wrenched them off,
'Let's have you them,' the voice shouted, 'Give them up!'
Grillparzer hurled them in the direction of the voice then made off, in as near to the
opposite direction as was possible. Once the volley of curses died he began to pull at
the rest of his clothes. They were becoming a hindrance in this miasma of moving

flesh.
He pushed on, finding that although he had doubled back the way must have forked
somewhere, for it now sloped steeply downwards. Bare feet slipped on wet flagstones.
A desperate crowd scrambled around him. Many of those who fought past on the
upward struggle had the bodies of men but women's faces. A brightness penetrated the
fog causing disturbing refractions of lime and violet light.
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Then came a mephitis waft of scent as if dancers were quitting a crowded stage. The
space widened, intensified so that features were accentuated. People, shiny with sweat
queued to lie in white zinc baths, some of which had several occupants splashing and
washing, while others sat thoughtfully, heedless of those waiting. As he tried to slip by
a man with a bald head bellowed.
'Get in line!
Grillparzer dodged behind a group of chattering schoolchildren. He saw Griski
wearing a single string of pearls sitting in a bath with a man on either side of her. They
all seemed quite preoccupied and could have been travelling in the back of a limousine.
As he walked on he came to a series of caves where the fog was less dense. Blonde
haired giants lay asleep on low stone benches with delicate pale skinned women asleep
in their arms. Grillparzer saw that another person stood near. The man turned to face
him. Grillparzer stopped in astonishment for this person was his double. He was not
younger, but fresher in complexion, undoubtedly frightened and walking slowly
towards him. They embraced. A moment passed then the dense fog returned.
He wandered like a disembodied creature doomed for some time to roam the earth.
Suddenly both fists were clenched ready for attack but none came. It was then he
touched a narrow door and in the blind whiteness felt a wet body try to squirm past him.
He pulled it back and pressed it close. A female body trying to escape. His hands
cupped under her buttocks and lifting he pushed hard so that they tumbled through the
door into the cubicle. Her skin was warm and smelt of marigold as she twisted quick as
a fish, not biting or crying out, but deftly avoiding him, and then she catapulted back
through driving snow as if on sprung heels; an echo of laughter as he fell upon his
knees. Piercing electric bells. He was tumbling through greyness. Before him, a tall
brick wall lined with billboards. Their huge images were shredded except for the one
under which he lay, and from this Cherry Haze smiled down upon him. In the gloom a
crowd gathered and looked up at her, as if consulting a railway station departure board.
As Cherry Haze sat in the hall, a boy grasped her by the hand and at a run she was
led through a bewildering number of rooms all filled with sheeted furniture. The boy
was agitated, glancing back as they hurried from door to door. After a while he lost one
of his slippers and this slowed him down somewhat. He had a mischievous face, but
177

despite this she did not feel he would do her harm.


I will buy you new shoes, she said, as they stood side by side at a damson stage
door. After knocking twice the boy fled leaving Cherry Haze to enter the room alone.
On closing the door behind her, the first thing she noticed was a huge painting of Judge
Pendreich. It hung high on the wall tilting down upon her. She stopped suddenly, for in
a corner someone who resembled the Judge peered at her from behind a leather topped
desk. He had been dusting his cheeks with face powder. As she drew nearer she noticed

that one of his spectacle lenses was missing. He was older than in the portrait. She
sneaked another glance at the painting relieved to see that it was still there.
'The stains,' sighed the Judge. 'Guilt, guilt, guilt.'
'People are talking,' said the Judge, 'about the son of a certain aristocrat. Malicious

gossip.'
This is some kind of trick, thought Cherry Haze. So often with the caretaker in tow,
jangling his keys, they had paused before this very painting. It was one of Johnny's
favourites, though he could never explain why. Some whim had prompted the
Pendreichs to donate it to Kelloch's disarticulated museum. Curious considering the
number of honest local citizens the Judge had hung.
'Reclaim the stains,' he mumbled, then peered at her with interest.
'Reclaim, reclaim! Better mad than forgotten.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Cherry Haze. A clock chimed in the cupboard behind him.
'I might consider it,' said the Judge.
'All you've ever wanted,' she began, then stopped for she could not remember what
she had meant to say.
'Yes, he replied, eyes hesitating on her mouth as if it were the last lark's tongue on a
banqueting plate. Her fear changed for as he stood up she could see that he was a dwarf

and moved in a crablike manner his eyes fixed on her pelvic region. His thin fingers
clasped coldly upon both her wrists.
'Stains washed clean in your river,' he said.
'What? she asked, the portrait reflected grotesquely on his remaining spectacle lens.
'We have a problem, my dearest. Yours is quite simple. Mine is, he sighed, 'Quite
different. To her astonishment she realised that one of his hands had shot up inside her
178

skirt and was now grappling as if trying to tear down curtains. She leapt back, shaking
him off her. He tumbled but quickly regained his feet.
'Quite right, my dear, essential that first advances be repulsed. But let me assure you,
there's enough coal in the bunkers for burning. I know what you're thinking. Has he the
steam to last a voyage?
'Who are you?' she insisted.
He looked up at the portrait.
'You can choose between us,' he replied, then smiling at her rubbed his nose in a
thoughtful manner.
'He has to stay up there on his own petard. A reminder. I on the other hand. That's

why I'm being so nice to you.


'I'm not convinced,' said Cherry Haze.
'Then perhaps a speciality. An adorable little trick, involves white mice and lots of
mayonaisse.'
'Keep away from me! she screamed.
He sighed then very slowly tottered back behind his desk. Once more the clock in
the cupboard chimed. Judge Pendreieh began to fade. Cherry Haze looked up at the
portrait which seemed somehow more lifelike than previously. A death cap sat on the
Judge's head.
'The stains,' she heard him whisper. 'You will be taken from this court to a place of.
A place of!.. Finally his robes vanished. 'Fun and games until dead.'
She stood quite still, unable to take her eyes from the picture.
179

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

Grillparzer could not understand how Kelloch Swimming Pool had become
enclosed within Mallachdaig. At the far end on wooden thrones sat Judge Pendreich
and Empress Theodora.
Approach! she commanded. He descended the pool steps and began to swim
towards her. 'Should the instep of the left foot be kissed first? It seemed he had spent
weeks in the fog and now felt incapable of making decisions. Theodora watched his
clumsy progress, her jewels sending sparks into the green depths. As if bored by his
slowness, she would at intervals pull off a ring and toss it disdainfully towards him.
Whether he was meant to catch these or let them sink remained uncertain. Briefly
beneath the water he watched them tumble. It worried him that she might not speak
once he arrived. He was not sure he could last a return journey.
Tired now, he began to paddle, misjudged the change and gulped in water. He tried
to spit out but began to sink and only just managed to grab the side. Breathless, eyes
stinging, he squinted up at her. Her words seemed to issue from a harsh paraph of neon.

Her incandescent jewels spun and chittered as he tried to look at them.


What is it you want? she asked.
Much to his surprise she lowered her foot to his face. In the midst of a coughing fit,
he fought the urge to take hold and bite it.
'Have you asked the prisoner what he pleads? inquired Judge Pendreich.
'What do you plead? echoed Theodora.
I can't remember,' blurted Grillparzer, his lips missing her instep and kissing the big
toe. He was greatly tempted to pull her in with him. 'Surely under all that weight of
jewellery?
You have told lies about me,' she continued.
He tried to recall what he had been saying.
You claim I have not obeyed the teachings of Jesus. That I have obliterated
teaching regarding pre-existence of souls. The neon contours of her body glowed dull
red. Hand over hand Grillparzer dragged himself along the perimeter. Theodora's
words hovered above.
180

As God's servant only I can decide. You are guilty!'


Grillparzer saw Judge Pendreich smiling upwards.
'She has agreed!' Theodora exclaimed.
Grillparzer looked to where Cherry Haze sat on the tip of the diving board. Her feet
dangled and she gazed in a contemplative way at ripples far below. The Judge clapped
his hands and she sang.

'All the clouds in the sky,


A lion and a bull go by,
An eagle and a winged man,
Come to mind as friends we have.'
Grillparzer struggled towards the steps. At the periphery of his vision he saw
Theodora transformed in a race of neon. Judge Pendreich smiled fixedly at Cherry
Haze. How well Grillparzer remembered wet afternoon streets shiny; as scalpels, when
he and Cherry Haze had stared at that face. On the steep museum stairway it had the
pallor of a plant raised within darkness.
The Judge pulled his sword and pointed it at Cherry Haze. Grillparzer knew that she
must jump, and once she had, emerging to bob beside him, then that blade would fall
upon them both. The Judge appeared to walk through Theodora. Her jewels glowed
sending scarlet darts across the pool.
Cherry Haze once more sang, but this time the voice was sad.

'Acid drops from a harvest moon,


Hoar frost gathers on my spoon,
A little is said, a button undone,
Viola ate the apple and the wolf got none.
Pendreich plunged the sword beneath the water as if to test the temperature. Cherry
Haze sat smiling at him, her naked legs crossing then recrossing. Grillparzer waved but
there was no response. In desperation he swam for the steps and so fascinated was the
Judge in turning his sword, that he failed to notice Grillparzer had reached dry land. He
was on his feet and almost upon Theodora before she shot backwards, suddenly
reappearing behind the Judge.
Leave us!' she cried as the Judge fearful of Grillparzer's advance raised the sword in
181

preparation for attack. Theodora shifted in focus, one moment frail, the next strangely
gaudy. He saw that the hands were of carved and gilded wood. Jewels implanted on her
lacquered cloak transformed to strident fairground lights.
Cast no stones at jails that hold you! The voice was harsh and mechanical.
Grillparzer advanced. The Judge did not hesitate but cut with a savage diagonal stroke.
Grillparzer threw himself flat. The blade struck a pillar and so great was the force that
the sword flew free. It spun once, almost leisurely, then impaled deep between
Theodora's breasts.
She came apart in a tumble of molten neon, smashed like a marionette, legs
thrashing as the metallic dress curled in a mass of flame. The Judge was caught in a
twist of seething glass which stripped his flesh, garish colours coating wire and bone.
Together they rolled consumed in a knot of scorching phosphor. Fire licked at the
wooden thrones. It spread to the walls and ceiling.
Then it started; a feeling that space around and within had begun to flit in turbulent
circles, out of control, the first virulent swirls on the brim of a massive whirlpool.
Gaining strength it skidded around the diving tower. It paid no heed to flesh. His body
dissolved and with it thought. Yet still his mind was fixed upon that fire. The way her
face had bubbled in the white heat as they rolled. Pendreich's skull clawed by a gilded
hand. And as her image loomed over him, the face was one he recognised, filled with
blood, transparent, a chalice whose whirling vortex spouted him out into darkness.
He heard the distant sound of a baby's wail, so far below as if waking for the first
time; then coolness, a damp grey floating coolness found only in unfamiliar rooms that
moment before dawn. The certainty beyond long curtained windows that clouds would
be lying peacefully, soft as sleeping Persian cats that melt with the first luminescence.
A deep anguish passed from his mind to the flesh. A body was being returned.
His fingers traced the intersections between white tiles, sharp as winter fields spied
from the air. Then case a choking in his gullet. With time that passed. Mesmerised, he
tilted over the fields. They sloped into spindrift. Raising himself on hands and knees he
realised that his body had been immersed in water.
An umbrous disquiet enveloped the swimming pool, with its crumbling masonry
and chirl of invisible flag wires. Taking grip of the diving platform he hauled himself
182

upright. Both hands kept slipping on the metal. He hung there, astonished by the stars.
In the distance came a cock crow. Rain wet his forehead. He swayed, aware of
nakedness. Could clear skies ever have touched this place? For a moment he feared he
was still within Mallachdaig, and that by some mechanical trick the slate roofs had
trundled apart.
He kept moving, pushing one foot in front of another, mind fixed on the balconies
where he might discover whether these stars were real. Something on the steps felt soft.
He almost sat down them realised these were clothes. The fact that they might be some
other persons clothes did not occur. He hopped, then half stumbled as one leg then the
other went into the trousers. The clothes felt wonderfully warm. Shoes laced, he
climbed to the sun balconies.
High above, the Little Bear sneaked out between a church spire and an inky ridge of
cloud. Grillparzer sucked the salt air deep to his lungs. It might be five in the morning;
a grey churning remorseless sea, dim roofs, no lights in windows, waste paper blowing
in frenzied reels. Then oddly, two girls wearing winter coats passed chattering on the
far side of the street. There was something familiar about them that he could not place.
Once more the frenetic wastepaper caught his attention. He moved along the balconies
to the highest which lay astride the entrance.
A light flashed on above the Corona Cafe. As if snipped from paper Marika stood,
arras flung wide as the curtains parted, her black hair sprawled on white shoulders. He
dared not breathe. He thought she smiled. The moon slid behind cloud like a luminous
card up a conjuror's sleeve. He shouted her name.
Looking down, he saw the clothes he wore were not his own. They were cut for a
much younger man. Below him the newspapers whirled in a flogged mash of
sulphurous neon. The wind tossed up Marika's name, passing it from cubicle to cubicle
and in this agitated spiralling, one shredded page fought clear, wrapping around his
outstretched arms now raised towards the window. He tried to shake off this sodden
rag, then saw words that had not yet bled upon the page.
'I am the solace of my labour pains, I am the bride and the bridegroom, and it is my
husband that begot me, I am the mother of my father and the sister of my husband, and

he is my offspring.'
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Grillparzer tried to read more but the words were blurred and strange. To the south
an umbrella of rufescent light pierced the drizzle. Mallachdaig was being consumed by
fire. Taking care he lowered himself down from the bathing station wall.
Walking hesitantly, as if each step were his first, and thinking only of Marika, he
made his way towards the Corona Cafe.

THE VOID

From the heaving deck of the landing craft Sophie, Denny and Marie could see
waves breaking upon a steep slope of pebble. There were people at the top of the cliff
huddled around camera equipment. The refugees were crowded together, clothes
exchanged for tattered rags, faces blackened, hair raggled with the wind. Scarcely
anyone spoke. Spray buffeted over their heads. Distorted voices came through the
radio telephone.
Sophie, Denny and Marie kept close together. They wished they had never allowed
themselves to become part of this venture. Somehow the money had ceased to be
important. In yellow deck light the Major was silhouetted against the ramp. From time
to time he would turn stamping his feet. What had been intended as a dusk landing had
been delayed due to technical problems. For an hour now they had circled offshore,
twice making an approach then turning back. The film crew treated all this with a
cynical humour.
Let's keep it real, they'd shout, then retreat to the shelter of the landing craft's
bridge. Most of those standing on deck were soaked. Tea swilled out in paper cups did
little to help. Children began to cry. The Major strode about telling everyone how
lucky they were not to be dive bombed by Stukas. Miss Chalmers in a hooded blanket
glared at Denny as if it were all his fault.
When our lives are a desert, we call it peace,' he said. Miss Chalmers did not reply.
Marie laughed then hugged him, half wishing for dive bombers. They would at least be
a distraction from the Cold. In the distance came the low roar of breaking waves.
'So you free us at last, Miss Chalmers blurted at Denny.
I beg your pardon,' Marie replied.
184

'They are making us suffer so that we'll look real,' said Sophie. 'They don't really
care. We are numbers on a page. Things that move.
'Refugees, corrected someone in the dark.
'Expendable, said Marie. 'We come by the dozen and Jeffrey in his funny boots gets
ticked off when he under-orders. She made a face at the people crowded in the
wheelhouse. Spray scattered on deck. Denny kissed her cheek. It tasted of salt.
'We've become like one of Sophie's cut-outs,' she said. 'All joined together and
desperately holding hands.
The cliffs grew large upon the sky, cutting out the last streaks of pale light. A
searchlight snapped on and was turned in their direction. Faint shouts came from the
cliff top. The director's assistant emerged from the wheelhouse and yelled at them
through a megaphone.

Alright! This is it. I don't want any kind of hystericism. Very careful. Keep it real.
Don't take it over the top. Alright?'
If the Major had not pawned his shotgun back in fifty-seven he would have let that
wheelhouse have a quick left and right. The ludicrous vulnerability of his situation
slowly dawned. He did not feel safe dressed as a refugee. With a worthwhile uniform
he could have handled the uncertainty of his position. He'd been led to believe it was a
military film. Surely they could have taken his background into consideration? He
stamped and began to curse.
Stand by everyone, came a voice from the bridge. The Major's expletive by way of
reply was drowned in a rattle of chain as the ramp descended. Whistles blew, then the
rafts were dragged forward.
The refugees scrambled aboard the rafts, which became fully loaded and at times
seemed in danger of capsizing. The lines were cast off and they surged away, rolling at
alarming angles towards the first breakers.
Much to their surprise Denny, Sophie, Marie and the Major all ended up upon the
same raft. Even Miss Chalmers, who said she had put up with enough and was going
back, money or no money, had scrambled aboard when the order came. Everyone was
so grateful to be moving that they forgot their fears, thinking only that in a short time
they would be on the beach.
185

The raft lifted with the first line of breakers, then rotated slowly before crashing
down into the glassy darkness of the trough. High above a flare exploded. Water
swirled aboard as they clung to the mast and then they were clear, foam gushing from
the lashed planks as they rose upwards upon the head of the next breaker. Again the
water surged aboard, then glissading on the crest they swept in upon the pebble beach.
All around the refugees were pulling their unwieldy craft ashore. Sophie and Marie
managed not to get completely drenched, while the Major, recovering from his
previous bout of resentment, began to shout out orders, organising what should be
done. One of the rafts had lost some of its occupants who were now struggling for the
shore. There were large rocks scattered beneath precipitous cliffs. Denny sensed that
when the tide came in this beach would be covered by the sea. They struggled up the
steep slope, feet unsteady upon the smooth stones,
A harsh burst of gunfire caught them all off guard. The excitement of landing had
completely occupied their attention. The Major stared up at the cliff, trying to locate
the machine gun. Others tried to hurry for cover, but the slippery stones made the going
difficult. From the base of the cliffs a second gun opened fire. A man stumbled in the
arc of bullets. He screamed as he was lifted from his feet. Denny ran for the cover of
rocks. This is happening, he thought. 'It must be happening. Six people by the rafts
disappeared as if hit by a giant hand. Bullets cracked overhead. As they hit the rock
they whined off in a thousand criss-cross trajectories. Denny slid upon his belly.
Astonishingly some of the refugees were still stumbling up the beach as if nothing
were amiss. Screaming seagulls flocked on the cliff face.
Denny could see neither Sophie nor Marie. Hysterical cries came from those who
had not reached cover. A grenade exploded to their left. Then as shrapnel tore into rock,
he saw the Major, hunched and at a run, make a flanking attack on the gunner hidden at
the base of the cliff. Hoping to draw fire Denny stood up and waved furiously. Hot a
second too soon he ducked for cover. Bullets hammered the rock overhead. Flying grit
choked his mouth and nostrils.
He peered from his hiding place and watched as the Major closed in on the machine
gun position. His running stance had straightened. He came in fast on the quarter side.
He appeared to be about to bowl, and in it went, classic style with vicious top spin; a
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smooth stone hurtling for the gunner's head. The Major stood for a moment, hands on
trouser creases as the gunner pitched back and the barrel rapped out once before falling
silent. The Major disengaged the unconscious man then dragged the weapon down the
beach.
The cliff top machine gun chased its treacherous twin tinder cover of a boulder.
Denny was never entirely sure which war the Major had fought in, but it would seem
his knack for it had never left him. He jammed the machine gun in a cleft, then
crouched to obtain an angle of fire for the cliff top. The truck upon which the
searchlight was mounted burst into flame. It exploded. A big camera hit the rocks and
bounced sending rolls of film spiralling into the air. Several times the cliff top gunner
came close to slicing the Major's head off. He responded with equal ferocity. The
blowback from fragmented pebble was deadly. One of the bodies that lay nearby was
that of Miss Chalmers. Denny had seen her walking beside the Major just before the

firing began.
Face pressed to the rock he wished he had never left his room. Then came an
explosion of crushing brilliance. A thick darkness descended upon the beach. The cries
of the wounded ceased. Even the sound of waves disappeared. Gradually a glaze of
moonlight returned so that every fissure stood out in microscopic detail.
Puzzled, he stood up and looked around. It was a strange radiance, which reflected
no colour. He could no longer see any dead or living. Then from darkness at the base of
the cliff, Sophie began walking towards him. He turned his back on her and stared at
the void which had once been sea. The stars had left the sky. 'There is too much
between us has gone unsaid. All are joined, yet none belong.' Denny frowned. He
could not hear her footsteps on the pebbles.
He decided he must speak and turned. Cherry Haze stood where a moment before
Sophie had been. Her smile was one of amused complicity.
Why so scared of me Johnny? she asked.
It's just I didn't expect,' he said,
'Then accept,' said Cherry Haze.
High above they could hear Grock the Scran playing his harmonica. The notes
skirled sharply against the steady beat of wares. Cherry Haze laughed and grasped his
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hand. She was wearing the green headscarf he had once imagined.
'Why must you take yourself so seriously? she said. He felt a strangeness of heart as
if invisible others watched from among the boulders. The landing craft approached the
beach. No crew members could be seen on deck. Chains rattled then the ramp scraped
up to meet them. They went silently on board. As the ramp closed Cherry Haze kissed
him once on the forehead. The craft backed out in a semi-circle, then gathering speed,
set off into the darkness.

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