Tales From The Ridge

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Cautionary Seasonal Haiku

Too many mince pies
Now I'm stuck in the chimney
Don't light the fire, kids

...Merry Christmas, all

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Crystal balls-up

"It's nearly that time again," Ecks said, "My favouritest time of the year."
"Christmas?" asked Madame Poincaré.
"Hanukkah?" asked the Monkey Man.
"The anniversary of the 1392 abdication of Emperor Go-Kameyama of Japan in favor of rival claimant Go-Komatsu, which ended the nanboku-cho period of competing imperial courts?" asked Lazzaro Lamela, the Italian circus owner.
"No, you're all wrong - it's the time of year when we add up the scores of all the 'mediums', 'seers' and 'psychics' who made predictions in January about the coming year."
"I used to be a medium, you know," continued Lazzaro, "But then I put on weight."

Find out how the psychics did

Monday, December 20, 2004

Monkey business

The fields glittered as the frozen light of a winter sun spilled over the horizon onto a landscape embrittled by frost. Lonely pink clouds skulked guiltily as dawn's rosy fingers stroked the frigid belly of the sky.
Ecks was surprised that morning, as he rescued frozen bottles of milk from the doorstep, to see a ragged bundle of fur heaped beside the frosty dustbins. Intrigued, he poked at it with his foot and a pitiful whimper escaped the matted form. Ecks bent down and picked up the creature, its fur sodden from the frost that had tried in vain to carpet it, and carried it inside.
The figure that Ecks laid before the fire seemed to be some kind of half man, half monkey, some three feet tall, with thick brown coat and a face whose carved lines belied a certain leaning towards mischief. As a flush of colour returned to this face, like a film of oil spreading across water, his eyes began to open.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My name's Ecks. Who are you? What were you doing outside my house?"
"I'm the Monkey Man, and I'm on my way to London. I've travelled all the way from New Delhi."
"That's a long way to come."
"A day's journey is still just a day's journey."
"I suppose so. Why did you leave?"
"I had to, they didn't want me any more."

"What happened?"
"In just a couple of weeks I went from a normal, run-of-the-mill half-man, half-monkey to the most famous monkey man in the world. I was in all the newspapers, I had the world at my feet! And then, just as quickly, it all just...died. Nobody seemed to want to know me any more."
"Do you really think London will be any different?"
The Monkey Man paused, and deep lines ploughed themselves into his forehead as he thought. He sighed.
"I wanted to be the next big thing. The next Bigfoot."
"Bigfoot's got a fanbase, and those take time to build. Sounds like you were more of a flash in the pan."
The Monkey Man's eyes misted over with a film of tears, and Ecks threaded a fatherly arm around his shoulder. Tangled fur caught in his fingers.
"Tell you what," Ecks said, "Why don't you stay here for while, with me? You can sleep in the spare room. London's only a train journey away - you could go up there from time to time, start building yourself a reputation. Go about it the right way."
"Maybe you're right," he murmured, "Maybe that is the way to go about it."
And so, in the end, the Monkey Man never did reach London, and Ecks finally found a lodger for his spare room.
"By the way, it smells funny in here," said the Monkey Man, his nose wrinkled in disgust.
"Yes, sorry about that. We had goblins, so we had to fumigate."

Just who exactly is this Monkey Man?

Four Wheel Drive

Microfiction (300 words or less)

Ow my ears
Shelling shit no I’ve got to get out of here they’ve started shelling again
Come on start please please start yes
Mud on the windscreen can’t see
What am I thinking don’t worry about that just worry about moving for now clean it later
Shit shit not moving why aren’t we moving
Because we’re stuck in the mud that’s why so don’t rev the engine like that you bloody idiot that’ll just make it worse
Stupid stupid stupid why did you have to stop here for fuck’s sake you could’ve chosen anywhere there’s some grass over there why didn’t you stop there
Just don’t panic stay calm don’t panic that’s the key it’s four wheel drive so it should be ok just don’t push it too hard fuck that one was close
Oh shit it’s getting closer Jesus I hope we don’t get hit come on come on move you piece of shit move
That’s it that’s it there keep it like fuck that was the closest one yet keep it like that I think we’re moving now keep going
Hard right and up the slope steady steady not too fast
Yes yes back on the road now gun the engine yes I’m going to make it
Go on keep going
Ha ha they’ll never believe me back at Control can’t wait to hear what old stone face says
Steady keep it steady now don’t do anything stupid
No god no ow my ears my ears ow hot in my eye ow no no no not again Jesus that hurts fuck they’re shelling the road
Just ignore it keep going no pain no pain keep going keep driving
God oh god oh god I hope they don’t hit the jeep I hope they

Friday, December 17, 2004

A certain gravitas

This morning, readers, on a morning rigid with cold, whose hoary fingers had scratched frost on the window pane, Ecks was joined at the breakfast table by a dead man. The simple white robe that the man wore seemed quite inappropriate for the time of year, and his long hair tumbled down onto his shoulders.
"You know," the man said, by way of greeting, "I am terribly sad that people always forget about me on my birthday."
Conversations with the dead tend to be clouded by a certain bitterness, as they spend eternity wallowing in the unfairness of their death, slowly being consumed by resent and jealousy of the living.
"It's a big day," he continued, "and people forget about what I've done for them. What I gave to the world."
"How about if I remember you? Will that help?"
"You would do that?" the dead man's eyes glittered.
"Of course. When is your birthday?"
"December the 25th."

Ecks felt an uncomfortable, cold sensation bleed into his belly as all the bad things he had ever done flooded into his mind.
"What? You mean you're---"
"That's right: Sir Isaac Newton."
"Oh," said Ecks, rather deflated, "Of course."
There was an awkward silence before he continued.
"Didn't I see you on a burrito once?"
"No," replied Sir Isaac, "I think you must be confusing me with someone else."

Learn more about Isaac Newton

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Early days

This morning Ecks reflected on the nature of his nascent blog as Madame Poincaré, the Bengal cat, purred softly as he stroked her head. She had asked him, as he typed, what was so important that he had to clatter the keys of his computer so and disturb her nap, but when he told her she was less than impressed.
"I don't see why anyone would want to read anything written by you."
"Well, I'm not too sure why anyone would either," he replied, "But at the very least a blog will encourage me to write."
"Write, shmite," she grumbled, "Clickety-clack, tippy-tap, all it does is get on my nerves. It keeps me awake. I don't - no-one told you to stop stroking - I don't have time for stories. You can't eat a story. Stories give me itchy claws."
"I didn't know cats could get itchy claws."
"Well we can. It makes us want to scratch things. Chairs, curtains, carpets. People."
Later, Ecks moved his computer away from where Madame Poincaré took her naps.

Nobody Ever Calls On A Sunday

Microfiction (300 words or less)

How did I get here?
The winds blew me here.
South from the desert they carried me upon their snaking backs, fighting over me, their panting breath hot on my neck, until the jealous earth dragged me down again and I ended up here.
Like a leaf caught in a stagnant eddy, far from the river’s turbulent attention.
Some forgotten corner of the earth. Bare and bleak. Stunted trees bent over wiry grass.
By night the moon is cold and the darkness drips, and myriad small creatures laugh and weep and grumble at me in my bed.
By day the hours are long and empty. Hollow. The minutes trickle by, leaving behind them a pervading sensation, an almost palpable feeling, that something is coming to an end. Like the Sundays that I remember from my youth, the memories of which recede further behind the grey curtain with every passing day. Every day here is like a Sunday.
Distant figures pass by beneath the frozen sun, tiptoeing across the horizon, pushed along by the same winds that dropped me here. Where they usher them along to I don’t know, but they never stop. Southwards, ever southwards, to the bottom of the world where the winds go to die.
They never stop, they never call. But then I don't expect them to. Nobody ever calls on a Sunday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Other Side Of The Wall

Microfiction (300 words or less)

He’d always lived next to the wall.
It dominated the landscape, an abrupt barrier to hold back the fields and trees that flowed down from the distant purple mountains, a line that ran as far as the eye could see in either direction. It loomed ominously, yet offered the comfort of protection as much as any uneasy sensation of captivity. His tumbledown hut had huddled against it for longer than anyone cared to remember, isolated and remote, sheltering in its fatherly shadow. He’d been happy for years, perfectly happy, until one day a traveller had come by and asked him what was on the other side.
He’d replied that he had no reason not to believe the government when they said that there was nothing there, but the way the traveller smirked at him made him feel uneasy. He had never thought about it, never doubted the officials, but from that moment forth curiosity consumed his life. His every waking hour was spent thinking about what bizarre things might be on the other side, just yards from his own hut, until finally he grabbed his ladder and flung it against the wall. It fell pitifully short, and so he chopped down tree after tree for wood to add to the ladder until it was long enough to reach the top of the wall. When, finally, it was long enough to reach the summit, he leaned it against the bricks and ascended to the top. With heart in mouth, he peered over.
He saw a vista of trees and fields, and in the distance, purple mountains wreathed in cloud. Then he looked down.
Below him, hugging the wall, was a single small, dilapidated shack.
Beside it, a man was urgently hammering lengths of wood onto the end of a ladder.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And so it begins

An idea for a start of a short story

It had not always been this way. The whorehouse had always been there, certainly for as long as he could remember, and its faceless young whores with their soft, pre-Raphaelite breasts had been offering solace to the men of the village for countless years, but these days it was different. The cloying stench of sex that had for years flowed out of the windows and scandalised the aged, black-clad matriarchs who juddered like crows down the cobbled street was now blotted out by a musty odour of melancholy. The odour originated from the owner of the whorehouse, Donna Concetta, and was a result of her sudden realisation that her days were long and empty, and that a lifetime of proud rejection of male companionship had left her barren and cold. She knew that she would have to do something about it, because the melancholy was beginning to infect her girls, and no man wants a miserable whore, but although she was a master of the art of seduction she knew nothing of love. That is why she had invited him, the man who had never been without love his whole life, to her door.

One Final Dance

Microfiction (300 words or less)

Good crowd tonight. Decent purse.
Who are you kidding? It’s not about the money, it never was. Not even when you were first name on the card at Caesar’s Palace.
Here he comes, dancing up the runway, vaulting into the ring. Look at him, strutting around like he owns the place. But he does, it’s you that’s buying time in his spotlight. They don’t come to see you any more, you’re just another rung on the ladder that he’s climbing. A low rung.
The lights flash, but they don’t seem so bright these days. That’ll be the eyes going. Knock gloves as the referee talks. I never hear what he says, never have. Stretch my back, and pain twenty years old stretches with me. The old heat wakes up in my shoulders.
I take a really good look at him for the first time. He looks fit. His body’s bulky, but not so bulky that it’ll slow him down. He’ll move fast, and hit hard. The worst kind. Being hit has never been a problem, but the speed is. They just seem to be getting faster and faster. No, no, no, you stupid old man, it’s you getting slower. You’re getting slower, and someday soon they’ll learn the tricks, and then your day’ll really be gone. Could be gone already. We’ll see how this one turns out. Whether you’ve judged it right or not.
Poor, sweet Ellen. She’ll be watching her film about now, trying not to think about me. Hoping that when I come back I don’t look too different. Hoping that I come back. Well, this is my last time. One final dance.
Yeah. That’s what you said last time.

Stupid old man.