Tales From The Ridge

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The abyss

The man who was a hero stood before the corpses, his once-golden hair matted black to his scalp in thick bloody knots, his skin tattooed with grime and criss-crossed by the scarred mementos of his many victories. He had slit the throats and torn out the hearts of tyrants and dictators, duplicitous politicians, corrupt priests, rapists, murderers, thieves, cheats, adulterers, liars and slanderers, and now, finally, he had stopped.

"I have killed all who have sinned," he said with some regret, "There are no monsters left."

He was wrong.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Ecks has just started to do a weekly 300-word writing challenge with a friend. Last week's suggested title was "Stones".

My garden’s covered in half-stones and I’m still poor.

Let me explain:

One day I happened to drop a stone in my garden, and it split in two. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, and you’d be right. But inside the stone, perfectly still, was half a toad. Or, as I soon discovered, a whole toad, of which only half was showing (the front half, in case you were wondering).

I was amazed – who wouldn’t be? – but I was even more shocked when it blinked and proceeded to wriggle free. I had to sit down. My head swam. Darwin, I thought. Creation, I thought. A new widescreen TV, I thought.

Come and see the amazing toad that lived in a stone, I said, witness the miracle for yourself, just five pounds, I said, and they came and queued up around the block for a glimpse. The first man to see it said is that it, and I told him yes it was, but he didn’t seem very impressed. Worst five pounds I ever spent, he said as he left. The next man asked if it went back into the stone, maybe at night, to sleep, but I had to tell him that no, it didn’t, and he said it looked just like a normal toad if truth be told. The third man said that I could have just found any old toad and plonked it in a case next to a broken stone, and could he have his money back please.

So, I thought, is there another toad in another of the stones in my garden?

You want to know the answer?

Like I said, my garden’s covered in half-stones and I’m still poor.

Find out who you should vote for on May the 5th.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

An open letter from the Scissor Man

Dear Parents

I would like to take this opportunity to launch a plea.

You may know me as the Great Tall Tailor or the Great, Long, Red-Legged Scissor Man (although I resent the latter description, as the colouring of my legs is the result of an unfortunate medical condition), and as I am sure you are aware it is my grave responsibility to punish those children foolish enough to suck their thumbs. I am sad to say, however, that the halcyon days of
Conrad and his ilk are long gone, and due to increased public scrutiny of government finances I am in danger of becoming marginalised.

As with so many state-sponsored initiatives, under the current government system my funding will not be renewed for 2006 if I do not fulfil a mandated quota. If this were to happen I would not only be out of a job but the whole country would suffer from the sorry disappearance of a valued public service.

I am aware of the distress that digital severage may cause to you and your child, but I hope I can set your mind at rest by assuring you that discomfort and any subsequent risk of infection are kept to an absolute minimum. My scissors are diamond-sharpened, sterile, surgical quality steel, are replaced after every use, and fully comply with Directive 451 from the UN Convention on Sharp Objects. Child selection, too, is fair and unprejudiced, as it is undertaken strictly in accordance with European Union Directive 4458-01-A (Cruel Punishments From Cautionary Tales - Client Selection Criteria).

So please, I beg you, allow me to fulfil my quota and keep this nation great: do not warn your child about the perils of thumb-sucking.

Yours sincerely

The Great Tall Tailor

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


One day I will found my own country, and give birth to my own religion to fit within its borders. I will create a brand new language, and I will choose letters for it that resemble the shapes of seeds found in tomatoes. I will designate the word represented by any random explosion of characters as "God", so that every time anyone cuts open a tomato, the word "God" is presented to them. People will learn that the placement of the seeds is random, and that every tomato contains the word "God", and that therefore the resemblance to the word is entirely coincidental. Then, instead of venerating the fruit until it rots they will slice it and place it into a salad, and learn to appreciate more wondrous things.

Every day, two Americans dance on fly ash. Go and watch, it's very entertaining (if a little disturbing at times).

Friday, April 15, 2005

The example of the Nettunfrigorians

There are a lot of things that the Nettunfrigorians don't do over on their distant planet. They don't hate each other, for example. Actually, they don't hate anything. They don't fight, they don't argue, they don't insult one another. They certainly don't kill. They don't drop litter, they don't scrawl graffiti - even though they have four arms with which to do so - they don't even so much as bump into each other on the street and walk off without apologising.

Like I said, there are a lot of things that the Nettunfrigorians don't do.

But this isn't because they are so civilised, so advanced that they have transcended all forms of barbarism and entered enlightenment. No; it is because their scientists just discovered that their sun will explode at some point over the next few months, and this tends to focus the mind somewhat.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I have a stack of calendars in my attic, laid in a pile between the broken grandfather clock and the box of dog-eared photographs. There's a calendar for every year of my life.

They're scattered with numbers that reflect my image. My whole life is here, hidden between ones and fours and nines. Some parts of it I remember, but others are just like the 12th of August 1989. I did something on that day - I must have done, I was alive - but I don't know what. I don't even remember what the weather was like.

They say people are the sum of their past experiences. That's why I keep the calendars; so that when I die they can just take them down from the attic and add up all the dates into one big number, and that'll be me, right there.

Hopefully someone will take it and remember it and one day add me to some numbers of their own.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Springs eternal

There is a boat out on the ocean somewhere crowded with wretched people who have left their lives behind. The desperate and the despairing, all collected up and filled with hope and poured into this leaky tub to go in search of new lives. So it has been and so it will be.

Every so often they limp into some sun-kissed port, and the grizzled captain lumbers ashore to deliver his verdict. He casts his eyes around, shielding them from the sun with his red hand, and eventually says "No, this place isn't for us." and they return once more to the open seas. So it has been and so it will be.

The story goes that when they were anchored in Maracaibo, after the captain had decided against staying, a boy tugged on his jacket and asked him why. "Listen, lad," he said, "If we stay here who knows what might happen to us? At least at sea we have hope, and that's more than any of us have had before." And the ship slunk out of the port and into the arms of the sea.

So it has been and so it will be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Zevoord and the Germans

Zevoord Dudenfabulus was the abandoned son of an Egyptian sailor and a Polish prostitute. His forehead was as wide and square as a box of matches and his body flapped beneath his shoulders like laundry hung out to dry. This body was sitting outside a café in Bruges in 1929, but his mind was hidden in the smoke of a Siamese opium house seven years previously.

This was not an unusual occurrence for Zevoord. Ever since the bicycle accident that had torn off his earlobe and left him in a coma for two days his mind had catapulted itself forward and backwards to locations within his own lifetime without warning, reminding him of his past and offering glimpses of his future.

He appreciated the ability to relive his more treasured memories with crystal clarity and was happy to see his future marriage and the birth of his son again and again, but sometimes he wished that he could sit down at a restaurant without having his hors d'ouevres interrupted by the hiss of the shower room at Auschwitz.