Letter home

My dear Maggie

I’m warin’ the karker you give me for I’m feelin’ my ‘ed summat froze. This blasted winner dont never seem to wanner end. Mebbe I shud of come ‘ere in zummer, for winner in Borston is bitter cold and theres no jobs for love nor munny.  I ‘ad to sell my ‘ammer and chizzle for to eat, that was last sarterday. They ‘ave rooms ‘ere like you said but again its the munny.

I ‘ope your all well there. I will sign off now and dont wurry.

Jem


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No change

— Well, slap my ass and pop the toaster! It’s you, isn’t it?

— It’s me.

— Well, blow my horn and steam the chittlins! How ya doin’?

— I’m ok.

— Jeez, it must be, what… twenty years?

— Must be.

— You haven’t changed a bit! I’d know your ass in a sack o’ melons!

— Sure.

— I can’t believe it…. I was just thinkin’ about you the other day!

— Course you were.

— No, I was! I was driving through the Appalachians, and something about the shape….

— So, what’ll it be?

— What?

— What’ll it be, mister?

— Like I said: slap my ass and pop the toaster. You still at Steamies?

— This way.


Sweet age

— Cup of tea, Grandad?

— No, no, don’t mind me. Look after yourselves first. You young people represent the future now: bright beacons of hope and glory, in sharp contrast to my dying embers. I’m happy to cower in a cold ditch as you youngsters march boldly past along life’s great highway, bearing aloft the fluttering flags of all that’s pure and noble in man’s relentless quest for meaning.

— You take sugar?

— Four, please.


Hell and back

We were driving through Perdition, on the way to hell and back,
when we thought we’d stop and take on board a life-sustaining snack.

Well, the barman was a vulture, with talons made of steel,
though he served a very toothsome and highly-seasoned meal.

When we tried to pay him, he just stared at us and said
’You’ve already paid, dear pilgrims, for your life-sustaining snack:
We’ll meet again, and again, and again, on the road to hell and back’.


A man’s head

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Leonora was reading aloud from Dampier, in the Orangery:

“The land of the Tonquinese abounds with pomegranates, muske-millions, pome-citrons, pine-apples, and a curious fruit called chaddock — the size of a man’s head — which also grows in Ceylon and is commonly called there the pumple or pimple-nose”.

— ‘You read so beautifully, my dear’, said Abernathy. ‘The very words adore you!’

— ‘Curious fruit’, thought Quain.


Comeback

— I see Garner’s on the prowl again, in a manner of speaking. He was in church this morning with his father, the old man pushing him in a basket chair, like a huge baby, slobbering too, and his head rolling from side to side — hero’s medal pinned to his jacket.

— The hero returns! Pity they didn’t get him in the todger.

— Say what you like about war, there’s a kind of justice in it.


Hellfire

You’ve kept me cowed all my life — leastways since I married you — but no more, Jeb Thomas! No more! It’s time I spoke out, though I am a woman.

How can I stand by when cozeners and shifters are puffing and blowing? There’s not a manly man among you — banging your bibles in the pews like boys at cudgels. Not one of you knows what love is, I mean real love, natural love, not your sort, that stinks of death.

It’s all a trickery, Jeb Thomas — and don’t look at me that way — you know I’m speaking true, though I was duped — I admit it — but only cos of you and your kind keeping me anxious and beaten down, year after year, like you beat down everything that’s good and natural. Well, it’s not natural, Jeb Thomas, and you — you’re not natural. There, I’ve said it now and I can’t take it back.

I might as well go on, be hung for a sheep as a lamb: I never believed your talk about hell, or the other place either.  Hell is in your head, Jeb Thomas, and it makes you bitter and hurtful and cruel.

And no, your mother is not looking down on us from above — a babe in arms knows that! But you — you’d even turn the sky to something unnatural.

Don’t you see? Heaven is where you go when you love — not when you die, for fuck sake!

Don’t you see? Hell is where you go when love dies, you crazy bastard!


 

Exit

People were kinda huddled, cold.

Brother Devereux coughed, then recalled how Lucius used to share everything he had with other boys at school. ‘Some good in everyone’.

Rev. Proudfoot spoke next, and sent a small ripple of laughter through the group with his story of how he had reprimanded the 8-yr-old Lucius for teasing the bees over at St Anselm’s. ‘Like it was yesterday’.

Lucius’ attorney, Delmar Nelson, didn’t laugh. He’d been there since long before dawn, and he was so cold, so tired.

The warden said everyone had to leave.