Category: prose

Save the twemlow!

Did you know that at the present rate of decline, the twemlow could be extinct within the next 4,000 years?

Have your seamstress fashion a gallipoke for you, and make a strong statement about the wholesale slaughter of the lesser crested twemlow in Nova Zembla.

It doesn’t have to be a calmet or even a pilbeam — just a simple, hand-sewn gallipoke makes a powerful statement in these wicked times.

And remember to Like us on Facebook.


 

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On the line

On the subject of railway couplings, Twemlow speaks very highly of the Sprat & Winkle system, for its ‘reliability’, while Pilbeam admires the ‘simplicity’ of the Wilmot & Pryce.

For me, however, the Stanhope Quadrant system is very hard to beat. No, it’s not simple, but why should it be? When you’re responsible for the lives of thousands of rail passengers every day, is ‘simplicity’ really such a desirable feature? And consider this: will ‘reliability’ ease your pain as you lie dying in a pool of blood beside a railway track, one leg in the carriage and the other in a field of new-mown hay?

So I’ll stick with the Stanhope Quadrant, thank you very much, and let irresponsible murderous bastards speak for other coupling systems.

My conscience is clear.


 

My story

About a month after Ellie died I went on a fishing trip to Lake Cheekbyjowl, way up north of here.

I was out on the lake one afternoon when a storm blew up. A nor’easterly came screaming round the bluff at Nokanook Falls and near tore the pines off Sesqueleeguek Ridge. Out on the lake, the water heaved and riled and rolled my boat every which-way, till I was tossing around out there like a cork, and hanging on to the gunwale for dear life. I was near blinded by wind and rain, but I finally made it to shore near Toohahaha and lashed the boat to an old pontoon.  I hunkered down in some scree and brushwood they got there, just below an overhang, and that way I rode out the storm.

I thought about Ellie as I crouched there, how she would’ve said I was a stupid bastard for going out in the first place, how I got what I deserved. She was always more cruel than any storm.  I never said she deserved to get cancer, though I did think it at the time.

Of course, it was nothing but dumb luck that I survived at all: four men died that day on the lake, and two more near the timberline on Mount Davis.

But for me, the biggest loss that day was my old reefer knife, that I’d had since I was a boy. It must’ve slipped through a runnel or something when the water rolled the boat. It had a beautiful clamshell handle, and always cut like a dream, even when it was wet. That knife was a real friend to me for many years, and I don’t have many friends. Don’t need ‘em, do I?

So yeah, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.


 

Ask Dad

Today is the birthday of Solomon (Sol) Meldew, born in 1915 to poor immigrant parents in Twemlow, West Virginia. He studied engineering at college, but dropped out after only one year, and headed to New York. Aged just 20, he had little experience of city life and soon fell in with the wrong crowd: poets, novelists, and artists — what his father used to call ‘the scum of the scum of the earth’.

But scum seemed to suit Sol, and his first collection of poems, Wherefore the Vision? was published in 1937. While giving a poetry reading at Columbia University, he was attacked by a hothead in the audience (a fan of Eliot, apparently), and was seriously injured. While recovering in hospital, Sol fell in love with his nurse, Mary Ellen Rosetti. They married in 1946.  Sol wrote: ‘Mary Ellen meant the world to me, and I think she gave my poetry a whole new depth. A woman can do that, you know.’

His next collection, Storm over Twemlow (1948) was gritty, hard-hitting, and seethed with anger about his childhood, his family, and small-town America. It won the National Book Award, and Sol’s reputation as a poet was secured.

From then on, he wrote nothing. He became what his father called ‘a lousy stinkin’ bum who couldn’t write to save a dog from drownin’.’ Which is exactly what happened: in 1956, Mary Ellen’s beloved dog, Spangles, was drowned in the East River, while Sol stood by, his inkhorn dry, writing nothing. The couple were divorced shortly after, and Sol moved to a trailer park in Pilbeam, Missouri. His National Book Award was officially withdrawn, and was given instead to his father, for his ‘prophetic vision that looks unflinchingly into the hearts of men’.

Today, Sol is best remembered for being forgotten. He died alone in 1960 and was buried at Mount Oblivion. It was said that Mary Ellen visited his grave once a year, to spit. Sol’s father went on to host his own radio talkshow, Meldew Moments (1961-66), where he made famous the catchphrase Aaaask Daddy!


 

From the top

After putting the Ferrari through its paces on the Avenue des Etoiles, I like to relax on the patio with a tisane of Osmanthus tea, which is specially made for me by my good friend Theo, at the Pavilion de Thé, in Montparnasse. It’s a wonderful blend of dried flowers from the sweet olive tree and leaves from the Chinese Kotsa bush, commonly known as Cat’s Eye. Theo is such a treasure — I simply couldn’t live without him!

Having said that, his blend of pennyworth and Korean knotweed is absolutely disgusting, and his papaya and dill tea would take the shine off a brass doorknob.

So you see, life at the top is not all pleasure. Now get back to work.


 

Bearing fruit

Now class, I want you to tell me what you think is the best profession in the world. The best profession….

Delmar, what do you think?

Emmy-Lou? Any idea?

Madison? Stop picking your nose.

Tommy – is your hand up? Yes, Tommy.

— Eh, is it writer, Miss?

Writer? Why do you say that, Tommy?

—  Well, cos, you know, without writers all the other professions would be totally meaningless, wouldn’t they?

What does your father do, Tommy?

— He’s dead, Miss.

Choose an orange from the basket, Tommy, and enjoy.


Customer care

I was opening a new box of Dalton & Bassett’s Twemlows when the phone rang.

— Hello?

Don’t eat those Twemlows!

— What?

— I said Don’t eat those Twemlows. Throw them out, right now!

— Who is this?

— Dalton.

— Who?

— Dalton, of Dalton & Bassett.

— Oh. How did you…?

— You got a bad box of Twemlows. It happens sometimes, and we’re real sorry. Throw them out. We’ll send you a new pack right away, by express courier. No charge, of course. And a hand-written apology, signed by Bassett himself.

— That’s real nice of you.

— We’re leaders in Customer Care, you know, here at Dalton & Bassett.

— Why don’t you sign it too?

— What?

— Why don’t you sign the apology too? Why just Bassett?

— Listen, punk! Don’t push me too far! I phoned ya, didn’t I? Did Bassett phone ya?

— Ooh, sorry.

— You want me to apologise twice? Maybe I should get down on my knees? Prostrate myself on the cobblestones of commerce? Is that what you want?

— Jeez, I just….

— Ok, go ahead and eat the goddam Twemlows. Stuff our face — see if I care! (Marcia, cancel that courier! And send a bunch of roses to Jack the Poisoner. In fact, give him a job. Tell him to see me tomorrow at nine.)

— I’m still here.

— Oh yeah? You got more complaints? Twemlows not sweet enough for ya? I spend my whole goddam life trying to please ungrateful bastards like you, and this is the thanks I get!

— Gotta go. Courier’s here.