Category: prose

Captain Tandy addresses his crew, Portsmouth Harbour, 12 May AD 1846.

Welcome aboard, men! We’re about to cast off on our great adventure! But before we do, remember this:

A ship without men is like a dog without a tail. A dog can’t wag its tail if it hasn’t got one, and a man without a ship…. I mean a ship without a sail can’t wag the dog, in either direction. No! A voyage like ours calls for loyalty, paternity, lobotomy, deuteronomy — all the things we’ve cherished since boyhood, all those years ago, when we were callow lads up to no good behind the….  And just as a boy loves his dog, even if it has no tail, a sailor loves his ship, even if it has no boy.

And remember this too, men: The sea is a cruel mistress. Oh, by G—d, she is cruel! She grabs a man by the twemlows and never lets go. Yes men, it will be a long voyage and a hard one. That much is self-evident!  But we must never forget…. never forget!…. that victory is the handmaid of hard work, and hard work maketh the man, and the man is mightier than the sword that launched a thousand ships that pass in the night. In the words of Ebeneezer Squeeze of Yarmouth….

We’re losing the light, Captain. 

Thank you, Mr Pilbeam. That’s right: Boozing at night will not be permitted on board, at any time! Any man found innoculated will be hanged from the topgallant, and any man who is not hanged will be incarcerated by the light of the silvery moon that passeth all understanding. Yes, very soon, by the light of the moon, we’ll cast off upon life’s great ocean, like a dog without a pail…. a boy without a tail…. a pale moon shining on the silvery sea, so bring back my bonny young lassie to me. In the words of Philip the Flippant of Flanders….

Cast off! Cast off!

….and all who sail in her.


 

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Tell you what

A frowsy dratchell meets a drab fustilugs in Fosdyke Drive.

— Awright?

— I could just as well be a feather duster.

— Yes, and I could just as well be a dried fig.

— We’d be better off on Delmar’s Freeway, where the morning sun caresses and soothes the harried hag.

— Not just the harried hag, but the bespattered beldam too.

— Tell you what: you be a frowsy fustilugs and I’ll be a drab dratchell. Then we could head over to Fermor’s Fields, or even the Dreyfuss District.

— Or…. you be a harried hag and I’ll be a bespattered beldam. Then we could trip the light fantastic either at Holden Hall or in Busby’s Boulevard.

— Oh, the horror of choice!

— Tell you what: we’ll have a word with Catweazle. He needs all the help he can get today.


The calculated life

I’ve always been artistic
and really quite refined.
My tea is sweet verbena
and my socks are satin-lined.

One likes to nibble fruitcake
while one reads the New York Times,
starting with the book reviews
— their critics are sublime!

They tear an author’s work to shreds
in calculated prose,
while I nibble on my fruitcake
and scratch my knowing nose.

It’s not an easy life, of course,
the life of the aesthete,
but it helps to nibble fruitcake,
and wear satin on one’s feet.


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.


 

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!