Wednesday, December 18, 2013

fenwick - 7. a man not to be trifled with

by minette de montfort

illustrated by danny delacroix and rhoda penmarq

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

click here for previous chapter of fenwick

click here to begin fenwick

click here to begin the 14th princess

admiral morwyn was not the only witness to muggleton's bursting through the hedge -for needless to say it was indeed poor muggleton who burst through the hedge - for who else could it have been? - i put it to you - reader, if perchance you exist, we are not here to play tricks on you but to tell a plain tale as plainly as possible - the good old fashioned way, around the hearth, around the campfire, at the old roadside inn as the landlord prods the embers with his blackened poker - blackened by centuries of low smoke and weary travelers tales - all hastening to the same end - oblivion - but to proceed - we will tell our tale - because every tale must be told - no matter how dreary or boring - yes, every tale must be told - and will be told - every song must be sung - down to the last repeated chorus - every dog will have his day - every cat will have his nip - though at night they all are gray - every nip will have his tuck - every tuck will have his friar - every friar will have his fat jolly nun - every fat jolly nun will have her flask of ale at the bar of the old roadside inn where the travelers tell their timeworn tales - their tales that must be told.

yes, tales that must be told.

but not by muggleton. no, not by muggleton.

muggleton was given his chance, his chance to tell his own tale - and a sad enough tale it was, to be sure - and he made - i will not say a complete hash of it, no, not a complete hash, but by god, we have to get on with it, don't we?

so we will nor hear from muggleton again - we will hear of him to be sure, for he is part of this sorry tale - that must be told regardless - as all tales must be told - but not from him.

on with it, man, on with it.

admiral morwyn was not the only witness to muggleton's bursting through the hedge - beckwith, the butler who ruled castle morwyn with an iron hand - or with a rod of steel, or perhaps with a rod of steel in his iron hand - or in his iron fist, i believe that is the correct term - a tale should be told in correct terms - what, i ask you, is the point of telling it otherwise? - beckwith happened to be looking out the window - i should say, a window, as there was more than one window in castle morwyn - it could hardy be called a castle, could it now, if it only had one window - beckwith happened to be looking out of the window of the red room -

called the red room for what the saints only knew what reason, as there was nothing particularly red about it though there may well have been in the mists of time - beckwith had happened to glance out the window in a moment of exasperation while berating a particularly incompetent chambermaid - who must have been particularly incompetent or lazy, or both, to distract him in this manner as all the chambermaids,

indeed all the servants in castle morwyn were lazy and incompetent if not totally moribund - and in glancing out the window - a window - at that moment - he chanced to see poor muggleton at the very moment he burst through the hedge onto the very ill-kept grounds of the castle.

this in itself was remarkable as beckwith, as i may have already given some indication, was not a man to be looking out windows when the day's work was to be done. as the only living creature in the castle with a molecule of sense, except for some dogs, cats, rats, mice and spiders - there were some fearful spiders in castle morwyn, capable of giving the cats and rats a fair challenge -

responsible for the supervision and shepherding through the day of a castleful of barely sentient morwyns and lazy and good for nothing servants - beckwith was not a man to be trifled with or to waste his time on trifles.

this fellow now - muggleton of course, known to you and me, dear reader, but not yet to beckwith who had never set eyes on him before- and would have remembered him if he had, for he had the memory of a lion or tiger or some great ravenous beast of the time before the prophets - this fellow stumbling across the roots and brambles of the shamefully ill-kept grounds of the castle with leaves and twigs and cockleburrs from the thick hedge - and the hedge, for all it was poorly attended to, somehow remained as thick as a morwyn's skull - something to do with the endless rains in this godforsaken stretch of country no doubt - plastered all over his unprepossessing person - could beckwith trust one of the footmen or grooms or groundskeepers - all of these designations being somewhat more than whimsical as whether they were called "footmen" or "grooms" or "groundskeepers" they were nothing more than lazy worthless rascals and parasites who could not be trusted to do the simplest things once out of one's sight - to waylay and ask him his business?

he could not.

with a grim expression - though this description may be more than a bit superfluous as he always had a grim expression - let us say, then, with an even more grim expression than usual - beckwith left the chambermaid to her dirty tray and marched out of the red room and down the cobwebbed corridor to the rotting staircase, down three floors of increasingly dusty stairwell and out the front door - which he opened himself rather than waste precious time attempting to summon one of the layabout lackeys to open it for him - and out into the air.

the air! if there was one thing beckwith had in common with the other inhabitants of the castle it was a sincere and abiding aversion to what is laughingly called "fresh" air - as if air that has blown over the whole foul human-infested earth could be said to have anything "fresh" about it by any stretch of the imagination - the air, at once sickeningly warm and yet with something of the cold clamminess of the tomb about it - smacked him in his gray gob like a dead flounder wielded by a champion batsman - but what he could he do, what could anybody do in his situation but carry on, yes, carry on.

"you there! " beckwith cried to muggleton, who was making his way across the blasted and littered landscape of the castle grounds with an increasingly bewildered expression - increasingly truly the operative word as bewilderment was the very essence of muggleton's being as well as his face to the world.

muggleton appeared not to hear beckwith's salutation. nor even to see him, though he stood plainly in front of the castle gate.

"halloa! you there!" beckwith cried again. there was nothing wrong with beckwith's voice, as he regularly exercised it berating the staff and the morwyns.

exasperated, beckwith began to move toward the oblivious muggleton. he had not gone three paces when he tripped over an exposed root and landed with a dreadful thump face down in a particularly disgusting mess of some sort.

a dead animal, perhaps? something even worse? something that the sun was no longer shining on, as beckwith's head was now effectively shielding it from that entity.

in any case, beckwith had at least succeeded in attracting muggleton's attention, and muggleton now came running as quickly as he could - which as the reader may have surmised was not very quickly - and quite heedless of the myriad traps and pitfalls the grounds held -

reader, you can guess what happened next.


that's enough for now, thought minette. her left index finger was getting sore from tapping at the old typewriter. not too bad, she thought.

minette didn't think she had ever heard of beckett before the contest. but she had been given copies of his books and had started to read them in order. she had not liked "murphy" so much, but liked "watt" better and that was the book she was trying to imitate.

she got up, leaving the sheet of paper in the typewriter and went to the window and looked out.

sari, minette's regular day guard, was lying on the bed and followed her with her eyes.

"are you through?"

"yes, for now."

sari could not read or write and so, unlike some of the other guards and maids - a few of whom were virtually writing the books - was little help to minette in writing her assigned novel. she felt bad about this, and liked to be helpful by at least listening to minette reading it aloud to her, and being encouraging by laughing in what she thought were the right places.

"you want to read it to me?'"

"thanks, maybe later." minette stared out the window. the morning was overcast and windy, and looked cold.

"you want to go out?'" sari asked her. "is anybody out there?"

"no, but this is the time rosalind usually goes out."

"fuck rosalind. you have just as much right to go out as she does."

"i don't want anybody getting mad at me."

"helga even said she didn't want rosalind getting to think she had a special time reserved. if you want to go out, let's go."

"um - all right. it looks cold, though. we should bundle up."

8. blind primal desire

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