The Latest Book

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The Latest Book

Post by AArdvark » Fri May 22, 2020 5:33 pm

Chaper-ized for suspense, enjoy!


Along this particular stretch of line no express trains had ever traveled.
All the trains, the few that did make the journey, were slow and wheezing, like steam powered asmatic turtles. Denis Stone knew the names of all the stations by heart. There was Arseboile, Trinitron, Spavindonkey, Wraatbastid, West
Eastwich, and, finally, Rowan-Orr, his destination. It lay in the north Midlands, the green heart of England.

The train was just snorting out of West Eastwich now, thank heaven. Denis took his bag off the rack and put it in the corner near the compartment door. It was pointless, as he would have plenty of time once the train reached his station, but he needed something to do. He was bored to distraction. He sank back into his seat and closed his eyes. Oh, this journey! His boarding school in London had just turned out for summer and it seemed ages since he had left Waterloo station this morning. It was two hours cut clean out of his life; two hours in which he might have done so much, written the perfect story or read some illuminating book. Instead he sat and waited in this hot, stuffy compartment with it's smell of dusty cushions and stale farts. Misery and a nameless distress possessed him. Denis was eighteen, and agonizingly conscious of the fact. Denis considered himself a novelist (although he had never had anything published) and as such he fancied he felt the troubles and abrasions of the world more deeply than his fellow men.

After a time he fell into a semi-doze. The train finally bumped to a halt; Rowan-Orr at last. Denis shook himself fully awake and jumped up. He jammed his hat over his eyes, snatched up his bag and left the hot little sweat-box. He stepped down to the platform, luxuriated in the fresh summer breeze for a moment and ran up the train towards the van.

"My bicycle, my bicycle!" he said breathlessly to the guard. The guard paid no attention, but continued methodically to hand the packages labelled to Rowan-Orr. "My bicycle!" Denis repeated.

"All in good time, sir," said the guard absently. He was a large, stately man with a bushy black beard. He spoke to Denis in the same tone that he spoke to his children when they were cranky and tiresome. "All in good time."

Denis stood and fumed silently until at long last the guard stepped inside and retrieved his bicycle.

He left his bag and luggage at the station to be called for later, and pushed off on his way.

At last, on his way and under his own power and not feeling trapped. He felt his spirits mounting. At the top of the long hill which led up from Rowan-Orr station the world, he decided, was good. The far-away blue hills, the fresh summer air blowing from the slopes of the hills along his road, yes they were all good.
There must be a word to name this feeling, he thought, there must be. He hunted through his mind, searching for the right word. Gloobe, That was a good word; nice and woody, but it didn't hit the mark, it sounded too gloomy. Glabber, gono-rea, gorf. Those were good words. Some day he must write down all these good words for later use. He was suddenly overcome by the beauty of the countryside and he spread wide his hands, as if to direct the scented summer air into his nostrils. His front wheel hit a rock in the road and he almost fell off his bicycle.
Slightly chastened he rode on. But really, he must find the right word. Curmid, curneted, curtingler...Interesting how those little hills in the distance had the round lines of a girl's breast. His mind drifted away from finding new words and wandered down echoing corridors of fantasy and ended up in a narrow dormitory bed with Matilda Hooverskank underneath him, moaning and writhing in ecstasy. It happened in the school library only a couple of weeks ago, while studying for exams. The pimply miss Hooverskank had asked him if the seat was taken and had sat down right next to him. Right in the next chair. Surely this was a sign that she was interested in him. She had never spoken to him before (or since) but in the amorous daze brought on by her proximity he had failed to notice that there were no empty seats available anywhere else in the library. His mind often played these sorts of tricks on him, especially at odd moments. Denis rode on automatic now, lost in a daydream of Matilda Hooverskank's plaid wool skirts and navy blue stockings.

After a while he shook himself out of the daydream and found himself on the crest of a descent. The road plunged down, steep and straight, into a considerable valley. There, on the opposite slope, stood Oyke, his destination. He coasted a little ways; this view of Oyke was pleasant to linger over. The two projecting towers rose from the dark trees of the grounds. The old brick of the house house basked in full sunlight. How rich it was, how superbly mellow! The hill was becoming steeper and steeper now; he was gaining speed. In a moment of wild abandon, for his testosterone was spiking, he lowered his head close to the handlebars and rushed headlong down. The wind in his ears became a roar as the bicycle gained speed. Denis grinned madly. He would rush up the gravel drive at speed, skid to a swooping, gallant stop just in front of the porch and announce to the world that he was home! It would make a grand entrance.


Denis made a grand entrance alright, not that anyone saw it. He was doing perhaps twenty five miles an hour when he flew past the gateposts flanking the gravel driveway, He wheeled his bicycle straight towards the front porch and at the proper moment slammed on his brakes.
It was at that point that the rear brake cable on his bicycle, which was quite rusty from out-of-doors storage and neglect, chose to break. So instead of locking up his back tyre and gracefully skidding to a sweeping stop, Denis drove full tilt into the porch stairs. The risers were rather shallow and instead of going over the handlebars he mounted the three steps in an exciting and bumpy manner. Denis was frozen in sudden panic.
The front tyre banged the front door open, which was slightly ajar, and the handlebars twisted sharply. The bicycle caught in the door frame and came to an abrupt halt, launching Denis inward head-first over the handlebars. It was a short flight, as these things go, and he landed on the hall carpet runner in a jumble of arms and legs. Denis, on top of the rug, skidded along the marble hallway, resembling a contortionist making a crash landing on a magic carpet. He hit the far wall with a thump, jangling the silver plate in the Welsh cupboard in the dining room opposite.

He lay there in a heap for a long moment. All was quiet. Denis slowly untangled himself from the carpet runner and sat up, half dazed. There was a familiar restroom odour in his nose and he checked his trousers to make sure he hadn't wet himself in the excitement. No, the smell was coming from the rug. Denis got to his feet and adjusted his attire. He wasn't really hurt. His elbow stung when he touched it and the knees were torn out of his trousers but that was all.
He pushed the odoriferous rug back to it's original position and removed the bicycle out of the doorway and closed the door.
Where was everyone? Probably in the summer house or down by the swimming pool. Denis wandered into the sitting room. He was quietly glad that they had all missed his spectacular but undignified entrance.

Lying on the table in the sitting-room he saw his own book of poems, printed (poorly) by the student lithography class last winter. The school paper had reviewed it and claimed that it: 'Fills a much needed void'. He opened it to a random page and and read:

The Unfinished Poem ( twelve of a series )

"There once was a maiden from Wales
Who carried her milk in great pails;
She tripped on a root
And busted her snoot
And now she-"

He put it down again, shook his head, and sighed. "If only I had finished them!" he lamented to the empty room. It was nearly six months since the book had been printed and he was glad to think he would never write poetry again. He was a Novelist now. (Denis even thought of the word in capitals) But how did the book get here? In a vague but deeply euphoric mood at the time, he had mailed the book to his desirable neighbour, Anne Fables, hoping that it would make her think of him as a worldly sophisticate. She had never written him back. It must have been her that brought it. Perhaps she wanted him to autograph it for her, the thought made him smile. He shut his eyes now and saw a midnight vision of Anne, dressed in a red velvet cloak and nothing else, swaying into his bedroom, asking to be ridden like a pony. Denis sighed at the daydream and adjusted his trousers.

It occurred to him that perhaps his aunt might be in her boudoir. It was a good possibility as she was seldom anywhere else at this time of day. Mrs. Skankly-Bush's boudoir was in the south tower facing the front garden. Denis mounted the staircase,went to the end of a corridor and tapped at the door.

"Come in."

Hagatha Skankly-Bush was sitting up on the bed, surrounded by pillows. A green pad rested on her knees and she was suggestively sucking the end of a silver pencil.

"Oh Hullo," she said, looking up. "I'd forgotten you were coming. Was that you making all the noise downstairs?"

"Well, yes," admitted Denis, "but I didn't break anything."

Mrs. Skankly-Bush just laughed. Her voice, her laughter, were deep and masculine. Everything about her was manly. She had large man-hands, a square, middle-aged face, with a massive nose and little green eyes, the whole surmounted by a lofty and elaborate coiffure in a shade of orange not found in nature. She was wearing a purple silk dressing gown with a low collar and
a row of pearls.

"School done for the summer already?" she asked. She made it sound like it was somehow his fault.

"Uh, well-" said Denis.

But Mrs. Skankly-Bush's question had been rhetorical, it asked for no answer. "I'm working at my horoscopes," she said, again sounding like it was his fault for interrupting her.

A little pained, Denis kept his tongue, but said "Oh?"

"Did I tell you how I won four hundred pounds on the Grand National this year?"

"Not more than six times," he replied, remembering her letter from two months ago.

"Wonderful, isn't it? Everything is in the Stars. In the Old Days, before I had the Stars to help me, I used to lose thousands. Now"- she paused an instant- "well, four hundred pounds on the Grand National. That's the Stars."

Hagatha had lost a great deal of money in the old days, lost it by the bucket-load on every race-course in the country. The amount varied in the different legends, but it was an impressive number by all accounts. Facing a crisis, Henry Skankly-Bush was forced to sell some of his antiques to the Americans. For the first time in his life Henry asserted himself and Hagatha's gadfly existence had come to an abrupt end. Nowadays she spent almost all her time 'with the stars' as she had put it. Her passion for racing still possessed her though, and Henry, who was kind-hearted, allowed her forty pounds a month betting money. Most of Hagatha's days were spent casting the horoscopes of race horses, and she invested her money scientifically, as the stars dictated.

"I know you don't believe in these things, Denis," said Mrs. Skankly-Bush in her deep voice. "Here am I at Oyke. Dull as ditchwater, but I have the Stars."
She picked up the newspaper that was lying next to the blotting-pad. "Zagnatha's horoscope chart," she explained, "updated daily. I have to keep up with the Stars," she waved her hand. "There's also a piece in there about Barbecue-Jones's new book. She looked around, searching the bedside table clutter. "I just bought it the other day. Where is it?" She rummaged around and found a book that was lying under some of the papers on the little table. "Do you know him?" she asked.


"Mr. Barbecue-Jones."

Denis had heard the name, vaguely. Barbecue-Jones was a name sometimes bandied about on campus. He wrote black letter volumes that nobody read twice. His fame had come with publication of the illustrated edition of 'What a Good Earthworm Ought to Know'.

"No, not personally," he said.

"Well you will, I've invited him for next week-end." She turned over the pages of the book. "Here's a passage I like. I marked it. I always mark the things I like."

"Oh, then it was you that urinated on the hall rug," Denis mused.

She ignored this, and held the book almost at arm's length, for she was half blind without her spectacles, she began to read, slowly, dramatically.

"'What are fur coats without fur? What are hamburgers without ham?'" She read the passage in a dramatic fashion. Her orange coiffure quivered portentously. Denis watched her hair bob about, fascinated.

"'Coats and burgers, that is all. So are the days of our lives.'"

Her voice, which had risen in tone, from sentence to sentence, dropped suddenly and boomed reply. Her orange hair agreed with her by nodding appropriately.

"'Nothing but fluff. All we are is dust in the wind. Don't hang on.'"

Mrs. Skankly-Bush lowered the book. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Denis preferred not to hazard an opinion, but uttered a non-committal "Hum."

"Ah, it's a fine book this, a beautiful book, and that reminds me," Hagatha
exclaimed, shutting the book and uttering her big manly laugh-- "That reminds me, it's time we went to see if tea's ready," said Hagatha. She hoisted herself up from the bed and went swishing off across the room, faintly humming to herself. Denis followed her down.

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Re: The Latest Book

Post by Tdarcos » Fri May 22, 2020 8:44 pm

And hopefully Denis pushes this broad down the stairs. Or clongs her on the head with an unabridged dictionary, since he's so interested in words, it's a way he can use lots of them. Bought one, once, around 1993, cost $30, was 1,500 pages and probably weighed ten pounds.
This signature is limited to 128 characters, or I could have said a few more things. Like, do you know who killed JFK? it was...

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Re: The Latest Book

Post by AArdvark » Sat May 23, 2020 4:04 am

this is boring background stuff to set the situation. I like it better if I just jump into the funny parts and let the dialog explain stuff, like all the old time radio shows did.

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Re: The Latest Book

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Sat May 23, 2020 9:24 am

Latest book? Is there a previous Aardvark book?
the dark and gritty...Ice Cream Jonsey!

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Re: The Latest Book

Post by AArdvark » Sat May 23, 2020 9:41 am

yeah, it's over at Flack's place

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