Classic Canaries 7: Setting up the Show

It was very early on the Saturday morning that Irene Hobson received a knock on the door. It was however too early for poor old Irene and her husband Frank who were not used to such an early rise, especially at the weekend, consequently they did not rouse from their dingy bungalowed room but stayed therein, ignoring the rattling pvc door and pulled the bedclothes over their heads. Sadly this tactic did not persuade the mystery caller to leave them at their peace, rather again and again the rapping sound came. So ultimately sighing and huffing his mind filled with reprimand for the unwanted caller, old Frank Hobson raised himself from his bed and began to shuffle his way to the front door. One more rap even before he reached it brought an “alright alright goddamn you! I’m coming!” Slowly he unlocked the door and creaked it open. Before him in the bright summer morning light stood a smartly dressed figure, what was curious about said figure was that the head was that of a bird, a kind of duck, goose, penguin kind of mix, and where there should be hands, instead out of the sleeves extend strange feathery flipper like appendages. Mr Hobson scowled “oh one of you is it?” for he had seen these creatures come and go across the road, in that house, the house that he and his wife tried to avoid, the house where the fires burned brightly at many different hours, the house that smelled of many kinds of charred remains, the house where creatures far stranger than this birdman before him now had been seen to come and go “Well what do you want?” The creature elegantly stepped to one side and with a vocal cry of “Mwaaerk!” gestured to the previously obscured gleaming new lawnmower evidently for Mr Hobson’s delectation. Mr Hobson was taken aback and a lot of his previous ire was suddenly diminished as the machine was indeed a beauty. He stepped out of the house to inspect the machine yet no sooner had he passed the threshold than he felt a strong grip take hold of either of his arms. The smart birdman adopted a less cheery air and seemed to signalling to his captors some instruction. Frank Hobson was then duly bundled into a nearby transit van that waited just round the corner whilst the smartly dressed birdman wheeled the lawnmower after him and also into the van. Of course Frank shouted and of course Irene heard, yet so quick and efficient were his avian captors that the kidnap was achieved with minimal fuss. The van drove off, hurtling round the village streets, Frank sat in the back of the vehicle partially still staring at the lovely lawnmower, partially frightened by the dim light in the van and hate two burly birdman that sat, one either side of him. One lit a cigarette and offered him one too, he declined and nearly wretched at cheap cigarette smell in the close confines of the van. After a short length of time the van pulled to a stop and the doors were flung open. Hobson could see that in fact he had not been taken to some strange  basement, rather he now found himself at the village green. Around the green various other birdman milled around whilst another figure seemed to direct them. Hobson knew this man, the man from across the road. Upon seeing Hobson, the man came over “Ah Hobson, got your mower fixed as you can see, though thing is thought maybe you could give it a test run, see the green here is a little tufty and really needs the once over, so quid pro quo thought you were the  man, needs doing by nine or I will burn you  to death” he broke into a smile such that you really  couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not. Hobson made to protest but seeing the nearby burly birdman with a cattle prod, he thought better of it. So it was that at around half past 5 in the morning dressed only in his pyjamas and slippers poor old Frank Hobson made to mow the village green and it was not until the church clock chimed nine that an exhausted Hobson was staggered home to his terrified wife, leaving the village green smooth, even and neat.

The birdmen had not been idle, bunting was strung cheerfully from tree to tree, the potato oven was heating up nicely. The mingled smell of omelettes and fresh crackers filled the air from their respective push carts, balloons danced gently in the warm summer breeze and the day seemed set fair for a lovely time for one and all. Now, the other inhabitants of the village began to arrive too, and cake stalls, tombolas and other attractions began to appear, although in retrospect perhaps it was insensitive of Mr Potter to set up his Hook a Duck stand next to Quick To Perceive Anything As APersonal Slight And Overreact Violently Johnson’s cup cake stall. In any event, it was certainly unwise.

That notwithstanding however, by 10:45, with a quarter of an hour to go until the start of the festivities, all the elements of a very good village bird show are coming together nicely. Perhaps then, we should wonder who are these few nervous and agitated people standing as close as possible to the first aid and fire prevention tent? Let us move closer and see if we can overhear their conversation. “…ouldn’t find enough of the last Chairman to fill an ashtray…” “…One of those bird things handed me a note… Looked like a nasty piece of work.” “…ot a wife and kids, what could I do?”

It appears in fact that this is the new Committee, replacing previously incinerated incumbents, and they are trying to agree who will be this year’s Judges.

“So, so far we have got the Constable, Mr Stringently Impartial, Honestly, Johnson, that Mr Cutler from the new pet shop, er who’s the other one again?” “Oh, er you mean Piers Johnson? I’m afraid he won’t be here, he had a nasty accident last night at the Cat Charity Talent Show.” The others exchange knowing yet apprehensive glances. There is only one kind of “accident” in the village these days, and they all know it. “But at least one of the judges must be of noble blood! The Bird Show Charter is very stringent on that point! Where are we going to find an aristocrat at this notice?” “I don’t know! It’s not as if blue blooded individuals just drop out of the trees is it?” There is a rushing sound and then a resounding fleshy “thump” accompanied by a strangled cry of pain. Looking round they see a strangely dressed figure lying on the floor clutching his knee. Before any of them can say anything, another fellow in a rumpled lounge suit, is shinning down the trunk of the adjacent Horse chestnut.

Duke of Croy: “Ah bonjour mes amis! Ah couldn’t elp but over’ear your convairsation eh? And eef you weel pairmeet me to introduce maself an’ ma associate ‘ere, ah theenk that ah can asseest you weeth votre predicament n’est pas? Ma name ees Leonard, Duke of Croy, an thees theeng ‘ere, is ze famous Alphonso, Comte de Bersineaux!”

There is some confused muttering among the committee.

Hornby : “But why were you up a tree?” one asks.

Duke of Croy: “We were ‘iding from ze pig, er pidgeons. So as to obsairve zem bettair. You see we are keen ‘ow you say, orneethologeests. Now you need judges for your bird show n’est pas? Judges weeth an aristocrateec lineage? Well ‘ere we are mah friends! Just slip me £50 as an advance on my expenses, an’ we are at votre serveece!”

The committee whisper dubiously among themselves.

Hornby: “Er, I’m not sure about that Mr Croy, there’s nothing in the budget for judge’s expenses, and after all, we have to consider whether you are fit and proper persons to officiate at such an important event.”

Duke of Croy: “Oh ees zat so? Well all ah now ees zat you fuckairs need a judge toot sweet an’ ere we are. An’ where you expect to fahnd anuzzair pair of bird loveeng noblemen at zis hour ah cannot imagine, an’ ah hate to drav an’ ‘ard bargeen, but ‘ere comes zat mad bastard Morreess now, ah suggest you mek a queek decision before ‘e burns you all to death.”

There is a hurried conclave, and the committee make the only decision possible in the circumstances.

Duke of Croy: “Vairy wise m’sieurs, now eef you need us, we’ll be een ze beer tent.” He turns to Alphonso who is still clutching his leg and weeping, and waves a handful of notes at him. “Come on Alphonso you fuckeeng sheethead, ah’ve got ze cash, tahm for a leetle petit dejeuner eh?”

And so the delinquent aristocracy staggered off to persuade (by fair means or foul) the not even yet open bar tat they should release some of their supplies to their waiting maws.

The committee looked at each other with some trepidation. No doubt various thoughts went through their minds, some of which would involve fleeing this damned bird show, for they were in no doubt that they would be lucky if they all reached the end of the day without any of them suffering from a fiery demise. Well gentle reader you may imagine the horrified consternation which the committee found themselves in upon receiving the next events. One of them glanced over to the car park as they noticed a very posh car, indeed a bently pull into the car park. The committee member recognised the vehicle as belonging to one Piers Johnson; the same Piers Johnson that they had been lead to believe had suffered a terrible accident. So what was this, the chauffer taking liberties with his master’s car? A visiting relative making use of the facilities? He tugged at the sleeve of Mrs Braddenpipe (the secretary) and alerted her to the curious arrival and soon all the committee were glued to car, waiting to see who would emerge. After a couple of moments the chauffer got out to open the door for a passenger, yet here too was a curiosity for instead of faithful old Johnson was an altogether different driver. This driver did not have such a flat bill, indeed it was more  of curved kind of nature and the feathers too were quite wrong being of bright colours. However as the passenger was revealed to be Piers Johnson, the onlookers began to reconcile the dissonance with other various internal narratives. But the strangeness did not stay stayed for Piers Johnson, as he left the car park, looked most unsteady in this movements and trod in a curious almost robot like manner. Not knowing what this was about the committee shuffled between the various stalls towards the green entrance where they greeted Piers. Piers Johnson did not look well at all. His eyes looked glazed over, his feathers ruffled, his suit blood stained, his beak cracked yet incongruously atop this shabby figure was a pristine top hat which seemed rammed onto his head with particular firmness.

Brinson: “Hello Piers, we err, weren’t expecting you, we heard you had a bad accident at the cat show last night.” Piers stared blankly through them “Still it’s good to see you, though if you don’t feel up to it we do have a replacement lined up so you could just put your feet up. At this Piers’ head moves in the same awful mechanical manner and his bill opens. Simultaneous to the opening of the bill is a rather tinny “mwaaerk” like noise and again the committee are forced to repress the obvious sense that the noise did not come from the bill in favour of a more comfortable reality in which he did actually speak. At the same time as this his arm goes up equally rigidly and his flipper (still torn from its encounter with coco earlier) points to his judging badge also smartly attached to his messy attire. “Err yes, you are one of the Judges yes” Brinson tentatively interprets and, this seemingly established, Piers Johnson walked woodenly through the committee and into the midst of the various stalls. They looked at each other worriedly and then began to debate who (if indeed Piers was to be Judging today) should tell the other aristocracy that  they were no longer required. It was Hornby who eventually made the decision,

Hornby: “Look, I don’t fancy tangling with that French fellow now, he seems happy enough in the beer tent. We can deal with him later.” The others nodded their approval. Unspoken in their minds was the impression that there was something very very wrong about Piers Johnson, and having a spare judge up one’s sleeve, even one who had fallen out of a horse chestnut tree and was even now breakfasting upon calvados and barley wine, might not be a bad idea. The committee dispersed to their various tasks, just as a panting and becloaked figure pulled up to the green on his antiquated velocipedal conveyance.

Published in: on January 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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