Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Far Flung Adventures 7

The train clattered and jolted as it hurtled along through the grey late afternoon light. Mason threaded his way through knots of people in the narrow corridor, some staring out at the endless forest, some snatching a cigarette or a swig from a bottle of vodka or schnapps.

Kleptykin was on this train. He was sure of that. He had to find him. To warn him that Vronsky had exposed him. That even now Massimov’s goons were on his track.

He tried to negotiate his way round a large man in an arctic fox coat, talking to a companion in glasses and astrakhan. The big man turned and gasped in surprised.

“Good God,” he cried in a plummy English voice, “it’s Measles Mason! Devil are you doing this in this neck of the woods, Measles?”

It was Breadbin Frobisher, a rugby oaf from his school days. A buffoon then, and seemingly now. Mason replied quickly in Russian, and seeing no light of comprehension, said in a thick Urals’ accent, “You make mistake. Please let me through.”

“It’s you, Measles, alright!” chortled Breadbin. He explained to the man with him, “Brought measles with him first term at Wellington. We all got it. Been ‘Measles’ ever since.”

Mason made to slip by, but Breadbin held him fast in a manly grip, and twinkled amiably at him, “Another one of your jokes, eh, Measles? Now, don’t be a rotter. Tell an old school chum what brings an enterprising cove like you out to this benighted wasteland. I’m travelling in pig-iron, myself.”

Mason sensed a presence behind him and felt the knife slide in above his kidney, slick, expert, agonising. So, Massimov’s goons were on the train. His vision blurred.

“Sure you’re OK, old chap?” Breadbin’s sounded urgent and concerned, “You’ve gone awfully pale.”

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Birthday Boy

I want to wish a happy birthday to my compadre Chips Hardy.
Many happy years of happiness and fruitful creativity for you, old codger!!!


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Far Flung Adventures 6

Hemel brought the biplane down neatly and climbed wearily out of the cockpit. It had been his third bombing run of the morning.

He’d located the rebels on his dawn patrol and had returned to the Sultan’s airstrip to take on ordnance. He’d then retuned to their makeshift encampment in the foothills due east, to eliminate all resistance. Joystick between his knees, he’d leaned out to drop his bombs, by hand, upon scattering tribesmen below. Occasionally a musket ball would drone past his leather flying helmet, and once, more alarmingly, there’d been the whine of a rifle bullet, but in the main the men below had contented themselves for running, pointlessly, for their horses or camels, or diving under the momentary sanctuary of a few threadbare bushes.

Boileau, the ex-Legionnaire, met him outside the wooden shack serving as the station HQ and took his report. “Nothing left worth bombing,” said Hemel, without pausing.

The adjutant knew better than to press for details. Hemel’s temper was as legendary as his efficiency. Boileau simply wiped the mission off his blackboard and returned to his paperwork.

Hemel kicked open the door to his quarters and threw himself down on his truckle bed. He smelled of engine oil, and sweat. He wanted a beer, a field shower and perhaps a little Beethoven on his phonograph.

He was bored with the trackless wastes, the heat, and the flies. He was bored with bombing aborigines, but the pay was adequate and it meant he could keep flying. For Kaiser or Sultan, it made no difference to Hemel.

He grunted as he pulled off his flying boots, and let one foot fall heavily over the side of the bed to the floor. An adult scorpion stung him in the ankle. And he was dead by nightfall.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Far Flung Adventures 5

Larsson had eaten the last of the huskies’ feet, so Svenson had boiled up poor dead Davidsen’s mittens and furs and they eaked this bouillon out over two weeks, one mugful a day each. And they waited for the supply ship to cut its way through.

They’d given up trying to mend the radio after a week, having started out with resource and ingenuity, descended into violent recriminations and ended up with forlorn prayer, before pushing the mangled set through a hole in the ice they’d made in a pointless quest for fish.

After that they’d played I-spy but gave that up on the third day, when Svenson had broken down, yelling at Larsson to spy something different from “bloody snow”. Svenson had then led them in calisthenics but had turned his ankle on the ice, and Larsson said he felt stupid doing them on his own. And anyway the fitter he was, the hungrier he felt.

They’d read to each other from their obsolete and tragically inaccurate weather printouts, adopting colleagues voices until Svenson did poor dead Davidsen by mistake and they’d both had a tearful moment. They’d reminisced about life in the meteorological institute. Larsson recalled the big breasted analyst from that exchange scheme in Riga, and said he’d managed to sleep with her. He apologised for such unprofessional behaviour. Svenson said he was gay and didn’t care. Larsson looked a little hunted and Svenson told him not to kid himself. If Larsson were the last man on earth, he - Svenson – would still find him mildly repellent.

Larsson reflected that if the supply ship didn’t cut its way through, he probably would be the last man on earth as far as Svenson was concerned. He didn’t know whether to feel relieved about this.