Saturday, 14 May 2011

Surprise! 1

The artist steadfastly refused to allow the Duke to look at his portrait.

Day after endless day, the Duke had balanced precariously on a stuffed horse, wearing an elaborate periwig, burnished breast plate over a white topcoat with gold lace facings, a scarlet sash, knee boots, and belt with pistols. He’d refused to maintain his heavy cavalryman’s sword in the charge position so the artist had to make do with him pointing commandingly at the enemy forces, somewhere out of the studio window. His plumed hat bore down more heavily on him with every sitting. He was damned hot and damned uncomfortable.

The painting commemorated a pivotal moment in his and nation’s history. And the Duke was naturally anxious to check on its progress. He hoped the dauber hadn’t made him look fat. His mistress had described his tendency to resemble a prizewinning pig when confronted with something contrary to his will. He’d permitted the observation because of the rapacity of her appetites and the depravity of her services. But if this artist fellow had captured that side of him, he was going to feel some Ducal steel through his kidney.

With a martial snort, he slid off his mount and stomped over to the artist, snatching from him the cloth he always threw over his easel should anyone approach.

“I insist on seeing my likeness,” he bellowed as the painter blanched.

The Duke stared directly at his portrait and lost the power of speech.

“I preferred you without clothes,” the artist tried to explain. “In the Classic mode.”

The Duke, crimson with fury, could only point and splutter at the image that so offended him.

“But look, your Grace,” the artist made one last effort to deflect the Ducal anger. “I have given you an impressive pair of testicles.”

Thursday, 5 May 2011

That’s quite enough of that 4

The Northallerton coven stood shivering in a circle while Agnes, her enormous buttocks blue with cold, knelt over the pile of wet brushwood and flicked petulantly at it with a disposable lighter. A dank fog wrapped itself around them. With their rain flecked, goose pimpled skin they resembled a consignment of oven-ready chickens rather than a convocation of the willing brides of Beelzebub.

“I’ve got some paraffin in the van,” offered Janie, her hair corkscrewing out either side of her potato like features.

“Will he come if we use artificial aids?” Glenda sounded anxious. She didn’t want to miss Asmodeus after all this waiting.

“We don’t get that fire going, we’ll end up in bloody casualty,” pronounced big Cherie from the fish shop. “Hypo-bloody-whotsit, more than likely.”

“I’m not ending up in A & E with me bum out,” said Agnes, breathing heavily through her mouth like a drowning chow. “Fetch that paraffin, Janie. Sharpish.”

Witchcraft had a lot to recommend it, if the weather was clement. You got out of the house. You communed with demons. You did things the Women’s Institute would scarcely countenance. Like to see that lot jumping naked over a fire, or yielding themselves up to the barbarous phallus of Satan. But the Dales could be as unforgiving as Lucifer, if you didn’t afford them sufficient respect.

Janie arrived with a plastic bottle which she sprinkled over the brushwood mound. Agnes flicked her lighter, the brush ignited and both witches jumped back immediately with their hair and hands on fire.

The rest of the coven watched them run around screaming and flapping uselessly at themselves.

“Is that supposed to happen?” asked Glenda.

“Just showing off,” said another.

And while Agnes and Janie combusted across the Dales, the coven called it a night and went home.