Generations

Well I’m finally back in a position to do a little writing again, so here goes.  This is the first part of a multi-part story.  I’m not 100% convinced that posting it piecemeal like this as I write it is a good idea because I think it will be complicated.  I’m running the risk that I will need to re-order stuff that’s already be posted, but let’s give it a shot hey …  🙂


John walked along the path to the market square.  Around him the signs of spring were emerging.  A touch of green growth dusting the trees just as the first snows had done so many months ago.  A lone bird, singing its song, eager for a mate and the bounty of seeds that the season would bring, fluttered within a nearby perennial hedge.  The sun was definitely stronger that a week ago.  Peering through the thin cloud, he actually felt warmth from its rays on his skin.

His heart was light this morning.  Jessica was with child; his child, his first.  The thought buoyed his spirit, raising his hopes above the cloying mud that stuck to his boots and in which he seemed to spend so much of his life.  Jessica, who had made such a change to his life was now bringing him another gift.

She was the ray of sunshine that had illuminated his life.  Arriving two summers ago, she had walked into the village square one morning.  A lone woman traveler.  Not completely unheard of, but rare enough to provoke comment.  A ripple of murmurs among the gathered traders, was a foretaste of things to come.

“Who is she?”, they asked.  “A runaway slave?”, proffered one pundit.  “No, look at her complexion, her teeth”, said another, “that’s no slave.”  “OK then, a runaway consort.”  “That makes her even more dangerous”, was the reply.

She’d certainly not acted like a runaway.  A supreme confidence marked her bearing, calm and deliberate in the way she’d mixed with the crowd.  She made no attempt to hide.  And time bore out that truth as day on day, week after week no-one came looking for their property.  With the safety of that truth slowly growing, fear of retribution through association had abated and she’d begun to be accepted locally.  Yet local she definitely was not.

John had never met anyone with such an inquiring spirit before.  Questions tumbled from her mouth constantly.  “What are you doing?”  “Why is that necessary?”  “How long will that last you?”  It was as if she were driven by a pathological need to fit in.  A need to be part of the community and life that he wore with practiced ease.

It was impossible that she had grown up locally, she knew nothing of their way of life.  In fact it surprised him how little she knew in some areas.  It was almost beyond his comprehension how she could have survived so long without knowing how to butcher a carcass.  How to properly roast over a fire.  How to start a fire for that matter.  Even the high ladies of the lord’s court knew of these things, regardless of whether they were much practiced.  Yet she knew none.

Where could she possibly have grown up and survived to such an age without them?  For all her questions of others, on this point she was resolutely silent.  Nothing he tried could tempt her to give him a hint.  It intrigued him, drew him to her and in return he’d become the primary focus of her questioning.

He enjoyed the times they spent together.  Mostly he’d be continuing about his normal business, but she’d make it hers to join him and use the chance to keep learning.  Admittedly some days he thought he might be smothered under the torrent of her questions.  It was like a bubbling brook, at times stronger and at others weaker, always running.  But like a brook, he found it cleansing.

Pausing in his stride, he sighed and looked down at his boots.  A thick layer of mud had built up again; enough to make walking laborious.  As he cleaned the sticky muck, he reflected that this was what life had been like before Jessica’s arrival.  The community, the traditions and life in which he was embedded had been ubiquitous, all that he’d known.  They had sucked at his thoughts like a mud pit, hampering his desire to move or explore.  But like thrusting filthy feet into a stream, her questions and presence had cleaned away the inertia and caused him to reflect on how things might be.  On why things were as they were.

That was the enigma of their relationship.  Jess, incessantly driving inwards to understand what was inside his world.  John relishing the glimpse of what might be outside.  So different, and yet, perhaps the same.  The difference simply being that the inside of his world was the outside of hers.  Regardless, within a year John’s mind had been made up, he had asked Jessica to be his wife.

Rounding the corner, he came within sight of the tavern and his friend Willheim waiting at the gate.

“Ho, John”, he called, raising an arm into the clearing morning air.

“Ho, Willheim”, John responded.  “Today is such a fine day, I think that after the market, you’ll be joining me for a pint at the Tavern.”

Willheim turned his face to the sky and look dubiously at the lightening sky.  “I’d say the day’s definitely better than it’s been, but I wouldn’t have thought it good enough to extract the cost of a pint from you”, he observed, “still, if you’re shouting, I won’t say no.”

John grinned, “No my friend, you’ve got it wrong.  It’s you who will be shouting me.”

Acting out an exaggerated shock, Willheim scoffed, “And what makes you think that?”

“Because of the great news I have today”, John explained, the grin on his face increasing.

Willheim looked unimpressed but tilted his head back slightly inviting an explanation good enough for him to part with his coin.  Between them silence stretched, the grin on John’s face turning mischievous as he milked the moment for all he could get until finally Willheim broke.

“Come on, spit it out.  You’re grinning like a madman.”

“Jessica’s pregnant”, he relented in a flood of excitement.

Willheim’s face broke into a smile as broad as his friend’s, and ran over to congratulate him, slapping his back and lifting him in a bear-hug.  “That might just be good enough”, he said, “but it’s you who can explain to my Sarah where we’ve been come tomorrow morning.”

Arms draped over each other’s shoulders they turned to continue on from the tavern towards the market square.

“And what makes you think I won’t be stopping at one?”, asked John, mock hurt in his voice.

“History”, said Willheim simply and burst out laughing as they disappeared around the corner.

(to be continued …)

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Sauron’s Metallurgist

Can you imagine what it would like to have been Sauron’s metallurgist? Probably not an easy task I’d say. I can imagine it now, he gets called to Sauron’s chamber of evil one day.

Sauron: “Ah Thor Hammerthumb, so good of you to drop by.”

Thor: “You did summon me master.”

Sauron: “Of course, of course. But still … you know … it’s good.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord”

Sauron: “Sooo … those latest swords for the Orcs … pretty good from what I hear.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord. They do complain that the alloy is still too refined, not rough enough to be befitting of an Orc.”

Sauron: “It’s a burden we must all bear when we choose to work with the darker side of things.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord.”

Sauron: “I mean you should see the kind of mess they leave behind when I call them in here to order them to chase down some recalcitrant Elf.”

Thor: “Yes my Lord.”

Awkward pause…

Sauron: “I suppose you must find it trying having to dumb down your genius simply making the type of blunt weaponry they desire?”

Thor: “I serve as I must my Lord.”

Sauron: “Ah yes, of course, of course. And a fantastic job you do too!”

Thor: “Thank-you my Lord.”

Sauron: “I mean who can argue with the evil genius of crude brutality?”

Thor: “Not I my Lord.”

Sauron: “Undoubtedly. And yet …”

Awkward silence…

Sauron: “Thor, I was thinking of making some rings.”

Thor: “My Lord?”

Sauron: “You know, this whole send out the mass of Orcs and beat the crap out of everything … well it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but you know … sometimes I can’t help thinking that there might be more to life.”

Thor: “My Lord? You’re getting married?”

Sauron: “Married? What the hell are you talking about. No, it just came to me the other night. I’m going to make a bunch of awesome beautiful rings to give out to my enemies.”

Thor: “Well certainly Lord that would be a welcome change for my skills …”

Sauron: “You know, I thought I could give them out to each of the races that are my enemies.”

Thor: “Wouldn’t they be a little suspicious my Lord?”

Sauron: “I’ve got it all worked out. Even had my personal poet in to work out the marketing.”

Thor: “Yes but why would they …”

Sauron: (a faraway look in his eye) “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,”

Thor: “… be a little suspicious?”

Sauron: “Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,”

Thor: “Wait, wait, you’re going too fast, I need to know some details …”

Sauron: “Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,”

Thor: “… yes but what sort of setting do you want …”

Sauron: “One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne”

Thor: “… diamonds, amethyst …”

Sauron: “In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

Thor: “… I suppose for you it might be 24 carat, but you know how rough you are on your armour, make it too pure and it’ll get marks on it …”

Sauron: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,”

Thor: “?”

Sauron: “One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

(Silence descends on the hall and Sauron stands in majesty before his master metallurgist. After a pause …)

Thor: (clears his throat) “Well my Lord, that might be just a smidgeon outside my skill set.”

Sauron: (breaking out of his reverie) “What? Really? It sounded like a good idea to me.”

Thor: “You see Lord, mostly rings are kind of … you know … decorative.”

Sauron: “Hmmm …”

Thor: “I’m really good at decorative … can make all sorts of really pretty things that will make your loved one swoon.”

(Sauron just stares at him)

Thor: “But you know … when you think of like gathering, finding, binding and other -ing style words … it’s not really your normal ring territory. Loving yes … ruling well …”

(Sauron’s stare turns more icy)

Thor: (really quickly) “But maybe if I thought about it a bit more …”

(The stare softens a little)

Thor: (obviously thinking on his feet) “… yeah so, there’s finding … so we could put GPS into there somewhere.”

(A quizzical look appears on Sauron’s face)

Thor: “And, and, and there’s control … sooooo there must be some comms right … Bluetooth … no Wifi or maybe even some models with 3G … yeah 3G … how better to control someone than be able to get data on exactly where they are all the time?”

(Thor was starting to get on a roll at this point)

Thor: “OK cool, so maybe we’re not talking rings then. Maybe right … and you know, I’m just brain-storming here … but maybe we’re talking phones. Yeah phones.

(Sauron steps back and just watches in fascination as the inspiration unfolds)

Thor: “And you don’t just want control, do you, you want to bind them? So we need some sort of centralised mechanism that forces them to keep coming back for more.”

Thor: “A way to hook them and force them to bend to your will. Like … like … like … an App Store. Yeah an App Store! Somewhere that’s the only place they can go to get more features for this ‘phone’.”

Thor: “Which means it’ll obviously have to have a fully featured screen to make the apps addictive … and yes!”

(Thor thrusts his hand into the air almost startling Sauron as he observes the madness unfold)

Thor: “With an app store and good screen, we can get other people to do all the hard work of actually writing the apps that make the phone good for us! We can even charge them for the privileged of ‘selling’ their apps for them.”

(An evil grin spreads over Sauron’s face as he strolls towards Thor and places his arm around his shoulders)

Sauron: “Thor, Thor … while I could be angry that you have ignored my idea of a ring, at this time I’m disposed to be gracious. Please, come into my office, let’s chat more over coffee.”

And that’s how Sauron invented the iPhone.

The Crosslaws

The bus seemed to hand in mid-air. In front of it stood a skinny teenager, cowering, his arms crossed in front of his face. It was a frozen scene, both the bus and kid as unmoving as the zebra crossing on which he stood, and yet it was obviously a moment captured in time. As per the laws of universal cartoon convention, speed lines trailing the bus demonstrated the momentum with which it was bearing down on the unprotected youth.

From a shadow emerged the agent. Wrapped in his trademark fedora hat and trench coat, collar turned up despite the heat (of course), he strolled to stand between the bus and its target. Having adopted his current look in the post-war twenties he’d stubbornly refused to refresh his image with the changing time. It made him immediately obvious to those who knew what to look for. He was Albert Feynman – Physics Cop.

Removing his cigar with a sigh, he flicked ash onto the road and said to the air, “OK Thelodious, I know you’re out there.”

Nothing happened. Despite time being frozen, Albert thought he saw a shimmer from the heat haze rising off the searing bitumen. If that were true, he’d have to make sure he talked with the guys from the convection department to ensure that the molecules were restored to their original position after this was over. If a butterfly flapping its wings in the outback could theoretically cause a typhoon in the China Sea, there is no telling what rearranged molecules during a temporal freeze could do. Probably nothing, but you just never knew – that was the thing about Chaos Theory.

He folded his arms and said once again, “Come on Thelodious. You know this sort of thing isn’t on.”

Waiting what seemed like an eternity, Albert was about to try again when from behind the bus stepped a tall slender man. Strolling deliberately in his pin stripped suit, hair immaculately plastered in place, he tried to appear nonchalant as he presented himself before Albert.

“Ah … Thelodious Rouge Tapus”, said Albert, “of course it would be you.”

“Who else”, said Thelodious indicating the zebra crossing, “it is my job. This is an emergency freeze to forestall a legislative breach by the bus.”

“And it is my job to stop you when you overstep you jurisdiction”, countered Albert. “This is a gross breach of protocol, even for a Legislative Cop like you.”

“Not at all”, protested Thelodious, “Australian Law clearly states that vehicles must give way to pedestrians on zebra crossings.”

Albert gave him a withering stare. “And yet,” he continued dryly, “you are still outside of your jurisdiction by taking this action.”

Thelodious stood his ground and radiated unrepentant resolve. He was a legal man and rules must be kept, otherwise what was the point? This wasn’t his first confrontation with Albert and it wouldn’t be his last. He was damned if the bus was going to flout the law on his watch by failing to give way.

Albert continued, “May I refresh your memory about our little tussle decades ago in the States? It was about pi I believe.”

“Indeed it was,” said Thelodious wincing slightly but refusing to expand on the incident.

In the yawning silence that followed Albert plunged on, “And if I recall correctly, the State Legislature had passed a bill to set the value of pi at four. Four!? I mean come on, four! What on earth, even three would have been miles better.”

“Four was an excellent value administratively speaking,” Thelodious interjected. “Being an even number it simplifies so many calculations. Think of the savings to be made.”

“But it’s not correct.”

“That’s why we changed it.”

“You can’t, it’s a physical constant.”

“Really?” insinuated Thelodious his temper rising. “Because of all your meddling, we didn’t get a proper chance to see how things ran with a value of four. Now we’ll never know how well it would have worked”.

“Oh yes we do,” growled Albert under his breath.

The agents lapsed into silence as they re-gained their composure. Around them the scene remained fixed. A cicada hung mid-flight in the bushes to the side of the road. Only centimetres behind it, its recently departed branch was in the process of being flexed down by a cat paw. It wouldn’t take long for the look of predatory intent etched on the face of its stalker to fade once time was restarted, the cat realising it had just missed its quarry.

Even then, Albert mused, the cat wouldn’t have time to experience its disappointment. By his calculations, the bus would strike the youth within 0.6 of a second. The wet thump of impact, the squeal of tyres and eventual screams from passengers would drive it away almost immediately. He turned to look at the youth and shook his head sadly at the waste.

Without looking away, he said, “So Thelodious what is your plan now? How do you get your outcome?”

“To be honest”, Thelodious drawled, “I don’t see that I have to do anything. Look at the situation as it stands, no laws infringed. Quite perfect as far as I can see.”

“How about the fact that time is no longer progressing?” asked Albert.

Thelodious glared. He loathed Albert and what he perceived as a self-righteous elitism from the other agent. “You and your onerous Physical Laws. What makes them so special?” he spat.

“They are reality,” explained Albert, “it is how the universe is structured.”

“And these Legislative Laws are how society is structured,” said Thelodious.

“And yet your laws change with society but ours stay fixed. Doesn’t that tell you something?” asked Albert.

“Only that we’re progressive and you’re not”, stated Thelodious smugly.

Albert realised that he was gritting his teeth and consciously forced himself to relax. The man drove him mad. He often felt that these debates got dragged down to a level of stupidity and then the other guy would be on his home turf and thrash him from experience. It was exhausting.

“So let me get this straight”, Albert said, “you’re protecting a progressive law that is defined and made relevant by the society in which it exists?”

“That’s right”, said Thelodious.

“And you’re happy for this to happen by time being permanently frozen, hence keeping the status quo?” asked Albert.

“Correct”.

“So wouldn’t that then render the dynamic operating culture from which the law was derived obsolete and make the law pointless?” reasoned Albert.

“Damn”, said Thelodious. He paused mouth open for a while, cogs whirring inside his mind looking for a way out. His jaw worked a few times as he started to say something only to stop and eventually gave up. “Fine”, he said, “restart time. Let the bus through.”

And let the kid be killed thought Albert.

When time started again, the youth was perplexed to be hit in the face by a warm ball of fur that turned out later to be a cat and not 10 tonnes of bus. Quite a good thing to be perplexed about in the scheme of things. The cat for its part never worked out how the cicada transformed into a human and vowed in its small catty mind to only hunt lizards in the future.
The bus driver was the source of much hilarity amongst his workmates whenever he told the story of the phantom zebra crossing boy. The mandatory drug test his boss insisted on came back negative however and he was cleared for further duty.

As Albert faded back into the shadows, he had to suppress a feeling that he might have done the wrong thing. If a few molecules of gas out of place could cause such big consequences, what was transposition of a cicada and human going to do? It didn’t bear thinking about – but that was the thing about Chaos Theory, you never quite knew what difference it would make. The boys in the convection department certainly wouldn’t be hearing from him on this one.

He’d be getting a call from his boss this evening though, of that he was sure. That prat Thelodious would see to it. Once the opportunity to uphold his Legislative position was lost, he could care less for the boy. Well too bad, his boss could be dealt with, right now he was off for a drink. He needed to forget this recent breach of protocol.

Alternate Lyrics to Electric Blue by IceHouse

ElectricBlueWhenever I used to hear this song on the radio I’d hear it incorrectly.  Instead of the lyrics ‘Electric Blue’ followed by a backing singer intro to the next verse, I would rather hear it as Electrical Toaster.  Made me wonder what the song would be like if it were actually about an Electrical Toaster.  Enjoy – listen to the youtube version while reading my lyrics.  🙂

 

If I open the grill, and put my bread in too,
Is it gonna burn my toast, when I walk to the loo,
Is it waiting until I turn away?
I realize everytime I don’t use you,
That it’s all up to you, Electrical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
What else would I do, Electrical …

Oh I had a dream, for a moment I believed it was true,
Oh I’d have given anything, just to toast without you,
Are you hiding somewhere behind my deep fry?
I realize everytime I don’t use you,
That it’s all up to you, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, standing here waiting,
for my bread crisp true, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
needs some heating from you, Electrical Toaster.
On my knees, help me baby,
Tell me what can I do, Electrical ..

(mandatory saxaphone solo)

Are you hiding somewhere behind my deep fry?
I just freeze, every time I can’t find you,
And I’m looking for you, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, down in my cupboards,
As I’m searching for you, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
Needs some heating from you, Electical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
Tell me what can i do, Electrical …
I just freeze, all my bread and I want you,
To defrost it as new, Electrical Toaster.
In too deep, down in my cupboards,
As I’m searching for you, Electrical Toaster.
I can see, can see that it maybe,
Needs some heating from you, Electical Toaster.
On my knees, help me toasting,
Tell me what else can I do, Electrical …
Electrical …
Electrical …
Electrical …

The Hyperbole Defense

730Good evening and welcome to tonight’s edition of the 7:30 Report. With the Australian Federal Election looming, we have with us representatives of the contending parties to explain aspect of their campaigns. Firstly tonight, we have the pleasure of the Minister for Finance.

Host: Welcome minister.
Minister: Thank-you very much.
H: Minister, you recently made the claim that the opposition’s policy costing have a budget hole of 29.3 billion dollars.
M: That’s right.
H: But their entire budgetary costings only add up to 17 billion.
M: That’s right.
H: How do you explain that?
M: They are completely unsuitable to manage our economy.
H: But minister, what you are claiming about their budget is not even possible.
M: I don’t follow you?
H: Well based on what you’re claiming, they’re missing a funding source for more money than they are actually planning to spend. How can they require a funding source for money they don’t plan on spending?
M: Obviously we’re taking into account debt repayments that they’re not aware of?
H: Really. So there has been debt incurred during your administration that isn’t a matter of public record?
M: Look, I’m using hyperbole. The point I’m making is that if they obtain office they’ll destroy the economy. We’ve been assured of that.
H: Oh really? By whom?
M: The Treasury office has officially costed their budget and declared it to have more holes than an asylum seeker vessel.
H: So why has the Treasury office issued a formal declaration that they have done no such thing?
M: Well it wasn’t a formal official declaration.
H: What was it then?
M: Well I hung around the car park of the treasury department and found one of their officials who confided over a cigarette that he didn’t trust the buggers. So it did come from an official.
H: If I may be so pointed let me ask, how does this claim of an official declaration not constitute a blatant lie to the Australian public?
M: I’m using hyperbole. When you look at me like that, it’s hyperbole. Look there’s big issues at stake here and we need to get our message across. I’ll bet you’ve complained that your bag weighs a ton before when it hasn’t really. It’s just like that.
H: Minister, thank-you for your time.

Host: We now turn our attention to the Shadow Minister for Immigration. Welcome minister.
Shadow Minister: Thank-you, it’s good to be here.
H: I’d like to ask you about your policy on boat people.
S: Ah yes, clearly the government has lost the battle against the toxic tidal wave of illegal invaders. We’ll stop the boats.
H: I think some people might describe them as asylum seekers.
S: Yes but we can’t afford to risk being seen as soft or we’ll be crucified by the media. That’s the first point in our 5 point plan to stop the boats. We toyed with the term illegal terrorists but didn’t want to be seen as racist so settled on illegal invaders instead. Tough but fair don’t you think?
H: I think some would say misleading.
S: Potato … Potaato
H: The second point in your plan is to buy back all the boats in Indonesia?
S: Yes, really clever isn’t it? Can’t cross the water without a boat right?
H: But couldn’t it be considered impractical?
S: No, that’s the beauty of it. When we get the boats, we get the fuel in them – boost to the economy. And some people still have wood fires so we can be green by chopping them up for heating.
H: I don’t really know what to say in response to that, so we’ll move on to the next point. You plan on sending intercepted boat people to be processed on the moon?
S: That’s right. No-one there to complain that we’ll be burdening any existing nation. Plus it’s way more extreme that those buggers in Government so we look better. Would you like to hear our final two points?
H: Are they worse?
S: Of course.
H: Then no thank-you.
S: Probably for the best. They’re pretty horrible. We have to do it of course for show, but everyone knows it’s all hyperbole. Then when the dust settles and all the hysteria dies down, we can pull back from the brink and discuss a real solution.
H: I don’t think the Government is planning no pulling back.
S: Good lord, you think so? That’s horrible.
H: Shadow minister, thank you for your time.
S: My pleasure.

Host: Finally tonight, we turn our attention to the minor parties. Welcome all.
Parties: Thank-youu … ank-you … you.
H: Can you please explain how you feature in this election in the presence of the two major parties?
P: Well it’s quite simple. Vote for us and we’ll promise you whatever your little heart desires.
H: Really, how do you propose to do that? Aren’t people’s interests often conflicting?
P: We’re not just one party. There’s a bunch of us so you’re bound to find something you like the sound of.
H: I see, so have you costed your promises?
P: Pfft. Why would we bother wasting our time on that. We’ll never get a large enough majority to be held accountable for our promises.
H: Makes sense. Thank you for your time.
P: Our pleasure.

That’s about time for our show this evening. I’m not sure that we’ve actually clarified anything of use to the voting public, but unfortunately that’s par for the course in a political campaign. Join us next week as we consult with medical experts on techniques to reduce bruising cause by bashing your head repeatedly against a rock.

Thank-you for watching and good night.

Fuhrer of the Sausage People

Sausage Trio, Mash and Cabbage with Onion Gravy

They would always turn up after midnight. Somewhere near the back of the store, between the racks of lamb, bulky beef legs and frozen chickens, they would appear marching in a conga line. Such a scrappy band of brothers, he often thought. Clothed in patchy woolen shirts and caps, always dirty, they would wind their way out onto the main shop floor ready for the nightly fun. In some ways they were a risk. Occupational Health and Safety would freak if they ever found out such creatures were in his shop, but nobody did random inspections in the middle of the night.

The best word he could use to describe them was munchkins. Small and impish, but not exactly delicate. They were far too plump to granted that complement, but as a result it was almost impossible to damage them. Their inbuilt layer of padding seemed to act like a natural shock absorber. All manner of falls and spills, which were a frequent occurrence, held no danger for them whatsoever. He’d once seen one fall all the way from the ceiling to the concrete fall and walk away with nothing more than an embarrassed grin.

They’d been trying to fit too much into the mincing machine in one go that night. With meat clogging the inlet, the crew had stood around arguing, casting accusations and gesticulating wildly when the plucky little fellow had decided to take matters into his own hands. Climbing up the shelving, he’d made his way via an astonishing sequence of steps and jumps to the ceiling fan above the grinding bench. With a flourish he leapt off, obviously intending to land on the blockage and add a little oomph to get it moving again. Unfortunately aim wasn’t his strong suit. The little guy had ended up missing not only the grinder, but the entire bench, pancaking himself with a soggy little squelch on the floor. Bursting into laughter, the rest of the crew had shared their appreciation for his effort, applauding with whistles and catcalls.

And that was the thing about these guys. For them life was all fun. Even when things went wrong, it all still seemed to work out. Misguided, act first think later impulsiveness was their modus operandi. He’d never really worked out what might have happened if that little guy had landed in the machine just as it spluttered back into life, although he had a hunch that it would have been fine. Munchkin sausage wouldn’t have been the special of the day as it were. Not that he could have called them that even if the unthinkable had happened. Munchkin was his description for them, they actually called themselves the Sausage People.

Their appearance one evening over a year ago had come as quite a shock. You don’t go around living life expecting a tiny race of humanoids to be living in your meat freezer. It just doesn’t happen. Well, he’d thought it didn’t happen, but when a conga line comes winding through between your feet, you’re not left with much of a choice are you? He’d been working hard that night, burning the midnight oil in an attempt to find a way to get his butcher’s shop back on it’s feet. The competition from the major supermarket chains was simply pushing out the small guys like him. So that first night that it happened, he’d staggered out the door, had a stiff whiskey and put himself to bed, chalking it all up to stress.

The following day he’d talked himself out of his delusion and bolstered enough enthusiasm to take another stab at his new flavours. But when the music had started again that night, he’d broken into a cold sweat. Refusing to look down at what he knew couldn’t be true, he’d held strong for a while but finally cracked when he felt something bipedal walking across his foot.

By the fourth night he’d had enough. The phantasms showed no signs of relenting and he had to find a way to stay in business. If imaginary creatures were going to exist, then he might as well immerse himself in the delusion. It was the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

The Sausage People turned out to be masters of the processed meats. If it was ground up and shoved into a skin, then they could make it magical. Soon his little butcher shop had reinvented itself as THE purveyor of exclusive designer sausages. Tony’s Wurst Shop. He’d laughed himself silly over the genius of that name. The world was at his feet and the supermarkets just didn’t get a look in.

The best part of the situation was that the Sausage People loved it. For them, apart from slapstick stupidity and pranks, nothing could compare to the joy of sausages. Making sausages. Tasting sausages. Inventing new flavours. Refining the blend. It was their life and they doted over their benefactor who so kindly made the meat and equipment available.

Interestingly enough, another of their quirks had lead to his private nickname. Each night the routine of the conga line ended with a special ceremony of their own creation. Forming a circle around him, they would raise their hands in salute, arms straight out in front, thanking their friend for his goodness before scurrying off to their work. He never knew where they got it from, but it bore an uncanny resemblance to the Nazi salutes from World War II.

Likening himself to Hitler was not an image that he wanted to propagate, but in his subconscious he couldn’t help but notice. So he’d found himself, in private moments only, thinking of himself as the Fuhrer of the Sausage People. A kind, beneficent shop owner perhaps, but definitely not a dictator. In fact, each night when the clock hit midnight, his shop became such a frenzy of activity that he had no more chance of controlling it than a hurricane. During those hours, his shop was not his but theirs. And he loved it.

 

The title comes from a little anecdote I heard about a poem of Robert Burns.  The poem is customarily read before the cutting of the Haggis and contains the line ‘Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!‘.  It was once translated into German and then independently from the German back into English and ended up as ‘Mighty Fuhrer of the sausage-people‘.  I’ve no idea if it’s a true anecdote, but it sparked my imagination.  You can catch the clip from the TV show QI where I saw it here.

Why?

I wonder what they would say if they knew? Would they ask me why – these people who flock around me?

It’s not me they are interested in. I am like a statue in Trafalgar Square, surrounded by pigeons, bustling and noisy, I play the role of scenery in their minds. My presence is simply a fact to be navigated and, if necessary, stepped on. They are as uncomprehending of my real purpose as a pigeon is of Nelson’s column and yet they flow thick around me, pressing in on every side.

I’m not sure why I came here at this moment, why I feel compelled to seek out their company. Is there some subconscious obligation within me to share in their condition, a hidden agenda of conscience pushing me to identify with them finally? It certainly doesn’t sound like me, well not as far as I’m aware. You could ask my psychologist if it mattered to you, but it won’t matter to me – not soon anyway.

I marvel that I have these thoughts, they are not my native territory.

My home ground is turfed with certainty. A flat track on which to run, unimpeded by the distraction of doubt, I don’t like to be way laid by wasteful self-reflection.  That is how I like things thank-you very much. Neat and compact, like a present wrapped for Christmas, perfect in the box, with well decorated trimmings and even a little bow. What point is there in breaking the perfection simply to find out what is inside?

With a little smile, I shake my head and refocus my attention on things more concrete and external.

Would they ask me WHY?

Surely they would – surely.  That is how most people are wired.

Built with a need to know the answers, at least when it affects them, I can see them in my mind’s eye pleading with me. “Please tell us”, they cry, as if understanding substitutes for salvation. “Please”, the tears rolling down their faces. “If there is any humanity in you, then tell us.” The stronger ones stand with fists bared, seeking to extract with physical intimidation what can’t be done with empathy, but the irony is that none of it would work – I really couldn’t tell them.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: that I actually mean I WOULDN’T tell them. That I’m small, a runt who was picked on relentlessly at school. A man built stubborn, spiteful and vindictive from his years of torment, and so I clam up to get revenge in a passive-aggressive refusal to satisfy their needs – but you are wrong. I mean what I said, that I really couldn’t tell.

You assume that I am like you. That it matters to me why the Agency sent me here. That it matters why I have been tasked with removing this planet.

In your mind will be horror at the destruction of their history, culture, families, arts and loves. Or relief at the cessation of their wars, crimes, greed and hates. To you, there must be a purpose – a purpose derived from something you value. It is something that is wired in.

To me these things have no value.

Love, war, culture, greed – these things mean nothing to me. I have no compulsion to care one way or another, what I crave is certainty. A certainty that the Agency provides with disciple and hierarchy, and what leg do you stand on to condemn me for it? From where to you get your built in values and the wiring that makes some things important and others not?

If they must have an answer then, it would be, “Because the Agency sent me”.

That is all I could tell them if they asked me, although I doubt that it would be enough. So why do I immerse myself among them at this time? To be honest I don’t know.

It is not long now.

I am good at my job.

I knew that this was a one way ticket.

Goodbye.

The satellites recorded that in the last moment before the end, he reached out. Grabbing the nearest person available, he wrapped them in the most intense bear hug he could muster. It was his first and last.