JUST A LITTLE PRICK

(A Few Snatches) . Peter G. Millington-Wallace

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Preamble:

Because I spent a large part of my working life giving people injections of one kind or another, and because I am a diabetic who requires at least four injections of insulin daily, I thought that the title "Just a little prick" would be quite fitting for this, my magnum opus (the alternative title, "A Few Snatches" refers to the fact that it is a series of short glimpses, rather than a complete account with full-length chapters, which would have been even more tedious). 

Of course, there may be former wives and girlfriends (silly word) who believe that it refers to something quite different; my children, adults now, will probably agree with it completely (I make no claim to having been the world's greatest parent); those who have been short or long-term acquaintances (what other types are there ?) will doubtless think it's a statement about my personality; and others may think it's just a joke. If you don't know me at all, you're better off than any of us.

Whichever group you belong to, welcome. Welcome, that is, to my major piece of superfluous self-indulgence - my ongoing autobiography.

First, the ground-rules:

I will not attempt any kind of chronological order, but will just jot things down, as they come to me. Similarly, I offer no guarantee as to absolute accuracy. I will write according to the foibles of my memory, which, like everyone else's, has a tendency to gloss over, or even forget, situations which it is not proud of (and I have more of these than most, 'though I've never been a war-criminal, or anything like that). When I catch it doing this I will do what I can to correct it, but it's part of who I am, so no promises.

I will, for the benefit and confusion of my readers, call myself "he" rather than "I".

It may, therefore, be better if you read it as a work of fiction. It  isn't one (every incident is as true in every detail as I can get it), but parts of my life have been too far out to be accepted as  anything to do with reality. If nothing else, I've collected experiences (many of which, like the above title, have shown abysmal taste, which is no reflection of my superior breeding) in the same way as a manic hoarder collects "stuff". My life is my life, your choice is yours.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read this crap (it isn't likely to self-destruct in the near future - 'though that wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing).

If you find yourself appalled by what you read, try to imagine what it's been like for me. I've had to live it. If you are disgusted by the main character, again, how much worse for me ? I've had to be him. Bearing this in mind, if, after reading this, you still believe in freedom of choice, I suggest that you get yourself some therapy.

Why would I have chosen any of it ?

Isn't it about time I started telling you about myself ? (Or should that be "himself" ?)

Just a little prick......and it's all over !

************************

The Sexy Stiff

She was already dead, long before he had sex with her, or barbecued her hand (Well, actually, she wasn't. The truth is that she didn't exist. The whole of this paragraph is just an attempt at catching a publisher's attention. Let's hope it works, gets this stuff published, and makes more money than Harry Potter).

The real story starts here:

**********************

The Audience

Collodi's Pinocchio was lucky, he only had Jiminy Cricket to contend with, not this braying flock of invisible bufoons who followed him around everywhere, inside his head, applauding lightly when he did something right, and hissing and booing contemptuously when he did the opposite.

He desperately wanted their approval but seldom had any idea of their current views about what was, or wasn't moral. Abortion, for example, seemed to be wrong, except when it was right. Joseph Heller was right on target. Nearly every opinion he had to form, or decision he was forced to take, had a similar Catch 22 clause attached, and what was worse, he knew exactly who was to blame for this, but didn't like to admit it, even to himself.

He chose instead to believe that he alone was responsible for his thoughts, his philosophy, his appearance, and his behaviour.

The problem was that often, while he was thinking, he was aware of his father's thought patterns imposing themselves over his, compelling them to conform to his personal brand of non-conformity. As if to confirm this, when he looked into a mirror it was increasingly Dad who looked back. In short, he had become his own father. He bitterly resented this, just as he knew the old Pater would have done in the same situation.

On one point they both stood absolutely firm:

God did not, and could not, exist !

Meeting him was rather a let-down.

Floating a foot or so above a huge, overstuffed, intricately embroidered, mirrored and tasselled satin cushion in gaudy neon colours with flashing "Coca-Cola" and "Durex" advertisements, was the profoundly overweight naked body of Buddha sculpted in bright pink blancmange, with the head and face of Errol Brown (from Hot Chocolate), alternating with the dog's head of Baba. He (or she in the case of Baba) looked quite ridiculous, and not at all the majestic figure he had been led to disbelieve, particularly because he was not hiding the fact that he was masturbating.

It was the almighty who spoke first:

"I don't believe in you"

"What ? That's back to front. Of course you do. You're speaking to me, aren't you ?"

God giggled. "Am I ? If so, who are you speaking to ?"

"Why, you, of course".

"But how can that be ? You are an atheist, while I am at least one deity, if not more. How do you explain that ?"

"Well, the fact that I dropped a tab of sunshine a couple of hours ago probably has something to do with it, don't you think ?"

"Ah" replied the Lord as thousands of butterflies flew from his penis, "LSD. Are you basing your argument on the effects of a temporary schizophrenia-inducing psychedelic ?"

"No, of course not. That would be stupid. I'm merely stating that you are simply hallucination, caused by the drug."

"Quite so" said the creator. "And just where do you suppose that hallucination comes from ? Lysergic acid can't produce it from thin air, so it must have been inside your head already, mustn't it ?"

"Well, if you really are God, say something extremely clever"

"Vice is nice"

"What ? You create everything including yourself, and the best you can come up with is "Vice is nice" ? What kind of wisdom do you call that ?"

The conversation was starting to become tedious, and the walls were breathing in a suggestive, greenly luminescent kind of way, so he went over there to listen to them in rainbow-coloured twelve-channel stereo.....

***********************

The Siren

He loved to watch the grey-painted air raid siren as it whirred and screamed from the roof of the Co-op, which always smelled of aniseed, ginger, tea and dog biscuits, and which displayed large open tins and Hessian sacks of different grains, lentils, split-peas, blue wash-dollies, loose soap-flakes, Oxydol washing powder (which gave the name to American radio "soap operas" - "Twice The Wash In Half The Time - Whites Whiter Without Bleaching" - he read everything he could), candles and re-labelled HP sauce bottles which now contained "Camp" and "Bev" ersatz coffee made from chicory.

His Mother would try to pull him away, home to safety, but he wasn't even slightly scared. The noise it made wasn't exactly pleasant, 'though it was somehow reassuring, and he knew that it would never hurt him. It was just a sound-machine, not a doodle-bug like the ones he saw being shot down in the barrage-balloon-decked sky by the anti-aircraft gunner in the concrete turret in the mushroom pasture, nearly every day. They would kill you, given half the chance.

Like everyone else, he liked the "all-clear" signal best.

It seemed to make people less tense, and easier to get along with, (something like the Pied Piper's flute). He didn't really know why he was called a Pied Piper, but he was almost certain that it wasn't because he was full of pies, 'though that would explain why the rats all followed him.

On this particular day mum had been crying. It didn't make sense to him. After all, it was his uncle Billy who had died in India, not hers, and it was he who would no-longer be getting brown-paper parcels containing blue-jeans, so why should she be the one to be upset ? She never saw him anyway, and it took her ages to read his letters.

He was the only boy anyone in the whole of his world had ever seen wearing jeans. Strangers would stop him in the street, to ask if they were foreign.

Uncle Billy wasn't, or rather, hadn't been, Canadian (he was mum's brother, so how could he have been ?), but he was in the Canadian air-force, serving in India (no-one had ever told him whether he served in a shop or a restaurant, but he'd guessed that it was a store that sold boys' trousers, which he supposed was the reason for the unusual gifts).

It didn't really make much difference to him, he could wear different bags if he had to, just as long as he had the red and green belt with the silver snake-hook buckle. That was important.

****************************

Marching To The Music

When they finally arrived home it was to find that the front bay window had been smashed again. As always, it was his father's fault.

Dad (an artist) wore a beard, which to some of their neighbours, in a time of war, automatically meant that he was a spy. Others knew the truth, but, if anything, that was even worse. He was a conscientious objector (bloody conchie). According to the law this was only permitted for devout members of religions which demanded it, and, needless to say, Dad was also a staunch atheist, (they weren't allowed to have any personal moral standards) and was held in prison, where he was the victim of a lot of systematised violence, resulting in total amnesia following being  woken every morning by being kicked repeatedly in the head  by his jailers. He never fully recovered from that, and was a pretty weird geezer until the day he died.

It didn't do the family much good either.

Stones were often thrown through windows (which were already criss-crossed with tape, as a precaution against bomb damage - 'though this didn't appear to be very effective against simple stone-throwing), crude words were daubed on the walls of the house, and shopping, already difficult due to lack of supplies and rationing, was made even harder by some shop-keepers' refusal to serve his Mother.

To augment what little food there was, he and mother would often go out early on misty mornings, clamber over the stile to the pasture where the ack-ack gunner was stationed, and collect fresh wild mushrooms, damsons and greengages from the surrounding, lightly-wooded area. His love of these mushrooms stayed with him, and he still eats them nearly every day, just as carnivores eat meat. He has been a vegetarian for many years, but understands that a diabetic vegetarian isn't everyone's favourite guest, so when he goes visiting he eats what he is offered, meat, fish, fowl whatever, and adjusts his insulin and his conscience accordingly.

The first time he had tasted a fresh egg he was five years old. He didn't like it. Egg, to him, was yellow powder from a waxed cardboard box with a red flag printed on it.

It wasn't until there were five of them in the family that mum came home triumphantly holding a Mars bar, which she had queued for more than an hour to buy. They had a slice each, and fought over the crumbs which remained in the wrapper.

He still wondered about that, many years later. He understood that chocolate probably didn't really warrant the danger to the convoys of merchant ships, but could never quite understand where all the chickens went to. Surely they would have been an ideal home-grown product, and a way of converting potato peelings and other scrap food into valuable meat and egg protein, wouldn't they ?

But there weren't any. In fact, there wasn't much of anything.

Except parades.

It was a poor week which didn't include two or three uniformed brass bands marching to jingoistic music, while crowds of onlookers cheered and waved.

One such procession was by men in unusual clothes, with large orange diamond shapes sewn on the backs of their tunics. Mum told him that they were prisoners of war, but she didn't know where they were from. There were no cheers for them, just stoney glares.

He wanted to applaud them for their music and marching, but felt that he shouldn't show himself up. There were very strict silent rules for society to follow, and they were in enough trouble already, thanks to Dad's stubborn, antisocial refusal to kill people he didn't know and had nothing against - and mum's five brothers who visited her whenever they were home on leave, which was used as an excuse to report her for prostitution (why else would she have so many male callers ?)

***********************

The Weight

Uncle George (one of mum's flock of brothers) was not being intentionally unkind, when he dubbed him "Belsen". It was the kind of remark which close family members feel entitled to make, and, as an observation, it was fairly accurate.

He was painfully thin, and painfully aware of it. It hadn't bothered him too much as a kid, but as an adolescent, and later as a young man, it played on his mind more and more. He tried everything he could think of to put on weight, but nothing added as much as an ounce to the prickly frame which clearly displayed every rib, every collar-bone and every skeletal detail. He made today's size zero models look pregnant by comparison.

It may be that this will sound racist, or elitist or some other such "ist", but the truth is that he was delighted when he discovered Ceylon (Sri Lanka as it is now called). A lovely climate, beautiful scenery, warm sea, surf and no embarrassment, because here, skinny was normal. He could swim, sunbathe, wear Summer clothes, and all of the other things which his weight (or lack of it) prevented him doing anywhere else. Here, he was at home. Not only was there no embarrassment, there was no-one here who knew him, so he could at last be himself. It rapidly became the only place in the world he really looked forward to visiting.

As was his wont, he was wandering, drunk as a skunk, along a road in Colombo, when he saw, coming towards him on the other side of the road, an old school chum, who had obviously seen him, and who showed no sign of being impressed by what he saw.

Perhaps he too used this place to protect his privacy, or perhaps there was some other reason. At all events, they greeted each other as casually as they would have done on the High street at home, and then each continued on his way, as if it was an everyday occurrence.

Another time he was there with a group of pals, equally drunk.

Now in Colombo, the public transport system consists (or at least, consisted - maybe it still does) of old, Red, double-decker, London  busses, which were, of course, an easy and very attractive target for a group of inebriates abroad.

Between them they managed to take over one of them, and to throw the driver and conductor off, leaving them free to drive it away. A good prank when drunk, but rather less fun the following morning, when, hungover, they had to atone for their hijacking crime.

Sadly, because of this episode Ceylon lost its sparkle, and he never went back to it. Instead, he started to put on weight, and today he could do with losing quite a few pounds just to find clothes that will fit him.

Be careful what you wish for !

*************************

The Bust

Inside the hollowed-out plaster head of Beethoven, they (the St. Ives constabulary) had found what they called "paraphernalia", namely a small quantity of tobacco, a torn pack of Zig-Zags and 53 neatly-folded Mars-bar wrappers. It was his own fault, he should never have invited them in for tea. It was asking for trouble, particularly because, as it turned out, he didn't actually have any tea (but then, he hadn't really expected them to accept his invitation. He was just being polite).

After accidentally banging his head on the edge of the roof of the car a couple of times, they eventually got him to the interview room where, unusually, there was only one cop, and equally unusually, he seemed quite a reasonable fellow, for a policeman. Perhaps they were playing good cop - bad cop, and had forgotten that it was the second one's day off.

"You understand that you will be charged ?" asked the half who was actually there.

"Charged with what ?"

"Well, drugs, obviously"

"But there aren't any drugs"

"Well what do you call this then ?" he asked, holding up the tobacco.

"I don't call it anything, but its name is "Golden Virginia" according to what it says on the pack."

"We'll have to send it for analysis. What about this ? How do you explain that it is torn ?" He asked, waving the Zig-Zags.

"You can see as well as I can. They're cigarette papers, and I tore the pack because I needed a piece of thin card. There's no law against that, is there ?"

"No" he grudgingly admitted "But they'll need to go to forensics as well. Now, what about those Mars-bar wrappers ? They're something to do with drugs and you can't tell me they're not"

"They're not"

"Are you trying to be funny ?"

"No. They're not though"

"Well, what are they for then ?"

"I'm sure you know the answer already. They're for wrapping Mars-bars in".

"I can see that, but why have you got them ?"

"I collect them"

"You collect Mars-bar wrappers ? What's the point in that ?"

"What's the point in collecting anything ? Stamps, for example ?"

"But they're all different. Mars-bar wrappers are all the same"

"That's the attraction. They all have equal value, that is to say, no value at all, and none of them is better than any other. Society could learn a lot from them."

"I'm not falling for that. They'll have to go to forensics as well"

"Will I get them back ?"

"I'll give you a receipt, and if they come back clean, which I doubt, we'll give them back to you. Now, do you want to make a statement ?"

"No, I'm too stoned, but I'd like to ask you a question, if I may"

"Go on"

"Well, whether or not this turns out to be connected with cannabis, which of course it won't, what do you personally have against it ?"

"In my experience, it makes people apathetic"

"I can't be bothered to argue about that. Can I go now ?"

"Yes, you can go, but leave your name and address with the desk Sergeant, and mind how you go, sir"

"I thought you said I was going to be charged"

"No sir. I asked if you understood you were going to be charged. It's not the same thing, is it ? Ha. I got you there, my 'andsome. See ? You're not the only one who can make jokes"

***************************

The Self-induced Fear

When he was still quite a young child, he had understood that fear was a source of pleasure for most people. He had never really accepted that what he knew was in fact the truth, because it appeared not to make sense, but he knew it anyway.

He would watch a mother repeatedly hiding her face behind her hands, so that her baby would believe she had gone, then suddenly reveal herself to it, with resultant smiles and laughter. Certainly, the child did not enjoy thinking that its mother wasn't there, but without that belief, the immeasurable joy of seeing her reappear would never have existed.

At the Saturday matinée the white-hatted cowboy was always in danger from the villain with the black moustache (which sometimes was his only crime, but the symbol was enough), and frequently he, together with other children from the audience, would shout a warning to the hero, despite the fact that he and they knew it was a film. What value would the movie have held, if there had been no danger involved ?

The more dangerous a fairground ride appears to be, the more people are prepared to pay, in the hope of being scared witless. If it fails to make them scream in terror, they feel swindled, or, boast about how it hasn't affected them, as though this somehow shows them to be strong and worthwhile mating partners. That they were never in actual danger, and that even if they had been, it was at their own request, seems not to play any part.

A similar ritual is noticeable when teenagers, and irresponsible adults, drive at high speed, showing that they are in control of danger, and that no mechanical failure or unexpected situation can touch them. Watch the prospective partners squeal with tingling fear and pleasure. Watch the undertakers rub their hands at the prospect of extra income.

He felt certain that this strange pleasure was sexual, but pleasure from sexual fear or pain was regarded as perversion, and the subject was taboo, so perhaps it wasn't. There was no sexual activity involved in riding the big dipper, was there ? But then, if not sexual, what else ? He reasoned that surely, ALL pleasure is actually sexual, even the enjoyment of eating candy.

He had once, while food-rationing was still in full swing, watched a film in which Bing Crosby fried half a dozen or so eggs. The sighs from the egg-deprived movie-goers had been unmistakably orgasmic.

Magazines for a particular type of men, showed fearful wartime photographs of be-headings, executions and mutilation. He had never been clear about who the target readership was, but he knew that publishers weren't stupid enough to produce them, if no-one was interested in reading them. In fact, how often do newspapers have huge headlines about happy subjects ? It is death, near-death, and dreadful crime (preferably laced with sex and pictures of breasts) which people want to read during their coffee break, not stories about duck families walking safely across a road.

What greater pleasure on a Saturday afternoon, than to watch two men pound each other to pulp in a boxing match, or pretend to do so, in professional wrestling ? Again, if there is not enough damage, the customers boo, and yell insults.

His second daughter had a statue of a wolf which terrified her. Time and again she would get close to it as it stood in the park, sometimes even touching it, before squealing and running away, nearly wetting herself. He could see that she enjoyed being scared of it, almost as much as she enjoyed ice-cream.

It seemed to him that the pleasure of fear was very similar to the pleasure of the banana-peel joke. It happens to someone else, but not to us.

Whether he was right or wrong, life had somehow steered him to this moment, in the bedroom of a beautiful, exciting girl. She was spread-eagled on the bed, her wrists and ankles securely fixed to the corner posts, just as she had instructed.

Her fantasy, but not his, 'though if that was what turned her on, he wasn't one to stand in her way.

"Now what ?" he asked, hoping that her reply wouldn't include the use of violence. Most things, but not that.

"Now you just take me, against my will" she answered.

He hesitated. "Don't you think we should have removed your underwear first ?" he asked. "It is so
pretty, and it would be a shame to tear it".

The rest of the evening was spent with each of them giggling, romantically.

It was a scene he was never going to understand fully.

***********************

The Rules

His formative years were just that - years in which his "elders and betters" did their utmost to form him by imposing norms and rules, few of which made any sense at all, 'though, as a youngster, he was in no position to object, and no-one would have listened to him if he had done so. The default rule, which over-rode all others, was "Do as you are told". This was frequently enforced by corporal punishment from any adult, as well as appointed young people (such as school prefects, ink-monitors etc.)

What he was told was generally nonsense. "The top of your shirt must never be buttoned, unless you are wearing a tie". "The bottom of your waistcoat must never be buttoned at all". "Until you are 12 years old, you wear knee-length short trousers. From the age of 12 you wear long trousers, neatly pressed with straight creases front and rear, and appropriate turn-ups" (this to a boy whose pre-school years had been spent in blue-jeans from uncle Billy).

One of his mother's favourites was "Make sure you wear clean underpants when you go out. You may be knocked down by a bus, and you don't want the ambulance man to see that you have skid-marks, do you ?" (He had no doubt that, at some time, someone had been knocked down by a bus, but he'd never actually heard of such a thing. He wondered why warnings were so often about this unusual accident. Why not "landed on by a helicopter" ? It seemed no less likely)

In fact, his mother's views about underpants played quite a large part in his entire philosophy of life.

He detested sport and physical exercise at school, because the other boys would laugh at him when they saw his underpants, which his mother had lovingly knitted for him, using wool she had unravelled from her own jumpers (like just about everything else, there was neither wool nor underwear to be bought during the austerity years). Some kids had no shoes, and most had patches on their clothes, but home-knitted underpants went beyond the pale.

He later rationalised his hatred of sport, saying that its purpose was to create losers, and to emulate war. Sometimes people would claim that sport also created winners, but he would scoff at their faulty logic. For every winner there were many losers, and the winner himself would only hold that title until someone else took it from him, making him a loser too. Everybody loses.

Team sports were (are) even worse. They create the same negative mind-set as similar crimes, such as patriotism, and religion. "We are better than you". "We are better than everyone". "We can and will beat you and all others" "We are right, you are wrong". "God is on our side".

Throughout his adult life, he firmly believed that competitive sport, patriotism and religion were the three major crimes against humanity worldwide, and seldom thought about the influence of his mother's knitting.

**********************

Survival

He had always been a Darwinist. To him, the theory of evolution was as obviously correct as, and an integral part of, atheism, and atheism seemed to be the only sane way of thinking. All else was just magic and superstition, and it concerned him deeply that it was the basis of most countries' law and culture. People who believed in invisible omnipotent beings and miracles were considered "good", while those who thought as he did were evil (the word "Godless" was always used as a negative). How could the world still be run on such primitive principles ?

Just occasionally he would find himself toying with the heretical idea that Darwin had got it backwards.

Was Homo sapiens really the top of the evolutionary tree ? Could the theory of "survival of the fittest" be applied to a race which used a great deal of its time and energy building hospitals, surgeries, nursing homes and clinics to protect its weak and unhealthy members, while making its healthy youth pass a fitness test and be blessed by a bishop, before sending it off to be killed in some futile war ? Was dependency on lethal weapons a sign of supremacy ? Would a master-race find it necessary to spend hours at work, in order to buy cat food ? Would it be so fanatically disposed to destroying its own environment ?

Didn't it seem more likely that instead of man descending from the ape, ape had descended from man ? That it had adapted itself to not needing to work, to build, to kill ? Could it be that instead of crawling out of the swamp, we had, in anticipation of the watery effect of global warming, evolved into less complex amphibian creatures, and crawled into it, eventually becoming a near-perfect, single-celled being with very few needs (not even the need to think), and a life-style based almost entirely on its own reproduction, in the race to evolve even further ? Wouldn't that make more sense ?

Wasn't the idea of man the super-being as arrogant and ill-founded as the idea of God the creator ?

It was an idea he was uncomfortable with, and which he tried to dismiss, 'though it did seem apparent to him, that humans were going in the wrong direction.

**********************

The Birthday

It was the Queen's birthday.

He was no Royalist, in fact he considered the Royals to be social parasites, but this was Australia in the fifties, and, in keeping with most British colonies, it was a great deal more English than England ever had been.

It was the Queen's birthday, and therefore a national holiday. Nothing was open except ice-cream kiosks and bars. If you wanted to buy anything, this wasn't the day to do it.

He wasn't averse to ice-cream, in fact he quite enjoyed it, but eating it all day wasn't something he could see himself doing, so, reluctantly, he started to drink the Black Swan lager which was being served at the petrol-pump-like equipment. He wasn't really that keen on Australian beer (no-one who had tasted Czech beer ever was), but it was all there was, and a buzz was a buzz was a buzz.

Some hours later he was still swilling the vile stuff, when he decided that enough was enough, and that he would........ would what ? What did he decide ? Something or other. It must have been. But what ?

The following morning he awoke, in his bed, fully clothed, wearing brand new shoes, and covered in blood. Was he badly injured ? He checked himself thoroughly in the shower, but there wasn't a scratch on him. Whose blood was it then ? He tried to remember what had happened, but could find no trace in his memory. The shoes. They must be a clue. Where had they come from ? They were obviously new, and he couldn't have bought them - it had been the Queen's birthday. Some birthday present.

For many years he went over it again and again, but never found out what had happened on the Queen's birthday, all those years ago.

To this day he sometimes wakes up sweating, wondering if this will be the day that the police knock on his front door, demanding that he explain his actions down-under, more than half a century ago. He knows that he will be unable to do so, because the data just isn't there. The truth is, he would have difficulty telling them where he was last Tuesday.

Do they still celebrate the Queen's birthday in Australia ?

Do they celebrate it anywhere ?

****************************

NB

Before starting on this next glimpse, I should point out that it is unusual for an autobiographical piece, in that, while I remember it quite clearly, I don't believe that it ever happened (when I was a boy, Summer holidays lasted for nearly a year, and every day there was sunshine. I remember them too, but I'm sure they're fiction). I don't, and never have, believed any of that mystical stuff with ghosts, ESP, reincarnation, etc. and I don't think I could be an atheist if I did. However, I DO know that memory is faulty, and not to be relied on. It's one of the reasons that I advocate great care when using Court evidence based on witness testimony.

When you've read the following, you'll probably believe that I don't remember it at all, but I do (I think) !

***********************

The Bird

 It was a warm, sunny day, and he was in his pram, in the back garden. He was holding a conversation with a bird which stood on a branch of the old sycamore. They weren't actually speaking (he didn't yet have any language at all, and it is doubtful that it would have been the same one the bird used, even if he had), but they were certainly conversing.

"These aren't the parents I was promised" he said.

"No" answered the bird. "They never are. Every kid I ever meet tells me that. It's all just a con to get you to agree to being born. Don't blame them though, it's not something they do deliberately, they've forgotten all about it. Anyway, you've been luckier than most. At least these ones won't be filling your head with Gods and Devils".

"Forgotten ? How could they forget ?"

"They all do, and you will too. They will teach you useless stuff, and praise you every time you learn something new, but for each thing you learn, you lose a couple of the old important skills".

"How do you mean ? What will they teach me ? What will I lose ?"

"I can't possibly tell you all of it, but they'll start by teaching you to sleep, eat and shit at times which are convenient to them. Then they'll expect you to learn to speak. By the time you've reached that stage you'll have forgotten how to talk to me, and will believe it when they tell you it's just imaginary. Keep it up, and they'll call you a liar".

"Don't you worry about that. I won't forget. It's an instinct. You don't forget instincts. I'll not only remember it all, I'm going to report it, when I get back".

"Don't you believe it. They're going to be piling so much "education" into you that you won't have time to remember anything else. They've a very heavy programme mapped out for you for the next decade or so. By the time you get through that lot, you'll have become one of them. That's why they do it, 'though, as I said, they're unaware of it".

"Well, I don't believe you, but Mum's coming to take me indoors. I'll catch you later".

"No chance" said the bird, and flew away.

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The Bacon

He, and all of his siblings, had very similar features and personalities. They were instantly recognisable as his father's offspring - all, that is, except the pig, who had always been called that name, which he didn't seem to mind too much, 'though, when asked, he claimed that his name was Pip (it wasn't).

Where they were thin and introspective, the pig was thick-set and very loud. Where they were doubtful of everything they were told, the pig conformed and trusted anyone in authority. Where they preferred slightly "off-beat" clothing, the pig loved uniforms.

He had never really given it much thought, but the pig was his younger brother, 18 months his junior, and must have been conceived while his father was locked up for not agreeing to murder people (something which the pig claimed brought shame upon the family). He was always called the pig, except when the others were teasing him, when they would call out "piggy, piggy, piggy", and send him into a rage. Perhaps understandably, the pig had what the others considered to be a disagreeable nature.

Mother had a good friend who made some kind of living selling seaweed which she dyed bright green. Her husband was a large brute of a man. A policeman. They only visited when father wasn't at home, and the burly cop would sit with the pig on his knee, talk to him, and call him "butch". He didn't have much time for the others, but they could always tell that the pig was his favourite, and anyway, they didn't like him much, so who cared ?

The pig was a boy-scout with a collection of badges which he was proud of, he enjoyed going to church parades, and even Sunday school, and he became an officious school prefect. When he left school it was no great surprise to anyone, that he joined the police force, and changed his name to Jack (Well, to be honest "Jack" was a bit of a surprise, because no-one knew, or cared, where it came from). Interestingly (perhaps) it was a long time after all this that the name "pig" came to mean "policeman" throughout the English-speaking world.

Some years later, the pig had worked his way up through the ranks, and was trying to explain to mother that third degree tactics as shown on films and TV were not really necessary, as, given enough time, the suspect would tell him everything he wanted to know.

She never spoke to him again.

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