SCHEHERAZADE’S 1,001 BYTES // Operation Beaverossa

The beavers had come in the night, but so far the barricade was holding. As much as they’d tried to buzz saw their way in with formidable razor-sharp buckteeth, they hadn’t done so quickly enough to avoid incineration by the Castle’s defense lasers.

So did the sombre morning replace what had been a calamitous night. The few surviving beavers retreated to the relative safety of their dam to take a wait-and-see approach beneath the willow trees.

“Well, that couldn’t have gone more tits up,” muttered Theo, “than if we’d grown tits then thrown them at the walls like water balloons.”

“Milk balloons.”

A sigh escaped Theo’s lips. Jensen could never bloody let one go. “Thanks, Jensen. What would we do without your penetrating pedantry?”

Jensen looked at him with the world weariness of a furry, pint-sized Sisyphus. “Sarcasm is the last refuge of fools, you know.”

“Just so you know, Jensen, Dostoyevsky never said that.”

“I’m not quoting Dostoyevsky!”

Theo pulled a pocketbook of quotations from beneath his tail and thumbed through it. “Here we go… ‘Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.'”

“See?” crowed Jensen. “Nothing alike!”

“Holy Jesus, guys! What are you doing arguing over quotations when all our womenfolk have been wiped out?”

“Shut up, Teskey!” growled Jensen. Theo nodded with him. They were both annoying to be sure, but Teskey more so.

“No! I won’t!” insisted Teskey. “The future of our tribe hangs in the balance, or haven’t you noticed?”

“I don’t need bloody women!” snorted Theo. “All I need is a pair of clean socks and some warm milk before bedtime!”

“Just because you’re a ‘love celibate’, Theo, doesn’t mean the rest of us need to be!”

“Oh, Teskey, you poor hormonally overburdened fool! Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!”

“Well, I guess I have no choice now, do I?” snapped Teskey. “My wife’s probably a rotting corpse in the Castle now, with no way for me to give her a decent burial! Tell me how that’s okay?!”

“Well…” spluttered Theo, taken a little aback at the outburst. “Get over it? It’s just a bloody woman after all…”

“I bet Dostoyevsky never said anything like that.” Again, Jensen had to dig at him. “Check your little book, Theo!”

Teskey grabbed his head and howled. “Jesus hyperventilating Christ, guys! We need a plan! A solid, fucking plan that works!”

“To do what, exactly?” shrugged Jensen. “I mean, I agree we should have a plan.” He shot Theo a look. “I bet Dostoyevsky would’ve had a plan!”

“Here’s an idea,” interjected Theo. “First, you shut the hell up about Dostoyevsky. Only I get to talk about Dostoyevsky, okay?! And, second, we dump some sucklings near the Castle walls.”

Jensen and Teskey goggled at him, eyes wider than a giant’s grandmother’s finest dinner plates.

“Yeah, you heard me. Sucklings!”

“Are you sure you don’t mean ducklings?”

“No, Jensen!” Theo rolled his eyes. “Sucklings!”

Teskey shook his head, and then comprehension dawned. “Oh, you mean children, right?”

“Of course!”

“Then why didn’t you say sodding children, you boob?!”

“You’re a boob!”

“Anyway!” yelled Jensen. He had to break this up or they’d argue for hours. “What’s your plan?” He looked at Theo with a squinty eye that promised trouble if the plan wasn’t up to snuff.

“Well,” said Theo conspiratorially, “there must still be some women left in the Castle. So, we dump the sucklings outside, said women hear them crying, their motherly instincts kick in, they unbuckle their bras and come running with naked boobs flopped out ready to feed the poor creatures. Then we capture said women and make them ours! Erm… yours.”

There was an uncomfortably long silence as Jensen and Teskey tried to process this.

“Boobs?” asked Teskey at last, his tone telegraphing a lack of enthusiasm for the plan.

“Yeah, Theo, I’m surprised you didn’t call them udders or teats. Wouldn’t Dostoyevsky have called them that?”

“Shut up, Jensen! You’re testing my patience!”

Jensen blinked oh-so-innocent eyes. “You have patience?”

“Hold on.” Teskey stroked his whiskers. “Wouldn’t they be more likely to burn our babies to a crisp with the defense lasers?”

“Yeah!” chimed Jensen. “Our bubbas can be little shits but even that’s a bit much! And anyway, we can always look for women elsewhere.”

“Oh, come on!” roared Theo. “Haven’t you heard of honour in war? The enemy won’t shoot helpless sucklings! It’s just not done!”

Jensen frowned like his brain was about to explode.

“That’s the beauty of this plan!” Theo pushed on. “Use the sucklings to get more women without us having to bring down the barricade or them firing a single shot!”

“I guess…” And now Teskey was frowning too. “I mean, why look elsewhere if we’re already at the Castle? It’s the note that led us there in the first place!”

Jensen shrugged.

“Regardless, we should leave the babies out of this. Show me the note again,” he sighed, snapping his fingers at Teskey. “What did your wife write exactly?”

Teskey pulled a handwritten note from beneath his tail.

Jensen took it and cleared his throat. “She writes: ‘Dear Teskey wesky, having a girl’s night out at the Castle. Twig kebabs in the fridge. Microwave three minutes each. Tuck kids in at seven. Don’t wait up. Love, your Fanny wanny.'”

“See? That was last night. Which means they must all be horribly dead by now!”

“Teskey…” Jensen’s eyes narrowed. “Please don’t tell me that almost all of our tribesmen died in a tragic attempt to overtake the Castle because… well, you can’t turn on a microwave.”

He hovered over Teskey like a foreboding headmaster with an angry god complex.

Theo stood there looking on, dumb with astonishment. He’d forgotten about Dostoyevsky and boobs for now.

Teskey lowered his eyes.

Back at the Castle, the night club doors swept open and a covey of giggling, tipsy female beavers started on their way down to the river…

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

GUEST POST // An Octogenarian’s Pandemic by Barrie Purnell

There’s been some sort of epidemic
So say all-knowing academics,
A kind of dread Chinese infection
Designed to avoid early detection,
Resulting in oxygen deprivation
For which there was no known protection.
The government and the NHS
Said, what to do we can only guess
But until we can make up our minds
You must avoid contact of any kind,
Wash your hands 10 times a day
Put your going out clothes away,
And for restrictions we’ll atone
By paying you to stay at home.
Said if lockdown we don’t apply
Half a million would surely die,
But something they didn’t say
Was all of us would have to pay,
All the costs of shutting down
To the tune of 300 billion pound.
I have to think they’ve lost their mind
Paying ½ billion to save a life like mine.

On the news the professor reported
We’d all go mad before it was sorted,
But when I had the time to reflect
Saw on me it would have little effect.
I was allowed to form a bubble
With neighbour who said, it was no trouble
To do a supermarket shop for me
Of fresh food, bread, milk and tea,
And I booked an on-line delivery
Which hitherto had been a mystery.
My hour long visits to numerous clinics
Were now phone calls over in minutes,
And no waiting in a doctors surgery
With ill people sitting next to me,
Covering me in their coughs and sneezes
Spreading their as yet unknown diseases,
And oh what joy when they disclosed
All the dentists would be closed.
No visits from that demanding relation
Requiring clean sheets on each occasion.
My expenditure had been decreased,
From hugging I had been released,
No longer was I considered rude
When I indulged my love of solitude.
I don’t spend weekends in hotels
Or holiday in the Seychelles,
I have nobody to look after
I have no fear of the hereafter.
I thought now I will have the time
To watch programmes on Amazon Prime,
Then there was Netflix and Catch-Up TV
Opportunities spread out endlessly.
The prospect of gardening reared its head
Or I could do DIY instead.
Then there were all those books to read
Which would increase my reading speed,
And when these became less exciting
I could always try to do some writing.

But as months ran into longer time
I missed the freedom once was mine,
I missed the human interaction
Leading to increasing dissatisfaction.
I wondered if this imposed ban
Affected this old solitary man,
Someone long past his prime
Already living on borrowed time,
How much harder would it have been
If I had been just seventeen?
And here I had to face the truth,
We chose to sacrifice our youth,
They lost out on jobs and education,
On teenage fun and socialization.
My few remaining years protected
By youth, who even if they were infected,
Would avoid serious complication
And wouldn’t require hospitalisation,
But who’d be paying back for many years
The billions spent to keep our conscience clear.
So we mortgaged millions of young lives
To try and help the old survive.
Was this right, we don’t know yet
Or something the country will regret?
Maybe result would have been the same
If they’d just locked up the old and lame,
And supplied any help they needed
Until search for vaccine had succeeded.
Having lived through rationing and the blitz.
The old could surely have survived this?

Each year 600000 deaths are seen
From causes other than COVID 19,
For every 1 that from COVID died
Cancer and heart disease killed 5.
Now on the news a man of 99
Is said to have died before his time!!
What’s new is that now each day,
Presented in graphical display,
Death is there for all of us to see
We’re confronted by our own mortality.
Everyday more of the same
Until we look for someone to blame
For the extra deaths of an aged few,
As if death was something new,
When we have been able to ignore
The millions who have died before.
Only when that eulogy is read
Over the special one we’ve loved who’s dead,
Do we realise death is always with us
Even if it’s something we don’t discuss.
As mortals why do we believe
From death we alone could be reprieved?
Heart attack, cancer or suicide,
Broken heart or homicide,
Immortality is our minds biggest lie
COVID ………just another way to die.

by BARRIE PURNELL
© All rights reserved 2021

aeaea (the prodigal childer)

to reveal the door long fraught for
is to reason why fate has led us here
by hand of you who’d known us once
our mother of mercy

o mother circe
who’d embosomed us through the blackest days
when omega dipped red our wings like bread
in canticles of twitting sorrow

in remembrance of you, we close our eyes
watery slides on blue tarpaulin
badminton upon zest green lawns
barefoot padding under orange skies

to reveal the escape long fraught for
is to reason why fate has chanced us here
by hand of you who’d known us once
our mother of mercy

o mother circe
neutral is the colour of our mutual extinction
all consciousness othering into decline
the collapsing of minds in a cage on fire

in remembrance of you, we close our eyes
your embosoming through our blackest days
past colours all fixed to forever rainbows
where we’d tabled our youth and sailed away

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

night shift charley (an old watchman’s shrift)

why’d i make him climb all that way
up fifty-five flights of goddam stairs
i didn’t need to break my only neck
in pursuit of prey in the month of may

why’d i make him muck in dung and clay
down sixty-six steps of slippy trails
i didn’t have to snap my only coccyx
in pursuit of prey in trial bay

why’d i make him jump into the fray
against seventy-seven blood streaked fists
i didn’t like to choke on my only teeth
in pursuit of prey when he fell that day

just who was that bolter anyway
what had he done that demanded death
i have soiled my only soul
in pursuit of prey i didn’t want for prey

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

TATI’s & TONY’s DEAD POET TOUR // Song by Thomas Runciman

You who know what easeful arms
Silence winds about the dead,
Or what far-swept music charms
Hearts that were earth-wearied;

You who know – if aught be known
In that everlasting Hush
Where the life-born years are strewn,
Where the eyeless ages rush, –

Tell me, is it conscious rest
Heals the whilom hurt of life?
Or is Nirvana undistressed
E’en by memory of strife?

by THOMAS RUNCIMAN (1841-1909)
Public Domain Poetry