TATI’S TRANSLATIONS // Not Enemies by Anton Eine

TBYL Cover

This book is about the first 100 days of fascist Russia’s perfidious and unfounded invasion of Ukraine. But it is not an account of the war and its battlefield engagements. It’s about people. About their feelings and emotions, their experiences, fears and pain, their suffering, hope and love.
— from the Author’s book page

Will my translation change the world? Surely, no. Will my translation hasten the day of our victory? Surely, no. But I don’t care and will continue to do this because the voice of Ukraine should sound no matter what. And we say: ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself!’
— from Tati

Not Enemies (an excerpt from the book ‘The Thin Blue-Yellow Line Between Love and Hate’ by Anton Eine)

This morning I caught myself stepping onto the third stage of the Kübler-Ross – bargaining. I took a shaver and went to the bathroom, and there was a fight inside me between: “Well, to hell with it, we are refugees after all” and, “You should stay true to yourself, no matter what happens”.

The second argument won, but while I was shaving, I understood that there is a dilemma of another level somewhere inside me. It is a certain inner haggle, the attempts to adjust reality to desire. If I don’t do something that is an admission that everything is bad, then maybe everything won’t turn out so bad? Or, if I stop clinging to the habits of the old world and start living in this harsh new reality, maybe it will speed up returning to the old world? Is it just Hamlet’s dilemma – trying to preserve something from your past life versus discarding everything?

But living like before is impossible, even psychologically. You quickly eat what is at hand. You read the news like a maniac, constantly poking the feed to refresh it. You drink tea or coffee just to get high, just to caffeinate your brain.

You buy something and mentally check a list of companies – this business has left Russia and this one has become a collaborator. I was pleased to know that one of the biggest world corporations – one I had once worked for – has not betrayed its principles and has cancelled all operations in Russia, despite the production capacities and infrastructure they had placed there. And I was very disappointed to know that another of the biggest world corporation – one I had once worked for – has not betrayed its principles and preferred to preserve its huge market. It looks like principles and morality do have their price.

I think the modern world won’t forgive those who have taken the wrong side in this conflict. And the boycotts will force almost all companies and brands to leave the market of the state aggressor, state terrorist. Otherwise, these companies will lose their positions in other worldwide markets. But no one will be able to sit quietly on the sidelines in this war, doing business in Russia below the radar.

Either you are on the same team with those who are killing innocent children, or with those who are protecting peace and justice. The thin blue-yellow line.

I can understand striving to live in peace and quiet, but we were deprived of it. I can understand those who are calling for peace. But slogans won’t stop this war that is run with bombs, rockets, tanks, and artillery.

Today, shells hit a house in Kyiv, the building nearby ours. In a parallel street. There were victims and wounded. And I understand that any appeals for peace can’t stop rockets and shells.

This morning, I was listening to a new song by Lord of The Lost – Not My Enemy. It’s nice to know that my favourite singers and bands support us, support the world, help refugees and try to do something to prevent further escalation.

It’s a really good song, but I can’t get rid of the feeling they’re late. This song was needed before the war. It was needed to prevent this senseless bloodshed. And now… I don’t know what songs and words can save the world, save Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The news about possible support of the Russian aggression by China frightens me. No one wants World War III. China, we have nothing to share, we don’t have shared borders and interests. We are not enemies. We weren’t enemies with anyone before Putin annexed Crimea. But even at that time, Ukraine tried to settle everything with peace talks.

China, you and we are not enemies.

It is late, I can hardly keep my eyes open, and the caffeine high has gone long ago. My son is quietly sleeping, my wife is watching the news, and I want to tell you a really nice story. Enough bloody news for today, enough exasperation and hatred. Let’s leave a little room for love in our hearts.

My son has met a new friend. His name is Loki, and he’s almost as smiley and charming as Tom Hiddleston. When Tom – not Hiddleston, but my son – got back from a walk, he talked my ears off about Loki being so cool and fun to play with.

Loki is a genial and playful golden retriever who adores kids and cats. Kids reciprocate Loki’s feelings, and cats… behave like cats usually behave around dogs.

It appeared that Loki was also a refugee, and also from Kyiv. His owner joined the Territorial Defense Forces, and Loki rejoined him as a volunteer. But when it became too dangerous in the Irpin district, they decided to send Loki to a safer place – Lviv. It happened that Loki wasn’t leashed during the transport that volunteers had arranged; he jumped out of the car and got lost around an unknown village nearby Kyiv.

Loki’s owner quit everything else and went from Lviv to Kyiv by train, to search for her dog. She and her husband were looking for Loki around all the nearby villages, they even involved volunteers. A lot of the locals knew they were looking for their pet, and they helped them with any piece of information they could about where Loki was seen. Some people saw Loki and called him by name, but Loki didn’t come to anyone. He just went elsewhere on his very own route.

Finally, Loki was found, and the owner took him back to Lviv. Her son said that when he woke up in the morning, the first thing he saw was Loki’s huge muzzle right near his face. This made him truly happy.

My son was also happy, back from a walk, telling me that Loki was so kind and cool. He’s only three years old. My son, not the dog. And his world has such beautiful moments like befriending Loki. And yummy apples. And ice cream. PAW Patrol. Hide-and-seek. Everything that makes his childhood a real childhood, despite the war and the life of a refugee.

Не вороги (уривок із книги Антона Ейне «Тонка синьо-жовта лінія між любов`ю та ненавистю»)

Сьогодні вранці я впіймав себе на перших ознаках третьої стадії Кюблер-Росс – торгу. Я взяв бритву і пішов у ванну, а всередині в мене точилася боротьба між «може, ну його до біса, адже ми біженці» та «залишатися самим собою за будь-яких умов».

Другий аргумент переміг, але, доки голився, я зрозумів, що десь всередині є дилема іншого рівня. Певний внутрішній торг, спроби притерти реальність до бажаного. Якщо не робити чогось, що є визнанням, що все погано, можливо, все виявиться не так вже й погано? Чи якщо перестати чіплятися за звичний світ і почати жити в новій суворій реальності, то, можливо, це пришвидшить повернення звичного світу? Просто гамлетівська дилема – намагатися зберігати щось від колишнього життя чи відкинути все?

Але жити, як раніше, неможливо навіть психологічно. Їси швидко, що є. Маніакально дивишся новини, постійно тицяючи в стрічку, щоб оновилася. П’єш якісь чай або каву, аби вставляло, і мозку вистачало кофеїну.

Купуючи щось, подумки перевіряєш список компаній: хто оголосив про вихід із Росії, а хто подався в колабораціоністи. Було приємно дізнатися, що одна з найбільших світових корпорацій, у якій я колись працював, не зрадила своїм принципам і згорнула свої операції в Росії, попри виробництво та всю інфраструктуру. І було дуже прикро бачити, що інша велика міжнародна компанія, в якій я працював, залишилася вірною собі та вирішила не втрачати такий великий ринок. Виявляється, принципи та мораль мають свою ціну.

Думаю, що сучасний світ не вибачить тих, хто в цьому конфлікті стане на неправильну сторону. І бойкоти змусять майже всі компанії та бренди залишити ринок країни-агресора, країни-терориста. Або ж компанії втратять свої позиції на інших ринках. Однак у цій війні нікому не вдасться спокійно пересидіти осторонь, тихенько продаючи в Росії.

Або ти за тих, хто вбиває невинних дітей, або за тих, хто захищає мир та справедливість. Тонка синьо-жовта лінія.

Я можу зрозуміти бажання жити в мирі й злагоді. Але нас його позбавили. Я можу зрозуміти тих, хто закликає до миру. Але заклики не спинять цієї війни, яка ведеться бомбами, ракетами, танками й артилерією.

Сьогодні снаряди влучили в Києві в будинок, який зовсім недалеко від нашого. На паралельній вулиці. Були жертви й поранені. І я розумію, що заклики до миру не зможуть зупинити ракет і снарядів.

Зранку послухав нову пісню Lord Of The Lost – Not My Enemy. Приємно бачити, що улюблені виконавці та гурти підтримують нас, підтримують світ, допомагають біженцям і намагаються зробити щось для того, щоб запобігти подальшій ескалації.

Хороша гарна пісня, але мене постійно не покидало відчуття, що вони запізнилися. Ця пісня потрібна була до війни. Щоб не допустити всього цього безглуздого кровопролиття. А зараз… Я не знаю, які пісні та слова можуть врятувати світ, Україну та її жителів.

Новини про можливу підтримку Китаєм російської агресії лякають. Ніхто не хоче третьої світової. Китаю, нам нема чого ділити, у нас немає спільних кордонів та інтересів. Ми не вороги з вами. Ми ні з ким не були ворогами, доки Путін не вдерся в Крим. Але й тоді Україна намагалася все вирішити шляхом мирних переговорів.

Китаю, ми з вами не вороги.

Уже пізно, очі злипаються, а кофеїн давно вивітрився. Син тихесенько спить, дружина дивиться новини, а я хочу розповісти вам одну дуже позитивну історію. Досить на сьогодні кривавих новин, обурення й ненависті. Залишимо в серці трохи місця для любові.

Мій син зустрів нового друга. Його звуть Локі, і він майже такий усміхнений та чарівний, як і Том Гіддлстон. Повернувшись із прогулянки, Том, не Гіддлстон, а мій син, продзижчав мені всі вуха, який Локі класний і як із ним весело грати.

Локі – добродушний і грайливий золотистий ретривер, який дуже любить дітей та кішок. Діти відповідають йому взаємністю, а кішки… поводяться так, як зазвичай кішки поводяться із собаками.

Виявилося, що Локі теж біженець і теж із Києва. Його господар пішов у Тероборону, і Локі пішов добровольцем разом із ним. Але коли в районі Ірпеня стало надто небезпечно, Локі вирішили відправити в спокійніше місце – до Львова. Але так вийшло, що коли волонтери його перевозили, він не був прив’язаний, вискочив із машини й загубився в якомусь селі неподалік Києва.

Господиня кинула все і поїхала зі Львова до Києва потягом, щоб шукати пса. Разом із чоловіком вони шукали його по всіх навколишніх селах, залучили волонтерів. Багато місцевих жителів знали, що люди шукають свого пса, і допомагали будь-якими можливими відомостями про те, де його бачили. Люди зустрічали собаку, кликали його, але він ні до кого не йшов. Просто рухався кудись сам своїм маршрутом.

У результаті Локі знайшовся, і господиня привезла його до Львова. Її син розповідав, що коли прокинувся, перше, що побачив, була величезна морда Локі прямо біля його обличчя, і він був дуже щасливий.

Мій син теж повернувся з прогулянки задоволеним, розповідаючи мені про те, який Локі добрий та класний. Йому лише три роки. Синові, не псу. І в його світі є такі чудові світлі моменти, як дружба з Локі. Смачні яблука. Морозиво. Щенячий патруль. Гра в схованки. Те, що робить дитинство дитинством, попри війну та життя біженця.

Original text by ANTON EINE
This translation by TETIANA ALEKSINA

© All rights reserved 2022

TATI’S TRANSLATIONS // Your Letters Always Smell of Faded Roses by Lesya Ukrainka

Lesya Ukrainka

Your letters always smell of faded roses, my poor withered flower! Fine, delicate fragrances are like the memory of a treasured dream long gone. And now nothing can streak my heart like these fragrances that subtly, gently, yet persistently and irrevocably remind me of what my heart portends, and why I don’t want to, and can’t believe. My friend, my sweetheart, you were made for me; how is it possible for me to live alone now that I’ve known another life? Oh, I knew another life, full of a harsh happiness stabbed with regret and anguish that burned and tortured me, making me wring my hands and batter the ground in a feral desire to die, to disappear, to leave this world of happiness and woe that are so insanely interwoven… And then my happiness and woe were cut off suddenly, like a child crying, and I saw you. I had seen you before, but not as transparent, and now I came to you with all my soul, like a tearful child goes to embracing arms, seeking tenderness. It’s fine that you have never held me; it’s fine that there is no memory of kissing me, for I am coming to you from the captivity of tightest embraces and sweetest kisses! Only with you I am not alone; only with you do I feel like home. Only you can save me from myself. Everything that wearies me, everything that tortures me, I know you can take it away with your slender, trembling-like-a-string hand; everything that darkens my soul, I know you can chase it away with the fire in your gleaming eyes; no, people who are hardened to life don’t have such eyes! Those eyes are from other lands…

My friend, my sweetheart, why do your letters smell of faded roses?

My friend, my sweetheart, why can’t I wash your hands, your hands that are trembling like strings, with my desperate tears?

My friend, my sweetheart, will I die alone? Oh, please, take me with you, and let those white roses wither above us!

Take me with you.

Have you another dream where I don’t exist? Oh, my sweetheart! I will create a world for you, a whole new world of new dreams. I have begun a new dream of life for you, I have died and been reborn for you. Take me with you. I am so afraid to live! Even if I would be young again, I don’t want to live. Please take me with you, and we will walk quietly amidst a forest full of dreams, and we will vanish together, somewhere far away. And in the place that we lived life, let all roses fade and smell like your lovely letters, my sweetheart…

I reach my hands within the darkness to you, please, take me with you, save me. Oh, save me, my sweetheart!

And let the white and pink, the red and blue roses fade away.

(Written four months before the addressee’s death.)

Твої листи завжди пахнуть зов’ялими трояндами, ти, мій бідний, зів’ялий квіте! Легкі, тонкі пахощі, мов спогад про якусь любу, минулу мрію. І ніщо так не вражає тепер мого серця, як сії пахощі, тонко, легко, але невідмінно, невідборонно нагадують вони мені про те, що моє серце віщує і чому я вірити не хочу, не можу. Мій друже, любий мій друже, створений для мене, як можна, щоб я жила сама, тепер, коли я знаю інше життя? О, я знала ще інше життя, повне якогось різкого, пройнятого жалем і тугою щастя, що палило мене, і мучило, і заставляло заламувати руки і битись, битись об землю, в дикому бажанні згинути, зникнути з сього світу, де щастя і горе так божевільно сплелись… А потім і щастя, і горе обірвались так раптом, як дитяче ридання, і я побачила тебе. Я бачила тебе і раніше, але не так прозоро, а тепер я пішла до тебе всею душею, як сплакана дитина іде в обійми того, хто її жалує. Се нічого, що ти не обіймав мене ніколи, се нічого, що між нами не було і спогаду про поцілунки, о, я піду до тебе з найщільніших обіймів, від найсолодших поцілунків! Тільки з тобою я не сама, тільки з тобою я не на чужині. Тільки ти вмієш рятувати мене від самої себе. Все, що мене томить, все, що мене мучить, я знаю, ти здіймеш своєю тонкою тремтячою рукою, – вона тремтить, як струна, – все, що тьмарить мені душу, ти проженеш променем твоїх блискучих очей, – ох, у тривких до життя людей таких очей не буває! Се очі з іншої країни…

Мій друже, мій друже, нащо твої листи так пахнуть, як зів’ялі троянди?

Мій друже, мій друже, чому ж я не можу, коли так, облити рук твоїх, рук твоїх, що, мов струни, тремтять, своїми гарячими слізьми?

Мій друже, мій друже, невже я одинока згину? О візьми мене з собою, і нехай над нами в’януть білі троянди!

Візьми мене з собою.

Ти, може, маєш яку іншу мрію, де мене немає? О дорогий мій! Я створю тобі світ, новий світ нової мрії. Я ж для тебе почала нову мрію життя, я для тебе вмерла і воскресла. Візьми мене з собою. Я так боюся жити! Ціною нових молодощів і то я не хочу життя. Візьми, візьми мене з собою, ми підемо тихо посеред цілого лісу мрій і згубимось обоє помалу, вдалині. А на тім місці, де ми були в житті, нехай троянди в’януть, в’януть і пахнуть, як твої любі листи, мій друже…

Крізь темряву у простір я простягаю руки до тебе: візьми, візьми мене з собою, се буде мій рятунок. О, рятуй мене, любий!

І нехай в’януть білі й рожеві, червоні й блакитні троянди.

(Написано за чотири місяці до смерті адресата.)

Original text by LESYA UKRAINKA
Translation & Art by TETIANA ALEKSINA

© All rights reserved 2022

SCHEHERAZADE’S 1,001 BYTES // Good Luck Charm

The Loch Ness Monster had finally been found, but not where everybody thought she’d be. She wasn’t located in the famous body of water after which she’d been named. No, she was actually in a retirement villa in Florida.

It really wasn’t so unusual that the Loch Ness Monster had chosen to spend her twilight years with land dwellers. She wore a cute bonnet, drowsed her days away in the rocking chair beneath a big old lime tree, and played bingo with the other oldies every Saturday evening. You see, our story is about something else, namely the cashier’s cheques that covered her residency at the retirement villa. Or, rather, it’s about the individual who issued them.

That individual’s name was Elvis Presley. He’d had an abiding interest in cryptids since he was a young tearaway playing gospel hits for the nuns at the Catholic school his parents had sent him to. The nuns were often rendered speechless by his frequent hip thrusting and gyrations, so they’d banish him to catalogue books in the library during recess. That’s where he found a dusty tome entitled, ‘Monsties of the Grand Ole Opry’.

A young tearaway Elvis may have been, but he was also a diligent student when the mood struck him. Something had only to capture his imagination, and this book didn’t fit the bill. So, he blew the dust off its cover, sneezed, then walked over to the shelf marked ‘M: Monotheism — Monticule’ to put it back in its proper place. But when he tried to slip it into the appropriate gap between two mouldy hardcovers, there was an obstruction. Elvis stood on his tippy-toes and took a closer look.

What he saw surprised him. He shifted some of the surrounding books off the shelf so that he could reach in and grab what appeared to be a sliver of metal. Of course, once it was in his hand, he realised that the sliver of metal was a key. It was old and not so shiny. He rubbed it on the lapel of his white jumpsuit, wondering what on earth to do with it.

Elvis was so immersed in his thoughts about the key that he failed to notice a pair of beady, black eyes creepily peering at him from the pin-up poster on the wall. He hadn’t even noticed the poster itself—although a pin-up poster on the wall of a library in a Catholic school wasn’t such a common thing, was it? No, it wasn’t. And especially not a pin-up poster of a topless cabaret dancer with the nipples cut out for a pair of beady, black eyes to peer through.

The eyes continued to peer at Elvis as he pocketed his key then continued cataloguing dusty tomes. He needed to be finished in time for the Friday afternoon Kazoo Appreciation Club with Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress. He didn’t care about learning how to play a kazoo insomuch as getting them to play his. What can I say? He was a typical horny teenager.

Cut to years later within the dark corridors of American Sound Studio in Memphis; Elvis met a strange woman. She was not as tall as Brigitte Bardot was short, and not as busty as Ursula Andress was flat-chested. She smoked like a chimney on fire and wore a white blouse with the nipples cut out for a pair of beady, black eyes to peer through.

“Where is the key?” she asked in a low, urgent voice.

“Sorry, ma’am?” said Elvis through clenched teeth. “And how did you get in here?” His voice carried a slightly aroused tone. He was trying to decide which pair of eyes he needed to look at. And no way in hell was he going to just hand over his key to this mysterious individual—yes, the same key that over the years had become something of a fancy souvenir for Elvis. Not only that, it had also become a kind of good luck charm, maybe even a mascot. Moreover, it was pretty handy whenever he needed to crack open a beer and there wasn’t a bottle opener around.

She waved a cigarette at his white jumpsuit with the dirty lapel. “It doesn’t matter. Give me the motherfucking key!”

“And what key would that be, ma’am?” Elvis tore his eyes away from the woman’s beady, black nipples and looked her in the actual eye. The key was in his jumpsuit pocket where it belonged. Yup, he was going to have to stand up to this bitch.

“Listen, motherfucker,” she snarled, “give me the key or I’ll rip your goddam head off and defecate down the neck hole!”

Elvis took a step back, squaring up for a fight if need be. The woman glared at him with all four of her unblinking eyes. Who knows if it was the Russian vodka in Elvis’s stomach or her vibe, but he suddenly found himself singing, “Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go!” And, for whatever reason, the woman’s pale cheeks instantly began to blush, which then led her tightly compressed lips to relax into something resembling a smile. Could it be that her sub-zero heart was melting?

Yes, actually, it could. In fact, she got so weak at the knees that she fell on her ass with her legs wide open. And that’s when Elvis finally realised what the key may have been for. With her dress hitched accidentally over her knees, he could see the cast iron chastity belt that she was wearing. All he needed to do was insert the key and jiggle it a bit. He was turned on just thinking about it!

PS: About the cashier’s cheques… that part’s easy. As all of you are probably aware, Elvis had Scottish roots. As such, he was happy to help his great-great-great-grandmother out when she wrote to inform him of the pitiable lack of money that was preventing her from renting a property at her dream retirement villa.

© All rights reserved 2022

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…

© All rights reserved 2021

SCHEHERAZADE’S 1,001 BYTES // Let’s Knife!

Whilst investigating the case of a missing local fishmonger, a brave captain by the name of Beth Chan uncovered a legend about a cursed, weathered knife circulating throughout Africa. These two things were not at all related, and seeing as the knife sounded more interesting, Beth dropped the fishmonger case and went to Africa instead.

Well, we said Beth went to Africa but actually everything’s quick and easy only in fairytales. Of course, she first needed to investigate which African countries were open for entering from Sápmi, then pass the COVID-19 and serological tests, and fill in a hellscape of official papers and other such bullshit. (We sincerely think it would’ve been easier for Beth to find the missing fishmonger. Moreover, he wasn’t missing at all. He was just sleeping off a three day bender beneath the porch of the Screaming Barnacle.)

Anyway, back to Beth. Once she got into an African country with an unpronounceable name, she began to realise that she needed a bit more to go on than some old fishermen’s tales about a cursed, weathered knife circulating throughout Africa in order to find the cursed, weathered knife that was circulating through Africa. In fact, it could have been anywhere, and Africa was a ridiculously big place. Perhaps Beth ought to have secured herself some kind of mythical treasure map leading to said knife in the first place. This was like leaving for an opera performance without some bladder filtration device strapped inside your pants—she was woefully unprepared.

But Beth was a smart girl and she had a watertight plan. It was as simple as it was genius. If one thing was circulating through Africa and another thing was also circulating through Africa then obviously they would meet somewhere along the way. The odds were fifty-fifty as to whether they would meet or not. So, all Beth had to do was start circulating throughout Africa in order to run into the cursed, weathered knife that was also circulating through Africa. Clever, right?

And so that’s what Beth did. She circulated like a plastic bag in the wind, drifting here and there and everywhere. She flitted across the savannah, dodging the playful swats of lion paws and furry knob catching of giraffe heads. She swooped above the storm water drains of post-apartheid slums and weaved posthaste through the canopies of foreboding jungles. She floated around every nook and cranny and even bypassed a few choice fannies. She and the knife were sure to cross paths at some point. Even if it wasn’t inevitable, she would make it be, no matter what.

Now, back to the missing fishmonger. When he realised that no one was searching for him, he felt deeply insulted. So, he climbed out of the hole beneath the porch, brushed himself off, donned his fisherman’s cap, then curled his mustache and went to Africa. He was going to give that Beth Chan a right old talking to! Fancy calling yourself a ‘brave captain’ and then not following through on the expected heroics that accompany such a title! The bleedin’ cheek of her!

Of course, the fisherman had no idea where in Africa to begin looking. Perhaps if he relied on dumb luck then that might get him somewhere. He’d had dumb luck before, like the time when a great white shark tried to bite him in two but succeeded only in flossing its teeth with him. Who said losing weight and a strict yoga regimen wouldn’t have its benefits? Aye, not the fisherman!

Another thing that would have its benefits is filling you in on the cursed, weathered knife’s backstory. Why was it circulating throughout Africa? Where did it come from and where was it going? Was it circulating for love? Did it have hopes and dreams? Did it have a mother and a father? Was it carrying a gun? No one knew. All that was known was that everything the knife touched turned to sand. (Is this why Africa has an abundance of sand?) Oh, and we guess there was no gun because it would’ve been turned to sand with cute little sand bullets that crumbled amusingly between the eyes of would-be murder victims.

Anyway, we vividly remember that sunny day, the fifteenth of May. Or was it the rainy twenty-first of September? It might even have been Bavaria’s National Cow Milking Day. Whatever. It was a big day in Africa, not Bavaria. It was a day when, as crazy as it sounds, three parallel lines finally crossed. Beth, the fisherman and the cursed, weathered knife would actually meet.

This is how that went down: The fisherman saw Beth and slapped her upside the head with one of his wellies. Her head smacked into a wall, causing it to buckle then collapse in on itself… and a bunch of kittens that happened to be playing harmonicas nearby. Well, that shut them up quite definitively! However, the ghosts of said kittens were quick to take revenge, nudging the cursed, weathered knife onto a new trajectory, thudding it into the unsuspecting fisherman’s back. This, of course, turned him into sand. Let’s just say he’d had better days.

And so the amount of sand in Africa was increased and the amount of kittens playing harmonicas was decreased. Beth, meanwhile, had picked up the knife and was examining it carefully. You’re going to ask why she hadn’t turned into sand as well, aren’t you? Easy-peasy. She had taken one of the ghost kittens and wrapped it around her palm like a handkerchief. Everyone knows that if you touch a cursed, weathered knife circulating throughout Africa with the ghost of a freshly deceased kitten that used to play harmonica that all curses will be absolutely and irrevocably shattered! It’s science, don’t you know? Pure, unadulterated science!

Anyway, Beth returned home with the knife and now uses it in the kitchen when cooking with the fisherman’s widow (who, by the way, is pretty happy that her worthless hubby was never found).

© All rights reserved 2021