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Belgian buffoon Jacob DeSoerts, scourge of poultry and the present participle alike, finds himself once more knee-deep in the...


Great Muck


Since he was a little boy in Belgium, Jacob DeSoerts always rose before the sun, slipping into his meagre clothing and tripping his way down the stairs and into the farmyard before the animals could mobilize and coordinate the defence to kill him. To those skills honed in rustic warfare Jacob always attributed his great success in business, and later in politics. His enemies also attributed his politics to his childhood, contending that there had to be a great many things on a Flemish farm to stumble over and concuss oneself in the dark.

Fifty years later he was now retired from his notorious career in Vanderville politics, and lived happily, if a little restlessly, on his farm in Marshall Island, a sleepy little suburb south of the big city in easy swamping distance of the McRobbie River.

The first five years in politics he had served as straight man to the relentless Miss Sally-Ann Presley, career harridan and blue-ribbon whack job, who ruled the city’s Total Liquidity Coalition Party, or TLC, with an iron fist in a Playtex glove. According to God, it was her mission to personally clean, sanitize, and reduce Vanderville to such a primordial, economic goop that even the craven local media couldn’t pass off the sludge for chocolate. Then, after her fall in the Five Pennies Karaoke Orphanage Scandal, Jacob spent ten unbelievable years as leader of the party, then mayor, and finally--as the pinnacle of his career--disgraced mayor, of Vanderville.

After his retirement he made a hobby of attempting to resurrect his political career by creating ever more annoying right wing, conservative parties. These included the Pre-Copernican Reform Party, the New Carolingian One-Man One-Empire Party, and the Mesopotamian Neo-Sumerian Reform Party. Between such attempts, and the occasional effort to reclassify the entire animal kingdom in relation to the evolutionary pre-dominance of the Belgian Campine Chicken--so far without success--he lived a quiet retired life attending to the one or two hundred thousand chickens he kept a very long walk from his home.

This morning he was, as usual, drinking coffee from his preferred bowl in his cozy, country-style kitchen, and reading the Provincial newspaper. Dawn was just assembling herself for another day’s work illuminating the sins of the world and her light was barely poking through the gauzy curtains to see what Jacob was up to today. His wife was in the entrance hall, scraping the mud from her boots, and yawning. She had already been up an hour, scouring the fields for that morning’s paper, usually air dropped within two city blocks of the house, but today, owing to the light breeze, about a mile away, near the river.

Ah, Gretchen! The scrambled eggs are very good today!” Jacob said in his unique verbal melange, softly articulated in an old-world, teddy bear warble.

His wife said nothing. He had said that every morning for thirty years, regardless of whether there were scrambled eggs or not. Today, as a matter of fact, there were. But she hadn’t made them yet. It wasn’t clear to her whether her husband was in fact insane or if he still hadn’t grasped full control of past, present and future tenses after almost forty years in the country. An argument could be made for both. She eased herself out of her boots and into her slippers. She put on an apron, took some eggs from a basket that she had brought in with her, and broke them into a bowl. “Ah! Ah!” Jacob exclaimed, and snapped his fingers at the leading article in the Provincial.

Mmm?” his wife replied, stirring the eggs with a metal whisk, and not turning around from the sink.

Ze trial, it goes on! Lookit zis!”


GRIM GRAN’S GRIN GREETS GRITTY GRILLING


The headline, unusually literate for this paper, referred to a notorious trial in which his neighbour, sweet-tempered Jessica Endicott, was accused of murdering the flamboyant playboy entrepreneur, Gerald Styrinski, whom Jacob also knew, and thought long had it coming. Whatever the outcome, it promised to be great entertainment. Gretchen did not look round, but instead peered through the curtain at the new dawn. It was promising to be a clear day. Perhaps she could find a couple of hours to put into the garden before she had to start telephoning everyone on behalf of Jacob’s new party, the 21st Century New Coptic God-King Coalition.

She left the eggs in the bowl and crossed over to the refrigerator, tussling the sparse hair of her husband who didn’t notice, immersed in the story. She reached for the fridge door.

But at that moment there was a hideous roar. The floor buckled, rippling under the base of the machine, lifting and spinning it on one corner. It fell forward, lunging at Mrs DeSoerts as if--after too many years of day-to-day intimacy--it was consumed by a fit of freezer-lust that it could no longer control. She twisted to one side in time and was knocked down in a glancing blow.

The fridge fell on its side and both doors flew open. Eviscerated in battle, it disgorged a flurry of food, jars, ice and Tupperware across the floor. A few feet away the kitchen table bucked up into Jacob’s face, revenging itself at last for all the years of tabloid trash laid on its pure pine surface. He too, was thrown to the floor. Then followed a spitfire succession of explosions throughout the house from every pipe and fixture.

At the same moment as the DeSoerts were struggling to their feet the room turned black. The splatter from an explosion in the sink completely obscured the windows, and the couple were drenched with a ghastly black gruel that must have come direct from a Pre-Cambrian bog.

Vait! Vait, Gretchen! Protect yourself!” Jacob said to his wife. “I vill seen what ze matter is.” The little man already knew, but he had to go through with the act. He looked down into the morass burbling up from the drain. He sniffed.

Full, robust New Hampshire body with a piquant touch of Bantam and fruity suggestion of Factory 642....

Vordommt! Filtration Number Two was down again.

And why? It had to be...

The Curse...of Singh.

Ah, my dear, ze drain is zimply blocked,” he said to his wife. “Ze washing machine, no doubt. I will phone the plumber again. Zuch a nuisance.”

And he skidded down the linoleum, tripped over his wife lying amidst the eggs and ice and stumbled out the door.

As he stamped down the driveway he furiously wiped his face and balding pate with a bandanna and babbled, “Singh! Singh! Singh!” to himself. He made his way to the garage intending to get his truck for the trip down to the access tunnel but abruptly stopped. He saw that his beautiful truck was parked outside his garage--not inside as it should be.

Why was that, he wondered?

Ah!

The day before he’d been distracted by his cell phone chirruping just as he was getting out of the truck. It was Mac at the Brazier Institute, Vanderville’s favourite covey of lying, evil counsellors. Mac had an unerring instinct to get him at the worse moments. Pull truck up to garage, whistle merry tune, set brakes, smile at beautiful day, remove key from ignition, open door, swing foot out to ground in eager anticipation of life to come, phone rings in vest pocket, snap head up, smack crown of head squarely on door frame, cause whiplash to neck--no extra charge--stagger to house answering frivolous but embarrassing questions on state of Great Enterprise, answer ambivalently, forget beautiful truck in driveway, beautiful truck victim of enemy fly-over next morning.

He resignedly stared at the windshield and hood. It was completely inundated by what appeared to be an inch deep of white goo. Snow that wasn’t snow. Snow that fell in little bombs and dribbled slowly and agonizingly down the glass, onto the windshield wipers, through the grating and into the engine, snow that amassed and coalesced on the hood in little clumps like the eggs that were now arrested in their development in the frying pan in his beautiful kitchen. Snow that left alone would scratch and mar the beautiful finish of his beautiful truck. Snow that fell in October. Snow that fell from birds.

Millions of birds.

But not his birds.

Theirs.

The world’s.

The globe’s most exotic and embattled species, forever circling Jacob’s farm as they milled and jostled for the flyway, runway, right of way to the world heritage park known as...

The Great Muck.

His next-door neighbour.

He snorted, a withering expression of disgust, which in Jacob wasn’t very different from the cough of a deferential sparrow.

In that freeloading commune of a swamp no doubt could also be found the fell hand of Singh, the little man rued.

Folded deeply in the Belgian waffle of his brain a few grey cells knew it wasn’t fair to think this, but Jacob wasn’t listening. Gabriel Barjinder Singh, his former ranch foreman, now site manager of the Great Enterprise, was convenient to be the focus of all frustrations. This giant of a man, of unstinting energy and irrepressible good cheer, seemed immune to all of life’s little annoyances and petty afflictions. Impervious to insult, and insensible to his place in the chain of being--employee--he was singularly lacking due reverence for his master, whom he seemed to regard no differently than a toad or an oddly shaped knot in a tree. In fact, he paid rather more attention to these things. But why he should it was impossible to ask, because of the utterly baffling way he talked. Jacob recognized it to be a kind of English only from the books of poetry his wife threw at him from time to time.

He gazed at his poor truck once more. Of course, it was the martyred predecessor to this truck, on another day that rained white goo from the sky many years before, which had started the whole thing.

The Great Enterprise.

Perhaps he should be grateful for the mess. Embrace Singh with open arms, a colleague and a brother.

Impossible!