Postman Pat

October 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

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Captain Patrick Clifton had thirty thousand hours on the Pilatus Porter and his wife had just run off with the milkman. ‘Clear prop!’ yelled First Officer Jessica Coon to anyone listening. Captain Pat checked both magnetos and fired the Lycoming.

‘Morning Edinburgh Tower,’ chirruped Jess. ‘Golf Lima Oscar Oscar Papa requests taxi instructions for VFR flight to Lindisfarne.’

‘Morning Golf Oscar Papa, replied ATC. Clear taxi to holding point Alpha for Runway 27. QFE 996. You with the old man today?’

‘Affirm, sir. Not his usual cheery self, mind. Cleared Alpha for 27. QFE 996.’

Pat taxied to the hold as Jess did the pre-take offs. ‘Golf Oscar Papa ready for departure,’ she purred.

‘Golf Oscar Papa is clear take off. QNH 1003. Wind 280°, fifteen gusting thirty.’

‘Clear take off,’ confirmed Jess. QNH 1003. Wind copied.’

‘I’ll do the take off and landing,’ said Pat.’ Give you time to get the paperwork out the way.’

Lindisfarne’s airstrip was an asphalt causeway linking island to mainland. The Pilatus had a two-hour tidal window before the strip disappeared under the water for eight hours. ‘Should be an easy landing,’ drawled Pat as he climbed away. ‘Wind’s straight on the nose.’

Jess flicked the switch to retract the landing gear, ran through the after-take off routine, and settled down for the fifty minute flight. ‘She’s all yours,’ said Pat. ‘ I’ll go and check the mail sacks.’

‘But I’ve already done…’ said Jess. But Pat had already taken off his headphones and disappeared into the hold.

It was all a bit quiet in the back. None of the usual crashing about as Pat rearranged the mail sacks.

‘Everything ok?’ Jess asked as he scrambled back into the cockpit.

‘Have you forgotten how to fly this thing?’ he slurred. ‘She’s all over the place. Can’t you remember how to fly in a straight line?’

Jess fiddled with the auto pilot and bit her lip. She gave him her sweetest smile. ‘Everything properly stowed back there?’

Pat lurched into his seat and burped noisily. ‘Yep.’

‘Been speaking to Lindisfarne,’ Jess remarked mildly. ‘Wind’s backed to 180°. Twenty knots, gusting thirty-five. Quite a crosswind. Shall I look up an alternate?’

‘That’ll be Newcastle,’ he replied. ‘We’ll decide ten minutes out.’

‘Lindisfarne Radio. Hi Peter. Golf Oscar Papa inbound with your post and a few extra goodies. Request your current weather.’

‘Morning Greendale Rocket,’ he replied. ‘We’ve got the wind backing at 190°. Twenty knots, now gusting forty-five.’

‘Wind copied. Request landing instructions. Golf Oscar Papa.’

‘Straight-in approach for 26. Report final. Occasional waves lapping runway.’

‘Copied.’

‘We’ll go in,’ he smiled at Jess. ‘The Pilatus can handle this.’

‘But…’

‘But nothing,’ he boomed. ‘Just do your job. Remember who’s the captain round here.’

Jess carried out pre-landing checks and let down the undercarriage.

‘Lindisfarne Radio. Golf Oscar Papa on finals for 26. Request current wind.’

‘You’re clear to land,’ said Peter. Wind veering steady at 210°. Twenty knots occasionally gusting fifty. QFE 975.’

            ‘Clear land, Golf Oscar Papa,’ and under his breath, he said, ‘and this one’s for Brigid.’

            ‘Why Brigid?’ asked Jess.

            He grunted. ‘She’s gone and buggered off.’

Mrs. Coggins the postmistress idly watched from the shop doorway, her arms folded over her ample bosom, stray wisps of white hair escaping from her bun. She wasn’t concerned about the bad weather – Pat had been flying the Greendale Rocket longer than she could remember.

He lined up on the extended runway, crabbing the Pilatus at an angle – one wing down – to counteract the crosswind. Twenty feet above the ground he kicked her straight with the rudder, cut the power, and flared. As the front wheels touched, a violent gust caught the downwind wing and it’s tip slashed the water. She lurched, pitched forward, and flipped on her back.

Mrs. Coggins dialled quickly. ‘What service do you require, Mrs. Coggins?’ asked the operator.

‘All of them,’ she babbled. ‘The Rocket’s crashed.’

            Nothing moved in the Pilatus as it began to sink. As the cockpit disappeared beneath the waves, a bottle bobbed up and down, then sank. It said: Isle of Bura. Single Malt Whisky. And it was empty.

*

The Enemy Within

September 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

For those of you familiar with the wonderful, quintessentially British Beatrix Potter stories, please enjoy this skit on The Tale Of The Flopsy Bunnies. For those who don’t know her work, perhaps you will enjoy anyway..

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            ‘Let him eat cake – not rabbits!’ said Peter twitching his ears so fast they looked like propellers. ‘I’m sick, sick, sick of him!’

            ‘Cool it,’ said Flopsy firmly.

            ‘Why should I? He ate Dad. Remember?’

            Benjamin butted in. ‘Well I think Peter has a point. Old McGregor shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. And I’m tired of getting shot at.’

            ‘You two get so cross these days,’ said Mopsy. ‘We just don’t get you anymore.’

            ‘It’s simply not on,’ Peter continued. ‘We have to do something.’

            ‘It’s your hormones talking,’ giggled Cottontail behind a paw.

            ‘What is?’

            ‘The reason you get so cross. It’s also why you smell bad.’

            Peter took no notice. ‘I’ve got it,’ he said. ‘Let’s have a Day of Action.’

            ‘What’s one of those?’ asked Flopsy, twitching her tail nervously.

            ‘We’ll have a picket line – that’s what we’ll do. With banners. Even better, we’ll have a pick-it line: in old McGregor’s garden.’

            ‘Delilah won’t like it,’ said Cottontail.

            ‘She won’t know,’ countered Peter. ‘Unless you tell.’

            Delilah was a distant cousin who lived in Old McGregor’s kitchen. She was supplied with unlimited morsels from the garden by Mrs. McGregor, lay around all day on her own special beanbag, and never, ever got dirty.

            The following day Peter and Benjamin made placards and banners. ‘The plan,’ said Benjamin, embracing his cousin’s enthusiasm, ‘is to pull out Old McGregor’s plant labels and replace them with our placards. Then we’ll all stand in a long line and stop him going into the garden until he agrees to our terms.’

            ‘How will he know what they are?’ asked Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail.

            ‘We’ll write them on the placards in big letters, stupid.’

‘Okay then. We’re in. We must stand up for our rabbit rights – as long as there isn’t any violence or nastiness, of course.’

             ‘Right on,’ said Peter, raising himself up on two legs and punching the air with a clenched front paw.

            ‘I’m worried about Delilah,’ said Flopsy to her sisters privately. ‘She might get hurt. Do you think we better warn her?’

            ‘Good one,’ said Cottontail. ‘We’ll sneak into the kitchen tonight while Old McGregor’s watering his vegetables.

~

            ‘I’m so pleased you told me,’ Delilah breathed. ‘I’ll just go and hide while you have your Day of Action. He has such a nasty temper you know, and grows more than enough vegetables for himself. He’ll have to learn to share.’

            ‘Our picket will be tomorrow morning,’ announced the sisters. ‘At the first crow of that nasty cockerel, Gunga Din.’

            ‘Power to the rabbits,’ said Delilah smiling sweetly and smoothing her whiskers with a paw.

~

            That night, when not foraging amongst the Iceberg lettuces, the five rabbits pulled out plant labels and replaced them with placards.

            ‘He won’t be able to ignore our requests now,’ said Peter to Benjamin.

            ‘Fantastic,’ said Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail reading the slogans out loud.

‘FREE ACCESS TO ALL VEGETABLES

NO MORE RABBIT PIE

            BAN SHORTCRUST PASTRY

            STOCKPILE CARROTS

            NO CLOSURE OF RABBIT HOLES’

            ‘Gosh. We have such a clever brother,’ they agreed.

‘Shh. Time for bed,’ said Peter decisively. ‘It’ll be nice and warm on the rubbish heap at the bottom of the garden.’ They nodded meekly and followed their leader. Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail curled up inside a plastic bag; Peter and Benjamin crawled into two empty baked bean tins.

‘What are you doing?’ said the grass snake that lived inside the heap.

            ‘Standing up for our rights,’ said Peter.

            ‘Right on,’ said the grass snake and slithered away.

~

            Gunga Din started making a racket and the rabbits woke up. ‘It’s our time; our time has come,’ said Peter choking back a tear.

            ‘We will be making the world a better place for rabbits,’ said Benjamin hoarsely. The three sisters carried the saucepans; Peter and Benjamin hoisted the banner. It read “RESPECT OUR BASIC RABBIT RIGHTS” in big letters the colour of rocket leaves.

‘Time for action!’ yelled Peter. ‘Bang those saucepans!’ They stood in a line waving their banner over a row of cabbages. ‘McGregor! McGregor! McGregor!’ bellowed Peter. ‘Out! Out! Out!’

‘What do we want?’ yelled Benjamin.

‘Carrots! Radishes! Lettuces!’ shrieked Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail at the top of their voices.

‘When do we want them?’  shouted Peter.

‘Now! Now! Now!’

But the curtains of old McGregor’s house stayed shut. Nothing moved except Gunga Din and his wives strutting up and down the chicken run waiting to be let out. Benjamin looked around nervously. ‘Why doesn’t he come and discuss our demands?’

‘That’s what’s supposed to happen,’ said Peter quietly. The rabbits grew silent and waited for Old McGregor to open the kitchen door. Suddenly a shot rang out.

‘Run for your lives!’ barked Peter.

‘McGregor?’ said Benjamin.

‘McGregor,’ he replied pointing towards the garden gate.

The old man was leaning against the gatepost; the shotgun resting on his shoulder, his trigger finger itching. On the other shoulder, looking quite comfortable and nibbling a lettuce leaf, nestled Delilah.

**

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