Monthly Archives: June 2015

Laughing Jack Rides Again

Another competition entry.  Not a winner, sadly.

Ah, a fine night, this.  There hangs the moon, haloed, unobscured, round as a penny, brighter than any lantern.  She’ll light the way to my quarry tonight and no mistake.

‘Tis a cold one, though.  Shadow’s breath billows out of her nostrils in great clouds as she paws the ground nervously with a hoof.

“Easy, my beauty,” I whisper, bending down to caress her sleek, sinewy neck.  “My heart tells me tonight shall bring us good sport.”

The road below is dark and quiet, as it has been for some little time.  These country lanes may be unparalleled for seclusion and lack of witnesses, but prey seldom comes within my grasp.  All the same, I fight back sleep and persevere with my vigil.

Oh Shadow, it’s a lonely life I live.  Dear as you are to me, I need so much more than a graceful black charger.  How I wish I could take a wife, with whom I could share my secrets, pass the time with in the daylight and evenings, then find comfort with through the night.  But no, it would be odiously cruel of me to promise love to a fair lady, when the law could come for me any hour and sunder us forever.

I check the powder in my flintlocks.  Still dry.  I holster them once more, resting a hand upon the hilt of my sword as further reassurance.

Then a distant sound reaches my ears.  Aha!  My instincts are never false to me!  The lights of a coach are passing over the crest of a hill to the east.  If it continues its present course, it will pass along the road beneath me.

“Come, Shadow!” I cry, spurring her on.  “We must be ready to greet them.”

Shadow canters down the hill with me, then through a little copse that leads to the road.  The two of us know this route as we know ourselves, and soon we are beside the road, ready to strike.  A quick glance to the left tells me the coach has not altered course.

I reach into Shadow’s saddlebag, so that I may retrieve and untie the sack that holds my caltrops.  When the coach is almost on top of me, a thrust of my arm hurls the spiny missiles out of the sack and into its path.  Shadow retreats a few paces as the great vehicle rumbles by.

Success!  The caltrops have wrecked two of the coach’s wheels and it is forced to stop.  Riches will soon be mine.

“No need to panic, everyone,” the driver shouts over the commotion of the passengers.  “I’ll just go and inspect the damage.  We’ll be on our way soon.”

He disembarks, and as he inspects the damaged wheels, I kick Shadow into motion.  Riding the driver down while uttering the bright, ringing laugh I am named for, I draw my sword and a firm blow with the pommel causes the hapless fellow to fall.  The passengers now start to panic as they realise what is about to happen.

Dismounting from Shadow, I draw my pistols, leap aboard and take aim round the door of the coach at the seated passengers.

“Stand and deliver!” I bellow.

There is a chorus of screams from the ladies as I bawl my command, but two young boys seem fascinated.

“Cor, look James!  It’s a real ‘ighwayman!  Black mask, big hat an’ all!”

“Wow, yeah!  You reckon ‘is guns are real?”

“They are indeed, young fellow,” I call out, “As is my intention to use them on those who do not pay handsomely for the rare privilege of standing in the presence of the great Laughing Jack, Lord of the Highway!  Now start emptying your pockets, my friends.  Money and jewellery!”

The sack that once held my caltrops now makes a more than adequate depository for my winnings.  Any passengers reluctant to part with their valuables are quickly humbled by a cocked pistol levelled at their heads.  Naturally, I laugh at the impotent rage that seethes behind their eyes.

It is just as I turn and prepare to depart that I notice a passenger whose manner tugs at my consciousness.  I turn again, intrigued by this aberrant sensation.  There I see a young lady, slender as a willow cane and pale as virgin snow.  Straw-like hair frames a lily-white face with wide, watery blue eyes and thick, partly open lips.

The soft hues of the maiden’s dress seem to echo a gauche distance that I perceive in her character.  The gaze she casts upon me as I approach is haunting.  She seems set apart from her fellow travellers, as if she appreciates their company, yet finds it only marginally more preferable than her own.

“Do you fear me, my lady?” I ask her.

“Yes… Sir,” she utters.

I lean towards her and study her closely.  Her hand is at her breast; why?  Is she concealing something?

“Jack will do,” I say with a smile, “And yes, I perceive the fear in your lovely eyes.  That is to be expected.  But I suspect it is not me you fear most of all, nor the guns I carry.  What then do you fear, my fair one?”

Her pale cheeks colour slightly and she gasps, a hand flying to her lips.  It is then that I see what she was concealing.

“That cameo broach about your neck,” I say softly, “It is dear to you, yes?”

“It belonged to my mother,” she whimpers.  “It’s all I have left of her.  Please don’t take it off me.”

Her entreaty does not fall upon deaf ears.  I caress the curve of her chin with a gloved hand and meet her eyes.

“Never fear, madam, I shall not,” I whisper.  “Indeed, there is a token just as precious that I might take instead.”

“I d-don’t understand,” she stammers.

I educate her by pressing my lips against hers.  She squeals in shock, but only for a moment.  As the kiss lingers, I can feel the eyes of the disbelieving passengers upon me.  I break it only when instinct warns me of approaching danger.

“Back, Sir!” I cry, drawing my sword.

I level the tip at the throat of a hefty fellow who had been creeping up on me a heartbeat earlier, his arms outstretched to seize me.  I laugh as force him back.

“No foolhardy traveller makes a prisoner of Laughing Jack,” I utter mockingly.  “I suggest you resume your seat expediently.”

He does so.  I sheathe my sword and seize my booty.

“Safe journey, my good people,” I sing, making for the door.  “Laughing Jack thanks you for your generosity and prays you will remember him, especially you, my lady.”

I raise my tricorn to her, as a gentleman should, then leap to the ground with a flourish and whistle for Shadow.

“Are you alright, Mabel?” I hear one of the passengers say.

“Yes, I’m fine.  He… didn’t hurt me,” replies the fair young woman.

Shadow hurries up to me and once I am upon her back, we gallop into the night.  I laugh with delight as I ride past the coach’s windows.  The intrigued passengers watch me go.  I let them take pictures and film me with their little devices.  It is of no consequence.  They will soon find out that the laws of sweet England are not the master of Laughing Jack.

YOUR MOBILE OR YOUR LIFE!  MODERN DAY HIGHWAYMAN AT LARGE IN THE SOUTHWEST

Gloucestershire police have begun a manhunt for the most unlikely criminal imaginable.  Known only as Laughing Jack, he is a thief who styles himself as an 18th century highwayman, complete with a horse, tricorn hat, black eye mask, flintlock pistols and a basket-hilted sword.  “Jack” is wanted in connection with four roadside hold-ups in southwest England, the last of which was perpetrated only last night.  A tour group coach was heading back to Bristol after a two day excursion in the Cotswolds when the thief punctured its tyres, bludgeoned the driver as he made an inspection and proceeded to rob the passengers.

Although nobody yet knows how this man has so far managed to elude capture, police spokeswoman Trudy Mayhew had this to tell the press.

“We do not condone users of social media who depict Laughing Jack as a loveable rogue who is able to mock justice and defy authority.  He is a violent, thoughtless, possibly delusional man and a menace to law-abiding citizens.  I urge the public to report all sightings of him and any information that may lead to his arrest.”

If judged to be of sound mind when apprehended, Laughing Jack will be charged with assault, criminal damage, larceny, reckless endangerment and demanding money with menaces.  Yet he may escape harassment charges, for although he forced a kiss upon 22-year-old Mabel Fitzhugh in the course of his latest robbery, she appears oddly reluctant to file charges against him.

The Giant’s Pencil Case

It was Friday morning, in Lily Pearson’s first week back after Christmas.

“Alright, 2J,” Miss Jason smiled, “Did everyone bring in their best presents to show the class, like I asked you on Monday?” Everyone had. “Good. I’ll call you in alphabetical order. Then you can stand up at the front and tell us a bit about your gifts.”

Each pupil brought forth their Christmas gifts; mainly toys, computer games and new clothes. Poppy Jacobs even showed the class a collar, since she had got a puppy for Christmas and couldn’t bring pets to school. This was why Lily felt a little small when she showed the class her gift.

“That’s a very nice notebook, Lily,” Miss Jason said warmly, trying to encourage her. “I love the animals on the cover. And look at all those coloured nibs on the pen! Incredible! Who got it for you?”

“Uncle Colin,” Lily managed to say.

“And why was it your favourite gift?” Miss Jason asked. “And speak up so that the class can hear you better.”

“Because I like writing stories and I like the animals too,” said Lily. “Uncle Colin said I could write something down in it whenever… insulation strikes.”

“You mean inspiration,” chuckled Miss Jason. “Well, Lily, your uncle chose very well. You do write the nicest stories.”

“Miss Jason?”

“Yes, Dear?”

“What is in… er, in-sa…”

“Inspiration?” said Miss Jason. “It’s when you see or hear something that you really like and it gives you a fantastic idea of your own.”

“When will I get in-spur-ation, Miss Jason?” smiled Lily.

“I can’t say,” replied Miss Jason, “But you’ll know it when it comes.”

Two weeks later, Lily was no wiser as to what inspiration was. But her parents were going out for the evening and they had a surprise for her.

“Muriel’s back,” they told her.

Lily squealed with delight. Her big cousin Muriel, Uncle Sam’s daughter, had once been her favourite babysitter, but for some reason Muriel hadn’t looked after Lily for ages.

“Don’t they draw Muriels on a wall?” Lily had asked her parents the first time Muriel had come over.

“That’s a mural, Lily,” Mum had said. “Not a Muriel.”

When Muriel came through the door, Lily charged at her and flung her arms around her.

“Great to see you too, Lily,” she gasped, suddenly rather short of breath.

“Where have you been, Muriel?” Lily squeaked.

“Travelling,” she grinned, “Over land all the way from here to Australia. I’ve brought the pictures if you want to see them.”

“Can I please, Mum?” Lily begged.

“Of course,” Mum replied. “Have fun, you two.”

Off Lily’s parents went. After Muriel had eaten dinner with Lily, then played a couple of games of Buckaroo with her, she attached her camera to the digital TV and began showing Lily the photos she had taken while travelling.

Lily sat spellbound as picture after picture of strangely dressed people and remarkable buildings met her eyes. And the names those places were called! Neuschwannstein, the Hagia Sophia, Ephesus, Persepolis, the Qutab Minar, Angkor Wat…

Then came a shot that actually made Lily gasp.

“Look at the trees on that lorry!” she squeaked. “They’re black inside. Are they burned?”

“No, Lily,” said Muriel. “That wood’s called ebony. It’s the same wood black piano keys are made from. I took that photograph in Borneo. Ebony grows in the jungles there.”

“It looks just like…” Lily began. “Wait a minute, Muriel.”

Muriel watched dumbfounded as Lily dashed out of the room and scrambled up the stairs to her bedroom. She returned moments later with her notebook and multi-nibbed pen.

“Lily, whatever are you doing?” Muriel chuckled.

Lily didn’t answer her at first, but wrote furiously in the notebook. Muriel actually laughed out loud when she saw what Lily had written.

Two weeks afterwards, Lily showed Miss Jason her notebook again.

“Is this another of your stories, Lily?” her teacher asked.

Lily nodded quickly. Like Muriel, Miss Jason laughed at what she saw inside the notebook.

The Giant’s Pencil Case?” she grinned. “Is this based on Jack and the Beanstalk, Lily?”

“No, Miss Jason,” said Lily. “I was looking at some photos with Muriel and inspiration striked.”

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Miss Jason replied. “And by the way it’s “struck”. Inspiration struck.”

She ushered Lily back to her desk to start the lesson.

Consequences (Number Seven)

More in a week, when I’m back from holiday!

This is the story of a man called Santiago and a woman called Sue.

One day, quite by chance, they met at a strip club.

Santiago, who was naturally more confident than Sue, introduced himself by saying; “Will you mary me?”

Sue responded by saying; “Sod off!”

And you’ll never guess what happened next (or maybe you can)…

Santiago walked off in shame.

Consequences (Number Six)

The things that happen when you play this game!

This is the story of a man called Dougie and a woman called Shirley.

One day, quite by chance, they met down an alley.

Dougie, who was naturally more confident than Shirley, introduced himself by saying; “How about a game of Twister?”

Shirley responded by saying; “I’ve only got five quid!”

And you’ll never guess what happened as a result…

Ze Germans vun ze Vurld Cup!

Consequences (Number Five)

Another strange one, with names changed.

This is the story of a man called Ollie and a woman called Patna.

One day, quite by chance, they met on board a revolutionary space hotel.

Olie, who was naturally more confident than Patna, introduced himself by saying; “That’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

Patna responded by saying; “Get lost, you dirty tosser!”

And you’ll never guess what happened next…

Ollie cried on the way back home.