Well it’s only taken two weeks to get this edited, and however many weeks before that to get it written, very, very slowly. Each day I figured I’ll break the back of my work, and I’ll get onto my writing and, well, that hasn’t really happened. But, hey, got some words here now, if my laptop holds together long enough to get them on line — stupid thing is still crashing, after the lovely DELL guy came to fix it. Thank goodness I paid for the extended warranty.
My reading of other writers and my own writing may be a little periodic for a while, but I’ll keep looking over and skritching in the gaps. On the plus side, Autumn is very inspiring time of the year. Come on, you lovely golden leaves and misty mornings — work your scrunchy magic!
So here we go, another tale with a Scottish flavour. You may find that last paragraph little too Scottishy to understand, but, hey, I was having fun. Translation available on request.
allen Fordoun is a shepherd of Balbeg – he’s working up the back of the village on the old dirt tracks, patrolling the steel-sprung heather and dull soaks of Galpie Moor. In this day and age, that means taking a quad bike and two sheepdogs – the dogs swaying, tongues lolling, in their black box strapped on the back with octopus springs – and a bunch of ‘screw hoof’ injectors commanded by the vet. Then he’s up the Black Hill beneath the shadow of Ben Hallion, to clamp hands on the glaekit sheep – stray ewes with ‘wull fur brains’, running heads-down before the grey onset of winter.
One of those ewes is tangled in the Long Falls Fence up at the Falls of Brorar. It’s yellin’ an bleaten, an’ callin’ out for its mammie – wire spranging – while the falls rumble on like God’s own prayer. So this is where Gallen stands, sheep in hand – calling out to the little bugger to “Hud still” while a wee man juggles injector and horns – when Black Donald goes rolling by.
“Aye, I kin tell ye, it was the Deevil heeself!”
The ball of black ferns had mysteriously disconnected from the hillside and – in all contradiction of “Gud’s ane gud nature an’ common sense” – had bounced and bundled along, before tossing itself off the waterfall, springing and dripping, with a sort of birdish glee.
‘Devil-may-care’ was the term that sprang to mind.
‘Ach’, thought Gallen, with a look as long and dark as the mist-soaked trees, ‘there’s somebody’s trouble ane the way’.
Duncan McFallen McDonald is a man you’ve heard of: Scottish Raider, World Champion, Dakar Rally Sensation, the toast of Africa (that orange bit on the 1940’s atlas, if you check the mobile library), ‘an them ather ‘furren’ places’. Short, dark, swarthy, hunched over with thick arms and smack-sack hands, that make him part gorilla, part wheel monkey, all Scottish rally driver.
Dressed up like a harlequin in patches of cigarettes and oil, this is a man who can make a car bound and fly on dangling wheels, before the shock-crunch of suspension snow-ploughs mud; scrambling his chocolate-box of colours up dirt tracks or desert roads, slipping into chicanes of folded slurry, back end swinging, engine roaring, superchargers hacking; as Freya M. – his voluptuous co-driver – points out the hazards ahead.
If only she’d started six years ago.
Down the Sheep Pack they say: “Aye, ye’d have to be awful brave to drive a full ten yards with Dunny McFallen at the wheel.” Afore they raise a meaty pint of beer: “But then you’d have to be in the mood for winning, ‘cause he wins awful well, so he does!” And they all chuckle and take a long tup, ‘tashes and beards be-brimmed with white foam.
You could say he was charmed.
This is his triumphant home-coming – a local leg, with the village out – bunting draped on the market pillar and its statue of McRobert (thoughtfully decorated with a traffic cone) and the kiddies swarming with plastic flags (weren’t they all once paper?) and the Balbeg Metro sayin’ ‘day off for all’, and the smell of petrol and oil, and that car o’ his – ‘Dashing Number Five’ – Buenos Aires to Arica and back again in forty five hours flat!
Didn’t he turn out well!
On high wheel arches and wide tyres, Duncan’s Ssangyong Kyron is stripped down and dressed up like a shiny beetle, papered in words and numbers, red and black; and people wonder how you could take such a miraculous thing and throw it down the tracks round here – bad, even for a tractor – and maybe that’s how Fallen learned on those stony old bones. Local lad, you see.
“Awbody’s awful proud!”
But somewhere they forgot the bad old days, when he was young and brutish, and had broken into houses and farms. And that one day, over a rusted shotgun barrel, the Poliss had finally caught up to him.
So this is where the car cuts the corner. It’s a blink of gun-metal and flying fibreglass, red like a red-hot arrow, hurtling the bend, ping-pungs of rubber, gravel-train flying, when the ball o’ devil’s mischief bundles past on its legs of winter’s wind, and…
A long drawn out moment…
The engine screaming blue-bloody murder, with no traction to the gravel and stone beneath.
Before the body cartwheels around a tree.
Davy Laing and Mack Farmer stand stunned, flags rigid, after the back end of the flying machine has swung past their noses: an inch, a hair, a gnat’s-baw-hair away, exhaust wrapping around them like two hands of the Siren of Death.
The engine pinks. Steam hushes from the radiator.
A pair of stilettos kicks out the passenger side glass.
Duncan, not so much.
There were circles they say, on the wall o’ the police station, o’erlapping like an eclipse. A well, dark an’ deep. The kind of dark nook, where an idle mind might slip were he not aware o’ his responsibilities, where deep voices from down below might whisper between the bars: “I’ll give you your dreams, m’boy – fame on a plate. But only so long as the fiddle plays.”
McFallen: boy made good.
“Ach a rough stane, that’d widnie be kind tae an auld bald dug. World champion? Ach, well, mark mah wurds, ah said – it winnie last. Once a trouble, aw ways a trouble. Less said about tha’ big midden tha’ better!”