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Dòmhnull Dubh

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…


Comparative silence…

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.

Freya walks.

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!”


1 Steve Green { 11.14.11 at 11:46 am }

It would seem no matter how fast Duncan drives, it’ll never be fast enough to leave his past behind.

Nicely humourous, and as always great on the descriptive.

2 Stephen Hewitt { 12.07.11 at 8:38 am }

@Steve — Hi there Steve. Yes, Duncan has taken a while to get his just deserts, but they catch up with him in the end 😉 Glad you enjoyed the wee tweaks of humour in there.

@Helen — Thanks Helen. He’s fast, all right, but not quite fast enough . Yeah, that ewe got into a few back gardens a week or two later so it’s doing fine, and is well stuffed on winter veg.

@Harry — hey Harry, glad you liked it. Hadn’t heard of the Baja 1000 (and I had a moment of Bhaji 1000 when I first read it — which sounds like the ultimate Indian starter) but checking it out, it does seem very similar.

3 Helen { 11.15.11 at 6:48 am }

Welcome back! and what a grand tale to strike out with. Seems once a fast boy always a fast boy…. I hope Gallen Fordoun got that ewe sorted out. ^__^

4 Harry B. Sanderford { 11.16.11 at 10:44 pm }

Quite a wild ride, loved every second!

5 Harry B. Sanderford { 11.16.11 at 10:49 pm }

Had me thinking of the Baja 1000.

6 Joan { 11.19.11 at 3:44 pm }

Yes – good luck with the new job and flat.

Love ‘…thick arms and smack-sack hands, that make him part gorilla, part wheel monkey, all Scottish rally driver.’

Lovely paragraph following that – the man, the car, the environment, and the co-driver – very artfully described – words tumbling over each other in a way that the scene itself must look.

I love the idea of Freya being in stilettos. Nice the way Freya walks (hadn’t realised Freya was a woman, but I looked back – ‘voluptuous’ – there was a clue I missed – I’m very old-fashioned with names – ‘Freya’ could have been a surname for me – but ignore that in me, of course) – anyway, she walks but he doesn’t – I like the way you’ve said that.

7 Stephen Hewitt { 12.07.11 at 8:50 am }

Hi there Joan — that ‘smack-sack hands’ line was fun to write – just really seemed like our man.

Words tumbling over often feels like how I write. 🙂

Somehow, Freya had to have stilettos — her way of snickering at the rather macho world of Rally Driving, I think. Definitely female. Definitely world-class at her job.

Freya is an old Scots name, probably gifted from the Norse, I suspect, by looking at it. I’m guessing it’s a Tommy two-ways when it comes to forename or surname.

She walks… was kind of the image that popped into my head and happily allowed me to avoid any icky-yick..


8 John Xero { 11.25.11 at 8:52 am }

I didn’t have any problem with the voice at all, you often run to dialect and I always find it adds a further layer of realism to your unrealities… 😉

A common twist, but understated and very well-played.

Best of luck with all that intrusive ‘real life’ stuff. Take care, mate. =)

9 Stephen Hewitt { 12.07.11 at 8:55 am }

@John — glad you managed to hop over those dialect-strewn stiles. 🙂

An old twist with a new coat of paint.

Yeah, real-life is tromping around here with clogs on. But I’m trying to organize myself into commenting, replying and writing again in an orderly fashion.


10 Aidan Fritz { 12.03.11 at 3:34 am }

I love the description of Duncan, particularly the harlequin outfit. Best of luck getting some skritching time in.

11 Stephen Hewitt { 12.07.11 at 8:57 am }

@Aidan — thanks Aidan. Harlequins and Duncan seemed to have much in common.

Skritching is going slow, but if I manage to multi-task in any way shape or form, I may be able to get something done 😉


12 jenny dreadful { 01.28.12 at 5:21 am }

ARGH. My stupid American ways. The dialect threw me off.

13 Stephen Hewitt { 02.08.12 at 11:32 pm }

@Jenny — ach, no. I’d say that was MY fault. I’ll write something more inclusive next time, with a punnet or two less of those crinkly, Scotch words. It’ll still be weird… but inclusive, even if I have to put on a falsetto, English writing voice. Proper diction and all sorts. lol. St.

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