Friday, April 21, 2017

"Cold as a polar bear's arse."

The World Below
THERE WAS A FACTION in the unruly parliaments of Jack Delfan’s head which hoped to be the one to make the discovery, but nine years would pass before such a wish had chance of fulfillment and it was Hob who was digging in the depths with only the hiss of the Colman paraffin pressure lamp for company when the break through occurred. Hard years under his belt and a wisp of beard about his chin as he turned with loaded shovel in hand and felt the rock give way beneath his right foot so that he fell forward onto his face. And cursed. He lay there for a moment. Rose gingerly onto hands and knees and turned to see what had occurred. There was a hole in the floor of the shaft.
            Hob stood gingerly and he went to the rope pull and tugged five times for emergency. He looked about and then he went to the chest of tools and opened it and took out a ball of twine. He lifted the pressure lamp from the iron peg where it hung on the wall and he placed it on the ground. He tied the end of the twine to its handle and freed a length as long as himself and left that coiled on the ground and he tied off the twine to the peg. He slithered forward on his belly with the lamp in one hand. He reached forward and lowered the light into the void. He did not hear his father descending. Far below him a pebble dropped into water and the ripples spread and the sound of it sang as if in a cathedral designed to take a singer’s voice and amplify it and its accompanying harmonies in praise of god or whatever means the good.
            Holy shit, whispered Hob.
            There was a scrabbling above and then the patriarch’s head came down to join him.
            My cock’s a Scottish kipper, said Jack Delfan. Pickled in brine.
            Yes, father.
            Tie the bucket off on a length of rope and bring it to me, boy.
            To do what with?
            I’m going to bring up some water, Hobby. I want to taste it.
            This rock be brittle, father.
            You will fall down there.
            Delfan grabbing the twine that holds the lamp. Roaring like a wounded beast.
            Bucket and rope, boy.
            Hob nodded slowly three times and then he was gone. Delfan could hear, he could feel, the vast spaces of the cavern. He inhaled the clean holy scent of water on rock. Jack Delfan murmuring in awe.
            This would make Abraham himself quake at the knees.
            Delfan flinging out an arm as a layer of shale gives way beneath his chest, three feet of twine going through his fingers before he arrests the fall of the lamp.
            Where the hell is the bucket?
            Why don’t you say please?
            Jack Delfan braced and disbelieving where he hangs over the abyss. A shower of rock and sand dropping to splash and ripple and echo in the world below.
            How thy mighty scrawn are fleshed. How are thy hormones riz. Get your prime beef hence and bring me the bucket. With a rope on it. We’ve found water, boy!
            You will fall in, father.
            Delfan listening unbelieving to the mutinous voice from above.
            Bring me the bucket!
            Rock giving way beneath Jack Delfan’s chest. The lamp dropping to the end of its line. Its light reaching out towards new mysteries. And Delfan falling past it to plunge into waters he so desired to taste. He comes to the surface with much thrashing of limbs. His voice biblical in the resonant arena.
            Cold as a polar bear’s arse! Hob? Hobby?
            He sees, peering into the light of the lamp, his son’s face appear above.
            Don’t stare at me as if I was a monster in a zoo. Drop me a rope. Drop the bucket down and I’ll put a foot in it, and you can winch me up.
            Why can’t you say please?
            Jack Delfan an astonished traveller upon dark and uncharted waters.
            Hob? Hobby, me boy? You’ll lose me of the drowning!
            Why can’t you say please?
            This is not a time for philosophical discussion!
            Why don’t you say please?
            I could truly kill you for this!
            For what have I dug for sixteen years?
            I said, not now.
            Drown then.
            I will kill you!
            Delfan treading water a little. Strategizing. Speaking in a tone of gentleness and reason.
            Hobblet, fruit of my loins. Speak true what troubles you now.
Hob’s eyes careful as he stares down. The wielding of power a strange sensation to the boy. The father’s voice coming plaintive from the chilly dark.
Speak true and I will do what I can to answer it.
You promise?
            I promise.
            Hob considering his options, searching for some kind of leverage on this situation.
            You be my father.
            In the book. When they go to Bethlehem.
            And the child is born in the stables.
            Mary be his mother.
            Yes, Hob, that is what the book says. Mary be his mother.
            Who be my mother?
            Jack Delfan emitting the wail of a saint betrayed.
            You hooking swine!
            What is her name? I want to know her name. You said I must speak true what troubles me.
            Delfan's legs pumping furiously. As if the liquid was a ladder he could climb to throttle his offspring.
            Hob, bring me rope or I will curse you and haunt your life in all the corners of the tired world. I will walk with you in foul spirit and turn your every waking minute into nightmare I swear on the book I will.
            Hob’s face hanging far above, sliding out of sight. Delfan shivering and circling by means of an energetic doggy paddle.
            Hob? He calls. Hobby, me boy? Hobblet?

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