Green Magpies

“Green magpies? I don’t think they exist. They don’t have a page on Wikipedia.”

“Well keep looking. Didn’t you ever go to the docks?” a voice responded with contempt.

“No. The docks aren’t what I called a good time back then. Anyway, that’s seagull land. Aren’t any magpies in seagull land. Especially your bullshit green ones.” The uncouth man contested.

La Pantha, commonly visited by local undergraduates, offered several secluded seating areas next to its bustling dance floor. This anonymity and the well-stocked supply of cheap larger, ensured the duo’s loyal return. One skinny man, in a heavy green jacket and a battle-worn pair of jeans, faced a spherical giant. The unshaven behemoth would often joke that it was his scraggy moustache that prevented him from joining the military, though it was actually his tendency to scream at pigeons.

“What makes you so sure?” David quizzed anxiously, who had detected a slight shift away from the prepared interview questions.

“Well, seagulls, David. Seagulls are vicious fuckers. They seem normal when you first see them, flying about and all, maybe the odd squawk if they’re really feeling it. The crack is though when they see a child with a paper cone of chips, or a half-eaten battered sausage, nothing is going to stop that seagull tearing into the cunt. Boom. Seagull has it. Those seagulls, boring and bland, will fuck you. Don’t trust them.”

David adjusted his glasses. Little did his colleague know that David had been doing an open access course in Philosophy & Society at the Open University. This was his time to assert his intellectual superiority upon the sub-human ticket collector.

“Well, Steve. It is hardly a surprise. The banality of evil is well documented after all.”

“As are witless cunts. A stupid saying for stupid people. Haven’t you heard about the penguins?” Steve earnestly announced as droplets of his saliva escaped odorous captivity.

Irritated, David took his glasses off for a small polish. Known to be a very David sign of agitation, the decision to engage in such a polish was certainly political. They returned to his face whilst two bushy eyebrows danced abrasively.

“Well, should we get onto it?”

“No. The penguins are important David.”

“Alright. Well, yes. I have heard about penguins.”

Letting out a wearisome sigh, David looked at his wrist.

I should have put my watch on, David thought, eyes darting to find alternative excuses.

“No David, look. You’re not getting the importance of this. Look. The penguins, right, the penguins fuck each other. But not just when they’re alive, no. In the cold, blistering, terrible, unforgiving cold penguins die. And to stay warm, they fuck the dead ones. Necrophiliac penguin orgies. Never see that on nature documentaries, do you? Banality, David, banality is found in the prescription of truth by people who think that there’s a nice little pretty order to things. There isn’t anything bland about necrophiliac penguin orgies. That’s one of the things that makes it so evil.”

“But you think you know what’s best. Maybe some of the penguins don’t fuck the dead ones? Maybe some penguins believe in the sanctity of orthopaedic life bonds?” David tried to reason, clutching to the dream that is March of the Penguins.

“The ones that die, sure. Again, that’s one of the reasons that makes it so evil. I know that I don’t know. There’s a difference.”

“Can we get onto it now?” David pleaded.

“No, not quite. Cuckoos.”

“Look, we don’t have tim-“

“No, we do. Trust me.” Steve struck his palm on the table, adamant to continue this tenaciously disastrous conversation to the bitter end.

“Fine. Cuckoos. Shoot.”

“The Cuckoo, a humble inspiration to clockmakers and time enthusiasts alike, don’t rear their young themselves. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and just fuck off. The chicks hatch and instinctively kill the original chicks, often pushing the eggs to the ground. The parent birds, being dim-witted fucks, have no idea what’s going on and just keep feeding, and feeding and feeding. So, what do all these birds have in common?”

“That they’re birds?” David said while attempting to communicate utter desperation through his eyes.

Steve smirked, which would have turned into a chuckle if not for a rouge crumb of pork pie, ending its journey as a debilitated choke. One clumped, sweaty rat tail bounced from behind his head, gleaming in the interchanging lights.

“No, they are all successful. The seagull, the penguin, the cuckoo, they all succeed because they just don’t give a fuck. They go for it. They do what needs to be done. And that, David, that is why you’re not going to regret hiring me. I am the Machiavellian bird of salesmanship.”

“Sure, sure,” David muttered these words as he thoroughly regretted offering Steve the job.

How Steve, a bestial oaf in suspiciously stained camo gear, with misshapen man boobs which warped with the grace of desert sands, was as well-read as he was astonishingly frustrating. His potential offender vibe was much lower when they first spoke on the phone.

David placed a leather briefcase onto a table of oscillating colours from a disorientated lighting system. The briefcase disconcertingly congealed into the surface, as clientele bounced around the demented pinball machine of sweaty flesh. Clubs. They never did get better. David pulled out a small contract and a couple of bottles of cleaning liquid.

“Alright, so here’s the product. Do you use it at your home?” David asked, who already knew the answer.

“No.”

“Yes, you do. So, you’ll be going from door to door starting from next Monday. Sign the contract and hand it into me tomorrow. I’ll have your lanyard and stock sorted by then. Take these for pitching, you can practice with them over the weekend. Remember, it goes problem, cause, the solution then inspire. Urgency sells. Use the case study of that baby who died from the mould. Maybe you are right.”

Steve shoved his hand into one of his many Velcro pockets, which covered his camo jacket as a leopard wears spots.

“Take this David,” Steve said while thrusting an oily lump of clay into his hand.

David, alarmed, opened his hand. It was a small seagull candleholder, bearing tell tail signs of being designed by a frustrated child. Its beak stretched open in apparent agony.

“I made this in art therapy today. I want you to have it, David, to show my appreciation of everything you’ve done for me.”

David, in a feeble attempt to break from this socially tortuous event, gave Steve a cumbersome pat on the shoulder.

“You… Errr….keep on trucking Steve. I’ll meet you at the office at 9 a.m.?”

“Yer, sure. See you then.”

David spun around on his chair and set off for the door. Walking out at the same time as an applicant was always a dreadful experience, especially fucking Steve. He didn’t know why he decided to join the sponsor program, or why he felt good helping Steve get this job. Internal interrogation wasn’t the task of the moment though. Once past the double doors, things should be OK.

David opened his email on his phone and copied the postcode into maps. Two miles. Not so bad, thought David, as he meandered down dark cobbled streets of foreboding plot.

The road twisted and winded like the roots of a gnarled tree, cutting through a myriad of winged insects, which danced synchronistically to lunar curiosities. A multiplicity of orbs hung low, dotted on a dark tapestry of ancient speculations. Transmuting into a trident, the road was now a crossroads. David swung his bright green rucksack to the floor and opened the top. His hand found an icy cylinder and a small box of rustling burners. As David tickled the lid into a crack and threw a few ghostly rings into the shimmering air, a bristly hand gripped his ankle. In a panicked flail, David fell to the ground, kicking frantically.

“AHH!” David screamed, who didn’t feel this was an appropriate time to be fondled.

Whatever it was had disappeared. He cast his eyes across his surroundings, though the perpetrator was nowhere to be seen.

Weird, David thought, getting up while brushing the dust of his tatty but long-loved jacket. Probably best to scurry home at this point.

Timidly, the thirty-year-old recruiter shuffled towards a new and mysterious world. That was when he heard the cough. It wasn’t the cough of a human, rather a grizzly squeak, like a mouse undergoing a prostate exam. A baboon, around the size of two cats sown together, was perched on a Slow Down sign looking down at David. His maroon fur was mattered, while his eyes, emerald and piercing, reverberated an infinite regression of eternal comprehensions.

“Greetings child of Adam,” spoke the aloof baboon.

“Where is it that you are going?”

Panicked, David wasn’t sure how to respond. Do sane people normally see talking baboons? If so, is it encouraged to converse with speaking baboons? Probably not. That said, for all David’s faults he was good and handling new and offbeat situations, something he put down to surviving Selskab’s 90s Acid House Rave.

“Hey. So, you talk?” David probed verbally.

“Yes.”

David stood there looking at the baboon for a few minutes.

“Did you grab me?”

“Yes.”

David again stood silently looking at the baboon for a few minutes.

“Was that necessary?”

The baboon looked David up and down.

“Your life is boring. You wish for more.” The baboon said wilily, and if you asked David, arrogantly at that.

“No. For your information, I just enrolled in a free online course at the Open University. My life is quite fulfilling thank you very much.”

The baboon didn’t seem very impressed.

“Child of Adam. In your hand is a shovel.” The superior mammal stated.

“No there isn’t,” said David, who looked down at his hands to find a golden shovel.

“Use this shovel to dig at the centre of the crossroads. There you will find the knowledge that you seek. Greater knowledge than even the highly prestigious Open University can offer you.”

So he had heard of it, thought David, very happy with himself.

But before he could fish for further complements the baboon had disappeared. Irritated, David glanced at the crossroads.

How rude, thought David, looking at his shovel.

Realizing he could just sell the shovel, apparently made of gold, David started walking home. Then David realized he could dig up the treasure and then sell the shovel, so he walked back. Swinging the shovel down with all the force he could muster, the metal struck the soil, which produced an echo aligned to the music of the spheres. The ground gave way to reveal a foot-long emerald tablet. Panting, David dived upon the tablet, scooping it up and placing it awkwardly into his inner jacket pocket. The golden shovel had disappeared.

“Fucking baboon.”

Hunched over an old mahogany desk in a crimson chesterfield armchair, both of which had been inherited from his grandfather, David meditated on the refracted candlelight which danced across the surface of an illuminated emerald tablet. David had forgotten that he had previously forgotten to pay the electricity bill. Not being the first time, the power companies dealt a heavy hand. Etched into the tablet were a variety of spells, split into four boxes. They were entitled divination, theurgy, animism and transmutation respectively. At the top of the tablet was carved:

As is above, as is below. It is our thoughts that make is so.

David’s finger trailed down the list, trembling at the potential potency of these various proceedings. Summoning demons didn’t seem like an entry-level incantation, David felt those were a bit loaded, so he left them alone. Divination seemed a bit dull, and anyway knowing your future would probably be disappointing and anxiety-inducing. Transmutation looked interesting, but David didn’t have any of the various metals necessary. So, animism it was. Shaking, David placed the clay seagull onto the desk. It really was a shit seagull, if it did come alive, he wasn’t certain one wing shorter than the other would be conducive of flight, or if indeed it wouldn’t just spend all its time in distorted agony pleading for death.

A faint tear of paper, the scratching of a pen, a tap of a seagull’s heart. David stared intently at the misshapen bird. David blinked. One wing seemed higher than it had been, but he couldn’t be sure. Picking up his pen, David went to jab it, but before he did, he got too scared. Tacitly, he crept towards the window behind his desk, then threw the pen as hard as he could at the seagull’s head. The pen was gaining momentum, pelting towards it’s intended target. Just as it was about to strike the unthinkable happened. The pen had stopped. Between the seagull’s beak. And all it took was a little piece of paper and one Hebrew word.

יהוה

The seagull stretched out its neck, raising its head with the jittery intervals of a stop motion animation. Like a thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards, it let out a terrible screech, shattering David’s window and waking up his ginger cat, who upon seeing her master in dire peril decided to go back to sleep again. The seagull looked directly at David, it’s one stumpy wing rotating with brooding intent. David, fixed to the spot, watched the seagull charge straight for his head, before veering up at the last moment and out of his bedroom window. Hell cast a moonlit silhouette across the unsuspecting villagers of Hallstatt, as its creator watched helplessly in heretic awe.

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Published by Coffee & Alex

Alexander Clarke is a sole trader who writes and teaches. He’s published articles, blog posts, short stories and poems. He’s taught philosophy, theology, ESOL and PSHE.

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