Author Topic: Challenge 33 (Laird Story) Entries 3 & 4 of four  (Read 2329 times)

Offline Gyppo

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Challenge 33 (Laird Story) Entries 3 & 4 of four
« on: September 25, 2007, 06:09:28 PM »
          Here are the second two contenders for Challenge 33, which had to end with the line 'And that's how We/They/I/etc finally got rid of The Laird Of Camster.'  Four very different tales despite leading to the same conclusion.


Contender Three:  1245 wds

Whisky, whisky, Nancy whisky.

The hard part was how to tell a Scotsman that his whisky tasted like something out of a cats litter tray, that meant the easy part was telling him what you were actually going to use for. Well, he had been going on about how good it was, the water of life he called it and now it was going to be just that.

The whole crux of the plan was that the dragons had no taste buds, so it wouldn't even taste the foul stuff, and the little known fact that dragons had no alcohol tolerance. How we'd become trapped in a cavern with a dragon from ancient folklore between us and our freedom is a story for another evening. As it was I had to talk Jamie into giving up his prize possession, the last remaining bottle in the world of "The Laird of Camster" whisky.

So I said, "Jamie, someone here has to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and I'm afraid I'm not talking about giving up your life, or your virginity, but something harder that that."

I could tell by the puzzled look on his face that he wasn't on the same wavelength and I was going have to have to spell it out. "The only way we're going to get past that dragon and out of this cavern is to disable it, and seeing how we don't have any weapons worth a damn, the only thing we can do is get it to go to sleep."

"And how are we going to do…… Oh, no", the light was beginning to dawn. "Over my dead body", he continued. "It's the last bottle in the whole world and I'm not going to see it disappear getting a dragon drunk!"

"Jamie look at this way, if the dragon eats you, your more than likely to have the bottle on you. Which means your dead and your whisky is gone anyway. At least this way there is enough whisky in the bottle for you to get as drunk as the dragon. Well, maybe not but it’s the best idea we've got so far".

Jamie took a loving look at the bottle the lifted his eyes to me and said, "Dragon steak and whisky would taste nice, don't you think?"

"I'm afraid your going to have to marinade it the hard way instead", I replied.

With a look of resignation he turned away from me and stared over the top of the boulder at the dragon and whispered over his shoulder, "How long before he'll go to the basin to drink again?"

"Another hour or two would be my guess." I replied.

"Just time for a nip or two before I do the dirty deed" he said turning back to me with a smile upon his face.

"Jamie, I know that this is an awful sacrifice for you to make so you drink what you think we can get away with and I'll not ask for any for myself."

At this he looked me in the eye and said "For an Englishman you’re all right, a true pal." If only I could tell him the truth, I hated the stuff, give me a good bottle of Irish whiskey any day.
I sat back and let the silence fall, these moments were going to be as sacred as any religious ceremony ever could be. Jamie cracked open the bottle and lifted to his nose, his eyes closed and a look of pure delight crossed over his young face. Slowly, he lifted the bottle to his lips and took the barest of sips and let the whisky slowly trickle through his mouth and down the back of his throat. He was a man in his own personal heaven and perfectly at peace with himself, a look of pure pleasure stealing across his face.

Over the next twenty minutes this repeated itself four or five times until he finally opened his eyes and looked at me like a man who had just met his god and been blessed.

"Time to let go of the past and look forward to an unknown future, who knows I may still be able to find a bottle hidden away somewhere. At least it gives me a life quest." He said as he opened his eyes.

"Wish me luck", he said as he moved to the side of the boulder before beginning a crawl across the cavern floor to a natural basin at the side of the cavern. This basin seemed to get half full of water every few hours and the dragon would then come and drink it dry. That the creature hadn't figured out that we were there yet was a surprise but I was willing to worship whatever god that had made it so.

Jamie made it to the basin and uncorked the bottle again but I could tell from his body language that he was struggling with himself inside. It seemed his instinct for survival had won out as he started to pour the whisky into the water that had already accumulated in the basin. With maybe a couple of nips left to go he stopped and the bottle went to his lips and he tipped the remainder down his throat in one mighty gulp, nothing sacred about this just pure devilment.

He looked back at me and smiled while at the same time licking his lips. Seeing that mischievous and satisfied smile on his face I shared his joy at this final act of farewell. Jamie then began the crawl back to our hiding place, clutching and guarding the empty bottle as had the full. "Now we wait", he said as he got back behind the boulder.

Sure enough, within half an hour the dragon moved to the basin and began to drink. There are things that people see during their lives which are totally unique to them, how many of you can claim to have seen a dunk dragon? It took a while for the whisky to take affect but the coordination between leg and tail and even eye and wing went out the window. The eyes glazed over and I swear he was singing rugby songs in dragonian.

After a while Jamie turned to me and said, "Are you sure he'll fall asleep and not just get a bad headache and a nastier disposition from a dragon sized hangover?"

"Nothing in this life is sure but I'm thinking even if he sees us now he's in no state to do anything about it", I replied. That's the point we both stood up and ran as fast as we could for the cavern entrance, hell we had a better chance than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Half way across the cavern you could see that the dragon had finally become aware of us and was trying to focus his crossing eyes.

I guess that in its drunken state it must have staggered into the cavern wall or disturbed something that brought the roof down. All I know it wasn't the dragon that was on our heels when we came running out of there but tons of falling rock and dust. Anyway, never mind the dragon, that’s how we finally got rid of "The Laird Camster"


Contender Four:  1174 wds

He was a fine, big man and he had a fine, big temper. Some said it was the result of his Scottish clan genes, that strange mix of paternalism and warrior that was blended in his family's long lineage. Whatever it was, it was some sight to see him standing there in the doorway of the restaurant kitchen, his head seeming on fire with rage and his fierce blue eyes roving restlessly around looking for the miscreant.

'What's the meaning of this?' he would roar. 'Who gave you leave to just discard the contents of my stockpot? I'll have your guts for garters, so I will.'

'Stockpot, stockpot,' screamed the Italian cook, letting off a steam of invective in the direction of the Laird's departing back. He raised high a meat cleaver and slammed it down hard on the block. 'Soma day, soma day,' he howled, following it with what sounded like the full text of Dante's Inferno. We didn't know exactly what he was saying, but we were in no doubt as to his meaning. This was his kitchen. The Laird had better watch his step.

To me, with no real experience of the wide range of British culture other than that got from Eastenders, the Laird's accent seemed to be a strange mix of Scottish and Irish. But I was no linguist, so who was I to say? Just three years out of school and with a passion for food, I had somehow found myself in this wintry spot in the middle of what was supposed to be my summer break. The guests as they came into the restaurant shivered from the chill of the rain.

And then, as quickly as the storm had come, it passed away, rumbling into the distance. The Laird, as they called him - after his restaurant, which was named The Laird of Camster - passed from table to table, his red cheeks crumbling into merriment as he exchanged light conversation with the diners. Grumbling gently, he allowed the Americans and Japanese to snap him as he stood with his arms around their husbands or wives, his sailor-blue eyes narrowed as if he stared off into infinity.

I was young and inclined to creep around him, hoping not to be noticed. I only got away with it for three weeks. Then he came up behind me suddenly one evening, as I was putting on my coat to leave. 'Come in and have a wee word with me before you go,' he said. I hesitated. It seemed like a gentle suggestion, and yet he was pushing the door into his office open and forming an arch with his great right arm, while his left shepherded me under it into the book-lined room, leaving me no room for escape.

I stood inside for a moment, uncertainly, and then he was pushing me into a soft chair by the window. 'It's time we got to know each other, lad,' he said. 'Don't you think?'

I didn't know what to say. I couldn't imagine what he could possibly want to know about me. Wasn't it all on the CV I had sent before I got the job? But that wasn't enough for him. He wanted to know why I had chosen his place, what I thought of Scotland, what my parents thought of my philosophy course, and what I wanted to do with my life.

I found myself explaining, honestly, that of the ten applications I had made for summer jobs, his had been the first response. I hadn't seen much of Scotland because of the restaurant hours, outside of which I mostly slept. My parents thought that my philosophy course was a waste of time, and that I would struggle to get a job out of it. Finally, my tongue loosened by the 'wee dram' he had pushed across to me, that made me gag and cough, I told him, 'I don't know what I want to do with my life. My girlfriend finished with me just before I came up here. At the moment I feel that life can do what it wants with me.'

He was silent for a long, long time: so long that I wondered if he had grown tired of our conversation, or had fallen asleep. Then he turned that blazing red head to me, his blue eyes burning on mine.

'Life is not a thing,' he said. 'It's not something that happens to you. It's something you live, the way you wear a coat. If you don't live it, you may as well leave it hanging on a hook and forget about it.'

Those words seemed profound to me just then, but now I think it might have been the whisky. When I examined them years later, in the light of my new philosophical thinking abilities, it seemed to me that there was a flaw in them. What if the coat, or the life, didn't fit? What if it got torn, or simply washed away to nothing? What if you simply didn't care for the cut of it.

But I didn't say that then. I probably wouldn't have been able to articulate it, anyway, even if it had occurred to me. The Laird seemed to need something from me, and I felt too young and awkward to give it. So I smiled, rose unsteadily to my feet and, thanking him, stole away.

That was the last time the Laird and I had a real conversation. I learned afterwards that this was part of his routine, how he ran his restaurant. He made this one effort to get to know his staff, young or old, and it seemed to be enough for him, and for them also. Whatever about the Italian cook's histrionics, he was still there ten years later. I know because Jenny told me: Jenny, whom I chatted up in the kitchen the next day, and who became my long time girlfriend and later, much later, my wife.

It was Jenny who showed me the newspaper with its terrible headline: Scottish Restaurant Owner Stabbed. It wasn't the Italian cook who had done it, or any of the other kitchen workers. It was someone who, uninvited, had been disturbed in the Laird's office, getting to know the contents of his petty cash box. It seemed a terribly ignominious way for someone so much larger than life to die.

I left my law practice to travel up with Jenny for the funeral. The Laird had no close relatives, or at any rate none who bothered to turn up for the funeral. The Italian cook acted as family. Afterwards he cried as he sprinkled the ashes on the little brook that ran alongside the restaurant. We watched, imagining them flowing down the hill to freedom in the sea.

And that was how life finally got rid of The Laird of Camster.


Here's a link to the poll.

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