Author Topic: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)  (Read 3158 times)

Offline Mark H

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Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« on: May 06, 2008, 04:53:25 AM »
This story started life as a challenge entry a few months ago. But without the word count limit of the challenge I have been able to develop it quite a bit.

     The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)

     Nigel Dixon was not looking forward to telling his wife about The Laird of Bealach Brogue. "Dreadful news my dear … I'm terribly sorry to have to inform you … it is with great sadness." He stopped at the bird-table and tipped The Laird's breakfast onto the platform knowing that within seconds of moving off his adopted grey squirrel 'Tebbit' would be on the table tucking into a hearty meal.

     He pushed open the door to the cottage. Margaret sat at the oak table spreading thick-cut marmalade onto a piece of buttered white toast. Nigel opened his mouth and was about to embark on his prepared, breaking of news –cum condolences speech, when she looked up at him and scowled. "That was quick."

     Nigel's mind went blank. "The Laird of Bealach Brogue's dead."

     "What do you mean dead?"

     "What do you mean, what do you mean dead?"

     Margaret replied with a glare, stood up from the table and stepped towards him. Nigel took one pace back. "I took his breakfast down to the shed as usual and found him dead."

     "Are you sure?"

     "Well he's not breathing. And he's stiff — his hands are clenched tighter than the clasp on your handbag."

     She gave him another furious glare. "This is no time for jokes."

     "Well you better call the police." Nigel nodded towards the phone as if she might not understand him if he didn't indicate the precise equipment she should use to make the call.

     "Me! Why me? You spent more time with him than I did."

     "But I was only obeying orders," Nigel said, sotto voce.

      "How am I going to explain that we had a Scottish Laird living in our shed?"

     "Well you should have thought of that before you invited the old bugger to stay," Nigel said with a certain amount of glee.

     The saga began two years ago. Margaret went into the shed to get her pink wellies and found a tramp asleep on the shed floor. She immediately scampered back to the house to get him a plate of bread and milk.

     "Any normal suburban housewife would oik the filthy creature out, not feed him," Nigel said.

     "Well I'm not normal am I? You tell me that often enough." She crumbled another slice of white bread onto the plate. "Anyway, I would do at least this for a lost hedgehog surely a human being deserves similar consideration?"

     Nigel's protestations were ignored and Margaret told the tramp — who answered to the name of Gilbert — that he could stay for a couple of days. Nigel was given the job of delivering Gilbert's breakfast. To ensure he wasn't tardy in the role of deliverer-of-breakfast, Margaret wrote 'FEED TRAMP' on a post-it note and pinned it onto the kitchen corkboard next to his lottery tickets.

     As these things tend to do, a couple of nights turned into a couple of weeks and before Nigel knew it, the tramp-in-the-shed became a permanent fixture. As it turned out, Gilbert (who was not in fact a Laird at the time he moved into the Dixons' shed) was a jolly decent bloke, and once Nigel became used to the smell, he got to quite enjoy the tramp's company.

     "How did you end up like this Gilbert?" Nigel asked one morning as Gilbert tucked into a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

     Gilbert didn't reply until he'd finished his cornflakes and drunk two small shots of meths. He looked up at his host: "The usual story; women and booze. I was a High-Court judge you know."

     Nigel raised an eyebrow. "Go on," he said, "tell me about it."

     "It was a wonderful life. The wigs, the black tights, those big red capes with the rabbit collars."

     "Ermine I suppose?"

     "Herman who?" Gilbert asked.

     "Never mind. Do go on. What went wrong?"

     "Women mainly. It's the power you know. They love it."

     Nigel looked down at Gilbert sitting there on a discarded grow bag. He wore a stinking old gabardine mackintosh — circa Harold Wilson — fastened with a belt of bale twine, scruffy old army hobnails (with no laces) and a pair of 1948 oxford bags that he'd no doubt nicked from either a scarecrow or a Guy Folks dummy. His hair had not been cut or washed for a number of decades and was now in need of some serious conditioning (assuming the brave souls at L'Oreal or Pantene would even agree to take on the challenge). "Beating the girls off with a stick then were you Gilbert?" Nigel asked.

     Gilbert nodded his head vigorously: "Yes I was. It all went wrong when my wife caught me in bed with two of the court clerks: Sally and Richard."

     "You what!? Did you say Richard?"

     Gilbert gave one of his rarely seen wry smiles: "Shocked are you Mr. Dixon."

     "Er no; not at all. Please continue."

     "Well that's it really. My wife threw me out. I moved from friend to friend to B&B to park bench and eventually fate deposited me on your shed floor. The whole thing happened in the blink of an eye. Bloody women!"

     "I know what you mean old son," said Nigel. "If Margaret gives me one more of her 'little jobs' to do, I think I might just sod off and go and live in some other bugger's shed."

     "Now then. I won't hear a word said against your good wife Mr. Dixon. She's a kind and attractive woman."

     The booze has probably rotted his brain, Nigel thought.

     One evening Nigel decided to broach the subject of the missing petrol with Margaret. They were sitting in the lounge after dinner, drinking wine and reading their library books. Nigel closed his John Grisham novel and took a sip of Merlot. There was no point beating around the bush, she had to be told. "You're plan to cure Gilbert's alcoholism is not going as well as you think."

     Margaret peered at him over the top of her book. She gave him a look he knew to mean, go on.

     "Every time I go to mow the lawn all the petrol is missing — from the mower and from the jerry-can."

     Margaret closed her book. "How long has this been going on?"

     "Just a few weeks," he said.

     "You've been letting that poor man drink petrol for a number of weeks: that's disgraceful."

     "I've not been letting him. He's been bloody stealing it. I'm the victim here Margaret. It's costing me about a tenner a week at the moment."

     She slammed her book down: "You selfish bastard. You sit there whinging about a few pounds while poor Gilbert destroys his insides with YOUR foul mower petrol. Go and take him a bottle of sherry."

     "But we've only got the really expensive Amontillado."

     "I don't care! Take it to Gilbert."

     "But—"

     "Now!" Margaret stamped her foot.

     Nigel understood foot stamping to imply that further debate would un-welcome. He tutted and headed for the drinks cabinet in the dinning room. Out of sight of his wife he poured the Amontillado into an empty brandy bottle then furtled about in the back of the cabinet until he found what he was looking for. It took quite a bit of effort to get the top of the Grappa bottle. It had been in the cupboard since their Tuscany trip fifteen years ago and had probably not been opened in … fifteen years. Nigel poured the gloopy clear spirit into the sherry bottle, popped the cork back in and headed out to the shed.

     "Gilbert, I have some sherry for you. But you must promise to stop drinking my mower fuel," Nigel said, handing the bottle over.

     "Petrol Mr. Dixon? Never touch the stuff." Gilbert snatched the sherry bottle from Nigel's hand, popped the corked with practised ease and took a long deep swig. He swallowed, took a deep breath, then another eager gulp. "Great stuff Mr. Dixon. Quality sherry I can tell. Thank you."

     "You are welcome. And remember; no more petrol."

     The following morning Margaret was out. She would be working at the charity shop or cleaning the church or perhaps visiting her witch of a mother — Nigel didn’t care so long as she was out. He'd bought a new PC two weeks before, but every time he went near the thing Margaret accused him of wasting his time 'messing with that damn machine' and subsequently gave him a job. He couldn't understand how she could spend hour after hour tinkering with some hideous dried-flower arrangement, but if he were to spend just a few minutes on the Internet; that was a waste of time.

     Anyway, she was out and he was going to spend the entire time on Google and Ebay. He might even log on to ShareZap.com and do some spread betting. God help him if she were to find out about that! First job though was to google for some new brogues. He typed 'Scottish Brogues' into the box. Wow! A hundred and thirty-nine thousand matches in just point two nine seconds.

     Halfway down the page an entry caught his eye: 'The Lairdship of Bealach Brogue. Buy on-line now'. Instinctively Nigel clicked the link. The web site offered fully authenticated Lairdships — complete with print-your-own certificate — for just a twenty-five dollars. This was a must have. Not for himself of course but for Gilbert. With this certificate, no longer would he have some disgusting tramp as a lodger, he would instead be entertaining a Laird.

     Nigel entered his credit card details and progressed though to the point of entering the new Laird's personal details into the certificate. First name? Gilbert. Last name? Well Nigel had no idea. For a split second he toyed with the idea of going down to the shed and asking: but Gilbert would want to know why and it would spoil the surprise. After a moments thought he typed in the first word that came to mind.

     He printed the certificate on his new HP laser-jet. Brilliant: 'Gilbert Amontillado the Laird of Bealach Brogue'.

     Nigel couldn't wait to tell Gilbert the good news. He ran down the garden path, certificate flapping in his hand. He was so excited he almost tripped over miserable Bernard's cat as it ran in front of him: "Bloody thing," he mumbled.

     He stormed into the shed quite breathless. "Good morning your lairdship," he said with a slight bow of the head. He explained the situation and handed over the certificate.

     Gilbert studied it carefully. Nigel held his breath: what would Gilbert say about his new surname? He gazed up at Nigel: "I'll need a kilt."

     "What?"

     "I'll need a kilt. And one of those purses on a chain that looks like a dead badger."

     "Err. OK, I'll see what I can do. Everything else alright?"

     Gilbert looked back down at the certificate: "Yes perfect."

     Nigel spent the rest of the morning rummaging in the attic. He managed to find an old tartan tablecloth, which was in all honesty, almost identical to, and surely just as good as, any kilt. Finding a sporran substitute proved more of a problem. Eventually he came across his old cricket box onto which he glued a piece of artificial fur, cut from some foul looking bathroom mat that Margaret had bought in the seventies. Not ideal; but in the circumstances, not a bad effort Nigel told himself.

     Gilbert was thrilled. "Wonderful, wonderful," he kept murmuring as he removed his festering old trousers and donned the tablecloth and cricket box. He looked at Nigel, eyes starting to moisten: "How did you manage it at such short notice Mr. Dixon?"

     Nigel winked. "I have my methods your Lairdship," he said, as he left the Laird of Bealach Brogue to enjoy his new outfit.

     Nigel was sitting in his Parker Knoll Norton recliner attempting the times crossword when Margaret arrived home. He knew she had come via the shed — or the 'Laird's Castle' as he now liked to think of it — due to the scowl on her face. She took a deep breath and his muscles tensed in expectation. Then her face relaxed: "Nigel, that is surely the kindest thing I have ever known you do."

     His jaw bobbed up and down. He was certain she was smiling. Was this a trick of some kind? Whatever, he would play along. "It was nothing my dear. I just wanted to cheer the old boy up a bit."

     "Well I'm certainly seeing a nicer side to you these days. Giving Gilbert your best sherry and now buying him a Lairdship. Are you mellowing in your old age? You sit and enjoy your crossword and I'll make us a nice cup of tea."

     Blimey; that was a few quid well spent, Nigel thought.

     One thing troubled Nigel about Gilbert — or 'The Laird' as he'd now come to think of him — and that was his toilet arrangements. The Laird never came into the house (thankfully) and there was certainly no lavatory in the shed. And although The Laird was extremely smelly; it was a cheesy feet and crusty sweat type smell and not a dungy smell.

     Eventually Nigel's curiosity got the better of him. "Your Lairdship, this is a little delicate, but may I ask ... where do you do your business?"

     "I'm not in business any more Mr. Dixon. I survive on the kindness and generosity of people such as your good self. Talking of which: do you happen to have any more of that fiery sherry you gave me the other day?"

     "Sorry no. It is all gone." This was true. There was no more grappa in the house and hopefully there never would be. Disgusting stuff, Nigel thought. How come it tastes Okay when you drink it in Italy? He pressed on with the matter in hand: "Anyway, not that kind of business. I meant where do you ... go to the lavatory?"

     "Oh I see what you mean. I hop over the fence and go under the conifers in next door's garden."

     Nigel grinned. He couldn't help himself. His grin broadened until the sides of his mouth threatened to crack. Fantastic! Miserable Bernard's sodding cat had been shitting in Nigel's herbaceous border for years. Now Nigel finds out that The Laird is reciprocating. There is justice in the world after all.

     "Good man. I'm just going to pop down to the off-licence. Shall I bring you back a bottle of port? And maybe some pork scratchings?"

     It had been just a matter of days later when Nigel had found poor old Gilbert dead on the shed floor.

     Margaret and Nigel stood in the doorway looking down at the Laird's body. "What do you think the police will say?" Margaret asked.

     "They'll probably want to know why we have a dead tramp — wearing a tartan table cloth and cricket box — lying on our shed floor."

     "I'm sure they'll understand. He was a stray after all."

     "Stray! It was not some flea-ridden mutt that you gave a home to. He was a person. I'm pretty sure the authorities have laws against keeping a tramp as a sodding pet."

     "Don't shout Nigel. It's not my fault. And he wasn't a pet; he was a visitor."

     Nigel made a snorting noise through his nose. He was about to launch into a speech on how visitors are not usually accommodated in one's shed next to the lawnmower when he noticed that Margaret was beginning to cry. "Look; you go back to the cottage and make us a cup of tea, and leave this with me."

     "What are you going to do?"

     "Never you mind. Probably best if you don’t know."

     Nigel soon had Gilbert out of his highland regalia and back into his old festering trousers. "Sorry old friend," Nigel said as he struggled to pick Gilbert up in a fireman's lift.

     A few minutes later and Nigel was in his aging Morris Minor heading out of the village with Gilbert tucked up neatly in the boot. He reached the bus stop at the crossroads thirty minutes before the first bus was due, and quickly checked that there was no one nearby before dumping poor old Gilbert in the shelter. After another furtive look around, Nigel leapt into his car and sped back to the village. From there he made an anonymous call to the police from the old red telephone box on the green.

     Back at the cottage Margaret was crying over her Earl Grey. "Why do the good always have to die young?" she asked as Nigel walked into the kitchen.

     "No idea. Anyway Gilbert was not really young was he?" Nigel thought back to Gilbert's stories about his affairs with the clerks of the court: "And, I'm not so sure he was good either."

     "Don’t be ridiculous Nigel! Of course he was good. The poor man had a heart of gold."

     It was a couple of days later when Nigel received a phone call from the coroner's office: "Are you familiar with a gentleman by the name of Gilbert Amontillado?"

     Shit, bugger,shit! How the hell did they know about that? Nigel thought. He tried to speak but just let out a little squeak. Margaret stared at him quizzically.

     "Sir?" the constable from the coroner's office promoted.

     The certificate! I paid with my credit card. Gilbert must have had the printout stashed somewhere on his person. "Let me think a moment," Nigel said stalling for time. "Oh yes Gilbert. Friendly old vagrant: hangs around the village sometimes. Yes, yes, I remember now, I bought the old chap a Lairdship. How is the old boy?"

     "Dead I'm afraid."

     "Dead! Oh how dreadful, what a terrible shock" Nigel said, summoning up his long lost (and to be honest, always rather second rate) acting skills.

     Somehow the constable seemed to imbue his next words with the type of scepticism that only a policeman can: "Indeed; a terrible shock I'm sure." He continued in a more even tone: "We have failed to trace any relatives. I wonder if you'd care to attend the cremation on Friday."

     On the day, Nigel, Margaret and PC Herringbone from the coroner's office, were the only attendees at Gilbert's cremation. The fine wooden coffin stood resplendent on the conveyer belt as the voice of the multi-denomination priest rang around the virtually empty little chapel: "It is with great sadness that we say farewell to our beloved friend, Gilbert Amontillado, The Laird of Bealach Brogue—"

     Suddenly the sound of bagpipes filled the chapel, the conveyer sprung into life and Gilbert trundled off to the oven to the music of the Black Watch droning out 'Mull of Kintyre'.

     Margaret gently elbowed Nigel in the ribs and handed him a clean handkerchief. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose loudly. The doors to the oven slid shut and the music faded. "They put on a damn good show here," Nigel sniffed.

     When Margaret went off to thank the priest PC Herringbone sidled over to Nigel: "Will you be inheriting the Lairdship Mr. Dixon?"

     Nigel smiled back at the policeman. "Actually constable; I think I shall."
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PaulW

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2008, 05:35:27 AM »
Still laughing at this one. ;D Good story.


Offline ma100

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2008, 05:51:25 AM »
First time read on this one for me Mark.
Very funny
Really enjoyed it.
Mairi

Offline Mark H

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2008, 05:51:10 PM »
Thanks both.

And thanks to Gyppo for the original prompt. Did you know that Gyppo is a Laird?
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Offline ma100

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2008, 05:52:36 PM »
No ??? ;D

Offline Mark H

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2008, 06:00:34 PM »
He's the Laird of Camster.
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Offline ma100

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2008, 06:27:53 PM »
 ;D ;D ;D ;D :o

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2008, 06:56:59 PM »
Just one of many... But it's on my driving licence and I've had a lot of fun with it over the years., and a few people have been tickled pink to find it on the logbook (registration document) as the previous owner when I've sold them a motorbike.

Mark, it's good to see a slightly extended version of old Gilbert's life (and death).

Gyppo
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Offline ma100

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2008, 07:46:57 PM »
Haha and there was me, waiting for the wind up. ;D

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2008, 11:34:34 AM »
Sometimes there is no wind up.  Sometimes things just are as they seem.

Gyppo
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Offline ma100

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2008, 11:47:21 AM »
Yep! You are quite right Gyppo. At my age I
should know this by now. :-[
Mairi

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2008, 12:21:00 PM »
But as writers we are perpetually doomed to look for that extra twist in the tail of the tale.  If we weren't we'd be readers ;-)

Gyppo
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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2008, 04:25:10 AM »
"He managed to find an old tartan tablecloth, which was in all honesty, almost identical to, and surely just as good as, any kilt."

I am appalled. APPALLED! As good as any kilt? Was this tablecloth made of the finest Harris tweed, gently mashed by the soft feet of Hebridean maidens? I think not!

Great story, Citabria.  Especially loved the bit about Gilbert's toilet arrangements. We had the same trouble with next door's cats until the day my dog caught one of them.  ;)
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Offline Mark H

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Re: Short Story - The Laird of Bealach Brogue (3,187 words)
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2008, 06:31:29 AM »
Hi jeanette

Thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope one day you get to have a tramp of your own.  ;D

The views and sentiments expressed by the characters in this story are not necessarily the views of the author (but they might be).  ;)

Mark
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