There was a
Scotsman, an Englishwoman, and an Irish person who was impartial. They had
nothing in common, because none of them had anything. Finding themselves in a
crater somewhere in the Peak district, they said nothing for several days except
'Sod off" and 'That's mine'. Thoughts passed between them, or so it seemed -
suddenly the Irish person would stare angrily at the Scotsman and blink a lot,
or the Englishwoman would nod several times, hum a few notes, then stay still
with her head cocked, like a thrush.
evening of the second day they had given up trying to scrabble up the yellow
landslide that surrounded them. The Englishwoman sucked greedily at her bleeding
finger-ends, the Irish person eyed her enviously, the Scotsman worked his mouth
and Adam's apple like a pump, straining to generate saliva.
This came from him at last. 'Leeuuggh - le's let's - oogh - cook.'
The Irish person was contemptuous.
'Up to the
cook - find things - cook 'em - turn and turn about.'
person held out two arms - no hands.
the Englishwoman, 'you can do the thinking.'
And so, that
night, as charred bats dropped from the orange sky, the Englishwoman spread her
hanky, the Scotsman snatched up the twitching pipistrelles, strangled them and
grilled them, and the Irish person devised fuel supplies and planned menus. They
made a fire out of the paper insoles from their shoes, lit it with one of their
eleven matches, and laid the bats on a platter beaten out of Pepsi cans. It
melted through and they crunched blackened bat-meat mixed with shrivelled shreds
of foil, plucked hot from the embers.
following night, more bats, roasted over a fire of diaries and bus timetables,
on a spit twisted together from a few strands of razor-wire.
On the night
after that - 'Not bat again,' the Scotsman croaked.
afters,' said the Irish person, 'Look !' pointing under the boulder on which the
Englishwoman usually sat. A dozen snails clung there. The Scotsman hit them with
the spit. Each one had sealed itself against the firestorm with a layer of
mucus. Inside these the flesh shone yellowish-grey. Four each, cooked on the
shell, garnished with chopped dandelion leaf.
By the ninth
day they had run out of weeds, bats, snails. And they had three matches left.
'What is it tonight, then?' the Englishwoman asked, smiling dangerously at the
Irish person, her lips drawn tight shut.
'Eh - uh -
we've converted to Islam - and it's Ramadan.'
gasped, a tearless sob, then shouted. 'Oysters' Loch Sween oysters.' Cullen
skink! Cranaghan with fresh raspberries and Jersey cream!'
As the sky
turned yellow - orange - smoky apricot - electric blue, they all shouted until
their waterless mouths were dumb: 'Peacock pie.' Smoked salmon quiche! Creek
mushrooms Duckling a l'orange Banana splits!' They sobbed themselves to sleep.
morning, the Irish person had collected thirty cockroaches, kicking up a corral
of dirt and sand, catching the animals between big toe and second toe, dropping
them in. They stabbed them through with ends of razor-wire and nibbled the
shells, tasting little but their own foul mouths, dreaming of spare-ribs,
crackling, creme Catalan.
the Irish person showed them how to gnaw the calluses on their feet. They tasted
of bacon rinds. The others were not supple enough to easily reach their mouths
with their toes but they could just make it by pulling hard. The Englishwoman's
feet were too tender to yield much solid material but she made up for this in
blood. That night all three of them dreamed of suckling. None of them confided
this to the others.
morning they looked at each other with new eyes. Seeing people as meat. Would
the handless Irish person have the least chance, if it came to combat? Or would
those hardened feet and supple legs disable the other two more quickly than any
fist or stranglehold?
seemed hardly to have risen. The ragged circle of sky above them was deep
indigo. When the first rainwater coursed down the sides of the crater they flung
themselves prone and sucked at it like calves. They choked on the yellow dust.
It coated their mucous membranes and the fluid ran deeply into them. Their
brains reeled with desperate sensations - brilliancy, agony, orgasm.
As the crater
brimmed, the three surrendered and floated easily as manatees. Each one curled
up, knees to chest, eyes shut, fingers in mouths, legs splayed, genitals limp,
their scorched pink skins washed clean as butcher meat by the sluicing of the