Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 14 January 2017
What's all this about a dead child and Mr Punch, I hear you wonder? Well, I will get to the beginning at some point, but in the meantime you may find it helpful to know how the child came to be killed.
A young woman arrives at a large country house to take her first lesson in archery, having been talked into it by the lascivious leader of the club, in the pub the previous evening.
The targets - or 'butts' as they are called - have been set up on the large swathe of grass which is the lawn to the rear of the house, and various members of the club are standing around chatting before actually beginning to shoot arrows. There is a massive cedar tree to the rear of the shooting positions, and the butts are set - about 100 yards away - just in front of the fringe of a dense wood.
The owner of the house - an elderly and solitary man - oftens allows various local community groups to use his extensive estate for activities, including - and this is important - charity fetes with Punch and Judy shows for children on the lawn.
The youngest member of the archery club is a somewhat disturbed and taciturn youth of about 17 who wears ex-army camouflage jackets and trousers. The club leader has taken him under his wing in the hope that he will be diverted from less wholesome, solitary activities, and has discouraged him from bringing in items such as American hunting knives for unwanted 'show and tell' sessions with the rest of the group.
The young woman waits for a break in the proceedings until she can safely move her position to 30 yards of the butts, then - under the tuition of the leader - shoots off the first of a few arrows, actually managing to hit the large straw discs with the paper targets pinned to them. Everyone else loses interest and forms huddled groups to stand around talking at the rear while the novice is trained. None of these groups include the outcast young man.
The leader is called away on some domestic business and delegates responsibilty for safety to an older member, leaving the group to its own devices. They ignore the young woman and set up from 100 yards again to loose off arrows using the modern reflex bows, which are festooned with awkward looking weights and counterbalances. They are all very experienced and consistently hit the yellow centre of the targets from that distance. The young woman stands no chance of getting an arrow anywhere near the butt, let alone the target pinned to it, so she stands around doing nothing.
She considers leaving and going back into town, when the taciturn young man appears at her side holding a very strange-looking bow, and suggests she try using it.
The bow is much shorter than the reflex bows of the others, is a matt black in colour and seems to be fitted with two strings. The young man points out that there is, in fact, only one string which is threaded around a series of pullies, converting the weight of the pull from 30 to 100 pounds - far greater than the young woman would be able to draw on an ordinary bow.
With the lad's help, she looses off three arrows. To her amazement, the second one hits the edge of the distant target with a sharp smacking sound. The third - although it seems to her to be dead on target - disappears noislessly.
The lad laughs and explains that she has has hit the gold centre, but the middle of the straw butt has been weaken by the many perforations of previous arrows, and her arrow has gone clean through and out the other side. It is somewhere in the wood behind, and she is given a metal-detector for use in the bracken and bushes, then sent to find and retrieve it. All shooting is stopped for her, but the meeting is due to be ended anyway, so the members begin clearing up and rolling away the butts as she enters the wood.
At first, she wears the headphones of the detector and sweeps amongst the foliage in the path of the arrow, but eventually she takes them off and uses her eyes rather than ears.
In the early Summer heat, she starts to lose concentration, falling into a dreamy reverie and noticing various fungi and small, delicately coloured flowers before she remembers the aluminium arrow she is supposed to be looking for. A minute later, she finds it.
Just as she loosed the arrow, a child had disobeyed the instructions of its parents, and briefly - very briefly - had slipped through a forbidden portal into the world of humans, just to see what it was like.
The arrow hit it and literally pinned the boy to the earth - the Earth. There would be no chance of the child returning home. The parents would have to come looking for it.
The young woman tries to process what she sees on the ground, but cannot. A miniature human in bright clothes, skewered against the moss by the rogue arrow.
She leaves the wood and - for want of words - says that she could not find the arrow and has to go home urgently.
The taciturn lad is furious with the woman - all women - and vows to find the arrow as soon as he can. Why should he buy a new one?