A Clanking Thing

Once upon a time there was a thing that clanked. Clank clank clank, it went, clank clank clank clank clank. It kept on clanking, monotonous and tireless. The clanking had some connection with steam. Then it so happened that one day it went clank clank clunk. It clunked a second time and, after a long pause, a third time, and then it wheezed, and then it was silent and still.

A man came. He had a wrench and a hammer and other such things. He carried them in a pippy bag. The man deployed his wrench and hammer and other such things, clambering up on the thing that used to clank and burrowing beneath it too. Every now and then he would step back to gaze at it from a distance and at these times he would furrow his brow and rub his chin with his hand.

Then it began to rain, oh a proper old downpour, almost Biblical. The man hauled a tarpaulin over the thing that once had clanked but now clanked no more. He trudged off to a hut to smoke his pipe.

It was while he was smoking his pipe that he heard news on the transistor radio in the hut. The announcer in a plummy voice said there was an uprising of peasants. The peasants were in a flap about several matters, one such matter being the clanking thing. Its clanking disturbed the birds and the birds shunned the area around the thing, yea even unto a radius of two miles. The uprising peasants did not explain why they were in such a flap about the absence of birds.

The man smoking his pipe in the hut realised that the clanking thing must have been sabotaged by the peasants. It struck him that if he fixed it, with his wrench and hammer and other such things, as he had been trying to do when the rain began to fall, that the peasants would be in an even greater flap and they would likely hunt him down and beat him to death with their shovels. So when the rain stopped, at last, he popped his wrench and hammer and other such things into his pippy bag and he trudged away, back to his chalet on a mountainside somewhere far away.

But before he left he turned to take a last look at the clanking thing, now silent and still and covered by a tarpaulin. And he saw that five or six birds had already come to perch upon it. And as he walked away, more and more birds arrived, swooping down to perch on the tarpaulin, until there were thousands of them, in serried ranks, terrible as an army with banners.

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