A Bit Of A Kerfuffle Down By The Bins Outside The Barn

This is a story about a bit of a kerfuffle down by the bins outside the barn, and one man’s search for the truth…

Last week there was a bit of a kerfuffle down by the bins outside the barn. This was very shocking. Those of us who keep an eye on such things are used to the seemingly endless series of kerfuffles taking place at the bins by the docks, but for the bins outside the barn to be targeted by agencies of kerfuffledom was a frightening development. I had more reason than most to be concerned. I knew that my reaction to the kerfuffle would be watched very closely, that judgements would be made upon me, and that if I did not acquit myself well, I may as well give up any hopes I had of wallowing like a voluptuary in the hot embrace of the Bins Board.

Thus it was that as soon as I heard about this unexpected kerfuffle, I grabbed a rag and buffed my badge, and I pinned the buffed badge to my cap, and I placed the cap firmly upon my head, and I held my head erect in a manner that gave me an air of true grit, and I clamped my pipe between my teeth, jutted my jaw, and did a set of Blötzmann Exercises, my favourite ones, from the Second Handbook, before jumping into my jalopy and barrelling along the lanes at tremendous speed, parping my horn to scatter the various infants and small domestic animals in my path. Truly it could be said on that October morning, with its sense of collapse, that Urgency was my middle name, rather than Lembit, which was the middle name my parents, God rest their souls, gave me, weeks before my birth, before they knew whether I would be a boy or a girl. I was only too aware, you see, that the Bins Board was due to meet in the ceremonial chamber of the Big Jagged Castle that very evening, and that I would be held to account.

Just past Sawdust Bridge I swerved off into the fields, cranking the gears to no apparent purpose, watched by a clump of disconsolate cows. If cows could talk, they might be able to tell me something about the kerfuffle. There are lands where cows are intelligent and voluble, so I am told, but this was not one of them. The first time I heard about such cows I was frankly incredulous, even though I was at my mother’s knee, and I had no reason to distrust that saintly woman. Later, as I accepted that she told me only that which was true, I was stricken with a sense of menace. I did not know what talking cows talked about, but I was – and remain – convinced that such knowledge would shatter my brain and leave me gibbering and twitching. Best not even to think about it. To be on the safe side, I waved a “hail fellow, well met” greeting at the nearest cow in the clump, and sped onwards. Within minutes, I was pulling up at the edge of the compound wherein the barn stood, numinous, like a monolith.

Here, I must make a confession. You are probably sitting there thinking how fab I am, my selfless devotion to the doings of the Bins Board evidence of a remarkable sense of civic responsibility. Even now you may be planning to pin up a big poster of me in the vicinity of your infant’s cot, or its playpen, the better to inculcate its tiny cranium with my example of how to lead a valuable life in this land of wordless cows. The grammar of that last sentence may be askew, but forgive me. Put it down to an attack of the vapours. For you must put the drawing pins back in the drawer and never think of holding me up as an exemplar of anything but petty ambition. You see, it is within the gift of the Bins Board to award the tenancy of a building next to the barn, and thus within the compound, and for as long as I can remember I have been besotted by the idea of living in a compound, like the Kennedys with their famous Kennedy Compound at Hyannis Port or Kennebunkport, or wherever the hell it is. The building next to the barn had been vacant for months, ever since the last tenant, Old Man Widdecombe, had been convicted of the Toffee Apple Wrapper Slayings and banged up for the rest of his sordid life in a prison hulk off O’Houlihan’s Wharf. I knew the Bins Board was struggling to agree on who was worthy to take on the tenancy, just as I knew that this might be my last chance to live in a compound. That is why I buffed my badge with such vigour, and why I held my head at so decisive an angle. In truth, the prospect of winning that award was the motivation for everything I did, in all my waking hours.

Gorgeous lanterns hung on the perimeter fence of the compound, all filigree and glitter and stripes, adding much-needed glamour to the scene. I did not have my own key, of course, and so hectic had been my dash towards the barn that I had not given a thought to what faced me now. Before I could examine the site of the shocking kerfuffle by the bins, I would have to get past the bloated janitor who controlled access to the compound. I had the right of entry, the buffed badge on my cap signalled that much, but the janitor was a notoriously difficult man. The two things everybody noticed about him were that he was bloated and he was difficult. His name was Ajax, and his patrimony was squalid. To his credit, he had shaken off the sins of his fathers, and not even the faintest whiff of squalor hung around his bloated frame. Indeed, he gleamed with a cleanliness that in any other janitor would have been suspicious, and his teeth were impeccable. Once, I had tried to prise from him the identity of his dentist, who I was sure was a practitioner of the so-called “New Dentistry”, but he folded in upon himself in a surprisingly graceful way for so bloated a janitor, and I learned nothing, nothing at all. Now, many years later, I had to hope that he would let me in to the compound without any fuss, for I could not afford any delay. Urgency was still my middle name, on foot just as behind the wheel of my jalopy, which I had parked skilfully under the bowers of a titanic sycamore. The sun was not shining, but if it emerged from behind the fluffy clouds, it would not shine upon my jalopy, except intermittently, as breezes blew the sycamore boughs, and it was important to me that this was so. I am not suggesting that there was anything vampiric about my jalopy, or perhaps I am, simply that it performs better in the dark or in the shade.

Ajax detained me at his little janitorial bunker for over an hour. He was in a garrulous mood, babbling away about a potato-based toothpaste, among other things. He was clearly taunting me for my decade-ago enquiries about his dentist, but I was not amenable to his joshing, biting my lip so hard I drew blood. I felt as if I had been kissed by Sylvia Plath, or by Ted Hughes, or by both, I cannot remember whose fangs gouged who at their first meeting. When he had had his fun with me, the bloated janitor finally allowed me to pass, and I hurried over to the bins outside the barn where the kerfuffle had occurred. Post-kerfuffle forensics is an inexact science, and it could fairly be said that I was flailing around in a morass of uncertainty. It would not be the first time that could be said about me, and that was why I was so tormented. I was desperate to have something concrete to present to the Bins Board, at the meeting which was due to begin in a few hours. For something to do, I took a tape measure from my pocket and worked out how far from the wall of the barn the bins were. Then I walked widdershins around the barn, twice, peering intently, but ignorantly, at the muck on the ground. Was there evidence of squirrels, or of moles, or of gigantic grotesque mutations thereof? It was hard to tell. I remembered the time when one of my lungs had collapsed, and I lay stricken in a clinic, and with my head twisted to one side spent hour upon hour staring out of the window at the many different types of birds that appeared in my little corner of the sky, and how, very slowly, I learned to distinguish one from another, and to marvel at their valiant mastery of the empyrean, and at their savagery, particularly the savagery of owls. These thoughts came sloshing through my brain as I completed my second circuit of the barn, and back at the bins I tore my eyes from the muck and looked up, up into the immensity of the sky. Suddenly I was convinced beyond a smidgen of doubt that it was up there, up in the boundless firmament, that I would discover the secret of the kerfuffle by the bins outside the barn. Owls, maybe, but more likely some kind of gulls, ferocious gulls with razor-sharp beaks and talons that could tear the planet to shreds.

Given that my jalopy had been thieved by a subset of the ne’er-do-wells who loitered by the compound, and who I had completely forgotten about in my urgency, and given that I thus had to catch a bus along the impossibly winding lanes to Pang Hill Hot Air Balloon Station, there to take a hot air balloon for an inspection of the sky above the barn at close quarters, it is remarkable that I managed to present myself before the Bins Board that evening on the dot. But I did, and I was not even dishevelled. If anything, my cap was set at an even more punctilious angle than it had been earlier, and the unguent goo I had applied to my bloodied lips gave them a healthy gloss. I swear that the Bins Board went collectively weak at the knees as I pranced into the ceremonial chamber, soft light from the chandeliers falling upon me like a sprinkling of fairy dust. I knew I was in for hard and even merciless questioning, but I felt like a champion. As the members of the Bins Board shuffled their papers and cleared their throats, I reflected that this was my fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol moment, my triumph. I fancied that I could smell the entrance porch of the building next to the barn in the compound. My compound! Never again would I be taunted by Ajax the bloated janitor. I stepped on to the blue woollen mat and presented my findings to the Bins Board. At such a pitch of emotion, there was a catch in my voice as I began, but I quickly recovered, and delivered a masterpiece of oratory, like an ancient God booming the Law. They had a few questions for me, all of which I handled with an aplomb that would have astonished my mother, who feared, during my infancy, that I would be as inarticulate as one of the cows of this precious land.

This morning was a torture. I fretted and jumped about, waiting, waiting. The Bins Board had announced that today, a week after the meeting, I would be informed of their adjudication in the matter of the kerfuffle down by the bins outside the barn. Cold reason told me that this was their perfect opportunity to award me the tenancy of the building next to the barn. That was always how these things were done. And so I fretted and jumped about and waited and waited for postie to come skipping up the path. He was late. When eventually he appeared on the far horizon, I sprinted to meet him, gibbering like a dunderpate. I snatched the Bins Board Communiqué from his puny grip, sliced it open with the fiercest blade on my very fierce military knife, and I read…

Following the unexpected and shocking kerfuffle down by the bins outside the barn, and the hot-blooded and exciting report we received thereupon, it is our unanimous and typically sparky decision in the matter to order the immediate demolition, down to dust, of the entire compound and all buildings within it, in the interests of both public safety and of Ajax the bloated janitor’s whim that he wants to retire to a gloomy seaside resort. Be it enacted this very day, and God bless you each and every one!

3 thoughts on “A Bit Of A Kerfuffle Down By The Bins Outside The Barn

  1. Pingback: “I felt like I had been kissed by Sylvia Plath” | No geek is an island

  2. I know the Bins Boards’ edicts can sometimes seem summary, illogical flippant and cruel but I assure you that that this was not the case: As with all well-considered rulings this was backed by eons of bin-related precedent – the annals of which line the walls of the office for the administration of bin-related matters.

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