Cow Byre Tsar

Old Russia had only one tsar at a time, but now of course we have many of them, each with their own speciality, like patron saints. Traffic tsars, drugs tsars, respect tsars… every week some bug-eyed government wonk creates yet another tsardom. Such power!

Apparently, Blodgett used to be a tsar, for a few weeks. It was a gorgeous summer afternoon, and he was putting the finishing touches to his sleek gas-powered überpod when one of those bug-eyed government wonks came prancing up the path, out of nowhere. Blodgett put down his rag on a pile of other rags, dipped his hairy hands into a tub of swarfega, and wiped them on one of the other rags from the pile, or perhaps on the one he had just dropped. He adjusted his lorgnette with exquisite daintiness and looked the wonk over, as if he were examining a beetle. Blodgett had history with wonks, as they say, and he was prepared for anything.

“You are Blodgett?” asked the wonk, in a wonky monotone.

Blodgett was tempted to curl his lip, but he was still wearing a protective cotton dimity thing over his nose and mouth, so instead he nodded his assent.

“We need to appoint a cow byre tsar,” announced the wonk, without preamble, “And your name has been put forward. There is a modest stipend and an armband. Congratulations.”

If the wonk said anything else, his words were wasted, for he was drowned out by the sudden appearance of swooping corncrakes. Blodgett ushered him into his hut and put the kettle on.

“What does the job involve?” he asked, his booming voice only slightly muffled by the dimity thing.

“Oh, you know, just go and hang around cow byres being sort of tsary,” replied the wonk.

What Blodgett was not told was that he was expected to send in daily reports, including the Latin names of the cows in each byre he fell upon, looming in his fierce Blodgettian way in the shadows. An added difficulty was that all the cows he visited seemed to twinkle, like stars in the heavens. His first report was sent back to him, his lovely handwriting virtually obliterated by comments and corrections scribbled with an impossibly thick black magic marker pen. Blodgett wept that night, huge convulsive sobs wracking his frame as he crouched next to the überpod. His second and third reports fared no better, so he stopped sending them. And nothing happened. Each morning, as dawn broke, he would don his cow byre tsar armband and stride out towards yet another cow byre of twinkling cows, and loom, tsarily, for hours upon end, before returning home to his soup and his fireside. No word came from the wonk, for the wonk wed his sweetheart and fled to a city of curious puddles and gigantic towers of granite, and he never again thought much about cows, twinkling or otherwise. And after a few weeks, nor did Blodgett. He put his cow byre tsar armband on his pile of rags, and soon it was smeared with swarfega, just another Blodgett rag.

Postscript. Six months later, Blodgett’s hut was crushed by a stampede of twinkling cows. He was out at the time.

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