On The Pecking Order

Let us get to grips with the pecking order once and for all.

Humdrum pecking. Actuaries, beleaguered and sullen due to the theft of their tables, congregate in the corridor of their building. The janitor has recently been this way with his mop. There are stains on the ceiling. What pecking there is is humdrum, but never frightful. Ghosts patrol the corridors in the upper reaches, ones that once might have haunted clippers of the line, icy fogs notwithstanding, nor palpable. Cutter’s blague. The forensics are not yet in. Raiments of the emboldened.

Dismal pecking. Creatures with livid eyes and snouts, balanced on a knife edge. The stragglers from the Panzer division. Cellophane wrapped around finger food piled tottering on a table, the legs of said table ornate and carved and rich in detail but the detail no longer understandable to the hoi polloi creeping into view from across the lake. Bane of the sugar free. Pecking so dismal it breaks the heart of the uncluttered hordes. Pinking shears and crab apples of the lost.

Gummy pecking. Sacred and profane, there are blots on the landscape. Indescribable colours of the sky and the distant boom of tankers. In all sorts of ditches, all sorts of ditch life. Any pecking as likely as not gummy, within reason. At altitude, deeply unpleasant. Several reports appearing in the press of tocsins rung. That would be the hot press, the steam iron, the oil canister. Stones in the stool. Skimping on lather. Failsafe devices with not a button to be seen.

Lax pecking. Camped out, under Bulstrode’s wing. Cloth of gold and a pattern of miseries. Taps turned on and off. Pewter syndrome. You can’t die from it, not exactly, but you can try. Call on the ones holding the platters. Such lax pecking. It grieves you fit to bust. Well might there be hydrangeas to be tidied into tiers beside the paddock. A rotogravure spoke volumes. Mustard and cress on the blotting paper in the drawer of the desk, and the desk locked.

Untoward pecking. Shrews and pipits. Fungus in the pan. A thief on either side and the ribbons blown away upon the wind. Corks popped, distemper, Falangeist troops out in force. Thrum of the Chesapeake, grit in the oyster. No pecking has ever been so untoward. Teeming pond life packed into a plastic bag and discarded in the gutter. They said it couldn’t be done, but it was, and nightly at that, at that. You had to build it yourself.

We looked into these peckings and we tried to place them in order. It was hard work. Not as hard as breaking rocks, no, but hard. We were not in chains. We sorted the peckings this way and that, hysterical with liberty. Half the time they did not bother to supervise us. They dropped no hints. They sat in their cubby, feet on the table, corpses. When it rained we took shelter in the lea of an orchard. If we looked hard we could see the great stone crucifix far in the distance, on the hill.

Stunned pecking. A plate of mashed potatoes in triangular formation. Jutting out, a handle. The lure of the fire pig. Boats tied up in the harbour, for the time being, until cock crow. God bless them every one. There is absolutely no chance that you will sell an insurance policy to the chaplain. Watch as he pecks, stunned, without even saying grace. Clackety clack on the tracks. Pearls of wisdom. Cone shapes shimmering in milky light.

Flamboyant pecking. Go now, hoist the hoistings. Werewolves have been here. They leave a spoor. Mutterings in the tavern. The steps are filthy. The door is scratched. The peckings are flamboyant. The seeds were strewn, oh long ago, long ago. Who can guess what foliage will one day erupt here? It will happen at night, that’s for sure. Or at dawn, when the hooter sounds to summon the serfs. What will become of the castle walls? Ask the shoemaker.

Brisk pecking. It was in Todd-AO. It had to be. The plans were in a satchel and the satchel on your shoulder. Rubbed by a rubbergloved rubber. So comforting. Say a fond farewell to pins and needles. Carry the satchel far from here. There is no risk it will explode but we want to be on the safe side. We have seen the brisk pecking that sometimes precedes our calamities. There is a list of them pinned on a board in the annexe. It could do with a lick of paint.

Stricken pecking. Such a hateful fellow. Where does he get his shoelaces tied? Those are Satanic knots if ever I’ve seen ’em. He played a blinder, I’ll give him that. Below the waterline, surprisingly. King for a day, but what kind of king, and what day of the week? You had to assume there was something stricken in the pecking. That raft of subsidies. Raft, raft. Time enough to light the lamps when all is said and done and the socks are hung to dry upon the line.

Intransigent pecking. Partial recall. You woke from your coma. Daffodils at the bedside. Litmus paper on the lino. How curious to see pecking with such intransigence. Difficulties of the shadow appointments. Something lurking in the corner. Something nasty in the woodshed. Something lacking in the cabinet. But there is a glossy catalogue to pick from. Highly recommended. Slowly dwindling. Just out of sight, in the twinkling of an eye.

We thought we were done but there was more sorting to do. So we sorted some more. We came up with one order and then another order. And all this time we ourselves were under orders. At the point of a rifle. Behind barbed wire. Till kingdom come.

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