Taramind Dewhurst, the immaculately groomed curator of The Onion Gallery, held the envelope in her grubby little hands. She had always had small hands, even as a child, they were delicate but had a firm grasp on her paperwork. She turned the envelope over and caressed her name and address, which felt raised, as if embossed.
A double constrictor knot…
Not printed then, she purred, knitting her brows into a double constrictor knot, which is unflattering on anyone of any age. Taramind was familiar with the craft of calligraphy and it was not a craft that she particularly cared for, she preferred the clean lines and balanced features of printed fonts, but she had to concede that this calligraphy had an awkward, yet modern charm. She hesitated before ripping the envelope open, as a lion would do before feasting on a caribou, and tried to guess the nature of the invitation, because surely this had to be an invitation?
She reached across her desk for her letter opener. Taking the antique bronze dagger from its sheath she made an opening incision, thus removing precisely 2mm from the top of the envelope. Within the envelope were two pieces of brown cardboard that were taped together to protect the inner content. With a concentration that caused her brows to knit once more, this time into a pair of socks, Taramind picked at the tape with her manicured nails. Two hours and one broken nail later, Taramind placed the contents on her blotter. What sort of game is this? She wondered in italics. Why would anyone send her a photograph of a Pot Noodle? She turned the photograph over. There was a date, 21st November 2045, and an address for a village hall in a place called Mogwash….
News reaches us of the strange disappearance of Richard Etherington-Smythe. Speculation has it that the sat nav system on his ride on mower malfunctioned and he was last seen by friends and neighbours mowing his way through the Butterfly Sanctuary and Bee Reserve at Moggins Meadow, 5 miles south of his 25 acre ornamental gardens at Mogs Mill Manor. In the unlikely event of anyone finding Mr Etherington-Smythe, please telephone the news desk at The Mogwash Mouthpiece immediately. Please note, he is not thought to be dangerous.
Also worthy of mention is the aspiring graffiti artist who, in an attempt to emulate the popular artist Banksy, has been using his mother’s Cath Kidston stenciling set to leave his tags across the village, most extensively in the bus shelter, in the grade II listed phone box, and all over Mrs Fitzpatrick’s hand built alpine rockery [with water feature]. Please note that we at The Mogwash Mouthpiece will not tolerate such blatant misbehaviour; we know who is responsible for these senseless acts vandalism and will be passing on the relevant details on to the appropriate authorities in due course.
Finally, we have received several complaints regarding a website known as Wonky Words. Does anyone know what this site is supposed to be about? The Mogwash Mouthpiece feels that this site is in some way responsible for the German archaeologist who has begun excavation work in the car park next to the scout hut. His name is Mago and he claims that he has been given permission to dig for ancient artifacts in the area known as Mogwash. We would like to assure residents that we are looking into this matter and will report our findings in the Christmas edition of the Mogwash Mouthpiece – on sale in the newsagents from October 21st.
Due to my lengthy absence, Sebastian had joined the local Abba tribute band in a concerted effort to dampen his despair at losing a witty, intelligent, modest and humble friend. Most evenings he could be found posturising in The Mogwash Arms, dressed in a chest flaunting white ruffled blouse teamed with black lycra bell bottoms and surrounded by fellow members of the used tea-bag Collectors Club in similar attire. After a few slugs of Campari he would impress onlookers with a range of ambitious oscillations including an inventive interpretation of a traditional Cossack dance, the climax of this routine being an impressively well rehearsed hand jive.
Reactions to my return were somewhat muted, indeed my first venture into the Mogwash Arms was greeted with hushed voices, muffled murmurs and the odd snigger. I was bewildered, hurt, confused, perplexed, and lots of other words that describe being baffled. Feigning kindness, Sebastian took me to one side and, possessed with the spirit of a pantomime villain, he slurred into my ear….
‘I knowww wherrr-ya-bittle-fortune’sss-burried… [dramatic pause as he swayed and dribbled a bit]…..I’m-gonna-put-ann-end t’all this flippin’ nonsense.’ He threw back his head and laughed with what can only be described as psychotic relish.
It was only when I arrived home that I realised what was behind his errant behaviour; Bottled Truth had been broken, shards of glass shivered in the fire place, the contents replaced with what appeared to be a brown, washed and pressed tea-bag of the Earl Grey variety….
During my absence it appeared that some members of the Mogwash community had wholeheartedly embraced the ideas of contemporary art. For example, Mrs Fitzpatrick, who lived on the fringe of the village in the six bed-roomed neo-Georgian barn conversion known as Rose Cottage, had obviously benefited from our little chats because she had casually assembled and installed a startling piece of sculpture on her block-paved driveway. As a trained artist, with trained artist skills, I could comprehend and appreciate her efforts on a much deeper level, efforts that to the uneducated eye may have been mistaken for the unwanted contents of a dilapidated shed in a skip. With my artist’s eye I could appreciate the exquisite juxtaposition of gold lame evening gown and broken pitch fork as being a subtle metaphor for a society in crisis, emphatically highlighting the intrinsic cruelty of cultural disinclination and disintegration.
I was envious and slightly in awe of her talent, she had even gone as far as to cleverly leave her art piece unmanned so that any passing artist could redefine her vision by adding or subtracting objects, meaning that the piece was continually in a state of flux, forever evolving . . . The addition of a moldy mattress brought a whole new perspective to the project . . . it was enthralling to witness this mutating masterpiece. I contributed in a minor way by donating a bottle of air.
I had to accept that times were changing and I was no longer the only eccentric artist in the village . . .
Sebastian sat back in his chair and frowned as he read the latest email from Rupert Etherington-Smythe regarding important changes to the Mogwash pantomime script. He believed he had followed Rupert’s original instructions as best he could – the story revolved around a series of clues that would guide the hero to a long lost fortune and, he had set the action in the Australian outback so that the mountain of corks that had recently clogged up the recycling centre in the car park could be used in some sort of meaningful way and, so that Rupert’s cousin, Kate, could showcase her professional technique on the didgeridoo. Rupert had stressed that there was no point in the villagers having 24hr access to a didgeridoo if nobody was prepared to use it. Sebastian twitched and reached for his whiskey; he had spent all of the summer simmering over the story line, steaming up the scenes, and boiling the plot, in an effort to produce a script worthy of production on the Mogwash stage; with his creative juices wrung dry, he had presented Rupert with his final draft: ‘Walkabout’ – A Constructive Critique of Australian Social Identity 1918 – 1945. It appeared that Rupert had been less than impressed with his efforts and was particularly perturbed regarding a gratuitously violent scene depicting the leading lady being hit over the head with a stray Campari bottle, leaving her to wander in an aimless fashion through flimsy stage sets as though she was an extra in a popular soap opera, before dying ungraciously in a heap. Rupert believed that the leading lady should linger longer that Act I, scene II… and she should at least exist to the very end of the pantomime… it was fine to tinker with traditional narrative structure, but screwing it up completely and then stamping on it was probably a tinker too far for the villagers of Mogwash. Sebastian gulped the dregs of his whiskey, hunched over his keyboard, and began his edits.
Meanwhile, somewhere in 2014, Scarlet began to breathe.
Sebastian sat back in his chair and frowned as he read the open Word document on his computer screen, mentally kicking himself for agreeing to help out with the Mogwash pantomime for the fourth year running. Not only was he expected to be in it, but he was now being asked to help out with writing the script as well. Rupert, the Pantomime director and village overlord, had kindly sent him a rough outline of the plot, it appeared to revolve around a series of clues that would guide the hero to a long lost fortune. Sebastian twitched and reached for his whiskey; what was it with the villagers of Mogwash? First it was Scarlet with her bizarre blog encouraging her readers to follow a series of clues to find a mysterious ‘Bottle of Greed’ – as if – and now Rupert had got in on the act with his clues to find a treasure chest in Never Never Land [loosely based on the Australian outback as an excuse to get someone to dress up as a kangaroo]. Had they all gone completely mad? Were Rupert and Scarlet in league with each other? Was Sebastian really nothing more than a fictional character inhabiting someone else’s narrative? Was the postman going to start giving him thinly disguised directions to the whereabouts of his mail? Had the milkman hidden his semi-skimmed and Greek yoghurt in a location yet to be disclosed? It was all getting out of hand. He wanted to lie down and sleep, he wished to wake up in a world without treasure chests, or bottles of greed; he wished to wake up in a world where everyone said what they meant – in a world without a clue.
Be careful what you wish for, typed Scarlet, sometime later in July 2014.