Story time

Leopard Tortoise

Sit yourselves down now, kids. Grandpappy’s got a story to tell you.

No, Elmer, it won’t be long and boring, and neither was the last one, before you start. Or the one before that, or indeed any of them; and I’ll thank you to confine your rebellious and rude talk to when you’re with kids of your own age. In this society, it’s generally accepted and expected that young’uns will show a bit of respect for their elders. So, sit down, shut up and listen – unless you’d prefer a spell in the hibernation box…

This, kids, is a tale of intrigue and excitement. An account of high adventure and great danger. A narrative, if you will, of extreme derring-do.

I shall speak to you of events that took place when I was not much older than you are now—

No, Henry Junior, you haven’t heard this one before. Why not? Because I haven’t heard it myself yet.

Now. Where was I? Oh yes—

You’re right, James. I hadn’t started, but if you’ll allow, I shall do so now.

Picture the scene. The year is 1922—

Yes, Albert, a hundred years ago.

Indeed I am. I passed my first century anniversary two decades ago.

What’s that? The reason I said my first century is simply because I have every expectation that it won’t be my last.

Yes, Matilda, I plan to live to be at least two hundred years old.

Haven’t they? Then perhaps I’ll be the first.

To continue – the year was 1922, and I had just celebrated my twenty-first birthday. My pappy took me to a drinking house so I could have what he thought was my first taste of an alcoholic beverage. When we got there—

Yes, Marigold, I did say ‘what he thought was my first taste of an alcoholic beverage.’ I said that because, like many of you – okay, almost all of you – I had been getting hold of some illicit booze from other kids for a good while by then.

Thank you, Brian, I remember where I was. When we got to the drinking house, we found it closed. There was a sign outside saying that our local council had revoked the licence to sell alcohol in solidarity with the prohibition movement in the United States. I can tell you that Pappy was far from pleased with that. He liked his drink, did my pappy. Never got drunk, not that I’d noticed, anyway, but he did enjoy a swig or two of an evening. And it looked like he wouldn’t be able to any longer.

He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t as annoyed as he was. When I said, ‘no reason,’ he threatened to starve me until I told him. Back then, you see, it was traditional for young lads to go to the drinking house with their pappies on their coming of age to sample their first drink and be initiated into the joys of alcohol. It was something we looked forward to and Pappy was right to think I’d at least be disappointed if we couldn’t do it.

Yes, Nigella, the age of consent was twenty-one then. Coming of age at eighteen is a relatively new thing.

So, Pappy was wondering how he could mark my majority, given that the drinking house was closed and other methods of introducing young males to pleasures only available to adults hadn’t really hit this town yet. You see, some sort of rite of passage has been a thing with our kind since forever and Pappy felt that he would have failed as a father if he hadn’t done something special to mark the occasion.

We talked about combat of some kind but hey – look at me. Do I look like a fighter?

So, I caved in and told Pappy that a group of older boys had been secretly running an independent alcohol; production facility for some time, and that even though the drinking house was closed, we could still get hold of—

No, Stephen, there were no supermarkets, liquor stores or off-licences back then. The only place you could legally buy alcoholic drinks was the town’s drinking house and even then, you had to consume it on the premises. The idea of drinking at home was something that had never been officially explored.

Unofficially, of course, Gerald’s production facility – he called it a still, presumably because it had never been found and shut down – allowed those of us the know to drink whenever and wherever we chose. However, it was against the law, and that’s where the intrigue, adventure, danger and derring-do come into the story.

But that’s for another time. Rush on home now, kids, your Mammies will have your feed ready, and you’ll need a nap after all this excitement.

This original fiction was written in response to Kreative Kue 387 published on this site earlier this week.


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