This week the writing group was asked to write 500 words or fewer including, or inspired by, the words “Bring a mallet”.
Jinky and Arthur slid through the opening they had forced in the verger’s office window, and dropped onto the old, cold, stone floor. They waited, crouched, catlike, waiting to see if their intrusion had been detected, but Jinky’s abrupt exhalation announced they had not been seen crossing the churchyard, nor heard breaking in.
“Phew. See? There’s nobody around in the week.” He tugged on Arthur’s sleeve, “Come on, we haven’t got long, it’s nearly 12 already.”
The wrought iron door latch clattered up, the sound causing Arthur to wince, as Jinky eased back the door into the side chapel and generations of beeswax and incense enveloped them. It didn’t bother Jinky, but Arthur had been a chorister so the heavy sepulchral silence, and perfume, troubled him, raking across his fear of divine retribution like a fingernail scratching down a school blackboard. The hairs stood erect on the back of his neck as he shouted a hoarse whisper, “Jinky, I don’t like this. I want to go home.”
But Jinky, the older and bolder of the two, was already tiptoeing down the central aisle. “Don’t be such a wus. We’ve come this far, let’s do it and get out of here. Gi’me the bag.”
The light from the full moon flooded through the stained glass oriole window above. Framed by the polished altar pieces lay an open leather-bound bible, the gold leaf letters gently glowing, and there before the altar stood the object of their intent: with a single brass candle stand at each corner, a coffin rested on a trestle.
The lid bore a brass plate with the name of the occupant, Nicolae Enescu. At the foot, an easel carried a black and white photograph of an old man with protruding teeth, and a brief biography: Nicolae, had been a renowned magician and escapologist. He had been discovered by the Red Cross after the war, a child living in a packing case in a ruined Romanian monastery, and brought to England.
Jinky gushed. “See, he’s even from Romania. I knew it, I told you he was one!” He swept a wreath from the top of the coffin and rooted around the toolbag for a screwdriver.
Arthur, even more un-nerved by the church clock striking twelve, implored again. “That don’t prove nothin’, you might be wrong, anyway it’s sacrilege. Please, let’s go.”
But Jinky, still ignoring him, had already removed the lid of the coffin and was looking in. Enescu, looking younger than he expected, was laid out in his stage clothes: a long tailed dinner suit, winged collar and cape. Jinky shivered, then took a deep breath. He felt inside the bag for the wooden stake, found it, then rummaged again with increasingly desperate urgency. “Where is it Arthur? You dipstick, I told you to bring a mallet.”
But Arthur was nowhere to be seen, and when Jinky looked back to the coffin his gaze was returned, and a smiling mouth purred:
“Good evening, how nice of you to come.”
Andrew Gold ©
11 June 2014