McDuff's memorable evening
Lord Cameron Drummond McDuff stood on a pinnacle of rock and surveyed the glory of the sunset as it consumed the land, sky and sea of the Inner Sound before him. It had been a beautiful afternoon, and the wonderful sight of the sinking sun crowned the day perfectly. Almost imperceptibly, the brilliant, turgid, orange orb squeezed behind a ribbon of grey cloud that lay like a dull cummerbund across its belly. “Such majesty” Lord McDuff heard himself mutter, and was somewhat startled to hear the words. Looking about him, there was no-one near, though he had always imagined that some kind of dwarf ought to inhabit this particular spot. He knew, of course, that it was a ridiculous notion, but he nevertheless liked the idea of there being more to the world that what commonly meets the eye, and he fancied that he had, in fact, seen something mysterious in the wilder parts of the land hereabouts. Standing next to him, though, was just Rab, the border collie, dishevelled, muddy, and dripping humic water from the yellowed hair of his white undersides. McDuff smiled at the dog. “Just a minute longer laddie” he said kindly, “this is a rare moment”. The dog looked up. ‘If he was capable of smiling, that would have been it’, thought McDuff.
What Rab was really thinking was [Has it got food/Is it angry?/Can I rub my bits against it?] to which the answers were [No, No and No]. Of course, these words didn’t occur to the dog; just the thoughts. McDuff looked down at the dog again, ‘Practically human’, he thought to himself.
The golden sunlight caught in the clouds and the sea, and the brilliant sparkles of light on water were nearly too picturesque to believe. It was almost other-worldly. He drifted off a bit, imagining himself as a nobleman of old, who had claimed this land after vanquishing the wild men and goblins of the hills and caves, creatures who preyed on lonely travellers. He was the hero, kinsman of Aragorn, protector of the rustic people who lived here. A sword-wielding, fearless warrior and a master of lore rolled into one. ‘Master McDuff’ they would call him, and doff their caps as he passed by, nodding benevolently to acknowledge their respect. Not that he would be weak. He would ruthlessly eradicate the wicked, and reward generosity. Indeed he would be the embodiment of generosity himself, but with a stern response to trespass.
He came back to reality. In truth he felt silly thinking like this. He thought of the prim Miss Booth, and the throwaway, derogatory line she would dismiss him with as she noticed in him some tendency she resented in herself. “Needs a good spanking, that one.” he thought, and immediately reproached himself as fleeting visions of her reddening bottom flashed before him, and he felt the onset of a certain stirring. Yes, these Middle Earth fantasies were absurd, but they were seductive at the same time. Merely his harmless little fantasies of how things might have been.
Despite the lingering warmth of the day, McDuff shivered. Clouds were building up windward, and the sound of a deep and distant rumbling was heard. Rab pricked up his ears. “Come one Rab” said McDuff, “we’d best be heading home. Sounds like I’ve a fair one brewing up after that devil of a curry last night”. The dog looked up at his master expectantly, [Does it have food?/ Not angry?/ Chance of some action? (nope)], but McDuff was already stomping purposefully through the heather in the direction of the house. It was quite a trek home: over hill, under hill, across the water; pleasant enough country, but he’d better not delay too much. He would have to cross a stream in a small valley, where there was a rustic wooden bridge constructed of poles lashed and nailed together, before he could go over the next hill and down the long slope towards the village of Michel Digging, and home.
He reached the bridge. In humour, it had been named The Bridge Over the River Kwai by it’s builder, a jolly, local chap who seemed to be able to make or repair anything, and was often accompanied by an unreasonable number of children, all calling him ‘Grandad’. Tommy was not there now, but his bridge still served well as a crossing, and avoided the original crossing point lower down, where the stream disappeared into a marshy, iris and rush-filled area, the Gladden Marsh. After crossing it, McDuff slowed to a painful stagger as trapped wind got the better of him. “Oh Lord, I don’t think I’m going to make it in time”, he said to no-one. Rab looked sideways at him; the [Food/Danger/Shag/No] was rather fleeting in it’s helplessness. McDuff persisted but was increasingly of the opinion that he’d better keep a look out for some sheltered spot where he could release this burden. It would be a good twenty minutes before it was dark enough to hide him out in the open. There were not a great many inhabitants of these parts, mostly short, hairy, country folk, but clean shaven, though more recently, an influx of industrialised types had invaded from Eastern lands, and had brought their city ways with them. McDuff did not altogether approve. His was a story of ancient culture and history. He felt in his pockets for some tissue. “Drat” he declared. There was another rumble and blast. Rab scented a food smell but hardly looked up this time, as [‘No’] became his predominant thought. Something else was occupying his master’s attention. McDuff knew there were no broad-leaved trees or herbs in the immediate vicinity, and things were getting more desperate by the second. Then he remembered the little wooded area upstream. ‘Not exactly on the way home, but close enough’ he thought.
In another five, variously painful minutes, he had selected a quiet spot away from prying eyes, between a large-leaved lime, and an Ilex. After a quick look round, he unfastened his belt and dropped his trousers. Freedom! Rab recoiled with a yelp. He patted the dog on the head and reached for a bundle of fresh leaves. A scuffling sound came from the nearby branches of a tree. ‘What was that? There’s something decidedly unusual about today’ he thought to himself. McDuff’s crap had taken all of fifteen seconds. The dog bravely sniffed the mush [Food? (Probably not)], then drew back rapidly. “That’s right lad”, chortled McDuff, “Stay clear of that! It’s as hot now as when it went in judging by the sting in my arse, and it doesn’t look much different either, sitting there with leaves garnishing it.”. It was only then that he noticed what looked like a picnic hamper lying under the holly bush, and signs that a meal had been eaten there recently. Bits of cheese and a slice of cucumber evidently had fallen out of a sandwich. Rab had noticed it too, despite the pervading aroma of the scene. [Food? (Yes), thought Rab, then Food? (No) when it was gone]. ‘Was that the sound of voices?’ thought McDuff, shocked out of his post-voidance reverie. Rab cocked an ear [Big creatures: Food?/Danger?/Shag?], but McDuff was already up, buttoning and off, round the other side of the holly, and heading off away from whoever was coming this way.
Hidden a little distance away, after failing to overcome the desire to see who it was, Rab and McDuff could hear the sound of jollity getting nearer and louder, and then stop dead, presumably as the surprise package was discovered. He couldn’t make out what was said, but it was clear that disgust and effrontery were foremost. From the tones, McDuff thought he knew who was there, and a loud “audacity!”, then “defilement” confirmed the voice as that of the detestable London, dilettante ‘poet’ who had recently taken up residence in the village and, apparently, set out to seduce all the young people in the area, including McDuff’s own son, Donald, who had, by his own account, given ‘Jeremy’ a black eye for his trouble. As a local magistrate, McDuff had asked a colleague from a neighbouring village to sit for the case if one arose, safe in the knowledge that it would be dismissed, but no charge against his son had appeared, and no reparations were necessary.
With this episode in mind, however, McDuff thought he had better slope off fairy smartish. It would not do to be caught here. It was nearly dark now, and would be a simple matter to stroll off in the opposite direction. Rab, however, had other ideas. He reasoned, as much as dogs do reason, that there was a good likelihood of food or a shag in the direction of people, so off he went, putting McDuff in a bit of a spot. He could hardly call out because he would certainly be recognised, but the dog might well be recognised too, if it trotted up with wagging tail, expecting to be greeted. There was nothing for it. McDuff emitted a low whistle. Rab stopped in his tracks, then after a few seconds in which even his feeble brain worked out that there was little chance of food in McDuff’s direction, continued on. “Drat the dog”. McDuff whistled again and crept nearer. “Here boy”, he called, in a hushed, disguised voice, hopeful that the dog would know it was him but the people wouldn’t. ‘Perhaps they’ll think the pile was done by the dog? No..’ It looked and smelt exactly like the ‘meat vindaloo’ it was, and McDuff knew it. Besides, no dog would have used leaves to wipe it’s own arse! He was right behind the holly bush now, but it was quite dark so, provided he didn’t make any obvious sounds, there was no reason why they should know he was there.
“Why, it’s a dog!” said a young woman’s voice. McDuff listened intently, ‘That’ll be McIntire’s girl, young Penelope’, he thought. ‘What’s that gullible idiot doing with that obnoxious little poof?’. Feelings of excitement were gaining hold of McDuff, as he was, impudently standing within feet of these people, still packing away the residues of their picnic, all with the air of disgust at what he’d done in the midst of it. He wasn’t quite the warrior champion of a few minutes ago, but he felt a certain superiority to these people, who he had inadvertently soiled.
“Hey, get the dog out of there!”, yelled Jeremy’s voice.
“Oh, you might as well let him have it now. I’m not going to eat it after a dog’s been at it, though you might I suppose.”, came a rather sneering reply.
‘William Baird’, thought McDuff grimly, ‘nasty little bastard that he is’.
Rab gobbled up the available food greedily, saying nothing except a muffled, [Food, good].
“Wait a minute!”, said a voice that sounded like Penelope’s but wasn’t, “This is Lord McDuff’s dog, Rabbie. He must be out walking.”
‘Bugger’, thought McDuff.
“Yes, and nice of him to take time out to crap on our picnic. Very generous I say”, said Baird.
“We don’t know it was him” retorted Penelope.
“Oh come on!” replied Baird, “Who else is going to be out here so late in this wilderness? We should have left an hour ago ourselves, then we wouldn’t have to struggle back in the dark, through swamps of festering shit. Besides, I happen to know that Duffy Donny and his pompous father went to the Bengal Fire last night, because I saw them emerge, quite disgustingly drunk. They are just the sort to crap on other people’s picnics.”
McDuff quietly fumed.
“Yes, indeed we do know”, giggled Jeremy knowingly, "Gosh! Do you think he's nearby, watching us discuss this vast organic donation from his very bowels?”
McDuff became suddenly nervous.
“Oh shut up Jeremy, please” said the other woman, “your attempts at humour are not always as sparkling as you like to think, you know”.
“Bitch” came a barely hushed retort.
“Don’t be ridiculous both of you. Lord McDuff is not the sort of person to do this to somebody. The McDuffs are a perfectly respectable family. I expect he is sitting at home sipping brandy by the fire at this very moment. He certainly wouldn’t do… do a.. do this in the middle of someone’s picnic!”
McDuff smiled inwardly. He was warming to this girl. Perhaps he had dismissed her character rather too easily. Of course he wouldn’t have done it to them on purpose. He was a gentleman.
“No, I agree.”, returned Baird, McDuff the elder cannot have done it. For a start he would have consumed the rest of the wine if he’d been here, the old drunk.” McDuff fumed again.
“On the other hand, his idiot son is highly likely to be responsible”, continued Baird, “The man’s an oaf with no redeeming attributes. I bet it hurt him though”, he added with a snigger.
“That much is certain”, chimed in the poet, grinning, “Donald is a vile monster, incapable of knowing beauty or anything greater than his nasty little world of farms and cattle”, he said with a flurry of waving arms. “Moi? I doubt he knows even the value of the countryside, except in purely fiscal terms. “He is the son and the heir of an arrogance that is terminally putrid”. A small giggle circulated and Jeremy bowed. McDuff was not amused. “Big Mouth strikes again”, he thought. He detested the affected little runt even more than before.
The party was moving off, and McDuff had to scuttle around the holly bush as they moved past, so as not to be seen. All his training as a woodsman would come in handy in this situation. It had to be done quietly, in the dark, whilst avoiding any twigs, the encounter of which would be likely to reveal his presence in a loud snap. No, he would be quite safe in this situation from this pitiful little band. As adept as any ranger of the North, he was.
Luckily, the group moved off with a good deal of noise, and he was able to remain hidden, not, it must be said, without some noise, or without stepping in his own pile of freshly crusting excrement. “Bollocks!” breathed McDuff. The stench was indeed powerful, as the Emperor had foreseen.
To all appearances, the disappearing group appeared to have all but forgotten the incident, when a voice was heard above the others, “My word, you can still smell that filth from here! McDuff should explain this behaviour. Let’s pay him a visit straight away.”
“How soon is that?”
“Right away! He needs to be confronted, just like anybody else does”.
Sadly, this suggestion was met with general approval.
“Drat again!” exclaimed McDuff, “I’ll have to get home double quick and out of these boots, so as to be there when the confounded people arrive.” It was simple matter for McDuff to reach the house some minutes before the chattering group did, because he could cut through his own land, while they would have to go round by the road. He was home, changed, with a brandy in his hand while they were still entering the lane some half a mile away.
He congratulated himself on his astute avoidance of a potentially embarrassing situation, and considered some withering remarks he could make to them without, of course, giving anything away about his whereabouts this evening, when a call came from upstairs.
“Dad! Is that you? Can you come up here please? I need some help.” It was Donald, and he sounded anxious about something. McDuff, whilst not a doting father, was nevertheless concerned about his son’s welfare. “What is it son?”
“I want you to do something for me”, came the reply.
“Well, ask me, son, said McDuff, “I won’t say ‘No’, How could I?”
“Well come up to the bathroom please Dad”, said Donald.
He went upstairs promptly, only to find his son, in a dressing gown in the bathroom, with a mirror in his hand. His expression and demeanour suggested extreme worry. The bathroom stank of second-hand curry and soap.
“Dad,” said Donald, sheepishly, “Can you have a look at my bottom and see what’s wrong with it please?”
“Can I what?” exclaimed McDuff, a little doubtful now about the extent to which fatherly love should extend.
“I think there’s something sticking in it, but I can’t feel anything sharp”, explained Donald, “It hurts like buggery, and is very sore to the touch. I’m really worried.”
“All right, son”, replied McDuff, “a stint in the army taught me what a raw arse feels like, and I wouldn’t wish it on ye. Bend over then”.
Head on the floor, Donald winced as his father peered into the wound. It seemed more like a puncture than an anus. A gaping, red raw hole, flayed, and with attached hair met his gaze. “I hope this is clean, son, because I don’t fancy poking around in a living cess pool. It looks like Liverpool, Capital of Culture in there”.
“Very funny Dad, yes, it’s clean. I’ve just had a shower, and dabbed it with mum’s face cream to cool it down, but it’s no better”, came the voice from the floor.
“It looks painful, and no mistake”, said McDuff, “but I canna really see in this light. Come down into the kitchen under the strip lighting”.
McDuff felt genuinely sorry for his son as they went downstairs, as each step was clearly painful for the lad. Once in the kitchen, he switched on the main light, and looked again. “Well, it’s raw enough, that’s for sure. There’s something not right here”, he said, kneeling on the kitchen floor, staring intently into his son’s bottom.
There was a knock on the front door. Donald heard Rab give a bark, “Hey!” [Food?/Danger?/Shag?].
“Don’t worry about that”, McDuff told his son. “I know who that is. I saw them coming this way earlier”. The knock was harder the second time, taking the form of a rhythmic tapping, accompanied by the bell. They were obviously in high spirits. Rab said, “Hey!” again, then “Hey, Hey, Hey”.
“Shut up Rab”, said McDuff, and a disappointed Rab said, “Oww” back. There was no danger that anyone would open the door to the party because they were the only two in the house. ‘Let them rot’ thought McDuff.
“What the Hell?” he exclaimed.
“What is it?” came Donald’s concerned response, “It’s burning like fire! I don’t know what the fuck they put in that curry last night, but it wasn’t normal”.
“Mind your language boy!”, said his father sternly. Grown-up he may be but, while he lived in this house, he would uphold the levels of decency befitting his family. “I agree it certainly was no ordinary curry, that one, but… let me get the magnifying glass. There’s something there. Your hole seems to be burning”.
“It fucking feels like it’s on fucking fire! For God’s sake Dad, put some water on it or something”. Ignoring the language, McDuff obliged, with a small, flower pattern milk jug the his wife had been lucky enough to pick up for 50p in a second-hand shop (in good condition too! Apart from a little chip in the base, it was perfect). McDuff held it up to the light, admiring its delicate porcelain form and slightly translucent quality. This was something worthy of Imladris itself. He could imagine the slender form of an elf, pouring nectar into the glass of mead, and handing it to Glorfindel.
“Dad!” he son pleaded.
“Righty ho lad”, recovered McDuff. He dripped some water onto his son’s inflamed anus. Donald cried out. There was a sharp hissing sound, and a pungent steam rose in the air. McDuff was worried now. Going to the kitchen drawer, he rummaged around until he found a small magnifying glass and a torch. Now he would see. He applied more water to Donald’s arse, and coughed in the resulting fog. Hmmm, he could detect chilli in the taste, but something else too; something more than sulphurous. Was it brimstone? Had his son’s arse taken on attributes of the fires of Hell itself? or Mordor? ‘For God’s sake stop it.’, he cursed himself reproachfully, ‘This is no time for fantasy’.
As he looked closely at the ring, he could feel its heat beating on his face. It belched forth a revolting stench as the colour pulsed from bright pustulent pink to gold. There was something altogether weird about this gaping sore. It hissed another, stomach-heaving fart: “McDufffffffffffffffffffffffffff” it seemed to squirt out. How could this be happening? It was like some nightmare. With his eye to the glass, he shone the full beam of the torch into the yawning chasm, and touched the scorched anus with his finger. Donald let out a whimper. Then McDuff saw it, a definite glint of something golden. ‘Aha’, he thought, ‘but …. what was this? It cannot be!’ There were fiery letters engraved on the bright golden ring of his son’s sphincter, and beyond it, a void of darkness that was not simply dark. It was a vast nothingness, though somehow, McDuff knew it was not altogether empty. Something; some being, resided there inside the alimentary canal of his son. McDuff could feel its presence. ‘I’m in danger of emissions’, he thought, but he was not going to abandon his son.
He breathed the foul air. He tried to read what was written, but it appeared to be in a strange, uncouth tongue. ‘Dammit!’ thought McDuff, ‘where did I put my English-Mordor; Mordor-English Collins Little Gem Pocket dictionary?’ When he looked again, though, he thought he could somehow read the letters. Some power of sight had been given to him. He looked, gratefully and with reverence, to the West, but no, it had been a trick of the light; a reflection in the glass of the lens. It was mirror writing!
With some effort, he could just make out what was written as the sphincter rose and fell in it’s exaggerated throbbing:
There was something else too …. ‘hold on …. it’s… in English!’, thought McDuff. Persisting, he read
“What?!”, cried McDuff, “That was yesterday!”.
He then erupted into a fury of such force and dialect that only someone familiar with a strong Glasgow accent would have made out what was said, “Ya filla hooore’ va be’n. Ah din speac meun la t’be essorsteh wi a buncha sassina poofs”.
Donald understood only the odd word, but got the gist. The blood drained from his face (but not his bottom). His father was a fraud! How did he get a title? How on earth did he escape the perpetual trap of the Glasgow suburbs? nothing else mattered now except the shame brought upon them all by his father’s uncouth origins. Pain or no pain. No!, agony or no agony, he would stand up and confront his father immediately.
It was not to be. First, he found himself unable to move, though his father was still jumping around the room in an outraged fit of extreme pique as if his own arse was on fire. Second, in through the back door came Jeremy, William Baird, Penelope McIntire, and Maggie (Penelope’s friend). Baird, quickly dropping McDuff’s shit-covered boot that he had hoped would provide evidence against his quarry, valiantly tried to shield the women’s eyes from the bizarre scene in front of them, but Penelope brushed him aside and ran to Donald. She cupped his balls in her hand and started to talk to him in childish tones, as if he was a puppy she’d just rescued from a well.
McDuff stopped ranting to look on in a stupor. Jeremy, meanwhile plonked a kiss cleanly on Donald’s bottom and ran his tongue around the rim. “Ah, so you’ve discovered our little secret have you?” he said triumphantly, “You will need, in future, to handle your drink better than you did last night, though your manners, dear boy, were impeccable”.
Donald managed to stand, and as the mist cleared from his recollection of very late yesterday evening, and his thoughts began to coalesce into some semblance of a pattern, eventually starting to fit into place in logical order, or at least in chronological order, the shock of the memory caused the blood that had returned to his face to drain from it once more. Meanwhile, forgotten in the corner, a denser mist was closing down on McDuff. He knew he was ruined on several counts and, as the horror of what had befallen him and their probable consequences were revealed to his mind, he lost consciousness. There was a loud clunk as he fell to the floor.
Baird cheered, Donald stood there, in pain and blinking; Rab licked McDuff’s face. Penelope and Jeremy licked the hanging balls of Donald, who uttered poignantly, “Will nature make a man of me yet?”.
Note: brimstone is a particularly pure form of elemental sulphur.