Wednesday 16 May 2012

'Lucky' by Cassandra Parkin

He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, which made his delivery perilous. The midwife removed the spoon, rinsed it in brandy, and popped in a tiny plum.

                “Born lucky, this one,” she observed. She slapped his bottom, nodded in approval at his vestigial tail, and passed him to his mother, who lay torn and quivering on the four-poster bed. “Here you are, m’lady. Have a look.”

                As was traditional, Lucky was initially raised by the family goat. Her yellow eyes and plump, freckled udders afterwards formed his ideal of feminine beauty. Four times a year, his mouth-plum was replaced by a larger one. At seven minutes past six each evening, in an elegant blue room with slippery sofas, he spent four minutes and thirty-nine seconds interacting with his parents.

                At seven, he went away to be educated, at a school attended by his male ancestors for the last nine centuries. The goat wept, but there was no help for it. Shielded by walls of weeping stone, and aided by regular therapeutic beatings, Lucky received instruction in dead languages, emotional repression, toast-making, smoking, and buggery. He cried sometimes at first, but eventually became reconciled.

On his fifteenth birthday he fell in love with a foreign student who smelled like seawater and coconuts. They hid themselves in the school attics, where red lacquered boxes held a thousand years’ worth of punishment slips. As they made love, the boxes spilled the secrets of boys past.

Hugo has been caught writing poetry again.

Archibald refused to take part in the hunt this afternoon.

Giles does not like his tweed dressing gown.

On his twenty-fifth birthday, Lucky became engaged to a suitable girl with an equine face and blood the colour of sapphires, which lent an unhealthy tinge to her skin, like an unburied corpse. They feasted on greasy swan and the corpse of Lucky’s goat; they danced before the empty throne in the abandoned Royal Palace; when they kissed, they exchanged plums, and Lucky’s parents nodded in approval.

That night, his bride lay demurely still as he folded the hem of her priceless Valenciennes nightgown to a point above her navel. Lucky closed his eyes and dreamed of the scent of coconuts.

Six hours later Lucky climbed out of his bed, stole a green umbrella from the hallway and ran away. He upended the umbrella to form a boat and, using his natal spoon as a paddle, set out across the ocean. When he grew hungry, he ate the plum, which proved sufficient to sustain him.

His former lover was bemused but pleased by Lucky’s arrival. He accepted Lucky’s explanation that his people were newly engaged in a class war, and palaces of any sort were now a dangerous place to be. They lived in a small grass hut, and became fishermen.

Their umbrella-craft became famous for always returning filled with fish. But then, as the midwife had long ago observed, he had been born lucky.

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