Jane Dougherty hasn’t prompted us for a while but this is her latest, and frankly extraordinary picture prompt.
The Beach Bum
Horacio Stool felt his new job as beach attendant was a step up from burger flipper and, before that, furnace scrubber at the plastics factory. He needed fresh air, the medics said, because his lungs, damaged by ingesting hot fats and dusty particulates, were shot. And he liked it here, with the certain level of freedom to choose which job he did each day and the beauty of his workplace. He felt an urge to compose, a need to become at one with his environment and took to carrying a posey of blossom wherever he strolled.
The downside was the paying customers; being somewhat sociopathic he baulked at their incessant need for pictures, their inane chatter. However his bosses became aware that Horacio was developing something of his own fan club; interacting with the clients, they said, ‘encouraged the punters to spend’ and encouraged Horacio to ‘make himself available’. When he showed no sign of complying the bosses shrugged. Instead they encouraged the punters to ‘hunt Horacio’.
Horacio did his best but, in truth, he found himself gravitating to the jobs he could do in private, the best of which came every Tuesday with the Beach Olympics.
This required Horacio to set up an obstacle course along a private section of the beach before it opened at midday. There were swims, and challenges with ropes and buckets, Quoits and shell stacking too. But the piece de resistance was the tackle zone, a 100 meter section involving large soft animals to be crashed to the floor before a final sprint.
Horacio loved these creatures: Rambo the Rabbit and Sebastian Squirrel, Cutie the Chipmunk and Gertie Guinea Pig. He lined them up last, chatting to each one.
Possibly it was because he’d become used to being alone that he didn’t notice the youngster with the camera; maybe it was a particularly balmy day and a sonnet was taking shape in his head, causing his lack of focus. Whatever the cause Horacio didn’t notice the onlooker. He checked each creature to ensure they were at their optimum and, as was often the case realised one – in this case Gertie – needed some maintenance. Horacio went to his tool shed and retrieved his work bag. To the onlooker’s astonishment, he slowly and deliberately removed his shorts and pants, before attaching the equipment. You see, Horacio had learnt to improvise. The bosses made it clear that if one of the animals needed air, Horacio had to blow them up. His lack of lung capacity and the bosses’ reluctance to buy a pump left Horacio with little option; he undertook what he thought of as a ‘routine reinflatulation’.
The onlooker clicked away while Horacio concentrated his energies on his intestines. When the picture appeared in the Daily Sprocket the bosses called him in. Sadly they felt they would have to let him go. ‘You’ve really buggered up big time,’ they said.