This week’s #writephoto prompt is
Reg Himcules took a few deep breaths. ‘What now?’ He inquired with a sigh. ‘This is the last, isn’t it?’ There was more than a little desperation in his voice.
Penny Forthem rubbed her hands, causing sparks to sparkle from the dry rough surface. ‘Depends if you cheat, lad.’
‘Yes, well you’re not exactly the most sympathetic of judges, are you?’
‘I think I’ve been very fair. You had help with the Swindon Sardine, didn’t you?’
‘I dropped the tin and that old lady just picked it up. That’s hardly help with one of your ridiculous tasks.’
‘Labours, please. Look sonny, if you want to marry a Deity, then you’ve got to prove yourself.’
‘Her name’s Deity, Carole Deity. It doesn’t make her a goddess.’
Penny gave him a sly look. ‘You don’t think she’s a goddess?’
‘Course I do. That doesn’t make her some supernaturally empowered being.’
‘You want to give up?’
They’d been down this route already. When he’d been give his first ‘Labour’ – to rescue the Feline of Felixstowe, which turned out to be a psychotic Burmese with an incontinent bowel that the RSPA were desperate to re-home and who had lacerated Reg’s shins before emptying his colon into Reg’s Timberlands – he’d thought this was a bit of a joke. A classical joke, perhaps, but not a serious proposition. Now, fifteen labours in and with his van full of the cat, a stuffed owl, the packet of salted sardines, two tartan snoods, a cardboard cutout of Michael Gove dressed as the Pope, a set of Scandinavian novelty commodes, thirty one packets of liquorice flavoured condoms, and several adjustable elastic supports he was tired, smelly, much scabbed and not at all sure if he still wanted to marry his Deity. He was tempted to chuck it all in, he couldn’t deny it.
Maybe his hesitancy triggered some empathy in his tormentor, for she said, ‘Come on, Reg. Just this last. You’re going to acquire your beloved a signet ring.’
Reg stared at the pond, at the family of swans and blanched. ‘You’re not serious? A cygnet ring? I’m not slaughtering baby swans to satisfy your sick mi…’
Penny laughed. ‘Silly. Read my lips. I said signet, not cygnet ring. It’s sitting on a cushion on a small island under those overhanging branches. The water is just waist deep so you just need to wade in there, pick it up and we’re out of here.’
Reg studied his tormentor’s face. He didn’t trust her and he knew that swans could be protective of their young. Still how hard could it be? Reg began to pull off his less than savoury boots and trousers. ‘This is it, then? Get through this and the Labours of Himcules are done?’
‘Yep. I’ll let you buy me a pint and we can go and show Carol your trophies.’
‘She’ll love them,’ Reg mumbled as he eased himself into the pond. It was pleasantly cool and no deeper than she’d said. As he waded towards the trees, the family of swans swam towards the far bank. ‘Not.’ He stopped by the entrance and peered into the gloom. He glanced back. ‘In here?’
‘On a cushion.’ Penny gave him a winning smile.
Reg pulled his shoulders back and began wading forward again. ‘No sweat.’
As he disappeared into the gloom, the swans swam forward and blocked the entrance. Moments later Reg’s face appeared and paused as he spotted the swans. His shoulders sagged. ‘Oh get out of the way, you cushion stuffing.’ He began waving.
‘You want to take care, Reggie.’
‘They’re only swans,’ Reg kept wading forward. ‘What damage can they really do?’
‘Ordinary swans, yes. But sabre-toothed swans…,’ Penny titled her head thoughtfully.
Reg looked at his Great Aunt in law to be. ‘Seriously?’
Just then the father swan bared his fangs and began swimming at Reg. As the rest attacked Reg could be heard to say, ‘Oh bugger.’
Penny opened her little stool and sat down. She began organising the first aid kit. He’d probably need some patching up this time.