When In A Hole… #writephoto

This week’s #writephotoprompt is

Chisel Jawe opened the door to his van and stepped out. An elderly looking gent with wild white hair, glasses that reduced the man’s eyes to small angry dots and a tweed jacket that had seen service in the Crimea appeared to be remonstrating with the ancient brick arch in front of which he hopped arthritically.

‘Bloody climate. I told him, pompous know-all that we were riding for a fall. June 1991 it was. Carbon, I said. That’s was the threat. Not polonium, not rare metals. But would he listen. Of course not. Since when does anyone from St Plonk’s listen? I even told him the date and…’ Just then the old gent stopped, apparently noticing Chisel for the first time. ‘Yes?’ The attitude remained aggressive.

‘Professor Noalot?’

‘You are?’

‘Chisel. From the builders. Your secretary said either she or you would be here…’

‘Well, it’s not likely to be her, is it?

‘Isn’t it?’

‘She’s not known for her scaling skills.’

‘Er. Scaling?’

‘I know they teach a range of skills these days. Esperanto can translate from Aramaic and make a decent espresso but scaling wasn’t, so far as I recall on her CV.’

‘I’m sorry, Professor but how is that relevant?’

‘You were the one who suggested she could mimic a monkey.’

‘I… no… I… are you the Professor…?’

‘I’m certainly a professor.’

‘Noalot?’

‘Some might say so though it would be rather arrogant…’

‘You called about some subsidence?’

The Professor blinked, being brought out of some self-aggrandising memory. ‘Yes. That’s right. It’s the drought. I know it is. First it was the common room and then the offices. One minute Esperanto was knocking out the coffee grits and about to pop on the kettle and the next… whoosh.’

‘Whoosh?’

The academic pointed at the ground next to the arch. ‘Yes whoosh. Dropped about three floors. In there.’

‘She’s in the basement?’

‘Now she is. An hour ago she was on the first floor.’

Chisel walked past the Professor. On the other side of the arch there was an enormous hole, one side of which was filled with what appeared to be a classic Oxford College, all two stories of it. What he had taken for an arch was, in fact the bell tower. A maudlin-looking crow peered out.

Chisel felt a presence close to his shoulder. ‘Potter. Graduated in ‘41. Killed in action and returned as a corvid. Been in residence in the tower ever since.’

‘The crow’s a graduate?’

‘The dean would never allowed some misbegotten undergrad to reside here for nothing.’

‘But he… it’s a crow.’

‘Are you birdist?’

‘No. It’s just … how do you know that’s Potter?’

‘Sings madrigals in a falsetto and shits octagonal stools. His party piece during Formals. Extraordinary sphincter, that man. One of a kind. If he’d not taken a bullet in Cologne, he’d have won a Nobel.’

Chisel shook his head and forced his focus back on the sunken college. A few faces peered out of the windows. One waved when they saw him looking. He turned to the Professor. ‘Shouldn’t we call the emergency services? Someone might be hurt. Your secretary, for instance?’

‘Esperanto? No, she’s fine. She’s a tad put out about the coffee, though. See, she’s the one with the two mugs.’

Chisel looked. A petite woman holding two mugs nodded, as if she’d heard. ‘But we need to get everyone out. What if there was another collapse?’

‘Not going to happen. We predicted this in 2002. That assumed we kept warming the bloody planet which we did. One hot summer was all we needed. I was working on an algorithm that aimed to determine the exact date following us hitting 40 degrees but I’d only got it down to plus or minus seven days. Very annoying. As I was saying to Pompous over sherry just yesterday, it…’

‘Professor we really need to get these people out. I’ll call the fire brigade…’

‘Good God, man, we don’t want all that palaver. This college has been here since 1342 and in that time it has been evacuated once and that was only after Cathcart St Tibbles set light to an artichoke fart in ‘94. The Dons will make one heck of a fuss, like they did when Timmins was put back an hour on account of the recalibration of St Gregory’s tiffin and they had to continue their researches without the sustenance of a cream…’

‘I really think we ought to do something, sir.’

He seemed to like the sir as he mollified his tone. ‘Young man, all you need to do – not that I’m one to tell a fellow professional how to do his job – is get a crane, hoist the old place up a few feet, prop it with a jack and fill in the hole with some unwanted old bricks. St Plonks might fit the bill nicely.’ The Professor beamed at his suggestion.

Chisel should his head. ‘I’m sorry, Professor but this place has been undermined. You can’t just pick it up and fill in the gap.’

‘That’s a bit defeatist. If everyone took that attitude we’d never have had the internal combustion engine, dry sherry or the portable toilet.’

‘Anyone going into that crater is risking life and limb.’

‘That’s a bit harsh. Most of the academic staff are easy going. Delphine Gloyn can be a little rebarbative if she’s denied her midday cheroot, but a man your size should be able to rise above that.’

‘I’m calling 999.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes really.’

‘Well, I’m disappointed. Still, if you must.’ The Professor stepped towards the edge of the crater, apparently intent on walking over the rim.

‘What are you doing?’

The Professor looked round. ‘We can’t afford to waste good coffee, you know. Potter? You coming? I think there may be a custard cream.’

The crow cawed and flew onto the old man’s shoulder as he slipped over the edge. By the time Chisel reached the spot where he’d last seen him, the Professor was at the bottom of the hole on his feet and striding towards the window containing Esperanto and the mugs. Standing out in the watery sun, an octagonal shaped smudge of bird faeces nestled between his shoulders. The crow met his gaze, raised a claw and offered Chisel what could only be an avian middle finger.

Chisel turned away. His mother had been right. University would never have suited him.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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11 Responses to When In A Hole… #writephoto

  1. tootlepedal says:

    Very droll. Better than being up a certain sort of creek which the rest of us seem to be at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So the bird did learn something in class, just not anything about having class.
    Got it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: #Writephoto Round-Up – Tower – New2Writing

  4. Jemima Pett says:

    Oh, I love it! Octagonal poo. And really, if they’d learnt to jack subsiding buildings up a while ago, we’d all have been much better off. They build them on stilts in earthquake areas now, to reduce the shaking, so why not?
    Great stuff, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. KL Caley says:

    Hahahaha! Loved it.
    Great entry, Geoff. Thank you so much for joining in with the #writephoto prompt. KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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