SHADOW LAUGH

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A council man is sent to a remote village. To change it into a tourist attraction. Yet finds much mystery and a strange culture. And very odd characters. This is part one.

Submitted: September 30, 2016

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Submitted: September 30, 2016

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SHADOW LAUGH

Part One

The Snug was the smallest bar in the world.  At least most locals thought.  None more than Jock Bran sat at the three foot long barrier.  The pitch pint of stout found his grinning mush.  The tar like grog met the pits of his stomach.  The drunk clung to the counter.  Topped by another short of Scotch.  The landlord clanged a bell.  The long tone bounced around the close walls.  Mall Mack, sat with his pipe.  Churning billowing smoke.  The bullfrog of a man tutted at the sight of Jock.

 

Mall sat there in his red shirt and blue braces.  His red cheeks puffed out silky clouds.  As Jock Bran slid out the of the public house.  Heading for his hovel in the tiny Village of Shadow Laugh.  It was a place nobody visited.  And nobody of importance passed through.  It was home of two farmers.  One with white cows.  The other with black cows.  It was a trapped world of nobodies. 

 

The small bar was closed for the night.  Mall Mack retired to his home, the only shop in the village and the area.  All stock was from the two farmers.  The only imports came from the monthly train from Inverness.  The ghost line was a rusty track.  For rusty goods.  A tunnel through a mountain, stopped at the station of, Shadow Laugh.

*

It was Friday when John Smith arrived in the hamlet.  The train of one coach, chuffed out of the single lined tunnel.  Then screeched to an abrupt halt.  Along the short double platform.  Touching the buffers that marked the end of the line.  Several parcels of food and clothing were met by Mike Mack.  Younger brother of Mall.  The dull grey diesel shunter had replaced the defunct steam engine.  This had been derailed at the end of the platform.  Some twenty years ago.  Lying and rusting between the tunnel and station.

 

Mike shook the strange hand.  The casually suited new man, wanted to see the man in charge of the area.  The slim Scot, pointed to the shop, where Mall Mack pottered about.  Inside his strange home.  Mike placed the goods in the small shed, ready to be picked up later by the two farmers of Shadow Laugh.

 

The train driver sat in the small station office supping tea.  With a drop of Scotch.  There he chatted distortedly with Mike Mack.  And told him all he knew about the visitor, John Smith.  The survey man from Inverness.

*

When John Smith looked around at the hamlet.  He noticed how small it actually was.  There was the small train station.  Standing quiet behind him.  Just the small shunting engine purring and ticking like a bomb.  Opposite this was the mock Tudor house and shop.  Only ten detached houses could be seen.  Along with the Tudor walls of the pub. 

 

The Snug was merely two rooms.  The bar was down, with a room for one above.  A tiny kitchenette was used to make tiny ham sandwiches.  Smith would later learn that the pints were also small.  Yet quite black and strong ale with one name.  Farmer Joe’s stout was the best and only drink.  After Farmer Jack’s home brew.  Which actually had a higher alcohol content than the whiskey. 

 

Smith met the hand of Mall Mack.  His red cheeks matched his red shirt and blue braces.  Flannel trousers hung over smart brown shoes.  Strong shoes for the countryside that had the village in its clutches.  The bald man of over 60 lead Smith into his shop.  Both sat at the only table with two chairs.  The only café in the land.  The thinly built John Smith pointed to his thin briefcase.  ‘In here,’ he breathed, ‘are documents from Inverness.  They want to make this area into a tourist destination.’

 

*

Something stirred Jock Bran from his sleep.  The small room whirled.  The small bungalow was more of a shed.  The stench of drink reminded him of needing a quick tot.  The silver hip flask at the window, caused him to get up and walk.  One gulp of the local whiskey aroused his curiosity.  The sound of a big man roaring with laughter, echoed down the single street of the village. 

 

The sunny morning gushed through the opened door.  The black covered man was the local chimneysweep and lazy good for nothing village idiot.  At least that was what the locals told him, often.  A splinter of mirror on his hovel wall, was enough for Jock to see his teeth grin.  He pulled up his work overalls.  Then his bovver boots.  The Scot tugged on his flat cap, then went outside to the home of Mall Mack.

 

The few trees lining the only street of Shadow Laugh, lead to the high tones of Mall Mack.  The big fat shopkeeper turned to the sight of Jock.  ‘Hey, Jock, ho, ho!’ Jock laughed at the sound of his local friend. 

‘What you laughing at?’ haled Mike Mack, as he waved off the train driver.  The small train chugged away into the tunnel.  Then was swallowed up whole.  Pushing the coach to the distant, Inverness.

*

The main street of Shadow Laugh was half a mile long.  It started from a dead end.  This was below a mountainside.  And adjacent the train track.  The street trailed the other way, to a stony track.  This lead between the two looming peaks.  Rock Tor and Stone Hill were the giants that marked the area boundaries.  The East side of the land levelled out.  On the North side lay the large Farm House of Farmer Joe.  This was the next person to see for John Smith. 

 

He borrowed the shop bike from Mall Mack, usually used by Jock Bran.  One of his many labouring jobs.  The curtains of several more detached houses in the street, twitched.  As the light mist of morning, dispersed to reveal the full warmth of the sun.  Smith was sure he heard tutting from the houses.  As he pedalled along the flat street, a blue tractor buzzed by.  A man with ginger hair stared at the stranger.  A flat trailer on the back of the machine, came to a halt between the train station and shop.

 

The bike left the silent street for the rustling line of hedge rows and oak trees.  The boneshaker rolled on.  Squeaking echoed along the lane.  It forked and caused him to turn left.  Heading for the distant farm.  With a sign reading, ‘Private, enter here at your peril.’

*

John Smith’s face turned pale at the sight of many black cattle.  Cows, bulls and even black sheep.  Even a few horses near the house were black.  The closer Smith cycled the more his countenance blackened with uncertainty.  In the grassy fields the cows neighed, the sheep barked and the horses baaed.  The farm house was grey stone with black door and windows.  A figure cleaning a blue tractor eyed the approaching visitor. 

 

Farmer Joe was wiping the mud from his hands, after washing his bonny machine.  It was usually used to plough the fields away from the house.  On the other side of the big home.  Smith climbed off the black shop bike, that had a basket on the front and back of the framework.  From the contraption Smith held his slim briefcase.  From inside this he revealed a portfolio with Inverness Council, boldly printed.  This was a new situation for the area. 

 

Still the Man of the land insisted the place had been the same for many years.  And nobody wanted it to change.  Except if Farmer Joe would get a better deal than, Farmer Jack.  Smith explained that he had to see only other farmer before he could reveal his reply.  Smith asked where could he stay for his visit.  The wily farmer pointed back to the pub, The Snug.

*

The Yorkshire accent of Farmer Joe appeared odd to Smith.  In the Highlands of Scotland, most landowners were Scottish.  John Smith waved farewell to the still looking farmer.  As he rode away down the lane, the visitor tried to pedal faster.  Past all the black animals.  His mind dreamt of Shadow Laugh, becoming a tourist attraction.  His thoughts became a nightmare.

 

Smith shook his head, then took the other fork in the road.  Down into a small valley.  To the Farming Orchard of Farmer Jack.  The lanky owner sat on a stone wall.  Munching on an apple.  ‘How can I help you young man?’

‘Are you Farmer Jack?  I have a proposal for you, from Inverness.’  The white faced man lead the way to his white house.  Dotted around in fields and a large orchard, stood or lay white cattle, white sheep and white horses.  Even some chickens were white.  A sign on a big shed was for brewing cider and home brew.Metal barrels were stacked ready for the pub.  And next months train. 

 

Smith accepted a sip of the cider.  It forced him to sit down.  Wow, his mind told him.  Farmer Jack roared with humour.  Then patted Smith on the back and said, ‘Welcome to Shadow Laugh, ho, ho.’ 

* * *

 

 

 

 


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