Monday, 24 October 2016

The Witching Eve Approacheth.

There’s a Halloween event planned at the village pub next Saturday. I don’t usually go to evening events at the pub these days because pub beer is expensive and my alcohol tolerance is low at that time of day (and I couldn’t possibly countenance going into a pub without having a couple of pints. My publican ancestors would turn in their graves, especially at Halloween.)

But maybe I should go to this one. Maybe I should muscle in on the biggest of the groups and spot the right moment to break in. Would you like to hear an interesting story? I might ask. Of course they would; what would Halloween be without an interesting story? They’ll be all ears. When they're sitting - or standing - comfortably, I'll begin:

It happened at another Halloween party, at a pub in another village where I lived some years ago, I might begin. Some people came wearing fancy dress – the usual stuff, you know: witches with pointy hats and plastic broomsticks, men with devils’ horns, teenage girls with white faces and red-rimmed eyes, lots of fake blood…

Shortly before midnight – the pub had a late licence that night – a figure walked in wearing a monk’s habit, a black one. The cowl was voluminous to say the least, and the wearer kept his head down so no one could see his face. He (everybody assumed it was a man because monks always are) walked among the drinkers without actually touching anybody. All eyes were on him as you would expect; people were smiling and making guesses as to who it was, especially since he was quite short – around 5ft 5 was one person’s guess.

‘Declare yourself,’ I heard somebody call out. ‘Come on, mate, let’s see the whites of your eyes,’ said another. The figure ignored them both, but walked over to the corner of the bar and sat on the floor, his head still bowed.

‘We’ll soon get to the bottom of this,’ snorted a heavily built young farmer. He strode over to the sitting figure and unceremoniously pulled back the cowl, at which point the costume sank to the floor, empty.

The gasps of amazement were soon replaced by titters, and a general consensus was held that it had all been some clever magic trick performed by an expert illusionist and paid for by the landlord. The landlord, however, who hadn’t been in the bar at the time to witness the event, strenuously denied that it had anything to do with him. And in all the years I lived there, nobody else ever owned up to it either.

The audience will smile indulgently and claim that I made it all up.

‘You don’t expect us to believe it,’ one of them will no doubt say.

‘It’s of no consequence to me whether you believe it or not,’ I expect I’ll reply.

‘But it’s not true, though, is it?’

‘That’s for you to decide.’

But a little later, a nervous woman who resembles a bird and is gaining in years will sidle up to me and ask:

‘That wasn’t true, was it? Please say it wasn’t. I have to walk home alone, you see.’

And then I’ll have to decide whether to be kind or not.

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