The setting: Isle of Lewis, Scotland; circa 1985.
Wee Kenny Eyeballs almost choked to death on his fish finger when his sister told him The Latest. The latest Latest was that the Siarachs* were going to march on the capital (Stornoway) tomorrow with a list of demands, chief of which was the assertion of their right, as Free (Free, mark you!) Presbyterians to scribble HEATHEN on the door of any person or persons hanging out their washing on the Sabbath.**
Anyway, Kenny almost choked to death at that news but didn’t and was fully composed again by pudding time. Wee Kenny Eyeballs almost choked to death a lot whenever he heard upsetting news during meals. A childhood pyloric stenosis and an unresolved mos vivo*** coupled with recurring throatal occlusion had caused repeated sudden rises in intra-ocular pressure and led to his Unfortunate Protruding Eyeball Condition (UPEC.) (And also his Bulging Forehead-Vein Disorder (BFVD)). That was how comes he got the name Kenny Eyeballs: The Wee was just by the way.
However, when, at pudding, his sister told him The Other Latest – which was the story going round the village about Kevin Drooly and Marina Shed and the peat-stack and the windy day and The Best of Slow Jazz cassette-tape and tape-recorder and the pot of honey and the unexpected bee attack and the missing-presumed-blown-away-clothes and the desperate phonecalls to Karen Drooly at the pub and the four dark, wretched hours before she and her drunken pals picked them up and the car-ride of shame and subsequent treatment in Accident and Emergency for exposure and 3rd-degree stings – Kenny did indeed choke entirely to death, undone by a mouthful of Swiss roll and custard.
His sister couldn’t be sure but she did say his last words sounded a lot like “Narina, ny girl! Chchc snrfl ack chhh. Ang ny “est og azz” take! Orra astard! Mmrfl.”
At the funeral, as the mourners threw their flowers and handfuls of dirt down onto the coffin, Kevin Drooly, heavily bandaged on account of the bee-stings and with tears clouding his vision, threw an old battered cassette tape with the words ow Jazz barely visible beneath its covering of tear-streaked peat-dust.
“I’m sorry old pal, I was going to give it back! I was!” he said.
Kevin was sorry also for (very nearly) having it off with Marina Shed, Kenny’s girlfriend of a week, but did not mention that then. He knew that, for young men of a certain age, mere women could never truly come between best friends. But the music could. The music could. The theft of another man’s Best Of Slow Jazz was a hideous, ear-ripping betrayal. He may as well have baked that Swiss roll and cooked that custard himself and then rammed the down his friend’s throat, tamping the gloopy mess down with a spoon until the whole windpipe was blocked, before dancing round the convulsing corpse.
One whisky-soaked week later, in a pit of remorse so hopeless and metaphorically pit-like, Kevin Drooly and the similarly guilt-wracked Marina Shed went back to the same peat-stack at which they’d met for their doomed night of honey-love. They stripped themselves bare, the angry red weals from their previous stingings still swelling all over their pale goosebumped flesh making them look, in the pale moonlight, like human raspberry-ripples. And then, weeping and singing the song “Tragedy” by the Bee Gees, the two flung themselves on the formerly unexpected but now wholly established peatstack beehive in a last act of penance for their treachery. The repeat exposure to massive stinging killed them both puffily.
* People from the west of the island.
** This – the scribbling of the word HEATHEN! on the doors of demonstrable heathens – was subsequently allowed but was tempered by a controversial “No Indelible Ink/Pencil Only” clause that opened a bitter rift between the town and all those West of the cattle-grid. This observer is unhappy to have to report that many sorry blood-baths followed.
*** The will to live