Day 45: Coventry to Leicester

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And no, nobody’s riding nude through the town….

Greetings from across the pond!  While the torch bearers are crossing the UK (and Dublin) in the run-up the 2012 Summer Olympics, we’re being torched with unusually high temperatures here in Pittsburgh.  Pardon the pun, it won’t happen again.

As should be obvious from my surname, I have a family history from the UK.  We come primarily from Wales but have family ties to southern Scotland, Yorkshire, and Sussex (that I know of so far – do you know how hard it is to trace family names like David Davies!)  I was born and raised here in Pittsburgh, but have always had a close cultural connection to the UK from my maternal grandfather – and a host of British TV programs – to the point that my natural dialect is half-Pixburghese, half-British English.  As a writer, I am usually heavily drawn to writing the British-American experience.

(l-r) Kevin, Tyler, Mr. Punch

Possession, my first published novella, released through Dreamspinner Press last year, features a British ex-patriot, Tyler Ward.  Three things to know about Tyler – he’s madly in love with his American partner, Kevin; he is fiercely proud of his British heritage; and he is a confirmed skeptic.  These three things put Tyler at the center of a perfect storm that threatens his happy home with Kevin when he ignores a horoscope’s warning and brings home an ‘impish’ reminder of his childhood.

Punch and Judy shows are typically associated with the British seaside – and the Leicester area is literally as far away as one can get from the seaside in Britain.  One of Tyler’s favorite childhood memories is of going to the seaside for summer holidays, not an everyday treat for the landlocked (though, to be honest, the furthest place from the shore in the UK is still closer than even Pittsburgh is from the Atlantic shore.)

 

Leicester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Is earthy English humor, yes? Like seaside postcard from Leicester, yes?” – Jerzy Balowski

 

So to let you get a feel for Tyler’s cozy present life, here’s an excerpt from Possession for your enjoyment.

“Hey Ty, where did you get this freaky thing?” Lukas called from the dining room.

Tyler snickered and motioned for Daniel to go have a look. “Found it at that antiques across from Stef’s,” he said.

“Fuck off,” Lukas scoffed, kneeling down to look at it closer. Daniel took one look at it and turned to go help Kevin bring their dessert into the living room.

“What is that crazy thing?” Lukas asked, grinning as he sat down again with dessert.

“It’s Mr. Punch. You’ve never seen Punch and Judy?” Tyler said, taking the dish Kevin handed him.

“Heard of it,” Lukas said, “but that’s about all. Which one is which?”

“Punch is the jester in that figure. Judy’s his wife,” Tyler explained.

“She’s not there ’cause she’s dead,” Daniel said bluntly, returning to the living room with dessert.

“Probably,” Tyler chuckled.

“That thing’s creepy, Ty,” Daniel said seriously.

“Oh come on. It’s a reminder of home.”

“So’s Jack the Ripper,” Daniel grumbled.

“Didn’t you ever go to the seaside and see a Punch and Judy show as a kid?” Tyler asked.

Nightmare fuel.

“Yeah, I did. I was five and I ended up screaming and running for my mam. It terrified me. And don’t you bloody sit there and laugh at me, you wankarse.”

“Terrified you?” Lukas said, trying to keep from snickering, unlike Tyler who was laughing unapologetically.

“Lemme give you the storyline,” Daniel said. “First, Punch throws his baby down the stairs and kills it; then he beats his wife to death; and then he kills a copper. By the end, he either gets hanged, goes to hell, and kills the devil, or is attacked by a crocodile, which he kills. And all along he keeps cackling and singing ‘that’s the way to do it!’”

“That sounds kinda gruesome,” Lukas said, wide-eyed. “That’s for kids?”

“It’s all in good fun,” Tyler said dismissively. “Nobody takes it seriously.”

“There doesn’t seem like there’s much of a moral to the story either, though. No sort of redeeming quality,” Lukas said.

Tyler just shook his head. “You’re such a bunch of pussies. Really, it’s amusing, you know, if you’ve got a sense of humor. It’s just black comedy, that’s all.”

“Well, it still scares the fuck outta me,” Daniel said. “I used to have nightmares of Punch beating me to death in my sleep. Used to wake screaming in the night.”

“When did you get that anyway?” Lukas asked. “I don’t remember seeing it when I stopped over last week.”

“Nope. Just got it yesterday actually.” Tyler couldn’t help looking a little smug as he waited for Lukas to remember that “dire warning” about bringing home impish things.

“Ty! Shit, no damn wonder your back went out!” Lukas cried.

Expecting exactly that reaction, Tyler couldn’t help laughing. “Oh come off it, Luke. You seriously think that my back, which has been wonky for nearly six bloody years, is hurting because I brought something ‘impish’ home yesterday?”

“I think something less impish wouldn’t have caused your back pain today, but something that impish, with such a malicious reputation? No doubt about it, and I doubt it’ll stop with just your back.”

“I’ll break my leg next?” Tyler snickered.

“Fine, don’t take it seriously. I just don’t want to see anything bad happen to you guys.”

Again, Tyler just shook his head. “I appreciate your concern, Luke, really, but I just can’t seriously believe that what goes on between outer space and an antiques shop on Aspen Avenue has any effect on my back.”

“What’s Teddy think of it?” Lukas asked pointedly.

“Won’t go anywhere near it,” Kevin said, speaking up after having quietly listened to the conversation for a while.

“Should always trust an animal’s opinion.” Lukas nodded.

“Well, I won’t be sharing with any of you if I hit the lottery tomorrow.” Tyler snickered. “Something bad might happen with that sort of winnings during such an unlucky streak.”

If you’re brave enough to find out what Tyler will be up against, you can watch this video.  Author not responsible for lost sleep and nightmares!

http://youtu.be/oM4sYxH_o4g

Ok, fine.  Here, you lot of Peeping Toms!

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4 responses »

  1. I love the thought of a seaside postcard from leicester. There is (or used to be) a lift testing facillty near Northampton which was referred to as the Northampton Lighthouse. Similarly landlocked.

    Cracking post – nobody else has mentioned Punch and Judy!

  2. Professor Jessica! Love the post and I agree with Daniel – there’s something seriously ‘off’ about finding Mr Punch funny. I think people laugh because he makes them nervous. He makes me nervous.

    I’d love to read the story but I’m a fully paid up and registered scaredy cat. 😀

  3. Nice post, cool story extract – Mr Punch is pretty creepy and lots of people have irrational fears of puppets (it even has a medical name, pupaphobia). Though I’ve seen ones in Prague that were even creepier…

    As to seaside postcards of Leicester – it feels like if the rain carries on as it is, that might even be a reality by the end of the year!

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