Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Around a table


A small meeting room at the offices of the Yorkshire Post.

Saju (early 20s, Asian, Leeds) is with Lister (60s, white, rural North Yorkshire). Saju wears a slightly dishevelled shirt and tie. Lister is dressed in mud splattered farmer’s clothing, and carries a large shotgun case which he props against one wall.

Saju   You’ve come fully armed then?

Lister           Yer nowt but a lad.

Saju   I’m a junior reporter.

Lister           Where’s t’senior reporter?

Saju   They’re all … unavailable.

Lister           What about Dan Harden?

Saju   Him too.

Lister           I’ve been writing to him directly.

Saju   Yeah, he mentioned that.

Lister           Several times.

Saju   He said.

Lister           So where is he?

Saju   There’s a big story breaking at the moment.

Lister           Bigger than mine?

Saju   Very possibly.

Lister           What’s that then?

Saju   Someone’s stolen Jimmy Savile’s body.

Lister           Who’s Jimmy Savile?

Saju   Who’s … never mind.

Lister           Sounds like neither nowt nor summat. Maybe they’ll change their minds when they hear what I’ve got to say.

Saju   Maybe they will. Let’s see eh?

          Saju takes out a notepad.

Lister           You can tell your Mr Harden I think he’s rude. I’ve written to him four times and rung him twice as many. No reply.

Saju   I’m sure he’s just busy.

Lister           And I drive all the way down from Castleton, only to get palmed off with t’work experience lad.

Saju   I’m a fully qualified reporter, actually.

Lister           I’ll be judge of that.

Saju   Mr Greenwood wasn’t it.

Lister           Aye. Lister Greenwood. Castleton Farm.

Saju   Age?

Lister           Never you mind.

Saju   It’s just we always print the –

Lister           Never you mind. Bloody cheek.

Saju   Right. Alright. Forget it. So.

Lister           So?

Saju   So what’s the story?

          Pause.

Lister           I’d really rather talk to a grown-up.

Saju   It’s me or nothing. Up to you.

Lister           You’ll never believe a word of this.

Saju   Try me.

          Pause.

Lister           It were two week ago now. I were gathering t’flock in from lower field for t’night. One of em got separated from t’group. Ran off. Something had spooked her. Buggered if I know what, but she fair belted it out of t’field and out to yonder hill. Freeborough Hill. It’s well-known in our area. See it from everywhere. So I said to our Billy, to take t’rest of flock in while I go chasing after the escapee. I’ll tell thee this fer nowt – a frightened sheep can go at a fair old lick. She took me right round t’back of Freeborough Hill, but when I got there – nowt.

          Saju sighs and puts down his notebook.

Saju   Is this going somewhere?

Lister           Course it’s going somewhere.

Saju   Because I’m sorry, but with the greatest respect, a lost sheep isn’t really news round these parts.

Lister           Tha’ll watch tha tone, lad, if tha wants t’hear end of t’tale.

Saju   I’m sorry, it’s just – we’re really busy today.

Lister           Too busy by half.

Saju   Do you mind if we skip to the end.

Lister           Where there’s muck there’s brass.

Saju   What does that mean?

Lister           You’re a reporter. Report this.

Lister takes the large rifle case and puts it on the table between them. He pops open the catches and shows Saju what’s inside.

Saju   Shit. Shit, man. Where’s it from?

Lister           Oh tha wants to know now does thee?

Saju   Aye. Tell us.

Lister           So I’m stood on t’far side of Freeborough Hill like Bo Peep in her nightie, no sign of t’lost sheep. When I notice this hole in t’side of t’hill. Ey up, I think. Never seen that before. So I wander over, and blow me if it isn’t big enough to walk into, at a bit of a stoop, but I can get in nonetheless, and I’m a tall man.

Saju   You are.

Lister           Aye. Goes right into side of t’hill it does, and curiosity gets t’better of me dunt it. Plus maybe t’sheep’s in there I think. So I wander in, calling after t’sheep like a silly bugger. It’s dark, and wet. Cold. Though it was warm outside, like today. So I’m walking ten, twenty, maybe fifty steps into yonder tunnel. There’s this sort of grey light coming from t’end, like winter moonlight it was. Eerie. When I get to this door. Huge, solid, wooden thing it were. Old. Really old. Rusted iron rivets running down it in rows, and a huge iron handle covered in cobwebs. But it’s ajar. Well I can’t not look at what’s on t’other side can I? So I push it open. Well, I will never forget what I saw until t’day I die. One of my feet kicked something, a brass goblet, which goes skittering into t’room. And it stops at t’feet of the most enormous man I have ever seen. Stood there, half asleep, in full chain mail, boots, helmet, resting his chin on a broadsword, grey beard flowing over the top and almost down to t’floor. He opens his eyes, piercing blue they were, and puts his fingers to his lips. ‘Sssssh.’ For right next to him, was this huge round table, and around it twelve other knights, fast asleep, their heads resting gently on t’tabletop. It were King Arthur. King Arthur and his Knights. It’s long been said round our way that Freeborough Hill is where they sleep – ready to rise again, to defend the realm, should England ever need it.

Well I’ve seen em with me own eyes. It’s true. They’re there.

          Pause.

Saju   Mr Greenwood. Sir. This is – this is …

Lister           Choose yer words carefully, lad.

Saju   I’d have laughed you out of the office, if it wasn’t for …

Lister           Aye. For this.

Lister picks up what is the in the rifle case and holds it up. A beautiful, ancient, jewel-encrusted sword.

Lister           Excalibur.

          Pause.

Lister           Do you think maybe y’might want to go and get yer boss?




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