SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: The Heir To Fishbone Place, by Mick Cooper

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Here is the latest in the series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers’ Hub.

‘Now come along Vernius, sit down and have your breakfast,’ she instructed.

‘Yes dear, but I’m not very hungry, I’ll just have a piece of toast.’

‘Toast? What is that, you know since you’ve got back from Rome, with all these new-fangled ideas, you’re a different man. You’re not the man I married.’

‘Oh dear, I hope not,’ he said.

‘And what other brand new revolutionary brainwave ideas did you see in Rome?’ she demanded.

‘Yes, there was something rather special; they call it ‘ice cream’. It’s made of milk and sugar and several other things including flavouring.

‘The best kind is chocolate ice cream, but even better is double chocolate, and then the very best is one that they call Death by Chocolate! Hoooooo!’ Vernius shuddered.

‘The best maker is a company called Lyons, Lyons of Rome. There is another one, and that’s a company called Walls… of Jericho.’

She nodded and servants brought in 20 trays of food and she started eating. Suddenly, there was an awful sound. ‘What is that?’ he asked.

‘It’s your son! He’s doing what he calls ‘mew sick’, and it’s certainly making me sick!’ she said through gritted teeth.

‘He’s down in the audience chamber with his friends making that terrible groaning sound and racket with cow skin-covered boxes, kitharas, cornua, pan pipes and lutes, and lyres, apparently they are calling themselves El-visius and the Roman-aires.

‘El-visius said they went down to the Forum last night and made that noise and they were paid money for it. The building was packed full, with people standing in the street, not able to get in. Strangely, most of them were young females.’

‘Oh yes, I know about that dear!’ he said.

‘You do? Then what are you going to do about it? You should speak to him, show him the errors of his ways,’ she insisted.

‘My dear, he is twice as big as me, he’s 32 years old now. If I tried to say anything to him, he would tell me to go away, very quickly, and multiply! In no uncertain terms.’

‘But, Vernius, the whole of Fishbone is complaining about that… noise.’

‘Don’t worry dear; I have a plan, a cunning plan.”

‘Oh yes, and what is that, if I may ask?’

‘I have an acquaintance in Londinium, his name is Councillor Tiberius Parkerus, but I know him as Col Tib. He has arranged for them to make that noise at the Londinium Palladium, and then next week at the Colliseum over in Rome.

‘Of course, when they get there and open their mouths and make that horrid cackling din, they are sure to get a ‘thumbs down’ from all of the assembly, and before they are able to finish, the gates will be opened and the lions will be let in and that noise will soon stop.’

‘You will then find that our only son has been gobbled up by the king of the jungle... or El-visius has suddenly become a long distance speed runner, and then El-visius will have left the Colliseum.’

‘But, my dear, if your darling son is eaten by some beastly wild animal, there will be no one to leave this wonderful home of ours too? Fishbone Place needs a son and heir.’

‘Yes,’ he thoughtfully stroked his chin, ‘Yes, I hadn’t considered that. Well, I suppose we’ll have to think of something else.’

They continued with their breakfast for a while and then Vernius spoke: ‘I do know a captain of a legion over at Port Chester in the castle, Portus Adurni. I could ask him to take El-visius into the army.’

‘A couple of years as a centurion soldier should sort him out. They are about to be posted to a more southerly part of the Roman Empire, and I bet those Germanic tribes will keep our lad very occupied for some time to come.’

‘If that’s not possible, then maybe we can get him press ganged as an oarsman on a galley setting sail for the Emerald Isle. The natives over there will certainly bring him back down to earth with a bang.’

The door opened and in walked El-visius, followed by four scantily clad young females.

‘Hi Mhawh, Hi Phawh!’ he said. ‘A-haha, How do you feel about – aaaah – changing the name of our home?’

‘Change the name,’ repeated Vernius, What’s wrong with Fishbone Place? What do you want to call it?’

‘Aaaah, I think it should – aaaah – be called Heartbreak Hotel.’

‘No! Certainly not!’ replied Vernius.

‘Well – aaaah – how about – aaaah – Placeland!’

‘No, no, we like it the way it is. Of course everyone knows its real name is Fishbourne Palace, but the name was changed before, three centuries ago by a dyslexic sign painter!

‘No, I think it’s fine as it is.’

‘Okay Mhawh, Okay Phawh, I’m just going to have a bath.

Then he suddenly burst into song, ‘VIVA LAS FISHBONE,’ and then stopped just as suddenly as he had begun.

‘Nope, that’s not right, there just gotta be a better word to go in there,’ he said, then turned and left the room followed by the four young females.

Vernius thought again, ‘We could always get him sent to Pompeii, as a volcano watcher?’

Portsmouth born Mick Cooper, retired musician and photographer runs a web page on the history of popular music in the Portsmouth area.

Three books published between 1984 to 2000, on the history of Portsmouth Football Club. Writing stories for many years and a writer@lovedean for the last 10 years.

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