Here's a taste of my new novel Mud Hut Man.
There was an old man lived in a hut under the south wall. His name was Hester and he was really old, perhaps as old as sixty. It was rumored that he’d once lived inside the Castle walls. It was probably a load of old bollocks but I decided to go and see him anyway.
I ducked in through the door, into the usual hut murk and filth.
“Hello? Hester? I got a nice cabbage stalk for you to gum. Coooeee.”
My eyes adjusted to the gloom, if not my nose to the stench, and a bundle of rags stirred in the corner. A flame flared and a dim oil lamp threw flickering shadows across a face so wrinkled it looked like a dried-up riverbed. I squatted down next to him.
“Here you go you old tosser. Have a go on that.”
I watched him a while as he chewed on the vegetable.
“Listen Hester, they tell me you used to live inside the Castle. When you were young. Tell me about that, would you?”
He stared at me and there was the unmistakable light of intelligence in his eyes. He understood me well enough.
“I can bring you better grub than that old cabbage stalk. If you can tell me what I want to know.”
He stuffed the half chewed stalk inside his rags, and leaned to one side to bubble a fart, that if anything freshened the air.
“I was fifteen you know and due to wed the daughter of … well, some tart with a nice big arse that lived inside the Castle.” He said, “I was only a Reeve’s constable but I caught a gang of trout poacher’s just before Micklemas. King came and judged ‘em. They hanged. All of ‘em. My ticket into the Castle that was … all that jizz running down their dancing legs … ”
He wheezed into a cough, spat into the cold ashes of the fire, then pulled his rags around him.
“Anyway, I got inside didn’t I. Did very well for myself. Had a privy of my own.”
“Tell me some words. Castle words.”
But I had to listen to him babble on about some old biddy’s fat arse and what they used to get up to down in the Castle kennels. Disgusting. And would have got them burned if they’d been caught. I grabbed his shoulder, and dug my fingers into the base of his scrawny neck.
“Shut up, you old fucker. Never mind all that bollocks. Tell me about the world. The world beyond these huts. The world inside the Castle. Come on you dried out old bag of shit. Tell me what I want to know!”
His eyes were dull, his mind stuck back somewhere in his filthy past. I grabbed his beard in my fist and started to twist it, gouging the fingers of my other hand into his shoulder. His eyes suddenly went bright and I could tell I’d got his full attention alright. I gave his beard a couple of vicious twists and he whimpered. Tears sprang to eyes, eyes that were now wide and focused on me.
“Tell me,” I said through gritted teeth, “tell me what I want to know. Or I’ll tear this beard off and fucking strangle you with it.”
Once I was sure he knew I was serious, I let go and sat down in front of him.
“Start by telling me where we are. Use words I can understand. If I can’t understand something and you can’t make me know it, I’ll fuckin’ hurt you. Do you understand? No more cabbage stalks. From now on all you get is pain if you can’t tell me know what I need to know.”
He nodded. We understood each other. It was a wonderful thing, the bond between teacher and pupil.
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders