Categories
Story Poem

The Pirate & the Pirate Queen

By Jay Nicholls

The Pirate and the Pirate Queen

Pirate Blacktarn quaked with fear
For his deadly enemy was near.
Tim Parrot saw her, out on the waves,
With her dreadful ship and her crew of slaves.
“Oh help, oh fear, what shall we do?”
Blacktarn muttered to his anxious crew.
“The Pirate Queen is on her way,
This is a woeful, miserable day.”

“Our Captain is such a terrible wimp.
Even his whiskers have gone all limp,”
Thought Stowaway Fay, who cared not a bean,
“Who is this fearsome Pirate Queen?” 

The Pirate Queen’s hair was fiery red,
She waved a cutlass around her head. 
She was tall and strong and brave and bold
And her crew all did as they were told. 
The sails of her ship were the colour of blood. 
Across the sea they watched her scud. 

“She’s coming, she’s coming,” the crew all cried. 
Pirate Blacktarn went off to hide. 
Tim Parrot flew to the top of the mast. 
“Quick,” said Mick, “we must get away fast.” 

But the Pirate Queen’s ship was faster by far.
They heard her crew laugh, “Harr harr! Harr harr!”
Soon, very soon, she drew alongside.
Across ships jumped the Queen in one great stride.
“All aboard! All aboard!” her fierce crew roared.
And onto Blacktarn’s ship they stormed,
Over the decks the ruffians swarmed.
Till even brave Fay felt fear and panic
And into a tar barrel she jumped dead quick. 
The tar glooped around her, all sticky and thick.
But there she lay hiding, watching the mayhem
And everyone wondered what would become of them. 

The baddies tied up the crew and swilled all the grog 
And went looking for Blacktarn, who lay like a log
Under the table, flat on his belly
His eyes tight shut, quivering like jelly.
“Yo ho ho,” said the baddies, to the Captain’s alarm,
“Don’t worry Blacktarn, we don’t mean you no harm,
We just plan to hang you up from the yardarm.”

They dragged him on deck, all of a swagger 
But one by one, they started to stagger.
They’d drunk far too much grog
And their brains were in a fog
But they held on to Blacktarn as they tottered around
“Here he is,” they shouted with a fierce sound. 
The Pirate Queen swished her cutlass about
Then raised it high to give Blacktarn a clout.
“No, no!” cried Fay, with a wild shout 
And from her barrel she leapt right out.

She was covered in tar, from head to toe 
As she stood repeating, “No, no, no, no!”
She looked so sticky and strange and weird
That the enemy crew were all afeared. 
“A demon, a monster, a sea devil’s here!
Get away quick, before it comes near!”
Their fuddled brains were dreadfully scared 
And they raced to their ship as fast as they dared.

“Come back you cowards,” the Pirate Queen roared.
But at that very second, Tim Parrot soared
Down from the mast and pecked at her head
And even the Queen jumped back in dread.
“Come away Queen, from that terrible ship,”
Called the enemy crew, “quick, give them the slip.”
The Pirate Queen turned and reluctantly ran.
“Come on,” yelled her crew, “fast as you can!” 
So back she turned and set sail at once.
“She’s gone, she’s gone,” cheered Fay in response. 
“We’re free again now, the Pirate Queen’s beat.
Quick, let’s get our crew back on their feet.” 

Tim flew to the crew and pecked at their knots 
Till all were untied and rubbing at sore spots. 
“Get up Captain,” said Mick, all happy and cheerful. 
Blacktarn stared at Fay, so scared he was tearful. 
For brave Fay was still covered in tar and dirt,
So they turned on the hosepipe and gave her a squirt
And swilled her down till at last she was clean,
Chanting, “We’ve got rid of the Pirate Queen!” 

“That’s better,” said Fay, smiling happily. 
“Oh,” said Blacktarn, “it’s Fay I see. 
It’s Fay! It’s Fay!” and he jumped up at last, 
While the enemy Queen sailed away fast
And only a glimpse of a blood red sail 
Told of an adventure to make a sailor quail. 

“I handled that well,” said Blacktarn with glee, 
Come on crew, let’s get sailing across the Lemon Sea.”

Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).

Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Story Poem

Pirate Blacktarn gets Lost

A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls

Pirate Blacktarn, terror of the Lemon Seas 
Shivered in an icy breeze. 
“This is odd,” he muttered crossly,
“Suddenly I’m feeling chilly.”

“This is weird,” the crew agreed.
Big Bob grumbled, “it’s cold indeed.”
Colder it grew as the days went past.
The North Wind blew with an icy blast.
Blacktarn stayed in his cabin by the fire,
Piling the coals up higher and higher.
Poor Tim Parrot could hardly speak,
For a giant icicle hung from his beak. 

“This is dreadful,” groaned all the crew. 
The tips of their noses had turned pale blue. 
Then a monstrous iceberg passed them by
With a jagged tip nearly scraping the sky.
Blacktarn stayed in his cabin, very snug 
Where the roaring fire made a cosy fug.

“What’s happened” wondered the frozen crew,
The Lemon Sea’s turned an icy hue.”

Then Stowaway Fay jumped up suddenly
And emptied out her mug of tea.
She tied it fast to the end of a rope
And dropped it into the sea, in hope.
Back she hauled it and started to drink.
But the taste of the water made her think.
It was chilly and strange and salty to savour,
Not a hint of lemon was in its flavour.

“I knew it,” she cried, though her voice was hoarse
“Our daft Captain’s set the wrong course!
Of navigation he hasn’t a notion,
We’re adrift in the Arctic Ocean!”

At this the crew grew very mad.
“Our daft Captain is really bad.”
Below decks they charged with an angry roar 
And banged on Blacktarn’s cabin door. 
Blacktarn pretended he didn’t hear,
He hid in the cupboard, quaking with fear.

“Silly Captain, you’ve read the chart wrong,
Now take us back where we belong.”
“It’s not my fault,” he squeaked through the door,
“I’ve never read a sea chart before.”
The crew let out a mighty groan.
“Typical, we might have known.”
“Well,” said Fay, “we’ll read the chart.
Hand it over, let’s make a start.”

Blacktarn pushed it under the door
And the crew spread it out across the floor. 
“We go north, no east, no nor’,nor’ west.”
“No,” said Fay, “south is best.”
But which way was south? No one knew
Until through the door Tim Parrot flew.
The fire began melting his frozen beak
And at last poor Tim was able to speak.
“This way’s south, just follow me,
I can guide you back to safety.”

Just ahead of the ship he flew,
Hoping to find the waters they knew. 
At long, long last, they smelled lemon in the air.
“Hurrah, hurrah, we’re nearly there.”

Then out came Blacktarn, onto the deck,
“Just come to give the sea chart a check,
Now that we’re back in the Lemon Seas at large.
Of course with a captain like me in charge
You know you really can’t fare badly,
Come on crew, keep sailing across the Lemon Sea.”


Note: 
The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).

Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Story Poem

Pirate Blacktarn meets the Siren

A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls

PIRATE BLACKTARN MEETS THE SIREN

Pirate Blacktarn was sailing around
When all of a sudden, he heard a sweet sound,
A marvellous melody, wafting on the sea.
“Let’s go and see what that sound can be.”
“No you can’t,” said Tim Parrot anxiously,
“That’s the Siren’s song, turn back quickly.”

“Nonsense Tim, don’t be such a bore
Full sail ahead, I want to hear more.”

“No, no,” said Tim, “the Siren’s song’s a trap.
She’ll sing and tell tales till you doze and nap.
And at last you’ll fall asleep and never wake again.
Don’t you know the Siren makes statues of men?”

“Rubbish, don’t make a fuss, we’re brave and tough
And we’re not afraid of Sirens,” said Blacktarn in a huff.

So they sailed at speed to the Siren’s shores
Following her enchanted music’s lures.
“Welcome,” called the Siren as they finally came near,
“I have a tale or two, perhaps you’d like to hear?”

Her hair was shining silver and her eyes were glinting green,
The most amazing creature they’d ever seen.
Her lilting, laughing voice was rich and sweet as honey.
Mysterious and serious, fantastical and funny.

“Don’t listen,” cried Tim, flapping his wings with worry.
“Oh be quiet Tim, we’re not in a hurry,
“We can surely stay for just a little while.
Pleased to meet you Siren,” said Blacktarn with a smile.

Then the Siren gave them all a potion to drink
And they drank and drank and forgot to think.

“I see you pirates have come a long, long way,
You must stay here and rest,” they heard the Siren say.
Then she told them tales of the people of Mer
And of sunken ships full of long-lost treasure,
And the terrible battles of the squids and the whales
And the shining sea fire that never ever fails,
And the undersea caves that glitter with diamonds
And the eels that weave through the waving fern fronds,
And the ghosts of dead pirates all shivering and cold
Still seeking their hoards of silver and gold.

Their heads began to nod and their eyes began to close
And one by one they fell into a deep enchanted doze.
They hardly knew if they were waking or dreaming
For all was hazy and magical seeming.
Blacktarn’s mouth opened wider and wider
And he didn’t even notice when in jumped a spider.

“Wake up! Wake up!” cried Tim in agitation,
But the pirates were lost in their imagination.
“Time for drastic action,” thought Tim, very worried,
And away to his friends the seagulls, he hurried.

“Help me, please help me, I don’t know what to do,
The Siren’s enchanted Blacktarn and all his crew.”

Then the Lord of the Seagulls held a meeting of his flock,
They all gathered together on his great grey rock.
They didn’t like the Siren, she turned birds into stone
And wore necklaces and rings made of seagulls’ bones.

“What we’ll do is hold a seagull’s chorus,”
The Great Gull decided, “and we’ll make such a fuss
That the Siren’s voice will be silenced and unheard,
Then the pirates will wake,” announced the Great Bird.
The gulls all agreed this was a very good idea
For a certain sort of seagull screech is hideous to hear.
So away they flew to the Siren’s shores
And saw the pirates and heard their snores.
The Great Gull himself let out a wild cry
Then the seagull chorus screamed through the sky.
The din they made echoed round and round
Till the Siren’s voice was completely drowned.

“Wake up Blacktarn,” called all the birds,
“Wake up, don’t listen to the Siren’s words.
Wake up Mick and Bob, wake Stowaway Fay
Wake, if you want to live another day.”

Tim went round pecking at the dozy crew.
“Wake up Captain and Rakesh and you and you.”
Then the crew stopped hearing the Siren’s voice.
They only heard the gulls, they didn’t have a choice.
“I must have been napping,” said Bob opening his eyes,
“I’ve had some strange dreams,” said Mick in surprise.

Then they stared at the Siren in horror and dismay
She’d turned purple with rage, now she couldn’t get her way.
She frothed at the mouth and her eyes went red
And writhing snakes twisted round her head.

“Run,” yelled Fay and at top speed they fled,
And didn’t dare stop, they were so filled with dread.
At last they reached the ship and sighed with relief.
That was an adventure quite beyond belief!”

“I wish I could remember the stories she told,
 I wanted to hear those magic tales unfold,”
Said Stowaway Fay, with a rather sad sigh.
“Me too,” said Bob. “Yes” said Mick, “so did I.”
“You be grateful you haven’t been turned to stone,”
Said Parrot Tim crossly, “then you’d really moan.
If it wasn’t for the help of the gulls of the air
You’d be trapped forever in the Siren’s snare.”

“Nonsense,” said Blacktarn, “we were dozing a while,
We weren’t caught up in the Siren’s guile.
I told you no Siren would get the better of me,
Now come on crew, get sailing, across the Lemon Sea.”

.

Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).

Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Story Poem

Pirate Blacktarn and the Rainbow

A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls

Pirate Blacktarn was sick of the weather.

His big green hat with its red parrot feather

Was all sodden and wet and soggy and droopy

With the rain that kept falling and driving them loopy.

“I’m tired of this weather,” he grumbled again,

“All it does is rain, rain, rain.”

“Never mind Captain,” called Mick with a shout,

“Look over there, the sun’s coming out.”

“And look beyond,” cried Fay with joy,

“There’s a rainbow shining. Rainbow ahoy.”

The rainbow shone red and orange and gold,

Blue, violet and indigo and green and bold.

“What a wonderful rainbow,” the crew all cried.

“Humph!” said Blacktarn, “I’d rather it dried.

But wait a minute, there’s a tale I know.

Now what is it that lies at the end of a rainbow?

Gold! Yes of course, a crock of fine gold.

Below that rainbow there’s wealth untold.

Well come on crew, turn the ship,

Start to steer for the rainbow’s tip.”

“But Captain,” said Bob, “we can’t reach the end of a rainbow.”

“Of course we can,” said Blacktarn, “come on, let’s go.

I’ll be the richest pirate on all the Lemon Sea,

I’ll eat chocolate for breakfast, dinner and tea,

I’ll wear ten gold rings in each of my ears,

And wear cloth-of-gold trousers for years and years.”

“Well I think we should have some of this gold too,”

Said Bosun Mick to the rest of the crew.

“Well, maybe I’ll let you have a coin or so,”

Said Pirate Blacktarn as he paced to and fro.

But the crew felt annoyed and muttered and mumbled.

“It’s not at all right,” they sulked and grumbled,

“We do the work, why should Blacktarn have it all?

All he ever does is growl and bawl.

But first we must find this mysterious rainbow.

It’s very odd how it seems to come and go.”

All day they searched for the rainbow far and near.

But when they thought they were close, it seemed to disappear.

And when they reached the place where the rainbow should be,

There was nothing to be seen anywhere on the sea.

Everyone thought they knew the best course to take.

And each yelled at the others, “THAT way, for goodness sake!”

“Steer to starboard!” “No, to port!”

“No you fool, it’s the other way I thought.”

So they all grew crosser and crosser and then began to shout.

Until at last a horrible fight broke out.

And everyone joined in, with fierce kicks and punches.

And poor Tim’s feathers were pulled out in bunches.

But at last they grew weary and bruised and battered

And their heads were hurting and their clothes were tattered.

Then they heard a strange sound wafting over the sea.

“What’s that?” they asked, feeling rather panicky.

“It’s the people of Mer,” said Fay feeling sad,

“They’re laughing at us for being so silly and bad.

And do you know what’s happened now?

All the time we’ve been quarrelling and making such a row,

The sun’s gone down and the rainbow’s vanished.”

“Oh no,” cried Blacktarn, “my dreams of wealth are banished.”

“I’m very sorry,” said Big Bob, the cook.

“So am I,” said Rakesh with a shamefaced look.

“I didn’t really mean to pull out your feathers Tim,”

Said Bosun Mick, holding out a hand to him.

“And I wasn’t really trying to peck off your nose,”

Said Tim with a sigh, “or even gnaw your toes.”

Then they cleaned each other’s cuts and rubbed each other’s bruises.

And then they agreed that they’d all been losers.

“But look at our poor Captain,” cried Rakesh, “over there.”

For Blacktarn huddled by the stern, muttering, “It’s not fair.”

And he looked very miserable and gloomy and dejected

For all his hopes of gold hadn’t gone as he’d expected.

“Serves you right,” said a voice, “for being much too greedy.”

And Neptune himself rose from the deeps of the sea.

“We’re feeling very sorry,” said Stowaway Fay.

“So I should think,” said Neptune, “what a way to spend a day!”

But Big Bob the cook baked a great big cake,

The very best that he could possibly make,

And Blacktarn had the biggest piece with a nice cup of tea.

And Rakesh sang a song to try to make him happy,

Until at last he smiled again and seemed to cheer up,

While Neptune reminded him, as he took a cup,

“You can never find the end of a magical rainbow,

As every good sailor on the Lemon Sea should know.”

“Well of course I knew that,” said Blacktarn cheerfully,

“I was just testing the crew here, you see.

But now we’ve steered a long way off course.

It’s time we set sail again, to catch the salt-wind’s force.”

.

Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).

Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Story Poem

The Tickle Imp

By Rhys Hughes


 The Tickle Imp
  
  
 I once explored a cave
 with a homemade
 flaming flambeau
 that sputtered and guttered
 while big bats fluttered
 and the waves of the sea
 lapped steadily
 on the shingle of the beach.
    I tingled
 as the shadows
 danced upon the walls
 and stalactites out of reach
 dangled like tusks
 in the interior dusk
 of that subterranean world.
  
 What was I seeking
 in that place?
 Why did I delve so deep?
 Was it simply a pleasure
 to look for treasure
 at the back of a gloomy maze,
 an iron chest full of gems
 hidden by a pirate bold
 one night in the olden days?
 The answer of course is yes!
  
 And there at last
 among scattered bones
 and the fossilised echoes
 of ancient groans
 I found what I was wishing for,
 a fantastic casket
 festooned with padlocks
 cunningly concealed behind sharp rocks.
 And whatever it held
 within its depths
 was mine to take and keep
 but first of course
 I had to break
 each rusty antique lock
 and disturb the sleep
 of any unkind ghost
 who might resent playing the part
 of my unwitting host
 in that bleak and slimy darkness.
  
 A hammer was my key!
 I knocked
    the locks off
 one by one with blows
 of savage glee
 and when that was done
 I had some fun
 throwing open the lid excitedly
 and feeling deep within.
 What did I feel,
 what did I see?
 Rubies, doubloons
 gleaming like moons,
 polished silver cutlery?
 Emeralds, sapphires,
 diamonds divine,
 opals smouldering with internal fires
 in colours that never fade?
 Or at the very least
 strings of pearls
 as long as the girls
 they were meant to adorn
 that would trail on the ground
 with a clicking sound
 louder than lawnmower blades?
  
 To my acute dismay
 on that momentous day
 there was nothing of that kind
 but just a strange little creature
 with disordered features
 and bulging eyes,
 a chin in the shape of a sickle
 and breath like ripe
   lime pickle
 who jumped out in surprise.
  
 He leapt onto my outstretched arm
 and clung there while I winced
 and though his claws
 spurted no gore
 the harm that was done
 left me rather sore
 and I roared in pain
 as I tried in vain
 to shake off the devilish thing
 but he refused to budge
 and when I paused
 he opened his jaws,
 undulated his tongue,
 and though he didn’t say much
 he spoke to me thus
 and it was quite enough:
  
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 It might seem quite fickle
 or even a sin
 to make this request,
 to ask such a thing,
 but I must confess
 that to ease my distress
 there’s nothing so fine
    as a tickle.
 So please tickle me 
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.” 
  
 The flaming flambeau
 was propped in a corner
 and I snatched it up
 to scorch his nose.
 Then he relaxed his grip
 and I was mighty quick
 to run away
 without delay
 and never deviating
 left or right
 I lurched into
 a stalagmite. Ouch!
 Yes, I stumbled and tumbled
 and rolled on the ground
     all the way
 to the mouth of the cave.
 I guessed the demon
 was pursuing me
 but I never expected
 him to reach the sea
 before I did, and how
 it happened I never learned
 but there he was
 to my great concern
 prancing in the waves
    that washed
 the mingled shingle and sand 
 in front of the cave
 and while he surfed to shore
 he clasped his hands
 imploringly
 and made this request
 in the style of a demand:
  
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 No doctor, nurse or
   apothecary
 could ever do half as much
 for me as a tickle
 under the chin.
 Why this should be
 I really can’t say
 but it’s all that I need
 to feel perfectly free
 and filled with strange glee
 to a tremendous degree
 like an emphatically happy
 ecstatic chappie!
 So please tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
  
 Shrieking I fled
 over jagged rocks
 and scuffed my shins
 almost down to the bone
 on pitted stones
 and the pincers of crabs
 snapped and snipped
 as they sidled up
 to the rude intruder
 who waded through
 their tidal pools.
 What a fool I had been
 to nurture that dream
 of wealth so easily acquired.
     All in vain!
 Rich and admired
 I never would be
 but dearly my life I hoped
    to retain
 and so I kept on running,
 bawling in pain,
 my leg still lame,
 as I tried to escape my fate.
 But my life would never
 be the same again.
  
 The dawn was breaking
 and my limbs were aching
 when I finally reached my home.
 I kept glancing
 nervously behind just in case
 I was being followed
 by that impish face
 but the coast was clear,
 the imp was nowhere near.
 I felt a surge of relief
 as I opened my door
 and passed in before
 I was fully aware of the possibility
 that he had again preceded me,
 which in fact was really the case.
 And on the mantelpiece
 in the living room,
 dangling his legs,
 there he was,
 waiting for me,
 and what did he say?
  
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 Alone for so long
 it can’t be wrong
 for my chin to crave a tickle.
 But if you refuse
 you stand to lose
 everything you hold so dear,
 your life and mind,
 I’m not unkind
 but that’s the truth,
 the facts are ruthless
 and uncouth.
    So tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
  
 I grabbed my wallet
 from the table
 and stuffed it in my pocket
 then out I dashed
 as fast as I was able,
 threw open the shed door
 to pull out my bicycle
 and it seemed that an icicle
 of fear was stabbing
 me in the rear
 as I mounted the machine
 and pedalled
 harder than ever before
 like a madman in a dream.
 Uphill all the way
 my journey took me
 to the mountains north of town
 and when at last
 I lay the bicycle down
 on the ground
 I was at the base of a peak
 so lofty and steep
 no one would ever think to seek
 a fugitive up there.
 Such an obscure sanctuary
 would surely suit me very nicely.
  
 I scaled the face
 of that glowering crag
 by my fingertips
 with painful slowness,
 compressed lips
 and no grace at all,
 but I finally managed
 after many long hours
 to conquer the
 forbidding tower of gloom.
 There was room
 at the top to accommodate
 one person only
 and the view
 would surely enable me to see
 far in all directions.
 If the imp was coming
 this way I would know
 and if he was really doing so
 I could deal him
 a crushing blow
 by rolling boulders on his head
 as he tried to follow
 me to the top.
 With bursting lungs
 and thudding heart
 I hauled myself to the summit
 of that granite block
 but to my shock
 the imp was already there
 with his charmless grin
 and his wispy hair
 and once again he had his say:
  
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
    the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 Ages ago I came to your world
 from a distant planet
 and asked to be tickled
 but nobody could be bothered
 with the simple request
 of an alien guest
 and now on this ledge
 I have solemnly pledged
 that if you decline
 I’ll give you no rest
 until the end of time.
 So tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
  
 My nightmare continued
 and when I look back
    to review
 the subsequent hunt
 of man by imp around the land
 I shudder and shiver,
 tremble and quiver,
 gasp and grunt,
 and my mind goes limp.
 Oh horrid times!
 I even caught a plane
 to distant Spain
 in the other hemisphere
 but after safely landing
 in Andalusia
 and disembarking
 with the flight engineer
 this course of action
 ultimately helped me not at all
 for at the point
 of luggage retrieval
 instead of my suitcase
 on the conveyor belt
 there trundled that being of evil
 who leapt into my arms
 insisting on a tickle.
  
 I grew old prematurely
 then finally sickened
    and died
 but this blessed escape
 was just an excuse
 for one more jape
 in the mischievous career
 of the incorrigible imp
 who managed to appear
 even now, yes!
 I was buried in a coffin
 and as I reclined
 to enjoy my time of rest
 for all eternity
 I heard a knocking on the lid
 and it opened
 with a creak and into my
 poor sarcophagus
 without making undue fuss
 creeped the dreadful thing
 with his tickle hungry chin
 and he shut the lid
   behind him,
 snuggled up close
 and hissed in my ear
 in the style of a ghoul
 from a cruel and ancient year:
  
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
    the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 There’s little room
 for a man entombed
 to comply with my request
 especially in a time of such distress,
 but as my grandma always said
 when I was an egg:
 what individuals won’t do alive
 they might do dead.
 Even your residual awareness
 ought to understand
 it’s best to help me with my quest
 for I can be the kind of pest
 no one can withstand.
 So please tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.” 

Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.

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