Tag: The Charivari

Flash Pulp 024 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Four.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by Little Wing Children’s Things.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we bring you the finale of our current Thomas Blackhall serial. In this chapter, we open with gun fire.

Flash Pulp 024 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The snap and flare of the Brown Bess brought Thomas to one knee, his ams preparing his Baker rifle with mechanical reflex.

His finger lay on the trigger, his heart sure he would once again have to end a man. It would be the first time since the sun drenched porticoes of Ciudad Rodrigo, and the war against the little dictator.

As the musket’s echo rolled from the clearing, a momentary stillness settled.

Mitchum Melbain broke the silence.

The naked youth had moved from the trees, his skinny legs fish-belly white in the moon’s glow, sobbing as he ran.

At this series of shocks, some amongst the hooded mob stepped back, seeking the safety of the forest’s shadow.

As the boy approached, the man who’d spent the evening berating the house began to issue commands. Another white satchel appeared in the musketeer’s grasp.

Thomas’ grip steadied.

The entrance to the cabin swung open.

The door had been built wide and tall, and yet the widow Bigelow was forced to stoop as she stepped from her home.

Squinting, she spoke:

“Is that you under there, Sam Allen – with your missing pinky, and one leg to too long – firing upon my cottage? It has been many a year since I’ve taken you over my knee, but by the grace of the Lord and the thousand chariots of his hoary host, I’ll send you to Nancy in such a condition she’ll be spoon-feeding you the baby’s millet for the next month.”

All force seemed to have left the gunman’s hands, weapon and satchel hung uselessly at his sides.

“You’ve shot and shattered the china platter given to me by Arthur’s Mother, on the morning of our marriage: Is your anxiety over my reputation lessened by the destruction of my service dish?”

The woman moved forward, her riot of gray hair a trailing cloud.

“If not, I believe I still have a half-dozen plates in good enough condition to meet your tastes.”

She stopped, placing her hands upon her hips, squaring her stance no more than an arms length from the mob’s leader. Her cotton gown rustled with the breeze. The man had flipped the bottle of gin he carried, and was now twisting at the neck of his makeshift club.

“It’s terrible enough,” she continued, “that you’ve come skulking onto my homestead after the witching hour, but must you all play at ghosts as well? In my day it was the reproached who felt a need to cover their shame during a charivari, not the gathered.”

Mitchum, muddied from his stumbling approach, finally reached the woman, falling to his knees and clinging at the hem of her nightclothes.

She extended a hand to stroke his head, lifting his face to look upon her own.

“It will be all right, my love. A quick spanking and these naughty boys will be soon off to their beds.”

“How dare you, harlot! How dare you corrupt one so young, how dare you speak to us as you would errant children!” The ragmen’s voice had once again found his throat.

“Ha! Without my walls to muffle your rantings, it all comes clear!” In her tone, Blackhall could hear the satisfaction of a puzzle solved. She began to point at the gathered masks. “Edward Smith? Willy Templer? Is that Sanderson the younger or elder under there? Arthur would not be pleased to see you behaving so.”

Their leader stepped forward, attempting to regain lost ground. His new position forced him to crane back his neck to meet the widow’s eyes.

“How dare the name of an honourable man such as Arthur Bigelow touch upon the lips of such a strumpet as would set up in his very house, unmarried, with a boy some four decades her junior!”

Despite his bluster, when the leader of the ragmen turned for affirmation, he found his small army huddled amongst the shadows of the treeline.

“Mitchum is a full two years older than you were when you married Chelsea Thompson and threw away your dowry on that fool’s errand you call an Inn. Yet lie not to me, Morton Van Rijn, this has little do with with whom I bed – it is my still you’ve come to smash, and like as not, you’ve carried that gin bottle as false evidence to place this ruckus at the feet of Constable Melbain’s ruffians.”

Thomas watched the remains of the mob disperse as if smoke on the wind, leaving only the rooted gunman and the visibly sharking Van Rijn to stand against the woman and her weeping beau.

“I! You! Arthur!” With his free hand, Van Rijn ripped at the confines of his mask, his breath coming in ragged gasps once his red face was exposed to the night’s air.

“Bring not my departed husband into this conversation again. I care not if you’ve sainted the wagon rut he attempted to run from the river to this field, ardent spirits would not be my business if your society had not taken it upon itself to whisper so about my time with Mitchum. Despite my service, no longer will the town entrust me with the suckling bottles for their babes – fine, then I shall supply the suckling bottles for their public houses. It is not easy to live as a marked woman of age, but I will not stand to be accosted by busy-bodies.”

The inn-owner howled, raising his glass club in a vicious arc.

For the first time that evening, Blackhall saw a look of fear cross the widow’s face.

The crack of shot once again filled the hollow amongst the trees.

A damp stain began to spread along the trouser-legs of the nearly forgotten musketeer. Dropping his weapon, he ran from the clearing.

With care, Van Rijn lowered the remains of his club, the shattered neck having opened a gash upon his palm.

A hundred yards away, Blackhall’s arms had once again found their training, and were busy slamming home a fresh load. Even as he worked the Baker rifle, his eyes remained fixed upon the moonlit trio.

The widow, her composure regained, leveled a finger of exile at the nearest pines, her gaze locked upon Van Rijn.

Slowly the man turned, the ruined pillowcase dropping from his grasp and onto the field below.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 023 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Three.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp[audio:http://media.libsyn.com/media/skinner/FlashPulp023.mp3](Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

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This episode is brought to you by OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

In the second chapter of our current tale of Thomas Blackhall, we open upon our hero, unsure of his course, as he hunts hooded bandits through the timberlands of Lower Canada.

Flash Pulp 023 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The moon’s efforts made little difference amongst the brush at the base of the tall pines, and Blackhall’s greatcoat felt the pluck of many hidden briars as he pushed west.

He knew the men he followed were somewhere ahead, but dense forest and the desire for stealth had left him lagging. Still he crept on, experience having taught him patience.

As he moved he listened for a snatch of conversation on the wind and watched for the dancing shadows of a fire.

What little breeze stirred the stillness between the trees, ceased. Through the darkness came a noise – the rattle and clash of metal upon metal.

Blackhall, dropping all pretense of concealment, began to make his way north as rapidly as the entangling wilderness would allow.

His plunge was brought up short at a clearing, the moonlight finally reaching him unchecked. To the east was a house, small but well kept, and, at Blackhall’s estimate, some forty acres of plowed field beyond.

He had come upon the circular expanse at the southern most tip, but from his vantage point he could easily make out the white hoods of those he’d been hounding. Although he’d only noted two from his window, a dozen had gathered amongst the trees nearest the house. Most held pots and pans, and busied themselves rattling them together. At their center, their boldest member stepped forward, waving his gin bottle and shouting at the shuttered windows. The distance and ruckus prevented Blackhall from making out his words, but his agitation seemed genuine enough. What concerned him most, however, was the linen faced member who moved naught, but kept his musket close across his chest.

Frowning, Blackhall began to tread along the clearing’s edge, taking care not to reveal himself.

Two hundred yards from the gathering, he paused.

From amongst the clamor came something new – buried beneath the crickets and the mob, the sound of crying reached his ears. Pushing back his broad brimmed hat, he cocked his head, breathing in the humid air.

After a moment he crept forward in a duck walk, releasing his sabre from its scabbard.

With a slow hand he slid the point between the gnarled branches of a dense thicket, halting his advance as his hilt offered resistance.

He spoke:

“I apologize for interrupting in your time of distress, but I suspect you may be able to clarify a few things. If you’ll please join me amongst these shadows, I would have words with you.”

To Blackhall it seemed as if the bush were birthing, a boy crawling from its shadowed womb, the work of the scratching hands of the forest visible along his back, arms and legs. As the youth looked up, Thomas recognized the sandy hair, wide brow and small nose. He removed his coat, draping it about his companion’s bare shoulders. At closer range he could tell the boy was older than he’d first thought, yet still no more than one-and-twenty, with a child’s face and gawky limbs.

“Ah, you must be Constable Melbain’s errant brother?”


“Your name then?”


“Mitchum – we’ll briefly gloss the matter of your nude disposition, as expediency is likely best. Do you know why those men accost yonder house?”

“You are not with them then? It is a Charivari, sir. A warning to Mrs. Bigelow.”

In the distance the pot banging had moved from random chaos to a marching beat. The entire party was easily visible, now standing plainly away from the trees after finding courage in coordination.

Their center-man still led the slow advance, his rant unabated. Even at his distance, Thomas could see the damp circle of froth and spittle that had begun to form upon his linen guise.

“Your situation begins to explain itself. I have seen a few such rituals before, mostly amongst the French vineyards – I do not recall weapons or masks however. In fact, what I do recall is a lot of bawdy, out of tune singing, and copious local wine, all at the base of some red-faced couple’s window. It was often because an unpopular widow or widower had re-married before the end of mourning – has Arthur Bigelow been dead so short a time?”

“Arthur’s been in his grave nearly a decade. Patricia has been on this land for nigh fourty years, she practically raised this town, what right do they have to come slithering from the night to terrorize her?”

Thomas cleared his throat.

“Mitchum, I might guess by the daring of your attire, especially amongst so high a tide of mosquitoes, that they may have some dispute with your, uh, relationship with the widow Bigelow.”

The boy’s eyes hardened.

“Our business is ours, not my brother’s, nor the town’s.” He exhaled. “I must add, there is more than one motivation that might send an armed mob up from the village after Patty. Still, I am surprised that anyone would dare.”

“If you are here at the wildwood’s edge, where is Mrs. Bigelow precisely?”

“Well, we were taking a dip in the pond round back of the house when we heard the approach – she told me to git, and so I did. There’s a voice she has which’ll send you running to the trees without your clothes, and I was about where you found me when I could finally hear my brain over my pounding heart. My first thought was to run on for town and find Gareth, but it was my second that it was just as likely my brother was one of the intruders.”

As the boy talked, Blackhall’s eyes stayed upon the gathered throng.

The voice of the Ragmen ceased his raving, turning to the musket-bearer.

He pointed.

The man with the Brown Bess brought forth a white roll the size of a thumb, ripping at the end with his teeth.

Thomas stood, setting his sabre back at his belt and making a quick check of his Baker rifle’s breach.

“Come. Now.”

Making best efforts to stoop amongst the cover of the brush, he once again began to run.

He’d yet to cover half the distance before the gunman had primed and readied his weapon.

The thug lifted the long barrel, sighting the house through his hood’s ragged slits.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 022 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Two.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by the Flash Pulp fan page on Facebook.

Maybe it’ll draw people’s attention away from all those drinking pictures your friends just tagged you in.

Find it at here.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we bring you the first chapter in a new serial featuring Thomas Blackhall. In this episode, he encounters the town of Bigelow, a small settlement at the edge of civilization.

Flash Pulp 022 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

At the point where the Kakibonga dripped into the Winipekw, Thomas Blackhall stumbled across the town of Bigelow.

The hamlet was little more than a line of houses scratched into the riverbank, its center point marked by a single spoke thrust into the woods.

After weeks of scrambling through dense brush, eating only deer jerky and hand-caught fish, Thomas was startled to find himself at the end of that spoke, the mouth of an immaculate roadway open before him.

He ran his fingers along the weeks of growth at his chin, eying the scene.

The road itself rolled gently away towards the shore. Along the water’s edge ran another road, and at this corner stood a house that had grown beyond its seams, boxy additions thrusting out in every direction, some of the extensions connecting onto extensions of their own. The walls of the rambling structure were a solid white, but the doors and window frames had been marked in the brightest of the rainbow’s palette.

From a green door in the rear, a mustached man exited, an axe cocked over his shoulder.

He began to walk towards Blackhall, humming.

“Come to raise a glass?” shouted the man, when he finally spotted Thomas. There was scorn in his voice.

“In truth, I didn’t know there was a glass nearby to be held, but if yonder sprawling castle is an Inn, I could certainly find my thirst.”

Blackhall had moved to close the distance, and now offered a more formal greeting.

“Thomas Blackhall,” he said.

“Morton Van Rijn,” the man replied, taking the offered hand. “Welcome to Bigelow. I apologize, I mistook you for Lefevre, one of the local farmers. He often aims to walk the road before drinking himself into blindness, he claims it keeps him from getting lost on his way home. His beard is nearly as wild as your own, I dare say. Anyhow, whatever the foul excuse, the more whom use the road, the happier I am.”

Blackhall noted the man’s discreet attempt at wiping his hand clean as he talked.

“Well, if I might find a basin and a scrap of mirror, I’d be happy to do away with the confusion,” he replied, tugging at his whiskers. “I’ve come from the Western District, and it’s been some time since I’ve had to worry on polite company.”

Van Rijn’s face brightened.

“You’re more than welcome to board at The Loyalist. If you’ll honour me with news from the South over dinner, I’ll be happy to give you a room free for the night. Your thirst is your own affair however – while I run the finest Inn in two hundred miles, I do not sell ardent spirits. My wife and I are the founders of the Bigelow Temperance Society, whose ranks include the majority of the members of Bigelow worth acquainting. The town itself houses three hundred, with the same number again of farmers who’ve settled the clearings in the surrounding area – of those some twenty-five are members of the Temperance Society, no small feat for a place largely made up of woodsmen and mosquito-bitten field tenders.”

Thomas nodded.

“Whiskey must be no small problem if it was deemed necessary to organize against it.”

“Yes, well, what I meant was, outside the ranks of The Society, in Bigelow polite company is as scarce a commodity as sobriety. Despite the population there are no less than three public houses – well, two proper public houses and Ginny Melbain’s parlour. There is no proper law however, as Constable Melbain has little interest in enforcing against his sister’s enterprise, and the drunks would not stand to have the law applied inequitably.”

“What of this road then? This doesn’t seem like the work of lackadaisical liqour hounds,” Blackhall asked, glancing in the direction of his promised bed and basin.

Van Rijn’s hands swung wide, the axe still firmly in his grip, his broad face breaking into a grin.

“This road was founded by Arthur Bigelow, who also gave his name to the town, as its first inhabitant. I have taken up his worthy task, knowing full well that the legislature will not step in to regulate the principality without ease of access, access I intend to provide with this highway. Each summer I have pushed the forest back further than Bigelow’s original cut, and each spring I salt the ground to prevent the brush from retaking my progress. I regret that my duties at The Loyalist have prevented me from making it my full time occupation, but it is my hope to one day bring the full might of The Society to bear on the problem.”

In Thomas’ minds-eye, a vision of twenty-five of Bigelow’s most upstanding citizens zoomed out to encompass the distance required to interlink with the nearest settlement of size. His legs ached. He eyed Van Rijn’s single axe.

“A worthy task, and if you’ll pardon my currently grizzled appearance, I’ll gladly take you up on that offer of dinner. Who might I speak to at the Inn about a room?”

* * *

The accommodations were cramped but comfortable. After bathing and scraping clean his face, Blackhall found himself suddenly coming awake to a sharp rapping at his door, scarcely aware that he’d set his head upon his pillow.

“Yes, coming,” he muttered, running his fingers through his mussed hair.

To Thomas, supper seemed a long time in arriving, although the gathered members of The Bigelow Temperance Society filled the period with much talk. In the end, every aspect of the meal was too dry for his liking, but he found himself pleasantly surprised at how quickly the plates were cleared and the gathering dispersed.

As he stepped onto the veranda that faced out upon the river, Blackhall began his ritual of pinching Virginian tobacco into one of the fine Spanish papers he carried. As he completed his task, a passerby who’d been strolling the water’s edge set a booted foot upon the entryway’s lowest step.

“Well, this is certainly the first gentleman I’ve ever come to encounter as a stranger on this porch, might I ask your name?”

“Thomas Blackhall.”

“Ah, then the name’s not been twisted amongst the gossip. I am Constable Gareth Melbain. Do you have business in town?” The lawman called up a wad of phlegm and deposited it on the wood planks at his feet.

“I thought I might wet my throat, little more,” replied Thomas.

“I wasn’t sure of your character, given your meal company. Still, it seems to me you’ve come a long way to nowhere for a drink. Mayhaps it is because you’ve heard of Ginny’s parlour, found in the blue-washed house at the end of this same street. She’ll likely give you a sample if you mention my referral.”

With that, the constable moved off the stairs.

“One last thing: do not take Van Rijn’s word on Bigelow as gospel. I knew Arthur, and he was a good man, whatever his wife may have become.” The man walked a step, and turned back to face the still silent Blackhall. “- and yes, I fully admit my younger brother ought know better.”

He strolled on.

By the time Blackhall had burned his fingers upon the smoldering stub of his cigarette, the weight of the food and the song of the river had lulled him to a rest. Deciding to forgo town politics, he instead retreated to the interior of the inn, and took to chasing after his interrupted slumber.

* * *

He was brought awake hours later by the sound of two mares whinnying outside his window.

Cracking the thin white curtains, he took in the scene.

Some twenty drunks had gathered at the edges of the town’s sole crossroads – some along his window, some across the way, along the graying timbers that he’d been told were the outer wall of Pullman’s General Store. Many of the bystanders held lanterns high as five men stumbled about in the center of the gathering.

Two of the men were busy harnessing blinders upon the spooked horses, while another pair fended off the increasingly animated protests of the muddy shirted fifth.

Through the pane of glass, Thomas’ ears could make out the back and forth of betting amongst those arrayed along his vantage point.

Satisfied with their results, the two men who’d been working the lashings stepped back, one of them giving the guardsmen instructions to clear the way – as the man shouted Blackhall recognized the face as that of Constable Melbain.

With no little force the brutes emptied the road of the pleading man, and without delay Melbain began a countdown from three, which ended with both animals receiving a sharp whip blow. The sudden pain sent the beasts hurtling up the salted path and into the darkness between the pines.

Laughing, the crowd began to stream along behind, leaving the corner once again silent.

His sleep disturbed, Thomas dressed and shuffled into the common room.

Pulling a book from the shelf adjacent the fireplace, he settled into a nearby rocking chair.

* * *

As the embers sank into ash, a chapter’s worth of the history of Canterbury had been enough to once again put him on a path to sleep.

He slipped into his room, taking a moment to peek between the lace to ensure a lack of further disruption.

Motion amongst the shadows of the store caught his eye.

Creeping from the darkness came the shape of a man, the moon illuminating the white pillowcase that was taut about his face. The mask was held fast with a thin rope at the neck, and to allow vision, two ragged black holes had been cut from the linen.

The man moved away down the forest road, but before Thomas might stray from the window, the meager light gave away a second ragman, the gin bottle in his hand catching the night sky’s reflection.

His stupor forgotten, Blackhall strode quickly about the room, collecting together his satchel. Pulling his greatcoat over the sabre he’d strapped to his hip, he snatched up his Baker rifle and shouldered the pack that once again contained the entirety of his possessions.

With a last look into the lane way – now empty – he exited his room and stepped from the green door at the rear of the building, the night insects roaring their greeting.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.