Northwords Now Issue 37

The FREE literary magazine of the North

An Audience with the Monarch

by Chris Madej

So I heard about it, the Monarch of the Glen, bought and sold for lots of our gold and to be taken from place to place to meet and greet the great unwashed. Culture was to be presented to me, brought right to me for my benefit. Now I like to think I know my Picasso from my Pissarro and, at least, I know what I like. So I thought I would have me a wee keek at the King and marched off for an audience.

Along Church Street I was brought round from my thoughts by an altercation only a few steps ahead. Two men in ill-fitting clothes with ill begotten looks were arguing in grunts. A girl flitted around them like a drowsy moth, this one was pure heroin chic, you know the type; skinny, really skinny, sallow, shuffling gait, few teeth, lifeless hair, mismatched clothes, unlaced trainers and mumbling words through a slack mouth.

The more savy of us on the street tensed for the inevitable. A grunt became a push, a push a shove and all of a sudden we have a rammy, a right proper movie fight. The sound of a crack and a slap and a thump and a splatter of blood on the floor as one man sprawls across a car hood while the other flaps wildly at the girl.

A coach, a deluxe sixty seater complete with curtains and air conditioning and a cargo of tourists boaked out onto shore from some cruise ship dredged up the Firth of wherever, lay stranded at the traffic lights perfectly perpendicular to the fight,the horrified tourists flinching with every blow. At front the tour guide stands ready with microphone in hand. A local lad, grown up and out and wise, looking very dapper in his kilt and sporran quickly says (his voice a forced whisper of suspense) ‘Here we see a very old clan feud. For I know the pair; one a MacFiercin and the other MacHarder. This is a feud harking back to the dark days of Culloden. Who knows what misfortune and ill luck brought these two together at this hour but honour demands blood be spilt’. Suddenly curtains are eagerly peeled back and cameras wheeled around clicking furiously as the lights change and the coach snakes away around the castle that’s not a castle, not really a proper castle.

The polis arrive and the pair are cuffed and thrown in the wagon. Two boys on BMXs shrug and smirk and glide off. Shop keepers lower their eyebrows and move back behind their counters. An old couple, really old, the sort that were kids in WWII head off complaining that you didn’t get that sort of thing when they were young. The girl picks up a trainer that’s come off in the scuffle, cradling it she shuffles off like a zombie whilst blood is left laying uselessly on the pavement. I march unto the Monarch.

I arrive to find a troop have surrounded Him in some social media selfie scrum. They each in turn stand stiff as though facing a firing squad, the shots dwindle their number and finally I can approach. I peer, I step back, step forward, stand on tiptoe, crouch down. When I blink the Monarch is branded in my eye like the Sun on a bright day but it slowly fades as I make my way home. On the street there is no sign of the fight, the blood has been washed away and a new crowd, oblivious to the drama, hug the scene.