Chapters of a novel in progress
This excerpt is from 'The Oracle Dai Bando', an unpublished novel.
It is the first morning of term at a small Welsh agricultural
college for Tiddles, the narrator, Steggy and The Oracle himself.
Publishers and readers can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
ORACLE DAI BANDO
Eight-thirty; the new students assembled for a farm-walk conducted by
a big bluff man, balding on top. He wore a pair of spectacles that he
took off and polished with a big white hankie whenever he spoke.
Im Mister Forrest, Tom Forrest, Deputy Principal and Farm
I dont believe it, I whispered. Tom Forrest!
Twilight Zone stuff, Steggy agreed.
We set off on the farm-walk, guided by the man from The Archers.
He sounds different off the radio, I said.
I saw Cliff Morgan once, Dai offered. He was shorter.
There were about fifty students on the farm-walk, mostly lads with bow
legs and straw for hair.
Brain extensions, Dai decided, exhaling smoke at a Boskin
whod come too close.
We started our tour with the main farm buildings, then trekked around
the whole estate through fields still sodden with dew. We entertained
ourselves making stage-whispered comments every time Tom Forrest stopped
to speak, polishing his specs. He was very informative.
Silage pit, he told us, fermented grass, winter fodder.
Friesians, he said, dairy cattle, pedigree herd.
Duw, thought they was Dalmatians, mun.
Milking parlour, Tom offered, rotary.
Get away! Magic Roundabout I thought it was, see.
"Boing!" said Zebedee.
"Fuck off, Springdick," said Florence.
I like Dylan the dog, Steggy said. Hes definitely
The farm was set in the river valley. Most of the fields were flat and
fertile. Given the climate, it was ideal land for dairy farming; the
grass grew lush and green. Good for corn, too. In a field set aside
for research the college experimented with new and unusual crops: sorghum,
oil seed rape, and hemp. Steggys interest was captured for a moment
till he learned it wasnt the smoking variety. Still, worth a try
when it had grown, he decided. There was a piggery, smelling disgusting;
and a poultry unit with sad looking birds, four to a cage, their feathers
rubbed off them.
Eventually, we returned to the farmyard and halted. Tom took off his
glasses. He began to take us through the way the farm was managed and
how the students fitted in. We were standing over the slurry pit. One
of the manhole covers was off. Two boys hovered over the hole, looking
into the murky depths. The taller of the two bent to look deeper, his
hands in the pockets of his green Barbour jacket. When he spoke his
voice was unmistakably English - that particular sort of English.
I say, he trilled, take a whiff of this! Smells like
a Welshmans breath.
And then he disappeared.
Mr Forrest, Dai said loudly, do Englishmen swim in
Whatre you on about, Griffiths?
My friends in the slurry pit! the second boy yelled.
They pu OW!
Sorry, butty, was that your foot? Steggy said. Best
to keep it out of your mouth, like, or itll get bit.
Good God! Forrest pushed his way through the students, putting
his glasses on.
We all crowded around, peering down into the gloom. A white face was
discernible - or at least the parts of it not covered in thick, dark
Are you all right, boy? Forrest boomed down.
I... I... I swa-llowed some.
Cant have, Dai whispered in my ear, he was already
full of shit.
Griffiths, get a rope, Forrest snapped.
Were not going to hang him, sir? Dai yelped.
GO! Forrest exploded.
Right you are.
We all watched as Dai started to jog towards the barn. Then he seemed
to trip, didnt quite fall, and continued very slowly, limping
and holding the back of his knee.
Griffiths! Forrest shouted.
Sorry, sir, old rugby injury. Ouch! Ill be as fast as I
You, Forrest turned to me and wiped the grin from my face,
I know your father. Get a rope, double-quick.
As I sprinted past Dai he thrust out a leg. I tripped and went sprawling
on the yard, grazing my palms. I struggled to my feet, looking from
Dai to Tom Forrest.
Dont find one, Tiddles, Dai hissed.
Get on with it, Mills! Forrest shouted.
I was on the horns of a dilemma. And both of them were sharp. If I helped
to rescue the Englishman, I knew Dai would exact a terrible vengeance.
But then, Tom Forrest knew my father. I ran for the barn, searching
desperately for a rope.
Sorry, Dai, I apologised, after the English boy had been
hauled from the pit, stinking and dripping green, but we couldnt
just leave him there.
Why not? Steggy asked. The English have kept us in
the shit for years.
The Russians? I queried, astounded.
Mams Welsh, Steggy retorted. Im a cross-breed.
Hybrid vigour, Dai proclaimed.
Dont call me vicar, Steggy said.
Dai, I pleaded, are you speaking to me?
Course I am, Dai said, smiling reassurance. Traitor!
They hosed the English boy down in the milking parlour. One of the girls
shouted for him to strip off. He looked a sorry sight, sodden and blushing.
What happened? Forrest finally demanded, his hands locked
on his hips, his gaze fastened on the boys friend who seemed to
be trying to hide in the crowd.
He slipped, Mr Forrest, the boy said shrilly, panic in his
An accident? Forrest demanded. He fell in the FYM
FYM? I questioned.
Shit, supplied Dai, without looking at me. Farm Yard
Answer me! Forrest bawled at the English boys English
Yes, sir, the boy piped. An accident.
Behind him Steggy smiled, releasing his hold on the boys crotch.
Youre sure? Forrest asked.
Well... the boy began in a baritone voice. Steggy got a
Yes, sir! the boy squeaked. Mr Forrest? Dai
raised his hand like a school kid.
Mr Forrest, sir, shouldnt those covers always be on? Isnt
it against the law to leave them open? Health and Safety, isnt
it? Couldnt someone sue the college for that? That would be dreadful,
wouldnt it, sir?
Indeed. Forrests eyes fell from their contact with
Dais. He turned to the cowman whod finished hosing down
the English boy.
Take him back to the college. Put him in the showers and get him
some hot soup or something from the canteen. Not a bloody
nursemaid, the cowman mumbled.
Ill take him to first aid, the cowman said, throwing
a hessian bag over the boys shoulders and leading him off.
Forrest turned back to Dai. I remember you, Griffiths, from before.
Ive changed, sir. Grown up. Im a big boy now.
Some of the girls laughed. Maybe it was to do with the way Dai moved
his hand in his trouser pocket as he spoke.
Well see, Forrest said, well see.
He took off his glasses and started to shine them on the handkerchief.
He peered at Dai.
Ive got my eye on you, Griffiths.
Want to know more contact Kelvin - see above.
© Kelvin Mason 2001
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