by earthquakeinthepoorhouse

Fee Tail the bunny squats in a nest of oaten hay and eats his beans. From behind his terracotta water bowl a gauche cockroach sashays forth – all satiny sheen and gauzy wing-casings and his legs each fringed in rodeo tassels of shoe-leather brown.

‘Bravo, beans!’ squeals the cheeky little insect pest, and falls to nibbling at the tip of a fattish pod.

‘I say!’ the bunny exclaims. ‘These are not your beans, sir!’

‘Oh dear – and they slot into my portfolio so neatly, too,’ the verminous roach laments in a reedy voice that is abundantly – if disingenuously – suggestive of resignation.

‘Indeed, just so,’ Fee Tail agrees. ‘Yet, while a thing of beauty is indeed a joy forever, a thing from the enjoyment of which one might exclude all among one’s fellows is the greatest joy one ever hopes to taste in life.’

‘Couldn’t agree more!’ the roach whoops heartily (insofar as one being possessed of such minuscule apparatus of speech as he might be said to muster a tone either hearty or whooping) – recovering rapidly his usual constitutional ebullience.

‘Well, then?’ Fee Tail prompts.

‘You mean to give them to me after all?’ grins the cockroach, drawing an immaculate antenna through his mandibles after the fashion of a cat licking cream from off its whiskers.

‘Give them to you? Heavens, no!’ the bunny exclaims. ‘I shall transfer them to you in fee simple – free of all and any encumbrance, of course – in return for consideration equating to a sum being double that which any among the smaller, flightier breed of your kind – those that are obsessed with the electric hum of gadgetry and that congregate in greatest numbers under cover of darkness so as to feast upon, for example, spilled crumbs of avocado – might ever hope to save or raise or finance.’

‘Sold!’ the roach exclaims, gleeful. ‘My wife will be delighted – although I must warn you: she will not brook a single scintilla of that which is the substance of our transaction to be lost to wastage or delay. We have many beans between us already, my wife and I – beans of every shade of green (even a handful of those dreadful snake beans that are doing a remarkably steady trade despite the most unappetising coarseness of their shells) – and we will not be taken in. One must never concede even the tiniest of things in life, you know.’

‘You have my word,’ Fee Tail agrees.

At this most importunate juncture, however, there enters a man onto the scene who is still tarred with the day’s grime-streaked slick of workman’s grease and clad in a sweat-stained fluorescent shirt. Says he:

‘Get outta it, ya dirty fucken roach bastard!’

And saying this the man grinds the cockroach into the pavement with the heel of a scuffed and mud-encrusted boot before turning his attention to the bunny.

‘What about you, Fifi – time for ya to go into the pot yet, ya reckon?’ he teases – and this with a wink and wicked chuckle. Fee Tail, cocksure and unruffled, regards the man with a pitying gaze and returns to gnawing at his beans.

‘After all – ’ the man continues, ridiculous, ‘ – a bloke can’t make soup with bricks’n’mortar.’


Gareth Hipwell