A FUSS ABOUT NOTHING
'Do help yourself to mad cow,' cooed the vicar's wife, stretching her ample arm across the table for yet another huge slice of cold pork before it, too, was condemned for human consumption by the powers that be. It was almost as if she couldn't wait to get enough of that delicious meat down her gullet before it was positively outlawed.
Colin Bradshaw eyed the mound of very rare beef splayed out next to the pork on the sumptuous food table, and only just managed to stop himself heaving...
'I notice you are not eating it, Mrs Damns,' he gulped.
'Oh, I eat it most of the time, dear. It's just that I fancy a little of Mr Godstone's generous contribution. He's our local butcher, you know. 'UMM. This crackling's wonderful.' Colin winced, and attempting a faint smile which failed, finally settled for a half grimace. 'If my husband wasn't so fond of Freddie,' continued Mrs Damns, 'he'd be downing this like a shot.' The vicar's wife was not one to be put off.
Colin raised his eyebrows, 'Freddie?'
'Yes. He's Wilfred's pet sow.'
'But that's a female pig.'
'Oh, Wilfred wouldn't know the difference, dear. But I keep telling him it's dead meat. Once it's dead, it's dead. Surely, no one can object to that. Just you taste it, dear.'
Colin politely refused the lady's nauseating suggestion, and deepened his feeble grimace into a courageous, full one. Despite the attraction of her friendly and outgoing personality, to say nothing of her well-developed bosom (an acquisition strangely sneered at in these lean, weight-conscious days), he began to consider the possibility of the vicar's wife being as mad, perhaps, as some of those cows, though rather less sensitive.
As the woman continued to stuff her face with pork, and another party guest gleefully forked himself a particularly bloody piece of beef - designed, it appeared, for strong constitutions, Colin's stomach began to turn over. For years he'd been a strict vegetarian, a teetotaller, and a miserable old bugger at the best of times. And now, he had an extremely pressing matter to deal with. Without another word, he rushed over the lawn, into the house, and made for the nearest lavatory.
'Silly boy,' said Mrs Damns with satisfaction. 'He doesn't know what he's missing. If you ask me, I think this so-called mad cow disease is a lot of old hoo-ha. Those people come up with the most ridiculous suggestions so they can justify their own positions and keep us on our toes.'
'To make us feel guilty, more to the point.' Mr Forbes determined to add weight to Mrs Damns's feelings. His beef was tasting better by the bloody slice. 'We're carnivorous animals, for God's sake.'
'I couldn't agree more, Mr Forbes. And if He intended we should eat grass,' she said, pointing an unequivocal finger to the now cloudless sky, 'we wouldn't look as human as we do.'
An odd silence fell over the party, while the guests, turning as if to catch yet more pearls of wisdom from the mouth of the vicar's wife, proceeded to study one another's faces. Everyone appeared to be munching food, and even the prettiest among them had taken on a decidedly grotesque attitude as they avidly gnawed at the flesh between their teeth. In fact, if, at that moment, Colin had seen fit to return from the loo, he would undoubtedly have rushed straight back in there. The vicar himself, as was his wont, sported a particularly bovine countenance; so, for that matter, did Mrs Damns. And Mr Pringle, with young Danielle on his lap, provided, if not quite a perfect exhibition of loving incest, at least a reasonable backdrop of a four-legged animal at dinner, albeit with two heads and an inordinate number of forelimbs. The fact both heads were munching dead meat only added to the impression of a cannibalistic ritual in fulsome progress. Any onlooker with the slightest imagination might well have been a little upset.
Now, one thing could be said for miserable old Colin: he did have imagination. Indeed, as he emerged at last from the lavatory, preening himself and determined to make a clean breast of things, the scenario laid out before his eyes caused his stomach to react with its customary efficiency. With a look of absolute horror on his still ashen face he turned once more and rushed back to his 'sanctuary'. Mrs Damns made a mental note to press her husband into getting an additional loo put in before her next party. 'Silly boy,' she repeated. 'He's making such a fuss about nothing.'
© 1990 TONY SHARP