Three Day Week

Entry by: Nicholas Gill

5th July 2016
Night of the Cockshafers -
HoW entry for “Three Day Week”

“This is where you'll be performing, folks” said the Fat Director of the small itinerant acting troup which had arrived in the grounds of a crumbling Georgian house in the heart of a midland town. It was a rough lawn the size of a tennis court enclosed by the horse-shoe of a once elegantly topiaried hedge, the evergreen satyres and unicorns now reduced to indistinct blobs.

“It's an atmospheric spot,” said the actor. “I think that boys in knickerbockers and sailor suits once hid and sought between these mythical beasts in an age of innocence.” He turned to the actress. “Of course, Miss Julie will lose her innocence in a less innocent age.”

“Miss Julie doesn't mind losing her innocence,” said the actress. “She just doesn't like acting in a place that smells like a garbage tip.”

“That's the rubbish from the council estate,” said the Fat Director. “The rest of the world is finally working a three day week like we always have, bless 'em. They're doing Monday to Wednesday while you folks take over Thursday to Saturday. And everybody chills on Sunday. Sunday is when the good Lord has a rest from creating the absurd fabric of our universe.”

“It's worse than that,” said the Senior Player. “We are near to to the local crem. See that severe industrial chimney? Usually it continually belches forth the smoke of departed townspeople, but now the sky is clear of evaporating souls but the undertakers are on strike. The bodies are rotting in the chapel of rest.”

“At least the hospital is alive,” said the actress. “Sweet new souls are ariving in the maternity wards. You can damn up the River of Styx, but you cannot close the portals of life.”

“Well said, but we only have three days to rehearse our bleak little drama. I wish to case the joint,” said the actor. They moved further into their crescent stage.

“What beautiful gossamer is shimmering in the moonlight,” said the actress.

“That's not gossamer,” said the Fat Director. “That's cockshafers!” They moved closer to the moonlit silk blankets covering swathes of hedge. Beneath the transparent membranes rippled an expanse of green, insect bodies, each at least three inches long. “They always come out in May. Look at those weird antennas. They give me the heebies. Blowed if I've ever seen any that bigh before.”

“They've been feeding on the dead next door,” said the actor. “But those are only the females. Look over here at the males.” Beneath another long sheet of lunar ectoplasm the male cockshafers squatted in their dark brown carapaces, not yet fully formed and looking like an earlier, more primitive experiment conducted by the divine entymologist.

“Those males are hopeless,” said the Senior Player. “They always come out a day or two after the girls and fly around in a mad vortex until they see some light and then they the buggers frizzle themselves.” He laughed. “Just like us, I guess. Thank God I'm not young any more. My frizzling days are done. Hand me my state pension and lead me down Crematorium Road.”

“Stop Larkin around, you're not going anywhere,” said the Fat Director. “You've got to get the insecticide out of the boot, while the rest of us get togged up in the radiation suits we used in that play about Chernobyl. “Concentrate on the females. If we kill most of them, the males may just give up.”

In the warm summer night, close with the stench of rotting matter, three helmeted silver figures moved around mythical shapes of another age, cylinders of chemicals strapped to their backs, Cybermen in a black and white t.v. screen, set on exterminating a species more alien even than the plague of humanity they depended on for an audience.

“I don't think that did much good, you know,” said the Fat Director afterwards, mopjping his brow. “Those buggers are going to come out on first night and fly around like the plague itself.”

“Perhaps in these times,” said the Senior Player, “We should thinjk about performing something Biblical instead of the Swedish crap.”


Later the actress and actor returned to their caravan.

“Actresses like matresses,” she said and in the moonlight admired the firm trunk of oak that sprung from his source.

“It is a god,” she sighed. “It is a god within a man.”

Afterwards a string of pearls lay on her middle, a necklace hung round a pale, curving Grecian Urn. She counted and toyed with them. He fell back on the matress like a dying salmon in the shallows.

“When a man has already died a hundred deaths he is already in a grave situation before they even bury him. When they bury an actor, they bury a grave within a grave.”

“But you leave something of the Divine,” she said, painting a cross on her stomach with the transparent elixir.

The smell of the dead lay heavy on the town, and the first cockshafers of the summer started beating on the tin shell of their fragile home.