Day 79

Stuck on the inside of the local gun shop

Advertising in Culchie

That ad up there is the reason I moved to Culchie. [You had worms? -Ed.] Tis the little things like that about my semi-literate cohabitants that delight me and that keep a spring in my step as I stride purposefully among them on my rare excursions beyond the stone walls of the Estate. I would prefer to call it ‘the Demense’, but they already had one of them before I muscled my way in here to grab land from my Part-Time Wife’s people and then evict some of the locals from it to make more room for my sheep, and my grazing herd of PhD students. And they pronounce it wrong as well (their version is ‘the domains’), so ‘the Estate’ (pronounced with a capital E) is probably a safer bet.

But back to the ad. What I like immediately is the presumption that everyone knows who Charlie is. And the rest of them almost certainly do, because everyone knows everyone else in the country, and everyone else’s business too. And Charlie was always your man for worms round here, anyway, sure everyone knows that. No need for anything as formal, or as defining, as a surname: that would be way too fancy for the locals. Charlie himself (who probably designed the advertisement, although it seems he employed a five-year-old to write it out for him) has no compunction about giving out his personal details to all and sundry. No GDPR worries for our Charlie, as everyone who matters already has his mobile number on speed dial anyway. In an earlier version of the publicity material, he had told the five-year-old to stick down ‘call round to Charlie’s’, but neither of the two of them was certain enough about where the apostrophe should go, so they changed the business delivery model on the hoof.

As for what is actually being advertised, there are various possibilities. Cattle around these parts do be, betimes, afflicted with worms. So do some of the human inhabitants. It is possible that Charlie is the designated healer in the area who has ‘the cure’ for said disease. If you do not know what ‘the cure’ is, you are obviously an ignorant city-dweller, and you are more than welcome to stay there, with yours warts, your styes and your nose-bleeds. Country people know that minor afflictions such as these can be dispensed with simply by making contact – even by phone – with the person who has the cure for the particular ailment. This is no Black Magic, but testified, guaranteed and fool-proof folk medicine passed down through the centuries. Should a supplicant find – or claim – after contact with the holder of the cure that the affliction persists or returns, why then it is clear that said applicant was faulty in the first place as to the strength of his belief in the efficacy of the cure. No blame can be attached to the designated bearer of the cure, and more than a hundred testimonies of successful cures can be readily sourced from the brother-in-law of your second cousin’s wife’s aunt’s washing machine repair man as irrefutable evidence that this alleged ‘non-cure’ is a thing as unheard of and as rare as hens’ teeth. Neither will any refunds be considered. For the perfectly logical reason that no payment has taken place. The anointed one who bestows the cure sees it as a sacred service to the community, and would not sully the practice with coin or note. He might not put up much of an argument, though, if you happen to leave a naggin of whiskey behind you after your visit.

As to the other possibilities, and given the fact the marketing brochure was stuck to the inside of the fish and tackle shop near the bridge, Charlie may be on the lookout for a supply of bait, either for his own use or to sell to other local poachers. (There are no licensed fishermen round here, just poachers.) Or he could, in fact, be the local worm-pusher. But why on Earth (wait till you see what I do here) anyone on Earth would want to buy or sell worms in this locale is an insoluble pancake of a conundrum, given that they are freely available in the earth beneath the locals’ feet. Surely they are not so lazy that a bout of digging is beyond them?

Which leads me to the most likely explanation of the ad. ‘Worms’ is obviously local slang for heroin, and there is a drug problem heading our way unless I do something about it. Now while police intelligence is an accepted oxymoron, there is a fine line between ignoring the obvious and dereliction of duty, and Charlie is at the end of it, fishing for victims.

I expect to hear news of an arrest forthwith. In a local shop window.

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