Clockhouse Mount

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Where my Cullesdon Mythos happened… and Tokkmaster Clerke

Tokkmaster Clerke by D.F. Lewis

Published in the legendary Dave W. Hughes’ WORKS magazine in 1988

I once told you how I first came up that long, long hill out of Cullesdon and visited the local pub dubbed ‘Pail of Water’.

The rundown parade of shops, the golf-course on one side, the tracks leading to woodfalls and derelict smallholdings, and the strange mixture of council flats and semi detached owner-occupiers made that indefinable place, at one overnourished and prevalent, but at two disturbingly barren and bare-gnawn. Through the Southern Mysteries beyond Balham, it was soon that one met the Surrey Badlands, at the edge of South London, and that area to me by crap and root the core of such Badlands.

The golfers and pub locals stared imbecilically at any newcomers; the butcher’s shop kept so called satan-meat behind grinny windows; the girls begawed and bedecked themselves with flirting ribbons and enticing cockadilloes; the callow youths hung an arse round by the patron’s car park of the ‘Pail of Water’, sometimes helping the contraband lorries unload the cock-ale – delighted in by the local taste-buds; and the churn-owls swooped and whooped with the early dying of the afternoon light, betokening the preparation of other entities and elementals to squeeze themselves from between the sticky thighs of the night.

That day I arrived, after initiation from the shapes in the sky, they doctored me to their ways. The clan leader, Tokkmaster Clerke, who also acted as local general practitioner, served me the medicine and the mending and kept vigil by my several nights of bed-evil that ensued. He continued to move the bed on its ill-suited legs, muttering that the devil did rock my cradle, did cully my fever and did keep the bloody-flux at bay; but his hush-a-byes sure did beflum and bamboozle my thoughts for a while.

After, I stayed with the Sawdust family; they knew my history and why I had been called there, I was to be chief taster for those Societies that met at the Community Hall, standing across the road from the shops, a bit like an army barracks, with the letters of its name above the entrance mostly fallen completely or dislodged into a word I could not pronounce. The cabals and brotherships that there stretched their limbs from bodies politic within the big and small halls and lesser meeting-rooms feared sabotage from outsiders.

I had gained reputation in the ‘Square Mile’ further North as sniffer-out of poisons at the credence-tables of nobility and middle-class alike. I had cocked a tongue to many dire tidbit and toxic tiffin, and winked across to those sitting above the salt: telling a tale of treachery with my mere glance.

The Sawdust’s tried me out with every particle of local fare: the sometime bad toddies served at nearby Woodman-Sterne, the even more ill-reputed carrier worms dug from beneath nearby deadfall trees (considered a delicacy in parts of the Badlands ) and, finally, the scuds and curds that intermittently plummeted from the sky in crazy fibrous shapes that monsters said to be above the clouds sculptured from their own droppings.

And I passed mustard with every test.

Tokkmaster explained how the word above the Hall’s entrance, Cthulhu, was pronounced and what it implied; inside he showed me several huge black volumes with gold clasps with arcane titles, hidden with the drama props under the stage, whispered in my ears about the coming of even narrower fellowships and masonries to the area. And I was to be Chief Taster and Factotum to any such.

One day a banquet was held …. Of course, Tokkmaster Clerke was at the head of the huge oak trestle, being host and breaker of bread. The wine, deeply red, flowed down swift gullets. The food — great gristles of flesh, yellow fat and hairy skin lining the rare sides of boeuf and lion; even greater cow-udders, baked and prepared with the greasy tubes intact, the undersides green-fleshed and pocked with broken bubbles of melded fat; windfall fruit, knotted and almost branched with unwholesome sprouts of stale seasons; plates of flopping fish, still alive but unbelievably putrid, their fins pickled in vats of udder-grease as scaly extras; further dishes of octopus with inflamed, ridgy pores, squid with mutant tentacles, horny lapfish, swordfish bent and skewed, splattered blowfish, gasfish, rancid roe – the food was enjoyed at every hand.

All had passed across my credence-table for pre-tasting and, suddenly, a great boar’s head, overbaked and brainless, spoke the last word from the trestle: “Burp!” And spew poured from its sticky mouth.

They all looked up at me…. and stared icily, realization dawning. Dr Tokkmaster pressed his stethoscope to his own chest … to hear the devil in there. He grimaced and made as if to attack me…

I left that night, my job done, down the long, long hill. I was searching for some far-off pub to quaff a pint of their very best bitter and to partake of a packet of pork scratchings. Clean flakes of snow settled over me as I entered Cullesdon.

Two more Cullesdon stories in first comment below…

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9 thoughts on “Clockhouse Mount

  1. FOXFLESH

    First published ‘Dagon’ 1987

    I must tell you of the time that I first came to the Clockhouse Mount – a year last Spring, I think it was, friend. Do you know the place? Yes, it’s in the outer South London suberbs, in Surrey really, but you have to climb along a very long hill out of Cullesdon and when you get there, you see the Green, fronting a run-down parade of shops and, further over, the “Pail of Water”. Mrs. Dobb, the landlady of the Pail, she knows all the gossip of the Mount. About the Sawdusts of Number 4 Rich Land: Jackie Sawdust once blew his nose, you know, in public view, he blew it so hard that he just stared into his handkerchief not knowing it was his brain wriggling there, he stared just a few moments, yep, before he dropped down dead. About the Clerkes of Long Land: their younger son was levanted by the Surrey press gangs for labour in far off spice fields. About the losers and the winners of the terrible family feuds. About this and about that…

    There is a golf-course on one side, some other cul-de-sacs leading to small-holdings and desolate fields of staring horses, tangled woods and deadfalls, overgrown bomb-holes and the rusty discards of shortly forgotten squabbles. You know, they say that the clouds swag and belly heavier over the council roofs of Clockhouse Mount… and, as I plodded up, that day, in the hope of my first homely tankard at the Pail, large drops spattered from a previously clear sky. Even at noon, dusk was gathering itself and some laggard golfers were standing along the side of the road holding their clubs like spears, making funny faces beneath their tartan berets and wriggling their chequered trousers as if in some crazy fashion show. They would soon be off, no doubt, before the light had finally disappeared.

    I looked across at the downbeat parade and saw that the shops had shut, not for lunch as I had thought, but because I, a stranger, had loomed up from Cullesdon and they feared what they considered to be my unwholesome custom. I shivered for had the Pail, too, locked its lounge and saloon doors? The locals were inside, apparently persuading Mrs. Dobb to let them have further illicit flagons of the home-made brew, as I forced an entry through an unoiled latch-door. The bobbled heads looked up, scowls muttering across their faces, and one signalled for me to sheer off.

    “Dear Sackalive!” cried Mrs. Dobb, from behind the bar, a friendlier aspect indeed appearing to fleet across her countenance. “I didn’t think you’d make it”.

    “By Cock!” I replied, banging my feet on the floor, “That was a long walk up from the town.”

    Meantime the locals gathered closer to me and one even fingered my turn-ups in some strange rite of inspection. I looked at the posters and the customary wall-scrawl, to see if this was indeed the day of the darts match that I had been promised. But, no – imagine my despondency, when I saw incomprehensible messages pertaining to a Wicca Meet, destined for that very night … and further bills bearing such things I cannot now spell – Cuthloo, Shib-Shubbing in the snug, Yogger-Nogging in the saloon and, what was it, an outing at the weekend to the Goat of a Thousand Young for a turdle-eating competition.

    I skipped pretty niftily from the pub, for, as they say, you shouldn’t turn a heavy stone if something’s moving it from underneath.

    I ran … but it was difficult, for what I had thought originally to be rain was in fact now great bulbs of bursting liquid cascading from, not clouds, but shifting, floating monsters in the sky. They extended and retracted, in turn, long arms of blackness, from several interlocked central bodies and, if I were religious, the nearest I could get to describing them would be a hell’s brood, an overnourished confluxion of sky and foxflesh betokening the fall of old disgraced gods … and several smaller versions were creeping over the brims of council roofs…

    I ran … but golfers and pub locals surrounded me. One, of the name Tokkmaster Clerke, as he later told me, wielded a massive rutted file, its frightful crenellations glinting in the flashing of the wings in the sky. I was held fast by one whose nose dripped as Tokkmaster moved the file across my skull. At first, my hair fell away in lumps and dropped to the ground, followed by my skin. He grated it up and down, scratched, sawed, and ground. I could feel the hideous vibrations, reverberations stunning and splitting my head. My skull scrunched. My teeth were on edge, as the grating continued, as he honed my bone. The file stropped and serrated my pure white skull. It ground and rasped. Against the grain. Gashed and scored. Etched and furrowed. Rutted. Fretted and chafed. Scrubbed and gnawed. Eroded and Kneaded…….

    * * * *

    I ill recall most of that but I live now with the Sawdusts of Clockhouse Mount, and they call me Jackie… They make me worship the great old gods of the Surrey Badlands and the Southern Mysteries… The top of my head is like the skin of cold stew, so I now always have to wear a hat: Mrs. Dobb made it, kindly, out of vinegar & brown paper… and the filing Clerke, he says he’s my pal now.

    ==================

    THE DEVIL’S STINKPOT

    First published ‘Roisin Dubh’ 1994

    I have scraped the useless flashing from the end of my pencil, cleaned this book’s fly-leaf from blots, smuts, blemishes and foxing — and am now ready to write about the girl I loved.

    But, first, where was my story laid? A land where I ate dew-bit amid primroses and cuddle-me-to-you’s. Where the sun peered above the distant hills, cantilevering its beams from ten to four across my yawning face. And where I showered cool spring water over my bareness.

    The ocean breakers dragon-roared from beyond the nearby forest-lands, the dawn breeze fetching tangs of salty fucus: a trove of sea-mystery and smuggler’s blessings in each heady whiff.

    The pencil has become blunt and I’m finding it hard to continue and this fly-leaf is now over-crammed with my blown-up scrawl…

    I’ve come to the title page now, showing author and publisher’s name.

    THE DEVIL’S STINKPOT

    Nothing for it but to lay my plot across this unsatisfactory surface and gnaw further splinters from my pencil head. Not much time left. I must get straight to the point. My handwriting growing circumscribed by imaginary narrow feint lines. Only reader will be myself if I don’t hurry.

    BY D.F. LEWIS

    Well, my rival in love was darkly tall, wielding a devil’s turnip twice as large as mine. He mocked my wholesome gods and he hated the tooth fairies who whispered in my ears at night from under the pillow. He laughed almost out loud at my images of nursery tales and fruit-stones. He mimicked a lord’s prayer of one to ten and back again.

    CLERKES OF CULLESDON (FINE BOOKS) LTD.

    But his gods were elder and swarthier: groaning, towering visions of cock-eyed ogres gobbling dung-wet, half-cooked human beings. They swooped from the sky on huge black bedding wings chanting of Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth , later squeezing out my pillow friends like earwigs.

    And He the Dark One stood sentinel against the dying sunset to call them down.

    And that’s the title page filled out. I’m on to a page proper, one power-dressed in ugly print. Nobody will be able to read my thick pencil against it. My teeth ache as I pit them against the sharpening-end…

    The seas are quiet tonight, not such as the night before. She I truly adore will drop me into the stinkpot sooner than love me back. He who calls to Cthulhu is a side-long shadow companion who may or may not still be here. Kids play dibstone down by the runnelled rocks, where winkles and cockles click in rhythm to the stars. The forky channels ebb and flow over the beach … but I yearn for the forest-land, just my love and I, turnip in her merkin. She worries out my pillow-faces and taunts them with diddle daddle, tells them that at dew-bit they will have nought but the air among the corn-flakes.

    Fizgig shoves her oar up against the rock-face — and the point is broken again. My tongue is splintered. My hand has points of flesh, inturned and gristled. And the Dark One has flown with those he summoned and she pulls the crappit-heads from the lower sand-levels to suck them dry. The dibstone kids have gone for shelter behind the drunkery, wherein their daddies skulk and sup. And she says I’ve no lead in my pencil.

    I’m in flesh-quake. The sea-wrack’s ‘gainst my hide. My skin’s hell for leather. My turnip’s creased and winkled. Words mix and flether. The storm-clouds are really rather large webs and wings — and the waves comb my head. One story within another story upon another story. It’s not fitting. I’m in her stinkpot now (thick cellar-turds and forkheads eating my brain for high tea), far beyond the spit of land where once we cuddled and kept our future.

    She’s creamed out now, gone with the Dark One who once pointed a thick finger at the black spume in the sky, betokening the coming of the Great Old Ones…

    And the words printed in the library book which I once used for scribbling my story seemed far more immediate than anything I produced. Far more relevant, if strait-laced. With far more present tension.

    My own point had finally gone. Unless the reader had read far more between the lines.

  2. Pingback: Entry Points | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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