Posted by: Chris Wright | August 2, 2008


The teacup rattled in its saucer. Earl Grey slopping over the rim as Colonel Meridew Musters roared delightedly, his mirth echoing through the house. The kitchen staff, plucking fowl in preparation for dinner, smile to themselves, all’s well with the world.

“Bloody man’s dropped dead!”

A perusal of the obituary column was a traditional mainstay of a weekend at Muster’s country retreat, great amusement was to be found in accounts of the deaths of sundry despised school friends and business rivals.

Musters’ rubicund features appeared around the edge of the Times, mustaches quivering with ill suppressed hilarity.

“About bloody time! Did I tell you, Perry, about the time we took Algy for a trip to the marshes? Damn fool wouldn’t know one end of a gun from another!”

I was warming my buttocks in front of the roaring log fire in Musters’ Drawing Room. Spreading my coat tails for maximum warmth. Rising onto my toes for adjustment I shook my head, murmuring some blandishment in encouragement. My eye was taken by Marion Musters, the Colonel’s nineteen year old niece, down for the weekend from Chelsea. Algy was her fiancée. I’d been on the shoot, but that wouldn’t stop Musters. Marion caught me looking, blushed and looked hurriedly away. Chuckling, I sauntered over to the table taking care to admire myself in the mirror over the fireplace as I did so.  A touch of grey to be sure, but distinguished, adding gravitas.

“Turned up at dawn, dressed up like a blithering idiot – I’ve never seen such a sight in all my life – nearly set the dogs on him!”

“Dearest Algy,” I read, over Marion’s shoulder “It has been weeks since I wrote, I can hardly believe how time flies…”

“Damned impertinence” ranted Musters, “kept mumbling about vegetables…wouldn’t touch the kidneys…Hah! kept asking Maisy for ‘Green Tea’ have you ever heard such ruddy nonsense?”

The shoot had been dismal that morning, shaking with cold and barely kept alive by regular recourse to the flask Maisy had slipped me at breakfast. Musters had blasted away like a man possessed, birds, beaters and dogs crouched whimpering with fear as one gun was exchanged for another, the barrels too hot to hold.

“…I really must apologise for Uncle Merry’s abominable behaviour, he’s a darling really, but the accident was unfortunate, it must have hurt horribly ….”

Musters’ features had darkened as he warmed to his tale, now glowing a threatening shade of puce.

“Took him out to the marsh, the damned fool started fiddling around with a camera! I ask you! Wouldn’t touch a bloody gun!”

“..the look on your face, when you got back from the hospital though was quite priceless, I thought I was going to die laughing…”

“Well, you know what I think about photographers…damn fools the lot of ‘em!”

The Colonel. Bilious, belligerent and quite possibly barking.

“The bloody idiot went wading about in the water, next thing we knew he’s hopping about like a ruddy imbecile…”

I remembered the scene too well, freezing bloody cold, I was crouched in some godforsaken hide with Musters’ ancient, stinking spaniel, flask empty of armagnac and the prospect of two more hours untroubled by birds of any hue. I’d peered out through the early morning murk and seen Algy poncing about with a tripod, too good a chance to miss.  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life, though Algy failed to see the funny side of it, brand new breeks, blood soaked and ripped to shreds by the hail of 30 gram number 6 shot.


Musters suddenly choking, Earl Grey everywhere, hands gripping the chest. Marion, on her feet like a startled deer.

“Perry do something! For God’s sake!”

I stroll casually over to the Colonel, taking my time, then hoist him upright and slipping round behind him, clasp both hands around his chest, raise him then the sudden drop, squeezing the ribcage. There is a convulsion, dentures exploding across the room, landing with a satisfactory plop in Marion’s teacup, where they lay, partially submerged, grinning vapidly back into the room. Musters coughing now, tears streaming down his cheeks, cook summoned with a curative glass of Glenmorangie, which I eagerly quaffed.

“Thank God you were here Perry, he might have died…”


  1. . . . barrels too hot to hold is a beautiful detail. I also greatly admire the casual audacity of shortstopping the Glenmorangie.

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