Free Short Story

11/4/2017

I’ve no idea where this one came from but it seemed like a good idea at the time – enjoy.

‘Cannon Fodder’

A Short Story

by

G. J. Brown©

 

Cannon fire woke Trent. In itself, an unusual occurrence in the annals of Glasgow history. Not the cannon fire. It’s a fair bet that cannons were in regular use a few centuries ago, in and around the Clyde valley. The unusual news was that Trent didn’t sleep through it. He had a reputation for sleeping like a corpse. Famously, once falling asleep leaning against the speakers of the loudest night club in Scotland.

Trent could, and would, take to dreamland with the sort of ease that suggested a serious, undiagnosed medical complaint. He needed a minimum of fourteen hours sleep on an average day. More, if he’d been deprived of his bed due to a heavy weekend in the pubs and clubs in town.

His record for an uninterrupted snooze was twelve minutes short of twenty-four hours. Trent despised those twelve minutes. He wanted to claim a full day. His partner of the last three years was witness to the shortfall. She had seen him fall asleep as the credits had rolled on Coronation Street. He had risen from the sofa, the following evening, just after the break in River Monsters. Failing to make the twenty-four.

Trent slid from his bed with the enthusiasm of an oil man forced to drive an electric car. He wasn’t yet aware of what had woken him. Only that dust was falling on his head and one of the panes of glass in his window seemed to be missing. There also seemed to be an abundance of car alarms in play.

Trent shouted ‘Hey Siri’ at his phone. A new feature that saved him the bother of picking the thing up. The phone pinged. He shouted again. ‘What time is it?’. The phone thought about if for a few seconds. ‘It’s 2 oh 3. Time to be asleep. I think.’

In the morning?’

Siri didn’t answer.

The dark outside confirmed that Siri was either right, or there was an eclipse that Trent hadn’t heard about.

The second cannon shot was more accurate. The steel ball entered Trent’s flat a few feet above the bedroom window. Taking out the lintel. It ripped through the ceiling of the room, coming to rest in Mrs Lorimer’s bedside cabinet, on the floor above. Mrs Lorimer would require sedating.

In Trent’s sleep addled head he wasn’t sure what was happening. His first coherent thought was that a terrorist bomb had gone off. Not as far from the truth in reality. As to why a terrorist would target a tenement on the south side of Glasgow was no longer a question of note. Trent had read about too many terrorist attacks in too many random places to think this was off the mark.

His real problem was what to do in such a situation. He had issues even when he woke up at his own pace. Accelerated ejection came with its own set of problems. Not least, that he was dying for a piss. The fright from the cannon ball rendered this problem mute. Replacing it with a new imperative – the need for a fresh pair of boxers sooner, rather than later.

The tenement flat was of Victorian build. The ceiling still the lathe and plaster construction of the late nineteenth century. A technique that could, and had, survived the decades but, when breached, tended to bring the entire ceiling down. Chunks of plaster the size of a rock star’s wedding cake rained down. One slab caught Trent on the back of his head. Pole axed, he fell to the floor.

It took a while for the third assault. Reloading a cannon is a slow process. It was also one that the gunner had not expected to undertake. He had, in his mind’s eye, seen this as one shot deal. Cannon balls in the movies would rip holes in castle walls that allowed armies to flow in through the gap created. Boats would sink with a single shot.

The first shot had fallen somewhat short of the first floor window it was supposed to enter. A lack of any real practice was to blame.

The Internet had been very informative on how to fire the thing; it had also made it look very easy. The YouTube video had demonstrated the power of the single ball. A young man, dressed in a U.S. Civil War uniform, took out the side of an old railway shed with the minimum of effort.

Even the required ingredients for the cannon had been easy to obtain. The gunner wasn’t sure that his search history wasn’t a little bit incriminating. But, no one had come knocking at his door when the delivery man had appeared with a small box of explosives, primer and fuse.

The canon had been more problematic. The gunner knew where to lay his hands on one. He also knew that the ball would have to be a certain size, the firing kit a certain make up. The cannon he had in mind was a working model. Every year it was used in Pollok Park to mark the anniversary of something or other. The blaze of fire and smoke from its mouth told the gunner all he needed to know. It worked.

Stealing it was a touch more complex than the gunner was prepared for. For starters it was stored at the back of Pollok House, an imposing stately home with an industrial set of doors guarding its cellar. Getting the stolen 4×4 round to the back of the house had not been easy either. The tyre tracks would take a few months to vanish completely from the pristine lawn.

And, to make a bad situation one that had dog dirt on it – no one – not the guy in the video – nor Wiki – and certainly not the gunner’s sidekick, Chas, had hinted at how heavy a cannon was. The original plan to lump it into the back of the Land Cruiser went out the window in seconds. Fortunately, the cannon was on a trailer. A length of rope, a bad knot tied round the handle of the 4×4’s back door, and they were away.

As to how they had not been stopped on the short journey to the tenement was down to a fight in a nearby pub that required the full attention of the local constabulary.

By morning there would be a slew of photos on Facebook and Twitter. Mostly of the devastation, but a few came from people who had caught site of the Toyota and cannon combo. In one photo Chas was waving at the camera.

The reason for the shortfall on the initial shot was a failure to properly secure the canon. The barrel depressed as the fuse was lit. The carnage was still quite impressive. All be it, the flat below Trent’s took the full hit. Sanjay Kahn’s pride and joy – a full replica of Preston railway station, replete with track and trains was reduced to matchwood. Sanjay, thankfully had been in bed.

The second shot was a beauty. An accidental beauty. A wonderful, heat seeking beauty. The sort of three hundred and fifty yard, curving drive off the first tee, beauty. Chas had his phone on video. He caught the shot like a pro. He uploaded it before the third cannon ball was loaded.

The third shot was a resounding disaster. Bathed in the euphoria of the previous shot, the instructions of the Civil War dude were ignored. The over loading of charge, shortening of the fuse, lack of wadding and ill placed cannon ball added up to an internal cocktail that the cannon could not survive. The gunner and Chas’s proximity to the destruction of the cannon should have killed them both.

They were spared, due to a flaw in the cannon makers art some two centuries before, when, through an overindulgence in the local brew the blacksmith had screwed up the casting of the cannon, and imbued a slight flaw on the left hand side. The gunner and Chas were standing on the right when the cannon exploded.

Ten streets away, the revellers at a party, on the top floor of set of new apartments, witnessed the mushroom shaped cloud of the cannon exploding. It’s uncanny resemblance to a small nuclear detonation was commented on. Again, the talk of a terrorist attack was raised. Again, it wasn’t dismissed. A sign of the times.

The police arrived. As did the fire brigade. As did an ambulance. As did an army vehicle. The latter called in by a retired SAS sergeant who lived in the next block. He had been the first to pick up the phone when he had seen the nutters unloading a cannon.

The gunner and Chas, both unconscious, were taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for treatment. Cannon wounds were a new one for the staff.

Trent was placed at the same hospital. He had no recollection of events.

The police were left dumfounded. Firstly, be the sheer stupidity of the actions. Secondly by the fact it was even possible to steal, load and fire a cannon. Lastly, as to the why?

With the victim and the accused all out of action, it was left to speculation as to what the hell had gone down.

The truth would emerge in fits and starts. When it did, it did little to dampen the madness of the whole incident.

Trent, a man in a full time relationship, had strayed from the path of fidelity. One night, full to the gills, he had propositioned and won over a young lady in a night club. The resultant dalliance in the back lane had been quick and dirty.

The gunner, better known as Dave, had known the young lady. In fact, he was of the impression he was the only man in her life. What he didn’t know was that he wasn’t even the only man on his street, in her life. Her name was Diane.

Dave, through Chas, through a mutual contact, discovered Trent and Diane had been taking the night air together. Dave, and the term is an old one but a good one, went Radio Rental.

To his credit he did not knee jerk into action. He planned the revenge. Identifying Trent’s home. Considering the options.

When he had visited Pollok Park a few days later the sight of the canon sparked inspiration. He knew what he had to do. It was the perfect way to make his point.

After all, how better to send a message when your girlfriend’s name was Diane Canon.

The End