Contest #233 shortlist ⭐️

Auld Hornie’s Wirk

Submitted into Contest #233 in response to: Write a story about a character participating in Dry January.... view prompt

38 comments

Friendship Funny Romance

Glasgae’s dry January always ends on th’ twenty-fifth night o’ th’ month. That’s fair enough, fur na parched Glaswegian kin sustain such perverse cruelty beyond that hallowed date. Th’ end o’ that thirsty month can’t come quick enough, fur then we raise a cup o’ cheer tae Rabbie Burns. Th’ Bard’s rousing words on that night ne’er fail to restore oor tortured souls anew, banishing th’ self-inflicted drought fur annur year.

* * *

However, Burns Night is an age from Hogmanay’s tolling midnight bells and the thunderous arrival o’ th’ New Year. The jubilant celebration is nae time fur cowering wee beasties who lurk at home, fearful they’ll be swallowed whole, trampled under rampaging hoofs or deafened by raucous voices. Delight and devilment rule th’ first hours o’ that tireless mornin’. Everyone’s first-footing next-door neighbours in th’ wee hours ‘n’ ragin’ wild throo’oot th’ day. Fireworks explode aloft, doorbells ‘ding-dong’ below, ‘n’ fizz-corks ur a poppin’ a’ o’er Glasgae. Wance hee haw streets are heavin’ wi’ euphoric bodies, stoaters to a Jimmy, thair spirits unleashed and rovin’. Sae, beware ‘n’ behold ye meek souls wha dare nae tread th’ paving stanes and cobbles, we’ll draw ye oot tae partake ‘n’ drench yer timorous an’ retirin’ lily-livers in golden dew ‘n’ aged nectar siphoned fae oan high.

* * *

Ah, bit whin Hogmanay’s ower, whit regret we hae that foremaist day of the month ‘n’ say, “Ne’er again,” and “Ne’ermore.” Just lik’ lest New Year’s Day ‘n’ a’ th’ ones o’ yore. We’ll wake up late ‘n’ stir wi’ pounding noggins ‘n’ lament oor hapless heids again. A tumbler o’ water revives parched throats ‘n’ desiccated limbs, ‘n’ in unison, we’ll swear tae mend oor pickled livers ‘n’ shrivelled kidneys tae. Sae, we a’ promise t’ repair oor pure sorry ways ‘n’ forgo th’ devil’s dram.

   “Aye, ne’er again and ne’er more,” we vow tae wives, partners ‘n’ swallyan pals. “A dry January calls us,” we say oot loud. “And a’ mist comply.”

   “Ne’er again and ne’er more,” we pledge, ‘n’ mark oor calendars ilka day o’ th’ month. Ilk day bears a defiant cross ‘n’ January’s sacrifice we’ll hae t’ bear.

Aye, January’s a tough time in Glasgae, bit, ilka day’s a step towards sobriety ‘n’ rude health, ‘n’ ruddy-faces a’ aglow.

   “It’s nae for e’ermore,” ye say, wi’ a determined fist, trembling as ye resist th’ locks o’ th’ dug that bit ye, clutching yer guts fur fear o’ boakin’. 

   “It’s nae long to gan.”

   “Aye! Th’ Bard’s swallie awaits us at th’ end o’ January, whin bevvies wull flow freely ‘n’ tassies’ll overflow.”

   There’ll be lacklustre cynics ‘n’ spineless wretches that’ll ignore January’s greet tae abstain. Auld soaks tae a Jimmy wull cackle lik’ witches nursing their brew ‘n’ they’ll say, “Do it Glasgae style.” Bit we ken thair next week’s ne’er comin’ ‘n’ tomorrow they’ll be forever saying tomorrows. 

   An’ on oor part, there’ll be thoughts o’ cheating that occur, as dry hours extend intae arid days ‘n’ those days’ll ooze intae mirthless weeks, dreary as they come. Some faint hearts might waver ‘ere, but there’ll be nae buts ‘n’ fewer excuses excused. 

   And sae, we’ll trust oor reprobate neighbours ‘n’ peely-wally pals ur honest fur wance; sticking tae the scheme wi’ righteous minds ‘n’ holdin’ firm. Aye, it’s hard enough tae refrain wi’oot suspicious thoughts aboot ithers takin’ th’ Mick. We’ll be peepin’ o’er oor shoulders ‘n’ avoiding a wee nip o’ th’ golden cooncil juice; its warming nose left corked ‘n’ locked awa’ fur th’ time agreed, whin we kin raise oor elbows ‘n’ quaff wance mair. Bit nae yit ‘n’ nae th’day; there’ll be nae swickin’ or deception oan mah watch. Bit see noo, there’re lang and perilous days tae traverse wi’ perilous drops tae hostile rocks below, ‘n’ waters gushing lik’ excited soda syphons. 

*  *  *

   “Dear diary,” Ah write as if expecting solace ‘n’ a comforting embrace ‘ere. Ah find a little succour oan th’ barren white pages fur sure, but respite fae thae days o’ distress is in short supply. Th’ innocent paper’s pale countenance scowls up at me as ah confess thoughts anew aboot th’ nappy ‘n’ th’ amber sauce; o’ lusty ale or biting liquor, foaming, brisk, strong, rich ‘n’ heady.

   Two weeks gone noo ‘n’ we still say, “Aye, ne’er again and ne’er more.” 

   “Shut yer geggy,” ye say in haste ‘n’ impatience. Snapping at mukkers and loved ones is most uncalled fur. Mind, it’s fur thair sake you’re going dry too. Bit, whit hell you’re giving a’ in earshot, ‘til th’ month is thro’. 

   “Aye, it’s hellish,” Ah shout at this point o’ na return. Wi’ dry geggy, no spittle ‘n’ guts aching fur a dram. 

   “Just a nip won’t hurt ye,” th’ skulking Devil whispers in mah lug hole. 

   “Aye,” I’m thinking. “And who’ll ken for sure?”

   “But no!” I’m better than this. Ah kin beat it. 

   “Ye softie!” the De’il calls oot in disgust.

   Persist I must, ‘til th’ date wi’ Rabbie Burns at least. At least ‘til then, I’ll huv a go.

   An’ whit o’yer mukkers and neighbours, revellers tae a Jimmy ‘n’ th’ lassies that hae promised tae? All hae made that oath in earnest, bit it’s hard and harder still as th’ arid hours ooze by, ‘n’ mirthless time dribbles away drap by drap. 

   Th’ third week arrives lik’ a shovel tae the heid. Red of eyes and sore of throat, ‘n’ feeling cauld as a corpse. That’s whin yer devil returns wi’ temptation anew. 

   “What’s wrong wi’ ye?” Taunts th’ foul enchanter wi’ sly voice ‘n’ loathsome tones. Taunting me, fresh from hell he comes, with thoughts of liquor sliding down mah gullet to refresh those ailing innards. Aye, the De’il’s looking for a cheap victory and slaves for the fiery furnace below.

   “A wee sip an’ ye’ll be bright ‘n’ shining wance more,” he charms me wi’ impunity.   

   “Ye’ ken ye’ waant a modicum o’ relief fae yer misery,” he intones. “Aye, yer still gaggin’ fer it, ain’t ye?”

   “Dear diary,” Ah write every day ‘n’ confess mah close collapse ‘n’ near capitulation. “Not lang tae go,” Ah scrawl ‘n’ scratch wi’ sweat ‘n’ desperation. 

   After three weeks oan th’ wagon, th’ brain’s less clouded ‘n’ mah face haes lost its grey pallor. Aye, th’ cheeks ur looking rosy at last. My blood’s cleansed ‘n’ flowin’. I’m fighting the De’il and feeling fit, one step at a time. I’m nae a marathon Jimmy, but there’s life back in mah weary bones. Mah limbs ha’ stopped thair aching ‘n’ I’m nae griping anymair.

   The De’il wull hae th’ last laugh, he kens full well. “Ye’ll be mine wance more,” he says, smirking ‘n’ polishing his gnarled auld horns. 

   “Dear diary, nae lang t’ go.” I scribble. “Oan th’ hame stretch noo.” 

   “Yer a winner!” Th’ diary answers back, as though alive ‘n’ listening. 

   “Constant pal ‘n’ consoling companion,” I start tae write. “I could nae din it wi’oot ye forever thare ‘n’ by mah side forgiving.”

   Oan th’ twenty-fourth, I ne’er felt better. Burns night’s soon upon us, at last. 

Mah thoughts ur clear and looking forward tae celebrating Scotland’s bard. 

   Bit what’s this nourishment mah wifey’s organisin’ fer us? She’s scheming tae plate up haggis made fae vegetables, na less. Surely, this concoction’s Auld Hornie’s wirk? We deserve far better reward efter struggling thro’ such a hellish month. 

   “Ah tell ye, it’s nae right ‘n’ proper tae gi’ yer man a veggie haggis.”

   “Ye’ll love it, pet,” she says.

   “Pish! That’s a load o’ keech.”

   “It’ll be fine with champit neeps and tatties.”

   “Help mah boab! It’s a mingin’ morsel fur sure, hen.”

   “If ye dinnae waant scran that’s gid fur ye, then ye’r a boggin’ bampot.”

   A veggie haggis isnae ainlie a vile abomination, it’s a contradiction in terms. It’s nowt but an oxymoron, let alone a hideous imposter. Th’ real deal’s a snarling wolf in sheep’s attire, bit this pale imitation is a gutless bag o’ greens disguised as a toothless hound. 

   “Whit nonsense!” Rabbie Burns would’a kicked it intae titch or smashed it intae smithereens in disgust. Aye, whit grim disdain meets oor pallid veggie fare by all expecting the chieftain o’ th’ pudding race. Oor Burns Night’s nae complete wi’oot trenching an engorged sack o’ entrails wi’ juices that’re warm, rich ‘n’ reekin’. 

* * *

   Mah labour’s done at last. Ah made it thro’ th’ month, mair or less wi’oot a drap, ‘n’ mist wash away any taste o’ that veggie pudding. A few nips will cleanse that foul vegetation fae my geggy. 

   Let’s dram wance mair tae dry January’s end, ‘n’ suffering ‘til Burns night returns. 

   “So, here’s t’ nae mair droughty days,” I shout, raising a tassie tae a’ ‘ere.  

   “Slàinte Mhath!” They a’ shout wi’ drams aloft. 

   “We’ve hud oor fill o’ dry January.” 

   “Gid riddance ‘til neist year!”

 

Th’ End


 



January 19, 2024 10:55

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38 comments

Crystal Wexel
22:27 Apr 04, 2024

It’s like you were another person stepped back in time !

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Howard Halsall
23:41 Apr 04, 2024

The magic of writing is that it transcends all time and space in an instant.… :)

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Crystal Wexel
00:45 Apr 05, 2024

True !

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Howard Halsall
01:10 Apr 05, 2024

:)

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John Rutherford
13:51 Feb 02, 2024

This is great. How do to spell out slang or dialect, pronoun it your heed first?

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Howard Halsall
23:24 Feb 02, 2024

Hello John, Thank you for reading my story; well done for getting to grips with the strong accent and wading through to the end. To answer your question concerning the dialect - first of all, I wrote a standard English version with a light twang and added colloquial words in subsequent passes. On my penultimate read through I thought, “Why not just go for it?” Then I wrote the final version with no holds barred. Ultimately, I guess you’d call an all or nothing approach. HH

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Chris Campbell
07:04 Jan 31, 2024

Howard. I loved the Scottish dialect in this. Definitely, a page or two out of Rabbie burns hisself. Oh, the wee temptation of a dram, when ye've sworn off it. Congrats on the shortlist. Well deserved!

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Howard Halsall
07:10 Jan 31, 2024

Hey Chris, Thanks for the congratulations. I’m pleased you enjoyed it and well done for spotting the odd reference :) I couldn’t resist the challenge and had a lot of fun with the language and just prayed people would stick with it. It’s one of those stories that works better read out loud. Take care HH

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Philip Ebuluofor
20:25 Jan 27, 2024

King James and his Bible talk like you too. Congrats. You a royalty.

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Howard Halsall
21:37 Jan 27, 2024

Hello Philip, Thank you for your flattening words; I’m honoured :) Take care HH

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:03 Jan 28, 2024

Welcome.

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Hi Howard. Congratulations on your shortlist! This was fantastically funny. It occasionally took me a minute to understand what was being said, but after some brain stretching, I could figure it out. Well done! I applaud you!

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Howard Halsall
22:18 Jan 26, 2024

Hello Guadalupe, Thank you reading my story and sharing your positive reaction. I’m pleased you thoroughly enjoyed it, once you’d got to grips with the accent. The dialect’s tough however hopefully I captured that hard-edged Glaswegian perspective and the warm hearted but irreverent humour. Take care HH

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Trudy Jas
16:52 Jan 26, 2024

Congratulations! Happy Burns Night. The next round's on me. :-)

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Howard Halsall
19:16 Jan 26, 2024

Hey Trudy! Thank you, make mine a double and one for yourself :D Slàinte Mhath! HH

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Trudy Jas
20:34 Jan 26, 2024

Done! Proost

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18:26 Jan 25, 2024

This was such a fun story to read! Very enjoyable - and I feel quite proud of myself, as an American, that I was able to understand it! It made me miss Burns' Night - when I lived in Astana, Kazakhstan, the British school would throw a Burns' Night party, and it was so much fun to go to! And I even ate vegetarian haggis!

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Howard Halsall
19:00 Jan 25, 2024

Hello Elizabeth, Or should I say, “happy Burns Night, Elizabeth?” Indeed, it’s the night to celebrate Scotland’s true bard and all his wonderful words. Anyhow, thank you for wading through my little story; it’s a relief it all made sense and you enjoyed the humour. Also, I’m glad it reawakened some pleasant memories from your time in Astana. I’d be interested to hear about how Burns Night was celebrated in Kazakhstan - I imagine it was a memorable event for lots of reasons. However, I’m not sure about the veggie haggis - it’s just not right ...

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17:57 Jan 28, 2024

Burns Night was thrown by the British school; I think they had several Scottish teachers and a Scottish director when they started the tradition. It started small-ish, held in the school's auditorium, but eventually moved to the ballroom at a fancy hotel. It was a formal event - cocktail dress or Scottish wear required - and tickets cost around $100 each. But it was worth it - 3 course meal, including haggis, unlimited Scotch, entertainment (music, Burns' poetry reading, the "ode to the haggis"), and traditional Scottish dancing. Usually, th...

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Howard Halsall
21:44 Jan 28, 2024

Hello Elizabeth, It’s great to hear about your Burns Nights; they sound like jolly occasions and lots of fun. I’ve attended a fair number too and have fond memories of hearty food, good company and the exhilaration of dancing to live music until the wee hours. What a hoot! If I’m honest, the veggie haggis was a tasty option and after a couple of single malts, who can tell the difference? Take care HH

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Jorge Soto
23:34 Jan 24, 2024

I think reading Kipling has prepared me to hear the voices so clearly haha. Very lovely story!

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Howard Halsall
23:46 Jan 24, 2024

Hello Jorge, Thank you for reading my story and listening to the characters’ voices - it’s definitely a tale that’s best read out loud and 25th January is Burns Night, so tonight’s a perfect time to celebrate the work of Scotland’s bard. Slàinte Mhath! HH :)

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Rebecca Detti
19:35 Jan 20, 2024

This is brilliant Howard. I loved it. So atmospheric! I also absolutely love the term 'peely-wally' as reminds me of some of my dear friends who have a croft in Scotland.

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Howard Halsall
20:50 Jan 20, 2024

Hello Rebecca, Thank you for reading my story or maybe I should say, wading through my story? After all, it is a bit tricky to wrap one’s mind around the accent and best achieved when read out loud. However, I’m pleased you enjoyed it and hope it raised a gentle smile. A little giggle goes along way this time of the year, especially with a few more days to go until the end of January…. :) Take care HH

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Rebecca Detti
14:08 Jan 23, 2024

Hello Howard, I really enjoyed. It was certainly a good one to read out loud which I did with a glass of wine in hand!;-) It is all about the laughter, I always make sure I find something to laugh about each day, all the best, Rebecca

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Howard Halsall
17:18 Jan 23, 2024

Well said Rebecca, “A laugh a day, keeps the De’il away.” HH :)

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Rebecca Detti
17:19 Jan 23, 2024

I’m going to start using that in conversation now 😂

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Howard Halsall
18:45 Jan 23, 2024

:)

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Ty Warmbrodt
13:32 Jan 19, 2024

I read that twice. Once out loud for fun.

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Howard Halsall
19:00 Jan 19, 2024

Hello Ty, I know where you’re coming from - reading anything out loud always makes good sense and helps one appreciate the rhythms of the language. It’s especially true with accented writing; somehow it all makes it much more intelligible, and enjoyable too. Take care HH

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Trudy Jas
13:12 Jan 19, 2024

A veggie haggis? A contradiction in terms, an oxymoron ... :-) Ne'er ha'e Ah seen so much ado aboot gut 'n greens. (am I even close? If not my apologies) Well done!

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Howard Halsall
18:55 Jan 19, 2024

Hello Trudy, Thanks for reading my latest story and wading through the accent. I hope you enjoyed its humour and had a chuckle. I find it makes the most sense if one reads it out loud, preferably to a friend or loved one - it’s bound to raise a smile :) Take care HH

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Trudy Jas
19:45 Jan 19, 2024

I did. Read it out loud, that is. And, though I read it to an empty room, I still smiled and chuckled.

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Howard Halsall
20:01 Jan 19, 2024

That’s heartwarming to hear. There’s nothing like raising a smile, even at a distance :)

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Angela M
12:26 Jan 19, 2024

This was such an interesting read! It truly transported me to another world. It couldn't have been easy to write! Now I'm craving haggis.. Thanks so much for reading my story "Uneaten." I really appreciate it.

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Howard Halsall
18:49 Jan 19, 2024

Hello Angela, Thank you for reading my latest story and sharing your positive reaction. Yes, it was a bit tricky to write, but mainly with knowing how far to go with the language and being aware of consistency. I wrote the original draft in standard English to get the idea down, then tinkered with the dialect before finally deciding to go all out with broad Glaswegian. I remember reading ‘Trainspotting’ when it first came out and recall struggling with the accent for a page or two, then enjoying it once I got used to the notion. I guess that...

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Mary Bendickson
12:06 Jan 19, 2024

Your spell check must have been having a red letter day on this brazen blazen trail. Aye, ne're agin' an ' an' ne're more! ' til neist year. Thanks for liking my 'Where's the Can Opener' Congrats on the shortlist. It is very short this week and I thought there were a lot of great stories this week. Go figure

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Howard Halsall
18:36 Jan 19, 2024

Hello Mary, Thanks for reading my rambling yarn. I’m pleased you enjoyed it and hope you had a little chuckle. And yes, the spell checker lit up my screen with flickering red and blue alerts that would’ve shamed Blackpool Illuminations. Take care HH

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