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Tinker Without A Tale

From the telling of Richard Walker (Retold by Chris Lowe)

Tinkers, travellers, gypsies and didicois we mix them up today but once tinkers actually had a trade. Tinkers travelled from village to village and town to town mending pots, pans and other kitchen equipment. As they travelled round they collected news and stories and when they arrived at an inn the landlord welcomed them. He knew that their broadcasting of news would be followed by a succession of stories and tall tales and as people listened they would eat and drink and help to make him a richer landlord. This, however, is the story of the tinker without a tale.

When he walked into the inn the landlord welcomed him, sat him down and quickly placed a tankard of foaming ale in front of him saying:

Go on, tinker. Tell us the news while your eating and drinking. Then after I will show you to your room.

The tinker tucked into his free meal and as he did so he disgorged tittle-tattle and momentous events as one to his audience. For their part they were hungry to hear what was going on in the outside world and listened intently. When the tinker had finished telling his news the landlord turned and said

Tinker! Tell us a tale!

The tinker flushed, then gulped and said

1 donít know any talesÖor stories

As the words left his lips he expected what remained of his meal and his pint to be whipped away. He saw his bed for the night disappearing too. The inn was silent: the crowd dumbfounded but the landlord did nothing.

At the end of the evening much to the tinkerís surprise the large frame of the landlord preceded him up the innís creaking stairs and into a bedroom situated on the corner of the building. The room had windows on each side of its corner location and a four poster bed stood against the panelled interior wall.

Well, youíll be comfortable here, Tinker.

And with that the landlord left him, The tinker settled down to sleep but just as he was dozing off he thought he heard a scratching noise at the window. When he looked it was the end of a branch being moved over the glass by the wind.

He tried to drift off again but this time the scratching was accompanied by what sounded like cackling laughter. He opened one eye cautiously. As he peered through the gloom he thought he saw a shadow at the window. Gingerly he got out of bed and crept forward. He screamed as he saw the long yellow teeth, surrounded by pockmarked skin with greasy lank hair clinging to a gnarled forehead and evil eyes that gloated from under a black stovepipe hat.

Suddenly he was aware that there were several of these ghoulish creatures. They were all grinning wildly and pushing hard at the windows trying to get in. He rushed to each window to snap its catches firmly shut. One of the window openings was bowing dangerously. He grabbed his stick and wedged it across the frame. Suddenly a pane shattered. A long fingered and filthy hand grabbed his wrist and he was pulled towards macabre smiling faces. Now several hands had him.

He was heaved out of the window and thrown over a bony shoulder. A rank sweet smell rose from the grime infested shirt of his carrier. It was amplified by the sweating, stinking bodies that formed his escort. The necrotic group was moving swiftly towards the churchyard.

He was hurled to the floor. He rolled over several times before coming to rest at the edge of a shallow pit. The leaderís yellow eyes glowered at him as he held out a spade and emitted a half grunt half roar that indicated he was to dig. The tinker, tears of desperation and despair lining his cheeks, swung the spade wildly and threw earth into the air.

UhÖ dig, uh dig... The group of tormentors seemed to chorus.

He struggled on, stifling his fears. As he did so he swayed under the strain of maintaining bodily control. Their dry cracked laughter increased as the pitís rim rose above the tinkerís head. Then soil hit him in the mouth, the eyes. He yelled as a storm of earth and stones battered his head, chest and upper legs. Soon he was on his knees. The last shreds of humanity and dignity left him. He became a terrified animal trying to scream in terror as the cavity of his mouth filled and his panicked eyes blazed. Death was near. He was convulsing with sobs when he slowly realised that the onslaught had ceased. No more derision came from the pitís rim. He looked up they had gone! No wickedly snarling faces looked down on him!

He leapt up, grabbed the edge of his prison and pushed with his legs. In a moment he was free! Of course the morning sun had frightened them away! Its first gleams issued over the distant roof of the inn. He sprinted towards the inn crying and laughing as he staggered along. His torn clothes rippled in the wind and his bare feet left spots of blood on the cobbled path. Free! He was frÖ

He looked behind in dread as once again he heard the cackling. They were there, all of them, pursuing him and enjoying their taunting more than ever. He shouted in abject terror and doubled his pace towards the inn. Long bony fingers grabbed the edge of the door and were withdrawn sharply as he slammed the door shut. Curses and then giggling could be heard as the door began to shake with the sound of battering.

He frantically pulled a heavy chest of draws in front of it then looked towards the windows. Long arms with ragged shirtsleeves and spindly legs with ragged trousers were already halfway through. The tinker stood in the middle of the room as his scream pierced every wall in the inn.

Whatís happening? Whoís there?

The landlordís huge fists hammered on the bedroom door.

Let me in!

The tinker pulled the chest aside. The landlord stepped into the room. As he stood there he seemed to grow. He towered over the tinker. The tinker looked down at his feet, they were cloven. His face became hairy. Horns spouted from his coarse hair.

You know who I am donít you?

Yes, youíre Old Nick, Scratch, the Devil!

No! No! I am the god Pan. I was here, in this country, long before the Christians came. I am the god of music, poetryÖ and stories. You said you didnít have one but now you Do!!!