Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Thieves and the Bell

This is my retelling of an old story from Chinese folklore. 

For audio click here

“You seen this?” Kenny passed the local newspaper over to his friend Eddie who looked at it and then smiled. 
“You’re thinking what, I’m thinking aren’t you?” Eddie said. 
Kenny nodded.
The headline read – Restored Bells Ready to be Re-hung –and there was a picture of eight metal bells in a row in the church car park. 
“That’s a grand right there,” Eddie said, rubbing his hands together. 
“And the rest,” Kenny got out a pen and started making notes on the side of the newspaper. He showed Eddie his calculations. 
“Not bad for a night’s work.” Eddie rubbed his hands together again. They both nodded. 
“We’ll meet at the churchyard at midnight, I’ll bring the van,”  Kenny said, and they finished their pints in silence.

It was a cloudless night, the stars piercing a bluey-black sky. Eddie blew on his hands and stamped his feet while he waited for Kenny to show up. He checked the time and watched a cat prowl across the graveyard, it stopped, meowed at him and then continued its journey. Eddie shivered at the thought of all the dead eyes watching him from beneath the tombstones; meeting in a cemetery at midnight had all the hallmarks of a horror film written all over it. He looked around to check there weren’t any late-night dog walkers anywhere and then, he was relieved to see the dipped headlights of Kenny’s van coming around the bend.
“Let’s get on with it,” he horse-whispered as soon as Kenny got out. 
They walked over to the bells. The first two they managed to pick up with ease and waddle over to the van. But by the time they got to the third one they didn’t have the muscles to deal with its weight.
“What shall we do?” Eddie said. Kenny thought for a moment. 
I’ve got it,” he said. “What if we smash them up. I’ve got some hammers in the van. We could smash them into little pieces and then carry the fragments.” 
“Brilliant,” Eddie said, and they ran to get the tools. 
Eddie swung his mallet and clattered into the bell. Donnnnnggggg, it rang out. 
“Shit,” Kenny said. 
“Shit,” Eddie echoed. 
They looked around, no lights had come on in the houses that they could see, but they knew they couldn’t risk whacking the bell again. 
“What are we going to do?” Eddie said, and Kenny started thinking again. Eddie stamped his feet trying to get some blood flowing. 
“I’ve got it,” Kenny said. “I’ve got my ear protectors in the van, if we put them on, then it will drown out the ringing sound.”
“Brilliant,” Eddie said, and they ran to the van to get the ear muffs and then set about their task with renewed relish. They smashed the bell into a million pieces and neither of them heard a sound. But before they could start on the next one, they both felt a hand on their shoulder. They looked around to see a group of people crowding them and two police officers mouthing something. They removed the ear protectors at the same time to hear the words, under arrest.
Kenny and Eddie sat in the back of the police car scratching their heads. 
“I don’t understand it,” said Eddie. “I couldn’t hear a thing.”
“Me neither,” said Kenny. “Perhaps somebody saw us.”
“Yeah that’ll be it.” said one of the laughing police officers from the front seat.

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