Saturday, June 25

The Story of It

Dear Sirs

I note with some enthusiasm that you are currently seeking an assistant to perform the onerous task of caring for an It. I must admit to some surprise at learning that there is an example of this elusive creature in captivity and believe it must be the only such in any zoo or wildlife park in the world. I enclose my CV and references and believe that I am the ideal person to undertake this role, being as I am one of the very few people ever to encounter one of these creatures in the wild and live to tell the tale.

The story begins some ten years ago during my first ever visit to the Dark Continent. This rather pleasant tea-room in the high street in Ely is famed for it’s splendid selection of cakes and buns and it was here that I ran into James "Bagger" St John Stovies, my former adjutant from the 25th company of the Highland Light Butchery regiment, the famous "Not really Light but not as Dark as some" brigade.

Old Bagger told me that he was mounting an expedition to attempt to climb the mythical Rum Doodle, at 40,000½ft, the highest mountain in the world. The expedition would be doomed to failure due to our mutual inability to understand the meaning of the word "mythical", however we did not discover this until much later and pressed ahead assembling a crack team for the expedition. We took with us two splendid men, Lord Ian "Mogger" Cuthbertson-Riley, famous for having mooned from the highest point on each of the seven continents, and the legendary Roger "Ugger" Moriarty-Stewart, who has gone down in history for his first solo non-oxygen assisted assent of K2 on a pogo-stick.

For six long, arduous months we sought the elusive peak until we finally concluded that it probably wasn’t in Ely at all and decided to try our luck in Borneo instead.

On the fateful day about which I write, the four of us were deep within jungle territory, relying for survival only on our wits and two rounds each of egg and cucumber sandwiches. I was leading the group, hacking through the undergrowth with my trusty Khukri knife when all of a sudden we heard a sound, barely perceptible, like a whiffling in the undergrowth, and Ugger was gone. We searched high and low but there was no trace of the poor wretched fellow and we had no choice but to continue.

Ten minutes later, the sound returned, and this time it was Mogger’s turn. After a further perfunctory search I decided that there was little point in Bagger and I continuing alone, and that’s when it suddenly came upon us, rearing out of the undergrowth with a scream the like of which I hope to God I never hear again. I turned to Bagger but he was nowhere to be seen and I was alone facing this fearsome creature.

It towered above me like an animated Axminster carpet, its sinewy body writhing as its head twisted from side to side and I could see the gleam of light reflecting off the saliva which coated its needle-sharp teeth, running in rivulets from the mottled gums. But then our eyes met and I detected a look of anguish, and I realised that this creature was not crying out in anger but in fear and pain. I looked down and saw it there, a fearsome looking thorn dug deep into the flesh of the poor animal’s arm.

I reached out my hand, stroking the fur to soothe the poor tormented soul, gripped the barb tightly and pulled it in one swift movement from its fleshy bed. The creature calmed almost immediately. Its eyes met mine once more and upon its face had formed an expression of immense gratitude. It gripped me tightly in a grip of friendship, and almost immediately it demonstrated in the noblest possible way the great debt which it felt it owed me by only eating my left leg, and that only from the knee downwards.

I never saw poor Mogger or Ugger again, but I ran into Bagger three years later in Ulan Bator where I had travelled in hope of landing a job as a Mongolian Death Worm wrangler and Bagger was leading an expedition in search of the mythical city of Xanadu, having apparently failed to locate a dictionary in the intervening time. He filled me in on the final details of the story.

Ugger, it seems, had been kidnapped by a lost tribe of Amazon women who, having seen all the men of their village wiped out by a freak accident during a "who’s got the hairiest elbow" contest, needed his services to repopulate the next generation. He had returned to old Blighty some years later and now resided in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair but with an enigmatic grin permanently upon his face. Mogger had stopped to tie his shoelace and had inadvertently stumbled upon the entrance to the legendary lost diamond mine of Zorn. He had thus briefly become the richest man on the entire planet, but having covered over the entrance to disguise it from prying eyes while he ran to register his claim, he had never been able to find it again and died some years later a broken man. Bagger, meanwhile, had suddenly remembered a brunch appointment with Lord Ponsonby-Twitt at the Hilton, hence his swift departure.

I thank you for taking the time to consider my application and hope that we might meet in the near future and, if successful I trust we will enjoy a long and fruitful working relationship.

Yours sincerely

Brigadier Sir Alan Cuthbridge Lethbridge Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle Abbey Furbwangler Smith-Smythe (retd).

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