The Provost’s List:
Tubbsy ( Tobias) Evans
The official read out the list slowly…careful to pronounce each name with the attention that would befit their part on the day
“Let it be known that these ‘named’ have been selected to sing on the Day of May Occasion.”
The Provost turned in his chair considering the words. His official shifted uncomfortably in the high ladder backed chair. He clutched the book carefully for fear of letting it slip from his clammy hands.
A dark age enveloped the room . The Provost smiled curtly and some light returned. He began to speak…
” …let it be known that the ‘ named ‘ have been ‘honoured’ in being selected…is perhaps better…don’t you think.”
It was not a question…it was to be acted on.
” honoured …most assuredly Provost ”
The Provost looked at the official …something missing in his blank stare…emotion thought the official ..there is not one expression of emotion in the Provost’s eyes. He spoke again…
” honoured is the rightful word”
The Official made to close the Book…he felt the Provost’s eyes on him.
” Before you go”
” yes Provost ?”
” …make sure they are in uniform …”
” of course Provost…it is Written”
” all of them”
The official quickly scanned the list of names on the page in front of him …he could see no name to fret over …except one perhaps: The Evans boy could be difficult . He had changed over the past months …his school attendance had dropped , he appeared vacant in Spirit Meetings and had frequently been witnessed down by the River… close to the Bridge. The Evans boy may need to be monitored . The others were no real cause for concern…a couple of them liked the sound of their own voice too much and as for the rest, a mix of misdirected energy waiting to be channelled.
“… is there a problem? ”
The Provosts voice brought him sharply back to reality.
” no problem Provost …just ensuring I had all the May Day names entered correctly…we will want to include them in the programme.”
” That will not be necessary”
” Their contribution should be …” He paused and turned to look out of the lead paned window…
” a surprise…everyone likes something different to happen on May Day Celebration – their personal singing of the Anthem will be a …a revelation”
” but we always ‘all ‘ sing the anthem? United we stand…”
The Provost’s voice rose…
” and these will sing it alone this year ! ”
The Provost leaned forward over the vast dark wood table top…he placed his hands flat on it’s polished surface and stared ” grey” towards him,
“…or is that perhaps not what ‘you’ …in your position …had in mind”
The official shrunk visibly. As if his breath was being slowly sucked from him…he stammered a reply
” a rightful suggestion… Provost…and one… which will be in keeping with …our custom”
” I am pleased you agree…everything must go as planned…nothing must be out of place…”
The Provost moved the white veined stone that lay on top of the table in front of him…he slid it marginally to his left and turned it’s smooth surface to face him. Caressing it’s surface with his crooked index finger.
” am I clear?”
” Good …now if there is nothing else on your ‘improbable’ list ….you may bring me the twins”
A note of sarcasm was evident in his tone. He would not respond…not to this sneer …not to any…it was not his place and to acknowledge it would be to risk losing his new found status.
He had worked too hard for this position as an ‘attendant’ and although he was just a clerk of sorts…his adept skills had been noted and he no longer had to work with the others in the ground buildings on menial tasks.
He was on official work now and soon may even be transferred to the Provost’s inner circle. If he could only learn to stop his mouth, then all would be well.
” will the twins be singing too?”
It was out before he could stop himself…the Provost wheeled on him like a hawk on a shrew.
” Only those on the list are to sing !”
” Yes Provost…I only thought as they were young and it was a special occasion..”
The official realised his error too late…the Provost was quick to anger and came round the table towards him swifter than he could see. He grabbed the book from his hand and read the names aloud pointedly:
Carri- Ann Chubb
Deirdre May Rilley
…and Jamie Davie WILL SING…”
He slammed the book down on the table in front of him …it fell to the ground.
“Do you hear mention of Guinevere and Genevieve Menin?”
” DO YOU!”
The official shook his head…he felt the Provost’s breath on his face…the pungent smell of menthol and arrowroot filled his nose and mouth and began to choke him…he stifled a cough.
The Provost pulled away and returned to the window. His hands moved to touch the glass. He traced the outline of a crack that ran from one lead vein to another.
” these are the Ones selected…no more…no less…no additions, no ‘official’ suggestion ”
The official swallowed hard. He bent down slowly, remaining on the chair, and retrieved the book.
” I will bring the twins immediately”. He smoothed the cover of the book.
” Do that ….and see to it that ‘ the enclosure’ is made ready…the list can rehearse there till we are ready for them”
This time the official did bite his tongue. He had spent that morning checking the electric current running round the perimeter fence. He had been ordered to , by his superior… it had last been used in the culling season when they had brought the cows and sheep down from the back hills and kept them there before they were slaughtered.
The younger children would often dare each other , at that time of year, to let the livestock free to run through the Gathering Place…a coming of age prank for teenage males. The Provost when elected had quickly put paid to their high spirits.
The enclosure had been hard wired four Winters ago and since then had become more like a compound ..with a watch tower and several cameras installed.
His obsession with keeping the enclosure maintained in this state was becoming a cause for concern in certain more humane quarters. But none dared say.
Northbridge it was said was the only village to resemble a prison camp. Southbridge gossip occasionally drifted over the fence that had also been sited along the southern border of the village and which separated no mans land till the start of Southbridge territory . Not that he was partial to gossip, his betrothed however had many a story to tell. Women talked by nature – something the Provost was also keen to quell.
” Do you have a problem with that Bryant?”
The use of his surname made him uneasy. He answered like ‘Pavlov’s’ dog.
” No Provost…it is ready when they are…”
” Sound the alarm at eleven hour tomorrow and make sure the cameras and fence are live …we want to keep them safe for their show !”
He smiled as if referring to his prize livestock.
” Now get my daughters…I have something I want them to perform…your concern at their not being included has sparked an idea!”
” thank you Provost …ever glad to be of service ”
The words came out his mouth as if unfelt.
” you may go ”
The Provost turned away and gestured with a salute that resembled a square wave .The meeting was over.
The official rose stiffly from the wooden chair…the imprint of his discomfort fixed to his spine. The Provost’s chairs were built for purpose not pleasure.
” Bryant ?”
” Yes Provost?”
” is the Goat plump?”
” A nanny …as custom demands …”
” Fetch it to the back yard – I will look at it…”
” I will immediately ”
” but first the girls…”
” of course…”
The official turned to the door …the Provost stood with his back to the room …staring out into the distance through the tiny window panes.
His sonorous voice reached him again as he tentatively turned the iron door handle to go.
” it will be a fine day…our greatest day…a May Day we shall all …remember”
A searing chill shook Bryant’s body as he walked through and out the Provost’s door …the Northbridge snows had left but a few weeks before and still their homes were cold from the unusually long winter – but this wasn’t just the chill of damp stone and wood creeping into his bones – this was the sickening feeling that all was not well…that underneath the green mantle of gentle MAY something far more sinister…was about to happen.
( more to follow)