The Ministry – by Stephen Wright

Things I know about Stephen.

He is a member of the Phoenix Writers group, works in advertising and can tap dance oh an dher spells his name with a PH not a V – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

Enjoy his story


Rupert Crisp surveyed the file in front of him; a frown rode on his

forehead and his two bushy eyebrows momentarily met and then

settled back to their normal position like two obedient ferrets.

“All right Miss Moon, bring him in.” he said.

Miss Moon rose from her desk and popped her head through the

office door. “You can come in now Mr. Peabody,” she crooned,

granting him a smile of a fairly low wattage. Peabody, swallowed

hard and came into the office. Miss Moon closed the door behind

them and returned to her position, at her desk.

“Mr. Peabody, do sit down, tea, coffee, choccy bics?” said Crisp.

“A biscuit and glass of water would be much appreciated.” he


“Of course, Gwen, would you be so kind?” Miss Moon, clearly

unimpressed, left the room in a kind of Bette Davis huff. Crisp,

accustomed to his secretary’s ‘little ways’ carried on.

”Right brass tacks, Mr. Peabody, brass tacks, let me tell you

where we at The Ministry of Fortunate Occurrences are. You have

been selected to have a fortunate occurrence visited upon you, err,

how does February sound? We’re completely chocker ‘till then?”

Miss Moon returned with his biscuit and glass of water, he took a

sip, it was tepid, not the refreshing drink he was hoping for, but he

didn’t say anything.

“Well, Mr Peabody, February okay with you? That gives us two

months to arrange things. Now what kind of Fortunate Occurrence

were you hoping for – a nice pools win, numbers coming up on the

lottery, a tip-off on the stock exchange, or maybe something of a

romantic nature…?”

“Burrowing Owls” blurted out Peabody.

“What” said Crisp, Miss Moon, took off her spectacles and just

stared at Peabody.

“Burrowing Owls, I don’t understand Mr. Peabody.” Crisp said.

‘Well,” began Peabody, “I want to be able to draw a Burrowing

Owl and…”

“What the devil is a Burrowing Owl, Owl’s don’t burrow Mr

Peabody.” interrupted Crisp.

“Ohh no, Mr. Crisp, you are quite mistaken. I saw one in my

Encyclopaedia Britannica, it nestled between Birdsong and Bury St.

Edmunds in the ‘B’ section”

“Nestled?” queried Crisp.

“Oh yes, it’s my word of the week. I choose a new one

each week and try and use it as much as possible. This is the

twenty-seventh time this week and it’s only Thursday. Forty-two is

my record that was for ‘dabbling’ you’d be surprised how often that

word is appropriate.

“I would indeed” Crisp replied. “ Start again Mr. Peabody, please

explain what you want the Ministry of Fortunate Occurrences to do.”

Peabody cleared his throat, took another sip of his water and

began again to explain his request.

“Firstly, I want to be taught how to draw, and draw well, I want

the pencil to become like my brother, or like an extension to my

arm. Then we will have to start in South America, where Burrowing

Owls live, in small colonies, using the abandoned burrows of large

rodents as nests. There are very few trees, so they breed in empty

burrows underground where they lay their eggs, anywhere between

three and ten, depending on conditions, and…”

“Well this is all very interesting Mr. Peabody, but it’s chicken feed.

We have funds to completely transform your life.”

“What do you mean?” said Peabody.

“Look, where do you live today?” said Crisp, consulting the file in

front of him. “It’s a tiny cottage.”

“Yes,” said Peabody “in a small village, nestling in the Wye Valley,

ooh that’s twenty-eight. It’s enough for me and mum.” he

concluded. Crisp sighed, Miss Moon glared.

“All right cards on the table Mr Peabody, as you may have read in

the press The Ministry of Fortunate Occurrences merged with The

Ministry of Joyous Moments and now as a result our budget is huge,

but we have to spend it before the end of the month, or they will

cut our budget for next year, so your selfish actions could put

hundreds of Fortunate Occurrences at risk.”

“Yes,” said Miss Moon “I may even be out of a job!”

“All right Gwen, leave this to me, no one is losing their job.

You do see our predicament Mr. Peabody, Gwen here, has an

expensive flat and Fiat Punto to run, it all takes money you know.

We don’t spend our full budget and the axe could fall, would you

want that on your conscience Mr. Peabody?”

“Well no, of course not.” said Peabody. “But what do you suggest

I do? What about a Long-nosed Bandicoot?” he added hopefully.

“Long-nosed Bandicoot, Burrowing Owls are you quite sane Mr.

Peabody? ”said Crisp.

“I think we all know the answer to that!” sniped Miss Moon.

‘”Look.” continued Peabody, “you arrange for me to bump into

that Hockney fellow, or Damien Whatsisname or the woman with

the unmade bed, I charm them…”

“Huh.” said Miss Moon.

“As I was saying, I charm them into teaching me to draw. Then I

fly out to Australia…”

“I thought you said South America.” interrupted Crisp.

“No, the Bandicoot is an Australian marsupial, it’s a kind of shrew.

It lives in the ground litter of the forest and feeds mainly by day”

“Enough!”, boomed an exasperated Crisp. ‘Miss Moon get Damien

Hirst on the phone right away!”

A broad smile crossed Peabody’s face unzipping a row of yellowing

teeth and he could feel a bit of biscuit, nestling in one of his fillings.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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