Recently, Rugby Writers, the local writing group I belong to, entered into a competition run by The Londonist. This online article site asked writers to pen a piece that was inspired by all things London. Although I was not successful in winning, I did write a piece which I can now share with you inspired by my favorite gallery in the British Museum. See if you can guess which one:
ONCE upon a time, there was a young boy by the name of Tommy Troffer. He was a spoiled and selfish child, who never did anything nice for anyone. Tommy spent his days playing Candy Crush Saga, and he had just reached level 32. When he did lift his eyes above screen level, Tommy took it upon himself to cause as much chaos as he could. Because if his mother couldn’t be bothered to stop him, why should he even try to behave?
One morning, Tommy arrived at his school fieldtrip to the British Museum. Shoving Mars bars down his throat, he paid no heed to Teacher’s instructions. Teacher handed out the worksheets and explained to the other children what they would be doing, and each child studiously scribbled down their tasks. Tommy blew his nose on the worksheet and crumpled it into a ball, kicking it down the museum steps. As Teacher lead them into the bright lobby shining beneath the latticed skylights, Tommy grabbed a handful of crayons from the information desk. Creeping away from the crowd, he slipped through the stone archway and pried open a wooden door marked ‘Sculpture Gallery: closed for refurbishment’.
Unbeknownst to little Tommy Troffer, a Balwatt did dwell within the Sculpture Gallery. Now, a Balwatt is a majestic creature. It has the head of a lion and the wings of an angel, with sharp talons upon each of its four paws. It has a long and surprisingly fluffy mane, and an even longer swishy tail. Originally from the furthest deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, Balwatts like to lie very still in the sun and are easily mistaken for antiquities.
Whilst the Balwatt is a fearsome looking creature, they are in fact gentle beasts. They love nothing more than a nice scratch behind the ears. Despite their huge size, they are really very timid. They like to sit, just out of the way, gathering dust and watching the people go by. However, when aggravated (and it takes an awful lot to aggravate a Balwatt) they are prone to sudden bouts of uncharacteristic rage.
The particular Balwatt of this story lived on a plinth in the British Museum. He was quite content to see out his retirement resting amongst the treasures of the Sculpture Gallery on the first floor. That was, until the day Tommy Troffer came to the museum.
Tommy smiled with glee as he took in the precarious cases of the gallery and empty aisles that he could run amok in. For a moment he just twirled and twirled, flinging a rainbow spiral of little wax crayon stubs all about him.
‘It’s like Christmas!’ he whispered excitedly to himself. ‘I’m going to have some fun!
And with that proclamation, Tommy set to work. He drew a moustache on the granite face of Pharaoh Ramses. He spat in the sarcophagus of Tuthmosis III, and drew rude pictures on the windows. He frolicked and smeared his greasy fingers upon the Assyrian carvings, and danced with delight as he stuck a pencil up Akhenaten’s nose. He shook the cases until all the pots tumbled, shattering into tiny fragments. And the Balwatt watched in horror as Tommy pulled down his pants and mooned the Rosetta stone.
At last, his energy spent, Tommy threw his chubby arm around the Balwatt’s neck. Taking a slurp from his juice box, he crushed it in his beefy fist and hurled it across the gallery.
‘What do you think of my improvements, doggy?’ Tommy asked the Balwatt. The Balwatt said nothing, his insides shaking with indignation. Tommy gripped the poor Balwatt’s ear and clamoured up on to his back. With a few swift kicks to his sides, Tommy yelled:
‘Yeehah! Giddy up you old nag!’
Tommy did not pause in his merry making to notice the dust falling from the Balwatt’s paws, nor did he see the creature’s eyes snap open and his teeth begin to grind. He did not feel the hairs rising upon the beasts heckles, or hear the saliva dripping from its open jaws.
All at once, the Balwatt leapt from his plinth and reared up into the sky, wings beating furiously.
‘Woah!’ yelled Tommy. ‘Put me down!’
But the Balwatt rose yet higher, bucking and twisting.
‘Teacher!’ Tommy screamed.
The Balwatt turned his blazing eyes upon Tommy.
‘Look!’ he boomed, pointing his claw at the carnage Tommy had wrought upon the exhibits. ‘Look at the devastation you have created!’
Tommy looked, and saw the cases he had turned over, and the willies he had drawn upon the sad Egyptian statues. He saw his trail of sweet wrappers and spit and crayons.
‘These treasures have lain in dignified silence for over 50 years!’ the Balwatt continued, his growling voice echoing around the pillars. ‘Are you not sorry for your offences? Are you not ashamed of your own disrespect towards these relics of history?’
Tommy folded his arms across his chest and said nothing. He fixed the Balwatt with his most stubborn glare.
‘What say you?!’ the Balwatt roared.
‘It’s just a bunch of old crap! Put me down,’ Tommy dug his heels savagely into the Balwatt’s ribs. ‘Put me down now, you flea bag!’
‘If I return you to the ground, will you remove these defacements?’ the Balwatt eyed him suspiciously.
‘No way! Do it yourself!’
The Balwatt was seized with a terrible rage. He threw Tommy high up into the air. The boy screamed in a wide arc as he fell…all the way into the Balwatt’s wide gaping mouth. And as the his jaws clamped down upon Tommy’s soft and yielding fleshy bits, Teacher burst through the door just in time to see the boy’s expensive trainers disappear down the Balwatt’s gullet.
‘Oh, my,’ she said in dismay.
Taking out her phone, she dialled Tommy’s mother.
‘Mrs Troffer? I’m sorry to have to tell you this…but your son has been eaten by one of the exhibits…’