by Camillus John
‘Janey Macken Street! You can’t eat a whole Princess. You’re not allowed,’ said Basher Piggs.
‘Just watch me,’ said Janey Macken Street as she tucked a white napkin into the top of her jumper and rubbed two steak-knives together, making sparks skitter in front of her eyes. Zillions of sparks.
‘But there’s a Christmas dinner waiting downstairs for you Janey. Don’t be disgusting. Why eat a whole Princess when you can eat turkey downstairs instead?’
‘I don’t want turkey, Basher.’
‘How did you fit an entire Princess onto the one plate anyway?’
‘I boiled her in a pot for six hours over a gentle flame.’
‘Then roasted her in the oven for another four.’
‘Over there by the sink, Basher. Grab a knife and fork. You’re more than welcome to join me.’
‘Janey Macken Street! No way. But there’s loads of ham downstairs. Last year you said you’d marry a ham if he promised to let you eat him. What happened to all of that?’
‘I don’t want ham, Basher.’
Janey brought the knife down and sliced two Princess’ legs clean off the hips and started munching into them from the toes up, relishing the sound of the clink in the finger bowl when she spitted out each individual toenail.
‘There’s hundreds of sprouts downstairs, Janey. Hundreds. Sure every day in work when you’re offered cake by the woman in the canteen you always say, “No, thanks, but what you can do is ladle me another six sprouts instead please.” What happened to all of that?’
‘I don’t want sprouts, Basher.’
Janey finished the Princess’ legs. She then chopped off the arms. While she chewed into the fingers, she looked longingly at the head.
‘That Princess is a bit blue in the face, Janey. Is that safe?’
‘I asked her that very question before I put her into the pot, actually. But she just threw a big hissy-fit at me and said, “I’m blue in the face telling people why I’m blue in the face. Fuck off.” Then she went into a rigid crossed-armed sulk.’
‘I’m beginning to see why you threw her into the pot in the first place now – but no – you’re not rounding me that easily. It’s disgusting to eat a whole Princess, Janey – and you know it.’
‘No I don’t, Basher.’
‘Yes you do. What about stuffing? Surely you’ll go downstairs for a bit of stuffing, Janey?
‘I don’t want stuffing, Basher. By the way, you haven’t got a big spoon?’
‘For eating the stuffing downstairs with? I knew you’d come around in the end.’
‘No. For scooping the brains out of a Princess’ head that’s just been lump-hammered freshly off her shoulders. It’s supposed to be the nicest part. Tastes like chicken, apparently.’
‘But what about your mother’s trifle downstairs, Janey? It’s bigger than your Da’s head this year, they say. It’s massive.’
‘I don’t want trifle, Basher.’
Janey then squeezed the remains of the cooked Princess between both hands until the heart popped out the hole in the top where the head used to be. She pointed it at Basher and it hit him smack in the face.
He wiped Princess’ blood from his cheeks with a hankie and placed the small stony heart into a finger bowl.
‘Just tell me why you’re eating a whole Princess in one go and then I’m out of here. That’s all I want, Janey. Okay?’
‘Mister Piggs, that’s not the question. That’s not the question at all. The real question isn’t why am I eating a whole Princess? No, the real question is why aren’t you? Why? Eh? Tell me that, Mister Piggs?’
‘Because it tastes awful for a start.’
‘But it doesn’t taste awful Mister Piggs. It tastes like chicken. I told you that already. It really does. The legs, the arms, the torso, the brains and the heart for dessert – all taste exactly like chicken, Mister Piggs. You can’t tell them apart. And you’re the chicken for being oh so afraid to admit it. You’re next in the pot.’
‘No, you’re next in the pot.’
‘No, you’re next in the pot.’
Janey frogged across the room and put Basher’s head under her armpit, in a headlock, and tried to twist it off like a stubborn lid on a jam jar, licking his hair as she did so.
‘I only want your head for the pot, Basher. I don’t want your body. Rest assured. For I know where it’s been. And I’m definitely not wrapping my tongue around that no matter how long boiled in a pot and then roasted in an oven.’
‘You want to chew my massive brains then swallow them in polite mouthfuls because you’ve no brains yourself, Janey. You’re on a jealousy buzz, that’s what this is all about. You’ve no brains and I’ve got loads. Ha bloody ha dee ha.’
A shudder went through Janey’s body but her grip on his head held firm. She twisted it and licked his hair again faster, faster, faster.
‘You’ve hit the proverbial rusty nail on the head there, Mister Piggs. You’ve named my tune in one. Ring a ding ding. Well done, Mister Piggs. It’s true, I haven’t got any brains, lest those of a Princess. A precious one. I’d need to eat a lot of grey matter before I’d come up to your brain-waving high standards indeed, Mister Piggs. And that’s why your big one will be my number two. I’ll get there in the end, don’t worry about me, Mister Piggs. Brain by brain by massive big brain. Boiled for six hours then roasted for four. Nicey.’
‘No, Janey. You’ve got me wrong. Something has jammed your reception. You’re not listening to me properly. You’ve missed the bus. You’re very intelligent, sure didn’t you get an A in algebra in work only last week?’
‘That supervisor took pity on me. I heard what she said to the other supervisors. Loud and clear. It’s still ricocheting like a game of squash in my head. Ashamed. I can’t stand up hunchless any more. I don’t know if I even want to, Mister Piggs.’
‘No, Janey, your problem-writing and solving is second to none. Believe you me. You could make eyes fly if you wanted – with the perfect equation.’
‘I’d want to have grease on my shoes to fall for that, Mister Piggs. You must think I’m dumber than I do.’
She gripped his head firmer and twisted it harder. But it wasn’t grease on her shoes that she had to worry about, it was the grease on Mister Piggs’ neck. He’d finger-scraped some from off her Princess roast on the table and thumb-rubbed it into his neck. With a minimum amount of fuss, he slipped himself out of Janey’s grip and put her into a headlock all of his own. Tears streamed her face and she practically went limp in his arms like rope immediately. The fight had deserted her as easily as the Princess’ heart earlier had been popped from its orifice and lashed into Basher’s rictus.
‘Snap out of it, Janey.’
Basher released his hold and set her down easy on a chair at the table. She put her face down into her criss-crossed arms but continued sobbing and running the tears back through her hair with wet fingers. He placed a cup of tea beside her and sat facing her bug-eyed.
‘Come on, Janey, what’s wrong?’
‘I can’t be a Princess. I never will be a Princess. They won’t let me.’
‘Why do you want to be a Princess?’
‘That’s not the question Basher, the question is why don’t you want to be a Princess?’
‘I’m a bloke for a start, Janey.’
‘You know what I mean Basher, stop trying to be clever. It doesn’t suit. It’s not your colour.’
Tears still pumped and ran in centipedes down her face. He pushed a packet of aloe vera hankies over to her.
‘Twist my head right off, Basher. It’s the only way. I’ve roasted a Princess in a pot like, for God’s sake, it’s all over now for poor old stupid me. You can be a superhero. A concerned citizen’s arrest.’
‘Does Princess really taste like chicken?’
On that note, for Janey sort of sang the word, yes, which hung beautifully in the air between them, he tucked a napkin into the top of his jumper and rubbed two steak-knives together making sparks. Rainbow sparks.
‘How did you produce all those colours, Basher?
‘That means it’s a genuine Princess, that’s what that means Janey, well done.’
Basher sliced into what was left of the Princess, her torso, a few choice cuts, and forked them onto his plate. Then he put even more Princess on top as if he were taking a long, hard run up to an important leap that would qualify him for something huge. With this tall pile of steaming Princess meat before him, he tucked in, starting off with a small square piece of belly-button on the end of his fork.
Janey sang yes out loud once again and swished her hands over and around each of their plates of Princess to try and hoosh away some of the rainbow sparks annoyingly lingering there pulsing bright light and in danger of blinding them both. It worked, for the rainbow sparks sidled to the edges of the room, but looked on achingly for some Princess meat of its own to maggot.
Basher shovelled the flesh into his mouth and oh yes, affirmative to the max, it was like chicken. Very much like chicken. Better than Christmas turkey by a long stretch of the legs under the table. One morsel after the other went into their mouths and he was seeing things with Janey’s eyes. She was eating with him, keeping pace, and they managed to finish every last gobbet between them because Janey wasn’t born a Princess herself and didn’t like the look of any other of the extant Princesses of the world. Could she digest two well chewed chins each time? Yes.
Besides, how was she to meet a Prince? The only other option in becoming a Princess. Marrying into it. She realised she couldn’t possibly meet any, not even by chance in her limited circumstances, living in two rooms above her parents, who lived in two rooms downstairs. Shared toilet. Not unless she spooked the monarchy out of their wits and afraid to go out for fear of flesh-eating non-Princesses stalking the land – like Janey Macken Street. Lands which they were supposed to rule. Royalty would just have to go underground out of fear and out of sight. And the underground belonged to Janey. Finally, Janey Macken Street would be able to forget they ever existed having eaten her quota per annum in the meantime like Goldilocks’ three-bears porridge. Making her stronger. Without getting caught. Fingers crossed, toenails spitted out and nostrils sucked dry.
Janey’s eyes floated around the room and finally came back to rest in her own sockets. They washed the dishes together. Dried. Put them away and went downstairs for their second Christmas dinner of the day flossing Princess’ morsels from between their teeth as they went.
After popping a Princess’ eye each into their heads, all the better to hunt down Princesses with in perfect synchronicity, Janey began to see a little of the life of the Princess she had just eaten, and began to dry retch down the stairs uncontrollably. She could hardly draw breath enough to stop herself from choking as her head spewed with the jerks and jolts of a full-speed pneumatic drill. She had to breathe through her nose.
‘I can’t handle even the flickers of her Princess life Basher. I need to pop my own eye back in.’
‘Don’t! Just go down to turkey dinner, Janey, with your parents, I’ll clean up after you. Don’t worry about anything. You’ll be fine.’
‘Are you sure?’
Eating a princess was like eating a McDonald’s; not very wholesome and you’re still hungry almost immediately after finishing.
She watched Basher bite his own finger off and chew into it like a carrot before descending spewingly for some of that fabulous turkey ‘n’ trifle gallimaufry with her parents.
Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin. He has been published in The Stinging Fly, RTÉ Ten and Headstuff.org. Recently he killed the Prime Minister of Ireland in fiction in the Welsh literary magazine, The Lonely Crowd, with a piece entitled, The Assassination of Enda Kenny (After Hilary Mantel). He would also like to mention that Pat’s won the FAI cup in 2014 for the first time in 53 miserable years of not winning it.