Archie and the North Wind

Archie and the North Wind by Angus Peter Campbell Read Free Book Online

Book: Archie and the North Wind by Angus Peter Campbell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Angus Peter Campbell
Tags: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Goblin’s small attempts at extortion every time he set foot in the large cities.
    Of course, he would transport his own world with him: the green- and blue-jerseyed football players on the park were really Olga’s old grey and dappled horses galloping from one goalpost to the other. The advertising boards flashing messages across the skies were clouds signifying westerly rain: mackerel-shaped haze meant stormy weather; a flashing rainbow signified coming thunder.
    Only once, ever, did he see something that really astonished him, and that was when he saw a group of youths kicking an old crippled woman in a doorway, for no reason that he could tell. They didn’t even take her handbag or purse, as thieves did in the old stories, before they were executed.
    So when Archie decided to go and find the source of the north wind to stop up the hole it came from, his journey was taken neither through ignorance nor through some kind of great existential quest.
    He knew full well the very latest meteorological truths, or fictions – he had checked all the dictionaries and the atlases and the search engines, and fully knew that modern scientists claimed that the wind did not just come out of a hole, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
    When you built a wall, and left a tiny chink in it, where the hell else did the wind come from except through that tiny hole?
    When you bought the latest all-weather, all-singing, all-dancing, thermal, Gore-tex, technology-force jacket with aquafoil pockets and retractable hood system, where still did the wind creep in except through that tiny hole next to your neck which had been pierced by the screwdriver you unfortunately left in the pocket of the attached fleece that last time you washed it, even though the washing instructions clearly stated that it ought not to go anywhere near a washing-machine but ought, instead, to be dry-cleaned and air-dried? But still the hole was there, sending a millizilchmetre of wind right into the hollow of your neck, like a nozzled cold spray straight from the Arctic, or was it the Antarctic? You never quite could remember which.
    Nor was his journey Homeric, nor even Joycean. It wasn’t some epic journey to the North Pole to stand triumphant with a flag like Roald Amundsen. No – he was merely driven to it by that incessant whistling north wind, which never ceased, even on the stillest of summer days. Even then, as he lay quietly in the middle of a cornfield making music through a grass stalk and admiring the brilliant blue of the sky, he could hear that thin whistle far off, like some kind of insolent boy at the front of the class absently whistling as he rattled off yet another sum to get, once again, twenty out of twenty the smart-ass, while Archie still lumbered at the back of the class counting not just how many fingers he had, but how many toes he didn’t have and wished he had. It was blasphemous. Like whistling in church.
    But mostly, if truth be told, it was her. Whining like an endless north wind, icily frigid in her talk, cold and dismissive in her comments, moaning and wheezing and complaining and droning in the corner that he was a failure. A layabout, a sluggard, a useless article, a man – if that’s what the world called it – unworthy of her love and affection and demands and presence. That’s what he really wanted to stop up. Himself. That’s what he really wanted to end, and because he did not have the courage to confess it he wandered to the outer limits of the earth to deny it.
    Was that what drove Ulysses to the ends of the earth – a nagging wife or mother? What was it that really drove Hillary to the top of Everest, Livingstone to the heart of the earth, Magellan and Drake and Barents and Shackleton to their deaths?
    Ulysses himself never really wanted to go off to Troy: he knew that the official reason for the war, the dissemination of the culture of Hellas, was only a pretext for the Greek merchants, who were seeking new

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