When I was a lad it was unusual to go anywhere. Most people lived and worked within a two mile radius, and even a trip to the nearest town was regarded as a subject worthy of conversation. Summer holidays rarely lasted more than a week and were usually spent at the nearest coastal town or fishing port, and even then it was only ever once a year.
If we were lucky we may get the odd organised day trip, which for the women and children meant sitting on a dim and dismal beach eating ice-cream or fish and chips while the khaki coloured ice cold waves of the North Sea washed the feeling from their toes, while for the men, it inevitably meant having somewhere new to get drunk.
When the day was done everyone would be packed, sweating and intoxicated, back onto a coach for the return trip, which is where the fun would finally begin. For there is nothing more entertaining than stuffing your face with candy floss while fights break out between large pissed up blokes in the narrow aisle of a coach as it ploughs along the central lane of a busy motorway at sixty miles an hour.
There was perhaps one saving grace to the whole grubby affair. One shining light in the mire of debauchery that was the local working men's club day trip. And if there was, it was the penny arcade.
Flashing lights and ringing bells, rock 'n' roll music and money on display everywhere, ready and waiting to be won by the next lucky punter. It was another world. The land of promise. An alien landscape of copper coloured fountains and silvery waterfalls. Anything and everything there for the taking and all up for grabs for a penny a pitch.
While the kids stuffed the 'one armed bandits' with their parents hard earned cash in the hope of striking it big and investing in a lump of candy floss the size of a Magellanic cloud, the men would invariably find other ways to spend their penny. Hence we discover - the Mutoscope...
Your hands fly up and down your body searching your pockets desperately for another coin while your distorted face remains wedged into the shroud. You seek. You find. You insert the coin with sweaty fumbling fingers. The handle turns... and it's an entirely different movie. WTF!
Never mind. It's only a penny.
These machines were a ubiquitous part of any tourist town. Why? Because they made a great deal of money and no-one ever saw anything indecent.
In 'What the butler saw' I wanted to expand on the theme a little. What if for example, the punter got to see the entire film? What if that film contained material so profoundly offensive that the machine was taken and locked away somewhere deep and dark so that no-one could ever see it again? Then what if... Well, you get the idea.
What the butler saw - overview.
This is a narrative tale following the exploits of a museum curator called Harry who is drafted in to catalogue various unusual objects which have been unearthed after the discovery of a hidden room. Amongst the rediscovered treasures is a Mutoscope, and Harry, the thorough and diligent worker that he is, soon realises that if he's going to do the job properly he's going to have to know what the machine is showing. What he discovers leads him into the dark heart of one of the most infamous serial killers of all time.
Harry. An all round good man. He's clever, hardworking and diligent, and it doesn't end there because there's a whole new side of him just waiting to be discovered. After all, it's not until we're pushed beyond our limits that we find out who we really are...
Here's a link to the ebook version from Smashwords.
The usual price is US$1.99 but you can get it for US$1.00 using this coupon code: TD24N.
What the butler saw is one of Uncle John's Bedtime Tales. The full collection of ten stories is available in ebook format on smashwords for US$2.99 but I'm offering a cut price version to readers of my blog to discount their purchase to US$2.00. That's a fifth the cost of buying all of the tales individually even at the discount price above, and how often is it that an author gets the chance to give a little back as an act of appreciation? It's a win, win situation. The coupon code is: MX45W.
For those who prefer a print version Uncle John's Bedtime Tales is available from:
Amazon.com: Click here
Amazon.co.uk: Click here
Direct from Spinetinglers publishing: Click here