Monday, June 6, 2016

Excerpt: Temple of the Jaguar God. Zach Neal.

Hamble, a bit of a ruffian.

Zach Neal

They were in the sixth form at Rugby. The end of term was coming up fast.
Hamble, a year older, threw the letter down, and stared off into space.

“What an extraordinary fellow.”

They’d been having a bit of a nosh-up in the privacy of Jeremy’s room. The two of them had pooled all kinds of hoarded private tucker when Hamble, who always had his nose into everything, scooped up what was another fellow’s private and personal mail. He was a big, hulking fellow with a heart of gold. Jeremy was grateful for his odd friendship—and a bit of protection.

“Floreat Rugbeia. Yes, he did say that.” Hamble shook his head in disgust at the fancy, monogrammed letterhead. “Fellow of the Royal Society, member of the Explorer’s Club.”

Throwing his feet up on the coffee table, he stuck his hands into his waistcoat pockets in a characteristic pose.


Hamble was from a family of genteel county aristocracy, at least to hear him tell it, up Shropshire way. He could be, or beat on a ruffian whenever he wanted to, which was as often as he thought no one was looking and he could get away with it. Not so much evil, as amusing, thought Jeremy. And why not. Other than school, this part of the world—Rugby School in Warwickshire, was as boring as any other place he’d ever been. To be fair, that wasn't all that many places.

Uncle Harry, Dr. Harold C. Fawcett, Ph.D., was an alumni of their good old alma mater. Not that Jeremy Crowe was so fond of it. Not hardly, always with the low grades, and not a snow-ball’s chance of shining at either the letters or the games. If it wasn’t for Uncle Harry, Jeremy wouldn’t even be here. The financial support was more than welcome. Otherwise he would have to go out and muck and toil for his livelihood, something Jeremy wasn’t all that enthused about. He was still young enough to dream of better things.

Rugby school.
Harry was his mother’s younger brother and had made his fortune quite young, with a fortunate dig in Mesopotamia.

To be good at games was everything, but sweat and strain as he might, run like hell after the ball, bigger fellows, not all of them older men, made him look decidedly sick.

“And he’s a doctor?”

“Yes. Of a sort.”

“Are you going?”

Jeremy raised his eyebrows.

“Egads. I hadn’t really thought all that much about it—” There was that family connection, and some sense of obligation.

Something he’d always hated.

“Well, you’d better make up your mind. Pretty damned quick, old cock.”

“Yes! I suppose I should.” Jeremy raised the tea cup and drained it.

Hungry as always, no matter how much he ate, it never seemed to translate onto his lanky five-foot, eight-inch frame.

Flipping his hair out of his eye, Jeremy picked up the letter and read that last part again.

“Wire me soonest. Will provide money and tickets. We leave from Southampton on the ninth. You have to do something for the summer holidays and this is the opportunity for a little adventure. Yours, your Weird Uncle Harry.”

He sighed, deeply. The thoughts of another long and lonely summer at home in Norfolk drained his resistance. Stuffy country society versus the Spanish Main—or so it seemed.

His mother fussing around, all things great and small, and his father’s evil eye upon him.

Disapproval, questions, what is your big plan in life young man—

Disapproval versus the Spanish Main.

Perhaps not—

Harry was at least fun, the bugger always had been.

“Huh. I suppose there’s nothing else for it.”

Venezuela—some sort of mad archaeological expedition. The Temple of the Jaguar God.

And why not?

Why not indeed.

Harry always had been his favourite uncle.

Last Christmas, the last time he’d been around the manor, Jeremy’s facetious name for his father’s rectory, he’d been spouting Lewis Carroll.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.”

One thing he knew for sure—his father would always be poor.

If he wasn’t careful, so would he.

(End of excerpt, the story is 'The Temple of the Jaguar God', an homage to the Boys Own Paper of a more innocent age. > Ed.

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