Writers’ Circle

“I hope you don’t mind me reading this one—I’m afraid it’s a little bit near the knuckle,” said the small middle-aged man with the beady eyes.

“Good gracious no, no prudes here, Cedric, anything goes,” said Camilla Upton-Sleeve, beaming benignly at him behind her huge spectacles.

Cedric was a newcomer to our writers’ circle, a rather forlorn figure in a dirty anorak. He had joined our monthly meeting, where the members read out a short story, a poem, or part of a novel, for the others to discuss afterwards. More often than not it’s a kind of mutual admiration society, everyone being too polite to be anything but complimentary about each other’s work. I write nonfiction books for a living, so I rarely read anything, I just go to listen and to meet my friends. They’re a thoroughly likeable lot, and it’s a friendly convivial evening, in the upstairs room of the Dog and Duck, and with alcohol and coffee on tap.

The nervous looking man who’d just arrived was almost completely bald and looked rather furtive, his eyes shifting to right and left as he licked his lips with a darting tongue that reminded me of a reptile.

He pulled a folded piece of dirty paper from an inside pocket and began to read: “My wife refused to have sex with me, so I decided to go to a brothel,” he began in a surprisingly deep sonorous voice. “I went upstairs with one of the girls. After she’d taken her clothes off, she took hold of my…”

What followed was beyond disgusting. It was vile filth, more explicit than the most outspoken top-shelf magazine or erotic book you could imagine. Sexual couplings were described in almost gynaecological detail, and as he read on, Cedric’s eyes blazed more brightly, sweat broke out on his upper lip and spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth. His excitement mounted as the staccato speed of the filth from his mouth came faster.

When he’d finished there was absolute silence. Elderly Harry Morton, who always wore a smart suit, collar and tie, was intently studying the toe of one of his shiny black shoes and frowning. The huge figure of Camilla Upton-Sleeve, resplendent in her scarlet kaftan and wide trousers, shifted uncomfortably. She had blushed a bright red and a nerve was twitching in her cheek, while her gaze was fixed on the floor.

Amateur poet Roger McBride, who was normally the soul of generosity with his praise, was the first to say anything. “Look, Cedric, I’m sorry but that was quite horrible—I’d go so far as to say it was downright offensive.” He softened his tone. “You could have summarised all that disgusting sex in one sentence, and then got on with a decent story. For instance, I gather that some of these girls are coerced into doing these dreadful things by criminals—you could have had the hero falling in love with a reluctant prostitute who’s actually a decent girl, rescuing her and facing the gangmaster. Lots of guns, action, adventure. Now that would have been a story.”

Camilla went on: “Cedric, when I said anything goes, I didn’t mean it literally. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you just read that out to shock us. And you succeeded. I would like you to go now and not come back.”

Cedric looked around the room, and everyone nodded, giving half-hearted apologies, and mentions of ‘find another writers’ group old chap, no offence’ kind of comments, as he got up and left the room.

However, to our horror, the following month he was back. Camilla had explained to us before he’d arrived that he’d phoned her, full of abject apologies, begging to be allowed to come back, and promising faithfully that the next thing he read would be something wholesome and acceptable.

Everyone was a bit embarrassed, but we tried to make an effort to make him feel welcome. When it came to his turn to read, it all began innocently enough:

“I was going through a really bad time. Feeling thoroughly depressed, I wandered around town and found myself in a rough area. I encountered a woman who invited me into her flat. Once upstairs, she took off her clothes…”

What followed was virtually a carbon copy of his previous reading, the only difference being the nationality of the three bisexual prostitutes and the colour of their underwear.

As he was reading faster, panting with excitement, Roger stood up. He told Cedric to stop reading immediately, Camilla backed him up, and the pervert was told in no uncertain terms to leave and to never come back.

I soon forgot the incident, and our meetings went back to the normal, agreeable events we were used to. A few weeks later I was helping out at the church fete, where Robin Gargle, our popular local vicar was making a big effort to make it a success.

The tea urn in the refreshment tent wasn’t working, just before it was due to open for business, so I volunteered to try and fix it. So I was lying on the floor, tinkering with the electric cable, when I saw a couple of people come into the tent. They couldn’t see me, hidden under the table, and with a shock, I recognised Cedric, the pornographer. With him was a very young girl, whom I recognised as Sally, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. Sally was a rather dim, naïve girl, and she looked much older than her years. She was wearing a tight tee-shirt that exposed here navel, and a very short skirt.

Cedric had his arm around her shoulders, and was talking quietly to her, attempting to pull the naïve young girl closer to his body.

Fury took over, and I leapt to my feet and stormed from behind the tea table across to them.

“Sally, your mum and dad are looking for you,” I told the child. “They’re at the bring-and-buy stall.”

She giggled and ran off.

I cornered the repulsive little bastard, grabbed his collar and pushed him up against the central pole that supported the tent.

“Do you know that girl is fifteen?” I told him. “What the hell were you doing with her? Right now I want to wring your bloody neck, you filthy little pervert—”

“Look, please! I didn’t mean—”

Our row was interrupted when the vicar, Robin, came into the tent. I let go of the rat as my friend came across to join us.

“Thanks a million for fixing the tea urn Jack, you’ve saved the day as usual,” Robin enthused, oblivious to the atmosphere.

He beamed at the rat. “And thank you so much for coming such a long way to support us, Bishop. Jack, I see you’ve already made friends with my boss. I’m so glad to see how well you two are getting on. Jack, do you know that you and Cedric have got a lot in common? He’s a writer like you…”

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