In Competition No. 3005 you were invited to take your inspiration from Anthony Lane’s terrific ‘The Book of Jeremy Corbyn’, an account of the general election that ran recently in the New Yorker and was shared widely on social media: ‘And there came from the same country a prophet, whose name was Jeremy. His beard was as the pelt of beasts, and his raiments were not of the finest. And he cried aloud in the wilderness and said, Behold, I bring you hope.’ You were asked to flesh out the story with a version of either ‘The Book of Boris’, ‘The Book of Theresa’, ‘The Book of Tim’ or ‘The Book of Nicola’.
Cod-biblical can be tricky to pull off but you appeared to relish the challenge. Commendations to Sid Field and Nicholas Stone, and £25 each to those printed below. The bonus fiver is awarded to Frank McDonald.
But when Nicola in the conceit of her soul proclaimed herself the light, then verily did the Lord cast her down into lamentation. For a slave arrived with news and Nicola said: ‘How went the matter?’ Then with much sorrow he replied that Angus and Alec were slain, cast down from their high places. Whereupon Nicola groaned a great groan and cried:
‘How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Kent, publish it not in Birmingham lest the sons of the Sassenach rejoice. Ye mountains of the Highlands let there be no dew, for Alec my counsellor, my beloved has gone. Lovely they were, Angus and Alec, fierce in their fondness for the heather and the kilt. I am much distressed for thee, brother Alec and thee brother Angus, but there must be no concession till the proud usurper hear my voice and let my people go.’
Now Hubert the priest arose with his wife Zaidee and daughter Theresa and moved to the alien pastures of Oxfordshire. Then said Hubert unto Theresa, ‘Abide with me and enter not the fields of wheat.’ But Theresa being beset with a surfeit of naughtiness did depart to the fields and did run waist high therein. Then said Hubert, ‘Because thou hast disobeyed, thou art cursed. Thou shalt labour with money lenders and thereafter languish, ill at ease, in the company of the corrupt. Thy feet shall be shod with the skins of wild cats and thy loins clad in the hide of beasts. Thou shalt dwell in the shadows shadowing power. Thy own taste of power shall be as a poisoned chalice. Thy foes shall rise up against thee and cast thee down.’ When these things came to pass Theresa was sore distressed and bewailed the sin of her youth.
And David begat Theresa, for they were of the house of Margaret. And the people sort of rejoiced, for her heels would gladden the heart, as doth a kitten. Moreover, she was not Andrea, neither was she Boris.
But the plague did not leave the land though the many had voted for the expelling of all that is foreign in their midst. And Theresa was sore troubled, that her words were not understood, though she spoke as one of strong faith, that Brexit meant Brexit unto all peoples. Upon a high mountain she received a vision, that the land would be as one and greater in glory.
And she said unto the people, give me strength. But they did not, for they were tempted by Jeremy, a lone prophet from out the wilderness, who wore not shoes of many colours but sandals. And she was no longer strong, nor had she a stable for shelter.
In the land of Libdem it came to pass that the elders of every tribe were gathered to elect a new prince. For, lo, the five fat years under the sway of Nik had become as a dream forgot, his name never to be cleansed of the stain of perjury.
Then came forth a man that in the mind of the elders spake with vision and integrity of heart, so that when they cast their lots, the lot fell upon him. And his name was Tim. Yet within the crowd were those who murmured against him, saying Verily, this man is as a squeaking pip. Let him but be tested and his faith will be no more constant than a weathercock. And the truth lay with them. For in the heat of battle his resolve melted and, with all lost, he was let go for a scapegoat in the wilderness.
It is written, Five years you shall rule and you shall not inquire of the people before that time. And Theresa said ‘All this will I observe.’ But the prophets foretold a mighty victory. And Theresa hearkened to their voice. Then her counsellors prepared the scroll of promises, but she did not consult the elders. And the young looked upon the scroll, but there was no hope for them. And the old looked and, behold, their houses were to be taken from them. Moreover, Theresa would not come out before the people, so that they cried out ‘Though she be tall as a Lebanon cedar yet is she as wooden’ and ‘No more shall she be called Strong and Stable.’ And though she was saved by Ruth of the north country, the people said ‘How long, O Lord, before the elders in grey raiment arise and Theresa is no more?’
And David said, Let the people speak. And the people spoke, and David liked not what they said. And David left his high post for the fleshpots and the making of motivational speeches to publicans and sinners.
And Theresa was raised up to be the successor of David and the One long foretold to wear the handbag of the sainted Margaret. And Theresa vowed she would not make another untimely call upon the people, to learn what they desired.
And Theresa made another untimely call upon the people, to learn what they desired. And the people spoke, and Theresa liked not what they said. And it came to pass that all things were as before, save that what before was good was now bad, and what before was bad was now worse.
And the people mourned, asking ‘what hath God wrought, that we are afflicted with hopeless leaders?’
No. 3008: new beginnings
You are invited to take the last line of a well-known novel (please specify) and make it the first line of a short story of up to 150 words written in the style of the author in question. Please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 19 July.