The Tail of Trinity Taylor

10th January 2021

My name is Trinity Taylor and for those who have not heard of me, though I cannot believe there can be many, I was born with a tail.

The midwives had recoiled in dismay at my delivery and the doctors had assured my mother that the defect could be surgically resolved. But, my mother, being my mother, would have none of it. If her daughter had been blessed with a tail, then there was some reason behind it, even if we could not yet comprehend it. She had promptly me christened Trinity after the heroine in the Matrix films. She and my father had shared a love of those films, though had little else in common. Trinity, she told me later, had not understood her role in mankind’s salvation but it was, in the end, fundamental. She had accepted her fate and lived it out without regret. Sadly, her reasoning would remain a bone of contention between us for many years. I would point out that Trinity hardly met a happy end, whenever the subject arose, and she would berate me for having entirely missed the point. At such times, my father, who otherwise tended to keep out of our mother-daughter altercations, would observe that the pair of us were as daft as brushes.

It might therefore come as no surprise that my mother was determined that I should flourish in the world, without disguise of constrain. She refused any advice to conceal my appendage and whilst not making a show of it, adapted my diapers and romper suit to give it free rein. That is, she did so until the afternoon when she took me along for her our first mother and baby playgroup and the other mothers seized their offspring and ran shrieking with fear from the building. To be fair, it did, if anything, resemble a rat’s tail and many women dissolve into screaming habdabs at the sight of a mere mouse. My mother learnt a painful lesson that day and thereafter took pains to tuck my tail into my tights or trews. At home, of course, it suffered no such restrictions and day by day I loved it more. Gradually I learned to control it, in much the same way that I learned to control my wobbly legs and arms. By the time I could walk, I could pick up simple objects and thrash it about in annoyance. I could tickle my mother’s ribs and soothe myself, by stroking my face whenever I felt upset or unwell.

                Speaking of rodents, my father turned up one day after work, with a pet rat for me. My mother was far from amused and ordered him to return it to the pet shop. Bit, it was too late. I hung onto his leg, begging him to let it stay, so stay it did. I adored little Ratty, at least at first. He was cute and dead intelligent and he had a tail like mine. However, I soon discovered that his tail lacked anything like the dexterity of mine and grew rather bored with his company. He sort of fell from the lounge window, one afternoon when we were playing bungy jumping. It was a pity, but I am pretty sure he had a more interesting life scampering around the fields and woods that backed onto our garden. After that, my mother was adamant, no more pets for me.

                And so it continued throughout my primary school. During the day, I would sit in class my tail coiled up beneath me, or wrapped around my thigh, beneath my pleated skirt. Yet, once school was over, I was using it to climb trees, balance on top of the garden wall and swat away annoying midges. There was always, however, a minor downside. Now and then, if I was tired or off my game, I would forget my tail and it would get caught in a deckchair or shut in the door. I don’t need to tell anyone how painful it is to do this to a finger, let me tell you now, a tail is a whole new world of pain. I even singed it on the electric fire once and just remembering that makes my eyes water. By the time I was eleven, it had developed a couple of kinks. Not the end of the world, but it did not exactly add to its appeal.

At junior school, however, things changed completely. Brought up on a diet of X-Men films, it was clear that my peers could only be fascinated by such an anomaly. I quickly became the coolest kid in school. I would demonstrate supreme balance during gym sessions and amuse my classmate by jabbing some swat in the ribs with the end of my tail when they put heir hand up once too often. I even terrorised a couple of fledging flashers from the neighbouring school, by placing my tail between my legs and pretending it was a penis. No matter how big they boasted their members were, they were no match for me. And if I had to, I could use mine to pick my nose.

                My mother did not view such high jinks with much appreciation. I had my future to think of. It was time to be serious and stop clowning around. But short of joining a circus or freak show, I had not the silent inkling, what I could do. My performance at school was never poor that fair to middling, despite my mother’s insistence that I was capable of better things. I began to suspect that my sole destiny in life was to cause her vexation and disappointment.

                I should mention at this point, that given the uniqueness of my condition or birth defect, as some unimaginative medical types labelled it, I was initially of interest to those boffins who concerned themselves with DNA and cellular development. For the first three years, my mother dutifully carted me to a series of regular appointments, where specimens of my blood and tissue were taken for analysis. By the fourth year, when nothing ground-breaking had been learned and precisely diddly-squat had been achieved, the enthusiasm seemed to have rubbed off. I was given an annual check-up. Mt tail was measured and weighed and asked to perform a series of perfunctory movements with it, and that seemed to that. By the age of eight, the scientific community decided to leave us to our own devices with an indifferent shrug of its shoulders. It was what it was. My mother had been crestfallen. She had been so sure my amazing tail could not have been for nothing. I was glad to be left alone.

                Then, one day, when I was just sixteen years old, I was spotted by a talent scout from a high-end modelling agency.  I had been sauntering around Coven Garden with my mates, tail swaying lithely behind me. Most of the locals we passed were used to the sight by that time and if the tourists gaped and tried to take photos, I would just flash them a smile. My tail, which by now resembled that of a hairless Sphynx cat, was a magnet to the lads but even though my friends seemed obsessed with boys and seemed in a rush to hook up with the first pimple-covered youth that looked their way, I was in no such hurry. “Mark my words,” my father had told me in a rare moment of parental intervention, “they will want you in their bed soon enough, but not to mother their children.” I knew he had a point. There is little an adolescent boy will not stoop to, to outdo his friends in sexual boasts. Fathers, a word of advice.  Tell your teenage daughters exactly what was going through your mind at their age. I guarantee you it will prove more effective than any contraceptive!

                Anyway, back to the talent scout. I was skinny and tall for my age and, though only averagely pretty, had a posture to die for, what with the tail and all. The agency agreed that I had what they called “the it factor.” I think we all know what the “it” was. The rest is history. I modelled for Channel and Gucci, Versace and Yves Saint Lauren. I travelled to Paris, Rome, New and York Milan, and when I sashayed down that cat-walk I made the other models look like moggies. Whosever show I was in became an instant success. I was the new Kate Moss, a white Naomi Campbell. The camera’s loved me. The designers loved me. The other models, needless to say, did not. Most of them would not even talk to me and those that did were cold and dismissive. I was a gimmick, a flash in the pan. The public would soon tire of my one horse act. (You had to wonder how many horses, they thought they had). I didn’t care. I appeared on the cover of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. And sometimes, when we were all in hair and make-up, I would reach around their backs and tap them one of them on the shoulders with my tail, a trick which never failed to reduce them to hysterics, but for which I earned no favours.

                My mother, of course, remained unimpressed by my success and was horrified by the amount of weight I had been obliged to lose, in order to squeeze into the size 0 fashions. I was not particularly happy myself. I had made a pile of money but had resorted to snorting cocaine to suppress my appetite and was, if the truth be told, perfectly miserable. Halfway through Paris fashion week I packed my bags and flew home, my eyes shielded by dark glasses and my tail tucked firmly between my legs.

                Mum and Dad were great. There were other things I could, go to college, get a job. What I needed now was rest and good old fashioned home cooking. My mother fussed around putting my clothes away for me around as I kicked off my clothes for a shower. I could have chased her out of my room, but I think she just wanted to be with me. All of sudden she exclaimed in a shocked tone. There was a strange purple mark on my tail. Had I not seen it. I craned my neck around. It was near the base of the tail close to where it grew out of my spine and I could not see it myself. “It is probably just a bruise, you know what airline seats ate like…,” I joked. But it clearly wasn’t and she had me down at the doctors’ surgery the next morning. My G.P shook his head. He was no expect on tails but he did not like the look of this. He made an urgent referral to a specialist who hummed and hawed and took a biopsy.

                It was not good news. In fact, that is the understatement of the year, it was dreadful news. The biopsy had revealed an unusual but unmistakably malignant carcinoma. It could have been caused by an old trauma, exacerbated by malnutrition and exhaustion, but one never knew.  I was lucky, it had not metastasized but soon would. There was only one treatment option. Amputation. I numbly wondered in what way I could be described as lucky. Did he not understand what he was suggesting?

                My mother, as always, took firm change. It was all very well, bemoaning the loss of a tail but it was better than the loss of my life, whatever I might think now. I submitted, leaving myself in her hands, as I had always done. But I don’t mind telling you it was the darkest time of my life. I could not imagine either myself of my life, without a tail.

                The surgery was booked in for the following day, there was, it seemed no time to be wasted.

I awoke with a pad on my back where my tail had been and a sense of unspeakable loss. Over the following weeks of recuperation, I had to relearn to walk as I had lost my balance and I would experience sensations where the tail had been. Phantom tail pain, apparently. Life seemed to have lost its flavour.

                Then, about a month late, I felt a bump, under the scar. I waited a day or two, telling myself it was just my imagination, but the next time I checked, it was still there, only it was bigger, now.

I told Mum who took a look. Had the carcinoma come back? My specialist checked it out a couple of days later and took some cells, but was pretty sure it was nothing to worry about.

                What can I tell you? Over the never six months the bump on my spine became bigger and bigger, growing longer and longer until my tail had pretty well regrown itself completely. This time the DNA chaps were wild with excitement. Did I understand what this meant? The cells in my tail held the key to cellular regeneration. Up until now, scientists had had only Lizard DNA to work with. This could be the greatest revolution in the history of medicine. Did I have any idea of my importance?

                My mother had shrugged happily and given me of those ‘I-told-you-so’ smirks. As for me, well, I can’t altogether get the hang of this new tail. Sometimes it does what I ask and others not so much but I have a growing apprehension that I hardly dare put into words. The truth is, and as strange as it sounds, I don’t altogether trust it!

The Child-Eater

Once upon a time there lived a child-eater, who would eat up tiny small children, tooth and hair, and blood and bone and never leave a morsel behind. Sometimes, if he ate too quickly, the child-eater would vomit the child back up again and you did not want to be around when that happened as it was not a pleasant sight. All in all, he was not wildly popular and seldom found himself to parties. The child-eater did however provide one useful social function, for when boys were beastly and mean, and girls would refuse to eat their spinach or to go straight to sleep, their parents would threaten them with a visit from the child-eater who was both inexplicably and inextricably drawn to badly behaved or disobedient children. Furthermore, you could be sure that he kept lists of who was naughty and who was nice, and knew where they lived, much in the same way as his distant cousin, Santa Claus.

One day, however, the child-eater arrived at the house of a certain young lad, named Brian and decided he had bitten off more than he could chew, if you will forgive the pun. Brian was one of those unfortunate young lads, who seems always to have constant stream of snot running from his nostrils, a high-pitched whine in his voice and earwax from his glue ears smeared across his T-shirt. On top of this he was decidedly overfed and, given as he was to inactivity and overdosing on computer games, had turned to flab at an exceptionally early age. The child-eater whilst having no objection to a nice bit of fat when it had turned to well-salted crackling in a hot oven, had developed an abhorrence for the slithery feel of raw fat, which he could hardly think about without gagging. So, when Brian gawped up at him and wiped his snotty nose across his already decidedly unpalatable sleeve, the Child-eater heaved, turned on his heel and fled, deciding at that very moment to hang up his knife and fork and retire to a deserted beach in Noosa.

Now all this might have been well and good, had it not been for the ensuing deterioration in children’s behavior. For with no threat to quell childish rebellion and insubordination, parents were beginning to lose control. Children were gaining the upper hand, and there was no telling where it might end. Something had to be done. Much head scratching went on and finally a delegation of beleaguered parents was elected to travel to Noosa and hold a parley with the child-eater, who was widely regarded as having reneged on his duty.

It was of course a delicate business. The child eater demanded certain guarantees and improvement in presentation, whilst the parents in their turn, anxious that their own precious darling might be next, took the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of the contract. It was agreed that only the most horrible and unrepentant of children would be eaten, whilst those in need of more moderate castigation might forfeit a nose or perhaps an ear, and, in extremis, even a finger or toe, the terror of which would suffice to ensure adherence to improved standards of conduct.

The bargain was struck. The child-eater came out of early retirement and children were put on strict diets and instructed in the regular and timely use of handkerchiefs.

And needless to say, they all – well that is to say, most of them lived happily ever.

A Father Christmas Carol.

The time is Christmas Eve. Just one minute to mid-night. A single standard lamp lights the corner of a dingy bookshelf-lined sitting room. There is no Xmas tree or sign of a Xmas decoration. It could be any night of the year. All at once there is a throbbing and rustling in the fire place. There is a dazzling flash of light and Santa Claus plops somewhat clumsily into the cold fire place.

“Hmm -I wondered when you would show up..” The tone is impatient, sarcastic even.

Santa Claus scratches his head and peers into the gloom. There is a figure seated in an armchair in the shadowed corner of the room.

“Now, now, Sir. You are meant to be in bed….” The words sound silly addressed to a grown man, but the truth is, the man, whoever he is, has caught Santa Claus off his guard.

“Do you really think I am waiting for presents?” the contempt in the voice is palpable. “Look around you? You silly little fat man, We don’t do Xmas here…”

Santa Claus doesn’t need a second glance, the austerity of the room and thick dust coating the books and shelves screams of neglect and despair. The air reeks of decay and lonely death. He is beginning to feel a little scared. He shuffles self consciously from foot to foot.

“Well, what can I help you with, then?” he asks politely, dropping his sack to the floor. The sack is almost empty, save for one remaining bulge. The long working night is all but over. Why did this have to happen now?

“It is more a question of what I wish to help you with..” replies the voice.

Santa swallows hard.

“Wh…who are you? I don’t think you are on my list?” he asks.

“My name is unimportant. I am, or was, whilst I lived, a social scientist. That is all I need to tell you and all you need to know. ” The man turns his face slowly and the light glints of a pair of heavy horn- rimmed spectacles.

Santa swallows again. He is not sure what a social scientist it. He is used to dealing with somewhat younger girls and boys.

The figure levers himself out of the chair and rises to his feet, all lanky six foot-six of him. Hunching his thin shoulders, he stalks across the room to the fireplace and places a long-fingered hand on Santa’s shoulder, then glares down into the old man’s face. Santa’s rosy cheeks turn suddenly white as chalk.

“I made the study of human misery my life’s work…” intones the tall man, waving the other hand towards the book shelves.  “And now it is time for a reckoning….”

Santa knees are beginning to knock.

“But I only ever want to bring pleasure and delight to little children, how can that have anything to do with human misery?”

“Hhhmmmm. How indeed?” muses the other…. “Come…I am going to take you on a little journey, and we shall see, what we shall see…”

He waves his hand as one sweeping away smoke, there is a strange slithering of time and space and the scene around them changes.

They stand together in another shabby front room. A dowdily dressed woman, kneels hunched before a tatty artificial Xmas tree, arranging a veritable pile of cheaply wrapped gifts. Santa goes to speak.     

“Why it is Mrs Patterson….” But his guide puts his fingers to his thin lips. “She cannot see us. This is Present Day Christmas. Observe and listen.”

The two remain standing. By and by the woman, sits back. She is weeping and mutters to herself in grief and anxiety. She wraps her arms around herself to keep warm, for although there is a gas fire in the little room, it is not turned on and it is spitefully cold.

“But why ever is she weeping?” whispers Santa.

“She is penniless…” states the tall man pointedly, as though this should be obvious… “-her husband left her for another woman back in January and does not bother with her kids or pay child support regularly.  She has a poorly paid part-time job, but can hardly make ends meet at the best of times. She regularly goes without food herself just to see her family get what they need…”

“But the presents!” chirps Santa…. “Look, how many, there are many more than I delivered for them…”

“She couldn’t bear the thought of them getting so few, so has bought them extra ones with pay day loans from unscrupulous money lenders who pray on single mothers such as she. You can see, she is worried sick about how she is going to pay the debt off – she just wanted to see their little faces happy for one day…”

Santa looks away in distress, but the scene is already fading.

The scene drifts back into focus. It is yet another room, dingier even, than the previous. A still more tatty Xmas tree occupies the corner and there is an odour of stale beer and tobacco. An old sock lies beneath the tree, but no other evidence that Christmas has touched this household.

A clock strike eight in the distance and a little girl skips into the room, her eyes lit with expectation. She is followed by a woman in a grubby dressing gown and rollers in her hair, with a cigarette hanging out of one corner of her mouth. The woman slouches onto the moth-eaten sofa, whilst the little girl whoops in delight.

“Look, Mummy, look. Santa Claus has been… I knew he would read my letter…”

Next to the tall man, Santa hangs his head in shame. He knows this little girl, it is the same Mrs. Patterson when she was just a child, perhaps eight years old.

She runs over to the tree and scoops up the sock, whilst her mother pours herself another drink…

Humming Away in a Manger, the little girl kneels and empties out the sock. On the carpet around her lie a second-hand doll, with crossed eyes and biro marks on its legs, a set of cheap felt-tip markers, a comb and a satsuma orange. The little girl stares at the gifts a moment, then tears well into her eyes. Try as she might, she is unable to hide her disappointment. She looks up at her mother.

“Well?” says her mother. “Aren’t you going to thank Father Christmas? After all the effort he made to bring you these gifts?”

“I don’t understand. Mummy…” says the little girl, hugging the doll to her. “I am grateful, really I am. But why should Santa bring other children so many presents and us so few? Mandy Davies says he is bringing her a dolls house and a new bicycle and a new dress, I don’t understand. I’ve tried so hard to be good all year. I tried not so hard to be on his naughty list.”

Her mother smirks.

“Naughty, nice? What’s that got to do with anything? People like us will never be good enough for Santa. Mandy Davies’ mother certainly does think you good enough to be her daughter’s friend, I can tell you.”

The little girl casts her eye downward. It is true. The other girls laugh at her hand-me-down school uniform and turn their backs when she tries to join in their games in the playground. Santa must feel the same.

The tall man turns to Santa Claus. “So, what have you got to say for yourself? What exactly has this little girl done to deserve such pathetic presents? Has she been so very bad? Come on man, you are the one with the lists?”

Santa spreads his hands in dismay. “It’s not my fault…I am limited to the budget depending on the family’s circumstances.”

“Yet, still you insist on disseminating the propaganda to these children that it depends on their intrinsic moral worthiness.. and they believe it. After all, Who would not believe Santa Claus?”

Santa finds himself lost for words, but the scene is already changing.

They are back in Mrs. Patterson’s little front room again. The church-bells proclaim another Xmas morning.

“Tomorrow morning….” sighs the tall man. “You recall, the same Mrs Patterson, so desperate that her own children should not grow up believing they are undeserving, as she did, that she has thrown herself on the mercy of ruthless loan sharks.

He is interrupted as two children, a girl and boy of about elven and twelve respectively, burst into the room, followed by their mother, who clasps her hands in anticipation at their delight, despite her own anxiety.

But, it is not to be. The children fall upon the parcels, tearing them open without bothering read the loving messages scribbled on the gift tags.

The little girl holds up a boldly decorated T-shirt…her face falls

“OMG, Mum. It is not even a designer label…. What do think the other girls are going to think, when they see me in this…”

“But you wanted one with that logo….”

“What-ever…”The girl shakes her head in disbelief, and moves onto the next parcel. Her brother meanwhile is fumbling with a carboard box. It contains a mobile phone, he unpacks the device, then pulls a face…

“Do me a favour, Mum. Last years’ model….I’ll look like a right dork with this…better make sure my mates don’t see it..”

And so it goes on. The children, pouting with increasing contempt whilst their mother is dying inside.

“So much for trying to be good,” mutters the girl to herself, “I might as well give up now. Kylie cheeks her parents all the time, and I’ll bet Santa brought her what she wanted…”

The scene fades. Santa Clause stands dumbfounded, back in the tall man’s cold parlour. But his ordeal is not yet over.

“You see…” says the tall man coldly, pointing an accusing finger. “ – witness the damage you have done by  perpetuating the lie that the good are rewarded and those who get nothing, do so because they are undeserving. What about the reality? That they never receive much worth having, because they never had the same advantages in the first place…?”

“But…but…” tried Santa Claus, yet to no avail. The tall man continues his relentless diatribe.

“You prop up the capitalist deception and class system that has systematically repressed the poor since mankind stepped out of the caves, yet everyone thinks you are this totally cool nice guy…..”

Santa Claus hangs his head again, yet even now a remembrance is dawning.

“Hang on a minute…yes, I remember now. Aren’t you Anthony Smith?”

The tall man stops mid-sentence.

“Er, Ye…es. What of it?”

“It’s coming back to me now…yes, little Tony Smith. A little boy with darned trousers and holes in his shoes. Christmas  1973. Your Dad had lost his job in the pit closures and times were hard. You had sent me a letter, asking for a Hornby steam engine, it was all you had ever wanted…but, sadly, it was well out of the budget.”

The tall man’s mouth has fallen open and there are tears dripping of his long nose….

“You had been such a good boy, helping your Ma and all, and studying so hard, so you could pass the eleven plus and get a scholarship for the grammar school, like your parents wanted…so you could have the things they could never give you…”

The tall man is sobbing now… “But you put me on the naughty list, and all I got was a matchbox car and a chocolate orange…and I went through all those years, unable to forget the injustice of….”

Santa frowns.

“Just a moment, Tony lad…..”

The man in the red and white suit stoops down and fumbles in his sack for the one remaining present, then holds it out to the tall man.

Antony Smith knits his eyebrows, takes the gift and pulls back the wrapping paper.

His eyes light up. A brand new bright shiny Hornby steam engine.

Almost lost for words he manages to stammers his thanks.

“You are most welcome…” smiles Santa, “but if I don’t get going now, Xmas morning will never start….” And with that he vanishes back up the chimney in a puff of red smoke.

The social scientist sits back in his armchair and cradles the red engine in his arms.

“Happy Xmas, Santa…” he whispers, as his thin body, able to rest in peace at last, dissolves into a million points of light that hover in the gloom then waft upwards through the chimney, and into the night sky.

“Happy Xmas, Tony….” Echoes back a voice from across the rooftops. And for once, for a deceased social scientist at least, it really is.

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