Tag Archives: Keith Errington

Licking dustcats for science

Dustcats are weird, feline inhabitants of Hopeless, Maine who float about being whimsical and mildly threatening.

One of the contributions to the recent Eldritch Broadcasting event – Anomaly – featured a paper on the hallucinogenic effects of licking dustcats. This all started at Raising Steam last year. We were doing some Hopeless, Maine live stuff in which Keith Errington ran a Hopeless, Maine meeting to discuss health and safety issues on the island. This was all very silly, as you might imagine. During the discussion, Susie Roberts (of The Ominous Folk) made some comments about the lovely, distracting effects of licking dustcats.

For Anomaly, Keith Errington took this idea and ran with it (no doubt while laughing maniacally)  and then Susie Roberts recorded the piece for the event itself. 

Island life depends a lot on these kinds of processes, where people playing with ideas lead other people to play with the same ideas, and things expand (un)naturally from there.

This video also has content from Andy Arbon – who started The Eldritch Broadcasting Corporation. 

The Guttering Man

By Keith Errington

Art by Kat Delarus

The Guttering Man was a familiar sight on the streets of the main town of Hopeless, Maine. If you had any sort of house in the town, it would have gutters, and if you had gutters, then you would need the Guttering Man.

You may imagine that this was a convenience. Why clean out your own gutters when the Guttering Man could come and do it for you? But, no, that was not the reason you needed the Guttering Man. You needed the Guttering Man for the same reason you needed the Cellar Scourge Man, or the Bush Bug Man; critters. Nasty, snappy, bitey, poisonous, scratchy, vicious, aggressive critters. Hopeless, Maine was full of them, dangerous varmints everywhere, the countryside, the town, your garden, your cellar and your gutters.

Granted, the critters living in your gutters were small, and in a certain light, maybe even cute. But woe betide you if you mistook their diminutive appearance to imply that they were no threat to you. It was not uncommon for house-owners wanting to skimp on outgoings to end up severely injured after trying to clear out their own gutters.


Mrs Asphyxia Jones, a widow of some seven years, had a particularly severe case of gutter critters – she knew this as she could hear at least one at night, scuttering along, scratching and scrabbling in a way that was guaranteed to get on anybody’s nerves. Have you ever run your nails along a blackboard? That was the level of raw, excruciating, bone rattling, teeth-on-edge, sounds that Mrs Jones was experiencing during what should have been her sleeping hours. She did what any sensible person did with this much provocation – she put out the word for the Guttering Man to come a calling.


The Guttering man was a big fellow, with broad shoulders, thickset, and with a demeanour that suggested he would take no trouble from anyone and would be equally happy to dish out trouble if needed. He arrived at Mrs Jones’ house with his customary critter sack, a range of tools – which may actually be better described as weapons – and a large carpetbag.

Out of the bag, he fished out a sturdy leather jacket along with a pair of gloves covered in mail. The other essential item was, of course, a ladder, which he set down firmly on the ground, propped against the eaves and tested a few times to ensure the ground was solid.

He turned to Mrs Jones before ascending the ladder, “Don’t worry Mrs Jones, I’ll have it sorted in no time, just you see. Yes. No problem. Now if I could just have payment before I start?”

Mrs Jones gladly paid him, as any amount of money was worth it to stop that incessant skittering at night and get a good night’s sleep.

The Guttering man climbed the ladder quickly and purposefully and surveyed the length of the gutter. It was full of leaves, as many gutters in the town were. Even if trees were not nearby, the winds were strong here and occasionally gutter critters would even collect leaves from elsewhere and make a nest with them in an otherwise clean gutter.

About a third of the way along – exactly where the Guttering Man expected it to be, was a large clump of leaves. Except these were not real leaves, they were breathing almost imperceptibly for a start. To his trained eye, the Guttering Man could tell that they were a slightly different hue to the other leaves in the gutter, a slightly different form, and there was something about the way they were stacked that was just a little too uniform.

“Found one, Mrs Jones,” the Guttering Man shouted down, “I suggest you get yourself inside and lock your doors. This could get messy.”

Mrs Jones grimaced and hastened to do as he’d suggested. From inside the house, she could hear a sudden bang, a frantic scrabbling, a loud, “Oof” from the Guttering Man, more scrabbling, more bangs, a loud, “Got yer!” and then finally, silence.

There was a knock on the door.

“All dealt with Mrs Jones. She was a feisty one, that one. Bit of a struggle to be sure, but safely in the sack now. You won’t have no more trouble.”

“Will they come back?” Mrs Jones asked.

“Well, there’s no guarantee, but I reckon you’ll be good for at least six months yet.”

Mrs Jones sighed. “Well, thank you. I’ll let you know if they return.”

“You do that Mrs Jones, and I’ll be straight round to sort ‘em out. You can bet on that.”

“Thanks again”, said Mrs Jones, waving the Guttering Man off.


The Guttering Man headed to the house of the Cellar Scourge Man, where, in a back room, a group of pest controllers of various types were sitting around chatting and drinking homemade beer. They nodded as he entered and sat down. He was handed a beer, and he rested it on the table next to him. He reached for his sack, opened it a little, and talked into it, “Hey, Beatrice, how are you doing? Would you like some leaves?”

He reached into his carpetbag and took out a handful of leaves from a pocket in the end, and proffered them to the sack. There was a sound like a deranged cat’s meow and then munching. “It’s alright girl, your children are safe – there’s plenty to eat in that gutter and I’ll return once they are of age to find them some new homes.”

The Bush Bug man addressed him then, “One of my customers went and got an axe and killed one of my best performers,” he said sadly, “What a brute. But how was your day? Did you have a good one?”

“Yes, thank you – a very good day indeed,” replied the Guttering Man, counting his money.

The Coming of Dave

By Keith Errington

An observation from the Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society.

Physics is a funny thing. Full of strange behaviours and surprising outcomes. It can inspire and confound. It can amuse and frustrate. But once you understand it, it’s entirely predictable. Science is like that. Even on Hopeless, Maine, where a good deal of magic interferes with many scientific principles, in day-to-day life science and logic generally still prevails.

Take the properties of light for example, universal and immutable. Refraction works here as elsewhere. And on Hopeless, Maine, it is a combination of refraction, weather conditions and freak cloud reflections that results in a phenomenon that is hard, but let us say, not
impossible, to explain through physics alone. Unfortunately, Hopeless, Maine, is not known for a high level of physics knowledge amongst its inhabitants. I suspect they would probably think that refraction is the process of cutting a cake into even smaller pieces.

And so it is that the phenomenon that happens approximately once a year is referred to as The Coming of Dave by islanders – a very unscientific label in my opinion.

A small, haphazardly organised group of religious followers, or more accurately, nutters, has taken this annual event to heart and formed a fanatical sect. These believers refer to themselves as Davotees. In the month leading up to the possible sighting of Dave, they prepare as best they can and try to spread the word of Dave’s coming to other, mostly disinterested, often irritated, occasionally violent, islanders.

Predicting the coming of Dave has a random margin of error when it comes to knowing the exact timing and place. This means that Davotees have to keep an eye on known manifestation locations for several days. This is known as “Davewatch” and is generally accompanied by Davotional fasting and wailing in equal measure. (The wailing being mostly a direct result of the fasting).

Finally, there will be a faint shimmering for up to an hour and then Dave proper will appear. This generally results in a mad dash to that particular location by all the watchers in the other locations. Nobody wants to miss the Word of Dave.

For up to five minutes (Usually a lot less- one year it was a mere three seconds) Dave appears as a glowing vision, surrounded by a halo of light. During this time, Davotees will eagerly and voraciously watch everything Dave does and religiously record everything Dave says.

Afterwards, there will be weeks of debates. What did Dave say? What does it mean? How should we change our lives as a result? (Mostly Dave doesn’t speak – so many times the endless discussions will be over interpreting a glance, or a hand movement or the use of a potato peeler).

Once they observed Dave with a stack of magazines and a box of tissues. Well, that sparked a particularly lively round of debating, as you might imagine.

Dave himself, is entirely unaware of the import his mundane actions might have to a such a deranged bunch of individuals and goes about his daily life blissfully ignorant of the powerful influence he wields. He is not a famous person where he lives. His life is entirely uninteresting. Even amongst nondescript denizens of the world, his ranking is, at best, very, very average. He does nothing exciting, and in fact will do nothing exciting his entire life.

Basically, we have already spent more time in describing Dave that he should ever warrant. We don’t need to know what he does or where he lives – both facts are immaterial to this story and would only serve to increase the sense of ennui that Dave engenders in his peers, neighbours, friends and workmates.

To Davotees however, he is a god, an infallible oracle, an all-seeing prophet – a divine being. During Dave’s brief materialisations, Davotees will hang on to his every word, his every move, his every expression, his every sneeze, or cough, or fart.

There have been a series of official pronouncements from the Davotees – and these are being collected in a tome they refer to as The Book of Dave. Such pronouncements include: “thou must always put your right sock on first”, “thou must never unbutton your shirt completely before removing it” and most controversially “thou must addest the milk after the tea”. Two Davotees had to be forcibly detained after a fight broke out over that one.

As well as the debates, there is a week of official mourning for Dave’s passing after the manifestation ends. During this period, Davotees only wear strictly black and only eat black food. And as this will follow the Davewatch period of fasting, they are all generally in a black mood.

Whilst they are interesting to observe from an ethnological point of view, Davotees really have very little impact on the island, with most others tending to ignore “those nutters”. Generally, the most interesting thing about the whole affair is the physics behind the phenomenon. But as we stated earlier, there are very few people on the island with sufficient knowledge to investigate. Whilst here at the Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society, we have neither the time nor the resources to investigate what is, after all, a relatively harmless phenomenon.

Now The Arrival of Pete, on the other hand…


By Keith Errington

2B-loop had been given a very important mission. His first proper mission! And it was off world! He was very excited and honoured to be given this task. His supervisor, 1A-doop, had said it was vital work! So vital, in fact, none of the other protoinvestigators could be spared to do it. Only he, 2B-loop the student, was suitable for the task.

He went over the mission in his head one more time: land, observe, collect material, record data, and leave. Although it was simple, 1A-doop had stressed that it was vitally important work and also that he might face some trivial difficulties on the way.

As 2B-loop headed towards his circular spacecraft, his chest (or equivalent) puffed with pride. He beeped and chirped to himself. His first mission!


He struggled a bit with the landing but managed to put the saucer shaped craft down in a small clearing in what his notes said was a forest. Now, what was the name of this place again? Oh yes, that’s right, this existence was known as Hopeless, Maine.


As 2B-loop stepped down from his craft, he made the weird but cute chirping noises his species made when they were happy. He looked around. The edge of the clearing was surrounded by dense vegetation. “No creatures visible,” he noted in his log.

He walked forward into the forest and immediately a nearby piece of vegetation reacted to his presence, lashing out and wrapping itself around his appendage. “Bloof,” he chirped out loud. This was an unarmed fact-finding mission, so without a weapon, 2B-loop resorted to hitting the vegetation with his note taking scanner device. It recoiled and then attacked again. How annoying, thought 2B-loop.

A more thorough thrashing with his device was delivered, and the vegetation backed off, folding in on itself as it did so. Well, that was irritating. Fortunately, the note-taking device was virtually indestructible, so he was able to note down, ‘Aggressive plant life.’ And then he moved more carefully, and quickly through the forest.


After a while, he cleared the edge of the forest and appeared to be on some sort of unnatural route. Hmm. He consulted his device. “Road” it told him. Ah, 2B-loop thought, perhaps I can now get to observe some of the creatures that inhabit this existence. Almost as soon as he had that thought, something came bounding up to him. 2B-loop aimed his note taking scanner at the leaping object.

The device started searching for matches within the data captured from other existences on this planet. No results. He fiddled with the settings. Ah, now he had something, “Dog – skeleton – remains – post living” Well, that’s all very well, thought 2B-loop, but this specimen is very much alive and jumping up at me!

Apparently, according to the data, the correct course of action was a “shoo.” He didn’t know what a shoo was, so he raised his cruethnot and waggled his dangbabbler. That seemed to do the trick as the “dog” ran away. It took 2B-loop a few moments to record some observations about the incident and then he resumed his walk.


He was being careful to keep to the side of the road so he could hide in the woods if anyone should appear, when, jang! A creature rushed headlong out of the woods to his left, catching him completely unawares. Oh no! thought 2B-loop, I’m only supposed to observe – interaction was clearly forbidden. I’ve already failed!

“Well, my you are a curious one” said the strange creature now standing in front of him, with 2B-loop’s notetaker translating. He tried scanning the entity, but it kept saying, ‘unknown, unknown.’

“I wonder where you are from?” Asked the creature, “Not of this world, I think.” There was a commotion in the trees to 2B-loop’s left, and the strange creature was distracted for a few seconds. 2B-loop took that moment to triumphantly engage his diffraction mode, which would make him invisible to all.

“You know I can still see you, right?” said the strange creature. “You’ll have to try harder than that to fool one such as I!” More noise from the trees, much closer this time. “No matter, I shall come and find you. And then we shall have some fun.” There was a strange expression on the creature’s face. Then it ran off, pursued by an angry mob of what the notetaker said categorically, were humans. There were shouts of “Come back Durosimi!” And “You’ve gone too far this time” and “she was my daughter, you demon!” They didn’t seem to notice 2B-loop at all.

2B-loop reflected on the event. Confusing, but it was pleasing that the encounter had ended with the creature suggesting fun. That sounded nice.


2B-loop moved on. This time he didn’t move in a straight line, he wandered around examining this flower, that grass, this shrub, that moving tentacle. It seemed in diffraction mode he was less bothered by aggressive vegetation, so he remained invisible for now. All the while he took copious notes. Pleased that he was recording so much data for his report. 1A-doop was going to be mightily impressed – he knew it. In time, he came across a small house. It seemed to be owned by a small, black, four-legged furry creature. Which was odd, because the proportions were all wrong. The house was way too big for such a small thing.

‘Cat,’ announced his scanner. Although he still had diffraction mode activated, the creature actually seemed to sense him somehow, and they stood regarding one another for quite a while. Then the creature just turned, rolled over and started licking itself in a very relaxed manner. Was that a welcome gesture? 2B-loop thought it must be and tried to emulate the move as closely as possible. The creature stopped and stared at him. Then just walked away. I must have done it wrong somehow, thought 2B-loop, picking himself up off the ground. Or maybe the walking away was part of it? And so, he too, walked away, in the opposite direction. This is so exciting! Out on an alien existence and interacting with the locals! Of course, the fact that he wasn’t really supposed to be interacting made it even more exciting!


Over the course of the next few days, 2B-loop had many encounters with the vegetation, creatures and inhabitants of Hopeless, Maine. Many were aggressive, dangerous even, but some were just interesting, or weird, or… curious. He had collected so much data. So many notes to present to 1A-doop. His scanner device had a finite storage capacity and 2B-loop noted that it was almost full. So, somewhat reluctantly, he headed back to his saucer ship for the trip home.

As he neared the spot where he left it, he realised that the clearing was no longer a clearing. A huge mound of spiky, writhing vegetation had taken over most of it. There was no sign of his ship… although the mound’s shape suggested the ship was at the heart of it. 2B-loop’s normally happy demeanour sank slightly. There was no way to get to his ship. He flopped down where he was. All the air seemed to go out of him as he contemplated his existence.


After a very long time, his tracker beeped at him. A pre-recorded, personal message from 1A-doop. “2B-loop, by now, you may have realised the particular issue with this existence, Hopeless, Maine. We have sent in two researchers in the past and neither came back. It appears to be a feature of the place. Any entity that ends up on the island cannot escape it. It was decided that we would try one more mission. And you were chosen 2B-loop. You had an extremely important quality. You were entirely expendable, especially as you had proven yourself to be entirely useless in every one of the investigators’ specialisms. Of course, should you manage to come back, you will be lauded a hero, the greatest proto-investigator of all time and offered leadership of all investigators and investigations.”

There was an unusual noise then on the recording. 2B-loop realised it must be 1A-doop laughing.

“Good luck 2B-loop. And from all of us here, goodbye. Your sacrifice will hardly be noticed.”

2B-loop deflated further and for a day or so didn’t move at all. Eventually, he moved.

–◊– –◊– –◊–

The Squid and Teapot was mostly frequented by regulars, attracted to its character, if not its food and beverages. It was a place to meet friends and talk about enemies. Of course, those who found themselves freshly shipwrecked would often head for the pub, assuming it was some kind of safe haven, a bastion against the dangers and extreme strangeness of the Island. Whether that be true or not, strangers would occasionally arrive in the bar. Almost always they would walk up to the bar, acknowledge the server, order a drink and then look around. And almost always, their first question would be, “What is that bright pink and yellow blob covering the back table and two chairs?” “That, oh, that’s just 2B-loop. He’s an alien. Now, will you be wanting any food?”


Hopeless Family

Left to right… Tom Brown, Nimue Brown, Keith Errington, James Weaselgrease, Kat Delarus and, Susie Roberts

So here we were, in Susie’s kitchen, singing the new Hopeless, Maine anthem as written for us by Keith Errington. Previously, Keith’s been more involved with us on the book side – having written a Hopeless, Maine novella called The Oddatsea, which is published by Outland in the same volume as New England Gothic. He’s been a frequent contributor here on the blog and has performed with us at events.

Keith has been increasingly involved with The Ominous Folk for some months now, as he’s recording our album and has written us a couple of songs. As this photo indicates, he’s also now singing with us, at least sometimes. He’s very good at the comedy stuff, and has a different selection of musical influences while also being folk-affected, so he adds to our overall sound rather well.

The young human in the foreground is Keith’s daughter, Kat. She’s an incredibly multi-talented person with serious art skills, a fabulous singing voice and considerable word taming skills as well. Rumour has it that she’s also good at acting, so that’s something to explore in the future. We’re currently in the process of working out exactly how everything fits together, but I think it’s safe to say that you will be seeing more of her in assorted Hopeless, Maine projects, and here on the blog.

From the beginning, Hopeless was envisaged as a project people could get involved with. The community aspect of it has always been really important. Sometimes it feels more like a family, and this recording session was definitely one of those moments.


A new piece from Keith Errington!


On the isle of Hopeless, Maine
The weather is always insane
There’s never rhyme nor reason
Pointless is the weathervane
It’s insidious and perplexing
At the very least it’s very vexing
But there’s one peculiar thing
Whether autumn, summer, or spring
A dangerous weirdness does persist
The mist, the mist, the mist.

The Hopeless Maine Scientific Society
(Not known particularly for its propriety)
Has studied the phenomenon
Using tests of great variety
Despite their efforts most fastidious
All they can say is, “Well, it’s insidious”
Their experts are dumbfounded
Astounded and confounded
Even Arkwright the anthropologist
The mist the mist the mist.

It’s a certain kind of fog
That smells of soggy dog
Weird faces lurk within the gloom
Too many to catalogue
There are eyes and things that hum
And things that brush your bum
Dark tendrils reaching out
Taking hair and casting about
Like a demented hairstylist
The mist, the mist, the mist.

It affects your mood and makes you sad
Or melancholic or occasionally glad
But there’s no escaping its devilment
Stay out too long and you’ll go mad
It gets in your hair
And your underwear
Always growing
Always glowing
A cloud with a Lovecraftian twist
The mist, the mist, the mist.

When returning from the Inn
After all the medicinal gin
You’d better watch your step
And make sure that you’re within
For if you are outside
When the mist it does betide
You’d better beware
You’d better take care
Especially if you’re pissed
The mist, the mist, the mist.

How Hopeless changes people

The Aunties are agents of change, tiny Gods of changemaking and mayhem. Perhaps you’ve met them already. If you’ve read Keith Errington’s Oddatsea – published by Outland in the ‘Hopeless, Maine’ volume – you’ll have met The Aunties. You may also have found them here on the blog, in Merry’s story – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/the-aunties/

Often the changes in the world made by Agents of Change are pretty random – at least from the perspective of people seeing the impact. They like a bit of asymmetry, hence the three legged chickens. They like getting in your storage jars and creating surprise flavours, for better or worse.

Most islanders prefer to think of fate as either cruel, or random. Life is considerably more bearable when you don’t have to take it so personally. Terrible things happen all the time for no reason. If you thought there was a reason for it you might go mad trying to find a way of keeping yourself safe. We can say with some confidence that placating the terrible gods of callous indifference gets you nowhere, and tends to make everything that little bit worse.

The Aunties are not distant, powerful beings who care nothing for your irrelevant mortal life. The Aunties are mighty, they believe in justice and they suffer dreadfully from boredom. As a consequence, they may do to you that which they believe you truly deserve. Unfortunately, the logic by which they operate is incomprehensible to the fragile human mind. Why one person grows a tentacle from their elbow, while another sprouts antlers from their head is utterly mysterious. 

The Aunties wish to make it known that they are not responsible for recent outbreaks of vampirism and people getting especially hairy at full moons. They have no idea how donkeys get on roofs, or where all the blood came from the other week. They are not all powerful and it annoys them immensely when people imagine they are *that* sort of gods, and can be expected to Do Things on demand. 

Do not pray to them, for they are not persuaded either by your distress or your ideas about how to fix things. Do not ask what sort of problem they thought you had that they felt could be solved with the sprouting of tentacles, or antlers, or whatever else they may have done to you.

(With thanks to Rostov for the loan of his face. By using his face on this post we are definitely not implying 1) that he’s actually Keith Errington or 2) that he really does have antlers. We’re fairly confident the hat is real.)

Mrs Beaten Creates a Stir

By Keith Errington. Mrs Beaten scribble above by Nimue.

Any casual passer-by describing Mrs Beaten is unlikely to reach for the word passionate.

Words such as stubborn, old-fashioned, maybe even mousey, might come to mind, but passion would be furthest from their thoughts. Of course, those first impressions would be formed in the minds of people who do not know Mrs Beaten well – which is to say almost everybody – as Mrs Beaten keeps herself to herself.  

But Mrs Beaten was passionate – she became fired up about manners, decency, cooking, respectability, neatness, deportment, and a whole range of other subjects that I am sure you will find covered elsewhere in those annals of Hopeless, Maine which include Mrs Beaten.

Then again, Mrs Beaten did not believe in unnecessary displays of emotion. And what’s more, she even considered most emotions to be unnecessary. And even though she experienced emotions from time to time, she usually kept any strong feelings bottled up inside herself. (And if we are to be thinking of words, then the word that springs to mind here, is repression.)

This did not mean that she was indecisive or inactive. On the contrary, she believed in taking action to remedy the faults in her world, whether that action be a sarcastic smile, a loud “tut tut” within earshot, or a stern letter to the Vendetta. Yes, Mrs Beaten was always ready to take rapid, affirmative and proportionate action, in an appropriately dignified manner.

Such actions were almost always planned. Often meticulously. For example, she dedicated a significant number of hours to the task of perfecting her sarcastic smile.

Usually this planning took place in Mrs Beaten’s favourite room – the kitchen. The kitchen was Mrs Beaten’s den, her operations room, her lair. It was here that she did her thinking and her planning, her writing and her recipe making, and of course her preparing of ingredients and her cooking. It was an utterly impressive and respectably large room, whose practicality and unique décor would remain completely unknown to the outside world whilst Mrs Beaten was alive. It seemingly contained every culinary implement, every piece of preparation equipment and every cooking method known to the Western world. Or at least every one that turned up on the Island of Hopeless Maine.

But on this particular day, this repository of appliances, devices, gadgets and utensils was found lacking. Something had caused an intense passion to rise up inside Mrs Beaten, like the steam in her old pressure cooker. It was a situation that would only be relieved by taking action.

Mrs Beaten realised that for what she had in mind, she would need something special, something large, something exactly the right shape, something that was…well…unique. Not something you could buy, even in a well-equipped general store. Someone would have to make the item in question, which, unfortunately, and inevitably, meant engaging with a workman about a delicate matter – not a task that Mrs Beaten relished.

— ◊ —

Shaw Dantry was known not only for his proficient carving ability, but also for his magnificent wood. A carpenter with decent wood was hard to find in Hopeless, Maine. If you looked around the island it wasn’t hard to see why. Hopeless trees were all misshapen, short, twisted, and rarely upright. They were generally full of knots, cracks and galls. And if you did manage to find a straight piece of wood, it would most often be riddled with worm, bugs or burrowers – or worse. So the fact that Dantry seemed to have a stock of good, straight, honest wood was a huge boon that stood him in good stead with his steady stream of customers. On top of that, his carving skills were more than adequate and so he found himself fashioning all sorts of items for people throughout the island.

Mrs Beaten knew she needed something large, long, hard and shaped for purpose. Something that would endure and last. So she paid a visit to Shaw Dantry to judge his wood for herself and to see if he could meet her needs.

Mrs Beaten started by insisting that she needed a discrete and private job, emphasising that no-one must know of it and Dantry should ensure that he was not observed at any point during the making of the item.

There then followed a brief period of misunderstanding – as the carpenter had somehow wrongly assumed the nature of the thing Mrs Beaten required. Mrs Beaten couldn’t for the life of her understand why the wretched man was winking and nudging her – what was wrong with him? She almost left at that point, but following some simple clarification, the woodcarver changed his attitude to one of complete professionalism and a price was agreed.

— ◊ —

As we have discussed many times, Hopeless, Maine is a bleak place; a difficult place to live, an easy place in which to die. Thus, its inhabitants often looked for respite of any kind, no matter how brief. This respite took many forms, music, social interaction, reading, entertainment, art and eradicating the thing, or the person, that was causing you the most stress that day. Art was practised by many islanders, and although there was no denying it was art, most of it was not terribly good art. Perhaps it pleased the person that had made it for a while, but it would not be to everyone’s taste, either thematically or technically. Art competitions were often won by works such as the painting that won the most recent event, “Three Blobs on a Muddy Background”, or the interactive sculpture from last year, “Tentacular Eviscerations”.

Occasionally, what was considered “good art” washed up from a shipwreck and was subsequently hung proudly in someone’s house or, as in the case of one particularly fine painting, in the Squid and Teapot. A few months ago, a quite spectacular item landed on the Southern beach – a magnificent sculpture. To be fair, it was mostly magnificent and spectacular in its size and the shockingly white material it had been carved in. It was really just an average copy of a true masterpiece, but even in a humble copy, the essence of the original shone through.

Nobody knows which mad individual actually managed to get the heavy piece off the shore, over the land and into town. But the fact is, somebody did. Its resting place was a small square off the main street which hitherto had been an unremarkable patch of dirt. The sculpture was generally considered a great asset to civic pride, with most feeling that the town had gained a level of civility it had previously lacked. The sculpture was visited and admired often, with even those passing down the adjacent street in a bit of a hurry, stopping to appreciate its fine lines for a few seconds before resuming their hustle.

But of course, art is very subjective. What one viewer appreciates, another may not. And one particular viewer did not approve. Oh no, not at all.

— ◊ —

Shaw Dantry took pride in both his appearance and his work. And although he was fast and efficient, he was also thorough, and made sure that every requirement was met and that every client was completely satisfied. And indeed, Mrs Beaten was very satisfied with the service that Dantry had provided. As she held it in her hands, stroking it gently, she marvelled at its smoothness, its beauty, its length, its girth and its hardness. It had a lovely feel – quite the biggest and best she had ever handled. She paid the man with an uncharacteristic flourish, and eagerly made her way back to her kitchen to make preparations.

At this point, I am sure you are wondering what it was that she had commissioned from the woodcarver. What was the secret item that had invoked such feelings in Mrs Beaten? Well, you could say it was merely a wooden spoon, but that would be like saying the Titanic was just a boat. It was, quite simply, the most enormous wooden spoon you have probably ever seen. The bowl of the spoon was bigger than any fruit bowl, the handle thicker than that of any broom, and its length was as long as you would ever need in a spoon.

Mrs Beaten rested the monstrous spoon against a wall next to the door and began to assemble ingredients. Within half an hour, she had mixed up some sort of concoction, which bizarrely, was of such a small amount that she could store it in the tiniest container she possessed – a smidgeon of a jar that may once have held the smallest portion of fish paste. There was a genuine dichotomy between the enormous spoon and the miniscule jar. Within that jar was something foul-smelling and exceedingly viscous. Mrs Beaten now waited until the small hours of the morning before putting her plan into action.

— ◊ —

The following day, the sculpture in the square had drawn a substantial crowd. Unusually, Mrs Beaten could be observed on the periphery. Anyone who knew her would realise that this was an Event. Mrs Beaten hated people. She could barely tolerate a single encounter, so a mass of humans was simply be abhorrent to her, and yet, here she was. And was that a faint smile of satisfaction on her face?

The sculpture, which we will now formally introduce as a copy of Michelangelo’s David, had a fresh addition. People were pointing and staring at the statue’s abdomen and groin. For there was a new wooden appendage present, where there had been none the previous day. A spoon. Beautifully carved and proportioned, it was fixed upright with the bowl down. The stem was fixed (glued maybe?) to the middle of the tummy, and the bowl of the spoon was precisely placed to hide that part of David that would have left you in no doubt of the subject’s maleness.

Intelligent opinions in the crowd were divided on whether this improved or devalued the sculpture, and indeed, whether it was “ART”. At the other end of the scale, many of the more philistine onlookers thought it was absolutely hilarious and most entertaining.

— ◊ —

The following week, a civic committee met and decided that the spoon should be removed. However, it turned out that the spoon and its glue were no respecter of the committee’s wishes, and try as they might, the spoon was not budging an inch. And so, it was reluctantly judged to be an official piece of Hopeless, Maine art and left alone.

— ◊ —

And so, for a while, Mrs Beaten was content. As far as she was concerned, the matter was dealt with and the pressure inside her had dissipated.

But then… she noticed the new hat that Mr Peremptory was wearing, and she could feel her pulse rising once again…

The Legend of Two Spoons McGraw

A new story from Keith Errington!

Two Spoons McGraw was a legend on Hopeless, Maine. But, to be honest, being a legend wasn’t difficult on Hopeless, Maine – there were plenty of legends arising from the island, although, to be fair, few of them were told about people who were still alive. McGraw was both alive and famous. He was certainly more famous than Fork Leg Leon, but perhaps less famous than 110 Knives Patricia.

Now, do not think by this, that fame is measured in the amount of cutlery you are associated with; no, these enumerations were entirely coincidental. Fame on Hopeless, Maine, like pretty much anywhere else, was measured in deeds, words and actions (and access to a friendly storyteller like myself, of course.)

At this point, dear reader, I invoke my powerful clairvoyant skills to divine what you are thinking at this precise moment? Why the name Two Spoons McGraw? And what was his legend?

Not long ago, everyone thought that Martin McGraw was a simple fantasist. That he had lost his mind like so many others who dwelt on the Island for any length of time. It was often said that if you hadn’t lost your mind at least a tiny little bit, you were not a true islander. McGraw was convinced he was a cowboy, a rooting, tooting, hat wearing, trick shooting, tobacco chewing, son of a gun. He had managed to find an old hat that he had bashed about and steamed until it mostly resembled a Stetson. McGraw then added two leather belts – one slung across each shoulder, bandito style. The blacksmith had, somewhat reluctantly, fashioned a pair of simple spurs, although they weren’t very good. In fact, they were so bad that only McGraw knew what they were actually supposed to be.

By now, you have probably guessed that McGraw was not toting a pair of ivory handled Smith and Wesson six shooters on his belt. Nope – guns were non-existent on the island, and besides, ordinary powder was ineffective on Hopeless, Maine. Being as mad as a coot, and possessed of a vivid imagination, McGraw toted a pair of ivory handled, ornately decorated spoons. They were as beautiful to look at as they were as ineffective as a weapon – particularly at medium to long range.

So far – just another average citizen of Hopeless, but McGraw’s name became legend one day when a dispute with a neighbour, Captain Coleridge, came to a head. McGraw had challenged Coleridge to a mid-day duel. Like everyone else, Coleridge thought McGraw was mad, but felt like he needed to confront McGraw and sort out the matter. (no one, to this day, can remember quite what the dispute was about). Being an ex-military man, Coleridge had fashioned a bow and arrow, which he brought with him in case McGraw proved dangerous – after all, Coleridge knew from experience, being mad often went hand-in-hand with being dangerous.


Noon, the main street of town.

At one end, Captain Coleridge, 58, experienced soldier, seen too many wars and armed with flint-tipped arrows and a powerful bow.

At the other, McGraw, 32, deluded fantasist, believing himself a gunslinger, armed with the finest Sheffield could offer in the way of harmless cutlery.

Lillywhite Lanbury had been chosen as the signaller. It had been agreed that she would drop her handkerchief and at the moment it hit the ground, that would be the sign to draw.

Lillywhite, true to her name, was a lady pale of complexion, and delicate of figure. She took excessive care of herself, which, given her apparent frailty, was probably wise. She wore the finest silks and the most beautiful dresses. Her handkerchief, for example, was made of the finest gossamer thin silk, and weighed almost nothing.

And it was this one fact that would prove to be a significant factor in how the following scene played out.

At the stroke of noon, Lillywhite Lanbury held her hand up and let the handkerchief slip through her fingers.

The slightest of winds, funnelled down an alleyway between the buildings on the street, wafted across and lightly caught the handkerchief. It floated motionless for a moment, as if to tease the two combatants, and then, capriciously, it carried the square of white silk upwards in a slow spiral.

The reaction of the two men at either ends of the street could not have been more different. McGraw simply stayed motionless, his feet slightly apart, his hands hovering above his twin holsters, fingers mere millimetres from his spoons. Coleridge, on the other hand, who was already sweaty from his quick walk to the place, was now obviously agitated and had started to twitch. A military expletive issued from his lips as he watched the handkerchief dancing in the breeze.

As this was happening, a slight fog drifted across the town. This was perhaps the most normal event of the day. Hopeless, Maine was perpetually foggy, although admittedly less so in the town. Onlookers – of which there were many – could still see the duellists, but everything had that slightly blurry edge to it, typical of a mildly foggy day.

The eyes of McGraw and Coleridge were still fixated on the handkerchief, which was still several inches above the dirt of the street, but nevertheless, seemingly now travelling, but oh so slowly, downwards.

McGraw was as passive as before. He was born for this. Living by the code of the cowboy, by the might of the spoon, that was his calling.

Coleridge, on the other hand, was visibly shaking. His face had reddened, and his forehead was clearly traced with a couple of bulging veins. He had raised his bow, but his left arm was twitching, and he was struggling to hold it steady.

The handkerchief, in cahoots with the breeze, took one more opportunity to tease. It looped upwards and then down.

As the silken square was looping, Coleridge shouted something in total exasperation, which sounded like, “For Drury’s Sake”.

Silk touched dirt.

There was an instant flash of silver as twin spoons were drawn in the blink of an eye, then a twinkling as they were spun and holstered.

At the other end of the street, his face twisted in agony, Coleridge clutched his upper chest and went down.


Now the rule in most parts of the world is that you look for a rational explanation for events first, and then, and only then, when all logical possibilities have been exhausted do you imagine some other force at work, some magic, some mystical power, some influence. Only then does superstition take hold.

I suspect you can guess what I am going to say here. Superstition was the first port of call for any unexplained event on Hopeless, Maine. What the onlookers to the showdown had seen, clearly, despite the slight fog, was Two Spoons McGraw (as he had instantly been named) draw his spoons and Coleridge go down. There was a clear corelation between the two events. Captain Coleridge had died at the hands of Two Spoons McGraw and his deadly spoonfighting skills. He was truly a spoonslinging legend.


It so happened that Doc Willoughby was passing, and although in a desperate hurry to be somewhere else, as he often was,he nevertheless agreed to look at the body. The crowd described to him what had happened. Surely it was McGraw’s silver spoons that had killed him?

The Doc looked at the eager crowd around him, then down at the obvious heart attack victim, then back at the expectant crowd. Realising it would take at least an hour of explanation to deal with this, he sighed and said in his best Western accent, “Yep, reckon those spoons of McGraw’s are right lethal – I’d be about givin’ him a lot more respect from now on if I was you”. And he got up and wearily pushed his way back out, through the crowd, as quickly as possible.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Legend of Two Spoons McGraw was born.

A little Hopeless Listening

Recently, Steven C. Davis put together a podcast of music that, for him, evokes the island of Hopeless Maine. We listened in when the show went out live and were delighted by the eclectic mix of material and the number of bands and songs we already knew and liked. Some of whom had written Hopeless Maine songs. There were also some excellent new-to-us moments.

For further delight and delectation, Keith Errington is also in the mix reading some of his highly entertaining Hopeless Maine material.

It gave us a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

We’ll be going to Steve’s real-world event in May, which we are decidedly excited about. This is a man who clearly gets the island, and with whom we are clearly going to be able to do some really interesting things.

The podcast is on mixcloud, and embedded below.