a magpie tale: the events surrounding a coronation

 Magpie walking stick 

In the seconds before the hand grasps the stick it is still the most prized antique in his collection.  In repose against the wall near the northeast corner of the room, the walking stick looks as if it stands there in waiting, as it once did for King Edward VII, who would take it up and amble his way down for his evening brandy and smoke.

When the hand wraps around it though, red fingernails alight against the gleaming black shaft, all essence of the thing somehow drifts off it and diminishes into the air with the energy of the whoosh as the stick arcs high and back, then forward through the window and over the balcony.  As if moving in slow motion for a prized camera shot, the stick flies end over end toward the earth.

In the alley below, the stick hits the ground and tosses and hits the ground again, finally falling over and rolling to a less than regal journey’s end in front of a man lying under an old sleeping bag.  The man lay looking at the thing, registering the event that had awakened him with the first clattering fall.  In silence the man reaches out and draws the walking stick under his filthy bedding and feigns sleep.

Not long after there is a pair of impeccably polished shoes wandering the area near him, shifting boxes and garbage; no doubt attached to a person looking for the prize held by the man under the heap of green blanket.  The feet come close to the heap, and pause before turning away and taking an angry kick at a garbage can; from which a startled rat scurries out into the street.

A driver, shocked by the unlikely sight of the rat, jams her car’s brakes and amidst the squealing and nearby shouting of pedestrians diving for cover, she raises her arms in front of her face just as her car drives through a flower shop window. An alarm pierces the neighbourhood with its repetitive wail, as people run about reacting to the crash.

In the small apartment a flight above the store and new chaos, a man is awakened from the first sleep he has managed after nights and nights of insomnia.  Distressed, he picks up the phone, dials, and screams “NO” to the unsuspecting recipient on the other end

The receiver of the call, a pharmacist in the store at the other end of the block, suddenly vomits from the shock of the assault in her ear which somehow provoked a forceful wave of what she is yet to know is morning sickness.

A group of teenagers who had been lurking about in the store waiting for the opportunity to steal an  afternoon’s supply of chocolate tumble out of the store and into the street laughing and having a royal good time over the unexpected entertainment provided by the lady retching all over a shelf of grape flavoured cough syrup.  One kid is laughing so hard he stumbles off the curb and trips into the path of the number 67 bus.

In the ensuing scramble and shouting and cell phone calling of 911, a dog and its leash become separated from its owner and bolts into the alleyway at the north east end of the street.  The dog bounds over the heap of old green sleeping bag and the person beneath it rises with the conviction that he will not find rest in this spot today. 

He picks up his things, most of which are stuffed into a torn plastic shopping bag, and which now include a banged up walking stick with a dented silver sleeve.  He ambles with the walking stick, as perhaps did a king, over to the park.

As he approaches some mates, one of them chuckles: “who do you think you are, the king of Spain?”  “Nah,” he croaks, “I’m the king of Cabbagetown.”

This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt.  Visit Magpie Tales to find other fine poets and writers responding to the same prompt.  Give it a try – creative play is good for you!


  1. Reply
    brian miller April 27, 2010

    wicked cool magpie…love how you captured the series of unfortunate events as they fell like dominos…all hail the king. smiles.

  2. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    He he! Thanks Brian. The imagination runneth free.

  3. Reply
    willow April 27, 2010

    Delightful chain of events. They happened in slow motion in my mind. Loved this, Jennifer!

  4. Reply
    steviewren April 27, 2010

    The mayhem incurred by the tossing of the cane was fun and unexpected….a day in the life of type of story. Loved your creativity!

  5. Reply
    Lyn April 27, 2010

    Talk about having a life of its own! You did weave a great tale!!

  6. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    They happened slow motion in my imagination too! Thanks Willow.

  7. Reply
    Catalyst April 27, 2010

    Wonderful saga, Jennifer! Great imagination tied to the Magpie prompt.

  8. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Phew – was hoping it would be fun! Thanks Stevie.

  9. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Thanks Lyn – it was my imagination left to its own devices.

  10. Reply
    Mike April 27, 2010

    Cool story Jen, would you believe a song comes to mind … “I Would Not Be Here”:

  11. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Hey thanks Cat!

  12. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Thanks Mike – and no I would not believe it! 🙂 Will check out tonight.

  13. Reply
    Peter Goulding April 27, 2010

    A quite wonderful chain of events and very well written. I’m delighted that the King of Cabbagetown got to retain the prized antique (at one point I thought he was going to be run over by the car) Great fun!

  14. Reply
    joanny April 27, 2010

    Wicked is right — what a wild ride you took your readers on — better then the 10:00 news — a cacophany of characters and events.. A fascinating imagination you have there. I suppose I should not admit this — but it made me laugh. I think like the ‘far side’ and this was a far sided type of writing, Well done..

  15. Reply
    Tumblewords April 27, 2010

    Sometimes the last king is the best king. Love this tale and the way it’s spun.

  16. Reply
    rel April 27, 2010

    I love the way you let the story write itself after a little shove from your imagination. That’s how great stories come about; the writer just acts as a recorder and lets the story write itself.
    This tale points out how simple acts can stimulate an unforeseen array of mishaps.
    you’re a gem and your story rocks!

  17. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Thanks Pete. I envisioned him keeping the prized antique from the onset Pete. The only planned thing in the story!

  18. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Thanks Joanny! I’m glad it mad you laugh – was hoping it would be at least a little funny!

  19. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Agreed. And thanks!

  20. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    Aw, thanks Rel. And I agree with the concept of letting the story tell itself. I’m always working on writing the first draft that way – hard for most of us!

  21. Reply
    ~T~ April 27, 2010

    I love the connections, so well described. The new king seems a worthy recipient of the treasure!

  22. Reply
    Jennifer April 27, 2010

    I liked the idea of an unlikely keeper of the treasure. Thanks for stopping by ~T~!

  23. Reply
    Little hat April 28, 2010

    I loved this once the scene was set. The way it tumbled from event to event was seamless and surprising. A great device and made me think that letting the ideas flow uninterrupted is a great way to write – though I’m sure this was not done without thought and an edit. cheers.

  24. Reply
    Jennifer April 28, 2010

    Thanks! And you’re right Steve, it’s a great device for practicing the development of action and plot. There was very little thought (pretty much pure free-write) about the actions, and then, of course, some editing/crafting.

  25. Reply
    sheri April 28, 2010

    oh jennifer, i’m had a marvelous time visiting you today! your magpie was excellent, the sequence of events was very cool to follow.

  26. Reply
    Jennifer April 28, 2010

    Aw thanks Sheri! Much appreciated.

  27. Reply
    LisaB April 29, 2010

    butterfly affect. sometimes that is how I feel in the morning…I drop one thing…then a series of truly unfortunatel events conspiring against me to make me late!
    🙂 Thanks for stopping by my place!

  28. Reply
    Jennifer April 29, 2010

    Ah yes, happens all to often Lisa!

  29. Reply
    Selma April 29, 2010

    And as I always say to my friend who has a cane: ‘Watch where you put that thing.’ A wonderful unfolding of events. I liked the noir feel to it.

  30. Reply
    Jennifer April 30, 2010

    Haha, remind me of Pete’s (Stammering Poet) magpie post for this. Thanks Selma.

  31. Reply
    She Writes May 1, 2010

    Wow, there were so many place4s you could have taken this story and the characters you introduced. I liked what you did here.

  32. Reply
    Jennifer May 2, 2010

    Thanks! A fun exercise in action writing!

  33. Reply
    Tristan Benette September 9, 2011

    I like how you focused on the little details – things people fail to see in real life. You’ve done a pretty good job of using defamiliarization as a technique. And the way you described the walking stick… it’s as if I was looking at a description of a man!

  34. Reply
    Jennifer September 9, 2011

    Thank you Tristan. As I recall, it was fun writing!

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