Jerome's brother Ivan was going to be released from the bin; some sort of celebration was called for. None of his mates had any experience with this kind of stuff, but all of them were convinced it would be The Thing To Do.
The Mandrake is rumoured to kill whoever attempts to separate it from the soil, and the trick is to pull it out by tying it to the tail of a black dog. Everyone knows this. Except Toby. So he was chosen to perform that part.
They prepared to climb the Botanic Gardens fence some time after midnight. Roland insisted on wearing his usual white robes and was persuaded, protesting savagely, into something less conspicuous. Jerome deigned to leave his hat at home, and off they went.
Mission completed, the boys returned. The purloined root was cooked in a largely authorized manner, and the brew was quaffed with suitable ceremony. At some point during the soirée, someone found it appropriate to tell Toby about the black dog.
Thus it happened that in the early morning, a stark naked man was seen galloping down Great King's Street, yelling at the top of his voice, "This is the punishment! The curse is upon me!"
Superstition is the true scourge of the masses.
Editors note: Please see: Mandrake, plant
Jane Røken says: "This incident took place in Copenhagen about forty years ago. Jerome told me one sunny afternoon outside Toker's Tavern, and I said to him, "some day I'm going to write a story about this." – "Yeah, that's fine," he said, "but don't forget to mention my name." So I have camouflaged the names of the other guys but not Jerome's.
"And don't worry about Toby. He was all right again the next day."
Jane Røken lives in Denmark. She believes in coloured lanterns, angels, old tractors, and stuff that will transmogrify into something else.
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