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Feather's Miscellany: Fisty Falshaw And The Werewolf

...Then he heard it! A long mournful howl which chilled him to the core. He stopped and listened intently. Then it came again, this time closer, and Fisty felt his heart beat faster. “A werewolf!” he whispered to himself, and quickened his pace...

John Waddington-Feather tells a tale set on those bleak Yorkshire moors.

Fisty Falshaw lived up to his reputation all right. In his youth he’d been a well known boxer in Keighworth, but he went to seed later on in life and took to the booze. When he’d had too much to drink he started brawling and became quite unpopular in the town.

He was of medium height, stocky and had the pugilist’s broken nose.and cabbage ears. He’d a thick neck and close-cropped hair and looked every inch a bruiser. On his forearm arm he had a skull and cross-bone tattoo, and “Death” on the knuckles of his right hand. On his left was the word “Glory”.

He wasn’t what you’d call a skilful boxer, no Henry Cooper or Cassius Clay. Once he’d climbed into the ring and the fight had started, he’d put his bullet head down and pound away at his opponent like mad till he’d floored him, soaking up everything his opponent threw at him in the process. At the end of his career, he was as punch-drunk as they come.

He never married but lived with an older woman, Mary White, who tolerated him and quietly kept him under her thumb in the way that women can. She was a reclusive women who rarely went into Keighworth but stayed in a remote cottage on the moorland above the town; a bleak spot at the best of times. She rented the cottage from her brother who farmed the nearby smallholding and supplied her with her groceries when she visited him each day.

The other times she went out, she went walking by herself on the moors, which for much of the time were dark, gloomy places, hostile and full of foreboding in bad weather; and bad weather was common on the Pennines. However, when the sun did shine they were transformed. They became alive with colour as the heather came into bloom and bees in their thousands plundered its pollen. Bee-keepers brought their hives from miles around at that time before taking them back in late autumn.

But this story begins at the end of one winter and is about the time that Fisty thought a werewolf was after him. He was hooked on horror stories and films. Tales of the supernatural and death were the only fiction he read; and I suppose it was quite apt. You see, he was a grave-digger employed by the Keighworth council in the civic graveyard at Utworth.

When he got home at night he lapped up the tales of Edgar Alan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and the rest of the horror-writers. And whenever a horror film was screened at any of the cinemas in Keighworth, he was there like a flash. So obsessed was he with horror stories and films that fiction one day became reality as he made his way home from the cinema after seeing a film about a werewolf set in the Gothic outback of Transylvania.

It was a murky night with mist rolling across the moors down into the valley below. Throughout the film Fisty had sat transfixed with horror, chewing his gum like mad as the villain turned into a werewolf and sent chilling howls ringing through the cinema when he pursued his fleeing victims. Fisty was still very much into the film as he walked home to his cottage on the moors.

All went well while he was still in the town surrounded by light and the noise of people hurrying home from the cinema; but the moment he left the cosy streets and terraces of Keighworth for the moorland road, he was into a different world – a world of mystery and imagination.

As he turned off the tarmaced road on to the track which led to his cottage, the moorland mist had well and truly come down and he started to shiver. Then he heard it! A long mournful howl which chilled him to the core. He stopped and listened intently. Then it came again, this time closer, and Fisty felt his heart beat faster. “A werewolf!” he whispered to himself, and quickened his pace.

By the time he reached his cottage he was running scared while behind him in the dense mist came the unmistakable patter of animal feet and the ominous clanging of a chain drawing closer and closer. By the time he reached his door he was almost out of his mind and banged furiously on it for Mary had locked it. “For God’s sake open the door, Mary!” he screamed. “There’s a werewolf after me!”

There was a rattling of bolts as Mary slowly opened the door and peered out. By this time Fisty was pinned against the wall by a huge Alsation dog, snarling and baring its teeth; but when Mary saw it she called it off and began laughing as the brute strolled towards her wagging its tail and licked her hand.

“Werewolf!” she laughed, almost unable to speak. “He’s Sammy, my brother’s yard-dog.” Then she went on to explain that her brother had bought it after a spate of farm-house robberies. Chained in the yard Sammy would have deterred any would-be thief long before he reached the house. But somehow his chain had snapped and he’d wandered onto the moors behind the farm-house as the mist came down. He’d heard Fisty walking up the lane and took off after him in pursuit.

Mary locked the dog in the out-house after giving him a drink and some biscuits; and the next day she took him back to her brother, relishing telling him about Fisty and how scared he was thinking Sammy was a werewolf.

When the tale got round the town Fisty never lived it down. Nor did he ever again watch a horror film at night, but made sure after he’d seen it he could get home in daylight.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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