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The Pheasants` Revolt

by mackernally 

Posted: 01 October 2015
Word Count: 2044
Summary: The Pheasants Kidnap the Hunters

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Later on that evening, there is an emergency meeting of the Pheasant Elders’ Council (PEC). 
“Phil, can we we have a word in your ear?”
“Sure, Peyton, shoot!”
“I do wish you wouldn’t joke like that, Phil. Sends shivers up me spine!”
“Sorry, Peyton, fire away. Hahahaha!”
“You will have your little jokes, Phil. Anyways, we in the PEC have made a decision concerning the older members of our community and it is not open to discussion and here’s what we decided,” he says, pausing for dramatic effect.
“You young ones must go and leave this place. Make a life for yourselves somewhere else; out west, maybe, on the shores of the wild Atlantic way. We’ll be grand here. We’re no use to them any more so they won’t trouble us. Go on, now. Get going. You owe it to your families.”
“But if you are no use to them, Peyton, they won’t feed you any more and you’ll starve,” I reason.
“Don’t you worry about that, Phil! Don’t worry about that one little bit! If there's one thing us older ones know about and that’s planning and saving. We knew this day would come, so over the past few years we’ve been stocking up on food. And with the Crystal Stream we’ll never be short of water or medicine. And if they start annoying us, we'll report them to the RSPCA, so we will; and the Put Down That Gun, Sunshine! Association won’t be too happy with them, either; and The International Take Your Finger Off The Trigger Alliance will be down on them quicker than they can say ‘reload’!”
I know it makes sense.
“Alright. It will take us a few weeks until all the injured get better; I’ll put your suggestion to them and see what they decide; if we decide to go, you must hold onto the 3-D printer; you know, just in case any of you gets arthritis or varicose veins or needs new joints, or whatever. OK? And we'll send for you as soon as we’re settled in. I promise you that. If you agree to those conditions then I don’t see a problem.”
After much discussion everyone agrees because as plans go, it was a good plan. Well, it was the only plan. They were so delighted with their plan they gave each other high feathers all round.
“But none of this is going to happen unless our other plan can be carried out”, I tell Peyton.

The Other Plan

“Hello? That you Boris?”
“Of course it's me. Didn’t you dial my number? Who do you think it is? Loofabob Roundshorts or whatever he calls himself these days?”
“Fair question, Boris,” I say, “fair question. Tell me, are we still on for this evening? You know - our little arrangement?”
“Of course we’re on. Boris is a man of his word!”
“Sorry, Boris. I wasn’t suggesting . . . ”
“Oh, don’t worry about it; now cut the small talk and tell me why you’re interrupting a perfectly good evening. I’m reading Watership Down, you know. Very sad, you know, very sad. Poor Hazel.”
This puzzled me a great deal and I will explain why later.
“OK, it’s like this, Boris: we need you to dig a very deep hole; a very deep and very wide hole. In fact, it’s like an underground room.”
“And may I ask why so big?”
“Because, Boris, we want to . . . hide . . . eh . . . someone. Something.”
“Eh, Boris?”
“Plans! I need plans! And planning permission, of course! You can’t just start digging without a plan, you know! I mean have you ever seen those moles? Although, technically speaking, they’re not really digging are they? Well, they are, in a sense. I mean they’re digging upwards. And as far I know, there’s no law against that, is there? At least if there is I-”
“I’ll bring them over right away, Boris.”

The Special Room

“This is an awfully big room, Phil. What are you putting in it?”
“We’re having some guests, Boris. Just for a while. Until we clear off. I mean until they clear off.”
“Haven’t the mistiest idea what you’re talking about, I'm sure. Now, show me the planning permission.”
I was expecting this, so I hand him a sheet of paper. He begins to read.
“To whom it may concern . . .blah blah blah . . . permission to dig a big, ginormous hole . . . .blah blah blah . . . is given to Mr Boris Badger Esquire. 
Signed: The Person in Charge of Permission to Dig Big Holes.”
Of course, the piece of paper says nothing of the kind. And he’s holding it upside down. Boris looks at me, left eyebrow raised.
“Hmmm . . . hmmm . . . Well, young man, everything seems to be in order. When do you need it?”
The truth is that Boris never learned to read and he spends a lot of his time pretending he can. But he loves audiobooks. That must be how he knows about Hazel.
“Tomorrow night.”
“What! Impossible! Absolutely impossible!”
“Oh, Boris, please don’t say that. It must be done by then or our plan fails. I mean we could all die!”
But Boris is sett in his ways.
“Not a chance, Phil. Not on my own. Do you realise how much digging this will take? I’m not a young man any more, you know. And they’re talking about culling us again. Lost all me family in the last one. They’re blaming us on spreading diseases. The same people who are wiping out all the honey bees and song birds. And they’re blaming us! Have they no shame?”

Phil Needs Help

“So, what are we going to do, Phil?” says Gloria to me, that same evening.
“I don’t know; I just don’t know. He is rather old and it is a lot of work for one badger. It’s an awful pity that-”
“Badger, did you say? Did you say badger?” says Marty.
“Yes. Why?”
“Well, as chance would have it, I happened to be passing by the Castle this evening, just having the old after dinner walk, you know. I find I sleep better and I don’t have any of the nasty night-”. 
“Oh, for goodness sake Marty, get to the point!” hisses Jim.
“Keep your feathers, on Jim. Haha. All in good time, I say, all in good time. Now where was I? Oh yes, there was a sign in the lobby,

‘Annual Badger Convention
Agenda: Give the Cull the Chop
Meeting Today 8pm
in the Wine Cellar
Dress Casual’
it read.”
“Marty, you're a genius! Do you hear me? You're a genius!” I say, handing him a bowl of Spanish, November strawberries.

And so it is that we have our room ready in time for our . . . eh . . . guests. All it costs us is a couple of dozen mangos and a bag of sweet potatoes.


The Incident at the Back Gate

It’s midnight. The van rolls up to the back gate. 
“Alright,” says Frank, “here they come. Now, remember the plan.”
The driver gets out of the people carrier and approaches the gates. Marty approaches him.
“Excuse me, me good man; by any chance would you have the time? I have a very important appointment and I don’t want to be late?”
“Eh? Who . . .who’s that?”
“Me! Over here! Under the sign 
“I don’t see any-”
Before he can finish, Frank, Jim, Johnny and a few others have slipped a sack over his head. At the same time, I open the trap door and we lead him down the steps into the room that Boris and his friends dug for us, just off the driveway.
On hearing the scuffle, the others get out of the van. Immediately, Peyton hops in on the driver’s side and turns off the headlights. In the complete darkness we place sacks over their heads, too, and soon they are all in the bunker. We put them sitting on chairs and tie their feet. Then we take the sacks off their heads. The underground room is square and is lit with eight large candles fixed to the wall, two on each side. There are several beds with mattresses, sheets and blankets. 
Boris has done a very good job.
“How dare you, you-”.
“A thousand apologies, gentle- oh, goodness. I’m so sorry, we weren’t expecting you Rita! Please forgive us!”, I gasp.
“I was just getting a lift home with these nice gentlemen,” she says and begins to cry. Rita is the head chef in the castle.
“Don’t cry, Rita. We’re not going to harm you. Not a bit of it. In fact, we’re not going to harm any of you. Far from it! We just need to borrow your van for a couple of days.”
The other gentlemen are Nick Browning, Paul Remington,  Wardy and the driver, Lee Enfield. With the exception of Wardy, and perhaps the driver, the others have dispatched thousands of us to various dinner plates all over the thirty-two counties during their hunting lives. 
“Gentlemen,” I begin, “a few words before we take our leave. You see in the corner a fridge. This fridge is filled with sufficient food and drink for a week. However, if you remain quiet, someone will come along later on tonight and unlock the trap door. We are not heartless folk. Your beds are made up. There are copies of Horse and Hound on your bedside lockers and the TV is tuned in to The Hunting Channel.
“You see, we are showing you much more mercy than you have ever shown us.” The gentlemen are very relieved when they hear this. 
“But just before we take our leave, Red is going to collect your mobile phones if you will be so kind as to indicate where you keep them.”
For the first time they notice Rollo Squirrel, or Red as he’s known to his friends. He’s on his hind legs and is busily shelling hazelnuts with his forepaws.
“And what is it with you fine people that your first reaction on seeing a beautiful bird is to shoot it? I mean, what sort of a world would we have if we all went round shooting each other?”, says Frank.
The men are all looking at the floor.
“And, by the way, Rita, we’ll drop you home shortly.”
“Thank you, Phil, very kind of you.”
“And Wardy, I don’t know whether during all these years you mean to miss us when you shoot but thank you anyway. You’re a top man, Wardy; you always gave us a sporting chance. I think the closest you ever came to nailing one of us was three years ago when you grazed Edward Elliot. He’s picking pellets out his bum ever since. When we’re safely settled in our new home in the west, we’ll let you know where we are so that you can come and visit us.”
“Yes, I’d like that very much Phil. Thank you.”
The others glare at him.
“Just one thing, Wardy. You can bring your gun if you wish but we insist you leave your golf clubs at home.”
“Not a problem Phil I assure you.”
“So, off we go then.”
“Wait, Phil,” says Paul Remington, “how are to eat or sleep if we’re tied up here?”
 “Don’t worry. We told Red to give us an hour’s start and then he’ll begin gnawing your leather bindings.”
They look at Red who is now lying on his back with his front paws folded across his tummy, swollen with hazel nuts. He raises his right hand and gives them the thumbs up. 
“But don’t try and get out because you can’t! Someone will be here towards dawn to remove the tons of earth from over the trapdoor and unlock it.” 
That ‘someone’ was Boris but I certainly wasn’t going to tell them that because he’s the very one who is going to put the tons of earth on top of it.
“And now, gentlemen, we will take our leave,” I say.
“All yours, Boris,” I whisper, locking the trapdoor.

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Comments by other Members

andinadia at 09:39 on 02 October 2015  Report this post
Sean, this is a brilliant title in itself. If this story goes the distance, this title could be the title of the book itself.

The characters and dialogue are as funny as ever.

I've slighlty lost the plot. Where in the story does this passage come? Reading it by itself, it could be either from near the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or near the end!

Is the PEC meeting the core of the plot? I don't see why it couldn't be, but it seems to be presented here almost like a synopsis whereas it could provide material for a large part of the book - eg how the different points of view of the elders and the Generation X pheasants begin to diverge, showing us how different generations react to oppression, who comes up with solutions, how solutions are debated and challenged, who agrees and disagrees, splits in the ranks etc etc.

In the 'Incident at the Back Gate' scene, there's a real problem for me. I'm Ok with having humans and animals altogether, and speaking to each other. I'm pretty OK with pheasants using advanced technology like 3D printers. But I'm not Ok with pheasants kidnapping humans like this, mainly because if the pheasants have the power to do something like this it undermines the whole premise of the story and the theme ... which is about cruel authoritarian humans having fun shooting at wildlife. Having the pheasants scoring a major victory over the humans should really depend on their more 'animal qualities' I think.

But I am enjoying this!

Detailed comments:
“But none of this is going to happen unless our other plan can be carried out”, I tell Peyton.
I didn't get this - it sounds here as if Phil knew the whole plan already, although he's only just been told of the migration part, by Peyton.

I suggest deleting: 'Of course, the piece of paper says nothing of the kind. And'
And they’re talking about culling us again. Lost all me family in the last one.
I think the above is an example of the fine line this story needs to walk... the story seems to be a black comedy with a background of blood sports. The culling of badgers is different from sport of course, but the fact of mass killing in watever form has to be managed very carefully in order to let the humour and zaniness of the story work. That's my take.

Pen and Ink at 18:25 on 02 October 2015  Report this post
Hello Sean, I haven't read any of your work before, so it's good to have a look at something completely different. And there's lovelyhumour here. I have to confess to being a bit confused by it all though (and this may be because I haven't read the first part of your story, so apologies and I probably need to go back and catch up). I think my confusion lies with the amount of dialogue - I have to concentrate really hard to know who is speaking to who, even though you carefully include names. It's just a bit too much like hard work to follow.

I like the comic moments though and there appear to be some interesting characters here, but in my opinion, there needs to be more driving forward of the story/plot, more emphasis on location etc in-between the bits of dialogue. At the moment it feels a bit like a script for a play.

I can't get my head round the fact that the pheasants seem okay with being shot at and have no intention of hurting the humans in return, even though they've successfully kidnapped them. I wonder if it would actually work better if the pheasants didn't engage in conversation with the humans (and if they didn't name them). Or if the humans came over as truly bad (like the farmer and his wife in Chicken Run). Or maybe if they just stole their car without resorting to the kidnapping. Anyway, just thoughts. :) 

"They were so delighted with their plan they gave each other high feathers all round." Loved the idea of 'high feathers'! 

Have you thought which age group you are aiming this story at? It doesn't strike me as something for children at the moment. Possibly teenagers/adults? It's quirky and fun though.

mackernally at 10:29 on 03 October 2015  Report this post
First and foremost, Andy, thank you for giving so generously of your time in reading and critiquing.
I have probably confused people by not posting the excerpts of the story in sequence. The kidnapping takes place just before the pheasants take to the road for their new home out west.
I agree with you regarding the small consideration given to the major decision by the older ones that the younger ones should escape. Great possibility for dialogue there.
Also, you are quite correct in pointing out that the pheasants wouldn't have the physical prowess to carry out the abduction of four grown men. So, there needs to be a more sublte way of getting them into the bunker. They will have to be lured there under some pretext or other, maybe by a series of road signs; maybe a tape recording of guns firing which causes the group to believe they're under attack and Phil guiding them to shelter, "quick lads, you'll be safe down here".
And you are also correct about the sentence "but none of this is going to happen," etc.
The building of the bunker should, of course, be a consequence of the elders' decision.
I am so glad you're enjoying it, and thanks, once again. 

mackernally at 10:43 on 03 October 2015  Report this post
Thank you, Julia, for your comments which, like Andy's, give me plenty of food for thought.
The current excerpt makes more sense in the context of previous excertps posted. Even then, I have slightly confused people by not posting the sections in chrolonogical order as they appear in the story. My mistake was to post what I considered the strongest piece first in order to elicit a response.
As for the hunter's names, I indulged myself there by giving them names of famous guns - Lee Enfield, Remington, etc. Just a sort of in-joke for any gun lovers who may be reading.
It's perhaps a weakness in my writing that I seem to drive the plot forward but only as far as my next distraction. I love exploring the side roads. The trick, of course, is to maintain the reader's interest.
Your 'play' suggestion appeals to me immensely. I can see all these giant pheasant costumes on stage and I must say it would be very colourful. I can see them relaxing in the evenings with their coats hanging up and they sitting around or cooking dinner in their pheasant equivalent of long johns discussing the day's events!
As for the pheasants not taking revenge, well, the point I'm making is that animals, unlike humans, never kill just for the fun of it.
Thank you, once again, for taking the time. 

mackernally at 10:46 on 03 October 2015  Report this post
Julia, regarding your question about what age group I'm aiming at, I must confess I don't know. I'll finish writing it and see what I have. Then, perhaps, conclude that a total rewrite is the only solution with a specific age group in mind. 

Tresbita at 17:41 on 03 October 2015  Report this post
I found it a bit confusing. Could you post it all in order so we could get a feel for the direction of the plot. 

I mi thought they needed to argue about whether the young pheasants should leave the older ones behind needed more discussion, it was all agreed too easily I felt.  If they are a close community they wouldn't do that. Unless they were pushed into it by some urgent action. 

Agree that hat the interaction with the humans needs some thought. If they have been murdering the pheasants for years they would feel very strongly about them. Maybe read some biographical accounts from those who have survived war and concentration camps to see what their philisophy is. 

a.m.edge at 13:53 on 05 October 2015  Report this post
Enjoyed this and wondered whether it would work better as a script - even looked at Aardman studios to see what their policy is on unsolicited manuscripts (no, they don't take them - you have to get an agent) as it seems to function on many different levels. It's not really aimed at children but I can see it as an animated U film for family viewing.
I had an issue with the pheasants managing to overcome the humans in the van - they need to use their cunning to trap them rather than strength. The tone is very light-hearted, which is fine, but I was thinking of Dahl's The Magic Finger when a whole family get turned into ducks and then the ducks grow human-sized and move into their house. Kids feel very strongly about injustice to animals and would take a pheasant-shoot seriously. 

mackernally at 12:36 on 06 October 2015  Report this post
Hi Trestiba and thank you for your observations. Yes, the decision to move home needs to be fleshed out more and the pheasants need a subtler way of enticing the hunters into the bunker. Work in progress.
As for the pheasants grievances, they rise above notions of revenge, etc. proving themselves to be of higher moral worth than some humans. I know many survivors of torture and camps have forgiven their captors.
I would be willing to post the whole thing but it's quite long and is it ok to post such a lengthy story?
Thanks, again.

mackernally at 12:43 on 06 October 2015  Report this post
Yes, AM, several people have pointed out the weakness in the bunker story, i.e. how Phil & Co. could manage it and I shall rewrite that section.
You've hit the nail on the head with the main problem in getting published, i.e. how to find an agent. I suggest it would be easier to find a virgin in a harem. If you have any idea as to how to make contact with one of these rare, exotic creatures, I'd be most grateful.
And thank you for your words of encouragement. They mean so much.

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