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A Midsummer Night's Scream - Poem by Margaret Kollmer

A Lawn Bowler's Nightmare

I sank back into the soft puffiness of my pillows and luxuriated in the warmth of my electric blanket, one eye half watching something rather steamy on cable TV and the other battling with yet another tiresome episode of what is commonly known to the over-fifities as 'eyelid droop.' I was barely concentrating on what was going on. It'd been a hard day, what with a grief encounter with the taxman and another of a similar kind, in the afternoon, with Denis, my bowls coach of a mere two weeks.

I had been at the bowling green with him under some duress. I didn't really want to learn to play bowls. I just wanted to pick up the darned things and hurl them. MY way.

There was very little chance of this happening, or anything else for that matter, for what Denis had scheduled for me is what I would be doing. Nothing more and nothing less. Inwardly, I seethed and outwardly I railed against his method but he would merely smile and suggest ever so nicely that I just listen to him and 'try it again.' And again. Perfect gentleman or not, he was the Berlin wall prior to demolition.

And so here I was, with my doggie-friend Suzy at the bottom of my bed, running through the events of the day. Suzy is a crossbreed Labrador/Spaniel and more understanding than any human would ever be. So much so, that she suggested that I ask Denis to come home with me one day to 'inspect' her molars.

Right now, there was a curiously bright orange light in the room. My eyeballs were rolling and I felt rosy and warm. Bright and orange in fact. From between my lips, my tongue slackened and was beginning to loll. But something strange was going on. The orange light was taking on a deep crimson hue and, oh my, great wafts of steam were billowing out of the television set. I panicked and turned immediately towards the telephone at the side of my bed. I was just beginning to dial 999 when out of the depths of the steam came a strong and fiery voice.

'Nein, nein, nein! ' it bellowed.

'Jawohl, ' I screamed back, 'that's what I'm dialling.'

Suddenly I realised that the voice was coming from the direction of the television set. I dropped the telephone receiver and froze.

Almost as quickly as it had come, the steam dissipated and there, right there, before my eyes, stood four fierce and very fiery dragons. Dragons! There had to be some mistake. I blinked furiously. They were indeed dragons and oh, my gosh, they were all kitted out in bowling gear! And two of them were lady dragons!

They all started to shuffle heavily towards me, panting fiercely and breathing great balls of fire as I found myself being lifted bodily out of my bed by millions (it seemed) of long, scaly claws.

'Oh, help! ' I cried out pitifully. (Someone once told me that crying out pitifully quite became me.)

But where, in my hour of need, was my Great Protector? A slight sniffle from the direction of the built-in cupboard confirmed that there would be no help coming from that quarter.

'Who are you? ' I rasped, as unceremoniously they plonked me on my feet.

'Our name is Dennis, ' they said in unison.

'A-a-a-ll of you? '

'No ways, ' said the leader. (I could tell he was the leader because he had the word 'Leader' imprinted on his name badge.) He pointed to the other male dragon. 'Just him and me, ' he said. 'The ladies' name is Denise.'

'Two same-names for four of you? ' I had to be in hell. 'How do you know who is who? '

'We just know.'

Never one to appear intimidated, I pursed my lips and narrowed my eyes at them meaningfully but a sudden, shuffling sound made me quiver as I realised that I was now surrounded by four smelly, fire-breathing dragons.

Dennis, the leader, made as though he was about to put an arm around me then thought better. 'Don't be afraid, ' he said kindly, 'and we're really sorry. About not showering before we came.'

I stared. Mind-reading dragons!
'That's okay, ' I said weakly, 'but you still haven't told me who you are and what you're doing here? '

'Ah yes, of course, ' said the other Dennis soothingly. 'We're the Inimitable Middle-Aged Ninja Dragons.'

I gulped and said: 'And I suppose your home is Dragonwyck? '

A quick glance in their direction told me that they were affronted and that I had better be a little more backward in future. I bowed my head and stood quietly for a few seconds. They seemed to take my silence as conciliation.

'Well, then, Puff, ' said the other Dennis, 'let's see if we can get to the root of your bowling problems.'

'Oh no, ' I cried out, knowing now that they had come to the wrong place, 'my name isn't Puff.'

'Of course it is, my dear, ' said Dennis equitably. 'We received a call from your bowls coach, Denis, only this afternoon. It appears that he has been having a little difficulty in, um....shall we say getting through to you, hmmm? And, since he asked for our help, we always call our protegées Puff until they are able to play the game of bowls in a competent and able manner. Quite a magic name, we think.’

I recalled the song about Puff the Magic Dragon who lived by the sea and had to assume that he had never quite made it with this lot!

'Oh and by the way, ' Dennis the Leader continued, 'we dragons are clairvoyant and are extremely disturbed to foresee the day when you will flagrantly contravene the rules governing the regulation dress of the lady bowlers.'

'Moi? ' I cried out in dismay. (I always resort to French when I am dismayed because once when I was in my teens I received a French letter from a French pen-friend which dismayed me considerably.)

'Yes, you! ' said one of the Denise ladies. 'But not to worry. We can see you are much humbled and are even showing signs of contrition.' I lowered my eyelids in what I imagined to be a suitably humble and contrite manner.

'Now the main issue at the moment, ' said Dennis, 'is to help you cultivate a more pleasing attitude towards Denis.'

I was about to protest when suddenly all four dragons burst out laughing. Dragon-mania, I thought, following their eyes. They were all looking at Dennis, the leader. More accurately, they were all looking at his trousers. I looked too and grinned.

Dennis caught our look and in turn looked down and quickly fumbled with his trouser fastener.

'Oops! Dragon-fly, ' I giggled.

I was the only one laughing.

'You may not appreciate this at the moment, Puff, ’ said Dennis, ‘but in only a few months' time you will be so full of praise for your coach Denis that you may even wish to become a coach yourself.'

I was dumbstruck. What a preposterous idea.

Dennis, Dennis and the two Denise's took my silence for acquiescence. Or compliance. Or both. I had to do something.

'Denis is a cucumber, ' I blurted out.

'A cucumber? ' snorted the other Dennis.

'Yes. He keeps repeating himself. He says I must walk before I can run and that before I even as much as deliver a blowl, I must know how to pick it up and hold it correctly. He tells me over and over again. I get so mad I could scream! '

'Then by all means do so, Puff. Get it out of your system.'

I looked at them with disgust. They made me sick. The whole puffin' lot of 'em. So implacably tolerant and smug. Suddenly, like the 'whoosh' of gas being expelled from a newly-opened beer can, all my frustrations came pouring out. I rattled on and on about Denis. 'And then he keeps telling me I mustn't sit on the bank and I must always kick my bowls up behind the mat and so on and so on and SO ON! I'm so sick and tired of having to remember all these things. Talk about Dragonian laws! '

Dennis and Denise smiled through their four pairs of eyes.

'My, my, ' said Dennis happily, 'perhaps Denis has made a slight error of judgement in calling on us for help. You’re not a bad pupil at all, at all.'

Through the swirl of all my own hot air, I stared at them mulishly.

'I'm cold, ' I said. I wasn't going to give them any satisfaction. If I'd learned anything then, to them, at least, it was going to appear purely accidental.

'Breathe deeply, Puff, ' said Denise kindly, as though she understood me completely. 'You're one of us, remember.'

It was then that I knew they'd got me. I looked at my hands. They were dry and scaly. Just as theirs were.

'I want to throw a bowl, ' I said. Then, catching a quick glance between Dennis and Dennis, hastily amended this to 'I want to deliver a bowl.' I could feel my jaw muscles becoming set and square. Like a set-square.

'We don't have any problems with that, do we? ' asked Dennis of Dennis and Denise.

'Not at all, ' they cried out together.

'It's just that I have an appointment with the hairdresser, ' interrupted Denise hesitantly.

'The hairdresser? ' I asked, perplexed.

'I need a blow-dry.' I almost choked.

'Okay, we'll not be long, ' said Dennis. 'We'll just say the magic code and callaboobab we'll be on the greens in a tick.'

'Magic code? ' I was intrigued.

'B.C.C.' explained Dennis. 'Benoni Country Club.'

'Oh, right! ' I said, a little ashamed at my ignorance.

Standing in line with arms all linked together, the whole earth shuddered as the five of us breathed fire into the magic code and miraculously, just one moment later, touched down on the neatly groomed McVicar Green.


I did a quick reccie of the green and surrounds. Not a sign of Denis, my coach. At last, a little bowling fun for me. I couldn't wait.

My companions were all smiling broadly as I picked up a bowl which, like us, seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Dennis and Denise waited encouragingly. They really were most kind, I thought feeling a faint warmth towards them. I wondered vaguely whey they called themselves 'Ninja' dragons. Somehow, I didn't even mind being called Puff anymore. All was well in my world.

I took possession of the mat, picked up a bowl and hurled. This was the life! Ho, ho, Denis, I chuckled gleefully. But oh dear, wrong bias. Who cares? Bowl after bowl, I was having the time of my life. There seemed to be no end of bowls, all lined up purely for my pleasure alone.

I was getting quite carried away with the joy of the moment when suddenly a hard
scaly paw stomped fiercely on mine just as I bent to pick up another new bowl. I looked up in surprise to find myself encircled by a cluster of steely-eyed fire-breathing dragons.

'It's no good, ' they cried out accusingly, 'you're all shatter and clatter, just as Denis said. You're self-willed, stubborn and paddlefooted to boot! '

I shuddered uncontrollably and as the first kick made contact, I knew why they called themselves 'Ninja' dragons. The air was icy and clear as over the rooftops I flew. Over the mine dumps. Over park and pool. Then down, down, down......kadoemps!

If I ever survive falling from my bed I shall go back to dear, kind Denis. I shall concentrate on his every word and do exactly as he says. But I will never call him Denis again. I think I shall call him George. Or Fred.














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