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    northie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Spudhunter! - 1. The story

Get me a plate of triple-cooked chips! Perfect, salty, fat, golden chips. Money no object.

Tim licked his lips. That was more like it. He stared wide-eyed at the message projected onto the side of the living room in his quaint – not rundown – cottage. No more bargaining with tight-fisted clients over a scoop of mash or the worth of one pocked, frost-bitten tuber. Life as a spud-hunter was hard.

Ever since the UK declared potatoes an unwanted foreign invader, spuds had become worth their weight in bitcoin. Except in the scramble to feed demand, nobody thought to actually plant the damn things. Or maybe they didn’t bother because of the inevitable discovery. Police drones appeared out of nowhere, followed swiftly by armoured squads of peelers. Tim scowled briefly. Strange how that antiquated nickname for the police had come back into fashion. The ready supply of potatoes diminished faster than a politician’s reputation until there were virtually no spuds left.

He eyed the cursive, neon pink words. Who was his client? How was he meant to make contact?

Another line appeared. You have 12 hours. Starting now…

“What?” He blinked in disbelief. Time counted down in front of his eyes.

Tim ran out of the cottage. “Jamal!” Sounds of wood-chopping came from the vicinity of the shed. “Jamal!”

Skidding on some moss, Tim made his entrance with a flail of limbs before face-planting in a heap of recently-fallen leaves, inches away from the woodpile.

“Watch it!” Boots pounded in his direction. “You OK, Timmy?” The honeyed bass voice sounded very close.

Tim rolled over, brushing leaf mould off his face. As ever, the other man's bulk almost blotted out the sun. Tim couldn't help smiling. It'd take at least three of him to recreate Jamal.

He sat up slowly, nursing an elbow. “Yeah, I'm fine. Y'know me – clumsy sod.”

Jamal helped him up. “What's happened, sweetie?”

“I've got a job–”

“Oh, yeah? I thought the veterinary whatever interview wasn't until tomorrow?”

“Who gives a fuck about that? No, a job. A proper job!” Tim knew excitement was making him gabble. “With spuds! OMG – how long is it since the last one? And they want triple-cooked chips.” His hands were everywhere, signalling who-the-fuck knew what. “Triple-cooked chips! I can't believe it. If I manage to deliver, it'll be career defining! I'll be famous! Famous!”

Jamal gently trapped both hands in one of his. “Not too famous, babe, otherwise you'll be spending a considerable time in jail. I'd miss you so much.”

Tim took a breath. “Yeah. True. But we could be rich! And the challenge – you gotta see that.”

The other man kissed him on the nose. “Yes, I do, sweetie.” His hands were released. “Go and do your worst! I'll see you later.”

Tim fled back into the cottage. It'd been so long since his last job, he no longer kept the kit by the back door. “Fuck!” He spun around, arms flailing, mind blank. Finally his training kicked in.

Wellies, woolly jumper, waterproofs – his three W’s were essential. As were a trowel, gardening fork, and his sense of smell. He grabbed three apples, some oatcakes and a mini pot of Marmite from the kitchen on the way before throwing the equipment onto the passenger seat of his vintage Mini. Minor details like who'd asked and why would have to wait.


Flooring the accelerator pedal, his beloved Mini shook and rattled north along the busy motorway. Rumours were the last few spuds lurked in rural Northumberland. Urban legends circulated of fairies leaving tubers to be found by those who knew where to look. Fairies? Tim scowled. Peelers, more like, waiting to scoop up the steady supply of gullible fools. Hence his preferred disguise as a sheep farmer. Or shepherd.

“Wait–” He took his eyes off the road for a second to look behind him. “Shouldn’t I have a sheep or something?” The blare from a lorry's horn made Tim convulsively wrench the steering wheel. He steadied the car and took deep, calming breaths. A second, even quicker look convinced him no ewe would remain parked on the back bench seat, even if he found one. “Damn.”

Tunelessly whistling along to Wham on his phone's playlist, his eyes drifted down to the car's dials. Bad idea. “No petrol!” It came out as a squeak. And the engine was overheating. He stamped on the brake, ignoring the screech of tyres behind.

Twenty minutes later, Tim arrived at the motorway services, lucky to have got there in one piece. What was the matter with people? A steady thirty miles an hour was perfectly reasonable when the engine appeared to be running on fumes.


Having shrunk his bank balance to refuel the Mini, Tim found himself drawn to the services' farmshop. A quick look wouldn't hurt. He drooled over fresh cheeses, sighed in rapture while admiring a mound of perfect, fresh-cut cauliflower and was about to drag himself away when he spotted a display of shepherd's crooks.

“Yes!” He jumped up and down, arms flailing every which way. “Yes, yes, yes!”

Ignoring the startled looks aimed in his direction, Tim darted towards the display and grabbed a crook, nearly skewering one eye as he squinted to see the price tag. “Owh!” A little shaken, he hefted the wooden shaft with exaggerated care and went to the desk to pay.

Arriving back at the Mini, Tim held out his new toy lengthways and compared it with that of the car. “Ah.” He scratched his head. Yes, the crook was shorter than the car's entire length, though not by much. “So how do I get it inside?”

Opening the passenger door, he eased the shaft in at a diagonal, aiming towards the opposite far corner. Would it fit? Maybe. Could it be made to fit? Again, maybe. Tantalisingly close to his goal – or so Tim thought – he gave the crook one last, incautious shove and took out the driver's side rear window with a loud crack.

His “Fuck!” came out as a shocked squeal. Reaching into the car, he yanked the wooden pole back towards him, spraying glass onto the back seat. The decorative crook buried itself in the pit of his stomach, narrowly avoiding Jamal's favourite fleshy bits. Tim's strangled cry was thankfully muffled by a startling lack of oxygen. Hanging on to the open door, he managed to stay on his feet. Just. “What the actual fuck?” he wheezed. “How many shepherds get impaled on their fucking crooks?”

His answer was a chorus of snide female chuckles, accompanied by a slow handclap. “Way to go, big man!” one bystander yelled. “My hero,” another drawled. “I mean, look at those muscles, girls. Love the green woolly jumper, by the way.”

Tim added beetroot to his available stock of reds. He pretended the women weren't there, hoping they'd get bored and go away. His wretched impulse buy lay there on the front seats, protruding out over the tarmac and laughing at him. So what was he going to do with it? In a fit of pique, he kicked the decorative head with one wellied foot. He watched, dumbfounded, as the far end reared up and shattered the other driver's side window, showering yet more glass everywhere.

He gaped. At that rate, he'd soon have no car at all. That settled it. Endeavouring to ignore another wave of mocking laughter from the sidelines, Tim steeled himself. He eased the shaft back towards his side of car, exercising extreme caution, before finally propping the crook up against the Mini. With a sigh, he marched round to examine the damage.

“Yeh Batmobile fail its MoT, pet?” Even more laughter. Cat calls.

Tim gritted his teeth and ignored the shouted question. Why were they taking the piss like that? He was just an ordinary private citizen. One who loved spuds, Jamal, and his vintage Mini. Not that the car exactly appeared cherished now. Using a jumpered elbow, he gingerly knocked out the remaining shards of glass before employing his crumpled mac to clear the driver's seat.

Minutes were passing. Many minutes. Hours, it felt like.

He glowered at the wretched crook. With a sigh, Tim picked up the carved wood and tossed it to the kerb.


A couple of hours later, crossing over into Northumberland, he flicked the switch that activated his secret weapon.

When spud hunting was at its peak, he'd paid over every last penny to get the super-duper, one-time-only-offer of a single scent nose. Every other olfactory distraction was guaranteed to be blocked. Spuds, and only spuds. He sniffed. The frigid country air blasting through the permanently open windows smelled bland and featureless – boring, in fact. Except this was his job, his reason for being.

Imagining a long, long chain of bitcoin coiling into his bank account, Tim slammed on the brakes to avoid running into a flock of sheep. On a narrow country lane, the stupid beasts filled the entire road. The Mini juddered to a halt.

A passing sheep paused to give the Mini an inspection, slow, grey eyes regarding Tim while large yellow teeth pulled at a strand of green wool.

“Gerroff!” He flapped a hand.

Another ewe joined the first, thick, rubbery lips nibbling and pulling at Tim's sleeve.

“Piss off, the pair of you! I'm not sheep fodder.”

Fortunately, the general press of animals forced his admirers to move on.

Seeing a figure in the distance, Tim stuck his head out the window space. “Oi, mate! Move these sheep along, will you? I gotta be somewhere.”

Lounging against a drystone wall. the other guy, dressed in shorts and tee, gave Tim the finger. His eyes never left his phone screen. Bluetooth headphones blinked and not a shepherd's crook in sight. Two border collies seemed to be running the operation, darting back and forth. Sheep buffeted the Mini on both sides, rocking it violently. Tim broached the Marmite, smeared it on one of their home-produced apples and munched, hoping he wouldn’t be sick.

His phone rang.

Hey, babe. It was Jamal. How's it goin'?

Tim swallowed round the sudden lump in his throat. That laid-back, loving, caramel-smooth voice got him every time. “Ehm. Well. Err…” He sniffed. “It's going shit, Jamal.” His voice cracked. “Completely shit.”

Oh, sweetie. Tim, babe, you got this. OK? Jamal waited.

“I've got this,” Tim repeated back woodenly.

You got this. You're gonna nail it. Listen to me, Timmy. You'll nail it.

Jamal's insistence coaxed out a smile. “OK. If you say so, love.”

I do.


Finally the road ahead opened up. Picking up speed, the Mini cleared a series of hairpin bends on two wheels. Hanging onto the wheel for dear life, his head lolled out the empty window, then swung violently back towards the opposite, closed-up glass as he took each corner. More sheep, safely corralled this time, watched him, bemused expressions flashing past. The road straightened, then fell away in a near vertiginous drop. The car flew. He let go with a “Whee!” For all of three seconds before the Mini lurched back down onto the road.

Tim's head nearly ripped through the roof. The jar of Marmite smashed onto the windscreen, leaving a viscous, brown smear. And more fucking shards of glass. He gulped. The car limped up the other side of the dip. Grinding metal and a complaining engine suggested he might be getting an Uber back home.

Some time later, approaching a cattle grid, Tim sniffed the air. And again. There it was – the scent of kings. Only muffled somehow. Squidging the car onto the overgrown verge, he took a moment to stare skywards. Pink-tinged clouds scudded past, catching the sun as it dipped towards the horizon.

He squealed, “That's a Desiree!” as one particularly russet cloud appeared. His mouth watered. Mash. Smooth, buttery, heavenly mash melting on his tongue. “And Apaches!” A mound of mottled, delicate, pillowy pinkness made his heart sing. It was an omen. Good. So very good. How could he possibly fail now?

Not stopping to debate the issue, he grabbed his tools. Following his nose, surely the way to glory and riches, he splodged across a muddy, water-logged field. His wellies grew filthy in no time. Doubts snuck in. Spuds didn’t do well in that kind of environment. Another sniff returned the same result as before.

A moment focusing was well spent. He looked ahead. “Under that hedge, lies my fortune. Our fortune.” Plunging, sloppy strides brought him closer. “Fame, glory, and–”

A faded, foil packet of crisps lurked in the undergrowth, yellows and browns reflecting back a stray sliver of sunlight.

“No!” Tim stopped mid-step, one mired boot hanging uselessly in the air. “No!” he wailed again. “No.”

Getting a grip of himself. he bent down. ‘Ridged, flamin’ steak 'n' onion flavour. 50% extra free’, he noted dully. “But, but–” Hopes of a lifetime dimmed.

The packet bulged though. He spotted that next. It bulged as if some soft, furry body had taken up residence inside. And decomposed. Biting his lip, Tim reached out a hand. He waited for the sick squelch under his fingers. Instead he touched hardness. Smooth, solid, familiar hardness.

It couldn't be.

His heart thumped. Was it a trap? He froze, waiting for a drone, a voice from out of nowhere.

Nothing.

There, in the packet, lay two perfect Maris Pipers. Tim whooped. Fame and fortune were his.

And chips.

I hope you enjoyed this piece of fluff which was written for Cia's Genre challenge. Accolades or brickbats are both welcomed.

Copyright © 2022 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Chapter Comments

10 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

I wonder if there are spud-smugglers from other countries;

I'm happy to leave you to write the second chapter. 😘

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Awesome right up until some gormless goblin snot puts vinegar on the beautifully delicately fried morsels of tuberous tastiness.  An entertaining piece of fun, well done.

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This was such a blast! I loved this, and I smell potential spud-hunter adventures from across the globe (provided other countries followed the UK's decision). How would Idaho fan? Ireland?! I don't want to even think of the replacement for the fast-food restaurants, because I know I'm not dealing with McDonald's and their apple slices...

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2 hours ago, Dathi said:

until some gormless goblin snot puts vinegar on the beautifully delicately fried morsels of tuberous tastiness.

Vinegar?  👀 I didn't mention vinegar. (Can't stand it on chips either.)

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1 hour ago, astone2292 said:

I don't want to even think of the replacement for the fast-food restaurants,

Hmm...  turnip fries, anyone? Beetroot?

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9 minutes ago, northie said:

Vinegar?  👀 I didn't mention vinegar. (Can't stand it on chips either.)

Salt and Vinegar on Chip's is a must

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Oh what great fun. I am inordinately fond of potatoes, particularly the fried and salty sort when in the throes of a migraine ... do you think I might merit a medical exemption?  

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I'm trying to imagine a world without Tater Tots, drizzled ever so lightly with sea salt and Worcestershire sauce!!!

Tater Tots

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27 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

I'm trying to imagine a world without Tater Tots, drizzled ever so lightly with sea salt and Worcestershire sauce!!!

Tater Tots

Worcestershire sauce? I've not tried that ... yet.

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8 hours ago, northie said:

Hmm...  turnip fries, anyone? Beetroot?

In such a backwards alternate world, I offer a backwards solution. Meat-based vegetables. Tater tots? Try minced chicken gizzards! 

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9 hours ago, dughlas said:

do you think I might merit a medical exemption?  

Now, there's a thought. A secret government stash of spuds. 👀

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33 minutes ago, northie said:

😱🤮🤮 What?

Sorry, forgot to mention I'm one of them Kentuckians and we eat just about anything. 

You can go to any gas station here and get fried chicken gizzard and hearts. 

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