Paternoster Tales: Chapter 1

A Champion Burp

Do you know it’s impossible to write the sound of a burp? No combination of letters gets it quite right.

Grr-ow-urrk! Ey-ou-rr-ph!

Go on, give it a try.

Difficult, isn’t it? But not nearly as hard as finding the letters to write the sound of a champion burp. Have you ever heard a champion burp?

Probably not, because it’s absolutely not like any burp you’ve ever heard before.

Normal burps – ones that smell of dinner and sour milk – erupt into our mouths and make our lips curl and wobble. You know those ones. They feel rude and naughty and funny all at the same time.

But even a ten-out-of-ten normal burp is a breezy explosion compared with the hurricane of a champion burp.

My friend Paternoster is a champion burper. One of his burps will empty rooms.

A Paternoster burp rolls and roils and gurgles and growls, like a gang of warted goblins, tormented by a thousand armoured, angrily stabbing wasps. As the goblins try to escape, they stumble in painful panic through a thick ice-cold bog, their eyes pricked by a putrid, yellow fog. And they moan. Dismally. Too much description …? I don’t think so. You see, a Paternoster burp is so awful that it is difficult to put into words. Just shut your eyes and picture those goblins and dream the burp. Or put it into a nightmare. Awful, isn’t it!

But there’s worse to come – the picture is not complete without the smell!

Think of the worst smell you have ever smelled; one that, once lodged in your nose, no amount of sneezing will shift. Now wrap that smell in onion slices and plunge it into a bowl of week-old, fungating, cabbage broth and sprinkle it with dog slobber; ear wax; a pile of damp leaves that have been on the pavement since autumn and are beginning to decay; the foaming, soup-like, grey water that has been waiting in a rock pool since the last high tide three weeks ago and has lots of bubbling dead things in it; and the brown, sticky, toe-nail clippings of a giant sloth. You’ll still not be close to the awfulness of Paternoster’s burps but you’ll be feeling sick. Paternoster’s burps make everyone feel sick. Especially, when it’s first thing in the morning and you haven’t finished observing breakfast.

It wasn’t a particularly good morning for observing breakfast; too damp, with beads of rain on tables and chairs where people normally sat for coffee and croissant or muffin or something containing bacon. A wet Monday – 8:37 am – and Paternoster had just finished lecturing us on why we should never ever wear red wellingtons. He was, for Paternoster, quite angry. Paternoster doesn’t usually do angry. But the red wellingtons had upset him and at the end of his softly spoken rant, he let off one.

A burp. A Paternoster burp!

Without warning.

Which was hugely inconsiderate because the rant, as I said, had been softly spoken, forcing us to gather round closely in order to give at least half an appearance of listening to him. Being that near the epicentre meant that the burp exploded straight up our nostrils. It sent us reeling. We flew backwards, fifty feet or so, stopping only when building walls got in our way and we smashed into windows and bricks and stone. Choking and winded, we gasped for clean air. Desperately blowing and sucking and blowing and sucking to purge the stench from our lungs.

And there we need to stay until tomorrow and the next chapter of this story. Then, I will rewind: back to those red wellingtons and why they upset Paternoster.

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