Friday, 5 June 2009

A meeting of minds

The rapidly accelerating desertification of the planet's surface had thrown up the odd consolation, Pop-Pop thought as he tugged on his Panama to tilt against the glare. Though only an amateur member of the Royal Society for Archaeology, his intense interest in religious artefacts - a professorial knowledge not formally recognised on academic paper - had made him an invaluable addition to the team. He ruefully fingered his greying beard.

Perhaps this would be his last adventure, for the great heat wave of 2035 had irreversibly "frazzled", as the hospital specialist had put it, his nervous system; it was, "Gradually unwinding, somewhat in the manner of a ball of string tormented by a dangerously cute kitten." He had asked for a second opinion, "Well, I suppose the kitten may in fact be a fiendishly intelligent monkey in disguise."

Pop-Pop's reverie was suddenly broken by the sounds of boots pounding planks, sending vibrations through his soles, followed by excited shouts from the excavation team as they decanted from the hole, squinting into the harsh desert light towards him. Drawing closer, they formed a small but reverent circle around him, and - passing from hand to hand after the fashion of a nu-grunge singer surfing the mosh-pit - emerged at rest in his hands, a fragment of ancient wood, fossilised by time into a rock-like resilience, protruding from which, a crudely fashioned nail could be observed.

"Look closely," urged someone breathlessly pointing, "see the dark crimson patches around the base of the nail?" Pop-Pop donned his glasses, and, gazing down the barrel of his nose, nodded, "Yes, yes, indeed. See them I most certainly do!" "What do you think? Could it be ... is it? is it?" Asked Dan Brown, a slightly retarded but most enthusiastic work experience student. "You mean the holy of holies?" Pop-Pop offered in calm response as he licked the tip of his index finger, daubing it thickly in one of the aforementioned patches, bringing the sole digit to his gums, and rubbing it against them as becomes the habit of a coke connoisseur. His face gurned for a while in careful contemplation. Then all facial-based activity ceased (bar a gentle wind ruffling the hirsute regions of his lower jaw). The boil of silence was finally lanced when Pop-Pop's pupils widened in anticipation as he declared, "Though I'll have to lick the Turin Shroud before I can fully confirm: it tastes like the Son."

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