La Comete | Jon Sellars

A family look back fondly, if perhaps unreliably, on how an odd series of events led to a dramatic shift in the history of England.


La Comète

By Jon Sellars

The Historical Factions Award Part 2


“That’s not how you flay a squirrel.”

“There are lots of ways to flay a squirrel, and this is definitely one of them.”

“You better be sure, you don’t want no bad things happening. Worst thing you can do, mis-flay a squirrel, creatures of heaven.”

“Would you shut up, it’s just a squirrel. I’m doing it right, and even if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter.” The soldier looked up to see who it was that offered this culinary advice. He didn’t recognise the podgy man who stood in front of him, dressed in a simple tunic. Assuming he was perhaps a servant to one of the lesser nobles, he went back to preparing his dinner.

“It’s going to start bleeding, it’s going to start….I told you. Look it’s gone all down your front. And that smell, it’s awful, you shouldn’t have touched that one, you’ve unleashed evil, that’s what you’ve done. Wait till King Harold finds out, and just before a Norman invasion as well, he won’t be pleased.”

“Look, shut up, my finger slipped and I’ve cut it’s gut open, they always smell this bad.”

At that exact moment a bright light shot across the sky. A huge burning ball of fire sailed high above, followed behind by a tail of majestic orange and yellow.

“Oh dear, look, look what you’ve done. You’ve enraged our Lord, he shows his anger, he curses us, he curses England. Your highness, this man has done the most dreadful thing.”

His cries caught the attention of a group of noble men stood nearby who, like the rest of the camp, had been staring skywards trying to understand what they had just witnessed. At the front of them stood Harold Godwinson, the reigning King of England.

“Your highness”, continued the man, “he mis-flayed a cursed squirrel and he has unleashed evil. He brought forth the wrath of God that just appeared before us. I tried to stop him….” His sausage-esque finger pointed unmistakably at Neville.

“Thank you Trollop”, Harold nodded to the man before turning to the soldier. Neville sat motionless on a stool, he held a knife and a half flayed squirrel in his hands, a pungent mix of blood and intestine formed a puddle in his lap. “What have you done? A mis-flay? And on a squirrel of all creatures? Heaven have mercy. You may well have cost this country it’s future, you fool. What is your name?”

“Neville Cafe.”

“Well, Cafe, once this Norman invasion has been conquered tomorrow, you and your cursed squirrel shall be buried in the same unmarked grave as my conquests. On another day you would be dead by now, but our Lord looks unfavourably on me already; I must wait for my victory before I can kill one of my own men. Guards, I want him shackled with no bread or water until my return.”

“But surely it was just a coinciden…”

“Quiet! If it was not hard enough to first beat Hardrada and then face these Normans, I must also battle the forces of evil that now sit upon me.”

Silence sat upon the soldiers in the camp as they watched the scene unfold before. No one moved, let alone said a word. Eventually, once the King had retreated to his tent, noise returned but only in the form of whispers, whispers of a bad omen, an impending defeat and a terrible odour.

And so this is the true tale, as remembered by our family, of how our distant relative Neville altered the course of history in England with the simple slip of a knife.

Having all but secured victory for his invading forces, William the Conqueror did not hesitate in lavishing honours upon Neville. It is with great regret that the squirrel fur has been mislaid in the course of time, however other artefacts of Neville’s deed still remain. If one is to look upon the Bayeux Tapestry, the embroidery that documents the events surrounding the Norman conquest of England, one will clearly see the comet brought forth by Neville; and below this comet one can find Neville flaying a squirrel in front of King Harold in what is now referred to as the Norman method. But perhaps the biggest tribute the French invader paid to Neville and our family was the incorporation of that burning streak of fire into our name. As from that day forth Neville Cafe was known as Neville Café.