Of Coca Cola & Courage by Ashleigh Mounser

I suppose you want to hear a story. Everyone always does.

I’m very busy, you know. I have things to do. You wouldn’t understand. When you’re as old as I am doing laundry and making yourself a bowl of high-fiber cereal can take all day.

So you see I really don’t have time.

I suppose I could tell you one story, if you insist. Tea? Coffee? No?

Well then, what kind of story would you like to hear? I’ve done many things in my life worth a story. Some of it I wouldn’t recommend. There was the time I jumped a train track and lost an arm. I didn’t enjoy that much at all. Another time I milked a cow and ended up with a bucket of Diet Coca-Cola. I never quite figured that one out. People always like that story – maybe because it’s strange, or fantastic. Maybe because they think I’m lying and they like to see old men make a fool of himself. If it’s the strange and fantastic you want to hear I have plenty of those. Well, at least I thought I did. My mind is still a steel trap, I tell you. Just a steel trap that has rusted shut.
The strangest of my stories would have to be the tale of my good friend Nessie.

You might have heard of the Loch Ness Monster. Who knows what you have heard? Did you hear that its teeth are as large as the pyramids?

That, indeed, is true.

Did you hear that she once had a tantrum which sunk Atlanta to the bottom of the ocean?
It seems far fetched.

Did you hear that Elton John once discovered Nessie while swimming the English Channel and that she is the inspiration for Tiny Dancer?

The jury’s out on that one.

Whatever you’ve heard, you should know that she is perfectly lovely – as sweet a mythical creature as you’ll ever meet.

The story begins on a Tuesday afternoon on a Scottish beach in Aberdeen, where the Loch Ness Monster, a myth by all reasonable accounts, washed up on the shore.  I was in Aberdeen on holiday with my parents and had gone exploring with my brother Thomas.

I saw Nessie first. ‘What is that?’

‘A whale,’ tutted Thomas. ‘Poor thing.’

‘There has never been a whale so big as that, Thomas,’ I said, and I began to run. Awkward steps, because I was only eight years of age, and my knee caps were new and wobbly.

I found myself standing before that enormous eye. I could not describe it to you; from no position could I even see it properly. It was impossibly big. Had anything in the world, we wondered, ever been so impossibly large?

It seemed like it had been staring for eons, and it may have been. Loch Ness Monsters live to be flibbetygillion years of age. If you find yourself unfamiliar with this word, you need not be surprised. It is such a, long time that humans have no need for it. That round eye, taller than Thomas and I if we’d stood on top of one another, and that dull pupil which looked from side to side, as if to say I’m not really sure what happened.

‘What do you think this is?’ murmured Thomas.

‘I think,’ said I, ‘That it is very large.’

‘It is,’ agreed Thomas.

‘And it is very sad,’ said I.

‘It is,’ agreed Thomas.

‘And I should like to help it.’

‘It’s very large.’

I should say that Thomas knew that he was repeating himself, but if you had seen how large it was, you might have said it twenty, even thirty times before you were able to move on. ‘I should like to help it too.’

We looked around. There was no-one there. Why would there be? I’m not sure why England or Scotland, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, even bothers having beaches if they insist on having such miserable skies.
I cleared my throat and smoothed out the creases in my shirt. ‘Loch Ness Monster,’ I said very loudly, ‘we should like to help you.’

That big dull eye fixed on me. I think she was saying Now would be good.

‘But you are very large and we are very small.’

The Very Large Loch Ness Monster rolled her eyes. How terrifyingly marvelous I thought she was!
‘Do you think,’ said my brother, ‘that we could dig her out?’

‘We could,’ I say, ‘if we were not small and English and if we had machines which made loud noises.’

‘But if we had a spade,’ said Thomas, ‘And we had Courage.’

The dull eye blinked.

I wasn’t sure what Courage was, although it certainly sounded big and important if you were planning to rescue The Very Large Loch Ness Monster from Certain Death, but I pretended to know.

‘Yes,’ said I. ‘We must go find Courage and spades.’

‘And Coca-Cola.’ Thomas loved Coca-Cola.

We told The Very Large Loch Ness Monster that we would be back and we trudged up the sandy hill which hid the beach from the town. Aberdeen, if you have never seen it, is a grand place. It is full of grand things like castles and monsters and convenience stores which give candy away to little English boys who remember their please’s and thankyou’s.

We bought Coca-Cola and spades.

‘Please sir,’ I said, to a man with a walrus moustache, ‘Do you have any Courage?’

Thomas snickered, and the Walrus man poked a sausage finger at my chest.

‘Courage, boy – lives in here. Can you feel it?’

I told him I could, because I didn’t want to seem silly.

When Thomas and I returned to the beach, we could see Ness laid out with one round eye rolled back at us, as if to say, Did you bring me a Coca-cola?

Very few people know how much the Loch Ness Monster likes Coca-Cola.

It is a strange and fantastic world we live in, where cows produce diet Coca-Cola, and Loch Ness Monsters drink it; where two small English boys can go on to rescue the largest, most mythical creature there ever was with a pair of plastic spades and a lot of Courage.

What a marvellous thing, to live in such a world, Thomas and I thought as Ness drifted away at high tide. What a marvellous thing to do a magical thing almost by accident.

Don’t you think?