A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

I suppose there have been quack medicines all through history, even in the middle ages....


Kid Picky had hit a rich seam after a life of absolute poverty.

His parents had been too poor to afford to have him but he’d turned up none-the-less, in his mother’s womb. And that mother, the good Lord bless her, died moments before his father yanked him out of her cooling corpse and so it was up to that good man to bring him up. He did his best (when he was sober) and his worst (when he was drunk), and so Kid Picky’s health and life reflected the seasons.

Until, that is, he became a sort of man.

During the early years of his life he had learned a few important lessons, like take what you need when it’s there because it’ll soon be gone: some other needy soul will have taken it. Or hide in the shadows whenever you can because a hidden lad can’t be belted or, when the moon is right, molested. Or make sure you can run faster than anyone else can run because that way you get away with whatever you’ve been doing wrong since nobody’s swift enough to challenge you.

He’d learned these lessons by the time he was five and spent the years until he was eleven honing the lessons to perfection.

Then he met the hag. He met Mother Inkpot.

She wasn’t really a hag, he supposed, though he soon became absolutely convinced that she was a witch, what with all those warts and that unholy name. She’d been around, according to her verbal autobiography, since the beginning of time and had managed, through skill and communication with the spirits who came from somewhere or nowhere but probably from Hell, to create an extremely special liquid.

Whether it was medicinal or magic didn’t matter. What did matter was precisely when it was administered. If you gave this liquid to a dying man he would still die unless nature dictated he recovered, which was vanishingly rare. If you administered it to a child in the early stages of suffering from the pox he would still get the pox and, according to the whims of fate or fortune, either live or die, but probably the latter. But if you came upon a languid soul who was slowly recovering from this or that chronic condition, the recovery process would continue and they would, with shiny eyes and unreasonable and effusive gratitude, recover. In fact, and the truth was, her liquid was little more than water flavoured with whatever was to be found at the bottom of her or anyone else’s patch of garden … but not the poisonous weeds, she and everyone else knew all about poisonous weeds. All that mattered was that her liquid was unpleasant.

It was for that liquid that Kid Picky killed her.

As soon as he had observed her secrets and her tricks he knew he would have to inherit her trade, which was wandering around the countryside with quantities of the stuff splashing around in small wooden cups that she had produced herself during the dark nights of winter and exchanging the liquid contained within them for anything she thought worth the swap.

Which was sometimes coin.

And Kid Picky, having disposed of her flesh and bones on an autumn fire, which had warmed him and rendered her dust and ashes, took over her trade.

Unfortunately, his knowledge of the effects on human life of various green stuff that grew at the bottoms of gardens or in hedgerows, was non-existent. Mother Inkpot had known all right, not to put this or that nasty stuff into her lotion because this or that nasty stuff was toxic.

Mother Inkpot had been canny enough to know where to avoid as she plied her trade, which corners of the country were dangerous for any number of reasons including the prevalence of outlaws who for some reason disapproved of her trade, and Kid Picky wasn’t, so, equipped with a dozen or so leaky wooden containers filled with dubious liquids he set out to find sick or wretched customers, and by ill fortune soon found himself, as had many others in those days, wandering lost and confused in the almost impenetrable depths of Sherwood Forest.

Where he came upon a wattle and daub village called Littleworth, and set up his stall.

He had everything off pat. His salesmanship was as polished as his face, which he had scrubbed clean on the assumption that if he were to sell a liquid that proclaimed that it gave good health to all who drank it he ought to look halfway healthy himself.

So he started in a loud and confident and breaking voice with his spiel.

Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “there are none among us who hasn’t been touched by plague or pox at some miserable time in our lives, and I have come from the great seer Granny Golightly who has connexions with ancient mystics, and I have here before me pots of a special and magic formula which will render he or she who sups it immune to the very worst of diseases and maladies, and be the receivers of a long and healthy life...”

And along came the Sheriff of Nottingham who, at the time, was at a loose end. There had been a controversial execution in the grounds of the castle and he had actually been booed by wisely hidden critics of his decision to dangle a popular prostitute at the end of a hemp rope. Not only was the condemned a female, she had a tribe of children (all possibly having the gift of different fathers) and kept them very well indeed, with shiny faces and bubbly spirits and a love of God. So her execution was looked on as a cruel indictment of all women everywhere, and the least popular thing this sheriff had ever ordered.

So he was at the aforementioned loose end and as far away from Nottingham as he could safely get in a day, and fearful for his life.

The chief resident of Littleworth was Clayby, a squire of the county of Nottinghamshire, and he had agreed to provide bed and lodgings for the Sheriff for as long as he required them, an act of generosity he saw as preferable to a large percentage increase in his personal taxation.

I feel whooped,” muttered the Sheriff after he had eaten a leg of venison washed down with a few draughts of good English ale. “I have never felt so whooped, so I must be ailing and I hope it’s not the damned plague that’s never far away from us all.”

Then maybe we of Littleworth can come to your aid,” said Clayby in his best oily voice, “for I have heard that this very day there is an envoy from Granny Golightly with a stall...”

Granny Golightly? I have never heard of her,” growled the out-of-sorts sheriff.

She is blessed with ancient arts and purveys a liquid which, when taken, cures many ailments,” replied Clayby enthusiastically, repeating what Kid Picky had been heard to say. “It is said that even the King has taken it on his way to the Crusades,” he added, pretty certain that the king had done nothing of the sort but needing some kind of testimonial for a substance he knew absolutely nothing about.

Then I’d better sodding try it,” moaned the Sheriff, vomiting onto the polished floor.

So Kid Picky was called for and a leaking sticky wooden cup of his liquid demanded by Clayby, for the Sheriff.

And that Sheriff proceeded to swallow it down, whereupon his malady continued with the coughs and splutters as before as well as a fever that rendered him so hot it was said you could poach an egg on his forehead. And it raged unabated, with no sign of any recovery until after the fifth day, when he opened his eyes and groaned and ordered that Kid Picky be taken forthwith to the castle at Nottingham where he would be hanged from his neck until he was very dead indeed because his wooden cup of liquid was totally and utterly useless, and consequently a rip-off.

And as the transport for the offender was being arranged, Robin Hood in his hideaway not so far away but hidden in the leafy depths of the Greenwood, heard of the poor lad’s plight and didn’t like the sound of it one little bit..


© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on October 20, 2017
Last Updated on October 21, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Sherwood forest, medicnes, sheriff of Nottingham, illness


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 74 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..


A Chapter by Peter Rogerson