The Lost Son, Eric Leclere
      Cuckoo!


‘Whatever, I won’t go to hell. No, sir,’ Martin suddenly declared, as if emerging from meditation; ‘No, sir! I won’t go to hell…’
Lombard could hear it in his voice. Martin had thought of something and was intent on sharing it. ‘You know, Friedman’s got himself a cuckoo clock in there. A genuine antique number. Late 18th century, if he’s to be believed…’
Threats might have got him to keep quiet, but Lombard decided not to bother. He knew what was going on. It was all very clear now. The man was still healthy. He was not ready to die yet. Had he been unafraid of dying, he’d have opened his door, got out and quietly walked away. But he was a survivor. And right now, he needed to fill the silence to feel alive, to not think of Lombard and his gun, to ward off the wrenching inner void that Lombard had himself felt just a moment ago. So, he let him talk, let him get on with it, listening to his voice as if to music, hearing its refrain without really listening to the words. Besides, all things considered, it was preferable to have him sit there talking rather than brooding or deciding to open his door and...
‘ “Cuckoo! Cuckoo!” the damn thing goes... Huh. Did you ever see that movie with the famous speech about the cuckoo clock?’
Movies again. What was it with movies that everyone...
‘You know, about Switzerland and centuries of democracy resulting in nothing but the bloody cuckoo clock? Well, they got it all wrong in that movie. The Swiss aren’t dumb. They didn’t start making their clocks because they had nothing better to do. And they didn’t pick on the cuckoo to stick in their clocks by accident, for lack of choice or because of its sweet song. They know exactly what they’re doing with their cuckoo clock, and it has bollocks all to do with democracy or calling up the countryside or the arrival of summer or any bullshit of the kind. It’s about the way things work, and how they, the fucking Swiss, make things work for them..'
‘For “Cuckoo-Cuckoo”, hear “Fuck You-Fuck You”. That’s why those Swiss bastards made their cuckoo clocks. To say “fuck you” to the world. To proclaim the world order as it really is at the top of every fucking hour. And the damn world listens only too happily. Huh! “Cuckoo!” Tell me, what do you know about the cuckoo? I mean the fucking bird itself. What does anyone know about the cuckoo except for the fact that the damn thing goes “Cuckoo”, eh? I mean, have you ever seen a cuckoo? Have you ever even met somebody who’s seen a cuckoo? Have you ever even met somebody who’s met somebody who’s seen a fucking cuckoo? I mean, unless you rub shoulders with better people than me or you’ve got yourself a nice country cottage, that is...'
Martin had started using a lot more swear words...
‘Well, let me tell you about the cuckoo. The freaking thing is probably the worst sonofabitch in the bird kingdom. For a start, your average specimen feeds on vile hairy caterpillars that other birds won’t touch. Still, some might say that’s a good thing, but anyway, it’s quite beside the point, so... The point, the real crux of the matter with the cuckoo, is the way it makes the rest of the bird kingdom work for it. That’s the interesting part. You see, there’s no I’m gonna work hard and break my fucking back to make a home and look after my eggs and rear my young in the cuckoo’s book of good conduct. No, sir. The thought doesn’t enter its head. It worked out a long time ago that the great big show is a mug’s game and that everything’s for the taking. That the only object of it all is survival for survival’s sake, no matter what. Survival by any means, and even by means meaner than necessary...
‘So come Spring and egg-laying time, the thing goes flying about in search of smaller birds’ unattended nests, birds which in all likelihood don’t know any more shit about cuckoos than the rest of us but which the cuckoo selects for the very reason of their small size in comparison to itself. When it finds what it’s looking for, it lays just one egg and, depending on its mood, and whether it’s got the time, it might or might not toss the rightful nest-owner’s eggs off the side, though more often that not it will, and as a healthy cuckoo turns out about a dozen eggs a year, and repeats this exercise as many times and in as many nests, it might or might not toss over the side a hell of a lot of eggs before it’s done. Quite a carnage. Anyhow, once that’s over and done with, off it goes, to enjoy itself for the remainder of the good season, assured of its descendance. And for good reason...
‘Because you see, what happens after it’s left its egg in each nest goes something like this. Small bird returns home, finds it’s got only one egg left or—hallelujah—one dropped from the heavens to lodge itself amongst its other eggs inside its precious little nest. Whatever, a slave to its good and natural instincts – which tell it something like I’m gonna work hard and break my fucking back to make a home and look after my eggs and rear my young whether I only have one funny looking egg left or I’m blessed with an immaculate conception – it sits tight and expectantly awaits hatching time. And that’s when the cuckoo really comes into its own, when it leaves other parasites and sonsofbitches leagues behind. When God definitely tries to tell somebody something...
‘If young cuckoo hatches to find out it’s an only child, that mother has already seen to its foster parents’ unborn babies, everything’s cool; it lets foster mummy and daddy dote on it until it’s big and fat and it’s time to fly off. And the foster parents inevitably look after it. They didn’t read the ugly duckling story. Worked hard building the nest and all that. And were rewarded with the happy hatching. What’s a bird to do, huh?… But if mother cuckoo was sloppy, or had better things to do than get rid of its unborn foster brothers and sisters, then what happens is truly fucking remarkable. It’s one thing to think of adult birds behaving like callous amoral parasites and mass murderers. But newly hatched ones? Innocent little things? Isn’t the world meant to be a nice place, where only he who gets hurt misbehaves? Isn’t it? Cause and effect, right? Well, if it is, somebody forgot to tell the cuckoo. Or, as I already said, God is bloody telling us something, because them young cuckoos, whatever damn purpose they’re meant to fulfil other than swallowing hairy caterpillars, they sure are ungrateful merciless little shits in their hunger for life. Truly fucking amazing and despicable. Because they don’t just hatch, you see. They hatch to kill. However plentiful the batch of eggs young cuckoo might find itself in, as if by magic, it will always hatch before any of the others. That gives it an edge, see – first out, first fed, first to grow – and since it already has the edge anyway by virtue of the fact mummy cleverly dropped it into a family of smaller kind-hearted birds, in no time it’s strong enough to eject all its foster brothers and sisters over the side. And it does it. It’s already being looked after, it’s already stronger than all the other guys in there, it needn’t worry about the competition, needn’t kill or destroy, but it fucking does it. Truly remarkable, wouldn’t you say? Truly fucking remarkable...
‘Well, that’s what the damn cuckoo is all about when it ain’t busy eating grubs, enjoying itself or going “Cuckoo”, and that’s what the Swiss must have been thinking when they came up with their clock. Their clock’s no accident of democracy. It’s no creation of a bored and boring people. It’s a fucking cock a snook at the world. A sweet “Fuck you” by a parasitic people. A clever proclamation to the world of the world order as it really is at the top of every fucking hour...
‘Like the cuckoo, the Swiss sorted things out a long time ago, see? Like the cuckoo, they make the world work for them while they enjoy the good seasons. And like the fucking cuckoo at the end of the day they’re probably responsible for untold slaughter...
‘Think about it. For small bird and nest, think the decent world of rules and regulations designed to ensure fairness, good behaviour, love-thy-neighbour and rewards for the nice hardworking folk. For cuckoo, think of the secretive Swiss banking system. Now, by virtue of allowing anyone to hide away unlimited amounts of cash no-questions-asked, the Swiss virtually behave like the cuckoo. By providing every bad guy everywhere from bloodthirsty dictators to drug barons to crooked this or that and lucky ones who don’t fancy paying their taxes with the means to conceal the fortunes there are to be made from deceit, they virtually make the world work for them, virtually feed off and destroy all the good work everyone else does. Everyone says, “You must be accountable”; fucking Switzer-fucking-land says, “No you don’t. Just drop us a line and let us tell you how things work”. And what about the hatching part of the plot, you may ask. Well, for young cuckoo throwing his foster brothers and sisters out of the nest, think how many people are exploited and die as a result of others being provided with the means of hiding immorally acquired wealth? You follow what I’m saying? Your good Swiss breeds crime. The misery and death directly or indirectly caused by Switzerland’s banking system is just not fucking quantifiable. You can’t parasite on crime and deceit and not breed crime. No way. At best, leaving hard crime aside, each time a rich fucker hides his money in a Swiss coffer to avoid paying taxes someone somewhere loses out. The rich don’t pay their taxes, schools, hospitals etc. aren’t built, kids aren’t educated, the ill don’t get treatment, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah...
‘See? The Swiss are just like the cuckoo. And like the fucking cuckoo, they rely on the great paradox of nature – a corrupt subsistence is determined by the goodness of others. The cuckoo depends on good-natured birds to lead its corrupt existence, the Swiss on other countries’ good-natured men and laws. And like the cuckoo, they’re doing very well, thank you very much. Switzerland is a fucking lump of rock. No natural resources, nothing. Yet, it’s got one of the highest standards of living in the world. With banking as one of its main sources of income… “Cuckoo!” Yeah, they can go fucking “Cuckoo!” Huh! The wicked shall inherit the earth, all right. And so will I. So will I. If what I’m doing was wrong, if what I’m doing went against the world order, against God’s instructions, there’d be no fucking Switzer-fucking-land. And no cuckoos. But cuckoo-bird and Switzerland are here with us, and both are prospering and merry. So I won’t go to hell, friend. The cuckoo is part of humanity, just like the Swiss. The plight, hell, is for the small birds...
‘No. I won’t go to hell...’

Lombard nodded. The man was in his forties, just about the right age to have been one of those young men who’d held court in cafés and other public places when he himself was still a young teenager. He could just imagine him with a long mane of red hair, all piercing blue eyes and smooth pale skin, making an equally obscure and long-winded speech for the sole purpose of impressing upon an innocent young audience how bad the world was and how good drugs were. It had been fashionable then for youth to theorise about conspiracies and look down on the apparently well-ordered society of ordinary people. Perhaps it still was...
‘Tell me something, Martin,’ he asked, glancing at his watch – it was safe to go now; ‘Did you start your criminal career peddling drugs with such enlightened speeches? Was that how you persuaded potential recruits to drop out, turn on and tune in to what you had to sell?’
‘Huh... You got it wrong,’ said Martin; ‘It was turn on, tune in and drop out... And nah, I started long before I got to that...’
He probably had too.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ said Lombard, opening his door.
He glanced at his briefcase, chose to leave it behind, climbed out of the car and shut the door with his eyes on Martin, who reluctantly got out of the driver’s seat.
‘Must you really do this?’ asked the man as they stood facing each other in the rain.
His eyes had lost their sharpness. He looked merely demoralised as he tucked his hands into his coat pockets, like a child who is about to be taken for a stay with a boring relative.
Lombard motioned for him to move away from the car door and leaned inside to pull the keys from the ignition....

 



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