Cut Throat Business
Down one of the pokier streets of Ankh-Morpork – oldest and most depraved city on the Disc – stood a tiny, ramshackle house. There was nothing out of the ordinary to distinguish it from any of the other cramped and grubby dwellings that graced this section of effluent Morpork, but inside it lay greatness. Granted, it was a greatness so deep below the surface that it would take a three-day mining expedition to bring it into the daylight, but it was a greatness nonetheless. It was a greatness that was dogged, determined, and which absolutely refused to give up just because all sense suggested it should. It was Ankh-Morpork greatness.
Dawn crested over the city as the lazy slop-bucket of daylight sloshed over the rooftops and gables. The sluggish light, made slow and ponderous by the Disc’s dense magical field, pushed insistently through the grimy windows of the tumbledown house on this threadbare street. It poked questing fingers through a crack in the shabby curtains and fell upon the face of Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, Ankh-Morpork’s most inventive entrepreneur. He grunted and squinted, wordlessly protesting against the start of a new day. After a moment, he opened his eyes and stared fixedly at the crumbling ceiling.
Up and at ’em, old boy.
He swung his legs out of bed and touched down on to rough, splintery floorboards. He stretched, feeling the all-too familiar crick in his back that allowed him to move properly. He wasn’t a young man anymore, and plying his trade all day everyday in the heaving, sweaty mass that was Sator Square had taken its physical toll. Dibbler stood up and made his way out of the room. Descending creaking and life-threatening looking stairs, he headed into a kitchen that not only didn’t have enough room to swing a dead cat in, but had barely the space to get the cat in there in the first place. Lighting a match out of a box on one of the grimy shelves, he lit the grease-caked grill on his ancient-looking oven and plopped a bagful of squashy sausages on to cook. When all else failed, they would always want a sausage in a bun.
Climbing back upstairs amid a cacophony of wooden creaks and groans, Dibbler entered his bathroom and looked at his reflection in the cracked mirror. He filled the washbasin from the chipped jug on the side and looked back at himself again. He breathed deeply and began lathering up for his morning shave. He looked at the dull cut-throat razor that would probably have a job cutting warm butter and began to shave.
Would today be the day he made his fortune?
Dibbler stopped mid-shave and pulled aside a filthy rag hanging on the wall. Behind it was an object totally out of place in such a humble abode; it was a coat of arms. It looked official and very, very important. It spoke of wealth and status, and were it not coated in dust and grime it would have looked incredibly impressive.
Gods he hated it.
Frozen in his own world, Dibbler stared intensely at the coat of arms, anger and bitterness rising up in him like bile. His eyes glassed over with livid tears and his hand clenched tight on both the razor and the rag attached to the wall. He knew he could make all of the poverty go away in an instant; knew that he could be living a life that was high and soft and comfortable, but it would not be his life. It would be their life. More importantly, it would be her life.
‘No,’ said Dibbler, quietly. ‘Never again.’
He would not go back. He couldn’t. Tears stung his eyes as he remembered the day that he left. The look in his poor father’s eyes had broken his heart more than he ever thought possible. More than she had tried to do with her cruel and spiteful tongue. They were the downtrodden eyes of a beaten man. He didn’t want his son to go, but he knew that he must.
But his mother...
At this thought Dibbler let the rag fall back into place, concealing again the crest. A sob escaped his lips and it took all the self-control he could muster not to break down in his own bathroom. Mother had said things that could never be taken back. She had dared to call her common. Dared to laugh at her son’s love. Dibbler had walked out of the palatial family home without a single backwards glance. He would miss his family for the rest of his days, but some things cannot be forgiven. Everyday since had been a struggle, but it had been his struggle. His choices, his family.
With that one word Dibbler was snapped back to the present. All of the justification, all of the sacrifice; the hard work was all worth it contained in that one word. Dibbler sucked back his tears and turned to face his daughter.
‘Yes, my treasure?’
‘Is today the day we get rich, Daddy?’
Dibbler smiled warmly and scooped up his child, hearing as well his wife moving around in the next room. They were poor, yes, but he had something that was truly his, and no amount of snobbery and society arrogance could take it away from him.
‘I’ll tell you something, my dear,’ said Dibbler, kissing his daughter gently on the cheek. ‘I’ll cut my own throat trying.’
- March 2016