When you are fourteen, you and three friends spend two weeks hiking in Snowdonia.

One day you descend from the mountains and wander into the mining town of Ffestiniog. You enter a sweet shop and joke around with your pals as you wait in the queue at the counter. A huge slate miner buying a pound of Jelly Babies looks over his shoulder and gives you a funny look.

Outside, you are greeted by the miner and his seven massive friends. They form a semicircle around you and hem you in against an iron fence. No way out. Each miner looks like he could break all four of you in half with one arm. The ringleader—the one from the shop—says you were making fun of him for speaking Welsh. Very diplomatically, you say you were not making fun of him for speaking Welsh.

“Yes, you were,” he says.

Two of his friends unhook their belts. Heavy buckles clink on pavement. The miner is saying Welsh people don’t like being made fun of for being Welsh.

“Do we, Fellas?”

His mates agree. They start to shuffle forward.

Speech, you realize, is all that can save you. Strangely automatic, your mouth opens and emits a string of words.

“We ken wotzwot. We dunna mess wiv men az ard az rock. Any one a yo lot could smash uz inter bitz.”

The leader’s expression changes. A puzzled look appears on his face. His head moves slightly to the side. He holds up a hand to halt his mates.

“You be speakin with an accent, Boyo!” he says. “Where you be from then?”

All of you answer in chorus.

“Manchester!”

At the sound of the word, the miners take a step back, and—incredibly—smile.

“Manchester?” says the leader cautiously. “I don’t be supposin you be United fans by any chance?”

All of you say that yes you are United fans.

“Right!” the leader says with a swipe of his paw. “Everything’s all right then! We won’t be messin with no United fans—will we Fellas?”

His pals shake their heads. The two with the belts fasten them back around their waists. The leader has the last words.

“Just don’t be makin no fun a the Welsh!” he says as they let you pass.

You are all walking briskly towards the mountains when he calls after you.

“And Keep Wales Tidy!”

 

Mark Crimmins

Mark Crimmins’s fiction was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a 2015 Best of the Net Award, and a 2015 Silver Pen Authors Association Write Well Award. His short stories have been published in Confrontation, Prick of the Spindle, Eclectica, Cortland Review, Tampa Review, Columbia, Queen’s Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Pif Magazine, Del Sol Review, and Chicago Quarterly Review. His flash fictions have been published in Eunoia Review, Flash Frontier, Portland Review, Gravel, Eastlit, Restless Magazine, Atticus Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, Dogzplot, Spelk, Long Exposure, Chaleur, Pure Slush, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.

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