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Larva from the Flames - Short Story by Kenneth Nolan

The Vietnamese Steamer, originates in the Central Highlands of South Viet Nam near the delightful French-Era city of Dalat. If bred and reared correctly the Vietnamese Steamer is the fastest Maggot in existence today. It can cover two metres in a lightning twenty minutes. Some have said it’s the Usain Bolt of the Maggot World. However, after two or three runs the Steamer is spent. It will quite easily take you through the first couple of rounds of a tournament but no further than two Lampings.

About two years ago I backpacked the length and breadth of Viet Nam. After a couple of months of a thoroughly fulfilling adventure I arrived at my final destination, Dalat. I hadn’t admitted it to anyone but it was the real reason I went to Viet Nam. I had four weeks left in which to recruit an army of Steamer Maggots.

The Vietnamese are a very cagey sort and hard to infiltrate, I searched high and low offering good money to anybody who could help me buy the Maggots but nothing, brick wall! In the evening I played pool for money in another attempt to gain contacts. One opponent in particular named Mr Jut seemed like a good lead. He was a staunch auld sort who had a face that showed he had lived a bit in his time and liked to tell stories of killing Yanks back in the day. I tried endearing myself for information to no avail until I came up with the idea of letting him hockey me out of it at pool for ten dollars a time.

On my last night in Dalat I said, “Mr. Jut, this game if you win I pay you one hundred dollars, if I win you get me the Steamer Maggots?” When the laughing died down he broke off and pretty soon he was half way down to the black. Then on my first visit to the table I cleaned up, potting the black with my eyes closed. I’d done it! And I think he admired me for being a conning little shit. At three a.m. he handed me two black cocoons that would eventually flourish into a herd of Steamer Maggots when hatched. I was home within three days and the cocoons had been in my fridge ever since, awaiting the day that had finally come when they could be crossed with the Bolivian Reds in a glorious act of Frankensteinian Larvalite Creation. The Nailbar wanted to play his Barry White CD in the shed during the stud. I tried to assure him that it wasn’t necessary but he seemed to think it would help.

A Larvae of twenty-one Maggots were produced and they survived the all important first week. As we looked down upon the offspring that they said could not be, a powerful feeling came over me, for that moment I felt like I was God himself! The Nailbar interrupted this serene moment whilst Amazing Grace was playing in my head with a wonderful idea.

“Let’s call them Nipper’s Little Nippers,” he said.

I kissed his forehead with approval; now all that was left was to see if they could Lamp?

One week until the All Ireland and The Nailbar and I put the Maggots rigorously through their paces. We had arranged a friendly with a colleague of ours, Barney Horse, during the week.

Barney always had a stalwart group of Maggots, he had finished second for Wexford last year and is a man of consequence in Enniscorthy and generally an all-round decent skin. Barney wouldn’t pull any punches, he’d let us know if we had a side or not. However, first things first, we needed to know what kind of lamps our little nippers would take to if at all? We tried all kinds of wattage with varying results until we cracked it with a fifteen-watt bulb. Very surprising that they operated with such a low wattage but these where no ordinary Maggots. At fifteen watts they flew across the platform and we had three or four real flyers there.

Maggots move by light, either naturally or forcefully. Competitive Maggot Lamping is a very simple sport; the Maggots are set in teams of ten, on divided laned platforms with five competing teams. The owner draws the Maggots towards the finishing line, the first three individual Maggots home take their respective teams through to the next stage. In the All Ireland there are three heat stages and the top five teams compete in the final. It’s all about the relationship between Owner, Lamp and Maggot. Barney came up on the Tuesday full of confidence, he had over 100 Maggots and proclaimed that at least 50 could make it into his final 10. His face dropped when our Maggots trounced his in the first Lamping and then also left him for dead in the next five Lamps. One of our Maggots was awesome; he glided in and out in complete harmony with the lamp like a superfast maggoty ballerina. He was clear first every time. The way he waived in and out skilfully brought to mind one of our great footballers and I was sure he was the Maggot to lead our charge to glory. We named him ‘The Duffer’.

We all had a skinful of scoops and good craic in the local before Barney ruefully shook our hands and drove back to Wexford. “See you in Birr on Saturday, fair play, yiz’ll take some stopping,” he said.

We shared the good news with the locals and booked the coach to take us to Offaly on Saturday morning. The tournament was to begin on Saturday with the final on Sunday and all the seats on the coach were claimed immediately.

The Nailbar led the pub in a chorus of ‘Come on you Boys n Blue’, while I sat there anxiously contemplating. Very soon The Nailbar and I would lead ‘Nipper’s Little Nippers’ into Offaly to represent Dublin in the All Ireland Maggot Lamping Championship. We’d gone there before of course but never with a real chance of victory. “Porter all round!!” I called, even for the ladies.

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