Dear Sir/Madam,

When I was a small boy, I used to go on excursions into “the London,” and I vividly remember the overwhelming sensation of being an explorer, like Conrad travelling up the Congo, trying to find the mythical ur-coon, the heart of darkness. The bravery! The horror! The stinking black abyss in the heart of that strange continent!

My schoolmates and I discussed this regularly, but I was the few who took it seriously as anything beyond a silly tale. As the other boys put aside their childish fears for textbooks and rugby balls, I was still entranced by these stories, and each night I would creep out and travel further and further up beside the train tracks, heading north.

Some years later, when I was 12 or 13, I glimpsed it. It was an October evening, frost-bitten pavements gleaming faintly in the winter moonlight, but ahead of me, in the corner of the street, the lamps were sucked away into black velvet. What was that on the other side of the road? Who was this shadow across from me? What could I hear!

The smell hit me like a thrown watermelon: what was this? My nostrils were caked up, I was choking…I gasped for air, the unfamiliar filth filling my lungs and trampling my breathing.


The velvet creature groaned. I started and jumped away, horrified at what I was hearing…could this really be?

“Kaayyyy….”—there could be no doubt. I was there. I glimpsed up at the station-marker ahead of me: Catford. Here I was. Here it was.

I thrust one sweaty hand into the pocket of my watch jacket and fumbled around for my Blackberry. At last! I raised it to my face: snap! Snap!

The coon was captured.

Back! Back! Back down the street I ran, and didn’t stop until my lungs were bleeding for air and my legs had started their tremors. I looked down at my phone in triumph and opened the recent photos.

At last! A victory over the other boys! I had my evidence! It was they who were foolish! I had found the coon! Now all that remained was to call Mother to pick me up. I wondered what I would have for supper on my return. A feast was in order!

But fate had other ambitions. To my horror, I checked my photos, then my settings, then my heart stalled. Despite the flash in my 0.5 megapixel camera, the photo was an unidentifiable dark mass. You could just about make out a car in the background. I had nothing. My journey ruined, my pride in tatters, I texted home.

“Curry please, Mother.”

The horror, the horror.


For all installments of “Coon Hunting,” click here.