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The customs men had been watching them on and off for weeks. They would turn up every so often, out of the blue, looking at them with suspicion written clear across their faces.

“We know you’re hiding it somewhere,” they said, stomping around and poking into cupboards. “How many kegs have you got, hm?”

“No sir,” they replied, eyes wide and innocent. “We got nothing o’ that sort around ‘ere.”

They waited for the customs men to leave, and winked at each other.

“Fetch yer rake, lad” said one to the other when night fell, “I reckon as we can shift it now.”

They went out to the pond, where their smuggled brandy rested safe beneath the water, and started to nudge it in towards them with their rakes.

“Well well,” came a voice from behind them. “And what are you up to?”

They turned to see the customs men watching them from the road.

The taller one grinned at them, a gappy, daft smile that belied his intelligence. “We be raking for that there big round cheese,” he said, pointing to the water where the full moon’s reflection shone. “It looks right tasty, don’t ye reckon?”

The customs men looked at each other, trying to stifle their laughs.

“You’re raking the pond,” one said, his lips quivering with suppressed laughter, “To pull in that cheese?”

“Aye,” they said, grinning wider.

“Well,” said the other customs man, “Good luck with that!”

They walked away into the darkness, laughing helplessly at the ignorance of yokels who would try to rake in the moon’s reflection.

Behind them, the smugglers raked in their brandy, took it home, and enjoyed a nice drink and a laugh at the customs men so easily fooled.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note – Based on an old Wiltshire folk story.)

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