|Posted on Saturday, August 18, 2007 - 12:48 pm: |
These were all written on the day posted and first published here;
PANTS by DF Lewis
Peter asked Nita to stand ... just there. He claimed that was just where ... well, just where the ghost had stood earlier, when Peter had been looking through the bedroom window straight into the blinding sun of freak weather conditions, a time of day when he often expected Nita to arrive, but today she had been late, and instead of Nita, he had witnessed just there the appearance, apparition, approach of what he could only call a ghost ... the ghost of his own mother. Yes, just there. Peter waved and pointed as he stage-managed Nita into position beside the bullace tree, just in front of the grinding, creaking wooden-gate, a step poised upon taking another step up the stone steps towards the front-door that Nita always rang with a happy flourish. You see, Peter and Nita were in love. And today Nita had been late.
Peter actually noticed that sunshine lit things in a weird way that night – for day had indeed soon turned into night uncharacteristically without any intervening twilight or dusk, a fact that Peter blamed on the freak weather conditions. The sun still seemed to shine, however, despite the coming of night; the sun was a dark blob on the horizon which shook Peter to his roots. He feared that he might not survive the implications of global warming that had been described by scaremongers day in and day out throughout the pages of his consciousness. It was almost a relief to worry about something as old-fashioned or as traditional as a ghost. The ghost of his own mother. But his mother was not dead. One cannot have a ghost if one were not dead, could one? He squinted at Nita’s shape masquerading as a ghost in the garden, simply so that he could rationalise, reconcile something he knew in his heart of hearts to be essentially irrational, irreconcilable. Nita would do anything for him, though, would even play silly goose or ghost games or games with the light and with the imagination. But it had not been imagination, he assured her. What about a quirk of the light, then, she asked?
Putting aside nasty thoughts, stuffing the head of his necktie tight within the white starched collar (as meticulously laundered by his mother), Peter suddenly decided to answer the door – it having now been rung by Nita following her masquerade as a ghost in the garden – he himself now intent upon disappearing off with her to the pictures. In those old-fashioned, traditional days in England, the only way courting couples could snatch a kiss was upon the back row of a cinema as the film played itself out upon a loop of customers coming in and going out to the continuous performance rhythm of seeing through a film up to the point when they had started watching it ... at the same time as kissing and cuddling amid the luminously smouldering cigarettes. One of his mother’s favourite sayings was about people who reached the end of the long road by kneeling along it: a religious conviction that could not be expressed in any other way. She also made sure Peter wore clean underpants when he went out with Nita, not that Nita would ever likely see them.
Pathé News today, somehow with an anachronistic monochrome of stilted cinematic commentary, predicted that modern weather patterns would become even more memorable – almost like science fiction in reverse ... but did future problems infect their own past with renewed dangers? ... unless all of us, in those days, were too busy watching the passing of reality itself in the same way as we watched films, from the middle to the beginning, and then back again.
Peter and Nita tentatively stared up towards the huge flat moving faces, their own kisses forgotten when contemplating the future’s ghosts passing in silhouette or in shadow across the wide white screen ... while a giant usherette’s torch shone out beam-like, disguised as a projector populating the darkness with shapes thus summoned to give credibility to these same shapes in reality. Peter whispered sweet nothings in Nita’s ear as they returned to canoodling ... oblivious of his mother watching them from the upper circle, where her last short breaths were intensifying amid the billowing tobacco-stained air.
Prayers and Nuances tremble, shadowily bent towards the gate they hoped to enter without a creak or grind. Silence is a language with too many words, so many words indeed that one cannot even begin to choose which words to speak.
Peter and Nita tease sweet dark kisses from each other just as an approaching dawn skidmarks the sky ... just along and above the horizon ... just there.
|Posted on Saturday, August 18, 2007 - 10:45 pm: |
I see how everything fits together. The Elizabeth Bowen quotation I cited as a favorite. The lack of story critiques. The invisibility of even the darkest of inks. Thank you, des!
|Posted on Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 01:27 am: |
That's interesting, Phil. That has clicked a few things into place for me!
|Posted on Monday, September 03, 2007 - 03:18 am: |
“The sea is a sort of pants for the earth.”
“Pants for the earth, hiding any number of crabs and other crustaceans ... whelks and winkles...”
“I don’t think that analogy bears much scrutiny, Fred.”
“I prefer to call it a poetic metaphor, Charlie. Not an analogy as such but a symbolic statement, a shorthand for carbon skidmarks...”
Laughter. Like squelches of breath.
“I know we humans need to clean up our act, Fred, but I’m sure there are better ways with which to flag these things up than imagining someone’s UNDERPANTS!”
“Charlie, if it gets people thinking, then that’s half the battle.”
The two figures disappeared into their own laughter, like shadows into night, except only one was laughing, the other still complaining that humanity had lost its way.
From the other direction, two figures – whether the same or different shapes or silhouettes as those that had earlier disappeared – returned along the sea front. Night had passed round the world like an all-enveloping pair of trousers amid a soaking drizzle and only vague glimpses of the moon between the strides. The sea sounded even nearer when it couldn’t be seen. A plaintive, meaningful rhythm of the waves.
This time laughter was in short supply. In quick gasping bursts of breathless endeavour. But like with all good stuff, never mind the width, feel the quality. There was joy in the steps. Made-to-measure footprints in the light of new hopes, new beginnings. They soon passed like strangers in the night, with no need to talk.
Come dawn – and a relenting of the drizzle into just light sprays of ghostly saliva – the sea was more like curdled ankle-sock than untidy Y-fronts. The sun rose like the burning head of a snake upon the ridge of the sky. Fred and Charlie bobbed sluggishly upon the now vaguely perceived swell. Laughter etched upon both faces as if they had resolved their differences.
If it gets people sinking, then that’s half the battle. The wiry appendages of a sea monster dragged them under towards the half-submerged caverns where new races prepared themselves upon unmade seabeds for eventual emergence as denizens of the earth.
But it was all a poetic metaphor. A pathetic analogy. None of it was real. Even Fred and Charlie had lacked footprints in the soft squelching sand.
|Posted on Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 04:13 am: |
Abide With Me
The words did not remind me of a funeral, funnily enough – they reminded me more of a wedding. I suppose the resonance of ‘bide’ with ‘bride’ helped.
A bride with me. A long-lasting commitment between two people to each other in the sight of God: intrinsic with ‘abide’: the real word that the famous hymn used. A hymn commonly sung at the F.A. Cup Final in an ancient Wembley, its towers symbolising patriotism as well as nostalgia.
But at a funeral there was only one commitment in the face of God. A commitment by the body in the coffin, its bones broken to fit. But that person, as symbolised by that body in the coffin, was already gone, its life spent, its commitment perhaps already made at the point of earlier death. These are thoughts about him that went through my mind when I re-heard the hymn. Thoughts about him when I only thought about the hymn to write this.
Long before that there had been stories concocted between me and him: a book of stories entitled ‘Only Connect’, a collection of dissimilar plots and words and styles and attitudes and other indefinable qualities between two dissimilar people, radically dissimilar people despite being father and son, yet connected by fictions that they had written and blended together when both had been alive, and not just one of them alive.
Yet if this were a ghost story, a fiction in itself, then maybe, just maybe, a collaboration would still be possible, a true resonant ‘connect’ via the original ‘Only Connect’: via the veil: a blurred area overlapping life with death. But fiction is fiction, it can never be real, however based upon reality it seems to be.
Mum and Dad. Bride and Bridegroom on that day in 1945, now divorced by death. Then in a 1970, a new Bride and Bridegroom, thee and me, as yet undivided by time’s slicing blow. Yet we are all groomed for death. A death that we all pray is yet another fiction. A disconnect between truth and plot.
I heard the distant cheering before the throng fell eventually silent for a full-throated hymn to sound out across the rooftops and then into our own distant room via the wire sculpture on the chimney. Then silence as yet another fiction fell into place with its inevitable ending.
|Posted on Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 12:43 pm: |
The Day I Did - unfinished
“The day I did, I did it properly.”
“I didn’t exactly ask you that, Giles.”
“You asked me how many times I had done it, didn’t you?” responded Giles. “And my answer is simply once, because before that I hadn’t done it properly, and then having done it once, it was unnecessary to then have done it more than once. Once is enough.”
“Once is enough, you say? But was it possible to do it more than once if you had wished to do so?”
The questioner stared at the one she had addressed as Giles: a middle-aged man with a face over-coloured by embarrassment; a T-shirt bearing on its chest a transferred photograph of himself not dissimilar to how he looked today; cheap grey slacks ironed into knife-creases; and a posture that indicated he was about to depart the ribs of a park bench that had created an uncomfortable impression upon his spine. The voice of the woman was strident, creating its own unwelcome impression upon him. Her face, body and dress were far better suited towards a more general impression of beauty completely out of keeping with her ugly voice. Giles certainly felt under-dressed and under-toned by comparison. Nobody had warned him of any necessary formalities.
Replaced exactly where he had tried to leave – upon the bench – Giles stared up at the imposing woman, wondering if she really knew what she was asking. He found it difficult to talk to women at the best of times, and today was not the best of times. He was being accused of something, but as yet he had failed to understand that the accusation was of not understanding anything. To misunderstand something several times became irrelevant once it was understood and once it was understood it could never be understood again; there were no levels of understanding, simply an understanding via various levels of misunderstanding until it was understood for the first and only time; understanding something was merely that and once done, never to be done again, unless the thing that was understood itself changed in some way and, then, the process of misunderstanding and understanding would start again from scratch until the new thing was understood via a whole new set of misunderstandings leading to understanding.
An alchemy of understanding. You wander on leaving Giles and the woman still talking. Today was not the day for you to understand this, I suspect. Perhaps you should try again another day.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 06:18 am: |
The Day I Did - 2nd failure.
"You've failed several times, and as far as I can see you have always failed. Including that day."
"The day I did, I did it properly," you answered.
"Are there degrees of failure, then?"
Today, you've brought someone else to help you understand. The question hung in the air as you both watched Giles and the woman talking on the park bench, unable to hear your conversation, while, paradoxically, you could hear theirs.
“No, if you fail, you fail. You can never partly succeed. It’s a bit like understanding. You either understand or fail completely to understand. There are no near misses.”
The woman laughed, having apparently understood Giles’ unintended joke. She eyed back at his T-shirt.
“Why do you wear such a ridiculous T-shirt?”
“Ridiculous?” He looked down at himself. “Why so ridiculous?”
“There are no degrees of ridiculousness. It is ridiculous plain and simple: not partly ridiculous, nor very ridiculous, just ridiculous.”
Having echoed their words word for word, you both shrug and decide to leave them to their ridiculous conversation. You are thankful that you had not been heard in the same way as they had been heard. Understanding would need to be left for another day. Empathy was never possible. A bit like alchemy. Do come back. I’m sure we shall defeat our lack of understanding together.
|Posted on Saturday, September 15, 2007 - 07:22 am: |
Abide With Me (2)
The blob expanded as my throat grew less constricted. And the blob, by expanding, became less dangerous, less horrific. Its initial appearance had indeed been a startling sight – a tiny slick expression of slime balanced perfectly like a jewel at the end of Adam’s nose. I had been rather disgusted by the way Adam ignored it as, I knew, all the time, he was fully aware of it. My throat had originally tightened through terror.
Disgust turned to this eventual terror as a result of an abrupt swivel of his head during a moment of silent conversation as we listened to someone entering the front door downstairs. The wobbly bead of green substance fell upon his bristly chin whereupon it began visibly to bubble within itself as if fired by a self-perpetuating force of thought. Only tiny internal bubbles, as it was merely a comparatively tiny bubble itself containing them.
“Who’s that coming?” he asked.
I assumed it was my wife Evelyn who had let herself in, despite my having changed the locks earlier in the day. She could climb any tree, as they say. “By the way, you have something on your chin,” I said.
I was gob-smacked. I couldn’t believe I was so frightened by the sight of an ordinary snotty dewdrop upon such an ordinary face. Adam was a friend of mine because he was so ordinary. Not scared to snort or fart, burp or belly-bubble in anybody’s presence. My life was full of extraordinary people (like my wife), so to be with Adam was a breath of fresh air. It truly was.
Adam had been telling me about ordinary matters all morning, to take my mind off my own marital mishaps. He told me of the football match. The TV programme that he and many others no doubt had watched in common last night. The prospect of going round the pub together. Good solid blokey things. Nothing strange, nothing untoward, nothing deep, nothing, indeed, crustaceous or blobby.
I sat staring in disbelief as the green polyp settled into the grain of his chin, as the footsteps, slowly, wound their way up the tenement block’s stairway from the front door which had sounded nearer than it actually was when it had been slammed by the person rising towards us by a piecemeal legwork of no particular recognisable rhythm.
It was with some relief, as I have already indicated, that I saw the blob was swelling, growing bigger, only to fall in dangling daredevilry like a string of identical blobs from the chin towards Adam’s lap. Only to regroup as a single discrete blob. It was as if increasing size was a diminishing force. As if it would soon burst and disappear as a spray of misfired infections. It was now not horrific at all. I grew less and less frightened.
The thing just squatted there upon his trousers and exercised itself without now even appearing to be on the brink of self-destruction. I sighed with relief, for my own throat had relaxed and was able to breathe more easily. Indeed, I amply felt I was all throat.
I could handle size. I could handle anything big but I couldn’t handle tiny beads of sweat or gobbets of stale marrowbone jelly or finger-pinched coughed-up pellets of pus.
Adam smiled, knowing that I was more relaxed, despite the heightening footsteps outside. He patted the thing as if it were a pet. He had by now placed it on the floor. He offered me to stroke it. He wiped his hands down his trousers as if to remove a slick residue.
“Off to the pub then?” He smiled.
I could depend on Adam to bring things back to the run-of-the-mill, the bread-and-butter of life, making me feel better, and thus able to block off the shuffling and shambling directly outside my flat door. It couldn’t be Evelyn. She’d’ve walked straight in. Like Adam, she did not stand on graces.
Perhaps Adam had already ordered the curry, which usually followed our visits to the pub, rather than preceding them. And then we usually ate out rather than have a delivery at home. Vindaloo before drinking was almost sacrilegious. Like singing ‘Abide With Me’ to rude words at the FA Cup Final.
Adam laughed. He squatted on the floor alongside the ‘thing’ that by now had grown as large as him. Like a real Granny Smith, huge and overripe, having outgrown her usefulness as an apple.
If that person shambling outside my flat door was either who or not who I thought it was, who was I?
I was not frightened at all because it was me that was frightening. Or perhaps extraordinarily frightened, without knowing I was.
|Posted on Sunday, September 16, 2007 - 06:54 am: |
The Day I Did - 3rd failure?
She returned to the park bench expecting to see Giles sitting there. The man with the self-styled T-shirt. She was not disappointed. If this were fiction, there would have been some organic change, so as to maintain interest in events or character development. All in fact on offer, however, was a description of fulfilled expectation.
She knew in her heart the key to the whole situtaion: not 'The Day I Did' but 'The Day I Died'. So obvious. So expected. Again not to be disappointed in her expectations.
Although Giles was sitting on the park bench, it would have been truer to say that it was his body sitting there. Giles' corpse, if a corpse could be 'owned' in that way, was waiting to incriminate her in murder. A corpse being able to wait in such intimate intimidation of a victim-culprit was pehaps the organic change that we all needed. An alchemy of dross to gold. Reality to fiction. An empathy between anthropomorphisations of Plot and Truth.
We watched them from as far away as it was possible to watch them and be completely unseen. It is impossible to be partly unseen. We are either one or the other. Not well-read, but unread. Completely.
She was taken away in a black car. The ambulance took Giles away separately, later identification of whose body was possible by examination of his only distinguishing mark: just the clothes he stood up in. You are what you wear.
"The day I did..."
"...I did it properly."
A conversation imitating conversation. Wearing away into narrative silence.
|Posted on Sunday, September 23, 2007 - 10:50 am: |
Abide With Me (3)
Once upon the train from Nottingham to St Pancras, I often glimpsed up from a book called 'Travels in the Scriptorium' to read the passing landscapes. I took for granted that the sunlit fields and lakes between the gaps of losing concentration from the book were typical of the East Midlands area; indeed not only did I feel the area was typical but also was that very part of England. Well, naturally, what other feeling could an instinctive traveller like me have? I did not question it. Only hindsight has since given me cause to question it: gradual hindsight, a slow dawning upon me that the landscapes I glimpsed so casually during glances from my book were odder than Britain could ever be: glimpses of foreign lands: an unexpected, unwanted holiday abroad - but an unwanted holiday is hardly a holiday at all.
How I later knew such glimpses were a Fantasy of Britain, I still wonder. But this was the East Midlands proper and I was simply imagining that the views from the train window were foreign ones, lit by a sunshine that today freakishly brought out the natural colours as if they were painted by an artist. This caused me to gain momentum in losing concentration from the book 'Scriptorium', one of those typical fiction works I customarily enjoyed: enjoyed in a serious way since, one day, I wanted to be a writer of fiction myself.
I seemed to have always imagined myself to be a character in my own body, but following the experience just recounted of today's train journey, I decided I was wrong. The body was something one could not control; it was something that imposed thoughts and wants quite divorced from the mind within it and, thus, affecting that same mind in an unruly fashion, indeed making that mind into quite a new character divorced from one's own naturally wanted character - and this had likely been happening all my life: a permanently unwanted holiday from the landscape of me.
|Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2007 - 10:15 am: |
Written fast as literal flash fiction on the 'Shocklines' boards, at the request of someone there.
There was a wafer-thin shell shaped geometrically as a cone would be shaped. It was on her dressing-table, amid the other baubles and gewgaws that littered her untidy make-up ceremonial. She clipped an eyelid with nail scissors, oblivious of the resultant slowly dripping tears. She crimped a brow with a file. Twisted her fingers into laced-up bows. She folded her tongue around a sharp comb, feeling the prongs go deep. She then took up the cone (about walnut-sized) and swallowed it whole. Beauty was skin deep. A fantastic journey by those Zeroists on board the cone seeking trinkets and necklaces down to the unfound troves: the made-up make-up of a month’s trawl. Swifter than Swift, she ate her eyes one by one each little-end first – as she felt the cat’s cradle of more vessels making her insides even more beautiful with swagged sacks of cone-sewn tumour-roses blooming ... ever blooming into hanging gardens. The dressing-table mirror folded into a twirled shard before her, making her image funnier than in a fairground funhouse. Then just laughter. Nothing else.
|Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2007 - 08:37 am: |
A brand new collaboration 'The Shoal', finished in the last few weeks:
|Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - 07:25 am: |
A Walk Through The Forest
I changed the rhythm of my pace as I entered a special part of the Wood that the map called Forest.
I waited for reaction to the opening of my ghost story but none came. There was nobody to react.
It’s an easy note to strike – pretending that my narration was being made to a gathering of like-minded people in the cosy firelight of a civilised turn-of-the-century parlour, each participant eager to enter into conversation with me by constructively interrupting my narration, entering such discourse as easily as they might have entered the trees of the story: a story made more believable because of their awestruck, rapt attention and interpersonal responses to it. But I was simply telling the story to myself so as to have my own company in real time while still actually within the story’s woody gloaming itself. You see, I did not want to believe it. Belief would have been too frightening. And if I told it to others, I would have been duty-bound to believe it, so as to give the story an edge of suspenseful credence the more so to entertain my audience.
I did not want to believe it, I maintain. Quite frightening even if this were half-believable; more so if it were truly real.
The trees were thickening around me as I spoke. Or should I say, as I strode? I tried to switch my mind to other concerns – was the parlour (in which I would have preferred to sit telling this story to like-minders) as veritably turn-of-the-century as I had earlier assumed. If so, the turn of which century? The cadences of the room’s decorations and in-built electronica indicated 1999 fast becoming 2000 in the mistaken fear of end-of-the-millennium changes, a fear that was so prevalent then. But looking at the listeners, they were dressed as if it were 1899! One was dressed like a Victorian Vampire. But, of course, nothing in the parlour could be real. That was just my daydream to help me withstand the Forest that the Wood had now become.
My map originally showed me entering a sparsely and intermittently wooded suburban area. But now it indicated that I was beyond the pale of this outer countrified residentiality of a gaslit city and was soon to be bodily overcome by trees without even glimpses of house-lights between the trunks. Earlier, I was amidst topiary and rigorous tree-surgery. Now it was as if I had grown an unruly head of hair and I had no narrative comb to untangle it.
“Sorry, why were you walking there in the first place? I didn’t really hear you begin the story, as I got here a bit late?”
I stared at the man who had interrupted me. He was squatting on a stool too near the fire for comfort, clutching an umbrella with which he had bustled into the parlour. Indeed, because of the firelight, he was the only person I could now see clearly, with the dusk having abruptly turned the parlour windows tantamount to night-blocks – and nobody had evidently thought to switch on the parlour’s new-fangled lights. The other members of the audience had become shadowy presences subsuming the characterisations I had given them before the man with the umbrella had entered the room. I did, however, sense I heard mounting mutterings among these shadows, either agreeing with the man’s question because they, too, had missed at least some of my preamble or complaining that he had spoilt their concentration of listening with his interruption.
“You may leave your umbrella in the hall,” I suggested, more to take the fanning wind out of his sails than to offer helpful advice. In truth, I, too, had forgotten how my story had begun, and I merely deployed delaying tactics. With a face flushed by embarrassment or by fire, the man scuttled from the room. My own fluster thankfully was disguised by the autumnal gloom having drained all colour from me.
I laughed; my daydream seemed to take on a life of its own: an autonomous narrative course quite outside the reality of my situation. I shivered as the trees around me shrugged their shoulders in the re-freshening of the wind. It was as if they scorned ... spurned my laughter.
A walk through the forest. This was, however, no routine constitutional after an unduly heavy supper. I felt I was feverishly intent upon leaving somewhere for good or eager to arrive at a permanent abode after a long period of idle wandering. I had only the rhythm of my pace to give any clue as to whence or whereto I went.
Easing the pace to slower than a walk, I stared at the map in the scratching-light of a match. The place called Wood seemed to spread from amid the last housing estate towards the edge of a place called Forest, the two places’ relative tree-densities represented by the varying of cross-hatching between irregular margins.
I looked around. Were they following me? My language was often over-florid. My thought-patterns retained their own form of diverse cross-hatching. I had no hope of being followed on this rite of passage. I was alone. Unutterably alone.
But ghost stories could not contain such loneliness, if only because of the ghost’s presence itself presenting a company of sorts to a lonely narrator. Given Victorian beliefs, a ghost could be just as sentient as those who were not ghosts. But...
Pace for pace, I suddenly felt we were mutual shadows, the ghost and I. A Wagnerian quest for each other.
“You said you were alone, didn’t you? What was it you said, unutterably alone? But you did utter it! And now you admit there is a ghost to keep you company. Not that I believe in ghosts!”
The man (now without his umbrella) had returned to his fireside position and positively laughed at his invocation of my inconsistency. He was evidently trying to get his own back.
I tried to spurn his faulty logic by returning to the Forest. The map now told me I was in an inner part of Forest called Wood. I could see through the trunks towards vistas of a new electrified city. I would soon be out of the Wood altogether without having to retrace the rhythm of my steps. Not through the middle and out the other side – but deeper towards the middle where, strangely, things now became clearer.
A crack of gunshot. I fell to the ground dead. I felt a comb being dragged with difficulty through my shaggy head of hair, and heard the crackle of branches as shadowy story-arsonists roamed in my wake. Then the stench of flesh. Thankfully, a kindly ghost sheltered my body from the rain with the unfurling of his portable parlour ceiling.
Written and published here today
|Posted on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 04:01 am: |
How does your garden grow?
|Posted on Sunday, November 18, 2007 - 04:01 am: |
Nigel & Mary & the Vase
That's the last story in this particular folder. No further links here. New stories will resume linked from here as part of the literally massive 'Weirdmonger Wheel', if anyone is interested.
Post Number: 320
|Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - 08:26 am: |
These are links to all the new 'stories' I've written in 2008 so far:
Post Number: 321
|Posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - 01:08 am: |
Here's the one I wrote yesterday to save you clicking (who am I fooling?):-
The Hoop (2)
When I met him, I saw straightaway that he was full of story. It was as if he existed simply for the benefit of story. No point in describing him, as that would take away from the story. And he did tell me story after story, when we sat together, draining a bottomless teapot.
And before I forget, there is not much point in describing me, either.
I was only there to listen. And, well, to drain tea.
One story that still sticks in my mind was one he told of when he was employed as a chauffeur in Paris. Well, I assume it was about him. But whether it was him or not, it was only a story, after all.
“I had been without work for several weeks, and was coming to the end of my money in the last cafe under the last Parisian sky of (what now seemed to be) my last sojourn in the city drinking the last cup of tea that perhaps I would ever drink in France. The French frowned on tea, but I managed to find where they brewed it best. I preferred it to any other sort of drink. So it was with mixed feelings that I accepted a job that entailed driving a car and drinking something other than tea. But I would now be able to stay in Paris a little longer. The man had sat down opposite me at my table as I drained the dregs of my cup on that (what had seemed to be) my last day in Paris. It was like Fate. I was to drive a Princess. Why me? Well, he said it had to be me. I fitted the story. But I must drink alcohol quite a bit of the time, he insisted. That was part of the job. I shrugged. I didn’t mind drinking alcohol so that I could later afford to drink tea in Parisian cafes. Sitting pensively in Parisian cafes drinking tea gave me inspiration, led me to all sorts of creative thought for my next story. So, to cut a long story short, I allowed myself to take to heavier drinking while driving the Princess to fashion shops and to cafes where in fact she drank tea, I noticed. I didn’t much like the company she sometimes kept. I also turned a blind eye to the baggage she carried. I am not one for gossip. Only story-telling. Well, on the big day, I needed to drink several hard drinks before taking the Princess on a trip that, unlike the previous trips, was more of a mystery tour. I can tell you that, even with alcohol in my veins, I am still a very good driver. So when our car managed to crash in the road tunnel, it was not that I lost control for no reason, but I suddenly saw a little girl bowling a hoop across the road in the tunnel, and I swerved to miss her...”
I put my teacup down and stared at him.
“A hoop?” I said.
“Not really,” he said with a smile, “that was only part of the story.”
And I blinked. He was no longer sitting opposite me. I must have been drinking tea with myself. The little girl in the tunnel, perhaps, was the ghost of the Princess; a happy creature that wished she’d never meet a Prince. But then without such a meeting, of course, she’d not have been a Princess at all or, if that were the case, even the ghost of a Princess. I poured another cup from the bottomless teapot and stared into the darkening Parisian sky. A faint circle of stars like a distant UFO slowly wheeled behind the clouds.