Friday, April 01, 2005

Men With Umbrellas Ahead

In honor of this day, excerpted from Rawlinson End, by Vivian Stanshall:
Now, read on....
"Somewhere inside my head, a bell sounded." The seconds jumped after the ring, and the minutes flew from the corners. "For Godsakes!", somebody shouted from the driveway, "throw in the kitchen sink!" There was a terrific splash! And the sink lay upturned on the floor gasping like a landed fish. In moments, Aubery was on his knees beside it, tenderly taking the limp tap in his hands. Turning, it slowly.
A livid ivy of broken veins stretched eternal on his cheeks and the filth of the city found easy purchase in the open pores. Without taking his eyes off, he glanced up at Maureen, "Oh darling..", he said thoughtfully, "You remember that...p-p-party? D-don't you? The B-bernard Buffet table was over there wasn't it? Ha-Haa! We seemed to drink oceans of bubbly! And well, I did all sorts of silly things...and those rabbit costumes, ahenh-ahenh, seemed...I jumped up on on t-t-top of you, well everybody laughed at the time, but they never asked us back. Did...they?"
I think that was the first time he ever kissed her. She turned from the window to stare at him. "He looked so sinister in that corsette. And yet, he can be so nice." She noticed the bags and thin etched lines around his eyes, and the way his jowls hung down over his rumpled collar. He was breathing heavily from the effort of getting up, and stood there stuffing his stomach back into his belt. It was hard to believe he was still only twenty-six. I could sense the tension in her body.
And that old vault.....the air crackled with it...in that old old room. Part panelled and part papered with a curious pre-war design of faces, and if you half closed your eyes they seemed to form roses of great vulgarity. That old room that had known so many joys: the laughter of children, and seen so many tragedies, and watched generations of Rawlinsons & Maynards pass on. The stuttering candle traced leering phantoms on the walls. It was almost as if Old Sir Henry and that dreadful American woman were still there. She could see them now, Mrs.Radcliffe's stilted table, straight backed and cadaverous, poised over her sherry like a mantis, and bucolic, jolly, Old Sir Henry toying with his brandy. (Legs well apart, coattails thrown up front of the fire, expounding his interminable exploits before the blaze):
"You see, the natives had it in their noodles, that if a chap's soul is pure, then the snake bite wouldn't harm him- HA HA HA- poor old Hargreaves, died almost immediately!! Horrible agony. Now let me tell you something about the big fella, you see, Bunny and I went off into the bush after him, did we find him? By god we found him! I could see the rascal's eyes gleaming like coals, then he was coming at me through the undergrowth, big as a tank and a pair of tusks on him sharp as sickles, you've probably seen them up in the study, use them for defacing Readers Digest these days. Well, rifle jammed, bloody useless, Bunny panicked, took off like a fox, little fool, bearers scattered, not that I blame them, what we'd seen back in the clearing was enough to turn any man's liver. Then he was on me, snapping and stabbing at me legs, I side stepped, lithe as a bastard pansy, and let go at the blighter with eyes closed and fists blazing: Biff! Wallop!"
"Ooop.Ohh ohh....terribly sorry, darlings, I've spotted all over me trousers."<> "I think I'll be tottling off now."
They were walking toward a part of the hall I knew to be unsafe. It was no good. Whatever the cost, I had to warn them! "Watch out for that loose floorboard.", I shouted. (Then wished I hadn't.) They both turned to glare at me. Then the rotten wood gave way, and frozen, they disappeared into the cellar. With an agility that surprised me, I sprang from my hiding place and peered into the hole. Maureen was head first in a barrel of dill pickles, struggling furiously. I knew she carried a snorkel in her hand bag, but would she use it? Aubery was unconscious, moored in the smashed floorboards he looked pathetic, and ridiculous. His kilt had come off during the fall. With his eyes closed, he looked as he had at Mounte El Mar Rey that summer. Older somehow, but that proud Rawlinson chin was unmistakable. And the cheek bones, a little higher than his mother's, they appeared as twin humps on the top of his head. The calender pages peeled and blew away, the terrible memories started flooding back: Old Mrs.Macavore eating that horrible chicken, and the terrified child running from the burning factory...
Read the entire thing here.