21 October, in the year of our Lord 2020
Up betimes, wakened by a loud gurgling, so with urgencie to the leads where is my closet, clenching tight and running with little steps, but only a formed stool, of a prodigious length, which is to my great content, and the noise was in the heating system, tho’ bled it two days since. By and by comes Mr. M. Jones to discourse of divers matters in the kitchen, it wet outside, and cold, and he tells me of his fear for an ancient tree that stands in his garden, and of his sinusitis and how it is improved by the Remidie of garlique, and it takes only two small cloves. Anon, and a knock at the door, where is a familiar figure of short stature, wearing a helmet with feathers and kitted out in a tunique of rough animal skin and skirt of fringed leather, bearing a shield and a sword made for a taller person, which drags on the ground by his sequinned sandals, the final touch being eye liner and rouged cheeks; and all the while balancing before him a huge cardboard box.
‘Morning, Mr. Popups! Amazonian deliveries!’ trills he from behind his unwieldy load.
‘Ah!’ say I, ‘that will be the strawberrie huller for my father. It looks well-packaged. Perhaps you could bring it into the kitchen?’
He sets it down there and brushes clean his skirt. ‘Why, Mr Jones! I did not expect to see you here,’ beams he.
‘Ah,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘We have met, then?’
‘I have broken two heels in your potholes. Is that coffee on the go?’
‘I thought we had sorted the potholes!’ exclaim I.
‘They are not the only problem,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘There is worse.’
‘Oh, no!’ gasps the Amazonian, biting his lower lip in concern. ‘What is the matter?’
‘I have ash die back.’
The other gasps, his hand to his face, open-mouthed in shock. ‘Oh, no! My father had it in his leg! Not his good leg, the other, which was cut off at sea. He ran a pub quiz in The Pointlesse Inn and one evening it collapsed under him in the middle of the music round. He collided with the bar and hit his head fatally on the foot rail, and we never found out who wrote Rule Britannia.’
‘I am so very sorry to hear that,’ says Mr. Jones.
‘Thomas Arne,’ say I, brightly.
‘If I may ask — where is your disease?’ ventures the other of Mr. Jones.
‘They say it has gone to the trunk.’
Tears spring to the eyes of our young delivery man. ‘How long?’ he gulps, clutching his mug with trembling hands.
‘Two years. Max,’ says Mr. Jones.
‘I am so sorry. I think about my father every day,’ says the other, dabbing his running mascara. ‘I have never got over the shock. There is so much I would have liked to say to him.’
‘A psychiatrist might help you through it,’ suggests Mr. Jones. ‘We know a nice lady. A Dr. Francis.’
‘Really? Where does she lives?’
‘Bedlam,’ interject I. ‘But she will not leave the house and spends all her time changing door knobs.’
‘Oh, but it would be wonderful if she could conjure up the spirit of my father!’
‘She is not a — ’ start I, but Mr. Jones throws me a look to prevent me dashing a young man’s hopes, which I was wont to do, but anyway there is another knock at the door.
‘Ah!’ say I. ‘Mr. Erchin! I need a word with you.’
‘And I with you, Mr. Peoples,’ says he, affabubblie making his way into the kitchen. ‘Mornin’ each. Is that coffee on the go?’
‘Okay, Trackentrace Apprentice of the Year — ’ start I.
He puffs out his chest where sits a new Badge. ‘Trackentrace Executive,’ he says proudly and helps himself to a mug.
‘Trackentrace Assistant Codpiece, more like!’ protest I. ‘You sent us on a journie of six days to Liverpuddle when it should have been an hour there and back to Liverpuddle Street!’
(‘Near Bedlam,’ observes the Amazonian.)
‘Which brings me to the reason for my visit,’ says he, raising a hand to shush me. ‘We have been pigeoned pertaining to an outbreak of the Covey at The Mermaid’s Bush, a notorious public house in a salacious area of that city, I believe. Would that be correct?’ The other two raise their eyebrows and await my reply.
‘I was there for the pub quiz!’ exclaim I. They raise their eyebrows higher. ‘Anyway, what happened to patient confidentialitie?’
The others make theatricle actions to zip their mouths shut.
‘We will need to have you feathered promptly,’ comes the replie, and then he seems to recognise someone. ‘Didn’t I see you on the steps of St. Paul’s, in glittery harness sandals and purple woad?’
‘You did!’ blushes the Amazonian, touched for the first (and possibly onlie) time in his life by the light feather of fame. ‘I am through to the next round.’ His face falls. ‘But it will likelie be postponed, for I fear we are to be in tier three.’ He brightens. ‘But in the interim Mr. Jones is to help me commune with the shade of my father, and I will have closure at last!’
I throw to Mr. Jones a how-exactlie-do-you-propose-to-do-that look but he simply climbs to his feet. ‘Well,’ says he to me. ‘Since I am the only one not to get a coffee, I will be off. If you’re coming round this evening for food, could you bring some small cloves of garlique? I have nearly run out.’
After dinner, I to the Physician’s where feathered anew for the Covey; thence for supper to Mr. Jones his house, but wondering whether I must isolate myself and so, preoccupied, forgot his garlique.
‘I do not think Dr. Francis lives in Bedlam,’ says he.
‘She once told me she had the family to her house, and it was bedlam,’ say I in defence. ‘This is rather good garlick chicken.’
‘Yes, I used my last two cloves in it.’
‘Why did you ask for small cloves, by the way?’
‘A large clove is too big for the nostril.’
I look at my plate.
‘I did wash them,’ he says.