Dulltown, UK: Today’s elephant in the room is the one that just sat on the host’s Stradivarius viola which he had stupidly left on the sofa.
A short email this morning from Veronica Crush, writer from the glory days of the Hull Surrealist League, now living in New York with tall tree surgeon and heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, Monty Tick. She says that after an unusually quiet period she has managed to cast off the writer’s block and has ‘thrown together’ another of her ‘stories’, which she attached to the email for me to share with the world:
Monica Stoop got on with her long-time partner reasonably well even though they didn’t fully cohabit. They both liked to give the impression that they were a little bit closer than they actually were; their true bond was that they were both heavily taciturn.
The Stoops were quite happy to spend virtually all of their time together exchanging the odd glance, but without speaking. They did however feel obliged to go out together as a ‘couple’ occasionally so that their friends, colleagues, acquaintances, siblings, coevals, and even passers-by and strangers would notice them and see that they were just ‘normal folk’ just like everyone else, and not ‘strange’ at all.
They had a favourite cafe that they would frequent for this purpose; it wasn’t really their ‘favourite’ of course, but it was the one they had agreed on as their platform for their pretense at being an average Joe and Jill, an everyday couple, as it had plenty of windows facing onto the busy sidewalk.
Monica and Reynard, for that was her partner’s name, couldn’t really just sit there facing each other stirring their beverages and poking at plates of sticky confectionery in silence, for that might attract attention from the other customers. But really, after so many many years they had absolutely nothing left to say.
A method they had devised to avoid these noticeable silences was for them to be British towns and cities. Yes, when out and about, they always had with them an old and well-worn copy of the AA Travel Guide to Great Britain (that they had acquired on a visit to the UK in the swinging ’60s) that they could refer to in between sips of coffee. The conversation, complete with well rehearsed facial expressions and hand gestures, would go something like:
‘Holme-on-Spalding-Moor dearest, Chesterfield definitely no…’
…and such exchanges.
They would nod and smile in what they thought was a convincing manner; they had over the years carefully watched ‘normal people’s’ conversations. Half an hour would pass this way about once a week. If they became tired of the British Isles they would sometimes be Animals of the World or perhaps Woodworking Tools Through the Ages: ‘Rip saw, bench hook, Forstner bit, key hole file, bradawl…’ etc.
This cafe chatting worked quite well, and passers-by would occasionally spot them through the window and give them a cheery wave. Unfortunately the friends, after waving, might decide to come into the cafe and have a quick word. Oh dear…
On one such occasion the interloper was Sandra Tung whom Raynard had known since school days. She strode in, smiling broadly, clacking across the shiny hardwood floor in high heels, and approached the Stoop’s. The AA Guide was quickly slipped under the table and convincing smiles of greeting were manged; the couple braced themselves for the impending ordeal, but no, all was well. Sandra just leaned over the table, and said in a low and rather conspiratorial voice, ‘I won’t join you, I’m meeting my husband Gervais in a minute or two… Ah, here he is now…’ and she went off to meet him.
The Stoop’s thought of getting their book out again, but paused when they saw that after embracing, kissing, and sitting down, the Tungs sat in silence for a good five minutes, and then, after furtively looking around the room, placed a thick volume on the table in front of them, and opened it…
Reynard whispered in Monica’s ear, ‘Look, it’s The Anatomy of the Human Body… by H R Strepsil’ Listening carefully they could hear snatches of the Tungs’ conversation:
‘Duodenum sternum my dear!’
‘Larynx, larynx larynx…’
‘Patella right now, if you don’t mind Sandra!’
The Stoops smiled at each other and plonked their book back on the table and opened it…
Veronica Crush. 2016.