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Monday 11 January 2021

All The World’s A Stage…….

     And in the village citizens have their exits and their entrances, and in his time a man plays many parts.

    In his office the new interim No.2 sat in his black global chair contemplating his future. It’s true the village hadn’t been quite what he had expected, more of a holiday resort than a prison. And yet his task had been a simple one, or relatively simple, the first part had been to bring a quick change artiste to the village. Oh not to tread the boards in the Recreation Hall, but to take on a number of character roles. The first of which was....
    The electrics truck stopped outside the cottage of 9 Private, a man climbed off the garden tractor, he had a black book in his hand and approached the cottage door and knocked. A middle aged man with black hair opened the door.
    “Electrics sir, I’ve come to read your meter sir” the tall man in dove grey overalls and black peaked cap said.
    “My what?”
    “Your electric meter, I’ve come to read it.”
    “The meter’s never been read before” No.9 protested “come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve got an electric meter.”
    “Well if I can come inside for a minute” the young man said brushing passed and entering the cottage “in the cupboard under the stairs will be favourite.”
    “There is no cupboard under the stairs, there are no stairs” No.9 said holding the cottage door open.
    “Well the kitchen then” and with that he disappeared into the depths of the cottage.
    No.9 followed the meter reader and found him in the kitchen.
    “No meter here, any chance of a brew?”
    “No chance whatsoever, just what is your game?”
    “You’re the kind of man who gets noticed” No.9 told him.
    “I try to maintain a low profile.”
    “Just so, just so. Look I’m in this place because I chucked my job up.”
    “What’s that got o do with me?”
    “Now they want to know all about me.”
    “Again what’s that got to do with me?”
    “Nothing, I can see that nothing. But I felt I could trust a man like you, a man who’s been around, who’s seen a few things, know what I mean?”
    “Just get to the point.”
    “What here.”
    “Yes, you came here.”
    “No not here you never know who might be listening!”
    “Then it’s too late, they’ve heard, they are aware and most likely two burly set guardians will be here in two shakes of a dogs tail!”
    In the control room the supervisor and his assistant were listening.
    “Do we?”
    “Do we what?” asked the supervisor.
    “Send round two burly set guardians to 9 Private?”
    “No, Number 2 said leave it to one double zero.”
    “Yes but if we don’t send the two burly set guardians won’t that look suspicious to Number 9?”
    “Maintain surveillance but leave the rest to one double zero.”
    “Yes sir.
    “Well sir I can hardly read your meter if you haven’t got one” said the meter reader almost too deliberately.
    No.9 stood by the open door of his cottage.
    “I’ll bid you good day sir.”
    “I take it you accomplished what you came for?”
    “Sorry sir I’m not quite with you?”
    “I take it you accomplished what you came for?”
    “I’m electrics no more than that” the man said climbing onto the garden tractor.
    “That covers a multitude of sins!”
    “I actually came looking for help.”
    “And went away empty handed.”
    “I’m a prisoner...just like you.”
    “Unlike you I don’t trust every Tom, Dick, or Harry who comes knocking on my door, good day to you.”
    The door slammed shut and the electrician drove away on his electrics truck.

    The next day it’s was a little old lady who crossed No.9’s path.
    “Good day to you young man.”
    “Good day to you old crone.”
    “Oh don’t be like that sir” the wizened old woman said “I bet you would buy a bunch of my lucky white heather” the old woman said taking a bunch from her basket.
    “I wouldn’t put money on it” he said about to walk away.
    “You’ve got a lucky face young man” the old woman told him.
    “Then I don’t need your lucky white heather!”
    “Why don’t you tell them the reason you resigned?”
    “What’s it to you old woman?”
    “I could tell them” the old woman said “I’ve seen you in my crystal ball, in an office shouting at a man sat at a desk.”
    “Then you’ll know I didn’t resign, I walked out!” and with that he went on his way.
    Another time it was “Come along young man” said the grumpy old man wearing an RAF peaked cap “do you think we have all day, well you might but I don’t.”
    “You’re in a hurry to be somewhere?”
    “Make you move young man.”
    He did, Knight took Queens Bishop’s Pawn “That suit you Group Captain?”
    “I wish I’d had you in one of my squadrons!”
    “You think I’d have made a fighter ace?”
    “You’d have made ground crew at best.”
    “Well someone had to keep the Messerschmitt’s flying, or was it Fokker Wolfs?!”
    “Damned impertinence, whose air force do you think I was in?”
    “Sorry Group Captain, but it is your move.”
    Queen took Knight.
    Bishop took Rook checkmate.
    “Hummp! Clever aren’t you!”
    “Sorry Group Captain.”
    It was then No.9 saw the Group Captain looking over his left shoulder.
    “Do you know what I think I’ll do?”
    “Organize an escape, you’ll have to talk to the escape committee first.”
    “I think I’ll fly that helicopter out of here” the Group Captain announced with determination “coming with me?”
    “You mean escape?”
    “It’s the duty of every captured officer to try and escape.”
    “This isn’t Colditz castle you know.”
    “I didn’t expect you, a civilian to be up to the challenge. I’ll go along, and as I fly off into the distance you’ll be sorry!”
    As it happened the gruff, defiant Group Captain never made it anywhere near the Alouette helicopter. He walked smartly across the lawn of the Old people’s Home and down the slope. He reached the lawn by the sea wall where the helicopter was, but between the Group Captain and the helicopter was the white membranic sphere of the Guardian, and there was no way passed that, not without an electro pass which synchronises with the alarm system. The result was an obvious one; the Group Captain succumbed to the Guardian, suffocated by its membrane!

   The next day a gardener was busy fitting a window box at 9 Private.
    “What the devil do you think you are doing?” No.9 asked, having just bought a copy of The Tally Ho from a nearby kiosk.
    “What it looks like guv, fitting a window box.”
    “Who told you to do that?”
    “My foreman guv, he said 153 go and fit a window box to 9 Private. So I did, and here I am doing it.”
    “Supposing I don’t went any flowers?”
    “Well it don’t matter whether you want flowers or not, My foreman instructed me to fit a window box and that’s what he will expect me to do.”
    “What are those flowers called?”
    “Them flowers sir?”
    “What these flowers here?”
    “Yes, those flowers there.”
    “They’ll be Delphiniums.”
    “Delphiniums, they look more like pansies and petunias to me.”
    “With a scarlet Pimpernel” the gardener said with a sly wink.
    “Pimpernel, scarlet pimpernel?” No.9 asked.
    “Yes guv.”
    “Do I look like I need saving from the Guillotine?” 
    The gardener in dove grey overalls and peaked cap made a final check of the window box then turning to No.9 said in quiet tone “No, but you’re a prisoner here just like me.”
    “So what?”
    “You have a secret, and Number 2 wants to know what it is.”
    “I could take the easy way out and just tell him.”
    “You could tell me.”
    “Why should I tell you?”
    “You know what they say.”
    “No, what do they say?”
    “A trouble shared is a trouble halved.”
    “What makes you think I trust you any more than I trust Number 2? Now, why don’t you go running back to your master and tell him to go and take a running jump!”
   And with that No.9 went into his cottage slamming the cottage door behind him. Then he stood thinking, and having left his cottage made his way to the Green Dome, crossing the street, up the steps, onto the balcony and at the front door he pulled on the wrought iron bell pull, at which a bell sounded somewhere. After a few moments the door opened the diminutive butler in black gloves and tails opened the door and showed the visitor through the foyer, through the open French doors and the pair of opening steel doors beyond. He stood at the top of the ramp, the pair of steel doors closed behind him, ahead of him the spacious purple domed chamber. He walked down the ramp and across the floor with purpose, and at the grey curved desk he demanded to see No.2.
    “I am Number 2.”
    “Your predecessor set his creatures upon me!”
    “Did he?” No.2 replied but not quite in all innocence.
    “Yes he did, they dogged my footsteps...why?”
    Then the penny suddenly dropped!
    “It came to read my meter, the gruff old Group Captain, the gardener, even the old crone that was you!”
    “Along with one or two other faces in the crowd you failed to notice. The young woman who dropped her handkerchief which you so readily picked up for me.  I was the old man in the wheelchair, I served you coffee at the cafe, sold you a copy of The Tally Ho, a bag of sweets, and a bar of soap at the kiosk, and just now you had no idea I was the butler who let you in!”
    “You must be what, almost 6 feet tall, the butler........”
     “Is five feet in his stocking feet, I have to admit I did have to take quite a bit of height off to impersonate him so well, and you had no idea that was me!”
    “That’s impossible!”
    “Oh I assure you its perfectly true.”
    “No, you couldn’t have impersonated the butler to get from the foyer into that chair so quickly!”
    “So you didn’t resign, you walked out, what before you were pushed?”
    “And where did they find you, on stage at the lyceum?”
    “The Palladium actually.”
    “Well get yourself out of here if you can Mister Pimpernel” No.9 said walking away from the desk. At the foot of the ramp he turned “what was it all about?”
    “I don’t know, they didn’t tell me.”
    “Well if you don’t mind I’ll exit up this ramp, and through the steel doors.”
    “They told me to tell you that this is only the beginning.”
    “Then I wish them better luck next time!” No.9 said reaching the top of the ramp, the steel doors opened.
    The steel doors slammed shut with a resounding clang.

Be seeing you

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