“The Field of Corn” - March 2012
Well, last year's harvest did not get rid of my corn, and so here is some more for you to ponder on. I don't want to send too much too soon, as you may grow tired of it, so I'll only do so from time to time .... but keep watching, for you never know when some more will be added.
In this story, the father of my first character was something of a Bible studier, and always thought that a biblical name for his son might come in useful one day, and was even more pleased when his eldest married a lady called Florence.
Well, here's the story you have been waiting for.
Now that their children had left home and retirement had crept up on them, Ebenezer Tide and his wife, Flo, had more time to do as they wished. For years they had occupied themselves, sometimes together, sometimes apart. While Flo would satisfy herself with shopping and seeing her former work colleagues, Ebenezer would retreat to the substantial shed in his back garden, where he would read his many thrillers and write crime stories for magazines. Often, he would watch his old crime and mystery films on tape or dvd. From time to time, the couple would go away on short breaks to visit their many friends, and so that they would not intrude on their routine, they stayed at small hotels or the occasional bed and breakfast.
Ebenezer was now on his tenth story, in which a husband was about to kill his wife because of infidelity on her part. For some days, he had not been able to settle into his writing, and when Flo suggested they go to the south coast to visit Tom 'Impeccable' Manners and his wife, Agnes, he was quick to jump at the chance. (Now, by way of an aside, it must be mentioned at this point, that Tom had acquired the epithet 'Impeccable', not because of his courteous attitude to others, but because of his habit of flying off the handle, whenever somebody displeased him.) The break would also give him a chance to work out something new and exciting for their wedding anniversary. He had never failed before, but what with all the problems concerning his present story, he was hard pressed for ideas, just as I am at the present time. (You can probably tell that, from the story, so far.)
Ebenezer and Flo drove the many miles to the south coast, one fine day in May, arriving late in the afternoon at ' The Silver Surfers' Bed and Breakfast, in the small town of Fairnival on the Hill, and unpacked.(You can see what I mean by being short of ideas. This was an ancient town named after a wandering monk from the later middle ages, who had a knack for roof mending and dabbled in the repair of church organs. Alas, prayers to him have been of no use where protection against metal thieves is concerned.)
The Band B was a well run business, in the same town where Tom and Agnes lived, and they were welcomed by 'Chirpy' Sparrow, the owner. Later, in conversation with a man in a pub, Ebenezer was to discover that the owner was not called 'Chirpy' because he was happy and outgoing, but because of the many budgerigars he kept at the rear of his house, to the annoyance of guests and neighbours alike.
Flo rang Agnes to tell her that they had arrived, and arranged to meet up the next day at noon, at the 'Silver Spoon' Tea Rooms'.
'Chirpy' suggested a quiet restaurant, 'The Harpic Inn,' where they could dine, that evening. After freshening up, they went for a walk around the small town, and came across a church of some note. It was an elderly place of worship, built of stone, named after a lesser known African, Anglican 'saint', Tikka Tibu, and surrounded by a cemetery. On the ground next to the closed door, Ebenezer discovered a Tesco bag, containing some pig products, and thinking that the contents might belong to somebody already inside the church, he picked up the bag to return it to its owner.
Ebenezer pushed against the door, which opened quite easily, revealing a porch full of visitors. "Thank God you came," said a small man at the front of the crowd and obviously on behalf of everybody present, who all sighed with relief. "We've been stuck in here for ages, unable to get out." He paused, and looking at the bag, he continued, "It looks like you've just saved our bacon, in more ways than one, if you see what I mean?" Ebenezer looked the man straight in the eyes and asked," Why couldn't you get out? There was nothing wrong with the door. It opened quite easily." The man was quick to reply, "But there's a notice on this side of the door, preventing our egress. Look what it says." He read out the comment, "'Keep Church doors closed at all times'. How on earth could we ignore a notice like that? After all, we are paid up members of The Literal Society, and who are we to disobey?" All the others muttered in agreement, as they filed out after the man.
"You can use that incident in one of your stories," said Flo, just as the priest came into the porch from the church, to put up some notices. "You can be sure I will, Dear," said Ebenezer. They said,"Good evening," to the clergyman, who welcomed them and introduced himself as Father Alberto Museo, one of the few Spanish Anglicans, and that he was about to close for the night.
Moments later, a small man and an equally small youth came into the porch, from outside. Both had shaven heads and faces, were thick set, wide shouldered and wearing red tracksuits, which had the word 'KNUCKLES' printed on the man's and 'SLOGGER' on the youth's. They were wearing off-white trainers, which had seen better days. The priest whispered to Ebenezer, " Would you mind waiting for a couple of minutes, until these two have gone, as they have come in here to get money, by fair means or foul?" Ebenezer said," No problem," and he and Flo pretended to read the notices. "Hello, Knuckles," said the priest," have you seen anything of 'Fingers' Pocket, lately?" "Yeah, Farver," replied Knuckles."Nice of yer rarkse. I 'ear he's doin' a five stretch for some serious dippin' at the Duke's weddin', larst year. Word on the street 'as it that he was stitched up by Constable Needle and Inspector Cotton. Nah, I arkse yer, is that fair?"
Father Alberto realised that the man had asked this question to take him off guard, while the son went inside the church by himself, in order to 'earn' some money. Father was also well aware that the youth was sidling towards the porch door. Ebenezer stood, diplomatically, in front of the door, on which was attached a notice, 'Lost property in porch', under which some wag had written, 'So did r. The youth squared up to him and said,"'ere, mite, you are seriously impairin' my ability to earn meself a 'onest wage. Don't yer care abaht Meester Camron's big society?"
Before the situation could get out of control, the priest intervened, opened the outer door and politely, but firmly, asked the closely shaven males to leave. "C'mon, son," said the older one," we're wastin' our time,' ere." They both shuffled out into the evening and the priest shut and locked the door. "Thank you for that," he said. "They come around here quite often for money. Glad you were able to stop it becoming nasty." The priest put up his last notice and said, "Seeing that you are here, would you like to have a look around? Lt’s a shame to waste the opportunity." The couple nodded, and Father pointed out some items of
interest and explained the history of his church.
Half an hour later, Eb and Flo were on their way, and hurried to the restaurant which was quite near the church. "Oh, look, here it is," said Flo, enthusiastically, 'The Harpic Inn." It had that 'old fashioned' appearance and as they entered, Eb said, either somebody deliberately changed the sign, or the owner prides himself on the cleanliness of his establishment." The lintel above the second door was lower than the first, and the proprietor had kindly placed a notice on it, which read: "Duck or Grouse". "Jolly decent of them to put that above the door," said Eb. "It certainly stopped me having a nasty headache." "Yes, and it has stopped my restaurant receiving hefty bills for compensation," said a dapper looking, middle aged man who had followed them in. "I am Broccoli, the owner. Allow me to show you to a table."
"An interesting name you have for your restaurant," commented Eb, to which Broccoli responded," Well, when I came here from Italy, I was eager to have a good old English name for my business. I closed my eyes in the kitchen and said to myself that I would call it after the first name I saw on any of the boxes in there, when I opened them again. And there it was, 'Harpic'. So, do you approve?" "Oh, er, yes," they both said, not wishing to upset the eager businessman, who had come all the way to England, from another country in the European Community, to open his restaurant.
Broccoli suggested that they sit down and handed them the menu. As there were few customers present, they sat next to the window, so that they could see the people as they walked past. Eb and Flo started to read the menu, half paying attention to what the waitress was up to. She was a Goth, in her late teens, with black eyelids and lashes, black lips and long black hair which all matched her uniform. She had brought the lavish sweet trolley to the next table, and sounded quite rude as she spoke to the two couples there, who seemed ready to leave, and who were becoming more and more agitated by her attitude. "You didn't eat very much by way of a first course, "she chastised. "Maybe you could make up for it by trying something from our abundant sweet trolley?" her voice rising as she came to the end of her question.
"No thanks," said one of the gaunt men."We are all bankrupt business people, otherwise known as 'fat-cats', and during a recession, just as always, we must watch our figures. lfs no good letting too much of what's left of our money go to waste. I did that before I lost my job at the bank," he said, tapping the area which used to house his paunch.
Things were not going too well for the waitress, part of whose wages came from 'pushing' the sweet trolley, because just at that moment, the neighbouring customer was biting into his dessert. "Urgh," he exclaimed, "this eclair tastes just like old boot leather." The waitress retorted, sarcastically," Well, sir, it is made from choux pastry." Not wishing to lose the price of yet another meal, Broccoli came over to smooth out the situation. "Get on with your job, Karen, and be careful how you speak to the customers, if you want to continue working here," he said tersely. Then he took the man to the counter and dealt with his problem.
"Just as well we didn't want anything from the trolley," said the gaunt man to his companions. "Shall we go?" He went to the till as the others made their way outside. Karen came over to Eb and said,"Sorry about that. I always seem to be getting it wrong. I've only been here a few days. Can't seem to hold a job down, lately. The last one I had was in the nail bar down the street. You know, the one called, 'Cut to the Quick'. The boss said she didn't like my attitude, and the way I spoke to the customers. Then she said I had upset an old lady when I said we had had a staff Christmas dinner with all the trimmings."
"That is like so gross, " said Flo, trying to use the type of language which young people think cool. "I don't think we should stay." Eb agreed and stood to help with her chair. They both left as Broccoli had his back turned, and just as the inner doors were closing, they heard him shouting at Karen, telling her in no uncertain terms, that she was about to get her cards.
Soon after, they entered the snug of a small pub, 'The Edinburgh", known locally as the 'Bug and Bite' (probably because of the uncleanliness of former years), and stood by the bar waiting for service. There were several men engaged in heated conversation at a nearby table, and their voices were raised, so that everyone could hear.
All their pint glasses were nearly empty, and one of the men was worse for wear and the most belligerent. He was beside himself with anger and his voice was the loudest. Flo and Eb eavesdropped, as the angry man continued his onslaught against another man, trapped in the corner.
"Isn't that?" asked Flo ... "Yes," replied Eb," the man from the Literal Society." The belligerent man was leaning across the table into the face of the literal man, jabbing his forefinger aggressively towards him. "We've all noticed you, mate, over the years .. how you've always accepted others' drinks ... how you've sat there, in your favourite space, never 'in the chair', while the barman and others have brought the drinks over. An' although you stick yer 'and in yer pocket, yer never bring out any money. So tell us, mate. Why do you never buy anyone else a drink, when ifs your shout?"
"Well, firstly, let me say how sorry I am to have annoyed you all so much," he replied. "The fact of the matter is that several years ago, I injured my leg ... very badly, as it happens. Yes, very badly indeed, and the doctor at the hospital suggested I should take care of it. In fact, what he said, was,"l don't think you should stand around in the pub, any more ..... and so, I don't."
There was a long silence. Then, the belligerent man and his three cronies stood. "We've had enough of you and your game," he said."You ain't gettin' any more free drinks out of us. C'mon, lads, let's go and drink somewhere else." Eb ordered drinks for himself and Flo. "Wouldn't concern yourselves about all that bother," said the barman. "They are always like that. They will be back tomorrow." "I know, Flo. I'll use the incident in one of my stories," said Eb before Flo got the chance to suggest it.
Half an hour later, they left the bar and Flo said,"We need some supper." "Lefs have fish and chips, then, like we used to do," suggested Eb. They walked back to the B and B eating them with those little wooden sticks, straight from the polystyrene containers, and Flo reminded Eb of that episode of 'One Foot in The Grave·, where a severed human finger was found in Mrs Warboys' portion of chips. The next day, at noon, they walked into the 'The Silver Spoon' tea rooms. "You couldn't get a cornier name for such a place, if you tried," said Eb,"but I'll put it into one of my stories one day."
Tom and Agnes were already there. They both stood to greet their friends. The women applied the obligatory hug, intoning the word, "Hi," at that level which is now customary among certain people, while Eb and Tom shook hands. "I was just commenting on the name of this place, as we came in," said Eb."lt didn't take much imagination." "Yes, I know," said Tom. "After the waitress has taken our order, I'm going to tell you a true story about that name."
Now, Eb and Tom had been friends ever since they were at school, and whereas the former had gone into Journalism, the latter had gone into medicine and was still working as a consultant in a nearby general hospital. They all began to discuss what they would like to do that afternoon. Eb mentioned that he and Flo would like to walk along the cliffs, and Tom declared that he was up for that, too. "You know that I don't like that sort of thing," complained Agnes." What am I going to do? I'll be left all on my own." "Why don't you go to the hairdresser?" asked Eb, trying to be as helpful as the altruistic cat who always put himself out for his owners.
"The hairdresser, the hairdresser?" called out Agnes, her voice becoming louder. "The hairdresser? I'll have you know, Eb, I went there only this morning." Before Eb could say anything else, Flo spoke up to defend him and to pacify Agnes. "I've been wanting to visit the quainter shops here, Agnes, for a long time, and I was hoping you would come with me. I didn't much relish the idea of the cliffs, anyway .... How about it.?" "Yes, that will be fine, Flo. I will enjoy your company,"said Agnes.
"So, that's settled," said Tom . "Here's the waitress." The waitress, a tall, thin blonde wearing the customary uniform, approached the table, pen and pad poised, ready to take the party's order. Muffins and coffee were the likely choice, and were brought very quickly to the table. Tom made good his promise to tell the story.
"Well," he began, "I was a young doctor at a hospital, not too far away, as it happens, learning as much as I could, when, one evening, I went along to assist at a birth. Suitably attired, I entered the room where the baby had just been born to a well to do family. Suddenly, the mid-wife called out, somewhat concerned," It looks as if the baby's mouth is full of sugar. We had better get the doctor." "It's all right," said one of her colleagues," here's Doctor Witherspoon, now." "Okay, okay, calm down, all of you," he said. "No cause for alarm. I've seen this sort of thing, before." The doctor looked into the poor child's mouth, carefully dipped a teaspoon in, and extricated some of the sugar. Then, he placed some on his tongue. "Mmm," he said,"looking up to the ceiling, as if deep in thought, "just as I thought ... The baby has been born with Silver Spoon in its mouth."
Everybody in the tea shop had been listening to the story. In fact, they couldn't have avoided it, because of Tom's booming voice, and they rewarded him with laughter, thunderous applause and shouts of ,"Tell us another." Tom stood and took a bow, but before he could start another story, his mobile 'phone rang and he sat to answer it.
I'll have to go into work and deal with a problem," he said seriously, "but I promise to see you all later on. Sorry, Eb. I know you had wanted to go for a walk along the cliffs, but it will have to be another time, I'm afraid." Tom stood, gave his wife a peck on the cheek, said, "Cheerio," and left.
As the others were finishing off the coffee and muffins, a gent came over to the table. "Hello, Ed," he said. "Fancy seeing you here." "It's Eb," he retorted. ''I've always been known by the name Eb," but he didn't pursue this because he knew what Ron was like. ''I'm down here on holiday with Agnes, meeting some friends. This is Agnes, and this is Ron Filmour." "Nice to meet you all," he said, and turning to Eb, he asked," Do you still have the same telephone number?" "Yes, of course I do, "replied Eb," why do you ask?" "Well, I often ring, and you don't reply," said Ron."l must have rung at least six times." "I remember those calls well," said Eb,"but they were over six years ago. Anyway, if you claim that you ring, why don't you leave a message on the answering machine, to make it clear that you have rung? It really is very simple." "Oh, I never thought of that," said Ron, as he started to leave. "Bye all."
He closed the door behind him. "Apparently, he's a bit of a Bible thumper and I've heard that his favourite part is the Book of Numbers," said Eb. "Most people think that his favourite book is the 'phone directory, though, because he tries out that routine on everyone he meets." Within minutes, the bill had been paid and Eb and the others were going their separate ways, the women to the town and Eb to the cliffs. He hadn't been there for years, and he was eager to see if there had been any changes.
After a few minutes, he was on the cliff path. There was a gentle breeze, a strong sun, and and the tide was starting to come in. Several people were walking their dogs, while others were sitting on benches. One of the couples said, "Hello," and he responded with a little conversation. "I had expected to see far more people on an afternoon like this," he said. "What's that?" the elderly man said, feigning deafness, as many people do until they can think of something to say. "Oh, yes, you're right," he said. There are fewer now, because of the parking charges in the car park, over there." He gestured with his hand. This was echoed immediately by his wife,"Parking charges, over there."
As the couple's alsatian came bounding over, Eb started to make himself scarce, not wanting to get involved with them and the fact that their dog wasn't on the leash. "He won't bite, yer know. He's a very gentle dog," said the man, sensing that Eb was leaving because of the animal. "Well," retorted Eb," both you and your wife know that, but others don't. He's not wearing a label to that effect, now is he?" And then he added sotto voce, "It's a pity you are not wearing a notice to warn others not to speak to you." He thought better of shouting it at the old man and his wife.
"Well, did yer hear that, Jemima? " said the old fellow. "The very nerve of some people." Eb moved away, thinking, "He wasn't as deaf as he pretended, and then his mind turned to his latest story, which would feature yet another murder. He was so engrossed he didn't realise he was talking out loud to himself about it, as he walked past a couple who heard what he was saying. "Did you hear that, Darling?" said the man." He was talking to himself about how he was going to get his neighbour to murder his wife."
"Oh, you must have been dreaming, Bert," she said."You don't 'alftell 'em." Eb soon got to where he wanted to be, dangerously close to the cliff edge. He walked along savouring the moment, and slowly breathing in the ozone. Nearby, was a group of boys in their early teens, playing with a football. He wondered if it would be worth warning them about the dangers of playing so close to the edge, but thought better of it. An expression of one of his grandmothers came into his mind: 'Proffered services stink.' It worked for her, and ifs always worked for me," he thought. And then, he noticed a white pole, which had been erected right on the edge of the cliff. A paper notice had been attached near the top of the pole.
Now, as he was approaching the sign post, Eb noticed that the playful noise from the youngsters had subsided, and he sensed that they had stopped playing in order to watch what he was doing. It seemed as if the post had been there for some time and was now right on the edge, either because the cliff had collapsed beyond it, or because somebody with a grim sense of humour had deliberately put it there, to entice people to view it. As he could not make out the notice very easily, because the writing was quite small, he approached cautiously, getting as near to it as he dared.
He put on his reading glasses and leaned forward to read what was written on thenotice. To his astonishment, he read,' Beware! Cliffs liable to collapse at any time!' "Weill never," he said out loud. "Is this for real? Would anybody in his right mind put up such a notice, right on the very edge?" This must be somebody's idea of a joke!" Suddenly, Eb had the uneasy feeling that all was not quite right. He felt that he was moving downward and that the ground was disintegrating under his feet. The cliff was indeed disappearing where he had been standing, and the last thing he heard above the noise of the crumbling rocks was the voice of a boy, calling out, "Oi, meestar ... cain 't you read?" followed by the gleeful, naughty laughter of his friends.
Moments later, Eb was lying on the beach, covered in rubble, and with some cuts and bruises all over his limbs and body, not to mention his head, he was feeling decidedly embarrassed. Next to him lay the notice. It had come off the pole. He reached over and lifted it, with some difficulty. Fortunately, he was still wearing his glasses. He managed to read what was written on the reverse:"We did try to warn you. SUCKER". Eb folded it up and put it in a pocket. The poor man, still dazed and trying to gather his wits, lay there for a few moments, and then decided to try and get up. Next, he heard the boy's voice again. "You all right, meestar?" Eb tried to wriggle round to lie on his front so that he could see up the remains of the cliff, and discovered that he had injured his legs. "Help me, boys, please," he shouted, seeing them looking down at him.
"Can't yer read, meestar?" shouted the cocky one. The others gesticulated and jeered, as certain modern children do, obviously imitating some of their elders' bad example. One of the others shouted,"Ain't naffin' we can do, mite. You'll 'ave farkse somebody else. "Then he heard one of them shouting, "Let's go, there's a bloke coming," and they ran off, laughing.
A few minutes later, Eb could see the man as he approached, and it dawned on himthat he knew him. It was 'Windy' Day. ( Now, it must be said that he was not known by this epithet for anything to do with meteorology.) He called up to the man, who looked over the edge and he in turn recognised him. "Hi there, Eb, how have you been? I'll drop you a line sometime," he said, as he continued to walk by. "Keep in touch." Then he was gone, as quickly as he had arrived.
"Drop you a line, sometime," repeated Eb, several times. "Now is not the time for sarcastic comments," he thought. He continued to look up to the cliff top, hoping that other people might walk along. Then he heard the gentle lapping of the water as it approached. Eb had forgotten that the tide was coming in, and became alarmed. All those 'what ifs' crowded into his mind, as he looked around him, to see if any help was coming from anywhere. He tried to haul himself as far up the cliff as he could to give himself some breathing space, but to no avail. He was roused from his fears by the voice of his former acquaintance. "Eb, Eb," he heard, and looked up to the cliff top. Now, Windy was looking down on him. How he hated that.
He had done it at school, and was doing it again. Windy shouted, "Sorry to havebeen so cruel, with my comment about dropping you a line sometime, but I didn't undertstand how serious the situation was. I realised there is plenty of selfishness in the world and, not wanting to be a part of that, rve rectified the situation. I’ve called the emergency services." Eb shouted, "Thanks, Windy," and decided to conserve his strength, as best he could.
The pain in his legs was starting to get worse, but Eb had decided not to give way to it. Then he heard the sound of several sirens and within minutes there were police and an ambulance crew on the cliff top. A fire engine had arrived also. Windy told the chief fire officer his friend's name and what had happened. The officer called down,"Eb, Eb, can you hear me?" through his megaphone. Eb raised his arm and gave the thumbs up sign, as he felt too weak to shout. "Good man," shouted the officer.
And then he continued,"We've decided that it would be impossible for us to attempt a rescue from up here, because of the state of the cliffs, and because the tide is coming in. It won't be any problem for some time, but we've alerted the Air Sea Rescue Service. A helicopter will be with you within minutes. Then you will be taken to the local hospital."
Eb determined to keep his mind occupied with making mental notes of all that wasgoing on, for future use of course, and then he heard the noise of the helicopter. The orange, yellow Sea King hove into view, coming as low as the pilot dared. Eb tried to turn round to see what was happening, but found it too difficult. Then he heard another voice from above. It was from the helicopter. One of the crew was telling him, via the loud hailer system, to keep still and that he would be with him in moments. "Well, I certainly hope so," thought Eb, "that down draught from the rotor blades is causing the water to whip up. I'm getting drenched, here.”
Suddenly, he had company. There was an airman on the beach with him, still attached to the helicopter, and he started his routine by asking him his name. "Eb Tide, Eb Tide," he replied, as loudly as he could, not sure if he could be heard above the noise of the engine. Then, sensing that Eb was confused and worried about the rising water, the rescuer replied," Nothing to concern yourself about. The ebb tide won't be here for some time, and so I have to get you out of here as soon as possible .... long before then. Now, what did you say your name was?"
By now, Eb was beginning to become exasperated, and shouted ''I've just told you my name. Now will you stop going through the 'Casualty' routine, in which you try to convince me that I've got dementia, by asking me my name, and get me off this beach?" The airman did not persist, and asked, "What's the damage, pal?" "My legs are injured," said Eb.
The airman gave him something to help with the pain, and Eb passed out. Before he realised it, Eb was in the helicopter, on the way to the local hospital.
As soon as the emergency vehicles had departed, and the cliff edge had been roped off, the group of boys returned. They were chatting excitedly. "Good idea of yours, Jozzer," said one, "to write out a new sign, and to put it right on the edge, like that. Would love to 'ave seen the geyser's face when he saw what was on the other side of it." "Yeah," said another," 'an we all goh te see th'eliocopter, as well as geh some fun at is expense." "D'ye fink the pilot was the King's son? Ye know, the Duke of Edimburg? Asked another. "'E ain't the King's son, cos we don't ave a king," said Jozzer. I fink the pilot was that Duke of York fellah." "Nah, 'e's on duty in the Flaklands, dahn sarth, fightin' wiv dem Typhoons," said Spikey. "'sides, couldn't 'ave been the Duke of York. 'e didn't 'ave his ten farsand men wiv 'im." "Nah, that was the Duke of Cambridge," said Jozzer.
"Who's the Duke of Cambridge?" called out Brains, as he ran off chasing the football, and pursued by the others. "Let's gerr 'im," shouted Snozzer, as they all ran off into the distance, thinking about more ways to cause trouble.The helicopter trip to the hospital took only a few minutes, and Eb was wheeled into A and E, where he was assessed and soon seen by a doctor.(For those of you who are complaining that you were never seen that quickly, I take your point, but you have got to remember that my story is only make believe.)
Eb eventually remembered that he had not called Flo, and asked the nurse to see if his mobile was in the pocket of his jacket. "Thafs not strictly part of my job description," she said. Then she sighed and continued, 'Tm only joking. rm one of those nurses who was trained to render assistance, whenever possible." She handed the jacket to Eb, who, having found the mobile, rang his wife's number. Flo asked, over the din of people talking and cups and saucers clattering in the tea-room," Is that you, Eb?" "Now, who else did you think it would be? Flo, I don't want you to be alarmed, but rm at the hospital, the one where Tom works."
"But I thought you were going for a walk along the cliffs. Did you decide to go and see him, instead?" "No, Dear, nothing like that," he replied. "I ended up here due to an error on my part. rm all right, now, but they are going to keep me in for a few days. I should be in ward 20, when you arrive. Don't worry, though, Flo, only my legs are injured." 'Til be with you as soon as possible, Dear," said Flo, and she rang off. Eb was wheeled up to the ward on a trolley and put onto a bed. There were several elderly men in the ward, and the television was on, very loud.
Two of the men were squabbling over what they should watch, their language becoming rather choice. Another was calling to them to turn down the volume, something which the one with the remote control did not wish to do. Suddenly, the ward nurse entered. "Who has the remote?" she demanded, holding out her hand, as if speaking to naughty boys. The two men pointed at each other saying, "He has." "Very well, if you want to play that game, r II take the set out of the ward," she said
with emphasis. The man with the remote handed it over and the nurse turned down the volume.
"The volume must be kept low," she said."You must realise that there are other people in this hospital. Now, remember what I said." She departed as quickly as she had arrived, leaving the remote on a table far out of the reach of either one. The man in the adjacent bed turned to Eb. "Hi, Jack's my name, whafs yours?" he asked.'Tm Eb," he replied. "I came in here for a fall," said Jack," and I soon got it as they were lifting me off the trolley. My wrist is almost repaired, now. What are you in for?" "I injured myself when the cliffs collapsed under me," replied Eb." I was brought here in the Air Sea Rescue helicopter."
"Something should be done about those cliffs," said Jack, "they've always been dangerous, but the council don't care. Anyway, not many visit that area, anymore, not since they've put up meters in all the carparks. It would certainly cause a few red faces if you were to put in for compensation, now wouldn't it?" A nurse entered brusquely, and drew the curtains around Eb 's bed. "Doctor Sporin will be coming in to see you, in a couple of minutes," she said.
He waited patiently, as patients in his position must do. Suddenly, after five minutes,the curtains opened and the foreign doctor walked in."Good afternoon, Mister Tide. I am Doctor Otto Sporrin. How are you feeling?" He held up two x-rays to the light on the wall." Mmm, "he said. "Nossing too serious. We should have you out of here in a couple of days." Just before he left he said," Oh, by the way. You are something of a celebrity. You are on the local TV news. Later." With that, he was gone.
Several minutes later, the porter wheeled in another patient, and helped him into the chair next to Eb's bed. The patient had dressings on his chin, throat and chest. When the man was settled in, he spoke, in a croaky voice to Eb. "Hello. rm Maurice. How are you?" Eb explained what had happened and hoped he would not be in hospital too long, and then Maurice started to explain what had happened to him. "You'll know how some people tend to take things too literally," he began," well my wife's like that, sometimes deliberately so. In fact, sometimes, she takes them to the extreme. She works on the fact that I have a nervous disposition. Always have had. Well, couple of days ago, I was fast asleep, in bed, when all of a sudden, I heard her shouting at me,'Wake up and smell the coffee!' Well, you would, wouldn't you? So I did. With a
start. I wasn't to know she was sitting on the bed, right up close like, with the cup right under my nose. My sudden movement caused the scalding coffee to spill all over my chin, throat and chest. Ooo, the pain was awful. I nearly passed out. The silly fool had to ring for the ambulance, and the crew got the police, because they thought the wife had deliberately assaulted me."
"That's an interesting story," said Eb."For once, I just don't know what to say." "One good thing came out of it, though," continued Maurice. ''I'm expecting to get several months' rest. She's been charged with aggravated assault, and the policeman told me she'll probably get three months behind bars. That will suit me." He stood and started to draw the curtain. "I can see you have visitors. I'll have a rest and see you later."
Just then, Flo arrived with Agnes and Tom, who all crowded around the bed.
As the women made for the bed to hug him, Eb raised his arms in defence." I am too fragile for that at the moment," he said and the women relented. They moved back to see where the chairs were and placed their plastic cups on the table which lay a couple of inches above Eb's bed. Eventually, they drew the chairs up to the bed and sat. Tom said that he would come back later, as he had work to do, and the women leaned in towards Eb, eager to find out what had happened to him. This was a time for embellishment, if ever there was, and Eb was never one to lose the moment.
During the course of his explanation, he added his thoughts about the people he had encountered on his walk. The people who had made the most impression were the boys and he had alreadly made up his own mind as to their guilt. He asked Flo to take the notice from his jacket, at this point. Shortly, two uniformed constables arrived, preceded by one of the nurses, Oliver Twitter, who told Eb that they wanted some details about his accident. He asked Flo to give the notice to them. They paid some attention to this, saying it would change the tone of, and add some gravity to, their enquiries. The officers didn't stay long, but Eb told them his suspicions concerning the boys, and the constables agreed that they would need to be interviewed. Then, they left. Soon after, Flo and Agnes left, leaving Eb to his thoughts and a well earned rest.
The next morning, Dr Otto Sporrin entered and told Eb he could go that afternoon, but that he must see his own GP. Later, Flo arrived with Agnes at visiting time, with a suitcase containing some clothes for Eb and, while Flo went for coffees for them all, Agnes reminded him of Flo's and his forthcoming wedding anniversary. "I hope you didn't mind my reminding you, Eb," she said, "but we both know how absent minded you can be, what with your head swimming with those story ideas, and, of course, your experiences yesterday."
"Thanks ever so, Agnes," he said, breathing a sigh of relief. "Got any ideas?" "You'll, never change," she said. "Flo has some ideas for it, but they'll have to go by the board, now that you will need to rest those legs." "You are dead right about that, Agnes," said Eb, smiling. "Definitely, we can't go on that walking holiday we were planning to take in Austria, or that sky-diving course I had in mind. She's very keen on that sort of thing, even at her age." "Oh, Flo didn't tell me about those ideas, Eb," said Agnes, quite startled." She only told me of the evening out. You know, dinner, that sort of thing, followed by a trip to the theatre to see 'Oiiver'.Agnes paused, thoughtfully, looking him straight in the eye. Then, she said, with a large smile, realising that he had been teasing her," Oh you are awful, leading me on all the while like that. And I fall for it every time. Don't you have anything planned?"
"Well, apart from the two ideas I just mentioned, I had forgotten all about it, Agnes old thing. Do you have any suggestions?" Eb asked, with a laugh. "Only that it would make a real difference to Flo, if you were to take her out for a meal, followed by a trip to see 'Oliver', in the best seats, of course," said Agnes. "Well, I might do the meal and a visit to a wine bar, but I don't care too much for musicals, especially those full of children and caterwauling divas," Eb said." You know that I prefer whodunnits and thrillers, that sort of thing." Agnes was quick to remark, "What if people thought about your stories, like that, Eb. You wouldn't do very well, at all, with your writing, now would you?" "Point taken, Flo, point taken," Eb said, feeling rather ashamed. 'Til make sure that Flo has a good anniversary. Now, not a word to her, because I really do want it to be a real surprise for her. We can do the Austrian hill walking, next year." "Oh, you and your jokes," said Agnes." But you know me. Mum's the word. It should be, I've had five children."
At that moment, Flo walked in. "All the arrangements have been made. Doctor says you are fit to go home, so long as you rest as much as possible, just for the next few weeks." Anniversary day soon arrived, and Eb and Flo did have their meal in a posh restaurant, followed by the visit to the theatre to see 'Oliver'.
Afterwards, they went to the wine bar, where they met Tom and Agnes, along with some other acquaintances. One of them, Martin, who had known Eb for many years, sat at the table, musing and sipping his white wine, as he listened to the conversation. He was trying to work out why Eb had broken his promise never to go to a musical, especially one such as 'Oliver'. He explained his predicament to the group, and asked Eb if he could help him out on this one.
Eb was only too eager to oblige." Well,"he said," I went to get an education and some new story ideas, even though they might be nearly two centuries old. Who would have thought that such a musical could have contained murder, theft and causing minors to pursue a life of crime? Now, you are not going to believe this," he ventured, "and I know it seems a bit like going against the grain after alii have said, but I went to see 'Oliver', not only to please Flo, but because I knew there would be a twist in it, somewhere."
Here is a short nonsense poem based on life and my latest story.
"Standing a Round “
Ernest Bugg spent his life in the Snug,
Taking all his meals there, every day;
But when it came to 'getting them in',
He was never too eager to pay.
Now, Ernest accepted the drinks that were bought,
For him by one and all,
But as for buying them a round,
He always avoided the call.
One day, Fred Stack and his pal, Jack,
Cornered Ernest in the bar,
Just as he was about to replenish once more,
His favourite one-pint jar.
"We see you've got some money to spend
So why don't you buy us a round?
For many a year, we spent all we had
And you never made a sound."
"lfs like this," said Ernest, in tones quite severe,
His face like a piece of old rock.
"I hope what I'm going to tell you now,
Won't come as too much of a shock."
"Some years ago, I broke my leg,
And Doctor was really quite sound."
He said: Never stand around in a pub:
And who am I to disobey a command?"