One evening when I, the luckless Rodney was in my Prime Ministerial study, in a brown study myself as it happened, The commandant strode in,stern, wearing black gloves, buttoned up to his ears.
“Rodney,” said the ex-captain authoritatively.
“Rodney, you’ll have to go!”
There he dwelt,erect in the doorway, grand and rigid as embodied duty. Grand! There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it. Then I finally grasped the real meaning of his words…I’ll have to go!
Pale, I rose and looked around with a softened eye upon the cosy snuggery. Tightly closed in, full of warmth and tender light, upon the commodious easy chair, my books, the carpet, the white blinds and the windows, beyond which trembled the slender twigs of the little garden. Then, advancing towards the brave officer, I took his hand, grasped it energetically, and said in a voice somewhat tearful, but stoical for all that:
“I am going, Davibra.”
“Wouldn’t you like a cup of hot chocolate before you go?” He murmured timidly, making amends. Too little, too late and too hot, I told him in a straightforward manner. A Toddy of another kidney would not have met with a rebuttal.of that nature.
I left, as I said I would. Not straight off though, for it takes time to get one’s things together. To begin with, I ordered two large boxes bound with brass,and an inscription: “Rodney of Dorney. Firearms, Fink Brau and Tobacco.” Lifes essentials
Next, I had sent over from Streslau-le-vieux a downright cargo of tinned eatables, pemmican compressed in cakes for making soup, a new pattern shelter-tent, opening out and packing up in a minute, sea-boots, a couple of umbrellas, a waterproof coat, and blue spectacles to ward off ophthalmia. To conclude, Quet Bezumy, my chemist made me up a miniature portable medicine chest stuffed with diachronic plaster, arsenic, camphor, and medicated vinegar.
Soon arrived the great and solemn day. From dawn all the town had been afoot, encumbering the road and the approaches to my home ‘Bobtail Villa’. People were up at the windows, on the roofs, and in the trees; bargies, porters, dredgers, shoe-blacks, gentry, trades-folk, warblers, weavers and club members; in short the whole town. Market-gardeners from the environs of neighbouring vicious Spandrels, carters in their huge carts with ample thelts, vine-dressers upon handsome mules, tricked out with ribbons, streamers, bells, rosettes, and jingles, and even, here and there, a few pretty tarts, come on the pillion behind their sweethearts, with horny blue ribbons, perched upon little iron-grey Spartican horses.
All of a sudden, about ten o’clock, there was a great stir in the multitude as my garden gate banged open.
“Here he is! Here he is!” they shouted.
‘May I inquire,’ just one whispered softly in my ear, ‘are you Aynsley Dunbar?’
“Yes you may inquire”, I replied with much kindness and no trace of condescension, Chunger’s revenge shall be sweet.
When I appeared upon the threshold, two outcries of stupefaction burst from the assemblage:
“He’s a Turk!” “He’s got on spectacles!”
In truth, I had deemed it my leaving duty, to don the full and worthy costume. White linen trousers, small tight vest with metal buttons, a red sash two feet wide around the waist, the neck bare and the forehead shaven, and a vast red fez, or chechia, on my head, with a long blue tassel tied together with this and that. The five positions of the fez? I’ll show you six! No, I cry your pardon, I was forgetting the spectacles, a pantomimically large pair of azure barnacles, which I wore of course to temper all that was rather too fierce in my bearing.
“Long life to Rodney! Hip, hip, hurrah for Rodney!” roared the populace.
Calm and proud, although a little pallid, I stepped out on the foot-way,glanced at the hand-carts, and, seeing all was right, listlessly took the road to the railway-station, without even once looking back towards Bobtail.The station-master awaited me, an old African veteran of 1930 and he shook my hand many times with fervency.
The Streslau-to-Clovis express was not yet in, so during a quarter of an hour, I promenaded up and down the platform speaking to the waiting hoard of this and the other. I spoke simply, with an affable mien; it looked as if, before departing, I meant to leave behind a wake of charms and regrets. Gentle and placid as Socrates on the point of quaffing the hemlock, Rod the intrepid Chelsonian had a word and a smile for each.
On hearing their hero confabulating in this way, all the poor poloi felt tears well up, but some were stung with remorse, to wit, officer Davibra and my chemist. The railway employees blubbered in their corners, whilst the outer public squinted through the bars and bellowed:
“Long live Rodney!”
At length the bell rang. A dull rumble was heard, and a piercing whistle shook the vault.
“The New Mexico Express, gen’lemen! First stop, Mobile Alabama.”
“Good-bye, Rodney! Good luck, old fellow!”
And that my friends is how I ended up as professor of Ruritanian studies at the Clovis Community College. Any questions before I bid you all goodnight? Im really quite overcome with emotion.”
“Any questions? I dont think so!” Steve was blowing his top, “And you will not be bidding me goodnight until Ive had my say, Can we start another fresh chapter now please?”
“Absolutely not Steve. thats the long and the short of it. If you have anything to say, just say it. You have five hundred words or three minutes, whichever comes sooner. Then Im off to bed.”
“Well then, sit tight Rodney my friend, for this is Steves tale and every word of it is true. Five hundred words, five hundred more, just to be the man who spoke one thousand words to you.
“Ok a thousand, get on with it!”
”But remember, Blank lines or lines starting with # shall be ignored.”
“Several years ago on a very hot summers day I was strolling summer vacation fashion in let me see, Lower Baden Lebensmittel I believe it was. I Passed a beer garden and saw a group of cyclists sitting at a table. I took a seat nearby and ordered some herrings, then I thought for a moment of Pammy. I saw her stomping up and down, tearing her hair, simpering and blaspheming, in that beastly way she has. Then I saw my man, his hat on the rack and I wondered if his clothes would look nice on me. He had a knitted puce suit, a crimson felt fedora, an oval half a pince-nez and a rosy cheek, just one. He was drinking beer and eating pancakes What an idea!
The pink halved gentleman approached me without caution, just a wretched proposition. Zipping his ample primrose mittens right up to the shoulders…
#Dont interrupt Rodney!
He approached me smiling like a goblin.“Young man”. He flattered me soundly. “American young man with shaven legs and musculature. Beneath my cheeky pink cheeks and woeful glasses lies a man of means, not the apotheker, avocado or pin headed lawyer that you may perceive from mere appearance. Take me for a burgomaster if you will, but I am more, much more than this; I am a randomiser of wholesome ingredients. I am Prince Ernesto of Kaufland, the stick you must note, is of little importance I use it for effect and regular but quite justified beatings, likewise the monocle.
The Kaiser I am and imperial clever clogs of a secret and deeply untrustworthy charitable foundation, and thusbeing, in urgent need of a cyclist of a particular age and nationality with a poor haircut and whats more, I pays handsomely.”
“I’m no cyclist Sir”, I cringed. “What is a poor boy to do?”
#Ignoring me he went on.
“Our sole vocation is amiable invasion yet ultimate control of each and every European nation, with the exception, needless to say, of Norway. Our credendum is, in a manner of speaking: ‘In through the out door.’ We are well tempered sphincters that train, wheedle, cajole and occasionally use excessive force to make wayward populations behave with decency, like us! To queue in an acceptable fashion for example, buy special things on Wednesdays, to know that the ultimate choice is ours and that the customer is seldom, if ever right; but above all we strive for the total eradication of shoplifting in all its vile and disgusting incarnations.”
#“That is fine” I said, in wonderment at his allusions, “but where exactly do I fit in with these startling plans?”
“We have opportunities for fellows of your particular calibre; openings, orifices, If I may call them such, indeed we do. As soon as you have accepted your mission I shall dispatch you forthwith to the south of France, whence you shall begin your bespoke business with practical immediacy.”
#Well I did accept my mission, even before enquiring humbly about the actual knobs and dials of the already done deal.
“You shall have a dual role, so your actual job title will be in fact binomial : as one of my team of fifty or so Agents destabilisateurs , you will be expected to assume a name…
#Here he handed me an alphabetical list of possibles.
..assume a name and play the part of a flamboyantly demented retired professional cyclist, which, if you dont mind me saying will be a walloping great piece of Black Forest gateau for you my boy. You shall be like a catfish swimming in the deep blue sea. Secondo, as one of our clandestine, blackmailing mischief-makers, you will seek out one Eric Burnett, hunter, drug-paddler and queer as a nine Euro bill by all accounts. Last seen in and around the libertine environs of Saint Tropez. You will find this man and befriend him, then get your hands very dirty, if you understand the phrase?
His father you see plays an important role in the governance of our little puppet state and we need leverage. We delve deep into the food chain; deeper than you could ever imagine, cooked meats of many a description, sausages galore with daft and dodgy condiments washed down with yardstick beers and good lashings of Freshona. Yes leverage is what we need, and from the top rung of degradation to boot. If youre happy with that, and you verify that everything that had conflicts has been staged, you can write Lidl commit just here, to finalize the merge commit.
And to finish Herr.” Glancing at the paper I had just signed,
He looked at me like he had just beaten hell out of me at fussball or something…..”Milbona, one of my personal favourites, and um! Whats this a nickname too? El Tequito! Bravo Sir, you are quite the natural! To finish Stephen, as I was saying, you will receive a stipend of some twenty-five thousand Euros per month, a generous expense account, you know, for dinners and lunches and suchlike, as well as a safe house in the village of Collobrieres.”
# He hesitated.
“A wise man knows his onions are strong and pickly, and I apologise in advance for the sheer and utter crabbiness of your lodging place, but it remains the location of choice for government agencies and institutions such as myself,there you will find the infamous Andre and Ursula, The high flying Kites, the Aggoun brothers of the CIA (Cash In Advance) and even a dangerous man called Graham who drives a big bastard Volvo, with brakes!
It is a little remote, cut off and the end of the line electrically speaking, yet at the same time, a mere stones throw from centres of great interest to the manipulators and the Swiss. But take care though..
#He added gravely…
Take care Stephen, I know of at least one assassin loose in the town and Britain’s most wanted dispatriate, codename Mickaela is also believed to reside there. Be careful my friend and loyal employee, for the policing is, how do the British put it? The policing is not robust. Not robust at all.”