Terça-feira, Maio 24, 2005


Spike Milligan, genius. He'd always loved Spike, the 70s radio re-runs of the 50s Goon Show, his marvellous war books, his poems, his classic 60s film, The Bed Sitting Room, and the Q TV series which pre-dated Monty Python, until his death at an respectable age, after his two comic peers, Sellers and Secombe had left the building. When he died it was his wish to have written on his grave, "I told you I was ill". The diocese protested it would upset people in the churchyard, so he lay unmarked for a year, until his family persuaded them to allow it in Gaelic.

There was something he couldn't get out of his head, though, and it was puzzling him.

He recalled a sketch where there were two scenes superimposed and playing at cross-purposes. One was a typically punning melodrama, with accusations and counter-accusations and denials bouncing about with a degree of hilarious slapstick. This would have been funny enough, but the second scene which paid no attention to the other whatsoever was a tennis match.

An umpire was up a ladder, in his perch, instructing invisible players to play a let. The dialogue in this surreal scene was constructed in such a way that you could concentrate on one, or the other, or both, and they were all funny. Genius. Except that it too closely resembled his life right now, and this was deeply unsettling.

"Play a let," he kept hearing. "I said, play a let!"

"I'm sorry?" a young woman in a soaking wet macintosh in front of him was asking "Pardon me?"

"Pardon who?" he countered.

"Did you say something?" The bank queue shuffled forwards, and he was slow to react, confused by the woman's question.

"Er, no, I don't think I did," he responded nervously, clutching his umbrella. "Did you hear something?"

She looked at him strangely. "Yes," she said. "You said, new balls please."

She said it flatly, matter of fact. An older woman with a red face in a winter coat far too heavy for the blast of heat the bank was supplying, turned back and chipped in, "I heard it. I heard it! New balls. New balls!"

"Did you?" he asked, embarassed, having to stop himself echoing her repetition. "Well it wasn't me, I'm sure."

There was an uncomfortable pause. The cashier sign flashed, and automated audio announced "cashier number four, please". The old woman moved to the window with a well-I-never backward glance, and he was left standing awkwardly behind wet mac woman. Had he said something unwittingly, like one does sometimes when preoccupied and deep in thought? Surely not. He looked everywhere but at anyone. Two people behind him shuffled feet and coughed. Come on, he thought, let's get this over and done.

In front of him was a colour screen showing a CCTV image. He could see behind him one of the men was carrying a sports bag. New balls! More like no balls. "Play a let," said his mental umpire.

The woman in front of him went forward to her window, and straightaway a second window became available. Sensing his imminent exit, he approached the chirpy young black female cashier with some relief.

"The machines are not working outside, and I'd like to draw out some cash, please, from this account." He slipped the plastic card through the gap at the bottom of the window. The mac girl was at the window on his right, waiting while some detail was checked. "How much would you like to withdraw sir?" asked the cashier. "Thirty, love," he responded, too hastily.

He glanced up at wet mac girl, who was now staring hard at him, and he coloured. Damn! Why the fuck did he have to say it like that? He felt all the eyes in the bank on his reddening neck and the hole in his cuff became incredibly interesting. Come on, come on! he willed the moments to hasten. Clickety click went manicured nails on the plastic keyboard.

"Tennis?" asked the cashier. He looked up, horrified. "Eh...um...ahh..." he stammered, conscious now of his beating heart. She looked at him expectantly. "Tens OK?" "That'll be fine," he forced out. She counted three tens and passed them through. "Thank you, sir," she sang, "Have a good day."

He turned. "Cashier number two please." Mac girl was still staring, looking sneeringly triumphant, and looked as if she was about to say something. He narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw. Her face changed to mild alarm, and she took half a step back.

"Play a let," he hissed at her through his teeth. Picking up the cash, he walked rapidly out into the cold air.

2 lift and separate:

Astrid sputtered...

The cow looks hungry, will he eat the man or will he go for the green grass?

10:02 PM  
gennie sputtered...

i like the story... but i had to read it twice. i'm dyslexic, what can i say?

2:42 AM  

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