Yet another Graduation!
Alan A. Spanswick.
He was deep in thought as he struggled into his pyjama bottoms, questioning now with a threadbare waistband, whether theyd stay up or not! But in never having found spending money attractive for any reason, just hoped that they would! While feeling quite sure it would be tonight, not this nonsense with his pyjamas but the other thing! And positive with that other thing as certain to happen soon!
Especially since coupled with a sort of gut feeling of it getting closer, with this being absolutely essential in making this story then worthwhile!
Algernon Wethernott Jones aged seventy five, was an only child whose life up until now by his own definition amounted to nothing. Or not to be too harsh, almost nothing, while his appearance in long-establishing that belief! He had what could well be described as an Ebenezer Scrooge look. Although not having read Dickens was probably blissfully unaware of that!
He was marginally short in statue, scrawny with a slight stoop and crowned with a dome like head. While his scraggy long unkempt hair left to cover then both back and sides! This unfortunately only tended to exaggerate a large bald patch at the front, which he then inexplicably polished? While as with his few remaining teeth he rarely polished. His complexion sallow in confirming his general bad health, and the thick stubble on his chin confirmed shaving just the once a week. And probably by now coming as no surprise having very little self esteem or self worth.
While the few clothes he had took on an undressed unwashed look, in confirming sadly then by any standard even a scruffy standard as a very unattractive person.
At school he had been discouraged from taking part at sports, with an assertion from his mother in believing on the early death of his father, as likely born with a hereditary heart defect! This being confirmed in part by the family doctor who didnt like sports anyway, except for juggling and darts! With neither I believe if ever qualify as a sport! His unsporting legacy however, did not endear him then either to his classmates, teachers or even the school cleaners! Or for that matter anybody else who might have noticed him when walking by the school. So he continued his education without making any lasting friends, or significant finishing grades. Other than that one degree in Spiritual Jokes on proving inspiring later! Its sad then having to mention also throughout that time suffered with strong body odour, which positively when attempting mixing socially didnt help.
But after leaving school he eventually found employment with the post office, although working mostly on his own probably due to the body odour. And soon after a well deserved but unfortunate trustworthy promotion managing cash transactions?
It was later on being released early from prison either for good behaviour or because of his smell, when finding instant employment then in clearing drains! And with little sense of smell himself proving now a distinct advantage. Once asked by a satisfied hotel owner after a particularly large domestic blockage how best to prevent it in future, his sound advice although probably somewhat illogically was To give his guests more roughage!
Algernon lived alone on the first floor of a three story apartment building.
While the top floor occupied by an elderly man a Mr Biggs, he rarely saw but heard quite often when practising his drums loudly!! While the owner a Mrs Edwina Yodel, a heavily bosomed grey haired lady sensitive about her age, living on the ground floor below. An interesting lady, married just the once without children, to a Swiss yodelling specialist. Who unfortunately died when attempting to reach an additional high note in one of the more remote areas of the Alps. Although unlucky for him, with his the only death recorded from the avalanche that followed. While Algernons only apparent contact then with his landlady was on the last Friday of the month to pay his rent, or at least some of it!
His apartment also echoed his disappointment with life, with no carpets just bare boards and a few unhappy effects left to him by his parents. These consisted in total of a mallet, a few pegs and a flag, as sadly only ever chosen to live in a tent. These were added too sporadically with items rarely purchased acquired free. And usually from outside a local furniture store that Algernon somehow mistakenly assumed as being discarded. When in fact purposely left outside overnight, for lack temporarily of space within! With Algernon it seems old habits die hard!!
He also not since moving in some thirty three years earlier changed either the wallpaper or paint inherited from the previous tenant. The reason as being on the miserly side, would not invest in a wall paper scraper unless reduced or on sale. And with that not happening, conveniently cancelled out subsequently the necessity to paint!
The consequences of his miserable existence, led him too becoming obsessed in just what purpose there was in him being here?
His search for the answer becoming then his sole purpose in life, other than playing his accordion loudly in response to that tenant above!
His quest meanwhile for that answer resulted in him combing the shelves of all local book shops and libraries in the vicinity. Although in being a slow reader, absorbing the contents without finding an answer, became a trial in itself.
It was only then reluctantly, that Algernon turned to religion!
His previous lack of enthusiasm with faith groups, instigated on that early death of his father who was a Buddhist, with his mothers then subsequent conversion with zeal as a born again Christian. This resulted in her prohibiting him to see, hear, or mix with anyone outside that faith, with the exception of Jewish people! Which Algernon later claimed played a large part in raising a smile with a song, or joke or two, during his unhappy childhood. But nevertheless undeterred over the next twenty years he studied them all, from the ancient faiths to lunatic fringe cults, while excluding anything to do with snakes! But regrettably failing once again to get the answer he sought!
In the years following Algernon became more of a recluse than ever if thats feasibly possible? Eventually however believing that there must be a supreme power that governed all beside the stock market, assuming then whoever it was being aware of his effort would contact him then directly. It was also he believed that the ideal setting for this encounter would probably be at night, when others not the least interested were asleep. He had already decided with that question finally answered, it was his destiny, nay duty, to reveal his findings to the world! This whether acceptable to others or not! So when most people looked forward to the dawning of a new day, Algernon looked forward to the arrival of a new night!
He shivered a little as he climbed into bed; the room seemed colder that usual which was odd, as in saving money with minimum heating and windows never opened a legacy from his sterile upbringing; the temperature with Algernon always felt the same.
As the feeling of coldness subsided, Algernons attention returned to his nightly routine of ensuring that everything was ready and in place. He checked his watch, it said 8pm, but just to make sure minutes later he checked it again, and surprised as it still said 8pm? This being the exact time he would go to bed every night winter and summer. But initiating then on finding a piece of paper and placing it next to the watch to write: - Must buy another watch, not necessarily new?
On the small bedside table next to the watch and now the note, was a glass of water, placed to refresh him should he wake up during the night. As with previous earlier alcoholic drinks over the years, having now put paid to both his once somewhat reliable memory and inevitably driving licence! And because of it, added chiefly with that memory loss, sat a small but rather old still working tape recorder, on which he would immediately record with any luck that long awaited message. Satisfied now with his preparations for the night, he blew out his bedside candle! But unfortunately in doing so singing slightly with an ouch, the thickening stubble on his chin! Then on clearing with a successful wave most of that singed aroma, snuggled down comfortably again between the sheets! This to position himself as did every night, flat on his back, a grin on his face, with those sheets pulled up snugly, beneath his aging wrinkled armpits! His grin broadened as he closed his eyes, for this to Algernon was the best time of the day, and with the last of that singed aroma drifting over him quickly fell asleep.
When the voice came it wasnt what hed expected. There was no fanfare or blinding light, nor was it as hed envisaged neither soft nor gentle! But it was loud and clear with attractive background dancing music. He awoke unsure at first whether this just a dream, but with his feet now throbbing full of splinters, convinced him it wasnt. It was then as he began removing carefully the splinters although somewhat painfully, the voice continued and he began to feel all the disappointment and bitterness drain from him! He felt exhilarated, refreshed and young again, and oddly assumed as a bonus slightly taller! Optimistically he again checked his watch, which still said 8pm, but then drew comfort from the note beside it. He guessed that at least an hour went by before the explanation hed waited so long for came to an end. It was then Algernon felt straight away a new person!
And accepting then unreservedly once his feet got better, that whole new challenge ahead of him, as one he could hardly wait now to get started on! It was then he noticed how bright the room had become without relighting the candle! This also he felt in some way reflected his new found happiness. And now feeling positive of that future, fervently began his self appointed task. He picked up the microphone, pressed the recording button, and then after a few shakes it sprung into life and he began to speak! He finished recording feeling happy with the result! While thankful because of the recorder, although the voice loud and clear enough, in not having to rely solely on that now hopeless unreliable memory! He played the tape over once again just to make sure that nothing was left out. But then with his unreliable memory how would he know? But just to make doubly sure he rewound the tape and this time turning the volume down, played it back to his approval once again. And finally totally satisfied, congratulated himself but with no thanks to the watch, on a job well done!
With everything complete, he looked again around his room. His home still tolerably scruffy but how much nicer without that singed smell! He was more contented than he ever thought possible, but also very tired! He sighed loudly as he lay down between the sheets, and with his feet now a little less painful, made himself comfortable once again. Then as the tiredness drifted over him, relived all those years of false hopes while waiting for this night to arrive! But then realised that didnt matter anymore, for the sheer joy he felt at that moment leaving aside his feet, compensated for all those disappointments of the past. Thank you, thank you very much! he said aloud at the same time glancing around the room as though expecting an answer? When none came he continued only quieter now with, What was that quote that actor Ray Milland was famous for?.. Ah yes, I remember! he chuckled quietly! That its only the ups that make the downs seem so good! Then smiling, not realising in having made a spoonerism, went back to sleep.
After the last Friday in the month came and went, Mrs Mopp became concerned, having never known him late with his rent before, or at least some of it. Excluding that time of course when in prison! So, she politely waited another day before knocking on his door, and after no response used her pass key to let herself in EKKK..EKK..kkkk.. She screamed!
The police were first to arrive, followed closely by an ambulance. Algernon was found lying as he always slept, flat on his back a broad grin on his face, with sheets up snugly beneath those wrinkled armpits. The medic a Andy Thump disturbed by the grin, thought perhaps with an over erotic dream he could have fainted, and began slapping his face! It was only when after finding no pulse but with the grin remaining and having then being physically restrained, he agreed to stop! Mrs Yodel then remarked how peaceful even contented he looked, and so much better than on previous days when looking continually disappointed and unfulfilled??
At the inquest, the coroner Mr Sebastian Twaddle determined that death was due to a massive heart attack, or something similar. Time of death could not be established because of the delay in finding the body. But his best guess and being new at the job, was between midday and midnight, whichever came first. A police statement read by Inspector Harold Patel, confirmed there were no signs of foul play except for the face bruises, and that a tape recorder found near the body when played, proved to be blank. At this, Mrs Yodel only realising then had lost a tenant sobbed uncontrollably out loud.
Bruce who claimed believe it or not in coming from Australia, after reading the story through once again and satisfied with the final draft now muttered confidently. That should do it! As quickly then sealing down after licking the flap with a kiss for luck, of a large brown envelope now held firmly in his hand! Minutes later found him then in great haste hurrying down stairs of the apartment building. Then on reaching the bottom and turning sharply to the right, colliding inadvertently with the now unavoidable chest of Mrs Edwina Yodel! You are in a hurry this morning Bruce her face now beaming at that pleasurable collision as coyly adding! And hows the writing going? Bruces face lit up instantly with a huge smile, as enjoying her response before replying! Its finished Edwina its actually finished! then boastfully continuing So Im rushing off this very minute to catch the post answering now with a confident smile and added wink before continuing enthusiastically And if I cant get this published Edwina, I might well give up and find a job either washing dishes or working on Wall Street!! .Really! she replied somewhat confused in not understanding the correlation?.. Then both laughed! As Bruce as with her expression still one of confused, now squeezing her arm affectionately if not a little too aggressively, confirmed with an Ouch! then from her. This followed with Bruce then making his way quickly towards the front entrance of the building!
But after that close gesture of friendship followed with a head turning wave acknowledged by Edwina, failed then to notice with the door opened wide by an old man carrying a large instrument case, inquiring, after hearing from an almost deaf drummer friend of his of an empty apartment available? This combined with still gazing fondly at the envelope, causing Bruce to narrowly plunge past him, painfully now down three unyielding exterior steps onto the high street. When initially seemed luckily in just avoiding collision with an elderly lady, whod, appeared unexpectedly in his path! His close unwarranted near assault followed by his hasty apology, now angrily dismissed by his victim. But moments later in bringing instant retaliation in the form of a swift but unsuccessful swipe with her walking stick!
Edwina, her fingers now crossed tightly behind her back observing thankfully with both relatively unscathed, now sighed with relief! And while certainly wishing him quietly, an uninterrupted safe journey to that distant Post Office. Though positively pleased at last no longer a witness should it prove otherwise.
Bruce OBrian OReilly had moved in just days after poor Algernon died close to a month ago now, with Edwina very pleased at such short notice in finding a new tenant so quickly. Not that she had advertised or recalled telling anybody except for Mr Biggs of the apartment available! But it certainly had been a welcomed relief! As coupled with old age and money being so tight, the upkeep of the building was becoming both physically and expensively unmanageable. But at least in one area that previous problem with the drains prone to blockage had been solved with Algernon! But shed always had grave doubts which undoubtedly would have proved true, of ever finding another tenant to fit that roll.
She had on average since his arrival spent two evenings a week in Bruces company, and unlike Algernon getting to know him intimately? In many ways strange as it may seem he reminded her of Algernon, although she couldnt exactly fathom out why? After all he didnt resemble Algernon! He was younger, happier, taller, Australian Asian with a full head of hair, and most importantly always smelt good! Whereas Algernon with his unsociable odour never smelt good at all!! But one has to say in his defence; his working with drains didnt help?
Poor Algernon! Although she did feel bad in not attending his funeral, even after phoning the morgue to find out just where hed been taken? And then on receiving an answer that was to say the least vague and rather puzzling? Oh well, she did but try!
The book Bruce had completed and was so excited about not a preferred subject of hers. And especially at her age now heading in a direction to most probably find out? But she did feel with that final draft he allowed her to read was certainly startling in its contents! And its conclusions as to the meaning of life, certain she felt cause some serious debate amongst a sizeable number of people. Her only criticism as a woman was of little advice in dealing with sex!
Although after Algernons untimely death, although sadly never really looking very fit to her, perhaps the baldness didnt help, but it really was nice to be in the company of somebody, so alive and so virile!! It did startle her though, that during one of their most recent intimate evenings, Bruce laughingly revealed, he looked so attractive when he laughed, how his mother he stressed, in warning him against over excitement or stressful situations seeing as possibly born with a heart defect! Mm.mmm..mm . Her somewhat then unsettling response!
Over the next few days this revelation kept returning to her in a strange and rather depressing way. Until eventually dismissing the thought with a self lecture of Dont be silly Edwina; at your age Im sure your less of a strain than most Australian women? Then in managing a dreamy smile whispered to herself, Your imagination is running away with you,.. You silly old thing!! But then thinking aloud exclaiming
But I think I will inquire further just what did happen to Algernons body? Then in feeling calmer quickly shelving the idea for the present, while adding just a little more makeup before Bruce returned!
It was then now gazing approvingly at her reflection in the mirror; a sudden terrifying and frightening manifestation came into her head!!! EKKkkkkkNo! No!! Its just not possible!!She now justifiably screeched!!! But was it??