with huge thanks to the lovely barista in Cafe Nero, Nottingham [ the one next to TK Maxx, should you wish to see the original in all its glory].
the moustache is real, this story is fiction.
He looks around the drawing room, they are all here, all ready to hear him, see him point the accusing finger, unmask the murderer.
There are nervous coughs, a young girl, with hidden sorrow in her face, anxiously smokes a cigarette, the dowager duchess clutches a lap dog to her chest.
He touches the moustache, feels its neat symmetry and then turn to the assembled group.
Emma is talking, has, he realizes, been talking for some time, he tries to adopt that listening, paying attention face, thinks he may have got away with it and tries to look involved and then realizes that it is only Conversation 27a – “Why don’t men – ie him- ever tidy the bathroom”. She is into the home straight, the ” and you never put the tops back on the shower gels” rift. He knows the correct response, mumbled sorry, head ducked and offer of a cup of tea and wandering into the kitchen, Conversation 34c ” Don’t put dirty cups in with the clean stuff in the dishwasher”, he feels himself drifting again.
“It’s a tough spot, chaps, but we’ve been in tougher”, he grins encouragingly at the others, Snowy, best chum a chap could have, Vince, working class, but a good cove in ruck and Boysie, faithful dog.
“so, we’ve got a snake pit to the right of us, the Mau Mau are getting restive outside and we’re tied to these chairs waiting for the return of Count Black and his swarthy henchmen, best see what I can do”
Vince, his face battered from a beating, smiles his cheeky cockney smile and Snowy is waiting for the plan.
He closes his eyes, touches his moustache, worn in memory of all those who fell at Paschendale and with one bound, he is free.
There is no milk, Conversation 11a – “there are shops, you know, they sell milk and bread and everything, why don’t you try them sometime”, he wonders if she will settle for flat lemonade or a slightly battered chamomile tea bag.
He can hear her on the phone, Conversations 1, 2, 4 8, 98c, 114a – “Why boy friends are useless”
My darling Helena, the snows are closing in fast now, we shot the last husky today, we could no longer bear to see him trudging behind us, eyes half closed against the snow. It is a 3 day march to the next food dump and I wonder if we will make it.
I think of you often, in that pretty white muslin dress on the chamomile lawn at Orchard House , a jug of ice cold lemonade at your elbow and the children playing in front of you.
Simpson is fading in front of us, he doesn’t say anything of course, just trudges along, but last night, I heard him crying, terrible thing to hear an Englishman cry.
Tell Edward that he is the man of the house now and must behave like a gentleman.
I miss you, my darling, damn these Scandinavians, we must push on to have any chance of beating them.
I must attend to supper now, the husky did not die in vain, I may boil some snow for a shave, there is no reason to let standards slip, we are Englishmen after all and my tasche needs attention.
He ambles back into the sitting room empty-handed, the conversation has moved onto Daniel Craig, he knows from bitter experience that his opinions on Bond films will not be needed, now or at any time in the future.
He wonders if he can get away with playing COD with the sound down, Conversation 27d – “You’re 29 years old for gods sake, turn off the playstation and talk to me”
He turns on the TV, hopes for a film, something to head off Conversation 6b – “Why can’t you just be different” and all the emotional fall-out that will follow.
The sun is shining as he turns the Packard into the studio lot,there are the usual lines of hopeful would be extras in line at the gates. The women are quick to notice him and he smiles,a lazy devil may care smile, one finger grazing his mustache, as per his most recent publicity stills.
The women surge forward, but the gate guys are quick to open the gates and let him in, he pulls up and not bothering to open the car door vaults out, tossing the car keys over his shoulder
“Park this baby for me” he calls out to the gate guard and starts to walk briskly towards the set.
He passes a group of gladiators, recognizes a couple of them from his own extra days and smiles generously, he is not out of touch with the ordinary folk in the dream factory and then hubba bubba, a group of slave girls, gauzy, almost see through trousers, tiny sequinned tops, he zeros in on the prettiest, catches her eye, holds it and watches the color flood into her face.
He nods to himself, yeah, he’s still got it.
It takes him a few seconds to understand that Emma is talking to him and not Bekki/Sammi/Suzie or some other girl whose names end in eee and then it takes him even longer to actually understand what she is saying, to actually process what is being said to him
“It’s the moustache, it make you look like an idiot, everybody laughs at it and it’s itchy,like kissing a pet, I wish you’d shave it off” and then she is gone, out the door, a whirlwind of phone, bag,keys and he is left, sitting on the sofa.
His hand reaches up and touches the waxed tips and he wonders what Errol Flynn would do now.