Log in

No account? Create an account

Vitae Lampada - The Author Revived

With any luck, this blog will not have to languish so long. This may be the new opening chapter of VL or I may put it somewhere else.


There is odd, and then there is suspect. Whether a thing is one or another often depends on knowing one more thing. Jon got back to the house around four. He took off his coat and hung it on the rail in the hall. As he was bending to remove his visiting shoes his head came level with the telephone table, and that's when he saw the opened letter.
Junk mail. And while dealing with the knots in his laces he spoke to the piece of paper.
“May I ask just what you think you're doing there? You know, you're very, very lucky to be there at all, if you don't mind my saying.”
Junk mail, to Linda, was anathema. She borrowed the word and copied the intonation Jon used in sermons. Its occult sound carried more clout than 'forbidden'. Junk mail was a favourite topic in his wife's sermons, which she gave standing in the hall most mornings and for the benefit of nobody. He'd hear them if he went to the kitchen.
“Waste of paper,” she'd rail. “A presumption, mostly frauds and an intrusion of privacy.” All true. The fate of anything unsolicited was sealed from the time it reached their letter box. Linda tossed it all in the wicker basket under the telephone table. If she could guess the contents from the envelope she wouldn't open it. Those were the days before identity fraud. She must use a shredder now.
On his way back to standing he lifted the paper for a closer look, for the novelty. It had been folded in thirds to fit a D5 envelope, which was missing. Across the top section the senders thought it better to withhold words. Instead, a panoramic photograph of pastel homes with terracotta roof tiles, landscaped grounds, blue sky and a Mediterranean glare not supplied by sun, because it didn't appear, but by the white space in the upper right hand corner with the company name: PARADISIO.
Paradisio – not subtle. But some people weren't hypocrites about wealth. They ogled the theatre of the rich and famous, and made theatre with their own money. They'd be shallow types, never dismayed so long as the weather was sunny, their clothes stylish and a drink handy. In the photograph, a couple stepped out from their glass patio doors. She wore a red bathing suit and sarong; he was dressed for golf and you could see the clubs packed in the boot of the car parked nearby. Maybe the woman would go shopping; she had a big straw bag to match her big straw hat. Or maybe she would sunbathe. You could see the pool was a only a short walk along a palm shaded path.
The middle section of the letter carried the bold-faced pitch-- “Imagine Living A Dream”. The homes were for sale in Mallorca, some on a timeshare basis with a separate community called Cielo Gloria, surrounded by the quiet golf course for those thinking of retirement abroad.
He sniffed, derisive and puzzled, and put the letter back where he found it. He loosened his tie and climbed the stairs slowly, for even if this meant nothing it was worth the entertainment to imagine Linda out of character. What if he walked in the bedroom and she sprang it on him?
“Jon, please could we not take the caravan to Fishguard next year?”
Or later at bible study, when she poured cups of tea and conversations about Christmas were bound to start, what if she let out, “I've been thinking a bit of sunshine would make a nice change.” She'd be centre of attention then, all the women clamouring to know how long and where and having to advise her about shops in Nottingham for clothes and shoes, because for the first time she'd need pretty things to wear on holiday. Having reached the landing, he gave another sniff and that was the end of that idea.
She was in the ensuite when he entered the bedroom, taking a shower. He opened the wardrobe, put his tie on a hook. The sound of water beat on wall behind him and drilled at the back of his head, as if to make the point that this too was not what he'd expected. He reminded himself of her plans, which she told him over breakfast. First, she'd wanted to go for a run. After that she would get cleaned up and ready to welcome the mother and toddler group. Then lunch, a trip to the library and the bank. She'd thought she might catch the bus and see David between classes, and if that made her too late to bake she'd pick up biscuits from the Co-op.
Evidently she'd changed the sequence, postponed the run. That happened. Maybe the phone rang, though calls were usually for him. Between his leaving and the mothers' group was a ninety minute gap that was hard to fill with much else, being so early. He unbuttoned his shirt. He decided to knock on the bathroom door so he could put it in the hamper and let her know he was home. Chances were she'd go straight into whatever had diverted her, though he either had to look attentive through fogged glasses or she had to shout over the spray. “You'll never believe this...,”
But all she said was 'hello'. He might have asked more questions. But to be honest it was always a relief to know that there was no surprise crisis requiring a pastor's help and anyway, it only seemed a little odd and no more. He did the talking.
“Guess who I've met,” he called, but not loudly enough.
“Guess who I've met, just now.”
“Trev Bazlewycke?”
Now what a daft thing to say. What other Trev was there?
“He came round the corner while I was shutting the garage.”
“When was the last time we saw him?”
A thinking silence. “I'm not sure,” she answered.
“It's been a year.”
“You think so?”
“I laughed,” and Jon did, for effect. “I said, 'Well, you old mucker, I wonder where you've been?' And he kind of stepped back, you know, as if I'd slapped him. He said, 'Reverend, did you just swear at me?' And I said, 'Of course not. What are you on about?'” Jon laughed more.
“I don't get it,” Linda said. She turned off the water.
“He thought I'd used the f-word.”
Another pause, while the water gurgled down the plug hole. “Oh,” she added.
“He never did tell me where he's been hiding all this time. You know, I thought he'd have grown out of his wanderlust by now.”
The shower curtain was scraped aside. “Well,” said Linda's misty silhouette, “you know Trevor. Pass me a towel, please?”
“Apparently he's managed to get World Cup tickets – England versus Zimbabwe on May 25th. He wants me to come.”
She stepped out of the bath with her head bowed, wrapped the towel around her and left the bathroom. “Well,” she said when she stopped by the bed.
“Well exactly,” he followed her. “I don't expect it to be much of a contest, but World Cup...he must have paid a bit for those tickets.”
“He knows lots of people. He might have got them for nothing.”
“Might have.” Jon went back to the wardrobe for a new shirt. He had a dress code; it created a uniform to which people grew accustomed and eliminated the need for decisions when changing or shopping. On Sundays he wore a dark wool suit, long sleeved white shirt with cuff links and tie. When visiting parishoners or attending social functions, he wore short sleeved chambray or poplin with chinos and the swede shoes he'd taken off downstairs. To bible studies, retreats or other teaching situations, he wore whatever jacket had become too old for Sundays with an open neck shirt in a coordinating colour.
Last birthday his son gave him a purple shirt, iridescent and Jon didn't think it was suitable for anything. He wore it to a workshop, just so he could say he had, and received so many compliments he changed his mind. It became his favourite. He took it out, buttoned it, tucked it into his trousers, zipped his fly and checked for his jacket before he began to wonder whether he'd have to make all the conversation that evening.
“Did you see David?”
“No,” Linda said. “No,...I didn't. How was Mrs. Hoffman?”
“As ever.”
“And what about Fleuretta?”
He couldn't truthfully say she put stress on the name. He heard stress. Stress was a mental filter through which that name had to pass from now on. For the umpteenth time, Jon felt that sharp impulse to go over and touch his wife, kiss her forehead or say he loved her. At the same time he was terrified to do any such thing. Could there be a more obvious admission? In spite the fact the shirt was clean, he sniffed his armpits. Then he put on the jacket, thinking, if it's this bad when only imagination gets involved, what happens when --
Not when, Reverend, if. Philippians chapter four, verse thirteen: I can do all things through Christ.
-- if the body follows.
But he needn't have troubled himself. Firstly, because Linda would have accepted any affectionate gesture submissively and blandly. She got dressed, went downstairs and baked banana bread for the refreshments after bible study. She made sandwiches which they ate at the kitchen table. She took a phone call while he was in the ensuite brushing his teeth. Then they changed places; she went up to brush hers and he came down to read the message she'd written.
He noticed the letter had gone in the bin. But by then it was too late. She had forgotten, or maybe never realised that the missing envelope had somehow got behind the toilet. Jon picked it up, read PARADISIO on the flap and turned it over. It was addressed to T. Bazlewycke.


January 2015



Powered by LiveJournal.com