In his later years he would tell whosoever cared to listen that the reason he came to settle upon this scabrous wrecking cape, the one that prods the North Atlantic to little avail was to seek his fortune out of kaolin and tin. That that, long since, had not been the whole truth was lost to him in the befuddlement of old age.
These timeworn days of equivocal reminders pinned upon life’s groaning egress for safe keeping determined this one time logician now muddled desires with possibilities, fictions with exploits, pretty uniformed girls as something more than just his attentive carers.
That was until the day his new young maidservant took the view that the taking in of fresh sea air would do the old boy a power of good, after all he had barely left the confines of his study for an age and following weeks on end of it raining cats and dogs the condescending sun had at last deigned to show its face. She decided and he offered no resistance that a ride in his wheelchair and a picnic atop the cliffs would be the order of the day.
Under the midday sun and several crustless cucumber sandwiches and a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc later he fell into the deepest sleep and dreamed his exclusive truth – the one that had been on the missing list all these decades gone.
‘Philosophers rarely contradict themselves’ he used to espouse in his heyday always adding thereafter that, ‘Such is not the case with lovers for they can craft an Arcadia to share out of contradictions’. In short the true reason he had left London came flooding back to him.
That her pet named Jim was an almost domesticated llama never did deter her from taking him for his afternoon constitutional about the streets of Lambeth. That young Arlecchina was as deaf as a post concerned her not, indeed gave her more time to think uninterrupted along the way. True she got funny looks from passers-by and likely a comment or two she could have picked up upon were she minded to lip read, yet Jim proved ever so useful when it came to carrying home any shopping. Furthermore she wove his wool also into the warmest of warm jumpers for winter and even the leash she walked him on was of twine rope made from Jim’s own coat. In point of fact Arlecchina adored the beast with just the one reservation namely that he had the propensity to spit at people who irritated him…a lot of people irritated Jim!
Whatever on this early spring morning albeit a chilly one what with the sharp easterly wind blowing, the delightful blue heavens cast sharp shadows and snuggly wrapped up all seemed well in her world. That thus far Jim had refrained from gobbing at any of the fine burghers of the borough was an unexpected bonus. As was her want her route took her from her Kennington home, mere courtyard garden and all, north toward leafy Gipsy Hill.
There are times when being lost in thought is not a good thing. There she was pondering the issue at hand, namely if sheep actually knew insomniacs count them in order to try to get some kip and what if they did? Would they take to mischievously scampering about their field of almost dreams to confuse when, not that she heard him of course; merely felt his presence, then spotted his shadow a fine figure of a suited and booted young gentleman bounded aside her matching her step for step from seemingly nowhere. “Penny for your thoughts,” his opening gambit.
Studiously ignored and now with his perplexed face in hers, “Why do you ignore me so?”
Apathetically she pointed to her lapel badge. Notwithstanding that the print thereon is tiny he reads, ‘I AM DEAF AND CANNOT HEAR A WORD YOU SAY. ALSO LIP READING BORES ME’.
With that and plainly unannounced he leaped his own height, summersaulted mid-air then crashed upon the pavement before her landing as if dead on impact. Jim the llama did not take kindly to this frisky young fellow’s cavorts and spat a baker’s dozen of spits upon his now prone body. Arlecchina gave Jim a firm tap on the hooter by way of chastisement the net result of which was that Jim hung his head in shame although whether he meant it or not she could never really determine.
That the young man was the consummate trickster blessed with physical agility was lost on Arlecchina, yet looking at his still body she thought ‘what a handsome chap’.
For his part and from his feigned unconsciousness, his trademark devilment on hold for the moment he considered Arlecchina, albeit dressed a little scruffily was quite the most beautiful creature he had ever chanced upon and further, having always had an eye for a comely lass he now implemented that plan he had conjured on the hoof to gain her affections.
Arlecchina however was in a quandary. She quite properly considered she really ought to call for assistance for he had a deceased look about him yet concluded it may be best to check his breathing first. Tethering Jim to a lamppost she knelt with little grace down besides the possibly likeable, perhaps mort rogue although unbeknownst to her that he was holding his breath and placed a palm to his mouth. Nothing!
‘Crumbs’ she thought, then instinctively tried ‘The Kiss of Life’ as taught to by the nuns who had brought her up. Head tilted to one side reflectively she found herself first staring at the seemingly late jester then, snapping out of trance, consumed with guilt at the potential crucial moments lost was about to place her lips upon his whereupon Jim the llama broke loose from the ties that bind, butted Arlecchina aside and placed his own mouth to that of the young man whose face was instantly covered in slobber and spittle the shock of which raised him from his ostensibly comatose state of being.
Winking his right eye he said, “Sweet Jesus what on earth did you let him do that for…Lord knows what disease I might have caught from your rabid beast.”
Relieved that his state of being was now proven beyond doubt counterfeit Arlecchina once more pointed to her lapel badge and shook her head as she ushered rambunctious Jim away.
He could do nothing but see the subjectively funny side of the situation and laughed aloud which in turn and for reasons she could never quite put her finger on caused her to laugh also. Eye contact was made twixt the pair and in an instant both knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
He, as if in slow motion silently mouthed his own name “A…R…L…E…C…C…H…I…N…O… Arlecchino” and Arlecchina responded likewise.
The trio – you see the lama was to become part of the family – became inseparable. Yet life plays its random own tricks. The miracle that is childbirth is not without risk and it was during the sublime act that both mother and child died leaving Arlecchino crushed in heart, unable to ever again face the places, the backdrop, the lanes, the cafes even the musty smell of city and the flashbacks they triggered.
The maid was sat upon the grass when he awoke and never had a chance to wipe away the single tear that dribbled down Arlecchino cheek. Before opening his mouth to speak he cast his roving eye of yesteryear over the lovely girl, was struck by more than one innocent yet lustful ruminative craved to be new again. When he did speak he requested she buy him a lama when she was next in Truro.
That she never fulfilled this request was only because by the next day he had completely forgotten asking her to undertake the errand -completely forgotten his Arlecchina also.