And then it was over. The Fog was gone. For good. Somewhere back in the Dreamtime. We took the Old Man up to my flat. I gave him a shot of my best Irish Whisky. A gift from my father. We all had a generous swig, a couple of. Mary-Sue’s hands were steady, mine were shaking. Mary-Sue called Pauline. She sent three cars within seven minutes. Complete with a SWAT team who almost shot us all.
The Old Man got a shower and a shave at I.B.M. Pauline called the Australian Consul or Delegate or High Commissioner, whatever they call him. Sir Thomas Wilkinson-Bernard. Complete with grey moustache and club tie. Brittier than a Brit. He started raising hell.
“How can you possibly hold an Australian citizen against his will?!”
“Look Mr. Wilkinson-Bernard,” Pauline said in a very controlled voice. “May I call you Bernie? This man here is responsible, unwittingly I admit, for a number of… regrettable incidents, to say the least.”
Djawa-Djulwarak was present at the meeting. Bathed, grey-blonde hair combed, beard trimmed, dressed in a conservative charcoal suit, with a fuchsia shirt and a pink tie. Trying very hard to look guilty. And failing miserably I might add. Pauline went on:
“Ah just can’t take him to a court of law. They’d send ME to the loonies! So, Bernie, you have two solutions:”
“Yes?” WB asked. Raised two eybrows. We were not related.
“One: you put him on a plane to Down Under within the next hour… Better yet: put him on a slow, very slow cargo ship. Go through the Suez Canal, make a stop in Somalia, drop him on land and get rid of the pirates there. Then, once you are in the Land of Oz, you escort him personally to the sinner of Australia.”
“Pardon me?” WB asked.
“To the Center. In the middle of the desert, Ayers’ Rock for instance. And keep him there!”
“And the other option?” WB asked.
“Don’t tempt me. I pull my troops out of Afghanistan. I drop him there by parachute, near Kabul, Band-E-Amir or Bamyan. And get rid of two problems: him and the Talibans! Which will it be? Bernie?”
Wilkinson-Bernard took the first option. Pauline escorted the Old Man personally to his seat on the plane. With Laurel And Hardy on each side. Under written instructions not to let him out of their sight until Ayer’s Rock.
Mary-Sue moved in with me. She hasn’t told her mother. Neither have I. Mine, I mean. She told her mother she was moving in with a Sister. I said I might do black again, given the right type of incentives. But I wouldn’t do no skirt. No Ma’am. We threw a party at “our” place. Kim came down from Kentucky with María. Rory, Sophie back from the Hamptons, Victor, Pauline… I did a Coq au vin. Rory supplied the wine. A very good Pommard. Just for drinks. Used another wine for cooking. Cooking Pommard would be a crime.
Coq au vin Recipe:
Go back to the civet de lapin recipe in chapter 18
Change the rabbit into chicken.
Scratch the carrots, do the rest exactly the same way,
and Voilà: (French for Lo and behold) Coq au vin.
Raphaela resigned. Pauline told me over the phone:
“Can you bleev that, Pete? Ah was blue in the face. She said her work was done.”
(You don’t know how right you are, Pau-leen. On both counts.)
The editor killed my story. Of course. So much for my Pulitzer. Despite Mary-Sue’s pictures and sound recording.
“Can’t print that, Pete.” (At least he’d finally got my name right). “Not in the News section. Write a book. We’ll publish it. As fiction.”
I was back at my desk, back to being the weather-man, wondering about tomorrow’s temperatures, when an express-delivery parcel was handed to me. The delivery-person was… oriental, maybe? Though the hips were more Latina. Dark Chocolate eyes (65% cocoa). A nice smile. Good figure under the brown-green uniform. Just in my colour-blindness range, though. Long curly dark brown hair with blonde streaks. A FedEx Shakira with slightly slanted eyes. Her name tag read Nancy. She handed me a pen to sign my acceptance of the delivery. I signed and said:
“Thank you… Er… I know this sounds trite. Like a worn-out line, but… haven’t we met before?”
She smiled and said: “It is a worn-out line, but I don’t think we’ve met. Or maybe we have? Bye, Pete.”
Pete? She must have read my name on the form. I opened the parcel. A worn-out book. Well read. A paperback edition of Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines”. I opened the book. A… note was written inside. On the first page. In blue fountain pen ink:
“Jambo Pete, (Hello Pete)
“Wewe na fanya mzuri sana, (You did very well)
(Does she speak Swahili too?)
“Wewe na Mzee mkubwa (You’re a Big Old Man)
“You’ve read the lines fairly well.
“And you sang well, too.
“Asante sana. (Thank you.)
(Don’t mention it! You’re welcome. De rien.)
“I’ve asked Gabriela AKA Green AKA Nancy Liu, to deliver this gift personally.
(“Bye Pete?” Okay… I have to download a facial recognition app.)
“Kwaheri sasa. (See you soon)
Azraela aka “Red”.
The book was dog-eared on page 314. I opened it. A passage was highlighted in yellow marker:
“I have a vision of the Songlines
“Stretching across the continents and the ages;
“That wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song
“(Of which we may, now and then catch an echo);
“And that these trails must reach back, in time and space,
“To an isolated pocket in the African savannah,
“Where the First Man opening his mouth
“In defiance of the terrors that surrounded him
“Shouted the opening stanza
“Of the World Song,
– Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989), “The Songlines”
Mwisho, the end, c’est fini.
These “booklines” are for my friend Pete. Evans, not Stephens. A distinguished member of the Bwana Boy Club, South African born, relocated in the Land of Oz. He sang the “Twenty-seven shades of green” to us in a Chamonix bar after we all came back down alive from Mont-Blanc. (See Dave Phillips’ “The White Mountain” in this very blog) Pete gave me Chatwin’s book “The songlines” that sparked the idea for Foglines.
Cover photo and other illustrations marked with a **, (c) and courtesy Gini, my youngest daughter.
Aborigine illustrations and “tags” are adapted from Karel Kupka’s book: “Un art à L’état brut”.
The snake and serpent in this chapter © Philip Hall, a present brought back from Melbourne by my eldest daughter, Alexandra, who went there to deliver a conference at the World Aids Congress. We’re all fortunate that she was not on the Malaysian Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine. To her colleagues on that plane: May you Rest in Peace and your killers be brought to Justice.
And finally, a special thanks to Steve Mitchell for his book: “How to speak southern”. Drawings by Sam C. Rawls (Scrawls). Helped me re-capture Pauline’s accint. Ah go back to it every time Ah bleev Ah need ter speak propah English.
And, last but not least, thank you to all of you dear readers who stuck with Foglines’ endless postings!
Text © BMO and Equinoxio
To read all previous Foglines chapters, go to Home page, scroll down, and to your right, under ‘categories’, click on ‘Foglines’, all chapters are there.