You gotta go when you gotta go: Chapter 6 is done

Whether imagined or not... his restraints were all falling away.

Whether imagined or not… his restraints were all falling away.

Section 146 Marx Time

Free to go, and with a mind to do so, Vernon could not barricade his thinking from the noxious mix of elation and misgiving that seem to accompany most people’s unexpected triumphs. He got ready for work feeling as if he was now free to leave just at the point that there was little need to. Did he really want to forsake ‘Old Blighty’ and travel East?

When he got to the School in the Park he found in his pigeon hole a missive from Dr Gumtree. He was as surprised to find his pigeon hole still in place as he was unsurprised to find a message there. It bore the hallmark brusqueness of the Head’s P.A.. …Vernon- be pleased to attend a meeting in Dr Gumtree’s study at 8.45 am, prompt…

Vernon knew he had his head in the clouds.. it was a pleasant feeling.

Vernon knew he had his head in the clouds.. it was a pleasant feeling.

For all his oscillation Vernon felt somehow heady with the hubristic helium of a crisis survived. He knew they’d not found a replacement for him and also knew he had to honour his contract with the Founding Father’s School in Thailand; perhaps he’d saunter in after a coffee, there was hardly much to lose by doing so.

Mrs McGuin was as welcome as a stick of rock at  banquet.

Mrs McGuin was as welcome as a stick of rock at banquet.

Though tardy, Vernon’s thunder was dulled in its dramatic effect by the fact that both Mrs McGuin and Dr Albright were made late by an intractable parent whose son was to be suspended for concealing drugs in a teacher’s desk. Where the school saw this as a crime compounded by malice, the parent saw it as an outrageous attempt to frame their offspring, or perhaps a marked sign of initiative, whichever would waive the charge of a full terms’ fees that extended beyond the offender’s departure. The Head and Deputy arrived therefore in conversation about a bigger nuisance than Vernon to find that Vernon too had been softened by the sincere charm of Dr Gumtree. All this said, Vernon knew to his cost that Mrs McGuin had the emotional consistency of a stick of rock; neither warmth nor pressure made her conveniently malleable, she remained brittle, only more unpredictably so… and she exuded …a palpable stickiness.

In the frosty atmosphere, due to Mrs McGuin, Vernon made his final exit taking his regrets with him.

In the frosty atmosphere, due to Mrs McGuin, Vernon made his final exit taking his regrets with him.

In a tone whose coldness chilled the room she  said. “Well then let’s get underway.”

Dr Gumtree shuffled his papers to claim the attention of those present.

“The landscape has changed since we last surveyed it. We have interviewed three candidates for the post of Head of Religious Studies, and found them most noticeable in turn, for being aloof, bizarre and loveable. We could, I think,  have got that from the Marx Brothers. And so, I have their  C.V.s right here…”

Dr Gumtree raised his hand in mock apology saying “Just a jest, just a jest. Each of the candidates have respectively ruled themselves out by being bland, inept and unfit; at least Vernon cannot be attributed these characteristics.” He smiled around the room amiably, as if attaching his colours to the proverbial mast by doing so. I’ll miss you thought Vernon.

A biting chill blew in from the Northernmost  wastes of the room in the words of Mrs McGuin, his nemesis.

“I don’t entirely agree with your simplistic summary. Vernon’s bizarre behaviour bought the school into disrepute after he revealed his inept handling of an initiative he could have taken care of. In addition to this, we are not back to square one in view of the fact that we are rid of him. Though painful, this is progress.” Her words hung in the air like icicles and Vernon, having been referred to in the third person doubted whether his presence was apparent to anyone but himself.

Always ready to be the peacemaker, when he wasn’t blowing up bridges and storming enemy encampments as in a previous incarnation, Dr Albright cleared his throat profoundly. He was still an intelligence officer of a kind

“Ahem. Let’s not be too hasty we don’t want to go beyond the evidence now do we? There have been some developments in the initiative you speak of Mrs McGuin and it doesn’t take a bright spark to see that Vernon may well be in the clear. I wonder in fact Vernon whether you might like to reconsider your resignation in the bright light of these erm… er, new configurations? As a compromise I might be able to offer a sabbatical for one year what do you say?”

Vernon glanced across at the ice maiden, measuring the impact of these words, sad that he might ameliorate her discomfort in replying. He was not sure who he most felt put out by, haughty Mrs McGuin, or smug Arthur S.

“I’m sorry Dr Albright. Your generous suggestion, though very tempting, is one I can’t take up; I have now, a contract with a school in Thailand for two years, and there are penalties in breaking that contract. In addition to this, though I think things might change soon even more dramatically,” Vernon looked pointedly at McGuin, “I am loth to work alongside a colleague who charges me with being inept, without offering professional support, and bizarre, because I said no to a deal with her son.”

“Ah, quite so, quite so. I guess then we will have to re-employ that Minister we had before- temporarily Dr Gumtree, -temporarily. What was his name, Reverend Sloth?”

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Bright, beneath that gob ‘nd gall…

Vernon wondered what if anything of his vindication would get into the papers.

Vernon wondered what if anything of his vindication would get into the papers.

Section 145 is bona fide

Émile just had sufficient time for an uncharacteristically friendly wave, perhaps one that was ironic, before disappearing as the digital wall panel went blank and the room returned to the 1950s.

“There we are then.” Constable Constable said. “That’s all in hand oi’d say. Afore y’go however oi’d like your assurance that you’ll say nothin’ until our operation is done. As an accomplice to some suspicious goin’s on you’d best sign the papers oi give you and be done with’t. Say nothing to the press now.”

Constable Constable put a number of printed sheets onto the table in front of Vernon.

What could he do? Read them carefully.

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line… and the reward?

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line… and the reward?

“Firstly, tell me, because it will strengthen my resolve to tell no-one else, have you been somehow in contact with Émile all along?”When he had read the documents with care, and assured himself that there was little threat of delayed incrimination, Vernon pushed back his chair and faced Constable squarely.

“Ooh. Ahhr. Now then, that’s classified don’t you see? I can say ow’as we knew sooner than you that your accomplice was on the right soid a’the law. Bright lad underneath all that gob ’nd gall”.

“Okay, so you or someone recruited him. I guess I’ve been slow to see through his cover. Secondly and finally detective, seeing as I’ve never been very important in all of this you won’t mind if I disappear off to Bangkok to teach Ethics like I intended to will you?” And, gesturing energetically at the screen to express a surge of newfound anger Vernon concluded, “Especially as I’ve lost a good job in the process of your collaboration with boy wonder here.”

“Free to go sir; as you ever was. Oi think you’ll be harder to hear from that distance too don’t you?” It occurred to Vernon that distance had not prevented Émile from being heard loud and clear but he suppressed the observation resigned to the probability that it had probably occurred to Constable Constable too. Vernon signed on the dotted line and left.

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More Fake than Faux

Section 144 is a collaborator

"You ’ava seat there..." Constable Constable insisted.

“You ’ava seat there…” Constable Constable insisted.

“Now then Mr Jools. You ’ava seat there and we’ll ’ava little talk alroit.”

Constable directed Vernon to an uninviting metal framed chair whose leather seat was more fake than faux. The fifties functionality of the chairs and table in the room seemed anachronous given the technology mounted on the wall that became more apparent as Vernon stepped inside.

“Ahhr. Oi see you’ve noted our window on th’world. Brand spankin’ that is.

Vernon sat down wondering when nasty city cop would burst in armed with a tazor, or iron bar, to complement his nice ’nd rustic colleague.

Constable Constable drew a remote control from his pocket, locking the door as he did so. As if talking to himself the detective said “Video conference interview commencin’ at 10:56, with Detective Constable Constable, Mr Jools and accomplice.”

Vernon, who was listening intently hoping for clues tried not to display his puzzlement.

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

He failed. “Don’t look so confoosed Mr Jools. We’ve many prosthetics to length’n the arm of the law.”

The screen sprang into life and Vernon nearly tumbled from his chair.

“Émile?” He said, failing also any spymaster’s test of mute non-compliance. At least Émile was looking smug.

“Mr Jools shows ’is recognition of ’is accomplice on seein’ the screen.” Enjoying the moment Constable glanced at Vernon; “Mr Jools, go ahead, speak to our accomplice. E’s somewhere in Spain ’elpin’ us with our enquiries d’you see?”

“Say nothin’ Vernon, I’ll tell you all you need to know. Game plan is this…” Émile had clearly retained his sense of being in control. “Turns out Mr Mudrock’s millions have found their way home to his account, but all the other stolen money hasn’t. I’ve been helping the police find it; and… Mr Mudrock has been alerted to the wolf in sheep’s clothing he was about to do a deal with. He’s dropping charges and helping the police, discreetly of course. As we promised, we’ve cleared up a lot of stuff  ’nd nonsense.”

Vernon had only one question for Émile. At least, only one he was burning to ask. “Robin Hood, Émile? How does Robin Hood fit into all this?”

“Wait and see Vernon. For now it’s rather complicated, wait and see.”

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Wild Heather, calming Vernon

Section 143 is clutching at an emotional lifeline

The following day Vernon got dressed with a heightened sense of his usual self-consciousness. It was not just a matter of ‘what should he wear?’ but how what he wore, would be perceived. He wanted to be taken seriously without appearing out of touch; he wanted to look relaxed and comfortable without appearing cavalier. He needed something that would help his mood.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

A myriad recurring thoughts assailed him, his appointment that morning, his return to work tomorrow. He now had his visas and the removal of these obstacles had merely enabled clearer sight of the next. Just as Schopenhauer claimed, acquisition of something registered as the ending of one’s need for it rather than any exultant sense of gain. True as this was, each time he donned his Harris Tweed he was transfixed by its colours, each thread drew him in, evocative as it was of the highland landscape that had inspired it. Its colours conjured up the texture of wild heather, icy streams and slate. He put it on for the sake of this emotional lifeline. At least acquiring it had meant something that was not entirely negative.

Each thread when contemplated told a story of remote summits and fertile glens.

Each thread when contemplated told a story of remote summits and fertile glens.

Because he did not have to return to work until tomorrow, a formality to finalise a strategy for replacing him, something to his delight that the school was struggling to achieve, Vernon decided to walk into town. A footpath led directly from his home into the centre and a convenient branch led off to the green where the Police Station was now situated. Its many-windowed façade conveyed sober efficiency; he wondered to what extent its officers did.

A little out of breath, and warm from the exertion thanks to his substantial jacket and Oxford shirt, he mounted the marble steps to the municipal building and pushed open the heavy glass door. The duty sergeant, he presumed, was leaning over the desk engrossed in paperwork. Vernon approached unsure of himself.

“Excuse me. I have an appointment with Detective Constable Constable.”

“Mmm.”

The duty sergeant did not look up but merely continued with his writing.

“Excuse me. I…”

The policeman raised a hand, flat-palmed, towards him, like a traffic policeman from a ladybird book.

Vernon waited.

“Now then.” He said at last. What’s the problem?

“I have an appointment with…”

“So you said. What’s the problem?” The policeman spoke with a world weariness suggestive of an eternity marshalling imbeciles and delinquents from one problem of their own making to another.

Vernon shrugged, reluctant to give anything away. He felt the same resistance as when a doctor’s receptionist or counter staff at the bank invite you to broadcast your private matters in the public foyer.

Calm though he was on the outside Vernon entertained wild and fearsome possibilities within.

Calm though he was on the outside Vernon entertained wild and fearsome possibilities within.

“That’s what I’m here to find out officer.”

In response to the bell activated in consequence of this exchange nothing happened.

“Wait there. While you’re waiting, fill out this form.”

It was hard to comply with this instruction given that the only pen was attached to a ledge some distance from the chairs for waiting he’d indicated. By the time Vernon had filled out the form DC Constable had at last arrived.

“Ah hahrr. We meet again as I thought we might. Do you follow me sir.”

With a Suffolk accent sufficiently broad as to impede his progress through the corridors of power perhaps, DC Constable strode unchallenged and purposefully enough here until he eventually paused at a solid black internal door. The door of what Vernon assumed would be an interview room and hoped would not be a cell.

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Barking dogs and all that Jazz.

Section 142 has a message for you

When Vernon got home it was late in the day; his mind was in turmoil and the restlessness threatened to swamp him, to douse his wanderlust and replace it with a foetid sense of helplessness. This dismay was compounded by the letter on the doormat, formal in appearance and terse in its tone; an appointment with DC Constable; a summons to the Police Station the following day. Things were getting worse. Late though it was Vernon had something urgent to attend to. He had to get word to Jean Luc and it had to be verbal.

He grabbed a couple of biscuits and an apple from the kitchen, and quickly drank a glass of milk. It was a beer he craved; beer and peace and quiet. As he reversed the car out of the drive it occurred to him to wonder, were they watching him, would his emails or phone calls be monitored, would they be following him? With stern words he forced himself to calm down and drove as quickly as he dared to his friend’s place.

It all added up. Jean Luc had been in the lounge... marking time.

It all added up. Jean Luc had been in the lounge… marking time.

Jean Luc was at home, He explained that he had just sat down to some marking and, unsurprisingly, he displayed a mixture of relief and impatience at being interrupted.  His speech was somehow a little frantic, Vernon thought, as if he was building a barricade against the quiet.

“Vernon… Funny time to call. Is everything alright? Did you get your visa as planned; don’t say they also refused British currency? The name Charles doesn’t have the cache it once did.” Jean Luc forced a wan smile.

“Hi Jean Luc. I can see you’re busy I won’t trouble you for long.”

They were still on the doorstep and Vernon was struggling to concentrate. The neighbour’s barking dogs, Jean Luc’s jazz, pulsating out of the living room, his own tumultuous thoughts; it was hard to be coherent.

“How cryptic. Yes, yes of course… for a while. Ari’s out.” Nothing new there then, thought Vernon, he was still public enemy number one.“I’ve seen our absent partner but I can’t put in writing anything he said so I’ve called to see you face to face. Can I come in briefly?”

They stepped inside the door but Jean Luc did not take him into the lounge.

“This is becoming something of a merger between a spy movie and a farce Vernon. Don’t you think so?”

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

Jean Luc’s rhetorical comment set up an awkward, expectant pause, the soundtrack of which was still an unrelenting Jazz crossrhythm.

To prevent Jean Luc filling the airwaves with his nervous clamour Vernon hitched up his fraying thoughts and told Jean Luc the little he knew and the little he surmised.

“I met him in Hull. He’d travelled in by plane. Iberia I reckon if you know what I mean. He said he loves you, both. He told me he’s taking care and the role model for his modus operandi is Robin Hood. Did you – did you catch all that?”

Jean Luc looked at Vernon bleakly, like a starving dog glad of any scraps thrown his way all of which were swiftly consumed.

“Did he look well? He’s a cocky boy but he overestimates his abilities sometimes. Do you think he’s safe?”

“For now Jean Luc …He plans to behave in such a manner that Mudrock will want to employ him when this is all done. Beats me how he’ll manage that. He insists he’s covering his tracks. His final comment was ironic I think. He says he’s always wanted to be a super hero or a mathematical genius and now he’s both.”

Jean Luc let out the breath he’d been holding in with a sigh.

“Thank you Vernon. Let’s hope he’s right. And you? Are your contingency plans working out?”

“I got permission to enter Thailand with smiling Thai-Canadian efficiency but I won’t know till tomorrow perhaps whether I have permission to leave the country.”

Jean Luc looked puzzled now rather than weary. “Why?”

“I’ve got an appointment at the Police Station at DC Constable’s convenience. Who knows how that will go.”

Jean Luc made a face indicating fellowship in suffering; “You know what boy wonder would say to that, only, I mean it sincerely, ‘soz’.”

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A naturalist epiphany.

Section 140 stumbles upon the fringes of time

As he sat in the cabriolet drinking from his ubiquitous flask of coffee, Vernon felt numb and his thoughts turned without his consent to the nonsense filter. Its ‘invention’ had caused nothing but nonsense to spring from every nook and cranny of his life. So much for Anselm’s dictat that something is better if it exists in re as well as in intellectu; the nonsense filter was all in his mind yet its fallout was contaminating reality all around him. More than ever he needed to visit that bridge, he needed to bring to this trek a positive climax.

He started up the car and worried at a bar of chocolate like a spoilt rat. It took him some frustrated moments but eventually he found his way by a circuitous route to where the Humber bridge began; Hessle. The anchorage of the massive structure was situated in a wooded conservation area on the Northern end of the great span; gingerly he skirted a severe landslide, caused by recent rain, which had made some of the paths impassable. Emerging from a narrow footpath Vernon came out unexpectedly onto the banks of the river Humber. A beige swell which somehow evoked the unsettling mirage of pulsating and restless desert sands.

The menacing elegance of the beast was palpable and Vernon was transfixed.

The menacing elegance of the beast was palpable and Vernon was transfixed.

The vast open sky formed a luminescent ceiling. Though the expectant air was heavy with moisture the occasional break in the cloud cover brought unseasonably hot flushes of sunshine. The elements seemed to be in competition now, the sun contending with capriciously high winds, and their primitive contribution called forth the primordial awe of a prehistoric encounter. The bridge, if not a dinosaur, then a god. Vernon felt himself transported trancelike into the brooding presence of some monolithic Industrial demigod. His suggestive and restive mind discerned another gargantuan contest underway; the breadth of the river, so dramatic from ground level, seemed to present an incessant challenge to the audacity of the bridge and its wilful super-human attempt to span nature’s boundary.

Vernon felt as if he was standing on the shoreline of time.

Vernon felt as if he was standing on the shoreline of time.

Suddenly he came to his senses and looked around furtively. Had he voiced any of this naturalist epiphany? Vernon recalled that he had read somewhere that a suspension bridge was preferred because the navigable channel for watercraft kept changing. He’d read that it had evolved out of a design used initially for the Severn Bridge near Bristol, and that the original idea of a tunnel had been rejected as too expensive. Still the emotively primordial vision persisted and he preferred to think instead that this serpentine river needed another behemoth to tame it and the solution had evolved from that necessity. It was as if he had stumbled upon the struggle to the death between a giant lizard and a colossal snake. The legs beneath the belly of the beast, onshore and in shallows, carried an awesome weight. The graceful arch of its back was incongruous with a structure so solid. Like a time traveller he had trespassed onto the territory of Humbersaurus Rex.

“Gotta flight to catch; laters”

Section 139 has a chance encounter

He stepped outside the building pausing to look at his documents and a little shiver of excitement shimmied its silvery way up his spine like a snail on speed. As he turned towards his car something all the more sinister played with his nerves. Someone was watching him from across the carpark. Someone vaguely familiar.

As the youth walked over, Vernon gasped involuntarily, and stroked his beard, as was his habit in a crisis. “You; what are you doing here?”

Émile sauntered towards him a smug smile playing across his face. Behind him Vernon now noticed that there was a taxi waiting, its engine running. “How did you find me? Does your dad know you’re here?” 

"All I ever wanted to be was a super-hero or mathematical genius, now I'm both."

“All I ever wanted to be was a super-hero or mathematical genius, now I’m both.”

“Cómo estás?”

“Ola. Questions, questions. Hey listen. I’m not stayin’ long. I got a flight in, never mind where from; best ya don’t know. I gotta message for dad…” he paused “and mum. Only don’t write it down.”

Vernon didn’t know whether to hug the delinquent or slap him; cocky git. He chose instead to apologise. “Look I’m sorry I got you into this. Are you okay?”

“Never better. I’ve found my true vocation. Looks like your invention filtered out all the nonsense from my life, stuff like school. I only ever wanted to be a super-hero or a mathematical genius, now I’m both.

Before Vernon could deliver the slap he had decided on Emile spoke again, this time with restrained emotion.

“I’m covering my tracks, watching my back. Tell dad’ nd mum I love them. If they want to know what I’m up to think of Robin Hood. In the end Tarkey will trip himself up and I’ll get a job with Mudrock, or better. Take care and hold on tight. Gotta flight to catch. Laters.”

"Gotta flight to catch; laters."

“Gotta flight to catch; laters.”

With that the incorrigible show off had turned on his heel and was getting into the taxi. Vernon shuddered. He just hoped that Emile was spending money that couldn’t be traced and didn’t have the kind of strings attached that would have some kind of Mafia enforcer reeling in the other end. He stood bewildered in the car park for some time.

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Oar and wonder

Section 136 is still in awe and still wondering

Vernon and Nsansa felt relaxed; they had enjoyed the sparring banter and managed to avoid a row.

Vernon and Nsansa ate a leisurely lunch together at the King’s Head, Fen Ditton, a rustic pub just a short stroll from the river Cam and the Ditton meadows. The food was good and they busied themselves with the hearty portions over a companionable silence punctuated with, but not punctured by, practical conversation and occasional musings about the service that morning. Before heading home they took the time to meander along the banks of the river, Nsansa paying  a professional interest, so she said, to the muscular oarsmen in their six-man coxless boats. As they sliced through the water like a hot-wire through polystyrene, Vernon suggested she might actually like to be on board conducting a hands-on measurement of the pronation and supination she claiming to be so interested in. Along with the banter Vernon explained his commitment to travel to Hull the following day in order to obtain his working visa for Thailand. A necessity if he was to acquire the document in time for his departure. In addition to this obligation, though he did not tell her so, he was keen to speak to Jean Luc and hungry for news. They parted affectionately and Vernon used the rest of the afternoon and evening to prepare for his trip. Before going to bed he phoned his colleague.

Nowadays, whenever they spoke, Jean Luc and Vernon felt as if someone else was listening in.

Nowadays, whenever they spoke, Jean Luc and Vernon felt as if someone else was listening in.

“Hi Jean Luc, long time no see. Have you heard from your agent?”

Though they doubted phone-tapping would provide admissible evidence in court both had decided to take precautions. Émile must not be traced or implicated by them.

“No news directly Vernon; all is secure that end I believe, though Tarkey is stirring things up. Far from seeking amnesty as a guilty party he’s told the police that he fears we tampered with the software he commissioned and leaked the results to Mudrock’s cronies.”

Did they really want his head? How had he blundered into this nonsense?

Did they really want his head? How had he blundered into this nonsense?

“What rot. What motivation would we have?”

“Apparently you yourself kept on insisting to him that the project would never work but failed to dampen the expectations of the media at its launch. You wanted to get out of the contract and damage Tarkey in doing so.”

“How do you know all this Jean Luc?”

“I’ve had the police around again. Watch out you might be next.”

As always it seemed, Vernon went to his rest with a restive brain.

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When in Rome…

How did that song go? I dont care how you get here, get here if you can.

How did that song go? I dont care how you get here, get here if you can.

Section 135 gives a contented sigh

They pulled up at the nondescript brick-built warehouse on the outskirts of Cambridge, squeezing the car into a slice of air between an upbeat Chevy and a downtrodden Beatle. The menagerie of vehicles in the car park promised a veritable zoological jamboree if their owners were as diverse. Vernon wondered if he would need a shoehorn to ease them both out of the cabriolet and, to his shame, swore uneasily

under his breath. Humans he felt were overrated and there were just too many of them.

As they approached the entrance the vibrant music he could feel in his chest contradicted the functionalism of the retail-park foyer.

“Hi there; good morning.”

Just inside the entrance the welcoming committee stood poised to dispense practised empathy and anointing. The pleasant American voice was owned by an attractive woman of Japanese descent and Vernon was handed a printed welcome pack by her vivacious Hispanic colleague. Their greeting seemed genuine and for a moment Vernon and Nsansa were bathed in heaven’s beam of love.

On realising that it was directed toward the weary pensioner grappling with the door behind him, Vernon stifled his response to the other woman’s “Lovely to see you thees morning” Their moment had passed.

Jesus had always seemed to find an international following.

Jesus had always seemed to find an international following.

They found their seats in the auditorium, and as Nsansa stood swaying and soaking up the rhythms and melodies of the worship band, Vernon looked around him curiously. Jesus had always managed to draw an international following he thought, hadn’t Palestinian shepherds and Iranian kings rubbed shoulders at his birth in a building as nondescript as this. It all seemed to make sense somehow and so he too stood, soaking up the music with more than a little interest directed towards the band’s very competent drummer.

As the final strains of ‘Lord I lift your name on high’ hung in the air like the vapour trail of a passing jet, a black pastor jumped to his feet and prayed that his words would be God’s words. Vernon hunkered down for the inevitable sanctified stream of consciousness, resolute the way he had been in school assemblies, to see it through to the end whilst enduring the foot persistently kicking the back of his chair. There was of course no seat kicking now and though the address was undoubtedly fast-paced it was not what he’d expected.

It was as if God has suddenly punched a hole in the warehouse wall and said... here I Am.

It was as if God has suddenly punched a hole in the warehouse wall and said… here I Am.

A fiery apostle’s ancient letter to the Christians in Rome bore a disarming message… it was not presented as a call for Holy War but an invitation to inner peace. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Entranced, Vernon lowered his world-weary defences and absorbed the spirit-lifting antidote to the poison of self-reproach. He who gave up his own Son for us all… will he not also graciously give us all things?’ Vernon held his breath, dreading the hollow promise of a prosperity gospel… and released it with a sigh of contentment. Here was the heart of religion surely; ‘It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns?’ The dubious testimony of answered prayer that followed, the several unsolicited offers of prayerful counselling, even the church–grade coffee-with-chicory failed to rob him of his glimpse of heaven. How to hold on to the gift of faith without becoming a debtor to religion that was the problem; how to occupy every room in the house with a God who liked to Spring clean?

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Reasons to be cheerful …part 3, and 4

Section 134 feeling sunny and cooling down

Vernon woke up feeling pleased with himself. On reflection that in itself was remarkable, not just because he was by nature melancholic and pessimistic, but because his philosophical reading, tinged as it was with a curiosity about neuroscience, had alerted him to the observation made by Proust that awakening generally entails the gradual reassembly of self from the oblivion of sleep. Nevertheless, and despite his recent setbacks, Vernon awoke this morning knowing who he was and knowing that he was lucky.

Vernon was happy; his application for India was secure, plus...

Vernon was happy; his application for India was secure, plus…

He turned and looked at Nsansa lying next to him, breathing in as he did so the rich scent of the oils with which she conditioned her coffee-toned skin. He stroked her back in appreciation and from somewhere beneath the pillow heard a murmur of approval. Further reasons to be cheerful in three parts were that his mother and sister approved his trip to Thailand, his research proposal had been accepted by Dr van der Floot and he had survived the walk across hot coals that his India visa required. Things were looking up.

Most of all, Vernon reflected drowsily, his feeling of self-satisfaction was derived from the news story of the previous day, the one that had unnerved him profoundly, and the subsequent text on his phone that had woken him up this morning. The text was from Jean Luc. Five words gave him hope. ‘Tarkey has handed himself in’.

Tarkey, by doing so had confirmed the link between Mudrock’s losses and his own actions. It was a short step from there to suppose it was a guilty link. Snug in his thinking-nest, though somewhat distracted by the lazy hand that was exploring his left thigh, Vernon doubted that this turn of events was merely because of the newspaper reporting which was in the public domain. He didn’t know yet, but he considered it likely, Tarkey had been ‘lent on’…

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