"The man's a war hero, he won the VC in the Boer War!" said Duddingston, "he's a kind of totem, isn't he, a symbol of what it means to be British?" asked Campbeltown; "you're right," replied Bernie, "a linchpin, absolutely essential to the morale of the expedition, do you suppose that when the others realised what he had done, instead of freeing them from the strain of carrying him further, it only symbolised the failure of the expedition – they hadn't achieved their goal – and that sense of futility was what decided their own fate?" and Duddingston fixed Bernie with a stern look: "you cannae hold him responsible for the others' deaths, no way!" and Bernie expostulated: "no, no, I didn't mean that, Captain Oates is an exceptional man, with great courage and immense moral purpose, in fact, the last man anyone could attempt to chantage! there is no shame attached to him in any way, shape or form; all I meant was, well, the Law of Unintended Consequences, you must know it, surely?" but the Loch brothers shook their heads, so Bernie explained: "okay, you do something, for the right reasons; as a result of what you do, something happens, not what you intended, maybe even as well as what you intended, but it still happens; if it has a bad outcome, are you responsible? after all, it needn't have happened at all, but it did; is that your fault?" and the brothers looked at each other and after a pause, Campbeltown said: "that's a glass of malt each, Bernie, which is a direct result of your asking us a totally pointless question, and that's the Law of Unintended Consequences!"
And then they saw him, a lonely, staggering, frostbitten man who looked like he'd soon become a wheelie-case; Bernie and Campbeltown, quickly followed by Duddingston and several others, ran out to meet this strange apparition and, after he had collapsed in their arms and been carried to the Sick-Bay, asking for the sagamore and babbling about his friends, the Camp Doctors sedated him and later, in the Mess, told them what they had learned: "his name's Captain Lawrence Oates – of whom I'm sure you've all heard, and know what his last words were before he left the tent in 1912: 'I am just going outside and may be some time,' - the general acceptation is that he died out there in the snow, although his body was never found, and the rescue party erected a cairn and put up a cross, memorialising him as a gallant gentleman, of the Inniskilling Dragoons, my own father's old regiment, who walked to his death in an effort to save his companions, by relieving them of the burden he believed he had become; well, gentlemen, I need hardly say that somehow or other, he is here, now, alive, but not at all well, he has suffered severe and extensive frostbite, gangrene, and I've had to amputate both his legs, one below the knee, the other above, several fingers, his ears and nose; he is very weak, but I and my staff will do our damndest to save his life, for he is a true hero who deserves the chance to return to his family home for whatever time he has left; and if any of you try to prevent me carrying out my moral obligation, I'll make sure you are arraigned on charges of perduellion, if it's the last thing I do!" and the entire company rose to their feet and gave three cheers for Doctor Cameron and his assistant Dr Finlay!
"Well," asked Bernie as he seated himself beside the former Private Detective, and lit a cigarette: "seen any Germans out on the bayou?" and Campbeltown laughed, before answering in kind: "nope, nary a one, just First Lieutenant Bumble ordering his troops around his aquaponics experiments!" and Bernie chuckled in turn; this was more entertaining than the perpetual feud between McFadden and MacPhee and, not for the first time since he and the two Loch brothers had been blown up in Glasgow in 1947 and hurtled back four years to find themselves in Britain's secret base in Antarctica still in the middle of the Second World War, he wondered why on Earth the Base CO, Commander Abernathy had seen fit to put that pair in a hut together; he realised that in a small unit like Operation Tabarin, no-one could possibly be kept separate from another forever, but billeting them in the same hut seemed utter madness, unless it was to keep both of them away from the rest of the contingent, but before he could finish that train of thought, Campbeltown Loch was on his feet, snatching up a pair of binoculars and training them on the distant rocky outcrop; he turned quickly towards Bernie and hissed, "call Abernathy, I'm certain I caught a glimpse of a Kriegsmarine U-Boat Service cap, due . . . . . oh fuck, is that East or North-East?" and he pointed, but Bernie had even less idea of directions here, where most faced North, or South (as far as the Pole, which wasn't so very far away, and then North again).
"Nah, nah, mon, yer wrang therr," said McFadden amiably enough, "ye canna say it's a mickle as if it wis somethin o consequence, ye mind the auld sayin, mony a mickle maks a muckle? a muckle noo, thon's a matter o consequence!" and MacPhee sooked the stem of his pipe furiously: "ur ye sayin that a MacPhee dusnae unnerstaun his ain Scots tongue? am urny a cornpone ah'll hae ye tae unnerstaun, ah went tae Anderson High Schule in Lerwick!" as though that settled the matter; but to McFadden it was just the beginning: "aye, aye, the usual tergiversation o a Shetlander - hauf o them's Norsemen, an tither lot's as Irish as auld Johnny Lennon, mind him? he wis a bonnie sailor, a Cap'n in the Royal Navy durin the American War, an he cried fae Downpatrick in the County Down; noo Ah wis born on Coll, an we went tae Oban High Schule, whaur Maister McCluggan taught us Gaelic, Scots an English, an a Muckle is def-in-ate-ly mair as a Mickle, an ye kin pit thon in yer pipe an smoke it!" at which Bernie Cohen gave up and went outside to have a quiet word with Campbeltown Loch.
"Do you know if it would be possible to speak with Jonah?" asked Theresa, thinking that it might acually be feasible to get her article on Herstory back on track; Old Bert laughed indulgently: "bi my troth I should say so, Miss; if yer want the lowdown on MacFarlane an' Doubleday, as crapulous a pair o Paterson's Curses as ever was seen in Salford to my own certain knowledge, Young Jonah's the man for ye, just turn about an' ye'll see him, the one wi the big red beard an' a patch ower his left eye, but don't be put off by his piratical appearance, Jonah's a Deacon in the Salford United Congregational Reformed Church now, put his sinful ways behind him thirty or more years ago when he met his missus and saw that the Light o' the World won't be found at the bottom o a tankard," and as Theresa and Barnaby turned to look at the giant of a man soberly dressed and in earnest discussion with a young lad who had the uncomfortable demeanour of a drinker buttonholed by a Temperance zealot!
And Barnaby asked old Bert if he could quote him on that: "aye lad, jist as long as ye leave oot the F word cos a wouldna like the missus ta think I used words like thon in mixed coompny," but once given that assurance, he consented: "ask me all ye like aboot them twa, an' I'll tell ye all I knows," so Theresa asked him how long he had known MacFarlane and Doubleday and the old man snorted: "they cam oot o nowhere, crept inter Salford an' set oop shop doon bi the quays, said they'd made there moony in the West Indies, but they'd neither one a tan! ye kin tell them as cooms back fi there cause they're broon as berries in their faces an hands, but no that pair! in fact, I'd say they looked more like they'd been doon in the Sooth Atlantic wi the penguins, I'd a mate wha wis on whalers doon there an' he said there wis whales an' sharks an' sealions an' seals an narwhals – hiv ye ever seen one o thon? strange things, they brought one here alive in a tank fer the museum, it had a great harpoon instead o' a nose! bit there wis tales o' men livin' among the penguins, wha's skin wis as white as sna'! that wis what that pair o' scallywags wis like, livin' sna'men, like as if they'd scoured their skin till it wis reluced, ye ken, shiny an' bright, no pale an' wan, even efter dark ye cood see 'em coomin, they wis luminous, faces glowin above their clothes, in fact in the right dark, late o' night, that wis a' ye saw, two shiny moon faces floating along aboot head height, cos they allus wore black, well, so did maist o' the office men then, aye," enjoying his quip, "two moons bobbin' along, noddin' tae each ither; bit ah dinna think this has owt to do wi' yer herstory stuff, Miss, they wis more interested in usin' lasses tae suit their own stories, an' right queer stuff they got up to, or so ma pal Jonah telt me!""
Meanwhile, old Bert told him, in 1896, "call it His-story or Her-story, Friederich Engels were an all-round good egg, an' a Moai oughter bin erected in Salford tae 'is memory, cos it were 'im wot writ it doon in 'is book, The Origin of the Family, Private Property an' the State as 'ow Bourgeois law dictates the rules for relationships an' inheritances an' as such, two partners, even wen their marriage baint arranged, will aluss 'ave the preservation o' inheritance in mind an' as such will never be entirely free tae choose their partner an' that's 'ow it will only lead to the proliferation o' immorality an' prostitution, an' so 'is name oughter be emblazoned on Salford Toon 'all fer a'body tae realize the importance o the man!" and Theresa bought him another pint and asked him about MacFarlane and Doubleday and he spat on the floor to show his utter contempt for that pair of "Rogues an' Rascals, an' thon's pittin' it fuckin' mildly Miss, beggin' yer pardon, fer them's the maist evil predators this world's ever known, an thon's a definite, provable, fuckin' fact! if ye'll pardon me French."
"Do I confuse you, Gusti?" asked Dada, but his friend shook his head and said: "sometimes it is life that perplexes me, some say that we are living in interesting times, revolution is in the air, and not only politically – music, which is, of course my passion, is changing; art, which is yours, likewise; literature too; and science, of course; should we oppose change, stand in the way of progress like Luddites? or would we be like little Dutch boys, trying to keep out the ocean by putting our fingers in a hole in the dyke? you remember the ferrule on the end of our cues, when we played billiards in the Hall when we first came to Vienna? well it now has a different meaning, it has been taken up by a group of Anarchist Terrorists as the slogan they paint on walls and bellow from Belvederes!" and Dada, who had never heard of this, asked what it meant; so Gusti explained: "it's a kind of backronym, it stands for Fire Ends Royalists, Republicans Use Lighters, Extermination!" and Dada laughed: "that really is a mouthful, they might have been better to go for something like Gosh, which stands for Get Out Silly Habsburgs!" and the resulting explosion of laughter brought them some curious looks from passers-by.
Later, when Dada and his dearest, oldest friend, Gusti Kubizek, were seated outside a busy café, drinking coffee, Dada told him about the new show, t national dances being incorporated, and the article in Neue Freie Presse fearing the demise of the Viennese Waltz under a tsunami of Foreign dances! "these people are so narrow, so prejudiced, they can't see that it is the very cosmopolitan milieu of Vienna that gives it the vibrancy people want and need!" and Gusti examined him, the ghost of a smile on his lips: "what's so funny, Gusti?" and his friend leant forward: "you used to be critical of all the incomers, Dada, I remember you arguing that Vienna, indeed Austria, was being changed by these people and their customs, religions, languages, and that there needed to be a cleansing of the Empire if we wanted to remain Austrian, German, even European!" and Dada hung his head, his cheeks burning as he blushed to his roots, then he looked up, a lopsided grin on his face: "did I really say that? yes, I admit it, I did, and it shows how narrow-minded, how insular we were, back home, and the shock of the new when we first came to Vienna overwhelmed me! I realized how ignorant I was, how little I knew of the world, so I read all the German-language newspapers, went to political meetings, studied – but only narrow-minded nationalist books and journals, and that meant that I only confirmed the prejudices of my childhood; I was a failure as an artist, rejected by the very people I believed in, and where did my salvation come from? from a Jewish shopkeeper who sold my paintings to his Jewish customers, from his Jewish wife who welcomed me into their home for good food and companionship; where were the Austrians? the Germans? to them I was only a candidate for workfare, unemployed and unemployable and so ignored, given a pittance for a day's hard labour; before the Morgansterns, Sam and Emma, took me under their wing I was literally starving, in truly dire straits, malnourished, with acute pains, sick – anyone else would have turned me away at the door, and had already, but not Sam – it was a bit like the Good Samaritan story, but here I was a Christian in distress and it was the Good Jew who rescued me; that gave me cause to think, between painting scenes to fit Sam's frames, and drawing cartoons of the patrons in the busier coffee shops, in exchange for a coffee and a meal, so I became somewhat ambivalent about the prejudices I had grown up with, and I remembered my mother's doctor was also a Jew, and that added to the scales in favour of a different outlook; and then I met Jakob and Miriam and was invited to join Cabaret Voltaire! and then I met Magda, and fell in love, headlong, madly, completely, so – my views of unyore? they are my views no more! oh! don't look so stricken, Gusti. I'm not a Communist, though I mingle with many, and Anarchists, and Republicans, and Mohammedans, and even some Serbians and Bosnians! now, mark my words, they are the ones to keep an eye on – that place is a powder-keg and if someone puts a match to the fuse? BOOM!"
So, while Hank and Marvin, or to use their Spirits' real names, MNM??89% and GgKk$753+, are whirling in a house caught in a cyclone with a girl named Dorothy and a small dog called Toto, high above 1930's Kansas and wondering if the Creator had meant this to happen, if we rewind to 1913 and scoot across to Vienna – from the Occident to the Orient some might say – the young painter, Dada Heidler, was trying to find an artistic way to represent the anecdata given to him by his friend Jakob Feldman, Director of the Cabaret Voltaire: it concerned some statistics quoted in the morning paper, Neue Freie Presse, that Vienna now had so many foreigners that the Waltz was in danger of being submerged by the Albanian Shota, Armenian Shalakho, Bulgarian Ruchenitsa, Croatian Lindo, Czech Polka, Egyptian Raqs Sharqi, English Morris Dance, Finnish Jenkka, French Can-can, Hungarian Czardas, Ottoman Zeybek, Polish Mazurka, Russian Barynya, Serbian Kolo, Spanish Flamenco, together with the Jewish Horah and Whirling Dervishes from Persia and other dances associated with religions as well as national groups: "surely this is something to be applauded," said Dada – not that I'm a dancer," and he grinned at his girlfriend Miriam Apfelbaum, who was wearing a brightly coloured zendaletto over her luxuriant hair as she and the other dancers worked on a piece which would blend all the National Dances found in Vienna into a flowing amalgamation; "here," said Jakob, handing Dada a glass of slivovitz, "you are right, dear friend, this is something to celebrate and that's the very note to strike in the poster – by the time we're finished, everyone will be laughing at the small-minded editors at the NFP who want to divide people, well, we'll call for the Unity of the Dance, and stick that up their noses!" and Dada laughed: "that's the image, a cavalcade of dancers in national dress, holding hands and dancing up a huge nostril into a Habsburg Nose!" and he began to sketch it out on his drawing board.
"Maybe we should go up to the house," said Dorothy, "for some dog-biscuits for Toto, there's no sayin how long we'll be down here! and we could fetch some cookies for us, too, and Aunt Em has a pitcher of lemonade she left for me," and Hank exchanged a look with Marvin, for they both were unfamiliar with English, their most recent Lives having been on the Planets Zog and Mudd respectively, and wondered why Dorothy should want a picture of lemonade to bring down to the storm shelter; then Dorothy said: "it's good you're not arachnophobic, there's some might big spiders down here and it's positively disrecommended for arachnophobics to go anywhere near them; c'mon, lets go up," and she led they way up a different set of stairs to the interior of the house and into the kitchen, where Toto yapped beside a box of dog-biscuits while Dorothy took a large jug of lemonade out of a fridge: "hey look," she said, pointing out of the window and they all watched the twister scrithel across the landscape, swerving and jiggling and positively scintillating, great flashes of lightning forking towards the ground and sending sparks like starts into the darkening sky; they stood, frozen, transfixed by the awesome sight, almost forgetting that this great elemental force was approaching them at a staggering rate and wasn't just a vision for their amusement; then Hank yelled: "look out, it's coming straight for us!" pulling Dorothy to the floor, as he and Marvin covered her with their bodies, as the old house bucked and strained against the power of the twister, until with one great tearing wrench, it was off, whirling around like a fairground ride, with Dorothy, Hank, Marvin and even Toto, clinging on for dear life!
They had barely come to when they registered each other's presence and, haltingly, acknowledged each other, hesitant and not wholly sure of their own identities, never mind anyone else's, when they heard the girl's voice, calling her dog, by the sound of it, and then she had caught sight of them and, without any hesitation, addressed them directly: "hey, misters, there's a cyclone comin' and we all better take cover, come on!" and they followed her into the shelter; "my name's Dorothy, this is Toto," she introduced the dog, "I sure hope you ain't got arachnophobia," and they named themselves as Hank and Marvin; Dorothy took a seat and they found places for themselves: "we're a nice virtuous circle," said the girl in the gloaming of the tidy little place, "ain't got no Gadarene Swine in here to muss everythin' up, that'd upset Aunt Em; she'n' Uncle Henry's
gone into town, I surely hope they don't get caught out on the road! we're safe as houses in here," and she laughed gaily, but Hank and Marvin seemed to sense that something unusual was about to happen!
It might be that the Creator blinked, if such a thing is possible, or sighed, if Creators sigh, even took a sip of coffee, if that is something that Creators do, but one thing was certainly true: the Creator's eye was definitely off the ball for a second, or even a millisecond, which might, in the life of this Universe, the best that the Creator had constructed, far, far better than the previous ones, have been a million years; the Spirits which whirled around in the Creator's consciousness definitely sensed that something unanticipated had occurred, something unintended and therefore unbalancing, something which troubled the Creator and sent shock waves through the Spirits; one, Zb65l*sq~~ felt itself experience a shudder akin to the arachnophobia one of it's human lives had suffered from; another, trsk!¬<>8, dismissed arachnophobia as unbefitting a Spirit, while GgKk$K753+ wondered if arachnophobia was maybe a plesionym for something less unpleasant and that maybe Zb651*sq~~ had got the wrong end of the stick, but MNM??89% said that GgKk$K753+ was clearly an energumen and had probably consorted with [u<1F3r and the Merrie Pranksters and should be ignored but, as it wasn't the done thing among Spirits to Shun any or send them to Coventry, it would be best to simply ignore the last remark which as when, in a sudden peripeteia, MNM??89% and GgKk$753+ both vanished from the Spirit swarm and landed with a bump in Kansas!
Later, oh, much later, after the distress at O'Shaughnessy's when TP and Paddy broke the news to Mairead of Enda's 'passing' but without any details of the cause of his death, and after they had stopped at Clinton's Bar (on the right hand side of his bicycle repair shop – none of the bars in the village of Ballymontooly were exclusively pubs, all were adjuncts to the bread-and-butter trades carried out in the same premises, whether baker, butcher, bicycle repairs, or ironmongery, only the village hotel had a bar which was separate, albeit in a corner of the same building, but with it's own entrance) and had two pints on the slate, for Liam Clinton was their employer on the renovation and restoration of the old cottage where he had been born, sixty-odd years ago and here he wanted to live out his last years and die, as had generations of Ballymontooly Clintons before him, and then after he had said "goodnight" to Paddy at his mother's and walked on to his own mother's cottage, where he and his as yet unmarried sister Bridie (who hoped some day to be a Bride) still bided with Grace Coogan and her three cats, and even later still, when the women had gone to bed and left TP and the felines sitting before the remnants of the peat fire, him holding a small glass of whiskey, when the knock came, a single rap on the door, followed by two further raps in close succession! well, he was surprised to say the least when he opened the door an saw that his visitor was none other than the Gaffer himself; TP invited him in and had a quick scan of the street, but saw no-one, so shut the door quietly: "ye'll be takin a drop o the pure?" he asked, but his visitor shook his head and, pointing at his stomach, said: "ulcer – an it's a deal worse than Ulster, believe you me, Tim Pat," and he took a glass of milk instead, then said: "ye'll know this is comin up to the quincentenary of the martyrdom of The Two Saints following the Fitz Rebellion," a statement, not a question, and TP nodded, "aye, it's always a big deal here, with Gerald Fitzmaurice's family home bein Ballymontooly Castle, an the village church bein dedicated to St Gerald," and The Gaffer took up the story: "an Maurice Fitzgerald his first cousin, aye, it's always interested me the way the Hiberno-Norman's were more like the Irish, than we were ourselves, most of them spoke better Gaelic than the local people, an they worshipped with a ferocity that burned in their souls, tis a pity they're a wasm, but The Squad intends to mark the anniversary, strike at the intestines of the English Government's power here, right in Dublin Castle itself!" and TP stared at The Gaffer, "how?" he asked; but The Gaffer shook his head: "not under yer Mammy's roof, Tim Pat, I need to stretch my legs, it was a long drive and I feel walkative, and maybe talkative too, let's down b the river, it's a long time since I was down there and I love the sound of rushing water, it makes it harder for any eavesdroppers to know what's being spoken of," so they both pulled on their jackets and bunnets and stepped out into the moonlit street, and as they walked, The Gaffers Minders silently fell in behind them.
But how came it that young Desmond O'Leary became the Medical Practitioner qualified to Certify Death, or at least that of poor Enda O'Shaughnessy, still seated, in death, behind the wheel of his bus? well, strange as it may seem, it was his father, Timothy O'Leary himself who came to PC Jenkins' aid, as he grappled with the complexities of upholding the Law and reconciling that requirement with the need to be expedient and timely, giving hiim a resigned air of weltschmerz as he scratched his head: "would it help you, son, if I introduced you to me lad, Desmond, come here Desmond, shake the constable's hand, right, so, young Desmond here took part in a series of training classes with the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception down at the County Hospital. on the subject of First Aid, and it just so happens that the young fellahs in the class were instructed on How To Check if an Accident Victim is Alive before Attempting Treatment, now, boy, come on, demonstrate your sisu, you are born of a courageous race and not to be daunted by adversity, speak up and tell the constable what you told me the nuns told you," and Desmond took off his bunnet and recited, parrot fashion, although without the palilogical repetitions by which the elderly Sister Concepta drummed the instruction into the heads of those callow youths who had been sent on the course at the whim of the Headmaster, regardless of their individual fitness and capability of ever passing the final test: "check the patient's pulse on the inside of the wrist, if none, check if the patient is breathing by placing your ear nect to his mouth and observing whether his chest rises and falls; if both of these tests produce negative results, you can certify that the patient is deceased," and then returned his bunnet to his head and his father spoke to Jenkins: "would you consent to having Desmond carry out the checks and sign the Notification of Death for you?" at which the constable waved his hands and said: "well he's obviously dead, and it's not a balconic suicide or accident - some of them jump or get pushed or thrown from the gods in Dublin theatres, or so I'm told - but aye, sonny, sign the form for us, will ye? but make sure it's squiggly, ye canna read anythin a real doctor writes!"
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