Monday, May 2, 2011
I sat on the low gray couch opposite the desk as Gavin fluttered about from task to task, zig-zagging like a butterfly; and just like a butterfly he stopped at random points in the room whose importance was all but invisible to the naked human eye. I rested my heavy hands in my lap. They felt so weighty, it was as if they had been soaked in mercury. If they somehow became detached from my arms, and fell to the ground, I felt sure they would splinter and burst through the floorboards.
The phone on Gavin’s desk hissed. Looking up from a memo that had momentarily snagged his interest, he kept gazing irritatedly at the phone, hoping that by the force of his stare alone it would stop. He glanced at me with an expression of annoyed persecution, picking it up while saying, “Where is my blasted secretary!” His desk was so overflowing with paper that the pressure of lifting the phone from the receiver sent a plume of documents perched on the lip of the desk floor-ward. Gavin spat into the phone “Sod it!” and upon listening to the caller’s voice visibly deflated.
“Yes. Yes Colonel, this is Budge. I’m sorry sir, of course. Yes, 0400. I’ll be there sharp, sir, yes, thank you sir.” Gavin hung up and sat heavily in his chair.
“Was that Colonel Beckcock again?
“Yes,” Gavin opened his eyes as wide as tea saucers, and then clamped them rigidly shut. In the aquatic light reflected from the Thames, it seemed like his lids were painted a dull turquoise. “Whenever that old bird calls me in for a meeting it always means the same thing. More personnel are being transferred out of my command. We’re already stretched too bloody thin as it is. How can a reduced staff handle the load that a full compliment can’t handle at all?”
I stared at him impassively. He looked crossly at me, as if judging a person he had only recently met in a new and unfavorable light. He fiddled with something on his desk below my line of sight.
“One thing’s for sure,” he shook his head rigorously as if the physical act could remove unpleasant thoughts from his mind, “we’re not going back to my flat for coffee. Its cocktails or nothing for me.” Then he reconsidered, “or if we do have brew it will be Irish style with Whiskey in it. If I have to listen to that buzzard caw for half an hour I want to be tight. Let’s go, shall we?”
As we exited the room, I thought I heard the suction of escaping air. I looked over my shoulder, Lot’s wife style, and for an instant the room was replaced by a brilliant white void, soft and soothing, with white light sending beams of radiance out and around my head. I turned back forward, and my entire body quivered from stem to stern. I again gazed back at the room. Everything was in place.