Thursday, November 3, 2011

"A Town Called Disdain", Episode 100: falling

In an elegantly-appointed flying saucer somewhere between the Earth and the Moon, the mysterious “Mac” MacNamara finally begins to give his daughter Daphne a long-overdue explanation…

(Click here to read our preceding chapter; go here to return to the dimly-remembered beginning of this great patriotic epic.)

Frank crossed the room with two martinis.

“I am so touched by this touching father/daughter revelation scene,” he said, handing a martini to Brad. “Cue the surging violins and allow me one moment to pull out my dainty silk handkerchief.”

“Frank,” said Mac, “I suggest you do yourself a very big favor and for the last time shut your yap before I roll you up and start kicking you around this bridge like a soccer ball.”

Frank opened his mouth but then, apparently realizing that Mac wasn’t kidding, he lifted his glass to his lips in a half-hearted pretense that this was why he had opened his cowardly mouth in the first place.

Mac turned back to Daphne. He took a drag of his cigarette, and began.

“When I first came to the Earth, back in -- oh, God, 1938 -- I’ll admit, it was a lark. And, yeah, it’s true, I was in on the planning committee for World War II. The Big One we called it. I’ve got no excuses. I was young. I’d never been to the Earth before. I thought I’d grab a few kicks, stick around a few years, then get out.

“Yeah, get in, get off, and get the hell out. That was the idea.”

He paused, then took a good long drag of his Chesterfield, let the smoke fill his lungs and then he slowly let it all out.

The cloud of smoke dissipated to reveal the shadowed face of a twenty-five-years-younger Mac, in a muddy trenchcoat and a rakishly tilted khaki service cap.

From overhead came the whining spluttering of a V-1 flying bomb, followed by a pause and then the rocking blast of an explosion perhaps a hundred yards away.

Mac stood all alone at a dark bar, the only illumination a candle stuck into an ashtray near his elbow. With a cigarette between his lips he poured Haig & Haig into a tumbler.

Again the approaching rising spluttering of a V-1, much louder this time, and then the pause, much shorter now, and then a head-jolting explosion perhaps three doors away, the room shook as if it had been lifted from the ground three feet and then dropped, Mac bracing himself against the bar, one hand on his glass and the other on his bottle as glasses and liquor bottles crashed from the shelves and dust descended from the ceiling like a collapsing cloud.

The candle had gone out. Mac put his hand over his glass and calmly smoked his cigarette in the darkness till most of the dust settled. Then he lifted the glass and took a good drink.

“Get in and get out. But then something happened.”

Mac turned his head.

A young woman had just opened the door of the pub, the flickering illumination of burning buildings revealing her to be very good-looking indeed and wearing a well-tailored military uniform with a journalist’s badge on the right shoulder.

Leaving the door open, she walked across the room through the still-settling dust, opening a gold-and-tortoiseshell cigarette case. Taking out a cigarette she clicked the case shut and slid it into the side pocket of her tunic. Her peaked cap was tilted low over her large and somehow feline eyes. Now standing next to Mac, she put the cigarette between her lips.

Mac gave her a light with his scuffed Ronson, and she touched his hand as he did so. She drew the smoke in and then slowly let it out.

“Thanks for the light,” she said. “Now how about a drink?”

Another V-1 approached, it sounded like some flying drunken giant cursing insanely to itself, it flew overhead, passed on by, and then finally demolished some other building on the far side of the square. The Haig & Haig bottle wobbled on the bar and tumbled off, but the young woman caught it in her right hand.

The hair beneath her cap was dark blond, drawn up in an efficient bun in the back. Despite the shortages she had found lipstick and some discreet make-up, neither of which she needed, not for beauty’s sake. She looked around twenty-two, but she looked as if she had already seen as much of life and of death as a young infantry soldier of her age might have seen.

Mac leaned over the bar, reached down, and brought up another glass tumbler. He blew into the glass and the young woman handed him the bottle of scotch. Mac poured her a good drink and handed it to her. She lifted the glass. Mac lifted his, and they clinked rims.

“Cheers, big ears,” she said.

They drank.

And they looked into each other’s eyes.

“That’s when it started.”

Her eyes were not afraid to look into his.

“I fell.”

That horrible spluttering of another V-1, growing louder, like some enormous broken truck hurtling through the night sky.

“I fell for an earthling dame.”

The V-1 exploded somewhere nearby, the room shook and rocked, the dust churned down and up, the last of the bottles and the glasses on the shelves came crashing down, Mac caught the bottle of Haig & Haig in his left hand before it could fall again. The girl put her left hand on Mac’s right arm, to steady herself.*

*Go here to see this lady's very special guest appearance in Arnold Schnabel's memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.

(Continued here, and so on, at least until our poetic license is revoked. A Larry Winchester/Hugo Haas Production.)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Love at first sight.