Heavens! Crikes! Shudder and Drool! Throw the word ‘calamity’ full force into a room crowded with ‘disaster’, ‘shock’, ‘outrage’, and ‘catastrophe’ and you might experience a fraction of the concern I had felt by the time I came to button up my fly at ten o’clock this morning.
At first, it began with a touch of mild annoyance when I was awoken by Judy hammering away in the spare bedroom. Groggily, I slipped out of bed and fed my feet to the slippers. Bones cracked, ligaments creaked, but His Madeley’s Slippers Brown and Orthopedic held up well as I set off to see what the old girl was up to.
‘I won’t be long,’ said she from the top of a wobbling stepladder. The curtain rail was hanging down across the windows. ‘As soon as I’ve fixed this, you can help me carry the new bed up the stairs.’
Daylight bankrupted my sleepiness but not my sense. ‘New bed?’ I asked. ‘What new bed?’
Judy wobbled again on the ladder and I thought for a moment she might actually fall through the window. She grabbed the wall just in time. ‘The new extra long bed and mattress I had delivered this morning.’
‘Extra long?’ I too felt a bit unsteady. The world wasn’t making much sense to me. ‘What’s going on Judy? Why do we need an extra bed?’
She turned and looked at me as she slipped her claw hammer into her workbelt. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve not heard the news!’
‘I’ve been asleep and in a fairly deep one at that. I was combing the knots out of Katie Denhem’s hair.’
Judy gave me one of her narrowing stares that warn me against mentioning Katie’s name too often. It’s the reason why I’ve held off including her picture in my bestiary.
‘You claim to be the man’s closest friend yet you haven’t heard the news?’ She gave me the full force of a tut which couldn’t have sounded more dismissive if she’d driven it through my forehead with her hammer. ‘Stephen’s broken his arm.’
That news shocked me into wakefulness. ‘Is he okay? Is he conscious? Did he mention my name?’
‘It’s only a broken arm but I’ve told him that we think it only right that he comes and stays with us for a few days while he recovers.’
Words are an unnecessary luxury when men of action are in their slippers before noon on a Saturday. I rushed to the window and lifted the rail into place. ‘Hammer away, Judy. Hammer like you’ve never hammered before…’
As Judy began to hammer and my arms began to rebel against the weight of the heavy curtain pole, I looked down and out the window and saw the postman walking up the drive. I smiled to him as he approached but he didn’t smile back. I suppose that’s the problem with sleeping in the nude. One quickly discovered the limitations of a pair of slippers when you’re holding up a curtain rail before a low silled bedroom window.
Stephen arrived an hour later when I was dressed, shaved, and buoyed by cornflakes.
‘How bad is it, old boy?’ I asked as I helped him into the hall.
‘Alas,’ said Fry, his arm in sling and plaster. ‘’Tis I, Fry, with the cruellest break of all. It’s my writing hand. I fear that the good people of The Guardian will have to do without Dork Talk for the foreseeable future. And my iPhone has been ringing all morning but I’ve been unable to answer it.’
‘Don’t you worry yourself about that,’ said Judy, fluffing a cushion on the sofa. ‘You come and sit down. You poor thing. And if you need somebody to do your typing for you, I’m sure Richard would only be too happy to help. It might even do him some good and show him that a real writer doesn’t just sit there and make things up off the top of his head.’
‘Indeed,’ said Fry, though I noticed, failing to meet her gaze.
‘I’m happy to do that,’ I said, flopping into my arm chair. ‘You need anything in the meantime? Something to eat? Entertainment? I could ring Oddie and ask him to bring his musical spoons?’
‘No, no,’ smiled Stephen as Judy perched herself next to him. ‘I just want to rest a few moments before we get to work.’
I looked at him. ‘Work? On a Saturday?’
‘I have noticed this in your before, Dick. You have a distinct reluctance to grasp life with both hands and shake it free of every drop of its possibility.’
An odd thing to say when your wrist is encased in plaster. He’d be grasping little in both hands for the foreseeable future. However, Stephen was right. I do complain about not having the time to write, yet in a few weeks I might be burdened with additional duties to make these days feel like protracted holidays.
‘Okay, I’ll help you,’ I said. ‘What do you need?’
He smiled as he used his good hand to retrieve his pipe from a pocket. Judy was soon shoving shag in his bowel and helping him to light it.
‘Bring my laptop in from the car and we’ll begin,’ said Stephen after a couple of mild puffs. ‘I was hoping to finish my libretto for my new opera based around the legend of Grunhilda, the one armed Bavarian bandit and truffle hunter. Wagner left his score unfinished when he began to find it too much for him. Luckily, I have the genius of Andrew Lloyd Webber to finish the music and give an extra the polish and layer it with my lyrics.’ He cleared his voice and began to sing in that occasionally fragile voice of his…
‘’Tis I, Grunhilda, speaking to you on my Alpine horn.
Where are you my band of flaxen haired lovelies,
We need to ascent again up yon Matterhorn,
Where grow the finest of Baverian trufflies…’
He gave an almost embarrassed smile as his voice finished echoing through the rooms.
‘Okay…’ I said.
‘Then I’d like us to write a couple of chapters of my new novel, “Bullocks in Tow”, my tale of farming life set against the backdrop of genetic mutations and cattle haulage.’
‘And we’ll finish by writing a couple of essays on Tamil nationalism and security exploits in Mozilla based browsers. I thought after some dinner, we might spend the rest of the night writing poems and end with a game of Scrabble.’
‘I can see that you’re going to be busy,’ said Judy rising and adjusted her cuffs in a way that evoked just a touch of envy.
‘Indeed I am,’ I smiled, though I didn’t quite know how I should feel. ‘Give me five minutes, Stephen, while I just go and update my blog and I’ll be with you and Grunhilda.’
And now that job is done it’s time for me to learn how to write like the Master and learn the history of Grunhilda and her trufflies.