There are certain names that inspire confidence.
Imagine the scene. Into the midst of the well padded armchairs the news seeps like sewage into a reservoir.
Rumour, on winged feet, flits from chair to chair, and the room gradually becomes still.
Men who have kedged gunboats off the sandbanks in rivers we will not name, in total darkness and under the barrels of the enemy guns; sit weeping silently. Others who have stared down dust devils dancing over the killing fields of Afghanistan sit blank eyed, staring unseeing at the wall, suddenly broken.
Men who have drunk in squalid bars in Sihanoukville, or the Terminal Bar in New York, or even the Sandgate now drain their glasses, make their excuses and decamp to the gents.
And into the silence somebody drops a name, “Lauderdale.”
Immediately the cry goes up, “Send for Lauderdale. And suddenly there is laugher and shouting for waiters and a clinking of glasses and men rejoice and are glad again.
And Lauderdale appears, suddenly, as if by magic. Where has he been? Nobody knows. How did he enter? Nobody saw him arrive. He is here, it is enough.
In silence somebody hands him the letter. He reads it, his face indecipherable. Then with the letter in hand he leaves the room. He makes no preparations; he ignores the offer of ‘a bracer’ or ‘a stiff one’. He just goes as he is, that is our Lauderdale.
But when he leaves, silence falls, and with it doubt once more returns. “Can he do it?” So whispers one who can tell the Sarbani from the Ghurghakhti by the way they tape the magazines of their Kalashnikovs.
And the well padded armchairs are marinated in sotto voce conversation.
And Lauderdale, what of him?
He knocks on the door, waits briefly for the muffled response, and he enters. Swiftly, silently, gracefully; like a leopard he advances on the desk. The figure behind looks up at him.
“Ah Lauderdale, you wanted something?”
Like a regicide about to strike, Lauderdale raises the letter. “You are to be congratulated Minister. A bold decision if I may say so. None of your predecessors had the courage necessary to take on such deeply entrenched vested interests.”
The Minister’s voice quavers. “Bold, you say?”
“Perhaps a committee Lauderdale, just to round off any rough edges?”
“I shall arrange it at once sir.”
And now you too can play your part. You to can step forward into the breach and help sustain all we hold dear. But all civilisation asks of you, gentle reader, is that you buy the book.
Tagged: civilisation, Sihanoukville, The Cartographer's apprentice, The Sandgate, The Terminal Bar
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
LOVE IT 😀
Glad you like it. It was just there’s a chap buried in our churchyard called Brabazon Lauderdale and somebody commented that he sounded so competent. So it just grew out of that 🙂
Now THAT is inspired (as well as interred) Jim 😀
As part of our role as churchwardens my lady wife and I are supposed to keep the churchyard records uptodate. The problem is there were a couple of vicars who fifty or more years ago were very casual, and she’s rebuilding the records almost from scratch, mainly through genealogy, tracking families and working out who it actually was who was buried. But in the course of it the petty scandals of the last two centuries are coming blinking into the light 🙂
So we’ve interesting people and interesting names. We’ve even got a Fridge buried in the church yard 🙂
A Fridge? Wow – that’s one cool dude 😀
I wish your wife luck with her efforts – I’ve done genealogy myself in the past and know how muddled some church records can get…
Well that’s the issue, and technically there is a legal duty to have them correct. I don’t think anybody has ever been prosecuted, but we just feel that we ought to get ours as right as possible.
Beautifully written. Truly, a cut above: so tight and elegant; I love the way you cocoon a whole putative butterfly in one caterpillar of fine words. I am tired; that image may need work. I shall reblog – and buy the book!
Oh you say the nicest of things 🙂 It was just something that sort of came together in my head whilst I was hammering fence posts in and putting up sheep netting, and it just demanded to be written down 🙂
I look forward to reading the book – which I bought/downloaded yesterday!
The book isn’t about Lauderdale, although I’m pondering creating stories around him.
I was struck by something unusual, and to me special, in the prose – and it made me keen to read more. This is very unusual these days: Thirty years correcting secondary school English essays does that to a woman!
To an extent I might have been influenced by John Buchan, whilst the ending is probably a touch of ‘Yes Minister’. Which I admit is not a common combination 🙂
Ah! That might explain my instinctive reaction: I was an avid John Buchan reader in my early teens, and enjoyed ‘Yes Minister’ too! An eclectic combination, I should say, and none the worse for that!
I think I’ve read all his novels 🙂 Certainly I like the cut of his jib 😉
Reblogged this on Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman! and commented:
Some of the best writing I have encountered recently. I’ll be buying the book for sure – and would recommend others to read this extract.
Sounds inspiring and hopeful. It’s charged with tension and ready to roll. 😀
You know those magic moments when something suddenly clicks together and you realise you have to write it down? This was one of them
Those are the best kind, aren’t they? 🙂
Reblogged this on Michaelphelps1's Blog and commented:
I love this style of creating suspense! Great post. Thank you, JIM WEBSTER. Thanks to you, CHRIS GRAHAM, The Story Reading Ape for bringing this to your world of dedicated followers.
Definitely a good opening to a new novel there, Jim.
I am tempted. Trouble is, it’ll not be before late 2016 I can even start it!
Plenty of time for it to ferment and grow then :~)
I’ll have to ensure it ferments rather than festers 🙂
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