Author Topic: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird

Re: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2020 »
Day 52 - Sorry again for the temporal freezing in your area of reception.  I had the antennae turned to manual.

Where to start?  Let's get an update on the feline terror.  One recent night, as I was drawing the curtains before going to bed, I saw lights flashing in Ann's and Michael's garden.  Ann was holding her phone like a torch, lighting Michael as he struggled with the cat trap, trying to insert what looked like a piece of cardboard from a beer carton between the trap and the cat carrier box.  It kept buckling.  Time and again he tried his best.  The cat was obviously in the carrier, a comfortable spot for a cat, compared to the trap.  I remained still so as not to break Michael's concentration.

Well, what do you imagine?  One more time, then ZOOM!  The cat was away into the evening darkness of the garden.  I too withdrew into the shadows as the two worked on resetting the trap.  Why?  It is said that a cat which jumps onto a hot stove will never jump onto a hot stove again.  It will never jump onto a cold stove either, though.  This cat will not fall for that again.  Still, it is also said, Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. 

I opened the window and settled in for a quiet night.  Are you catching my drift?  Not long 'bout one o'clock, I was startled awake by a heavy thud.  Then, flap flap flap scratch scratch scratch flap flap flap.  This went on for rather too long a time, but I was sure the cat was not going to escape until someone was roused next door.  So I shut the window and fell asleep.

The next morning, the trap was there as before.  Michael happened to be outside, so I went to the garden door to speak with him.  No, he had not heard anything that night.  No, the trap was not sprung.  No, the cat was still on the prowl.  He had no idea what I was talking about, no idea what I might have heard.  Now, I know I was awake last night.  I was NOT dreaming.  I put it down to being an unsolved mystery.

Now, that was yesterday?  Cat time is different from dog time and from human time, so I'm not sure.  Anyway, last night I looked again at the unsprung trap and the carrier box next to it.  The house was dark, no lights shining anywhere I could see.  This morning, both trap and carrier are gone.  Come to think of it, so are Ann and Michael, now that I notice.   

Re: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2020 »
Day 53 - I suppose I should have something to say about the cat, but I simply do not.  Ann and Michael returned from wherever they had been, sans chat, and I have not been able to speak with them yet.

But I did have time to install a second speaking tube from my balcony to the front garden.  The first, as you recall, was to allow me to speak with someone at the front gate, after I have been alerted by a bell rung by the visitor.  I soon realised that I must plug the hole of the funnel leading into the tube, or I would be hearing random street noises at all hours.  A champagne cork, such as those used in the game of wiff waff, fit the bill and the hole nicely. 

The second speaking tube was a playful idea that came to me in a moment of madness.  No need for me to go to a lonely heath for my evening fun.  I positioned the second tube less carefully than the first, as it was to be a moveable device.  It rests amongst the bushes near the front fence, but as far away from the gate as possible.  This distance allows for a stereophonic effect.

I speak through the main tube when necessary, and the second tube I use for random noises of nature which seem to occur at the end of the tube in the bushes.  A cat meowing, a dog barking, leaves rustling, a frog croaking, an inebriate belching, a student breaking wind, a ghoul laughing - these are the sounds in my repertoire thus far which I employ to entertain passers-by.  Occasionally  use both speaking tubes for that special effect I mentioned. 

During one particularly brilliant display of wind-breaking, I was alarmed (to say the least!) by an echo of the same sound being returned.  Ah, I reasoned finally, perhaps it eases the process, much as tinkling water helps a fellow micturate when in serried ranks assembled.  I burped, and again came an echo.  A joker!  Someone out to steal my thunder.  Then I heard a dog barking, a cat meowing, and as one sound from my repertoire after the other emanated from MY end of the tube, I realised I must put a stop to this.  Well - at least give the chap a good telling off.

This was early afternoon on the weekend, and so I waited at my balcony to see who would emerge from the other side of the fence, still then hidden by the bushes. The man must be crouching, his knees slowly wearying.  It was only a matter of time.  A group of men was passing by, headed toward the railway station.  They halted precisely where the hidden man must be.  One of them laughed, and they all started off again.  Was there one more on their number?  I could not tell.  My noisy pest could easily have joined them, all by prior agreement even!  Pranksters, the lot of them! 

Then I saw the fellow from across just approaching his front stoop, coming from my side of the street.  This is the tall young man I have, for convenience, named Roger.  W- w- was it HE?  Indeed, he might have seen me arrange the apparatus whilst watching from his window earlier.  A strange bolt of lightning struck my mind as I considered the idea of him being the culprit.  Previously, I had considered him one of the neutral characters in my life, as he was still rather unknown to me.  The electrification of my brain sparked the fuse which led to only one of two possible explosive devices - either this fellow Roger was a nasty turn of humanity, or - OR - he was a secret ally in the nefarious melodramatic comedy I call life.

I shall have to conduct further investigation.

Re: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2020 »
Day 54, Where are you? 

So, I suppose you all want a cat update?  Well, I can give you a good one.  I finally belled the neighbours, and Ann said that Yes, indeed, they had caught the cat and taken it to the next village where its twin sister was living.  It ran away from there the next day.  We fear a return of the feline monster.  True, it would have to cross a motorway bridge or cross a river to get back, get back, get back to where it once belonged.  Stay away, JoJo!

As for the rest of my day, it was spent either in suspense or in shame.  Having seen the across-the-street neighbour I call Roger acting suspiciously during one of my speaking tube concerts, I decided to start my investigations of him.  I had considered enlisting the help of Digo, but I would probably have to investigate him first. 

I wandered out beyond the perimeter fence of my property, slowly slowly, walked up and down the pavement as if inspecting the quality of the chewing gum layer, and watched for an opportunity to steal across the street.  The letterboxes there are near the street, whereas the doorbells are up the stoop and by the front door.  I wanted to find my first clue as to so-called Roger's identity, and Digo's as well.  Might as well cook two geese at once.

Letterboxes here are strictly regulated as to size, both internal and external dimensions carefully normed.  They need not be arranged according to flat location, however, and here was my first difficulty.  Eight flats, eight letterboxes, eight names.  Now, had I had any sense in my brain, I would have come prepared with my telephone (called Natel here) or at least a pencil and paper.  I looked quickly at the names, but there was no sense to the arrangement of the boxes, I could see that.  The one neighbour's name that I knew was on the lowest box, and she lived near the top of the building.  I scanned what I could - strange names, actually.  Some were just last names, some last and first (or was it first and last?).  My heart gave a leap when I saw the name Roger!

Just Roger.  Well, here that can be a last name or, of course, a first name.  I was half-stooped down to look at the bottom boxes, when I heard laughter immediately over my shoulder.  As I tried to combine a turn-around with a rise-and-shine, I accidentally performed a rather deft crouch-and-roll, and a suddenly frightened Digo had to help me to my feet.  He was truly penitent, very sorry, didn't mean to laugh, and certainly didn't mean me to fall.  I had raised my hand to straighten my spectacles, a movement which alarmed him further, as the poor lad must have thought I was going to strike him!  Again, deft of motion, I turned it into a gentle pat on his moppy head.

"I thought I saw a mouse!" was not going to get me free of the charge of snooping, so I just asked which letterbox was his.  He pointed to one labelled Dekamp/Vitalis.  "That's my mum there, and that's my dad.  He doesn't live here, though.  Just pays the bills."   My! That was quite a scoop of information there, lad!  That's not very discreet.  I said, "Oh."  Digo looked at me, like one looking at a shoebox, wondering if it contains shoes or old photographs, and hoping for some new trainers.  I then innocently pointed to the box labelled Roger and asked, "Who's this?"  "Dunno, do I?"  So, that was Digo's other side turning over, first polite, then almost insolent.  But he's a good lad, I know that.  I just need to keep an eye on him.  Sneaking up on me - honestly!

I've decided to return later with my Natel to take a shot of the doorbells.  That will require more skill and stealth, but I know that they are arranged according to flat location, and that is the information I need.  Roger, here I come!

Re: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2020 »
Day 55 - I am at a complete loss to explain how it came to be that I have not posted for so long.  I might have got lost in time, as it were, or will be.  I can only offer my abject apologies to my faithful readers. 

I left you with my determination to discover Roger's real name, which, if you recall, is not Roger, which itself is just a name of convenience I have given him.  There is indeed a Roger on a letterbox in front of his building, but that must be assumed to be a last name.  I had decided to check the doorbells.

Doorbells here are all correctly positioned to correspond to the flat in which they ring.  I know where my quarry lives, so I was off to snap a photo of the panel of doorbells at the stoop.  I checked for any sign of young Digo, but he seemed not to be around.  We are, remember, still supposed to be under quarantine, or lockdown.  His disturbance of me last time was a clear sign that he, at least, took this all very laxly indeed. 

I waited for early morning the next day, a Sunday, at which time I assumed hardly anyone would be awake, to photograph the doorbell names.  Without checking right then and there, I scurried back home across the street to check my shot.

Coincidence is the father of creativity, it is said, and this surely must be the great grandfather of all coincidences.  Roger's name is indeed Roger!  Not Roger Mexico, a name from a book I am reading (which may have put the name in my head in the first place, come to think of it), but Roger Lamballe.  Being the veteran researcher that I am, I of course checked the name against my reference sources and discovered it to be a town in France, actually quite near St-Malo where a cousin of mine lives.  Undoubtedly, however, Roger probably hails from Poke Stoges, or whatever it's called.  My cousin Fran├žoise shall still be consulted.  She knows all the gossip in Bretagne.

Armed with my new knowledge of Monsieur Lamballe, I then decided to compose a short letter of introduction to drop in his letterbox.  I was sure he would want to know in return who I was, or am, as the case may be.  I mentioned my distinguished wartime civilian service and my suspicion of cats, both of which to me seem like good conversation starters.  As casually as I could, I brought up the subject of my speaking tubes, surmising that I may have caught him humouring himself into one of mine, in flagranti.  (Please refer to previous posts, if this confuses you.) 

When I was dropping the missive, who should pop up but that scamp Digo.  I know he is just a young lad, but he seems to have the grown-up habit of pretending to understand what real adults are up to, when they are up to something children should not understand.  After the fun he had dropping scraps of paper on Roger's Barnet, and I had smiled at him when he saw me watching, I was hoping for some greater degree of camaraderie with him.  Still, a teenager (as he must be) shows less interest in an old man's well-being than in a teacher's travel slides to the Pyramids.  Perhaps I shall ask him to run an errand for me during my lockdown.  So far I have been in want of nothing.  But I shall soon be running low on - what is it boys like? 

Meanwhile, I await a response from Roger.  I gave him my various coordinates of contact.  The wiff waff ball is in his court now.

Re: A Journal of the Plague, by A Rare Bird
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2020 »
I'm afraid it's Day ┬▒ for the old Journal.  I have discussed this with higher powers (Tyrone's nephew) and we have concluded that it would be fun for young Roger Lamballe to take the reins into his own hands.  Digo, Ann, and Michael will still get their share of attention, but I shall retire into the shadows for a spell or two. 

You will find Roger in this same category on the old funny thing happened - whether it be Open or Stories, well, that's up to young R.L. 

I've had a good innings, and 'tis teabreak now for me.  Tata!