When I try to imagine Mr. Oakes in another occupation other than the one he is in now .. ( just WHAT is he again?) He is the owner / sole staff of “Domestic Fix”..a whitegoods repair company that operates out of a very small shop in a side street of one of the larger regional centres.
I see him dressed in one of those dull-blue, full length dust-coats on (a logo on the pockets announces ; “Thyer Rubber Co.” a previous place of employment of Mr. Oakes), the middle button is missing and the coat bulges there from his portly frame. There is always some fidgety piece of machinery in his stumpy, work-stained hands and a vague questioning look on his face…It is obvious from residual crumbs on his cheek that he has just eaten. : A self-employed service-mechanic…probably whitegoods, specialising in microwaves (he is recognised in the industry as a whiz at getting that ‘finish-bell’ to DING! just loud enough). He is slow in attending the customer bell at the front counter, and when he does get there, it is with a look of wide-eyed surprise while still fidgeting with that mechanical object in those stubby-fingered hands. He is known to be clumsy in his application toward his work. His workshop is cluttered, the front counter greasy and it always takes three weeks to get anything fixed because ; “…the part has to come from Melbourne”…and you always leave cursing that he is the only service centre in the town and swearing you will get a new machine next time it breaks down, rather than darken his door again!
His G.P. is forever encouraging him to exercise some more…but he prefers to drink. He was once seen to “run” across a street for an unknown reason..an action most singular in his life and in the memory of anyone who knows him.
Ms. Grattan, on the other hand, could well fill the role of librarian..not in a state library, nor local council or university, but rather one of those ‘lost around the back-streets’ “Institute Library” of some anachronistic group..like ” The Ancient Order of Druids” or the “Oddfellows Society” or in her case ; “The Steam Engines Assoc’ Institute Library”.
In her younger years, when she first started there, she was known as an innovator of style…she is recognised as the instigator of the “clutch ‘n’ carry method” for librarians carrying books..a colour-tinted photograph of a much younger Ms. appeared in the “Woman’s Day” magazine of Feb’ 1953 demonstrating her unique grip on a large load of books..she has a copy archived at home and a yellowed-with-age cutting prominent on the wall behind her desk.
She also gained a mention in “The Binder”, an inter-institute mag’, on her innovation of using different colour “tags-for-topics” on her Dewey-filing system….THAT also is archived and a cutting etc…
She has no time for ‘untidy’, chatty people and denies she ever “encouraged” Mr.Glanville Bartlett to propose and never regretted placing Sam “side-valve” Duggin’s donated complete ‘Biggles’ collection on the “For sale…cheap” table by the front doors..citing one particular book ; “Biggles Sees it Through” as a title rather too racy and suggestive for HER library!
She is still “in situ”.
The Ambulance officer and the policeman compared notes outside the suburban bungalow…the “deceased” was on a trolley next to them…the corpse was covered with a sheet.
“…and the name, is it Hartcher or Hatcher?”…..
“Hatcher, H-a-t-c-h-e-r…for god’s sake get that right.” the policeman said “I booked a senior-cit’ for D.U.I. the other night and he insisted he check I had the spelling correct for his first name…’Piers’, he said..’ P-i-e-r-s’…good job he spelt it out…I had it down as ‘ PLIERS’ ..so gotta get it right!”
They turned their attention to the deceased..The sheet was strangely raised “tent-like” at about mid-way down the corpse..the copper winced ;
” Death by misadventure, I’d say….are you going to extract that thing?” The ambulance officer raised both his hands flat.
“Not me!…I’ll leave THAT to the pathology chaps!…that’s why we’ve got him on his stomach…too hard.”
The policeman lifted the sheet and looked closely at the “offending object”…
” What IS that thing?”….
The ambulance officer brought out his “i pad” and punched in some letters…
” There, on Wikipedia…it’s a oriental fly-whisk….I’d even go so far to say it could be very similar to the one shown. He picked it up in Sarawak last spring, according to his partner…loved it…it was part of his “get-up”……
“Get-up?” queried the copper…The ambulance officer took him to one side of the ambulance.
“It seems he used the whisk “inserted” as a tail-piece,” he lowered his voice “…. they “role play” but in a different way….to get off…in a sex-romp thingy and he accidentally fell backwards….according to the surviving partner ; “Rooster in the Hen-house”..HE was the rooster, the partner was the hen…that’s why he has the feather coated mittens on and the “cocks-comb” shower-cap….” the ambulance officer made little flapping motions ..”.. wings.., you know?”…
The policeman looked at him strangely…
“NO!…I don’t know!…but I get what you mean…just how far in has that handle gone?…it looks chockers!”….the ambulance officer dropped the sheet back down and sighed..
“Dunno, but I reckon it’ll take a three-armed clamp and a hydraulic puller to remove it!…if that wiki-pic is anything to go by…that end knob looks nasty!”
“What was his occupation?”….the policeman checked his clipboard…he read out ;
“It seems..he was some sort of political adviser…to…to….phew!”…he showed the clipboard to the ambulance officer, who upon recognising the name immediately took from his pocket his mobile phone and pushed the camera option…the policeman did the same…
“..just for the record.”…..
“same”, said the policeman.
In front of Janet, on the white, washroom bench, was a small mother-of-pearl hinged box, she was using the mascara pencil from that box to adjust her eye-lining. Her closest friend and confidant was talking to her reflection in the mirror..
“Really, Janety…I doubt they would even give a thought to it !”
The identification tag pinned to her blouse announced her as “Janety..:Communications Editor, Promotion Publications Inc.” Janet demanded the name shortening of Janety be used from an early age..She didn’t really like Janet and she abhorred “Jan”, as she said it sounded like someone who makes “fruit spreads in a ric-rac edged apron !”.
“Of course they will!” Janet barked “They are more than likely discussing it as we speak!” her mouth contorted from an “O” to pinched lips as she concentrated.
“Well, I don’t think one raised eyebrow constitutes condemnation…and anyway..with Rupert with all those wrinkles, you can hardly tell if he was bemused, annoyed or constipated!…….anyway, I wouldn’t shed a tear over it.”
“I’m certainly not one for shedding a tear, Connie…not at all!”
Which was mostly true…The last time Janet had shed a tear was when she was ten years old and they were taking her pet guinea pig “Adolph” to the vet to be put down…as her mother explained to her at the time…:
“It’s cancer, Janety…and you know what the vet said last week…I think it is time to say goodbye to “Adolph.”….and of course, Janet was of the pragmatic mind even then to accept the inevitable.
” Yes, I know…but I will re-name him first as I don’t like putting down anything named Adolph…I shall re-name him ‘Abraham’..”
On the way to the vet in the back seat of the Range Rover, it was the only time she shed a tear…the little guinea pig, held tightly in his owner’s lap struggled and in restraining him, Janety was bitten….it hurt so sharply she gave a little gasp and a tiny tear crept into her eyes. Suddenly, she hated the little beast, as much as she hated anything physically weak..( and isn’t falling ill to a fatal disease as weak as one could get?)..as if it had betrayed her affections, she pressed her thumb fiercely into it’s tiny throat and clamped it’s little body tighter…she pressed and pressed until she felt a small but strangely satisfying “crick”….her mother looked in the rear-view mirror…
“Are you alright, Janety? “…….
“Yes…yes, quite alright….now..aren’t we ‘Abe’ ? ” she replied.
The vet was surprised and cast leery eye to Janet before declaring that ..
” Well, I suppose the shock coupled with the illness must have done the trick and he died on the way here in the car…all’s well that ends so…I suppose”…but he did look curiously at Janet.
And now here was Connie prattling on about something she obviously knew nothing about….
“Connie…I KNOW how such things go down with men, especially when said by a woman….and to make a complete ass of oneself in front of the director of the ; “Orange Grove Organic Juice and Yoghurt Cooperative” by declaring at the announcement of lunch ; ‘ Oh wonderful…I’m ravished!’ when obviously I meant “famished” will go down in the minutes as the “femme faux pas” of all time….Really, Connie…you’re such an innocent, sometimes I could strangle you !”