Drinks Globe

I have always wanted a drinks globe. It’s the definitive symbol of gentlemanly leisure. When I found that some friends didn’t want theirs anymore, I could almost taste the slightly dusty cognac. What I didn’t bank on is that me and my girlfriend would have to haul the bloody thing across South London. This isn’t what happened.  

–          I really don’t think it’s going to fit, you know.

–          Just take it through the luggage barriers and don’t piss about, we’ve only got three minutes.

 

Mary struggled to manoeuvre the structurally compromised mass of papier mache and wood over the threshold. The equatorial girdle had already been dented and she did not want to risk and further damage to the already questionable workmanship of the globe. The London Transport barrier attendant considered the shoddy, orphaned thing with absent minded disdain, but waved them through without comment.

 

–          Bloody … mind the legs, Jim! Don’t make the thing worse than it already is!

 

The station clock registered 19:53, and the worry was that they would fail. Apologies to wounded commuters were offered, and it was Jim who clutched and raised the legs, Mary who clasped and lowered the bulbous orb, running the last few steps to the platform and the open doors of the train.

 

The four others ensconced there raised heads and displayed a ranked collection of emotions at the sight of the incongruity being slowly lifted and wheeled into the carriage, but were otherwise silent. For their part, both Mary and Jim were questioning their commitment to hauling a shabby drinks globe, shedding dust and splinters, across that large stretch of South London. They were both however, perfectly sure of, and justified in, their desire of such a thing. Who would not want a drinks globe?

 

They had been at a house party in Lewisham when the subject had been raised, and it had been casually mentioned that such an item was indeed gathering dust in the cellar and had become obsolete – unfit for the collective vision of the house. It had been acquired four years earlier from number 42 in a similar bout of misplaced enthusiasm, who had, in an advertisement in the local Guardian, put emphasis upon the globe’s fine condition, whilst also stating very emphatically that they wished to be rid of it.

 

Of the raised heads there were four. Sitting on a fold-out seat next to the door was a large man of indeterminate age who appeared to be blind drunk, judging from his sprawled countenance and heavy head. His massive, wrinkled hands and straggled beard seemed to exist in opposition to the delicate glasses that he wore. And that executive looking briefcase at his feet – he was probably something in I.T.

 

The man’s name was Alan Sayer and he had not been in I.T. for some months now, he had instead found occupation in the testing and reviewing of a range of strongly caffeinated dessert wines – a task at which he was employed at that moment. At the point at which the globe and it’s bearers had arrived, he could barely see – he was very dedicated to his job – but what he could make out initially caused in him a puzzlement, which after a time gave over to a great and rising sense of hilarity. It was the great, round improbability … and the legs. The legs were the best part. He went so far as to say to himself that he had witnessed nothing more hilarious in his whole life, and took to sniggering into his lap.

 

Sitting on the first row of double seats was a man in shirt sleeves and a kind of thick, flannelled trouser. As their glances met, Mary noted the redness of the face and the fine beaded traces of sweat on the upper lip. Ruddy, she decided. – Sanguine. His gaze lingered for a moment as if he had not registered the thing.

 

Next to him was a swarthy youth with a long jaw and rather deep set eyes, and when he saw what was happening, they widened suddenly as if he’d been shot and he attempted to hide his face and shoulders behind his enormous hiking pack sitting on the chair next to him. Sitting a little way off from the rest in the corner of the carriage was a man in a tweed waistcoat and yellow silk neckerchief, his long nose stabbing down in time with the jolts of the train at the book he was reading.

 

Mary and Jim thought it would be best to stand, and they made their way to the space next to the middle doors, wheeling the thing. Just then, the globe started spinning. Imperceptibly at first, but steadily gaining in momentum until there was none on the carriage who were unaware of it.  Mary and Jim attempted to secure it, but the combined tonnage of several thousand miles of landmass rasping below their hands discouraged them. It really did feel as if their hands were being dragged with fearful speed over the Veldts of Africa and Russian tundra and so they desisted. The surface of the papier mache on which the sea was depicted was shining now, and little clouds were scudding along its surface.

 

The red-faced man audibly tutted at them when he saw this and straightened his paper with a violent flourish. It is possible that he was muttering. He was muttering, and he intended to go on doing so. His doctor – a decent one from Kensington – had extolled the benefits of muttering as a cathartic process, and could not have been more emphatic about its application in avoiding strain on his weakened heart. If there was any time to mutter then this certainly qualified. The sheer nerve. On a Friday night as well, when people needed the trains more than ever. What if someone broke their bloody neck? Not to mention all that spinning and carry-on. He would give them a meaningful look when they got off.Image

The Destination

 ImagehghghgAs the man reached the lip of the hill, he immediately threw off his cloak, which made a dramatic thudding sound. This having been done, he smiled a huge smile. This smile was as much to posterity as to himself, and contained within it all the peace and satisfaction of a martyr or one deeply in thrall to god, or drink. His smile deepened as he turned to face his companion, a little way behind him.

– We’re here! This is the place! Can you believe it? After everything that’s happened? Thank goodness!

We’ve made it!

Oh, praise be!

The companion smiled a smile too and, because it seemed expected of him, made comment –

-Yes! … Praise be!

They both took off the wooden goggles so that they could see better than from between their boarded slits and stood silent for a time, taking in the enormity of their venture, both men feeling wholly aware of its historical significance. Through this silence, though, the cloak-less man had scarcely been able to contain his fervour, which periodically escaped his lips in quiet little exclamations of Hmm! and Ahh! and Praise be! As the two travellers stared into the bright, many-coloured glintings all around them, the man addressed his companion again.

-I mean, can you even conceive of just how improbable it is, us standing here? Can you conceive of the artifices wrought, the lack of expense spared, for us to have arrived at this moment?  All those thousands of tests! The preparation of the thing? … Magnificent!

-Yes … it is truly magnificent and improbable.

The gaps in between this declaration of enthusiastic wonder had been a little over-long, and for the first time, the cloak-less man peered sideways at him, a little suspiciously.

-Well, it is inconceivably marvellous, is it not?

The other man looked nervous.

-Absolutely! Inconceivably so … It’s just –

-Yes?

-It’s … just that … I thought it would be, in some way … different.

The cloak-less man looked thoughtfully from the top of the hill, trying to understand.

-How else did you imagine it to be, indeed? Is it not the very embodiment of perfection? Just look at that light! That is a case in point in itself!

-Well, it is lovely, but it’s rather less green, and … and a little more brown than we were led to believe.

The man had to concede that it was, but did so only in the privacy of his own head.

They were quiet again, and their eyes were wide, and their satisfied smiles only slightly diminished.

-It is definitely an unknowable marvel. Its beauty is splendour itself. Though, … look at the sides … I mean, they don’t even meet in the middle, do they? In fact, the whole aspect, while marvellous, is not quite as spacious as the scholars and philosophers made out that it would be, is it?

-Look … maybe it is a bit brown and the sides aren’t perfect, but I fail to see how that detracts from the overall splendour. It could never have been exactly as it was described, could it? It’s just another part of the unknowable mystery of the thing. I am right, am I not?

-No no, you are right, quite right – I can see that. We are only men, after all. How could we be qualified to question so glorious and unknowable a thing? No, I’m sorry – I spoke too soon to let it sink in. Who am I to judge the worth of such a glorious thing for myself?

The travellers sat upon their packs, though rightly, their only rest was the magnificence of that which they witnessed and their only sustenance was that which they received from being close to the marvel, and there were many sighs of joy and ‘praise be’s and many cries of that sort, until the other traveller began rummaging around, searching for something in his pack.

-All this manificence is enough to make anyone hungry, wouldn’t you say?

The cloakless man wouldn’t say, too wrapped up in his dreaming trance to take any notice.

-Where is the food, by the way?

The second traveller looked hopefully at the man’s unopened pack.

-Oh … ? The cloakless man came some way out of his trance.

-I think it may have all been lost in the climb up here – yes – I had to throw it away – lighten the load enough to make our ascent. Anyway, how can you be thinking of food at a time like this, eh?

The second man started to become angry.

-What use is coming all the way up here if we’re going to starve on the way back down? Why did you not take into account so basic a thing?

The cloakless man looked up with an air of disdain and sanctimonious pride.

-The base has no place up here, sir. You should be fully aware that to fulfil base need in the presence of the awesome would be an insult.

With this, it started to rain, and the dark droplets sinking into their packs after a while became puddles. They looked at each other, but their smiles were only a bear hint upon their faces.

-It really isn’t everything they said it was, you know,

The other man said, as rain dripped off of his nose and the sky darkened. The cloakless man seemed about to object, but instead he said-

–          … No, I think you might be right after all.

The rain worsened until everything became vague and blurred, and they could barely see the marvel through the water and the mists. Still they sat, but the downpour had finally managed to wash away the last remnants of their smiles, and suddenly their achievement seemed much smaller, their sacrifices and those of the others seemed somehow little things, now.

The other man’s stomach grumbled.

–          What if …?

–          What if what?

The cloakless man was hunched upon his pack, all his earlier fervour now vaporised with the rain, and he was shivering slightly. He looked lost.

-What if we just …

-Yes?

-Well … we could just … go. Couldn’t we?

-The cloakless man considered looking indignant, but something had given up in him that prevented this.

-Well … well, yes. I suppose we could.

The cloakless man looked hopeful when he next spoke.

-I mean, nobody would know if we didn’t stay. How would they find out? It would be our word against theirs even if they did, wouldn’t it?

-Absolutely.

– … That’s it, then. We’ll just leave and pretend that we stayed.

-Yes, I’d prefer that, I think.

-Definitely.

So the two men raised themselves wearily off of their packs, shouldered them, turned from the marvel and trudged back down the hill – disappointed, but also a little relieved.