Paternoster Tales: Chapter 10



Have you heard the expression every cloud has a silver lining? Personally, I prefer the bicycle with the puncture sometimes wins the jersey. Both refer to times when things turn out better than expected. Times when the opposite happens. Times when the opposite is good.

Every morning, for the week before that Monday, a young giraffe, called Hugo, stumbled across the Square. He muttered as he hurried along on his too long legs with his too long neck and arms that looked like he didn’t know where to put them. One day, he was carrying a pile of books; the next, it was a large, brown envelope that flapped like a small owl in his hand; and on that Monday, he carried a black umbrella and a small navy box, with a gold line running round it.

His knees were wet. His hair – despite the umbrella which he held out to the right, then out to the left; then loosely hanging down at his knees, but never over his head – was a steaming pile of thick, dark curls. A drop of water clung to the end of his nose. He crouched looking for something. Then stood. Took two ginormous giraffe-like (… he wasn’t, of course, really a giraffe) steps, then crouched down again. He bobbed up and down like this, from one side of the square to the other, like a cork on a stormy puddle.

He approached the pavement restaurant with his bottom in the air.

A bottom that was a perfect, if unintentional, target for a flying fork.

It stopped mid-spin as it embedded its tines in his trousers. His arms plus umbrella jerked out perpendicular to his sides like the sudden springing open of a bat’s wings and quivered in pain. Then one arm bent and his fingers caught the cold steel handle. He pulled it out and his knees crumpled. Still wincing and rubbing his thigh, his face flushed furious red and he tossed the fork up into the air. As he threw it, a spark of light shot out from beneath a plant pot near his left knee. He pounced. His ring! The ring he would give to Heather, the office librarian, at lunch-time, later that Monday.

He unfurled a long sigh and smiled. And the world flicked it’s on switch, illuminating the commotion around him: a pigeon had landed on someone’s plate and the someone was making a terrible roaring fuss about it. Hugo flicked the switch off, this world wasn’t his problem.

Hugo was unfortunately wrong. That world was his problem. He has strayed into it and it had made him a character in its story and it now followed him to his bicycle. The story had embedded the fork in the tyre and the tyre was flat.

So far so unfortunate. So far no sign of any silver lining. Or any jersey.

But if you are thinking ‘poor Hugo’, you would be forgetting that things sometimes happen for a reason. Heather had, unknown to poor Hugo, accepted the job of chief office clerk in Melbourne, Australia. She was fed up with gangly Hugo and his bicycle and was looking forward to spending time with normal Nigel, a tall sporty Aussie, whom she had met at her job interview.

Poor Hugo had to push his bike back to the office. And he still had the umbrella to carry. And the box with the ring. How he wobbled!

He wobbled and wobbled until he fell over. Actually, Molly made that happen – she won’t let me tell you how, as it would get her into trouble and Molly is never in trouble. What matters is that Hugo fell and landed flat on his back in a puddle. When he looked up, a grey stork, in a cycle helmet, was gazing down at him. Long and skinny and clad in grey and yellow lycra, she examined his face and laughed “Hugo? It is Hugo, isn’t it?”

Well, you can guess the rest. From the start: Agatha catapulted the pigeon; the judge threw the fork; the fork landed in Hugo and he tossed it and it punctured his tyre; Hugo fell over and was rescued by a fellow cyclist; Heather went to Australia where Nigel was into fishing and after three months Heather decided that fishing was even more boring than cycling and she started dating a weather anchor-man called Mike; and the giraffe and the stork put the fork in a wooden frame and they cycled together, happily ever after. In matching lycra jerseys.

As for Agatha, her mother – blind to all that had happened – scooped her up in a hurry and dragged her off to her aunt’s.

As for us, we waited, as rain cleared the Square, for Agatha to return.

We didn’t realise that we were also waiting for Paternoster’s burp …


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