Soul Searching



Chapter Two


It could have been anywhere in the nineteenth or twentieth century. Or there abouts. Nothing really helped you determine anything more precisely.

And, it could have been anywhere in the country. But, the country was definitely England . . .

Imagine, if you would, a forgotten village in the death throes of the age of the car-boot sale. A pretty village called Pobblestrum. The houses were capriciously strewn hither and yon. Not one building was the same as the next. There again they were never designed to match. The architects may have thought in much the same way as ladies getting ready for a party who phoned each other to make sure they wouldn't be wearing the same outfits as their friends.

They decided amongst themselves that Eric couldn't possibly use black window frames because Paul was using black. And besides, they wouldn't possibly have gone with his chimney!

The higgledy-piggledy thatched roofs, stained-glass windows and cobbled pathways laid quietly and whimsically in the Bogcragston Valley, and were inhabited by all sorts of characters, such as major-generals and Ladies and Knights of the realm. As well as the high and mighty there were the lowly, bred to tug their forelock to whomsoever required this invaluable service. The village also attracted more than a sprinkling of the famous and infamous. Like rats, you were never more than eighteen metres away from a celebrity.

Pobblestrum lacked nothing in respect of tweeness and eccentricity. It had its ponds and its trees, its barns and its granges, its churches, and its 'Cleric Crossing' signs.

If you were to take a brisk stroll along any of the tangly roads or alleyways, which few of the sauntering locals ever did, sooner or later you were bound to come across one of the quaint clusters of village shops. One such establishment, the watch shop, was run by a man who had every reason to be gloomy.

"I've only had one customer all day," he complained, "and all he wanted was a second hand second hand."

Obviously whoever 'he' was, he was from out of town. Most of the residents weren't bothered about seconds and minutes; they were perfectly content to look at their calendars every now and then.

Just a stone's throw away was the radio shop, bringing more unwanted technology kicking and screaming into a world of coopers, blacksmiths and rag trotters.

In days gone by, rather a long way by, the shop was a barn. It still had a lot of its original character; uneven floors and walls and old wooden beams across the ceiling. No horses, or even barn dances anymore though, and a radio stood where a bale of hay once was.

There was no mistaking its rustic charm despite the stacks of dismembered wirelesses balanced precariously with their innards jutting dangerously out. Between these bendy piles of gently swaying bits and bobs a clearing zigzagged through to the workshop in the back, from which the mingling aromas of coffee and electrical burning constantly drifted.

The workshop itself was the epicentre of the whole operation. It consisted of two work-benches cluttered with tools of every type. And very often a doojigger of some kind or another, in various states of repair.

Deserted and imaginatively shaped strings of spiders' webs looped and dangled unstably from every nook, just managing to support their dense layers of thick brown dust. And from every cranny, particularly those near the ever-boiling kettle, a curious off-coloured mouldy gunk made interesting patterns on the walls.

The man behind all this paraphernalia was George Smart, and he ran his business like a well oiled machine. Like a well oiled machine that had been dropped from a great height, got quite badly mangled and perhaps should never have been oiled in the first place.

George was a solemn man who couldn't truthfully be described as happy-go-lucky by any stretch of the imagination. But he was a brilliant engineer.

Most of the time George relied in his ingenuity while problem-solving, but other times he depended on mights and maybes. There was certainly madness in his method as he tackled each new repair. Things never ended up looking quite the same as when they went into the shop, splodged with some nondescript something-or-other, and the odd ill-fitting part protruding from here or there. But, whatever the job-in-hand, the broken thingamajig did usually work a lot better than ever before.

George had just that morning become a father.

It was one of those murky Thursdays, although beneath Pobblestrum's gabled skyline George felt "Monday-morningish." It wasn't particularly cold, just dark and damp. On opening the shutters what little light there was streamed out leaving the place greyer and gloomier than before.

George felt cold though and kept checking the thermometer to see if he really was. They were at loggerheads as usual so he went over to tap the face of the antique barometer on the wall. Its needles resentfully creaked around, and finally ground to a halt pointing to 'Unsettled.' George glanced out of the window to see if the window agreed. Fortunately it did, so there was a relief.

But as he plodded around contemplating the temperature, he managed to conceal the glee of fatherhood beneath a thick veil of gloom.

Soul 19,790B/1103L/YO65-34, now renamed Donald, was already familiarizing himself with his new bodily functions. The most entertaining by far was bringing up his food and watching his mother's expression change.









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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.




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