It Ain't Just the Postman Who Always Rings Twice
Okay, pal, so listen. It’s early evening and I’m on my own in Philip Symington-Fawcett-Smythe’s big house in London – and that’s London, England, not California or Arkansas or Kentucky; not Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, the atoll of Kivitimati, Ontario or any other goddamn place that happens to be called London. You understand?
I’d been out all afternoon and when I got back there was a note from my girlfriend to say she’d gone off to some club for a special shoot. She said she hoped to be home around nine but if things didn’t work out and she was late then not to wait up because she had her key. She’d signed the note ‘with love’ the way she always did. Addressed to me and in her handwriting, the word ‘love’ made me feel better about most anything you could name.
I was happy. I figured we might get to eat dinner together that night, which we hadn’t since I’d moved to her brother’s place. I made myself a sandwich so as to leave room for whatever I might be eating later, got a beer to go with the sandwich and took everything in on a tray to watch TV. I wanted to catch Sylvia Forsyth, a talk show, kind of lewd and crude but about the only thing on British television I could take.
The show had gone off the air a while before, some said due to pressure from the government. The official reason was that Sylvia was ‘indisposed’. Whatever, she was back and about to get her hooks into the Bishop of Brentford when somebody hit the doorbell. I ignored it, but whoever it was rang again, long and loud.
When I opened the door there was this dame standing there. She looked a lot like Loretta Young and was wearing the kind of two-piece number Ingrid Bergman has on in Spellbound. There was a mess of stuff on the sidewalk behind her: suitcases, bags, boxes. Plus the cabby - one mean-looking SOB, big, serious facial hair- was waiting around too, like she hadn’t paid him yet.
I thought I had it figured right off. See, three doors along the row was the headquarters of some oddball religious group. The Loretta Young look-alike standing in front of me had to be one of the - whatever-they-were. Obviously she was foreign. Obviously she had the wrong house. Obviously she didn’t speak any kind of English. It had happened before. I said to the cabby, “I think the lady needs the place further down: the one with the brass plate on the railing.”
There was only one thing wrong with how I’d sized things up: the cabby had no cab. I guess I would have gotten around to noticing this in a little while but before that Loretta Young pipes up in this heavy duty accent - I’m thinking Scottish or maybe Irish - that the place she wants is the place she’s standing out in front of.
“I wish to speak to Mr. Symington-Fawcett-Smythe,” she says, “or failing that to a certain H. Thiesmayer, who signed and may actually have composed this letter.”
And there it was, right in front of my face, the letter I’d written about a book I’d liked, The Jungle Gym. My life was about to change – again; and not for the better – again.