Jeffw's Blog

Get OUT of my pub!

Just joking, WELCOME! Here, you'll find some short fiction stories, anecdotes and my possible grumpy opinion on pretty much everything and anything. As you didn't in the slightest asked for it and because I can be magnanimous, I'll try to wrap it all in a clever cocktail of sarcastic witticism and stylish dark humour of the latest fashion, under the icy sophistication of which, you'll discern my true cry of despair to witness our world going to pot... or maybe it's just something I ate.
Don't hesitate to leave a comment! Thanks you, come again.

Caution MAY CONTAIN STRONG LANGUAGE AND HAZARDOUS PUNCTUATION... and with a bit of luck, some English too.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Mr. Pollock

             During the forty-three first years of his life, Apollonius Heunislas Pollock had always been punctual.

From the cradle, he had shown a meticulous precision in everything he did. He was born the day the doctors and mid-wives had predicted – a 14th of November, at noon –, had walked his first steps at twelve months, as described in the manuals, and had started talking as was meant to. As a child, the young Apollonius, while clever, had never been precocious, neither had he been late. He was, one might say, on time. At school, he had never retook nor skipped a class. His homework was always done in due time, as it had to be. He got his baccalaureate at seventeen, before naturally turning himself towards the succession of Daddy's company, in the building industry.
Thorough and of a rare efficiency, he speedily climbed the levels, learning all the different trades along the way, and quickly became a construction manager respected by his employees and clients alike. Remarkably – and against the professional tradition in place – his projects never suffered any delay. The business became prosperous almost by itself.
At the age of thirty-seven, his fortune was made.
And at forty-three years old, Apollonius Heunislas Pollock decided that the time had come to get married.

He got engaged to a Miss Marguerite Descailles, quiet and of a good family, who shared with him the taste for punctuality. For his betrothed, his future family and, of course, himself, he undertook the construction of a pretty little house, in a small village of a tranquil suburb.

It was on the morning of the day scheduled for his wedding that everything dramatically changed, because in this kind of story, something must always dramatically change.
Apollonius, for the very first time, woke up, beset by doubts.
Was it really all that he was expecting from life? Marguerite, and then what? What were his aspirations? Was he not rushing into things a bit? When was the last time he had a picnic? Did the cherries taste better if eaten directly from the tree? Had he forgotten to turn off the gas? And, above all, why hadn't he ever ask himself those questions before?!
He was so deeply lost in thoughts that neither his best-man, his father, his mother nor even his fiancée could snap him out of this irrational trance. A behaviour so extraordinary that everyone agreed that it would be better to postpone the event, as the guests were already settling in the church...
Marguerite went to treat her embarrassment in a sanatorium, as, in those days, one would still do such things.
Apollonius retreated into the pretty little house, which wasn't quite finished yet, to think a bit more, or so it seemed.
After three more postponements, two indecisions and a clear unease over the whole situation, Marguerite left to wed under warmer climates, with a rich American industrial met in Châteauneuf-les-Bains.
And that is all there is to say of Apollonius on the chapter of marriage.

Although he never tried to repeat the experience, to say that the change upon his personality had been drastic would still be a profound understatement.
During the weeks that followed, Apollonius went less and less to work. At first, his associate and brother, Gaëtan, embarrassed, explained to their customers that Apollonius was indisposed. A swarm of doctors of all kind was then fetched to visit him, auscultate him, examine him... But they all came back empty-handed : Apollonius was in perfectly good health, even brighter than usual.
He had simply lost his taste for twelve hour days of gruelling hard work, or at least, not every single day...
Gaëtan resigned himself to announce that his brother had gone into early retirement.
And that is about all there is to say on the chapter of work...

All of this, I got it from a very reliable source. For the last eight years, Apollonius Heunislas Pollock has been my neighbour. I asked him once, when we were chatting over the little fence which separates our gardens – mine, a yellowed lawn that has seen better days and his, a kind of gentle jungle which had grown around the small man –, how he occupied his days after he had left? He told me: “Oh, with thousands of things... and nothing. I always believed I was living my life without ever procrastinating and I suddenly saw that I had missed out on so many things. I had never gone fishing, for example, that was always for later... I love fishing! I also love lies-in and, sometimes, just to sit on the grass ; it took me forty years to realise it...”
We see each other regularly. I help him a bit with and around his house, which is a little less pretty and still not entirely finished ; a nail here, a touch of varnish there, put back the occasional stray roof tile in the right way, etc. Last summer, I repainted his shutters. Even if he wanted to do everything himself, he cannot any more really. Apollonius Heunislas Pollock turned a hundred and seven years old this year.
I often asked him the secret of his longevity, that sort of stupid reflex we all have when confronted with a living ancestor. Or maybe it's that I don't feel all that young myself any more... He invariably replied: “You must just take the time to live.”
Except for a year ago.
A year ago, his answer was a lot more enigmatic:
For a good fifteen years now, every morning, a pale man, in a dark suit, comes to politely knock at my door. He doesn't say anything, he just stands there, he waits. And every morning, I tell him the same thing: “Today? Oh I don't know... I don't think so, no. But tomorrow, maybe...”, then he nods and, half a smile on his lips, he goes away.”

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Room 304

The weirdest part of this story is that it is partially autobiographical...

Norbert had cancer.
It was eating him up for so long now that he didn't pay any attention to it any more, despite the ever present pain.

Harold was mainly suffering of dementia.
He had forgotten all of his past as a stone mason and was now maintaining the looks and habits of a little polite and stunted professor, with a gift to persuade visitors to bring him chocolate bars, despite his diabetes.

Gregory just had bad temper and a high propensity to fall.

All together, they were 237 year old and the occupants of the room 304, for what have seemed an eternity.

Then the lad made his entrance.
Or at least, two porters made it for him.
Norbert was dozing, while the other two were bickering.
Harold had spent the last five minutes puffing and panting.
- “What's wrong with you again?
- I'll be honest, I seem to have some difficulties to get up...
- So what? Shut up!"
That was when the two men burst in, pushing a bed loaded with various equipment. You could see a young man, semi-conscious, shaken by irregular convulsions, in the middle of it all.
- “Greg, leave Harold alone. Let the young lad have some rest.” Even feeble, Norbert's voice commanded authority.
- “Maybe we should call an ambulance?
- Grrr! It's not my fault if the old fool is completely senile!
- Excuse me?
- And deaf!
- Enough!”
All felt silent and the calm settled on room 304. A peacefulness only perturbed by the noises common to all hospital wards... and the feverish whimpers of the

Later that night, a strange ballet took place.
Harold, blindly feeling his way, put his hand on his Zimmer frame; Gregory managed to fall out of his bed without attracting the attention of the nurses and Norbert dragged his tall and gaunt body, towing his IV behind him in the dark room. They all came to look at the young lad and watched him.
He had his eyes half-closed, a sallow complexion and was sweating so much that he seemed to be melting. He was shaking and moaning constantly.
Against him, he clutched a little clay dog that, obviously, some small clumsy hands had taken a great care to shape. They had all seen him this afternoon, the little boy with the blond curls and the worried eyes, into the arms of the mother who kept crying at the bedside of her husband... Even Harold remembered.

Without a word, they looked at each other and nodded.
Gregory required more insisting stares, but finally acquiesced with a grunt.

In the morning, it was discovered that Norbert had died of a pulmonary embolism, sudden and nocturnal. It was assumed that the big-C had finally won.
A little later, Harold quietly fell asleep and forgot to wake up. Old age presumably...
Gregory muttered a sardonic “Things come in threes”, looking at the
lad. His humour was rarely appreciated... In the early evening, he made an innocuous fall on his way to the toilet, yet, this time, he did not get up again.

When the lad's fever dropped, the doctor declared, smiling, that he had passed the worst of it.

Close by, and yet so far away, three indistinct shadows were watching...
- “Do you think he will remember us?
- Of course not, he would eventually ask himself questions.
- It's too bad in a way, because...
- Oh, shut up will you!”
And the faint shadows faded away.