Thursday, October 16, 2008
Verti Come, Vertigo
I’d forgotten that Harold was prone to vertigo until we stood at the top of the tower of St. Marples looking out over the town of Laverstone, set out below and around us.*
“Careful, sir, that’s forty-eight,” said Tim, grabbing the waistband of Harold’s trousers. “It’s 157 feet down.”
“Is it?” Harold went green and had to sit down.
“That isn’t very high,” I said. I pointed toward High Street. “St Just’s tower is 211 feet and St. Pity’s steeple is 278. Even the multi-storey car park is higher than this and you’ve parked on the top of that many a time.”
“In the van,” protested Harold. “I feel safe in the van.”
“You should grow wings,” said Tim. “You never afraid of heights when you’ve got wings.”
“He used to,” I said, opening a wing and shielding Harold from the wind. “As a baby, anyway. They had to come off for him to blend in with the citizens.”****
“That’s a shame.” Tim looked out over the edge, his carved fur not blowing in the breeze. “They’re erecting a statue over there,” he said. “Any idea who it is?”
I followed his gaze to a tarpaulin-shrouded mummy outside the Town Hall. I could make out the statue’s huge hose at the front from here. “Stinking Billy,” I said. “He used to be a fireman based in Lockpick Lane before he retired. He once saved twenty-seven people from a blaze at the asylum.”
“Good for him.” Tim nodded. “Why was he called ‘Stinking?’
“He saved twenty-seven,” said Harold suddenly, “but lost fourteen. The smell of that building haunted him for the rest of his life.”
“Oh.” Tim was silent for a moment. “When did he die then?”
I consulted my brickberry. “He hasn’t yet,” I said. “I’ve made the appointment, though.”
*To be fair, I was going to give you a cliché there but ‘tapestry’ didn’t really fit. No city could earn that epithet until the roads stop being more important than the buildings**. Laverstone was more like a crazy Duplo set scattered across a muddy grey carpet then scooped up into a rough pile with a cushion and a newspaper-wrapped pile of dog’s excrement.***
**Though the daily traffic-jam misery is music to the ears of demons everywhere.
*** That would be the Bank of Offley Dyke who didn’t get a government bail-out when they went bankrupt in 1992 after they invested all their stocks in the new wave of Amstrad Business Computers.
****Citizens and Denizens – the mortals and the not. Sounds like a role-playing game, doesn’t it?