Ferdy Flies Out

Ferdy over Jersey 2SThe summons, when it came, was not from Larry’s able factotum. Dark Flo knocked gently on the penthouse bedsit door.

“Call for Boz, the payphone on the landing.” She smiled round the corner at Phoebles, who blushed. “Can’t stop, there’s a riot broken out in the bar.”

“Need any help?” asked Slasher McGoogs as Boz squeezed past on his way to the phone.

“Nah, it’s just high spirits.”

And out on the landing Boz picked up the handset.

“Boz? It’s Ferdy. I’m grounded in Guernsey, at the Silvertown Airways’ airship hangers in St Peterport. There’s some sort of commotion going on out over the sea to the southeast and I’m worried about The Kittens. I dropped them off outside St Helier earlier. They and Consuella have a gig at the Jersey Opera House. Have you heard what’s going on.”

“The Opera House?” The Kittens of Chaos were infamous for many activities, but their choral skills had rarely been called upon.

“Yes. It’s the Channel Islands Naturist Society Annual Karaoke next week and the Kittens are booked to do their Histoire d’ O with Balloon Sculpture. But what about the other stuff?”

“Oh that’s just an invasion. I expect Larry will want us to do something about it. Keep calm and find something to occupy the time while you wait for us. Have a go at that Jackson Pollock jigsaw I gave you for Christmas.”

But Ferdy could not just wait. He was a dodo of action.

 

Ferdinand sprinted across the tarmac, buckling his flying helmet under his chin as he ran and pulling on his goggles. He sprang into the rear cockpit of his shiny new Cierva C.30A autogiro, taxied onto the runway and took to the air.

As he approached the island tax haven of Jersey, hidden beneath a blanket of oily smoke, his headphones crackled into life.

“Sergei’s taken a hit! Watch out for the flack, comrades!”

“Mayday! Mayday! I’m going in!”

“Red6 on strafing run. Yahoo! See how they scatter!”

“Cut the chatter, comrades. And keep tight.” This last voice had been female, sultry, with just a hint of Russian accent. Ferdy flicked on his microphone.

“Polly? Is that you Wing-Comrade Karpova? What’s occurring?” Her distinctive scarlet Ratta burst out of the smoke screen climbing steeply, looped over and plunged back into the fray with all guns blazing.

“Ferdy? Good to see you old friend. Welcome to the scrap. It’s hotting up down here. There’s two clapped out old battleships anchored in the bay, but they’re bristling with Ack-Ack, QF 2-pounder pom-poms. Can’t get near them. And some mob’s established a bridgehead on the beach. God know’s where they bought their uniforms, they’re all dressed as superheroes. We’re trying to keep them pinned down.”

“What’s the plan?” Ferdy asked.

“No plan, and no back-up. So we’re just going to blast the hell out of them till we run out of ammo and then bugger off home.”

The Way We Lied

In the end, not one of them had backed him. He was out on a limb. Then one evening, after a particularly bad day and yet another difficult confrontation with Tom, he had sat at his desk, thinking. He was contemplating the portrait again and realised he was wondering how that gaunt figure would resolve the situation.
“I just don’t know what to do now. It seemed so clear before. So simple.” He sighed and slumped back, gazing at the knowing eyes and the hand with its crust. Stefan seemed to be reaching out to him and then he suddenly knew with utter clarity what the solution was. He recalled Tom’s words about the value of the business and realised what had to be done. Tom and Harry would never agree to change the nature of the company, because they wanted to keep earnings high and ensure their share of profits. All they wanted was the money but he could now see a way to guarantee them even more capital as well as giving himself an escape route.
A few weeks later, the deal was done. The agency was sold. Tom and Harry were delighted. They had made a fortune and they would continue to rake in big bucks. And Charles was free. He had bought his freedom with his share of the deal. He would have to continue to work for the release period that had been negotiated, but in one year he would be completely free to invest or spend his share however he liked.
So far, he did not even have to worry about Alex’s reaction. He had been obliged to tell her about the takeover of course, as it was big news in all the media pages of the nationals and in the trade mags, but he did not have to tell her any more than that. She was delighted in fact, because the sell-out was so newsworthy and she was aware of the large sums of money involved.
“Darling,” she said, (she only called him darling when she wanted his agreement) “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to invest some of your capital from the agency in property? It’s such a good investment and we have been talking for simply ages about having a place in Rock. You know how you just love going down there, meeting all our old friends and getting in a bit of sailing. Somewhere with a view of the estuary and a mooring would be ideal. Why don’t I put out some feelers. You know how anything half decent down there is snapped up in an absolute jiffy.”
He had deflected that suggestion with mutterings about the state of the market and the need to see how the new deal bedded down, but in reality he wanted to do his sums first. Once Alex realised what he really planned, she might not co-operate. He needed to calculate how best to protect this small fortune to make it work the way he wanted. He owed it to the children to ensure there was enough for their education and maybe travelling or as a deposit towards their first property. He felt Alex should be assured of being able to maintain her present standard of living, but beyond that he did not see the need to splash out on more houses, cars or expensive holidays.
On his journeys to and from the office and at quiet times in his study at home, he mused on what should be his next step. He began to consider that having the freedom to think, maybe taking a sabbatical, could be the most constructive option. He began researching voluntary work overseas, thinking that investigating various countries and levels of need might be the best way of establishing where he could be of the greatest use.
And then one evening as he was travelling home on the train, staring out of the window at the dark night, he recalled Mary’s words and could see her looking at him intently with her pale blue eyes. Use your talents, she had said. Put them to good use. And suddenly it all became totally clear and he wondered why there had ever been any confusion. His experience in advertising, in managing the creative process, in buying media space, in negotiating deals, was of value. He just had to apply it to the right client.

to be continued June 2

The Way We Lied

Charles
5

Her old green car was found by the side of the road. The hazard lights were flashing and eventually a police car pulled up behind it. But the car was empty and Mary was nowhere to be seen. It was a dark rainy night and perhaps she had stumbled into the woods, blinded by the headlights of the oncoming cars. Perhaps she had even been knocked down by an impatient driver on the busy dual carriageway, annoyed by the obstacle to their Friday night homeward race. Charles imagined her standing there on the hillside, by the road, facing into the wind, her dark hair blowing, the rain lashing her face and he thought perhaps she just suddenly caught the scent of a new challenge and walked out of this life and into another.
Later, after her car was taken away, he drove to the spot and stood there on the verge. The police would not tell him what had happened. They said it was in the hands of the insurers and that the owner did not wish to pursue the matter. Charles told himself the old car must have been stolen by joyriders but he still hoped to catch a glimpse of her hair or her blue coat from this height. Maybe he would see broken branches where she had climbed over the fence and walked across the fields. But there was nothing.
She had made it clear the last time he saw her that she would not play a permanent part in his life, but he still found it hard to accept that she had gone for good. It was not that he wanted to further his relationship with her, although he would remember that intensely sensuous experience forever, it was just that he longed for her approval. He knew he would have been happy simply to hear her voice, to have her endorse the changes he had made and the many projects he was about to undertake.
It had been hard work and he had made many sacrifices. He so wished he could have told her how his new initiative was succeeding and how he really was, at last, able to make a difference. Driven by his initial optimism after his last encounter with her, he had held an exploratory meeting with his partners to outline his ideas for the future development of the agency.
“Charles, you’re off your trolley,” exploded Tom Young, one of the agency’s founding partners. “Ditch blue chip clients! You’ve really bloody well lost it this time mate! I don’t know where you’re coming from! Are you really the same guy I set up with ten years ago?” Tom was red in the face from too many years of long executive lunches, but now he was even redder with anger.
“But with green issues and ethical policies becoming such hot topics, it might even be an area for expansion,” Charles said. “We could be shifting the agency into a new area of growth.” But every one of his carefully weighed arguments met with derision.
“We’re at our peak, Charles,” asserted Harry Firth, the creative director, running his hands over his polished shaved head as if he was conjuring up ideas. “The clients you’re thinking of would never have the budgets anyway! Then we wouldn’t be able to do any TV so we’d be reduced to low cost print and little else! And then how would we keep the talent? The profits would plummet! I can’t see it working. You’re out of your fucking mind mate.”
“Why don’t we all just think about it calmly. At least give it some thought,” Charles pleaded. “We don’t have to make any major decisions right away. I just wanted to throw out a few ideas.”
“Throw out? You’ll be throwing out all we’ve done to build this place up, if you carry on with this! We’ll be worth nothing if we go down that route,” Tom fumed, pulling off his jacket and throwing it down viciously on the glass conference table, causing the wine bottle to spill a pool of accusing blood across its surface.

to be continued May 30

The British Empire Strikes Back

I (Phoebles) am going out on a bit of a limb here, and publishing the start of Bozzy’s next adventure. Hopefully we will find more of the story amidst the boxes of scribbled-on napkins, used envelopes and beer mats. Otherwise Tuesdays will go a bit quiet.

Counterrevolution

Ouaisne Beach Landing SUnusually the Bakelite TV in Bozzy’s penthouse bedsit was tuned to the state financed news channel. Following the lead story of Hampshire Horse Dies of Natural Causes the diminutive presenter in gymslip and battered straw grammar school hat with holes torn in it to allow her pointed, tabby ears to poke through, announced:

“Earlier today reports came in that an insurgent combat unit, supported by warships of the US Navy, have invaded a stretch of beach on the island tax haven of Jersey. Temporary Acting Prime Minister Larry has dispatched a squadron of Kronstadt Fleet Air Arm Polikarpov I-16s to assess the situation.”

Ginsbergbear’s mouth fell open and his Peterson clattered onto the threadbare Turkish Kilim, scattering smouldering ash and starting a small fire.

“It’s not The US Navy, well not exactly.” Everyone turned to Slasher McGoogs, who they had believed to be sleeping where he lounged in the only armchair. He pushed up the brim of his homburg, lifted a black velvet sleep mask from over his face and revealed his Lone Ranger mask still firmly in place. “The British Government in Exile has solicited the assistance of Corporate America in staging a coup. Sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company, two second hand battleships have been acquired from a Walmart discount store in Pensacola and manned by Junior Imperial and Constitutional League ex-pats under the admiralship of Ronald McDonald.”

“And how come you know so much about it?” enquired Boz.

“I have a contact, a mouser in the basements of number eighty-five Albert Embankment. There’s been a lot going on since the establishment fled to Canada. Look.”

He ferreted around the inside pocket of his silver and navy striped drape jacket and produced a screwed up, straightened out, folded, soiled and much nibbled on one corner sheet of A4. It read:

Plain Text Copy

Decoded GCHQ

Message one follows:

SELF STYLED KING EMPEROR CHARLES III LANDED IN THE TYRANNY OF SARK STOP FORCED SEIGNEUR TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE ON BENDED KNEE STOP ESTABLISHED AN ABSOLUTE MONARCHY ON ISLAND STOP

Message two follows:

Report to American Ambassador in Paris France.

The British Government in Exile in Canada has put together an armada sponsored by a consortium of US Mega Corporations, principally the Coca Cola Company of America, Ronald McDonald and Starbucks, with the stated aim of invading the island of Jersey. Said force is pathetically undermanned and under equipped, but given the recent collapse of the EU and the plethora of barely recognised micro nations that have sprung up in recent months it is unlikely that the landing will meet with any effective, coordinated resistance. It is believed that Occupied Jersey will have little difficulty in forging an alliance with the Tyranny of Sark.

The television newsreader suddenly clamoured for attention.

“We are now able to go live via Skype to the invasion beach at Ouaisné Bay…”

The images were wobbly, under exposed and froze at irregular intervals.

“I am reporting from…”

“Bogies ten o’clock high! …Shit! Well shoot! …Why aren’t we firing back?”

There was a loud explosion close by, and an aero-engine roared. The image on the screen jerked wildly and settled unsteadily on a patch of sky. Some sort of aircraft, out of focus, spitting tracer, loomed into shot and screamed overhead.

“Christ, my iPad…” Contact broke off abruptly. Cut to Test Card C, then a still of a cute, laughing harvest mouse, next the flustered newsreader:

“Er… Right… Well… Back to the Hampshire Horse story…”

Phoebles and Ginsbergbear turned from the telly and looked at Slasher. Slasher looked at Boz. Phoebles and Ginsbergbear looked at Boz.

“Hmmm, I should think we’ll be hearing from Barrymore any moment,” said Boz.

The Way We Lied

“But what am I supposed to do? I feel so unworthy of him and yet I have this all consuming and powerful urge to respond to him.”
She put both hands to his cheeks and turned his face towards her. “You could use your talents for the good. That would be a wonderful answer.”
“My talents? I’m a businessman. I do advertising. That’s all I’ve ever known.”
“Then do good advertising. No, I don’t mean in the creative or aesthetic sense, I mean ethical advertising for ethical clients. Work for organisations that can help the world.”
He cleared his throat and took a gulp of the red wine. Breathing more calmly now he said, “Yes, it’s possible. Not impossible. It would take time, but I could do that. In fact I’d like to do that. I’m tired of slogging away for supermarket giants that trample on small businesses and gas guzzling cars that clog the roads and fast food outlets that clog arteries. I’m weary of their deAlex and their greed.”
She stroked his arm. “Well done, Charles, that’s a start. I know you can do it if you put your mind to it. And in the process you would come to feel good about yourself as well as actually doing good.”
“I can’t abandon all of our present clients instantly, of course. If the business went into decline that wouldn’t achieve anything, but we could gradually shift our client base I think.” He was calmer, but thoughtful, rubbing his forehead as he considered the future.
“I’d have to get the others on board as well, but, do you know, I think they’d be all for it. We’d have to develop a new business strategy, but it could actually set us apart, even give the business a boost in fact.”
He was sounding quite positive now. “Yeah, I think I could see us becoming a new style of agency and still being pretty successful too.”
“You see, it’s not so hard. The toughest part is the mental journey.” She put her hand to his cheek and turned his face towards hers. “I’m very proud of you. One day you will look back and realise that this is probably the most important decision you have ever made.” Then she kissed him softly on the lips.
In that moment, Charles knew he desired her. He returned her kiss and clutched her breasts, then almost as suddenly drew back. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have. Please forgive me.”
She smiled at him. “No, it’s alright. I would like to comfort you and give you the confidence to go ahead. I have no other way of thanking you.” And then she stood, removed her shirt and walked to the door and locked it. “I won’t be upset if you don’t want my gift,” she said, standing there, her large breasts enticing him. Then she walked back to the sofa and cradled his head between her breasts. He held her buttocks and sucked her nipples and then they undressed. She lay down on his desk and guided him towards her and he took her offering eagerly.
When it was over, he felt released and contented. He dressed slowly, then poured more wine. He sat on the sofa watching while she buckled the belt of her jeans and buttoned her loose shirt.
“You are the most extraordinary person I have ever met, Mary. There is simply no one else like you.”
“And you are becoming an extraordinary person too, my sweet.” She stroked his cheek with one finger and sat beside him.
“I don’t even feel guilty about…..about what we just did.”
She smiled. “Nor should you feel guilty. You have bared your heart and soul to me and I had to thank you. This is the only gift I have for you and it will never be repeated. I shall see you again, but not many more times. I know that you have listened and that you have changed. So you won’t need me much longer.” She kissed his cheek, then walked to the door and unlocked it. “Goodbye Charles. Work hard.”

to be continued May 26

The Way We Lied

In the weeks that followed, Charles felt the slowly growing presence of the painting. It seemed to be speaking to him and although Mary had said her uncle had been a kind and generous man, Charles felt his portrait was constantly challenging and accusing him.
I am not offering this bread to you, it seemed to be saying, I am showing you that although this is all the food I have in the world, I would give it to anyone in greater need. This is how you should live your life. I am asking you to be like me, to give all that you have.
He found himself focusing on the picture more and more in quiet moments when he was alone at his desk. In between meetings and phone calls he retreated to his office and contemplated the painting.
Nancy noticed how often he gazed at it when she brought him his frequent cups of coffee. “Doesn’t it depress you, looking at that gloomy old thing all day?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m beginning to see it in quite a positive light,” he said, resting his chin on his cupped hand. “I’m starting to view it as an expression of humanity and love. Quite inspiring really.”
“Good God Charles, you’d better not let the others hear you talk like that. They’ll think you’re going soft in your old age. Anyway, I couldn’t bear to have it looking at me all the time with that pathetic maudlin expression. I call it creepy.”
And Charles looked again at the hollow face and thought he now detected a faint smile in those dark eyes.
When Mary came again, late one evening when everyone else had left for the day, she looked at the painting with approval. “He’s beginning to look happy here. I can feel it. He knows that his philosophy is starting to reach you.”
Charles laughed as they sat side by side on the sofa, drinking wine. “I have to admit he’s really grown on me. I look at him all the time while I’m working and I keep thinking I am so thankful I was able to buy this portrait. And I would hate to lose him now I know what he is saying.”
“And just what is he saying, Charles?”
After a moment’s silence, he spoke with some hesitancy. “Well, like you said before, he is saying can you be as generous as I am. I who have so little, but would still give you all that I have.”
“But that’s what I told you last time, Charles. You are just paraphrasing what I have already said. Now, I want you to tell me what he is really asking you to do.”
“What I must do? Well, I suppose he is saying ……he is saying I must change…..” Suddenly Charles felt a strange rush of emotion. It was an unknown, foreign sensation for him. He had never felt like this before. He had not experienced such deep overwhelming feelings when the twins were born, when he married Alex or even when his mother died. This was frighteningly powerful.
“My God, he is making me feel ashamed. He wants me to….to be different…act differently….” he was beginning to gulp, choke, sob. “He is asking me to give…..how can I? How can I give everything? The girls…Alex…. the business….all of this….”. He was sweating, perspiration mingling with tears, breathless and bursting.
“It’s alright, don’t get so upset.” Mary leant across and embraced him and he smelt her comforting, warm, female smell. “You don’t have to sacrifice everything and deprive your family. He knows you have loyalties and responsibilities.”

to be continued May 23