Gibbous House

By Ewan Lawrie

Nicholas Nickleby meets Psycho in a gothic, 19th-century noir

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bric... and Brac

Well, the last open post was about the contents of the shed. I said I might write a story based on the items in it. Well, I've done it. Nothing to do with Gibbous House, though. As for the title, I've a great weakness for the music of Bill Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe, so...


Make the Music Magic

No doubt about it, everything was ticketty-boo. The jam-jars were wrapped in the pages of yesterday's Daily Sketch and the suitcase was just the right size. Most definitely the only useful thing the Army had given him. A quick call in at Timothy White's for the necessary liquid and ticketty-boo wouldn't be the half of it. Purchase made it was time to go. Derwent couldn't run for the number 9, naturally. The Sketch was a sturdy newspaper but it wouldn't protect glass like a broadsheet. No, better to wait for the 9a which still went past the Empire on Corporation Road.

He lit up a Capstan medium. Full Strength made him cough, although he loved the smell of them when newly-lit. Curtain up was 8 o'clock, no matinee today. Pity that, shame to have to wait. First time in stage make-up since the war. Out before the fall of Singapore and traipsing round the sub-continent with hirsute female impersonators and terrible vents. How he missed it. The sky looked like it might rain, but not in the next five minutes, at least. No one else was waiting for the 9a. It only ran at peak times and over less than half the number 9 route. Most people got the trolleybuses, anyhow, if the route was anything like.

Derwent handed over a few coppers to the conductor.

'Case on the rack, sir, if you don't mind.'

The bus was more than half empty.

'It's delicate, what's inside.'

'Buy it a ticket, then.' The conductor held out a hand. Derwent dropped a threepenny bit into it.

Steep for five stops. Worth it, even so.


The bus pulled up about twenty yards from the Empire. He got out. A dark-skinned face looked at him through the window of the bus. The conductor held up a hand : the 3d coin between his thumb and forefinger. Derwent raised two fingers of his own and set off for the stage door. A uniformed janitor – he was no commissionaire – looked at him through bagged eyes,


Derwent felt like saying of course he had, but the evening suit suddenly felt borrowed, so he just nodded.


'Xavier Rococo: Make the Music Magic.'

Derwent pointed up at the poster behind the janitor's head, but not too far up.

'12, you're sharing with the dog act, they're not here yet.'

The janitor pointed into the darkness at the back of the building. There was a brass 1 on the door. Someone, the janitor perhaps, had chalked a wavering 2 beside it. Dressing room 12 was about the size of a lavatory stall. There was scarcely room to swing a dog. Derwent opened the suitcase and took his stage slap out of the elasticated pocket inside the lid. The newspaper had stayed wrapped around the jars. The bottle poked out of the pocket. It had made the case heavier still, but great achievements called for great sacrifices.


Twenty five to nine: the dog act had been on. The second comedian had overrun, slipping on something unsavoury on his way to the wings, after he finally finished. Xavier Rococo carried his instruments on stage, still in their case. Off stage left he caught sight of a rusty mousetrap with some mouldy cheese still in it. How the dog act had missed that he did not know. There was a table large enough for a family dinner already on stage, the comedian had done some business with it, but Xavier Rococo couldn't remember anyone laughing. He opened his case. The lid obscured his actions. Each jar was placed on the rear of the table, none touched another. He lifted the bottle and filled each to a predetermined mark. Xavier Rococo made a pirouette as he swept around the front of the table and removed the suitcase, discarding it immediately. He beamed at the footlights. It was hard to see the faces on the other side. He swept his arms showing the audience the twenty seven jars with their varying levels of liquid.

There was a groan from the stalls.

Xavier Rococo began running a finger round the rims of the jars. It was Delicado, if you listened carefully. Xavier liked Percy Faith. Not many of the audience did it seemed. Still, it wasn't over yet. The second song would get them really restless. As they had to be. The first catcall came midway through Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. Xavier Rococo smiled into the dark, even daring a little shrug as he finished the tune.

'And now a burning hot tune, again from el gran Cubano: Perez Prado!'

He drew out his matchbook and quickly lit the fluid in every jar. Then he played 'Guaglione', right to the end with a middle-eight repeat. The methylated spirits had burned away by the fourth bar. The tune rang out with all its crazy brio, even so.

Xavier made little bows as he packed the jars away, allowing his fingers to linger on the glass. Until he got to the last jamjar.

'Who would like a souvenir of Xavier Rococo's performance?' he said.

There were shouts and he lobbed the jamjar in the direction of them. Then there was a yelp and the sound of glass shattering before everyone stood and applauded Derwent's especial talent.



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Ewan Lawrie
 Ewan Lawrie says:

I don't know what happens when I save these... is there an automatic punctuation effer-upper?

posted 7th August 2014

Ewan Lawrie
 Ewan Lawrie says:

Bric-a-brac, brummagem, junk... all these antiques programmes on tv and suddenly nothing is just tat. I remember shops on side streets, full of house-cleared furniture with limbs missing and torn upholstery. Unfashionable ornaments and things so far from the goût du jour that your granny wouldn't buy it. Of course, this was before retro-irony and faux kitsch as fashion statement.
Oh well, times change.

posted 8th August 2014

Ewan Lawrie
 Ewan Lawrie says:

Oops, crafty edits for typos boost posts! Only just discovered that!

posted 10th March 2015

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