I suppose one can become jaded, but frankly I find watching people ensures that I am never bored. Irritated perhaps. But still, never bored.
I was sitting watching the sun rise over Exegesis Square. This is something I find myself doing more than I would like but you know what it’s like. A patron summons you to organise an event. You give of your best. You suggest not merely good people to entertain her guests, you ensure that they are people who can work harmoniously together. Yes I know that there are some who feel that a function doesn’t come alive until a flautist assaults the third trombone with a plate of vol-au-vents. Or in one case I well remember, a singer of syrupy sentimental ballads attempted to drown a harpsicord player in the punch bowl. But whilst the guests might be briefly diverted, it is myself as organiser who is glared at by the house keeper and who is shunned by the cook.
But I seem somehow to have drifted away from the thread of my tale. I had organised an excellent event. The gracious hostess bade the last of her guests a fond farewell, perhaps three hours after midnight. I helped her staff tidy up. Enough to pass muster, we also wanted our beds. Then I too started for home.
I stopped to watch the sunrise from a bench outside the shrine. Exegesis Square was silent, the only noise the distant snoring of mendicants.
Then the peace was destroyed by a bellow. “Hey you, fellow.”
I glanced in the direction. It was the individual the mendicants knew as ‘The Admiral.’ Apparently he had had a glorious military career, which on closer investigation proved to be that of the clerk attached to the string of sumpter mules that accompanied one of the minor condottieri as he campaigned ineffectually in central Partann.
I confess I largely ignored him as our paths seldom crossed.
“Hey fellow; you, slouching there.”
I don’t know what it is with some people. Some are born insignificant, some achieve insignificance, and others have insignificance thrust upon them. I suppose it’s different for poets. I know what whatever I have done in the past, my best work is still ahead of me. Doubtless even as I go finally into the night I will be struggling to jot down a last scintillant couplet which will be quoted with awe a thousand years hence.
The Admiral was now waving his walking stick to attract my attention. I ignored him. I was thinking of the men I know of his age who have sailed through life on a sea of vague disappointment. They started off with modest ambitions which they never quite achieved. Their careers faded into obscurity and finally they find themselves desperate to achieve in old age the authority their working lives conspired to deny them. Whether it’s because they were almost, but never quite, capable enough, I wouldn’t know. But now, in the twilight of their years, they look back on their history of employment and magnify their importance. Somebody once told me that when the sun sets, little men cast long shadows.
I knew another chap, something in trade. I’m sure I once saw him selling clootie mats from a wheelbarrow in Avitas. He retired to Port Naain and to hear him speak, he was a merchant prince.
By this time the Admiral had arrived and was blocking out the sun.
“You, fellow, why are you lounging here?”
One must never recognise these people. It merely serves to inflate their already overblown sense of their own importance. I looked at him in a puzzled manner. “Do I know you?”
“I’d have you know that I’m Casar Mire.”
He did seem to be puffing himself up ready for a prolonged rant. I suspect my hair was too long (or perhaps too short, I can no longer remember what the seemingly sanctioned length is) or perhaps my clothes looked as if they had been slept in. Fat chance, if he hadn’t come disturbing the peace I might well have dozed quietly. As it was, running a mental eye over my appointments for the day, it could be that Casar Mire with his ill-timed appearance had cost me my only chance of a nap.
“Casar Mire, ah yes, aren’t you the chap who shares a mistress with Limping Jake? The fellmonger who has his yard beyond Three Mills?”
That took the wind out of his sails and he ‘harrumphed’ at me and stomped off. I leaned back against the wall closed my eyes briefly.
I opened my eyes against and Maljie was standing there proffering me a mug of coffee. Gratefully I reached for it.
“I see you had a visit from the Admiral.”
Had I not been drinking coffee I would have said something. As it was I merely shrugged as much as one can without spilling anything.
Maljie sat next to me. “Seen them come and seen them go. In a couple of years they’ll disappear from society. A couple of years after that and there’ll be a small funeral. It could take a further couple of years before people realise they’ve died.”
Maljie took a drink of her own coffee. “But in reality, they’ve been dead for forty years or more, one way and another.”
I keep forgetting to mention. It appears Jim Webster has written another of his books. Indeed a whole series of them. Could you wander across and buy them because it will stop him whinging at me.
When somebody shoots down a documentary maker, what are they covering up? Haldar Drom of the Governor’s Investigation Office on Tsarina finds himself dealing with illegal population control drugs, genetic engineers, starmancers, and the risk of brushfire wars. Who knows how far up the chain of command the corruption reaches?
You use what you can get, allies in unusual places, reconnaissance by journalist, or a passing system defence boat.
As a a reviewer commented, “Having read many of Jim Webster’s Historical Fantasy books, I looked forward to seeing what he would do with a Science Fiction story.
I was not disappointed.
Webster’s trademark style of weaving the main storyline with several, seemingly unrelated sub-plots was in evidence throughout, all of which are neatly brought together in an unexpected, but satisfactory, finale.”
Now apparently he’s finished the whole four book series!