To update the reader I have had to drop everything, which wasn’t very much, and go to Paris as there was an urgent matter to discuss. This turned out to be the singular revelation that I had a brother. Read on….
Giselda, my mother, seated decorously, if not forbiddingly on the chaise lounge motioned for me to sit, I dropped onto an ornate French number that was as incommodious as it looked. I had no knowledge until now that there was a sibling and a familiar sense of imminent danger enveloped me. Familiar because any dealings with either my eternally absent father or my arcticly grim mother usually led to unpleasantness in one form or another.
‘So this is the family business that Dimitri rather evasively alluded to? I remarked.
‘It is.’ She said conclusively as if the matter had been suitably dealt with and it was now time for her morning coffee.
‘I beg your pardon mother but perhaps a moderate amount of information to augment this revelation might be forthcoming. I mean what the fuck! This, what’s his name…Shane! How old is he? How come I have never met nor heard of this person before. Jesus, I just traveled from London to hear you tell me this? Clearly this was of such moment that you would not let Dimitri tell me and now you are lost for words….really mother? I said.
‘You had best ask your father about this.’ She said wearily. She looked at me briefly and then at her expensively slippered feet but decided a gander of the Seine might be more to her liking, stood up and approached the window. She leaned against the drape and looked down at the street below.
‘You know very well that the likelihood of me ever actually meeting my father is as remote as an encounter with Julius Caesar.’
‘He’s ten…I believe.’ She said as if providing that morsel had just cost her her next season at Covent Garden. ‘I’m not his mother Foster, if that thought had crossed your mind.’
‘Jesus, so I have a ten year old brother to whom you have not given birth fathered by man who is essentially an illusion. Fantastic! I wonder is it, at this point that I inquire as to what you intend me doing about it or should I depend on the maid for this advice? ’ I said furiously.
‘That might be best.’ She said with not an iota of levity.
I was angry, dear reader, I was ropeable. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. But who would care? Instead, upending the ludicrous chair I lurched out of the apartment sweeping a pair of antique bowls from the huge Gothic sideboard, that stood in the entrance hall, onto the tessellated floor with a costly crash. I asked a taxi driver to take me somewhere I could get filthy drunk and perchance meet a comely iteration of the opposite sex.
I ended up in a seedy and optimistically named bar called the Rue de Verlaine owned by the cabbies cousin in Marche d’Aligre without a woman in sight. It was not that sort of place. I became somewhat disruptive when mine host refused to serve me because, as he perceived it, I had had enough Absinthe.
‘Vou savez monsieur your countryman Oscar Wilde in this very bar ‘mort d’un empoisonne absinthe’
‘Aha monsieur barkeep.’ I replied. ‘In that case I am exempt as I am a Swiss Australian and as such I demand that you refill my cup you froggish cunt.’
Before the fellow sitting beside me could finish telling me that I should have chosen my words more carefully the barman had picked me up off my stool and thrown me into the street suggesting that I return to the great southern land as soon as humanly possible and shove a wombat up my rectum. That evening in Paris may well have planted the seed that grew into the heroic contempt the French have for all things antipodean. If so, I could not be more proud.
Allow me a small diversion, dear reader as I must pay tribute to my mentor and adviser in all things both literary and corporeally. I will from time to time be extolling the virtues of ‘Monsieur Wilde’ with little snippets of his life and times.
I later discovered that practically every barman in Paris told the above mentioned lie of Wilde’s demise. He was indeed a heavy absinthe drinker, an opium smoker and a morphine addict but the poor man actually met his maker within the seedy lodgings at the Hôtel d’Alsace on the rue des Beaux-Arts. He died from a brain aneurism due to an abscess of the right ear. An affliction he acquired as a result of his stay at the behest of her majesty in Reading Prison between 1895 and 1897.
He wrote the magnificent ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’ as a testament to his ghastly and supremely unfair imprisonment. One stanza of which I have included below.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard.
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Oscar was referring here to the odious Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, his lover and betrayer but it also can be seen as a devotion to his wife and two sons who he loved dearly. He felt he had killed the love that he enjoyed from his family with the shame and ignominy of “The love that dare not speak its name.” and the subsequent incarceration.
The poem actually encompasses much more for it speaks to the degradation and appalling conditions of the British prison system at the time. He laments the horror of seeing one of the inmates executed with deep and compassionate humanity. It is a poem of great sorrow and even I have to say that it is difficult to read with a dry eye. When you consider what happened to the great man of letters after this fall from grace his is among the most melancholy of ends in literary history. He wrote, no doubt with a glass of absinthe within easy reach….
“…I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world… And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom”
On a lighter note it is said that he wrote some of his best witticisms near the end of his life and I quote him hear to illuminate my painful encounter with the street adjacent to the ‘Rue de Verlaine’ that night.
“Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.”
Somewhat worse for wear I miraculously woke up in my own room at around two in the afternoon. I opened the door to find all as quiet as a tomb, the mild rumble from the street somewhat thwarted by double glazing. The apartment, in any case, was of such enormity that a Scottish piper could be sowing discord, unmolested at the other end of it.
Believing I was alone I ventured into the kitchen in my boxers and opened the fridge in search of something to alleviate the ache in my head and the other parts of my anatomy that managed to connect with the pavement the night before. I spied a bottle of chinotto and guzzled it straight down. I purloined what appeared to be a freshly made sandwich and found the moka coffee pot.
Whilst tamping the ground coffee into the filter I looked out at the overcast sky and dizzily wondered what the day had in store for me. Perhaps a ramble down the fabled boulevard’s interrupted by the occasional carafe of Bordeaux I fancy.
‘Hello’ I literally jumped with surprise. I looked around to find a boy staring up at me from the other side of the kitchen bench.
‘Jesus’ I said. ‘You scared me.’ He observed at me as if he just discovered a new species. His head tilted to the side and a long lock of hair fell over his eye which were hazel like mine.
If a boy can be beautiful than this one certainly was. I suppose they all are at that age, at least this is what every parent will tell you. Except mine, of course. You could immediately see the handsome man he was to become.
‘Do you have a skateboard?’ He said, still a little wary but needing to establish essential lines of communication.
‘Ah, not sure what it is. Is that….’
‘It’s a board with wheels on it that you can use as a mode of transport, most kids have one, you can do tricks with them’
‘I see….do you…?’
‘No, my mum said it was too dangerous but….’ He looked down at his bare feet, circling a tile with his big toe.
‘Where is your mum?’ I asked, curious now.
‘Dead’ He looked up at me with a flash of anger but it soon dissipated.
‘Sorry kid, that’s not good.’ I said this as sincerely as I could though unsure as to its veracity given my tenuous parental dealings. I observed him closely. He pushed the long light brown bang of hair out of his eyes and looked at me directly. We were like a couple of stags about to square off for some ancient territorial ritual. The young, vital one and the battered, disconsolate one. At twenty three I had already seen far too much. He planted his feet squarely now, ready for anything.
‘You’re my brother’ He said defiantly. It was accusation rather than observation.
‘It would appear so. I had no idea until yesterday afternoon.’ I said. ‘Look kid, have you seen my mother today.’
‘We had breakfast with my dad’ He said
‘Well Shane that’s more than I have ever been able to relate.’ I replied.
‘I don’t get it? He remarked squinting at me.
‘Doesn’t matter, so is she here?’
‘She went out…so did dad. Brigitte made lunch for me and she said there was a sandwich for you in the fridge as well. She’s ironing in the laundry. That’s where I’ve been…I helped with folding, she’s nice.’ He said without taking a breath. He seemed to be not backward in coming forward and I noticed that he had quite a distinct Australian accent which sounded quite odd in this environment, although not unpleasant.
‘In any case, I am going out as soon as I have bathed and dressed’ I said and started to leave.
‘Can I come?’ He said.
‘No.’ I rejoined, now adroitly corralled by the diminutive tow haired article at the entrance to the kitchen.
‘Why not? He said with a curiosity tinged with impudence. I could only assume that wherever he would like to go, if permitted, would ideally have to include the presence of skateboards and their trickery. A thought I found a tad disturbing.
‘Because I will be engaging in things that only a grown man is allowed to do.’ I said hesitating to announce that drinking and whoring were on my shopping list.
‘I am nearly eleven. Anyway I have seen what grown men do and it doesn’t bother me.’ He pouted with determination.
‘Aha.’ I said, my interest peaked. ‘And what might that be?’
‘I saw a man shoot a gun once’ He said proudly.
‘I see, so you presume that this qualifies you for a manly outing with me?’
‘Yes’ He said and looked me straight in the eye with a defiance that seemed rather too familiar.
‘Ha!’ I laughed. ‘Very well young sir, be ready in thirty minutes or your ship will sail without you.’
‘You’re a nut!’ From the mouths of babes. It was the first time I saw him smile but, I am happy to say, not the last.
That’s quite enough of this drivel until next time.
But hark! What mischief is FU going to get up to next and what of his poor innocent sibling?
Surely he will not embroil the boy in his dark deeds.
I’m afraid so and a bloody sorry affair it is too.
By the way, who or what did Shane witness being shot?
I for one hate to dwell on it for it is indeed a most shocking event.
Will FU ever come face to face with his patrone. I fear not. There are secrets so cheerless, so disheartening yet to be revealed that I cringe to expose them to the harsh light of day.