Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Constable Keep, a Chestertonian Short Story

Note well: This is not the whole story. Hopefully, there is more to come. So, if some of the conversation in the middle scene seems a bit…incongruous…well, it’s supposed to be.


He had nice curves. It of course is expected that the person who reads that thinks that there is a typo and that the previous sentence should read “she.” But that is not the case. He had nice curves, from the top of his well-rounded, elongated domular, “British Grenadier” policeman’s hat; to his face, which continued the contours of the cap; to the graceful arms and well-rounded lower body. His buttons were as shiny as the hall of mirrors at Versailles, and as golden as the mirror-frames. For Constable Keep refused to save pounds by buying brass buttons, even if they looked just as nice as the gold ones.
The perpetual English rain may have been plopping in the puddles as Constable Keep twirled his bobby-stick, but its frenetic pace and the rushing of the hansom-cabs did not stop the Constable from sniffing a deep sniff and grunting a small grunt.

“Hmm…yes…It’s a fine day, and…Ooh! Get away from me!”

The instigator of the problem was a small child with dirty hands. Constable Keep ran after him with small but surprisingly quick steps, twirling his stick and yelling unintelligible insults at the child. The insults were all in good taste, of course.
An older man stood by the side of the street laughing. He was dressed in those old and worn clothes of quality that betray moderate wealth matched with a more than moderate lifespan.

“Be careful, bob, or you’ll get fired for disturbing the peace.”

Keep turned around.

“No…perhaps not fired, although I have been fired before…from a clothing store I believe. Never mind. I won’t get fired. I’ll be deposed or downsized. Or possibly even transferred.”

Constable Keep sniffed and looked straight at the man, with eyes that looked like finest glass and made you feel like they were made of glue.

“You see,” Constable Keep continued, “That really wouldn’t be all that bad. For perhaps I would get transferred to deep guard over the Globe Theater on the other side of London. I’ve always had this dream, you see, of guarding Shakespeare.”

“Well,” said the old man, “I’m in a literary society.”

“Pooh. Literary society. Just because it’s a literary society…”

“And so is the present administrator of the Globe.”

And with that, the old man walked away.



The next day, which happened to be Constable Keep’s day off, he received an invitation to a meeting of the very same literary society that the man had mentioned before, the Globe Street Regulars. He went, of course.
The Globe Street Regulars met in a pleasant, well-kept, slightly overdecorated small house in a London suburb. The yard was not quite as large as one might like, but the porch chairs were stuffed quite as large as most people could ever have use for. Down the street was a train station, the very fast express line that went through Oxford, stopping near that esteemed university en route. (It was not a place for really useful engines, for Oxford is an excellent place for learning those things that are learned for their own sake.)
Constable Keep, dressed in his best bobby hat, walked up and rang the bell just as the sun completely disappeared beneath the gorgeous curtain of London smog. Fortunately, this barrier did not stop the beams from decorating the sky with colors to gorgeous to be mentioned in a story taking place in grey, rainy England. Ah, the glories of stereotyping…
Following Costable Keep was Kate, whose prim yet precise steps measured out the stairs up to the porch as if they were a dance…or a length of wire. Kate had almost not come that day because she had spent too much time trying to get the head of another literary society to write her a letter of recommendation. Eventually, however, her good manners got the better of her, and she gave up on the letter to fulfill her RSVP to the meeting of the Globe Street Regulars.
Haspic and Harskevitz arrived a bit later. A British version of a sandstorm had ensued, driving the smog away from the sunset, staining the small house slightly sand-colored.
Finally, Dr. Baker arrived. He had been a bit delayed, for instead of taking a cab, he had followed Plato’s advice (as stated in Plato’s Britannia, that is) and taken a bus. When someone asked him his reason, he said, “It was my day off, so naturally, I wasn’t being exactly scholarly and particular.”
Upon entering, the guests found, in addition to the mysterious man who had invited them, a Dr. Than, and a Dr. McDuff. After everyone had been roundly introduced (Kate was introduced as Catherine), Dr. Baker had the pudence to ask what work of literature they would be studying.

“After all, one must make sure that moral falsehoods are not placed before the minds of those who must be protected, such as Kate, who, like Aphrodite in the Trojan war, ought not fight the battles of lower creatures, lest they be injured.”

Kate responded, “If Dr. Than wanted to program a computer to draw me, I would be perfectly happy if Dr. Baker expressed his admiration of the picture. I would not be so foolish as to believe that Dr. Baker was therefore in love with the computer.”

At this, Constable Keep pulled out a donkey’s head, put it on his own, and started braying: “If…neigh!...anyone did that, the would be almohohost as bewitched as Titania!”

“Considering the level of absurdity in Through the Looking-Glass,” Dr. Than remarked, “Your behavior is quite normal.”

“Do not associate with this illiberally educated, solely arithmetical man, Kate,” Dr. Baker warned.

“Kiss me, Kate!” Constable Keep brayed.

“Do not change Diana to Venus!” Dr. Baker fumed, willing, but too thin and weak, to fight the policeman.

“I shall kiss nobody. Writing love letters, even in this modern age of supercooled supercomputers, can get one into enough trouble!” Kate remarked.

“But you haven’t written any love letters to put into the post office box by Paddington station,” Haspic interrupted, “And neither did Bishop Machbeuf.”

“And Bishop Machebeuf wouldn’t have,” Harskevitz said, “for he neither planted bombs at Paddington nor had lady-friends from any French archdiocese, especially Paris.”

“How you do go off on tangents,” the mysterious man remarked.

With that, Dr. Baker and Dr. Than began arguing about an obscure point concerning tangents, with Dr. Baker taking the side of Euclid and Dr. Than taking the curve of Lobachevski.

“Of course, unlike the Maya, the Native Americans of New Mexico were not renowned mathmaticians,” Haspic remarked, “or else, they would have calculated that 5 kilograms of dynamite was sufficient to throw a train engine off its track, possibly killing all inside.”

“If there were no such things as weaponry, there would be no dashing soldiers to become senselessly infatuated with. Most video game designers would also lose their jobs.” Kate lamented.

“Whish is why I am Not a Pacifist,” Dr. Baker blurted out before continuing his argument. “War is noble, say the ancients.”

“But it’s not St. Crispin’s day!” Keep lamented.

“It does matter when or where a remark is made,” Harskevitz observed, “If Bishop Valliant had made his remark about the French soup tomorrow at noon instead of on Christmas many years ago, the remark would not have been nearly as well-dressed with fame.”

“I am well dressed with yellow stockings, cross-gartered!” Constable Keep said, slightly lifting up the foot-ends of his policeman-perfect pants to reveal the off-regulation socks underneath.

Kate gasped in horror, for, according to good manners, such a display of “underclothes” is not acceptable in public. She was also gasping in amazement because the socks were exactly the same shade as the yellow slugs in Halo. She said as much, and then fainted. With that, the meeting was over.



A few days later, Constable Keep received this letter in the mail.

Dear Sir,
After observing your behavior at the literary gathering, I have come to the conclusion that you are a very cultured man, enthusiastic for and well versed in the works of Shakespeare. I am sure that your behavior at the gathering was calculated (and well calculated, I might add) to the end of obtaining the job of guard for London’s Globe Theater. However, I have decided that, even more than Shakespeare, you are, due to your wonderful disregard of conventions in pursuit of a worthy goal, more suited to guard the street on which GK Chesterton resided while he lived in London. To this end, I shall move the mechanisms of law enforcement in the London area.

Sincerely,
Dr. Mysterious Stranger
Professor of Modern British Literature
Oxford University

3 comments:

Ancient Greek Philosopher said...

I just read the first two sentences, and I question as to why they are there. Why talk about curves?

Laura said...

eagerly awaiting more :)

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

While Laura is waiting, what about some CSL fanfiction?

Chronicle of Susan Pevensie