Left alone with the two educationalists, Fefe listened distractedly as his fate was discussed. His mother had brought him, followed closely by the two gentlemen – one watching the small form of the new boy with the predatory eye of a rhinoceros-nosed kurlisnap viper about to pounce on an unsuspecting wibblymouse, the other following in the wake of the first with concern undulating across his lively, richly ornamented, hair-shocked eyebrows and his fingers tapping together in a silent tattoo of apprehension – into the headmaster’s utilitarian yet, at least according to the confirmed bachelor lore that the headmaster rigidly followed, comfortable lair, and there Serena had finally managed to rationalise Ragnoor’s anger sufficiently to get him sobbingly back into his cage.
Fefe stood glued by sticky sniffle-tape to his mother’s coat while she had apologised for her son’s behaviour and, in response to the tut-tuttings, jovial smiles and ‘don’t-you-concern-yourself-we-are-well-experienced-in-the-challenges-of-young-men-finding-their-feet,’ she decided to follow the advice of those who purported skill in the education of the young: that it would probably be for the best if she kissed her son a cursory goodbye then left rapidly, without looking back. After all she reasoned, as the sugar words of these authoritarian figures tumbled persuasively around her, it was her aunt and benefactor who had insisted that Blazenthrop School for Young Gentlemen was the correct one for her sensitive boy and that it would ‘make-a-man-of-him.’ Further, as her aunt’s husband, the absurdly rich Scottish laird, was also paying the monstrously extortionate fees, a measure that must mean these people knew-what-they-were-doing, who was she to disagree?
Ragnoor began to rattle the bars of the cage violently again as Fefe’s mother inched out of the door, a tear falling unseen behind a delicately perfumed handkerchief, but this time the combined forces of determinedly focused maternal love and tradition-laced authority were ready and, as Mr Stonehouse held the wailing ten year old firmly whilst at the same time attempting to whisper what he considered to be soothing suggestions through an impenetrable veil of lamentation, the headmaster guided her with due deferential ceremony, out of the door and into her aunt’s chauffeur-driven car.
Fefe-Ragnoor struggled ineffectively against the steel bonds of pipe-lifting, whisky-conditioned muscle then, when he finally understood that is was his mother’s intention to flee the scene leaving him in unfamiliar hands, threw himself on the floor and dissolved into a cloud of screams and bitter tears that expired only when Ragnoor finally succumbed to Serena’s newly discovered antidote: a comforting Ceylonese lullaby known only to Glamorgonia who now joined Serena in a pacifying duet.
In his head two voices casually discussed a subject of great import but which was not consequential enough to be directly addressed to the subject in question.
“A squarr plog in a round ‘ole”.
It was a distinct Cornish accent, something that Fefe had never really understood; it just was…
Another Cornish voice frothed like freshly harvested sea-foam, “Nevur did fit un, always an outzyder, always on the edge ufuvrythun. What we call ‘em barrk in the old daiys, Arrnold?”
“Can’t quoitely remebrr, Perrcybal” said the one identified as Arrnold, “Oi thunk it were somit loik, arrsole. But ‘em be in er daiys wen evryun be a narrsole. Nowurdaiys ee be an oddun.”
“Arr, thar’s roit, ee be an oddun.”
Fefe knew instinctively that these Cornish conversationalists were blithely talking about him, they always had. Yet, even though they seemed to know a lot about him and opined at great length, they never took to trouble to acknowledge his presence and, instead, directed their conversation to some point above his left eye; just close enough to let him know that he was the subject of their attentions. Fefe, in turn, had learned to witness them passively as they passed judgement; something he remembered having done all his short life. And he would never dream of contradicting them, he wouldn’t know where to start and, as they were so sure of their opinions, he believed what they said and he felt himself shrinking in stature with each lexiconic laceration.
The Cornish twins, Arrnold and Percybal, always ready to censure, always ready to take Fefe down a peg or three hundred and twenty-five, always prepared to bugger up Sel Festeem; their opinion being that ‘one needed careful watching in case one got too full of oneself.’ And as he grew older, he became aware that they watched him like high-flying hawks locating a tiny field-morsel; always ready to unleash the claws of criticism and grasp his weaknesses in talons of condemnation; always prepared to dissect his worst character traits into ult
a-fine slivers of temperament and pound him into a quivering pulp of nervousness. They had no time for Petunia and always sought to undermine her too, never admitting that there could be anything good about this ambulatory machine made of meat to which they had been unfairly allocated. No, they had much more in common with Joslin, although as this latter’s appearances were so infrequent due to his tight schedule, they distilled their tart acidity on Petunia and her ineffective efforts at moral boosting.
But, before we consider the content, or indeed the context of the discussion undertaken by the two yokalists, let us transfer our attention momentarily to the subject of their conversation. Because, dwelling on any sort of cerebrally taxing concept is a pastime that a young mind such as that possessed by Fefe, due to the necessity of other more pressing and much more intellectually stimulating engagements, rarely indulges.
So, from the vantage point of being once removed, and certainly in all probability, at least from the reader’s viewpoint, of a greatly advanced maturity, let us take the time necessary, thus relieving the young personality of this onerous task, and assume momentary protagonism to understand a little more about the substance of our contemplation.
Fefe; a sound which, due to his inability to say his rather intricate given namelabel, was provoked by his blossoming understanding of the resonance uttered by others that associated attention to himself. It seemed to perfectly encapsulate his sense of individuality and rolled easily off his tongue as a young baby. The sound seemed to provide him with a sense of self, although those who were close and loved him continued to label him as Helios. His mother, when cross with him, as well as those who had not been initiated into his orbit of confidence, knew him formally as Heliosvart. At school, to his friends he did indeed become known as Helios but, to those who wished him ill, he became known as Parpy or just, The Fart.
Those in possession of the previously identified malicemakers; for which young people, and especially young insecure boy-men seeking to establish their dominant position within the natural pecking order, which as everyone is more than aware, is the ladder of aggression that enables those possessed of an organic disposition, to always have a weaker target than themselves upon which to exert their own frustration, took his family name and, not without some warped creativity it has to be admitted, converted it into the epithet, Pimplewart; a name which our erstwhile hero loathed all his life, until he suddenly realised – he didn’t.
Until he had achieved the milestone of four years, our hero had lived within a bubble of confusion into which he had been encapsulated the moment he popped through the portal of existence. No previous memories haunted his dreams and no earlier lives impinged on his newly minted cerebral crests and troughs. Electricity flashed across the surface of his brain seeking sense from the external provocations that assaulted it with mysterious lights, sounds and smells. Gone, with a suddenness that shocked him into the harsh realms of reality, was the comforting cushioning and velvety sounds of his first moments of awareness, and the trauma of forced expulsion was only now fading into the endless sea of forgotten memories. The one tangible link that anchored him in this strange new world was the circle created by the arms of his mother; arms that protected him in an embrace that he was yet to understand was less than enthusiastic.
In a neatly decorated office, lined with regimented books of equal height and lit with soothing lighting that pools around a motherly/fatherly figure dressed in the muted colours of a well-trained psychologist, the phenomenon this substantial presence represented would perhaps have been identified as a Mechanism of Defence. But she would have been quick to dismiss that assertion as fantasy, or perhaps ‘one of her better traits’. Of course, she was discrete and, whilst he did not become aware of her immediately, she silently took on the structure that was not only an integral part of him, it was one that had always been there.
From this simple beginning, a jurisdiction that made sense of the swirling maelstrom of information and stimuli that eddied around him was manifested; one that enveloped him in a reassuringly rigid frame and presented him with infinite views across wide excitingly terrifying horizons – all at the same time!
And into this world, ‘They’ came skipping and playing hide-and-seek around endless passageways that led to sunlit rooms or mysteriously dark caves, bright butterflies of laughter dancing in clouds above their heads.
As we have already seen, they were varied and infinite, and no doubt we will have the opportunity to get to know these many personalities who form such an integral part of our hero as words weave through the narrative but, in the meantime, suffice to say that, with their arrival, Fefe finally realised that he existed. It was thus that from a very early age, so early he couldn’t remember the details, and with her help, he retreated from one reality into another that was, at least to him, just as real and infinitely more understandable.
As he could fathom none, he could not begin to understand how anyone could glean sense from events that had no meaning. In the same way that immutable facts can be interpreted in myriad ways, deriving meaning from sensually generated experiences is a highly subjective matter and can result in the formation of many theoretically shaped conclusions. To some this is a straightforward and logical operation, but to Fefe, a very specific case, it was a mysterious conundrum bloated with the unrequited burps of perplexity whose wafting trajectory led to halls with ceilings of stars and in which down was up, up was down and meaning was reflected in the rock-pools of imagination.
The twins were the first ones he became aware of. In all probability, it was because they paid no attention to him that he was attracted to their banter, their quick-fire questions and answers and their perverse sense of fun. Of course, he wouldn’t have known that is was perverse if the word itself had taken on its own personality and bitten him on the bum. But it didn’t take long to realise that the invariable butt of their comments and sniggers was none other than himself. And, when he tried to object, his protestations fell on ears that were as deaf as a whole box of doornails that had been rusting in the bowels of a shipwreck lost in the depths of the sea since roman times. They paid him no heed, they ignored him totally, they eschewed his pronouncements. And their words grew teeth.
In this precise moment, he was listening to them discussing his weaker attributes as if he was nowhere to be seen. And as he listened, he grew smaller and his lamentations took on an air of ridiculousness. Their icy words drifted like congealing snow around him and his sobbing finally ceased until only the occasional humidly sticky hiccough indicated he had succumbed to the inevitability of fate.
The two adults finished their conversation and, before the vengeful figure of the headteacher could descend on the puddle of curdled mucus that was Fefe, Mr Stonehouse cleared his throat loudly, shook out his flowing gown in a gesture of defiance, and stepped directly into the line of fire before the wrathful thunder cloud broke over Fefe’s head.
‘So, young man,’ said the Mr Stonehouse, his eyebrows dancing in time to the lilt of his educated Scottish accent, ‘are you prepared to continue with your inauguration into the wonderful world of Blazenthrop?’
Fefe’s bottom lip trembled and Ragnoor rattled weakly at the bars of his cage.
‘I don rekon ‘ee be farliforr,’ commented Arrnold, his finger up his nose, the tip of which was feeling the ridge of an accumulation upon which an operation was being contemplated.
‘Wart ye be wortling abart?’ said Percybal looking at his associate as if he had just swallowed an African slidymock budgerigar.
‘I don thunk ‘ee be farliforr,’ repeated Arrnold, manoeuvring the nail of his digit under a convenient flap in the nasal obstruction.
‘Don be no such ward,’ chortled Percybal, ‘ye be scrimpin the plarrdle,’ he said in a dismissive voice as he turned away.
‘No, I’s making a serius poin,’ whinned Arrnold, his attention slipping from his adenoidal impediment to focus on the sudden righteous indignation of dissent, ‘he nort be farliforr, at least nort yut.’
‘Arrsole,’ commented Percybal and, like a snowflake that found itself terminally located in the middle of an egg in the process of being fried, the word trailed wispily behind him as their forms evaporated.
Fefe hung his head and snivelled an affirmative whimper.
‘Hmm,’ the headmaster responded, the cacophony of looking-down-the-nose reverberating around the walls of the study, ‘I shall leave this entity in your capable hands then, Mr Stonehouse. Please see to it.’
Then, dismissing them both from his perception, he returned to the more important matter of the Headmaster’s annual dinner at which he was to be the guest of honour.