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Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

Part 53

Walton Clegg, the cadaverous 80 year old, held his baton between his skeletal fingers and glanced towards his rehearsal pianist, Rosemary Clench, sister of local postmistress, Hepzibah Clench, and then back to the assembled chorus. At the deftest of waves from his baton, Miss Clench attacked the piano keyboard with a force that veritably rattled the sash windows and brought down decades of dust from the church hall rafters. Several of the older chorus members had taken the opportunity to catch forty winks whilst Mr Clegg had regaled everyone for the umpteenth time about the fact that he had been present at the first performance of the Mikado on the 14th of March 1885 and had actually spoken with the maestro himself, Sir Arthur Sullivan.

The gentlemen of the chorus, roused from their slumbers, leapt into action.

“Behold the Lord High Executioner,
A personage of noble rank and title —
A dignified and potent officer
Whose functions are particularly vital!
Defer, defer
To the Lord High Executioner!”

In the kitchen at the end of the hall, several of the wives of the gentlemen of the chorus, including Mrs Wilde, the demoted, former head cook at the school, were busy with the refreshments. The half-time tea and treats were, for some of the chorus members, their whole raison d’être for being there. Mrs Wilde had such a reputation for her cakes and biscuits that for the past few years, it had become a hard fought competition simply to become a chorus member.  Arnold Blanch, a station porter, always sat on the end of the tenor row nearest to the kitchen. His ploy was that if he got in first, he could have his fill and re-join the queue for seconds. His boyish countenance and cheeky smile were enough to win over the ladies whose sons, (Those that has survived the war), had all grown up and flown the nest. He called them all Aunty, which they loved and guaranteed that an extra slice of cake and any left-over sandwiches would find their way  into his coat pocket at the end of the evening.

Sitting directly behind him was office clerk and baritone, Douglas Gilbert. His real name was Terrence Onion. He had affected this pseudonym by joining up the names of two of his favourite film idols. Douglas, from Douglas Fairbanks Snr, and the Hollywood star whom Terrence had copied most his mannerisms and style, John Gilbert.  Terrence had a reputation as a ladies’ man. He was always sharply dressed, with hair slicked back in the Italian style, pencil moustache and polished fingernails. Terrence was a smoker, but even that was done with style. His cigarettes were dispensed from a silver case, inserted into a short holder, and lit with matches from a silver Vesta Case. He had been in four of these productions and so far, had never failed to leave behind a broken heart.

Back at the school, Thompson waited for the bell in the hall to ring, the signal for lights out. It took less than a few moments for him to clamber down from his window. Pausing momentarily to listen for any sounds, Thompson then moved stealthily towards his target. His heart was pounding by the time he reached the kitchen store window, and as he reached up to slide the window open, something darted from some nearby bushes. Thompson spun round just in time to catch sight, in the moonlight, a small deer which bolted into the woods. He took a moment to compose himself and then climbed through the open window into the storeroom. There was enough light in the room for him to still see where the necessary food items had been left for him. On the storeroom table, Mrs Wilde had left a plate upon which were four large slices of Victoria sponge cake. Thompson carefully lifted the glass lid covering the cake, removed the top layer from three of the slices and then took a small bottle of powder, wrapped in a handkerchief, from his pocket. He wrapped the fourth slice of cake in the handkerchief, placed it in his pocket and then set about his intended business. A deft flick of the powder over each of the jam covered halves of cake would be sufficient, and a quick stir of the jam with Thompson’s finger would be enough to amalgamate the jam and powder.  The top halves of the cake slices were replaced, as was the glass cover.

Thompson could now hear approaching footsteps and the breathless wheezing of someone who probably hadn’t participated in any form of reasonable exercise since birth. Thompson was up and out of the window in a moment; however, in his haste to remove himself, he inadvertently knocked a metal canister onto the floor. Mrs Wormwood was in the storeroom in an instant, leaving no time for Thompson to push the window shut. The lights went on in the storeroom, Mrs Wormwood had heard the noise and could see that the window was unsecured. She hoisted herself onto a chair in order to get a better view out of the window. Thompson crouched silently below the window hardly daring to move. A young fox strode into view, stopped momentarily, sniffed the air, and then nonchalantly ambled off towards the woods. “Vermin!” called out Mrs Wormwood, at the same time making a mental note to reprimand Mrs Wilde for not locking the window. Thompson could hear his foe opening and closing cupboard doors for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually the room was plunged into darkness, but Thompson waited a while longer before moving. The Wormwoods were a crafty couple, and he wasn’t taking any more chances this evening.

Replete from their refreshments, the cast and chorus readied themselves for the entrance of The Three Little Maids. Rosemary Clench squinted through her thick lensed spectacles at the sheet music, popped an aniseed ball into her mouth, coughed loudly, choked, and fell forward. Her forehead made contact with the piano keys from which emanated a surprisingly discordant cacophony of jumbled chords. Startled, Walton Clegg looked over at Miss Clench and called out, “Is everything all right, Miss Clench?” To everyone else in the room it obviously wasn’t. With the rehearsal room cleared, Mr Clegg sat by Miss Clench, popped one of her aniseed balls into his mouth and waited for the doctor to arrive.

Thompson lay on his bed and unwrapped the handkerchief containing the sponge cake. It was a little bit worse for wear, but he would relish every compressed morsel; his night’s work was done.


Published by crispinunderfelt

All round good egg. Humanist and red wine drinker.

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