Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Folio 1 ~ An Ounce of Pounce

Folio 1

There was once a little girl who lived a long way away from where I live, but a little bit closer to where you live. Her name was Caroline, which is as good a name as many and far better than most. Whatever the weather, Caroline always wore a yellow summer dress (with little black spots and two pockets) and red rubber gumboots that squeaked and shone. For, even though she lived in a big city with cobblestones and roofs that reached up to the clouds, you never knew when you would find a big puddle in which to jump or a gutter in which you could find the feathers of birds, and marbles, and skeleton leaves (that looked as if they’d been etched from shining brass), and used bus tickets, and diamonds. All year round, wearing her spotted summer dress and her red rubber boots, she ran at full tilt through those granite streets. Thwap, thwap, thwap went her boots. Jab, jab, jab went her sharp little elbows whirling like pistons at her side. Pump, pump, pump went her scabbed and plastered knees. In fact, I don’t think anyone had ever seen her not running. Every day, the old ladies on the park bench would see her run past – thwap, thwap, thwap; jab, jab, jab; pump, pump, pump. “My, these young folk are always in a rush”, they would say to each other and then they would get up and have their perms re-permed.

Well, one day the city shook itself and decided that it had had enough of the winter with its bitter winds and grey skies and that today it would be spring. And so having looked out of the window, Caroline slipped four Jaffa Cakes and a Crunchie bar into the pocket in the front of her spotted summer dress, closed the door of the little flat in which she lived and off she ran to the park to look for blossom and humming birds with wings the colour of the foil that wrap Cadbury's chocolate bars and treasures she could keep in a glass jam jar that she kept on the windowsill. The trees all looked new. Their brown bony branches were tinged with green and on one or two trees deep pink blossom buds could be seen. The fountains tingled with light and the city seemed to smile. She sat for five minutes on a park bench, her feet swinging in the air. The old ladies went passed, pushing their shopping baskets on wheels and they said to each other, “My, these young folk can eat Jaffa Cakes so quickly.”

Caroline was just starting on her second Jaffa Cake when she noticed that coming towards her was the bent figure of a man. He wore an old fashioned suit that was a few sizes too small for him and was darned at the knees and elbows. And he was so tall he walked with a stoop, as if the sky were too low for him to properly stand up straight. The spring sun shone on his shiny bald pate and made the halo of hair around his head glisten like spun gold. Behind one ear was a black feather quill, its nib stained with scrivener’s ink. And around him blew a cloud of dust and tiny winged insects so that it looked as if he walked in a perpetual golden mist. He had a long thin walking cane and long thin fingers, which also were stained with ink and dust. He saw Caroline sitting on the park bench in the sun and walked over to her.

“Excuse me, young madam,” he said in a voice that sounded like an old church organ that no longer worked – it was more breath and voice, thought Caroline as she looked into his pale, long, thin face. He smelt of spilt ink and old sun light.
“Yes?” she said politely.
“Palimpsest,” the Man wheezed. “Do you know what a palimpsest is?”
“I am afraid I don’t.”
“Well I do,” said the man. “Oh yes, palimpsest is a very good word, very useful you know. Oh yes, bless me, a very good word indeed. Say it out loud, little madam, and let it roll round your mouth and play with your tongue. P..A..L..I..M..P..S..E..S..T.”
“Well I don’t know it,” Caroline retorted giving her boots a little annoyed bang together.
“Well you should. Socrates didn’t know either. Goodness gracious me, no young lady, I should say not. No, no, young lady, I certainly think that he did not - and look what happened to him."

*Note to readers*
Socrates - Lived in a place called Ancient Greece (which I believe is quite near Modern Greece), although some scholars argue that he lived in Antiquity; which is an altogether different place and suffers badly from rain. Socrates was known as the 'wisest man in Greece' because he once said, "I don't know anything." Which just goes to show how low the 'wisdom bar' was set in those days. I know EVERYTHING and still no one has called me wise.

The ancient man took a large gold pocket watch out of his fob pocket, looked at it, wound it 37 and a bit times with his long thin fingers and then handed it to Caroline.
“Thank you!” she said, delighted by this strange man’s strange gift. “It’s lovely.”
“It doesn’t work,” said the man simply and then he asked, “What does it taste of? Can you taste the time?”
“I don’t think so,” said Caroline, a little perplexed, and she snuffled her nose with the back of her hand. It was a most wonderful and GINORMOUS snuffle. The long thin man’s eyes widened into saucers, for he had never seen such a big snuffle made with such a little nose. Caroline then gave the shiny metal case a little lick. But her tongue was still all orangey and chocolaty from the Jaffa Cakes.

“No, I can’t taste time,” she said.
“Ah, that’s because it’s lost its taste for time,” the man replied, his eyes still as wide as moons (well, I did say that it was a very big snuffle), “A pocket watch is of no use once it had lost its taste for time. That’s why it doesn’t work. But then again, nor do I. So I suppose neither of us should complain.”
“What’s a palimpsest?” asked Caroline who was not really following a word that the man was saying, but felt that she should still be polite after such a magnificent gift (even though it didn’t work).
“A palimpsest?” the man repeated, as if for the first time, “Well it is certainly not a tabla rasa, dear me, that’s for sure.” And his body heaved in huge spasms of wheezing laughter.
And with that the man stood upright and he walked off clicking his long thin stick. He had just got to the place where the path curves behind a large bush of hydrangeas when he stopped and waved his black cane in the air.
“Excuse me, young lady!” his voice rang through the air like an old cathedral bell. Caroline looked up and frowned.
“Do you know where a gentleman can buy a quarter ounce of pounce?”
“Of what?” replied Caroline, whose voice was far bigger than her body.
“A quarter ounce of pouncing powder,” repeated the long man.
“I am sorry, I don’t know,” said Caroline with a little sorrowful look, because she was beginning to like this strange man who walked in his own cloud of dust. “No matter,” the stranger cheerfully replied and with that he disappeared behind the tangle of hydrangea.

Caroline gave the pocket watch another little experimental lick, huffed on its big friendly glass face and slipped it in her pocket (the one on the other side of her Jaffa Cake pocket).

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