Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Folio 2 ~ The 50 Pence Piece

Folio 2
The sun smiled and the spring breeze giggled among the leaves and bushes of the park. In the emerald cave of the horse chestnut tree, which overshadowed Caroline's bench, a blackbird sang. Its tune danced like the tumbling water in the fountain. When its song had finished, it soared into the air over her head and a jet-black feather from its wing, fluttered down in a lazy spiral and landed at her feet. Pushing the last little bit of Jaffa Cake into her mouth, Caroline bent down to pick it up and it was then that she noticed that the feather, glowing silky black, pointed – like an arrow – to a shiny, brand spanking new 50 pence piece. It felt smooth and warm and, although on one side (which coin collector’s call its ‘obverse’) it had the Queen’s head (which one would expect) on the other (the ‘reverse’) was the figure of a little girl caught in mid racing-stride, dressed in a summer dress and gumboots – and very sharp, jabbing elbows.
‘How odd,’ thought Caroline.
And then…
‘How wonderful.’
And she put the coin in her pocket, with the pocket watch, while she thought about how best to spend it.

After some thought and an immense amount of frowning she decided, what could be better than to ride round the spring city in a bus – particularly if that bus had springy, itchy seats next to windows upon which you could huff and draw smiley faces? And so off ran Caroline, thwap, thwap, jab, jab, past the old ladies and onto to the bus stop.

The bus was driven by a man who took pride in his bus and the shiny buttons on his bus driver’s uniform. He had a large white moustache and eyes made of water. Caroline couldn’t quite decide if he looked more like a walrus or an elephant. She climbed into the bus. It smelt wonderfully of bus tickets, and seats, and travel, and adventure. Putting her shiny 50 pence piece on the little counter beside the driver’s seat, she asked in a polite but firm voice, “A 50 pence ticket, please.”
The driver sucked in his moustache and looked at her through his watery eyes. Caroline thought that the driver might be deaf and had not heard her request, so she said in a voice that was still polite, but a little firmer, “A 50 pence ticket please, driver.”
The bus driver peered at the coin and then Caroline with his large watery eyes and said, “Where, young madam, would you like to go?”
“I want to have a 50 pence piece worth of a bus ride please,” answered Caroline.
“This is most h’regular, young lady, most h’regular. I need to know where you want to go.”
“I want to go for 50 pence worth,” replied Caroline, scratching her knee.
“Well,” said the bus driver, pursing his lips and making his moustache bristle like a bottle brush, “I have never known such a thing. I take people to all sorts of places; to the museum and the art gallery, to the big stores with windows full of bright colours. I take people to the dentist, to their aunts and to the big park with the boating pond. I even take people to their connubial diversions, if your young ears will pardon my directness, but I have never taken a young miss in gumboots to 50 pences.”
“Well,” retorted Caroline, “I do not know anything about connubial diversions, but I do know that I want to have a 50 pence worth of a bus ride.”

The bus driver fumbled with his ticket machine while sucking on his moustache and his eyes looked like huge oceans full of fish and weeping mermaids. “It’s all very h’regular,” he mumbled, “but if you promise not to huff too much on me windows, I’ll let you ride just this once.”

And with that, he reached down under his little counter, beside his seat, and pulled out a large old-fashioned microscope. It was wonderful and gleamed of polished brass and smelt of metal and strange chemicals. The bus driver slid Caroline’s 50 pence piece under it and he peered through the lens with one eye all scrunched up.

“That’s very old,” Caroline remarked, carefully studying the instrument.
“H’it might be, missie,” replied the driver not looking up. “The bus company supplies us with new, h’electrically operated electron scanning microscopes with two eye-pieces and a four foot length of h’electric cabling and plug, but I has no use for h’it.” He paused while he adjusted the big brass burled knob at the side. “H’it’s not electrons that I wants to h’examine. H’electrons, as a rule, don’t cause the problems.” He looked up and gave Caroline a look that suggested very much where he thought the problems usually did lie.
“Well,” said Caroline, not at all put out by the man’s glare, “I like it. It smells just as a microscope should smell.”
“H’exactly!” retorted the driver.

Caroline was on the point of turning to walk up the aisle to an empty seat near the window that looked particularly springy and itchy when the bus driver cried out in alarm.
“Hold you there young miss!! Most h’regular this is, most MOST h’regular,” The driver waved Caroline’s 50 pence piece in the air above his head.
“An’ what may you call this?” he demanded showing Caroline the reverse side upon which the running figure of the girl in rubber boots and summer dress could be clearly seen.
“I don’t know,” She replied honestly, “It was there when I got it.”
“Well, I have never seen anything of the like,” The bus driver scratched his head and puffed out his moustache.
“But it does have the Queen’s head on the other side,” Caroline added helpfully.
The bus driver looked at it.
“It has to be alright if it has the Queen’s head on it, doesn’t it?”
“W…e…e…l…l…” The driver was still unsure.
“Oh please!” begged Caroline.

“Most h’regular that’s what I call it, but just this once and mind you mind your huffing.” The driver relented. And, at that, Caroline happily slipped into the seat by the window.

“Hold tight,” called out the driver, as the bus pulled away into the traffic.

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