I Wonder If You Always Tell The Truth

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Les Disréputables

while out for a wander earlier today, as has become my twice, sometimes thrice, daily custom, i was a not altogether unamused spectator to a splendid show of comedy which bordered on slapstick. indeed, it was only the oratory accompaniment which reminded that i had not stumbled unknowingly into elstree studios. there are many antique shops here in town, ranging from the highly respectable, not to mention collectable, down to those selling practically anything the proprietor could deliver from the attic or uncover in the basement. it was towards one of the more respectable establishments which i found my steps bent; for i had on a previous solitary, late-night stroll spied a particularly eye-catching civil war flask resting on a rather neatly-sized, (that is, big enough for one), picnic basket. upon which sensory contact i decided on the spot that they would accompany me home. and so, i found myself almost on the threshold when i paused to give my future purchases one last, sober, once-over to make sure that they were as good as i had first thought and not that i had just been in a rather festive and frivolous spirit the night before; which, frankly, was unlikely. with this and other assurances i returned to the threshold, but was once again thwarted in my attempts to enter, again by my curiosity. my attention was so completely stolen as to make it seem wholly selfish of the spectacle i was about to behold. many of these antiques purchase from sellers 'out-of-town', i believe is the phrase. it was the delivery of such purchases which i was now viewing. a pair of, if to be judged by their respective physiognomies, surly and, if they are to be judged equally by their transport, disreputable chaps were ambling around each side of this shabby vehicle, to the rear double door. said doors duly arrived at, the cue was given and notice was called to the loiterers that it was time for proceedings to commence. to begin with, and besides the two assistants who were to receive the delivery, only i heeded this call: though many would join me in due course out of curiosity or to inquire, of those fortunate enough to have grabbed a pew front and centre at the outset, what the commotion is or was about, depending on their degree of tardiness. obviously the two men, we shall refer to them simply as x and y because i never caught their names if they did give them out and also because i am terrible at assigning names to things, obviously x and y were not used to the trek from the front seat to the rear door, given that upon their immediate arrival, (though y was a little behind schedule owing to his, how shall we say, excessive carriage), they each revealed a flask and each took a somewhat lengthy pull given the circumstances. this manner almost got me thinking twice about going through with my own flask-purchasing agenda on the grounds that i was not completely enamoured with the the possibility of being tarnished by the same brush of disrepute which had given these two a prolonged, (one is almost inclined to say professional, given the quality of the picture), stroke. after satisfying myself that their's were obviously not dated to the civil war, i kept my plan. though, marrying this to the fact that i am not a man prone tovthinking things over thoroughly even once, never mind twice, my initial expedition was never really in any danger. after partaking of their spirited repast, hopefully only in action as opposed to content, they set upon their work in their unique, timely fashion. the first hurdle was not long in coming and made itself known thus: upon opening the double door, x's attention was caught by a pair of proportionately slim and long legs, under cover of what on first glance, (yes, i confess, my gaze was likewise averted. though i had the decency to keep my tongue within the boundaries of my mouth), appeared to be a belt but was, by comment consent among the growing male populace, decided to be a skirt; albeit one of a diminutive nature. whilst otherwise occupied with the replacing of his eyes to their sockets, x found himself experiencing a sharp pain about his fingers. freshly equipped for closer inspection having completed his initial occupation, he was, in view of such active, impassioned and decidely liberal use of the vocal organs, distressed to discover that the curb-side door had developed a habit of swinging to, trapping his hand inside. after a speedy recovery, aided by another lengthy pull which consequently added further to the picture of ill-repute, y appeared to have chanced upon a cunning plan. i say chanced deliberately, since the constant furrow of his brow gave him an air of having, after being unable to think of a necessary course of action duing a previous incident, given up on the process altogether; the only reminder that he had ever tried being the furrow. contrastingly, one could say it provided an air of constant thought, though having also witnessed the glazed looked of the eye, one would not deem it wise to be so hasty. nonetheless, to the plan! the essence of which belied both the furrow and the glaze, and which ran as follows: at length, it was found through numerous, though strikingly similar, experiments that the renegade door had this tendency to shut itself. if i had been bumped and scraped only half as much, i would be infinitely more spiteful! this being noted, and verbal abuse not effecting the desired outcome, the plan was set in motion. x would hold open the untrustworthy door while y reversed the vehicle onto the pavement so as to rest the door on a parking meter. what for most would be a perfectly obvious answer, was for our players a comparative stroke of genius. one which rightfully drew a deserved round of applause from the spectators, at least in thought if not action. this effected, it was questioned by one onlooker whether they were going to insert any coinage into this meter. after deciding on a grunt in preference to yes or no, which the crowd interpreted as the latter, one quick-witted fellow, bearing,coincidentally, an uncanny resemblance to the author, was heard to remark that if they were employing the meter then it would only be fair to pay it. after receiving the resulting chuckle of the crowds warmly, our man settled back to watch the drama unfold. and unfold it did. starting with a dinner table. it was of the fashioon that has sections tucked underneath itself which, when employed, can cause the table to seat eight diners as opposed to the standard four. the handling of such device alone would have been worth the price of admission had we paid. i may even have forgone the picnic basket in order to buy a ticket, or so i said then. on reflection that was perhaps a little rash. that, however, does not diminish the efforts of x and y. after striking gold with the parking meter, y obviously thought himself in a rich vein of form. vain may be more appropriate given the size of the jump he felt he could make to reach that conclusion safely. anyway, having thoroughly convinced himself of his new-found intelligence, he decided to make use of it. the table was a weighty furnishing, and in it's four-seater capacity was deemed by y as too compact to be carried by both men since they would be too close, even though it required their combined muscle. the course of action deemed most satisfactory, notwithstanding the fact that it was the only course otherwise thought of, was to extend the table. this was immediately put into practise. quite why the table was too compact is anyone's guess. unfortunately that honour fell to y and he had declared it so. so, with what could be, considering the outcome, be considered a dangerous amount of zeal, the two set about, (an unfortunately appropriate turn of phrase), expanding the table. now for those among us who have not been lucky enough to have been bestowed with the honour of such undertakings, i offer one piece of advice: these tables are the furnishing equivalent of one of those giant hedge mazes. that is to say, there is but one route to success and any attempts otherwise will result in frustration. throw into the bargain the added incentive of pain in the fingers by way of trappings and grazings then it doesn't make for a very rewarding task. these points, however, had no effect on the gallant x, even after the door debacle; due in part to the unfortunate circumstance of neither of our mutual friends having ever received this wisdom. in short, and as we have noticed already, the pair proceeded to 'set about' their task and subject. so it was, with much scraping of legs (table on concrete, flesh on table), a proportionate amount of grunting and groaning and another inappropriate round of cursing (this seemed to be the one thing they were accomplished at), that the table was brought from the vehicle to shop door. whereupon, an unforeseen (except by the audience) circumstance occured: the table was of such dimensions that it could not, would not, shall not! fit through through said opening. after a degree of chin-scratching, x declared that he believes the table would fit through if they tried it legless. at which point, y reveals his spirited flask. a misunderstanding which causes great merriment in the punters, but a slight look of consternation in x who thinks that y is trying to direct attention from x's coming up with a plan as cunning as y's. how dare he! he hath no furrow! after a stern word or two had passed between them, our two heroes had upturned the table, bare on the pavement. this action was greeted by what sounded like the wail of the banshee. closer inspection, however, told us that it was merely the wife of the owner carrying off an impressive inpersonation, for she had also turned white as a sheet. directly being persuaded to lay a, coincidentally, white sheet underneath to prevent any(more) damage, the curtain came down once again to announce a short refreshment break. a period of about two minutes had passed when the curtain rose, signalling the return of the stars of the piece. there were four legs to the table and despite a lack of carpentry experience that is obvious to even the nakedest of eyes, one would surmise that the removal of limbs would be a simple case of twisting and releasing. which case it did turn out to be, though it was a far from simple journey. initially, y appeared to believe that the table-top merely rested on the four legs since he was so certain that they would lift right off. evidently, the fact that they had stayed connected throughout the lifting, carrying, turning and scraping processes had escaped either his attention, memory and/or intelligence. a short phase of disappointment followed. disappointment then gave way to thought. the thought stage seemed to last an eternity given the simplicity of the task at hand. the key to the universe being finally discovered by x, who had obviously taken over the role of brains of the operation, the pair set to dismantling this priceless antique table. from the veracity with which the exercise ensued, one can only assume that they mistook the term for priceless for worthless. admittedly, i too used to think they were similies; i was also nine years old at the time. alas, careless doesn't do their actions justice. not even reckless satisfies the occasion. four rounds into the contest and they had managed to detach one lef of the table and scratch one each of their own. this minor success must have occured quite by chance as it didn't seem to assist them in the removal of the remaining three. though it did lead the grazing of their remaing two. with a great deal more difficulty than was necessary and a greater deal less care than recommended, the leg-less table top was carried across the threshold and it's legs deposited in various vases that were standing about with a certain assurity as though they had been displayed for that exact purpose. in entertainment terms, the next item to be displaced from the van to the shop was a little lacking. although, since it was a mirror, i think all concerned were thankful to providence, and that in her infinite wisdom, deigned that at least one priceless heirloom should be spared degradation. needless to say, had it not been for such timely grace, the conveying of said mirror would have been followed swiftly by a five hundred piece jigsaw puzzle of the most ridiculous difficulty. the mirror being deposited with more care than one would have expected, x and y began a series of back and forth journeys bringing such an array of riches as to give the shop the visage of aladdins cave. inclusive of divers vases of oriental and eastern european design; victorian era cutlery; lamps of varying size and bizarre natures; a small crazy-looking doll who gave out a chilling cackle at irregular yet unfortunately not infrequent intervals, (one of which caused x to choke during one of his many short breaks); and some paintings by a miscellany of artists. this to-ing and fro-ing seemed endless. quite how they had managed to pack so many this into the back of the van is a mystery to me and i dare say one which would remain unsolved even if it was to be tackled by the finest minds of our time, or any other for that matter. in fact, had doctor who himself been present among the bystanders, his countenance would have been a perfection of avarice and envy at the capacity of this little box van. and still they were not finished. greedily disposing of what became a short lunch, (the manner of which gave the picture of disrepute the crowning touch necessary to lift it to the level of an usurpassed masterpiece!), x and y were as ready as they would ever be for the main event. the exceedingly precious; the bankruptingly expensive; the combined-strength-of-two-men heavy; the just downright awkward grandfather clock. our initial surprise of how it had managed to fit in the van was soon overcome by a collective sense of caution, except of course on the part of the workers themselves, who had obviously banished the word into exile from their vocabulary. it would seem they exercised caution about as much as themselves, and infintely less than their jaws. the general opinion among the townspeople that a pardon be issued was frowned upon by the two noblemen, as was everything. as a child i was always warned about making faces at my brother, for, as the legend (or should i say old wives tale) goes, if the wind changed direction then my face would forever keep the expression. i had always been a touch skeptical, until these two visages presented themselves that day. if the story was true, then i shudder to think what could have caused such an expression of dismay mixed with anger mixed with distance to the stare. anyway, to business. and a tricky business it was proving. having secured aladdin's services for the purpose of guidance, that gentleman's head disappeared into the rear of the van for conference. truly a meeting of minds! upon returning to this world he took up a post by the side of the entrance to his cave and assumed an air of dignified vigilance. nobody was wholly convinced that the narrowed eyes were entirely necessary but we kept our peace. as usual, the task seemd straight-forward. one man at either end, and simply walk through the open door. granted it was a heavy timepiece, but still, put the old back into it and job done before you know it. quite why old aladdin was necessary we also couldn't fathom, though it was generally satisfied that it was a case of confidence, or lack thereof. the clock was revealed from the van at a most extraordinary angle, which was possibly the only position in which it could have fit amongst everything else. unless of course it was done 'in transit', but we won't be so presumptuous as to put that question - we shall just assume the answer instead. thus, the clock was standing majestically on the pavement. bare, naturally. here a slight verbal altercation arrises: x declaring that he should carry the rear end of the clock because it was "his turn". y disagrees politely, in his way, reminds him of the delivery of a similar timepiece just last week where his trusted associate had also taken up the rear. the dispute, complete with the traditional and wholly unnecessary pantomimery not finding a conclusion, it was jokingly suggested by a nameless (and shameless) spectator to toss a coin to see who would go last. not quite grasping the manner in which the comment was offered, x straightway thrusts a hand into his denim dungarees and, after a spell of fumbling, retrieves a coin to suit the purpose. he swiftly calls tails, for "it never fails", and is promptly cursing that adage and it's author as liars one and all! with a fresh infusion of spirit however, he takes hold of the top of the clock and prepares to ease it down so as to carry it longways. safely clutching an end apiece, they make towards the cave. this movement appears to be a cue for our aladdin to spring into a flurry of directional proclamations and an excessive flailing of arms. such is the sight and sound compared with the ease with which the operation could have been conducted, every action and utterance takes on an increasing measure of the most violent exaggeration. x and y however seem quite at home in these surroundings and do immense justice to their helper by way of an irrepressible running commentary on the state of affairs, complete with typically colourful language. a sudden pause in this torrent announces a miscalculation. it would seem that once through the doorway, there is an obstruction in the fashion of an array of riches inclusive of divers vases of oriental and eastern european designs; victorian era cutlery; lamps of varying size and bizarre natures; a small crazy-looking doll who gave out a chilling cackle at irregular yet unfortunately not infrequent intervals, (one of which caused x to choke during another of his many short breaks); and some paintings by a miscellany of artists. the recognition of which obstruction signals the commencement of the same commentary, as colourful as ever and abetted ably by the same violent motioning of limbs. volume appears to be the antidote for all ailments - as wellington used to say, "it's all done by shouting!". it being necessary to release the grandfather clock, the pair stand it upright on the pavement, (yes, you guessed it), while they proceed to clear a passage through the shop. this done in a surprisingly efficient manner, (either because they wanted to get the job over with or i the story likewise), they reappear outside in a matter of minutes. the tranqulity does not last long though and odds are once again at. x is claiming the inexplicably coveted spot at the rear, while y is standing firm on his principle that it is "still the same job". an ejaculation of "rock-paper-scissors!" emanates from an as yet unidentified source in the crowd; upon which the competitors take up their mark. the owner of the mystery voice watches with great pleasure accompanied by a pleasing suspicion that if he were to suggest a race around around the world as a solution to the next crisis, the two men would convene in leicester square at 8am on the spot for commencement! as it is, x's paper beats y's rock and they chaaaaaaaaaaange plaaaaaaaces amid groans of "best of three!". under orders once again, aladdin seizes the moment and loses all control of his physical self for a third time amid a chorus of cursing that has long since ceased to offend. with a comparative ease to make everyone present wonder why everything else was so difficult, the stoic timekeeper is conveyed with an image-defying gravity into the cave and old aladdin can breathe freely; or at least he will when he gets his breath back and his heart-beat slows to a rate not indicative of an imminent explosion. mrs. aladdin, whose bottom lip hasn't managed to achieve a close proximity with the upper since it's first downward excursion at about the time the two gents made themselves known, utters an especially faint thank you and retires to the shop to contemplate retiring to bed; maybe from work; and how close she came to retiring from life itself out of pure shock! the heroes of the piece exit the shop, dually claim ownership of a coin lying on the pavement and simultaneously bend over from the waist to retrieve it. taking this as their final-curtain bow, the audience breaks into a rapturous and highly deserved round of applause accompanied by a cry of encore. our heroes offer a meek smile and an even meeker wave, though both are devoid of the slightest hint of sarcasm - as if they have only just noticed us watching or they knew they were putting on a show. on seeing them depart, understandably above the speed limit, i was left to think about where their next unfortunate customers and unintended, though if we were anything to go by, highly appreciative audience may be. even as i lay down my weary head this night, it strikes me that if they ever took their obvious talents into showbusiness, they could be the most successful double-act since one man and his slug toured war-ravaged europe with their hilarious, if highly dubious, charlie chaplin impression.