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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Family history appears to be repeating itself---for the worse---until the eldest dispenses wisdom to the youngest.

Submitted: September 23, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 23, 2016




 A Short Story in Three Chapters

 Nicholas Cochran

 Chapter One


October 1934


From above, the smoke of the railroad engine appeared to fan out over the coal car, before the wind caught the tiny particles of soot and forced them into a grayish black ribbon of darkness. 

The shimmering stygian cloud hovered over the passenger cars, before slowly dispersing across the rolling deep green countryside of Southern Ontario.

Glancing out of the train’s dining car window at groves and ponds mixed with fields of hay, Edward Digby Bolingbroke, a short handsome Englishman of fifty-four, addressed his wife Doris with a wide smile that radiated his abiding good cheer.

“That’s the lot,” His eyebrows lifted while his small hands pinched the open linings of his empty vest pockets, “not another farthing.”

“Oh, surely we have a few pounds Diggs, a few shillings… dollar maybe….at least enough for taxi fare to Clive’s.”

Doris’ horsy face was creased with beseeching, but her eyes were a bright blue.

Passing over a narrow road to Lyn, the dining car swerved momentarily before righting. This happenstance jiggled up a thought for Diggs.

“Well, we can call Clive from the station and have him pick us up; not to worry; and he’ll have some money.”

“But darling, we’re a day early; he may not even be in the office,” She blinked while daubing her eyes with a napkin. “I do so hate to ask him for money; and Suzanne; really Diggs . . .” becoming flushed, “you have certainly landed us in it this time . . . on the ship . . . in Montreal . . . you couldn’t quit for a moment?” 

Now a tear was near, “always gambling; and standing drinks to the whole lot; my God, Diggs, you . . . ”

And cigars . . . ," sighing, “ah Doris, I am so sorry.” 

This last was so strongly delivered that she instantly knew he was sincere; and she also knew instantly, that it did not do them a damn bit of good.

Howling from the engine muzzled her own inner rage; not a rage at Diggs—or even at herself; but just at life without money. Diggs acted; she wrote; but increasingly it seemed they were broke.

Therefore, they were always borrowing.

“Now what Diggs; back to hustling and pleading . . . groveling . ..God, how I hate it,” a moment, “not you Diggs . . . not you darling, it’s the penniless life; the days without food; so many moments without honor; the look in their eyes.” She sighed.

what hath God wrought?

May 1960

Watching from the top deck of the Iberia, Christopher Edward Bolingbroke marveled at the ease with which the Captain sidled up to the dock and parked his massive charge.

The flagship of the Orient and Pacific Line had now returned to Tilbury.

Her maiden voyage was complete.

April was gone, but oh, the air of England felt good to Christopher, now that May was here.

Soft sunlight filtered through thin high wisps of cloud, occasionally dappling the huge ship with shifting puddles of dark and light, while jetties, piers, docks and wharves clung along the mighty river’s edge.

Shortly after the gangway had been secured, Chris, laden with two suitcases and a guitar over his shoulder, edged down the planking to the main wharf.


October, 1934

Peering past frosted panes and around mahogany office walls and doors, one could make out heads bobbing.

They appeared as shadow puppets behind the pebbled glass doors of Clive Bolingbroke’s office. Third floor. Wood Gundy. Bonds and Financial Management. Toronto.

Clive, with animation, was chairing a suggestion by Walter Lapsley.

Walter was urging all five of them in the room to set up a sales booth at the next Canadian National Exhibition.

“Good God man, get a grip.” spluttered Jonathan Hawthornethrough drooping grey moustaches.

“Common, Lapsley, damned common . . . public and all.” snorted Reggie McLenna.

“Well . . .” hedged Clive Bolingbroke.

“I think it’s a capital idea Lapsley; we’ll give it a try.” purred George Adam Wood  IV.

Once again, family and privilege combined with money to seize the day.

Ah, thought Clive, good old Woody, and he chastened himself for not having the gumption to support Lapsley openly as he had promised to do in private, but . . .

After another topic had been proposed for discussion, Cliveturned to the small counter on the west wall and chose a cup for his tea.


* *   *


Instead of employing a porter, Christopher dropped his last coins into the call box and waited for them to drop. They did, and he asked for his father.

He realized that his early arrival could cause a problem or two—maybe. However, he was not inclined to think much about any inconvenience to his father.

His father had treated him, his mother, and his sister as an inconvenience for the past fourteen years—one for which he rarely paid.

Nevertheless, his mother, Suzanne, had yelled Trans-Atlantic at him a few times until he agreed to send his son some money in Japan. 

She also negotiated a ticket to Tilbury on the Iberia, as well as a plane ticket back to Toronto, whenever the spirit moved Chris to complete his world odyssey.

“Well, just a second—I need to talk to him. I’m his son.

*  *  *

October 1934

Bright sapphire-blue skies suddenly disappeared into the approach tunnel of Toronto Union Station.

The Station was a hulking grey edifice enlivened only by huge Doric columns and some fine capitals.

The Northern side faced the Royal York Hotel and downtown.

Diggs and Doris peered at themselves reflected in their compartment window as the tunnel walls rushed past for what seemed minutes.

Then the enclosure gave way, and platforms spread before them in neatly numbered walkways.

These were scarcely visible for the gaggles of humanity, who pushed and shoved each other across and along the cement grey platforms.

Luggage-laden porters weaved among those attempting to board or disembark from any number of stationary and annnoyingly noisy trains.

Pressure lines clicked.

Steam lines hissed.

Engines clanked in measured patterns of sound.

Whistles split the air.

Superfluous smoke set off hacking coughs.

Engineers and stokers shouted orders and replies.

Conductors chided and yelled directions.

Little children screamed with delight, fear, and wonder.

Diggs gasped, “God,” heartfelt, “am I glad we only had Clive.”


Some maddening minutes later, Doris was dismayed when she realized that both she and Diggs would not fit in the phone booth.

Nevertheless, she insisted that Diggs do the talking after they borrowed a nickel from a passing Porter.




Only one member of the Lapsley ‘project’ meeting remained in Clive’s office.

However, it was Woody.

When a secretary buzzed that Clive had a telephone call, Cliveimmediately declined to take it.

George Adam Wood IV was speaking again, and his words had both undertones and overtones of promotion—more money.

Another buzz.

Another irritating ‘Yes? . . . I’m meeting with Mr. Wood; please ask all callers to call back . . . my father?”

Clive turned toward Wood IV with an expression of helpless indecision.

“Tell him I’ll call back . . . probably an hour.”  Wood IV nodded.

Like some machine gone mad, another buzz erupted only moments following Clive’s last instructions. Wood IV grimaced and began to rise.

“Good Lord Mabel, I can’t be disturbed; Mr. Wood and I have some very . . . he’s where? . . .  here?” sighing, “Union Station,” nodding, “and no car and no money . . . just a moment,” turning to Wood IV, “Mr. Wood, my mother and father have arrived a day early and are penniless in Union Station.”

Reacting to Clive’s face, which displayed a jumble of furrows and premature worry lines, George Adam Wood IV rose and straightened his grey vest and purple bow tie.

“Come to my office, my boy.”

Without specifying a time or revealing a temperament, he turned and left.

“Good heavens Dad, I’m in a very important meeting . . . and you’re early.

“Well, early or not,” shouting, “we’re here and without a penny. We need a ride; “you can do your meeting after you deliver us to your house and Suzanne makes us some tea and sandwiches, and we’re settled in.”

  *  *  *

May 1960

As Television Control Rooms went in 1960, Clive Bolingbroke’s was the best, because it was the newest and the best equipped. It had been inaugurated three weeks before.

 Studio One.


Hope of the future; scourge to be, of the BBC.

While checking switches and issuing orders for camera changes, Clive believed that his sensations were somewhat akin to flying a jumbo jet; something that he had secretly wanted to try one day.

“Just a bit more to the left Adam . . . there; and a little closer; get some of that   staircase and the stained glass in behind her left ear—well, right ear as you see it—good—that’s got it.

“Joan . . . your bonnet needs a bit of a tug to the left . . . your right; there.

“Alright everyone—James, get the Studio quiet—we’re going to do a take here.”

Two cameras dollied, one panned, another lifted for a crane shot, and Alice kept tugging at Clive’s sleeve.

“It’s your son, Clive—Clive—your son . . . I didn’t know you had a son.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake Alice; I’m in the middle of a bloody taping . . . tell him to call back; and he’s a day early.”

Clive and his relatively new wife Miranda had rarely discussedChristopher and Jane. Moreover, they never acknowledgedSuzanne’s existence.

Christopher’s imminent arrival had altered very little in their frenetically show business lives, but now Clive could feel some unseen weight being pushed upon his shoulders.

what’s that?

Very quickly, with a sigh of irritation, he realized that it was—responsibility.


“Look; I don’t mean to be  difficult, but I’m his son; I’m in Tilbury; and I don’t   have a cent; so please—just—please—hello . . . Dad?”

His father sounded different from what Chris imagined he would; in fact, a lot different: Authoritative; organized; manly.

“Yeah; I know I’m early. May is only a one day stop in Calais—October is two--what can I say?”

“Look Chris, I’m up to my Wellingtons in taping a show here; and we’re on a short break; can you take a cab?”

“Well . . . actually; no. I don’t have—I’m out of money.”

Just very faintly, “bugger; well stay there; I’ll manage something. Anyway, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m terrific . . . so I’ll just wait.”

“Have you eaten?”

“Yeah; a light lunch a couple of hours ago.”

“Good. If you get hungry—do you have a traveler’s check?

“Nope; all gone; the lot.”

“I see . . . well; stay there. Just wait, and Miranda and I will come and get you; got your baggage?”

“Oh yeah; got everything here . . . okay, I’ll be at the front gate.

“Marvelous Christopher, see you then.”

*   *   *

October 1934

Despite being hastily thrown together, the party for Diggs andDoris was going swimmingly.

One thing about 1934 in Canada, was that alcohol was available everywhere.

Here at Clive and Suzanne’s party for his parents, alcohol was doing all its usual funny business.

Empty glasses quickly filled the mantle above the open-hearth fireplace. A fine blaze was doing its part to discourage the night winds of October in Toronto.

Every level of laughter surged through all the ground floor rooms, including the kitchen. 

Diggs’ deep chuckles could be heard above all the others.

However, in any room where Diggs could find an isolated member of the herd, the Diggs Shakedown would commence immediately.

The clinking of glasses; the divine aromas from Suzanne’s baking; even the two children, looking bug-eyed at their family and relatives through the banister; all were mere props for Diggs’ shakedown mill.

“Ah . . . aren’t those tikes absolutely adorable—say, could you spot me a fiver until next week?”

Doris was having none of it. However—unwittingly—she played her part in the process. She effortlessly managed to keep both guests and family members engaged with stories of her days on stage with Lilly Langtree, as well as her scandalous tales of fighting off the randy publishers of her novels.

Doris and Diggs generated an enclosure of mental anesthesia that ‘clouded men’s minds so that they could not resist a ‘touch’.’

Result: Diggs and Doris secured several loans and everyone else had a marvelous time. 

Clive and Suzanne’s party was referred to with compliments and smiles for decades.

Of course, not one person mentioned anything about money changing hands—or that it was never paid back.

No; it was historically stamped and approved as a Hall of Fame shindig; an imprimatur that greatly mitigated the fiscal blows, when next-morning reality poked its head around the corner.


End of Chapter One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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