HIDDEN TREASURE: SS IN THREE CHAPTERS; 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Family history seems to be repeating itself---for the worse---when a stunning treasure is discovered.

Submitted: September 23, 2016

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Submitted: September 23, 2016

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 HIDDEN TREASURE

A Short Story in Three Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Two

 

May 1960

When, at last, the party had begun, Christopher experienced relief for many reasons.

Generally speaking, Chris wasn’t particularly keen about any kind of household work; and the daintier tasks—folding napkins and arranging strawberries dipped in chocolate; or re-wiping crystal to get that perfect shine—were; well, not his thing.

At twenty-two, his ‘thing’ was still adventure, games, and women. 

His arrival at Tilbury only three days before, had been the last link in his chain of around-the-world travels, which were to end in Toronto, where they had begun almost a year before.

While in Jolly Old, he was seeing his father for the first time in nineteen years, a father he could not even dimly remember from age three.

Moreover, Clive was a father who he did not particularly want to—or even like to—remember.

Father was Clive Bolingbroke: Producer; Director; and steward of Film and Television programs for ITV.

This year, he had won Best Director of the Year for his film of“Crime and Punishment.”

Clive was tall—over six foot three—blonde, slim and very handsome.

His son was an inch taller, and somewhat slimmer.

Miranda was a producer of rock shows for Granada TV. However, she arranged her schedule so as to be in London with her husband and all their film and TV friends.

One modern Pop item that Christopher was proud of, was that his step-mother had been the first person to interview the Beatles on Luxembourg Radio.

Following that first, she became the first female announcer on British Television.

As an actress, she had a part in one of Chris’ favorite movies“I’m All Right Jack.

Christopher immediately adored her.

His first glance at Miranda, (sitting in the car waiting for Clive and Christopher to clear Customs, and not wanting to intrude on this private moment of accommodation for any number of good reasons) caused Christopher to quickly look again, and to blush, just a bit, as he realized that he had done a true double take.

But why not?

Miranda was beautiful in an unusual way: high cheek bones; silky dark hair; perfect teeth; and skin that seemed to glisten.

It was only later when she got out of the car that a small needle of disappointment scraped around the edges of this idealistic balloon, because Miranda was short; perfectly proportioned, with a particularly fine chest . . . but she was short.

Maybe not all that short, thought Christopher for no reason in particular, but he was tired of short women.

Maybe it was because he had grown up surrounded by very tall women: Mom at five ten and his sister, Janice, at almost six feet.

Chris’ girlfriend Deena, stood close to five ten; and Janey Craven was a certified five eleven. 

However, none of his girlfriends either singly or as a group, seemed half as good looking as Miranda. 

Now the doorbell was clapping every ten seconds or so and Christopher was taking coats and  purses, as well as the occasional umbrella (this was London, after all, in May) and placing them on his allotted bed in the spare room.

His spirits were improving  incrementally with each new arrival.

Men and women, young and old, staggered up the long stairs to commit revelry.

There were also a few very young women . . . in their teens; as well as a couple of teenaged boys.

Older people included Chris’ Uncle Harry, a doctor, and his wife, Aunt Janet.

The latter was a dear friend of Christopher’s mother; a school chum from Suzanne’s years at a ‘finishing school’ on the isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Behind them, intentionally barreling up the stairs, came Uncle Roderick, but with no Mrs. Spade.

Uncle R. sported a swelling chest and a similar head that required that it speak non-stop; even when no one was listening.  

If his entire audience disappeared, then he promptly sat down and went to sleep.

Then came Cousin Bertie Mainwaring, a goggle-eyed fellow wearing a yellow sweater and a red bow tie for the evening party. 

This was a peculiar dude who Chris thought to be all too appropriately named.

Following Bertie’s wobble out of  the room, and just as Christopher was placing Bertie’s scarf with the pile of garments and clutch things on his bed, he somewhat expected to hear the dulcet tones of Madeleine Glossop wafting from the living room.

Then the Hollies, a group Christopher had heard many times both in Canada and here in London, trooped in.

As if in some bizarre rock parade, the Hollies were followed up the stairs by the Trogs, a group from Andover; just down the road from Clive and Miranda's cottage in Longparish, Hampshire. 

They waddled in, glancing quickly and nervously over all shoulders, as if these were groupies or wannabes . . . rather touching actually.

Next came Michael Crawford of Red George in the movie, “TheJokers” fame (and later, “Phantom of the Opera”)

These later guests were all a result of Miranda's labors in the vineyards of the Pop. Music, that is.

Now the old people were arriving. This was something that Christopher had learned of late; that it was ‘fashionable’ to be late.

Suddenly, it seemed that the flat was bursting with all totally ‘fashionable people’; only Mary Quant and Diana Rigg were missing.

Chris’ Grandmother, Doris and his Grandfather, Edward—who went by Diggs—greeted their grandson with excessive but genuine warmth.

Doris was tall, erect, somewhat (by her own admission) horse faced and her husband, by his own admission, thought he looked rather like a white-haired toad; “No, dear . . . frog,” Doris would whisper “ . . . frog.”

Diggs was short, stout and did indeed manifest a frog-like appearance, which made his wide smile even more arresting.

Doris had long arms, slim, with fine long fingered hands, that she kept folded in front of her whether sitting or standing.

Christopher had met his Grandmother the day after he arrived.

She had ventured out on her own from Richmond and rang, as Clive and Miranda were half way down the long stairway to the landing.

Her husband was on location somewhere near Sherwood Forest dressed as an ancient blacksmith and dispensing wisdom to young lads regarding the finer points of fires and steel, but she was determined to see her only grandson immediately.

She had only barely agreed to allow her son the first day of reunion, and even at that, she harbored a pang of ill will for even this one-day delay.

After all, she started this whole thing with the birth of Clive and she felt strongly—as she did about everything—that a grandmother’s place was much more than slightly ahead of a father’s place in line to adore the Canadian Wunderkind.

Ah . . .  how she hated the thought of him growing up there and with that awful woman for a mother; and, from what she could gather from bits of letters and cards and occasional phone calls, a slightly less awful and prudish sister.

If only he could have stayed here with her . . . well, with her son, her, and Diggs, in Richmond, on the river, together, as they had been the year he was born; before he, his sister, and that awful woman had left for Canada two months before the war.

For many years, Christopher had wondered why his grandfather had changed his name after deciding to enter show business. What was he embarrassed about?

Sir Laurence Olivier didn’t change his name. Nor did Ralph Richardson . . . even Tony Hancock kept the original.

The official reason was that Edward did not want to sully the Bolingbroke name, certainly a preeminent name in British history, British Peerage and British tradition.

Edward’s brother Harold, Uncle Harry, was a doctor; his two other brothers were barristers; and his sister was an art historian connected to the Departments of Fine Arts at both Oxford and Cambridge.

Perhaps Edward embraced his role as the black sheep.

He was, in point of fact, the backmarker of the family long before he finally settled on acting as a means to earn at least some of the money he spent.

Of course, none of his siblings approved. But then, they never liked him very much from the start.

Diggs’ habit—on reaching maturity—of borrowing and never repaying began in childhood with blocks and jacks.

From there, his annoying habit progressed to include everything from scooters to girlfriends, which brought him more than the occasional black eye and dislocated jaw.

Christopher—along with the ‘world of Diggs’—concluded, that for all the stated reasons—and probably many more harbored by Diggs alone—his grandfather convinced himself that he was doomed as a Bolingbroke.

After much excruciating self-analysis, he must have concluded that perhaps—just perhaps—with a new name, all aspects of his otherwise miserable life would turn around.

To some extent that had occurred.

Meeting and marrying Doris was by far his greatest triumph.

For all his drinking, gambling, borrowing, and total absence of any inclination to accept any type of responsibility, he remained true to her.

In addition, he absolutely listened to her pleas for his physical and mental well-being when he clearly appeared to be running full tilt toward a cliff.

Edward Digby Cyril Bolingbroke morphed into Edward Digby . . . Diggs.

Even though his father was in the ‘entertainment industry’,Christopher had never imagined that Clive could assemble such a room-full of dazzling pulchritude.

And they were not averse to chatting up a tall blonde lad from the Colonies; in fact Christopher’s favorite was a Kiwi—the Miss World entrant for 1960, Fiona Muir.

Nevertheless, having made his pick did not mean that he couldn’t, or didn’t, take the opportunity to get names and addresses and best dates available from all of them before his hat, coat, scarf and brolly duty took him away from the laughter and smoke and beauties in all four rooms.

No opportunity was wasted, no isolated beauty ignored.His ‘line’ became better and better as his ears became accustomed to the accents and his tongue adjusted to his blood alcohol level.

By night’s end, Christopher had finalized five dates.

In addition, he had secured four probables and four maybes.

What a party.

Christopher thanked his father and Miranda at every opportunity—and after every date.

This particular party for Christopher, was remembered through the decades, although there was no reason—yet—for certain invitees to brag about the fact that Clive’s son, Christopher, had been their escort on a number of occasions.

 

Some days after the party, Christopher’s grandmother insisted that he come for a visit to Richmond. Alone.

Despite the revulsion Christopher experienced whenever his grandfather’s face filled his inner eye, he did feel an unusually strong affection for his grandmother.

Christopher had cast Doris as the innocent participant in the ‘Diggs Shakedown’. Nonetheless, he had to admit to himself that these deep feelings of endearment for his grandmother were probably due more to his admiration of her career and joie de vivre than to any identifiable sterling quality of her character.

She had danced on stage with Lily Langtree and later pursued a career as a novelist, eventually penning thirty-four books.

However, he was absolutely convinced that his affection was genuine, even though he could not clearly identify any logical origin for it.

From a tube, to a bus, to a short walk, and there he was, standing before the intriguing and captivating house of his grandparents.

Christopher had seen all the angles; the niches; the juttings in a long series of photos—usually with himself crawling around the grounds in what appeared to be bulbous rompers.

Nevertheless, his mind was immediately able to remove himself from those photos to concentrate on the magical qualities of the setting and gardens, as well as the architecture of the house, that was partially hidden by trees and flowering bushes.

Now, in May, the palette of house-hiding colors were almost blinding in their clarity, their intensity.

Along the southern prospect; dazzling, compelling, and majestic, the immutable Thames glided past.

Following a very long hug including tender words of love and greeting from Doris, Chris and his grandmother reviewed, in verbal shorthand, the previous lost decade and a half of his life. She, in turn, answered all his questions, usually delivered with a merry laugh.

As their spirits rose ever higher, Doris volunteered several amusing anecdotes that caused her grandson to smile or occasionally emit an irrepressible guffaw, often accompanied with tears.

Eventually Diggs popped into the living room dressed in gardening togs.

Although it was well before noon, he was deep into his second double whiskey. He also stank of tobacco.

Doris reminded him of ‘the count’ in re his whiskey consumption. 

Her ‘reminder’ tone was such that Christopher knew full well that once it came up to ‘last call’, his grandmother would cut him off. 

His grandfather accepted this as fact; and he both respected and adored her for her loving concern for his wellbeing.

 

End of Chapter Two


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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