A Man Of Parts

He was a man of parts.

He was a slobbering and syphilitic whoremonger who could yet charm the birds from the sky, often when leaning against a mantelpiece at a swish cocktail party.

Like Erik Satie, he liked to eat sausages in camphor.

His neck movements were sometimes like those of a vulture and sometimes like those of the sadly extinct giant short-faced bear.

When out and about on his so-called “patrols”, he usually wore a crushed crimplene cravat and a superabundance of brazen jet cufflinks, each one of which he polished vigorously with swarfega. The distribution of so many unnecessary cufflinks about his person was a wonder to behold, and was regularly remarked upon by fashion mavens, but never copied.

When he wore a hat, he wore it with a chain linking it to a sturdy ring bolted to the back of his neck, and he wore it with eclat.

He sucked on spangles of many flavours.

Slipping out of a den of vice through a side door, slinking with surprising elegance along a night alley thick with the leavings of debauchery, he whistled Oh Danny Boy, attracting the attention of police officers. Threatened with truncheons and prosecution, he turned upon those who would do him harm a basilisk stare, and faced them down, magnificent in his imperiousness.

His slobberings increased as he grew older, and he collected them when he could into a tin spittle-basin, and left it out on his porch at night, where rainfall diluted the slobberings, and the morning dew diluted them further, and during his morning patrol he poured them into a pond.

You could cut yourself on the creases in his trousers, they were so well-pressed. He ironed them with a vintage Pastewick steam iron.

Like Georges Clemenceau, he ate gruel for breakfast.

When taking refuge in thickets of shrubbery he passed the time by fomenting wild schemes in his brain.

The skin on his ears had a patina of verdigris, as if it were copper or bronze, likewise the skin in the area of one of his collarbones.

Imagine him at ninety, in a dinghy, somewhere out on the cold and roaring sea, alone, without oar or compass or radio set or his beloved sausages in camphor, his tin flask of Courvoisier almost empty. Even here, long-tailed vermin are scuttling through his mind, like the sewer it is. His slobbering is unabated. Yet two days later he is to be found sprawled in a deckchair upon a golden beach, his still glorious bouffant shiny with hair oil, the bolt in the back of his neck freshly greased, and dangling from the ring and the chain a Panama hat like the one favoured by actor Sydney Greenstreet.

And imagine him now aged just ten, at a crossroads in desolate terrain. A big black crow is perched on the signpost. Whither shall he wander, this puny child?

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