Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 5
When Heston McBee began his working life, he was a young man of nineteen, full of ambition and optimism. Fresh from finishing his Diploma of Letters at the Dianor Academy, McBee was invited to attend an interview at The Oktaban Times by a man who he had inadvertently met in Periphy Park one day. McBee was not one who naturally believed in good fortune, yet he would always say that the unlikely way in which he obtained his first job could only be attributed to ‘someone somewhere being pleased with me.’ During a late lunch-break from Gytha’s Diner – one of three jobs he had maintained to pay his way through college – McBee had decided to make the most of the brave April sunshine and head to the park at the city’s centre. After eating his sandwich, McBee pulled out the faded grey leather notebook in which he kept all his scraps of prose, poetry, sketches and scripts. Unbeknownst to him, a tall man in a sharp suit and dark trilby worn low over his eyes was closely observing McBee’s every move, from a park bench nearby. After a few minutes of studying the young man writing fervently, the tall man in the trilby folded up his newspaper, tucked it under his arm and strolled casually over.
‘Afternoon,’ he said, tipping his hat respectfully.
McBee jumped and looked up, squinting as he shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Afternoon,’ he replied.
‘I hope you don’t mind the impertinence,’ said the trilby man in a velvet-smooth, well-spoken voice, ‘but I’ve been watching you for a while and I was wondering what you were writing about.’
McBee hesitated for a moment then decided to trust the stranger stood before him. ‘I was just writing about today,’ he said, ‘you know - being in Periphy Park on an April lunchtime and things like that.’
The trilby man smiled a wry smile, ‘And do you do this often, young man?’
McBee wasn’t altogether impressed with the man’s tone, but replied politely, ‘All the time. I try to write every day. It doesn’t matter what I write about – it can be observational, poetic, satirical, romantic – just as long as I write something, that’s all that counts.’
The trilby man smiled again, this time much warmer, ‘Ah, I see. So, you’re a writer?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said McBee, ‘Or, at least, I will be soon.’
‘Have you been secured by a publication?’ asked the trilby man.
‘No, not yet.’
The trilby man gestured towards McBee’s precious notebook. ‘May I?’
Young McBee hesitated – after all, as his writing tutor Mr Lubowicz often said, ‘one’s writing is like one’s firstborn child – to present it for critique is as to present a part of yourself for verdict’ – yet there was something uncommonly comforting about the trilby man’s manner, so, hands trembling, he handed over his notebook.
The trilby man was silent for what seemed like several forevers as he slowly perused the contents of the journal. McBee scanned his face for any sign of emotion, but found none; which only increased his anxiety. Eventually, the man closed the book, handed it back to McBee and then extended his hand to the young writer.
‘Charlton Cavendish,’ he announced, ‘I am Chief Scout for The Oktaban Times – do you know the publication?’
McBee caught his breath, ‘Do I know it?’ he stammered, ‘It’s only the finest newspaper in the whole of the country – let alone this city!’ Then, remembering his manners, he added, ‘Heston – Heston McBee.’
Charlton Cavendish shook his hand, ‘Well, well, Heston McBee, I think you are a good writer. And, with my help, you will become a great writer.’
True to his word, Charlton Cavendish became McBee’s mentor, securing him his first reporter’s post at the paper and working closely with him for the next twelve years. Until, that is, he mysteriously disappeared one morning and never returned.
Cavendish’s disappearance sparked a chain of events in McBee’s life that cast a brooding shadow over everything, ultimately leading to his jump from the motorway bridge. Robbed of his closest ally, greatest friend and most trusted confidant, McBee slowly lost the confidence, hope and ambition that had so characterised the bright-eyed young man writing prose in the sunlit park, many years ago...
McBee gasped and opened his eyes. Coughing violently, he struggled for a moment to wrench enough air into his lungs to breathe again. As the convulsions in his chest subsided, he blinked away the resulting tears from his eyes and slowly began to focus on his surroundings.
© Miranda Dickinson 2007
What happens next? Find out in the next exciting episode!