At His Age

By Brindley Hallam-Dennis

At His Age, John. By Brindley Hallam Dennis, Image Bohan Jiang

At his age John should have known better than to expose himself to ridicule, and to Barbara.

            She had been known to indulge in and to indulge such follies before. Once upon a time a Police Caution had been issued following an incident alleged by the parents of one of the village children. The boy in question, in Shakespeare’s time would have been considered old enough for canon ball and musket shot, not to mention Mistress Quickies. Indeed, in my own parents’ youth, boys of a similar age had passed themselves off for Flanders and no doubt for the odd Mademoiselle or deux.

            John had known about Barbara’s general disposition for years and about her position in regard to him, which had become so apparent that several villagers had issued warnings, obliquely to him, and directly to his wife. After years of avoidance though, fate or a deity, named or anonymous, or perhaps merely circumstance, had placed him naked save for a towelling robe at the window on the landing, which looked out over the front street, just as Barbara, ever alert for signs of movement from within his house, was passing. Such an event had presented itself more than once to his imagination over recent months.

            On impulse, he had let the robe fall open. It being a drizzly weekday afternoon, and what with the depth of the front garden, and other matters, there was no one else to see and little to be seen. But Barbara had sharp eyes for a Good Thing. Even without his glasses, John caught the tilt of her head and her smile. The blown kiss could not have been missed. His reciprocal twitch may have gone unnoticed.

            Constable Jones lived in the village, but John was nevertheless surprised to find him at the front door a couple of days later, and in uniform, asking to step inside for a private word.

            John was not merely surprised. He was offended. Outraged. How dare Barbara of all people bring their little frisson to the attention of the authorities? It was not as if he had waggled it about, or made any other provocative gestures. He had stood like someone in a Windmill Theatre tableau vivant, perfectly still. She couldn’t have been offended? Barbara, of all people?

            Constable Jones was surprised too, but listened to the tirade politely, before asking in a measured voice, And are you telling me, sir, that you deliberately and indecently exposed yourself to a passing member of the public?

            The matter he had called about concerned arrangements for the village pantomime and could wait.  

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