A Tiding – Part VIII

by Timothy J Jarvis

Part VIII of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: Hallock Hill, ‘New Place Aviary

The glass whited over

Balm and quickening – a gold umbrella – the calling card of a prostitute – the giant from the Saracen’s Head – a fight

Marguerite was French, from a small town near Paris. She had moved to London in her early twenties and lived in the city ever since. By coincidence, she was also an academic, taught fine art at a small private university in Kent. Mark found her company both balm and quickening. They shared many interests; went on long walks together, visited art galleries, saw films. Mark went on collecting the city’s offerings lest his meeting Marguerite had somehow been brought about because his efforts had met with the old man’s favour. The fifth item was a gold umbrella, left behind on the tube.

The sixth was the calling card of a prostitute with a specialism in sadomasochism (professional name Raven, clad in black-and-white fetishwear in the photograph, and, most tellingly, with six gold studs through her lower lip). Mark chanced upon it, one spring evening, while walking from work to meet Marguerite and some of her friends for drinks in Islington. As he passed by a telephone box in Russell Square, a dazzle of sunlight on the panes of its door attracted his notice, and, glancing over, he saw, amid the blaze, the tart card, one edge wedged beneath a vertical glazing bar.

Before reaching out to take it, he looked about to see if he was observed. On the other side of the road, leaning against the black-and-white pole of a Belisha beacon, was the giant from the Saracen’s Head. He was staring at Mark. He smirked, waved, then capered antically out into the road.

Mark watched transfixed with horror. The wattles on the giant’s neck quivered. He gestured obscenely.

Then a black cab driver, waiting at the crossing, sounded his horn. The giant roared, reached into his pocket, drew out a coin or stone, flung it at the taxi’s windscreen. The glass whited over. Spinning on the ball of one foot, the giant crowed, head thrown back.

The driver got out of his cab. Darting at him, the giant butted him in the face, then turned and ran off. Groaning, the cabbie sank to his knees. Mark’s pent up breath escaped him in a rush and he crossed over.

After helping the cabbie to his feet, Mark supported him as he staggered over to the kerb and sat down. His nose was bloody, but other than that he seemed merely dazed. Still, Mark waited till a small concerned group had gathered before sidling off.

He crossed back over to the telephone box, picked up the calling card, and went to meet Marguerite. He remained watchful the rest of the evening, but did not see the giant again.

To be continued