The Moustachioed Gent And The Tale Of The Explorer’s Tale

Once he had finished waxing his moustache into the crescent shape of a waning moon, The Moustachioed Gentleman put on his top hat, checked his suit for lint and then went to see how the animals were settled.

The owl was perched on light fittings high in the ceiling, looking down through eight mezzanine storeys to the living room where the orang-utan sat in an arm chair, half-covered in sacking and watching the beginning of the evening film with eyes wide with widescreen interest. It was eating roasted peanuts out of a bowl using a teaspoon as it had seen some human do, once upon a television program.

The Moustachioed Gent pulled on his coat, opened the door and stood on the front step, looking out into the snow. “Well, I’ll see you later,” he told the animals. “I’ll be very interested to see what he says… It should be very interesting.” He was not sure if the animals every really listened to him but he carried on talking anyway. “I expect that the Philanphropist will be there and the Gamekeeper and the Lumberjack and more gentlemen as well.”

He gave the ends of his moustache one last careful tease. “Yes, I shall be very interested to hear what the Explorer has to say.”

He left the house and scurried through the froze-cold cobble streets, avoiding the dollops of snow pitched around the sides of the road. The evening sky was starless under the heavy cloud which covered the town like benevolent alien ships above the earth.

A few streets away from the Explorer’s house, the Moustachioed Gent met the Lumberjack lurching woodenly along in the same direction. The two men exchanged pleasantries and with silent hirsute manners the Gent’s moustache cautiously greeted the Lumberjack’s beard. It was a bearded copse which cut across the whole of his face and was forged out of necessity in the long, cold days of forestry management. In contrast the Gent’s moustache was a finely drawn thing raised on the comfort of fireside chaise-longues and lunchtime brandy, so when it greeted the Lumberjack’s beard it was with the wary regard of a Jack Russell encountering an Alsatian in the street.

The Moustachioed Gent and the Lumberjack chatted as they walked together saying things like, “I really am very interested to see what the Explorer has to tell us this time,” and, “Yes, he’s been gone a long time in adventure and dangerous travel,” and also, “But I do not think that he will be without appetite, I hear that he is serving roast lamb and a dangerous number of parsnips.”

When the two men reached the Explorer’s house he welcomed them with words like, “Welcome, welcome, please do come in,” and, “let me take your coats,” and also, “your beard always looks magnificent at this time of year.” The Explorer himself was clean-shaven as he became so often upon returning from an adventure. It had something to do with the process of acclimatising back into the way of the city and shedding the past, at least that was it as far as the Moustachioed Gent understood it.

The Explorer’s house was surprisingly conventional. The hallway was not a maze of labyrinthine corridors and the doors to other rooms were not secretly obscured in the walls, nor did they require the completion of a puzzle in order to enter. The three men progressed through the welcoming hall and into the sitting room where another four men were already seated. Beyond the sitting room was the dining room with its olfactory promise of roast lamb and parsnips. But that was for later.

The four men who had arrived early were: the Philanthropist and the Gamekeeper (as predicted by The Moustachioed Gent), as well as the Wax Man (in the business of candles) and the Fax Mechanic (in the business of faxes). They became seven men with the addition of the Moustachioed Gent, the Lumberjack and, of course, their host the Explorer. Seven smart men in modern suits with the promise of roast lamb and parsnips to come. They sat together and took an aperitif and said things like, “how are you keeping?” and, “of course, this weather is no good for the wood,” and, “so when I woke up it had melted all over my arm.” Next they said things along the lines of, “that’s the place that does the boullabaise isn’t it?” and, “I’ll tell you more about the mountains later,” and also, “well, if it is broken I could do you a very good deal on a new machine, faxes are very important nowadays.” And they said some more things besides.

Then the Explorer stood up amongst them and cleared his throat and announced to the gentlemen that they should all pick up their glasses and make their way through to the dining room, in which would stand a large oak table and seven fine chairs. They were to be seated and soon there would be roast beef and a lot of parsnips and tales of adventure and derring-do.

As the gentlemen moved through to the dining room, they said things like, “oh no, after you,” and, “did he say roast lamb or roast beef?” and, “anyway, I’ll finish telling you about that later.” They took their seats, with the Explorer at the head of the table and the other gentlemen set out with three of them down each side. The Explorer’s staff soon arrived with roast beef and a towering pile of parsnips for everybody. They busied around the gentlemen, making sure that they all had sufficient in the way of food and that they were all ok for drinks. The gentlemen ate and drank and there was some small conversation whilst they did, but not enough for it to be worth reporting.

When they had mostly finished, the Explorer spread a map across the table and began the tale of his latest adventure. He said things like, “I was absolutely tired by the time I got to the top of that hill,” and, “then I had to abseil down the ravine using a spare pair of trousers,” and, “I looked at the jellyfish, the jellyfish looked at me.” Some of the gentlemen still had some scattered remains of their dinner on their plates and they picked with their fingers as they listened.

The Moustachioed Gent sat back in his chair, full of beef, parsnips and a feeling of disappointment that the roast had not turned out to be lamb. It was not that he did not like beef, on the contrary he was very fond of it. But he had been looking forward to eating lamb – which he considered to be an under-appreciated meat and one which was not served enough at gatherings such as this. He had found it very interesting when he heard that the Explorer was going to be serving lamb because he knew that there were often people who disliked it and he wondered what had happened to inspire this brave decision by his friend. In the end it turned out that he had been misinformed, and the roast had been beef and had been served with a sauce marked ‘disappointment’ when it should have been ‘mint.’

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Moustachioed Gent’s skull, away from his roast lamb fantasising, the Explorer had begun to tell the group of diners further tales, saying things like, “but that was when I came across a most strange group of people,” and, “out there in the wilderness they had made their own rules,” and, “it seemed that they had taken a strong dislike to the humble moustache.”

He carried on: “The first I knew of them was when I heard the sound of snapping twigs from somewhere beyond the fronds. I turned and – in hindsight – left myself at the perfect angle for the shot. For before I knew it a bullet was passing under my nose and – whoosh – it had taken my moustache with it. The rest of my face remained completely unscathed, they had barely touched a hair on my head, but my moustache was gone. Utterly gone. A remarkable piece of marksmanship.”

The Explorer went on to explain that he had accidentally wandered into the territory of a tribe of people who strongly disliked moustaches and had begun a campaign to rid the whole world of them. They had perfected the art of shooting a moustache right off somebody’s face, for they had no intention of killing – and thus martyring – the moustachioed in the act of removing the moustache. They had also managed to train some of the more intelligent members of the animal kingdom in the art of creeping into the bedrooms of Moustachioed Gentlemen and shaving their moustaches without waking them.

All of this would have been of great interest to the Moustachioed Gent had he not still been brooding on the whole lamb/ beef palaver. Was it a palaver or a rigmarole? He preferred palavers but knowing the Explorer he would probably promise to serve up a palaver and then change it to a rigmarole at the last minute. Perhaps , he thought, he should mention the whole lamb situation to their generous host. Hey Explorer, I thought you were serving lamb tonight? Where’s the lamb? Where is it? Best not – the Explorer was talking about something else. What was it he was talking about?

The Explorer had by now concluded the tale of his adventures and invited his guests to ask any questions they might have about his tale. They took him up on this offer and were now asking him things like, “What kind of wood were the trees made of out there?” and, “Was it a very deep ravine?” and, “What is your favourite colour?” The Explorer sat through the barrage of questions patiently, giving concise yet satisfying answers to all.

Once this stage of the gathering was over, it became clear that this was around the time that everyone should really be making their way home to their warmed beds, and they began to say things like, “well, thank you very much for a lovely dinner and most interesting talk,” and, “well, I don’t think I’ll be able to eat tomorrow – those parsnips were lovely,” and, “well, I’m glad you enjoyed your travels but stick around here for a while won’t you Explorer?” And soon the Explorer was showing them out of his house and onto the cold cobbled streets of the wintry night, telling them things like, “I’ll be in touch about the fax machine,” and, “tell your housekeeper I say hello, won’t you?” and, “you’ll be careful around any intelligent animals won’t you Moustachioed Gent?”

The Moustachioed Gent, glad to be heading back home to a house where he could choose which meat he ate and when, assumed that the Explorer’s final comment to him referred to a joke he had missed at some point in the evening so gave a little laugh and a wave and headed off into the night. From behind him he could hear the sound of the wooden lurching step of the Lumberjack and exclamations like, “wait up!” and, “hang about, lets walk a way together,” and so the Moustachioed Gent slowed his pace a little and let his friend catch up with him.

As they walked they said things to each other like, “what a disappointment, I thought you said there was going to be roast lamb?” and, “what interesting stories though – you will be careful with your moustache won’t you?” and, “yes, my moustache is very important to me – I have three showings tomorrow alone.”

They watched a drunk stumble backwards and land sprawled in a dollop of snow by the side of the road. The Moustachioed Gent began to laugh, but the Lumberjack had noticed what the drunk had been looking at and pointed up into the night sky where the cloud had cleared a little and there were now stars visible in the sky again.

The Moustachioed Gent, previously eager to hurry home to his abode, found himself pleased to have found this distraction. He had suddenly been gripped by an eerie feeling that some great disaster was soon to befall him. One – the owl and the orang-utan had been behaving very oddly recently. Two – the whole palaver with the beef and the lamb had affected him more than he should have allowed. Three – the Lumberjack’s concern for his moustache had chilled him. Had he missed something?

He stared up at the stars in the sky and the stars stared back at him. And then the Moustachioed Gent turned his gaze back to the earth and rubbed his hands together. It was cold and it was late and the street lamps were beginning to go off. It was time to go home.

He and the Lumberjack continued on their way through the frozen streets whilst the narrator scrambled desperately for more distractions to stand between the Moustachioed Gent and his inevitable demise.

Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me for Movember so far.  If anyone else would like to, please visit my Mo Space Page.  I will hopefully be putting up another Moustachioed Gent story before the end of the month, if that is any incentive.  Or you could sponsor me not to if you would rather.  Thanks either way!

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The Moustachioed Gent On The (Moustache) Ride Of His Life

Down one long and blameless silvery corridor after another, a Moustachioed Gentleman ran, his feet pounding the floor, the men on his heels the whole time. They were shouting but he wasn’t listening. This was a different part of the complex, a part that the Moustachioed Gent did not recognise. He took a left and then a right and found himself in another corridor, one that ended with a locked door.

He cursed under his breath. The two men had slowed to a walk and were stepping menacingly towards him.

“Ooh, we’ve got you now,” said one, teasing.

The Moustachioed Gent knew that there was only one way out of this. He reached into his trouser pocket and gripped the razor with his right hand. This movement did not go unnoticed by the two men and their movements became more urgent as they stepped towards him.

“Why, you-“ began the first man. “Get him!” shouted the second.

The two men flung themselves in the direction of the Moustachioed Gent’s right hand as he brought it up to his face but it was too late. The tail ends of their leaps turned to slow motion dives and they found themselves grasping at thin air as so much of the Moustachioed Gent’s moustache hit the ground beside them.

For the Moustachioed Gent the world began to spin anti-clockwise as thirty of his years fell away with his discarded moustache, spinning and shrinking until he finally stopped somewhere around age eight, tangled in sellotape but safe.

The birthday present sat on the table, a mess of half-paper wrapping and discarded bits of tape. The eight year-old Moustachioed Gent stood over it, his moustache little more than a fuzzy ghost slug above his boyish mouth. His hands were unfathomably stuck together in the messy tangle of tape that young children have a habit of becoming. He sighed and lamented the fact that he always ended up stuck back in the same moment of the past.

“Why do I always end up here?” he asked no one in particular.

And when his Mum shouted through from the next room to check he was ok, he just padded through to see her and got on with the job of being eight years old and having his hands clumsily stuck together with tape.

“How did you get like that?” she asked, quiet and forlorn.

“It just happened,” he said, eight years old but weighed down with the hirsute wisdom of his future self and somewhat embarrassed by this tapey tangle.

She unstuck him tenderly and then they got on with things as they had done before and before and even before that.

The years passed by and the Moustachioed Gent grew taller and older and his moustache grew too, thriving in a linear manner, always progressing forward with time. Thicker, bigger, bushier, lushier. As a teenager it grew in length until it comprehensively covered his top lip, developed a more muscular thickness in his youth and as he became a man it added depth and a vibrant personality all of its own.

It was a slow, pedestrian kind of time travel but the Moustachioed Gent rarely manipulated the hirsute time line. On the occasion of his first kiss for example, he rode back in his moustache time and again to enjoy it over and over. He and his girl would kiss. He would pluck a single tiny hair from his moustache. Time would reverse. They would kiss. He would pluck the hair again. Time would obediently reverse. He just wanted to feel the same thing again.

For most of the time he allowed time to run parallel to his own life. It was best that way.

The Moustachioed Gent had spent his teenage years aspiring to be an astronaut, to travel in space rather than time, but then in his youth he reconsidered and decided to train as a chef. After a short period of professional turmoil he did indeed become a chef and secured a position in a kitchen which employed a total of 20,000 chefs, which at the time was approximately 1.546% of the population. In this kitchen, being a chef did not involve wearing an apron and a big white hat, turning tomatoes under a grill and shouting at waiters. Instead it was a job which involved spending a lot of time sat at a desk and working the food from there.

A typical day for the Moustachioed Gent went something like this: walk to work, swipe his ‘carrot’ card at the entrance to the complex and make his way down a series of long and blameless silvery corridors until he reached the kitchen which he shared with 156 other chefs, sit down at his desk, take out his chopping board, turn on the oven underneath his desk, take the food – usually vegetables but also sometimes pork or fish or beef but never chicken – out of the fridge on the other side of his desk and peel and chop and prepare the food in whichever other way may be called for, perhaps use his desktop hob or cross the office to use the communal pasta machine or the blender.

What happened to the food once he had finished the cooking was a bit of a mystery to the Moustachioed Gent, despite the fact that he had been taken on a tour of the whole complex – as all the chefs were – as part of his induction. The process involved magnets and steam and fax but beyond that he was not sure how it worked. Somehow the food was taken and made into the final product which was a series of little round white pills – each one blameless and anonymous. They would be packaged in little silver foil packets – rectangular futurestuffs that would then be sent to the supermarkets.

The general population would then buy the packets of pills and be able to get all the nutrition from the tasty meals cooked by the Moustachioed Gent and the other chefs without any hassle of cooking or chewing or even loading their fork. They would also get all the enjoyment of the fine ingredients sent straight to the necessary section of their brain, without bothering their taste buds about anything. There used to be another way of doing things but this was better, more efficient.

At the end of the day the Moustachioed Gent would switch off his oven, clean his utensils and make sure that his work station was ready to be used the following day. All the chefs were given a packet of pills on their way out, that night’s supper. And so life continued.

Maybe the Moustachioed Gent was just different or maybe it was an effect of the accumulated wisdom of having lived several times more life than most by way of his back-and-forth moustache time travel. But it seemed to him that there could be even more joy to be had from eating the food directly as it came and not in the new and efficient pill-packet form.

And so he began to experiment in secret, hiding small portions of his meals under his desk for consumption later on. Into his shirt pockets he tucked tiny squares of lasagne and he filled the hood of his coat with shepherd’s pie. Back at home he would try and choke down the meals in their pure form.

It was not easy. Having lived on the food pills all the way on his moustache ride through childhood, teenagehood and into adulthood, he found that his mouth was completely unused to crunching, chewing, tasting, swallowing and the effort it took to force down these un-processed meals left him a quivering, sweating, exhausted wreck. How he wished that he could force time forwards, just as he could pull it back.

Slowly, very slowly, he got better and better at it. And, once he had mastered the art of eating properly, he began to savour the taste of his creations and found that the real thing tasted better. A hundred marvellous times better.

And then the question became – how could he convince other people to try? This Moustachioed Gent was no young fool and he was not so naive to believe that if he took this idea to his employers they would cease production of the pills. He would have to strike out on his own. But who, in this day and age, had any kind of kitchen utensils at home? Who, for that matter, was able to purchase raw ingredients? The answer to both of those questions was “nobody.”

So the Moustachioed Gent began to experiment at work. “Bring down the system from within,” he thought, but did not say out loud. Every now and then he would cut his finished bakes into tiny squares and try to tempt some of his colleagues to have a go at eating real food. Those that accepted his challenge, believing it to be some kind of attempt at worktime daredevil japery, struggled. But a handful of colleagues who came back for another try began to admit to him: “You know, this might be better than the pills.” They seemed amused by this, as though the Moustachioed Gent was playing some kind of trick on them. And, of course, at the end of the working day, they headed home to take their food pills.

He had undertaken these experiments discretely, careful to elude the watching eye of the corporation. Still, the fear that they were watching his every move kept sneaking back into his thoughts. Were they on to him?

*****

Of course they were on to him. In the control centre, two men – two men whose interests were not best served by the Moustachioed Gent inventing an alternative to their very profitable food pills – watched his ilicit taste tests on one of the televisions which made up a huge bank of chef-monitoring screens.

He was not the first. There had been other chefs who had tried to bring down the corporation. It was understandable, they spent all day working with real food and occasionally – just ocassionally – there must have been a temptation to try. Understandable, but not acceptable.

And, of course, they had been watching the Moustachioed Gent right from the start. All the other chefs who had tried to eat real food had worn moustaches. It was a strange fact, but there it was – all the chefs who had tried to bring down the corporation from within had worn moustaches. This meant that the job of monitoring the chefs who were likely to cause trouble was very simple – all that the men in the control room had to do was keep a watchful eye on those chefs who sported moustaches. They had considered the idea of refusing to employ any chefs who wore moustaches, but this idea had been rejected on the grounds that it would let the moustachioed chefs in on the fact that they were onto them.

It had become a kind of sport amongst the men in the control room. They watched the Moustachioed Gent as he began his experiments, let him build up some momentum and then – just as he reached the point where he was about to put some bigger plan into action – they moved to quash it.

“Nearly time?” Said one of them as they watched the screen.

“Yup. Nearly time,” the other agreed.

The first man drained the last of his cup of tea in one swift, gravity-defying slurp.

The second made a fist with one hand and punched the palm of the other.

As the men left the control room, the Moustachioed Gent was still packing up his things for the day, surreptitiously slipping some raw ingredients into his pockets and some utensils up his sleeves.

The two men stationed themselves at the door to the complex, ready to catch the Moustachioed Gent when he came to swipe out with his carrot card and make his way home for the evening. Except, he would not be going home that evening. They were going to make sure of that.

As the Moustachioed Gent rounded the corner and headed for the front door to the complex, walking with the strange gait of someone who has food and utensils secreted around their person, the two men spotted him straight away and began to make their way towards him.  He must have noticed something in the menace of their facial expressions because as soon as he saw them he turned and made off in the opposite direction. And then the two men were pleased because it meant that the chase was on – and if there was anything they liked better than drinking hot drinks and watching things on screens, it was chasing.

Down one long and blameless silvery corridor after another, they chased the Moustachioed Gent, their feet pounding out cops-and-robber rhythms.

“Wheee!” shouted one of the men as he skidded to take a corner, enjoying himself a little too much.

They were into the bowels of the complex now, a set of corridors which seemed to go on forever and seemed to lead nowhere in particular, as if they had been created purely for the purpose of chasing itinerant chefs.

The Moustachioed Gent took a left and then a right and found himself in another corridor, one that ended with a locked door.

The two men slowed to a walk. One of them made a fist of one hand and punched the palm of his other hand, his signature move.

“Ooh, we’ve got you now,” he said, teasing.

They watched as the Moustachioed Gent put one hand into his trouser pocket. They knew what that meant.

“Why, you-“ began one of the men.

“Get him!” shouted the second.

The two men flung themselves in the direction of the Moustachioed Gent’s right hand as he brought the razor up to his face, but it was too late. The tail ends of their leaps turned to slow motion dives and they found themselves grasping at thin air as so much of the Moustachioed Gent’s moustache hit the ground beside them.

The Moustachioed Gent had disappeared, whisked off back in time to his childhood.

The two men got up and dusted themselves down. They looked at each other and gradually broke into chuckles. The chuckles became laughs and then graduated to guffaws. Their guffaws were big and hearty bear-bearded hilarity.

Where the Moustachioed Gent had ended up he was no threat to anyone. He was neatly tidied away somewhere else in time, which was a less messy ending than some of the other conclusions the two men had had prepared for him. This was best for everyone. They would just go back to the control room and watch the monitors until the next Moustachioed Gent would attempted to bring down the corporation.

“Come on, lets get back to the control room,” said one.

“It’s your turn to make a hot drink,” said the second.

“Why you-“ joked the second, shaking his fist.

The two broke into another round of guffaws which tumbled around them and bounced down the long and blameless corridors, echoing into the past and present and future.

Throughout the month of November, I am growing a moustache as part of Movember – a charity event supporting prostate cancer and testicular cancer initiatives.  To find out more, look here, and if you would like to sponsor me, please look here.  Thank you.

The Day The Cake Fell Over

The cake stood proudly in the old kitchen.  The kitchen sat at the bottom of the grand old house, which stood out on its own in the country.  It was so big and grand that – even in daylight – it was entirely possible to lose the kitchen in the intestinal corridors of the house.  The cake stood tall and proud in the kitchen, lost and forgotten at the bottom of that grand old house.

In another room, several floors above the kitchen, a girl found pumpkin seeds fallen into the deep crack in between the pages of her book.  Perhaps they were an old bookmark or some kind of trail left by another reader – one who had disappeared, wrenched head first into the narrative.  She considered which of the characters could be flesh-and-blood turned print-on-paper, looked for them whispering: “It’s great in here, really great.”

The book she was reading was set in a time after the end of the war, the war that she and the grand old house – and don’t forget the cake, lost in that wandering old kitchen – were all currently ‘in’.  None of them felt as though they were in a war, but in the middle of a war they most certainly were.  The girl liked reading the book which was set after the war because it cheered her to think that the war might end.  Undoubtedly this was not the intention of the author as the book chronicled the lives of a group of dissidents exiled from the country at the conclusion of the war.  The dissidents scurried around the countryside seeking shelter from old soldiers who took pity on them, although most of the time they lived outside.  There were plenty of fires – fire for light, fire for warmth, accidental fires breaking out across their belongings.

The girl put the book down, went to the window and looked out to the garden, where some of the boys had found old jack o’lanterns.  They had cut holes in the bottoms of the pumpkins so that they could fit their heads into them, and were running around with their hugely swollen orange heads and scarily carved faces.  The girl knew that old jack o’lanterns became mouldy on the inside very quickly.  They were boys, perhaps they liked mould.  They certainly looked like they were having fun.  She supposed that they may as well have their fun with pumpkins now – soon it would be Christmas.

In another room somewhere in the grand old house – out in the country, in wartime – stood a magical wardrobe which was full of fir trees.  Nobody knew why trees grew in that wintry cupboard but every year, just before Christmas, men with axes came to the house to visit the wardrobe and get Christmas trees.  The girl watched as they walked up the drive towards the house.  Going into the wardrobe and chopping down trees would be the easy part of the job – the hard part would be finding the room with the wardrobe in it.

In that grand old house, the wardrobe was just as lost as the cake.

It may have been something to do with the cake or it may have been something to do with the reader whisked away from their lives and into the girl’s book, it may have been something to do with the pumpkin-headed boys outside or the men with axes tramping their way into the house to look for Christmas trees.  Whatever it had to do with, at that moment the cake fell over.

It was a tall cake and, when it fell, it fell a long way.  It smashed against the table and the floor.  All over that lost and forgotten kitchen, was smashed cake.

Several floors above the kitchen, the girl was reading her book again.  She was reading and, at the same time, thinking about how long she would be able to carry on reading.  It was getting late and soon the sun would be going down and darkness would fall.  Any moment now.  Any moment… now.  The seconds and minutes ticked by and the girl paid less attention to her book.  Eventually she set it down and went back to the window.

Outside the sun was still high in the sky.  The girl watched the day for a while and wondered whether it would ever get dark, whether the war would ever end and whether anyone would ever find her in that lost room, high in the grand old house.

Perhaps now that the cake had fallen the war would go on forever, and the sun would stay high in the sky so that it remained always day time, and never night time.  Perhaps the girl would be found or perhaps she would follow the trail of pumpkin seeds into the workings of the book.

Into the sunshine marched men with axes, leaving the house with their Christmas trees held triumphantly aloft.