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!