Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food / Calendar - GE­ORGE SMITH

I was work­ing at The Grand Ho­tel in Frin­ton-on-sea, a quaint sea­side re­sort town on the south coast of Eng­land. I ran the bars, the restau­rant, and the func­tion rooms. Most of the time, the weather was calm and the sea splashed ef­fort­lessly be­tween the break­ers onto the golden sands. Gentle­men es­corted their lady com­pan­ions along the prom­e­nade in the evening as they laughed and dis­cussed mat­ters of triv­i­al­ity. He would stretch out his arm so as to re­veal his watch or, if he was of that cer­tain class distin­guished from the or­di­nary folk by dress and man­ner, would re­move with a flour­ish the pocket watch so dis­creetly placed in his waist­coat.

“My dar­ling,” he would whis­per, “we have a ta­ble at The Grand.”

And, tak­ing her arm, he would cross The Es­planade to the dark oak doors that led into The Grand Hall.

One evening, I ob­served a woman stand­ing in that hall, look­ing up at the long el­e­gant stair­case. She care­fully took a silk lace hanky from her sleeve and pressed it to her lips. Her com­pan­ion, a short ro­tund man in a dark suit, was stand­ing a short dis­tance from her.

Ad­dress­ing the gen­tle­man, I in­quired, “Do you have a reser­va­tion for din­ner?”

“We are meet­ing an­other cou­ple. I think we may be a tad early,” he replied, open­ing a sil­ver cig­a­rette case, tak­ing out a cig­a­rette, and plac­ing it be­tween his lips.

He of­fered the woman one, but she shook her head and said noth­ing. I took the lighter from my pocket and held the flame to­wards him. He bent for­ward and lit the cig­a­rette, in­hal­ing deeply.

I showed them through to the bar, and some­time later that evening, I saw them to­gether with the other cou­ple hav­ing din­ner in The Palm Room. The gentle­men were ar­gu­ing about a foot­ball re­sult while the two women sat in si­lence, peck­ing at their food and sip­ping cham­pagne. Most evenings ended with at least one ta­ble want­ing to con­tinue well into the night, and this evening was no ex­cep­tion.

“They want an­other bot­tle of bub­bly,” the wait­ress said.

“Let them have it. I will see if they want me to or­der them a car.” I walked over to their ta­ble. “May I in­quire as to how your evening has been?”

“Ab­so­lutely the tops,” the ro­tund gen­tle­man replied.

“Are you stay­ing with us tonight, or would you like to have our chauf­fer drive you to your ho­tel?” I asked, pick­ing up the bot­tle of cham­pagne from the ice bucket and pour­ing some into their glasses.

The taller gen­tle­man of the com­pany said, “What do you think ladies? Shall we stay here?”

The next morn­ing, I didn’t have to be up too early, as it was Sun­day, and apart from break­fast, the ho­tel would be quiet. The sun was flood­ing into my room. As I lay there, pulling the cov­ers over my head, I could hear a woman’s voice on the bal­cony be­low. “Don’t come near me! Leave me alone!” And then she let out a ter­ri­ble scream. A door out­side my room slammed, and I could hear peo­ple run­ning. I heard some­one on the bal­cony shout, “Call an am­bu­lance quickly!”

The cor­ri­dor on the sec­ond floor was crammed with in­quis­i­tive guests. As I pushed my way through, I sug­gested that peo­ple should all go down to the din­ing room. The short ro­tund man was sit­ting on the bed with his head in his hands. “What has hap­pened to us?!” he wailed. On the bal­cony, lay the woman. There was a pool of blood be­side her head. In her hand, she had a long pointed knife.

“Am­bu­lance and po­lice are on their way,” a voice be­hind me said.

Sud­denly, the life­less woman ly­ing on the bal­cony jumped up and de­clared, “Well, that went rather well! It was all just re­search for my book, ‘A Hun­dred Ways to Kill Your Spouse’. I’m per­fectly fine!”

And that, dear read­ers, also con­cludes ‘A Hun­dred Ways to Write the Past Rub­bish Of My Life’ into a col­umn. For this is the hun­dredth pub­li­ca­tion of Laugh­ing Tackle in this here distin­guished linen cel­e­brate, the first per­son to write to me at laugh­ing­tackle@gmail. com and tell me why you like to read my ram­blings, gets a free seat at the next Danc­ing River Sprite feast.

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