"When the irresistible collides with the immovable," we used to ask in our earlier school days -- carelessly ignoring the fact that two such bodies could not possibly co-exist -- "what happens?"
Some memory of the absurd old query flashed into my mind last night when I introduced my flippant friend, Percy Podgrass, to my nameless, but by no means flippant friend, the small, bald monologist.
Each in his own way is a non-stop and almost uninterruptable talker, and I was curious as to the possible result of the impact.
I usually begin my dinner alone at the hotel, and a little later, oftener than not, my little monologist, with great diffidence and ceremony, accepts the other seat at my table, well knowing he is assured of a patient listener.
Last evening Percy had asked himself to dinner with me, and he was holding forth at great length upon his views of Melbourne's Centenary celebrations, when I saw the monologist enter.
I effected introductions, mumbling some unintelligible sounds when I came to mentioning my bald friend's undiscovered name.
Percy, rashly deeming the way clear for further airing of his unimportant opinions, resumed his broken theme.
"As I was saying," he remarked, "this bally old Centenary stunt doesn't seem to be collecting the right sort of pep. The fourflushers of the village really ought to jazz it up a bit. Now take decorations, for instance. I'll lay sporting odds they don't have half enough flags.
"Think what a Continental country would do with an occasion like this -- gay lights, gay colors, flags on the buildings, flags in the street, colors, zip, jollity, by jove, this beer looks good. Gives a fellow a chance to gulp."
Percy was proceeding to gulp prodigiously when a precise voice, coming from across the table, caused him almost to choke.
"Colored rags," said the voice, "have always held an unique fascination for members of barbaric races."
"Eh?" said Percy.
"Certain untutored savages of Central Africa," went on the voice, "stick large bones through their noses, and consider the effect highly decorative. Maoris and certain other South Sea Islanders cover faces and limbs with an intricate tattooing which they regard as the last word in adornment. A bolt of red Turkey-twill has before now bought large tracts of valuable real estate from the simple and unsophisticated heathen."
"All the same," began Percy.
"I should be sorry," pursued the voice, "to see a repetition of the garish bad taste that this great city evinced during the visit of a certain Royal personage a few years ago. Preposterous colored rags desecrated our most dignified streets and disfigured, almost to extinction, our most noble edifices - the handsome Treasury building, as an instance. Down our impressive Collins Street was displayed, in endless repetition a design that seemed to represent nothing so much as an oyster rampant."
"Colored rags, gaudy and garish, shreds and patches, unmeaning motley," continued the voice, "were everywhere. Distinct evidence, gentlemen of reversion to type, not, I venture to say, amongst the majority of our citizens, but --"
And so the voice went on and endlessly on, with the briefest of pauses for absorbing nutrient, till at last the monologist rose and, bowing politely, wished us a pleasant and entertaining evening.
Percy goggled after him spellbound, as he had been goggling for the past half hour, neglecting his flounder and ignoring even his capacious pewter.
"Gosh!" said Percy at last. "It's a gilt! All the same," he added, rediscovering his forgotten beer, "you can say what you like, but give me flags. And," he added as an afterthought, "flagons."
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002|