Christmas Morning – the school teacher and her man
December 28, 2012
The 70 year old Hainanese man servant did not lay out his masters usual pressed Khaki bush jacket with matching slacks along with mirror polished shoes that morning. Instead he had been instructed to lay out a open neck short sleeve shirt, flared ridding breeches, mirror polished tanned knee high boots complete with shoulder holster and an usually unwieldy sidearm that his master had never once worn in the field before.
Before the door to the walk in wardrobe clicked close – the Hainanese man servant surveyed the strange field attire that he had only seen his master wear in an old photograph in the hall – he stood with a few dark people carrying spears with their dicks dangling. The Hainanese man servant had once caught the laundry maid and one of the kitchen helps sniggering at it and had felt it necessary to put it away discreetly – not that his master ever noticed. As for years that offending black and white photograph had remained in the darkness of a drawer – today it was hanging up again.
“How unusual.” Thought the Hainanese man servant as he shook his head from side to side.
At five minutes to five, the tribal boy would return from the river bank bearing a razor sharp parang. The man servant inspected the edge slipped it into the sheath and placed it beside the man’s field attire looked at the smiling tribal boy indifferently and handed him a can of condense milk.
At precisely five. The dining table was laid out for breakfast. At one minute past five, the radio turned on automatically to the BBC world service. The man servant knew the ritual well. It was a strange voice from another world that the man servant knew his young master found comforting. From time to time, he had noticed his master would stop everything he did and strain to listen to this strange and foreign voice. As if it had the power to stop time in one breathe. In one word even – all the man servant knew was he himself found the rounded tones and ebb and flow pitch strangely melodious. Like a strange musical instrument that he had long grown accustomed too. At half past five, the driver brought the car to the front. At quarter to six, the tribesmen who guarded the man when he slept began to retreat into the preamble of the jungle. Though, the man servant had never seen them so much as once. He could always sense their presence. They were always nearby and never too far away.
Thrown across the polished baby grand was a ripped nightie – on the side table a half empty bottle of brandy with two fish bowl glasses. One stained with lipstick. A pack of cigarettes. Car keys. The man’s trousers. Shirt. And his violin was on the floor. All this had been discreetly picked up earlier by the man’s servant who had raised an eyebrow when he had first seen this unusual arrangement of…..he had no idea. Coming to think of it, no one saw him come him. Or did they come in together? No one knows it seems – the 70 year old man had even turned to the laundry maid and said,
“I’ve worked here for so long and there hasn’t been one time when I have ever seen the master forget to put his beloved violin in his case.”
The laundry maid turned to the driver who could only manage a befuddled look as one of the maids picked up the strewn clothing and sent them to be laundered. While the Hainanese man servant sighed as he expressed,
“The master seems to be like a different man these days….today he even asked his eggs to be runny and his bacon to be flamed with cognac…how unusual. And now instead of wearing his usual base ball cap when he goes out to the field. He prefers to side part his hair and sweep it all back like a Shanghainese playboy…..he seems to be like a different man….a man that I can hardly recognize any longer…”
By six even the largish dog that had stood absolutely motionless to attention in front of the master bedroom door began to stir restlessly.
The man servant, boy, cooks, chambermaids, gardener, driver and dogs all waited – in the mansion located in the middle of jungle, the clock chimed six times. Yet there was no sign of the man. Or for that matter the school teacher. Only the sound of cogs and wheels from the grandfather clock turning rhythmically and the flashing lights from the Christmas tree that stood along the French windows in the plantation mansion on top of the hill filled the silence just before the rise of dawn.