by Danny "Don Juan" Henrey
The thin blue flame, the sole unquiet thing in the darkened room, fluttered gently on the grate, like a trapped butterfly, fiercely bright in its tiny anguish. Light from the street lamp, yellow, harsh and thin, seeped in through the windows, throwing a fretwork of deep walnut and violet shadows across the two supine forms. Outwardly placid, each form felt a kinship with the diminutive dancing flame, for each possessed a soul given to extremes of passion, passion currently frustrated by circumstance and inhibited by uncertainty. At length, there emerged from under the tousled blonde mop of the elder of the two, Dorian Codpiece, a semi-stifled cross between a sigh and a groan.
"I say, old bean, did you just let one fly?" asked Roddy Herringbone, his lifelong friend and companion of the spirit.
"Certainly not! I was just uttering a semi-stifled cross between a sigh and a groan, if you have to know. The divine pash. has struck me down again! ‘The thingy of love is once more festering in my whatsit,’ as one of those poet chappies put it…well, it went something like that."
"In mine too, old man. I say, Swordfish would know what to do about it!"
As though moved in response to this thought, the door wafted noiselessly open, as if on hinges of air, and light flooded the scene. An extremely discreet cough, like that of a very old sheep clearing its throat on a distant hillside, announced that Swordfish was at hand. He bore a silver salver, laden with two glasses on vintage port and a Wedgewood bowl piled high with pink antacid tablets.
"Ah, thank-you Swordfish. This comes not a moment too soon; the chef gave us his interpretation of truite aux amandes tonight. It tasted more like an overcooked sock covered in nail clippings."
"Indeed, sir, the food at Trinity is, if I may venture an opinion, one of its less pleasing remaining traditions. By the way, sir, you have a tutorial tomorrow with Dr. Probing-Dingworthy."
"I daresay you’re right, Swordfish. Right ho, bung on the Mac."
Swordfish switched on the computer, inserting a "MacEssay" disk. Now and again consulting with Dorian, he supplied the program with the few necessary details it required: Title — Was Milton really a misogynist, or was it just that he didn’t like women very much?; Measure of Brilliance Displayed — Considerable; Critical Orientation — Jungian / Jakobsonian; Frequency of Grovelling References to Recipient — Sparse; Handwriting Font — All Souls Scrawl; Legibility — Poor.
"The essay will be completed in about an hour, sir."
"Never mind about that now, Swordfish. Roddy and I have far more pressing problems, apropos the fairer sex. Not since you started to serve me in the capacity of gentleman’s personal gentleman, as specified in the will of my dear late uncle, Lord Newstead of Willesden Green, have I more urgently required your help. You see, I’m not making any impression on the object of my ardour, Angela Ffoulkes-Jugworthy. Roddy’s not getting anywhere with Celia Chunder-Bucket, either!"
"Well, you will excuse me for saying so, sir," Swordfish began tactfully, "but I really do not think that your green and orange twill tweed suit is helping matters. It does not suit you, sir."
"What!" riposted Dorian angrily, "It was made by one of the best men in Oxford!"
"I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir."
"But all my friends have been asking who he is!"
"No doubt in order that they may avoid him, sir."
"Oh all right, get rid of it then!"
"Thank-you, sir. I gave it to the college gardener this morning."
A look of pained vexation swept over Dorian’s face, but passed quickly: he had long since learned to submit to Swordfish’s superior judgement. His eyes took on a clouded, hazy, dreamy quality, rather like those of a haddock on a fishmonger’s slab.
"Angela’s so sweet, you know. I told her only yesterday that she was a specific dream rabbit. I’ve even written her a verse. Would you like to hear it?"
Roddy and Swordfish bowed silently to the inevitable.
"‘O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
Towards your college I am homing,
Laden down with tears of rue.
Trundle not far, pretty sweeting,
I seek you out with this greeting,
"Let’s get drunk and have a …"’"
"Pardon me, sir," Swordfish interjected hurriedly, "but that is a little too direct. The situation calls for a more subtle, caring and understanding approach."
"Then in that case, you’d think," Roddy broke in, "that the gels would be baying for more of our company, after yesterday. We took them to see the Trinity XV playing in the parks, followed by three and a half hours quaffing in the Dipsomaniacal Newt, then to that film everyone’s talking about, "Big Bang; Swedish Nympho Yuppies Go Wild at the Stock Exchange", with the evening nutritiously rounded off with a wholesome Deathburger."
Swordfish coughed his discreet cough. "Well, I am afraid, sir, that this is all most unsuitable. You would do best to take them to an event in which is combined, in sublime and perfect measure, the most agreeable company and the choicest food and wines, the latter served in the oak-panelled splendour of the Old Bursary, the most lively and stimulating conversation, the reading of poetry both scurrilous and entertaining, in which good-natured mockery, and the affectionate irreverence of friends satirised, is exchanged, and the probability of a post-prandial chorus to those (in a collegiate and geographical sense) nearest, but not dearest."
"I say, it sounds like the goods to me!" Roddy and Dorian proclaimed in unison. "But what on earth…?"
"The Byron Society, sir."
"Very good, Swordfish!"
"Very good, sir," said Swordfish, permitting himself a little smile.