It’s been parked across the street for the last couple of days.
Blue. Mysterious. Inviting.
Not the sort of car that you usually see parked in this neighbourhood.
Amazingly, the local punks walk right past it. Almost as though it’s invisible.
Anything other than an old banger is up on bricks and stripped of anything saleable within half an hour.
But not this time.
What is it about this car?
Does it belong to the local drug lord?
That seems unlikely.
I know most of them and their taste is mostly in their mouth.
Their idea of a car is something loud of sound and ostentatious in colour, with plenty of room in the boot for a bag of ‘shooters’ and a few kilos of whatever is the flavour of the month.
No. It’s something else.
Neighbourhood legend has it that the lady who lived across the road, not very far from where the car is parked, ran away from her husband with a bloke who worked for Penguin; the book publishers, not the bird.
The story goes that the boyfriend had recently received a promotion and was moving to Paris to run the French division of Penguin. Apparently he asked her to run away with him.
She is supposed to have hesitated for only a moment, before saying ‘yes’.
Legend also has it that she grabbed her passport, and the couple headed for the door.
A lurid legend has it that he popped the question, so to speak, immediately after having made mad passionate love to the married lady from number eighteen. Not only did she not take anything with her, she was reportedly not wearing underwear; which is not as crazy as it seems. They had been ‘going at it’ all afternoon so it stands to reason, for reasons of practical access, that she would be devoid of certain items of clothing. Local legend does not record what the Penguin executive was wearing and no one seemed to care; then or now.
My practical side can see the Penguin bloke buying his stolen prospective bride a whole heap of clothes and baggage and other stuff as soon as they got to the airport, but most people just like the first part of the story; apparently practicalities are a dampener to romance. This seems silly to me, but what would I know?
The married lady, stroke Penguin lover, left behind a bewildered husband and a leg of lamb slowly cooking in the oven. The husband was too distraught to eat that night but he had lamb sandwiches for the rest of the week.
The abandoned husband had sensed that something was wrong with their marriage but he just couldn’t put his finger on the problem. Sex had been infrequent of late and there were a large number of ‘Penguin Classics’ in piles around the house but, at the time, he didn’t make the connection.
In the coming months he learned how to cook and he read a lot of classic literature. His favourites were ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ although he could not understand why the book featured in so many high profile murders, and ‘Fahrenheit 451’, where he enjoyed the irony of having firemen burning books. He also enjoyed the characters who had memorised books and could recite them for whomever was interested.
He had become like one of those ‘book reciters’ and he had become the sole person who held the memories of a marriage that came to a sudden end.
He was foolish enough to expect that she would someday return.
He knew that she was restless, and that whatever it was that she needed, he was not able to give it to her.
This was easily the most exciting thing that had happened in this quiet [some would say boring] little street. So it will come as no surprise that this story took on a life of its own. People who traveled to Europe for their holidays returned with, what they swore, were stories of what happened when the couple reached Paris.
Within a year or two, the woman received a book contract with Penguin; a four book deal, on the strength of an unpublished manuscript that she presented at the London Book Fair.
Some said that she had used her lover to leverage the deal, but others said that she had genuine talent as a writer of fiction.
Her first book sold well but it was her second book, ‘Sleepy Street’, that made a splash back here. It was the story of an ordinary suburban street and all the exotic goings-on behind closed doors.
The book became a massive bestseller and everyone who lived in our quiet little street could see themselves in the characters of this popular work. Many wondered how she knew all the intimate details of their sordid little lives.
Most people barely remembered her.
To them she was almost invisible, but not anymore.
As a result of the book, and the resultant embarrassment, many relationships ended and many properties were sold, so much so that our little street is populated by a whole new cast of characters.
I’m the only person who still lives here who might recognise the famous author and former neighbour.
It just occurred to me that the car across the road is a French classic.
I think I’ll sit in this window for a little while. She has to come back to that car eventually; and when she does, I’ll be waiting.
I haven’t yet decided what is the best course of action.
I might just sit here and watch; but on the other hand……..
Painting by Cheryl Kelley