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illustration by jonny voss

 

THE VERY TALL MAN IS THINKING
b y   A l a n   M c C o r m i c k

 

 

 




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‘That’s one of ‘em, you know, stretchy thingy’s, like you get on the whatyoucallit’ said Ethel.

‘Shh,’ said the very tall man. ‘I’m thinking.’

‘Come on, you know, it’s a car thingy, thing that soap stars and politicings drive around in. A stretched . . . um . . .thingamajig . . .’

‘Ethel, I’m thinking.’

Ethel tapped on the road with her zimmer, her tea cosy tartan hat pressed onto her head like a fancy top on a marmalade jar. She was waiting for the very tall man to stop doing his Henry Moore statue thing, and answer her. After an hour he spoke:

‘It’s a limo, a stretch limo, and inside it is a rock star called Alice Cooper. He’d like to meet us.’

‘Alice who?’ asked Ethel.

‘Cooper,’ said the very tall man. ‘He has a rock group named after him, whose most famous hit was called ‘School’s Out For Summer.’

‘What’s that you said about summer?’ asked Ethel.

‘School is out for summer,’ answered the very tall man.

‘Oh, I know, dear. These days the kiddies get far too long a holiday in the summer. In my day . . .’

‘Do you want to meet him?’ interrupted the very tall man.

‘Who, dear?’

‘Alice Cooper.’

‘Who’s she?’ asked Ethel.

‘He’s a rock star,’ said the very tall man.

‘Who’s Alice Cooper then?’ asked Ethel.

Meanwhile, in the limo, Alice Cooper was growing impatient. He asked his chauffer if he could press the switch to let down the rear windows, so that the biggest flies could escape.

‘What is it with this country and flies?’ asked Alice.

‘I dunno,’ replied the chauffeur.

‘Well, you should know, it’s your job,’ said Alice.

Back with Ethel and the very tall man, things reached a kind of impasse:

‘It’s one of ‘em fancypant cars like royalties and filming types get driven around in . . .a stretchy lime . .. no, a strether thingy for a . . .oh, what did you say it was called again, dear?’

‘Shh, Ethel,’ said the very tall man. ‘I’m thinking.’

‘Alice is a strange kind of a name for a rock,’ said Ethel out of the blue.

‘Rock’ was a very apposite word for Ethel to have happened upon: deep in thought, the very tall man had taken on the pose of a rock statue; something like an elongated Easter Island figure gazing out at the sea. In fact he was silently gazing at the stretch limo, now surrounded by flies and little grey birds. What he was thinking, no one will ever know, for the very tall man was also a man of very few words, and those few that he chose to utter were not for the ears of rock stars in long limos, but were reserved for his friend Ethel, to help her on her way. And Ethel would never, under any circumstance, tell anyone what he said to her.