What was I thinking, trusting Smedley like that?
Take my Tux to the cleaners, pick up my uniform, post my letter, and meet me at the cricket green, by 1:00pm, I’d instructed him.
A simple enough set of instructions, wouldn’t you say? A ten-year-old of average intellect would be more than capable of performing such tasks. Bernard Smedley on the other hand, who can say?
Well… By 2pm our team was down to the final third of our batting order, and I Was fidgeting, listless and bored, in the dingy old clubhouse. I glanced at my reflection in the plate glass window. A man of slight build, thinning salt and pepper hair and slightly sallow complexion, stared back at me. My basic blue business suit with a, rather dapper looking, grey and white speckled, silk tie, looked as out of place as a spacesuit in a sauna.
Where on earth was my man Smedley?
I punched in his number for the eighteenth time in as many minutes. “The client you seek is not currently available”, said a mechanical sounding voice, again.
Then as if by magic, in he shuffled, with all the urgency of a doddery old tortoise. No, wait, what am I saying.? Some tortoises actually win the occasional race, don’t they?
“Smedley”, I growled, “where the devil have you been all this time?”
“Sir”, he gasped, His cheeks were a most, alarming shade of chartreuse, and he was teetering unsteadily as he struggled to catch his breath.
“You look like you’ve just completed a triple Marathon, with a cart horse on your back, my dear chap!.” I exclaimed.
Bernard Smedley sighed almost imperceptibly. “Closer to the truth than you might suspect, Sir.” The quizzical expression on my face obviously urged him onward in earnest. “Today’s assignments were, dare I say, a tad challenging.”
I shot him one of my patented scowls through the handles of the, plastic, shopping bag I’d been scrutinizing. “Challenging” I asked? it was hard to disguise my incredulity.
My Butler, to his credit, had somehow managed to compose himself, and despite his, obvious discomfort, was now, standing there, ram-rod, straight.
“Well Sir”, he began, “Your Cricket uniform was not in evidence at the London residence, so I thusly concluded that it must be ensconced at the country estate. Since Davis had the Bentley in pieces, presumably performing routine maintenance, I gather, and since Madam is using the Rolls Royce on her, erm procurement venture to Harrods. I availed myself of a schedule and endeavoured to intercept the number 43 bus. The public conveyance was three minutes and forty-six seconds late, by the way. Not to worry though, Sir it only took me three hours to get there. Your Uniform was not there, by the way. So I borrowed a motorbike from one of your Gardeners. In hindsight, it might have been fortuitous had the, charming fellow, thought to have informed me that it was almost out of petrol. Still, those five kilometres required of me to push it to the nearest petrol station were quite invigorating. When I arrived at your dry cleaners, the obstinate service clerk patently refused to oblige me with your Tuxedo, even when I promised him an extremely unpleasant visit from your solicitors, if he should fail to do so.
It was at that point that I discovered my, most egregious, oversight. I had inadvertently abandoned your letter, back at the estate. The journey back there was quite uneventful, by the way. I’m beginning to quite enjoy motor biking”
How I’d listened to the, whole, ridiculous tale without laughing myself silly is, quite honestly, beyond my comprehension.
“So”, I said, finally, “what’s this?” I pulled a wooly white jumper, and a pair of white painters trousers out of the bag.
“Those,” he said, pointing sheepishly at the offending articles, “are the nearest I could find to a Cricketers ensemble, at such short notice, Sir.”
I simply smiled, poured him a cup of tea, and we sat and watched the remainder of the match together in companionable silence.