A stranger arrives
“Yeah. Don’t look now, Baz, but there’s a bald bloke just come and sat down with us.”
Barry looked around nonchalantly. “He’s looking right at you, Jen. You sure you don’t know him?”
“Never set eyes on him.”
Jen’s younger sister, Jilly, seated opposite her, leaned over to Barry and whispered, “D’you reckon he’s from a local gang, trying to steal our secrets?”
Barry whispered back, “We ain’t got no secrets.”
Arabella, seated between Jilly and the newcomer, winked to Jen, folded her arms, flicked her head back and said, “Double negative, Barry. That means we do have some secrets,” an assertion that was totally ignored by the rest of the group. The newcomer grinned.
Jilly continued to whisper to Barry, “Dunno what the badges mean, either.”
“What badges?” Barry asked.
“The ones on his jacket. There’s a tricolor on top of his sleeve. Perhaps he’s a police spy. Ask him.”
“No. You’re the man; you ask him.”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” Arabella said, “you people; honestly!” She turned to the newcomer. “Is there something we can help you with?” she asked.
“Actually, there is,” the man replied in heavily accented English. “My name is Guillaume le Buffle. I noticed your motorcycles standing outside and recognised the insignia on your pennants. I have the honour to be the moderator for the central France chapter of the association, and wish to speak to you about a proposed coming together for activities with mutual benefit. Who is the leader of your group?”
“We ain’t got no leader, we’re all, like, equals,” Barry said, causing Arabella to raise her eyebrows and inwardly tut.
“Barry is substantially correct in his assertion,” Arabella said, “but you may speak to me. If it is easier for you, you may address me in your native tongue, and I shall translate for the benefit of my compatriots. I shall become, as it were, your interlocutress.”
“What did she say?” Guillaume asked the rest of the group, his face a picture of confusion.
“Never mind her,” Jen said, “how she ever gets her hair clean is a mystery to the rest of us. Just talk to us. We’ll all listen and we’ll discuss everything as a group. Before we start, though, there’s one thing that’s always puzzled me. Why are they called chapters?”
“That’s bleedin’ obvious,” Barry interjected, “it’s cos they got to book everything with headquarters, innit? And yer books are made up of chapters, right? So that’s why.”
“Is that right?” Jen asked Guillaume.
“We will talk about that later,” he said. “For the moment, let me tell you about the thing we are planning. But first; am I correct to assume you will be returning to England soon?”
“Yes,” Jen responded. “We’re booked on the tunnel next Friday.”
“Excellent. You can most certainly help. Forty motorcycles will leave from here next Wednesday, carrying food and supplies for the migrants in Calais. This food and supplies have been donated by the public to help the people in Calais who are trying to go to England. Will you be able to help with this, on your way home?”
“But we don’t want those people in our country. Why should we help them?” Barry asked.
“I understand your position, and you have the right to object to the arrival of many migrants without proper papers. We are not trying to help these people across the water. We are trying to reduce their suffering while they are trying to cross. It is for your government and my government to make the arrangements; we do not want to do that. We just want to help these people where they are now. Will you help us to do that?”
The four huddled together and whispered furiously for some moments. Finally, Arabella said, “Yes. We will help.”
“Good,” Guillaume responded, “I will make arrangements. Here is my card. When you are back in England, please give this to the head of your Chapter and ask him or her to contact me. I am very excited about the prospect of a Europe-wide meeting of Chapter heads. We can really start something good. But for now, I must leave you. I shall meet you here on Wednesday, and we shall go to the centre where the aid is stored.” He rose from the table and turned to walk away. “Au revoir, mes amis, et à mercredi. Bonnes vacances.”
“Yeah, bye,” the four chorused. Guillaume walked away and, within a minute or so, they heard and saw him ride off.
“What a nob,” Jen said as they all started to laugh. “What does he think we are, do-gooders?”
“Where’d you get those pennants from, Baz?” Jilly asked.
“Nicked ‘em from a stall at some sort of bring-and-buy sale, why?”
“They must mean summat. Hey, Belle; where’d that posh stuff come from?”
“Dunno. Just fancied a laugh. Not coming back here Wednesday, are we, Jen? You got the tickets.”
“Nah. We’ll be long gone by the time he comes here looking for us. We’re meeting up with the rest in Le Havre on Tuesday and catching the ferry there. Make sure we’ve got all the answers by then. We want to win the treasure hunt this year.”
“Well, I hope you ruffians are pleased with yourselves,” Belle said in her Arabella voice, “People will suffer because of your ill-conceived jape.”
“No they won’t Belle,” Jen said. “We just out-conned a con artist.”
“What makes you think that?” Jilly asked.
“Firstly, does he seriously think we’re going to pick up loads that, for all we know, could be full of hard drugs, funny money or anything, and take it to the port? And I’ll bet we’ll have to keep some to hand over to some people in England who distribute it to the migrants there. Secondly, go on line and put his name into a translator.”
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 44, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.