Short Story Category: 15 Minutes
Kingdom Random Glummerdom, only son of Lord Archibald Giles Glummerdom was by all accounts a most peculiar creature. His physical attributes alone attested to that, for he possessed a pair of fish-like eyes that gazed vaguely out from their sockets, a gaunt elongated face ending in a receding chin, a pair of groper lips, pouted and sealed like a purse; and supporting all of this a giraffe neck that sloped down to form his slender shoulders. All in all he looked like a porcelain figurine that one might view in a glass cabinet – all six feet two inches of him.
Brought up in the empty draughty halls of Glummerdom Mansion since birth with Quill the butler, a handful of servants, and his eccentric father as his only companions – his mother having passed away only hours after delivery – young Kingdom’s character grew, or rather was moulded. It was deemed unnecessary that he be sent to boarding school, and so, like all Glummerdoms before him, private tuition was the norm.
His father, a portly squat looking chap with an outrageous moustache, loved nothing more than to trot off to Africa on a hunting safari. On one occasion, and only one mind you, he took along Kingdom, or The King as he was affectionately nicknamed, to show the boy what the glummerdoms were famous for: hunting and drinking. Alas the ‘young king’ showed not the slightest interest in the hunt, content instead to make gibbering noises at the monkeys. In fact so good was he at mimicking them that Lord Archibald decided to use him as a decoy to catch an elusive leopard, the only big cat trophy not hanging from the halls of Glummerdom Mansion. It worked. The leopard was bagged. Lord Archibald was ecstatic and celebrated by getting thoroughly drunk. Kingdom was not amused by the whole sordid business, which left his father wondering if he was his son at all.
Life continued at Glummerdom Mansion, and as the years passed, so grew Lord Archibald’s behavioural eccentricity grew. No longer up to trotting off on safari, he took to hunting squirrels. And so it was on one stormy night, dressed in safari attire and pith hat, he loaded his revolver to do battle with a certain squirrel in the dining room. The high ceiling was lavishly painted depicting a rural scene with an assortment of animals, notwithstanding one lone squirrel. Lord Archibald took up his stance and fired off six shots into the ceiling. Quill having heard the shots and the tremendous crash that followed, decided it would be imprudent to disturb His Lordship at such an ungodly hour, and so rolled over and went back to sleep. In the morning all was revealed. Lord Archibald was found with a quarter ton of chandelier on top of him, his left hand clutching a revolver, the other a bottle of Royal Salute. He died like most Glummerdoms – untimely, but not uncommonly.
It was assumed that Kingdom would continue on at Glummerdom Mansion and emulate his father by taking up the gun, or ascending into behavioural eccentricity. He decided on the latter. But first he would sell Glummerdom Mansion and move to London. And it was in London where his eccentric nature showed itself in the game of golf. To understand why he should take up the sport, one must return to Lord Archibald and Kingdom on a golf course five years before. Kingdom was on the seventeenth, his vacant fish eyes taking in the surroundings, his left arm tucked behind his back, the other at arm’s length leaning on his club, when he was asked to take his shot. Looking at the sky, his mind a blank, he struck the ball, which rolled seven metres, rimmed the cup and dropped in. Lord Archibald applauded, as did Quill acting as caddy. Kingdom wondered what the fuss was all about and then repeated the same outcome on the eighteenth. But as to why he should suddenly remember all of this, keeping in mind he had never struck a golf ball since, is beyond comprehension. The thing is that he did, and soon settled on a house in Mayfair that would allow for an indoor golf course. Not an eighteen holer. No. A mere nine holer was thought to be sufficient.
Interior walls were knocked down to extend the course to thirty metres; sand was employed for three bunkers. The Persian carpet was sliced open in many areas and filled with cement to create an undulating effect. The fire hearths – there were four in total – in wonderful Italian marble became moats filled with water, and all overhead light fittings were removed. To enhance the scene he had Quill paint the ceiling sky blue with a smattering of cumulous clouds. It was all damn hard work, but in the end the results were spectacular. Kingdom appraised his handiwork feeling mightily pleased with himself. If only his father could see it. He grabbed his club to tee off, informing Quill he need not caddy, and overshot the first into the rough. The rough was the Persian carpet, trussed up in small folds along the outer course of the fairway. Nine shots later he had holed it. He didn’t fare any better on the second, catching the bunker; and the third and fourth were disastrous, the ball landing in the water twice. The back five were not too bad, apart from catching the tricky double bunkers on both sides of the seventh. And last but not least – the impossible ninth. The ninth was indeed a stinker of a hole. To begin with it wasn’t technically on the course, but above it. The ninth was smacked right in the middle of an antique cabinet situated against the wall. Kingdom had drilled a hole ever so slightly bigger than a golf ball, but nevertheless smaller than a golf hole, into the middle panel, and from where he stood, without a bunker, water trap, or sloping approach to impede, a mere one and a half metres from the only stick of furniture on the course. The trick was to chip and hope for the best. He failed miserably. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t for the life of him drive it home. He realised what he had done was create a hole that was damn near impossible. How he regretted not knocking out the two bay windows and extending the ninth half way down the front lawn. But no matter, he was a Glummerdom, and of stern stuff. He would if it took him years, pot the damn thing in the end.
For weeks he did nothing but play the course, sometimes up to nine times a day. Wall lights were installed so that he could play into the early hours of the morning. His game improved, but the ninth remained a nightmare, and to remove himself from it he would retreat each day to the nearest parklands for solace. There he could be viewed, head down, walking amongst the trees, pencil and notebook behind his back. Many thought he was a composer of music, a latter-day Beethoven perhaps by his habit of coming to a halt and writing furiously on his notebook. It was during one of these strolls that he heard someone repeatedly call out his name. He turned. A tall, lean elderly lady with the help of an umbrella was scurrying towards him.
‘Kingdom, Kingdom!’ she cried.
He thought she looked familiar, but other than that had not the slightest idea who she might be.
‘Kingdom,’ she repeated, looking up at him. Her brow knitted, for she could see that he didn’t recognise her. ‘Kingdom!’ She prodded him with her brolly. ‘Your Aunt Eleanor.’
‘Oh, how nice. What a spot of luck meeting you here, Aunty.’
She sighed. ‘Thank heavens you remember, though we only last spoke at your father’s funeral. Well, I’m glad to hear you’re living in London, and had the good sense to be rid of that infernal monstrosity in the countryside. Now I’m having a tea party this Thursday at my unit. Nothing special, just a small gathering, and I want you to be there.’
‘Might interfere with my game.’
‘Game? What game?’ Her brow furrowed again, her flint grey eyes narrowed.
‘Golf. The dreaded ninth, you know.’ He made an imaginary chip shot towards the trees. ‘Should have done away with those blasted windows.’
Aunt Eleanor knew better than to inquire. She had married a Glummerdom and was well aware that madness not only ran through the clan, but was cherished as if it were a family heirloom.
‘I take it that your manservant Quibble is still in your employment?’
‘Yes. Is he still with you?’
‘Gosh yes. I mean I couldn’t have designed the damn course without him.’
‘Good. At least I can be sure he’ll have you dressed for the occasion. I shall send around a cab at five o’clock to… I’ll need your address, Kingdom.’
‘Oh…’ He gave her the vacant Glummerdom look.
‘Never mind, I shall make inquiries. You wouldn’t happen to know your telephone number, would you?’ She didn’t wait for a reply. ‘Didn’t think so. Well good day to you, Kingdom. I shall be in contact with your manservant to make sure everything is in order on the day.’
And without another word she turned on her heel and departed. It was only when she was a hundred yards off did he farewell her.
Aunt Eleanor had good reason to invite Kingdom to her tea party, and it wasn’t because she held any affection for him. On the contrary, the less she saw of a Glummerdom the better! It was because of her niece – another Glummerdom, whom she desired to be rid of, and who just might make an excellent spouse for the boy.
At a quarter past five on Thursday, Kingdom arrived at his auntie’s unit at Belgravia Square dressed like someone from another era. Long black frock coat that exposed his silk ruffle shirt cuffs, his collar overlapping his receding chin, not to mention top hat, white gloves, and a black cane with a solid gold band at the tip. The old lady frowned. She had hoped that this Quill fellow would have dressed him in more suitable attire, unless of course this particular valet was as potty as her nephew.
‘Kingdom, how nice of you to come. Allow me to introduce someone related to you.’ The aunt half turned and literally dragged behind her a rather tall plain looking girl with a long gaunt face. ‘This is Annavieve. Annavieve this is Kingdom.’
If ever there was an instant attraction between the sexes, it happened there. The niece fell hopelessly in love at the sight of him. Kingdom however was not equally affected. He smiled politely at his love-struck relation, then asked for some Earl Grey. Aunt Eleanor watched the two with a roving eye, pleased that Annavieve should be so taken by Kingdom. She watched as her niece followed behind him wherever he went, much like a faithful dog might follow his master, and thought what a pair they made: he mentally blank like his forefathers, she dotty and unfortunately shy. On a velvet couch they sat together, Annavieve content to gaze upon him without making conversation. The tea guests shocked by this peculiarly dressed man in their company pretended in a dignified way to acknowledge his presence with a dutiful nod, except for one, an American female by the name of Billi-Sue. She had noticed him since his arrival and thought what a wonderful marriage prospect he would make. She was everything that Annavieve was not – pretty, intelligent and sexy. She knew what she wanted and usually got it. Wasting no time, she asked Annavieve to remove herself in search of more tea, and when Annavieve did so, she sat down beside Kingdom. After introducing herself she glowed about his excellent sense of dress, his delightful name and his rugged physical appearance. Kingdom looked at her with all the vagueness he could muster and asked: ‘Do you play golf?’
‘Do I play golf?’ she asked in an exaggerated tone. ‘Why I positively lived on a golf course in California. My daddy has his very own!’
This wasn’t true. The nearest she ever got to a golf course was when her third husband, a wealthy designer of golf clubs, chased her onto a course in Florida brandishing a nine iron. She didn’t do well out of that marriage, managing only twenty percent of her spouse’s wealth. In Kingdom however she believed she had struck a goldmine. He told her of his own private course, which he lamented was only a nine holer. She demanded to see it.
Kingdom could not help but muse as to how many golf balls might fit comfortably in her wide-open mouth, when suddenly she grabbed his hand and rose from her seat. ‘I must see this wonderful course of yours. In fact, the sooner the better!’
Poor Annavieve looked on broken-hearted as Kingdom and Billi-Sue made their departure. Aunt Eleanor, furious at the sudden turn of events, boomed: ‘And where do you think you’re going, Kingdom?’
‘I’m off for a round of golf with… er… what was your name again?’ he asked the female clutching his hand.
A loud sob, not dissimilar from a Banshee, carried itself across the room. Heads turned. Standing by the fireplace, trembling, holding a handkerchief to her gaunt pale face, was Annavieve. Without notice she raced out of the room and down the corridor, her wail echoing in her wake.
‘You see what you’ve gone and done?’ cried the aunt. ‘You’ve broken that poor child’s heart and you haven’t been here a half hour!’ Then she vented her anger towards the brazen hussy who continued to clutch her nephew’s hand. ‘And you madam are an effrontery to your sex. Don’t under any circumstances show yourself to me or any of my guests ever again!’
‘We shan’t,’ she breezily replied.
‘Oh!’ Aunt Eleanor let out the loudest exclamation of her life.
During the brief cab ride to Mayfair, Billi-Sue asked how a round of golf might be played with dusk falling. But all she got was a running commentary on the dreaded ninth.
Quill was decidedly icy when he opened the door to her. He wasn’t particularly fond of American women, and Billi-Sue was no exception. Courteous to a point, he took her coat and watched as Kingdom led her to the course.
‘Oh, my gawd!’ she cried, standing in awe at the sight before her.
Kingdom handed her a club. ‘Shall we toss?’
‘Toss a coin to see who tees off first, what?’
‘Oh, yes… of course.’
She looked down the fairway at the many bunkers, the undulating lay out of the whole thing, the beautiful Persian carpet totally ruined, and thought what madness of the mind had produced this?
She played the course terribly, probably due to the fact that she was mesmerised by the concept of a golf course inside a once elegant home. She caught all four fireplaces, perhaps because she wished to hear the splash of her ball to confirm in her grappling mind that they were indeed surrounded and filled with water. And then to the ninth, which stopped her in her tracks. She knew enough about antiques to tell her that this particular piece housing the ninth was a rare seventeenth-century cabinet. The damn fool had ruined it by drilling a hole through the precious wood, not to mention the many dents the piece had endured at the receiving end of a golf ball.
‘How marvellously inventive of you,’ she remarked, though privately she thought he belonged in an asylum.
‘You don’t have to play it if you don’t want to.’
‘Oh, but I do… I do.’
It may have been her womanly intuition, but Billi-Sue had a hunch that if she should get her ball through this nonsensical hole, a whole new world might open up for her; that it might be the quickest if not the only route to this fool’s heart. She knew she hadn’t a hope in hell in getting her ball through the hole in the furniture. What she needed was a diversion.
‘Could I have a drink?’ she asked.
‘Gin and tonic… make it a large one. I’m going to need it if I’m to slot this baby home.’
She waited until he had left the room before picking up her ball, hurrying over to the cabinet and popping it through.
‘Kingdom, I’ve done it! I’ve done it!’ she yelled.
He returned almost at once, and she flew to him. ‘I’ve done it, my darling. I’ve potted the dreaded ninth. I am yours forever!’
She embraced him in a bear hug and then started to rub herself against him. Kingdom stood perfectly still and behaved like a gentleman should. However he wondered how the dickens she managed to achieve what he had failed to do on numerous occasions. Aware that no sexual arousal was forthcoming, she dropped to the floor to spread herself out for him.
‘Come my darling,’ she quivered. ‘Let’s complete the evening’s activities.’
He looked down, confused, wishing only to ask her how she achieved the near impossible, when suddenly she grabbed both his hands and brought him down on top of her.
‘Oh, my darling!’ she cried out. ‘I knew you wanted me. Oh!’
She kicked off her high heels sending them sailing over her head and into a water trap, then with wild abandon wrapped her legs around him and proceeded to rock back and forth. It was Quill who came to his rescue. He turned up with a tumbler of icy water on a silver tray and remarked with a hint of disdain: ‘Your drink… madam.’
Things moved fairly quickly after that memorable night. Billi-Sue raced him off to the jeweller’s to pick out engagement rings. Quill was horrified by the whole affair, but unfortunately was no Jeeves to his young master. He understood his station in life was to serve and not interfere, even though the thought of the marriage grieved him. Kingdom on the other hand took it all in his stride, although he did wonder how she managed to hole the ninth. She told him that as soon as they were married she would reveal it to him.
The wedding date was set three days before Christmas. Invitations were sent out, the majority of them to Billi-Sue’s family and friends. Aunt Eleanor received one, but had the good sense to ignore it. Poor luckless Annavieve cried herself to sleep with hers tucked under her pillow.
Billi-Sue was delighted how things was motoring along nicely. She had already planned that the marriage would not last two years, with most of that time spent living apart. Intolerable cruelty she had settled upon, much the same charge she had filed against her former three husbands, and who if anyone would doubt her word when it was as plain as day that her fourth was a raving lunatic.
The bridal suite at the Savoy was booked for one night only. This was to show any doubting Thomas of the consummation of the union, even though she doubted if such an act was possible. And then it was off to sunny Phuket for a relaxing honeymoon. It was just as well she didn’t explain where sunny Phuket was. If she did the marriage would have been postponed. And the reason? Kingdom was terrified of flying. That’s why Lord Archibald never took him again on safari, because during his first and only trip down to Africa, young Kingdom had to be restrained in a straight jacket, and finally sedated into a comatose state with help of a doctor.
The marriage ceremony went off without a hitch, with Quill standing in as best man. Then it was off to the Savoy and the consummation of the marriage, which never eventuated. That didn’t worry Billi-Sue. What did, was his persistent comments that the bridal suite would make a nice mini golf course.
Morning, and Billi-Sue rose early telling her husband to do the same as they had a plane to catch. At the mention of a plane trip he balked refusing to leave the bed. It took some persuading, and no small feat at that, to get him dressed and bundled into a cab for Heathrow. How she achieved this miracle was really quite simple. She told him that as soon as they were on the plane she would tell him how she potted the ninth.
A terrible dread engulfed him when he spied the plane waiting for him like an enormous fat bird; and by the time they boarded Kingdom was reduced to a physical and mental wreck.
‘How did you pot the ninth?’ he asked her for the umpteenth time as they took their seats in first class.
She’d had enough! The strain of having to dress him, coax him into a cab, not to mention his infernal questioning of the dreaded ninth, took its toll. She was not going to put up with his nonsense about a damn golf ball for the next ten hours, so she let him have it.
‘I bloody well picked it up and popped it through that stupid hole you bore into that priceless antique, you idiot!’
‘Picked what up?’
‘The bloody ball! I picked it up with this!’ She shoved her hand in front of his face. ‘And dropped it in. Whoopee!’
‘You mean…you didn’t use your club?’ he asked, visibly shaken.
‘Nope. Not when you can use your hand.’
He turned away from her to stare vaguely out the window. ‘I think I need to use the lavatory.’
‘Two seats on your left,’ she grunted grabbing herself a magazine. ‘And you can damn well stay there for all I care.’
Kingdom did not visit the lavatory. Instead he made a right turn and exited the plane.
It was the first of April and Kingdom was about to tee off for the day. He was in excellent form. Married life no doubt had done him the world of good. He thought about all those stories of chaps having an awful time of it since tying the knot. Well not him. He hadn’t seen his wife in months and furthermore she hadn’t made any financial claims upon him, which was darn decent of her. Marriage he concluded was really quite simple: the less one saw of one’s spouse, the better off one was. Quill entered to inform him that his aunt had called to see him.
‘Aunt? What aunt?’
‘Your Aunt Eleanor, sir.’
Aunt Eleanor was not a woman to be kept waiting and walked in unannounced. She took a quick look at the course but refused to be distracted by the eyesore.
‘Kingdom, how are you?’
‘I’m glad to hear it. I take it marriage agrees with you?’
‘Oh, most definitely. Can’t see why chappies make such a fuss about it. Take me for instance. I live here, and she lives… err, elsewhere, with no demands in between. Jolly nice of her, what?’
‘It’s about her that I’ve called.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re stuck with her.’
‘Hardly. Obviously you have not been informed about her fate?’
‘Fate? Did her plane crash or something?’
‘She was last seen sun baking topless on the beach at Phuket on Boxing Day just before the tsunami hit.’
‘And…’ He stood over his ball about to hit it.
‘She is no longer amongst the living, Kingdom. Your wife is deceased, which makes you a widower and eligible once again.’
‘Drat!’ he cried. He had just struck his ball into the rough.
‘Your cousin, Annavieve, has been asking about you. In fact nothing would please her more than to visit you.’
‘Oh yes, Annavieve. Delightful creature. Does she play by any chance?’
‘No. But there’s no reason why you couldn’t teach her, is there?’
‘Yes… I suppose.’
He stood in the rough wondering how the dickens to get out of it, unless of course he took a drop shot.
‘So you wouldn’t object if Annavieve should happen to call on you, even though the news of your wife’s decease has only just reached you?’
‘No, not at all, Aunty. She may call at whatever time pleases her.’
‘Good. It just so happens that she’s in the hallway. Annavieve!’
Aunt Eleanor called out at the top of her voice, and in walked Annavieve.
‘I shall leave you with Annavieve. See that she catches a cab home, or if the occasion lends itself, sometime tomorrow. Good day to you, Kingdom.’
She turned and walked towards Annavieve and, as she was about to pass her, stopped to whisper some words of encouragement. ‘He’s yours for the taking, my dear; and if you must then by all means seduce him.’
Kingdom looked over his cousin. She was wearing a long white gown which fell all the way to her ankles, giving no indication to her physical form. Her mousey hair was fringed across her forehead, while the rest of it laid spread out around her shoulders like an open fan. She gave a little nervous sigh, cast her blank eyes upon him, and sighed again.
‘Would you like to play?’
‘Well, I don’t know how. You see, I’ve never played before.’
Kingdom convinced her that she should try at least one hole and that hole was none other than the dreaded ninth. He placed a ball at her feet, handed her his club and pointed at the hole in the cabinet.
‘What am I suppose to do?’ she asked, meekly.
‘Hit the ball through yonder hole.’
‘Seems a bit hard, don’t you think?’
‘Not for someone I once knew.’
He watched as she bent over the ball, grasping the club near the base, her knees locked together, her legs spread out at forty-five degrees, her hair hanging down around her like a weeping willow. To Kingdom there was something rather fetching about her stance. In fact, so taken was he that he didn’t notice her strike the ball and see it whiz through the cabinet hole. However, when he realised what she’d done, and she standing there wondering where the ball went, he embraced her much like Billi-Sue had embraced him, crying out: ‘Good Lord, you’ve potted the dreaded ninth! You’ve potted the dreaded ninth!’
And as both clung to one another, himself rubbing against her in delight, something wonderfully odd stirred in the lower region of his anatomy. Kingdom Random Glummerdom, only son for Lord Archibald Giles Glummerdom, was about to reach puberty.
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