Ships That Pass In The Night
A: You seem to be undecided, madam. Are you looking for somebody?
B: No, I was seeking an empty seat. This is the only one. May I join you?
A: Delighted. I always think it’s a little dreary to dine alone on long rail journeys, especially at the last sitting. Perfect timing, too. I was just about to order. Heard someone say the steak’s good, so I’ll try it. A rare one for me.
B: I’ll have the same. Remarkable enough that these people offer so varied a menu, but the inclusion of rarities is astonishing.
A: Er, perhaps so. Fairly comprehensive wine list, too. I suppose one should opt for burgundy, but I have a weakness for claret, so I’m going that way.
B: Claret, you say. I’m more inclined to Bordeaux, but I will accept your choice.
A: Excellent. One shouldn’t be too fussy. My name is Spond, Shane Spond. Let us dispense with formalities. Call me Shane.
B: Pleased to meet you, Mr Spond. Legova, Major. I agree that we should not stand on ceremony. My forename is Puttya. You may use it.
A: Puttya Le . . . yes. The pleasure is mutual, Major. An army officer, are you?
B: I was for some years, but not now. The title keeps slipping out. It’s a habit. Excuse my saying this, Mr Spond, but I have a strange feeling of having come across your name somewhere, and your face seems familiar, too. But then, one sees so many dossiers and photos. No doubt I am mistaken.
A: Most likely. I keep a low profile. Don’t believe I qualify for being on record anywhere. However, it’s funny you should say what you did. I have the oddest sensation that the same applies to both of us. It’s probably just one of those things, but somehow your appearance rings a bell, and as to names, yours has a vague resonance with me.
B: I cannot imagine how or why. I also fly below the radar. Perhaps we’re thinking of two other people. Forgive my curiosity, Mr Spond, but you give the impression of a businessman. What line are you in?
A: Nothing glamorous. I’m a kind of agent. Ordinary bricks and mortar stuff.
B: Ah, construction, is it?
A: Actually, it’s the reverse, but really quite mundane.
B: Demolition? Fascinating. I once saw a TV programme about that. All shaped charges and dropping of lofty buildings so that they cover only their own footprints. Is that what you do?
A: Well, you could say that I deal with bod . . . er . . . objects taller than they are wide and that covering footprints is important to me at times. However, my efforts are not very refined. You could call me an animated wrecking ball. I’m sure your work is more interesting than mine.
B: Hardly, though I too am an agent. I deal in metal products. High-velocity things, mainly steel and lead. It’s simply a question of knowing who has something to sell and who wishes to buy it. I’m sometimes jokingly referred to as a loose cannon.
A: Dear me. Wrecking balls and loose cannons, eh? A detached observer might regard us as a destructive pair, wouldn’t you say?
B: Possibly, but I’m sure neither of us has anything negative in mind at present.
A: I sincerely hope not. A laughable idea.
B: Pardon me again, but I must say you seem to be staring at me. Is something disturbing you, Mr Spond?
A: Shane. I am the one who should be begging forgiveness. It’s just that you have striking eyes. A man could get lost in them, Major.
B: Puttya, please. Yes, my eyes are said to be compelling. Look into them, Mr Spond. Take your time. Lose yourself. Eyes are magnetic. Eyes are entrancing. They’re rather like mirrors. What do you see in mine?
A: Right now, the reflection of a man with two knives coming up behind me. What do you say to that, Major Legova?
B: He also has forks and spoons, Mr Spond. He’s our waiter.
A: Ah, I see. May I inquire where you are going, Major?
A: Sorry, I didn’t mean to be. Just making conversation.
B: You misunderstand me, Mr Spond. I was referring to Pest as in the second part of the Hungarian capital. Buda and Pest are really twin cities, you know.
A: Of course. Silly of me. Maybe I was still fixated with your eyes. Noir de noir is the phrase that occurs to me, though possibly I’m thinking of French chocolate, or is it Belgian?
B: I’m not sure, but let us pass on. Where are you going, Mr Spond?
A: Shane, to you. I’m heading for Munich. Come to think of it, I’d better get stuck into the groceries soon – we’ll probably be there any hour now. In fact we’re slowing down. I hope I haven’t ordered too late. Where are we, Major?
B: Puttya, Mr Spond. You’re all right for a while yet. We’re coming into a place called München. All built-up areas look the same, don’t they?
A: Indeed they do. Thank goodness I can relax. I hate bolting my food.
B: You can take it easy this time. May I ask what firm you are with?
A: Oh, only a small one. It’s called Emmeyesics.
B: Eyes again. You seem to have a thing about them.
A: Pure coincidence. The name was computer-generated. One day there’ll be a bungle and something resembling real life will crop up. How about you?
B: At present I’m contracted to an international charity named Sceptre – special counter-something or other. I have trouble remembering these long titles. Earlier, in my home country, I was with another bunch of do-gooders called the Konkordat for Gratuitous Benevolence. They dream up the silliest names, don’t they?
A: Embarrassing, isn’t it? Perhaps our masters employ consultants to devise acronyms, then find words to fit the letters. I often think the whole thing verges on skulduggery.
B: You know, it seems ridiculous, but I get the same idea now and then. An element of hocus-pocus, Mr Spond?
A: Shane, if you will. And you’re right. Anyway, let’s put work aside and consider ourselves strangers on a train. Do you like Tchaikowsky, Major?
B: Make it Puttya. You speak of one of my favourite compatriots. His sixth symphony is divine. And you are right, too. We’re ships that pass in the night.
A: My own number one is Flight of the Bumblebee. How are you disposed to Ripya-Korsetoff, Major?
B: Enthusiastically, but I think the composer you have in mind is Rimsky –
A: Yes, of course. Slip of the tongue – Freudian perhaps.
B: Possibly. However, I just melt at the very mention of his name, James.
A: It’s Shane. Let’s forget Munich and get stuck in – I mean to the food, Katya.
B: Puttya. Agreed. I’m insatiable – with regard to steak, that is. It gives strength, and who knows what the evening will hold. Bon voyage, so to speak.
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“Encore!” they cried. No can do. It was never intended that there would be more than one issue of Madazine, and we decided at the outset that there would be eighty items. However, we did wind up with two or three extra pieces, which we mislaid during a fit of office reorganisation. Our most agile staff member, Trixie Larkspur, went into the attic in search of them. Come to think of it, we haven’t seen her for some time – I must look into this in due course. If she or any other staff member finds the missing oddments, we’ll offer them here.
* * *