This afternoon, on the stroke of two, I heard something resembling a Pistol Shrimp firing a Schwerer Gustav gun. I slowly climbed the stairs towards the source of the sound and opened the small, dusty trapdoor of the attic. An icy chill immediately infected my body. I'd tell you about my state of mind, but you might laugh, choke on a watermelon sorbet, hit me with a hefty lawsuit, or - heaven forbid - a pair of brown, thin Wale Cord trousers.
My breath began steaming in front of me then moved to the rear. I pushed my glasses back on my nose. My body parts and accessories were deserting me. I called out through the semi-darkness. No one replied. The smell of damp reignited an instinctive fear I'd almost forgotten.
Aided by the flickering, faint light from a bulb hanging from a long wire I glanced around the attic like an intruder. It was full of trunks, clothes, faded paintings, a three-poster bed, Howard Hughes, a collection of jungle clearings, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress World War Two airplane and, horror of horrors, my ex-wife, Loretta.
I thought she had drowned on vacation six months earlier when we attended an exhibition of paintings by Salvador Dali in Thomas Beecham's cigar.
I closed my eyes and turned away. My legs began to shake like an old horse. I heard a loud whine! I looked again, in silence. Loretta was clad in a diving suit, sitting in a bathtub, furiously waving her arms about in the air. It was difficult to know what Loretta was saying as she was wearing a diving helmet. I think she was swearing, 'You need locked up! . . . You made this happen!'
I rapidly closed the trapdoor and wiped the sweat from my face. My heart began to beat in time with my shaking legs. Trembling, I went downstairs and drank water to moisten my swollen tongue. I caught my reflection in the kitchen mirror and put it outside with the cat. I had to talk to my dear friend, Dr Hans Lubricant.
'Are you sure it’s her? A diving-suit, you say? A dreadfully unattractive woman, if I may say so?'
'I'd recognize that cold, harsh, miserable face anywhere!'
'Stay calm . . . We're all mortal, you know. A diving-suit, you say? Have you told her you remarried . . . her sister? An attractive, young woman, if I may say so?'
'Of course not! I'd take my own life, but where to? Travel insurance is so expensive.'
'I''ll come right over!'
The doctor walked across the living room. He spoke through clenched teeth which belonged to one of his patients.
'You're too hard on your self. She was idle and pampered. Look at your life through your own eyes, not through those of others. Why if it were "The Middle Ages" she would have been burned at the stake. Twice, at least.'
Hans took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief. He began to fidget, nervously.
'Listen. You're tired, exhausted. Have you considered your “inner eye” affliction may have returned? Momentarily, of course. You have an extraordinary imagination. I''ll check the situation myself.'
I listened in silence and drank more water.
Hans went upstairs and headed for the attic. A few minutes later he came flying down the stairs in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress airplane with Howard Hughes on board.
'Let's get the hell out of here!' Hans shouted at me. ' It's the most terrifying image I've ever seen! All the hate of the world is contained in that women! She's alive, yet as old and cold as a corpse!'
As we flew through the front door the whine of bullets and explosives were too close for comfort. Without doubt Loretta had fiery ancestry in her blood. She fired until we became one with the soft, white clouds.
I fear her hunger for danger, excitement and hazardous adventure will be her downfall. Loretta's luck will run out, sooner or later, like me.
*Reflections: Some people sacrifice everything in pursuit of wealth. They forget that life, love, compassion, altruism, humanity and laughter can not be pursued posthumously. Sometimes we watch each other suffocate and decline to help. Pity the individual whose life is enriched by watching a fellow human being in trouble, engaged in a struggle for survival, and does not intervene. A life becomes yesterday's news. Yet, life goes on.