Monday, September 15, 2008

Aldred and Enforced Hospitality

There's something ludicrous about a rocking chair, thinks Aldred. They're meant to be so cozy and homey and relaxing, but the reality doesn't measure up. They creak in a way that refuses to take a proper rhythm. They require far too much effort and attention to keep rocking, distracting you from fully devoting your attention to woolgathering. The ones with arms (as is the case with the model he's currently stuck in) are never built with the portly gentleman in mind. Worst of all the wicker seats are puritanical in their lack of cushiness and have a tendency to poke one. Intimately.

He's been here for six hours now, waiting for Mercury to return with the promised drop of something restorative. Rogue bits of wicker have firmly embedded themselves in his person. He's almost too distracted to worry about infection, or becoming permanently affixed to the rocker, but manages to devote a small part of his mind to this idle fretting. Mostly he's wondering what's become of Mercury. It wouldn't be the first time she's been gone longer than expected (her disappearance for the entirety of 1998 springs to mind), but she usually has the graciousness to not leave him bound with an afghan to an infernal device while she's off and about. He hopes that nothing has happened to her.

The door creaks open and a quaint and ancient man comes hobbling in, holding a trembling tray in his hands. He gives Aldred a carefully composed quizzical look that doesn't quite hide the fact that he knows, if not exactly what's going on, enough to not be as innocent as he's pretending.

"Ah, Mr. Aldred?"


"Miss Mercury called. On the telephone. Says she's been unavoidably detained. At the, uh, antique mall. Looking at antiques." The man gestures with the tray. "She said I should maybe bring you something. Said you were indisposed. Stuck in the room. Resting."

He looks over the afghan, lets a little more of his wry amusement slip out.



"Not too warm? I hope?"

"Yes, fine."

"Rocker treating you alright?"

"It's lovely."

"Great. It's a terrific old chair. Handcrafted."

"It shows."

"It's for sale. If you're interested."

"I'll have to get back to you on that."

"Just say the word. We can come to a price easily."

"I'm sure. You'll excuse me, Mister-?"


"Mr. Kliet, but as Mercury mentioned I am feeling under the weather and I'm afraid I don't have the strength to discuss this wonderful chair."

"That's real Belgian wicker-"

"Not. One. Second. More."

Kliet can see that he's pushed the doddering a shade too far. Aldred notices the tray has stopped trembling, is in fact now deadly still.

"Right you are. Well, there's coffee here for you. And some cookies too. They're from an old family recipe. The wife-"

Aldred looks a polite amount of poison at him.

"Okay, okay. Cripes, can't an old fella have any fun?"

"Have your fun when you total up her bill."

Kliet snorts as he lays the tray across the arms of the rocker. He carefully untucks just enough of the Afghan to free up Aldred's right arm, leaving the rest of Mercury's sigil or combat origami or whatever it is in place. His movements are deft and professional: Aldred doubts Mercury had to tell him what to do. Crafty old bastard.

Aldred reaches for the mug of coffee, spilling a bit as the rocker follows his shifting bulk. He gulps a good half of it down. It's strong and hot and perfect, the definition of perfect in this case including a generous portion of very good rum. He can feel it working immediately, blotting out the accumulated irritation of the last six hours and making a dent in the enervation that led him to this point in the first place.

"That's...very good coffee."

"She said to give you the good stuff. Said you'd be needing it. Said it was an apology of sorts. Said she won't be back for a bit longer. Said probably not until tomorrow morning. Said-"

"Said 'keep him tied up'?"

"Said that too."

Aldred sighs, but he can't find it in himself to get too angry at Kliet, who is certainly going to follow her instructions to the letter. He knows how persuasive Mercury can be. Confining him to a chair for a day will hardly by the worst thing she's ever put him through. And the rum is very, very good indeed. "Breaking the embargo" good. Maybe even "smuggled out of Fidel's private stock" good. Raoul's, anyway.

"It seems a pity to mix this with coffee."

"It does indeed sir."

"And to drink it alone."

Kliet gives him yet another complex look. He has quite a repertoire.

"Well, I imagine there's no harm in a friendly drink or three with one of our guests. I imagine."

Kliet leaves the room. Aldred hopes he'll be back soon. He doesn't begrudge the man his calculating suspicions, but really, he has no intention of trying to escape. He's just terribly, terribly bored.

When Mercury returns the next morning she's greeted by a very hungover Mr. Kliet. Aldred's snores come rolling down the stairs and play about the room like drunken puppies. They don't cause the pictures to rattle on the walls, but it's a near thing.

"my god," she says. "This is going to cost me a fortune, isn't it?"

Kliet nods, then winces.

1 comment:

Agent Audrey said...

Can I order an Aldred action figure?
I have a money order for 19.99 right here. How much for a rocking chair as well?