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Flights Of Fancy

2006-07-13 21:54

  O. Henry, master of the short story, once said that it would be impossible to knock on any door and say to the first person who appeared, “Fly! All has been discovered!” and not get a story.

  It seemed unlikely that there would be many people with dreadful secrets in the small hill-station where I live; but as I had run out of ideas for stories, I decided to take the advice of the master and mastered enough courage to approach the door of one of the houses at the other end of the hill-station, where I am not known. I'm not sure if I expected the occupant to grow pale and tremble with fear when I announced the magic words, but the outcome was certainly interesting.

  I knocked vigorously on the door and when it opened cried, “Fly! All has been discovered!”

  “A fly,! Am I?” said the impressive, ample-bosomed woman of about fifty. “And what, may I ask, are you?”

  “I don't mean you,” I said apologetically, “I mean fly.”

  “That's what I thought you meant.”

  “No, I mean fly; all has been discovered.”

  “You're selling something to catch flies?”

  “No, I was just trying to test……”

  “Well, you can't test the stuff here, young man. We don't have flies anyway.”

  And the door was banged on my face.

  I felt like the salesman who had neglected to read his Dale Carnegie or Napoleon Hill, but not to be discouraged, I went to the next house and knocked on the door. It was opened by a little girl who was sucking a large lollipop.

  “Fly!” I said hopefully, “ All has been discovered!”

  “Who told you?” she asked.

  “I only took one.”

  “Ah!”

  “Why use are lollipops if they are just going to lie in a cupboard?”

  “None at all,” I said, “I am fully in agreement with you. Lollipops have just one purpose and you are helping to fulfil it. Furthermore, if it was not for little girls like you, the thousands of people who make lollipops would have no jobs and nothing at all to eat.”

  At the third house, I was set upon be a large dog of uncertain bread and beat a hasty retreat. The fourth house was deserted.

  I knocked on the door of the fifth house and as the door opened, whispered mysteriously, “Fly! All has been discovered!”

  An old lady, a veteran from the days of the British Raj, cupped her hand to her ear and leaned forward. “I'm sorry, my dear, but I don't hear very well. What was it you said?”

  “I said fly! All has been discovered!”

  “You'll have to speak louder, dear.”

  “Fly!” I shouted, “All has been discovered!”

  “Oh, Mrs. Fry……No, she has not come back yet. Did you say her shawl had been recovered?”

  “That's right,” I said wearily, “I'll bring it back someday.”

  To get the next house, I had to pass through an orchard of apple trees. I had not gone far when I saw man on the steps, shouting and brandishing a stick. A youth came running through the trees, apples falling from his pockets. He must have mistaken me for another poacher because, as he ran past me, he thrust several apples into my hands and cried, “Fly! All has been discovered!”

  As the owner of the orchard was now close on our heels, I fled.

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