Dan Kelsall


Mr Stansfield

“In a dark, dank, earth-moist corner, Frederick LaFlange lay on a moulding heap of sacking. His body, contorted by the rising damp, rose and fell in a violent, desperate fashion as he struggled to regain his breath. The fat on his cheeks and neck hung down like sheets billowing in the wind, attempting to escape the heavy-boned face as it gasped and spluttered. His thick, veinless hands clutched at the air as if pulling at imaginary ropes, his legs contracted and relaxed at irregular intervals.

“Outside, the wind sang of sorrow, of betrayal and fear. The trees whispered amongst themselves with cynical turns, hinting of paranoia, a need for escape. A light patter of rain caressed the earth with a monotonous passion, eager to leave the sky, to become a part of the dark moist earth that tormented Frederick. Even the elements were against him.

“A hundred feet up, a dark and wretched bird traversed the air currents, making its way slowly and laboriously towards the shed where Frederick lay in pitiful agony. Its feathers the colour of coal, its eyes red like glowing embers, vengeful thoughts swirling in its head, its claws alert and rigid, it descended.” he said lazily.

“But you never even told me who you were,” ventured his baffled audience.

“Who I am is unimportant, irrelevant. Who I represent is of far greater value to you, Mr Stansfield,” the vast orator retorted quickly.

After a brief, frustrated pause, the man was forced to ask, “And who do you represent?”

“My, my, you are an eager one,” the colossal lecteur frothed. “But I’m afraid your desire for truth shall and must be thwarted. I am in no position to divulge such information, and even had I the authority, I have neither the motivation nor the desire to lavish you with such revelations. Lavish and burden, I might add.”

“Burden?” his increasingly baffled audience queried.

“Burden, Mr Stansfield, burden. The word was burden, and I feel confident that I need not spend more of my valuable time in expounding a definition of such a word?”

Stansfield shook his head, meekly.

“Very good. Well, in that case, Mr Stansfield, would you be so kind as to show me the door. I believe that our business here is concluded.”

Stansfield stood up slowly, stepped past the large frame of the man in order to reach the only door in the room, and grasped the handle. The man, agile as a bee-stung bear, leapt to his feet and gripped both hand and handle in his vast palm.

“That is most kind of you, Mr Stansfield, but I believe I am capable of opening even the sturdiest of doors without aid. And this, I may say, is barely as sturdy a door as I open with great frequency on my departure from and return to my Wandsworth home every morning and evening. Good day to you sir.”

With that the man tipped his hat, released Stansfield’s hand from his grip, and vacated the room with a flourish. He was never to be seen again.

Gordon Stansfield, left alone in his video rental store, looked pensive for a moment, and then returned to his counter and his Judo Monthly magazine. As he nonchalantly flicked the pages, he dreamed of steaming hot bowls of rice pudding, and illicit meetings with strangers in the New Forest.