Knowing Madison, in the manner one knows of a casual acquaintance who keeps popping up at the same Austrian operas over the years, I was confident she had left the flat for Park Avenue. As it now stood, she was probably skipping her way merely down the thoroughfare as the ladies of the social aristocracy came back from their lunches, and the heiresses tiptoed out of their plastic surgeons, eager not to be seen by the friends who thought them on a tour of the Italian Riviera.
It is with these intuitive indications that I left the flat with Ypres by my side. The doorman gave Ypres a warm good afternoon, while I, content in the knowledge that I would be out of the country within forty-eight hours, gave him a raspberry (the audio event, not the fruit). It was a raspberry so juicy and ripe, it was suited for a Pimm’s between sets at Wimbledon. I felt sure that, despite his selective amnesia, he would remember me from hence forth.
Ypres and I reached the corner. I looked the famed avenue up and down.
“You must be careful to look both ways,” said Ypres as would a maternal dolphin to its ward.
“Of course, Ypres. We Londoners have indications to look right, then left, on the pavement for tourists, but Americans have no such consideration. With this in mind, I have been extremely prudent since our arrival in the United States. I have always made sure to look right, then left, in case any Britons, or Ugandans, or Kiwis, or whatnot were driving, and left, then right for those, such as Americans and the Continentals, who insist on driving on the wrong side of the road, that is the right side. Right as opposed to left, as it were.”
“Many of our compatriots, in moments of distraction, forget to look both ways. As such, they have become the unwanted recipients of ongoing traffic.”
“What kind of person would fall victim to that?”
“Sir Winston Churchill was struck on Fifth Avenue in such a manner, as he looked right instead or left. I believe, if memory serves me well, that it was on Fifth Avenue between 76th and 77th Street.”
For a moment, I had a vision of old Winnie sprawled across the pavement in full evening dress, down but still puffing at his cigar. I resumed my questions and answers session with Ypres.
“At least he had the forethought to be struck on Fifth Avenue, Ypres. And at the smarter end! By what kind of vehicle was he struck? Was it a Rolls Royce?”
“I do not recall the specifics.”
I was about to admonish, or demolish (whichever one fits best) Ypres when a sight in the distance aroused my curiosity. Someone was wearing a pair of shorts that was oddly familiar. The top half of the individual was obstructed by some construction panelling.
The shorts’s cut was high. They were short shorts. And their colour was a precise, almost peculiar shade of red. In an instant, I recognised them immediately. They were Lexington Redcoat red summer short shorts!
“Ypres! Those are Lexington Redcoat red summer short shorts! Across the street! Like the ones I wore in Hyde Park!”
“Indeed. They appear to be an integral part of Mr. Beaconsfield-Outremont’s summer wardrobe.”
No sooner had a “what ho” escaped my mouth, than the figure across the road became fully visible. It was unmistakeably the muscular-thighed Montrealer. He was happily eating an ice cream cone topped with strawberries, waiting for the light to change. His waiting took place half way into the street, as it is done in New York.
The last detail is of primary importance for the course of events that followed. In my fashion zeal to ensure I kept a monopoly on all things Lexington Redcoat red short shorts, I may have yelled: “Beaconsfield-Outremont” across Park Avenue a tad loudly. This in turn caused Beaconsfield-Outremont to lift a disappointed face away from the ice cream he was enjoying towards our forever fashionable duo.
In so doing, he did not see one of the black Cadillac Escalades, used as a sort of armoured division to ferry about the rich, fast approaching. The laws of physics being as they are, and Beaconsfield-Outremont being a law-abiding Canadian, he was struck rather spectacularly in the middle of Park Avenue.
His muscular thighs, his pride and joy, became airborne, and the ice cream he had been so simply enjoying seconds earlier, entered into orbit, strawberries and all. Time froze for an instant, but in a different way than during a UN meeting. This was a freeze permeated with movement.
As the Escalade screeched to a halt, Ypres automatically calmly hurried towards Beaconsfield-Outremont. Frozen in shock, I followed after regaining the capacity to move.
My heart was racing to such an extent, its deafening beat was all I heard as I stood by Ypres, looking down on a scene I would rather forget.
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