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Suit Single Lady

By David Gardiner

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Oh hello! I didnít hear you come in. I must have dozed off in this chair.

No, thatís perfectly okay. That was why I left the front door open. I donít always hear the doorbell, so I ask people to knock instead. My mother used to knock on the floor, so I always hear that. Sit down, let your eyes get used to the low light. I keep the shutters closed, I donít like it too bright. Itís not good for the books. My name is Danny. What should I call you? Ö Monica? Thatís a lovely name. Itís like my motherís middle name, Monique, the French version.

How did you hear about the room?

Oh yes, the one on the College notice board. This would be a perfect place for somebody whoís studying. Itís a very quiet house. I read a lot and I have great respect for learning, even though Iím not what you would call an educated man. These are my booksóall around us. The thirty-volume set is the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 edition. My mother got that as a present when I was very young. Well, to be honest it was a present from my father: the only thing he ever gave her she said, apart from me. He was an encyclopaedia salesman. He used to tell my mother facts. My mother liked factsódo you like facts? Then when she got ill she used to teach me things from it. She needed somebody with her all the time, you see, so she had to educate me at home.

You donít mind me making notes while we talk, do you? I think itís very important to keep records.

What are you studying at the College? Ö Tourism. Is that a college subject? Yes, I suppose it must be, why not? Lots of people work in tourism, donít they? Ask me a tourism question and see if I can answer it. Go on. Anything. Give it a try.

All right then, capital cities. Ask me a capital city. Ö Peru? Thatís too easy. The capital of Peru is Lima. Itís the second oldest South American capital, founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro who called it The City of Kings. Itís population in 1977 was approximately four point six million. Its average elevation is 154 metres above sea level. Seasonal average temperatures vary between 13 and 26 degrees Centigrade and the rainy season is June to September. Pretty good, eh?

Ask me a hard oneóone of the smaller African countries, maybe, or some little British protectorate. You wonít catch me out, you know. Itís allÖ in here. In my head. Do you think I would be a good tourism student?

The room? Yes, it was my motherís room. Itís quite a good size and very neat and tidyÖ well, weíll go up and see it in a minute. You would be welcome to use this room too of courseófor your studies, in the evenings. You would have the Encyclopaedia, and all these books. And I might even be able to help if there was something you didnít know. Youíd be surprised at the kind of things I know. Ask me another one. Go on. Anything. Plants. Animals. Sport. History. Philosophy. Science. Music. Literature. Go on. As hard as you like. Ö. Okay. Iíll help you. The chemical elements. There were 106 chemical elements known in 1979, numbered one to 106. Give me any atomic number and Iíll tell you about the element.

Seventy-five? Right. The element with atomic number seventy-five is rhenium. Its atomic mass is 183.23 and it has the third highest melting point of all the elements, after carbon and tungsten. Itís used mainly in alloys with tungsten and molybdenum to create filaments for very high temperature incandescent lamps. Research is being done into the medical properties of its compounds and a report on this is being prepared for a later edition. You see, Monica? Itís all in here. There isnít much that I canít tell you. Except of course the stuff thatís being held back for later editions. I could help you a lot with your studies.

Why did I ask for a lady and not a gentleman? Well, Iíve never lived with a gentleman. Iíve looked after my mother for more than twenty years. I know all about looking after ladies. Iím very good at, and I like doing it. I know what women need and how theyíre feeling. If you were up there I would know, almost before you did yourself, what you needed and how you were feeling. I studied my mother you see. I observed her, and made notes, and came up with theories, and tested my predictions against actual outcomes. It was like being a scientist, or a birdwatcher, in a hide with binoculars. I had to find ways of seeing without being seen. You mustnít interfere with your experimental subject. Thatís how the scientific method works. Thereís an article about it in Volume Twelve. It all comes down to good observation and being systematic. And now that sheísÖ no longer with us, I want to make use of everything that Iíve learned. I want somebody else to have the benefit of my insights, my research into the female gender.

I had this ideaÖ not very realistic I supposeÖ that one day I might write an article on women for a future edition. I donít suppose they would want an article from somebody like me, somebody without degrees and letters after his name, but you never know, do you? Because there isnít anything about women in the 1979 edition. Womenís achievements and womenís politics and diseases of women and female biology yes, but not women as such. Not what makes them happy and what makes them sad and why they need to let off steam every now and again, and why they make bad decisions and end up being sorry for the rest of their lives. But thatís the kind of thing that we really need to know, isnít it? Simple things. Basic things. You seem surprised. Is it such an odd idea? Iím probably not explaining it very well. But if youóor somebodyólived here, we could talk about it, couldnít we? We could work on it together. It could beÖ our little private pet project. And just having you here would double the size of my sample.

Thatís entirely okay. If it isnít the kind of thing that interests you I can just do it myself. Iíve always wanted to write some kind of encyclopaedia article you see, but there isnít anything that I know enough about, except what I said. Looking after women. Thatís the only field that Iíve had any opportunity to study. Weíve always just been here, my mother and myself, studying one another you might almost say.

Iíve never had a holiday you know. Wouldnít have been practicable with Mother the way that she was. You must find that very odd, studying tourism like you do. I know about most countries, all the countries that were there in 1979, but I havenít been to any of them. I havenít felt the sun on my face or the palm leaves brushing my arms or smelled the open sewers of Delhi, or seen the pyramids or the Statue of Liberty or the waves on Waikiki Beach. Youíve done all that, havenít you? I can tell that you have. So in a way, we would complement one other. The theory and the practice. The book learning, and the dirt on your hands. I mean that metaphorically, of course. Your hands are very clean. Lovely, fine, delicate fingers. You have beautiful hands.

Look, Iím sorry, I donít know what you must think of me. Iíve really said far too much, please forgive me.

You donít? But you havenít seen the room yet. Come upstairs and take a look at it at least. Itís a very good room. You would have plenty of space, and if you ever needed anything all you would have to do is knock on the floor.

Am I asking too much rent? If thatís the problem we could talk about it. We could even come to some other arrangement entirely. You see I really would like to have youóor somebodyóit would be, what shall I say, mutually beneficial. The roomís just going to wasteÖ

Donít go yet. If you donít want the room thatís okay, I donít mind. Just talk to me for a little while. Tell me why it is that I canít find anybodyÖ for my room.

Is it all these facts that I know? Does my learning intimidate people? Is there something that Iíve been saying, that would be better left unsaid?

Okay. Just a feeling. I can understand that.

Do you know what was inscribed above the door of the Temple of the Oracle at Delphi? That was the place where people in the ancient world used to go seeking wisdom. No? Well, it said, ďKnow ThyselfĒ. But how do you know yourself? Is there any way to do it? I looked it up but there isnít any article about it, in any of the volumes. There isnít anything about that or about women either. About what women want, I mean, how to please themólook after them. Please, donít go yet, talk to me just for a little whileÖ

All right then, but I did enjoy our little chat. Really I did.

I suppose those topics must have been held back for a future editionÖ