One expects one’s homecoming to be triumphant, to be marvellous, to be wonderful. One does not expect it to involve lost keys, nettles and mice. For more fascinating insights into the wonderful concatenation of coincidences that is my life, read on, Gentle Reader. Be warned, however, that there is much here to Shock and Horrify the Soul, and it would be Wise to keep a Restorative handy.
I come back to Brockwood, I have a nice quiet supper, catch up with people, laugh and joke a little bit, and then I go back to Inwoods at around eleven. I go around to the side of my room where I’d left the key hanging on a hook near the door, and… no key. Nada. Nothing but empty space under my grasping fingers, a complete lack of key-ness where key-ness should be most clearly apparent, and a brief Twinge of Horror passes through my body like a Lightning Bolt.
It was a moment fraught with uncertainity and terror – a truly dreadful instant where all terrible eventualities were suddenly possibilities; had I forgotten to hang it there? had I taken it with me to Yewfield? had I lost it somewhere? had I suddenly been transported into some alternate reality where everything was the same except in miniscule but endlessly frustrating detail, where I was expected to eke out my life for the tortured amusement of some sadistic higher power?
I stood horrified in the enveloping darkness with my hand extended fruitlessly towards the empty, mocking peg, turned to stone by the sheer impossibility and stupendous awfulness of it all. I groped futilely along the wall and across the beams, searching in the darkness for some vague hint of what fate had befallen this tiny, vital piece of steel, but there was no sign of anything, nuh-uh. A thought struck me, and I reached downwards, thinking it might have fallen off the hook and be lying mute in the grass at this very moment, unable to call out to me…. a fate worse than death!
The thing I’d forgotten was that although there was nothing but grass when I left for Yewfield, three weeks is plenty of time for nettles to rear their ugly little heads, and I rapidly withdrew my hand with a startled yelp, not unlike a puppy encountering an unexpected electric fence, and sucked reflectively on my fingers, cursing the dratted Urtica dioica. I quickly realised, however, that I had to (metaphorically) gird my loins and dive back into the thicket, failing which I would never resolve this horrible mystery, so with a deep breath and a mind clear, calm and collected, I thrust my hand deep within the scalding furnace of the nettle patch, and rummaged around – fruitlessly, of course. All that pain was in vain, and no, that’s not poetry.
Realising that this whole exercise was pointless and possibly painful, I abandoned this particular line of attack, and went into the house to bang on Eli’s door and demand an explanation. While this may seem completely random, there is method in this madness. She had opened my room over the holidays to get a pair of shoes, and so seemed to be the best person to solve this rapidly evolving mystery.
However, when you bang on a door and expect a sweet soprano voice to tell you to go jump in a lake because the owner of the voice was very recently untimely ripped from slumber, and a definite bass answers politely instead, there is a certain momentary confusion. As it happens, Eli wasn’t sleeping in her room, but was upstairs because her dad was visiting, and I had woken him up instead. So I rapidly and suavely apologised, trudged up the stairs, evaded Sophie’s ever-roving talons, and stumbled onto the landing, where a new dilemma confronted me. Not knowing where Eli was, I had a choice of three rooms, and three people to disturb – and then I realised in a flash of relief that I could just wake up Fran, and all would be well, because at least she wouldn’t tear me limb from limb (or so I hoped). To think is to act in moments of crisis, and fractionally later, I was thumping on Fran’s door, yowling her name, urging her and all good men to come to the aid of the party, and having successfully obtained entry, I was nonplussed to discover that she had no idea where Eli was. Back to square one.
Luckily, just as I was going back to the landing to ponder my next course of action, Eli came out of hibernation and enquired what was going on. I rapidly outlined the situation, establishing that she was certain she had put the key back, which took us no further forward, so I obtained a candle – alternative illumination being unavailable at the present time – and went to muck around again with the nettles, with the usual fruitlessness.
Sanity and Reason departed their throne at this point, and so did Politeness, as I stood there in the darkness, cursing fluently and eloquently, and considering options. In the end, I went back to the school and spent the night on a couch in the library, waking up with a stiff neck par excellence, and in the dawn’s gray light went back to Inwoods to see if anyone at the school knew anything more about this perplexing mystery. Luckily, I immediately found out that Carol had the key, and two minutes’ conversation with her was sufficient to elicit its present whereabouts.
Having made a triumphant entry, I burst through the door, to find that Mr. MacNamara, or some hideous relative of his, had taken advantage of my absence to have a rodent orgy in my hallowed halls, strewing the place with bits of torn clothing, food and droppings. My shoes were full of bits and pieces, several shirts had huge holes chewed in them, drawers had been got into, suitcases rummaged through… the mess beggared description.
So, three hours of cleaning and a great deal of Anglo-Saxon later, here we are, with a habitable habitation once more. I hope you have enjoyed this Tale of Courage and Woe, Gentle Reader, and Good Night.