I mentioned this book over at my indie publishing blog today and thought I’d share the first chapter here.
The Village Id
Come to think of it, every village has a character in the other sense. Not necessarily an idiot. That would hardly be polite, and rarely truthful.
No, a character: the odd man out, the one whose character isn’t totally aligned with the village’s.
In Iddington village that would be me: I’m the only sane person there.
Perhaps the run on insanity is, in part, having to explain to every passerby (including most postal services) that, no, this is not Eddington, a name apparently overused to the point of saturation, but Iddington, a name used so rarely it’s hardly used even here, except by visitors. On those occasions, like a Southern Baptist congregation, each utterance of the name is echoed rifle crack by all within earshot, pronounced precisely correctly: IDingtn (note the lack of a vowel sound in the final syllable.)
Most visitors jump. Some turn tail and run.
On one such occasion the fleeing party stopped short a few yards out, spun on his heel, boomeranged to the door of the post office.
“IDDINGTON!” was the shouted response from all, let alone sundry.
“Well, obviously. I asked the driver to deliver me to Iddington and he has so why shouldn’t I say ‘Iddington’ when I arrive?”
The silence wasn’t surprise, it was tactical preparation. As if elected, Mrs. Elisabeth With An Ess Rose stepped from behind the counter where she lived (at least it appeared she lived there; I had never been in the post without seeing her there, and suspected the similar-looking apparition seen prowling the streets at other times was a stunt double.)
“It’s so often mispronounced.”
The stranger stood his ground. “And have I mispronounced it?”
“No indeed, you have not.”
Blinking, the stranger gathered his wits. This was clearly not a ‘stand and fight’ battle, but one of those shooting-from-the-underbrush surprise tactical things.
“Then . . . erm, well, listen, if I’ve pronounced it correctly, what’s all this shouting, eh?”
Unaccustomed to doing battle in such a public manner over such an obvious point, Mrs. Elisabeth With An Ess Rose paused. Clearly, the action was correct and proper, but how to explain it to an obstinate visitor? Habit wasn’t the right word. Habits are so often nasty little things.
The furrowed brow and blinking turned to a wide-eyed stare.
“What?” His voice was, perhaps louder than necessary. Under the circumstances I had already given him full marks for self-control and felt disinclined to issue any demerits for an understandable increase in volume.
“I heard you, woman. I’m confused, not deaf. You’re telling me it is a long-established and agreed upon local custom to shout the name of this place every time it’s spoken?”
With An Ess considered carefully. “Not every time.” There was more, her trailing voice implied, but she was not volunteering details.
Looming large, the silence threatened to skip right over awkward to impasse. No, the stranger spoke. Bellered.
“Then when, pray tell, is it not the custom, in case there’s any possibility of avoiding it?”
One could be forgiven for interpreting the crinkling of With An Ess Rose’s orbicularis oculi muscles as a positive emotion. There was, indeed, a smile about her eyes, but there was nothing positive about it, outside her own head. She had won. Backed her opponent into a corner whence he could not escape.
“When it is pronounced correctly by a resident.” The smile in the eyes left them entirely as it moved to her mouth.
“Then I am delighted, albeit not without reserve, to announce that I have purchased Milford House and, as a resident, relinquish my right to that benighted unamusing tradition.”
Never once have I mentioned to Mrs. Elisabeth With An Ess Rose how foolish she looked that moment, face frozen in an artificial version of what was already an artificial facial configuration. Knowing she’ll never read this (or won’t admit having read it) I feel safe enough.
Spinning again on that same heel (I would learn it was a habit he had carefully cultivated) Iddington’s newest resident took two steps, spun again, and returned to the post’s door. Scanning the tableau, he smiled broadly, the full Duchenne, and snapped “Iddington!”
Another glance around the room before leaving in earnest confirmed that, despite the twitches and rustling, he’d been given provisional resident status and would be spared the nonsensical repetition.
I stepped to the door and, with my own panoramic look, repeated it: “Iddington!”
A lesser man might, at this point, have laughed. I did not.
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