Baffled Bill

By on October 12, 2017

William Grafton was a young man in his mid- twenties, recently married to beautiful Laura. He used to be a very ‘one-of-the-boys’ kind of guy, having been part of a rugby club, a darts club and a sailing club. Those activities used to involve partying and partaking in party favourites like drinks, girls and rock ‘n roll.
But, in theory, those days of wine, women and song came to a grinding halt the day he got married. He had decided that he needed to move on to the next logical step in his life; get married, settle down to sober habits, get ahead at work and then start a family – the tried and tested route of all healthy males, or so it was written.

Marriage did not mean that he had to avoid his friends altogether. He still had a lot of those - males and females. They all called him Bill. He called them whenever he needed help or advice. His best friend-in-need was George Humber - a friend indeed. There was Thomas, Richard and Harold, as well as Pamela - all good friends. He was rich in that regard.

Last Friday night Bill had a most preposterous dream. He did not remember ever having a dream quite as weird. His wife had been abducted by, what he could only describe as, aliens. He had not actually seen them but he knew that it was only aliens that had vehicles that flew off into the sky at a whim. He and his wife had been about to step into some sort of large glossy limousine. In his good-mannered way, he opened the door for her to step in first. The next thing he knew, he was standing at the side of the road seeing the vehicle take off without him. The noise of their loud exhausts rattled his eardrums. This was a very unpleasant situation. . He should have been in that noisy vehicle as well. Disappointment overwhelmed him.

He dreamt that he had pursued the airborne vehicle for a short while, running down a yellow brick road, shouting “Stop! Stop!” He was in The Wizard of Oz, as the Scarecrow bounding beside the yellow maize fields. But just as quickly, they had morphed into a field of yellow flowers. He did not notice what blooms they were, but he felt certain that he was in a world of Wordsworthian wonder.

He had swayed and danced and got awfully dizzy and exhausted. In fact, his head swam around in a sea of clouds. He felt headachy, tired of all the running and his legs were seizing up. He had a sudden urge to water those flowers with whatever was in reach.This was just before Mother Nature woke him up in her inimitable way. Reluctantly, he crept out of his comfort zone and waddled off to the bathroom as Mother had dictated. Both bladder and head required instant relief.

A terrible headache was something that Bill had hardly ever encountered; but it was second in line for the gratification queue. After a minute, he opened the medicine chest and despatched two or three tablets. Where had this headache suddenly come from? Not from those daffodils, surely? He ambled to the kitchen, fighting through a misty cloud of vagueness, and prepared a necessary and urgent mug of coffee and some toast – the wake-up cure.

He tried to recall his name; His brain strained. It came to him after a few seconds of concentrated thought. His name was Bill! It was the coffee mug in his hand that sparked the engine. ‘Bill, have your Fill’ was clearly inscribed on the mug, a gift from Laura. She always seemed to go the extra mile in buying him something novel on Valentine’s Day.

While waiting for his toast to burn, he thought about good old George. It was almost as though he sensed George was in the flat somewhere. He could swear that he had talked to him quite recently. He remembered his kindness, his patience, but could not think why he thought that. It should have been his wife Laura who was uppermost in his mind.

Did he say Wife?

What about his wife? He did not notice her on her side of the bed as he got up. But had he actually looked? It was difficult to really observe anything when holding one’s head in one’s hands. He made his way back to the bedroom to confirm or deny, still feeling tipsy. Her side of the bed was empty, made up and undisturbed. Oh dear!

Where was she? He knew she was not in the bathroom; otherwise he would have tripped over her earlier on. He searched the rest of the flat. No trace at all; and there was no George either – just in case. He did a sort of a panic pantomime and paddled back to the bedroom where he dressed hurriedly in last night’s castoffs, out the front door, keys in hand and took the elevator to the garage level. Her car was not in its bay. He now had a missing wife and her missing car. What could be worse?

There was something very seriously worse; the discovery that his car too was missing from its bay. He was completely baffled. His anxious brain was still half considering the alien spacecraft flying off with her in it. That was just a dream he told his brain, trying to convince it to think rationally. In any case, the aliens would not have taken both cars as well.

His head was still not in a healthy state to do too much logical reasoning. He did not know what to do next, so he just staggered out into the morning light in a daze. He wandered lonely under a cloud of despair, among the disinterested crowd on the pavement. He was so sad and all forlorn. Like a sheep that’s newly shorn. An odd thing he could not explain, he still had Wordsworth on the brain.

He wandered around, and around, and wondered what the heck had happened. Did she leave him early this morning? Was it his snoring? Did he do something inappropriate? And where was his car? He had no memory of it not being where it was supposed to be. For Bill, this Saturday had not turned out as well as most other Saturdays.

He asked himself how he was so sure that it was a Saturday morning. He just seemed to be certain for some reason. He must have spotted a calendar in his flat, he thought. No, that couldn’t be it. How would a calendar tell him which day it was? If only his head was not so fuddled. He had not even had his toast and coffee - no wonder things were so fuzzy. Breakfast was badly needed.

Hunger had now been added to his list of woes. He had to get back to his flat and try to fill up with food. No brain can work on an empty stomach. This was the first bit of logic that he tried. Once he was back in his flat, he decided that he should write down a quick to-do list. For instance, he wrote down that he must phone the police once he was through with his breakfast and felt better. He should also look for any note that his wife may have left for him in the flat.

But first things first: he had to throw away the cold toast that was still in the toaster and replace it with fresh slices of brown bread. He re-boiled the kettle and sensed that his headache was slowly clearing – thanks to the tablets he had taken earlier. The throbbing of the headache was now being replaced by another vibration. The beat and rhythm of it became persistent just like rock and roll. It was rock and roll, he thought. It was a familiar beat that he must have heard recently. Why else was it on his mind?

While the kettle boiled, he quickly checked the bedroom, the lounge and the dining room for the presence of a note. He found nothing. All he found was a grocery list. His wife usually keeps those lists to herself. This was a clue? The list was in the kitchen, affixed to the door of a cupboard with masking tape. Saturday was written on the top line.

A ringing interrupted his thought process. It was his cell-phone. The sound startled him. He had forgotten that it was in his pocket from last night. Had he been thinking more clearly, he would have phoned Laura’s number in the first place. With his head in Throbsville, he had just not thought of the obvious solutions. He looked at the screen to see who the caller was. It was Laura!

He answered immediately but with a little trepidation, not sure what she was about to say. There she was in full voice, cheerfully asking him how his first day of freedom had been. What on earth did she mean? But wait. Just wait now for a moment. Prompted and cajoled in this way, his forgotten short-term memories had flowed back. As he stuttered along, he wasn’t even aware of what they were saying to each other. But he knew what he was suddenly remembering - too much for his dry sponge of a mind to absorb all at once. From a little trickle of recollection to a splash pool of memories, then on to a flood, and finally, a tempest that simply blew him away.

Yes, she had left yesterday morning to visit her pregnant sister in Port Alfred. How could he have forgotten that? Almost her last words were “Now do not go and get carried away at Harold’s birthday party tonight. A married man like you should not become irresponsible just because he’s on his own for a week”.

But he had got carried away. Goodness, did he ever get carried away. It seems he had decided to enjoy that party as well as his sudden freedom - all in one go. He had given it his very best shots - one blessed shot after the other, and had completely neglected to heed Laura’s sage but forgotten advice. The rhythm and beat that had been bouncing around in his head all morning was the music of the night before. And the throbbing was obviously from his all night drinking and dancing.

Bill did not recall much else about the party. He just vaguely remembered that his good friend George had helped him back to his flat because there was no way that his best friend would allow him to drive his car back home. He hoped that Harold would not sell it to defray the costs of any consequences that may have happened during his hours of darkness.

Laura asked whether anything was wrong because he sounded so confused. He assured his chirpy wife that everything was fine at home, and that he was merely half asleep with a slight headache from sleeping too long. “I found your grocery list on the cupboard”. “How’s your sister?” he remembered to ask, completely unaware that she had already told him about her. In a frustrated tone, she told him to phone her back once he was sober again. He kissed the phone goodbye with mixed feelings. Yet it was a very timely call and he was glad that he had not phoned the police after all.

Bill now felt much more relaxed and was eager to get stuck into that toast and coffee that had eluded him all morning. He had made up his mind that he was not going to bother phoning anyone else that morning. Baffled Bill would go back to bed and catch up with his missing sleep. Perhaps he could get back to the daffodils and discover where those aliens had got to. He had a bone to pick with them.

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