Tuesday 24 May 2011

At Home With Samuel Johnson (Part One - Sam Moves In)

Part One: Sam Moves In

In which an accident leads to an unusual flatshare.

I have this Welsh friend called Gwyddein who owns an allotment just behind my parents’ house. He often pops into their house after he has spent time tinkering and I regularly see him when I visit on a Sunday. When he is there, he drinks gallons of tea and eats half a loaf in marmite on toast. I think those toast sessions are the only time he eats, he seems the type to forget to. We get on well, joking, talking about old books and sometimes he shows me some of his collection of first editions, all of them in tremendous condition.

One day, I took my parents’ dog for a walk by the allotment and was surprised to find smoke billowing out of his shed - fearing for his safety, the dog and I ran to the shed and opened it to see a machine like nothing I have ever seen before. It was a collection of metal tubes sparking with a blue energy and producing a smoke that stung the back of my throat. Coughing along with me was Gwyddien, who was trying to waft the smoke out of the shed. There was another man in the shed, wearing an old fashioned brown suit and wafting away smoke with a grey wig. 

The smoke stung our eyes and drove us out the shed and into the bare allotment. Just in time as the shed then exploded sending shivers of timber raining around us. 
    “Quick!” Gwyddien yelled, “before the police come. To your parents’ house!” He belted off towards their house with me and the dog following and the strange man close behind. I used the key and we burst into the house, ignoring the protests of my mum as the three of us trod soot, mud and splinters through the house and barricaded ourselves in the kitchen. The dog waited eagerly for his food and my mum banged on the door, demanding to be let into her own kitchen. I switched the kettle on.
     “What is going on?” my mum called from the other side of the door. “I heard a bang.”
     “That was me,” Gwyddien said shyly, opening the door. “I’m not really a gardener. I’m an inventor and I managed to invent a time machine. Unfortunately, it just blew up.” 
    “Unfortunately,” I said, looking at the strange man, who still looks too confused to speak.
    “Meet, Samuel Johnson,” said Gwyddien. 
I looked up at my hero, tall, wide and ugly, his mouth muttering away to itself and dribbling a bit, twigs and dust in a lopsided wig that had already been singed a few times.
     “Delighted to meet you,” I said and extend my hand to shake his. We shake but Johnson is still too dazed to pay much attention and his huge hands hang limp.
     “The trouble is, without the machine, I can’t take him back. Someone’s got to look after him.”
     “What about you?” Mum said. “It was your machine that brought him here.”
     “Have you seen my place? It’s like a cupboard.”
     “Well, I’m not going to have him here, how am I supposed to explain him to my husband?”
     “I’ll have him,” I heard myself saying. “I’m looking for a new flatmate.”
     “What about rent?” Mum asked.
     “I’ll pay his rent,” said Gwyddien. “After all, I brought him here.”
     “Cool,” I said. After all, the man is my idol and I would never have had the chance to meet him, let alone live with him if it wasn’t for Gwyddien’s time machine.
Johnson’s mouth kept moving and his eyes rolled. I leaned forward to listen to his muttering.
     “I have finally lost my reason,” he mumbled. “I am mad.” 
The kettle clicked and I poured. I felt we all deserved one.

Until the next instalment...


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