Grandfather is leaning over the second chair trying to extend the footrest. The piece looks more like a dentist’s chair than a recliner. ‘Come here, my boy. Sit down next to your old grandfather.’ Given that the seat is now angled at sixty degrees, and the footrest is fully extended, I have to take a running jump to do so. I bang my ankle on the iron detailing.
‘Would you like a drink? Of course you would.’ Two tall tumblers appear in his left hand and a bottle of dark rum in his right. The chair must have compartments. He pulls out an aeroplane-style table from the inner armrest and lays out the glasses.
‘Your mother tells me you’re having some trouble with the older boys in school.’
‘I’m thirty-six, Granddad.’
‘Is that so? You’re very old to still be going to school, I must say. But not the oldest we’ve had in the family, not by a long stretch.’ He’s poured a large measure of rum for himself, and a minutely larger measure for me. He returns to his own and attempts to level the glasses.
‘You’re saying someone was still in school at the age of thirty-six?’
‘Hmm, yes. Your cousin Jeremy. Turned out to be attending home economics at the local tech until he was well into his forties. It was all a ruse, in the end, or at least that’s what the police said…’
‘Young love, am I right? Such passion comes from youth.’ He’s tried to level off my glass against his, again going a fraction higher. We’re up to about four fingers of rum now.
‘You’ve probably heard from my mother,’ I offered, ‘that I’m having some professional challenges at the moment.’ Five fingers. ‘And somehow you took her up wrong.’
‘Your mother is a confusing woman. Intentionally so, I’ve always held. She used to hand me crayon drawing of what were quite obviously zeppelins. She’d insist for an hour that they were cows, or horses, or dogs. But they were always zeppelins, tethered in a green field.’
‘There is a power struggle playing out in the office. I am having daily tension with at least four of my managers. Not that I am looking for advice of any sort.’
‘A bully is a bully, I always maintain. And there’s only one way to slay a bully.’
‘… which is?’
‘Pistol. Swords occasionally.’
‘You’re suggesting I murder a coworker?’
‘Are you gone stupid, child? Murder is a heinous act. I am suggesting a gentleman’s resolution. A duel.’
‘A duel? An actual duel? Pistols at dawn?’
‘Did I ever tell you about the time your great-uncle Gregory had satisfaction against a local boy who had once been his childhood friend? They fell out.’
‘A pillow fight, I believe. No, I am getting mixed up. The pillow was the weapon. The disagreement began with a pillow fight, and when tempers flared a duel was proposed. I’m not entirely clear on the details, but your great-uncle definitely killed Marcus Forsyth with a pillow.’
‘What? What kind of grown men duel with pillows?’
‘Oh, they weren’t grown men. Both were four at the time. This happened in Marcus’s bedroom.’ He leans down to bring his eye level with the black rum before adding a final drip to my glass.
‘Gregory murdered a boy with a pillow?’
‘He duelled him. The better man won. Boy, I mean.’
‘Well, thank you for the advice.’
‘It does not have to be a pillow. I have any number of instruments in the cabinet upstairs. Do you think your boss would require a loan also?’ I shake my head. He hands me a pint of rum. We each slot of our glasses into the holes in our armrests.