Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world
Chapter One – “Strange things”
The rain stopped.
After eight grueling and long hours of downpour as heavy as Benjamin had ever seen in a long time, his home was now more of a refuge than a companion.
Electricity supply had been turned off the moment spiraling winds announced the arrival of the rain.
The wind blew through the window of his two bedroom apartment with a powerful passion, ruffling his well-mannered curtain, scattering his manuscript as if they were leaves of fall and with the rain, came the doors that banged and the contrasting freshness of clean air amidst the rouse.
He loves everything about the rain; the whispering hum as sheets of precipitation plummeted to the water-forsaken ground, the often unanticipated flashes of lightning and the rolls of ominous thunder. It liberated his work-beaten body, affording him a well-deserved rest.
The continued rain drops struck the roof of his house, pitting the surface relentlessly like bullets from the sky. The noise almost deafening, making Benjamin long for nothing more than the comfort of his bed.
Now awake, he scowled into the dark of almost a perfect mirror of the clouds above.
He had been in bed mostly during the rainstorm, drifting into short naps and snapping out enough times to break the sleep into un-refreshing chunks. His mind, a hurricane of thoughts as he sat up on his king-sized bed slowly gazing over his once perfect magazine cover room, now littered with papers and his clothes.
His rasping throat was as parched as a dead lizard in the desert sun and his stomach growled loudly as he squirmed on the bed trying to silence the rumbling.
A quick glance at his wall clock; it was only a few minutes past two o’clock. He had missed breakfast and lunch and was already getting set to take a flight. At that moment, hunger was his only obsession.
His Saturdays are typically an orderly routine, but today, he craved for nothing more than to lazy about, lost in his thoughts. He had struggled last night with the manuscript of the new novel he was working on. It was a lifelong passion of his to write a story on love and betrayal. He had dilly dallied on it for many years. Now, torn between midlife crisis and a lull in his career, he opted to complete the book.
He printed the pages of the first few chapters he had written out, so he could spend time proofreading them again in bed. But he would have to pick up all the pages from the cold tiled floor of his bedroom.
From nowhere came the sound of his cell phone, so authentic and loud, piercing through the quiet room in a shrill combination of electronic techno beats and rumba. Irritated, he scanned through the room in momentary stupor, before finally rummaging through his ruffled bed covers for the noisy object, hoping it was either his girlfriend, Linda or his close buddie, Allen calling.
It turned out to be Allen, his friend and colleague at work, requesting for log-in and access details to a story he had written and published months ago.
Allen is an Investigative Journalist just like Ben, but with amazing IT skills to die for. He is also an unrepentant workaholic. His life is devoted to nothing but writing as many stories as he could mentally muster while hoping for his big break in the industry. It was this fixation that spurred his juices.
The call was barely 15secs and he tossed the phone away, like a worthless piece of junk, into the duvet.
He reached out for the half full bottle of water by his bedside stool and took a huge gulp, feeling the chill of the water run down his esophagus with a numbness that made his body stiffen and his eyes roll into his skull.
That was the moment he noticed the notification lights of his phone blinking amidst the rumpled white sheets on the bed.
He reached for the phone again and then opened his SMS inbox to see a “call me back text” from his former boss. First he looked at the date, then he checked the phone number again for correctness. But it was the same one he remembered. The problem is that the number used to belong to his former boss, now deceased. He died four years ago!
“This has to be some joke” he muttered to himself.
By instinct, he dialed the number and alas, it rang! Pulling the phone away from his ears, he looked at the screen in horror, watching as the phone was being answered on the third ring.
Slowly, like in slow motion, he placed the phone back to his ears and waited with baited breath as he heard the unmistaken voice of his dead boss;
“Hello, Hello……Hello” the raspy voice of late Mr. George bellowed through the canals of his ears, hitting ominous notes of dread directly into his brain.
Scared stiff and shocked, he suddenly felt dread creeping down his spine like a careful spider leaving a trail of silk. He sprang to his feet instantly with the phone now away from his ears and smack in his hands.
He stared in complete disbelief at his phone as though it was a strange object he had no business with. His body started a series of instantaneous responses. With quivering fingers, his heart started beating hard and fast like it was about to explode.
With the rising of his adrenaline levels, he started to hyperventilate. Goose pimples formed on his skin in a coordinated reaction and sweat broke out all over his body. It felt like his skin had another hot skin on the outside and his small eyes are now wide open in utter shock!
His brain started to fire out negative thoughts like a machine gun.
“This is impossible! This man has been dead four years! His phone should not be ringing, let alone hearing his voice”.
And more thoughts crept in;
“He is dead! Dead men don’t receive phone calls”.
“And if by chance this is a prank, it is a silly one. Whoever this is, must be a bloody joker”, he thought.
He started pacing his room irrationally as he disengaged the call. His cellphone still in his right hand while he contemplated the situation.
With sleep, well and truly murdered now, he was just as stunned as though he saw a ghost.
“What the hell is going on? Oh my God!”
He is now panicky as he walked towards the window facing the street, he opened the aluminum glass panel to let fresh gush of air into his room with one fierce push.
Then he looked out of the window, first tilting his head towards the sun, feeling the gentle warmth and noticing the sky was darker blue the higher his eyes wandered.
Then he took a quick peek at the street, noticing the receding flood on his street, which was now filled with brown water, rising and twisting with raw power and without conscience. The street had gorged itself on the floods, and its skin had swelled and burst in many places. The makeshift tables and stalls of the street market littered the asphalt-bare road, torn and broken, as if there was a bar fight.
Though the rain had stopped, the air still felt just as damp and the clouds that brought the rain was yet to depart.
Benjamin watched the receding flood carry away an upturned umbrella, swirling in the eddies, moving haphazardly over the surface down the street. It didn’t do much to distract his thoughts though. His fright, still palpable, hung like the sword of Damocles over his head.
Suddenly, the public power supply was restored and the unmistaken hum of his refrigerator and fluorescent lights jolted him back to the moment.
The void, momentarily filled with the blinking fluorescent lights around his apartment, fizzled away just as fast as the lights turned on. His 5 year old 32inch television sitting on the wooden console in his room, flickered to life in a barrage of noisy montage of adverts and voice overs, startling him.
He looked at the TV in disgust, reaching out for the remote control and promptly silencing the voices and images with the tap of the power button, saving space in his head for just the voice of Mr. George that he had just heard a few minutes earlier.
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