Friday, 25 July 2014

A path less straight (pt. 2)

The Wikipedia kid rides again

We had taken Egg’s five year old niece for a walk in the park. She lived mostly with his parents, although care was shared between various relations when they were available. Everyone seemed to travel quite a lot. I asked him why his sister could not look after the child.

“Aphelia? She swings around when she can, but she and Kuiper have important careers and it would not be fair on Vesta to have her live with them” he explained. “She’d probably grow up all weird.”

Vesta ran on ahead, a pair of dress-up feathered wings on her back and a plastic sword in her hand. She had explained to me that angels carried flaming swords to smite down their enemies. I had asked her if she wanted to be an angel when she grew up.

“No,” she had replied. “I want to be a corporate accountant.”

With the ducks fed, the swings swung, the slide slid and some imaginary, but fairly insidious, evil smote into small, charred pieces we headed back to Egg’s house.

Egg shared a fifties semi with his older brother, which he had explained meant that he mainly had the place to himself except for a couple of weeks every year when Bracken breezed into town, rearranged the furniture, enraged the neighbours and then disappeared again to wherever the family firm required him to be. The gardens were neat, the pebble-dash well-painted and while the car on the drive was a couple of decades out, it looked much as it might have done when it was first built. Inside it had been modernised, was decorated conservatively and only a few touches showed any of Egg’s usual disregard for convention.

He set out glasses of iced mint tea and a plate of beetroot and dark chocolate brownies and then paused as though he had heard a strange noise in an adjoining, but empty room.

“Sorry, I’ll have to take this in private,” he said. Then his phone rang.

Vesta and I had brushed away the crumbs and adjourned to the back garden to keep the dinosaurs away as we rounded up cattle on the ranch before he rejoined us. I had thought he looked a little under the weather all day, but something in the phone call had turned his face ashen and sucked all life from his usually under-animated features. He sat heavily on the low wall that guarded the central flower bed from the lawn.

“That was my uncle Fez,” he explained. “My dad’s in hospital, its his heart.”

“Is it serious?” I asked, not knowing what to say. I had met Egg’s dad, Rob, a small, bald, quiet sort of man, he and Egg conversed in partial sentences and long pauses, but seemed to understand each other perfectly. Fez was quite the opposite, overtly expressive about everything, spouting forth endlessly without actually saying anything.

“Yes,” he replied. “The doctor says he has myocarditis of some sort.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Myocarditis or inflammatory cardiomypathy is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). Myocarditis is most often due to infection by common viruses, such as...” stated Vesta.

“Cheers, Vesta.” He took stock of my expression. “That’s just Wikipedia. I usually remember to turn my wi-fi off before she comes round here. It doesn’t look good, I’m going to have to get in contact with Mother.”

“Is that difficult?” I made a mental note to stop asking little questions.

“She was working with Bracken in Vladivostok last month, but left him to finish off. We don’t know where she went after that, usually she’ll get back in contact within a couple of months, but...” He swallowed.

“I understand, and does Bracken know where she might have gone?” I asked.

“He’s split up with Huggy again, which means he’ll be sulking with his phone off,” he said. “He could be anywhere, probably a cabin in the woods somewhere.” He paused. “But I know someone who might be able to point us in the right direction.”

We followed him back into the kitchen. He turned on the radio and played with the tuner until he found what he wanted. I vaguely recognised the intro, but when the voice joined the beat it was the voice of an old gent from the home counties and not some American rap star.

You’ve got some dilemma, running through your life,
Causing you troubles, giving you strife.
You need to go searching, looking for your bro.
Sucker’s hiding where? You just don’t know.
Need to find that sucker, don't know where to go?
He's hiding in the forest, eating kalakukko.

That girl beside you, if I were you
I’d tap that ass
Touch it, stroke it, slow grind all night
Play it...

Egg quickly snapped the radio off. The colour had returned to his cheeks in a rush.

“That was...” I began.

“...awful,” he finished. “He should have stuck to yodelling.”

“And that was supposed to help?” I raised an eyebrow. “What's that Kali-something?”

Kalakukko is a traditional dish from the Finnish region of Savonia made from fish baked inside a loaf of bread.” Vesta answered.

Cheers, Vesta,” Egg said. He turned to me. “Do you fancy a trip abroad? I can't promise there'll be much time for sightseeing, but the firm's credit card will be paying.”

Well...” I considered my options. I was between temporary contracts and my passport had been gathering dust, but I could never remember when on the relationship calendar you were supposed to vanish off into the wilderness with a guy.

Separate rooms, if that's what you want,” he added. “I could just do with some company and an independent, sober viewpoint when it comes to family stuff. Steve's useless at that sort of thing.”

Okay,” I replied. “I'll get my mum to water the plants.”

C'mon, Vesta,” Egg said. “Let's go visit your granddad in hospital, and then Cass and I have to go to Finland to find your Uncle Bracken.”

Uncle Egg, is Granddad going to be alright?” she asked.

Of course,” he answered in that way adults say things to children when they are trying to convince themselves. “We'll find Granny and she'll know exactly how to make him better.”

Citation needed,” Vesta stated.

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