119 years of Trust Laugh lines THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, April 25, 1999
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The higher one goes, the lonelier it gets
By Amrita Dhingra

AS you raced out of the restaurant you had no conscious desire of beating any track and field records, but anyone watching you come through those doors would have been justified in asking their companion, "Isn’t that fellow familiar? Saw him at the Olympics I think." And no doubt the companion, perhaps to disguise his ignorance perhaps otherwise, would nod sagely and they would stroll off happily. Your only conscious aim was to reach your car and in that you were determined nothing and no one could stop you. Unfortunately somebody had left a shopping mall trolley in your way.

Looking behind for any likely pursuers you failed to notice its presence till the very last moment and then in true athletic fashion you decided to vault it. For a second you were flying over it in glorious leap, till your foot caught in the handle and both you and the trolley came crashing down.

Untangling yourself from the offending trolley you got to your feet, still a little unsteady, and noticed much to your chagrin that your right ankle was sore from the fall. Giving the trolley a dirty look, which bounced right off it, you limped the remaining distance to your car which thankfully was not parked too far off. A glance thrown over your shoulder revealed that there were no pursuers coming at you at breakneck speed. You sank into the plush upholstery and breathed a sigh of relief.

You sat there for some time rubbing your sore ankle and trying to calm down, for it irked you sorely that girl could pulls tricks like a magician pulling bunnies out of his hat and that never once did those bunnies fail to co-operate. It seemed to you that all she had to do was tap the hat and there they were ready to hop out and in effect deliver a hard punch to you right between the eyes. And now she was in there and you were out here and you still hadn’t the faintest idea as to what she was doing. Examining your progress report as you had been taught to do at business school was not a very happy task. What do you call a guy who spends an hour trying to wrangle out info. from a girl, fails miserably at it and is then forced to absquatulate in the most undignified manner? An oxymoron? Right.

Good cheer, it was clear, was far from your horizon. The Boss was till A.W.O.L. and his young rebel of a daughter refused to co-operate with you. She was practically running a parallel government under your nose. Idly you thought of how she had missed her vocation. By all rights she ought to be the leader of a resistance movement in the jungles of South America running riot there and not terrorising a perfectly nice and civilised guy like you. The thought made you angrier, because you never thought of yourself as a nice civilised guy.

You had, in those golden days before you met her thought of yourself as a guy who knew how to operate in the mean street. A guy with guts and acumen, a winner, the ruthless streak running through you flashing now and then. And here you were, reduced to sitting in a parked car and wondering how that ruthless girl was operating.

Enough to make any reasonable man’s blood boil! It certainly made your blood boil! Only in the mood you were in you didn’t want to be called a reasonable man. You looked in the rear view mirror expecting to see your determined eyes flashing back.

They did only the effect was somewhat marred by the white plaster that still stuck to its job of making you look like Frankenstein’s younger and better looking brother. With a growl you set to work on the plaster. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience but it forced you to concentrate and by the time you had finished the worst of your rage was over.

Amanda Spence, messer-upper of your life, would have to deal with the new you. Gone were the days when she could bung a spanner in your works and walk away laughing. The exact process was rather unclear to you but out of the undoing of the plaster that Dr Vextor had encumbered your face with had emerged the new you. A man who thought on his feet, albeit one ankle may still be a little worse for wear, a man who took on a hundred Amanda’s at a time. Well at least one at a time. Without further ado you got out of the car and marched towards the boite.

So buoyed were you by this sudden resurgence of spirit that it was only when you reached the building that you realised that going in through the back or the front entrance was not a verygood idea at all. No one knew better than you that that young terrorist was capable of boobytrapping both these routes thereby landing straight into the long and no doubt welcoming arms of the law. No sir! You weren’t going to fall into that trap again. Thoughtfully, you surveyed the building. It was a two-storeyed structure with a convenient fire escape to facilitate your ascent.

Now if you could get in at the first floor or the second floor and then descend to the ground floor you could out-trick Amanda. You jumped and got hold of the lowest step of the fire-escape and hoisted yourself up. After that reaching the second floor level was the matter of moments. There however, fate, chance and lady luck all contrived to work against you. All the windows were locked and you were separated from your promised land by a thin but impenetrable wall of glass. Being in the state of mind you were, you did not let a mere trifle deter you.

And you really didn’t have to look far away in. For there was a row of ventilation windows just a few feet above the windows and all of them were wide open. The climb of course would be tricky but then nothing ventured nothing gained. The fire escape which had assisted you thus far could help you only a little. Taking a leg up you latched on to the ledge just below the ventilators. And having done so, you now tried to get the rest of yourself onto the ledge.

For several moments you hung there, fingers clutching desperately at the ledge feet flailing to swing over the ledge. Then you made the first of your blunders. And while incidentally we’re at the point, didn’t Brutus also make three blunders? Anyway, to get back to your blunder. You did something any idiot who is dangling from a ledge will do. You looked down. That’s also the moment you made a new discovery about yourself, you realised you disliked heights. No that’s too mild, you detested and abhorred heights. Infact you had a good mind to actively avoid them in future.

In a frantic and last ditch attempt to save yourself from eminent extinction you heaved yourself upwards. Miracle of miracles! It worked! You let out the breath you had been holding and pulled in a fresh dose of oxygen into starved lungs.

One would not be exaggerating at all to say that you all but mopped a fevered brow. This definitely was not the stuff your favourite dreams were made off.

The ledge was a narrow one and you had to hold on to the wall lest you fall over. As you peered into the room that only had the benefit of a moon to light it you realised it was barely furnished and was probably some kind of a storehouse. Good that meant no one would be around to question your entry into the room. The ledge made cramped quarters. It was made for pigeons and no doubt the odd adventurous cat ventured there after them or to take its afternoon snooze but it certainly was not made for a human being. It was perhaps the narrowness of the ledge that caused you to make the second of your blunders.

You extended your leg and climbed through the ventilator. Or atleast you tried to. If the ledge was not made for human beings deductive logic would have suggested that the architect would not have made ventilation windows fit for human beings to climb through. Sadly though, all your logic deductive or otherwise seemed to have, to use the expression, flown out of the window. The end result was that you were effectively stuck in the ventilation window.

There are of course several wise saws and modern instances which would have warned you of your fate, look before you leap being one that most readily comes to mind, but you had ignored all of them to your own peril. You struggled a good deal before you gave up.

The scenario was certainly a gloomy one. Had someone come up to you talked about grey clouds and silver linings you would have most certainly have smashed his nose. How, you wondered, were you going to spend the rest of the bally night up here? You could of course have yelled for help but like most high achievers you realised, too late some might say that it gets awfully lonely at the top.

There wasn’t soul in sight. And the thought of the advent of morning brought no cheer — for how on earth would you explain what you were doing stuck in the ventilation window on the second floor of this building? What could you say, "I was trying to clean the windows, scale the building, what?"

It would be apparent to anyone privy to your thoughts at that point in time that you were fast falling into that spiral of dejection that often assails young men who manage to get stuck in ventilation windows in the middle of the night. Just then you heard three voices coming from somewhere inside the building. They perked you up immediately.

Whoever they were you were prepared to compose a ballad in their honour. To your mind, these people were the epitome of all that was good and true and sincere in the world. You opened your mouth prepared to yell and alert them of your presence and then shut it again!

For there came that unmistakable voice — half-lilt, half-huskiness. A voice you’d know anywhere. The voice of Amanda Spence. And it had iron in it. It was the tone she used to tell people she meant business. Your heart which had so recently gone asoaring with the clouds fell to the ground with a thump. So this was to be your ultimate humiliation — caught here by her. For a moment you wished you had fallen off the ledge after all.

Then your attention was captured by the scene that unfolded before your eyes. Two men, both middle-aged and tubby were marched through the door by a familiar figure who brought up the rear pointing a cute but nonetheless nasty looking revolver at them.

"Now then tubby," she said to one of them switching on the light which was a lone bulb of low wattage, "let’s near it. And don’t skip the details or you’ll find a bit of lead whizzing awfully close to your left ear."

The two men, neatly strussed up like turkeys could only grumble. "Aw come on Miss Spence, we didn’t know it was you we was messing with. Honest. That damm Stokes......he’ll pay for this."

"Of course he will. I’ll make him pay. But before that you and I are going to have a very informative chat." You noticed that she had changed from her gown to black slacks and a jumper. You also thanked your lucky stars neither of them had noticed you so far. The men had obviously imbibed too much and Amanda had her back to you. You prayed that things stayed that way.

The conversation that followed was very interesting. These two over-grown louses were operators at the stock exchange and as they blabbed on Stokes they confirmed what you had heard at your club. Amanda listened intently and when she had questioned and re-questioned and tripped them up on a dozen half-truths she said with all the serenity of one closing a meeting of the board, "That gentlemen shall be all. For the moment atleast." The two thugs looked relieved. "I hope you have a comfortable night." She looked down at them as they sat there, backs to the wall. "There may of course be the odd rat around here, but it can do no more than chew on your toes. I shall try and find the time to send someone around to get you. Goodnight."

With that she put off the light, slammed the door shut and impervious to the howls and appeals of the two slobs, she left.

Which left you with what you have often heard as being described as mixed feelings. Now you knew what she had been doing in the restaurant, and it gave a good deal of satisfaction in that you had achieved your objective.

However, the irrevocable fact remained that you were still stuck in the ventilator and though you may now have those two thugs as companions your position unassailable as it was, was still one fraught with danger, and you did not like it one bit. It promised to be a long night. Back

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