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Authors: Benjamin James Barnard

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Aurelius and I

BOOK: Aurelius and I
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Title Page

 

AURELIUS AND I

 

 

By

Benjamin James Barnard

 

 

Publisher Information

 

Aurelius And I

Published in 2010 by

Andrews UK Limited

www.andrewsuk.com

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published, and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

The characters and situations in this book are entirely imaginary and bear no relation to any real person or actual happening.

 

Copyright © Benjamin James Barnard

 

The right of Benjamin James Barnard to be identified as author of this book has been asserted in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

 

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to the loving memory of my grandparents, George and Violet. I miss you both everyday.

 

 

A Warning To The Reader

 

This is the story of Aurelius-Octavius Jumbleberry-Jones. It is a story of friendship, of courage, of destiny, and of sherbet-filled Yorkshire puddings. I am afraid it will not always be a comforting story, and I can provide no guarantees that the ending will be a happy one. It is however, a story that I believe is worth telling, and one that I hope is worth hearing.

Along the way we shall meet many interesting fellows and fellowesses; some cruel, some kind, and many whose motives I have never been able to decide upon. Such characters shall include, but not be limited to; a forgetful part-time wizard; a self-conscious ogre; and a judgemental yucca plant.

And so, dear reader, you may at this point be thinking that the story you are about to hear is one of fiction and fantasy, a modern fairytale narrated by a professor of pretty lies. I do not blame you for imagining such a thing - and I am in no doubt that this will not be the only occasion during our time together that such a musing enters your head - but I assure you that such a contemplation is mistaken. The story I am about to tell you is as true as my memory will allow, for it is the story of my childhood.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

My name is Charlie Crumplebum – yes, feel free to laugh, everybody else did. Does.

“Be proud of the Crumplebum name, Charlie,” my father used to say to me. “I certainly am.”

My grandmother, on the other hand, had other opinions. She was my mother’s mother and had never much cared for my father on the grounds that he was “too dull for an exciting, imaginative woman” like my mother, who had always been “a real little adventurer” before she had met my father. My grandmother was never shy in giving any of her opinions, particularly those with regards to the ridiculousness of my father’s (and, therefore, my) surname. She often lamented my mother’s decision to take the Crumplebum name and frequently insisted to me that I was to change my own surname to her family name of Kuzscak (which I could neither spell, nor pronounce) on the day of my eighteenth birthday should I wish to receive anything of any value in her will.

Anyway, that’s the ‘hilarious’ issue of my name dealt with, I would appreciate it if you kept any further titterings about it to yourself so that they don’t interrupt the story. Speaking of the story, we don’t seem to have gotten very far with it do we? I do apologise. Allow me to begin again...

My name is Charlie Crumplebum and I am a Protector. I’m afraid you will have to wait a little while to find out what that means. If I tried to explain it to you now you simply wouldn’t understand. Or wouldn’t believe me. Or both. I know this because when I first found out what a Protector was (and that I was one), I didn’t believe it either.

In light of this, I shall begin our tale at the point it began for me (which would seem as good a place to begin as any) in the hope that by telling you how I learned of the secret world that exists within the shadows of our own I may help you to accept my story as genuine.

I write these words as an old man, but our story begins many years ago when I was only young, just as you are now. When you begin to get on in years and come to look back on your life you will no doubt realise, just as I have, that there are a few precise moments in our lives which come to shape and define all that proceeds them. For me there was one moment in particular which was so important that it appears to divide my existence in two - the moment I met Aurelius-Octavius Jumbleberry-Jones.

 

I am unable to recall the exact date upon which my life changed forever. My grandmother had always espoused to me the virtues of keeping a diary, and, in light of the difficulties I have encountered in recalling the details necessary for writing this book, I feel a responsibility to espouse such a virtue to you now, dear reader. Unfortunately though, I ignored my grandmother’s advice (just as you will doubtlessly ignore mine) and, as such, this lack of a written record has cruelly combined with the mental tiredness of old age in order to rob me of many of the precise details of this story, such as the dates on which occurred. I do however remember the day, which was a weekday (a Tuesday I believe) at some point in the June before my ninth birthday. I am quite certain of this fact as I distinctly remember that beautiful feeling one has when you know you should really be at school but aren’t, and yet have nothing to feel guilty about. Such a feeling is one of the best in the world, and is wholly unique to the endless summers of childhood and can never be recaptured after one has departed from education.

That June was a scorcher and the temperature seemed to raise with every day closer we moved to the fast approaching summer solstice, the arrival of which I was beginning to think would be accompanied by the world bursting into flame (whether this was in fact some sort of Protector-related premonition I could not in all honesty tell you, hindsight having long since clouded my judgement on the issue). Desperate to stay outside (thereby avoiding any possible chores my parents may have found to ‘keep me busy’), I was seeking a means of keeping cool. An earlier attempt at doing just this by soaking myself with a neighbours hose had been unsuccessful in every respect. Having grossly misjudged the power of the hose I had no business troubling with, I had inadvertently sent a prize-winning window-box crashing to the ground, getting my shorts (and only my shorts) very wet in the process. The guilt of the damage I had caused and then fled from, combined with the unpleasant experience of being called “wee-wee boy” by an eleven year old girl named Martha, on whom I held my first crush, had been a high price to pay for the brief cooling of one area of my body, and had rendered the entire escapade highly unsatisfactory.

Two hours, much trauma, and one pair of now dry shorts later, I was walking the streets, my sweat-soaked t-shirt sticking to me like a second skin, searching for a less risk-laden means of lowering my body heat as the temperature continued to soar. It was at that moment that the high-pitched chimes of
Mr Creamy’s
ice cream van filled the air with their tuneless rendition of ‘pop goes the weasel’. To my sweaty ears though, the melodical promise of a freezing cold
sour lemon ice whizzer
was inignorable and I began to run blindly in the direction of the music.

“What can I get you today then, Jimmy?” asked the forgetful old man with the long white beard who drove the ice cream van. I and all the other local children (none of whose names he was able to remember correctly) knew him only as “Mr Creamy”, although privately I harboured suspicions that the name that was proudly emblazoned across the front of his van did not match that which appeared on his birth certificate.

“One Sour Lemon Ice-Whizzer please,” I puffed out in between large gulps of air as I tried to recover from my exertions in reaching the van before it drove away.

“Coming right up,” he replied.

At that moment my attention was hijacked by a great commotion coming from across the road.

“Go away you nasty, ginger fatso!”

I turned around to see an overweight June Carrick, who was a girl in my class at school, chasing after an overweight ginger cat who was in turn chasing after her escaped pet rabbit, “Flopsy”. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Before you think me a monster who takes amusement in animal cruelty, I should explain that the rabbit was never in any kind of danger due to its being vastly superior in intelligence to the cat, which was in turn a great deal smarter than June (whom I must admit I never much cared for). As a result, the whole spectacle formed a really quite amusing circus of chubby failure which had wholly absorbed my attention until my concentration was broken by the words “That’ll be seventy pence then please, Paul.”

I turned to find Mr Creamy holding out a large cornet of his trademark ‘ice-creamy’, covered in raspberry sauce and flaked almonds. It looked delicious. It was not however, what I had ordered. Nor was it something I could afford.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to correct the disturbingly forgetful old man who had called me by two different names in the past two minutes, but, equally, I wasn’t able to magically conjure up more money either. Unable to decide upon a suitable course of action, I merely stood, silent and sheepish, holding out the fifty pence piece that represented the sum total of my worldly wealth as if I could somehow will it to increase in value.

“Looks like you’re a little short there, young sir,” came a voice from behind me, mercifully breaking the ever-more awkward silence between Mr Creamy and myself.

As I turned around I was confronted by a tall, thin man. His long ginger hair flowed from under a large green hat which was adorned with a bright yellow ribbon and a solitary pink feather. The man had the most enormous nose I had ever seen, which sat uncomfortably on his long face between a ginger goatee that curled from beneath his large chin like a pig’s tail, and bright, almond eyes of the same green as his hat. He wore a purple velvet smoking jacket, chocolate-brown flared trousers with lime green pin-stripes, and blue-suede boots that curled up at the ends like those of a court jester and just begged for little shiny brass bells. Indeed I would have to say that he was quite the most strangely dressed man I had ever laid eyes on. Stranger though, than any of his clothing, was the cane that hung nonchalantly unused from his left wrist. It was like no cane I had ever seen before – or rather, no can I had ever seen used for walking before. Because, in fact, I had seen many such canes throughout my young life. Canes that were just as curved and just as stripy, only they had been around fifty times smaller and had hung from Christmas tree branches, were made from candy and were used for eating, not walking.

I could not then, nor can I now, possibly make a guess as to how old the man was. I could only say with any confidence that he was neither a truly youthful, nor truly old, but somewhere between the two.

“I wonder if I might be of some assistance?” he asked, holding out a twenty-pence coin.

“Thank you Sir,” I replied, unable to keep from staring, “but my parents have always taught me never to accept money from strangers.”

“Sound advice too. What good, sensible parents you must have, and what a good, sensible boy they have raised. Tell me young man, what is your name?”

“Charlie, Charlie Crumplebum,” I answered, with a familiar sense of foreboding at the inevitable forthcoming ridicule. On this occasion however, the inevitable proved to be decidedly evitable.

“Charlie Crumplebum! Excellent! What a good, strong name!” the strangely-dressed man exclaimed, taking my hand and shaking it vigorously. “Pleased to meet you Charlie, my name is Aurelius-Octavius Jumbleberry-Jones.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I mumbled, my mind still working on translating the seventy-seven different syllables that constituted my new acquaintance’s name.

“And it is a pleasure to meet you, young fellow,” he said with genuine enthusiasm, while still shaking my hand. “And now that we are met, we are no longer strangers are we?”

“Well, erm, I guess not,” I answered vaguely, unable to concentrate on anything but the fear that my hand would surely fall off if it continued to be shaken for much longer.

 

“Excellent! Excellent! Well then there can surely be no harm in me lending you twenty pence, can there?”

“Well, I don’t know about that...”

“Excellent! That’s that sorted then,” he interrupted before I had the chance to really comprehend what was happening. “And the same for me if you’d please, William,” he said, turning to Mr Creamy.

“Coming right up, Mr Jones,” replied the man I now knew as William Creamy, with a smile that suggested that the two were old friends.

This will no doubt sound foolish, but, for some illogical reason, the fact Mr Creamy (a man of whom I knew so little that until mere seconds earlier I had been unaware of even his first name) appeared to approve of and even respect this flamboyant stranger - so much so that he had remembered his name - led me to instantly place an unwarranted amount of trust in him myself. Let the tale that follows be a lesson to you dear reader; never trust anybody you have only just met, particularly if they have a penchant for green hats with pink feathers.

I had licked all of the sauce and most of the ice cream from my cone when a question occurred to me. “How will I contact you so that I can pay you back, Mr Jones? I don’t get my pocket money until Friday.”

“Firstly, Master Crumplebum, would you mind awfully if we dispensed with the formalities? Mr Jones was my father; my friends call me Aurelius.”

“And mine call me Charlie,” I smiled, happy that somebody so much older and more refined than myself had called me their friend.

“Excellent! Excellent! Well, now that we are friends, there’s no need for you to pay me back. Call it a favour. After all, favours are what friends are for aren’t they?”

“Well, yes,” I agreed, although in truth he was speaking so quickly that I found it hard to keep up.

“And we are friends, are we not?”

“Well, I suppose so...”

“Wonderful! That is good news. In my experience, one can never have too many friends. You never know when you might need a favour.”

“FLOPSY!!!”

My attention was distracted by June’s hysterical cry, closely followed by the screeching of tires as old Mrs Fothergill’s mobility scooter narrowly avoided a small grey rabbit being chased by a large ginger cat.

“Watch where you’re going you silly old woman!” June yelled as if the elderly woman should have somehow predicted the arrival of a train of runaway pets.

“Don’t you speak to me like that young lady,” the pearl-haired pensioner yelled back. “I fought a war so that you could keep rabbits!”

Two questions instantly entered my mind in response to this statement; firstly, was a little girl’s right to look after her pet rabbit (poorly, I might add) really worth going to war over? And, secondly, in what sense did working in a sweetshop constitute ‘fighting’ a war? Of course, having been brought up far better than June Carrick, I would never have been so rude as to risk causing offence to an OAP by voicing such matters aloud.

Quietly chuckling to myself at June’s misfortune for the second time that day, I slowly turned back around to share in the mirth with my new friend, only to find that he had entirely disappeared.

“What happened to Aurelius?” I asked Mr Creamy.

“Well, I don’t really know, Simon. I’m afraid I was busy watching Mandy chase her salmon.”

“But, but, where can he have gone?” I asked, my eyes frantically searching the wide, empty street. “He can’t have just vanished.”

BOOK: Aurelius and I
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