All Stories, General Fiction

 The Questing Knight by Michael Bloor

As a schoolboy, Sam Groat had played in the same boys teams as a previous captain of West Bromwich Albion; his teammates from back then had all agreed that Sam had been the better footballer. His mother was an anarchist refugee from the Spanish Civil War. His father was killed in his car by a drunken plastic surgeon attempting an emergency plane landing on the B5032 outside Kirk Ireton.

When he first started drinking in the King of Prussia, he always wore a fringed suede jacket, lacking only a coonskin cap for the full Davy Crockett Effect. One night, Anna Gilinsky laid him out stone cold with a blow to the back of the head with an empty Guinness bottle. She then pulled his trousers down and attempted to bite off his penis. No explanation was ever given, in court or afterwards, by either party. In my cups, I did once ask Sam about it. He just said, ‘Every chance encounter is an appointment, every humiliation is a penitence.’ But Sam never wore the fringed jacket again.

He took different jobs and would sometimes disappear for weeks at a time. In the spring and the autumn, he worked a lot for rich owners, crewing their luxury yachts and cabin cruisers in their passages between UK boatyards and the Mediterranean resorts where the owners would holiday. Sam sometimes talked fondly about a café on a small Greek island off Corfu with its own helicopter landing pad.

He was knowledgeable about some odd subjects. Geese, for instance, and their strange mating habits. He would recount his multiple failed attempts to adapt an automatic egg incubator to take goose eggs. Had he succeeded, he would’ve bought his own damn yacht.

Gerry, behind the bar, joked that he ought to pay Sam to come into the King of Prussia. Because, if Sam walked in, everyone would always stay on til closing time. He was never loud: he just radiated a kind of warmth that made you want to gather round him. Colin and Arthur, the two old guys at the corner table, with their halves of bitter and their packets of cheese-‘n-onion crisps, they liked him as much as anybody. Arthur said Sam had given him some really useful advice about his old dog’s flatulence; he reckoned Sam would always stop by their table to ask after Captain.

After the funeral, we all agreed that we hadn’t been too shocked to discover, during the service, that in all those years, Sam had been a loss adjuster for an international insurance company. It was just that we’d wanted to believe those stories about giant waves in the Bay of Biscay, and when Sam was a kid, his mother hatching plans in the kitchen to blow up General Franco in Spain. We’d wanted to believe them because we wanted to believe in Sam: we wanted to believe that, in the twenty-first century, someone could still travel through life as blameless as a holy fool, and as dauntless as a questing knight.

Nope, it wasn’t his fellow loss-adjusters that shocked us. It was his poor wife, so beaten-down and haggard: a damsel in distress shackled to a permanently questing knight.

Michael Bloor

***

I searched for quite while to find a suitable image for this story and this struck just the right note for me because of the little description I found on Wikicommons.

I hope the author will excuse this little interjection. dd

Not Sir John de Hautville Even though his name is inscribed beneath. This figure in the south aisle of St Andrew’s, Chew Magna, was possibly “brought in to the mother church when the chantry chapel at Norton Hawkfield was demolished about 1547, and the strange position of the lion at the feet of the knight must be the result of the very cramped site in that chapel” http://www.standrewschewmagna.org.uk/History4.htm . “The figure is said to be of solid Irish oak, one of less than a hundred known in the country”, and “it may be of a descendant {of Sir John}, possibly Sir William Cheney of Norton Malreward, wearing armour of the time of Henry V”. The cheery lion appears to be being tickled by the left foot of the knight, who seems content enough in his awkward position, which as Nigel Llewellyn points out in ‘The art of death: visual culture in the English death ritual c.1500-c.1800’ , is “a pose reminiscent of the medieval statues of kings on the west front of Exeter Cathedral”

8 thoughts on “ The Questing Knight by Michael Bloor”

  1. Hi Michael,
    Not a word wasted and so much in so little.
    We all know the characters, the pub legends, the story tellers and you made me smile thinking on those that I’ve known.
    But then the ending, it hammers home the reality of living with one of those. Would that life be so much fun??
    A brilliant turn-a-round from making the reader smile to making them wonder.
    Very clever!!
    Hugh

    Like

  2. A loss adjuster for an insurance company needs charisma and a good way with stories in order to charm the client into agreeing that the company is justified in its payout. He kept his occupation – and his wife – secret and mostly disclosed B. S. Intriguing and reminds me of some people I know.

    Like

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