All Stories, General Fiction

R.I.P. Beautiful Man by Tim Goldstone

He’s dead now of course. But my fondest memories of him are those summers when he would spend the long days in his garden catching mosquitoes in his special trap. “They’re not malarial here in England,” he said, “But we can soon sort that out.” And I would watch him injecting them with what he called his malarial blood that he siphoned out from the veins in the backs of his hands and stored in the same small transparent plastic bags the goldfish came in that you could win at the fair. He hung the blood-bags up medical style from the interior horizontal poles that kept the roof of his khaki ex-army canvas tent from sagging; then dressing himself as Ava Gardener he would attempt to nurse the mosquitoes back to health, constantly mopping their brows while delicately using tweezers and a magnifying glass to turn their tiny heads from side to side in a perfect imitation of febrile delirium, and calling them all Stewart Granger until he fainted. Once he was comatose on the tent’s dirt floor I would without fail take the opportunity to examine his astonishing knees. In the past they were simply called ‘knobbly knees’ and as such regarded both as humorous accessories, and objects of pride which could be awarded a small cash prize at a 1950s Butlin’s Holiday Camp. He was lucky to live when he did, as nowadays no doubt a doctor would insist that for your own comfort and quality of life you had them replaced with alloys of cobalt-chromium and titanium and high-grade, wear-resistant plastic, and, as perhaps you’re beginning to see, that would not have suited him at all.

On rainy days when the tent leaked so much it was drier outside, he would unhook a bag of blood and take it with us into his home. His cat was lying in a trance on its back on the threadbare hearth rug after licking the glue off crumpled, cavalierly discarded brown envelopes – “At least someone gets pleasure from those bills,” he would cackle. My parents told me his wife had left him years ago, saying something I only understood a long time later, about him ‘suffering fools gladly,’ and, ‘inviting the wolf in through the door.’ He would make tin mugs of steaming hot tea, add sugar to mine, and keep topping up his with his blood – “Helps the memory, lad,” he’d say, and then proceed to tell me war stories – “That sun was so hot it hurt. Like a cat’s tongue rasping over skin that’s already bright red and blistered with sunburn, but all day long, never stopping.” Sometimes he would doze off in the middle of a story and in his sleep would suddenly slap frantically at his exposed skin. This would wake

him and he would then seamlessly continue on with his tale. But my favourite was his secret single-handed raids on machine-gun nests deep in the jungle to steal the eggs from under the very noses of enemy soldiers. So secret they couldn’t give him a medal. And although he was played by John Mills in the 1959 film of the raids – ‘Hard Boiled’, he was never credited or acknowledged in any way, leaving him in his latter years to occupy himself making hundreds of miniature Burt Lancasters, taming them and keeping them in canary cages all around his room at the old people’s home, where once, as a surprise, I was able to smuggle in a bag of my own blood for him to use in his tea. “Thank you, lad,” he said, “But those are your memories,” and for the first and last time he held my hand, giving it an encouraging squeeze. I weep for his loss even to this day. And so should you, and for all the men and women like him, for they are no more, and their worlds have gone.


Tim Goldstone

Image by 41330 from Pixabay 

8 thoughts on “R.I.P. Beautiful Man by Tim Goldstone”

  1. Tim

    Although a person invoking Ava Gardner nursing Mosquitos back to health cannot be easily forgotten, time even comes for him. Still, this touching piece proves that no longer “is” isn’t the same thing as never was. Outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tim,
    I like Steven’s use of the word ‘surreal’ and even though this story has that quality, there is also a clarity regarding his character.
    The few lines about his wife leaving were clever and the little twists on the sayings gave them a completely different depth and meaning.
    This is a very interesting piece of work!
    All the very best my fine friend.


  3. I wonder… how exactly did he inject the mosquitoes? Mopping their brows while dressed as Ava Gardner sounds like an interesting though difficult way to pass the time. I like the reference to “The Birdman of Alcatraz.”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.