About the author:
Timothy James Brown has sadly worked in publishing most of his adult life. He dabbled in comedy between personal disasters before finally being allowed into print with The Brief History of Underpants in 2008, the worst year to launch an exciting new venture since 1939. Other works include The Unhappy Medium, a gothic farce. Tim lives and works in South East England, (not as easy as it sounds).
Here is a short sample from the book:
Chapter 17 — Earl Toby
The British Airways Airbus A380 touched down at London’s Heathrow airport with the grace and ease of a Canada goose. Emily had slept little. Her mind had been a desperate whirlygig of lost love, sexual shame, and a hard core loneliness that weighed almost as much as a four-door 1969 Rambler 440 in pearl white.
Her two most recent conquests had been a new low point. Drugged into a frenzy of out of character bondage with one man and then tricked into an only-too-sober replay of the same debased carnal mishap by another the following evening—it just wasn’t right. It was Sparkle’s fault of course, as most things were. Why had she listened to the mythically beastly beast? He was a clever one and no mistake. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey before doing something unspeakable to the rest of the donkey. Well, Emily had decided, she’d had enough. She’d had more luck following her destiny and finding her heart on her own than she had ever had with the help of her spirit guide. She’d told him as much when she’d used the toilet high over the atlantic.
“What are you doing in here, Sparkle!” she’d barked noisily. Given the size of the tiny toilet, a woman and a unicorn were not a good mix and even after he’d turned himself into another air freshener she was far from pleased to see him.
“Okay, you’re angry,” said Sparkle. “I get that. But—”
“Can it, you pink pervert,” Emily interrupted. “I came here to powder my nose, not to talk to you.” She jabbed him with a lacquered nail. “In fact, I never want to see you again. You’ve been nothing but trouble. Why, the ideas you put into my head!”
“Not my fault you can’t handle the hard stuff,” said Sparkle.
“I could if I wanted to,” said Emily. “I just don’t want to. It’s love that I want. Love I desire. I’m not a sex pest like you. Love is what makes the world go round, not anal lubricant.”
“Pity,” said Sparkle, “because it would go round a lot faster.”
“Stop it. Stop your dirty talking, unicorn. I’ve had enough. I need time to myself. I’m going to England to seek some peace and quiet. I don’t want you within one hundred miles of me.”
“Oh, come on.”
“One hundred miles, you coiffured a-hole. You hear me? I’ve had just about as much of your lust filled mayhem as I can take. Now make yourself scarce and let me attend to my toilet.” Sparkle, his face a teenagers’ sneer, vanished as instructed, leaving Emily to sit nearly quietly for a minute or two before facing the uncomprehending faces of the passengers outside who had heard only Emily’s side of the argument.
* * *
Emily hailed a black London cab and travelled into the city.
“Cor blimey,” said the taxi driver. “What brings ya to merry old England, me old duck?”
“I’m sorry,” said Emily, “but I don’t have a phrase book.”
“Sorry darlin, me cockney ways is strange to the old ear an that’s a fact.”
“No,” said Emily, “I didn’t get that either.”
“Okay,” said the taxi driver, grumpily dropping his tourist-pleasing slang. “Where to?”
“Buckingham Palace,” said Emily after a pause.
“Whatever you say, luv,” said the taxi driver through tea-stained teeth. They drove on in silence. Soon the congested city began to crowd around them. It was sure cold, thought Emily. Under a leaden sky the people scurried along in coats and scarves. Was it like that every summer she wondered? It looked a lot more like New Jersey than Downton Abbey.
Then suddenly the taxi pulled into the sunshine and, at the same time, the green pastures of the Queen’s home, Buckingham Palace. At once Emily’s heart soared like a dragonfly. This was more like it.
“‘Ere ya go luv,” said the taxi driver. “That’ll be twenty knickers.”
“Goodness, not another one!” said Emily, her view of men now at an all time low. “Is that all you can think about?!”
“Nah, I mean the fare, it’s twenty knickers.”
“What? Do I look like an exotic dancer to you? How dare you!” she slapped the taxi driver across his cockney chops. Alarmed, he pulled sharply away, leaving Emily alone in front of the Queen’s house with nothing but her Samsonite luggage, beaver-skin handbag and matching beaver-skin hat box. Men. Emily didn’t believe in them anymore. All the nice ones had married princesses long ago. She stared through the railings at the soldiers, their red uniforms and tall black furry hats like something from an olde worlde toy shop. Oh, what must it be like to be a royal, she wondered? Princesses never have trouble with men.
There was a clap of thunder and the rain began to fall. Unprepared, Emily just took it. The tears rolled down her face like cast off roller skates.
“Please, my good woman,” came a plumy aristocratic voice from beside her. “Share my umbrella. I simply cannot watch you getting wet for a second longer.” Emily turned, ready to dismiss yet another degenerate and ill-matched man but as soon as she saw him, she stopped.
He was so attractive it hurt in all the right places. It hurt a lot.
His eyes were sky blue. And not just any sky, it was the sky above Wimbledon while you ate strawberries and cream. His jaw was jutting like Lawrence of Arabia; cheeky, yet tough, the kind of jaw that could command a doomed ocean liner or pilot a Super-marine Spitfire MK IX. And his hair! Foppish and vulnerable, jaunty and wavy, like the wake left by a speedboat through a lake of custard. He looked into her eyes. It was like having Hugh Grant lick her soul.
“Why! You’ve been crying. What ever is the matter young lady?”
She couldn’t help it, it came tumbling out of her like a promotional gift from a box of Cheerios.
“I was… I’m a widow, beavers…. unicorns, Pastor Giles, lonely… destiny…”
“Oh dear me,” he said. “Oh dear me.”
“And then I … bondage… and then a zebra and there was a bearded… “
“Bearded, you say,” said the gentleman. It was the only word. “That’s awful.”
“Yes, and not just that, but I was in the police station, and I had chili in my panties!”
“Oh dear me,” he said again. “You are an American lady?”
“Yes,” said Emily.
“Are you on holiday?” said the man.
“Er… I’m following my heart.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Earl Pagbourne of Chumpley Woodpump on the Wash.”
“But, my good friends all call me Toby.”
“Gosh,” said Emily. “You’re an Earl! Isn’t that sort of like a prince?”
“Well, I suppose it may be,” said Toby. He smiled warmly, his teeth were not very English at all. They were white. One was gold. “And what, may I ask, is your name, my sweet American rose?”
“My name?” said Emily, suddenly coy. “Why, it’s Emily. Emily Spankhammer.” She curtsied.
“Please, Emily Spankhammer, you don’t have to kneel before me, this isn’t the 1980’s.” Emily stood. “And what a lovely name. Spankhammmmmmeerrrrrr. What is it’s origin? I’m sure it is a name of great history.”
“I believe it is an old Swiss name,” said Emily.
“How interesting,” said Toby. “Well Emily, if I may call you Emily, you must do me the honor of joining me for lunch. I’ve just finished my business here at the palace and I don’t mind telling you I’m famished.”
Emily’s mind skidded.
“You’ve just been in here? To see… the Queen!?”
“Oh yes,” said Toby. “Why, we are old, old friends.”
“Oh my!” said Emily. “That’s incredible. What is she like?”
“Oh, she’s the beautiful, funny, and generous woman everyone says she is, and more! Why, we were just discussing how we would be sending teddy bears to the poor of Angola. That’s my Queenie! Why, her heart is almost as big as her crown!”
“Gosh,” said Emily. “And her crown is huge!”
“It certainly is,” said Toby. “Anyhow, let’s not chat here in the ghastly English weather. Let me call my driver and we’ll depart for my dining club.”
Emily, knocked from her feet by the pure Four Weddings and a Funeral-ness of it all could do nothing but nod. In no time at all, a 2015 silver Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II was before them, its driver opening the door for Emily. He was dressed like something off of a Christmas card.
“Maaaam,” he said solemnly. Once Emily was safe inside, he placed her luggage in the trunk.
“Ah, London,” said Earl Toby as they drove down the mall towards the West End. “It’s in my heart, in my soul. I live, eat, and breathe the old place.”
“I feel like that about Baton Rouge,” said Emily, awkwardly.
“I’ve heard it is the Cleveland of the deep south,” said Toby. “Americaaaaa. Oh you sweet, star-bangled beauty. So, tell me, Emily; tell me of your life in the United States of America.”
“I have a farm,” said Emily. “I farm beaver.”
“Is that like a chicken ranch?” said the driver over the intercom.
“Be quiet, Trollope!” said Toby sharply to the driver. “This is a southern Belle. She knows nothing of your filthy cockney ways. I’ll trouble you to keep those thoughts to yourself.”
“We do have some chickens,” said Emily. “But beaver is the big thing.”
The driver grinned to himself.
“How romantic,” said Toby. “Is it a big business?”
“Oh, yes, your Earlship,” said Emily. “It kind of took off.”
“Unlike the chickens,” said Trollope.
“Trollope!” barked Toby. “How interesting, Emily,” he continued. “I didn’t realize there was so much money in beaver.”
“Ha!” said Trollope as they skirted Nelson’s Column. “You ought to get out more.”
“That’s quite enough!” said Toby as he switched off the intercom and closed the window. He turned to Emily. “I’m so very sorry, my dear. Please excuse Trollope. I know he seems rough-edged and shabby but we served together in the SAS and well, he saved my life back there in Hellmand Province. I feel I owe him so much.”
“Gosh, the SAS?” said Emily, “Isn’t that a Swedish airline?”
“Yes and no,” said Toby. The Rolls-Royce now pulled up in front of the dining club. Trollope opened the door and Earl Toby, perfect gentleman that he was, led Emily by her beautiful hand to the door.
“Gosh,” thought Emily, as she was shown in by the top-hatted door man. “Following your heart is a lot easier in the Great England of Kingdom.”