By Russell Waterman
Londyn Conway brought his umbrella everywhere. His fellow clothiers likened it to a proverbial third leg—it was always with him, but rarely used.
The umbrella was a family heirloom he recently inherited from his late father, Robert, a stuffy businessman who spent the majority of his time schmoozing clients and attending banquets. Londyn drooled over it as a child and dreamed of one day owning it himself. His father took it out only on special occasions to help close deals, otherwise keeping it safely tucked away in his den.
Londyn’s view was different. Being seen with it at any social function could help elevate his station in life to a new high water mark. People took notice.
He practiced walking with the umbrella endlessly until the movements were flawless. Only then could he be seen in public with it, and now he wouldn’t be seen in public without it. He was so attached to the umbrella that he’d rather leave his high-rise flat buck naked than allow himself the indignity of being jeered and mocked at by not having his stylish black swirly in hand. His vanity simply wouldn’t abide by it.
His daily attire consisted of the finest black wool three-piece suit, handcrafted Sargent shoes, and, of course, his posh umbrella. Notwithstanding his pompous demeanor, his likeness to an aging Dr. Watson was frightening.
Leaving Walker & Wright (recognized as the leader in quality bespoke suits) from his third story Mayfair office in the upscale district of London, he wrapped his fingers around the umbrella’s wooden handle and swung it confidently mimicking the stride of his left leg.
Every evening when he departed, precisely at six, he’d coarsely say his goodbyes, receiving equally terse parting shots, and begin strolling down Savile Row to his flat a few short blocks away, his protruding gut leading the way.
“Good evening, Mr. Conway,” offered the doorman.
Without missing a beat or wasting a breath, Londyn ignored the doorman’s gesture of courtesy and stepped onto the pavement.
The doorman scoffed at Londyn’s typical behavior, shaking his head and thinking, bloody awful bloke. He’ll get what’s comin’ to ‘em someday, and waited for a more pleasing someone to open the door for—namely, anyone.
This evening’s run of the mill forecast of showers with a high probably of more showers lingered in the air. Passersby dressed in heavy coats and carried umbrellas expecting the expected. In the end, clueless thrill-seekers would try their luck running between the rain drops should the obvious happen. All were in a hurry. Londyn Conway was not; at two hundred and fifty pounds it was hard to be. He was walking casually toward his one room flat located in a high-rise on Boyle Street, swinging his umbrella and wondering what influencer might be watching. Then the expected happened—it started to rain.
The showers changed his Friday night routine of frequenting his favorite pub, The Goat’s Head. His vodka and gin would have to wait.
He stepped under an awning, watching others quickly scurrying around like rats sloshing through puddles and soaking their clothes.
His trench coat left him partially exposed, the rain took advantage pelting his slacks and shoes. He kept his swirly up out of the elements, huffing; I’ll have none of this English rain ruin my family heritage tonight. I’d be in tatters without my swirly!
Hailing a taxi or Uber was nonsensical. He’d be drenched by the time a ride arrived; besides he was two short blocks from his high-rise.
A detour was in order.
He'd duck in the delivery alley off Savile Row; it's dirty with an unsteady pathway, but it was an easy shortcut connecting Boyle Street. Once there he'd head directly north to his flat located on the corner next to Duffy's Kitchen, known for their Bangers and Mash. He might even pop in for a plate of steaming Yorkshire pudding, his favorite, since The Goat’s Head was off the menu.
He secured his swirly underneath his trench coat, shielding it from the rain as best he could, popped up the collar, and off he went.
He approached the alley, bumping into hordes of people rushing on their way, and stepped off the curb. With one hand drawing his collar closed and the other firmly gripping his umbrella, Londyn proceeded up the alley and was immediately welcomed with a dousing of water and mud thrown up from a moving van bottoming out of a pothole. The van sped away late for its delivery.
Londyn stopped and took stock of the damage, feeling gutted.
What a bloody shambles this turned out to be, he thought.
He wondered if the dry cleaners could salvage his coat and slacks. And what’s that smell? His leather shoes on the other hand were a total loss.
This certainly wasn’t expected, he thought.
His umbrella was a bit wet, which was tolerable to Londyn, it was, after all, an umbrella, albeit a priceless one. He shook off the drops beading on the fabric and covered it again with his soiled trench coat.
The rain, along with shots of lightening, was coming down harder, pounding his head and making it tough to see. He made it a point to hurry. He was halfway home.
The alley was made of uneven, aged bricks. The walkway looked to have been laid by either drunks or druggies; it sloped sharply toward the middle, creating a perfect canal for the rushing storm water to flow. Londyn continued walking through the sludge, submerged up to his ankles. With each step his shoes tweaked this way and that when they landed on the poorly laid bricks.
Am I in downtown Mayfair or navigating the East Midlands?
The portly doppelganger trudged onward. He could see passing cars and lights at the end of the alley, signally Boyle Street, and home.
His next step saw him slip into a pothole, twisting his ankle and sending him crumbling face first into the muck. He extended both arms trying to catch himself, but it didn't work. He crashed and pain ran up his leg. Lifting his muddied face he frantically searched for his umbrella lost in the mud and the mishap, fumbling about and running his hands blindly along the payment, he heard a snap.
His palms bloodied, he found his pride and joy and scraped off the mud. A cursory examination revealed the canopy’s hand-woven silk was ripped in several places. The hickory handle was cracked. The heirloom linking him to his father was broken.
You couldn’t see his tears through the rain drops.
Londyn remained kneeling in the muck—crying; disgraced he let his father down. He used it against his father's wishes instead of treasuring it as his father had. The swirly had been passed down through generations. It was irreplaceable. Now it was destroyed. Londyn’s legacy was gone.
Londyn gazed at the sky and mouthed, I’m sorry Father.
He slowly got to his feet, and screamed! His left ankle was shattered. He stumbled about until he could brace himself against the alley’s wall, water streaming down the side. He howled in pain.
Thunder cracked. His ankle throbbed. He gathered himself. Boyle Street was within site. Once there he’d call for an Uber and get to hospital.
Londyn grabbed the umbrella around the midsection, the broken handle dangling near the ground and used his left arm against the wall for support. He started to hobble the couple dozen yards to the end of the alley, being careful not to slip on a ragged brick.
He had political connections (Londyn also inherited schmoozing talents from father) and swore to use them cleaning up alley ways like this one starting tomorrow.
Londyn’s next step was a fateful one. The brick his right foot hopped on was laid at a curious angle, steep and abrupt, ending where a sizable pothole began.
His left foot was already broke and useless, now his right was suddenly taken out from underneath him. Londyn released the umbrella and stretched out his arms like he was departing Heathrow Airport and bracing himself for a hard arrival.
Analogous to a choreographed ballet, the umbrella preceded Londyn. The swirly’s broken handle got stuck in the goo filled mud hole while the pointed end waited to catch Londyn. Flapping his arms, his eyes popping, he was about to scream when it happened.
The beautiful dance was over.
Londyn lay impaled on the metal tip of his prized umbrella. The impact of his two hundred and fifty pounds was final. His body draped over the umbrella shielding it from the rain as it used to do for him.
His heart punctured. His body bled. The English rain continued to fall, washing him of blood and cleansing his soul.
A few yards away Boyle Street was abuzz with cars and passersby, rushing on their way.
© Copyright 2020 – Russell Waterman