Saturday, April 5, 2014

AUTISM In London in 1900: A Novel (pt 5)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Earlier that same day, at around 10:04 AM, Charlie, his friend from the neighborhood, the constable and the nice man who'd frightened away the physician arrived at the door of Charlie's father's pub. It had taken Charlie 76 steps to go from the bench where the physician had made the constable hold him down to outside of Waterloo Station; and then another 780 steps to get here. It shouldn't have taken 780 steps. The others took two wrong turns on the way here. It should've taken 743 steps. Those two wrong turns had been absolutely unnecessary. ...Yes. ...Yes. Charlie could see absolutely no reason at all for having taken those turns. He was done counting steps now and was about to start complaining about the wrong turns. For all he knew, none of the three others had any idea that the walk here could've been about 4.75% shorter. 37 steps shorter. 37! Because of mistakes! And his friend lived just two houses down!

The constable knocked on the door and Charlie's father opened it. At first he looked upset, but then he smiled at Charlie and tossled his hair. Charlie convulsed and grimaced and said, "AAAHHHH, AAAHHH, AAAOOOOO!" If you didn't know Charlie you might think was an expression of displeasure, but no. Charlie knew his father, knew that he wished him only good. He also knew that the toussling was most likely going to last no more than a second and a half, and he knew why his father toussled his hair: it was to express good will and affection. Charlie returned that affection, and because the toussling was familiar and Charlie knew it wasn't going to lead to more touching, there was a pleasure about it which outweighed the jolt that the touch gave him. It was pleasant. Charlie didn't mind when his father toussled his hair. And as he had gotten older Charlie had also realized that it was important to his father to touch him once in a while. His father was like most people: they needed to touch other people a certain amount, especially people they were close to, and if they didn't get to do that, it hurt. Achieving this insight made Charlie mind the hair-toussling even less. He felt affection toward his father and didn't want to make him hurt.

Charlie went behind the bar to get a table-top lamp, and then headed to his favorite table when the pub was quiet, in a corner all the way away from the front door. His father and the constable and his friend from the neighborhood and the man who's chased away the physician all sat down at a table near the front door and began to talk quietly. Charlie lit the lamp and adjusted it so that it shine brightly on the table-top and not into his eyes. He put both hands on the table-top. He liked the table-top. It was lacquered. The lacquer finish was deep and well-made. This made the table very easy to clean. Charlie liked the way it looked and the way it felt. Charlie rubbed the table-top, and rocked back and forth and said, "IIIIIIHHHH! IIIIIIHHHH! IIIIIIHHHH!..." After he had done this for a while he felt much more relaxed. It still made him very tense when he thought about the noisy crowds at Waterloo Station, and about being touched -- and especially that physician -- but rubbing the table and rocking and making the noises helped very much. And it helped that he was at home. And his friend being here, and even the constable and the nice stranger, that all helped, because he knew they all were there to protect him.

And he knew they were going to ask him some more about the man with the Waltham 1883. In the meantime, before they came over and started asking him questions, he took the piece of paper with the drawing of the new clock on it out of his pocket, unfolded it and looked at the drawing. He had gone to platform 3 at the station to see the new clock. The clock had been disappointingly uninteresting, but Charlie had his drawing of it now, so that was done. It was a full-on front view of the face, about actual size, about 12 inches in diameter, plus the green enamel band around the face, about three-quarters of an inch wide. The green enamel band was actually more interesting than any of the mechanics of the clock! Charlie snorted in amusement at the thought of that. He imagined that the enamel would feel something like this table-top to his hands. That was a soothing thought. The dark green color was soothing too.

The nice man had come over to him. "Hello, Charlie," he said. "I'm Al. May I sit down?"

"Yes." Charlie took a deep breath as Al sat down and said, "I know you want to ask me more questions about the man with the Waltham 1883. I'm sorry I wasn't able to be more helpful back at the station. It seems to be very important to the police to find that man. It seems they have a lot of policemen looking all over for him. Sorry."

"That's alright," Al said. "I know the noise at the station was making it hard for you to talk. I know people grabbing you made it even worse."

"Yes, you understand that better than most people. That's strange. Are you a doctor?"

"No, Charlie. Actually, I make watches."

"Ah-HAAAA!" Charlie exclaimed, and bounced up and down excitedly in his chair. "A watch-maker! That's great!"

"I understand you fix watches."

"Sometimes. It depends what's wrong with them. I don't have a lot of tools, so..."

"Well, maybe you'll get more."

"Yeah. So you want to know about the man with the 1883."

"Yes. You don't remember his face?"


"Was he short? Tall?"

"I don't know."

"Do you remember what he was wearing?"

"No. Probably a waistcoat. The Waltham was coming out of a pocket. That was probably a waistcoat pocket."

"But you don't know for sure."

"No. Sorry."

"That's alright, that's alright."

"You said the chain was unusual, the chain the 1883 was on."

"Unusual for an 1883. Very unusual. It was platinum. Great big heavy platinum chain."

"Platinum! Are you sure?"

"Yep. Just like your watch."

This took Latham aback. He knew he hadn't taken his watch out of his waistcoat pocket since meeting Charlie. He knew it hadn't slid partway out either. "When did you figure out that my watch is platinum?"

"After you sat down there."

Latham was well out of the glare of the table-lamp. He looked down. He himself could barely see the outline of his watch in its pocket. "You can see right now that my watch is platinum?"

"Of course. Didn't you know your watch is platinum?"

"Yes, I knew that. What surprises me is that you can see so well. In this light I can hardly see my watch at all."

"Oh. I'm sorry about that."

"Don't be sorry. I have very good vision. But it seems yours is extraordinary."

"I guess so. People say so. So, you're not a physician at all?"

"No, Charlie, not at all."

"I go to Dr Brown. He has to touch me sometimes when he examines me, but he knows how to do it so it doesn't hurt."

"Well, that's very good. That's excellent."

"That doctor at Waterloo Station didn't understand how to do that."

"No, Charlie, he didn't understand that at all."

"Maybe you could be a doctor someday."

"Oh. Hah. Huh. No. I like watches. I want to keep on making watches and fixing them. That's all I want to do."

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