Helen is a retired librarian. She has one husband, two children and a Dachshund dog. Retirement has given Helen more time to walk her dog, which shows no more enthusiasm for this activity than she does. Helen also has more time for reading, writing, and visiting gardens. She enjoys being a member of a writing group and reading her work to various clubs and societies. She was runner-up in the Spring artsextra short story competition with her story The Man Who Looked Like Dylan Thomas
The Man Who Looked Like Dylan Thomas
by Helen Eccles
I sat looking at the large slice of Black Forest gateau
on my plate. Queuing at the café check-out it had
looked so tempting. Luscious, moist, dark sponge studded
with jewel-bright cherries, and now, I no longer wanted
it. The place was packed with people laughing and chatting
together. As I pushed the cake around with my fork I saw
the small fat man coming towards me. A round short-legged
barrel of a man, with the hems hanging down on both his
shabby sports coat and flannel trousers. Lost in my own
thoughts I didn’t at first hear the wonderful rich
deep voice repeating the plea, that if I didn’t mind
he would share my table as the place was so crowded. I looked
up and stared into the deep soulful eyes and quirky smile
of Dylan Thomas. It wasn’t him really of course, just
a very shabby, tired-looking little fat man. His tray held
a plate of cream crackers and cheese, and a pathetically
small, one-person pot of tea. Slimming, I thought, probably
advised by his doctor, and not before time.
‘I always come in here when I am in town,’ he
said. ‘You can always rely on the food.’
I laughed, well, what can go wrong with crackers and a lump
of cheese. He must have known what I was thinking because
he began to laugh, a rich, indulgent, full-bellied laugh.
I wasn’t really in the mood for conversation, and
certainly not to this odd-looking little man. However, soon
I found myself listening, and responding to his friendliness.
The rise and fall of his lilting voice was nearly hypnotic
as he told me about himself, that his wife was dead, there
was no family and his hobby was writing. Several articles
and short stories had been published. At home now there
was only himself and the cat, Beatrice. He told me about
a short holiday he was planning to have in Margate, just
because he had always fancied the name Margate. He was worried
though that poor Beatrice might not settle down in the boarding
cattery he had booked for her. I told him all about my husband
Peter, and that today was the first anniversary of his death.
He was most sympathetic and very kind.
Suddenly he said, ‘Are you going to eat that?’
I looked down at the cake lying untouched on my plate. I
had forgotten all about it. He said that he had always loved
Black Forest gateau, but lately somehow he couldn’t
‘Funny that,’ he said, ‘Yet today I really
feel I could enjoy a slice again.’
He looked at me, and waited expectantly. Of course I insisted
that he have it, and after an assumed show of reluctance,
he snatched the plate as if he was terrified that I might
change my mind. I watched him in fascination. He cut the
cake carefully into tiny slivers, and then with his eyes
closed ate each piece with a reverence as if he was taking
Holy Communion. He anointed each morsel with the greatest
precision with cream from the little jug before he put it
to his lips.
I didn’t speak while he was eating, somehow I didn’t
like to interrupt this nearly sacred ceremony. When the
cake was finally finished, he dabbed his mouth daintily
with the paper napkin.
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘That was wonderful, I
haven’t enjoyed anything so much since I murdered
My head shot up so quickly it seemed as if someone had pulled
a string sharply above it. Then I noticed his eyes twinkling,
and I relaxed, remembering that he had talked about being
a writer. Perhaps he was testing my reaction for a storyline.
‘You know,’ he said, a smile creasing his heavily
jowled face, I simply must have another slice of that cake,
and with double cream this time.’
He was making his way, still smiling happily, towards the
cake stand as I said goodbye and left the café.
Some weeks later I went to the library and saw that there
was to be a film that afternoon on the life of Dylan Thomas.
I went back to the same café to have a cup of tea
while I was waiting. The Dylan film had reminded me of my
Black Forest gateau friend. I might even meet him again,
and as I remembered how kind he was, and how he had made
me laugh about the cake, I rather hoped I would. However
as I carried my tray to the table and glanced around there
was no sign of him. Ships passing, I thought to myself,
and decided that most likely I would never see him again.
Wrong! Someone had left a newspaper on the chair, and there
he was, on the front page, looking up at me.
David Dylan Thomas Hopkins had been found hanging in an
attic room in a backstreet hotel in Margate. Police had
been alerted by a home help, who had let herself into the
home of David Hopkins to remove some items from the deep
freeze cabinet which Mrs Amelia Hopkins had allowed her
to use. She had been informed by Mr Hopkins that his wife
had gone for a visit to Margate. He was intending to join
her, so the home help would not be needed at present. Mrs
Hopkins, a dominant, violent-tempered personality, was often
physically abusive to her husband who was described as ‘a
dear and a perfect gentleman.’ She refused to have
any form of fancy bread or cakes in the house, and had once
poured and lit paraffin oil on a cake he had brought home.
On lifting the lid of the freezer, the home help had discovered
Mrs Hopkins lying inside, a cake tightly wedged in her mouth.
Cause of death, asphyxiation with a large object. The suspected
weapon - a Black Forest gateau.
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