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FJ as he was referred to by the staff and the freelance journalist to us other regulars, did not look to be a model of a prolific writer, at least not as we imagined a prolific writer to look like. He did drink a good quantity, which is what we have come to expect – with help from the cinematic industry – of your everyday reporter. His hair was not long and he did not wear camouflage gear. Neither was he to be seen wearing or even in possession of a flac-jacket.
He dressed neatly, always attired in a dark grey suit, shirt, unknown club tie and polished shoes; although it had been remarked upon that the wide lapels of his jacket were out-modish and his trousers shiny with age. The sole of one shoe – this had been surreptitiously observed by Arthur, an expartriate infrequent visitor and gossipmonger – was in need of repair.
Those who ventured to question him as to whom he freelanced, were significantly confused by his casting before them names of tabloids and obscure radio stations they had never read, listened too or even heard of.
He was certainly a good conversationalist, although prone as are most of people in their fifties, to talk of former places and events long gone. There was always some Quiet Man habitual at the bar keen to enter a dialogue with him, even if it was he who did most of the talking. The increasing number of international concerns, European Union and nongovernmental agencies in Bonn supplied the bar with a good smattering of interesting, global nationalities; many only too happy to pay court to the freelance journalist and buy him a G&T.
Sporadically – specifically when in his cups – the freelance journalist would talk quietly to himself, shaking his head from side to side as he did so. It was most fortunate on that particular evening, Veronica, the charming Anglo, Latina bartender, who was used to this eccentricity, noticed that not only was the man’s head was shaking more violently than usual but his whole figure was juddering. Just in time she rushed from behind the bar to prevent him falling backwards onto the solid brick and wood structure, known after its architect and builder as Fred’s table.
Assistance and suggestions were quickly forthcoming from helpful customers; call a doctor – kiss of life – key down the back of his shirt- a shot of cognac – Spanish brandy as cognac is not to be had in the Quiet Man. Solid medical advice was also quickly forthcoming from the bar’s international staff. Russian Natasha, South African Tony and Malaysian Mark. They all had their remedies but these were too off the wall to be recorded here.
Jenny, a twenty-two year old medical student and regular patron proudly confirmed the freelance journalist dead. Proudly because as she afterwards confessed, it was the first dead body she had touched. A seizure was presumed to be the cause; brought on it was later believed, by the illuminated, revolving sign above the bar offering Irish stout. In retrospect there had been previous complaints about the, unaccountably high accelerations the sign was infrequently given over to.
Tony, a weight-lifter and Mark a kickboxer made light – if not a trifle off-balanced by their grossly differing heights – in laying the freelance journalist out on Fred’s table. Natasha, demonstrating some rare Russian sensitivity, objected to this arrangement on the grounds that the Freelance journalist looked as he was on a sacrificial alter. She demanded the pair removed the cadaver to the beer garden and be place on a more fitting, varnished, wooden table.
Erhard, one of those regulars every bar has, with a contact for all emergencies and on hearing the the freelance journalist pronounced lifeless; took the initiative and phoned for an undertaker, who arrived with startling rapidity and whisked away the chilling corpes; its spirit hopefully remaining on the premises for future conversation. Later we were to learn the owner of the funeral parlour was Erhard’s uncle. Not that we are normally adverse to the sponsorship of family businesses … but really?
The kafuffle over, the Quiet Man and its staff reverted to business as usual; that of keeping the clients happy and sufficiently lubricated. But the freelance journalist was not to be so quickly forgotten. Georg, Erhard’s drinking companion appeared at a loss as what to do about the few Euros which apparently the deceased owed him. He had hardly finished voicing his dilemma aloud, before two other creditors with the similar predicament, felt brave enough to vocally denounce the recently departed freelance journalist, for non-payment of monies loaned.
Another, the forty-three year old divorcee normally to be found on the stone steps leading up to the gate, with a cigarette dangling from her purple painted lips, wondered where the bicycle she had loaned him might still be found. A more serious complaint was heard from Eric, one of those visiting IT bods was now bemoaning the loss of his DHL toaster and a Margaret Thatcher blow-up doll, loaned to the freelance journalist, he said, for research purposes.
It was Douglas, one of those few friendly Frenchman, who had let the freelance journalist borrow from him six of his 1980’s vintage, Bal-musette LPs, asked out loud if anyone knew the man’s real name or place of residence? Alas neither were known.
That night the bar stayed open longer than is normal. Why not indeed? An unlooked for and unexpected event had occurred. It and the freelance journalist’s short extraneous life needed to be discussed, post-mortemed, analyzed and morphed into the Quiet Man’s history.
There is no moral here; in fact it is rather interesting how one unfortunate death – the final tragedy in life – could affect so many of us. There are those of us who thought the freelance journalist would have been the last person to wish any of us harm, rather he would have been only too delighted to have known that even after his death, he is still being talked about.
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