An excerpt from the forthcoming PorterGirl novel, Sinister Dexter, where The Dean is delighted to share with Deputy Head Porter the results of his haphazard investigations…
The rooms of The Dean are in their usual of state of familiar chaos; the elderly red leather settee groaning under an avalanche of books and folders, shelves stacked high with miscellaneous items with no discernible arrangement or order and, of course, the well-worn rug in the middle of the floor, its threadbare centre testament to The Dean’s favoured pastime of pacing. The Dean paces when he is thinking, when he is furious, when he is in good humour (a rare one, this) and at any other time he isn’t physically nailed down somewhere. Except when he is drinking, another preferred pastime that has the apparent importance of being secondary only the breathing. It is most odd that, although I have seen The Dean drinking on endless occasions, I have never once seen him drunk. There was an occasion, during the summer, when I foolishly accepted an invitation to drink with The Dean and I awoke the next morning on his red leather settee with a pounding head and absolutely no recollection of the previous evening. It soon became clear that I had revealed something of note to him, but he has never repeated it and I am too embarrassed to ask. It has given our relationship an unexpected quirk that I could probably live without.
There is something remarkably different about The Dean’s rooms today, however. His beloved tropical fish tank has acquired a jaunty miniature castle and the colourful little finned fellows within seem rather pleased with it. I also spot several very tasteful paintings on the walls and his high-backed leather ‘drinking’ chair has a purple crushed velvet throw draped over it. It isn’t like The Dean to trouble himself with interior design so I wonder who could have been responsible? There doesn’t seem to be a sensible way of broaching the subject without appearing nosy, so I plump for an insensible one. Hauling the purple throw around my shoulders like a cape, I strike a superhero pose.
“I like this, Sir,” I announce. “Very swish.”
“You like it? Take it. Have it. Get it out of here. I hate it.” The Dean waves his arms dramatically, as is his wont. “My sister has been interfering. It’s her way of trying to thank me but it’s just buggering about and interfering. Mind you, the fish like their new castle very much, as I’m sure you can see.”
“Indeed I can, Sir,” I nod approvingly. “I’m sure your sister had the best of intentions, Sir.”
It would be rude to ask why she felt the need to thank him, but luckily The Dean tells me all about it anyway.
“My young nephew got himself into a bit of a pickle at school,” The Dean explains, with some vigour. “Not his fault, you understand, the school are clearly idiots. His teacher said that he was too clever for his own good, which I fail to see how such a thing can even be possible, given that there is no such thing as being too clever. If everyone were as clever as me, Deputy Head Porter, the world would be a very different place, I tell you.”
It would be a very frightening place indeed, I imagine. The Dean’s particular brand of intellect is not for the faint hearted. But anyway. He seems to be enjoying himself and is pacing with gusto, now. The Dean continues.
“Preparations for the school nativity play are underway and all the children were to be assigned a role. My nephew, being a forward sort of a fellow, suggested that he might be all three of the wise men, due to his inarguably superior intellect. Far too bright to be just one wise man, that would be a veritable insult. Three wise men is more like it. Very reasonable, you might think! The blasted school, however, took a very different view.”
“Shocking, Sir.” I’m beginning to sense a familiar family trait, here.
“Shocking, yes! The buggers. They thought they could make amends by offering him the role of Joseph. The bloody cheek!”
“What a cheek, Sir.”
“As my nephew quite rightly pointed out, there might be some chaps about the place who would be quite happy to be the husband of a woman carrying a baby that wasn’t even his, but that chap certainly isn’t him! My nephew flat out refused to play a cuckold, even if the man cuckolding him is The Almighty.”
Obviously refusing to play second fiddle to God runs in the family.
“And so his teacher – ridiculous woman – starting crying or some such nonsense, my nephew was suspended with immediate effect, stern letters were sent home and my sister was at a loss. What could I do but pop along there and show them the error of their ways? I told them straight – the amount I’m paying in school fees surely gives my nephew the right to point out these things and shouldn’t they be delighted that they have such a moral and upstanding young man among their ranks? They soon saw things my way, I tell you.”
I’m sure they did. When dealing with The Dean there is usually little option but to see things any other way. Whilst I pity the poor school for having him on their hands, I find it remarkably touching that he takes such a keen interest in his nephew’s education. I never really thought about The Dean having a family, I suppose the thought that there might be more like him was too disturbing to entertain. Mind you, I only discovered that he has an actual name just recently, although I am disappointed about that as it is surprisingly pedestrian. But anyway. The Dean has finished his story and no doubt I am expected to make some comment or remark. It’s difficult to know what to say.
“What role did he get in the end?” I ask.
“Oh! He’s the director. Quite right, too, I say. But listen, Deputy Head Porter, I do wish you wouldn’t ramble on. We have important things afoot!”
To find out the thing discovered by The Dean, you will have to wait for the book, I’m afraid. Well, no one likes a spoiler, do they?