For the umpteenth time, Nat, impatiently, kicks his football against the garden-wall. Saturday mornings, for the past few weeks or so, he’d earned himself a shilling, and a humbug, helping out Mr. Kablinksi on his allotment. Any second now, the old man would come by, sweep Nat up into his arms, to ride tandem on his ancient, rusted bicycle. It was through the bicycle they’d first met; Mr.Kablinski, or rather his bike, had sprung a puncture right outside Nat’s house, and his father had, kindly, mended it for him. The two men got to talking, and hey presto, Nat jumped at the chance of, at last, having means to save up for a bicycle of his own, after looking for a weekend job to no avail, for months.
Even though Mr. Kablinski had been around for longer than most people would care to remember, he’d always had an air of mystery about him; a loner indeed, and so folk said, some kind of travel writer. He didn’t much get on with people. Animals were more his thing. Nat was different though. He didn’t trade in gossip. Children aren’t like that. Yes, Nat was OK. He could talk to Nat, confide in him. Even Marmaduke, Mr. Kablinski’s s ill-tempered monkey, acquired on some safari or other, accepted him.
“It’s more than obvious, boy. He’s taken a shine to you. Otherwise he’d bite, believe me! An acquired taste has my Marmaduke, and always a good judge of character, mark my words!”
For you see, Nat had become smart. As is true of us human beings, the way to this rather crotchety animal’s heart, was through his stomach, so he’d bring him titbits; mealworms or a grasshopper, sometimes...Anything to entice Marmaduke to perch upon his shoulder whilst Mr. Kablinksi went about his digging and weeding.
But, this particular Saturday Mr. Kablinksi was late. Nat had waited and waited – finally deciding to walk the short distance to where the old gentleman lived...a disused chapel, as it happened, and through the window, saw him lying, seemingly unconscious, on the floor.
Faster than the wind, the boy ran to the nearest telephone box, and dialled ‘999’. Both the police and the doctors praised him for what he’d done, and told the old man that he certainly owed his life to Nat’s swift thinking.
Fortunately, it was but a mild stroke, and he was to make a full and complete recovery, with little or no, permanent damage. Nat was more than relieved, and faithfully visited him in hospital every afternoon after school. Weekends, he tended to Mr. Kablinski’s allotment, and fed and watered Marmaduke – changing his bedding, whilst playing tag with the little rascal around the ramshackle potting shed. A few weeks later, the old man returned home, and there ensued a long and close relationship.
Unfortunately… nothing lasts forever, except nothing itself, of course. One day Nat grew up, Marmaduke grew homesick, and decided to run away to the jungle from whence he’d come, or so Mr. Kablinski had said, who himself, grew only lonelier, and ever older.
Decades later, whilst browsing in a second-hand bookshop, a handsome gold-tooled, leather-bound volume caught Nathaniel’s eye. It was a signed, first edition – a novel entitled, ‘Of Men, Mice and Marmosets’, by one Isaac Kablinski. Surely it couldn’t have been his Mr. Kablinski? He caught his breath, opened it, and read:-
In memory of Marmaduke, and for my friend, Nathaniel.
We talked of butterflies and bees, of men, mice and marmosets –
and monkeys, swinging in trees.’