Figure XV

July 10, 2006


In the history of evolution, the nematode worm never adapted itself to the crossing of roads or the opening of car doors. Though a million such species formed themselves on the earth, each suited in their separate ways to aquatic or subterranean life, the creature’s conveyance across an inner city street never came to light as a necessary specification until this moment in time. Neither had Ernest in his 76 years of life adapted himself for hurried progression whilst entombed in such thick rubber casing.

How curiously things turned out. He had been up for the role of Serebryakov in a touring production of Uncle Vanya the week before, but his agent had worried that he might have found the work tiring at his age. Might he not prefer this job instead? Just a small company, no lines to remember, just a bit of improvisation, only a few days work but the money wasn’t bad. He had auditioned for the role of pond–skater, but had been too tall for the costume.

His whole life was diligently spent on the margins. A lead star in radio light entertainment on the Home Service, there had once been some talk of him getting his own show, but he took to the theatre instead. He once shared a taxi with Lawrence Olivier. And now this. Spending every moment regretting one’s past, watching others succeed and going in fear of death –


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