The fedora is lifted, admitting the merest hint of the Pyrenean sun. The baby’s crying having been smothered by a breast, the fedora is replaced. It is at that precise moment that a distant rumbling makes its presence felt rather than heard, at which the body beneath the hat emits a low groan matching its increasing intensity.
The progenitor of the approaching rumble is of course our anti-hero, Monsieur Peyote, and with the finesse of a Covent Garden porter he steadies the rolling barrel on its cobbled course with deft kicks from his clog-shod feet. His skilful footwork is lost on Frederick, entombed beneath the hat and who scarce two hours earlier had slipped from the café to make a granite pillow of the threshold of l’Église Ste Marie de Corrignon.
“Can’t you do something to stop that infernal chap following me, James?”
“How did you know I was here?”
“You’re always there. You’re like Ghandi, ever present to remind me of my shortcomings.”
“Only until Muriel makes an honest fellow of you, Freddy, at which point my best man duties are relinquished.”
“Muriel!” exclaims the fedora before being jettisoned as he sits bolt upright, the colour of alabaster. “What day is it?”
An exercise in continuing a story, taken from pp2-4 of Neale, Derek (ed, 2009), A Creative Writing Handbook, London: A&C Black.