Extracts torn from forgotten books
Seekers of Lesser Known Historical Events
by Michael Byrne
Two friends met at a railway station. Barry Wilkes and Steve Park rendezvoused, as agreed between the large mural of Joan of Arc sneezing on a tulip and the picture of Abraham Lincoln biting the leg of his trousers. Needless to say this was not a conventional railway station.
Barry and Steve had been friends for many years and had recently been initiated into the secret organisation known as S.O.L.K.H.E or the Seekers of Lesser Known Historical Events. This group had an uncanny ability of seeking out and finding obscure events in the lives of famous historical figures. The railway station, which was only known to members of the S.O.L.K.H.E. was then used as a meeting point. The trains would send members to predetermined points in time to witness these obscure events take place.
Both Barry and Steve had been initiated on the same day. Several tests had to be passed and very specific criteria had to be met to become a member. Such as the fact that your father had to be or have been a member. Your father also had to know someone called Wilfert or Buxman (if he knew someone called Wilfert Buxman you would automatically jump to level five) and at some point in his life he had to have dipped his toothbrush into milk and thrown it at a badger.
The organisation was now over two hundred years old and in that time remained very clear on its stance on female members, they were allowed. However they had to pass all the same tests as the men and during the initiation the female members had to wear one white wellington and one blue sock. Because of recent attacks on several white wellington factories Andrea Bailey was the only female to be initiated in the same class as Barry and Steve, a fact that certainly did not escape the pair.
They had already held many conversations about how they hoped that Andrea would be on their first Timetrain. Steve had half-jokingly remarked how he was sick of looking at Barry already and how he would like something much prettier to look at. Andrea, at twenty eight, with long wavy blonde hair and large deep-blue eyes would certainly make the time go faster. The boys could not help but steal a glance or two at Andrea during the ceremonial song of their initiation and even wearing a white wellington and blue sock it failed to detract from her obvious beauty and somehow made her even more endearing.
As they had a few minutes to kill before their first briefing they challenged themselves to remember the ceremonial song they had sung six months before. They began:
‘Oh inquisitive mind for times gone by
Leave no stone unturned for we must fly
Back through the ages and piece together the hints
The seekers of lesser known historical events
Let’s not take a spaceship it’s not invented yet
And for the same reason not a jumbo jet
We would have to wait until their creator invents
The seekers of lesser known historical events
We don’t want to witness what’s in books of history
Like the details involving the Jack the Ripper mystery
We would prefer to watch him eating some mints
The seekers of lesser known historical events
Unknown to the outside, just known within
We have only male members and also women
If a train disappears and you don’t know where it went
It was us, we’re the SOLKHE, an unknown fraternity, a secret society, an obscure variety
We’re the seekers of lesser known historical events’.
Barry and Steve were a little too happy with themselves after completing the song successfully and excitedly made their way to the briefing that would pre-empt their first trip through time. The pair, being very much interested in astronomy had selected Neil Armstrong as their D.F. or Destination Focus. The event that they had chosen to witness was of course that day in 1969 when Neil Armstrong walked on a wet teabag in his socks.
It was two weeks after he had returned from the moon. The astronomer was sitting at the breakfast table having his supper when the incident took place. He had taken off his shoe to itch his foot when he heard the toast pop up. Being a stickler for the butter melting into the bread he hastily turned and hopped (as was his want) towards the counter landing directly on a teabag that had been dropped just moments before.
As the boys entered the briefing room they were greeted by the unmistakably enchanting face of Amanda Bailey.
‘Hello boys’, she began, in an almost playful way.
‘Nice of you to join me’, she continued with a slight smirk on her face.
Steve attempted a reply but nothing of substance came out:
‘Well we thought..we didn’t..how..do you…are you going on the–‘
‘Neil Armstrong walking on a wet teabag in his sock mission; indeed I am and if you two silly sods weren’t so busy singing songs and holding hands and staring at the Lincoln Pants Bite painting we would be able to leave a lot sooner’.
‘Well we have to wait for Captain Staples to brief us before we can do anything’, came Steve’s much more definite reply as he attempted to eradicate all traces of the shambles that was his first sentence.
‘Yeah, the Staples brief, the mission detail, then the suit and boot’, chimed Barry.
He sensed that Steve’s last sentence was far more impressive than his first and did not want to afford him any sort of early advantage in the eyes of Amanda….those beautiful big blue eyes that-
Barry’s daydream was cut short by the entrance of Captain Staples. A small tubby man with very tall greying hair. It was as if he had taken a hair straighteners to it but somehow managed to style it vertically in a desperate attempt to appear taller than he was. The three fledgling members of the SOLKHE had witnessed many amazing and inexplicable feats since being indoctrinated but few rivalled Captain Staples gravity-defying hair.
‘Alright, what have we got here?’ began Staples as he looked over the rim of his glasses.
‘Oh look, a triumvirate, a triad, the triple, the tri-ang-le’, continued Staples as he made the shape of a triangle with his forefinger.
‘And the three of you are…lets see…aah lovely… the Neil Armstrong walking on a teabag. Brilliant choice if I do say so myself’.
‘Now as this is your first trip it is important that you know exactly what you need to do. Essentially you are going to be looking through a window onto the event. You can see them, they can’t see you. We are giving you five minutes which is plenty of time to witness an astronaut walk on a teabag.
Do not touch anything, do not sneeze, do not cough, do not make a sound! Your D.F. can hear you so it is imperative that you are silent. We are in full control of your carriage. When the five minutes are up we pull you back, any questions?
‘What happens if we make noise?’
‘Neil Armstrong hears you, putting the mission and our whole organisation in grave jeopardy. Any other questions?’
Amanda pressed Staples.
‘But what if he does hear us? Is there any protocol that we should adhere to?’
‘Yes. Don’t let the first man on the moon hear you’! Now put on these’, he said handing them each what looked like a pair of thick rimmed glasses attached to a swimming cap .
Barry put on his cap.
‘Do we need these to see the event?’
‘No, I just like how people look in them’.
‘A-are you being sarcastic?’
‘Of course not.’
All three now looked confused and asked in unison:
‘Are you being sarcastic now?’
The manner in which Captain Staples replied still failed to clarify if he was speaking in legitimate terms.
Steve had had enough.
‘Captain can you just tell us do we have to wear the cap/glasses combo to see the event or are you just asking us to wear them because you like them’?
‘Well done team. You have passed the sarcastic test. Most teams would have only asked two questions in relation to sarcasm, you have asked three. Now your timetrain waits, step aboard.’
With a final stroke of his altitudinous hair Staples wished the team luck, turned on his heel and disappeared.
Barry, Steve and Amanda stepped into the carriage that would allow them to travel through time. They were abuzz with excitement as the realisation of their journey began to sink in. They were about to become members of an elite group of people. A path that very few people had tread, they would travel through the pages of history and witness an event that did not quite make those pages, they could not wait.
The train began to gradually rise in volume until it was almost unbearable. A white light engulfed the train and it began to speed through a tunnel of light with such velocity that the trio were pinned back in their seats. Steve held up the cap glasses.
‘So doo wee have to wear this thing then or whaaaaaat’!!?
The others had no time to answer as they found themselves staring into Neil Armstrong’s kitchen. Could this be? Were they actually in the year 1969 and observing the man who just a few weeks previously had only a few weeks to go before he would walk on a teabag. An event that the trio were now about to witness.
They all sat perfectly still and watched in wonder as the event unfolded. There in front of them sat Neil Armstrong, his wife and three kids.
The astronaut was casually reading the paper when his face winced slightly, he slipped off his shoe, the itch was taking place. This was it. The next thirty seconds seemed to move in slow motion. Mr. Armstrong’s toast popped up, he immediately turned and hopped off his seat forgetting that his left shoe was lying helplessly under the table. It was on his second step that it happened, they ball of Armstrong’s foot planted itself directly on a very soggy, recently dropped teabag. His sock would be wet, there would be no doubt about it.
‘How could this happen?’, he exclaimed.
‘Where could it possible have come from’? I mean I just don’t understand it’.
The three latest SOLKHE members looked on in awe. They had witnessed their favourite moment in history and looking at the clock they still had just over a minute of viewing time left.
Back in Neil Armstrong’s kitchen his phone began to ring. He cleared his family out of the kitchen as this was a private call he had been waiting for from NASA. Limping now he made his way to the phone.
The observers were not aware that a phone call immediately followed the teabag incident but with a bit of luck they would garner even more information on this historic day. But how could it possibly top what just took place?
‘Hello?’, he began.
‘Yes this is a secure line’.
‘Yes it was on the dark side. Three hundred metres from the flag sir’.
‘It was at least twice as big as our craft’.
‘What do you mean it’s been moved? How can that be?’
‘It looks like we don’t have a choice, we’re going to have to get the SOLKHE involved in this’.
Had the time travellers heard right? Did Neil Armstrong not only know of the existence of their secret organisation but was also actively work with them? This threw everything they had been taught into question. Just exactly how powerful were the SOLHKE and how far did their influence stretch? They had certainly learned much more than they had ever imagined and they waited with baited breath to see what they would learn next but with a flash they were gone.
Michael Byrne has written (and features in) an epicurean detective comedy called Foxing Gloves, which you can watch in full HERE.
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