Some people make things happen. Others watch what happens. But Herman seemed destined to keep asking what happened; for whenever success saw him coming, it always managed to sidestep his path.
As a 3D exhibit of woeful determination, Herman relentlessly blundered onwards, with no grasp of impending danger or deceit. Simple sounds like Ding Dong never registered with him, living within a kind of paradise that the Irish might call O’Blivion.
Were he to publish a diary of places he had visited, a good working title would be “Gullible’s Travels.”
He once boasted to friends about winning a lottery, and he only needed to forward his bank details to claim his prize. They heard warning bells clanging about fraud that he never suspected, but only slowly did he realise lottery wins make buying tickets beforehand an absolute must.
P T Barnum’s famous dictum, “there’s one born every minute,” reflects Herman’s investment career, for though his portfolio was promising it was short-lived.
Trusting to a fault, he heard no alarms about spending thousands of dollars by mail-order, for a set of ancient Roman coins—so ancient that their sequence of minted dates ran from 52 BC to 38 BC. How could those Romans be so clever that they knew which year Jesus would be born?
Herman missed hearing a whole carillon pealing while visiting the Great Pyramid at Cheops. A local masseur—a genuine Cairo-practor—conned him into joining a syndicate with sole marketing rights to such highly-prized relics as genuine fragments of the bones from the cows in Pharaoh’s dream!
His absence of achievements was counter-balanced by an abundance of accidents—mostly self-inflicted. But a watershed moment came when he was in hospital yet again. While opening the envelope of a get-well card, he cut his finger, which became infected. Afterwards, when he read the card, he found it so funny that he burst all his stitches with laughter! More sobering news came from his health insurance company, cancelling his policy. It appeared that his medical records file had become too heavy for their staff to lift without risking severe back-strain…
One fateful day, Herman was sitting solo in a downtown coffee shop near a subway entrance. A television news flash reported police discovering the body of a depressed contortionist—who had decided to bend it all! This news echoed in his mind. “I’ve never got anything right, and it looks like I never will,” he lamented into his lonely, half-empty cappuccino.
Suddenly he drained his cup and replaced it on the saucer, with a large tip, before he strode out purposefully into the passing flow of commuters.
At the subway entrance, an escalator step beneath his toes suddenly gave way; while the next step lifted his heels. Sudden loss of balance spreadeagled him all over the couple ahead of him; which instantly reduced the tenderness in their embrace.
With a mumbled apology, he righted himself on the handrail and continued downward towards a train. Any train.
Once on the platform, he resolutely worked his way forward through the impatience all around him, until he could see two sets of tracks between him and the opposite platform. Now he was at the edge, Herman shut his eyes and waited.
For once his timing was impeccable; and for the first time he heard some bells, Ding Dong! which preceded an announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, please stand back from the next train, as it will not stop at this station. Please, stand back!”
Jostling back, he kept his eyes closed. Then he suddenly heard the train burst from the tunnel.
Racing through from his right, it assaulted his functioning senses with a shrill whistle-blast; hollow, scraping shrieks from metal wheels on metal rails; and a gust of acrid cordite fumes.
Inside his self-imposed darkness, Herman counted to three and leapt forward, to crumple face-first onto the track.
Almost instantly, he felt himself being snatched and turned over—in a surprisingly gentle way.
Daring to open his eyes, he looked up; to see a concerned, angelic-looking figure helping him to his feet.
Even more puzzled, he glanced to his left to see the train disappearing into the tunnel.
Along the other track.
His angelic-looking rescuer was a lady called Alice, and it was love at first fright.
Life from that moment became a continuing but blissful case of “Alice in Blunderland,” because Herman had become her man!
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