The Invincible Man

Clarence O’Hara always had a hard time at school.

It was not that he was not intelligent, he was. Nor was he bad at any subject. Any subject.

The fact was that the other kids just hated him. They teased him. It was his name for a start.

Clarence was, well, a name that just didn’t work with blond curly hair and the surname O’Hara. He wasn’t even Irish.

And every time a teacher asked the class a question it was Clarence whose hand would shoot up the quickest, well at least in the early years.

By the time he was 14 Clarence would spend all his break periods in the school library never in the playground with his classmates. He had learned that this was the only way to avoid teasing and being beaten up.

The school staff realised that there was a problem but the policy was not to interfere when there was no complaint from either the student or his parents.

Clarence was a little on the podgy side, mainly because he did not get the exercise his fellow students di,d but also he used to eat alone feeding on pork pies and crisps he brought in from home.

The weekly sports class was the only period Clarence hated, mainly because the other boys would tease him in the changing room and the shower. Clarence was always last at every sport.

Somehow though Clarence got through the school years.

At home he was a good child, after all he was studious, never went out and never ever got into trouble. His school reports were always excellent nothing to worry about as far as his parents were concerned.

He went up to Cambridge to study Astrophysics and that was where he met Angelina that very first week outside the Sir William Hardy Building at 3:30 p.m. on that Thursday.

Angelina approached Clarence as if he were a long lost friend. She was so different to all the people of his age he had ever met before. She was not shy and somehow in her presence neither was Clarence.

They went and had a cup of coffee and talked for ages. At least that is what Clarence could recall.

They parted from each other in the evening having spent over four hours together and arranged to meet in the same place on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

But Clarence got nervous and on the Friday decided he would not build up his hopes too much. He would go to the Sir William Hardy Building at 10:00 as arranged but would make his excuses if things felt uncomfortable.

He needn’t have worried, Angelina did not show up.

During the next three years Clarence concentrated on his studies and predictably got a First Class Honours degree and was offered a PhD course.

But throughout the three years Clarence made no friendships with his fellow undergraduates but he used to walk a lot.

Often, during his daily excursions he would catch a glimpse of Angelina in the distance yet whenever he tried to follow her, as he became inclined to do, she would disappear around a corner not to be seen again that day.

But on the day of his graduation there she was, waiting in the procession just ahead of him to collect her degree from the Chancellor.

After the presentation he finally caught up with her and their conversation carried on from where they had left off three years ago in that coffee shop.

For the next two weeks they became good friends and saw each other daily.

Clarence had no romantic notions and Angelina appeared to have no expectations.

Clarence decided not to be an academic, instead he decided he would get a job as a programmer, an expertise he had acquired during his studies.

He quickly got a job with a large computer company in Reading, bought himself a old Saab and a house in Theale.

And so the years rolled by. He would go to work and come home to his house every day. He used his earnings to buy telescopes and he passed his time pursuing his astronomical interests.

Every year, he would meet with Angelina who never married although she did have a child with one of her many men friends.

Each time he met her, Clarence would enjoy her company but ever yet the relationship remained platonic. Despite all the hints Angelina gave out.

Clarence was quiet at work but a couple of his colleagues on his development project team befriended him and they encouraged him to go out for the odd evening to join them at their favourite bar in Reading.

One of his colleagues, Ben broke up with his wife and Clarence offered to put him up until he found a place to live.

Ben was shocked about what he found out about Clarence over those three weeks.

Clarence told him about his time at school, about his loneliness and isolation, about his hobbies and about Angelina.

In fact Angelina and her little boy came to stay with Clarence one weekend.

Ben was struck by Angelina’s beauty but most of all by the signals she sent out. She was clearly desperately in love with Clarence though he was impervious to it.

After she had gone Ben took Clarence to the pub and complimented Clarence on the gentlemanly way he behaved, but didn’t he realise that she wanted more than just friendship.

Clarence dismissed this. Ben was just a philanderer, it was his imagination.

Soon after that Ben found a place to rent and as a special thank you to Clarence he took him out for a thank you steak and then on to Ben’s favourite pub.

There Ben bumped into the young lady who had rented him the flat and she introduced her friend to Clarence.

It became very apparent to Ben that Clarence was highly embarrassed by this arrangement, he was struck dumb, and went very pale and soon made it clear to Ben that he wanted out.

Ben made their excuses and said goodbye to the girls. Interestingly the estate agent’s friend indicated she would like to meet Clarence again and gave Ben her phone number.

Ben gave Clarence the piece of paper when they got back to the house in Theale.

Clarence would not accept that this girl, who was at least 10 years younger than him could possibly be interested in him.

Needlessly to say he never phoned her.

That Christmas Clarence went to see his family in Southampton and on New Year’s Eve he decided to drive back to Theale.

He parked his Saab outside his house went inside.,

When Clarence did not turn up for work in the New Year, Ben went round to Clarence’s house to find out what was wrong.

He saw that Clarence was there because of his car, but the curtains were drawn. Suspecting that something was wrong Ben decided to enter the house.

What Ben found he was not prepared for. Clarence had got the shotgun he had bought last summer and had shot himself by holding then on his chin and shooting upwards.

There was congealed blood everywhere.

Clarence must have been dead since the new year.

I must come clean at this point. The above is a true story although names and some of the characters have been changed.

Clarence was in fact my Friend Ed and I was the person who stayed with him while I was looking for a flat. Ben really was Ben although I have swapped places with him in the story in some places.

Ed shot himself because at 34 he was still a virgin.

 

 

Copyright © Stuart Danton 2007

 

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