Captain Crab, recently retired as ‘Officer n Charge’ of the stationary dept at Slumpdown Barracks, could claim, in secret anyway, that whatever the situation faced by British troops worldwide, regardless of the weaponry at the enemies disposal, the men supplied by him would never be without a biro.
Now in his mid-fifties and with a largely faultess record he could boast both a long-service medal and paper clip to wear at ceremonial occasions. Lets be candid, which those with any kind of life behind them know can be unsettling, despite his record, which was safely resting in the file marked “Bland,” in Whitehall,his departure from the military had not been cloud free.
Some reckless soul had introduced him to the subtle pleasures of JD and coke after a decent luncheon involving an analysis of a challenging fish pie: we don’t know why, but those smooth, gentle yet titillating flavours had sung to his mouth as if they were being conducted by angels. As someone used to working with logistics, he had felt required to try this new pleasure “Across the ratio range” which he told his commanding officer at the subsequent enquiry, had demanded the consumption of an entire bottle of “this holy nectar.”
He had been found standing in front of his mirror with his smooth and gentle cheeks, “As soft as doughnuts” as his wife would say, displaying an unusual redness of colour; looking at his reflection and saying, “The name is Crab: Crababababa, then switching to “Crabuley, the Crabster, Crabunicious and other impressive variations when the Colonel in charge of ordinance paid him a surprise visit: for reasons which were never fully explained he, Captain Crab that is, was wearing a ballet skirt. Given his previous exemplary record, they decided to pretend he’d had a nervous breakdown and discharged him from the army on medical grounds with immediate effect.
His wife, who luckily never got the full story, was unsettled by his appearance at their army lodgings, with the news that “I am now retired” and that they would be moving, forthwith, to their holiday home at Belchering on Sea, which nestled in a small cove on the south coast.
He swore to avoid all contact with the JD and coke concoction, and returned to his normal habits apparently untouched by the abrupt ending to his career. His only problem, as it had always been, was explaining his record in the army. “Can’t say too much” and “Better not go there” normally sufficed with new acquaintances met through his wife’s sea-side hobby of thistle painting, or the weathered locals often found nestling in the corner of the bar at ‘The Reckless Gull” where he and the missus might seek refreshment after their Saturday shop.
Not everyone was satisfied with this elegant brush off unfortunately so he decided to reinvent himself as an artist. Here luck was with him, having been christened with the name “Cornelius,” Those of you with marketing pretensions can see immediately that, in the seaside environment, any painting signed with the name “Cornelius Crab” was bound to sell, just to have that name on your wall when you returned to some boring dwelling deep inland and far from the coast where myths are created with a wave of the hand.
So well did he do at his new calling that he dropped the word Captain, and took to boasting that he never fired a shot in his entire army career. Surprisingly canny for one who spent most of his working life in stationary, he realised that a hint of pacifism, combined with his army background, revealed that inner turmoil which gives edge to the most casual of seaside painting careers.