Concerning the ingenious
man's visit with his uncle Jack Grosseteste
When he left for Kowloon
Tong to visit his uncle, somewhere in his Asperger mind he knew he mission was
upon him. After the ferry ride from his house on Lamma Island to Hong Kong
Island where he picked up his motorcycle, Hellmantle cruised the south side of
the island around the central mountains weaving his way through traffic to
Victoria Harbor Tunnel riding under the harbor to Kowloon soon emerging into
the thick underbelly of Tsim Sha Tsui. Taking an overpass through
the seventh floor of an office building he past the congested shopping Mecca of
Mong Kok and entered a long tunnel under Lion Rock Mountain after which
the number of cars dwindled. Hellmantle was in the mountains and forests of
Hong Kong that no one ever saw, the part where nature still bloomed in full
force. During the ride north through the green foliage and valleys his ardent
belief in his destiny of greatness so deep, he spoke thus:
"They will speak about me
one day in the centuries to come! It will be a story for those brave enough to
find meaning in a word! They will find a record, those armchair philosophers
with potential of being world leaders who instead have chosen the practiced way
of life eating popcorn on their soft couches. The world will have a testament
of a life outside of constraints that hinder modern man during the Time of
the Great Change. I make no apology for the fundamental extremism of my
empirical data because that is the cost of discovering truth!"
So lithe with his tongue the
words rolled out of his mouth like rainwater off a petal of the flower.
Parking Sir Thighpiece
in the quadrangle of the academic compound for professors, Hellmantle walked up
the stairs to his uncle's apartment like Homo Robustus. When the door
opened he saw before him a white-haired, white-bearded man of noble bearing.
Perhaps due to the long time between visits, Jack Grosseteste was dumbstruck at
the man in front of him, a look of bewilderment lingering for a moment.
"Good to see you Rolland." Grasping his hand,
shaking it in earnest, his nephew looked different, older, somehow taller.
Cheeks defined, he had become hardened by life. A scholar with a spiritual
cast, he looked possessed, on fire, enlivened by purpose, a clear-eyed
confidence born from knowledge. He had changed after his years in the Far East.
"Uncle, your timing could
not be better. You call because of the Grail?" Jack Grosseteste's laughter,
uneasy at first, tested the waters for his reaction.
"In fact yes, I do." Hellmantle, offended by
the laughter because of the divine task before him, an event in history that
demanded respect, could let this offence go unaddressed.
"Ignorance is the fundamental cause if
disharmony in the world! And the global populace can no longer remain in a
state of ignorance! God will open a path for me fraught with obstacles to test my
spirit. How I overcome adversity will challenge my belief and determine my fate
but I am not a gimcrack! I am a man of my word through action, a seeker
who sees life as an unfolding adventure. So! As a loyal member of the
Hellmantle clan, I hereby declare my services available for hire." Earnest, and
lacking irony, he squinted, looking deep into his uncle's eyes.
Jack Grosseteste, being a practical man who
taught for a living, was confident that his nephew was suffering from a similar
condition to that of his own father, Thomas Grosseteste. He suspected it was
Aspergers that caused this neurosis because he knew the behaviors associated
with the Hellmantle and Grosseteste autism gene.
"You might very well be hired Roland." Acknowledge with
sincerity for the serious nature of his visit, Hellmantle relaxed.
"Ah! Since you're fond of
the grape." Pulling out two bottles of wine for his uncle from his bag, he was
happy to have the means to provide him with refreshments for dinner.
"You're a gentleman. Shall we try one?" Hellmantle, in his
delusional state, believed his uncle acted as if it was still British Hong Kong
despite it being four years since the handover. Colonial Britain in the Far
East had changed over the generations evolving from tweed jackets and Oxford
wing tips to insulated Gortex windbreakers and desert boots with rubber soles,
all made across the border on the mainland.
you know that your cousin D'Aqs is living in TST?"
Surprised. "I thought he was living in Japan."
not Japan. Burma. He's in a residence beside St. Andrew's church close to the
I didn't know that."
"Resting after his stint as
a missionary in Mandalay, he's been living here for almost six months now. He's
on his way over here to have dinner with us."
"Why?" Face showing anxiety
at the possible disturbance from their business at hand.
"Because we're discussing
some family history. Sorry, perhaps I should have told you."
"I haven't seen him since I
was a kid." It was at that moment when the doorbell rang and in walked D'Aqs
Grosseteste. Time treated all people differently, but when he saw his cousin,
shock replaced the look of determination on Hellmantle's face.
"My God! How long has it
been Rolland? Fifteen years?"
"More, I think."
to see you cousin. You look the same as boarding school," D'Aqs said. "Your
beard suits you."
"You poor devil! What have
you done to yourself? You look a little sallow." Prone to social gaffes
and lacking social grace was attributable to Hellmantle's illness. "A tad
better than I was," he replied, a bit taken back. Two months ago D'Aqs had been
deathly ill, having a bluish-yellow pallor, but he thought he had recovered
sufficiently to pass as fit.
"When I arrived in July I
was fearing for my life." He assumed Hellmantle had some idea of where he had
been through his father.
"And now you're a minister."
Distaste oozed, suspicion could not be masked.
"I am, but I'm not preaching
this year. I-"
"What denomination please?"
that's a relief." D'Aqs glanced at his father. "Though if one were to be
a minister, Presbyterian would be my choice."
I wanted to get away from the congested life of the West but I didn't expect
such a jungle. Perhaps I should have, but the Burmese are good people and I
enjoyed the years I was there."
"That's what it's like over
here in Asia, but here in Hong Kong is a little better. But why are you in Hong
"Because my father is here
and because the Anglican diocese in Tsim Sha Tsui had an open room that
they are providing for me. I am recovering from malaria after my posting in
"That's a tough lot. That
will stay in your liver for the rest of your life you unfortunate soul! It is a
shame about the mosquitoes and the water there." Hellmantle then remembered to
shake his hand. "Um, why a minister please?"
wanted something different, something meaningful."
it can be very meaningful." Hellmantle's expression changed to satisfaction as
he looked at the bookshelves. "You look well enough to me Rolland."
"Indeed I am." D'Aqs wiped
his hands on his shorts. "Ah! My hands are still sweating from the motorcycle
ride here." He ran his hand through his long hair.
"You ride a motorcycle in Hong
Kong?" Noticed his boots.
"I ride a fast
motorcycle in Hong Kong. Yes." Pointed at his hat on a chair beside the door.
"That's your motorcycle
a pretty risky proposition."
what I said," said his father.
"It is their
inability to ride that is the only threat to my life," in a serious tone,
motioning to the spaghetti of roadways through the window.
"Do you have a death wish?"
his uncle picked up his helmet. Hellmantle pensive, gazing out the window.
"Riding a motorcycle in Hong
Kong can be a calming pastime," he said, almost in a whisper. "I am not eager
to graduate to the Great Café in the Sky until my work is done." Both
Grossetestes laughed. "Besides, it's all right here. Taiwan is
the place where it's pretty hairy on the roads. Here in Hong Kong it's like
riding on a big go-kart track with no shoulders. But it was the first day that
was the toughest. Riding on the left side of the road was an exercise of
fighting my reflexes to go the other way. My mantra was: Stay left. Stay
"Just don't get yourself killed," said Jack
For D'Aqs it was eerie seeing his cousin
after so many years. An aspect about him that he could not place, maybe
something in his eyes, an intensity that gave him a pang of fear in his gut.
Intuition told him that Hellmantle was on edge, like a revved up engine about
"It is good that you are
both here," said the professor. "There is something from our family in Normandy
that has come to me in the mail." He eyed Hellmantle, who looked positively
haunted by some Holy Spirit. "But we'll look into this business after dinner.
First we eat."
The three of them went into
the main room where all Professor Grosseteste's books and encyclopedias lined
the walls. It was cold in the library where the air conditioner blasted, one of
the many things that Hellmantle could not understand. His shirt wet from his
ride, he shivered in the cold air but his uncle and cousin were both reluctant
to turn down the air conditioner. He didn't think twice about putting on his
motorcycle jacket. For him it was irrational to shiver in discomfort and eat,
so he wore it throughout dinner. Every time he brought food to his mouth they
could hear the thick leather crinkling, elbow pads built into the leather
stretching and bending as he ate. They spoke about family and about the Far
East but Hellmantle for the most part was quiet. The only reason he was there
was to find out what his task was in order to engage in his first sally.