Meeting the Captain

Meeting the Captain

Meet the Captain
Read Meeting the Captain

MEETING THE CAPTAIN
{adaptedfrom “The Captain and The Enemy” by Graham Greene}
I am now in my twenty-second year and yet the only birthday which I can clearly distinguish among all the rest is my twelfth, for it was on that damp and misty day in September I met the Captain for  the first time.

I can still remember the wetness of the ground under my gym shoes and how the blown leaves made the courtyard slippery as I ran recklessly to escape from my enemies between one class and the next. I slithered and stopped abruptly while my pursuers went whistling away, because there, in the middle of the courtyard, stood  our formidable headmaster talking to a tall man in a bowler hat, a rare sight already at that date, so that he looked a little like an actor in costume. He carried a walking-stick over his shoulder at the slope, like a soldier with a rifle. I had no idea who he might be, nor, of course, did I know that he had won me the previous night, in a backgammon game with my father.

I slid so far that I landed on my knees at the two men’s feet, and when I picked myself up the headmaster was glaring at me from under his heavy eyebrows. I heard him say,

“I think this is the one you want – Baxter Three. Are you Baxter Three?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

The man, whom I would never come to know by any more permanent name than the Captain, said,

“What does Three indicate?”

“He is the youngest of three Baxters,” the headmaster said, “but not one of them is related by blood.”

“That puts me in a bit of a quandary.” the Captain said.

“For which of them is the Baxter I want? The first name, unlikely as it may sound, is Victor.

Victor.Baxter – the names don’t pair very well.”

“We have little occasion here for first names. Are you called Victor Baxter?” the headmaster inquired of me sharply.

“Yes, sir,” I said after some hesitation, for I was unwilling to admit to a name which I had tried unsuccessfully to hide from my friends.

I knew very well that Victor – for some obscure reason – was one of the unacceptable names, like Vincent or Marmaduke.

“Well then, I suppose that this is the Baxter you want, sir. Your  face needs washing, boy.” The stern morality of the school prevented me from telling the headmaster that it had been quite clean until my enemies had splashed it with ink.

 

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