The h2g2 Short-Short Story: Ralph

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We'd like to meet this guy.


Have you ever attended a party where you hardly know any of the guests? This is especially disconcerting if one is the host, or co-host.

This happened a lot in my youth, when I shared a flat. Who were all these people in my living room and kitchen? Were they invited? Of course, you soon found out that most of them were friends of a friend's friend.

I was once at a party where one of the guests arrived with his extended family. This involved an gregarious grandmother, two aunts who brought a basket of knitting, a shy cousin who drank several pints of apple juice, and a lady poet in a green silk hat, who said she was a member of his spirit family.

I met Ralph at a party, much later in life.

My friend, who was the hostess, was asking everyone who he was. 'Probably a friend of a friend's friend,' we laughed, remembering our youth.

It turned out that Ralph was, in fact, a friend of a friend's friend, proving that parties don't change that much, but that didn't stop people asking 'who is that guy?'

You see, Ralph had a certain indefinable charisma, a magnetism. He sat on the sofa sipping a glass of wine, graciously introducing himself to anyone who asked. And many people did ask. Charisma has that effect.

There was nothing particularly unusual about his appearance, except that he was very thin, and I would say that his smile was enigmatic. He was maybe fifty, noticibly articulate, with greying black hair, and keen dark eyes.

He told people that he was a pianist, and that he wrote his own music.

So why did Ralph have such a curious effect on people? He himself didn't seem to be aware of his magnetism, which was fortunate.

My friend told me later that one guest thought he was part angel, she even saw his wings.

Too much whisky I reckon.

Someone else was convinced that he had recently seen him at the reception desk of a motel near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

And my friend herself spent the next week telling me that she'd realised he was the guy from the flower stall outside Picadilly Circus underground station, who sold her a bunch of daffodils in 1986.

When I met Ralph, he was charming and polite, and we talked about piano music. Then I went on my way, and I didn't think much about him until he had left the party.

Who saw him leave?

It was almost as if he had evaporated into the atmosphere, leaving a space, and a curious yearning. I found myself having strange thoughts. Had he really been there?

I tried to shake myself out of this absurdity. I wasn't about to start talking crazy about Ralph, the same way everyone else was.

I put it down to the indefinable effects of charisma. If I ever manage to define these effects, I'll let you know. Perhaps I'll meet Ralph again one day, see if he has any answers.

I imagine he'd just smile in that enigmatic way, and ask me what on earth I'm talking about.

Good question, Ralph, very good question.

People in the dark waiting for the guest of honour...

Café Dreams Archive


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