The Speech


“How am I Rudy?

-You are very elegant sir. Just let me adjust your tie and you will be ready.”

Rudy was pulling the extremities of the black and white tie in order to place it in the perfect centre of James’s body.

“Well, here we are…No way back I guess…” James said with a discreet sigh. “How things can go fast Rudy. Sometimes I feel like I am in a never-ending stream.”

Rudy knelt down to polish James’s black leather shoes. James didn’t care about Rudy’s operations, as if he knew that his appearance was not of his concern, a doll in his daughter’s room. The same went for Rudy who never cared to answer to James’s philosophical questions. He was aware that his master wasn’t so much looking for a conversation with him rather than for a simple medium to express what was on his mind.

James, more and more bored by the everyday ritual of dressing, looked at the window behind which was the balcony where he was supposed to give his speech soon. He surprised himself when he perceived a handprint on the glass and when he realized that none of his servant had cleaned it.

“Is it raining outside sir? Rudy asked, knowing that the weather wasn’t what James was caring about.

-I miss him Rudy.” James said, nearly squashing up Rudy’s toes as he started to walk toward the window.

At this moment, Rudy violently seized his leg and kept him back in a mechanical movement. James, with a look of surprise on his face, turned his gaze back to Rudy to see that all the signs in his hand, arm and shoulder indicated something more than the simple frustration of an incomplete work.

“I just want to look at it, I need to see how many of them there are.” James said, very calmly.

Once again, Rudy didn’t answer and continued to polish James’s shoes.

“I dream of him sometimes” James whispered, resigning back and keeping his eyes on the window. “It was so much simpler when he was still there”.

After having heard the echoes of the words resonate in the wide Victorian furnished room, James realized that he wanted more than listening from Rudy. He turned his gaze from the window to the top of Rudy’s head who was still below him, searched for a tone that would suggest a question without entirely expecting an answer and said: “Maybe he is haunting me”.

The head started to rotate, showing more and more of Rudy’s forehead until James saw Rudy’s inquisitive gaze on him. Even if the eyes were way below him, he felt the crushing burdensome that they expressed at this moment.

“Haunting you sir?

-I know that you will think I am mad if I explain what is happening to me but I can’t seem to keep it for myself anymore so I will tell you everything Rudy.”

James was trying to avoid Rudy’s cold and severe look. It was as if what the eyes expressed opposed itself to what the postures of James and Rudy suggested. The standing up master couldn’t be more afraid of the servant, who even if he was down on one knee, dominated him.

“Sometimes…during the night, I see him. He always comes at the same place and looks at me.” James said with a shudder.

“And what is this place sir?” Rudy answered without an ounce of panic in the tone.

“On the balcony, behind the very same window that you are keeping me away from.”

Rudy slightly accelerated the movement with which he was polishing the shoe and said:

“Does he say anything to you?”

James tried to remember as much as he could what he couldn’t define as a dream nor as a real event but only as an experience. He closed his eyes and tried to create a mental duplicate of the scene of profound horror he had undergone. He saw himself in his bed, curled up on his right side and facing the window, he looks at it and thinks about various things until among the darkness, a white figure appears in the sky and comes closer and closer to his room with a considerable speed. He tries to escape but all his muscles seem to be sleeping and he can’t do anything but look at the ghost approaching him until it arrives on the balcony. James observes it and recognizes his father, the figure is not looking back, it has its eyes closed. James, no longer able to endure the horror in front of him anymore, tries to force his legs to move, he yells and hits himself to wake up until finally, one eyelid starts to open. Still stuck between the conscious and the unconscious, he manages to open the other, he starts to wake up and the white figure begins to fade away.

The real James started to open his eyes too, finishing the mental memory but just before he opened his mouth to explain to Rudy what had precisely happened that night, a sudden detail pierces through him. He remembers the last glance he had given on the apparition and realizes that just before James’s father had faded away, he was bare-foot.

Opening his eyes, James quickly gazed at the wardrobe where were kept the clothes of his father and searched, doing all he could to prevent himself from shaking, for the ones that his father was wearing during his suicide. In the extreme right side of the piece of furniture, he found them and was stuck in horror when he received the visual confirmation of what he was terrified only to think about: The shoes were extraordinarily polished.  Not only did he understand why he couldn’t believe that his father had killed himself but, looking back at Rudy, he figured out his own overcoming destruction. He understood the death of the world that his family and him had built for so many years. He realized that there was no way back, that his time had come to an end. He understood the need to finish the present to start the future, to give up now for after.

“So you are one of them.” James murmured.

Rudy stood up and adjusted the shoulder pads of James’s black costume vest. He went to the window and stood in silence for several seconds in front of it. He finally took a deep breath and opened it.

No applauses were heard, instead, was the silence. A silence which predicted something else than an end, the possibility of an after. The kind of silence that can be heard at the end of a song. Necessary and transitive for another one to start. Rudy turned back to face James, bowed down and with a graceful movement of the arms, indicated him the window.

“Why this signature?” James said with a tremulous voice.

Rudy, hidden by his posture, sighed and said:

“A King is not as easy going as an old shoe.”

Jadd Hilal

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