As Time Goes By - 14 November 1985
THE SECRET LIFE OF GARRET MITTY
The soldier saluted as the Saab passed between the open gates and began the journey down the long driveway. Soldiers, rifles at the ready, lined both sides of the driveway at five yard intervals.
"And keep your hands out of your pockets," said Peter Prendergast from the back seat. "I could see her at Chequers, last time, you with your hands in your pockets and she looking down her nose at you like you were a paddy dropping in to ask if there was any chance of a start."
In the front passenger seat Garret Mitty watched as the windscreen wipers efficiently disposed of the November drizzle. Schhhwack-swish, schhhwo ck-swish, He forced himself to bring his attention back to the briefing papers on his lap. "Last Minute Points To Be Fought For, A/I Agreement (Phase One)".
"And look at your hair!" said Prenndergast. "My God, didn't I tell you last night to get a trim?" He reached forrward and began flattening the curls above Mitty's ears. Mitty abandoned the effort of concentrating on his briefing papers and looked straight ahead, his eyes focused on the middleedistance, hardly noticing the swishing of the windscreen wiper blades.
The rapier whistled through the air.
Swish. Count Garret De Mitty raised his own weapon in a classic parry. Schhhwock, the blades collided. His left foot moved back a step and his calf muscles tensed as he coiled like a spring and with one bound leaped atop the long table, sending candleesticks and pewter go blets spinning to the floor. A second later the evil Baron Magthatcher leaped onto the table and battle was joined. Swish-schhhwock, swish-schhhwock , the blades thrust and parried. It was fifty -fifty, Count De Mitty knew, but it was for this battle that he had first become a swordsman. It was his destiny to fulfill the heritage of his people, to wrest from the evil Baron the ....
Swish -schhh wock -pyaaaanggggg. Disaster! Count De Mitty's foot slipped on a plate of string beans and he tumbled down, landing on his back, his sword flying from his grasp and making a terrible and lonely sound as it clattered across the stone floor. And then the evil Baron was standing above De Mitty , smiling an evil smile. And the rapier flashed as it poised to thrust towards the stricken De Mitty.
Not for a second did the vulnerable and good Count show fear. His right hand touched against something and his knowledgeable fingers at once realised its significance. An ironic smile touched his lips as his fingers grasped the handle of the Georgian silver teapot and his thumb flicked open the lid. With a surge of his powerrful arm the scalding tea took the smile off the evil Baron's face. The Baron screamed. As the Baron backed away in pain and confusion the good Count De Mitty said softly, "Now let us beat our swords into ploughshares."
The schhhwock-swisn of the wiper blades ended abruptly. The Saab had, come to a halt. Garret Mitty got out and put his hands on the roof of the car and spread his legs. By now he was used to the security precautions necesssary before one could be admitted to the presence of Margaret Thatcher. A soldier frisked the Taoiseach, who giggled slightly as the sergeant went about his efficient but ticklish busiiness.
Then it was time for a "Good luck", from Prendergast and that long walk down the marble-floored corridor to the room where the Summit would take place. His footsteps, echoing back .from the bare white walls, made a terrible and lonely sound.
"Dr Mitty , Dr Mitty , come quickly!"
A pale and frantic nurse was holding open the door of the operating theatre. "It's President Reagan! His heart has stopped!" Mitty moved swiftly. Mauurice Neligan and Freddie Cosgrove were standing over the prone president, taking turns at thumping his chest. Mitty smiled wryly as the musical compartment of his cool mind idly noted the counterpoint of the swish of the nurse's nylon-clad thighs with the'schhhwock of the fist colliding with the president's chest.
"Stand back, lads," he said. "Sorry, Mitty , but it's too late," said Neligan, "not even you ... "
"Scalpel," said Dr Mitty.
"Oh , Christ!" said the nurse, "I knew we'd need one of them sooner or later! It's that shagging Barry Dessmond!"
"Cutbacks," said Freddie.
"Not to worry," said Mitty , "we all have to make sacrifices in order to rectify the appalling state of the public finances." In one swift movement he slipped the gold Rolex off his wrist and smashed it against a wall. His eagle eyes immediately spotted the second hand amid the debris. He picked it up, wiped it against the nurse's thigh and, after taking a single deep breath, inserted it gently but firmly between the aquaba vein and the preenullin bone in the president's left ankle.
"Uh," said the president.
"My God," said Maurice Neligan, "you've done it again, Mitty." But already the doors of the operating theatre were swinging gently and thoughtfully behind the departing Mitty.
The president emitted a long sigh and sat up, his friendly face shaping into a tender smile. "Let's," he said, "bomb Nicaragua!"
* * *
And how, .the political correspondent
from the Irish Times wanted to know, would the Taoiseach describe this latest breakthrough in the Anglo-Irish process? Garret Mitty gripped the podium and thought for a few seconds. He hated these post-Summit press connferences, him trying to collect his thoughts and Peter Prendergast down at the end of the room waving his hands frantically in sign language.
"Well, I'm glad you asked me that.
We can say it is a positive step away from negativism, a solid foundation for further progress towards eventual discussion of a preliminary structure within which a new beginning becomes a realistic prospect ... "
As he spoke Mitty could see the assembled audience rise to their feet, applauding. He looked down at the podium, at the certificate resting there. A tear ran down his cheek and fell onto the certificate, splashing between the words "Nobel" and "Peace". His tearful eyes could hardly see the citaation. He looked up and there, smiling ecstatically and applauding wildly, were Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who all those years ago had also brought peace to Northern Ireland, as Mitty had done now.
Garret Mitty left the podium, the applause still blazing. Outside now, he approached his Saab. His Special Branch driver opened the passenger door. "No, Michael," said Mitty. "I'll take her up myself today." The driver looked puzzled as the Taoiseach slid behind the wheel.
Wing Commander Garret Mitty switched on the ignition. He threw the tail of his scarf over his left shoulder and pulled down his goggles. He leaned on the throttle and heard the schhhwockkswish of the propeller settle into a deadly purr. It was a terrible and lonely sound. He shielded his eyes against the sun and up there at two o'clock he could see the black dot swooping and twisting, almost taunting him. Wing Commander Mitty smiled grimly. Tooday would see it settled. Tonight in the Mess they would analyse every twist and turn in the duel between Mitty and Von Haughey.
High in the sky the Green Baron waggled his wings mockingly. Wing Commander Mitty's blue eyes were like chips of ice as he leaned out of the cockpit and called, "Chocks away!" •