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A fly flew direct at the bathroom window. It was accelerating. Light shone from the other side, and there no doubt cool air and piles of food and heaps of dung to dance and play i-
The stunned fly dropped to the floor.
Nothing gives a better idea of a person's state of mind than the state of their bathroom. This one had been built luxuriant. It had cornicing. It had a free standing bath. The grouting sprouted black mould. One of the mirrors was cracked.
Viscount Parsley threw open the window, whipped off his towel and kicked a motionless fly outside. The sun rose and miles of countryside was waking up. Here on the second floor, he had had French windows installed with the ambition of one day adding a balcony. For now there was a rope. A lark ascended, caught sight of the viscount, and fainted. He was in his seventies, ruddy, with a beard that seemed to disappear into his chest hair. He liked to walk the grounds barefoot and owned fewer toes than you might expect.
The viscount shook the hairs from the only toothbrush and applied toothpaste in a generous coat. He deserved a treat so he added another. Teeth gleaming and face splashed with something that smelled of camel, he tackled the cabinet's top drawer. It fought back. He gave the side a thump and a ring of rust popped onto his foot. He gave it another and the drawer followed.
After he had bandaged his remaining toes, he inspected the contents. Silver instruments reflected the rising sunlight. Nose-hair trimmers, earwax spoons, special brushes to get the muck out of towels... He chose a pair of kitchen scissors that had been bought by his great-uncle, and a cut-throat razor.
He took a ruler and a felt tip pen and carefully marked a dotted line down the centre of his beard. The ruler he'd had from school, the felt tip pen's origins were a mystery. He had to flatten the beard against his chest to finish the task. Hands shaking only slightly, he presented himself to the mirror and began the process of shaving the left hand side of his face so that he would only have beard on the right.
In his forest, back when his whole chin was shaven, the viscount had once happened upon a walker. A fellow whose right cheek was smooth but left bore a long half beard which ran almost the length of his raincoat. The walker hadn't noticed the viscount and had marched smartly by with a sturdy stick and a basset hound.
Now in his bathroom, the viscount had found the snipping part easy. Working up enough lather to take off the rest was the trick when one hadn't had working hot water for the better part of a decade. Once his left cheek was soft and pink, he admired and combed his right-hand semi-beard, put on his smartest walking suit, screwed a hat on his head, and set out to find the man he could now complement, whose eyes were brown.
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