The real difficulty was that as a body, traders sell very few corpses

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Today I am concluding the post-modernist story I started yesterday which tells the tale of Captain Humphrey Wantage.

Capt Humphrey Wantage was the first man ever to donate his body to science - to the science of meteorology, that is. But when the body arrives on his doorstep, Sir Basil Bellwether, head of the notorious London Weather Centre, can think of no use for the corpse, so has decided to forward it secretly to his colleagues at the London Metal Centre.

"What do you mean, there's a body for me at the front entrance?" shouted Sir George Mentzel down the phone.

"Just what I say, sir," said Nobby Lindup. "It's a body in a bag, and it's addressed to you. You must have ordered it."

Sir George Mentzel was the head of the London Metal Centre, and Nobby Lindup was the doorman. Normally they would never have spoken to each other. Nobby had a deep contempt for Sir George, and Sir George was terrified of all doormen. But when a body turns up on the front door step, and you don't know what to do with it, the best thing is to go straight to the top. Nobby had gone straight by phone to the top, which was Sir George Mentzel's office on the 15th floor of the London Metal Centre, where Sir George Mentzel daily gazed out upon London and gave thanks to God that he was neither a name at Lloyd's nor a governor of the Royal Opera House.

"Order a body? Why on earth would anyone want to order a body, Lindup?" shouted Sir George Mentzel down the phone.

"Well, necrophilia, sir?" suggested Nobby. "Medical experiments? Vampirism? Prop for a horror movie? Practical joke on a friend? Experiments with the effect of bullets on the human body ...?"

"Do you really think I'm a necrophilia?" shrieked Sir George.

"Not at all, sir," said Nobby soothingly. "You just asked me why anyone would want to order a corpse, and as requested I was trying to think of possible reasons."

"Hmmmm," said Sir George, slightly mollified. "What else does it say on the label?"

"I can't say for sure, sir," said Nobby.

"Well, can you say for unsure?" said Sir George Mentzel.

Author's note: Sir George Mentzel was of Austrian extraction and had spoken German as boy, so he tended to treat the English language analytically in a way that the English do not, and this meant that he thought it was funny to say "Can you say for unsure?" He was wrong, of course, but as he was the boss, nobody dared tell him.

"No, I can't," said Nobby.

The fact of the matter was that Nobby Lindup was almost totally illiterate, which was why he had remained a doorman at the London Metal Centre. Truth to tell, he had been under the impression when he joined the London Metal Centre that he was going to work at the London Medal Centre, which had overjoyed him, as he was mad about all sorts of sports trophies, and rosettes, and cup-winner's medals, and military decorations.

"I'd better come down and have a look," grumbled Sir George.

He had to agree when he got down to the ground floor lobby that Nobby had a point. It did look like a body. It was in a bag with his name on it. And there was a message saying that the late departed wanted to give his body to science, to the science of metallurgy.

"What use would a body be to a metallurgist?" cried Sir George, and as Nobby Lindup opened his mouth and prepared to think up half a dozen reasons, Sir George quickly carried on: "No, don't tell me! Just think of some way of getting rid of the body!"

"Well, sir," said Nobby, "why can't we re-donate it? This bloke wants to donate his body to science, but I don't think it matters much which science. Why metallurgy? Why not methodology? Or Metaphysics?"

"I don't think metaphysics is a science," murmured Sir George. "In fact, I don't think methodology is either. And I don't see why it has to begin with an `m'."

"What about mineralogy?" said Nobby, ignoring this last stricture. "That would be perfect! Send the body round to the London Mineral Centre, with the label changed to read, "I have always wanted to donate my body to the science of mineralogy!"

Even Sir George had to admit it was a great idea. And that was how the body of the late Capt Humphrey Wantage came to be found outside the London Mineral Centre.

"We've got a body down here, sir" said Alf Turnbull, illiterate doorman of the London Mineral Centre, on the phone to the head of the outfit, Sir Donald ...

But I think you get the drift of the story.