As far as we knew nobody had seen Mike Macduff for decades. I’d heard wild stories about him in my childhood because he went to school with my dad. Nobody knew if he was alive or dead, (but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he was.) I decided to track him down.
Mike was apparently very clever. His classmates were a bit wary of him because they knew he could make the people around him do what he wanted like a skilled chess player.
Mike was the type of kid who’s so clever they get bored by school. By All accounts Mike’s school did not cater for smart people; rather it was intended to train young men to take over the British Empire. It has been described as a place designed to make a young man capable of going out to east Africa and taking over a patch of land from the last guy. The graduate would then keep watch over her majesty’s interests and make sure the natives behaved until the next guy came along.
Legend had it that Mike had been on an international school trip. He had a packet of cigarettes he knew would be found at airport customs- where they’d be confiscated as he was a minor. Mike’s plan had been to get caught smoking in front of the teacher on purpose. The teacher confiscated the cigarettes, put them in his pocket and walked them through customs. All Mike had to do was lift the cigarettes out of the teacher’s pocket once they were through security.
Supposedly there was a teacher at Mike’s school who would walk up to boys in class and touch their legs while they sat working in silence. Mike’s solution was to position a ping pong ball in his shorts. When they teacher came in for a feel, the ping pong ball was dislodged. It fell to the floor with a clatter, breaking the silence of the classroom. The other students turned in their seats to investigate the noise only to find the teacher in a compromising position.
How was I going to find this guy? His friends hadn’t seen him, but they did know his family came from an area of Scotland called Black Isle. (Black Isle is extremely remote and its local dialect died out in 2012.) The nearest civilisation to Mike’s family home is a village called Munlochy. I did some digging. Munlochy has a village Facebook page. I posted an ad on the Facebook page asking, “Do the MacDuff family still live in these parts? Has anybody kept in touch with them?”
Some time later I got an email from a local who’d seen my ad. No, the Macduff’s had moved out years ago, but there was a lady who had lived in the area for decades. She might know something.
The lady had kept in touch with Mike’s brother who me in touch with Mike. As it turned out he was in France “working with fruit” (whatever the hell means.)
by Adam Semple Her curls seemed to fill the room. They were dense and bold, seemingly hydrophobic and certainly in some ancient culture would have been used as a protective layer, but in this instance they were there for beauty and bust, and this is exactly what they were achieving. Her personality and hair were in sync, matched like a specific wine to a specific plate of food. A certain coherence existed between her hair and her exuberance, she charged around the coffee shop in an emotionally invested state of energy, not stopping to give staff her orders but halting only to make small talk with the most handsome of customers. I imagine that the potency of her steps must at some stage of the day lead to an equally forceful crashing of energy, but we, the onlookers, certainly never witness such a thing, and are left to make the mere assumption that she must, if nothing else, sleep exceptionally well at night. Occasionally, if an oppressive customer enters the scene, The Curly Haired Machine will expose the outer edges of what could be an explosive bomb, however, wrong I was. And like the sun she not only glowed (with ambition and ability) but also controlled that inner fire and expelled it only fractionally, for the good of us all. Like a solar flare, I thought to myself. Occasional disarray takes over in the shop. People always arrive at the same time and the Domino effect comes into its prime in a team-work environment where every action is completely reliant on its predecessor. So bustling in come’s the boss and within a flash she is not so much as conquering an important task but providing what she does best, the lifting of moral, vocally and through that abundant presence of golden ringlets. It may be the tequila espresso she brings us in moments of gloom but it’s a good vibe regardless of circumstance, and that’s the sensation we all feel. Every now and then the whole cafe would rumble. An intensity of laughter so vigorous and hearty, so genuine, it engulfs all in vibrational range. Like an alarm clock, it awakens us to the sounds of life. All in our closed worlds, so easy to forget we’re on a star rolling through space and all of a sudden this penetrating injection of happiness shakes us out of our mindlessness. That’s what it does. We are focusing on what we are supposed to focus on and then it happens, that sound, those notes, and we are shaken back into the realisation that whatever it is we’re doing means nothing and really all that matters is that laugh and sharing that laugh with others. Everything that comes out of this coffee house is a reflection of those curls. The staff, those muffins, and the punch received after drinking that espresso, it’s all refracted through those ringlets. They make you want more of life, like that laugh, give me more! Needless to say the customers tend to leave in a better mood than when they arrived. Let’s be honest, that’s the nature of the beast in the coffee shop business: enter low and exit high. Here though, in this cafe, on this polished concrete and below these hanging lights, there is another force at work, those curls.
Photo: Adam Semple
This story originally appeared in Metior Magazine, Edition #1 2014