bard times

Part Three: “A poor man’s right in the law; ’twill hardly come out”

18 April 2018

It was 1578. William Shakespeare was 14 years old when he left school. Then he disappeared. Between 1578 and 1582, there is no documented evidence linking the bard to any job or location. Nobody knows what Shakespeare did in those years. Until now.

The tram (a large coach pulled by invisible horses) rattled up Swanson St to the sound of mykis (an odd chime in staccato bursts). Shakespeare was seated in an uncomfortable chair, gazing out the window as they passed RMIT and some mass perambulation. He shielded this view with a book of Ovid’s poetry. “Unum surripuisse pedem,” Shakespeare chuckled to himself. The eye of a nearby passenger slithered across to read the joke too and rolled in its own coil. It returned its gaze to a joke on a phone: “tag a mate who hasn’t been laid yet”.

The bard marvelled how the obscure joke entertained the cultured mind. Abruptly, the strange coach halted and a large man stormed through the magical doors. Thick hair dwelt on his chin and crept up his cheeks and a lanyard hung around his neck.

“Mykis! Show us your mykis!”

Shakespeare’s head tilted. From his understanding a myki was but a noise. How could he show one a beeping sound?

How, indeed, could one even possess a beeping sound? His face advertised his guilt and the hairy man’s pupils dilated.

“Sir, can you show me your myki, please?”

“Marry, music is for the masses, mine ignorance has me unable to harness that sound upon my belt.”

“How is music relevant?”

“The chime it makes, you fool.”

“Sir, you need to have a valid myki card for every journey you take.”

“What is a myki but a melody?”

“It’s a card, sir! I’m going to need to take down your details.”

“I apologise for my dim mind; I’m not learned in this field. A card, you say?”

“Sir, what’s your address?”

“England, but what perplexes me is the nature of thy demand for an examination.”

“Sir, talking back to an authorised officer is a serious offence.”

“Prithee, do not arrest a heart led by good meaning.”

His fellow passengers were handing up their green little cards with confident smiles during this exchange, a loosely clad child leant against a green machine surreptitiously. How envy grew in Shakespeare’s heart that they could avoid such confusing demands.

“I’m going to need your name and birthday.”

“My name is William Shakespeare. I was born in the April of 1564.”

A nearby woman chuckled and a smattering of other passengers pretended not to watch, their eyes flicking up and down, lips twitching.

“Do you have any proof of identification on you, sir?”

The bard fell silent.

 

A few days earlier, Shakespeare was walking in the Baillieu Library, rows of colours and words and ideas stretching to infinity. He tapped his finger on the corner of a dusty red book and peeled it out from the shelf. Upon leaving the building he was beckoned back by a noise, a wrinkled finger pointing.

“Are you going to borrow that book?”

“A reason most absurd to hold a book I plan not soon to read.”

“But will you borrow it with your library card?”

“Such a card I do not possess.”

The finger relaxed and a knowing smile possessed the man’s wrinkled face.

“You’re Shakespeare, aren’t you?”

“Indeed.”

“I believe we have a mutual acquaintance. I’m supervising your English tutor, Dan, with his PhD. Or at least I was until it vanished.”

“Right.”

“Now technically you don’t have a library card, because you don’t have a birth certificate or VISA. Am I right?”

“This is but a Platonion dialogue and I am the other saying nothing but yes.”

The man nodded his head slowly and carefully, as if it were fragile and balancing, unattached to his neck. He grew a wide smile and his eyes sparkled.

“Keep this between us, but I’m going to get you a student card. It’ll be our little secret, okay?”

“O-kay”, he repeated the word, it was foreign and new, but it rolled off his tongue like a beautiful verse.

 

The eyes of the authorised officer were now so narrow they were but slits in a money jar, piercing the bard’s daydream.

“Indeed, I possess a student card.” He handed it up smiling and proud to resolve such a mess, now free of a fate that bedevilled his brow.

“Thank you, Mr Shakespeare. You’ll receive a fine in a few days.” He smugly drew the words out and Shakespeare softened his sorrow with his newly learnt poem, muttering “o-kay”.

The authorised officer shook his head, “You really are a piece of work, mate.” Then he left. Our bard sighed, possessed by such a joy of relief that descended and lingered in his gut. The invisible horses halted outside the university and the magical doors opened once more. Shakespeare walked out and towards another day, his Ovid swinging by his side.

 


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