Origin of Species
Origin of Species
For anyone who really knew Darwin Davies, the tabloid headline had to be wrong. If the reader persevered to read the whole article, they would have been even more convinced it could not have been describing the same person.
But posed within the question was the answer. There was no one who really knew Darwin Davies. Aged forty and unspectacular to a remarkable degree, being of average height, average build, with a pale even complexion and mid-length, sandy coloured hair, it was an unrecognisable version of Darwin now being thrust into the limelight.
If you’ll forgive the contradiction, to truly comprehend this contrast, you must first know the real person.
Darwin’s parents were already in their forties when he was born. A change of life baby, with no siblings, he was regarded by most, particularly by his parents, as a mistake. This error was compounded when his father registered the birth of his firstborn. Of course, although first born is an accurate description, the ‘first’ part is academic, as not only was a repetition biologically unlikely, but a physical impossibility after the unwanted pregnancy shocked his parents into future celibacy.
Stories vary whether his condition, causing the misnaming, resulted from an occasion of celebration or commiseration, but in any event, his father was under the influence of alcohol at the time and the scrawl he completed on the official document was close to being indecipherable.
Polite enquiries by the registrar asking, “Can you please interpret this?” were met by diction as incoherent as the writing. “Dwan , Dawin, Dwin,” his father attempted while being urged on by his friend who was in a similar state of heavy inebriation.
Carefully tracing the symbols on the form and analysing the elements of speech, the registrar delighted in his achievement of making some sense of it all and suggested the word must be ‘Darwin’. This was met by enthusiastic nods and once notarised there was no turning back
His mother, whose choice had been inspired by her love of rock ‘n roll music, was incensed when she discovered the mistake. She chided, “You incompetent fool,” on realising what had happened. “You knew it was meant to be Duane.”
It was an inauspicious start and sadly the theme of mistakes became a recurrent feature of his life.
At the time of his birth, Darwin’s parents, being mature with an already settled lifestyle, were unwilling to forego any of it. He was considered an inconvenience, but not sufficient for them to modify their ways unnecessarily and this resulted in Darwin having little social contact with other children. He spent most of his childhood in the company of adults or being placed in front of a television or similar automated entertainment. Having a comfortable life standard, with no shortage of money, it was easier to indulge him than to convey affection.
Darwin’s unfortunate naming itself caused its own problems as his parents were enthusiastic members of their local church. They found their implied acceptance of scientific theory was considered offensive by the creationists amongst the community. In an attempt to avert criticism, the abbreviation ‘Winnie’ was tried, hoping to draw association instead to Winston, the revered, former, national leader. However, they abandoned this variation when the more accurate adaptation of ‘Whiney’ was applied to the petulant child Claims of Darwin being a reference to the Australian city as opposed to the evolutionist had no greater success in finding acceptability.
Unsurprisingly, he grew up as a solitary child with an absence of social skills and poor communicative ability.
With limited academic prowess, it took an intervention from his father for him to find gainful employment. With Mr. Davies being a Councillor, at a time when nepotism was less frowned upon, Darwin started as a clerical officer in his Local Authority, working in the Cleansing Department. His performance was acceptable if unsparkling and he progressed to supervisor and then to junior management as a result only of seniority and stepping into ‘dead man’s shoes’.
Having a conservative upbringing and then working for a local authority where resistance to change was inherent, the forename of ‘Darwin’ was particularly ironic, his Luddite tendencies serving more to suggest quite the reverse.
Having no real friends and being orphaned while aged in his twenties, Darwin led a very solitary existence. At work, he had sporadic conversations with acquaintances, but as he had no hobbies or interests, he had no other reasons to interact and his recreational time was spent reading, watching television and playing computer games. The overall effect meant he was practically mute.
This particular morning had begun as any normal working day for Darwin. He rose early and while eating his cornflakes and preparing his cheese and pickle sandwiches for lunch, he watched breakfast television. Although aware of the background noise, he paid little heed to the news and was not consciously aware of the item concerning the police, claiming they were closing in on the gang of armed bank robbers who’d escaped following a raid on the branch less than a mile from Darwin’s home.
As usual, he arrived early at the station for his commuter trip and when the train arrived he quickly located his favourite seat for his short journey into town. He chose an aisle seat in the front carriage to enable him to be amongst the first passengers to disembark. Fitting into the pattern he’d become accustomed to, he opened his newspaper and turned to the puzzle page, lifted a pen from his pocket and started on a sudoku.
Midway through the journey, when the train was slowing in its approach to an intermediate station, a rotund man, who’d been standing near the doorway, identified a free seat next to Darwin. Muttering an insincere “Excuse me” and “Sorry”, he clumsily endeavoured to deposit his bulk into the confined area between Darwin and a young lady sitting beside the window. The unexpected jostle caused Darwin not only to lose concentration but slacked his grip on his pen which spun out of his hand and rolled along the adjacent aisle.
The pen was one of the very few personal possessions which Darwin valued. It was manufactured by Cross and although it was solid silver, the greater importance to him was that it had been gifted by his father as a named item in his will, several years beforehand. Tut-tutting to himself as he went, Darwin followed his prized possession towards the rear of the carriage, his head low, almost in a crawling position, as he shuffled along in search of the disappearing valuable.
All of this would have been of little consequence had it not coincided with the time when two men were rushing forward on the train, seeking a quick exit at the approaching station. A third man was further back in apparent pursuit and calling for them to stop. Both of the would-be escapees were dressed in loose-fitting jackets and each carried a heavy sports bag. In their attempt to make rapid progress neither one saw the hazard in front of them.
The combined effect of them charging forward while Darwin was scurrying back was a compound rugby tackle.
Bedlam ensued with the three men collapsing in a heap. Darwin’s momentum carried him onwards with his feet trapped under a confusion of other limbs.
Fear of losing his beloved pen kept Darwin’s focus fixed and it was unbeknown to him the sports bags had catapulted forward, one snagging on a seat and now spewing bundles of twenty pound notes. He also hadn’t noticed the Beretta 9 mm which sprung out from under one of the men’s jackets to land a couple of feet away, beyond the Cross pen.
Darwin was about to automatically mouth an apology when the words froze in his mouth on hearing the claim.
“It’s mine, out of the way,” the man immediately on top called while scrambling forward.
Mistaking this as an attempt to misappropriate his pen and making one of his very occasional uses of expletive, Darwin shouldered him out the way crying, “Not a chance, you thieving bastard”. There followed much flaying of arms as they fought and scrambled forward each seeking their prize.
This spat paled to insignificance when compared to the confusion and battling which followed. The pursuing figure arrived, identified himself as a police officer and secured the aid of well-meaning onlookers. The two bank robbers were apprehended, the gun was placed in an evidence bag and the sports bags and their contents were set to one side. This took place amidst suspicions suggesting that not all of the bundles of banknote were recovered with some perhaps disappearing to the benefit of onlookers and other astute passengers.
Rescuing his pen and replacing it safely in his inside breast pocket, Darwin couldn’t understand all the excitement and attention being bestowed in his direction. When asked to comment on his heroism, he meekly replied, “I didn’t really see what happened.”
The press were orgasmic with enthusiasm, delighting in the modesty of their newfound celebrity, a truly ordinary man-made good, showing real backbone in the midst of a crisis.
Witness statements confirmed Darwin had single-handedly taken down the felons and grappled with them to stop them reaching their weapon. However, as is so often the case, the newspapers were deluged by accounts from people who claimed to be at the scene. Some were true witnesses, many saw little but imagined much, being at or near the scene and a few had no connection whatsoever, yet managed to manufacture a version linking them to what happened. Depending on the storyteller, Darwin’s show of heroism ranged from a mild scuffle to a stunning display of martial arts.
As the immediate police intervention was by undercover officers seeking to preserve their own anonymity, they were enthusiastic in bestowing the credit and praise upon a now dumfounded Darwin.
Tabloid interpretation settled on an unprepared hero who had risen to the occasion and outsmarted the criminals while coming to the aid of the police. Using typical alliteration for their headlines, they declared ‘Daring Darwin Defeats Dastardly Desperados’.
I liked the hook at the beginning and the satisfying (though predictable) ending. I wonder how often this happens in real life? More frequently than we would guess, I imagine.
I enjoyed the story but found it to be far too much telling with very little showing, the great goblin of the writer. Out of the entire author driven monologue there is only a half dozen very brief instances of dialogue, or rather, individual statements, not even the back and forth of speech.
Always try to keep in mind that if your characters are not telling the story, you the author are.