Before I had a chance to answer, Sir Percy turned to the right and began to walk as if leading the way in this world that didn't seem to suit him. I followed, walking along beside him. I noticed he kept to my left, always walking between me and the street.
“What do I like to do?” I said, remembering his question. “What do I like to do?” It wasn't that it was a particularly hard question. I just felt at a loss describing anything in my every day life to this man who was seemingly a visitor from the past.
“Do you go to the opera?”
“Well, I've only gone to the opera once that I can remember.”
“Ah. Which one did you see?”
“Phantom of the … Well, technically, I don't think it's an opera at all, although it comes very close.” There was more music than dialogue in the play. Didn't that make it a kind of opera?
“Phantom … I don't think I'm familiar with that one,”said Sir Percy.
I then began wondering if the book, Phantom of the Opera, which was a lot older than the musical, might be more familiar to him and wondering what year the book was published. What was this? Was I really accepting the idea that Sir Percy was a visitor from a past time? Maybe Grandpa and I were both perfectly sane, and it was Sir Percy who had delusions. Possibly, he had done so much reading of history that he now believed himself to belong to the Victorian era. I thought about the delusional “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace.
“Sir Percy, are you Sir Percy every day or are there days when you are, say, … Teddy Roosevelt?”
He looked at me, his brow furrowed. “You ask very strange questions, and I don't know who this Teddy gentleman is.”
It was a very strange question. It would only seem un-strange – perhaps – if you had the sort of madness I was trying to uncover.
“I'm sorry,” I said. “I'm just trying to make sense of this strange situation and you popping in from wherever you pop in from.”
As we walked along, I sometimes saw Sir Percy taking in the atmosphere. We were wandering through a charming downtown area. We passed stone sidewalk planters overflowing with vinca, a woman walking her Yorkshire terrier and a well-dressed businessman walking along with his newspaper and coffee.
Passersby were taking note of Sir Percy too, with wide curious eyes and smiles. I was glad of this, because it made me feel more sure of my sanity. No one outright gawked, but they certainly looked at him a bit longer than they might at someone in more commonplace dress. They'd smile and turn to their companions, making small talk, likely chatting curiously about what new play must be underway at the local theater.
A male cyclist in fitted cycling shorts glided towards us when Sir Percy took me by the crook of the arm and quickly spun me around to face a potted hibiscus. “Good heavens!” said Sir Percy. “What sort of gentleman … Why he's practically naked! I'm terribly sorry you had to see that, Miss Rose.” I noted that he didn't call me Laurie and that he knew my last name, likely learned from my grandfather on his previous poppings-in.
I bit my lip to try and keep from laughing. Dare I tell him that this scandalous sight was not so uncommon and that I was accustomed to it by now? Ah well. I was practically nose to nose with a bright fuschia opened hibiscus bloom, and it very well might be a prettier sight than the cyclist in Spandex. After a time, we wandered once more down the sidewalk.
I was actually very curious what he thought of the modern bicycle and how different it was from the penny farthing with its giant front wheel, but I was afraid to broach the subject relating to its scandalous rider and didn't want to be accused of bringing up an unladylike subject.
“Ah, where were we?” asked Sir Percy. “I know, yes, what you like to do for leisure?”
“Well, sometimes, my friends and I like to go to the movies.”
“Well, you're familiar with photography?”
“Well, it's a little like photography, what we'd call still photography, only the camera captures action, not just still images, and the action is then projected onto a screen.” This was only true in part. How could I even begin to explain animation, particularly computer generated imagery and the computers used to create such effects or any special effects really?
We would approach a movie theater before long, and I began to worry that Sir Percy would suggest we go there. I wasn't sure Sir Percy was ready for the movies. There might be F-bombs or actual bombs exploding or actors or actresses in states of dress and undress more scandalous than women in trousers and men in cycling shorts. Of course, I could take him to a G-rated animated film in 3D. He might not be morally shocked, but it could certainly wow the waistcoat off of him.
“Of course, on some days,” I said, “we just go to the mall.”
“Right. It's stores. It's not like these little side by side shops here. It's a giant building filled with stores, giant stores, and you can buy anything there.”
“Right, clothes and shoes and food, well, prepared, cooked food ...” How could I even explain some of the other items in stores at the mall like cell phones, DVDs, Xbox games … “Games …”
“Like parlor games?”
“Yes?” My affirmatory statement came out more like a question. The Xbox was played in the living room or den and that was sort of a parlor, wasn't it?
“And other amusements, and, you just have to see it to believe it.”
“Well, Miss Rose, let's go to the mall.” I suppose a lot of ladies long to hear a gentleman say this, but I kept on thinking that this was one social experiment that was going to be quite an adventure.
To be continued …