Ghod and Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll was all the rage in the Fifties, credited with superscientific properties. This tale by Nigel Lindsay, published in Don Allen's Satellite, examines both the chemical's efficacy and the importance of appearances in fandom.
Johnny was one of those daft boys who are always pulling faces in the mirror and his Ma was always telling him he’d get stuck like it, but he never took any notice because who ever heard of anyone getting stuck like it?
Johnny was also a fan, and today he was off to his first convention.
“Come on, Johnny,” sang out his Ma, “it’s six o’clock and don’t spend too long in the bathroom.”
Out of bed, stretch and scratch, and “MERRR!” in the glass on the wall. Socks on, pants on, grab and snatch, and scamper away down the hall. A stupid grin in the bathroom mirror.
Convention at last! “Hot Diggities – yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Turn on the cold, turn on the hot, ever so carefully – don’t want a lot – spatter it there, spatter it here, a couple of splashes behind the ear.
And now two inches of mint flavoured, chlorophyll impregnated, acid inhibiting, anti-enzyme, bacteria destroying toothpaste on his brush and scrub away – in – out – to and fro – round and round – and round again.
“‘Um d ‘um de ‘um. Hmm – hmmmmm – hmmmm. GARRGHHHHHHHHHHH!”
A real bestial face now, frothing at the mouth and drooling a weird chlorophyll green. Forgotten is the time and the train to be caught as he gets carried away with the fascination of face-pulling.
“What are you doing up there?” screams his Ma half an hour later.
What indeed IS he doing? Well, at the moment he has the jaw-bone depressed, the lower lip pulled over the back teeth and the corners of the mouth drawn down. The upper lip is drawn up, exposing the front teeth and making two furrows, one each side the nose. At the same time his eyebrows are raised as far as they will go, causing deep wrinkles in the forehead. The expression thus obtained is one of sheer horror, repugnance and desperation. It is a honey.
Meanwhile, what insidious biological process is going on all unseen and unsuspected? Little does he know that his facial contortions have opened a little used duct, and that some of the froth from the recent flood of toothpaste has seeped through to the maxillary bone. It finds its way to a tiny cavity known as the Antrum of Highmore, which slowly and inexorably becomes filled with chlorophyll, and of course everyone knows what effect this will have on the already tortured jaw-bone! Just as Johnny is pulling the face described above, ankylosis sets in. In other words – he is stuck like it.
“I ‘uck ‘ike it!” he wailed.
In the train Johnny was delighted to find that he had the compartment to himself. Folk kept getting in, but they went straight through and off down the corridor, shuddering. So, left alone, he was able to try the various remedies he’d brought along to release he face, such as olive oil, Kaolin, after-shave lotion, Sloane’s Liniment. Owbridge’s Lung Tonic, Scott’s Emulsion, ham fat, Ardena Vitamin Cream, Fibrosine Balm, Auntie Clara’s rhubarb wine and senna pods. But all to no avail. The expression of sheer horror, repugnance and desperation remained, and he resigned himself to having it for the duration of the Con.
Maybe no one would notice. . . .
Johnny entered the Convention Hall and gazed around. There was an excited murmuring amongst the neofans. This much be somebody important; a pro-ed at least! He was introduced to Chuck Harris, and to his great joy Chuck showed not the slightest sign of noticing anything amiss.
“I’m ‘o ‘appy, ‘ister ‘arris. I ’ought it ‘ould ‘e ‘ome’ow – ‘ifferent.”
“Aw shucks, Johnny, it’s nothing at all really. A small price for a reputation, anyway.”
“But ‘ister ‘arris, I ‘idn’t ‘ean. . . .”
“That’s all right, Johnny, that’s quite all right. I’ve taken a liking to you anyway. Look, I’d like you to meet Walt and John.”
Walt shook hands, then nervously straightened his tie. He smoothed down his clothes and rubbed his toe-caps against the back of his trouser-legs.
“Ha Ha, Johnny – er – I always wear these old rags at Convention you know. Zap guns and – er – spilled bheer and – er – you know. . . .”
John hastily combed his hair. “Me too,” he gulped.
“Of course I’ve got my best suit upstairs,” said Walt eagerly. “Perhaps I’ll go up and change. . . .”
The neofans were awed beyond belief. Who IS this mysterious stranger who would treat Ghod so? He must be a new BNF! Maybe even. . . . no, no, that would be sacrilege. But idols can be toppled. . . . Speculation was rife.
Smoking and drinking, atmosphere fogging, zapping and punning, promiscuous snogging. All the fabulous rites of an all night party. Enter Johnny.
“Come right in, Buddy. Just a matter of ten shillings – towards the booze you know – well – er – that’s what we all agreed on. Well – er – I s’pose it is a bit steep isn’t it! Heh heeh. Look – er – don’t let on, but s’pose in your case we say – er – five bob? Well – er – never mind then, just slide in quietly and make yourself at home. Excuse me for dashing off, won’t you. . . .”
Later in bed Johnny dwelt warmly on the wonderful party, but he couldn’t help regretting that he’d come in just when everyone decided to abandon their lunacy and settle down to quiet and amiable enjoyment. If only he’d been there earlier when all that ribaldry was going on! Ah well, they were a grand lot and nobody even noticed his stuck face.
Morning came and the expression of sheer horror, repugnance and desperation was still there. At the breakfast table Johnny proceeded to crack open his boiled egg, but a passing waiter quickly removed it.
“I’m so sorry, sir. I’ll get you another one.”
“‘Ut it’s a’ right,” called Johnny after the departing figure.
In half a minute the waiter was back. “Chef says there’s nothing wrong with this egg,” he declared icily. “One moment. I’ll call the Head Waiter.”
“‘Ease ‘on’t ‘other!” protested Johnny.
The Head Waiter picked up the egg and sniffed it. “I fail to detect any untoward odour, sir.”
“I ‘ever ‘aid ‘ere ‘as,” said Johnny indignantly.
“I’d better fetch the Manager.”
“‘Ust ‘ive ‘e ‘ack ‘y egg!”
The Manager picked up the egg and sniffed it. “Seems all right to me, but if the gentleman feels he has a legitimate complaint, you had better fetch the Chef.”
“‘Ease ‘an I ‘ave ‘y egg ‘ack?” wailed Johnny.
The Chef strode in, the light of battle gleaming in his eyes. He bent down and placed his nose a centimetre from the egg.
“‘Ook!” cried Johnny. “ALL I ‘ANT ‘O ‘O IS EAT ‘Y EGG!!”
“Zo!” thundered the Chef, “you make ze fool of Alphonse, no? Never, never, NEVER ‘ave I perpetrate ze ancient egg! I spit on ze floor. Zo!” So saying, he snatched up Johnny’s egg and stalked from the room in majestic fury.
“There’s nothing more that can be done,” sighed the Manager. “You seem to have offended him.”
Sadly, Johnny reached for the toast and marmalade.
The rest of the day went fairly smoothly except for one or two incidents.
Eric Bentcliffe was reading aloud his latest composition when he suddenly noticed Johnny. He blushed, fluffed a couple of lines, glowered and slunk away. “After all,” he flung over his shoulder, “sex isn’t everything!”
The neofans looked at Johnny with new respect.
Mal Ashworth and his wife got introduced to Johnny and later were found examining each other quite critically. From then on they didn’t speak much.
Arthur Thomson, surrounded by piles of torn up paper, was shedding tears of frustration.
Two members of the pro-authors panel floundered in the middle of their speeches and promised, with eyes averted, never to write such stuff again.
Ted Tubb, in the middle of an auction, gave up on the flimsy excuse that he had lost his voice.
Don Allen discovered Johnny reading the latest issue of Satellite and said, “Never mind, I’ve got old Nigel writing something for the next issue. OH, you think so, too? Well. . . .”
In the evening Pete Hamilton handed Johnny a glass of BLOG. Johnny examined it suspiciously, then decided to get rid of it. Surreptitiously he poured a little into a potted palm, and the plant wilted.
“‘Ey!” he yelled, “‘st ‘uff ‘ou ‘ave ‘e, IT ‘ILLED ‘AT ‘ALM!!”
“Naturally,” said Pete. “It attacks chlorophyll, you know, but cannot harm the human body.”
(Oh, Johnny, if only you knew! You have the antidote right there in your hand! What cruel quirk of fate prompts you to tip the rest away?)
“It ‘inks!” said Johnny.
But fate is not so cruel after all. Destiny approaches in the form of Vin¢ Clarke. Someone introduces him to Johnny.
“Is it really that bad?” said Vin¢. He stood for a moment studying Johnny’s expression. His own face was a picture of indecision. Suddenly he put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and said confidentially, “You know, I’ve often thought of shaving it off. Now I’ve made up my mind.” He turned and made for the stairs with a determined gait.
A sudden hush fell over the neofans as they congregated round Johnny at a respectful distance. When Vin¢ came down fifteen minutes later, a dimpled chin gleaming in the unaccustomed light, they rose with one accord shouting,
“JOHNNY IS GHOD!”
Abruptly Willis appeared with eyes flashing. “See here,” he protested, “who says Johnny is Ghod? I AM GHOD!”
It is a moment of tense drama. Even the trufans realize that something is going on. Johnny, bewildered and trembling, notices Willis’ expression.
“‘Ind ‘ou ‘on’t ‘et ‘uck ‘ike it,” he whispers.
Finally someone shouts out, “Settle it here and now with a BLOG drinking contest.” Willis pales but does not flinch as he receives the dread glass. He consumes the contents with true Irish fortitude and is dragged from sight by a weeping Madeleine.
Now it is Johnny’s turn, and the plucky little devil drains his glass to the last drop. Some of the liquid penetrates the still open duct and finds its way to the Antrum of Highmore. FIZZ! It attacks and destroys the chlorophyll and CLICK! The stricken maxilla is freed.
The assembly roar with delight, and Johnny is carried shoulder high round and round the Convention Hall, for he has drunk BLOG and not only survived – BUT SMILED!
Back home, his Ma said, “Did you enjoy yourself at the Convention, dear?”
“Gosh – wow – boy – oh – boy, YES!” said Johnny. “They made me Ghod.”
“How nice,” said his Ma. “Johnny, come away from that mirror. . . .”