Ah, those good old Cape May days… by Jackson D’Catur
I remember the day they met, and I saved Charlie from a lifetime of writing cheap maritime romance novels, obsessed as he was by brutish seamen. At that time Tim was working in the bar of the Brown Room, and was one of the top earners based on his small stature and ability to nip through the densest of crowds with ease. That and the fact that he widely publicised his imminent death and used to prop his crutches against the bar to hammer the message home. Why, some nights he used to limp back to his lodgings towing his tips behind him on a small wheeled trolley.
Of course, Charlie was a soft touch, and when our fine malts were delivered by this sliver of a boy, who coughed delicately into a lace kerchief as he blinked at us through doe-like eyes, I could see Charlie melt.
Charlie actually adopted Tim, and wanted to give the lad all of the comforts imaginable for his remaining time, and the two moved into a fine old mansion on Beach, where they lived like brothers. While here, that summer and the fall and winter that followed, Charlie wrote some of his best works based on our fine city and the folks who inhabit it. I was of course the inspiration for David Copperfield, or possibly Ebenezer Scrooge (I forget which), and in the original draft of A Tale of Two Cities, the cities in question were Cape May and Wildwood, being changed only when Charlie recognised that one would wait a hundred lifetimes without the prospect of social change in Wildwood.
Of course, all good things come to an end and on a cool watery spring day that followed the harsh winter, little Tim slipped away one morning.
He did so at 5am, leaving with a laundry sack filled with Charlie’s money, valuables and share certificates, and took the coach to Atlantic City, where he was reunited with his whore of a wife and they fled to Paris. All he left was his consumption medicine, which turned out to be merely watered-down rum, and his crutches, which he had never needed. I felt a little responsible and luckily I found out before Charlie rose from his slumbers, so I tampered a little with the evidence to make it seem like Tim had passed away in his sleep. Charlie was distraught, but better that, I think, than he learn the truth and never write again. A year later, while on vacation in France, I ensured that Tim was indeed no longer with us: I like a neat ending …