Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mark Middleton: an Obituary

Mark Middleton was killed last Friday in a freak shark attack while snorkelling over the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. He is survived by his wife Trudy, and sons Mervin and Max. Middleton was generally regarded as the world’s most mild-mannered man. When he was dragged under the surface of the water by the tiger shark that proceeded to chew off his legs, arms and head, Middleton’s last words, according to onlookers, were “Oh dear.”

It is indeed remarkable that Middleton achieved the level of fame that he did, since he never sought to be anything but shy, retiring, polite, unassuming, and quiet. Above all, he strove to always avoid even the slightest suggestion of hyperbole.

“I think I might rather quite love you a bit, perhaps,” were the words that prefaced has proposal to Trudy in 1991.

A year later, when asked by the Reverend Gordon Gambon whether he took this woman to be his wife, to love and honour for the rest of his life, Middleton replied, “I do believe that I do.” It was the most succinct sentence of his life and Trudy was moved to tears. She kissed Mark on the lips, but only briefly, because she knew that he wouldn’t want to make a scene.

The couple were walking down a dark alley in Ipswich a few months later, having spent the night enjoying one pint each in the Queen’s Legs – Middleton’s favourite pub. Two hooded men with knives attacked them and asked for all their money. One of the hoods threatened to slit Middleton’s throat.

“It really shouldn’t be necessary to do something as dramatic as all that,” said Middleton. “If you wouldn’t mind withdrawing the blade from my throat, I will ensure that you receive the twenty pounds that I currently possess in cash, and we can conclude this rather unpleasant affair as amicably as possible.”

The hooded men were so impressed by the courtesy and respect shown them that they immediately abandoned the attempted mugging and turned themselves in to the police. They confessed to a three-year crime spree that included a bank robbery, a car jacking, a home invasion, and interfering with a farm animal.

“Middleton was just such a decent man that I knew I had to bring my horrible and hurtful ways to an end,” said one of the criminals interviewed afterwards.

Thirteen years later, Middleton manifested his first and only episode of irritation. His son, Max, stole the family car and drove it into a seniors’ home, causing over ten thousand pounds of damage. Middleton arrived at the hospital where his son was being treated for minor cuts and bruises and stood in an agitated state over the bed.

“I do believe that I am rather cross with you over this very unfortunate incident,” he said. “I am afraid that I will have to take some rather punitive measures in light of your transgression. Henceforward, your pocket money is reduced by thirty-three percent. And I do intend to keep it at this lower rate indefinitely. Yes, indefinitely! The rate will be reviewed in the future, but with no guarantee that it will be increased. I hope, my son, that you will learn a lesson from this.”

Middleton’s mild-mannered and polite nature never failed him, not even in bed. When once he accidentally ejaculated prematurely and besmirched Trudy’s nightdress, he was prompt and sincere in his expression of regret.

“Please accept my apologies for this accident,” he said. “Be aware that I will take great pains to ensure that it isn’t repeated. Would you mind awfully if I make amends somehow? Maybe by pleasuring you orally, if that would suit you?”

As an accountant at a small light-bulb assembly plant, Middleton was never rich, but nor was he poor. The holiday in Australia was the first outside of the British Isles for Middleton and his family, and was the result of four years of patient and prudent saving. Sadly, the Middletons only enjoyed two days of leisure before Mark so tragically lost his life.

“I will miss him,” said Trudy in an interview with the Canberra Times on the day of the incident. “It will take a while to get used to Mark not being around.”

In her first interview with the British press upon arrival at Heathrow a week later, Trudy said, “Well, I’m used to him not being around now.”