Based on: Fawlty Towers
Characters belong to John Cleese, Connie Booth and the BBC. But they've lain fallow for more than 20 years, so...


Lack of understanding

by Elvichar

Basil rolled over and tried to sleep. He was sure he never used to be this uptight.

In the early days of their married life Sybil had been sweet and pretty and giving. Well maybe that was an exaggeration. But she had definitely been a lot more forgiving about his little faults and foibles.

It had all changed about a year-and-a-half in. Around the same time they decided to buy a hotel and escape from the hustle-bustle of city life. And now the widening gap between them had turned into a yawning chasm.

He'd tried talking to Polly about it. For some reason he thought she might be a good listener, what with her being American and all that. She probably said her first words to a psychologist or psychotherapist or analyst or whatever the hell loony-doctors were calling themselves these days.

He'd sat her down in the office and tried to talk rationally and openly about his feelings. But his Englishness got the better of him. It all came out as a sort of strangulated mumble.

"Mr Fawlty are you all right? Would you like me to fetch an ambulance?" Polly was thumping him on the back; convinced he'd swallowed a fly.

So he'd given up on that. Two hours in casualty, too embarrassed to explain what had really happened, gave him pause for thought.

And Sybil wouldn't listen. Audrey had phoned yet again with another of her idiot problems.

"Sybil, dearest, I need to tell you something," he'd insisted.

"Wait a minute Basil, I'm on the phone...ooh I know, no only Basil, nothing important Audrey, you carry on. Ooh I know."

"Sybil - this could affect our entire marriage - I really need to speak to you."

Sybil gave him a dirty look and then went back to her phone call. Basil slammed his head against the reception counter, achieving nothing but a large red mark on his forehead and a splinter above his left eyebrow.

There was only one thing for it. He was going to have to sack Manuel. He would go back to Barcelona and his five brothers and poor widowed dependent mother. He could explain to them how he couldn't keep a job down because the Mr Fawlty was an evil tyrant who forced poor little immigrant waiters onto the streets of Spain to beg for food. Oh god. Basil slapped his head. Why was he developing a conscience all of a sudden? He was almost certain that was something else he's never had to deal with. Overwhelming embarrassment and guilt and self-loathing yes - they were fairly standard. But a conscience was definitely something new. It wasn't nice.

Manuel came into the kitchen.

"Mr Fawlty. I seek you - you needed in bar - trouble with the Major. He no want to leave."

"Manuel. I've told you before - we want to keep the Major. Let him drink himself to death for all I care - but while he's here he pays well above the odds for his room. We don't want to upset him," Basil sighed.

Manuel looked confused.

"Que?" He said.

"Oh never mind. Just sit down Manuel. I have to talk to you." Manual hesitantly sat on the hamper by the doorway.

"What is it Mr Fawlty - have I done wrong thing?"

"No Manuel. You haven't done the wrong thing - I just need to ..." He didn't know how to carry on. "It's just that..."

Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by Sybil's entrance. "Basil. What on Earth are you doing? I sent Manuel to come and get you and you're just sitting there. Will you just get off of your tall, lanky bottom and come and help us with the Major?"

"Sybil," Basil sighed. "As I was just explaining to our little Spanish friend we don't want the Major to leave. Do we dear?" Basil flashed his most snake-like smile at his wife.

"Basil! Stop. We don't want him to leave. No. But the option seems to have been taken out of our hands. He's dead Basil."

"Dead? But...He can't be dead, he's our best customer."

"Yes well he wass. He's gone. Sorry. We need some help moving him - he's in the bar and we're going to open soon. We don't want the other guests to be scared do we dear?" Sybil put her head to one side and smiled.

"Are you totally deranged?" Basil shouted, "havenít you called an ambulance? Isn't that normal in cases like these?"

"Yes dear it is. But since that fly incident yesterday the hospital seems to have put our address on the no-go list. I tried to explain but they seemed convinced it was some sort of crank call. You've got a lot to answer for Basil. I hope you've got a few good excuses prepared for St Peter, or Old Nick - they'll probably send you there first, dispense with formalities."

"I'm not dead yet you stupid woman!"

"No but the major is and if you don't help us to move him soon this summer heat is going to alert the whole hotel to the fact. He's already beginning to smell."

"Unbelievable!" Basil muttered. Oh well, the talk with Manuel was just going to have to wait a while.

So now. The night after the day before, he was lying here, with absolutely no idea what to do.


The morning brought new hope into his life. As it always did. Every morning he tried to forget how god-awful his life was, made a new start. Heíd smile at the guests, make witty conversation and try to be a good husband. But every morning by about 8.30am the emptiness of existence came back to torture him.

And Manuel was always there. Eager to please, understanding nothing and willing to take everything thrown at him with barely a word of complaint. Well if he did complain it was to Polly and it was in Spanish - so Basil didnít have to worry about it. It occasionally occurred to him that he should learn a little Spanish - make it easier on Manuel. But the thought was always dismissed as soon as it appeared. He knew that if he started to learn the waiterís language Manuel and he might understand each other all too well. And that would be a complete disaster.

Basil sat in his office with the door locked and rested his head in his hands. If he didnít come up with a solution soon he was going to go mad. If he hadnít already.

A tap tapping on the door made him jump to his feet and spin around. Oh god. Manuel. Only Manuel. It was always Manuel.

Basil unlocked the door and let the waiter into the office. He suddenly resolved to sort this out once and for all. The Majorís death had got him thinking. When he couldnít sleep last night all the scenarios of how his life would be from now on played themselves in his head. How would he explain himself to god - what if the biggest sin in life was making everybody unnecessarily unhappy? What if lying was even worse than murder? What if .. He could and did go on all night.

"Manuel, I have something very serious to tell you. You might not understand it but it will make me feel better if I get it off my chest," Basil began. He gestured for Manuel to sit . Manuel looked at him quizzically but responded to the gesture.

"What this about Mr Fawlty? My work no good. Please no say you sack me - I must support my family. If you send me back to Barcelona in disgrace I will be outcast."

Basil frowned. Manuel was a strange and perplexing fellow. His English seemed to improve considerably whenever anything really important involving money was involved. Or maybe he was just being cynical. Than again, maybe Manuel would understand what he was about to tell him. Basil wasnít sure whether this would be a bad or good thing. Only one way to find out.

"No - your work has been very good. I need to talk to you about a rather delicate matter..."He paused. Manuel nodded for him to continue. "You may have noticed that Mrs Fawlty and I have been having some problems with our marriage lately."

"Si, si," Manuel nodded sagely.

"In fact she and I havenít slept together for almost 14 years," Basil could swear he saw a flicker of shock in Manuelís eyes.

"Que?"

"Oh for goodness sake Manuel. Do you understand me or do you not understand me?" Basilís very short and not very elastic patience was at its limits already.

"Mr Fawlty, no need to shout. Yes I understand. But you should not be telling me these things - it personal business between you and Mrs Fawlty."

"But Manuel - you are involved."

"Que? Me how I involved ? I no here for 14 years - I only work here for five."

"Five years. Yes five years." Basil nodded maniacally.

"No - you have to explain. I no understand. Why Ďfive years five yearsí. "

"Because Manuel - for five years something has been building in me - and Iíve had years of pushing things down so they eat at me from the inside out. Years. But itís all too much lately. If I donít let it out Iím going to finally crack. And yes - I know everyone thinks Iím already mad - but they ainít seen nothing yet!"

Manuel got up and grabbed Basilís arms. He started to shake, "Mr Fawlty stop. You hysterical. You must calm down. Is no good to get worked up."

"But Iím already worked up Manuel," Basil gasped.

"Yes, but it no good. Why you not just leave Mrs Fawlty if you so unhappy?"

"She owns almost all the business Manuel. If we split up Iíd lose everything - this hotel is all I have. I canít give it up. I just canít," Basil started to sob. The sort of sobbing born out of years of keeping everything in. The sort of sobbing Basil was always told was unmanly. But he couldn't help it. He stooped to lay his head on Manuelís shoulder.

"There there," Manuel patted Basilís head awkwardly, "Maybe you feel better if you cry."

Sybil came in looking for some keys. She put her hands on her hips and pursed her lips.

"Basil - if you must seduce the staff please do it a little more discreetly."

Basil jumped away from Manuel, "I wasnít. Sybil. You have to understand. Itís all a misunderstanding. Nothing happened. You must believe me!"

"Well I was only joking. But if you put it like that... maybe Iím right eh?" She picked up the keys and flounced out, smiling.

"Oh god no! What have I done?"

"Que?"

Basil raced after his wife, "Sybil really - nothing happened."

"I know Basil. Nothing happened. I have known you for almost 18 years - I do know how repressed you are," her voice dropped to a whisper. "But maybe you should think about it seriously. I think Manuel likes you more than you know." She walked away, leaving Basil shocked and unable to say anything.

He turned around and jumped when he saw Manuel behind him.

"She right Mr Fawlty. Mrs Fawlty a very wise woman," Manuel winked and walked to the kitchen.

/The little sod/ Basil thought /Heís probably understood all this time./


The next night Basil lay in bed a changed man. He was more relaxed than heíd been in years. Whoíd have thought it? He looked over at Manuel, who was snoring gently, curled up beside him.

In The Fawlty bedroom across the hall, Mrs Fawlty was on the phone, "Yes I know, I know, no -- he did. Yes I told you he would - heís hopeless. Five years itís taken him. I know. Didnít I say when Manuel first came here? So, Audrey where are you taking me next weekend? Oh stop," Sybil giggled dirtily. "Audrey you are awful."

END

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