Shuffled feet, softly spoken words and, due to his old dear's depleted memory, repeated conversation were as common as the bumbled twang of their accents.
Delivered into a family of professional light bulb fitters, Vincent Jr bore an iron forearm and steadiness of toe only those in his business could boast. But boast he did not.
For Vincent Jr suffered from an incurable disease he’d acquired at the age of eight. A disease he’d been unable to rid of for the following thirty-five years and one so detrimental it not only hampered his career in the art of illumination, but had also begotten a similar fate on his father's will to live.
Being a steadfast Duvell, Vincent Sr took pride in his ancestry and its continued ability to outshine darkness with a swift sleight of hand. Never before had a single family dominated their trade so stubbornly and during these prolonged times of doom and gloom the Duvell’s prospered, generation after generation.
That is until Vincent Jr turned eight.
Upon striking this grand old age, Vincent Jr had shown real promise. Born with a thickness of wrist usually reserved for a champion of tug o' war, and the accomplished poise of a first class gymnast, he reminded Vincent Sr of Lord Ashcroft Duvell, Vincent Sr’s Grandfather, and a man many considered a grandmaster of light bulb fitting.
It was Lord Ashcroft who’d cemented the Duvell’s notoriety as the only family to turn to should one need a re-fit. By developing a breathtaking technique encompassing speed, skill and a deftness more commonly attributed to a Ballerina, Lord Ashcroft had transformed a mere trade into an exercise of beauty.
He’d acquired his title after delivering his expertise at the request of the Queen. One morning, on finding a spider in his bathtub, the King discharged a high-pitched trill so loud it shattered every last light bulb in Buckingham Palace, chandeliers included.
The unfortunate event took place approximately one hour before the Palace was due to host their annual game of Tiddlywinks in which royals and dignitaries from around the world were invited to take part. Through the recommendation of the Queen's butler, Ashcroft Duvell was immediately hurried in and on replacing all two-thousand and thirty-nine light bulbs, within less than forty-five minutes, was thereafter known as Lord Ashcroft Duvell.
It was this extraordinary ability that Vincent Sr had recognized in his only son the very first time he’d witnessed Vincent Jr change a bulb, aged three. Amidst his excitement he immediately made the decision to withhold Vincent Jr from traditional education to allow him to pursue his trade with the wholeheartedness of a lion. Who needs math when you can change a light bulb with such aptness? he thought with a frightening assuredness.
However his adulation was to be short lived. By the time Vincent Jr was approaching his eighth birthday, Vincent Sr was becoming concerned with his son’s bizarre fascination with maroon mittens.
His initial hint of worry surfaced when Mrs. Duvell had knitted Vincent Jr his very first pair.
The colour of the mittens was determined by whatever batch of wool Mrs. Duvell had at that given time and maroon was the particular shade very much in vogue. Keen to keep up her appearance as a lady in trend, Mrs. Duvell stocked an abundance of the dark red wool and ensured everything from the families socks, to the household tea cosies and dish cloths, were indeed this very colour.
On handing Vincent Jr his freshly knitted maroon mittens, both Mrs. Duvell and Vincent Sr watched the lad carefully encase his tiny paws before proceeding to outstretch his arms and stare at his hands for a good ten minutes.
“Vincent Jr! Vincent Jr!! Vincent Jr dear boy!!! VINCENT BOY! YOUNG MAN LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M SPEAKING TO YOU!!!!”
Vincent Sr roared, aghast at Vincent Jr’s eternal gaze.
Vincent Jr didn’t blink and before Vincent Sr had raised his left arm to discipline the boy’s right ear, off shot Vincent Jr up the stairs and into his bedroom, slamming his door behind him.
Very odd behaviour.
Around an hour later, Vincent Jr surfaced from his bedroom, minus his mittens and looking rather flustered. Sheepishly, and without coming up for air, he explained how his poor mittens had been swept away by a gust of wind after he’d left them on his windowsill, how deeply foolish he’d been to leave them there in the first place, and how please could he have a new pair because the hands of a light bulb extraordinaire are his most precious tools, and the rigors of winter can cause rigidness in the fingers enough to play havoc with the toughest of fitters, never mind an upcoming seven-and-two-thirds-year-old!
Vincent Sr agreed, disappointedly, Vincent Jr had been foolish but also confirmed the necessity of keeping his hands warm before instructing Mrs. Duvell to knit him a new pair.
After his original pair had apparently blown from the windowsill it took only five days before his new pair unraveled after he caught them on a rosebush. Four days later he’d removed his next pair in a shop to reach for change in his pockets, only for someone else to pick them up. His fourth pair was ripped off his hands by an angry cat and his fifth pair somehow disappeared into thin air whilst he was still wearing them.
By the time Vincent Jrs birthday was all but a week away, he was onto his fifty-third pair; his excuses as to how he’d lost the one before last becoming more and more elaborate and his behaviour unusually erratic.
Coinciding with his increasingly common and noticeable knack for losing mittens, his once beaming bright eyes, now dull and unfocussed, lugged around heavy dark bags. His pallid appearance dragged what was once a glowing smile to the floor, and the beautiful posture that had excitedly reminded Vincent Sr of Lord Ashcroft Duvell was starting to loll. The amount of time he’d spend locked away in his room was also beginning to raise eyebrows.
Vincent Jr blamed his odd behavior on numerous factors including the common cold, the pressures of work, and the fact that anyone would be upset and depressed if they’d had the same bad luck when it came to mittens.
His parents just couldn’t understand it. How could someone be so unlucky with mittens? They pondered this theme for many hours, on one occasion even considering replacing his mittens with gloves due to the possibility of his association with them being cursed. But time after time they lapped up Vincent Jr's excuses and churned out pair after pair of replacement maroon mittens.
Due to his father’s somewhat overbearing judgment in deeming a traditional education pointless for Vincent Jr, he worried his increasing concerns might push his son further away and start affecting his ability to change light bulbs. Not only would this leave Vincent Jr with nothing to fall back on, it would also, and more importantly, destroy the family name, leaving their dynasty in tatters.
With this in mind Vincent Sr was reluctantly happy to overlook his son’s strange behavior and although his mother was knitting him a new pair of mittens a day, Vincent Jr’s light-bulb fitting performance was still exceptional.
However, this was a problem they were soon unable to ignore.
It was the day before Vincent Jr’s eighth birthday and the Duvell household was in good spirits. Regardless of the mystery surrounding the mittens Vincent Sr was proud of his son and the legend he was carving in the light-bulb fitting industry. Mrs. Duvell was baking Vincent Jr’s favourite cake and Vincent Jr himself had managed to muster a whisper of his former self due to his excitement at the list of birthday presents he’d requested.
A list that included: a new pair of Nike trainers; the permission to get a pineapple tree shaved into the back of his cropped head; an electric toothbrush; and ten pairs of maroon mittens—a rather excessive but necessary amount to allow his mother some time off from knitting, especially given that Vincent Jr would almost definitely ‘misplace’ one after the other, day after day."
Due to the high regard in which he was held Vincent Jr was certain he’d have each birthday wish fulfilled, and although he couldn’t wait to rock into town flaunting his excellent new haircut and snazzy trainers, it was the mittens, unsurprisingly, that were the object(s) he desired the most.