“Mr Finn, you look lost.”
“I am as a matter of fact.”
“Well that’s the best place from which to start.”
“I beg your pardon. Look, I really ought to be getting on my way.”
The little man, who had accosted him, did not take the celebrity cricketer’s polite hint.
“To be sure you should.”
“I mean, shouldn’t YOU be getting on YOUR way?”
“Indeed I should, but I sense a troubled mind and I’m not for leaving a young man with a worried cast alone in this great big city. Why don’t we walk together and let the city speak to us. Who knows, it may help.”
They walked for hours, talking sometimes, not at others, taking in the sudden change of ambiance in streets where psychic atmospheres would change within the space of a yard or two.
Finn began to lead. Strolling aimlessly, he took a path that soon had no relation to the physical terrain.
“If you do this, there is no need to worry about missing the stumps at the bowler’s end,” said his companion. “Just open yourself to the appealing or repelling character of the locality. It is how you did it as a child.”
“But this is not the way I was taught.”
“My boy, what really matters never depends on causes to be uncovered by careful analysis and turned to some high account. Throw that nonsense all away. Find your own way to the wicket.”
And suddenly there they were in an enormous open and expansive square, with not a landmark in sight. The Professor of Psycho-geography, for such he was, took a piece of chalk from his pocket, drew a short line on the ground and moved some distance away to the side.
“Now bowl from that mark. Find the path of least resistance. Feel the rhythm marshaling the power within you.”
He was running now, like he had never run before and in a moment, without a single thought, he found himself at some imaginary crease, releasing the ball, his body pivoting over his left foot like some Archimedean point from which to lift the world. Vividly he saw a ball leave his hand and travel towards some invisible set of stumps.
“Good, good, good,” he heard the Professor cry, his academic eye focused on the spot where Finn’s front foot had landed. Quickly reaching the spot, the old man took the chalk and marked the spot. Then he handed Finn a piece of pink thread and some silver nail scissors.
“Now take the other end back to that first mark and cut the string to length.”
Finn did so, then wound the string in a ball and placed it in his pocket for same keeping.
Looking up he noticed the busy street of the main shopping district, cabs flashed by, shoppers barged into him. But not a trace remained of the Professor.
His heart sank. A nervous hand felt for his pocket. The thread; it was still there.
*A dérive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.