Later that day Massimo, the craftsman charged with the restoration of my hot air balloon, stopped by with some sand samples. I was to examine the samples and choose one for the ballast bags. Why we were choosing sand when we hadn't even settled on a cloth was more than my mind could churn through under the circumstances and I sat there, inert, as Higgins and Massimo cleared the map table and arrayed the sands in shallow trays each with a small card indicating the beach the sand had been collected from. There must have been a dozen or more trays and as Massimo shifted briskly from side to side the whisking sound of the grains on the rare African hardwood lulled me into a dream state where I once again found myself ascending the hill to the grand house at the top. This time night had fallen completely. As I got closer and closer the facade of this great home stretched upward until the glowing lights of the windows seemed to give way to the stars in the sky. To my astonishment, the door was open and I could hear music and the chatter of crowds. It would seem that Richard was throwing one of his soirees. I continued my approach, but a sound cut suddenly through the air. Glancing up to the right I could see a private helicopter approaching. As it came to rest on the helipad I saw the unmistakeable crest of Richard's family emblazoned on the side. The door opened and waiters emerged bearing silver trays aloft each wearing the familiar uniform of the Rugby Cafe. As they filed into the servants entrance the smell of grilled chicken sandwiches mingled with the scent of flowers already potent in the night air. I turned back to the door, relieved to find it still open and walked in. People filled each of the large, tastefully appointed rooms. Their laughter and conversation was intoxicating, but there was one voice I was searching for. One voice that, like the library of Alexandria, could transmit all of the world's knowledge directly to my very soul. I pushed through turning this way and that, standing on tip-toe to try and see over the throngs of guests. I began to feel anxious, even panicked, where could Richard be? Of course, like any good host, he was likely on the move pollinating each conversation as he fluttered from petal to petal. But I had to find him. I began grabbing people by the shoulders and turning them around, but I just couldn't focus. It seemed like the crowd was growing. The rooms bulged and swelled and before I knew it I was caught. Trapped in a copse of tuxedoed captains of industry. I kept trying to squeeze by, but I could gain any ground. Then I started slipping. Down, down, down between the black shoulders of the tuxedos until they closed in overhead and there was only dark.
The next thing I knew I was staring at a ceiling. But this time it was a familiar one. Clear and crisp. I heard a thick Italian accent saying something about sand, and then there was Higgins. Faithful Higgins looking down on me. He gently admonished me for the start I gave him falling from my chaise lounge and gave Massimo the order to pack the sand samples back up. Then with a helping hand he pulled my weak frame up and helped me back to my bed chamber where he administered some warm milk and nutmeg.
"Perhaps we'll try this again tomorrow," he said.
Perhaps we will.