DICK AND MAYBE
Richard William Finn Flaherty O'Toole, known to his friends as Dick Willie, was little noticed in literary circles until he met his muse the Condessa Maybelline Teresa Antojito Flabella de los Puercos y de Bacalhau, whose name was commonly abbreviated to Maybe; and even then, he became better known for his looks than for his poetry. The Irish adventurer and the Portuguese aristocrat had much in common, but above all both were extremely lapsed Catholics with an enormous capacity for self-reinvention. Most of the stories about them are almost certainly apocryphal and for that matter of their own devising, but this does not detract from their essential truth.
For example, no-one is really sure that they actually met (as both so often claimed) at a Conservative Party conference; he as a candidate, and she as a protester. There is a persistent rumour that they had first met some time before, when he was up at Oxford and she was an art student, but with the benefit of hindsight it is blindingly obvious that the louche circles in which they both moved were what really brought them together, making it almost inevitable that they would become a couple; albeit a couple who were incessantly unfaithful to one another. They notoriously quarrelled like cats and dogs: it is believed that Dick Willie acquired his famous chip when Maybe threw an ashtray at him. He always referred to it as his chip off the old cock, while she called it the chip on his shoulder. Their fights were however short lived; until, perhaps, the end.
O'Toole was a writer and Maybe was a photographer: she was responsible for most of the pictures of her lover, though sometimes he would get behind the camera and photograph her, and there were occasional times when one of their friends would photograph the pair of them together.
Although he stood for parliament several times, always as a Conservative and (above all) Unionist, he was never elected: as Maybe put it, “He just wasn't that much of a prick.” Though according to the interviewer, a dreamy smile then came over her face, and she added, “Well, he was. But not enough for the Conservative Party.” Her own politics were considerably more to the left: she claimed that the late Viscount Stansgate was her godfather, though no-one ever dared ask him if this was true. It probably wasn't. Political differences may however have accounted for almost as many of their legendary fights as jealousy, drunkenness, forgetting where they were, boasting and lack of anything better to do.
As is now well known, they disappeared – possibly separately – in mysterious circumstances: no trace of either has ever been found. On the other hand, the stories of their end bear all the hallmarks of the sort of story they told of themselves. The most common version is that Dick Willie was smashed and ground to powder by a jealous husband, but another story, almost as popular, is that Maybe crunched him up and swallowed him after a particularly vicious falling out. Numerous people, of course, claim to have eaten Maybe, but as the stories of how she met her death are so different, most of them should be taken with a pinch of salt; if possible, along with roast potatoes, onions, courgettes and garlic. It may also be that “eat” was a euphemism. In the words of one of her Old Etonian lovers, a notorious floppy-haired blond who was famous for his weakness for old fashioned slang, “She was the finest bit of crackling I ever had.”
In any case, it is widely believed that neither actually died: that when they became tired of the ceaseless round of parties and media attention they simply made up stories of (and for) their own ends, without even bothering to fake their actual deaths. As a friend said, “Dickie was finding life increasingly hard, and Maybe had more and more difficulty in keeping her weight up to acceptable levels: she had an obsessive fear of being skinny.”
She was (or claimed to be) an aristocrat who traced her ancestry back to Teresa of Léon, Queen of Portugal in the 11th century, while he came from (or claimed to have come from) what used to be called the landed gentry. Both were (or seemed to be) independently wealthy. It is far from impossible, therefore, that they retreated together or separately to the country estates on which they had grown up. Many claim to have seen Dick Willie in Ireland since he disappeared, and although no-one claims to have seen Maybe, there have been several unexplained and messy deaths of red-top journalists in Portugal. These have been attributed to wild boar, but locals are always unforthcoming when questions are asked. The de los Puercos family was always well regarded by the local peasantry, and those who remember Maybe in her earliest years will hear no ill of her. She may have been a bit wild when she was younger, they say; and then, as if realizing that they may inadvertently have given the impression that she is still alive, they shrug and smile.
Even then, the story does not end. There are some who believe that both of them could take human shape at will; that they were, in fact, a were-pig and a were-prick, who merely found it more amusing not to be human most of the time. This would certainly square with O'Toole's politics. The were-explanation may be why they have so seldom been seen, if indeed they have been seen at all, since their apparent disappearance. It would also explain how they could (if they are still alive) move between Portugal and Ireland: much easier in human form than in the forms in which they achieved fame or perhaps notoriety, though they were regarded as a good-looking couple by many of their provincial friends and as fascinatingly outré in the more rarefied upper strata of society.
Arguably still further from the realms of the believable, but perhaps still more in keeping with their real or assumed personae, there is a small cult in the North of England which maintains that they are still alive but have progressed beyond perceptible corporeal form. These devotees worship the two of them as incarnations of the male and female principles. The exact relationship of The Uncommonly Reverend Wang to either is unclear – in fact, it is unclear whether he ever even met them – and neither he nor his female companion Nuff (who claims to be of the Faerie folk) is forthcoming on the matter. They and a small but variable number of followers are based in a terraced house in Sunderland, so very few London-based journalists have ever made the effort to go and visit them. Reputedly there are another few dozen believers in the area and perhaps a few hundred world wide. It is however known that adherents of the sect wear a small silver representation of a flying pig.
A breakaway and more radical version of the sect was recently founded in California by a man calling himself Thyrsis, or possibly Thursday. Insofar as his mumbles and tirades can be deciphered, he appears to claim to be the son of Wang or Nuff or perhaps both. There are probably no more than few score members of this branch of the sect, mostly in the Western states of America but with a few on the East Coast and even fewer in Europe. They maintain that the flying pig, Amanhã (Tomorrow in Portuguese), is a representation of the daughter of O'Toole and the Condessa, and that She will in due course save the world. Their theology is brief but unusually convincing: that given the present state of the world, only the sight of flying pigs can give us any hope. As they put it, Amanhã belongs to us.
Biographer's Note: The sculpted portraits of Dick Willy and Maybe which accompany this article were found at a vide-grenier at Airvault in France*. It is an extraordinary coincidence that both pieces of memorabilia were in the same place, but extensive inquiries in the local bars turned up no evidence that even their names were known locally; or at least, no evidence that the biographer can remember, as the research was very extensive and carried out in the spirit of its subjects, viz., John Jameson's for Dick Willy and Champagne cocktails for the Condessa. Nor did there seem to be a branch of either the The Church of Dick and Maybe nor the Revised Order of the Flying Pig within several hours' drive. It is hoped that this brief biographical note, accompanied with one of the comparatively few portraits of them together, may prompt someone's memory and lead in due course a a full-length biography of the pair and an account of their tumultuous relationship; assuming of course that the biographer sobers up for long enough to write it, or indeed, to remember why he started it.
*This bit is actually true. See also Sex and Vide-Greniers.
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Words and picture copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2017