‘Belly Laugh’, was, of course only his nick-name, his pet name, the one he was always known by.
His real name, the one, which his parents had fondly given him all those years ago, had been buried so deep by the accumulations of history that even ‘Belly Laugh’ himself had quite forgotten what it was or was supposed to be. None of his many friends knew it, either.
So much for the earnest endeavours of well-meaning parents.
He was essentially a ‘jolly good chap.’ That, every one agreed on.
‘Belly Laugh’ had earned his nick-name simply because he was such a nice person. And it all came from the deep, rumbling noise he used to make when he opened his mouth and gave full vent to a veritable explosion of uninhibited guffawing as would make most people fall over with utter astonishment.
Added to which, he was a snappy dresser, always immaculately turned out, a smoothie, with just the right amount of cuff showing, the correct collar for the occasion, the perfectly matched handkerchief to go with the tie, the expensive after-shave, with the precisely judged hint of prosperity. It was a brilliant reversal of the current trend for scruffiness at all costs. ‘Belly Laugh’ looked just right for a senior post, which, against the odds, he promptly got.
Not many people knew how old the man was, he seemed to have been around as long as most people could remember, further back even than then, people’s memories being somewhat on the short side.
In fact, ‘Belly Laugh’ had only recently left University where he had got, by the skin of his teeth, a measly Third with nearly half of his tutors dissenting on the grounds that the award was ‘too generous by half.’ But that wasn’t the point, the real point was that ‘Belly Laugh’, by a cunning mixture of bluff and bravado had scraped through University, when most people simply wouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place. ‘Belly Laugh’ was a charlatan.
But all of that was as nothing to what he was to become. For, no sooner had the man left University that some damn fool bank took him on, not as a simple clerk, ‘No Sir’, that would never do but as a highly paid adviser. The bank, like so many others fell ‘hook, line and sinker’ for the bluff, the pretence that was the real ‘Belly Laugh.’
The only thing that haunted ‘Belly Laugh’, gave him sleepless nights, even on one occasion, a nightmare, was the dread that one day someone would call his bluff, see through the bluster and the bravado and expose him for the out and out fraud he really was.
This was what haunted the man, his preoccupation, if you like, his unspoken and secret dread, which is why he laughed so much. Laughing was his disguise.
He really didn’t want anyone to find him out, to see behind the jolliness to find the little frightened soul cowering in the corner.
The real ‘Belly Laugh’ was his closely secret.