Comedy Stories

Forth Majeure

And here is the resting place of your great-grandfather, Salvador Earnest Forth.

The renowned Sally Forth.

Found dead in his cottage with an iPhone in his hand at the age of 96.

Yes, I am aware you didn’t get to meet him while he was alive. He was an interesting man. Well, maybe less interesting and more mercurial. Well, maybe less mercurial and more of an arsehole.

I met him only twice.

Your grandparents regaled us with legendary Sally-stories, probably more useful as cautionary tales.

Sally Forth! He would call out on occasion. Sally Forth and get going!

From a military family, he was forgiven for being the emotional embodiment of a “salle sortie” — as he habitually snuck out of a figurative sally port, quickly charmed those who dared to love him, then abruptly abandoned them. Capricious posturing was exactly what Sally Forth was known for. Or rather unknown. The man was an enigma. Rosebud and all that.

That was apparently Sally’s raison d’être; he just didn’t want the same people around for very long. Emotional entanglements, romantic or platonic, were just not your great-grandfather’s cup of tea. When pressed, he would simply Sally Forth!

Yes, your great-grandpapa was a proverbial rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat, indeed, was his home.

That was how Sally chose to live his entire life, like an 18th-century British soldier, flashing red, ready to seize any nation that needed his colonizing, any nubile lass who needed his philandering. And after his emotional looting and pillaging? Sally Forth to other fertile lands to conquer!

That is why you have at least a half dozen great-grandmothers. That we know of.

Sally, being a remarkably tall, handsome young man, whole and fit after the war, initially used telegrams to sate his heart’s insatiable desires. Luxurious of him, as a 15-word telegram would cost 8 pounds sterling today. He could have wooed his conquests in a more economical fashion, but Sally allegedly felt the old-fashioned, terse nature of the telegram suited him best. After his death, we found stacks of his old telegram order forms from the mid-1940’s:




In another box we found more telegrams, coming from all the Helens and Ethels and Colleens, wondering where Sally had sallied forth to. After all his clever word play and jaunty banter and — what do you call it today? Love bombing. Odd how these women never seemed to blame Sally, but held a strange affection for the old bugger.

I know your particular great-grandmother did.

Over the next twenty years or so, Sally would fall in love, sometimes twice a night, marry, divorce, and sometimes remarry the same woman. While working at the Ministry of Defense, Sally worked for the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) by day while making the acquaintance of most of the women in Worcestershire by night, both single or not. When the Queen sent her first email over the ARPANET in 1976, your great-grandfather was composing cheeky electronic messages for some bird he fancied.

As a serial bachelor, Sally kept very few things. Mostly old technology, which grew more outdated as the days quickly passed. One of your great-uncles found a trove of Sally’s old floppy disks, compact discs, an old SD card, and even a flash drive in that attic of his. On every storage device were emails to various women in all stages of Sally’s seduction.

To Carol:

I noticed in the break room you might need to make room for a break. How about sneaking out for quick breakfast, fast?

To Jennifer:

Welcome to RSRE! I’m sure you are getting royal signals from many of the men here. Let’s just say you’ve been on my radar since you’ve started. How about lunch?

To Karen:

I didn’t know Alison was your roommate. You know I’m not like that. I’m sure we can work things out over dinner. If not, tell Alison I’ll ring later.

After Sally’s semi-retirement, the intimate-but-not-intimate nature of the computer age suited Sally to a T. Let’s just say Sally’s charm and the internet’s endless opportunities for shallow romances were a match made in heaven. He had one of the first (and only?) Friendster accounts. He had a space on Myspace. His Facebook page showed him water-skiing with Wendy at seventy, salsa dancing with Cecily at seventy-five, and enjoying English billiards at eighty — with Evelyn. He posted pictures of single cruises’ midnight buffets on Instagram. Captured pub crawling with his ancient mates on Snapchat. Danced to Saweetie’s “My Type” in a Tik Tok video that garnered more views than Boris Johnson. But that’s not a high bar.

It was easy to be Sally in the digital world, where instant intimacy and sallying forth was not only expected, but encouraged. He felt a man born for the times.

I suppose the family thought Sally would settle down a bit once he fully retired, but someone thought it would be a good idea to get your great-grandfather an iPhone for his 83rd birthday. Sally had a fully completed member profile on Silver Singles before his birthday candles were all properly lit. Before the celebratory ice cream was dished, Sally was setting up his Tinder account.

“I know this one,” he paused, looking down at familiar brown eyes on the tiny screen.

“That’s mum,” Sally’s son reminded him.

“Ah, so she is,” he replied and swiped right.

Tragic how they found Sally, alone in his cottage, iPhone in hand. Only after the newspapers piled up and the mail went uncollected for a few days did someone feel the need to contact the authorities for a wellness check.

All was not well.

Death had finally come calling for your great-grandfather, sitting alone on the sofa, estranged from children and wives. At first the police officers believed Sally had been texting someone, but upon closer inspection of his iPhone, it appeared Sally had been blocking someone instead. Someone who made the mistake of trying to get too close, staying too long, falling for the charm of a charmer.

Your great-grandfather, with his long legacy of ghosting women for over seventy years, was now a ghost of his own. Upon his death, his legacy evanesced into the ether, his connections — ethereal at best — existing only in 1’s and 0’s on the Ethernet apart from a few dusty boxes easily binned.

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