Friday, July 26, 2013

Bath Follies, Episode 2

Now, it is oft spoken in certain circles of men’s society, such as may be found in the smoky gambling rooms in the Clubs of St. James—White’s and Boodle’s to be exact—that Lord Devilyn is not one to be persuaded to discontinue his rampant disregard for proprietary rules of correct behavior regarding amorous activities between himself and any unescorted unmarried female he may come across in his traveling, such as the Lady Angela for example, simple to the fact that he has had long experience with the miscalculations and manipulations of the fairer sex who, left with no other options to save their virtue, simply allow fate to intervene on their behalf with their Remarkable swoons, all the while knowing that fate is most capricious when the danger exceeds the zone of interference!
          Therefore, in his dealings with the swooning form of our heroine, Lord Devilyn simply laid the limply beautiful Lady Angela to the ground near a pond of such placid contentment there were a family of swans: the cob, the pen and their two adorable cygnets, gliding hither and thither from a short distance, their haughty noses up in the air like ancient majestic horns. With a most Villainous chuckle did our Lordship lay down beside our heroine and prop himself up on one elbow; and when set to the most extreme closeness of intimacy, he, with one hand, began brushing tendrils of hair from the Lady Angela’s fair and dainty forehead. Our heroine meanwhile, having swooned to disguise with great success, or so she believed, now found herself to be laid out in a most uncompromising, unrefined, unladylike position imaginable!; and  forced—with great speediness of thought—to determine just how skillfully she could extricate herself out of this contretemps! Oh! what a Dismal unfortunate consequence it was, that Lady Angela had so totally misjudged the intent of Lord Devilyn, so arrogantly dismissed the danger he presented, and was so full of her own regard, that she now lay in mortal fear that if she moved one scintilla of an inch, the Villainous man might interpret it as an invitation to continue his most improper advances!
Nevertheless, as inaction in such moments can oft lead to certain and Disastrous consequences for a woman in her perilous state, Lady Angela very quickly gathered her scattered wits about and did swiftly roll away from our handsome rake, and very nearly into the pond, disturbing the serenity of our family of swans—the cob of whom did eye the goings on of our heroine with a recklessly jaundiced eye as though seeing her as an interloper in their family outing, so much so, he began to swim with great speed towards shore so that Lady Angela for once in her life, perceived the imminent danger; and knowing the flying creature’s hostile habits a great deal more than her unqualified, presumptuous knowledge of the human male, despite her self-arrogant, self-assurance of vast experience with them, stumbled to her feet and fled right into the arms of Lord Devilyn, who had returned to his former position of standing, to watch with great amusement Lady Angela’s near roll into the pond—albeit with swan-like grace—and totally with out regard for her fashionable dress, such that he did laugh with much gusto, putting a temporary damper on his amorous musings until she fell into his arms again.
This time our heroine, realizing what a foolish thing it was to repeat such an exacting pattern of behavior, did break free quickly and ran as if her virtue depended on it, which, if you recall from the previous chapter, dear readers, it did; but oh! how woefully slow was she to recognize this threat by the handsome, domineering presence of Lord Devilyn, who did take lightly the feelings of Lady Angela such to the degree that he had not one jot, not one whit, not one ounce of care in preserving our heroine’s reputation so long as he enjoyed the fruits of his labor! Well, he most assuredly got his comeuppance when Lady Angela, with latent immediacy to be sure, found her scatter-bobbled wits and fled from the park as if the furious snow-white winged creature from the pond, was fast on her heels to shred bits of her flesh with its sharp talons!
When upon arrival at her home at 27 Gay Street, a delightfully spacious four storey abode with bisque-colored facing, an ivory ornamental triangular pediment above the transom of the exterior oaken door, and within the interior, crown mouldings of exquisite marquetry which bespoke of great wealth in our Ladyships’ family, Lady Angela flounced up to her overly ornate bedroom and would have—if she had had it—thrown her formerly Beautiful bonnet onto the bed with gross ill-feeling; but, having to do otherwise, she yanked her dress off with such vehemence as to frighten the most gentlest of creatures—her brother, Roger, who, even if he was a bit of a rat tattle—was peeking through the keyhole before he scurried down the hallway so as to not delay the delicious moment when he would impart to his Aunt the most unladylike conduct of his sister; and convey to her his fear that she had gone completely mad! 
“Auntie Joan,” cried the young boy of eight and three as he dashed into the parlor where his most maternal of Aunts sat doing needle-point. “Angel has lost her wits. I fear she will do herself great harm. You must go at once and save her!”
Aunt Joan Brumbly, a short, warmly-rounded creature of some advanced age, was gifted with a most serene temperament and placidity of nature, and so very patient in most all things, though quite intransigent in others, particular in her dealings with the very passionate, unserenelike temper of her niece, Lady Angela. Upon hearing her nephew’s excitable proclamation, she merely raised an eyebrow. Though Aunt Joan thought him a very dear, sweet, loving child, Roger was prone to exaggerate in all of his observations, so much so, that at various times the Brumbly household had been visited by the local constabulary almost as often as the young boy’s shirts were laundered! And heaven forbid were I to mention the most Terrifying time of all! when members of the household were rousted from their beds by the most fearful, most harrowing, most excessive ear-piercing screams!— all due to the fact that Roger had placed a candle on top of the cotton coverlet on his bed so as to read at night books of Adventure, when supposing to all, he was deep in slumber, so that when in time he came upon a singularly gruesome section of one particular book, the highly imaginative boy commenced to jump, knocking over the candle; but poor Roger, not having the presence of mind to remove it from the bed to the table, began screaming Fire! Fire! Fire! at the first indicator of smoke! Roger received a severe boxing to his ears by his sister, who had been dreaming of things all romantical and swashbuckling in nature, until rudely awakened by her brother’s shrieks. 
“Oh dear, dear Roger,” Aunt Joan replied most fondly, “you simply must curtail your excessively excitable imagination, because I am of a certainty that your sister is merely having a woeful day. They do seem to occur more often than not.”
“But this time it is different! You must go to her. Please, Auntie Joan!”
The good woman sighed, gathered up her embroidery, and took her glasses off, setting them on a remarkably Beautiful circular pedestal side table, made out of the finest burl oak and crafted to exquisite proportions. “Oh very well. I daresay you will not be satisfied until I have deduced the situation to be of no consequence and therefore well in hand. You are such a trying boy, my dear Roger. But I do love you so.” The affectionate woman patted the boy on the shoulder and left the room, though she was, if truth be told, feint at heart at the perishing thought of yet another confrontation with her niece, the third in only a matter of two days! And with a signifying Assembly Ball fast approaching!
A knock on our heroine’s door yielded only but the faintest of replies. Aunt Joan, however, did take it upon herself to interpret the sound as welcoming. She hastened in and found her niece clad only in her underlings, and taking a pair of scissors to her newly-made gown, cutting out strips of cloth so wide and lengthy that one would have thought it was to bandage a wounded soldier come lately from the war. Abjectly, and immediately Distraught, Aunt Joan could scarcely find the words to rebuke her dear niece, but inevitably, much like the sun rising after a cloudy morning, she did. “My dearest Angela, what are you about? What has brought on this most Detestable of fits? Surely nothing that warrants such drastic action. You must of assurity remember how your dear uncle feels about such wastefulness. And think of the poorest of the poor gentlewoman reduced to working as a governess or companion, and without your advantageous upbringing, who would feign near kill to possess a gown of such muslin quality at five pounds a yard. Five pounds!”
Our heroine, with a most aggravated look on her face, threw the Offending garment to the ground and stomped on it. “I do not care. I do not care what other females wish to wear, Aunt Joan. I have been attacked in a most reprehensible manner, and I want never to be reminded of it again!” She glared with such sincerity of Truth at her Aunt, the poor woman’s face crumbled into shuddersome consternation so severe as would most likely give her palpitations—were she partial to them; but of a more immediate concerning nature, was that upon the exact moment of hearing Lady Angela’s Loathsome reply, the blossoming of all manner of tragical and lurid pictures relative to vulgar, and certainly sordid notions of what may have transpired against her beloved niece, proceeded to drop forbidden fruit in Aunt Joan’s fertile mind, so much so her heart was consumed with much dread, and the presentiment of prodigious worry!
The poor woman staggered backward of a step or two trying to organize her thoughts in a more orderly manner so as to give some train of logic to them. “I cannot . . . I cannot fathom it . . . I simply cannot. You are a Lady my dearest Angela. Who would perpetuate such a foul thing, such a gross impertinence upon your person that you wish to destroy all evidence of evildoing? We must go straight to the constabulary, my dear.”  Her hands flapped much like a hummingbird flying gaily about on a bright spring day. “No, no, first, I must have conversation with your Uncle Peter. Depend upon it, he will know what to do. I’m sure he will know what to do . . .” She abruptly turned and fled the room and the wrath of her niece—so peacockian in nature—to go in search of her husband—though she was not keen to do so—for Lord Peter Brumbly could be a severely ill-tempered man when roused from a state of intense concentration such as he was wont to be in: in consequence of his new hobby, a partiality that required such delicacy of touch, such solitude of thought, such quietness of surrounding, that any little noise, or any interruption would send him into a roar that shook the very foundations of the house! But there was nothing to be done for it. He must be informed of Lady Angela’s Terrible consequence at once! 
Scarcely had Aunt Joan left our heroine’s room to fly so unluckily into the study at just the wrong time—for Uncle Peter had a mere six seconds before inserted his ship, a replica of the Spanish Galleon, the Santa Clara, into a bottle and was about to raise its glorious masts—that, consequent to her intrusion, a roar mightier than a lion’s ascended with great speed and at such high decibel that passerby's walking about outside—even those members wearing ear trumpets, who would later gossip at the ball as to what possible capacity Lord Brumbly was so engaged in that he did cry out in such an uncivilized manner! Well, dear reader, we know the ultimate cause of this calamitous roar, as did our heroine who abruptly stopped the renting of her Distressed garment upon hearing that most hideous of sound; as did her brother, Roger, who quickly scurried over to the dining room table to hide underneath its immense proportions! 
As for poor Aunt Joan, she was not only the bearer of Infamously bad news, but was in the most unfortunate position of being in direct line of descent to the thunderous bellow! Straight forth did she put the daintiest hands over her ears in hopeful anticipation that the gravelly, choking kind of sound which sometimes proceeded a roar, and which rendered Lord Brumbly unable to speak well for some few seconds, would shortly make its presence known. And I can assure you dear readers, it was a fairly common happenstance that after one of his Infamous roars, Lord Brumbly’s voice would trail off in due time to coarse hoarseness!  Oh! what divine providence was it then that Uncle Peter did clutch at his throat such that it allowed Aunt Joan—and with a great degree of haste—to anxiously pass the desperately Bad news for which she suffered greatly. Now, I have yet to remark upon Lord Brumbly’s normally pale complexion—the result of spending so much time indoors as was his decided preference—after such a fit of distemper from whichever source was its causation; allowing, in this instance, the cause to be Lady Angela’s most unfortunate encounter with Lord Devilyn, such that Lord Brumbly’s face did turn a most peculiar rose color much like what one might see on the faces of those patrons who do partake of too much ale and asundry other alcoholic beverages in a tavern, where roars of laughter could be, and most probably are, far more frightening than a lion’s roar, though, unlike a lion, Uncle Peter’s roar, as we have been led to believe, would in due course die down.
In normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances, for Lord Brumbly, in his post-roar state, did most recklessly and without compunction for dignity of form, fly up the stairs to confront our heroine in order to get the sordid facts straight, of which he suspicioned his wife had not; for, it was his decided opinion, that his beloved Joan was somewhat shatterbrained, and any undue amount of stress and anxiety made her even more so, to the extent that by the time he barged into his niece’s room without so much as a howdy do, Uncle Peter had quite worked himself into a lather. But perhaps it might have gone infinitely smoother had not he, upon first entering our heroine’s bedchamber, laid incredulous eyes on the destruction of the fine muslin day gown for himself; for it was that pitiable sight of beauty torn asunder that did give much impetus of fury in his tone, such that it turned a tolerable and reasonable seeking of an explanation, into the railing firestorm of words it became!
“Upon my word, Angela, what in the name of all that is wicked have you done? You have singularly put your Aunt’s state of mind into a fog of shock, uneasiness, and anxiety that will last until such time as she is able to overcome; you have contributed much to the destruction of my ship, which of a certainty I shall have to refasten after hours of laborious work; you have frightened to the devil your poor brother Roger, whose vivid imagination will undoubtably, and indubitably, in the near future, and at considerable expense to myself, require repairs to this house; and lastly, with your daily fits of ill-temper, your unthoughtful, ungrateful, and disrespectful way of speaking, you compound the utter lack of regard for your family with a disgraceful display of egregious conduct by destroying a very expensive gown! Pray, girl, what have you to say for yourself?”
Now, dear reader, one would expect our heroine to show a little humility, perhaps a little grace, and, if not alt else, surely a great deal of shame for her unbridled ways at her uncles’s summary level of charges, harshly accurate though they may be; but the Lady Angela did not curtsy to anyone, never admitted any wrong-doing to anyone, and very rarely did she show gratitude for anything she had received through all the years she had been growing into proportion. Therefore, her reply was somewhat startling in a pudding sort of way, and roundly distressing to all who heard it.
“My dear Uncle Peter, I-I most stringently repudiate the . . . the accusations you have so unkindly leveled towards me. But I do so with love, because I am a loving and forgiving young woman in the prime of her life; and, though I most sincerely have great love, respect, and gratitude for my dearest Uncle Peter and Aunt Joan, who did take me in, and my poor beloved brother, Roger, after our dear Momma and Papa died in that most unforgivable, Despicable curricle accident!—and surely I do know with heart-felt certainty that your actions acceded the bounds of all generosity!—but to dress me down now, and in such a frightfully earnest, and quite rude manner along with such a disharmonious tone of ill-bred feeling, particular after my person was attacked so viciously whilst on a walk to clear my head—a walk with my thoughts both yearning and studious as I did ponder how I could be a better niece to my dearest Aunt and Uncle—all the while innocently unaware of the danger that lay before me—to thus be a recipient of an out and out verbal assault upon my good and loving nature, especially from a beloved Uncle whom I quite adore and worship with all my heart . . . is simply too grievous to bear!” The Lady Angela then committed, with great theatrical affect, her body to a most decidedly unladylike flop onto her bed, with heart-rending sobs that would bid an angel to earth to build a dam!
What could Lord Brumbly say after such a passionate display of Tragic feeling, after such an accusatory diatribe with softened rebuke, after a most eloquent profession of love, accompanied by tears of the sort Uncle Peter had never seen from his beloved niece, along with, to be sure, those most elegant, but previously unspoken expressions of monumental gratitude for her aunt and uncle’s beneficence? Is it any wonder the man was quite stricken to the mute at the notion he had severely damaged the tender feelings of his beloved niece by reckless, ill-timed, thoughtless, and accusatory words?

Author note: Dear Readers, I have absolutely no idea where this story is going. But I do know I am creating a character so vile, I must be in my cups as I write. Wait, I don't drink. Cups of soup. Yeah, that's it. What to do, what to do? I can't kill her off. She's my main protag.  Hmm . . . WWJaneAustenD? Well, for one thing, Lady Angela would be relegated to background status, you know like Isabella, in Northanger Abbey. Also, Jane Austen is the mistress of subtlety, whereas I am . . . NOT. Oh yeah, and Jane Austen is damned good at what she does. Me . . . not so much. But enjoy anyway. I'll continue this until I run out of ideas. I will inform you after the fact. Oh yeah, and I'll also be editing as I go along. Thanks for your patience.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Celebrity Wife Swap: Meet the Ricardo's and the Mertz's

Author note: I had this nightmare the other night. I wrote it down, then thought, why not share it with my readers!

Ricky: "Ethel, I'm home!"

Ethel: (hands nervously wringing out her apron)"H-hello Ricky! How'd it go at the club?"

Ricky: "Fine. Fine. Where's leettle Ricky?"

Ethel: "Uh ... next door playing with the new kid. I'll go get him."

Ricky: "No, thats aright, dear. Let me read the paper and relax first, you know?"

Ethel: "Of course, honey bun.  I'll fix you a drink, then get little Ricky, then get dinner, and then . . . well . . . whatever comes next."

Ricky: "Whats wrong, Ethel? You sound nervous. (no answer as he sits down and opens newspaper)  Did you say sonthing, sweetheart?"

Ethel: "Oh, no. Everything's fine . . . Just fine."

Ricky: "C'mon you can tell me, sweetheart. I promise I won't yell at you."

Ethel: "Weeellll . . . you're not going to like it, Ricky . . . Why don't you just relax and I'll get your drink." (she starts to leave)

Ricky: "E__thel? Come here. I hear sonthing in your voice I don't like. What did that crazy red-headed Lucy do this time? Rob a bank?"

Ethel: "Weeelll . . . not exactly."

Ricky: (alarm, eyes bulge worse than the battle) "Not exzactly?  ETHEL, I WANT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW WHAT HAPPENED TODAY!"

Ethel: "Weeelll . . . it was sort of like this—(interrupted by doorbell. Vastly relieved) Oh, that must be Lucy and Fred. We'll talk about this later, hon."  (She hurries to door. It is Lucy and Fred. Ethel falls all over herself welcoming them in. Lucy raises an eyebrow)

Lucy: "Ethel, what's the matter with you?"

Ethel: "Uh . . . uh . . . nothing. Ricky and I were just talking about my day." (she makes faces trying to send Lucy a message to keep quiet)

Lucy: (quickly nods and skips over to Ricky).  "Hi Ricky. You know, Ethel and I were saying not too long ago how much we like your new song. Can you sing it for us?"

Fred: (grumpily) "Hey you two, Ricky just got home. Leave him alone. Can't a man relax in his own home without you women always yakking it up?"

Lucy: "Ah shut up, Fred. This has nothing to do with you."

Fred:  "Haruumph! It doesn't, does it? So I suppose living with you every day doesn't make me an expert."

Lucy: (ignores him) "OH what a simply gorgeous chair, Ethel! Where did you get it?"

Ricky: (slams paper shut) "Aright, aright, aright! It is obvious you two have been up to no good. (turns to Fred)  Do you know what it is they are keeping from us?"

Fred: "No. Lucy doesn't confide in me, Ricky. I might as well be invisible."

Ethel:  (smarmy)  "Maybe if you weren't so short, dumpy, and bald she'd notice you more."

Fred:  (outraged) "You take that back, Ethel Ricardo!"

Lucy: "Yeah. You take that back, Ethel Ricardo! He may be dumpy, but he's my dumpy!" (puts arm around him)"

Ethel: "Oh really? That's not what you told me today, Lucy Mertz."

Lucy: (hands gesticulating wildly in an up and down motion)  "Ethel, now . . . now you just keep quiet. I did not say anything bad about Fred."

Ethel: (smarmy)  "Oh . . . Then why do I recollect you used the word 'skinflint' several times when we were shopping today?"

Lucy:  (eyes narrowing) "And I guess the word 'tight wad' didn't come out of your mouth about Ricky."

Ricky: (throws paper to ground in disgust) Oh Dios mío ¿qué eslo que hice para merecer esto. Yo no puedo venir Inicio sin ti dos creando problemas.  ¡Un día de éstos, voy a tomar a pequeño Ricky poquito en unas vacaciones de verano y abandonarle dos para luchar entre ustedes!

Lucy: Huh? . . . (eyes narrowing, hands on hips) And just what does that mean, Mr. Ricardo?"

Ethel: (hands on hips) Yeah, Ricky! Just what does that mean?"

Fred: It means abandon all hope ye who enter this apartment.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 28


“Liz, I’ve been studying the family circle that you drew, and I have some questions about Mr. and Mrs. M. These were your first foster parents, right?”
“Yeah.” Did somebody drop a pin because I think I heard it fall.
“You didn’t say very much in your description of Mr. M, except to write the word drunk, and then in parenthesis the word molester.” Pen’s voice drops to an almost gentle whisper. “What did you mean by that?”
“Just that he was the usual garden-variety drunk molester of kids. It’s no big deal. At least not compared to what’s happening to some kids today. Jeebus. Now that’s sick. We are living in a sick society, Pen.” I shudder.
Pen’s soft voice oozes empathy. “What did Mr. M do when he was drunk?”
“He screamed bad words at everybody. Like at his daughters, his wife, me and my brother and sister. Whoever got in his line of vision. I mean, we’d be cruising down the neighborhood in his precious new sky blue station wagon and he’d be yelling at all the African-Americans working in their yard, or, when he passed them in their cars and they weren’t going fast enough for him. And trust me, you don’t want to know the words he used. I’ll tell you this much, though, he extended an obscene invitation for them to go back to Africa, pronto. Or else.”
Pen’s mouth becomes one butt-ugly long thin line with just enough space to pronounce, “So he was racist, then.”
There goes that pin again. Plus my mind gets sucked into a tunnel: two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight is sixteen. Sixteen plus sixteen is—”
“Liz!” Pen's concerned now. “Are you all right? You seemed lost for a second there.”
The tunnel recedes. “Yes, I’m fine. What was it you said?”
"I remarked that Mr. M was racist."
“Yes, very. And the irony is, we lived in an African-American community. At that time, it was the poorest neighborhood in the city. I guess Mr. M wasn’t exactly flush. I don’t know how he could afford that fancy new station wagon of his. But he sure liked to show it off. He’d hustle me into the car and off we’d go.”
“Where would you go, Liz?”
“I drew a picture of the car. Wanna see it?” I took out the drawings I’d done.
Pen doesn’t say anything as she takes a few minutes to study them. But her face is more yellowish when she looks up at me with a puzzled look.
“Purest sky blue, Pen,” I say dreamily, “with white wall tires and those geeky looking fenders.” I giggle. “I can remember that car as if it were yesterday. I seen it on old classic movies.”
“Yes, I think I know the kind of car you’re talking about. I’m not exactly a spring chicken, Liz.” She gives me a weak smile. 
“Yeah, I know you’re no chicken, Pen. You lots older than me.” I giggle again.
“Well, not lots. Pen laughs. “Anyway, what’s the story behind the drawings?”
I shrug. “Dunno. Just drew what I felt like.”
She nods her head. “Were you ever alone with Mr. M in the car?”
I shrug. “Sure, lots of times. He’d take me to meetings and stuff. His wife had to stay behind to watch the younger kids. I can remember how much he liked showing that car off. Even to dead people judging by the desert picture there. Like as if they can see from the grave. Stupid vain man.”
“How old were you at the time, Liz?”
“Five. Then I turned six. I was out of that house by seven.”
“Did he take anyone else driving?”
I take a moment to think. “Sometimes, but not as much as he took me. He was tryin’ to learn me stuff. I-I mean he was probably trying to teach me to be like him. To hate, you know. I was at the right age I guess.” I clear my throat. My voice is acting up. I covertly look at my watch. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. I bet I know what’s coming next. She doesn’t disappoint.
“Liz . . .” Pen hesitates.
“It’s ok, Pen. I know what you’re gonna ask. What did he do, when did it start, how did he do it, and how did you feel about it?” I cock a cocky eyebrow at her. She’s a bit surprised, but waits patiently for me to continue. I don’t disappoint. “Ok, it went down like this. It was a Sunday. Everybody was at church, except me and Mr. M because I was sick to my stomach and he was drunk on his ass. He yelled at me to take a bath because I stunk up the house with my puking. I didn’t argue. You never argued with Mr. M and lived to tell about it.
Anyway, while I was in the bathroom, he came weaving in and just stared at me. I stared back feeling like something really filthy or nasty had just entered the room. I got scared because the look he gave me wasn’t right. I just knew it wasn’t. As young as I was. You know what I mean? Anyway, he staggered toward me whispering something. I looked down at this grungy linoleum floor with the teeny tiny black and white rectangular squares and wished it would swallow me all up but instead the lights went out in Georgia on my mind. The end!” I smile triumphantly at her, but she seems to be floating above her chair with this puzzled, icky look on her face. Or maybe I’m the one floating. It’s hard to tell. 
      “Now see, Pen, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Monday, July 08, 2013

Mamie Barlowe, Episode 3

I’m driving a loaner buggy. It steers me right behind the eight-ball. Parking that piece of metal scrap is a lesson no dick should have to learn. I’d rather dock a boat with an anchor stuck on the bottom of the deep blue sea. Instead, I squeeze the metal box between two mammoth trucks, the kind of trucks no self-respecting dinosaur should have to drive. I march into my office gulping air. I should lose a little weight, see. But carrying extra baggage has saved my tookus plenty of times. If I have a few pounds in all the wrong places, so what. They’re my pounds, see. I’ll shoot ‘em off when I’m good and ready, see. The last man to make a comment about my ‘size’ ended up stuck in an alley caught between a trash can and the wall of a gin joint. But I left him alive. Barely.
As soon as I enter my inner sanctorum, I want to turn around and leave. Too bad Vera is on temporary leave of absence. She could have warned me. 
The handsome cluck sitting in one of my rummage sale chairs is a walking poster boy for the Red Cross: left arm in a sling, left eye covered by a black patch, left foot in a boot, and a white bandage the size of a cumber-bum wrapped around short platinum hair, the kind of hair a bottle of peroxide takes a dump on. A crutch lays on the floor next to his chair. A client like this spells big trouble; trouble that says I’d rather bag’ im and tag’ im. I have to think fast. Do I even want to even listen to the jasper? Yeah. I could always use an extra 10 grand or two. But I’ll play hard to get. You’d be surprised how often that works. With men, that is.
“Look Tom, Dick, and Harry, my name is Mamie Barlowe. I left the door open for a reason. You’re wearing a sob story and I’m not crying.” I take a seat in my leather chair. The walking stiff looks at me with a right eye that grows the size of a cannonball. I place my heels on the desk, cross my ankles, and lean back. That’s so the stiff thinks I’m relaxed. I’m not.
He clears a throat that rattles like a bad engine. “Ms. Barlowe? My name is Bertie Clumper. I’m in a real jam. You’ve just got to help me out.”
I stare at him like he just tied my mother to the railroad tracks. The man‘s got movie star looks, though, you know the kind, where women claw tuxedo pants to shreds hoping for a spin around the block. Instead they wind up tookus on the ground waving a white flag. I end up on the ground for three reasons: a hit to the blindside, a goofy gorilla tearing me apart like a bad check, and my personal favorite, a mug with movie star looks knocking me flat. But I don’t wave a white flag, see. I wave a do-not-disturb flag. “Ok, here’s the deal, Bertie. I talked to your wife. I wish I hadn’t. Don’t make me wish I hadn’t with you.”
The man’s mouth works like a hairpin opening a lock. Finally, he finds his voice. I coulda told him where it was. In fact, I can tell him where it’ll be in about two seconds. But that would require lifting my heels off the desk.
“Ms. Barlowe, please, just hear me out. Roxy is trying to kill me.” He looks down at his left leg, then over at his sling. He adjusts his eye patch with a hand that trembles like a dipsomaniac pointing a gun at me. The man’s a pity pooper. I’d like to flush him down the toilet. But I refrain.
“Look,” and he whines worse than a model plane heading for a clothesline, “I know she hired you to find me. But you can see why I had to disappear, right?"
I sigh like my stomach just tossed up a fastball. “What is your real name Mr. Clumper?”
“W-what? I told you—”
“You’re lying. And your wife lied. I don’t like being lied to, see.” This is the part where I take out my Glock. Then point it. Right at my own mouth. “If your name is Bertie Clumper, I will eat a bullet.” I click off the safety. The orange peel of his complexion turns cauliflower white. I hate cauliflower as much as I hate the color orange. 
“Oh God n-no, please don’t do that. Ok, ok, I’ll tell you, but it has to stay out of the newspapers, Ms. Barlowe.”
I put the gun down, but aim the barrel at my wannabe client. His eyes follow my hand. He swallows hard, like there’s a rat in his throat. Truth is, I’m beginning to smell one.  “I-it’s Benjamin Salty.”
My eyes widen, you know the kind of widen, where I’m staring at a man with the IQ of a garden gnome. “You mean, Benjamin Salty the billionaire’s son?”
He has a tender smile, the kind where he thinks I’m an idiot too. “Yes. Now you see why I have to keep this out of the newspapers.”
I pick up the glock and point it at his mouth. “No, I don’t. But I will shoot out your left front tooth if you don’t tell me your real name.”
He jumps, the kind of jump that involves a plane and a parachute. “B-but honest to God, my name really is—”
I blow into the barrel of the Glock. Then slowly lift my feet off the desk. “Mr. Thaddeus Salty has no son, sonny boy.” I eye him like he’s a silhouette on a shooting range.
“Wait, wait, ok, ok.” He raises his right hand as if it’s a red octagonal stop sign. I hate stop signs. So does my roadster.  “Clarence Oberon Binghorton III. That’s my real name, I swear to God.”
My eyebrows jump two stories. I recognize the West Palm Tree name. “I believe you. Know why? ‘Cos if I had a name like that, I’d be an orphan right now. Look, Mr. COB the III, like I said before only in different words; I hate liars as much as I hate panty hose, but I’m deciding right this minute to feel real sorry for you. So, tell me the whole story, see. Don’t leave anything out, ‘cos I’ll know if you do . . . I’m psychic, see.” I move the Glock next to my head, and position it barrel up. I click the safety back on. Good thing Mr. COB the III doesn’t know how to operate a gun. I can tell because he’s twitching to run. What are the odds he makes it out the door? Same as a mug breaking into my apartment while I’m at work. I’m psychic, see. And he’s smart enough to remember that.  
He takes out a monogrammed hanky and brushes off the sweat pouring down his neck.       “Sure, sure. I’ll keep it short. You see, I met Roxy a year ago—”
I open the top left drawer of my desk and take out a bottle of no doze. I down a couple of pills. “Look Mr. COB the III, if you and me are going to do the cha cha cha, there’s one thing you should oughta know. I like stories to start from the end, see. Then I’ll stop you when I’ve heard enough, capiche?”
“S-sure I guess. But isn’t that like saying the alphabet backward?”
I smile. It’s a rare event. But I like to brag sometimes. “Years ago I was learning the alphabet, see. I went outside and lined up all my flashcards. Then I ‘borrowed’ my dad’s Glock 22. I started with the letter Z. Guess which letter I ended up shooting last?”
He’s looking at me like I roast babies in an oven. Then he stammers real bad. “U-uh, I-I g-guess A?”
“No. Y. My dad took the gun away. This is my point: if you start your story at Z, the chances of me getting bored by Y are low.”
He looks relieved. “Got it. Ok, we were out parachuting and I landed in a barn yard. I got hurt as you can see—”
“Mr. COB the III, what were you doing in the plane prior to jumping? And don’t tell me you were admiring the scenery either, see.” I’ve never seen the color red up against platinum hair. It’s hideous. Makes me itchy. The kind of itchy that takes me back to my alphabet learning ways.
He spills the beans. “Roxy wanted to add some spice to our love life. So, we were going to time the jump you know to . . . well, I think you get the idea. But then I saw the gun. I had a bad feeling about it, so I jumped. She followed, but the wind separated us.” 
He’s nervous, see. The right hand brushes stiff hair of the forehead, the kind of hair I see on dolls with big blue eyes, hoofer legs, gingham dresses, and big knockers. I’m starting to get nervous too, see. The kind of nervous where I drop a stick of dynamite in his pants accidentally on purpose. 
“Why exactly do you need my help, Mr. Cob the III?”
“W-what? To keep her from killing me, of course. Follow her, stake her, do whatever it takes. She’s a cold-blooded, would-be killer, Ms. Barlowe. She wants my money and she’ll do anything to get it.”
“Did you try writing her out of the will?” Sometimes clients are real dumb in a why-didn't-I-think-of-that-kinda-way. Mr. COB the III may be one of them.
“Yes. But what’s to stop her from faking one? She’s good at that kind of stuff.”
Or maybe he’s not. I stand up. “Ok. That’ll be 20k, cash upfront. This is a complicated case.” I take out a receipt book. He doesn’t hesitate. Pulls out a roll of bills and drops 20, $1000 bills on my desk. I give him a receipt. “I’ll need an item your wife last touched.” I’m prepared this time. But he pulls a fast one on me, see. He digs into a pocket and comes out with a cigarette lighter, you know the kind, solid gold with attitude. “One last thing. Hire a bodyguard.”
He smiles like he just won a pimp car full of hookers. “Good idea!” He picks up his crutch and limps to the door. Then turns around. “Oh, so when do you think—”
“Your wife’s an angry, manipulative, money-hungry, back-stabbing dame, Mr. COB the III. That means she’s dangerous. I’m on her like a tomato on a john in a 1952 Chevrolet Styleline deluxe four-door convertible Drop Top!”
His mouth drops too.
“Now, get out and let me do my job. If you’re alive tomorrow, take that as a good sign!” I wink. He blinks. 
Life is good. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bath Follies, Episode One

It was a remarkably fine day for our heroine, Lady Angela Rosecroft, to stroll about the park for her daily morning constitutional. There was a religion of determination etched on her forehead as if she had commanded herself to enjoy the purity of air with a breeze so gentle it would feign caress the colour of red onto her cheeks; with a sun so bright as to crown a halo above the Beautiful bonnet she wore; that is to say, until her bonnet was crooked sideways by a gust of wind which occurred with such suddenness that even the fair Lady Angela herself was quite knocked about! And in our heroine's desperate attempts to keep the Horrible bonnet from flying across the verdant greenery, she was interrupted by a Lord Byron Devilyn galloping through the most Beauteous park in Bath, on a horse so uncommonly Grand, that Lady Angela's mouth—in a most unladylike set of manners—dropped precipitously, and, some would say— particularly the ladies of her social set—with a shocking degree of indelicacy, no matter how perfectly straight, or how perfectly commodious her teeth shone!

What folly then, that it was a horse of the blackest nights, who would dare put poor Lady Angela on the road to ruination if by chance the societal harpies of the day been present to gaze with Horrified eyes at our heroine's Disastrous outing; and! no less so for being helped into this unfortunate incident by a horse with a mane so perfectly styled as would be the envy of all raven-haired Beauties in Bath; with a broad chest, and a back so perfectly proportioned the rider could not fail to keep his seat; and with legs so elegantly long the smoothness of his gallop was as soothing to watch as a veil of cirrus cloud gliding toward the moon!

It was love at first sight for our dainty Lady Angela; but only dainty in a sense, due to the young woman having a resolve so stubborn as to put her quite at odds on a regular basis with her Aunt and Uncle, leading the aforementioned Lady Angela to take many strolls of which the purpose was most often to clear her head—of such was the extreme passion she indelicately displayed when vexed or crossed. 'No' was a singularly obstructive word to which our dear heroine did herself not like to hear, nor did she use, unless of urgent necessity, and only when her patience was attacked by the strictest of provocations—such as one might find under the arbor of love, in the which the party of the first part says yes, and the party of the second part says no—would it be known that patience was not one of our heroine's greatest virtues! If Lady Angela were to describe herself in one word, it would be loving; where love is freely expressed, and politely extended, not expected, nor demanded. In this, she was absolutely, resolvedly firm. If, dear reader, you are wont to wonder why no man, be he single or married, has yet to test this iron of will, then you must rightly understand how remarkable it is, how shining a testament it is, that Lady Angela's degree of willingness to remain unattached at the ripe old age of 21, despite the unseemly risk of being caught dead to rights as a bluestocking, is deliriously impressive!

Whilst Lady Angela desperately, and with the most intense deliberation held on to her Horrible bonnet, an importunate happenstance occurred; a tree limb of some significance fell across her path whilst her admiring gaze was yet wholly afixed on the Grand horse. With nothing to sustain her, and with both hands still holding onto the Horrible bonnet, Lady Angela was sent sprawling to the ground—in a most decidedly unfeminine contortion, such as might be seen in a circus, or some other form of low brow entertainment —with the Infamous bonnet flying right out of her hand! And the dear Lady of whom I now write, could only watch with sorely distressed eyes as the misbehaving objet' d'fashion hopped, skipped, and flew with such direction and purpose as if to convince the surprised Lady Angela that it was truly possessed by some mischievous sprite with so devious a nature as to cause even the most patient of women a moment of extreme vexation!

It was entirely (un)fortunate, that the Black Beauty upon whose fine looks Lady Angela was most taken with, should appear abruptly in front of her, about twenty paces away, at almost the exact same time as the Infamous bonnet flew down the road, though the Grand horse was being ridden with such elegance of carriage, such condescension of form, that Lady Angela's attention was momentarily diverted from the plight of her Infamous bonnet, to the splendid dress of the young Lord who rode him. Dazzled she was, to the point where, pray yet once again, our brave heroine's mouth did drop most indelicately, whereupon, at the sight of such an intriguing and rare feminine occurrence, the young Lord did rein in his horse, the timing of which, however, was most decidedly unfortunate for the survival of Lady Angela's Infamous bonnet. "Sir, if you please, be good enough to move your Grand horse," requested our heroine rather imperiously. "My bonnet lies under its hoof."

With eyes that shone with calculated wanderings, that is to say, with eyes that roved over our heroine's most shapely, even damsel-in-distress deshabille figger — in particular where the hem of her fanciful muslin gown had lifted to such a degree, and in such a shocking manner as to reveal white silk stockings up to the knee —our Lord Devilyn's satin black eyebrows rose with exceeding amusement, after which did his thinly fine lips draw back in reply, revealing perfectly square teeth in a perfectly formed jaw. A snort preceded the reply. "My dear young lady, a bonnet which settles itself under the hoof of Lucifer, is a bonnet not worth saving." One eyebrow fell as he awaited a reply; and a disdainful air of ennui began to seep from the young Lord's countenance. Exactly what his thoughts were could not be determined by a look, but most assuredly can be examined by supposition; that, reading through his incredulous gaze at the young Lady Angela, whose mouth, so lovingly framed with all the degree of earnestness and romantic sincerity of a Keats poem—though to be fair and balanced, a mouth also inclined more to argue than be put to good use in any romantical adventure of the day—now formed a perfectly round O in extreme vexation even at the most handsome presentiment of a man she had not heretofore encountered! Therefore, it would not be outside the common for us to believe that the handsome Lord Devilyn's thoughts now trended toward the indomitable, however insupportable fact that our moon-draggled heroine lacked sorely in the ways of propriety!

Still, Lady Angela kept her wits about her, and waited to reply until she was satisfied that the odious Lord Devilyn had finished his scrutiny of her person; which, if he were a normal man, would he not be most impressed by her lovely countenance and the tumbling of auburn-haired ringlets escaping their netting in a most rebellious way, to the point where even Lady Angela deigned to recognize her follicle shortcomings without the Infamous bonnet to hide their deficiences? For she hastily picked herself off the ground and with both hands, smoothed the ringlets from their perch on her forehead and cheek bones. It was then she deigned to speak again.

"Sir, you are prodigiously ill-mannered! Truly, if you had been any sort of gentleman, you would have immediately upon my request, removed the offending hoof from my bonnet!" Now, it must be mentioned at this time, that our Beauteous heroine could angrily blush as prettily as any female her age; for blushing is, after all, an artful deceit, practiced down through the ages by a type of woman such as our heroine, and to such an extent as to befuddle the most gentlemanly of gentleman in the most normal of circumstances. However, Lord Devilyn was not prey to such artful manipulations, his being of a nature not inclined to pamper even the most superior Beauty of the Season.

He, once again, drew his lips back, and with a twinkle in his eyes, being pleasantly surprised by the independent spirit of Lady Angela, said drolly and with mild rebuke, "Pray, madam, wherever did you get the idea that I was a gentleman? Furthermore, it is not my lot in life to retrieve ruined bonnets for addle-pated females, at least to the extent I would encourage my horse to move in a manner such as to render him lame. And even supposing I were forced to choose between the two, whom would it be? The ruined bonnet, with no more use now than a quagmire under the well-shorn feet of vexatious females, or an Arabian stallion who has fathered many a quality mare, and whose Beauty, I must commend to you, equals, if not exceeds, yours." A strange light then appeared in Lord Devilyn's eyes; a rapacious light that a young Lady of Quality might do well to heed, since it very likely portends a man's intent to seduce her, to dominate her into submission, such as one might tame an Arabian stallion. And should the lady be so mutton-headed as to disregard this light and mistake it for a trifle, she would do well to run away at the first hint of abnormality of feeling, for virtue is best retained when virtue is on the run! But Lady Angela had so singular a nature, that she was not one to back down—being inclined more to argue than to concede, no matter to whom she might be addressing. This recklessness of thought, this lack of purity from the senses, and most certainly, this lack humility in attitude, would cause Lady Angela much distress in the coming weeks!

"Upon my word, sir, you are the most exasperating man—and I say 'man' with an excessive degree of disbelief—such as I have ever encountered. I shall be on my way." Oh! how excessively unfortunate was it that Lady Angela replied to Lord Devilyn with such fierceness of tone, and with such frankness of meaning, that she did most decisively and decidedly impugn the masculinity of his Lordship! To insult in such a way is to invite prodigious trouble, and indeed Lord Devilyn, instead of allowing the indignant woman to pass, immediately jumped off his horse with the aforementioned light still in his eye, and proceeded to approach Lady Angela in a very high-handed, purposeful, and overly-familiar manner, that most, if not all females intent on preserving their virtue would hasten away as fast their dainty feet would carry them, as I have stated before, and will again here, so that I might indelibly impress upon my readers the peculiar nature of Lady Angela, who did indeed, and to her utmost peril, stand her ground—much to her regret—thereby allowing the imposing figger of Lord Devilyn to usurp her path to freedom.

Lord Devilyn's height was of a height that ranged above the normal quality of most males, that is to say, he towered over the Lady Angela who had to coax her neck up quite at length to stare at the man with gross exasperation; an effect she was sure would put him off track, despite the indubitable fact that numerous others of the female persuasion, with the same advanced age and experience as our heroine, would most assuredly have seen Lord Devilyn's approach as any thing but a purity of motive! Nay! it was a most decidedly Villainous move, and I will say again to impress, that even the most level-headed bluestocking would have perceived the threat, as well as that type of excitable female who is inclined to indulge in the reading of the occasional gothic novel! But our Lady Angela had neither sense nor sensibility, and waited far too long to take action; for had she come to some commonsensical observation and taken heed of that nefarious light particular to when our Magnificent villain came within arms length, she would have reacted more wisely, even if it be in the most unfeminine of ways—that is to say, if she would have post-haste turn to flee down the lane with such lightness of foot as to bear much resemblance to a deer—though truth be told, it is a chancy thing to do, for there is always some unlucky Grand Dame of Society, who might herself be strolling down the path our heroine trod, and so innocently unaware of the danger that lie ahead, that once she dusted herself off, she might exclaim, how Unladylike! how Improper! how Unseemly! it is to be on the receiving end of such a Disastrous consequence by a Lady of Quality!—her virtue would not now stand the greatest peril of being compromised.  But Lady Angela stood fast, convinced of her own superiority in such matters of the male ego, so that it must have come as the gravest shock to her, when Lord Devilyn pulled her into his arms, and with a high, most unseemly degree of passion, kissed away any protestations our sorely misguided heroine might have had.

And now, let it be simply and humanly noted, that the fair Lady Angela might have been able to pull away from the rather loose hold of Lord Devilyn, except for the most distressing fact that her Beautiful floral muslin gown—afternoon white with petit Fleur-de-Lis embroidered throughout, and somewhat mussed by suspicious green and brown smudges, the colours of which are commonly seen on the ground of a Beautiful park—was rather too lengthy by half, since the hem was mercilessly trampled on, and held down to the utmost by the polished hessian black boots of Lord Devilyn!

So, is it not to be wondered that our heroine did the only thing she could do when the ardent lips of Lord Devilyn abruptly left hers to travel further down her swan-like neck seeking what we know not, though we may suspicion, since it is the very thing that in our faintest of faintest female hearts we fear most obsessively?!

She swooned!

Author note: Ok, well I don't know about you, but I already despise to the max Lady Angela! She deserves what she gets, don't you think? Particularly as it took me days to try to sort through this character and find some reason to continue the episode. Well, since it ended up being so much sporting fun to write, even if a trifle/very difficult, I'm going to continue onward, and really let her have it! 

I will say this, I admire the great writing of Jane Austen more than I ever have! She could write me right into writer's block. Oh wait! She almost did.