Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dear Alice,

Consider this your welcome home. Your old crab of an aunt has had quite enough solitude. It will be wonderful to share this big old house with loved ones. Please come, and be quick about it! I hate waiting.

Tell Anne that I look forward to meeting her, and I hope she won’t find me too much of a bore. I promise faithfully never to moan about my rheumatism above thrice a day. Will you want information about schools in our area, or will you wait till later this summer to decide where to place her? You see, I fully expect to have you two with me several months at least. You may find me something of a tar-baby- once caught you’re stuck and the harder you struggle to break free the stickier I become.

As to your mother… she is as well as may be expected. You must come and see her for yourself.

I’ve enclosed my number and hope you will telephone me soon with your expected date of arrival. I am preparing for an extended stay.

Love from your aged relative,


As Ingrid finished the last sentence she heard the front door burst open in a rather familiar fashion. Melchoir the Evangelical cat sprung up and darted under the nearest armchair. Ingrid found to her dismay that Crispin was upon her, brisk, beaming, and looking as if he’d just stepped out of a department store window display.

“My dear old sock, you look limp as a rag bag! I hope this doesn’t mean you are unwell?”

“Good Morning to you, Crispin. Perhaps if I’d spent 45 minutes parked in front of a mirror like some I could mention I could put on a better show for you. I’m quite well thanks, just tired.”

“Oh! That’s all right then. I say, is there a pot of Earl Grey’s elixir within arms reach? I’m quite done in myself! You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to.”

“I’d rather not guess, thanks. I’m quite tired of your delusional exploits Crispin.”

Crispin merely smiled benignly, and ascertaining that the room bore no evidence of readily available tea said in an almost paternal way, “Poor Ingrid. You are a fright this morning aren’t you? You haven’t had your tea, I can tell! Come into the kitchen and brew us a pot then.”

Ingrid surrendered. She always did.

After the Elixir of Earls had been duly brewed, the two settled into their accustomed positions in the sitting room.

“I must say, I’ve been having a rough few days of it. Edith and I were all set to be seatmates on the bus during the Guild trip to Catalina and do you know what that rotter Fred Waring did?” He paused dramaticly. His expression indicated that he was about to relate an act of high treason. Ingrid placidly sipped her tea, waiting patiently for the coming revelation.

“He spoke with the tour director, and said that I had asked him to ask her to place me at the back of the bus near the toilets because I was incontinent! Said I was too bashful to mention it and volunteered to swap seats with me. The nerve!” fumed the outraged competitor.

Ingrid made no effort to stifle her hoots of laughter. “It’s too funny Cris! You must see the humor in it!” He merely stared at her with such a wounded expression that she couldn’t help but add, “Perhaps if you told the tour director you were packing extra Depends she’d let you have your old seat back.”

“Fat lot of good that would do me!” shrieked Crispin. “You KNOW how the guild grapevine works. Once word like that gets round the ladies see you as feeble, then it’s all over with you! I’m branded for life as Crispin the Incontinent!”

Ingrid made a valiant effort to sober up, but failed utterly. She snorted, snickered, and finally began laughing uncontrollably till the tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Ingrid I never imagined you could be so unfeeling! How can you go on cackling in that infernal fashion when the hopes of your oldest chum lie dashed to bally bits all round him? It’s absolutely inhuman! MY life is a blank! All my carefully laid plans scattered like ashes and you sit there howling like a drunken monkey!”

His indignant rebuke only made things worse.

“Ingrid!” he said slowly, carefully enunciating each syllable to emphasize the gravity of the situation. “I’m a broken and a ruined man! If I lose Edith to that dog Waring, I spend the remainder of my days with them!” This last word was spoken in a desperately hoarse whisper.

"I suppose it would be difficult living with Edith and Fred at first, but I'm sure you'd get used to it by and by Cris."

Crispin slapped a hand to his forehead and groaned audibly. " OH, don't be so obtuse Ingrid, I won't have it! You know perfectly well I mean Eddie and his gang of hooligans!"

"Alright then. What's the new strategem?" Ingrid found herself becoming morbidly fascinated with Crispin's romantic tribulations.

"Ah, there! Yes, I've been applying the grey matter, and though it took most of the night I think I'm off to a good start. Here- " he opened a handsome leather attache` case and pulled out a stack of handscribbled paper.

"Notes for the first chapter of my memoirs!" he announced triumphantly. Ingrid shuffled through the first ten pages or so. They were neither coherent, nor legible.

"What do you hope to accomplish by writing your memoirs?"
"Well not many blokes can say that they're collaborating with Ingrid Delaney on their life story, eh what?"
"Not ANY 'blokes' to my recollection Crispin. And I have no immediate plans to collaborate on anyone's life story."
"That's not what you told Edith Baker dear; I distinctly recall you mentioning that you had to leave the Guild Brunch early to work on them."

Ingrid shot Crispin a baleful glare that would have made a more observant man wither like weeds in winter. Fortunately for him, Crispin generally remained sublimely indifferent to the world at large and scarcely batted an eyelash.

"Now Ingrid dear, be a sport will you? Edith simply adores you! She's still got all your books, and when last we spoke was so curious about you! She's simply dying to know you, and you've only got to smile and nod to convince her that you're perfectly brilliant. "

"And you want to impress her by having me write about your life? Or rather your own peculiar version of your life?"

"Precisely! I'd like to have her here for tea to sit in on a work session. Just think of how marvelous it would be for her to watch her idol at work! Zeus at his forge eh?"

"The Kyklopes, actually."
"Come again?"
"Zeus didn't manufacture his own lightening bolts. He outsourced the job to the Elder Kyklopes."
"Oh? Really Ingrid that's not the point! I want to bring Edith here to sit in on one of our brainstorming sessions."

"Have we ever had brainstorming sessions Crispin?"
"There's no time like the present to begin! You'll enjoy my celebrity anecdotes Ingrid. Hot stuff, some of them!"
"I can only imagine."

He took back his sheaf of papers and rummaged briskly through them. "Here! Oh yes, this one's just full of fizz and ginger. All about my friend Clark."

"Clark as in Gable or Kent?"
"Why yes! Clark Gable, the very man!"

Ingrid put down her tea and folded her arms. "Crispin St. James I will NOT write a pack of lies! You were never friends with Clark Gable! You never even met him! I know it and so do you!"

Crispin looked up, an expression of saintly forebearance lighting all his features. Ingrid thought it the same sort of look Moses might have bestowed on a wayward Israelite who just wouldn't get with the program.

"Ingrid, I did meet him. I played a minor role in San Franciso, and had several intimate chats with him."

Ingrid fixed him with her most harrowing stare. It was the sort of look that pierces men's souls, and haunts them deep in the night. "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth Crispin if you please!" Even he could not fabricate in light of such an expression.

"Oh very well. I was an extra in one of the saloon scenes, and several times between takes he asked if I'd a light for his cigarette. I had one, as it happened. He thanked me politely each time."
"And you're stretching that into an intimate friendship?" queried Ingrid incredulously.
Crispin sighed deeply. Ingrid had always been so puritanical about such things.

"History my dear Ingrid belongs to the survivors, not the prinicipals. I've outlived most of these fellows, and their lives are not copyrighted. Had they outlived me, they would have the same rights of interpretation. All's fair in love and war, dear. I'm not lying. I'm simply exercising the right of a survivor to tell his story as he sees fit." His patient explanation was greeted with stony silence.

"Will you help me?"
"Well then I suppose that's your loss. But don't forget that you practically told Edith Baker that you would- that you actually were in the act!"
"I'm sure she'll overcome her disappointment, given enough time. After all, she'll have Fred Waring to comfort her all the way to Catalina and back, if not beyond."

"Oooh Ingrid, you ARE heartless!" wailed the afflicted Crispin. He wheedled and cajoled for another half hour or so, failing utterly. He finally left with one last stab at Ingrid's better nature, sighing that he hoped she wouldn't have trouble sleeping at night knowing that she was responsible for the destruction of all his cherished hopes. She assured him that any nocturnal disturbances were highly unlikely, and sent the blighted being on his way.

Melchoir came out of hiding soon after he left and rubbed against her ankles gazing up reproachfully as if to say "Why do you let him come here?"

"I couldn't say Melchoir, I really couldn't say. But you must admit, he's terribly amusing!"


Blogger Wife, Mom, Teacher said...

So....then what happened?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005  

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