Lunch with Virginia Coldhardt.
From the Journals of Foster Unction
My friend, Mordechai Festival, had appeared to fix something or other of a plumbing nature about which Racine, the chef, interminably complained. After applying his skills in the kitchen he joined me in the cellar for a quiet drink. Like me, he was a cork dork. Pour the fellow a glass of wine, and he’s yours. When Mordy said the Pinot Noir was chewy or flabby, I listened. When he said we’ve got a chunky monkey here FU, I knew the Cab Sav needed decanting. In this proclivity for the delights of the vine, we are alike. If we hadn’t ended up in our current occupations—Mordy: plumber to the stars and moi: filthy rich, degenerate wastrel—we’d be cellar-rats for sure. It was my good fortune to have hired my PA, Trudy, as a result of an association with Mordy, her father, and all-round good chap.
It would not be entirely untrue if I said that I have had an opportunity to observe much about what it is to be a decent human being from this unassuming man. The most cursory of readers would have already established that a skill for empathy has been delinquent in my personality, so I sit at the feet of others to master this apparently necessary talent. Unfortunately, it has been made abundantly clear to me, particularly by my dear wife and serial nudist, Dymphna, that, 1: I am a slow learner, and 2: Not a great deal of plumbing takes place.
‘That Racine is a strange fish, mate.’ Mordechai said, sniffing without relish, an organic Shiraz from South Australia before placing his it untasted on the bench as if The Black Death had its origins within.
‘You, my friend, have an uncanny aptitude for both accuracy and understatement.’
The skill of understatement is well-established in your average Australian. If by some chance, you had mistaken me for one, then clearly the provisioning of this information, would dissuade you of the opinion. Only the other day our Prime Minister referred to the American president as amusing, when the jolly fellow is quite clearly, hilarious, not to mention in receipt of an intellect that would put many among us to shame. The POTUS’ thesis on the efficient use of the hands when in the vicinity of a human female is an astonishing example of his verbal prowess. Though, understatement, it was not. Apparently, America leads the free world in all things democratic. Call me a doubting Thomas, but allow me to doubt. I’ve always mistrusted the concept of democracy. It’s simply too good to be true and since not a trace of it can be found on the planet, hard to corroborate. This may or may not be an understatement.
I digress—forget politics and freedom, back to the meat and potatoes of my story.
‘Not fond of the SA Shiraz, Mordy? Get your laughing gear around this, my friend?’
I pulled the pin on a bottle of Château Margaux, Pavillon Blanc, Médoc that I had been meaning to taste since its arrival in the cellar the previous month. This vintage departs from the Margaux appellation directives quite significantly and as such is of much interest to the connoisseur. I decanted this strange fruit of the Médoc and poured us each a glass.
After rocking it gently and observing both its viscosity and subtleties of colour, I savoured my first mouthful. Mordy, a man who I know to have one of the finest schnozzles in the business, followed suit. He reserved his opinion until he closed his eyes and drew the liquid threw the substantial gap between his incisors. He didn’t have to utter a word, as his opinion of the appellation was all over his face.
‘Zeus be damned, I’m a donkey’s arse if that’s not the very definition of a perfect balance of intensity and longevity on the finish. Or a goat’s pizzle, not sure which,’ I said.
Mordechai looking at me as if he had something to add but decided against it, took another sip and with the aforementioned understatement, remarked, ‘A bloody good drop alright, FU, a little crunchy on the palate but yeah, a head snapper at the finish.’
‘Got it in one, my dear chap. Those frogs have to be good for something eh? I spent some time in France in my youth but alas it didn’t end well for either me or the French’
‘I know you’ve had a chequered life FU, but that doesn’t sound too good, mate,’ Mordechai replied.
‘No, and it wasn’t. I still bear the scars of an incident with a frightened pig below the Eiffel Tower. Don’t ask my friend. There is much to be disclosed about my murky past, but here is not the time or place. My story may sink like a stone, if my ghost-writer can’t be found. Last I heard he was found rat-arsed en route to Vancouver in a shipping crate.’
‘That’s a shame, I was looking forward to it.’
‘Listen Mordy, where did Trudy learn wrestling. I haven’t seen talent like that since watching Robbie ‘Rubberneck’ Gladstone land Kinky ‘The Beast’ Eichmann on his arse in ’85.’ I still have nightmares about it.
‘Just came naturally to the kid, FU. Her trainer said she was a genius on the mat. She could have been an Olympian at sixteen, but for her timidity.’
‘Nothing worse than seeing achievement go unnoticed,’ I commiserated. Many a positive outcome has resulted from my intervention, but do I get an ounce of recognition. No! Nada! Zilch! Speaking of achievements, I wondered how long it would take the Vancouvans to send back that plonker, Dreyfus. He’d run off with gardener who, within a week had circled back to Shana in tears asking forgiveness, sans Christian. She told my sister he’d fallen drunk into a shipping container bound for British Columbia.
‘Well, truth be known mate, Trudy put her trainer in hospital, when he started getting too friendly. I believe it was The Paedo Mangle, she used. Didn’t Dougie Pickles use the move on Dick The Deviate Tracy in ’93? Put him on the mat one ball down, from memory.’
‘You’ve got a memory like a steel trap, Mordechai. I’d forgotten about that.’
Speaking of memories, few knew Mordy’s talent for the vino but his plumbing expertise was a thing of legend. He wasn’t known as plumber to the stars for nothing.
‘FU, what Mordy can do with a couple of s-bends, a length of pipe and a tin of plumbers glue is pretty goddam close to miraculous,’ Brad Pitt gushed. He was in Australia voicing Will the Krill for that ghastly animation, Happy Feet.
‘I told you Bradley, that man is the very essence of plumbing.’
‘Look FU, its Brad! Only Mom calls me Bradley.’
‘Yes, well, krill don’t speak English, BRADLEY!’ I snapped back, sounding, I freely admit, like a spoilt schoolgirl.
Needless to say, this exchange didn’t end well, but that is another story.
Mordechai, a gentle and self-effacing man of the people, wore his fame lightly, dismissing all the attention blithely—I dunno what they’re on about, mate. I got a job to do, I turn up and do it, end of. I was about to open another bottle of the Margaux when we were interrupted by the shower scene soundtrack in Psycho—Mordy’s ringtone on his telephonic device. What sounded like a rather nasty backflow issue in Rose Bay awaited his expertise. He referred to his occupation as, rather endearingly in my humble opinion, a shit of a job.
‘Racine?’ I stood at the entrance to our kitchen, trying to distinguish the little chef from the chaos that always accompanied his activities. He might have been chef extraordinaire, but he was a grub when it came to cleaning up after himself. I spotted him peering into the fridge.
‘Si, signore Onion,’ he wheezed. He typically pronounced my family moniker as such. He didn’t smoke or drink, but he always sounded like a dying stoat with a fur-ball stuck in its craw.
‘How many times do I have to—’ Dammit, what was the point! ‘I assume you are aware of the imminent arrival of my luncheon guest. What deliciousness have you in mind?’ As usual Racine was a tad over-cooked; though half-baked might be more to the point. He furnished me with a look that would turn the most robust beet to borsht. Oh fuck, what is it this time?
‘Festivali, is a plumbera, he say to goa essy on ezinkerator. He saya I no puta too mucha ina ze hola.’ He pointed at the sink, a source of continual maintenance, as if it had leprosy.
‘Well Racine, he is the plumber, he is saying it for a reason. I have no knowledge of such things but I imagine you cannot insert items into it that may be inappropriate for such a device. I believe feeding it oyster shells may not be good for its digestion.’ I said, peering into the nasty looking, but professionally plumbed sphincter. Not Racine, the sink.
‘Ha! he knowa nothinga.’ The turgid lardon remarked with an indignance that belied his status.
‘You know Racine, I have it on good authority that officers of the Department of Immigration are roaming the neighbourhood looking for illegal culinarists, you simpering twat!’
‘What’s for lunch?’
‘Ah, we hava ze Trevalla fish from ze Northerna reefs.’ He said with oily braggadocio.
‘I see. I trust it will be up to usual standard.’ I heard the crunch of gravel in the driveway and decamped to the foyer to greet my guest.
Virginia Coldhardt is a whale of a woman who had inherited vast wealth as a result of mining interests. She had increased her holdings tenfold over the years by selling iron ore and coal to China, whilst squabbling with her spoilt children over her late and devious father’s complicated trust fund. It appears that digging up Australian dirt and selling it is very profitable because she had become, second only to the Queen of England, the richest woman in the world. I thought my better half was as rich as Croesus, but Dymphna couldn’t hold a candle to Virginia’s wealth.
‘Hello FU, have we met before, you look familiar, and not necessarily in a good way?’ She said this while barrelling through the door as Fernando, our gardener, tried to communicate with her chauffeur regarding parking arrangements. As I closed the door their conversation was about to go septic. Would Mordy be required?
‘Yes we have met before Virginia, it was some soiree in Surfers Paradise if my memory serves correctly. I recall the state Premier was bending your ear about the necessity of paying royalties and offsets, or some such. I had no idea what the idiot was on about and apparently, neither did you.’
‘Ah yesh, something about Aboriginal land rights. A load of old bollocks, if you ashk me,’ She said with a voice of high-culture in direct contrast to whatever she said. Wouldn’t you think, with her bountiful buckets of money, she might have done something about the lisp? In the absence of your immediate reply, reader, I very much think so.
‘Virginia, please allow me to welcome you to my humble digs,’ I said. I followed my guest’s waddle, almost mincing, through to the lavishly decorated drawing-room, but caught myself in time.
She glanced around as I ushered her into the dining room. ‘Not so humble FU, but yesh I concede it is a little cramped.’
I’d forgotten how irritating her girly, finishing school voice could be. She was famed for having an uncanny knack for both charm and condescension at the same time. The toffy-voiced miner also possessed a talent for looking straight at you with a smile on her lips and the eyes of a crocodile, perfectly suited to lurking and ambush. Her encasement in a white wool dress had the effect of explicitly conveying rather more detail of her impressive bulk than was strictly necessary. She also sported a fairy-themed hair clip that might have looked very charming on a child of no more than five. The skin of her face had a dusky tinge to it. On closer inspection, I have to say it looked a bit grimy but then, she was in mining, so allowances must be made. I did wonder if the school had ensured she had been completely finished.
As we ventured through to the dining room, she stopped to examine the Roman Priapus, with his gigantic penis waving us in.
‘He’s a jolly looking fellow FU. I reckon a member such as that could ensure many a pleasant evening for a young lady.’
She exploded into a frightening shriek, which I realised belatedly was her laugh. Trudy—never far from the dining rooms stupendous sideboard—rallied momentarily. With a relentlessly polished spoon in her hand, Trudy assumed The Iron Fist, a subtle move that brought down Henri The Lump Cobalt in ’79. Sadly, he required the assistance of a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. I do miss the cut and thrust of competition wrestling. Alas my hernia has got the better of me. If we ever see Christian Dreyfus again, the drunk editing my memoir, both the wrestling adventures and the resultant injury will be explained at length. Too great a length, if I know him.
‘Indeed… ah…there’s a story behind that fellow—well, in front of it, in this case.’ I laid my hand on one of my ancient bronze heads. ‘Apparently Cleopatra fainted when she first laid eyes on Mark Antony’s famous trireme. While he was away, beating the shit out of the Gauls—or was it the Brits, she had this Priapus made to remind her of the gland-to-gland combat they’d so fondly enjoyed.’
‘God blesh the Italians eh, FU? Speaking of which, I hear your chef is from that neck of the woods and a master of nouvelle cuisine.’
A small amount of saliva descended down her ample chin causing an unsightly trail appearing through the grimy cake of her make-up. What the fuck was that stuff? I signalled to Trudy to investigate the centre of culinary operations. Racine almost certainly needed encouragement and Trudy had the knack of jollying along the little rotter.
Being the perfect gentleman, I pulled out a dining chair and motioned for Virginia to sit but she experienced a moment of difficulty inserting herself. I had a notion to assist with a downward push to her broad shoulders but our sparse level of intimacy, forbade such a gesture. I seated myself, while surreptitiously checking the joints of her chair for shear fractures. Being sued for wrongful seating by a person at the top of Forbes rich-list, could prove inconvenient.
I have to admit though, I was surprised by both her knowledge of Racine and the new kitchen as we English speakers, pretentiously don’t call it. Her girth indicated a gourmand who might eschew an inch of Seared Black Cod with a teaspoon of Braised Quinoa, Ten Peas and Bacon infused Dashi, for half an incinerated leg of gravy-slathered Venison thrown onto a mountain of hand-cut fries.
‘Indeed, Virginia, Racine is an exponent of the art, but with an unsurpassed unique flair.’
Clearly the dreadful little man’s ears were burning, because he chose that moment to enter the dining room. He was followed furtively by our dear Trudy, laden with two dishes. Racine perched a folded card on the table between my guest and I. In perfect copperplate the following legend was inscribed.
A Selection of Barilla Bay Oysters
2 x Besan battered
2 x Truffle anchovy butter
2 x Au Natural with sun dried tomato and shredded celeriac salsa
Each plump oyster rested on its own silver plinth. A reptilian glance from my guest at both the dish and the snooded barrel of a chef elicited a look of mortal terror from him. I swear one of the not entirely deceased Au Naturals also quivered in its shell.
Racine departed hastily, I sincerely hoped, to titivate a Trevalla. One can live in hope.
As we tucked into the Barilla Bays, Trudy delivered the wine in a sweaty golden bucket and our glasses were filled.
‘This is a White Piquepoul de Pinet from the French Mediterranean …enjoy.’ I lifted my glass as Virginia sipped the crystal clear nectar. A predatory smile graced her face and she squirmed a little in her seat. Her eyes momentarily whited out while a tear or two formed at their corners. The great Canadian horror filmmaker Cronenberg would have given his right testicle for such an image. By this day’s end, I suspected therapy of some sort would be required for all involved.
Allow me to briefly explain. It is not possible to drink the Piquepoul without at least approaching orgasm. I had made personal preparations for this eventuality, but I suspected my guest may not have been aware of this particular libations euphoric properties. I attempted to not dwell on how this might manifest in Virginia, but had little success.
Mordy once told me he’d embarrassed himself at the occasion of an International Plumbers Wine Tasting event in Bali. When it came to the unlabelled Piquepoul, all bets were off—With the first whiff of the stuff, I was anybody’s, mate.
The oysters were sublime and as we waited for the mains I attempted to engage the heiress, Virginia Coldhardt, CEO of Coldhardt Mining, in an issue very much in the press of late.
‘Now Virginia.’ I said, after several sips of the notoriously orgasmic Piquepoul, and then having collected ourselves sufficiently to support a conversation. ‘Are you familiar with the Great Barrier Reef?’
‘Can’t shay I am. Ish that like Barrier Cream?’ She said washing down the last of her molluscs with glug of wine, followed by more squirming.
‘No, I’m not talking moisturisers here exactly,’ although one glance at her grey and grimy complexion would indicate the need for one.
At this juncture, I did experience a short moment of concern for the upholstery. Anybody who knows me is aware of my delicate sensitivities. I’m here to record with pride, I soldiered on regardless. Virginia was already pissed. I clearly had a cheap drunk on my hands, which never boded well. I also doubted, in case of lady related mishaps, Dymphna would have an appropriate undergarment for a woman of my guest’s proportions. The vast and mysterious sideboard over which Trudy currently presided, was a cornucopia of treasures. It had been shipped over from Germany after the war. Could bloomers, albeit manufactured during the Third Reich, be found within and, more importantly, could my trusty PA be prevailed upon to seek them out? Would that be a bridge too far? I now had ample evidence that upsetting the dear girl beyond endurance might end in calumny. Germany had the V-2 and I had Trudy Festival.
I digress—back to the other grotesquery in the room. Clearly I’d have to wing it on the subject of bloomers.
‘You might find this edifying.’ I attempted an avuncular familiarity to evoke a comforting presence, apparently delinquent in her emotionally impoverished life. This was me all over I’m afraid—hopeless. I’ve often thought an occupation in service of the needy was an opportunity lost.
‘Will I? I shuppose you’d better get on with it, then,’ she said.
‘Did you know, the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single living structure? It’s composed of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world, if you take much notice of what CNN says. All very worthy I know, but you get the idea don’t you?’
‘Goodnesh FU, if I had known you’d go all schiencey on me, I’d have brought one of my geologistsh.’ She tittered.
‘Actually, it’s from Wikipedia.’
‘Now FU there’sh no need for that sort of talk. I refuse to hear another word. Isn’t that some sort of kiddie fiddling thing?’
‘Well, it doeshn’t sound very nice to me.’
‘Look Virginia, what I’m getting at is that environmentalists are concerned about the impact of dredging at your port on the reef, not to mention the freight trains dropping plumes of coal dust enroute to said port. It was thought a new species of marsupial had been discovered, until they’d washed all the Kangaroos out there.’
‘I’m glad you brought that up FU, because coal dusht turns out to be very good for the skin. My beautician deshpaired for mine until I started rubbing the shtuff on. It’s done wondersh for my rather underutilized pudenda. I was positively blotchy but now…well you see the resultsh for yourshelf. We are bottling it now. It’s going to be the next big thing. Anyway daddy runsh the mining thingamajig…I haven’t the foggiesht.’
I thought about this, but all I could come up with was whether she might have the wrong end of the stick when it came to pudenda’s.
‘I thought your father had passed away years ago Virginia?’ By now I realised she was stark raving bonkers.
‘Did he? O dear, poor daddy. I wash very fond of him you know.’ She uttered wistfully.
Not one person had ever been found who hadn’t despised the ground the dreadful old grogan walked on. It was rumoured, he’d fashioned the skin of a Chinese businessman into a lampshade. There are too many such anecdotes to describe here.
A muffled commotion outside drew our attention to the French doors. Fernando and Virginia’s chauffeur were engaged in a heated altercation by the pool. Clearly our gardeners parking instructions were not adequate. The strange and angry-sounding Gallician accent is something of a mystery to all those exposed to it. He may have been uttering the sweetest of endearments. My sympathies were with the chauffeur, whatever the case. Trudy shot a baleful glance at the warring parties whilst engaged in her dusting duties.
The Mings had looked positively filthy, so I was impressed with her diligence. Still, I glanced over at the sideboard indicating that an eye poolside may be warranted. My trusty PA automatically limbered up for what was plain only to insiders—The Pickaxe was a move first brought to play at the Saigon Wrestling Competition of ’95 of which, being ringside at the time, I have no fond memories. Goldie The Canary Seams brought down Trấn Canetoad Lee with the move, causing an international incident by decapitating him and bathing the first three rows with gore. War was declared but then settled after a round-table with Pho and beer.
To those readers whose tolerance of digressions coincides with that of the famously impatient Black Mamba, remain alert, make yourself another Negroni and strap yourself in. Nothing about what follows will be conducive to a peaceful sleep.
Trudy relaxed slightly and discretely approached the table pouring my guest and I more wine. She then moved closer to the French doors to better discern the state of play with the outdoorsmen. There appeared to be a bit of finger prodding and moustache animation from Fernando, while the chauffeur looked increasingly frightened. Our gardener could be intimidating, especially when wearing his tool belt of hand-implements. I noted the nasty-looking bypass pruner was within easy reach.
With a fair bit of vino under my belt by now, and a conversation with a person who was clearly a congenital idiot, not to mention the escalating tension poolside, I was trying to come up with an excuse to pull the plug on the proceedings. I was about to fake a matter that required urgent decamping to Auckland for bladder surgery, when Racine waddled in with the second course.
The rancid porcinity nervously placed the dishes down in front of us along with another card, fished from his pocket, describing his creation. Once again I was forced to reconsider my plans for the discreet murder of the ghastly little beast. Needless to say the discussion of the insinkerator that morning had planted a seed in my over active brain. The disposal of a difficult to explain, dead chef would be slow going, I admit, doubtless requiring another visit from plumber-extraordinaire, Mordechai and, perchance, another bottle of Margaux.
The card read:
Herb Crusted Blue Eye Trevalla
Steamed Kelp and Slices of Dried Sea Cucumber, seasoned with ground Ambergris
Steamed Baby Potatoes, Nesting in Live Coral
Squid Ink Aïoli
Virginia once again gave Racine the evil eye, while I merely nodded my usual equivocal approval and he scurried back to the kitchen. Trudy interrupted her vigil to open another bottle of the Piquepoul and filled our glasses while we savoured our first mouthful of the The Abyss. In a word; sublime. I often wished I was free of the Neapolitan gutter-snipe, but then he’d place one of his creations in front of me.
‘Couldn’t poach that little fellow could I FU; he’s a marvel.’
‘Indeed he is, but poaching is too good for him.’ I said.
‘Never mind Virginia; how’re things with the kids?’
‘One kid. I don’t shpeak of the others, if I can help it.’ Her mood darkened.
‘Oh, well Virginia, far be it for me to—’
‘Alright, shince you ashked, they are a disgracsh!’ She raised both her irritating lisp and pudgy little fists, grasping the eating irons menacingly. She was giving the vino a serious nudge so this had turned her voice into a shriek. Given what I had under my belt by now, I wondered if I might shortly be shelling out for a speech therapist. Even my internals had become unnecessarily alliterative. Doubtless Christian, if he ever showed up, would have something to say on the matter.
Virginia seemed to be about to rise. With the surplus of Piquepoul onboard, I feared talk of her offspring had proved triggering. I sensed a sudden tension in the vicinity of the sideboard. Trudy had returned the monstrous old thing and had her back to us. If I’d been hard up for a mirror, I could have shaved using the reflective surfaces of the Mings. The dear girls’ clavicles constricted beneath her blouse and her sensibly shod feet shuffled infinitesimally. The Squid Ink Aioli trembled in its dish while my guest fidgeted irritably with her napkin.
Dressed, as she was in her customary black off-the-peg, Trudy moved with the undulation of a panther and assumed the preparatory position for what could only be The Coalface. I’d only heard a whispered description of this move in a back alley of downtown Cincinnati. Dougie Pickles, who wrote the seminal work on wrestling, A Life on the Mat, refused point-blank to discuss it. Someone told me he was still emotionally scarred from seeing it demonstrated by means of Indonesian shadow puppets.
Clearly I needed to run interference pronto. ‘Ah yes Virginia, this daughter, it’s…ahh…Ribenita isn’t it…lovely girl.’ She was beautiful, as it happened, marred, however, by a mouth so cruel, it was barely fit for radio.
Marginally placated, Virginia settled back, chair still attached to her extensively furnished glutes. ‘Ribenita ish a very shweet child, but I wish she would shstay away from thoshe beach bumsh.’ Virginia said. The mere mention of her favoured heir seemed enough to placate her. It had been recently reported in all the rags, that Ribenita was having a thing with the son of a famous musician. There was reportedly a sex-tape and syndication was muted.
‘I think you might find its Beach Boys Virginia, but never mind.’
‘She’sh itching to get a bit of the coal-dusht action and I think she ish mature enough to play a part, hash already come up with shome marketing ideash.’ With this she pulled out of her handbag a squat black bottle. A word in white printed diagonally across in a near-unreadable font.
I took a closer look, but could barely make it out. ‘Soot,’ I said.
‘Precisely FU. Ishn’t she a clever one?’
‘Genius!’ I opened the bottle to discover a repellent, oily odour emanating from the pitch black contents which did not sit well with the kelp I’d just managed to swallow. Whatever Racine did to it made it edible but failed to disguise it’s slimy consistency. My stomach lurched. The substance certainly looked like coal dust although my experience was limited.
‘Trust me FU, Ribenita is going places.’
There was only one location I was certain of, the CEO of Coldhardt Mining and her certifiable daughter, Ribenita, required immediate evacuation to a locked psych ward. I continued warily.
‘But surely Virginia, the other siblings would be overjoyed by this remarkable development.’ I could almost hear young Trudy’s nerves pinging. She braced herself, The Coalface still active.
‘Telemachus only communicatesh through hish lawyer who my lawyer refersh to ash an ambulance-chasher. I had no idea that wash a thing FU. It musht be extremely tireshome lawyering and running after ambulancesh…..why on earth would anybody do that?’
A look of confusion lit her tiny eyes while fine black wrinkle lines were forming over the remainder of her porcine face.
‘It’s a fitness program especially designed for lawyersh.’ Damn, the lisp was contagious.
‘Anyway, the naughty boy is continually banging on about a trusht fund shilly old daddy shetup for his grandchildren. Ash for twinsh Shoshona and Kiki, one ish in rehab and the other ish working in a zoo or wash it a loo? Anyway I’m not sure which one ish the junkie and which the zookeeper…or lookeeper.’ She let go of one of her maniacal laughing fits. The network of black wrinkles graduated to a deeply fissured glacier about to calve.
‘Shoshona is the addict.’ I informed her mother. ‘I’ve heard she’s living rough on the streets of Belgrade. Your mines earn you one million dollars every thirty minutes by my calculation. Surely your offspring can have a bit? They must be feeling positively orphaned.’ I said attempting to promote some compassion for the poor young things.
‘I need it all FU. Ribenita hash such plans—’
I may not have mentioned this before but I suffer from a diverted septum resulting in an unpredictability of the sinus passages, a cause for some rather explosive nasal distress. Whether it was the close proximity of the bottle of ‘Soot’ or just a seasonal thing but at the very moment Virginia was about to launch into a glowing review of her scion’s prodigious talents, I sneezed violently.
The immediate result of this impromptu exercising of my deformed proboscis, was to spray half the contents of the beautifully packaged Soot and some unpleasant issue from my own person across the table and all over my guest.
Virginia’s pristine white dress and her substantial upper body were transformed into an ill-defined black mass with two round eyes sparkling out of it like twin diamonds exposed in a coal seam.
‘Aaarrgghhssshhh,’ Virginia screamed and stood awkwardly. Trudy, readied herself for action. Would the dreaded Coalface be engaged? There was a fearsome moan eliciting from the black mass, approximating my guest. With the chair attached to her buttocks, she careered maniacally for the French doors.
Trudy and I moved like greased lightning. While I flung the doors open she grabbed the back of the chair in an effort to dislodge it as the now screaming. This manoeuvre resulted in Trudy tumbling backwards onto the floor with the chair and the occupant being evacuated at speed onto the now grappling employees, Fernando and the chauffeur. All three as one mass of tangled humanity and all crying out in dismay, were propelled into the pool in a manner that could not be associated with anything one might learn in a Swiss finishing school.
I expected a litany of litigation would erupt from the poisonous events described above, but no; benevolent fate came to my rescue once again and I escaped without blemish to my person or character.
So overcome was the mining and burgeoning cosmetics billionaire, Virginia Coldhardt, that following a rather indelicate process of poolside retrieval and resuscitation, a discreet albeit damp, relocation was provided to a facility for the emotionally distressed. A rigorous stratagem of therapy saw the lady restored to not quite her former self but something vaguely approximating that person. Fortunately for the inhabitants of Chateau Unction memory of the incident had been erased from Virginia’s addled mind.
Soot failed to make the impression it so richly deserved. Several celebrities, commandeered for marketing purposes, had their reputations besmirched when accused of making appearances in black-face. In the wake of multiple lawsuits, which barely scratched the surface of the Coldhardt coffers, Ribenita took the reins of the company and reconciling with her exiled siblings, gave them some of mummy’s loot.
Telemachus, used his share to invest in Aerospace tourism and subsequently disappeared en route to Mars. Shoshona sensibly bought a pharmaceutical company so as to never again be inconvenienced by a lack of recreational drugs. Kiki went native after setting up a ten thousand square hectare Baboon enclosure in Africa and hasn’t been seen since. It had been common knowledge of the Zoological fraternity that, though Kiki was extremely fond of the animals, the sentiment was not reciprocated.
Fernando and Virginia’s chauffeur discovered they had a great more in common than harshly worded insults, eventually sharing the gardener’s house on our property. They lived happily together with Fernando’s two cats until the chauffeur died suddenly of anaphylactic shock. I know it’s very sad but there you have it. Fernando was inconsolable for several months in a way that only a northern Spaniard can be (which is not very attractive). He still managed to prune our hedges adequately, so, I am consoled to find there will always be some light in these dark times.
Trudy hurt her collarbone and wore a sling for a while and insisted that she did not need any time off. The chair was beyond repair. Mercifully Dympha was not exposed to these shenanigans. As soon as she heard I was having Virginia over for lunch she wisely decamped to a spa in Bali for a week with our neighbour, Lady Celia, leaving orders that no trace of the mining heiress be found on her return. As it turned out one week was barely enough. Traces of Soot can still be found in the grout of our tessellated tiles to this day.
So that’s that! Unseemly I know, and some might be of the view, impertinent to even bring any of it up. I eventually had my ghost-writer Christian Dreyfus, tracked down to Vancouver, pickled as a newt and employed as a towel boy in a Downtown Eastside brothel. I had him airlifted back home and there is every expectation he will one day complete my much anticipated memoir.
I also suspect, as is often the case with me, expectation will be met by disappointment.