The scene: A kitchen in a ramshackle gatehouse of an estate somewhere in Hertfordshire. Harry is chopping up veggies for a mirepoix, prepping to make soup stock. He’s an enthusiastic, but middling cook. His eyes are streaming from the onions.
Lady Smock is perched on a kitchen stool, her ample bottom spilling over the edges, elbows on the counter hunched over her laptop, reading the Guardian on-line, when a message pops up in her e-mail.
Lady Smock (LS): Harry! Our author, Susanne, has won an award! There’s an awards ceremony! We’re invited! I need a new gown! You need a new suit!
Harry Bittercress (HB): Lady, darling, calm down! We need a new roof, new windows, and a new furnace.
What’s the award?
LS: She, well us really, is a ray of Sunshine!! It’s the coveted “Sunshine Award”!
HB: Susanne? Susanne Fletcher? A ray of sunshine? When were the clouds cleaved? Does her husband know?
LS: Pshaw. Harry. She made us. She’s our literal mother. Be kind. She got it for being “witty and astute” and creating “the delicious saga of Harry Smock and Lady Bittercress.” I mean Lady Smock and Harry Bittercress.
HB: I’m used to being called Mr. Smock but how do you feel about being Mrs. Bittercress?
LS: Harry, stop it. You can’t propose to me after 27 years of living in sin. People will talk. Now be serious. We’re supposed to interview Susanne and tell people some things they probably don’t know. It’s going to be filmed. We’ll be famous. I really do need a new gown. Promise me you’ll get a new pocket hankie, too. A red one with white polka dots.
HB: Why red with white polka dots?
LS: Polka dots are Susanne’s favourite pattern and red is her favourite colour. Haven’t you noticed all the dotty red clothes she wears?
HB: It’s hard to see through the glare of the white page. I just thought the dots were floaters in my eyes.
LS: This is an awful thing to say, but I’m glad Susanne’s back is plaguing her. I can borrow her favourite high-heeled red shoes. The ones she bought at the consignment store she haunts looking for fashion bargains.
HB: I didn’t know she bought her clothes second hand.
LS: What DO you know about her, Harry?
HB: Well, er. Hmmm. I know she loves beets and she has been known to get beet cravings and eat canned ones when she can’t find them fresh.
LS: I didn’t know that!
HB: There was the time she spilled beet juice on the computer keyboard and her kids thought it was blood. There was a big stain on the carpet in the dining room.
LS: I bet she was hopping.
HB: Yes, she can be very light on her feet.
LS: Speaking of … did you ever see her Chinese dancing act?
HB: No. Was she any good?
LS: Not really, but she wore a great hat.
HB: She does love hats, doesn’t she?
LS: Yes she does. Did she ever tell you about the time back in the ‘70’s when she was toodling around London looking like a bum and she popped into Harrods to try on hats and they showed her the door? Bloody snobs. She looks damn good in hats. Milliners loved her, you know.
By the way, I hear she was quite a thespian in her youth.
HB: Lady Smock! Susanne’s married with children!
LS: Harry, you boob, she was an actress. And who says lesbians can’t be married with children? It’s the law in Canada. Honestly. You’re so 19th century.
HB: Words. Words. Words.
Who do you think she’ll nominate?
LS: Creative Bruce Goodman, the composing gardener is a must, don’t you think?
HB: She can’t. He nominated her. What about Cheergerm and the Silly Yak?
LS: Wonderful idea. I made her gluten free Ginger Kisses for Uncle George’s funeral. Before George went bald he was a ginger, poor fellow. The Kisses cheered everyone up and of course we all thought of dear little Blanche as we licked the creamy centre filling.
HB: How about The Village Healer? Julie Ethan’s on a mission to “understand the other” and she wants people to contact her with their stories.
LS: I like that extraordinarily warm and thoughtful Rosanna at Writing on the Pages of Life. Boy, if she doesn’t lift your spirits no one can.
HB: What if they don’t accept the award?
LS: Then they can’t come to the awards ceremony and meet us!
Harry continues to chop onions and weep as Lady Smock peruses Nordstroms on-line. A draft wafts through the mid-20th century windows. Lady buttons up her cardigan.
LS: A new gown. Lovely.