Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Seven


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Outside, in the vibrant sunshine of the garden, the alien managed to shake loose some befuddlement of his own - oddly enough, none of it related to the fact that he was in England and for some unknown reason standing in brilliant sunshine.

‘What an odd woman,’ he said, in Andromedan, to no one in particular; not that it would have mattered if he had been heard, let alone overheard, because ‘What an odd woman’ in Andromedan sounds to human ears exactly like a cat sneezing. As shocking as it might have been to any random passerby to see a bright blue stick insect with a silver pompadour wearing a boiler suit made of oven mitts sneezing like a cat while standing on an inadequate patch of suburban front garden and staring up at an ugly house simultaneously trying too hard and yet failing miserably to be quaint, it can be safely assumed that surely no one this side of Sirius would have understood even vaguely what he'd meant by it.

The alien was about to return to work (well, supervising anyway, the word ‘supervisor’ being Andromedan for ‘failing upward’) when he heard a peculiar kerfuffle coming from inside his new neighbour’s house. Stepping down from the van as though floating, he hopped the adjoining hedge Nijinskily and Jehovah’s Witnessly approached the handsome walnut door adorned with their 1 and 2 of piss-elegant brass. Retrieving the fallen knocker from the put-upon doormat and rehanging it, he came at last to rest upon said doormat which, while not having had such a good day itself so far, once again very Englishly - despite its having been made, like everything else, in China - wished him ‘Welcome' nevertheless.

That's when the alien first beheld in front of him the face of a man in brass surrounded by equally brassy leaves. He'd already made a mental note to enquire as to the meaning of the image at some later time, and was still admiring his brassified reflection up close in it, in fact certain he'd just seen it wink at him, when the front door upon which it was precariously nailed flang open. This time when Felicia Fripp appeared on her doormat she was holding a sizable cast iron skillet over her face with one hand and an even sizabler crucifix in the other.

‘Begone demon!’ she shrieked, eyes shut tight behind the skillet, crucifix suddenly flailing - which startled the alien, as it might anyone, although he dared not flinch for fear of giving offense.

‘Howdy neighbour,’ the alien said, uttering the most banal sentiment in the poshest of accents, otherwise unsure of the socially correct response and even less certain of the culturally accurate verbiage/accent combination. Still unaware as to what else to do, he smiled very suavely into a low bow.

In fact, he was still smiling and bowing when she gobsmacked him with the skillet and immediately thereafter began pummeling him with the crucifix; with each blow a noise more suited to Steffi Graf than her usual Sybil Fawlty emanated from Felicia Fripp, yet none of her worst fury seemed to budge him in the least, even though she was well known for her ability to clear meetings of the local Women’s Institute with nothing more than a slightly raised eyebrow. After ten or twelve good thumps with the skillet, and an equal number with the crucifix - any one of which wallops she knew from experience was force enough to kill most house pets - he refused to so much as flinch, the supercilious bastard...

Suddenly, her fury spent in a moment of profound self-revelation - in point of fact, she'd just seen her reflection in the picture window - embarrassment bloomed like English roses on her once sallow cheeks, which glowed with new youth in the same way they'd only just sagged with middle age; likewise, her formerly mouse-coloured hair seemed to hang lank and shiny down her back where before it had been spiderwebby and clenched into a bob. Whereupon she slank back into her house and breathlessly slamt the door shut behind her, feeling a right prat for engaging in hostilities in the first place - and on such a flimsy pretext! - not to mention a proper wally for having done so without a suitable exit strategy in place.

As anyone would. Well... Almost anyone.

And yet, even laying in an exhausted heap against the door to the lounge, breath heaving around her heart so marvellously alive beneath breasts pert where they’d only just seemed deflated, all of which and more her hands had begun to explore with a rising thrill, she had to wonder if it hadn’t all been worth it...

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