The Golden Age
Her room had the appearance of a Bessarabian brothel,
“My dear Lizzie,” I began, parting the bangled curtains and straining to assume a stance of ruined nobility, but ending up toddling into the parlor.
“When you invited me here for high tea I assumed there would be others present. What did you have in mind? “
“Tea,” she said. “And, perhaps some information about my purloined pearl necklace. There are those who observe that they saw it on a small trollop. Yours, I believe.”
“Mine. Why I have no trollop. I took a trolley once, but it was not mine.”
“That woman, Imogene. People say they saw my pearls around her chubby neck”
“Ah, Imogene. Well, yes, no giraffe, she, but the necklace she owns is paste. I know. I bought it myself. Do be discreet about that revelation my dear Lizzie.”
“I have come to believe that she snatched my pearls when she disappeared into my boudoir during my last dinner party, Miles.”
“Don’t be so suspicious, darling. She had gone to fetch a tissue. You had quite reduced her to tears with your tales of lost love and drowned sailors. I assured her that these stories were just the product of your exceptional imagination. As far as I know, there were no sailors in your life – just bankers and they manage to keep even their martinis dry. There are some things one should not exaggerate. Losing more than one sailor is excessive. “
“You think you are clever, Miles, but you are no Oscar Wilde.”
“And you no DeMaupasant, dear Lizzie.”
I looked around the room, turning thrice as my old basset hound had taught me. Something was awry but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But then my finger was becoming progressively more arthritic and imprecise. Lizzie was being coy, something most unattractive on a woman of her advanced years, and I knew the pearl story was a ruse. Why had she invited me here? I heard a stirring from the other room and suddenly a bevy of elderly women entered, each holding a lily.
“What kind of bizarre resurrection rite is this?” is all I could utter. I felt my self the center of a perfidious diary entry or Gilbert and Sullivan finale. They gathered around me and
proceeded to sing something unintelligible, and yet insipid, in varying tones of discord. Lizzie banged on the piano, producing a sound much like a herd of elephants
rhythmically crossing the tundra. When they finished their madcap concert, they inexplicably all shouted “Happy birthday” at me. I realized with horror that they were all long abandoned lovers of mine whom age had disguised and that they were now approaching me en masse. Whether they meant to kiss or kill me was not clear,
“No, no, it’s not my birthday! You have me confused with my twin brother, Brighton,” I exclaimed and, grabbing my umbrella, or someone elses’, I dashed out the door and into the forgiving rain.