Park Avenue or Bust!

Chapter XXX – An American Hen Party

I have been made aware, through experience in Mayfair’s thirsty circles, and by attending the odd Noel Coward play in the West End, that when it comes to cocktail parties there are two camps. One claims they are the worse form of entertainment. A sort of alcohol fueled networking contest with the challenge of balancing finger food and hunting for resistant napkins. Attendees speak over one another with oblivious abandon, certain that whatever idiocy is said will be soon forgotten. They do so until they can spot someone more interesting. The other camp says they offer the best possible outcome for socialising. One can pop in and out with ease, and escape bores and perpetual conversationalists by dumping them on to unsuspecting accountants. All while making a beeline to the bar.

I have to say that in the present case, faced with pre-party cocktails before venturing into a full-fledged hen party, I stood firmly in the second camp. When faced with Madison and her aunt, even a devout teetotaller would have recourse to a numbing agent such as alcohol, whether from drinks, cough syrups, perfumes, or mouthwash. Although, in moderation, of course.

There I stood, pondering such thoughts, in a chic Givenchy dress. It was, due to economic necessity, from two seasons ago. I clasped a martini and put on my “don’t you dare” look. Between quick, silent, sips I ventured a stare out the window. I sought hope, but my eyes met a brick wall. In the half-light of this subterranean Manhattan flat I must have cut quite the melancholic figure. A dame fatal in a film noir, as I believe it is said in the more bourgeois parts of Brussels.

Cousin Andrew approached with a whiskey. He looked like a fin-de-siècle Viennese craftsman on his way to the seaside for the first time.

“You look like you’re withholding a sneeze, dear Cousin.”

“It is my ‘don’t you dare’ look, Andrew. I have been practising.”

“Well, apparently practice does not always make perfect. By the by, where did you get that martini? I asked Ypres for a whiskey and so, to fortify the spirit, but I suspect all I got in return is a very strong convenience store ice tea.”

“I told Ypres to give out the refreshments with care, and only distribute alcohol to the important guests.”

“As it is currently only you, me, and Ypres, I rather think that I am an important guest!”

“The guests shall arrive momentarily. It is New York after all. They will all be fashionably late. No one arrives on time to anything in this city. If one is invited to dinner at 19:00, one breezes in at 20:47 as if one were waiting for others, and not the other way round.”

“It is in moments like these that one misses London, where fifteen minutes is the ultimate cut-off, after which one had better be missing a limb or be willing to be silently glared at.”

I am sure Madison and her aunt shall grace us with their presence shortly.” I delivered the line sipping my martini with one hand and clasping my pearl necklace with the other.

“We’re bound to hear them once they are within 500 yards, what between the aunt’s elephantine footsteps and the niece’s siren call of distress.” Cousin Andrew gave me the once over. “By the by, are you sure the aunt will appreciate the French widow about to embark on an affair look?”

“The less said about your outfit the better!”

Ypres silently shimmered into the room with the posture of a righteous crustacean. She wore a fitted tuxedo. In this matter of shimmering into rooms the woman is rummy to a degree. Her outfit and general demeanour brought the discussion to a close.

The three of us, we anxious few, we band of haphazard siblings, waited in silence. I shared my sentiment with Ypres, asking from which bit of Shakespeare’s notes I was borrowing, adding my own brand of modern wit. Apparently, it was the St Crispin’s Day Speech from one of the henrys.

“You had tried your hand at an excerpt when we met Madame LaPeine de Mort in Prospect Park,” Ypres added as would the court stenographer at the Old Bailey.

Cousin Andrew, still discontent with the content of his glass, ventured a thought. “That’s not one of those plays where they all die after three hours of enunciation, is it?”

The answer remained in suspense that day, as there was a knock at the door. A beaming Madison stepped in, followed in close pursuit by her gruesome aunt.

———-

Madison greeted the assembled with her natural indefatigable good humour. She was evidently jazzed and dressed as if she were about to attend a blue-blooded al fresco theatre production in the Hamptons.

Madame LaPeine de Mort was more utilitarian in her look.

I assume garments Madame LaPeine de Mort’s size must be custom-built in hangars that once housed Soviet armaments factories. It cannot be easy finding appropriate clothing when there is a three-degree difference in temperature from one’s horns to one’s hooves. The matter is no doubt aggravated when one’s wingspan is the basic measurement for supersonic jets. It is bearing these difficulties in mind that one must consider her demeanour, in an earnest, detached, way.

In short, it was unclear what event she was dressing for. But the even the most naïve of fashionistas could detect it was not a happy one. And, had one been told that she was attending a remembrance ceremony for a triple homicide, and the murderer was still at large, one would be quick to put two and two together.

The crowning piece of her ensemble was her hat. Firmly affixed onto her hurricane-resistant pompadour, dyed a spectacular colour of platinum not observed in any of the globe’s mines, but perhaps an import from some far away planet, stood what can only be described as the endpoint of an icebreaker’s helm entrenched in felt. I can only take pity on the milliner who was commissioned, not doubt against his will, and perhaps to avoid the threat of bodily harm against his children, to create such a piece.

Nevertheless, I put on a brave face not dissimilar to the one the longbowmen put on at Agincourt, extending a cheery hand towards the aunt.

“As you will recall, mademoiselle, I do not shake hands. I find the habit very unhygienic. Much like this city.” I did not remember ever hearing a growl from such a height indoors before.

“My apologies,” I giggled with insouciance, “que sera, sera”.

“Resolute optimism disgusts me.”

“You will, of course, remember Ypres.”

I motioned towards Ypres, making sure the aunt’s rotation would not create air pockets. Ypres had projected herself forward, materialising near the coffee table. Madame LaPeine de Mort tried to freeze her with a look, but you can’t do that sort of thing to Ypres. She is one hundred percent look-proof.

“And of course, her ecstatic fiancé, Andrew Vasa, my cousin.”

The aunt gave Andrew, who had inadvertently saved her from a watery, although some might say overdue, demise at Prospect Park, a smile the length of all eighty-eight piano keys.

“My fiancé,” Ypres volunteered, “is the son of George Vasa. The well-known British diplomat.”

Madame LaPeine de Mort’s brow furrowed and darkened at the revelation. A skilled plastic surgeon, even as found on Park Avenue, would have had trouble unfurling it. She slowly narrowed her eyes, and forced herself to mutter an “is that so” devoid of sentiment through clenched teeth.

The room fell silent once more of that silence that blankets all. For once, in Manhattan, there was actually no sound whatsoever. All looked at the other as if they were about to unmask the murderer. All, except Ypres. Beaming blandly, she was in her element.

“May I propose a toast,” Ypres said, piercing the depths of tranquillity as would an Antarctic toothfish.

“A capital idea, Ypres,” I responded, “as it is a special occasion, Madame LaPeine de Mort, I have asked Ypres to procure the finest drinks and ensure they are fit for celebration.”

“I trust you have champagne. The only champagne. The one under the appellation d’origine controlée, from the Champagne region in France.”

Ypres came in with what looked like champagne on a tray. Unfortunately, the drink was served not in a coupe or a flûte, as one would find in the better establishments of Épernay, but in what can only charitably be described as an eclectic collection of gas station mugs.

The dismay of Madame LaPeine de Mort, when faced with a drink served in a gently used but evidently cracked ‘Welcome to Newark’ mug, cannot be described in polite society. One can only imagine it is the dismay she reserves when she hears English being taught in the school of Paris.

Madison added to the scene, stage right (her better side), by making an audio display of her enthusiasm.

“I’m so happy, I could scream! These mugs are just divine!”

“You truly picked a keeper, dear Cousin,” commented Andrew as he gave me the questioning look he had once reserved for Madison.

Once everyone was served, Ypres suggested Madame LaPeine de Mort deliver the toast. Reacting as if the tricolore had been set ablaze using German-manufacture ethanol, she managed to say a few platitudes through her teeth, which, it should be mentioned, had remained clenched since the revelation that Uncle George was Cousin Andrew’s father. I do not know out of which alloy her teeth are made of, but it has to have a highly resistant breaking point.

Despite her clenched teeth, which were beginning to make the sound a steel beam would before collapsing, Madame LaPeine de Mort still managed to drink her beverage. And, promptly releasing its content, drained it back into the mug.

“This is not champagne!”

“It is not,” came Ypres’s stoic reply. “It is inspired by the Champagne region, as imagined by a Mr. Sequoya Smyth of Park Slope. Although he assured me he has never been to France, a transcendental experience prompted him to become a craftsman and brew the beverage, of which we have one of the first bottles, in his bathroom. His business partner and roommate, with whom he shares the bathroom, along with four others, assures that it is a ‘post-modern feminist gender neutral’ alternative to champagne. Of course, Vasa was immediately sold, and had me purchase a couple of bottles for today’s occasion.”

This was news to me. Yet, I had little time to process it.

I was the recipient of a look that nearly blinded me in its intensity. I am fairly certain my skin started to sizzle under the heat. In that instant Madame LaPeine de Mort grew three metres taller, and two metres wider. There is no quicker and more foolproof way to offend a French nationalist than to tell her that the drink she has been served is a leftist response to champagne manufactured by a Brooklyn hipster.

“You know, I was a bit sceptical at first, but this is actually quite nice. May I ask where in Park Slope one can purchase the bottles?”

“Not now, Andrew!”

“I am sorry to interrupt,” Ypres said, “but we must get going to the venue, if we are to arrive on time.”

“How exciting!” Madison cheered like a cheerleader while the aunt sucked the light out of the room.

“I have purchased MetroCards for all. At Vasa’s insistence, we shall be taking the subway down to Grand Central, and switch to the shuttle to Times Square.”

The information seemed to make the hoped-for effect as it was now clear that, in the eyes of Madison’s aunt, I was the scum of the earth. By the time we reached the strip club, having suffered the inefficiencies of New York public transit, and passed by the tourist hub that is Times Square, where someone in a unicorn costume tried to embrace her, addressing her in Spanish, nonetheless, Madame LaPeine de Mort was on the edge of bursting into flames.

I do not know the tell-tale signs of an aunt about to spontaneously combust, but I am fairly certain that in that moment, she approached them. Luckily, the staircase we descended did not appear to be made out of flammable material, and the booth we were directed to was a safe distance from the bar. The venue appeared to have clearly marked fire exits and plenty of extinguishers, so I breathed a small sigh of relief.

Although, I quickly aspirated it once I caught a look of the aunt and her hat. Hopefully I would not be recognised, but with that hat, anything within a three-hundred-yard radius could be earmarked from space. I tried to creatively hide my face from view.

The booth Ypres had booked was a bit small for a group of five, such as we were. In truth, Madame LaPeine de Mort, while squeezing in, took up half of the space. She nudged herself between Madison and Cousin Andrew, leaning her left paw on the latter. Cousin Andrew was patiently explaining the tradition of the strip club at a bachelorette party to her, not so much to inform, but to ensure his compressed lugs were still in working order.

I cleverly managed to obstruct my face behind a pole, when the said pole, rather uncharacteristically when it comes to poles (the object, not the people) became the centre of attention.

It soon became the focus of a pair of muscular thighs. The thighs and other bits began gyrating to music.

To my horror, as I looked up past a pair of pink underwear, and a pearl necklace matching the one I wore, I saw a familiar face.

It was none other than Michael Beaconsfield-Outremont.

———-

Please do not hesitate to report typos or spelling errors in the comment section below. They will be duly prosecuted under the law.

Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1880 WordPress followers.

Should you be desperate to part with your money, and, in the process, fund Uncle Edward’s Vasa Assurances, a donation button is available on the homepage. Donations will help keep the Vasa and Ypres project going.

6 thoughts on “Chapter XXX – An American Hen Party

  1. Dear Author (aka J.B Chisholm):
    Totally floored (and rolling there on) by the Mardi Gras attired Montrealer, and his fringe occupation. “Summer Short Shorts” should have been the tip-off, had I been more perceptive.
    With utmost revelry,
    Winnifred

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As your on-line cyber-editor I have placed my trio of suggested alterations in brackets. ‘Madison greeted th(os)e assembled’. ‘One(s) horns to one(s) hooves’. ‘Clench(ed) teeth’. By the way – I particularly liked the Antarctic Toothfish. Actually I rather enjoyed all the other bits of the chapter too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.