She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and — No. She’s better than that.
She walks like God took a Barbie doll, boosted it up to human size and down to human proportions, checked its articulation and saw that it was good, breathed His most precious life into it, then turned the job over to some minor angels to dress. The upper-half angel did a good job, adding nothing to spoil her harmony. The unmemorable sweaters or coats always match the weather. No make-up distracts from the infectious warmth of her permanent smile. …
“The Affair Of The Arsenical Abbot?” asked Shylock Homes. “I give in.”
“The murder committed by Reverend Green,” I reminded him. “It took place in his parishioner’s own conservatory. He used an obscure poison known only to the highest adepts of a little-known Eastern martial art, who fortuitously include yourself. I used arsenical for the sake of simplicity, and for the alliteration. My readers like alliteration.” I located the matching invoice and replaced the index-card in the file box. “It’s very good of you to help me put my affairs in order.” I took out the next card. “Oh, not…
Many years ago, when I had a job selling such things, I was struck by a manufacturer’s claim about their latest toaster. Struck? Perhaps I should say intrigued. Or seduced. The toaster’s unique selling point was that it included a humidity sensor. No more burned toast! No more putting the bread back in to get properly brown! To hear the makers tell it, this was a game-changer, a new paradigm, the best thing since, er, sliced bread.
[I was reminded of this last week, when toasting slices from an unfamiliar branded loaf produced a shrinking effect akin to magic. I…
“Who was that?” asked Jenna as he replaced the handset with noisy emphasis. She did not look up from her own mobile screen. Aliens landing on the lawn outside might — might — distract her eyes, but her grandfather becoming irritated with a landline had no chance.
“Just a crank,” he said, wondering how much force it would take to prize the device from her hand.
“A prank? What kind of a prank?”
“Crank,” he said again, “C-R-A-N-K, Cuh-rank.”
“I’m sure you said prank,” she insisted.
“I said crank,” he repeated. “Someone who calls to waste your time.” If you…
My maternal step-grandmother on my father’s side was a Frenchwoman of good stock, whose family had fallen on hard times during the Great Depression. After her father’s suicide and the possibly-related disappearance of her mother (the case was never solved), the estate in Apignon that should have been her inheritance was sold to cover his debts. To fund an approximation of her former lifestyle, and being blessed with the looks and talent that would allow her to do so, the dispossessed Maîtresse hied herself to Paris and became an exotic dancer at an establishment in the Place Pigalle.
“Gentleman strangled with own tie in failed robbery,” I read from a freshly-ironed copy of The Times. “The things some people will do!” I read a little further. “Fellow called Henry Bobnail. An engineer, it says.”
Shylock Homes snatched the paper from me and took in the story at a glance. “I’ll warrant, Watsup,” he said, “that not one word of that headline is correct.” He flung down the paper and began to dress for the outdoors. “Come along, let us repair to Kensington before LeStrange makes a bigger fool of himself.”
We arrived shortly at the late Henry’s mansion-cum-factory…
Scene: A small airfield in southern England.
Moi: There it is.
Compagnon de la Nuit: I’m not going up in that thing. And don’t call me that again.
Moi: Come on, you’ll enjoy it.
Belle du Jour: I bloody won’t. And don’t call me that either. We’re not even in France this time.
Concierge: Bonjour — Ah, Mr James, welcome back! Nice to see you! And you also, madame!
Moi: Plume de ma tante, monsieur.
Belle du Jour: Don’t start all that again, we — Hey! I am not what you just called me! How dare you!
Moi: You’re thinking of Belle de Jour, the film? That’s actually bad French.
Belle du Jour: You’d know all about that.
Moi: You’re Belle du Jour. Beauty of the Day, since you didn’t like Compagnon de la Nuit.
BdJ: Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because it’s not working. …
The horsemen came in the spring. They came from the north-east.
They killed my father. They killed my brothers. They killed everyone’s fathers and brothers and sons, even the babies. Then they took their pleasure on us. From this, some of the youngest and oldest were spared. Not all.
I was spared because I happened to be in the hut of the ox. They came to every hut searching for what they wanted, but at the entrance to the hut of the ox they turned away. The ox’s magic kept them out, for which I was thankful. …
“Another seven years, eh?” He was in a supercilious mood, she thought. Like he was ever in any other mood. “It doesn’t feel that long.”
You know perfectly well it’s been seven years, she wanted to say, knowing it would do no good to lose her temper with him. You built in a biological trigger to drag me up here when it expired. Instead she made an unthreatening observation. “Time is bound to seem shorter when you’ve had so much more of it.” She could remember — just — her own childhood, when a day was a day, not gone…