Westerly, Winsomely

11 05 2010

Continuation of what I’m toying with at the writing group.

* * * * *

I knocked out of courtesy for the household, but I treated Sallins with the same familiarity as ever, patting him on the shoulder and brushing by after acknowledging his “good afternoon, sir” with an impatient nod.   Uncle Gerald’s idea of casual sport was more fascinating than most people’s vision of the apocalypse, and I wasn’t going to miss more than I had to for Sallins or anyone.

Upon reaching the den, I stopped and admired the soft afternoon sunlight streaming through the new skylight my uncle’s Remington had just installed in the roof.  “Hello, my boy,” he said with a wan smile.  “What brings you up to Chesapeake this dreadfully boring day?”

As reassuring as it is to know that my uncle still finds boring what my departed mother would have found criminal, even I had to satisfy my curiosity at risk of offending his sense of normalcy.

“It’s good to see you, uncle.  Sporting for your spring fowl indoors this season, eh?”

Uncle rebuffed me right off.  “Now Roger, don’t give me any of that.  I know perfectly well you’ve come to ask a favor, and until your mouth went off I just might have granted it.  As it is, however, your hopes are likely to meet with the same fate of my recently remodeled roof.”

Had he not tossed the rifle my way with the same geniality he initially expressed, I would have found myself downhearted.  As it was, I took aim about ten feet right of the original porthole, and began to let loose.

“It’s like this, Uncle,” I began amid the falling splinters of the roof, and I proceeded to lay out the details of the pickle before we’d completely turned the house into a convertible.

“Here’s what I don’t understand, Roger,” shouted Uncle Jerry above the crashing chandelier.  “You’ve always despised this fellow Broxton, and yet you shy away from watching him meet with comeuppance himself in the guise of Phillip Westerly.  What’s preventing you from seeing this as a glorious bit of fortune to liven up the droll affair?”

“It’s not the excitement I’m dreading, Uncle,” I hastened, “It’s the risk of the thing.  If Caroline sees Phippy lay out the eternally helpless Bronto, her feminine sympathies are sure to align themselves with the mortally wounded rather than Phippy.  And goodness knows I’ve never seen a woman who could cow Phillip Westerly half as well as she, even when she doesn’t seem to acknowledge him.”

“Well, so long as you’re not putting yourself on the line purely for the Broxton, I suppose I could offer you some wisdom,” Uncle conceded.  “It’s just that he’s been railing against the liquor vendors in Forte Alley at City Council meetings lately, and I couldn’t abide my favorite living nephew’s sticking his neck out for the blighter.”

Having frequented Forte myself on more than the odd occasion, the news of Bronto’s crusade only further soured me towards the subject.  While I’d spare his body for the sake of Phippy’s heart, I’d do no more than that if I could at all help it.  I consented, and Uncle proceeded to lay out his view of the thing.

“The way I see it, Roger, you have three potent resources at your disposal.  The Bishop, this Gregson girl, and your engaging way of speech.  All you have to do is find a way of using the first to get the attention of the second, and not-so-subtly point her in the way she needs to go.  As I’ve heard, she’s rather devout when it comes to religious authorities, and a bit of expressed geniality from His Eminence would give you some credibility with the bird, what?  From there, you’ve only to say a few words about Phippy’s bright future and his sterling past, and you’re home free with time for port in the library with your favorite uncle.”

The plan had merit, I couldn’t doubt that.  However, I saw a rather tenuous facet of the plot that Uncle seemed to be taking in stride.

“And Phippy’s Aunt Gladys?  Am I just to tear the bishop from her groveling with a wink and a glass of sherry?  The woman is sure to be violently possessive of the most notable man in the county the night through, and getting on Laurie’s Aunt’s bad side means getting on Laurie’s bad side, which means participation in the Grand Challenge of St. George at the hostess’s behest.  From there, you can hardly imagine the fate that awaits my person, but I’ve not doubt it involves gardenia bushes and a hospital bed.”

“Roger W. Tiffin, if I didn’t have so much sunlight illuminating your features, I’d swear your niece was in here bemoaning the lack of cranberry sauce at her third birthday party.  You don’t really think Laurie Swellings is going to risk putting you under the figurative knife for her own amusement?  As the woman’s practically proposed to you on three separate occasions, I hardly think there’s much risk of her putting you in any bodily danger whatsoever.”

Now I’d had it.  If Uncle Jerry wanted to propose a plan for preserving my friend’s well-being, that was one thing.  Defaming my noble and platonic relationship with Miss Swellings was another entirely, no matter the town saw as our impending marriage.  We had a mutual respect for each other on completely respectable terms, and allowing that to be dragged through the mud was too much to allow even my favorite living uncle.

“I thank you for your advice, Uncle,” I said, stiffly reproaching him with a dignified air. “I’m sorry that you continue to find yourself among the juvenile individuals in this town that see nothing more entertaining than a good jab at two upstanding individuals and their friendship.”

“Oh ho!  I hardly think you’ll be standing much of the night – goodness knows you wilt under her gaze like a tulip in July.  Look now, you’ve had the better part of my marksmanship training to glean some wisdom from your elders, but I can hardly be blamed if you choose to maintain your headstrong ways, Roger,” dispensed the man.  “I’ve laid it out for you, but I’m sure you’ll erupt in some foolhardy scheme of your own just to impress your future Mrs. Reggie before the cocktails are served.”

I let him have it with the full brunt of the Tiffin riposte as I marched out the door.  “There will not be any cocktails, my dear uncle.  Good day.”



One response

15 05 2010

Keep it coming. I have developed a stern hankering for subsequent installments!

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