Saturday, June 12, 2010
Magpie #18: The Case of The Sharpened Pencils
"9,345,890,603" Mum repeated coherently to Anne her daughter. "Yes, Mum, I understand, you have just sharpened that many pencils, I implore you Mum, no more for today, please Mum?
"Oh, I don't know...just a couple more, please?" Mom said empathetically, tinged ever so slightly with a hint of pity in her regal dictum.
"No, Mum, absolutely not! We must do other things today I'm afraid." Anne spoke respectfully but definitively to her eighty-four year old mother.
"When is the new shipment arriving? I really must sharpen some more pencils."
"Mum, really, hasn't this game gone on for far too long? I am running out of places to store your sharpened pencils."
"No, not at all really. Has anyone called?"
"For what Mum? More pencils? I have really had have enough up to here with you obsession regarding this; I am beyond my wits end. Can you please for one moment stop thinking about these blasted pencils!"
As Anne was beside herself with angst. As she was getting more and more frustrated, she tried counting to ten. That did not work. In utter frustration, Anne using expressive arm movements as if still living in Tuscany. As her arms were going here and there, she suddenly knocked over two decorative ceramic steins from Her Majesty's 1937 Cornation full of sharpened pencils. The ceramic stein shattered into many thousand of little fragment. The pencils were strewn across the room. flying all over Mum's study". Anne looked horrified and smirked a sad looking clown face, like a child when found guilty for spilling their milk.
"Did you really think that necessary?" Mum intoned solemnly, her line of questioning targeted directly towards Anne.
"Oh, I am so sorry, Mum, I really am...please forgive me?"
"Well, I don't know..." Mum affectatiously appearing somewhat disappointed as per usual. Mum had been known to carry a grudge from time to time. Today was not much different. Anne could tell exactly what her mother meant to say with each particular facial expression. Mum had this way, known only to Anne. Like the subtle pea placed under the mattress, Mum face was a veritable gold mine of refined expression which Anne could understanding. "Only in a fairy tale" Anne kept assuring herself, this to, this pencil phase, would pass.
"It took me an hour to sharpen those you know." Mom pouted the largest pout Anne had ever witnessed. Anne knew emphatically that this was not good; her Mum never pouted to this degree. "Something was different; but what exactly" Anne was determined to find out.
Something was definitely going to come down the pike like a hammer on an anvil. More than likely Anne would watch her Mum's first move, and her Mum was being too quiet, too hidden in her once bellicose if not belligerent expressions.
Anne could cut the tension in the air with good old Excaliber. If she had the right "stuff" to remove the said Excaliber from the stone. "Do not ever say the word "stuff" repeated Mum. It is offensive Anne. I do not want to hear that word ever again.".
No matter how the word "stuff" was mentioned, Mum would often pout, and her eyes would look downcast as if something was not as it should be in the Kingdom of Camelot. Often Anne would see this expression on Mum after hearing someone mention the contents of the thanksgiving day meal. Turkey "stuff"ing? It was getting to be too much for Anne. What would she do? It was always a "no win" situation in the Situation Room with Mum.
Hence Anne was always extremely careful not to use words around Mum that would create these altered states of chaos. All should be orderly, in order with neat being an operative word, the state being always in need of constant tweaking for "neat readiness". The neat patrol was a state of mind; never a completed task.
Anne became so cautious of those words which Anne secretly called "trigger words". She knew Mum would be most adamant if the incorrect word or phrase was not strictly adhered and more importantly, Mum would change radically, or so it did appear, from the everso loving Mom to the "chop off their heads" Mum. Mum just was strict, Anne realized this, it was not fun to live with someone with this much power; but it was interesting!
Anne would never test Mum. Although there was that one time when she was five. She loathed to think about that time now and that cherry jar. The memory of those many years ago left a permanent twitch of Anne's left eyebrow. The lesson was learned. No more questions to ask.
Those horrible key words which were most likely to offend Mum were the words of the common, everyday vernacular. And the colloquialisms, never say something like "Gotta go to the loo". The resultant action would be akin to traitor talk amongst the ranks. Anne would certainly feel more than rank she would feel somewhat cut-off from her Mum's affections for the week if not the month. Mum meant business. She never had a moment to unwind, not since Anne was a little girl. Anne thought it was time Mum had a break from her duties but how? Now with all these pencils. Poor Mum!
"Most deplorable" Anne could hear her Mum say, over and over again. Wholly unable to remove the unwanted saying from playing over and over again in her subconscious. The training went that deep.
Whenever Anne could almost hear the "most deplorable" phrase word as an earworm, or worse yet the "most deplorable" phrase Anne's eyebrow upper left eyebrow would twitch; raise slightly.
Everything needed to be enunciated in proper fashion, with tone, projection and eloquence. All with proper and rigorous decorum as Chef du jour or is it Chef du tour? The attitude all important in one word: regal.
An absolute attitude a must. For Anne, she had plans of her own often put on the back shelf. She was sworn to be a duty-bound daughter.
Her brother Charles new little to nothing about these plans of hers. Anne had kept them well-hidden in her secret diary. It was thirty years ago since she read those diaries, when she lived at the castle. She remembered eating dinner each evening with her family. Anne recalled the exact protocol for each and every possible event in the most mundane of affairs. The world was not enough could scarcely be the catch phrase; it was the universe is not enough, this was the seventies after all. Anne's duty was to serve; to that end she was master of the game.
It took roughly seven seconds before she could correct herself and replace the "most deplorable" word with a more apt word or phrase. Anne could now assume the position of power; imitate her Mum to a royal "T"; her familial and mimicry intonations uncanny. Princess Anne was secretly being groomed quite unbeknownst to the rest of the Windsor family. "Wouldn't Charles be shocked" thought a smiling Anne.
The Queen Mum reminded Anne time and time again that "They were English after all, and they had better speak the "Queen's English being that We ARE The Queen". Often followed by a small guffaw. And then back to business as usual which meant tea at 2 pm sharp.
"Mum...I will tell you what...I will go over there to the locked cubby and retrieve the two wooden boxes of 2HB pencils for you immediately. Will this suffice?" Anne rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
"No, it will not." Mum turned her back on Anne.
"Mum...please, show some mercy here, I implore you! I really did not mean to ever offend Mum, you know that do you not? I just am getting so terribly frustrated at these pencils that have taken over the entire castle, they are invading ever inch of space here. It is really rather absurd." Anne felt she was entering a vortex of emotion.
"Really, Mum, I do so have so many other jobs I must be doing immediately. I can not be bothered with this inane activity. Remember Mum I did not say insane activity. There is a large difference and I know you need that hearing aid, Mum; please. I insist, Mum, oh dear Mum, hear me, Mum; it is not, it is not, oh...how can I say this; it is not normal Mum..."
Suddenly Anne began to cry. Softly at first, then huge gushing salty tears of frustration, sobbing horribly. Anne curled up on the settee, her head cradled in her royal arms her hands hopelessly punching the overstuffed royal "ER" insignia cushions for effect. Even the small corgi Welshie I, let out a wolf like howl of empathetic pity and started to lick Anne's mascara-smeared face.
This crying jag of Anne's went on for at least five minutes. Anne hiccupping, wet slobbering upset of the utmost calamity, whimpering and whistling through her nose, quite beside herself. Anne was crying such tears as her mother had never witnessed before, at least since Anne was five years old. It appeared to Mum that her daughter had totally "lost" it. What exactly, Mum was not quite sure. And like a good chess game, these games were always won by Anne due to her emotional and staged "theatrics".
Anne soon tried to sneak a quick peek at her Mum from underneath her drenched wet sleeve of her royal moulton woolen dress. Anne needed to view her Mum's possession after her "supposed" crying jag. The Queen knew Anne's strategy quite well to be fooled; but she was not sure if this late stage crying jag would be described in Penelope Leach's book about adult "children".
Anne was hoping to see an improved look from her dear mother, a glimmer of hope all things were like before; calm, deliberate; and without pencils.
As Anne had waited to see if her Mum would stop paying attention, for at least one minute. And to her own befuddled state of affairs, quite an act, the calibre like that of Sarah Bernhardt. The question on Anne's mind; did she or did she not notice the ever so suble changes in her mother's facial appearance.
A telling sign of the light at the end of the tunnel. A sign! Slowly, a radiant smile was beaming from the Queen Mum's face. It was so beautiful. Or, thought Anne in hindsight, was Mum just looking at the portrait of Charles II? In fact, Queen Mum was indeed noticing her cries of vehement protest. This was a good sign. Anne let out a deep sigh. It worked!
Mum looked towards Anne and away from her gaze and seeming vacant look, totally lost in thought as she saw beyond the Gainsborough on the palace wall. The Queen bowed her head ever so slightly and slowly, almost sheepishly as she looked towards her daughter. Anne could hear the creaky scratch of her Mum's fancy desk chair being pushed away from her royal desk. "Success" thought a secretly smiling Anne.
Suddenly the Queen abruptly sat up from her Louis XIV desk chair and went over to Anne. She placed her hands lovingly on Anne's shoulders.
"Anne, don't cry please. The two boxes will be just fine for today." said the mom in the Queen Mum.
Anne looked up from the settee into her Mum's brilliant blue eyes.
"Yes, Mum. Are you sure Mum?"
"I have never been more sure in my life. We have never been more sure in our lives".
Anne looked somewhat bemused and puzzled at the same time.
"Oh I do so love you Mum"
Both Anne and Mum hugged for five minutes; a sincere group hug with two people of such royal affinity and of such closeness that proximal maternal and sorietial closeness would afford.
Softly Anne began to talk to her Mum in hushed tones;
"You know Mum, you ARE the best Mum in the whole wide world!"
"You know Anne, you ARE the best daughter in the whole wide world"
Both held each other in tightly in their interlocking and intwined arms. Being locked in a loving mother and daughter embrace. Both looked at each other and smiled loving warm smiles. Each very pleased with each other.
A few moments went by and then Mum asked Anne very softly;
"You know Anne, I want to get all those pencils sharpened in time for the soccer match in South Africa. Time is definitely wasting and we cannot afford to not remain calm at a time like this!" Mum seemed abit besides herself with worry that she would not have the task completed on time and budget.
Anne looked totally stunned beyond amazed and in total shock. Slowly, a wide and knowing smile beamed from her lips. Anne had been "had"! Mumsy had pulled it off brilliantly again!
"You know Anne, all these many pencils are to help the children's charities of South Africa. The darling street children will be selling these as souvenirs at the FIFA soccer tournament over the weekend."
The Queen Mum continued; "Of course my ER is placed there on the pencils in gold where the 2HB use to be; we had quite a time trying to change this "by appointment of the Queen" designation; but finally corporate official resigned themselves; for this one time anyway. The press say that these pencils will be much more popular than the Jubilee items. It will certainly help the country in some manner or form, of this I am quite certain!"
Anne's mouth dropped wide open and her eyes widened to pie plate proportions.
"I am so lucky to have a Mum like you!"
Mum and Anne hug another long hug. Anne smiling contently as Mum stroking her auburn hair.
Mum suddenly cleared her thoughts as usual.
"Ahemmm..." Mum let out a sigh.
Anne looks aghast. Anne knows what "Ahemmm..." meant, exactly the precise meaning. Anne cringed somewhat knowing what was to follow. It appeared as Anne had started to grind her teeth.
"You do know that I need you to distribute these pencils, Anne."
"I don't want to here a word about it, this is final. You shall distribute ALL these pencils, immediately".
Anne again dropped her mouth open and eyes widened.
"Now what?" Mum appears somewhat miffed and taken aback at her daughters apparent reprisal.
"Oh I do hope you do see dear, indeed...hmmmm, I see...you're not happy going to South Africa? Why not?" said a curt Mum.
Anne looked pensively at the pencils in the room, threw up her eyes rather than her hands this time and frowned and looked down at the ground.
"Well I will do this favour for you Mum. On this one condition."
Anne continued; "As your daughter you must make this one simple concession for me."
Mum put her chin up and said nonchalantly
"Anything darling princess; this is nothing I would not do for my dear Princess of mine?"
"That's great, Mum! I hope I am not creating any imposition by asking you if 'Bend it Like Beckham' is busy this weekend?
Mum looked knowingly upon her daughter and started to giggle and then laugh somewhat uncontrollably.
"I am quite sure he is available to escort you dear".
Suddenly, a very tall and svelte man dressed in a Beefeater's guard uniform abruptly opened the heavily ornate Georgian doors to the study and entered the room.
"What's the commotion? Is everything alright here, then, Mum?"
"Could not be better, Phillip, could not be better!"
"Jolly good then!" Phillip smiled. "Are you set to go then?" Phillip enquired.
"Oh yes Phillip dear, quite so. Oh I know what I will do, yes, I do! By jove, I think I've got it! We will all go to the soccer match in South Africa. Yes, I would rather fancy a match of soccer! When was the last time we got to a soccer game Phillip?
Phillip shrugged his shoulders and said "I cannot remember the last time we attended an event such as this dear, it has ages! It will be wonderful to go there as a family again!"
The Queen excitedly retorted; "Yes, then we will all go along to South Africa this evening; it is agreed!" Queen Mum said jubilantly.
"You do not mind Anne if your old man tags along?"
"Sure Pops, sure thing!".
Anne rolls her eyes again.
"Like old times; I'm bringing Welshie!"
"Oh course you may, Anne" Prince Phillip quips.
Queen Mum smiles, and Prince Phillip smiles as
Anne smiles a wide grin. All hug each other as Welshie the Corgi tries to jump up.
"No, No, Welshie get down. Save your excitement for the soccer match!"
Welshie lets out a happy bark.
"Oh, by the way Anne; I have decided. I am making YOU The Queen, and that is not just for a day dear".
Heard in the distance; joyful crying, whoops and hollers, as Anne tries on the tiara underneath the mountain of sharpened pencils.
"Ye-ha! Anne exclaims "Yes! Charles is going to be so jealous!".