The strength of the animal

The strength of the animal

'Oh, my dear,' she said to Tiffany. 'We wanted him to marry you so much. I begged him, I implored him.'

That brought Tristram out of his daze with a start, as if this was the first he'd heard of it. But Tiffany didn't register, didn't seem to hear. She was still shivering, in spite of the mink, but when she stroked her cheek against the fur, that made her smile, so lovely, so touching, she smiled that good child's birthday smile and it was as if the touch of the fur gave her some of the strength of the animal, she came back together, again. She seemed to grow stronger before our very eyes; she didn't come back to herself, exactly, but to somebody else who was in perfect control. She called out to an unseen presence off the set in a big, ringing voice: 'Hey! Somebody call me a cab, right? A cab! Right away!'

Then she turned towards the camera, as she did every week. The cameraman who was in love with her zoomed in as she tossed one end of the mink stole over her shoulder in a devil-may-care way, as if anything could happen, now, and she gave the viewers the full force of her big smile, the professional one that offered a view of her hundred-octane teeth as far back as the emerging wisdoms. She raised her hand. She waved.

'Goodnight, everybody!' Signing off, as she always did: 'Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite! Goodnight!'

Then, in mid-wave, this new, strong defiant person with Tiffany's face covered her mouth with her hand as if she were going to be sick, her face crumpled, she bolted off the set in the mink stole and the silk knickers and there they were, the Hazards, all three, left gaping like loons.

Tristram came to himself first, although his hands were still full of flowers. But he remembered the camera was watching him and even managed to scrape up a smile.

'And goodnight, too, from me, Tristram Hazard, and my very special hundredth birthday guest, Sir Melchior Hazard--'

The good old goodbye formula. It reassured the studio audience. One or two of them started to clap, as if by doing that they could change what they had seen into what they ought to have seen.

Angela Carter, Wise Children

“What if apple trees could talk?”

“What if apple trees could talk?”

Like a Virgilian, part 2

Like a Virgilian, part 2