September 30, 2019 at 9:30 pm #10244
Many years ago, adorned in a traditional day dress and with neatly coiffed hair, Junie had paced up and down the train station platform as she awaited the arrival of her aunt. She fretted about how well she could care for a frail, elderly woman, and was filled with the kind of concern one has when witnessing a sparrow flying straight into a pane of glass. A kind of helpless fascination followed by an unspoken promise to nurture it back to health, all the while knowing it would probably die in your care.
Today on the train station platform was much different. This time dressed in well-worn trousers and a wool jacket, Junie slouched on a bench reading a tawdry romance novel. She had stopped by the CocoaJava on her way over, a local coffee shop where owner Ceejay could always be depended upon for book recommendations, saucy or otherwise. This title had come with a particularly enthusiastic recommendation in hushed tones, and Junie couldn’t put it down. That her aunt was coming back to New Babbage was an inconvenience and nothing more, and she wasn’t going to waste time worrying about it. She had learned the hard way that her Aunt Mumsy was rarely miserable alone.
When the train pulled into the station, neither the clouds of steam nor the bustle of passengers and porters could distract her from the words on the page. (What would François do when he discovered his mistress Samantha had fallen into a love triangle with his wife and the milkman? Was it now a love… square? WAS IT EVEN LOVE?!)
It was only when a train conductor shouted Junie’s name that she looked up. The poor man looked frantic.
“Juniper Ginsburg? There is a passenger awaiting your assistance! JUNIPER GINSBURG!”
Junie reluctantly turned herself over to the conductor as if she were a prisoner awaiting sentencing.
“I’m Juniper,” she said.
The man blinked slowly and slumped in relief. “You are meeting your aunt, is that correct?” he asked. Junie nodded. She could guess well enough what this was about.
“Then I would ask you to please convey your aunt from the passenger carriage as soon as humanly possible,” he said. “She is no longer welcome on this rail line.” He opened his pocket watch, checked it curtly, and then beckoned for Junie to follow. They boarded the nearest passenger car and halfway down the aisle Junie could see the ridiculous pheasant feathers sprouting up from her aunt’s mourning bonnet, an accoutrement she had been wearing for as long as Junie could remember.
“Hello aunt,” she said as she approached the old woman. “It’s time to go. I’ve set up a nice house for you on the Quarry, and a steam carriage is waiting.”
Mumsy sat with her arms folded tightly across her chest, looking like a petulant child. Junie sighed.
“What is it?” Junie asked, affecting a tone that said she really didn’t want to know.
Mumsy looked up at her with a scowl and said, “You’re putting me there to get rid of me. I hate the Quarry.”
“Of course I’m putting you there to get rid of you, and you hate everything anyway. Come on, let’s go.” It was difficult to prevent her eyes from rolling back in her head.
“Is that servant of yours driving the carriage?” Mumsy asked.
Junie wasn’t sure how to respond, and then realized it wouldn’t make a difference either way. Mumsy was bound to want the opposite of whatever answer she gave. If Junie said the Squire was driving, Mumsy would find a way to belittle him and refuse to go. If he wasn’t driving, she would find grounds for refusing on some other count
“For one, Martin isn’t my servant, and yes, he will be driving.”
Mumsy harrumphed. “Good. Slim is the only one who can drive on those damnable cobblestones without shaking my teeth out of my head!”
Junie’s jaw fell slack, but Mumsy continued. “But I’m still not going! Not until they apologize,” she huffed.
Junie tried not to feel exasperated within two minutes of meeting her aunt. “Who? Apologize for what?”
“For the food on this route!” she shouted. “Wilted greens, gristly steak, sour milk. A disgrace! Their chef is obviously some hillbilly slophouse reject from Bump. I’ll never ride this line again!”
Junie thought about what the conductor had said. “Don’t worry, I can assure you that you will never again ride this rail line.”
Mumsy squinted, unaccustomed to such speedy acquiescence. Her suspicion was only magnified when the conductor approached them, a weary expression on his face.
“If you please,” he said desperately, “we are on a strict timeline. You must get your aunt OFF of this passenger carriage or we will be forced to assist her in disembarking.”
“Did you hear that, Mumsy?” Junie asked. “They’re going to carry you off of this car. How about that? It might be fun, and I know how you like to have fun.”
The old woman scowled at Junie and set her jaw.
“I’m. Not. Going.” She stamped her cane into the floor to emphasize each word.
Junie looked up at the conductor and shrugged. He hurried off and returned a few minutes later with some smartly dressed porters who were too young to understand the horror in which they were about to participate. In a flurry of feathers, velvet, elbows, kicking, scratching, and an undignified display of ankles, Junie and the porters were able to wrestle Mumsy from her seat and down onto the platform. A few moments later her luggage was thrown out after them.
A porter, obviously upset and embarrassed by the scene that had just unfolded, began to apologize profusely and attempted to straighten Mumsy’s black gown and bonnet. She fought him off with a swift thrashing from her cane in thanks.
“You get away from me!” she shouted. “You’re all trying to kill me! Go away!”
Junie tried to intervene, but two hands reached past her and into the fray to separate the boy from his beating. Squire Martin Malus had apparently deigned it worthy of his time to assist.
“Go on, kid, run,” he said to the porter. “Before it’s too late.”
For his trouble, Mumsy struck Malus in the shin.
“What took you so long?” she bellowed.
“You seemed to be getting along well enough, you old hag,” he said as he flicked one of the feathers in her bonnet. Then he walked away to gather up the bags that had been scattered across the platform.
“Get in the carriage, we’re going,” he said, carrying the bags past her.
Mumsy gave Junie the side eye. “You see? Your servant. Was that so difficult?” Then she hobbled toward the steam carriage, mumbling something about being surrounded by ingrates, and how she would disinherit the lot of them. She climbed with some difficulty into the vehicle as Junie ambled casually behind, but before she could get there Mumsy stamped her cane and ordered Martin to drive. He did, promptly, and without Junie. She could hear her aunt cackling as they drove away.
October 1, 2019 at 1:20 am #10248Edward PearseParticipant
I wonder if I need to invest in one of those new fangled electric hedges, just along the back fence.
October 1, 2019 at 8:03 am #10251
You know, it might not be a bad idea…
October 1, 2019 at 8:05 am #10252
October 1, 2019 at 8:55 am #10253Vic MorningtonParticipant
I’m suddenly glad my lighthouse is out at sea in Vernan, and the hotel is a good distance away from Quarry…
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