Liars Kingdom : Factor Petasorum Demens (9)
I can still hear the machine, it’s making a noise like that crazy typewriter music Jerry Lewis used to do some mime schtick to. At least it’s not making my ears bleed. I’m not entirely convinced the noise isn’t just in my head. No-one’s been shouting after all, not even me.
However, someone is shouting now. Running towards us from the other end of the row.
‘Meeeeeee! Mememememememe! Meme! Spread me on the internet and you get meme!’
He stops about 10 feet short of us.
‘How could youuuuuuuuuu? Tea? Without me? Memememememe?’
The man is naked apart from a hat. A bowler, as it happens, that’s Durr-bee if you’re from the USA. He’s a fellow of a certain age, judging by the pendulous nature of his scrotum. Women’s breasts aren’t the only sexual characteristics under threat of gravity, as everyone knows.
‘Ecky thoomp’ says Jeanne Moreau.
Cerebrus’s hump slides to the other shoulder and I finally realise that this is body language to replace - and at times augment – the everyday shrug.
‘You're welcome to join us if you can find a cup.’
‘Cup? We’ll sit at the table like civilised creatures.’
I follow his pointing finger (grateful for something else to look at, although I note Ms Moreau finds our be-bowlered friend more interesting) and see that between us and the Infernal Machine, a large table has been set for a Devon Cream tea, with settings for some thirteen. I tell myself the noise from the machine prevented me noticing its arrival.
Sit we do. Whether we do so like civilised creatures, I hesitate to say. Cerberus looks uncomfortable, having chosen a high-backed carver chair which is somewhat inconvenient for his hump. Miss Moreau sits to his right, but she only has eyes for the loon who has usurped the position of host from… Me? I have been unable to take the seat at the head of the table, so I sit opposite the L’Imperatrice de Lancajeure and on the Hatted Man’s right. Not one chair matches another, mine is a spindly thing with gilt finishing made for a person of smaller dimensions than mine. It would not look out of place against a brocaded wall in Versailles. Cerebrus’s carver is a reproduction piece in veneer from DFS, it still has the price tag attached to the seat back. Miss Moreau has a peacock chair. I think she might have draped herself on one in Viva Maria! A film mad enough to have been scripted by me. Hatman is seated, or rather jouncing around on something resembling the Sun Throne of Persia.
‘I’ll be mamá, mamamamamama memememememe.’
Guess who pours? The tea-service, unlike the furniture, is a complete set and our earlier cups and saucers are a perfect match. There are two teapots on the table.
Hatted Man stands to pour from a great height into the three cups in front of his guests. Then he performs the sangría trick into his own mouth, it is really quite remarkable. Almost enough to draw the eye away from his unfortunate nudity.
Cerebrus is asleep, I hear the plangent snoring of a contented dog. The machine is quiet. I steal a look at it, fearing it will start to move and therefore make a noise once again. It does not.
Miss Moreau, looks at me and says, ‘On veut du vin?’
‘I don’t see any wine,’ I say.
‘Il n’y a pas de vin!’
I’d like to say it isn’t very polite to offer it in that case, but -like you perhaps- I have the most overwhelming feeling of dejá lu.
I look at my watch. It’s still five past twelve, although the second hand has finally stopped its summoning of the devil. Perhaps he’s here. Hatman catches me looking,
‘Stopped, ‘eh? Mine did that.’
‘Did it indeed?’ I say.
‘Oh, yes. I fell out with Time, big time. Hahahahahahah hehehehehe he hates that, you know.’
‘Oh you know, being used… metaphorically.’
Ms Moreau interjects, ‘Oo doesn’t?’ in an accent pitched somewhere between Eccles and the 16th Arrondissement.
‘I’ve heard God quite likes it. Hehhehehehehehehehehe he thinks its a hoot.’
‘And the Devil,’ I ask in as much innocence as I can muster.
‘The Devil is a riddle.’
‘If the Devil is a riddle, then what is the answer.’ Hatman declaims.
I tell him the best answer to a riddle I know.
‘That’s not a riddle, that’s a conundrum.’
‘Oh, did you hear that I omitted the “?”? You are a clever fellow. Indeed the Devil is what.’
‘The Devil is in the detail, the Devil takes the hindmost, the Devil is De Evil One and the Devil with you.’ I say, smashing a teapot onto his ridiculous hat, which is crushed and falls beneath the Sun Throne of Persia.
‘Oh, for shame! I am naked!’ No Hat Man shouts.
He disappears in a puff of smoke with a faint smell of brimstone but a sad lack of treacle.
Cerberus still snores. Ms Moreau gesticulates with an unlit cigarette.
‘Ah’m raight bored.’ Whereupon she stands up and walks down the long aisle of filing cabinets, causing a commotion in her pencil skirt that stirs my heart and other organs. I watch her until she disappears into the dark end of the Archive, doubtless looking for the lift.
Wonderland as Hell, I think. Now that’s a metaphor.