Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Pulped Fiction: The Big Afternoon Nap At The Vicarage

(With apologies to Raymond and all his fans but none at all to Agatha and hers)

It is difficult to know where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage. It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the foothills.

I had just finished carving some boiled beef (remarkably tough by the way) and on resuming my seat I remarked, in a spirit most unbecoming to my cloth, that anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world a large service. I was wearing my powder blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it.

My wife said in a sympathetic voice: 'Has he been very trying?'

I grunted. Mary, who is in service at the Vicarage as a stepping-stone to better things and higher wages, set the greens on the table with a bang and proceeded to thrust a dish of singularly moist and unpleasant dumplings under my nose. Then she lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain.

'It is a pity that I am such a shocking housekeeper,' said my wife, with a tinge of genuine regret in her voice. Then she turned her body slowly and lithely, without turning her feet. She fell straight back into my arms. I had to catch her or let her crack her head on the tessellated floor.

My wife's name is Griselda - a highly suitable name for a parson's wife. But there the suitability ends. 'You're cute,' she giggled. 'I'm cute too.'

I have always been of the opinion that a clergyman should be unmarried.

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