“I say, Old Thing,” I said, addressing my better half. “Take a look at this.”
“First off,” said Alexis (aka my better half), her hand on her hip, “Don’t ever call me Old Thing again. And secondly, I am not going to keep reminding you that you’re not British. You’re as American as drive-ins, monster trucks, and urban sprawl.”
“My apologies, Old … I mean, Sweetheart. It’s British comedy week on PBS during their pledge drive and I’m afraid I immersed myself in it.”
“A bit too much, I’d say,” she said.
“Can one have too much British comedy?” I asked, stroking my van dyke beard thoughtfully.
“Given the poor quality of your faux British accent, I’d say the answer is a resounding yes.”
I drew myself up to my full height, to protest. However, drawing myself up to my full height around Alexis is usually pointless, given her diminutive stature. I tower over her no matter how I am standing (or even slouching). But what she lacks in height, she makes up for in intractability and fractiousness. In fact, it was her willful personality which first drew me to her back when we were mere fledglings on the playground at school.
◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ Wavy, out-of-focus lines indicating a flashback sequence … ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊
She walked right up to me on the playground and said, “I bet you can’t push me on the swing.”
Of course, I could not turn away from a challenge and so I drew myself up to my full height then, too, though it was much less dramatic back then than it is now, and I said, “Is that so? Well I’ll bet you I can.”
And she said, “I bet you my milk money that you can’t.”
And I said, “You’re on” and soon I was pushing her on the swing victoriously.
She was obviously delighted that I had proven her wrong. She gladly gave me her milk money afterwards. Later that same day I bumped into her in the lunchroom (not surprising inasmuch as we were in the same grade and were both students of Mrs. Stern) and she asked me if I could buy her a milk since she was a bit short. I was nothing if not chivalrous and so I bit my tongue and did not utter the obvious joke and loaned her enough money to buy milk.
◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ Wavy, out-of-focus lines indicating end of the flashback sequence … ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊
I shook my head and came back to the present since nothing that was in the flashback is germane to the current story, other than to point out that over time I came to tower over her in height and she came to tower over me in treasons, stratagems and spoils.
“My accent is just fine,” I said. “The lady who answered the phone at the pledge drive complimented me on it.”
She just looked at me dubiously and then seemed to realize something that gave her a start. “Oh no!” she said. “Are we about to receive a truck load of tote bags and coffee mugs and DVD sets of things you can watch online for free?”
“We may receive the odd coffee cup,” I mentioned blithely, “But I was assured they were of the highest quality. But the really amazing part is that when you pour a hot liquid in to them they magically display the phrase ‘What ho!’, which is, I believe, something they say a lot in Britain.”
“You know what else they say a lot in Britain?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “What?”
“Are you completely barmy!?”
“Ah, yes,” I nodded knowingly. “I believe I have heard that uttered once or twice during the marathon.”
“Well, anyway,” she said, seeming to tire of our discussion of the subtle brilliance of British comedy, “What is it you want to show me?” I have noticed throughout our life together, that Alexis seems to have a very short attention span when it comes to certain topics. Apparently, British comedy is one of those things.
“Simply this,” I said with a flourish as I pulled the object from behind my back where I’d been holding it this entire time.
“What on earth is that?” she asked, plainly appalled.
“A walking stick,” I said, proudly.
“I can see it is a walking stick,” she said. “Why are you showing it to me?”
“It’s British,” I said proudly. She still did not seem to understand and was just staring at me like a flounder.
“Are you telling me you drug me to this dusty old antique shop to show me some beat up old walking stick?”
“But it’s British,” I said again, since she had not seemed to grasp the import of that the first time I said it.
“So’s my Uncle Bob,” she said, “But you don’t see him hobbling around on some old stick.”
“Bob’s your uncle?” I asked, a little surprised. “I always thought he was Dutch.”
“Can we focus on this gawd-awful stick you are waving around?” she asked. “What on earth do you need a walking stick for? Do you have a janky knee you haven’t told me about?”
“No, my knee is fine, my dainty little delphinium. Thank you for asking. But this stick is more about fashion than convalescence.”
“Fashion? That old thing?”
“Yes,” I said. “See this? This is black ebonized malacca.”
“Fascinating,” she said, though I could see she was far from fascinated.
“And the handle … that is genuine buffalo horn.”
“Is it? I was thinking it was complete bull.”
“Nope. Pure buffalo. And this collar? That is solid silver. See that intricate design? AND … it is hallmarked. It says right on it, 1887. Can you imagine? This beautiful walking stick is nearly a hundred and fifty years old!”
“Amazing!” she said. “Just think, it was built right around the time this conversation started.”
I chose to ignore her sarcasm.
“And here is the best part,” I said.
“Oh my god!” she exclaimed, putting her hands to her cheeks. “It gets better?”
I tugged on the handle, pulling the U-channel epee blade from the malacca shaft.
This time she said “oh my god!” with much more emotion and much less sarcasm.
I nodded appreciatively at her appreciation. “I know!” I said enthusiastically. “Isn’t it great?”
“Great?” she said. “It’s insane! Why do you need a sword in a cane?”
“It’s not a sword, my petite little flower. It is an epee.”
“I don’t care if it is a butter knife. Why on earth would you need it in a walking stick?”
“Oh, you know,” I said, matter-of-factly. “One never knows. Just in case.”
“Just in case what? A fencing competition breaks out at the theater?”
I pondered her words. “I suppose it’s not out of the realm of ….”
“Put it back,” she said. “I won’t have such a thing around the children. What if Edmonton …”
“Yes, Edrington. Of course. What if he were to find it?”
My resolve faltered at bit.
“Or little Eveline,” she continued in order to drive her point home.
“Yes, what if our little Evangeline were to find it?”
“Well, a walking stick is hardly appropriate with a lady’s attire.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” she said, a little perturbed.
“This point?” I asked, touching her arm ever so lightly with the blunt tip of the epee. “Touché, eh, what?” I smiled at my own joke.
“Oh my god,” she said, exasperated. “You are not British! Please put the walking stick back.”
“And the monocle, too?” I asked, somewhat crestfallen.
“Especially the monocle.”
“And the spats?”
She eyed me briefly and I could see her patience was wearing thin. “I will wait for you in the car,” she said. She turned and exited the store in something of a huff.
There was a moment of silence as I slowly slid the epee back into the black ebonized malacca walking stick.
“So, you won’t be purchasing the walking stick?” asked Evan, the proprietor of Evan’s English Antiques.”
“No, Evan. I am afraid not. The missus has quite put her foot down.”
“Or the monocle?”
“No. I’m afraid not,” I said, a bit downheartedly.
“Or the top hat?”
I perked up. “Oh, no. I am definitely keeping the top hat. I think it’s smashing.”
“And your lovely wife did not specifically say for you to put it back,” he said, picking it up off of the counter where it had been sitting.
“You are quite right, Evan,” I said. “She did not.”
“Shall I wrap it up for you, Mr. Callington?”
“No,” I said, thoughtfully. “Just have it shipped to my office.”
“Very good, Mr. Callington,” he said, smiling.
“What ho,” I said, and turned to go join my lovely little rose bloom in the car.
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