Chapter V

“La La’s evaporated,” Gamsy says huskily, gripping the edge of the table. “She took a barouche – to the – station at — sunup – not – leaving so —— much as a note.”

Mewsy suspects that, behind the red tablecloth, Piercey is feeding upon her delights. But who knows, he could have gone down there for some other reason.

“Dear fuck!” Mewsy cries in nearly realistic astonishment, “And after they’d gone to such pains! Who will they find to create Vigorella on such inconceivable notice?” Well yes, she’ll say candidly, should Finchy ask, I did prep Miss La La extensively — why?

Hanging batlike with her long prehensile toes from the barre, Ginger-Ann, face serene and quite red, is the picture of Classical poise.

“Well, either of you two could do in a pinch,” she says.

“Me!” Mewsy cackles with outsized hilarity, startling Piercey, who bumps his head, “Why ha ha now who would consider old Toast?”

She looks to the others for some affirmation, but Ginger is deep in inverted plié and their colleague has thrown back her head.

“By which I mean — Gams is my senior, of course, and the closer to Finch-Marie’s breast. Not to say it’s a matter where gifts and abilities aren’t the decider, just — you know — all things being equal, well — frankly, it’s not worth discussing.”

Her comrades, engaged in their own private labours, can manage no more than a murmur. The velvet-and-tassle that frays from all surfaces dampens the atmosphere further. Along with the bleary kerosene haloes, and some vague sense of four o’clock fug, it all presently comes to oppress Mewsy’s breath.

It must matter, she thinks, or else nothing at all does. What we’re doing must matter.

“Peel off your suckers from your own hind ends,” she brays with a bright, autocratic good cheer. She scampers across to the jaguar chest where they keep the Dompteuse de Tension, and the stifling air of indulgence is split.

Brandishing a fistful of snifters, she drags out the Meredith table. “Gather round, gather round, gather round friends and nemeses, Meredith mustn’t take no for an answer!”

Smiling wryly despite herself, Gams Gálor disentangles the man from her pubis. She shambles, weak-kneed, to the mound of Turk cushions that Mewsy has scattered to catch her. Ginger-Ann unfurls gradually, moth-like, from deep concentration. “I do love Dompteuse,” she says, wistfully glancing aside at her ragged mauve pointe shoes.

Big Piercey Pierpont emerges, quite naked, and flushed, and heavily damp round the chin, and saunters by, wagging his maleness.

“Don’t forget ‘bout my midnight delivery, pal!” calls Gams in her gravelly Eastern way. Piercey looks back over one shoulder and winks.

Mewsy begins.

“Matriarchs All of the Bourgeoisie
Put Up Your Sampl’rs and Listen to Me
A Girl is a Treasure, but Still Unrefined
A Daughter Must Heed or be Made to Mind.

Meredith Mine, Sweet Recalcitrant Child
Is Ever So Dear and Yet Ever So Wild
Instruct Her, I Pray You, in Keeping the Home
To The Gentle Complaint of the Metronome.”

She sets the copper arm a-swingin’





and the players all lean in with narrowed eyes.

(Three, Two, One)

“No no, Meredith, sailors must never be looked in the eye.”

“No no, Meredith, emotions and petticoats must stay hid.”

“No no Meredith, only embroider if you’ve given up hope.”

“No no Meredith, I shouldn’t be seeing a… Mother of Satan, I’m rusty.” Mewsy sucks back a dose of the syrupy liquor and kicks the clock up a notch.


“No no Meredith, ladies can never be seen to snigger.”

“Now now, Meredith, a good bust covers a host of sins.” (Nice!, Ginger-Ann grins.)

“Now now Meredith, even the plainest can make herself useful.”

“No no Meredith, you’re making a spectacle out of yourself.”

“You’ve used that before,” Ginger chides, and chuckles. “You hear that one often at Preparatory?”

Gams pours Mewsy out another half ounce of the sludge.

“Gosh — well — gosh, I suppose I must’ve.” Mewsy swallows her medicine manfully. “It strikes me this penalty worsens my stupour.”

“It’s your poncy game.”

“It’s not mine, hun, I’m merely the bearer. Typhoid Mewsy.”

“Quit stalling and saddle back up.”

The gals gird their loins and moisten their lips.