Let’s Put It This Way
“Minor emergency, Miss Froop. Could you spare a moment?”
“Of course, Mr Notch. What is it?”
“I have to go out for the day shortly, but I must deal with this first. You’ve heard that Fenella Grossbeak died yesterday?”
“Well, old Tom Billingsworth phoned me a few minutes before you came in. He still edits the local rag, you know, and he wants us to produce a quick obituary. He needs it this afternoon. Now, am I right in thinking that you and Fenella were once good friends?”
“We were acquainted, but never close. In fact our paths haven’t crossed for eight years and eleven months.”
“Ah, yes. That would be since the . . . er . . . thing with that South American racing driver. I believe your three names were linked.”
“That’s something I no longer think about, Mr Notch.”
“No, of course not. Do forgive me. I didn’t mean to rush in where angels fear to tread.”
“Please don’t concern yourself, Mr Notch. It’s a thing of the past, long forgiven and forgotten. Just a dim memory. How can I help?”
“I’d like to whip out a few words, just as they come to me, and make use of that wonderful decoder in your mind to put it into sensible English. Sort of employ your facility for simultaneous translation, eh?”
“Certainly. If you’d like to dictate, I’ll take it down and do what is necessary.”
“Excellent. Let’s get going.”
Sprawling back in this chair and steepling his fingers, Notch speaks. Froop writes.
Notch: How shall I start? Yes, I think I have it. Fenella Grossbeak was a thoroughly modern socialite, at home in the smartest of sets, yet not too proud to show herself in some of the less fashionable spots.
Froop: She was a latter-day courtesan who would gatecrash anywhere, but was most comfortable in the demimonde of cheap fleshpots.
Notch: Although gregarious enough, even perhaps a trifle boisterous at times, Fenella didn’t seek the limelight and was, especially in recent years, reticent about exploiting her social connections.
Froop: Owing to her loud-mouthed vulgarity, she was gradually excluded by anyone who mattered, and became more accustomed to snakes than ladders.
Notch: Fenella was a warm, loving, even passionate person, comfortable in the company of both sexes. Her women friends often commented on her sparkling wit, while men seemed to see a more profound meaning in her repartee.
Froop: Promiscuity came as naturally to her as breathing. Women went in constant fear of her toxic tongue, while almost everything she said to any man amounted to a come-on.
Notch: Fame spreads quickly nowadays and Fenella’s name was familiar to many people in South America, largely through her intense interest in motorsports, which she did much to promote, as she was closely associated with morale-building of teams below the Tropic of Capricorn.
Froop: She was equally notorious on both sides of the Atlantic, having shacked up with at least half a dozen car-crazed men before she made the Hispanic continent too hot to hold her.
Notch: Shortly after returning from the southern hemisphere, she continued her family’s long association with the armed services – her grandfather was a naval officer, her father a long-term army man. She visited troops all over Britain, doing much to keep up their spirits.
Froop: On being kicked out of South America she came back to Britain. Always on the prowl for men, she presumed on her family background to invite herself to a number of army camps. She was particularly addicted to non-commissioned officers and quickly acquired the nickname ‘Sergeants’ Mess’. Her notoriety led to the armed forces barring her from all their establishments.
Notch: Following her all too brief spell in the newspaper industry, Fenella, through her astute grasp of the world around her, became a woman of independent means. After her tragically early experience of widowhood, borne with characteristic fortitude, she steadfastly rejected further matrimonial involvement.
Froop: After a six-month dabble in the press world, she looked over the field, snared a demented octogenarian, ‘exerted’ him to death, then lived off his estate for the rest of her life. No other man worth having would give her the time of day.
Notch: Despite the prominence that could have assured her of continual media attention, Fenella shunned the esteem that she might have sought by espousing public causes.
Froop: She was totally egocentric, invariably snubbing those who tried to get her to spend one penny or one minute on anyone but herself.
Notch: Up to the end, Fenella made public appearances, though understandably with decreasing frequency. Her stamina in maintaining a daunting round of commitments was astonishing. She was often on her feet for ten hours running, at a number of venues, sustaining herself with a glass or two of good cheer.
Froop: She was ejected nightly from one or other of her diminishing circle of haunts, her capacity for hard liquor earning her the title of ‘most expensive guest in town’. The long hours on her feet were balanced by even more protracted periods of horizontality, a small fraction of them devoted to sleep.
Notch: After a long, brave battle against an insidious organic malady, Fenella succumbed, her condition having been aggravated by her courageous refusal to seek a less strenuous lifestyle. Her passing will cause the colours to be lowered in more than one place.
Froop: As a result of her stubborn rejection of repeated medical advice to mend her dissolute ways, the organs she battered so relentlessly hit back. Her loss will be felt chiefly in Scotland, where the flags will fly at half mast over numerous distilleries.
“That’s about it, Miss Froop. Now, I must go. I’ll be away until tomorrow morning, so perhaps you’d get that ready and deliver it. I’m sure there’s no need for me to stay and read it through.”
“Very well, Mr Notch.”
* * *