Effie and The Dreamer sat in the Milk Soda café drinking skinny cheap dank coffees and nibbling stale rice flour langues de chat. She had been reading Avarice and the Duchess by Francine Patel and rather liked the idea of nobbling a rich man for his money, and quite soon at that. Certainly before the next rent payment was due. She had spent everything on a polished book rest from the Calabash, the City’s bijouterie and food market. She marvelled at her own wickedness and how she would confide it to Effie Farthing as soon as possible.
The Dreamer was a dog who resembled a ringleted grey cat. He was hiding under a chair licking a pool of melting ice cream a former patron had spilled onto the tiles.
Effie had a withered leg and because of this was entitled to Pence from the Lord of the Manor. Pence was doled out to those in need and the Lord never troubled the recipients with droit de seigneur, which was a shame in Effie’s opinion. He would be an ideal candidate for good ripping off.
Soon Effie spied Claudie coming down the cobbled street carrying a pink fur muff and a basket full of dolls for the doll’s hospital. She was a kind of ambulance, Effie thought. Collecting the wounded and lacking in buttons; going from door to door and making many coins for her trouble from the dollmistress as they sat and stitched and glued and bandaged together.
“Hey, Effie! Come along with me, I am going to buy a new pair of camiknickers!” she cried startling several old ladies. The Dreamer jumped up and curled his lip.
“ Fat, juicy.” He was aroused by Claudie’s ankles and her basket of dolls. “ Chew-chew” he snickered until Effie smacked his black nose and he whimpered.
“ Of Effie! He hates me!”
“I don’t. I don’t . I loves yer. Biteybots” slurped The Dreamer shuffling back under the table to stare and gloat at leggies.
Claudie and Effie were whispering now and he could smell Effie’s parfum de toilette which was a little mousey and sporranish to his sharp olfactory nerves.
Effie and Claudie were talking about some man Claudie had picked out in the Calabash.
Effie grew pouty and a bit puffy and huffy which she did when Claudie mentioned men. Her leg troubled her at such times and she scratched at its embroidered splints.
“ Claudie, do you have to speak in such a way?” she cried secretly happy at such vicarious thoughts.
“ Well. now, Effie. I only said how well polished he was and how nice his hands were. When he put them on my behind!”
Effie drew out a little purse and pretended to take a pill. She always did this to make people feel sorry for her and it made her feel romantic and Bronte-ish. She was on the Pence, cut her own hair and was hardly likely to catch any man’s attention. The two women’s heads moved closer and Effie’s eyes started to glaze in a bored aroused reverie as she listened to all the details of this fine fella’s attributes.
His hands. His coat. His groin. His ears. His wife.
“His wife!” Effie groaned. Really, Claudie was a wonderfully awful person. She reached down and patted the Dreamer who nuzzled and whined. He loved the Ladies especially this Lady who gave him cut price chopsueys and her last sausage pie.
After a few further minutes by the Clock In The Wall which towered over the brasserie The Dreamer started to get very powerful urges.
His black lips drooled with saliva as he ogled the basket of dolls. One doll was hanging out her stiff arms trying to escape whilst a fat teddybear with an eye missing pushed her up and over the twisted rattan edge.
The little dog suddenly rushed yapping and biting and the basket overturned and many of its inhabitants tried to escape pushing and shoving each other in their attempts towards freedom. Dolls and animals scarpered everywhere, some crawling where legs were missing, some hopping, some hobbling on their unsteady unmended cotter pin joints, spilling sawdust and stuffing. A mohair giraffe was promptly knocked over by a man on a penny farthing and lay in a gutter with one trembling leg stuck out in agonies of puppetry.
Effie jumped up too in dismay. Her leg gave way and she toppled onto Claudie who knocked over a parasol and two chairs and lay showing her rose red pantalettes.
The Dreamer promptly rushed over and bit Claudie on one of her plump little thighs and she kicked and screamed at him so much he ran over the road into the Calabash dripping blood from his snout and his lead trailing and tripping up the clientele who clapped and batted at him with umbrellas and string bags.
The two women lay cursing on the ground covered in bits of fluff, gore and shavings until a soldier rushed over to help them up.
Of course, Claudie was crying the most and had pulled up her skirt to reveal a bite and an extensive amount of half-price silk knickerage. The soldier daubed and dabbed at the wound with a small flag of courage he kept rolled in his jacket.
Effie was trying to cover her torn blouse with a serviette because her vest was on view which was a criminal offence in Town Law. She found a pin which a doll had dropped and secured her frontage as well as she could.
The soldier stroked and coddled Claudie who grew quite dreamy and consoled as he was most handsome.
She almost forgot about her dolls indeed.
Effie was collecting them now, scooping them into her bassinette handbag, they were mostly crying and penitent and glad to be safely shut up- as toys generally are, after adventures.
The wanton giraffe was also retrieved after a small boy was bribed with a sip of brandy from Effie’s thimble-bottle.
They settled down to rest and weep and mope and the waitress brought them fresh sets of coffee ordered by the soldier and also produced a sharp warning from the concierge about their vicious little pooch.
But where was The Dreamer? Effie was inconsolable with grief and tried to rise to find him but her poor leg shuddered and failed…
Meanwhile that tarte Claudie was firmly settled on the soldier’s fine cavalry twill lap twirling his epaulette fringes with one red fingernail.
Where was The Dreamer? He was flying through the market grabbing at purses and pearls and sausages and fresh cooked pies!
His avarice was satiated, his greed fulfilled!
“ Wowf! Wowf! Shree!”
He was the best and fastest of cat-dogs, the baddest and the bravest animal to run through a Calabash. His wings unfurled and he flew through the air above the City and its rules and regulations!
He would go home that night at five past twelve and bring his mistress three pork chops and a fine mouthful of jewellery and enough golden Pence to buy a pile of calfskin gilt edged books and a fine gigolo in an apartment in the clouds!
That is if he didn’t get shot by that black rifled marksman in the Clock in the Wall Tower first.
Veronica Aldous 2016 All rights reserved