Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect – #96

A study in double entendres from the archives, wherein everyone is saying one thing and meaning another…


Noel began to wonder if his marriage was on the rocks once his wife began to taunt him with smoking implements during breakfast. Naturally, this prospect initially troubled him, as divorces could prove rather tiresome, what with lawyers poking around in bank accounts and hurtful but true accusations being flung about in a heated courtroom. There were simply far more interesting ways to spend one’s time, especially whilst everyone was still in The Hamptons for the summer, with galas and trysts and whatnot in full swing.

Perhaps it was best that he get directly to the point, if for no other reason than his Eggs Benedict were congealing and that simply wouldn’t do. “Is there something you wish to say to me, my love?”

Gertrude: “I have many thoughts I wish fervently to share with you, but the censors of our time will not allow most of them to be expressed. I do, however, believe I can ask this without incurring a penalty. Why are there salacious photos of swarthy men in your desk, third drawer on the right?”

Noel was surprised at this query, both by its nature and the fact that said photos were in the fourth drawer on the right, next to a bottle of gin and the head of a croquet mallet he had saved from his prep school years. Had Gertrude lost the ability to count as well as her love for him? “My dear, said photos are nothing to worry yourself about. They are simply reference items for my next play, one about society women who secretly dally with drunken sailors in the Lower East Side, a farce entitled ‘Blithely Spirited’. Tallulah Bankhead has already agreed to play the lead.”

Gertrude: “Well, I must admit that’s a rather nice save, with the name-dropping and all. I’ll have to reformulate my strategy. I suppose my next salvo will be asking why you must write about such decadent things.”

Noel: “My darling, we are drinking brandy at breakfast. I sense an abundance of black kettles. Wait, that’s a good line. I simply must jot that down. Do we still have a pencil servant on staff?”

Gertrude: “I trust you will understand my dismay at your diversionary maneuver. The abilities of our staff are not important. Your abilities in the bedroom that we briefly share once a month are much more germane. It has been quite some time since I encountered the head of a croquet mallet anywhere near our matrimonial mattress.”

Noel blanched, significantly so. This was far more directness than he intended to achieve. He glanced at the members of the Smut Advisory Council who were seated just off-camera, hoping said members would intervene and scuttle further directness. They did huddle briefly, but just as quickly one of them proffered a thumbs-up, indicating that Noel was on his own at this point. Damn it all, where was hypocrisy when you needed it? Noel took a deep breath. “Are you having issues with my conjugational performance?”

Gertrude scoffed, something that folks really haven’t done with any admirable success since the invention of emoticons. “Performance? A performance implies that you are actually doing something worthy of attention. You haven’t come anywhere near that in quite some time, which is probably why the Pencil Servant quit, out of sheer boredom.”

Noel, flummoxed: “Why would the Pencil Servant even be in our infrequent boudoir?”

Gertrude: “Birds of a feather, metaphorically speaking.”

Noel: “I’m at a complete loss.”

Gertrude: “That’s what I said. Many times. One can only do so much with a pencil that won’t write.”

Noel glanced again at the Smut Advisory Council. Surely this would inspire their interdiction? Alas, this was not the case. All three members were thumbing up with almost maniacal glee. Damn them again, the worthless lot. “So, are you saying that my pencil does not satisfy you?”

Gertrude: “Well, it did, once upon a time, before the lead went missing. And then I went antiquing on the Lower East Side, and I discovered there are a lot of things you can write with, and a pencil is just the beginning. I can’t wait until I’ve enjoyed the art of calligraphy, what with the large nib and the free-flowing ink. Which means that we must now part ways, and part of the parting involves our divorce. I’m sure you understand, as anyone who would wear a smoking jacket at breakfast must surely appreciate the art of finding a satisfying writing implement.”

Noel: “So this means…”

Gertrude: “Be true to yourself and go antiquing on the Lower East Side. We can still be friends.”


Previously published in “Crusty Pie” (just a single line) and “Bonnywood Manor” (the extended version above). Very tiny (no pun intended) changes made. And yes, if your mind went in a ribald direction with some of the lines, that’s exactly where I wanted you to go. Cheers.


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