By the same author
|© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland|
Chapter 9 - Derriere, croupe or-oh my gosh-bottom!
'We were both kind of puzzled after Mister Hildebrand told us that the house name had been changed to Roswell,' said Priscilla in a subdued voice, as she folded up the photocopies of the information from the Real Estate office.
It was almost ten o'clock and the Black family, with the exception of Mathew who had been delayed at a post-production meeting and Amelia, who could be heard rattling around in the kitchen, were settling down for the night. Priscilla and Monique were both in pyjamas, sitting cross-legged on their beds with only a desklamp lighting the room.
'This "Roswell", it has a meaning to you, Yes?' queried Monique, frowning uncertainly.
'Yes...Well sort of. It's just...Oh it's silly really...Only Henry said it reminded him of the T.V. show.'
'A television program?'
'Yeah, um, it was the name of this series about aliens who come from a U.F.O. It was supposed to be set in a place called Roswell in America...somewhere,' Priscilla ended, a little lamely.
'Oh, I see,' said Monique. The hint of a smirk crossed her face. 'You don't think that an American television series could have anything to do with real life in a house on the other side of the world, surely?'
Priscilla shook her head, 'No, not the series, that wasn't based on actual events, but Henry says that there really is a place called Roswell, and that a long time ago, like fifty years I mean, there was a story that a U.F.O. actually crashed near it. I mean, I know that's just a coincidence...except for our dream experience and that chain-ring, and a whole lot of other screwy details like why did the nameplate get taken down again and stored in the attic?'
'This place Roswell, do you have a world atlas?' suggested Monique, her fingers absently stroking the peridot ring on its chain around her neck.
'Yeah, er, it should be amongst that pile,' said Priscilla, scrambling off the bed and rummaging through several stacks of various annuals, school textbooks, novels and books about animals. 'Here it is,' she said, dragging it out from beneath a complete set of Lord of the Rings.
'Bring it into the light,' beckoned Monique, and together the girls flipped through the index until they found what they were looking for. 'There are two Roswell's in North America,' Monique pointed out, 'one in New Mexico and the other in Georgia, which one would it be?'
Priscilla rubbed at her ear, 'Don't know, but maybe we could find out tomorrow on the internet, now that Louis has it set up. We can say we're just curious if they ask.'
'If you can get them off it, you mean,' said Monique, 'Henry practically had to be amputated from his games, especially that boxing one.'
'Henry, I suspect, is still thinking about Mister Sole. He did say that he was right about a sock.'
Priscilla grinned, 'Yes, Hildebrand, Sole and Assoc. The word is actually short for associates, but the way Henry read it, it came out "a sock," and that's what he'd like to give Mister Sole.'
Monique lifted her foot. 'He wants to give this Morris Sole his...sock?'
Priscilla giggled. 'Not like we wear, like a sock in the kisser...You know, a smack in the mouth!'
'Ah! Bouche! It is like, gob-smacked!'
'Yes!' hissed Priscilla, clapping her hands and then both of Monique's. 'You know I can't get over you being so black and then having that beautiful French accen...' Priscilla froze. 'Oh! Please forgive me Monique, I didn't mean anythi...'
'Do you think I would take offence at your words?' Monique smiled, and it was such a pure and sweet smile that it reminded Priscilla of Whoopi Goldberg at her best. 'You are white, Australian, and you are proud of it. I am black, French-African, and I am proud of it. We do not have to be concerned with this correction of the politics. Your Father Mathew is a friend of my Father and my Mother.' She winked. 'And we are the BlackEagle Girls. Remember?'
Tears glistened at the corners of Priscilla's eyes. 'Oh my dear,' she managed, wiping them away before they could catch hold, 'I just thought...I just didn't want you to think...'
'We have known each other for only a few days,' Monique replied solemnly, 'and already we are aware that we are destined to become close friends, no matter what may happen.' She waved her hand as if brushing the issue aside. 'Now, this Two-twenty-two B. Because of your curiosity the pussy-cat is out of the bag and you know what curiosity did to it.'
Priscilla nodded, 'Um, killed the Cilla. Although in this case I figger Dad won't mind that we found out about it. After all, he told me who the agents were and where to go. You heard what Mum said, "I really don't know what all the fuss is about? Somewhere inside your father there's a little boy just bursting to get out. I'm sure he must have been like Henry as a child." Fancy Mum saying that!' Priscilla giggled, 'I sometimes wonder whether she sends herself up on purpose.'
'You think she is not as...' Monique searched for a suitable word, 'simple as she appears?'
'Well...She is an actress and a bit self centred, but she's definitely not dotty. Dad wanted to keep the other block of land as a surprise, and then so many things happened, what with him bringing you all the way from Cape Town, and your parents and everything.' Priscilla frowned.
'What is it?' Monique asked, looking concerned.
'I wonder what he has in mind?' said Priscilla, vaguely gazing out through the window at the dark velvet of the night. A single star winked away and the moon hung low, outlining the tall, shrouded tree on the border of Two-twenty-two A and B where it loomed higher than the house. 'Oh never mind, I suppose he'll tell us when he has time.' Priscilla shook her head, as if throwing off such minor thoughts. 'Anyway, we have more important things to think about.'
'Right, such as what's up in the attic. Henry said that he saw other things, boxes of books, who knows? That is, until we get a chance to take a look.'
'You want to go up there, without permission?'
'Hey, Monique, who says we have to have permission? Dad only told us not to go up there until he had the old stairs checked out to see if they were safe. O.K. Henry checked them, and now it's our turn. We're really doing this as a service to the adults, get it?'
Monique grinned, 'Yes, I get it, and so will both of us if we are caught.'
'And that's just it Monique, we're teenagers, we don't get caught. We're too smart.'
Monique gave her best Whoopi Goldberg smile, 'And how are we going to get away with this?'
Priscilla hugged her shoulders, 'I'm a pretty good actress, think I'll have to fall down outside and hurt myself. You'll need about a half an hour. Tomorrow, just follow my lead.' She hopped beneath the sheets and settled in. 'Time for lights out, goodnight Monique.'
Monique reached over and turned off their light. 'So it will be me that climbs up into the attic,' she whispered in the dark.
'You do that, but I've got the hard bit. Well one of us has to do it. Take a torch with you.'
'A flashlight, do you mean?'
'Yeah, a flashlight.' There came the sound of Priscilla yawning. 'Be ready after breakfast, ummn... goodnight.'
As it turned out, Priscilla didn't have to deliver a convincing performance of near hospitalisation, because in the morning during breakfast, Grandma Black announced that both Henry and Louis were due to visit the dentist for their annual check-up that coming Thursday.
'What about Cilla, and Monique too,' moaned Henry, doing his best to share the burden of a dental safari with all and sundry.
'Priscilla has already been three months ago when she had to have a tooth filled, remember?' said Amelia Black, briskly buttering toast and fanning it out onto various plates like some sort of card sharp. 'She won't need to go again for some time, and as for Monique...' Grandma Black's eyes sought out Mathew, for clarification.
'Oh!...Er...Well...Erm,' Mathew seemed somewhat uncertain, 'I...Well Monique, when did you last have your tee...'
Monique flashed a brilliant smile, and Priscilla could have sworn that she saw a glint of light sparkle off the polished enamel.
'I should say that Monique's dental status is near to perfect,' said Rachael, sipping at her Earl Grey tea. 'I think, Amelia, that the girls might stay at home and amuse themselves, if you could get the boys off to V.J. From our last time in Melbourne, he seems to be just such a very good dentist. I would do it myself of course, if I had a chance, but there's still work to be done on the courtroom scenes. The dialogue requires attention, and I don't intend to allow this writer to destroy my character without some resistance.' Rachael said this writer as if she was talking about something distasteful at the bottom of her teacup.
Grandma Black nodded, stone-faced. Her thoughts remained private, though her ample bosom swelled, almost it seemed, to near overflow. 'Mollie is coming on Thursday, so it won't be as if the girls will be unsupervised,' she managed, passing plates.
'Then that's settled, ' Mathew concluded, noting Henry's gloomy look. After all, it was one thing to go to the executioner's chopping block with others in tow, and nowhere nearly as satisfactory with only your older brother to share the agony.
'Don't worry chum,' said Louis bravely, 'I'll be with you every step of the way.'
'That's what I thought you'd say,' muttered Henry, and this time he didn't purse his lips; his tongue was far too busy checking for cavities.
After breakfast, while Louis and Henry were washing the dishes, Priscilla and Monique had a quiet conference at the clothes line in the back garden as they pegged out sheets and pillow cases. 'Dad says he'll be out doing some prep work at Lawford's studios for this new project in Tasmania the rest of the week, and Mother is going into the Channel to create hell for anybody who wants to try her on, so...'
'So, we will have a chance to be by ourselves and look into the attic on Thursday,' interrupted Monique.
'Almost too good to be true,' Priscilla replied, 'even the plumber and electrician finish up today. No more drilling and sawing. But we'll still have Mollie to contend with.'
'Bis Mollie,' said Monique, her mouth now full of pegs, 'Bho's she?'
'She's a, "whorlwind, a cleanin' superwomen I am, and I can clean the pants off any mortal man! And I don't take kindly ta interference, so mind how you go." '
Monique looked sideways at Priscilla. Withdrawing the pegs, she said, 'You do a very passable Irish accent.'
Priscilla grinned, 'Oh Mollie's easy, well at least her accent is. I'm just hoping we can do our snooping while she's frantically vacuuming downstairs.'
Later that day Fate, in the form of Henry, came to the aid of the girls once more.
'Hey Sis! Come and take a look at the internet, I've found some stuff on Roswell,' he called through the open kitchen window.
Priscilla and Monique gathered their empty plates and glasses from the outdoor table and hurried inside. 'Henry sure doesn't forget things, and his curiosity can be very helpful at times,' said Priscilla, depositing the dishes in the dishwasher, which had finally been connected just before lunch.
In the living room, the girls found Henry sitting at the computer, scrolling through pages of documents on the screen. 'Aw, all the stuff about aliens crashing in the desert is just a beatup,' he complained disappointedly. 'See, here at the end, the U.S. Airforce said that what had first been reported as a U.F.O. was only the wreckage of a weather balloon.'
Priscilla began to read out-loud over Henry's shoulder, 'Air Force activities...over a period of many years...now represented to have occurred...two or three days in July Nineteen-forty-seven. Aliens were actually anthro...po...what is that word?...morphic?'
'Dummies! No not you two, that's what it means' said Henry, enjoying himself, 'test dummies. See it says so here.'
'Oh yeah...carried aloft by U.S. Air Force...high altitude...for scientific research. Claims of alien bodies at the New Mexico, Roswell Army Air Field hospital were most likely a combination of two separate incidents: nineteen-fifty-six...aircraft accident in which eleven Air Force members lost their lives, and fifty-nine... balloon mishap...two Air Force pilots were injured...Balloon Project, code name MOGUL...Records located describing research carried out under the MOGUL project...most of which were never classified... Reports of military units that always seemed to arrive shortly after the crash of a flying saucer to retrieve the saucer and crew, were actually accurate descriptions of Air Force personnel engaged in anthro...po...morphic dummy recovery operations. Phew! What a mouthful!' said Priscilla, drawing breath.
Monique continued, 'This report is based on thoroughly documented research supported by official records, technical reports, film footage, photographs, and interviews with individuals who were involved in these events... Well there you are Henry, it seems that your house and its name have nothing to do with flying saucers and aliens. The Roselli's must simply have liked their idea of the name spelling.'
Henry turned and looked up from the screen, 'A'course, I knew that all the time. It's just that Priscilla seemed a bit spooked when she heard what our house was called. Anyway, Gizzard'll be happy having the old name plate to sit on. And since the house doesn't have a name anymore, we could think up a new one.'
'Yes, you could do that Henry,' nodded Monique, 'or perhaps the old name Roswell could be returned? Why do you think it was taken down?'
Henry lifted a hand to the back of his neck and pondered. 'Maybe...Maybe because of the war! That was about the time of the second world war...and the Roselli's were Italian weren't they?'
'So?' said Priscilla, impatiently.
'Hey Sis, I know I don't know very much, but I'm thinking I know more than you know, if you know what I mean.'
'You'll know a kick up the backside if you don't get on with it,' Priscilla prompted.
Henry turned his head to one side and back again, 'Italy. The second world war. I'm sure Italy was with Germany. The Roselli's were from Italy. Bet they weren't very popular here in Melbourne. Bet it wasn't a good time to have a name plate.'
'And what would you know about the second world war?' Priscilla goaded.
'Com'on Cilla, I read, you know? I like all that stuff about what happened a long time ago. I'm into all sorts of subjects. It's good for me. Just you wait until next year when I get into Hopewell!'
'So much for aliens,' muttered Priscilla, as she and Monique pulled at the weeds overgrowing the rose beds along the front drive.
'Your Grandmother certainly likes to keep us busy, and I don't mind helping while I wait for news of my parents, we never had a garden of our own that I can remember,' said Monique, heaving at a particularly stubborn clump which gave way suddenly so that she was unceremoniously dumped upon her rump, legs in the air, still clutching the reluctant undergrowth.
For a moment, Priscilla forgot about everything else and laughed. 'Wow! that sure isn't your best view!'
Monique tried to right herself, and then rolled over, 'Lucky your brothers aren't here,' she managed, seeing the funny side, 'I should be most embarrassed.' She sat up and regained her kneeling position, brushing soil off her dress. 'But seriously Priscilla, if we can be serious after I fall over and show off my derriere, or is that croupe? My French is not so good when it comes to feminine and masculine...'
'Bum?' suggested Priscilla. 'Pretty unrefined, but it says it all in English,'
Monique lowered her eyes, 'Yes of course, well anyway, it seems like we are getting nowhere. The idea of aliens was just so foolish really. Although I must admit that I am at a loss to find an explanation about this ring and our dreams...'
'Were they dreams?' Priscilla asked, going over the past few day's events for the umpteenth time. 'How could they be dreams? We know we both had the same experience, doors were unlocked, and the chain and ring were discovered, and we had some kind of fantastic...sort of...'
'Visions?' Yes, that is so, but is it true, I wonder?' pondered Monique. 'See it as if you were somebody else. What would they think? Perhaps that we were both hallucinating? That we sleepwalked. That nothing actually happened. That all this is just a trick of our imagination. We have nothing but coincidences...'
'Uh Uh! We have,' said Priscilla, determinedly, 'whatever we can find in the attic.'
Just before dinner the phone rang. Grandma Black answered. Following a short conversation, she called Monique, who was in the downstairs bathroom, cleaning up after their working bee in the front garden. Louis, Henry and Priscilla magically appeared, lurking around the hall, trying to look invisible.
'It's Mathew,' said Amelia as Monique entered the kitchen. 'You can talk to him here. He has some news about your parents.
'They've found the trucks!' Monique burst out, having hung up after her brief conversation, which was mostly all from Mathew's end.
'Who's found what trucks?' said Henry eagerly, bounding into the kitchen ahead of Priscilla and Louis.
'The South African Authorities I suppose, I don't know: police, military. All your Father said was that two empty trucks, like the ones seen at our hotel in Cape Town, had been discovered close to the Botswana Zimbabwe border.'
'How do they know the trucks were the ones that took away your Mum and Dad?' asked Louis, practical as usual.
'They found a plastic hotel disk, like the ones that come on keys, slipped into the back of a seat. It was from our hotel and it had our room number on it!' Monique was shaking with fear. The whites around the pupils of her eyes seemed to have enlarged and the cords in her neck were standing out as if they might suddenly snap. 'My parents have been taken, against their will, over the border, I know it, They've been taken into Zimbabwe!'
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