Sunday, January 15th
Oh, how I wish I could thank you for the lovely tea. But I can’t. You know I took a vow of honesty for the New Year and I fully intend to keep it (unlike Millicent Klapper’s faux-vow of chastity, broken before the sun rose on the 2nd, if Itsy Rooney’s great-neice is to be believed and I see no reason why she shouldn’t be) so, in the spirit of honesty and also of friendship (and who, darling Annabelle, knows you better or longer than I, and for that matter, who could possibly have your interests closer to her heart?), I must take it upon myself to tell you that this evening’s little soiree was an unmitigated disaster. Not to put too fine a point on it, Annabelle, but it was a floperoo of the highest order; a fiasco supremo. There was nothing — nada, rien — to redeem it. I can just hear your reaction as you read this. “Be specific,” you’re saying, am I right? Of course I am and I am entirely prepared to enumerate.
Number 1: The tea. There wasn’t any. You served us hot water sans tea. As for that, even the hot water was luke. Darling, you poured your guests tap water and they sipped politely, pinkies delicately extended from the china-cup handles, and no one said a single word because everyone present (except for myself) is a blankety-blank toady.
Annabelle, you made a big, big, big mistake telling the immediate world how much of the green stuff (not to mention stocks, bonds, horses and real estate) Charlton left you — a big mistake. Now you don’t know who’s your real friend (like I am darling, of that you can have no doubt) and who is an unmentionable suck-up. Naming no names, but I distinctly saw Lucretia Emory do that eyebrow thing of hers when she noticed the plain water trickling out of that gorgeous Ming Dynasty tea pot (that is what you said, isn’t it darling, Ming? I always get my dynasty’s confused, but in any case, it is truly gorgeous, I love the way blue and white go together). And Fern Wannamaker responded with her eyebrow thing, so you can safely cross them off your Nearest and Dearest list.
I would have jumped to your defense then and there, or at the very least, elbowed you out to the kitchen to help you dump a handful or two of some leaves or whatever into the pot, but I could not move. Loomis Mingle-Dopper had a hand on my knee and she would not let up. Annabelle, what is it with Loomis? She was always a bore, but after her last marriage she’s turned into a maniac. Can she really think I have any interest in her cockatoo’s digestive system?
Okay, I can’t blame you for the bad behavior of your guests, but I do hold you responsible for the eats, which brings me to number 2. Annabelle, this is not the way to make watercress sandwiches: you do not buy some cheap doughy supermarket bread, smear it with Miracle Whip and slap down a sprig of unwashed parsley with a twig as long as one of Mabeline Dooley’s shoes. It is just not done that way. Allow me to add: you do not bake a kiwi-walnut cake unless you are prepared to peel the kiwi and remove every trace of walnut shell. I will be buying you a decent cookbook for your next birthday but until then I urge you — no, darling, I beg you — not to throw any more tea parties for your friends or even your phony friends.
I fear Charlton’s death has left you wealthy but nearly entirely unhinged. Perhaps you should plan some sort of a little get-away for yourself. May I suggest a cruise? I would be more than delighted to accompany you, darling, you only need to say the word. I do think a cruise would perk you up a little bit — change of pace, change of scenery — let someone else do the cooking for a while, and also you would get to wear your stunning jewelry and furs.
But most of all, it would take your mind off this bizarre scheme of yours. Sweetheart, your little tabby cat is indeed beautiful and there is even the possibility, which you insist on putting forth as a documented fact, that she is wise beyond her species. But Fluffy is not another Rembrandt no matter how you cut the mustard. I examined the canvasses closely, I really did, with my eyes open, and I will admit that they have a certain je ne sais quoi, but a cat’s paw dipped in vermilion and dragged across a blank canvas does not a masterpiece make, and I seriously doubt — seriously, Annabelle — that you will find a single reputable art dealer in any city in the world who will tell you differently. You may well uncover a slimy synchophant, if that’s the word I mean, who will lie through his pointy little teeth, especially if you continue flashing your money around wherever you go, but the truth of the matter is — and please remember, darling, I am devoted to the truth, as devoted as a nun to her rosary — the truth is that Fluffy is a fairly agreeable, nice as can be expected, lap cat. She is neither a prodigy, a genius, or the eighth wonder of the known world.
I am terribly worried about you Annabelle, you used to be such a sensible person and now you’re all jittery and forgetful and —alright sweetheart, you’re not going to like this, but I refuse to hold back when it comes to my best and oldest friend, which you are — I believe you are stepping over the line into delusional. There, I’ve said it. I know you will not take offense because you accept the fact that I am wedded to truth and honesty and friendship.
Alright now, the problem is out in the open. I have named the beast and we have both looked it squarely between the eyes. The only question is, what to do about it? I have already suggested one approach, a cruise, preferably around-the-world, which would give you enough time to return to your senses, with me as your traveling companion, to keep you from doing anything on board the ship that you might regret for the rest of your days. (Remember when Binkie Cavendish went on that Scandinavian cruise and came home with Boris? Oh, what a pickle that was!).
Another option to consider, my dear, is to rent a little cottage by the sea, somewhere on the coast of Europe, and just kick back your pretty little heels and relax. I wouldn't advise you to go off on your own, you know how lonely you’re apt to become even after a 2-hour solitary bath, so once again I gladly offer myself as your companion. We can walk the beach by day and play Scrabble in the evenings. Maybe drink a wee bit of that lovely green thing the Europeans like so much, what is it called, I always forget my foreign languages.
Doesn’t this all sound too utterly delightful? Just like that trip we took after our junior year in college, although Knoxville cannot be compared to the Continent, but still, you needed a change after that disaster with Herman Nuttbinder and I was, as I am now, at your side, the way a true friend always is, ready to whisk you off to greener pastures, and you must admit, darling, we did have fun that summer, you learned to ride without bobbing up and down like a jack-in-the-box and I met Wheatly, bless his poor dead soul, so we have a travel tradition you might even say.
This is just a suggestion, darling, I would never try to force you to do anything you didn’t whole-heartedly want to do. But listen to this, my cousin Loretta could take care of your Fluffy. I called her first thing this morning and she said she’d be happy to do it. She owes me big time after that insane quasi-affair with Mr. Bad Toupée, which I swore I’d get her out of and I did.
Just consider my proposals, dear Annabelle, and ring me up when you’ve decided. Rest assured, I am ready, willing and able to depart these frigid temperatures and icy roads — oh, did you hear what happened to Doris’ brand-new Cadillac last Thursday? Destroyed, that’s what, right in front of the Lakeside Country Club. Wouldn’t you think everyone knew by now never to try that turn if you’re not in a 100% sober condition? But that’s Doris Lassiter for you, always thinks she can handle more than she can.
In any case, I stand ready to leave on a moment’s notice, believe me no one can pack as quickly as I can. Nothing is too much to ask when it comes to friendship and you, my darling Annabelle, are my very best, my oldest, and my most treasured friend in the world. All you have to do is call, as the old song used to say.
Yours, devoted as always,