Leaping from tall building to tall building to short one and then “Ouchee!” a church spire, Our Heroine looks down and locates the right window. With a double-back flip-floppy bound, triple toe-axle and shimmy, she flies through the glass, landing with ease beside a stove on which a pot is gently simmering. She plies in ballet position 4.
“Where is it?” she asks, easily the most well-groomed and self-possessed in the small kitchen, despite her unconventional journey.
A young, harrassed-looking woman points mutely at a bowl of batter. On her hip is a child, maybe 3 or 4, eyes wide with amazement at the turn the evening has taken.
In a single, fluid, panther-like motion Our Heroine is at the bowl. Lifting one arm, she examines the lining of her long, dark and extremely well-tailored cloak and appears to mull something over briefly. “Hmm. A titanium-tipped Smith&Oliver 3000, I think. This sucker’s already starting to form lumps.”
With a flash of silver, she pulls out the eggwhisk and turns to her task.
“Close all the doors and windows, and hold on to the child!” she orders, her bluey-greeny-greyee-browny eyes, flashing and alive with a burning, other-worldy intensity.
The lights dim of their own accord, as if aware that their brilliance is not required right now; knowing, some-mysterious-how, that all the energy in the room will soon be concentrated in the batter-bowl.
Our Heroine begins. A low hum fills the room and she lowers the eggwhisk into the batter, wincing as she does so: this part can sometimes get messy real quick and she’s only used the Smith&Oliver once before. At the ambassador’s party, wasn’t it? The macaroons. But there’s no time for such idle thoughts – the lumps are bobbing on the surface now. Blee!
With a mighty plunge she thrusts the eggwhisk into the bowl and the lights dim even further. The hum is getting so loud now that the child and her mother cover their ears. The lights wink out. The hum rises. It’s almost screaming, and a golden light is emanating from the bowl as sparks of green and gold fly onto the laminated counter-top. Tomorrow, only a few singe marks on the linoleum will convince little Lucy that it wasn’t all a dream. Right now, The Mysterious Lady’s arm is just a blur, moving impossibly fast, her face a grim mask of concentration.
The curtains on the window are starting to flap as the whisking continues; the young woman’s patched, worn skirt starts to tug her in towards the bowl. Soon pieces of paper and napkins are whirling in a tornado above the counter. The child, Lucy, reaches up to catch a passing pepper-pot and her mother feels her grip begin to loosen on her daughter. A curtain tears loose and books are flying off the shelves, drawn inexorably, irresistably towards the batter-bowl…
The child screams.
And then there is calm. No sound, save that of old recipe cards twirling softly, eerily to the floor. The lights flicker back on.
Comes a voice, matter-of-fact, yet warm and tinkly: “That’s me, then! Just pop in the frying pan now, with plenty of good butter and a twist of pepper and, Bob’s your uncle, the lightest, fluffiest ommelettes your guests will ever eat this side of the pearly gates. What’s the occasion? Husband having his boss over for dinner?”
“N-n-n-no” stammers the young woman “His mother…awful woman…will be looking for dust and a four-course meal, but we can only afford eggs while Jimmy Jr’s out of work, you see. But, see…she doesn’t know he’s out of work and…it all seemed so hopeless half an hour ago…I can’t even boil an egg, far less make a moist, fluffy and delicious ommelette with one and …Oh!… How can I ever thank you?”
Our Heroine turns and regards the young woman kindly. She looks tired, she thinks.
“Just bring me a fresh towel please and I’ll be on my way. I think I’ve got some batter on my cloak.”
Not half a minute later, the young woman returns to the kitchen with the towel and gasps at the sight before her. For in that time, The Mysterious Lady has somehow, incredibly, set a full, sparkling table with a standing rib-roast steaming softly in the centre, surrounded by tasteful flowers and delectable-looking side-dishes.
The doorbell rings and she turns her head, in confusion towards it. When she looks back, The Mysterious Lady, Our Heroine, is gone. The young woman rushes to the window – there is nothing, noone. But, looking up into the darkening sky, she fancies for a moment she sees an extra twinkly star and could it be?… a shower of green sparks…? The doorbell rings again and she moves to answer it.
Moments later, in a dining-room in Ojai, a problemchildbride enters, looking breath-taking in a silk, inky-blue dress.
“Darling! There you are!” says her ProblemHusband. “Our guests are ready for some of your famous Baked Alaska.”
“Why, of course” says the problemchildbride and, spinning smartly on one heel, she glides towards the kitchen. As she leaves the room, noone notices her smoothing a tiny lock of stray hair from her otherwise immaculate bouffant, back into place, eyes twinkling merrily.
“”I think I’ve got some batter on my cloak.”” she says, almost scornfully, to herself. “I NEVER allow foodstuffs to get on my cloak. Still, I couldn’t let that young woman see how it’s done. But…wait… where was the child? Did she see? Oh buggrit! I really don’t want to have to kidnap another one…”