Friday, January 22, 2010


You can imagine our delighted surprise, Isabel's and mine, when we heard Mr. Heung uttering such remarkably proficient English. What's more, he absolutely appeared to understand the meaning behind the vowels he uttered.

"Hottie ladies?" he asked us so sweetly. And yes, we both said. We'd love some hot tea.

"Darjeeling," I specified.

"Ah, gucci, hottie darling," he repeated as he poured me a lovely cup of tea in an extraordinary blue delft set.

"Earl Gray," Isabel requested, and Mr. Heung promptly responded by pouring her a cup of the appropriate mix and saying "Ah, ugree hottie".

That Veronica girl stood behind him, positively beaming with pride. Certainly, she had been helping her new love with his verbal acuity. More certain was I still in Veronica's verboshish handy work when Paige Browning and Mimi Mondjack entered The Second Hand, looking all above it as they tended to do.

"No hottie", he said to them, shrugging and holding an empty tea pot.

"Well I never - " Paige huffed as Mr. Heung quickly pointed to Isabel and me saying "oh, we have hottie," and then pointed back to Paige and Mimi and explained "no hottie you". Paige and Mimi quickly left the store making some unpleasant comments while that Veronica girl scampered into a back room and let loose some outrageous giggles.

"He's a wise man," Isabel whispered.

But the point here is that Mr. Heung has indeed learned such a good bit of the English tongue from Veronica. I fear I may one day miss the charade games that Mr. Heung and I have played in our eager attempts at communication. How dull things could become when we're left to simply speak. Dull and sometimes troubling. Why just this morning, when Isabel and I made our now routine inventory search of The Second Hand for items slightly warm, Mr. Heung approached me and said, "fauk".

"I beg you pardon," I replied, admittedly a tad stunned. But then I saw the exquisite Reed & Barton fork in his hand and soon thereafter I caught on. "Oh, you lovely little man. Fork!"

Where ever did you get this, I asked, and Mr. Heung obviously found that this story required too much detail for a verbal exchange, and instead acted out a scenario that appeared completely to convey that he had found a large box by the back door this morning that was completely full of fine silver wear. All kinds, too. Gorham. Lenox. Reed & Barton. Veronica had been sorting thru them all morning, and it appeared that there were at least ten sets of silver wear place settings for twelve.

I pulled out my investigative journalism notes to compare the list I'd made of missing items with the contents of this box full of silver goodies. Not surprisingly, I determined the two a match. The Burglar, it appeared, was doing an about face. This, I had surmised, was the true essence of The Burglar all along. He had no mind to make off with other people's things and instead wished only to better a nice, hardworking immigrant. And why, then, not a few dozen homeless pets, as well.

Meanwhile, Mr. Heung rang up Babson and yelled excitedly into his end of the phone:

"Uh, silva fauk, thank you, thank you. No, No! Fauk a spoon a silva. Yes! Yes. Back doe. Ah, yes, yes." he gave a couple of smooch smooches over the phone and signed off with a "toodle oo you too" and gave a waive that I'm certain that Babson was unable to appreciate, being on the other end of the telephone as it were. Not a problem, she - Babson that is - appeared soon enough in The Second Hand, checkbook in hand as always and wearing a stunning Diane Schratweiser turquoise necklace not unlike the one that the police insisted upon holding.

"Well," she explained quite smartly, "I could hardly host an auction without including a quite-in-demand piece like this, so I got in touch with Ms. Schratwieser and commissioned this peice. I had intended on putting it up for bid, but when the artist learned that funds would be raised for our animal rescue, she insisted on donating a separate piece. So I treated myself to this one."

Now I don't mind admitting that my mind spent much of the rest of the day plotting my plan for winning the Schratwieser piece. But the point here is not Babson's new necklace, or even the sudden box of silver.

The point is the ruckus brought about by Constance Cortnoy who had apparently lost both her mind and a good bit of her dignity, as well. It all started at my women's club meeting, The Main Line Women's Club, a bit later that day. You see, Bitsy Finklestein had called a special meeting for the committee organizing the spring Tea Cup Drive. Seems she had received quite a poor response from needy organizations regarding our quite generous offer to fit them with tea service for their residents. Well, you can imagine that Bitsy was in a good bit of huff, as were Stella Matson-Ford and Gwin Bethnewsom. Naturally, having spent the considerable time that these ladies spent on such a worthy cause, upsetness was in the air.

"All of the meetings that we've held, and the fliers we've printed up, not to mention the tea cups we've gathered," fretted Stella, her hefty chunks of mascara smudging the eye area as she ranted, "all for not. Completely for not." Stella, it appeared, was about to ring up her lawyer and complain when Constance barged into the room, looking like a woman who had lost her hair brush, and quickly insinuated that Betsy Perkins and Grace Van der Dusen throw their own tailgate at the Malvern Races and avoid Constance's affair. She left just as swiftly as she arrived, yelling over her shoulder that she would not be serving salad at her tailgate and something about starting a new trend serving only 'finger food'.

Well you can imagine just how stunned we all were. Finger foods at a tailgate? Who could imagine a thing like that?

"Do you supposed she'll have napkins?" Lolly asked no one in particular. And Iggy Braithwaite questioned whether Constance was going to force fried chicken upon us. Katrina Wayne appeared close to tears, fearing that Eliahas would completely refuse to attend such an affair. Eliahas, as we all know, is fastidious about his fingers and would never get them messy by picking up food without a proper fork or spoon.

Meanwhile, Bitsy was left at the front of the room to stamp her foot and demand attention for the tea cups whilst the rest of the Ladies were more concerned about messy fingers. That is, almost all of the ladies, as Betsy and Grace were too teary to talk of finger food, instead wondering how they could ever enjoy Saturday's tailgates without a proper party to attend. Both were positive that Constance's insinuation that they were now excluded was a social slight of the highest caliber.

Things became all the more severe when Grace insisted that Ellen Holmsbee forgo the Cortnoy Tailgate so long as Grace was uninvited. Ellen, all too eager to please but all the more eager to fit in, flatly refused Grace's suggestion. That suggestion then became a friendship ultimatum that Betsy Perkins quickly put to Martha Beaudry. Martha, a fiery tempered red head quickly took up that cause, pulling her Blackberrie to her ear, ringing the Club and demanding that Constance be immediately and without haste dropped from the Club paddle tennis team.

Martha then relayed what she quickly learned from the Paddle Tennis team captain that Constance had cancelled her catering order for the tailgates and instead was seen at the local deli ordering a tray of sandwiches.

I quickly escaped the growing mayhem and skooted over to The Second Hand where Isabel awaited my arrival for tea and inventory. And wouldn't you know, but Isabel was naturally two steps ahead of me. Not literally, mind you. For she was not. Isabel sat at a table as cool, calm and regal as ever. But she knew. About Constance that is.

Incredulously, just as I began blurting out that Haitis' was overtaking The Main Line Women's Clubhouse, Isabel nodded to that Veronica girl and that's about when I noticed an ambulance alongside of the curb in front of The Second Hand.

"She has no silver place settings," Isabel whispered to me as she nodded her head towards Constance Cortnoy, who, at that moment was being lifted into the ambulance.

And though I have admittedly spent much of my adult life sitting in stunned disbelief, I now sat even more stunned and in more disbelief at Isabel's all knowing ways. And so I said so. That I was stunned and in disbelief, that is. Further, I asked Isabel just how she came by this conclusion.

"Well," Isabel explained in that understated manner she has, "moments ago Constance did appear in the shop, and she did appear to be out of her mind."

"She was making a mess searching like crazy thru the store and yelling at me 'where do I keep the silver wear'", added that Veronica girl, who was also patting Mr. Heung's shoulders as he appeared visibly shaken by the episode.

"I tella huh, no no fauk you. Baba son give fauk. Ah, she go wallup!" Mr. Heung fretted and acted out how Constance proceeded to smack him silly across his face.

Isabel sipped her tea and noted to Mr. Heung that this was quite a good brew and how good he was getting at the whole thing, and Veronic began putting some sized 8 clothing back on hangers that Constance had apparently ripped them from. But there was more to this story, I was sure. And I said so. That I was sure there was more to this story, that is. And there was.

"Why is Constance being taken away by ambulance?" I asked, quite reasonably I believe.

"Well, she flat out fainted when I told her we had about 10 sets of 12 place settings this morning, but that someone bought them all earlier in the day," Veronica updated me.

For a moment, just a moment, the four of us stared at one another with a knowing, conspiratorial look. And then I spoke. My hat! Where is my hat, I wanted to know. And at that moment Mr. Heung claimed to hear his phone ringing and that Veronica girl felt a strong need to just run from the store.

"Isabel," I nearly cried, "what will I do on Saturday without a hat?"

And Isabel, all knowing as she is, just patted my hand and sipped her Earl Gray.

Well, at the end of the day I found myself just all together too tired to write my column, and instead simply submitted the following:

Dear Readers,
I have come to an astonishing decision that I shall enjoy eating food without the aid of a fork. Do consider joining me in this adventure on Saturday, at the Malvern Races.
Ask Veronica

Sunday, January 3, 2010


My mind wandered, my shoulders were heavy and I had yet to see the finished hat that Mr. Heung had so long ago promised. You can imagine my fears. Had I acted out the wrong sequence of events for Mr. Heung? Possibly he thought I no longer wanted this festive thing upon my head. Or maybe, I'd completely misconveyed that I absolutely needed it by this coming weekend for the Malvern Races tailgates.

I fear I should not have left these finishing touches to his otherwise able hands. And just a small part of me regretted introducing Mr. Heung to that Veronica girl who has so otherwise drastically changed his whole life about and flung him towards happiness at high speed. You see, they do tend to spend most every waking minute in some happy sort of way gazing at one another and fretting about each others wants. Veronica has completely turned the charming Second Hand into such a chic boutique and such a popular spot, too. Especially on Wednesday's when she and Mr. Heung serve 'high tea'.

It's become so popular, and hence somewhat crowded and more difficult to conduct investigative journalistic endeavors within, that Babson, Isabel and I have had to set our alarms for earlyish hours and arrive at the Second Hand before noon. Otherwise, we would never be able to scour the inventory for suspiciously hot items and buy them up for our silent auction. At least not without causing a bit of a stir. Especially now that that nasty little insurance man, Mr. Kuflick, has been following my every move. Whats more, several of the town police men seem to be following me quite a bit, as well. They seem to be under the impression that I hold secret meetings with The Burglar.

Really all that these silly men have accomplished is to throw off my feeding schedule for the poor stray cats that I care for. You see, many of these strays, the cats that is, not the officers and the insurance man, are quite skittish and often entirely afraid of humans. Now, Isabel and certainly Eliahas Wayne would argue with me on including an insurance man in that category. Human, that is. Not skittish cat. Though Mr. Kuflick does strike me as a bit skittish. Or maybe just lonely.

Thats it. That is when I had such an outstanding idea that it almost hurt the sides of my head. Possibly, rising at such an early hour and setting off to my various investigations were causing a bit of a head knocker, too. But the other stuff all began to seem so plainly clear. About Mr. Kuflick, that is. He was lonely. That is why he became so angered at the thought of our lovely garden party. And that is why he had so much time to hunt down the man responsible for his employer being required to pay Eliahas Wayne such a large sum for a priceless violin.

And it was at precisely that moment, when I had this brilliant idea, that I ran into Lavalier Gormley. I was on my way to The Gryphon to see if I could spot Isabel and fill her up with my ideas, and Lavalier was on her way to the library to do something or other with books that she does on a regular occasion. She is very good that way, donating so much time to the inside of the building and it's contents.

Well, on and on she rattled to me about something or other needed for space and computers and rams in the library and how she thought that this years proceeds should feed them and not the gardens surrounding the building.

"Yes!" I nearly screamed, and luckily and grabbed her shoulders as I yelled or I think she was about to fall over. Lavalier insists that I have never agreed with her before and this enthusiastic response caught her quite by surprise. But I had more surprise for her. Dear Lavalier, so intent on reading about other people's lives and loves that she completely forgot to have either for herself. And no reason why not to, really. Just a bit of make up, a wig and some newish clothes and she'd be an all together not unpleasant looking person. Just perfect for my soon to be charming Mr. Kuflick.

"Lavalier," I asked her breathlessly, "would you be the great sort of friend who would help me, and the library, out in such a tremendously important task?"

I hugged her and enthused how much I knew I could count on her before she had an actual chance to say yes. But she got into the spirit of things, squeaking "whats this?" and "what are you up to?" as I grabbed her hand and lead her down the block towards The Second Hand.

Oh how pleased she looked when I explained that is was absolutely essential that she, Lavalier Gormley, must save our Garden Party fundraiser for the library by escorting Mr. Kuflick to the affair and charming into small, tiny little pieces.

"I've never charmed a man in my life, Abigail, and I don't see how you think I"d be able to do this for something so important." she insisted. But I insisted that it was because this was so important that is the precise reason why she was so perfect for the job. And besides, I guaranteed her as I deposited her at that Veronica girl's feet, Veronica has lots of experience charming men and I was positive that if Lavalier just zipped up her mouth and stopped fussing and pushing me away and let Veronica do a complete and total make over that she could, in fact, charm this Mr. Kuflick.

Exhausting it was, really, the whole. I had to run, and run fast, out of The Second Hand and then lean heavy against the door so as to keep Lavalier from escaping and chasing after me. But once Veronica and Mr. Heung got to her I was able to make my escape on over to The Gryphon where I was fairly certain Mr. Kuflick would be lurking in wait for me. And he was. Unfortunately, I had completely missed my opportunity at The Second Hand to demand my hat. Just not a good time, what with trying to stop Lavalier from getting away.

But the point here is that Mr. Kuflick was indeed waiting for me. As were Isabel and Babson, both looking a bit sickish and trying to convey some sort of unspoken message to me as I skipped on up to ol' Kuffy.

"You look like you've got something to confess," he said as I plopped down on a comfy chair next to the little wooden one he had perched himself upon. And I confessed to him that I did indeed have something to confess.

I explained how awful I felt about our exchange regarding the Garden Party fundraiser for the Library and that it was all because of my worry for my dear, dear friend Lavalier. Really, the most breathtaking of cerebrally types that I know and how I'd failed her in my promise to find a suitable escort to take her to this event. Then I gave him a slight hug and cheek to cheek and thanked him ever so for agreeing to take up the challenge and dazzle our Lavalier with his lovely little eyes and smart conversation.

Now, I will admit that more than once during this exchange I caught the what could only be described as horrified looks on the faces of Isabel and Babson. And as much as Mr. Kuflick protested that he would not be party to this party, I was convinced that this really was in his best interest. He was lonely. And as long as Mr. Kuflick was to be lonely, The Burglar, Mr. Petigrew, Mr. Heung and The Second Hand, and even I would have no piece.

I left off my chat with Mr. Kuflick with a little hand scribbled list of things that I thought would endear him to Lavalier, whom I described as a regal and intelligent creature who's mind guarded her heart, waiting for that perfect blend of intellect and serious nature. My list suggested that Mr. Kuflick brush up on the lives of the Bronte sisters, try some Burberry after shave and invest in a tie without a clip.

I was exhausted more the more when I finally sat with Isabel and Babson to go over the list of things we'd been able to find at The Second Hand and that Babson had so generously purchased. The purchasing, really, was the difficult thing as Mr. Heung kept insisting the be free and refusing to accept any currency for them. You know, being all hot as they were. And so we finally, with the fabulous help of Veronica, decided that Babson would only pay what Mr. Heung had paid out for the items. She assured him, Mr. Heung that is, that she was certain she would receive so much more back at the silent auction when their rightful owners found them, and that all of this would go to help our animal shelter. She called him a hero and I acted out the part of Batman to convey the meaning to Mr. Heung. I think he rather liked that.

But the point here is the problem. We'd been able to put together a fairly good list of things that had been taken by The Burglar and found at The Second Hand. Though we had recovered most of the jewelry, golf clubby type things, things with screens and wires and batteries and even Eliahas' violin, we hadn't recovered a single hat and not one piece of the scads of silver wear listed as missing.

I fretted about this as I took a long stroll round the block last night with Conroy Cortnoy. Such a nice man, and I think so desperately depressed about his job situation. Or, should I say lack thereof. As I said earlier, I'd lately had to adjust my feeding schedule for the local stray cats on my block, what with the police officers and Mr. Kuflick following all about. They scare of my furry little friends, you know. And so, in the quiet of a lovely late spring evening, I found myself in the happy company of Conroy, who didn't seem to scare off one cat at all. In fact, one of the little buggars came right up to him. A reddish little cat that I'd been trying to coax inside for weeks now.

But the point here is that I do have a dilemma. Well two dilemma's, really. My lack of hat for the tailgates this week and the lack of hats and silver wear for the Babson Hurley Silent Auction for the Benefit of the Wayne Animal Rescue Party. Naturally Conroy was confused at first, but he is such a nice sort. You know, anyone who can win the trust of a frightened little cat can win my trust too. And so, I filled Conroy in on our plans.

"Why thats fantastic!", he exclaimed. "So all of these nice people will get everything back." He is so, so dear and sweet. You know, he looked so personally relieved as if a great weight had been lifted from his little shoulders. And then he wondered if the police would stop looking for The Burglar if everyone got their things back.

I don't know, I confessed, but, I told him, that I was convinced that this Burglar very badly wanted to make amends.

But how, we both wondered, could he do that?

"He could brake back into people's homes and put everything back?" Conroy thought.

But then we decided that some of these folks had since installed alarms and if the dear man were to get caught - red handed as the case seemed, he'd be doomed. These were, after all, crimes. The kinds that carry stiff types of penalties.

And then poor Conroy became so overburdened by this poor Burglar's misery that he bolted away almost as soon as I told him that his dear wife Constance had certainly not purchased silverware services for 50 people at The Second Hand because The Second Hand has yet to carry any silverware. I guess he must have panicked thinking that Constance merely told him this to justify her going out and buying lots of brand new silverware for their tailgate party. And Conroy being out of work, too. She really needs to cherish this man a bit more.

Oh it was a very late night when I finally finished my column.

Dear Veronica,
I know a really, really cool woman who has just horrible taste in some of her things. Well, most of her things look okay, just too preppy for my taste. But her hats are really unreasonably ugly and she wants my boyfriend to help her make this one hat even uglier. I just like her too much to see her wear this freakish thing so I got together with this woman's husband and he agreed we should make a completely different looking hat that will look great and she won't have time to get another one. Is that okay?
Luv ya,
No Advice From Me

Dear No Advice,
Hats are such special things that I think you must be a really special person to help another person with her hat. In fact, I almost with I knew who you are so I could ask you to help me with my hat because the man that is supposed to be helping me seems to have forgotten. Good luck,

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Babson Hurley says that one should never have their photograph appear in print unless it is an engagement announcement or an obituary. Of course, Babson's photo appears in our Weekly's Society pages almost monthly, but that is strictly because she is far too well mannered to grab the camera from Garret Richmond's hands and smash it to pieces. Babson does not 'pose' for a photograph. She is merely 'photographed', and the two are entirely different things. Naturally Garret seeks out Babson at every function and does his best to frame her in a nice shot. After all, there really is no one else in town as stylish and all together fabulous as Babson. So of course Babson's pixel's decorate many a party page.

But the point here is that there are those that seek attention and those that do not. And there are also those that do not seek attention but attention seeks them, such as Babs Hurley. But this point is not about Babson but about Constance Cortnoy, obviously. Constance, being the obvious sort that seeks at attention when attention clearly does not seek her.

Not that Constance is completely without merit. She's quite organized, from what I'm told. And I understand she also a very accurate speller. Eleanor Saunders once told Isabel that she, Eleanor that is, not Constance, dreamed of mistyping the words 'heretofore' and 'henceforward' throughout the Women's Club newsletter as an assault to Constance's keen sense for wordiness. I will immediately admit that I don't quite understand the strategy of Eleanor's assault. But, having known Constance for most of our lives I absolutely get the gist of it. Eleanor and Constance, as you may probably guess, once co edited the newsletter. Eleanor had had her proverbial fill, of Constance that is, not the newsletter.

But the point here, or heretofore, is that Constance Cortnoy is a seeker of attention. And though her attempts are most certainly made in earnest, they often miss their marks entirely. And that is exactly what I said to Isabel and Lolly when I met them for coffee at the Gryphon and told them of Constance's email to Missy Jamison.

Now Missy is a sweet enough old gal. But dim really as a room without a window. More to the point, the most peculiar thing is that Missy has absolutely nothing to do with investigative journalism, she merely scribbles the ins our outs of the charity events for The Weekly's Society page. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Why really, isn't her page - or pages to be more accurate as she usually culls about eight of them on any given week, the most anticipated and widely read in the paper. That is, of course, until the enormous popularity of my own works.

But why, we all asked. Indeed. It's that attention seeking thing about her, don't you see.

Now, as anyone within ear shot of our little Wayne knows by now, a tremendously well mannered and good tasted burglar has been rummaging thru the coffers of some very fine neighborhood homes. And, as Isabel, Lolly Desjardin, Iggy Braithwaite and I have detected in a sleuthlike manner - taking off with the hats best thought to be in line to win the Most Beautiful Hat Competition at this years Radnor Races Tailgate.

Why, any fool or even a nasty insurance man like Mr. Kuflick would eventually come to reckon, those who's hats had been lifted were obviously not the One lifting the hats. And I was just the day before telling Iggy how I'd explained this theory to my editor, Mr. Petigrew, when old Constance emails this scoop to none other than Missy Jamison. No doubt the prim stick overheard me, as she was sitting in the row ahead of us at a meeting for the 'tea cup' drive.

So slight me she did, and an intended slight it was. One might think that since Constance and I are both members of the Main Line Women's Organization and school mates from St. Ignatius Academy, that she would approach me with this scoop of hers. Instead, Missy Jamison ran the headline on the front page of the society column: "CORDUROY HAT GONE MISSING - FEARED HAT SNATCH BY GENTLEMAN BURGLAR" and continued in her column to quote a "sad faced Connie Corduroy lamented that she was obviously owning a stunner of a hat for the burglar to have stolen it."

Isabel, Lolly, Iggy and I all knew that Missy Jamison meant to quote Constance Cortnoy. And, further, that 'sad faced' is her perpetual look, unless you were to go with some other accurate adjectives such as 'crabby', 'constipated' or 'contrite'. Constances' face, that is, not Missy's. But, as I say, Missy is dimmer than the low switch and rarely pays attention to the correct spelling of a name, unless it is a truly important name. Like Babson Hurley.

Alas, with all the hubbub that Missy's column was sure to attract this week, I submitted my sure to be overlooked column:

Dear Veronica,
I suspect I've done something very bad. In fact, I know I've done something very bad, more than one thing. I very much want to make amends but my wife won't let me. I'm a bit afraid of her, you know. How should I go about this?
A good neighbor

Dear Neighbor,
You probably won't see this as I am sure that you, like everyone else, will be busy reading the Society column and how Constance Cortnoy's hat was snatched by that nice burglar. The headline refers to a corduroy hat, but I doubt it was actually made of corduroy. I don't think that Constance has worn corduroy since freshman year when some of the actives in the sorority made fun of her fire engine red corduroy pants. She stomped off to her room and telephoned her mother who immediately telephone the sorority alumnae board who immediately telephoned the chapter president who instantly did absolutely nothing. I do think Constance has learned her lessons on corduroy fabrics. Obviously it was just a mistype of her last name Cortnoy.
But back to your frightening wife and your misadventures. My guess is that you'll have to make your amends without your wife's knowing.
Yours sincerely,