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

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