Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tra La La

Alice and the Mad Hatter spent several days visiting a family friend who can only be called Madder Hatter. She is 81 years old and very slim, very feisty . . . alright, difficult would be more correct . . . and when her light green gaze is aimed at another – as Alice learned quickly – one must accept that, yes, Madder Hatter is the boss of you.

One very warm and golden afternoon, Mad Hatter told Alice that they were all going into town to eat lunch in a diner. A diner? How could that be? Madder Hatter was accustomed to having maids cook and clean; she would go into her kitchen for three reasons only: to get ice, to insist that dinner not be served until after sunset, and to warn that any red meat served should be as rare as one can get away with before being labeled a cannibal. Why, she had never been to town, it being the place where her driver would go to buy her newspapers. So Mad Hatter was proposing that the very first time she was taken to town, it would be to a diner?

More relevant: Madder Hatter never ate lunch.

However, the three of them rode to this new little place that the gardener had recommended because Mad and Madder Hatters wanted a hot dog.

WAITER: Something to drink?
MADDER HATTER: Bring me a tall glass of ice.
WAITER: Yes, but what’s the drink?
MADDER HATTER: That’s all I need. Now just go away . . . I mean . . . carry on and do what you do.

She flapped her right hand at him and Alice wasn't sure but it did seem to her that the waiter did not love being shooed away by a customer. Perhaps it was the way he pointed a finger at Madder Hatter when she looked away that gave Alice this insight. It wasn't the ring, pinky, or index finger. Nor was it the thumb.

When the waiter returned with a large tray in his hands, and irritation in his eyes, Madder Hatter rummaged in her large bag and brought out a cup. Once, it had belonged to her oldest son.

She filled the cup with ice and then put her hand back into her bag and brought out a small bottle of vodka. After pouring out the proper, well her proper amount, she took the lemon from Alice’s water glass and twisted the peel, took a drink, sighed contentedly, and proceeded to eat.

Alice had a bad feeling. After all, it was only two o’clock in the afternoon. A quick look to her right confirmed her worriment that the staff had been watching. They were whispering and pointing to the table, probably saying something like, “What! That crazy old bitch is getting sloshed at our little diner! And not even paying for it!”

Madder Hatter drank about four cups of her vodka throughout the lunch. Well, to be fair, it was a little cup. Though to be unfair, it had been full strength, even with the ice. No tonic or dry vermouth for her! To be fair again, she did share with Mad Hatter.

While they waited for the bill, Madder Hatter began to talk to Mad Hatter about her newest little grandson who loved to sing.

: Ah, what does the little angel like to sing?
MADDER HATTER: He loves the old songs.
ALICE: What old songs?
MADDER HATTER: You know, like Irving Berlin songs.
MAD HATTER: Splendid!
ALICE: Irving Berlin? How old is your grandson?
MADDER HATTER: He is four and his most favorite song is This is the Army, Mr. Jones.
ALICE: Uh. What?
MADDER HATTER *leaning toward Mad Hatter*: We all have been selected from city and from farm.
MAD HATTER: They asked us lots of questions, they jabbed us in the arm.

Alice became very alarmed because their singing had stopped conversation in the diner, and the irritated waiter was bringing the check.

IRRITATED WAITER: Will there be anything else?
MADDER HATTER: We stood there at attention, our faces turning red.
IRRITATED WAITER: O.K. nothing else. Pay in front. Thank you for leaving. Now and quickly.
MAD HATTER: The sergeant looked us over and this is what he said:
ALICE: Alrighty. Shall I take this over and pay the bill and we can just go back to the house and you both can take a nice little nap and . . . .
MAD AND MADDER HATTERS: This is the Army, Mister Jones. No private rooms or telephones. You had your breakfast in bed before, BUT YOU WON'T HAVE IT THERE ANY MORE!

So there it is. Lunch in town. Lyrics courtesy of Irving Berlin (1943). Singing courtesy of vodka and a baby silver cup.