Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Mad Tea Party

 Chapter 8: The Mad Tea Party
(Secret Love Affair - Alice in Wonderland Parody) 

The interview was a mistake from the very start. Seon-jae hadn't wanted to go. The lizard patted him familiarly on the back and forced him to wear his scaly clothes. He could hardly bring himself to go into the lizard's room, let alone wear his shirt. He saw a book open to an underlined passage:

They told me you had been to her, And mentioned me to him:
She gave me a good character, But said I could not swim.

He wondered who had marked the book, and if it referred to him. When he went down the stairs their talk made his whole body cringe. Then they wanted him to smile and play something short and sweet on the piano. The whole thing culminated in an awkward Portrait of Parents With College-Age Child.

The griffin brought over a crowd of people from the mock @turtle1's farewell party. They scrounged fruit and kimbap from the kitchen and sat outside at a big table under a tree. The March Hair and the Hatter dispensed tea at one end of the table, while the dodo and the duchess set up a game of mahjong at the other. The Dormouse sat between the girls with his head on the table, and they used him as a cushion, resting their elbows on his back. “What is this?” he complained. “What about the gum and the hairpin? I thought you two were mad at each other.”

“Not any more,” answered the March Hair complacently. “She said she was sorry and called me unni.”

“You're the one I'm mad at,” the Hatter pinched the Dormouse. “What were you trying to pull? Where did you even get that car?” The March Hair snickered and stuck the lid of the teapot on his head.

“Ok, 418,” he sighed.

“What?”

“I'm A Teapot." At her quizzical look he added, "HTTP code. They use it on April Fool's Day.”

The lizard made the fox sit next to him, draping his arm around her shoulders, giving her wine, and making her eat strawberries out of his hand. She escaped, sweating, to her room to find that Seon-jae had marked the book:

If I or she should chance to be Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free, Exactly as we were.

She was about to go back downstairs when she noticed her mirror going foggy. As it melted away, she saw peering through the silvery mist an elderly lady wearing a crooked shawl, with her hair in a sloppy knot topped by a silver crown. “Would you just help me through, my dear?” the lady asked, holding out her hand. The fox found herself supporting a bejeweled arm as the lady climbed over the counter and stepped onto the floor. “Thank you, that's much better!” The fox helped her straighten her shawl and pin it in place with a brooch inscribed "@mdj101."

The mock @turtle1 was improvising a jazz version of Swan Lake on the piano. Seon-jae, who had gone in to listen and get away from the party, blenched to see a flock of little girls in white swan tutus swarm down the stairs followed by a short plump lady also dressed in white. As the fox shepherded the little girls outside, the lizard yelled, “That's not even real jazz. Play something classical!”

The mock @turtle1 laughed and began with the famous:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you're at!

He couldn't resist souping it up and ended in a Disney style, with a long run of flowery chords. The lizard tried to get up, but he had drunk a little too much wine. “Seon-jae! You show them too!” he hollered through the door. Seon-jae was already sitting at the piano. He began bright and brittle:

Up above the world you fly, Like a tea-tray in the sky.

But soon he morphed into a moody minor and then to a loud, crashing dissonance that ended with a one-finger dirge.

As the fox tried to find places at the table for the little girls the Hatter called, “I want a clean cup, let's all move one place over,” and poked the lizard. He tried to comply, but stumbled into the fox and made her upset the teapot in front of the duchess.

“Yah! How could you?” the duchess picked up a handful of mahjong tiles and threw them at the fox. As she pitched more tiles in increasingly random directions, the little girls began to screech. More people arrived, including @comickiwi, the soup ahjumma, and several guards headed by @diamond888 and @katchie82.

“Is the king here?” @diamond888 inquired in a formal voice.

The lizard tried to stand again. “That punk needs to hear what I have to say,” he yelled, and fell down. Seon-jae and the griffin tried to hold him up.

“We're here to investigate the king,” @katchie82 told them. The lizard slumped to his knees. The guards began busily looking behind bushes and knocking over chairs..

“No! Wait!” @comickiwi frantically waved her hands at the guards.

The fox broke a bottle and threatened them with it. “He isn't here! Out! That's the kind of noona I am!”

The soup ahjumma threw a cup of tea at the fox. “If you make a living of running errands for rich people, you should at least have listening skills!” she railed.

“Stop! Stop!” @comickiwi ordered. “I came to give you some news! ALL of you need to listen!” The duchess stopped throwing tiles, the little girls stopped screaming, the fox put down her broken bottle, and the guards quit knocking over furniture. Everyone held their breath.

“I have just heard from Seoul.” @comickiwi announced dramatically. “Kang the lizard has won the Baeksang Award for the best drunk scene of the year! He beat out Jun Ji-hyun!”

Everyone cheered. The guards hoisted Kang onto their shoulders and carried him around the garden. His health was toasted in orange juice. When the excitement finally died down they filtered out and piled into cars. @comickiwi went to find the mock @turtle1. “Have you seen the White Queen?” she asked.

“I saw her once, but I don't know where she is now,” he admitted.

“I wondered if she made it. I'm sure she'll turn up,”

When everyone else had gone, the earlier stress of the day crashed down on Seon-jae. He put on a fake smile, tried to cheer up the fox, and sent her to go sleep. He made it outside and then crumpled onto the sidewalk. One wrenching sob shook him but no tears came. He felt oddly disoriented. Someone touched his shoulder and he looked up to see the White Queen standing there. “That's the effect of living backwards,” she said kindly. “It always makes one a little giddy at first.”

“I don't understand.” A strange calm settled over him.

“You aren't going to cry now. All your tears are back in Chapter 2. @comickiwi asked me to do it.” Her shawl was slipping again so he straightened it for her.

“What does this say?” he asked, pinning the brooch more securely.

“101. It's HTTP code for switching protocols. That's how I initiated the backwards protocol.”

When he got home he found his copy of the book open to the last page.

Don't let him know she liked them best, For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest, Between yourself and me.

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