News From Home 18, Part II
2/19/2005 (updated 2/19/2005)

The Governor and his wife were in town last Sunday – I spotted them having brunch at our local French eatery, ‘Aaaah! Bistro!’ As I strolled by with leashes in hand (I was exercising my neighbours’ German Shepherds, Rex and Sheba) Arnold summoned me over, broke off whatever top line discussion he was having with the Chinese Ambassador, pulled me down with famously irresistible force until my ear was level with his mouth, and whispered, “I need your help – I’ll be round later!” With the merest twitch of a bicep, he then propelled me towards the exit, and turned back to matters of pressing international importance. I spent an uncomfortable afternoon wondering how I could possibly be of assistance, and what it was going to cost me. At around 4PM a very modest fleet of Hummers pulled up chez moi, two to be precise, and Arnold strode purposefully in. Before he could speak, I pressed a small gift into his hand – a candle from Mavis’ brother’s range, ‘My Old Flame’. This he had concocted specially for the Governor, and called it ‘Arnold’, hoping for some marketable seal of approval. Steroid-laden sweat seemed to be the main ingredient. Arnie took a sniff, and liked it immediately. “Not for girlie-men!” he exclaimed. Then down to business. “You know how serious I am about running for President”, he said. “But the wife says, I won’t make it in 2008 with this accent.” His iron fingers gripped my puny arm tightly, and his face loomed closer. “I need elocution lessons. You are English. You guys speak the right way, like Petula Clark. Like David Hockney. You must teach me!” I was shocked… but then I thought of the entertainment value and the stories to regale dinner guests with for decades to come, and I hurriedly agreed. I asked if there was a fee involved. Arnold looked a little impatient. “The State deficit is bad”, he said, “We can give only small honorarium.” I suggested that Arnold could speed up the trials of his old pals at Enron, and claw back some of the hundreds of millions they had defrauded from the people of California, and there might be enough change there for a tuition fee. He said he would check into it. We arranged a weekly lesson.

Tranquility is the default here at the Trellises. Peace reigns, usually. Children trot off obediently to school at 7, gardeners rake and snip, friendly tradesmen ply their wares as the sun climbs up into the unvarying blue heaven; the drab mockingbird sings sweetly her mating calls, territorial warnings, and imitative cell phone and alarm clock noises; folks hereabouts are early to bed, restaurants seem to be closed by 8:30p.m., and there is blessed silence all night, broken only by the steady crunching of coyote jaws on bones of stray pet. But I did a silly thing the other day. I miscalculated the bonhomie and sense of laissez-faire that I had assumed filled the hearts of every citizen of our little town. It was one of those patriotic holidays – July 4th, Presidents Day, John Wayne Day – I forget which – and as the stars and stripes went up around the neighbourhood, I thought to myself, “But they are all the same! We need some variety here!” I went to the attic, and broke out the old Scottish Saltire, which I keep for emergencies (Scotland winning the World Cup), and hung it over the front porch. Next morning, I found the charred remains still hanging limply from the flagpole. Not only that – some fiend had climbed the fence into the back garden, and painted the new Japanese ornament red white and blue! I found Hashimoto, who had already discovered the crime, on his knees behind the woodshed, kneeling in such a position that his stomach was resting on the garden shears, Fearing suicide, I rushed up and dragged him to his feet. “Terrible loss of face”, he cried between sobs. I told him it wasn’t his fault, and after he had calmed down a little, he said that obviously a lantern was not worth killing oneself for, but it was important to practice, in case honour really was at stake at some point in the future. He said it was good to feel the cold point of a blade there against one’s skin on a misty morning – it reminded one of the joys of being alive.

I must find who has committed this small atrocity, and plan a small revenge.