News from Home 22, Part II
3/24/2006 (updated 3/24/2006)

I was regretting calling him at all at this point, but I left him sitting on his bucket, smoking up a storm, and wandered into the kitchen for a snack, and found Mrs. RT and Witherstock glaring at each other. The atmosphere was charged. Apparently there had been words exchanged on the subject of fitted bottom sheets, and the folding thereof. Mrs. RT was wondering why it took so long to fold the laundry, and Witherstock was petulantly demonstrating her patented 17-fold method of taming the untamable; the problem, of course, with the bottom fitted sheet, is that it has no real shape when off the bed – with the elastic stretched, it achieves a fine rectangle, but with the elastic slack, it is but an unwieldy blob. Enter Witherstock, with her origami like approach - fold after fold after fold until – presto! A small and perfect square. She further claimed that title-bearing former employers had been very satisfied with her technique – personally, I doubted the fitted sheet had been around that long. I do sneak back to Witherstock’s quarters occasionally, when I know she’s out, just to check on any lunacy she might be up to. On my last reconnaissance, I did find some dolls of Governor Swarzenneger, the Action Man kind readily available at Puzzle Zoo, featuring Arnie in some of his most beloved roles; there were pins in various limbs, but nothing through the head or heart. I took this as a sign that she might be softening a wee bit. I must ask him if he’s been feeling any twinges lately.

Speaking of the Governor, he was in a pessimistic mood for his elocution lesson this week.

“In China, they love me!” he said, “I could do no wrong. Thousands followed me down the street. I am like a god over there! But back in California, everything goes wrong…my special election is a disaster, organized labour hates me, my war chest is empty. Why can’t I just be leader of the Chinese people?”

I suggested that once he was President of the United States, he could achieve the position of Chinese leader by one of two means: simple conquest; or having learned how to run one country, it was a doddle to run another – it was rather like being a coach of a football team. Once you had the basic grasp of tactics and man-management, you could get fired every three or four years and move to the team in the next town….or even like working for a record company. But one step at a time…first the Governorship. The main reason Californians were cooling to his charms, I proposed, was the way he said the word, California. He pronounced every syllable with Teutonic rigor, but this was not music to the ears of the local surfers, massage therapists and scriptwriters. I suggested more of a slur, completely swallowing the middle ‘I’, and falling off dramatically at the end, making it essentially a two syllable word. I suggested he watch a steady diet of cowboy films from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and repeat the lazy drawls of Alan Ladd, John Wayne, and heck, even Ronald Reagan. He agreed to the regimen, but still seemed limp and dejected. I took him out the back to see my Japanese lantern converted into a minigolf hole, and he immediately brightened, insisting on playing the hole a couple of times, and finally scoring a par three. I asked Arnold if he would like to design a hole? Perhaps something thematic based on his Hollywood past? His rather beady eyes got as large as they ever get , and he said he would be thrilled, and would work on plans right away.

Hashimoto’s topiary on the front hedge, is growing in size slowly, but is still inconclusive; on the left could be a giant hedgehog, and on the right the Clintons wrestling – but I doubt Hashimoto would be getting off on that kind of subject matter. When I asked him for a small clue, he simply chuckled to himself and kept on clipping. I should mention here that he never uses an electric clipper – he considers that far too crude. He works only with decreasing sizes of hand shears. Indeed, I have seen him use a nail file.

Went to the races with Mr. Alphonso, and I can think of no-one better to have around in the proximity of horseflesh. Anita, his housekeeper, nurse, and apparent love interest (for this week anyway), was with us, and was very excited by the atmosphere, and her first experience of betting on the horses. Mr. A ran down the card with her, took her into the paddock before every race, and before Anita risked her five big ones (dollars) on a bet, he gave her The Word from the horse’s mouth – whatever the buzz was from jockeys, trainers, bookies – all of Mr. A’s innumerable acquaintances at the track gave their opinions, and Mr. A’s unerring eye for the good points of a horse, plus his lifetime’s experience, added up to near certainty about the outcome of every race. The day went something like this:

First Race – 1PM - 3 furlongs – 3-year-olds and up.

Mr. A hears from the stable manager that Frisky Boy, out of Golden Boy, out of Southern Boy, out of the famous Bad Boy, winner of the Arc de Triomphe, nearly broke the stopwatch in training, and has been under- handicapped. His jockey likes this course, and won twice here last month. Mr. A says to Anita, Frisky Boy, no question, to win. The odds are short, but your money is safe. Anita says, but what about number 11, Che Guevara? I used to have a poster of him up on my wall – I have a little nephew called Chico, and sometimes we call him Che. A horse called Che Guevara, that’s so funny. And look, it’s 50-1. If I put on five bucks, let’ see that’s – that’s two hundred and fifty dollars! That’s way more money!