“Got nuffink,” said the Countess Penelope of Arcadia. “Go fish.”
“What’s this?” I asked, showing her the card I’d drawn. It was the Joker, but someone (Penny, J’accuse!) had glued a picture of Heath Ledger on it. “You’re supposed to take the Jokers out.”
“Not so, my love,” said Penny with a grin. “It’s like a bonus set, right? ‘Cause there’s only two.”
“So who’s on the other Joker? Nicholson? Romero? Hamill?”
“Bite your tongue, Helena my sweet. It’s annova Heaff, innit? And the rule is, if you collect bofe Heaffs, you win. Blimey ‘n such.”
“Okay, whatever, but can you just drop the cockney for the moment, you’re doin’ me ‘ead in.” She pouted and I dropped her a wink so she knew I wasn’t being cruel.
I pounded my fist to my chest, miming being hit by an arrow, but somehow, the wound was not fatal. Like Gloria Gaynor before me, I would survive. (God, someone hand me the Monistat, ’cause that reference was, well, not so fresh.)
“Okay Countess, you win. The cockney urchin can stay. It’s your turn, by the way.”
“Briliant!” She beamed. “Got any Heaffs?”
I sighed, tossing all my cards in her face. “You are an urchin!”
The Countess giggled and then stood up and did an awkward looking victory dance, and then declared, completely out of the blue that she was thinking of shaving her eyebrows like Amanda Palmer.
“Don’t do it, Penny,” I advised, leaving it at that.
She stopped her dance and looked at me defiantly. “And just why not?” She dropped the cockney accent at this point, because frankly, it’s easier to speak it than it is to write it. If you insist on continuing to read Penny’s dialogue in a cockney accent, by all means, be my guest, but just know that you would be wrong to do so, because at this point, Penny really did drop the cockney accent. Really. Trust me.
“Don’t presume to tell me what to do, Helena. I am a strong, independent woman, and I will find beauty in my own way, and not according to some misogynist ad man’s…”
“And I’m all in support of that,” I interrupted what promised to be a lengthy diatribe involving references to restrictive undergarments, woman on woman cannibalism metaphors, gratuitious use of the word ‘phallocentric’, and (and I’m just guessing here) about a 90% chance of the sacred name of Tori Amos being invoked. “But let me ask you a question, Penny — how’s your burger?”
I was referring, of course, to Penny’s brief and hasty foray into the world of vegetarianism, which lasted only as long as her appetite could be sated by salads and other sundries lacking the savoury, saliva-soliciting scent and sizzle of a succulent steak. Or, as the Countess herself summed up so succinctly:
“I think couscous is French for ‘shit pebbles’. I’ll take my burger, thanks. Morrissey will just have to forgive me, and really, if he can forgive Jesus, I think he can find it in his English heart to cut me some slack on my carnivorous-nesus.”
“Carnivorous-nesus?” I asked dubiously.
“Yeah. It’s a word,” insisted the Countess Penelope of Arcadia, late of Who-ville. “See also: Roast Beast; Diffendoofer; Sala-ma-goox; Fiffer-feffer-feff, or kwigger (although I’d be careful about who you use that around, just between you and me). Besides, I’ve heard you use the word ‘thusly’, and that’s as pretentious, made-up and couche-tardy as any of the crazy stuff Spike Lee makes up during interviews.”
“Wow,” I say, not sure what to make of that, though I am aware of the Django Unchained reactionary piece she is referring to. “So, the eyebrows, then?”
“Well, I don’t know,” the usually anything but hesitant Penelope hesitated.
“You know who else shaved their eyebrows, Penny?” I asked, preparing to launch into my own diatribe. “Bob Geldof.”
“My point exactly. Bob Geldof shaved off his eyebrows for The Wall and the next thing you know he’s doing Live Aid and then disappears off the face of the earth entirely, never to be heard from again. Coincidence or correlation?”
But Helena, you say, that’s not true. In fact didn’t he cause some shit not that long ago by calling Russell Brand a cunt on live television?
“NEVER. TO BE HEARD FROM. AGAIN,” I repeated, apparently out loud and in all caps, because Penny replied with:
“Yeah I know. You just said that. Helena, who are you talking to? And why are you using really awkward and improper punctuation? You sound like someone doing an impression of a bad Shatner impersonator doing a half-way decent Christopher Walken as performed by Kevin Spacey.”
“Um, wow, that was pretty specific. What was I saying?”
“Bob Geldof. Oh, wait isn’t he the guy who single-handedly ended world hunger? Or was it just Africa? Hey Helena, did you know that Ethiopia is in Africa? And Egypt too? Spike Lee doesn’t think that white people know that Egypt is in Africa, and that…”
“You’re really going to do this?” I tried interrupting.
“…And that black people think that Cleopatra was white because of Elizabeth Taylor…”
“Oh god, kill me now,” I muttered.
“Which is ridiculous, of course. It would be like saying that Chinese people think that Mickey Rooney is Chinese because of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Seriously, another Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference? You ask. Pretty soon you’re going to have to start paying Truman Capote royalties.
Yeah, but he’s dead, so…
He’s not dead, he’s pining.
Don’t start with me.
“You’ve never even seen that movie, Penny,” I reminded her.
“Well, no, but you’re always making reference to it, so…”
“Well that’s because it’s a classic, darling. But that’s beside the point.”
“Don’t you hate people that say besides the point?” Penny snickered, and I nodded.
“I do, darling, I really do. But that is also not the point.”
“Oh I’m sorry. What is the point, then? Because I just know that somewhere in here you had a point coming.”
“The point,” I replied, ignoring the snarkiness of my usually sweet if sometimes sycophantic sidekick, “is that much as there is more to you than your mind-blowing collection of stripey socks and unsurpassed skill with eyeliner — really, my dear, you look truly outrageous today — there’s more to Amanda Palmer than her frequently publicly naked body, her bisexuality, her husband (Neil Gaiman, New York Times best-selling author of Sandman, indisputably the greatest comic of all time, darling) nor, indeed, her eyebrows. The fact that anybody anywhere is talking about her eyebrows at all, is, well… disappointing. My mind quails, I mean absolutely ka-wails at how people will focus on all the wrong things and discuss them to death, missing out on the fact that she’s an artistic revolutionary, challenging the very nature of the relationship between fans and artists. So I guess what I’m saying Penny is that if you want to be inspired by Amanda Palmer, then be inspired by her music. Be inspired by her attitude, or be inspired by the poetry and honesty of her lyrics. Go listen to her talk on TED, and see what she’s really all about, rather than just dwelling unnecessarily on her facial doodling.”
“Um, okay,” the Countess replied amicably. “About the nudity…”
“Oh here we go,” I rolled my eyes.
“Do you think that the nudity is to draw attention away from her eyebrows?”
“No,” I answered, chuckling a bit at the very idea. “I think she just, you know, enjoys nudity.”
“Who doesn’t?” Penelope allowed. “You want to go get tattoos?”
I considered for a moment. “Yeah, alright.”