Hello, darlings — Jessica graciously allowed me some space today to give you this — a rare appearance of the elusive Dilettante and her ever-present sidekick, the Countess Penelope of Arcadia
“People suck,” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia (Arcadia not being primarily known for its charm schools) declared definitively. “That’s all there is to say about that.”
“Really?” I posed poshly, prepared for proclamations of a preposterous persuasion. “That’s what you took from the film?”
Penny and I had gone to see the new Planet of the Apes film, and afterward, Penny poignantly provided her thoughts on the matter, and if you know Penny at all, darlings (you remember Penny, don’t you? Waifish thing, likes to dress alternatively like something out of Tim Burton’s worst nightmares and an extra from a period piece starring Johnny Depp. Has a tendency to be loud, opinionated, and to break into character voices, particularly, everyone’s favourite Dickensian street urchin.)
You don’t remember Penny?
Penny, say hello to the nice people.
“‘ello, duckies, ‘ow’s it ‘angin’? Roight, roight, guv’na, spot ‘a tea ‘n such. Cheerio ‘n whatnot. Loik.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the Countess Penelope of Arcadia. Complete with stripey socks and short-coat and crinoline ensemble, pink hair flowing in the wind.
But I digress, darlings. If you’ll recall, I do that from time to time. I also make a mean microwave dinner and do a fantastic version of China Girl — the Bowie version, of course, I mean seriously, was there any doubt? Yes, I know it’s actually an Iggy Pop song, darlings — trust me, you do not want to go up against me when it comes to musical trivia and such — you will rue the day. Rue, I say. It’s the third biggest blunder you could possibly make. The first, of course, being to get involved in a land war in Asia, and the second being going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But a close third would be going up against me in an argument about music. People have been known to cry, go into catatonic states, and that one poor fellow lost a finger, but that’s a tale for another day, darlings, but I swear it’s all true, unless I am just adding some spice to the tale for the sake of narrative, which I’ve been known to do from time to time, and which is not precisely lying per se but rather, being an intentionally unreliable narrator.
And as they say in the halls of academia in the hills of Arcadia, nobody does unreliable narrator or run on sentences like Helena Hann-Basquiat.
They may or may not say that, but let’s just agree to believe that they do, whoever they are, because, as I understand it, every time you believe such a thing, a fairie gets its wings. Or is it an angel? I can never remember. Let me consult my resident expert. Please welcome to the stage, Clarence, the angel from Frank Capra’s Christmas classic (alliteration unintentional but delicious) It’s a Wonderful Life.
“It’s a bell, Helena. When a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
“Thanks for clearing that up, darling, and may I just say, you look wonderful for a dead guy. Now get out of my story.”
“Now, Penny,” I said, turning back to my trusted confident and favourite living relative, “what were we talking about?”
“People suck,” she reminded me.
“Ah, yes,” I recalled reluctantly, realizing my mistake. “Please explain why people suck.”
“Well, it’s loik, there’s always gotta be one, ennit?” the Countess said, slipping into delightful street urchin. “They don’t trust no one or nuffink, and boom! Everyfing goes to ‘ell, dunnit?”
“Right,” I said, “well, that one ape wasn’t trusting, either. I think that was kind of the point of the movie.”
“Yes, but it just makes me sad, it does. Loik. Ennit and such. Because it means that we lose, dunnit?”
“Have you seen any of these movies before?” I grinned. “Hello? It’s called Planet of the Apes. Of course we lose. But it’s just a movie. A cautionary tale if you will.”
“Well of course,” Penny sighed, “but what about my, loik, progeny and such. They don’t stand a bloody chance against a bunch of bleeding apes, do they? Blimey, ‘elena, the human race is doomed because we’re a bunch of bloody couche-tards!”
“Okay, darling, I think you’ve had too much sugar and popcorn.”
Speaking of popcorn, darlings…
“Helena, I was talking!” Penny protested my sidebar.
“Just a second, we’ll get right back to it, I promise.” I promised.
“Whatever,” Penny sighed.
So speaking of popcorn, darlings, I had the worst nightmare last night, and I think it may have put me off of popcorn for a while. In my dream, Penny and I got into a fight — a proper fistfight, understand — and she popped me right in the jaw.
“Good!” Penny interjected. “You probably deserved it!”
And anyhow, I could feel one of my back teeth rattling around something horrible, and when I went to check it out in the mirror, it was so loose that I could lift it out of my gums a little bit, exposing an ugly, gaping hole — but when I did, I discovered a piece of popcorn under the tooth, and when I pulled it out, another piece of popcorn popped up, and I just kept pulling them out until popcorn was just pouring out of the hole in my gums and I was shoveling it out with a spoon.
It was quite disgusting, I assure you. And when I woke up this morning, I was so convinced it had really happened that I immediately checked my molars to make sure they were all intact.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled meltdown.
“Oh, that’s nice, Helena,” Penny complained. “See if I share my feelings with you again.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Please, tell me more about your concerns.”
“Well, it’s loik, what if, fifty-thousand or a hundred thousand years from now, apes evolve to where we are now, and rather than us all getting along, we muck it all up loik the idiots in this movie? Ergo, quid pro quo, e pluribus unum, in vino veritas, people suck.”
“You’re worried about something that may or may not happen fifty to a hundred thousand years from now?” I inquired quizzically.
She nodded as if it made perfect sense, and so I decided to fuck with her. I do that sometimes, darlings, it’s in my job description.
“Well, then I wouldn’t be worried about apes, then. Apes aren’t the real threat.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, suddenly concerned.
“Dolphins,” I said, taking a serious tone. “Dolphins are already at least as smart as we are. What happens when they evolve to the point of world domination. Your progeny better know how to fish, darling, because when our Supreme Dolphin Overlords come a calling, they best be prepared with a nice big bucket of mackerel.”
“I forgot about the dolphins,” Penny said, suddenly frightened and unable to keep up the Dickensian street urchin bit. “Do you think we’ll survive?”
“Well, some will survive, of course,” I said, preparing to launch into the really scary bit. “But it won’t be any of the cool people. No artists, poets, or hip young guitar-slingers with great hair and sensitive souls. Uh uh, you know who will survive?”
“Who, Helena? Who?” the Countess cooed like a dove.
“Rednecks, mostly,” I informed her. “Trucker hat wearin’, mullet sportin’ gun-collectin’ Budweiser swillin’ and Nascar-watchin’ Duck Dynasty types.”
“No!” Penny protested, aghast at the very notion.
“Yup,” I insisted. “Sad but true. All these right-wing militia types are the ones that will survive, and rise up against the evil dolphin horde, led by some loud-mouthed leader who skins his own kills and wastes nothing of the animal, and makes his own clothes out of the skins.”
“You don’t mean…”
“I do, darling,” I said sadly. “Humanity will be saved by Ted Nugent.”
“No!” she cried, channeling her inner Mark Hamill in his performance in The Empire Strikes Back. “That’s not true! That’s impossible!”
I, of course, countered with a passable James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, you know, if Darth Vader were devastatingly sexy and sipped cocktails.
“Search your feelings, Penny, you know it to be true.”
“Nooooo!” Penny wailed on cue, and I tried my best to remain deadpanned.
“I’m afraid so. Ted Nugent — Saviour of Humanity. All hail the Nuge.”
“You’re really mean, you know that?”
“And of course the new national anthem?”
“Stop it, Helena! Just stop it now!”
“Cat Scratch Fever.”
“Oh, you’re vile! I’m never having children if this is the world their great-great-great-great-ad nauseum-grandchildren will inherit!”
“The truth hurts, darling, I know. But we should have seen this coming, really.”
“What do you mean?” Penny asked.
“Well, think of every picture of Jesus you’ve ever seen — and tell me he doesn’t bear a striking resemblance to Ted Nugent.”
“Oh my god, you’re right!” Penny declared, and somewhere a fairie got its wings or something — Penny admitting I’m right is such a rare thing, darlings.
“I always am, darling. I’ve been telling you this for years.”
Penny looked me straight in the eyes and said:
“I’ll never doubt you again.”