Friday, 1 May 2009

The Reception - Early Short Story

This was written around the same time as 'Red Guard' and was my attempt at satire about Eighties behaviour and attitudes which seemed so frivolous and consumerist and simply somewhat silly especially when affected by the upper middle class people that were so common in my neighbourhood. There is reference to the cost of property in London and the development of the Docklands area of East London; Canvey Island is renowned for its chemical plants. Mezzogiorno is the term for the southern part of Italy which in the 1980s was very poor, suffering soil erosion and was where a lot of EU money was disappearing trying to bring economic development. The Lira was the pre-Euro currency of Italy renowned for very high denominations of its prices. When Italy joined the Euro there was 1,937 Lira to the Euro; in the 1980s £1 was worth about 2,500 Lira. Nagy is a Hungarian rather than a Czech name. When this story was written though Communism was crumbling in Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall still stood and Eastern Europeans coming to Britain and opening restaurants was still a thing of the future. I assume the jubilee referred to would have been Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee of 1977.

The Reception

The small crowd began to filter into the entrance area, which lay in front of the main hall. An immaculately dressed man read the invitations presented by each of the guests. The bride and groom stood greeting the guests, he in a spotless suit; she in a rather shabby pair of blue designer overalls.

"The Count and Countessa del Mezzogiorno" the usher bellowed.

"My mother," the groom cursed, reflecting on the woman he had not seen for a decade, since she had gone to marry some Italian noble.

The bride smiled inanely and shook hands with some of the dress designers who were admiring the delicate rips and tears of her outfit.

"Ah, my darling," the Countessa said in a high fluting way, far removed from her old drab voice, she had had all those years back. "Could I have a word with you?" the mother requested.

"Right, you'd better come through here." The groom spoke casually, trying to hide his despair and annoyance of his mother's cold, impersonal attitude to him.

The Countessa smiled a brief sickly smile to the preoccupied bride and commanded forcefully in Italian to her own husband. She swung round theatrically and followed her son into a small room off to the left.

"A very nice do. Expensive?" the Countessa questioned as she looked around the room at all the wedding presents displayed there.

The groom closed the door behind him. "I believe so. There's the church, her father insisted, religious you know." the groom spoke slowly and calmly trying to suppress his anger on this supposdely most happy of days. "Also the cars, the cake ..."

"Six foot five when I last saw it." his mother commented.

"... and of course her mother had to have the Kensington and District Anarchist Brass Disensemble; they don't come cheap." he said stoically.

"Well, I've come to you and your delightful bride for some money." she said shamelessly as she reclined on a sofa. "The old mansion is on the slide. You know the problems when half the grounds get eroded away each year. This year one of the sheds disappeared over night. The police said someone had taken it ..."

"Come on, how much?" the groom asked bitterly.

The only money he had seen from her was a postal order which came tewice per year in an envelope with an Italian post-mark.

"Well you know you've always been interested in preserving historic sites; we need 20,000,000." she curiously picked up an olive de-stoner.

"20,000,000!" the groom coughed.

"Lira, of course." she laughed falsely, as she placed her glass delicately on one of the marble plant stands.

"Thomas Nagy, entrepreneur." the announcement echoed in through the entrance.

The Countessa burst back into Italian, cursing.

"That must be Dad." the groom hurried off, shutting the door behind him.

His wife was still there shaking hands like some factory robot. Chaotic sounds came from the main hall as the musicians started up.

"There you are, my son." A man stepped forward, dressed in a razor-sharp suit, his entourage of similarly dressed, tight-lipped men and a woman concealed behind them, followed. "A quick word is in order, I think. Somewhere we can talk?"

The groom led his father through into the side room, the countessa, fortunately out of sight.

"Everything alright? Got a good house?" the father asked as he admired the pile of fondue sets.

"Yes, you know how sturdy corrugated irone is and the asbestos keeps the heat in. Nice area too, Canvey Island, she won't live anywhere else ..." the groom burbled, enthusiastically.

"Good, good." the entrepreneur interrupted. "I've got a little business proposition all clean and legal." He fiddled with a group of brass frog book-ends.

"What's this for? Laundering money?"

"Sanitization of assets. It's a new area for me - cable television, high quality health and beauty programmes. I wondered if you'd like to invest 10,000 notes."

"Mmm, just one thing, why did you call yourself Nagy?" the groom thought back over his estranged father's eccentricities.

"You need to be ethnic in this game and it goes with the chain of Czech restaurants." his father confided.

"Mr Russell Uppe, photographer." the introduction was bellowed out.

"That lazy lout, keep him away from me" the entrepreneur fumed.

"My brother, stay here." the groom ordered as he rushed back to the entrance way.

"Hey, my man!" the photographer exclaimed as he shook hands with such a complex series of movements that he nearly broke the groom's fingers.

"Can I have a word?" the groom asked.

"Sure." the photographer span on his heel and blew a kiss to his female companion.

The two brothers walked into the side room, the groom shut the door behind them.

"You want money? You want me to splash with the cash and flow with the dough?"

"Yes, that's it. Your studios are doing well, the design company and the fast food chain as well, I hear."

Suddenly shouts came from behind the low sofa. The Countessa and entrepreneur stood up, at blows with each other.

"You walked out on me." the entrepreneur shouted.

"You were the first one through the door, I seem to remember" the Countessa countered.

"It was the Jubilee, you had to watch all that royalty."

The Countessa produced a small ivory-handled pistol, the entrepreneur went for his sawn-off shotgun, the photographer revealed his designer automatic. Bullets ricocheted off a set of copper saucepans, decanters shattered and smoke filled the room. The entrepreneur's mob burst in sending the groom sprawling into a pile of pink towels. Windows shattered and the fire exit burst open. The smoke cleared to reveal the damage, but none of the groom's family. Relieved, he returned to the entrance way, where the two young women stood gossiping, used to this sort of thing. The Count pushed by and ran into the side room armed with a vicious dagger, and disappeared. The groom hurried to calm his guests whose shrill screams sounded alarming.

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