The next morning, as soon as we rose, I called our lady king, King Ajinblambia, to request that she grant us an interview, and by 4 Ungi (9:36 AM), Zevanardia and I were walking down the regal corridor that leads to Ajinblambia's office in the northern oval of Eldor Palace.
Our visit concerned the
She had Grishcanca serve us coffee and pastries in silver urn and salver, though, having just eaten, Zevanardia and I were not really hungry, sipping but a spoonful or two of coffee and nibbling on ladyfingers and cupcakes.
Ajinblambia had heard about the improvised little beauty contest that we had held in Cissi's City, the apartment complex adjacent to Cissi's in New Ozgingd, our cutting-edge apparel factory, but she had not followed developments in any detail. So Zevanardia and I recounted the whole story, starting with Jenni's being chosen at random to be filmed by Dorina in a video, which seemed to occasion the envy of the other girls who worked at Cissi's, and finishing with Jenni's being crowned queen in an impromptu beauty contest, after all, which to me was just a darling little irony.
Then we went on to explain how warmly the idea of beauty contests in general had been been greeted in Mecnita and throughout Ung. We told her that we would like to exploit this trend by constructing a splendid Palace of Beauty, as we planned to name it, right in Gvagma Village, a mere stone's throw from the Gvagma Wheel, the Vrikshaya Column and A Bit of Ungonesia, this last-named site being our swimming pool with its appurtenances.
Seeking Ajinblambia's approval was a mere formality, in my opinion, as. having known her over 15 years, I could almost read her mind. Of course she was delighted, and assented to the project immediately, assuring us that she would guarantee the success of the project, with royal grants, if they should prove needful. She told me to go to the Bank of Ung and settle it all with her cousin, Usha, the directress of the bank.
I might have foreseen also, when Ajinblambia asked Zevanardia to excuse us for a moment, that the following little chat could take place:
"Sissy, you used to come to my apartment every morning to bathe and dress me. But we've let that habit lapse. I appreciate that you're a busy young lady these days," she said, forgetting or pretending to forget both my age and my operation at
"Yes, Milady, I shall be here at 3 Ungi."
Then she dismissed me, and I rejoined Zevanardia in the regal corridor, explaining that Ajinblambia had had a small complaint to make with me, but that it was too embarrassing to repeat to her, Zevanardia. Zevanardia just arched her eyebrows with a trace of suspicion in her expression, but minutes later, it was forgotten, as we descended in the stainless steel elevator to the level of the metro, and caught a bullet train like an arrow of fire that shot right back to 7 Ramdonia Circle in less time than it would have taken to get Fstambolc, a new chauffeur, to fetch a car.
Incidentally, Clixbong, the senior chauffeur in
At her bath the next morning, as I was laving her bare form with a mixture of warm water, liquid soap, cologne and oil prepared according to my own recipe, Ajinblambia said that she thought it would be an excellent idea to build, not only the mooted Palace of Brauty in Gvagma Village, but also a pavilion at Eldor Palace. The contestants would come to the pavilion, which we'd erect near an entrance-exit of Mecnita Metro on the grounds. The ladies would assemble at the pavilion and proceed the eight miles along the Avenue of Ung and through
"That's quite a distance to walk in gowns and heels for ladies trying to look fresh and feminine." I objected.
"We'll provide low floats with nothing obstructing the sight of the contestants. Perhaps we can even figure out a way to seat some of them, while others stand, switching places, like musical chairs, midway or at quarter points. But of course we'll have over a year to attend to these details, if we can agree on the basic concept."
The Avenue of Ung, which is sometimes called also the
"Why don't you install moving sidewalks on the medians of the Avenue of Ung?" I asked Ajinblambia, just as if I had been only offering ideas as they came into my head.
"What if it rains?"
"Why don't you have a canopy or awning erected?"
"That would be a permanent obstruction to visibility across the avenue, which is now perfectly clear and open."
"Well, perhaps I can have Lidia and Amponia design some sort of device whereby to make the canopy retractable. I can talk to Rachetina too. She's a whiz at mechanical contrivances."
"Very well, Sissy, do it, and see what they can work out. At any rate, go ahead with your plans for the
Actually, the problem was much simpler than it would have been on planet Earth. Here, in our 100,000 years of scientific research, including meteorological research, we have been able to refine prediction of weather conditions to nearly perfect accuracy. Our confidence level as regards forecasts is always over .99. There have been times, though, when unforeseen cloudbursts have drenched us in torrents of rain. It would be an embarrassment to Ajinblambia and myself, if a much-touted debut in the
I began to think that, instead of having one huge auditorium in the
By this time, both Cissi's City in New Ozgingd and Cissi's Press in
I invited Lidia, Amponia and Rachetina to my office in
Instantly, Rachetina said that it would be inadvisable to leave moving sidewalks exposed to the elements like that in any case. What she proposed was a whole gallery, including the moving sidewalks and a roof, that could be raised from a tunnel when the need arose, and lowered back into the tunnel later, with the top of the roof serving as the pedestrian surface of the median. However, such a project would be very costly, she cautioned.
"Well, streamline and refine the idea. Then you and I can talk it over with the Vrikshaya."
"Oh, that's what we call Ajinblambia sometimes."
After a couple of hours of discussion, the five of us strolled over to Rose Verandah I, where we shared a luncheon of roast pork, browned potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Afterwards we had fudge ice cream, with just a drop of sherry. It looked as if the
At about this time, Zevanardia asked Queen Kolomena to fly to Saiwani, whither she, Zevanardia, would also fly, in order to appraise the business activities of Cissi's in Peokolo, the division of Cissi's Ungonesian operations being run by Analeahi, Queen of Peokolo Archipelago. Both ladies were much pleased with Analeahi's efforts. RUS Gvagma II was doing signally well in eastern Ungonesia.
Zevanardia instructed Kolomena to start making preparations for another intimates circuit in Ungonesia. A third yacht would be bought and a new itinerary established. Zevanardia wanted Kolomena to do all the preliminary work, and gave her a free hand to proceed in whatever way she saw fit, providing that it adhere more or less to the prototype that had been established with the other two maritime lingerie concerns.
Giving Kolomena 10 or 15 days to prepare a new business plan, Zevanardia returned to Mecnita. Her idea was merely to await further communications from Queen Kolomena and to approve perfunctorily, so great was the confidence the beautiful queen from Kralatimu had inspired in her. I was monitoring too, albeit electronically, by phone and by computer, and, of course. Ajinblambia was monitoring. She always monitors everything. Her endlessly capable mind is what made her and keeps her King of Ung and beloved of Queen Udi.
I convoked the 16 select volleyball captainesses who had formed our delegation to Tsumufuchi, Ong Pang, Paltievsk, Ceveristan and Aigenshlink, explaining that I was now interested in another expedition to promote Gvagma in various other countries in Ub. The captainesses were Vnicci, Srini, Vevilla, Tnucia, Aromandi, Trepeta, Heggera, Ponzi, Varsina, Stola, Rujia, Garazmanda, Muruna, Voicsa, Pelisha and Pititina. One of these had been selected from each of the 16 mini-associations of Gvagma that lie within the city limits of Mecnita proper. Suburban mini-associations were not included, the reason being considerations of size and expense.
The countries that we had in mind to have the girls visit were Ilocanga, Poinavoinen, Truk, Gurgen and Shansa, all in central and southern Ub, west of Qazudistan. I wondered whether there were any girls who would prefer to decline to go on a second tour, but, no, they were all as enthusiastic as they had been about the first tour, which was to Northern Ub, where their success in getting Gvagma planted had added to the excitement of it all.
I recalled also that the Pertenasi Pantheresses were from Ilocanga. They were Vlijanna, Ordzhozi, Mstivi, Chlapa, Endorfu and Conavash. Years earlier they had been part of a ring trafficking in arms, and I had caused their arrest, conviction and deportation, assuming ownership of their beautiful house in Shayvurddhi. Completing 10 years of probation, they returned to Mecnita, full of contrition. I hired them on a tentative basis, and they had now been working for Cissi's for three or four years, doing an excellent job. Their story was fairly well-known around Mecnita.
I reasoned that it would be a handsome gesture to have the Pantheresses accompany the delegation in its visit to Ilocanga, where everyone knew them. Of course they had played in a number of exhibition games in Ilocanga in '401, so this would be their second trip. My question was whether any of the sixteen goodwill ambassadresses would feel uncomfortable in the company of women who had meditated committing serious crimes years before. The answer was, "No." Once they had heard the complete story, they felt confident that the tall girls from Ilocanga no longer presented a threat. In fact, as it turned out, the Pantheresses proved very popular on the mission, as they were very good-looking and superbly athletic, with a sort of stern charm about them that seemed to come from the rocky highlands of their native country. Once the party had visited Ilocanga, the first stop on their itinerary, the Pantheresses would return to Mecnita, while the other sixteen would continue on their circuit.
A few days later, Rachetina called me by videophone, saying that she had developed an alternative to the moving sidewalks. The moving sidewalks would be prohibitively expensive, according to her calculations. I invited her to come right over to
What she proposed was cutting a trench in the concrete surface of each median. Two feet below there were steel beams closely spaced. She would design a special rail with a flange exactly as wide as the trench and slotted so as to allow the rail to be plugwelded to the beams. Waterproofed with vinyl and provided with downspouts, the flanges would be topped with a couple inches of gravel, to resemble ballast, leaving the high rail head, which could be gripped by a wheel-assembly with two wheels below and one above, exposed beneath the level of the surface of the median. A very light monorail buggy, about 75 x 6 feet in plan, with its high floor three and a half feet above the pavement for spectator visibility, could carry 50 standing ladies, 25 facing in each direction. The ultra-stylish buggies would be coupled in trains of 40 or so and drawn by rubber-tired tractors, very beautifully decorated, that advanced on the medians. The rails would extend all the way to the center of
These buggy trains, advancing at four miles per hour, if they were eight miles long, would be able to carry at least 25,000 beauty contestants per two-hour trip, or 50,000 in a morning, if they made two trips. All the buggies would roll from
Line 133 of Mecnita Metro, Trentshna-Oyvdreli, passed right under the grounds of
So the project was approved, and powerful saws would begin trenching the medians almost immediately. Joprinx Car-Building Works was awarded the contract for fabricating the buggies, which were much lighter and more inexpensive than the electric light-rail cars that they usually manufactured. For one thing, the buggies had no motors and were completely open, except for transparent polyethylene terephthalate awnings that could be expanded to protect the ladies in case of rain. Their speed of less than five miles an hour required no special safety devices to satisfy city ordinances. A buggy depot would be built adjacent to
It would all be so lovely!
One morning, when I was in Ajinblambia's office discussing the
She didn't say much at first, so Ajinblambia summarized the steps we were taking to bring the
When I was invited to comment, I mentioned the Beauty Train that would run between Queen Udi's Pavilion and the
Queen Udi suggested to King Ajinblambia that
The next day, when Ezmeraudia was ready to take Nunu to school, we told her to plan to drive, instead of going by metro, as Zevanardia and I wanted to talk with Carcsi, one of the teachers in the Sazhau at the University of Mecnita. The Sazhau, or more fully Sazhau Otexrasre, was a school for gifted children that Nunu had been attending for some time. Carcsi had called the evening before to tell us there was something important she wanted to tell us.
When we four, including Nunu, arrived at the Sazhau, Carcsi was practically drumming the sole of her shoe on the threshold of her door, so eager she was to see us. She began, "It's been a real joy and pleasure teaching Nunu, she's so wonderfully intelligent, but I think it's time to graduate her to another school, or better yet, to entrust her to tutors. She's too advanced for the Sazhau."
Nunu interrupted to say, "She's saying that because I wanted her to buy a harpsichord."
"Buy a harpsichord!" I exclaimed. "Why a harpsichord?"
"Because I've written some fugues that I think would sound better on the harpsichord than on the piano, but Madam Carcsi keeps telling me that all they have is a piano. I don't like the fugues played on the piano."
I picked Nunu up, and hugged and kissed her. "Where in the world did you learn to write fugues?" Then I looked at Carcsi, "Did she really write some fugues? Are they any good?"
Carcsi replied enthusiastically, "Yes, she did and they're beautiful. I think they sound fine played on the piano, but our little prodigy wants to play them on the harpsichord."
Nunu smiled broadly to hear herself called "our little prodigy."
"Where did you learn to write fugues, Nunu?" I asked incredulously.
"On that computer that you gave me. I found a website with graded lessons, and I followed them. It's not that hard, Bibi dear." She called me "Bibi dear" as if she had been trying with strained patience to explain something very easy to someone who was just too slow to understand.
Carcsi said she'd help us place Nunu. She strongly recommended tutors and pooh-poohed the idea that Nunu should be surrounded by her coevals, as I had objected. "She has the mind to be one of the great ones of the Nyatic planet. Don't inhibit her intellectual development by grouping her with youngsters she surpasses already and will surpass by even more in the future."
As for the harpsichord, I was reluctant to buy one to place in Bo House, for, if Nunu grew tired of her new passion for composing fugues, we'd be stuck with a large piece of furniture that would not be of any use. But I recalled that the Royal Egrets'
The next morning, I gave Ezmeraudia a letter of introduction and sent her with Nunu to the
It was such an adventure for Nunu to ride the metro with Ezmeraudia that, when she got back from harpsichord practice, that was all that she would talk about for a while. Was her interest in fugues already cooling?
As I mentioned, the
According to Ezmeraudia, all the dancers and other ladies associated with the
So to pass the time, sometimes Ezmeraudia would look in on the Royal Egrets' auditions and rehearsals, and she met quite a few of the dancers and teachers, including Zhvizhvi, the directress. Zhvizhvi, noting Ezmeraudia's slender figure and graceful movements, asked her if she had ever danced. Ezmeraudia explained that she had danced in school music dramas at Luvra School in Ceod, but had not pursued it after that. Zhvizhvi invited her to audition for the Egrets, and Ezmeraudia accepted demurely, telling Zhvizhvi that she shouldn't expect very much.
Much to Ezmeraudia's surprise and delight, Zhvizhvi seemed to think that she showed promise. Zhvizhvi offered her a few free lessons, assuring her that if she possessed real talent, the Egrets would consider adopting her as an apprentice ballerina, with her consent, of course. Ezmeraudia was absolutely thrilled with this new prospect, accepting the offer immediately.
In the day-decades to come, while Nunu was playing the harpsichord and creating new partitas and toccatas in counterpoint, sometimes improvising and sometimes playing to scores that she herself had composed on her little computer, her charming nanny, Ezmeraudia, was doing pas de chat, pirouettes, arabesques and entrechats with the Egrets, with praise and encouragement from the directress herself. So she was as eager as Nunu to board Mecnita Metro's bullet train every day at
I was very happy that those two young ladies, Ezmeraudia and Nunu, were finding their niches, so to speak.
One afternoon, when I was in the vicinity of the
So when I talked to Zhvizhvi, she reproached me, saying that my defection had been a blow to the balletomanes of Mecnita. She was one for hyperbole, after all. Though flattered by her compliment, I could in no way promise to resume time-consuming rehearsals and performances. I had Cissi's various projects in one hand and the development of
I did manage to persuade Zhvizhvi that I was terribly busy in those days and that my absence from dance didn't imply any lack of admiration for the art form. She finally agreed not to press me to participate in any stage productions if only I would drop in from time to time to execute a few steps in rehearsal.
"Fair enough," I agreed.
Then I went to see Ezmeraudia dance. She was doing fabulously well. "Why bother with an older dancer like me when they have this beautiful, supple, graceful girl there to replace and outdo me?" I wondered.
I also went to hear Nunu play. She was making such gorgeous music come out of the harpsichord that I almost swooned to think that she was my daughter.
The three of us came home on the metro, detraining at
We walked idly over to the Vrikshaya Column, stopped at A Bit of Ungonesia, strolled through the grassy expanses surrounding the swannery, the windmill and the waterwheel. Nunu was so excited about every little thing that I began to recall my own childhood joys and wonders.
Finally, a very light rain began to fall, and it was past 8 Ungi (7:12 PM), so we hurried home, which was very close at hand anyway.
"Where have you three been?" asked Zevanardia, "I was beginning to worry. It's so unlike you to stay out this late."
I told her about Ezmeraudia's dancing, Nunu's playing, my conversation with Zhvizhvi, and our little walk about
She tugged me by the wrist and into the bedroom, closing the door after her, and saying in a very merry way, "I'm going to have to punish you for not calling. Removing my gown, she had me down to bra and panties in a minute or two. Then she tossed me on the bed and began to spank me. We then got into a wrestling match, but she subdued me easily. What a madcap she could be sometimes!
In a few minutes, we got back up, and I dressed again, so that we could return to the living room, where Ezmeraudia and Nunu were drinking tall glasses of limeade. We asked them to pour us glasses too, and the four of us sat around the table, entertaining ourselves with blithe snatches of spontaneous conversation till bedtime.