Panties and Bras

35BEAUTY2

GVAGMA

CHAPTER 35

BEAUTY

 

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 Palace of Beauty that Zevanardia and I wanted to build in Gvagma Village. I could have proceeded on my own initiative, I suppose, but this might have annoyed Ajinblambia ever so slightly, so here we were.

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 Shrongmoil Medical Center, "but I'd like you to come now and then anyway. Come tomorrow, and we can work out any further visits then."

"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 Eldor Palace, had  retired. Shvampronx and Glafcroc also were due to retire soon, but Fstambolc, Zhmucnarc and Mbaliderv had just been hired. Vlarxbub, a relatively recently hired chauffeur, was not up for retirement yet. These chauffeurs, of course, were all male. Among Mecnita's 100,000,000 inhabitants, there were still about 1,000,000 able-bodied men, so there were plenty of chauffeurs for the time being.  I cannot venture to predict the situation in a couple of generations, with the male population dwindling so rapidly.

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 Gvagma Village to the Palace of Beauty. Thus they would have maximum visibility, with hundreds of thousands or even millions being able to glimpse the glorious, glamorous procession of supernovas.

"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 Septempartite Avenue of Ung, has three sets of lanes, two medians and two sidewalks. There are eight lanes in the central set of lanes, and four in each of the lateral sets, each lane being ten feet wide. The medians and sidewalks are each twenty feet wide. So the overall width of the Avenue of Ung is 240 feet. In its five miles, between Eldor Palace and Ramdonia Circle, there is no surface-level intersection. There are some grade separations, with the transverse avenues passing under the Avenue of Ung in tunnels. A 100-foot-wide lawn stretches on either side of the avenue for its full length. Upon the lawns, an array of fountains, statues, birdbaths and rotundas in marble and granite provides a distinctive touch. Beyond the lawns there are groves of banyan.

"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 Palace of Beauty, and, one way or another, we'll provide dramatic access."

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 Palace of Beauty had been ruined by a rainy thunderstorm.

I began to think that, instead of having one huge auditorium in the Palace of Beauty, we should have several separate rooms, for various kinds of activities. A ball room would be a great idea. Perhaps a room for impromptu theatricals and tableaux vivants would be nice. There might be a room for games and pretty contests. We could have a banquet hall. A standing flower show would fit in splendidly. A beauty salon for elegant hairstyles would certainly attract our Mecnita girls. Masquerades and charades could be held in a special room. A hall of mirrors, where all the beautiful visitors could admire themselves from all possible angles, would surely be a favorite. Drawing rooms, where stylish ladies could visit, would  be convenient.

By this time, both Cissi's City in New Ozgingd and Cissi's Press in Gvagma Village were complete. I had had Ellennamandia, assistant editress-in-chief of Cissi's Newsletter, wearing two hats, so to speak, for I had put her in charge of Cissi's City during construction. Now I relieved her of that extra burden, appointing Marivanni to take over as the resident manageress of Cissi's City, and returning Ellennamandia to her editorial efforts. Rubia, now returned from Mli, would resume her role as Assistant High Maid of Gvagma, while Zevanardia would remain editress-in-chief of Cissi's Newsletter. As my beloved friend, Zevanardia would always be at my side in all my delicate negotiations, offering at least moral support, and sometimes coming up with brilliant ideas. The leadership exercised by our small circle of young ladies may have had the appearance of an oligarchy, but it was an oligarchy based on philanthropy, altruism and love. Every girl in Mecnita was regarded as our dear girlfriend.

I invited Lidia, Amponia and Rachetina to my office in Gvagma Tower, and I'd have Zevanardia present.  I asked Amponia and Lidia to start preparing the concept design drawings, contacting me with any questions or advice they might have. And I explained to Rachetina that I was interested in a moving sidewalk on each of the medians of the Avenue of Ung with retractile canopies that would leave the avenue generally free of obstructions. Could she devise something, and how much would it cost in round figures?

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."

"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 Palace of Beauty was getting off to an auspicious start.

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 Gvagma Tower, where Rubia, Zevanardia and I met her in the main conference room. She had a roll of drawings under her arm, and we found a table where she could unroll them.

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 Ramdonia Circle and then through the corridors through 7 Ramdonia Center and Rosebush Stadium. Then they would turn and follow Institute Way right to the planned location of the Palace of Beauty. Each buggy, resting on only two wheels that swiveled horizontally, would be able to negotiate the narrow loop just southeast of the Palace of Beauty, and so, commence the return trip on the other median. It would take some 550 buggies to cover eight miles, with 12 to 15 tractors to pull them. After inching its way slowly through the Palace of Beauty to let off the callimastian, callipygian passengers, the train would head back to the pavilion, follow another loop installed there and begin once again towards Ramdonia Circle. The train would be able to make its second run with passengers, or  empty, as decided by the manageress of traffic. If the train came empty, it would park until the girls were ready to board again, several hours later. When not in use, the rails could be covered by pushbutton electronically-activated sliding checkered plates flush with the surfaces of the medians. The whole system, including rails, buggies and tractors would cost less than 100 talents ($100 million), she said. I told her that I needed a few days to think about it, but she seemed to understand that I was going to go running to Ajinblambia for guidance, for she said, "I'm sure Ajimblambia will be able to help you."

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 Eldor Palace to the Palace of Beauty full of contestants. In the late afternoon or early evening, they'd do exactly the reverse. This would give each charming girl maximum exposure to the throngs who had come to see. Along the entire length of the railway, there would be festoons and garlands of flowers, streamers, balloons and kites, in beautiful, festive colors, to set off the sightly girls.

Line 133 of Mecnita Metro, Trentshna-Oyvdreli, passed right under the grounds of Eldor Palace, where there were two stops, Eldor I and Eldor II. Eldor I was semi-private, with access from inside the palace and from an outdoor entrance nearby. Eldor II was larger and less seclusive. Several lines of the metro merged on Eldor II. Here Ajinblambia would build the pavilion where the buggy lines would originate. The pavilion would be a vast hall, over half a mile long, where thousands could assemble. Contestants would be required to come by metro, as there was not enough parking space for their cars, nor did we have enough drivers to escort the contestants even in long limousines or buses. A low ramp the whole length of the pavilion enabled ladies to board the buggies rapidly, which was necessary in order to keep the procession moving as uninterruptedly as possible. We decided to name the pavilion Queen Udi's Pavilion.

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 Gvagma Village, off the grounds a little. Gvagma Village was to be strictly a preserve or a resort of beauty and merriment.

It would all be so lovely!

One morning, when I was in Ajinblambia's office discussing the Palace of Beauty with her, Queen Udi appeared. After all these years, there was still a certain distance between Udi and myself, but she asked whether she might join the discussion and seated herself in a chair upholstered in rose-colored crushed velvet that had been standing against the wall until she pulled it up.

She didn't say much at first, so Ajinblambia summarized the steps we were taking to bring the Palace of Beauty into being. She also mentioned all the other new points of interest in Gvagma Village, like Cissi's Press, A Bit of Ungonesia, the windmill, the waterwheel, the Vrikshaya Column and the swannery. She went on to itemize all the earlier works, like Gvagma Tower, the Institute of Lacemaking, the Institute of Haute Couture, Vunu Vunu Hall, with its bandshell, the galleries, the Gvagma Robot Theater, the Gvagma Spiral, the Gvagma Wheel, Cissi's-in-Ramdonia, the Rose Verandahs and the Orchid Walk.

When I was invited to comment, I mentioned the Beauty Train that would run between Queen Udi's Pavilion and the Palace of Beauty. Queen Udi was flattered, as if we had named the pavilion after her because of her preeminence in beauty, which, for all practical purposes, was the truth.

Queen Udi suggested to King Ajinblambia that Gvagma Village be designated a Royal Landmark. In Ung, very important places and things, whether natural or built by human beings, may win distinction as Royal Landmarks. This honor enhances their prestige and draws visitors in droves. I blushed with gratitude to hear Udi make the offer. A part of being cited as a Royal Landmark consists in having a picture book published by Rupsnoir Press, under the imprimatur of Eldor Palace. This is usually a quarto book, with dozens of beautiful photographs and accompanying text, detailing the history of the landmark.

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' School of Dance, on Gullav Avenue in Spranceld, had three harpsichords, and that there was always at least one not being played.

The next morning, I gave Ezmeraudia a letter of introduction and sent her with Nunu to the School of Dance. They could take Line 133, Oyvdreli-Trentshna, from 7 Ramdonia Circle to Eldor II, and there transfer to Line 212, Eldor-Ozgingd, detraining at Chatcarc Station, right next door to the school. I was sure, since I was an alumna of the school, and, after all, Cissi's did own the Royal Egrets, that they would consent to Nunu's practicing the harpsichord there. If, after a time, when the initial burst of enthusiasm had mellowed, Nunu still wanted to pursue harpsichord, I would consider buying one for Bo House.

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 School of Dance would be moving to Gvagma Village in '405. A beautiful, new colonnaded building was being built at that very time. For the time being, however, it would be necessary for Ezneraudia and Nunu to go to Spranceld to use one of the harpsichords.

According to Ezmeraudia, all the dancers and other ladies associated with the School of Dance were astounded to hear Nunu playing the harpsichord. They could have fainted in awe when they heard that she had composed the fugues she was playing too. For several days, when Nunu came to play, a few of the ladies would come to listen and watch. They all just loved Nunu.

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 7 Ramdonia Circle. They would detrain at Chatcarc Station in 15 minutes, even with the transfer at Eldor II.

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 School of Dance during the time when I knew Ezneraudia and Nunu would be present, I decided to make a surprise visit. Of course I knew Zhvizhvi and many other ladies that would be around, and I went about and greeted a few of them. I had danced for the Royal Egrets in The Siege of Candle Tower and some other ballet suites, but I had been inactive for three or four years. I had so many irons in the fire, in a manner of speaking, that I could not possibly handle them all.

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 Gvagma Village in the other.

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 7 Ramdonia Circle. Instead of getting into an autobuggy to go the mile and a half to Bo House, I suggested that we walk, stopping at Rose Verandah I for supper, rather than having it delivered, as we usually did. Joining us at supper in the restaurant was a novelty for Nunu. Hobnobbing with all the grown ladies gave her a feeling of importance and power, I think. We ate broiled salmon with mustard sauce, crisp white bread with warm butter, fresh and sweet, and green beans. Dessert was strawberries, sweetened and in their own juice.

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 Gvagma Village.

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.

(5277 Words)