“Ah, there you are, Queenie darling. You look absolutely ravishing today,” McCavity swooned as he waltzed into Queenie’s chambers carrying a pork pie that he intended devour as soon as he sat down. He was wearing his much-loved top hat and tails, the buttons of his jacket stretched on a slowly growing paunch.
“Huh!” Queenie replied with mirth. “Ravishing, you say, McCavity? Have you seen these wrinkles? Wrinkles already! I ask you, am I really that old?” She peered into the mirror with a scowl and prodded each wrinkle in turn, as though prodding wrinkles were a well-known and effective anti-aging treatment.
“I wouldn’t say old, exactly, no. And wrinkles?!” McCavity acted aghast, a hand across his chest and his eyes wide. “No, my darling. You’ve got no wrinkles at all. You are as young as the day I met you. I’ve told you already, you look absolutely ravi…”
“Yes, yes!” She snapped. “Ravishing, I know. You’ve already said that, you complete imbecile. What do you want anyway?” The ‘wh’s of her words were harsh and she glared at her slightly podgy lover as he plonked himself down and sunk his teeth into his pie. He paused mid-bite and looked up at her, his teeth still buried up to his nose in pastry. He peeked at her with fear before lowering his beloved pork pie to his lap and gulping.
“I…I…You look ravishing…oh, no, oh, gosh! I always say the wrong thing!” He looked forlornly at the pie in his hands on his lap, hoping that his sadness would be enough to placate her. She was becoming increasingly angry as she aged.
“Oh McCavity,” she said, softening as he had hoped. “I don’t want to get old. I want to stay young and free. Running this city will be the death of me.”
“I know, my darling, but I’m afraid that getting old is inevitable, and we’ll all die eventually. In the meantime, we can have some fun!” He raised his eyebrows with glee and giggled a little.
“Fun, McCavity?” She looked at him with hope in her eyes and he was suddenly reminded of the beautiful young girl he fell in love with. “What fun can we have? Are we going to go and kick the small people again?” McCavity shook his head, laughing a little as he walked to her chamber door and opened it slightly.
“Not quite, my dear,” he said before turning and calling. “McElroy! Come, my boy!” Queenie rolled her eyes. She had never thought her son much fun – apart from when he was with Nanny Jones and far away from the palace, of course. It’s not that she didn’t love him, it was just that, well…she preferred to love him from afar.
McElroy’s little feet came pattering down the hallway and he burst through the door, throwing it wide open. “Mummy!” he cried, arms flung in the air and moving to pounce. Queenie jumped backwards and held a hand out.
“Don’t you touch mummy, McElroy! You know the rules! Only hugs after bath time!” She had genuine fear in her eyes. “This dress cost mummy an awful lot, and I won’t have sticky fingers destroying it. Is that clear?”
“Yes mummy!” McElroy giggled as McCavity watched the exchange with pride. “Why do you talk so funny? Like there is something stuck in your throat?”
“Me? I? Well. Now.” She blinked rapidly in confusion. It was not often that Queenie was lost for words but this was one of those few occasions. She felt completely out to sea around the boy.
“Now, now, my dear boy,” McCavity intervened, rescuing his poor lover from the child’s inquisitiveness. “You know that mummy doesn’t like questions.”
“Mummy doesn’t like lots of things,” McElroy countered, nodding knowingly throughout. He was right, for Queenie was generally rather hateful and her ire was growing steadily through the years. She wasn’t a bad person, you understand. She just didn’t know how to be a good one. “Can we play a game now?” he asked, innocence and excitement glittering from his little eyes.
“What game would you like to play, my dear boy?”
“Ummm…how about…snakes and ladders?” With a grin and swoosh of his hand, the floor disappeared beneath his parents and they dropped to a snake pit below, as McElroy watched from the safety of his perch above.
Queenie shrieked. “McElroy, you horrid child! What have you done?” The wrinkles that she so hated grew deeper as her head furrowed with fear. McCavity wasn’t faring much better as he slowly backed into a corner, not taking his eyes off the hissing snakes at his feet. McElroy giggled as he watched.
“McElroy, my boy. Remember what we talked about?” McCavity spoke to the child without looking at him. “We’ll have to put a stop to your magic, if you can’t learn to behave.”
“What’s wrong, daddy? Don’t you like playing with me?”
“Oh, er. Oh, gosh. No, it’s not that, my dear boy. But how about we play something else instead?” McCavity and Queenie had moved close and were now clinging onto each other for dear life.
“Okay daddy. If you say so.” And with a swoosh and swish, they were back in Queenie’s chambers. “What else shall we play?” He turned his head to look at each parent in turn. He looked sweet as a cherry as they took deep sighs of relief, clutching their chests and looking for a seat to collapse into.
“You decide, darling,” Queenie said – meaning McCavity of course, but McElroy had other ideas.
“Marbles!” he shouted with wide-eyed excitement. With a giggle and a click of his little fingers, his parents doubled over with pain.
“NO!” McCavity shouted just before his head was tucked under his feet and he was rolled into a ball. His exterior became silky smooth glass, tinted with a red streak. In fact, he looked remarkably like a real marble, except with a little working mouth and a pair of small blinking eyes. He rolled over to Queenie and bumped her blue tinged body gently. “Fun, you see?” he said to her with a tight smile. Her little beady eyes glared back at him.
“I’ve got a better idea,” she growled and her eyes shrunk in concentration. The strain on her face was clear but within a few moments, she had burst out of her glass shell, throwing bits of marble everywhere and watching the shrapnel rain down. McElroy’s eyes widened with fear in that moment when he realised that perhaps he shouldn’t have underestimated his mother’s magical powers. “McElroy McCavity! You disgusting little child! You will not get away with this!” With anger, she swooshed her hands in the air, much in the same way that McElroy had done earlier.
Finally, she looked around her with satisfaction etched across her face. She was sat on a giant cushion with her legs curled under her, looking around at her sweet little family as they played cards. First, she smiled at McCavity – still in marble form of course. Queenie felt the punishment was just for allowing the child to disturb her peace. Then she down at her sweet, quiet, well-behaved child, all wrapped up in his strait jacket with tape over his mouth. She grinned at him.
“Not so fun when the tables are turned now is it, McElroy?” she said with a smirk. Now this, she thought to herself happily, is how best to enjoy family time!
Why not read more about Queenie and McCavity in John Sharpe: No. 1,348? Go on, have a laugh!