Authors: Colleen McCullough
Flo carefully chose four crayons from her repository and went to the wall.
This, I realised, was the tricky bit; Mrs. PomfrettSmythe’s attention had to remain focused on me, which meant some sort of mediumistic behaviour-a trance, certainly, mutters and moans, definitely, but how does one produce ectoplasmic drooling? Bubble gum and soap? Research, Harriet, research!
For today, I flopped back in my pink chair, sighed and sagged, gave little screechy squeaks. And squinted at Flo through half-shut eyes. She took the dark purple crayon first and scribbled. Mrs. PomfrettSmythe. Then she produced some wavy-edged rectangles in bottle-green. Money. Lots of bright yellow circles. Gold coins. And finally a pyramid of tiny pale ochre dots. A sand heap. Now that I know, it’s easy. Flo’s words are colours and shapes. As her drawing skills
improve, it will be manifest. But the real miracle is that Flo can see the right answers to all the questions “me ladies” ask. Can see the torment in a soul, can see into every heart. Can see murder coming. My weeny angel puss, God’s new experiment. Well, with me, she’s safe. That’s what Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz understood. Knowing, I think now, that she herself would soon be ill-equipped to cope with all that Flo is going to become. She’d passed the task to a younger, better educated Harriet Purcell. Today I realised at last why the first Delvecchio Schwartz submitted to her fate so tamely. We’re there for our angel puss; she’s the one who really matters.
When Flo dropped the crayons, I groaned and emerged slowly from my trance. Mrs. PomfrettSmythe was staring at me as if I had sprouted an extra head.
“Princess,” I announced, “you tell your husband to hang onto his funny little gadgets for dear life. What the world has been waiting for is a way to sort the electrical sheep from the electrical goats. These funny little gadgets are sheer dynamite.” I stroked the Glass. “Silicon! Amazing stuff.”
“Are you absolutely sure, Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz?” she asked doubtfully.
No, Flo is sure, I thought to myself. The sheep culling gates are transistors-very newfangled, but I’m technically trained. There are a few medical machines made out of them, and even a computer or two. Canny Mr.
PomfrettSmythe! Clearly he’s latched onto some staggering advance in them, so maybe the days of vacuum tubes and thermionic emission are numbered? Then I had another thought: are Mr.
PomfrettSmythe’s friends and colleagues plotting to buy him out? No sooner had I wondered this than Flo took a peagreen crayon and scribbled a sort of liver shape, followed that up with rays of jaundice-yellow. Yep, that’s the story.
And Flo just read my thoughts, answered my unspoken question. The breakthrough at last! Flo has admitted me to her mind, she and I just became one. I am vindicated. Mrs. PomfrettSmythe was still looking at me enquiringly, her question still hanging in the air.
“I am absolutely, positively, definitely sure,” I said with utter conviction.
“What’s more, you can give him a tip from-use my name!-Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz. A wise man ought not to believe everything his friends and colleagues say.”
“I will, I will!” No idiot, Mrs. PomfrettSmythe; she got my drift. The pale purple kid handbag flipped open. “Um, how much is that?”
I made a grand gesture. “No charge the first time, princess, but from now on, I’ll charge like the Light Brigade.” Charge her for today? Not on your nelly!
On Monday I’m going to open two share portfolios, one for Flo and one for me, and our first punt is going to be on Mr. PomfrettSmythe’s funny little gadgets.
My first client was gazing at me in awe and vast respect; then her eyes went to Flo, displayed only the tender admiration women feel for a beautiful child.
“I’d appreciate it,” I said, getting to my feet, “if you give Mrs. Pearson a ring on the phone and tell her that the one and only Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz is open for business in her new incarnation. The magnetic mu is less than one again, and the vectoring of the equanimities is complete. Things have returned to normal at The House.”
Flo and I ushered her down the stairs and out onto the verandah, where we waited for the smart-looking chauffeur to dash across, his umbrella at the ready.
“Angel puss,” I said as we waved the Rolls goodbye through the rain, “let’s keep your blossoming drawing skills our secret, eh? The clients are going to start Rollinghur-hur-hur-up in droves shortly, and we don’t want to let them know how we do it, do we? Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartz has to stay unique-she’s your shelter from a world that isn’t ready for you.”
And just like that I looked into her mind! Blurred outlines of institutional furniture flying past, the shock of pain as she threw herself against something, the myriad shards of an exploding window, the concerned yet uncomprehending faces. But all that, I understood, was as nothing before the love she harbours for her two mothers, the two Mrs. Delvecchio Schwartzes.
She smiled at me, nodding vigorously. Our secret.
“I wonder,” I asked as I put my hand on the door, “if the first edition is ever going to Pass Over properly? What’s your opinion, angel puss?”
Flo took three crayons-yellow, blue and green-from her pink pocket and drew a cockatoo and a budgie on the glossy white wall between 17d and The House.
Somehow I think that Mum isn’t going to be a scrap surprised when I ask her for permanent custody of Willie; undoubtedly it’s already been arranged.