Ophelia Wycliffe and the cormoran
The nasty eyes of the cormoran swept across the room.
Her hair as dark and soft as the sweetness of the time of year. She knew all this, and a few other things, some of which were important and vaguely interesting, some - I’m thinking of the rules of chess (the Marquise de Lourdes’ rules, not the Louvril Chantilles Debussy ones) and the mathematics of whist - totally uninteresting and absolutely horrendous, to be honest.
She usually didn’t care much for ‘that terrible bird’, but today it seemed to distract her. ‘Langston, will you be a dear and take that feathered disaster for a walk?’
‘Why, certainly! Is he disturbing your afternoon rest, oh poor overworked remnant of ancient plentitude one?’
Ophelia, the poor, fatigued woman, commenced plucking her neck hair in that unpleasant, bird-like fashion, using her left hand ring finger and thumb for a beak.
‘Oh don’t be like that, love, you know mother dear won’t appreciate such!’ The sound of her voice was that of indifference, she really didn’t care a lot, it was all a show for appearances to her. It was yet an example of the price Langston would ever have to pay for marrying above his position: obedience.
The cormoran, let us call him ‘Sid’, saw all this.
He just didn’t care much.
-After all, he was a mere bird.
There are reasons for the expression ‘birdbrain’, you know.
Mrs Wycliffe, the elderly relative with the key to the lock on the family purse and owner of the estate, and also the one who kept the cards from the agents and dealers in the city, sighed and jovially buttered another muffin for her dog. The dog was a french bulldog going by the name ‘Earl’, who had a nasty habit of farting almost continuously.
‘There, earl, now enjoy your muffin, dear.’
Earl farted, looked at her, or rather at the muffin, farted again, and enjoyed yet another helping of fart material.
‘Oh mother dear, must you ever feed that wretched animal in the library? It smells, you know.’
If there was one thing Ophelia enjoyed less than the horrid bird, it must have been Earl. Earl seemed to be aware of that, as he always looked angrily at her when she spoke. His revenge, silly perhaps, but then again, he was a dog, was keeping close to her when farting.
‘Nonsense, Ophelia dear, don’t be silly! He’s just a wee bit upset in his little tummy-wummy, yes, aren’t you!’ She leaned towards the smelly, farting dog while speaking using that silly baby-voice Ophelia hated so much.
The cormoran saw and heard all this, but did it understand any of it, except maybe the muffin?
I think not.
Really, I do.
Meanwhile, Langston, the ever servile and gentle chap, managed to catch the angry cormoran, tucked it into its cage, which the nasty bird really, really hated. The beast did its best to pluck out Langston’s Right hand eye. It was well nigh successful in doing so, which is still obvious seven years later, in that his right hand eyebrow is only half its original length, and looks silly, like he’s constantly surprised.
What we have here, then, is a nice and archetypical example of a dysfunctional family:
-A mother holding on to whatever power she has over her grown up daughter by waving an inheritance in front of her at any upheaval or rebellion.
-A daughter kept in a state of ‘limbo’, -not allowed to grow up or to take control of her own life.
-A husband/ son in law who hates everything about his life, even a silly bird with a brain which must be deemed badly functioning even by bird’s standards.
So let this be a warning to you: Don’t feed buttered muffin to your french bulldog. Not at tea-time, in fact, not ever.
Ophelia was a preference, not humanly accessible, not as such.