Monday, March 21, 2022

The Tallageda Vision: The Alternative Facts of the Presidency of Donald J Trump, a fairy tale for adults by E. E. Paxton and Dr Larry Buttrose. Chapter Two.




The Tallageda Vision: The Alternative Facts of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, by E. E. Paxton with Dr Larry Buttrose, Chapter Two. *All rights withheld except looking at this.*

                                            Chapter Two: The Mild West 

I have observed that parents tend to love their children. This habitual love comes in a range of flavours. There is Father-Son: brown ale, and Mother-Son: bubbly (domestic). There is Mother-Daughter: coffee of variable quality, and Father-Daughter: a mug of absinthe. For the children of course the flavours are for the most part different. Son-Father: Cola. Son-Mother: chocolate milk. Daughter-Mother: coffee of variable quality. Daughter-Father: Bubble tea with a Sprite chaser.

            As Mr Trump is a perhaps the world’s most famous teetotaller, it’s fair to say a drink other than absinthe should apply to his relations with his undisputedly favourite child, his daughter Ivanka. And, yes, given the imagination of the man, let’s just say she was the cream in his covfefe, while for her he was a seltzer you always hoped worked, but didn’t.

            One day, still well before the 2016 election, Ms Ivanka Trump met with her father at a pre-arranged time in Trump Tower. There was nothing unusual in this. By this time she had long been helping him with his speeches, vocabulary, intonations, posture, and presentation including the all-important hair design, and occasionally even laced a shoe for him when it came loose, as he found it difficult to bend over that far, other than for creditors. Ms Trump was kind like that. She was and is the daughter about whom many fathers would be proud to say, ‘I’m proud to say she’s my daughter.’

To the casual eye, Ivanka Trump appears almost irrepressibly perky. She has also been known on occasion to chirrup and chirp. This is not to imply she is in any way “bird-brained”, nor that she has any reason not to be perky, and to chirp and chirrup all she likes. She is after all young, rich, and attractive. This makes her a magazine cover triple-threat, but Ms Trump is even worse – a quadruple. This is because she is the smartest in the family by around the length of Fifth Avenue, which runs from Washington Square all the way up to merge or such with W 143rd Street, and so spans the entire known as well as unknown universe. That is how smart she is, and were he a drinking man her father would have felt like he’d just consumed that mug of absinthe every time he saw her, so dizzying was his paternal love and pride. 

I won’t cheapen things by saying Mr Trump also realised she was “totally hot”. 

[You just did. LB] [But she empirically was. And, yes, Dr Buttrose, I do know I threw Aristotle under a bus earlier. But he’s back. For now. So just “suck it up”, as I have been informed they now disgustingly say for “accept it”.] [I thought you were not “au fait” with much vernacular. Have you had your morning covfefe yet? If so I suggest you go and make another one. Triple Irish. LB] 

But it was not only her father who knew she was “hot”. Her husband Jared Kushner did, and indeed almost any man who beheld her would have felt his pulse rise at least a beat or two, unless he was, as the Queen of England and others reputedly term it, “a friend of Dorothy”. 

I should mention a little more about Ms Ivanka Trump before we hear her speak. 

[No, no - please NO! No more addenda to the text now. We know her already! LB] [Just a paragraph, please, Dr Buttrose, a mere pen-stroke sketch.] [If you insist on this kind of addition and revision here, I shall require a revision of my own - an upward one of my fee. LB] [No problem, Dr Buttrose. But then you knew that.] [Just get ON with it! LB]

A native of Manhattan, Ivanka Trump shares her Donald-Ivana Trump parentage with Donald Junior (the name may suggest the originally intended heir-apparent), and Eric Trump. She also has two half-siblings, Tiffany, whose mother was her father’s second wife, Marla Maples, and Mr Trump’s youngest child Barron, born of Melania Trump. 

Ms Trump modelled as a teenager while still at school, and followed in her father’s footsteps to his alma mater, Wharton, gaining a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Her success with her clothing, shoe and jewellery brands propelled her while still a gel onto the front covers of magazines such as Town & Country, and Shape. While editors clearly grasped her business acumen, one must also be realistic in stating that her father’s colourful reputation as well as her beauty did not prove a barrier to a high degree of public recognition. [I can see now why you bargained so hard to include this paragraph. It has me on the edge of my rug. LB] Later on her business road got a bit bumpier, but by then she was married to the wealthy Mr Kushner – her father was always there to bail her out too, provided he himself did not need bailing out at the same time – and so happily for her, her bumps were ridden on well-padded suspension. 

She wrote a couple of books on work and business – it is unclear how they sold in comparison to her father’s ghosted “classic” The Art of the Deal, but one can presume he would have sulked if either had – and in recognition of her smarts, and his courageous acceptance his other progeny might not be quite “up with her”, upon his election Mr Trump appointed her as Advisor, although he also appointed her husband Mr Kushner as Senior Advisor. I do not know if these two titles were intended to keep their domestic situation “in proper order”, but as you can see, Mr Trump kept his cabinet close to home - in a corner of the kitchen. [Are we there yet? LB] 

On the day in question, a few months into 2016, as her father’s run for office was gaining the momentum of an Indiana Jones boulder freed from its terrestrial moorings and careering down a mountainside with terrified people scattering everywhichway in its path, Ms Trump entered a room we now know as possibly but  not yet proven to be somewhere near the Trump Tower glans tip. Ms Trump discovered her father fiddling with his phone. 

‘Oh, daddy… Tweeting unsupervised. Again.’

He did not look up. ‘It’s just Uber Eats!’

‘No, it’s not Daddy,’ she said, in a voice of infinite patience, if bordering on the lilt staff use for addressing inmates in old people’s homes, after visiting hours and all their relatives have safely left. ‘You’ve seen the polls today and now you’re kneejerk tweeting.’

She put out her hand for the phone, and he reluctantly handed it over. ‘Well,’ she said brightly after reading the almost-completed tweet, ‘lucky you didn’t send that one or we wouldn’t get a single black vote north of the Mason-Dixon. Or south of it either, and they’re used to it.’

‘Why?’ asked her father, genuinely interested that she could see matters for concern

where Steve Bannon and a phalanx of advisors, posses of lawyers and flunkies, and life-skilled criminal associates, saw none.

Ms Trump merely rolled her eyes, deleted the intended post and returned the phone.

‘Pretty dress,’ he said.

‘Thanks. Baby Doll. Nothing special.’

‘I like the colour.’


‘Well, yeah.’

‘Daddy, you don’t need to try to be nice to me, because I know that can wear you out. You’ve never liked anything green. Vegetables, renewable energy, grass. The only green you like is the one you reach in hope of a par.’

He eyed her, trying to work out what to say to this young woman he had somehow fathered, and who was always at least three thoughts ahead of him. He remembered then that Frank Sinatra once said the problem with the world is it’s two drinks behind. He wasn’t sure of why he thought of that then, other than the uncomfortable suspicion he might be lifelong-trapped in a water-treading zone between Ivanka and Frank. 

Now Daddy,’ Ms Trump said at her perkiest. ‘I’ve had an idea.’ 

And what would that be, Daddy’s little darling?’

Some young women might have been prompted to retch at the tone he used, but for her it was all part of his not at all weird but nice if clumsily expressed paternal love.

‘Daddy, you should start drinking.’ 

She might as well have suggested he try out for the Olympic platform diving team. ‘What?’ he said, and as we all know now for the purposes of this fairy tale, this is his habit when confronted by a question that confounds him, which is most. But unlike Mrs Trump, there was no sea trench nor deep space-like silence with Ms Trump. She didn’t do silences. She was perky.

‘Daddy, it’s time you became like a normal human being and started drinking alcohol.’

‘Plenty of normal human beings don’t drink alcohol.’

‘That’s not true. And many who don’t are Muslims,’ she said, already probing his inner defences, having opened with her stunning Queen’s Gambit. He was not aware of this strategy as it was not on Fox. 


‘Muslims don’t drink at all,’ she said. ‘It’s forbidden.’

He “thought” about it for a moment. ‘What, none of them?’ 

‘Not unless they’re cheating… breaking the rules. Sinning.’

‘Yeah, well.’

‘Jared says not drinking makes them so angry they want to destroy Israel. And while I think they may have other reasons too, such as their dispossession, there could be a grain of truth in that particular loaf.’

This conversation was already a bit hard for Mr Trump to keep track of, but then conversations with his daughter often were. His secret inner name for her was “Lisa”, because even though as far as he knew she did not play the saxophone like the Simpson girl, she could run rings around the rest of the family with her smarts while Bart could only do that on his skateboard. He liked The Simpsons. They made fun of him sometimes, but they made fun of everyone, so it was fair, not rigged like most things he’d ever tried in his life that relied on a quorum of approval from others. He wasn’t unreasonable - it was just a matter of fairness. His losses were always rigged by others and his victories were always his. That was fairness. 

He wondered then if he got elected that he might award Matt Groening the Congressional Medal of Honour for services to making him laugh sometimes. The Reader’s Digest and everyone else knew that laughter is the best medicine, Matt Groening must be the most brilliant doctor who ever lived, period, ever. He also wondered if there was some hidden little meaning in his daughter’s use of “loaf”, as in loafing… or was it perhaps to do with real bread, literally with a hidden grain in it? He wondered if you had to eat the whole thing to find it… well, that at least he could do…

‘So?’ she asked.

‘We all know what it did to my dear brother,’ he said, hoping the card of family tragedy would be the end of it. But nothing was ever the end of it with Ivanka when she didn’t want it.

‘You’ve never cared about what’s happened to other people before. Why start now? And I think you could find it relaxing.’

‘I’ve got hookers and golf for that.’

‘And… politically useful,’ she added, with one of her looks.

She had a habit of doing that too, he knew. Luring you into a trap, and then springing it, so you thought you’d got away, but found your leathery long tail caught in the steel jaws of her persuasion. It took him a moment to think all this, and get out the best reply he could.


Now she had his full attention at last, she took the opportunity to usher him across the room to the chesterfield by the window with a view of the whole of New York City, or at least whatever quadrant of it was visible from wherever in the building they were. 

[Dr Buttrose, I feel this internal geography of Trump Tower may be becoming a problem.] [No-one cares about description beyond “it was brown” or “it was green”, like Ivanka’s dress. We don’t care about the shade. We see it as we wish. As Hemingway said, the descriptive bits are the ones the reader skips to the next piece of dialogue. LB] [Dr Buttrose, I think that is one of the most detailed notes you have written here.] [Don’t think it’s meaningful and get ahead of yourself. The Reader always just wants to know what’s said next. LB] [But Dr Buttrose, isn’t some description OK?] [Clearly. Obviously. But measured out in Mr Eliot’s coffee spoon. A very small Mr Eliot coffee spoon. LB]

When they were safely and comfortably seated on the chesterfield, looking out at whatever other towers were next to theirs in the window, Ms Trump resumed in her most persuasive tone. ‘Daddy, I’m not suggesting you start drinking hard liquor, or Budweiser, or anything. I just think with a little tuition and practice, you could learn to drink wine.’

‘Why would I want to drink wine? It stinks.’

‘Wine is a beautiful universe that wine lovers devote their whole lives to exploring. Rich and complex French wines, frivolous and fun-loving Italian and Spanish. And of course there’s champagne, which merciful God gave us to arm and brace ourselves for dinners with your “business associates”. And big, bold Australian reds, and lovely little New Zealand whites...’

 ‘What’s New Zealand?’ This was before Ms Jacinda Ardern’s election as prime minister in 2017. After that, the common wisdom could be that even Mr Trump might know where New Zealand is. He certainly knew then it existed, with a babe in charge. He even met her, more than once, but not alone in his hotel room. History does not record, at least as yet, whether Mr Trump considered Ms Ardern “totally hot”, just “hot”, or perhaps even not.

‘There are Greek wines too. Bulgarian wines. There are Chilean wines. There are South African wines. And, at the bottom of the pile, Daddy, there are Californian wines.’ 

‘Those weed-smoking hippies can make wine?’ Although ignorant of the process of wine-making, Mr Trump did know some things in life are hard, beyond inheriting a lot of money, if even then it was difficult not to lose it to routine stupidity.

 ‘Yes. The Napa Valley,’ she said. ‘You should watch Sideways.’

‘I like to watch head on.’

She nodded, if not quite as perkily, but rather more sagely, as sages and even non-sages may do, as she comprehended both the truth and the cheap import of this remark. ‘But, if you started to drink Californian wines, some of the voters out there might start to think you’re a bit less, well, you know, sub-human. Somewhere around homo erectus, possibly.’ 

‘What did you just call me? A homo... erectus?? I mean erectus is good… but homo??’

‘Daddy, did you really go to Wharton at all?’                        

‘I could cut your allowance, you know.’ 

‘No you couldn’t.’

‘Why not?’


‘Oh, she knows all about the hookers.’ 

‘But she doesn’t know about the other thing.’

‘What?? The tax? …land deals? … Payoffs? slush funds? Putin…’

‘She knows all that stuff too. What do you think she is, dumb?’

He considered his response with the greatest care he could. That wasn’t a lot, but she found it interesting watching his rusty cogs grating as he tried.

‘Then what the fuck doesn’t she know?’ he said and shrugged.

She smiled at this crude attempt at the blasé brush-off meets intelligence probe. She genuinely worried for him if he were ever put in the witness box facing a real attorney, a judge and jury. He’d either crack or lie that the Pope was secretly the Grand Wizard of the KKK in under a minute.

‘You know I mean the one thing she doesn’t know,’ Ms Trump said.

‘What??’ He tried for querulousness - the thing, not the word, which was not in his vocabulary, even remotely, but in a galaxy far, far away. ‘What the hell you talking about?’

‘You know what I’m talking about.’ 

He stopped. Said nothing. God he wished sometimes she wasn’t so fucking smart. And then he took the bait like Patrick at a picnic in Bikini Bottom.

‘But… you don’t know about… that.’

‘How do you know?’ she teased, for the cheek of it.

‘Because you don’t. How could you?’

‘Daddy. I’m not here to rattle all the skeletons in your closet. I just want to help. Hillary’s in front, right? Way.’ 

‘Oh. But just wait. I gotta lotta bad stuff on her. Bad.’

‘Of course you do, Daddy. That’s what you have all your attorneys, hackers, creeps and goons for. But listen to me please. Properly.’

He stopped for a moment. It was Ivanka. He knew he had to listen. And properly. So he tried. His very hardest. Even harder than his hardest. But it was hard. 

‘The state of California has 55 electoral college votes. The most of any state, right? It could really swing it for us. And if we… if we did win it… the Democrats would be so stunned they wouldn’t get up off the mat for two terms. So why not try to get it?’

Mr Trump snorted inwardly. It was good to know someone as smart as Ivanka could still be as dumb as him or anyone else. 

‘Aw baby, Jesus fucking Christ couldn’t win California if he wasn’t a Democrat.’ 

‘Mr Reagan won it. Twice. So did old man Mr Bush. And I didn’t see either of them strolling across Marina del Ray.’

He had never thought of that. Though he hadn’t because he didn’t know it. He’d check it on Wikipedia later, but if Ivanka said it, fuck, it was probably right. Being right all the time was another thing he found annoying about her. As a rule he didn’t like people who were right, preferring those more like him. So as you can see, annoyance at her intelligence, at the same time as pride in it, were at odds in the Trump brain, and sometimes they came to blows, otherwise known as a headache.

‘So…’ he said, still trying to “process” all this, ‘so you think I can win California… I mean, really, really, like, win it, with true, properly counted votes and all, no-one doing any rigging or any shit even… if I just… drink their fuckin’… wine?’ 

            ‘I know it sounds crazy, Daddy,’ she chirruped. ‘Almost like something you’d dream up. But you’d like wine if you got used to it. You really would. And with all the state dinners there’s a tiny tiny tiny chance you may have ahead of you, people might fantasise you have a smidge of sophistication if you drink wine at the table, instead of Diet Coke. So drinking for you is a win-win.’

He hadn’t thought about those state fucking dinners. The prospect terrified the shit out of him, almost literally. He wouldn’t be able to eat a burger out of his hand. People ate with knives and forks and shit. He might even have to eat with the Queen of like, Engaland…

‘So you really think Californians could be dumb enough to vote for me if I just did something like that… just drink their wine.’ 

‘Yes, Daddy. It’s why I’m saying it. You see, Californians love people who are loose.’

Well, he thought, here at last was something he could “work with”.

‘Loose? I’m loose. Already I’m loose. I’m the loosest guy on the block.’ 

‘I know that, Daddy. And they’d get that, they’d intuit it, if you got to know them, and vice versa. They’re all crystal chakras out there, and they’d sense with their cosmic feelers that there’s this loose guy inside that suit somewhere, just busting to get out. Maybe not exactly their kind of loose… but, at least a bit their kind of loose. You know, they love hot tub parties… 

‘Well that’s my kind of party.’ 

He knew those, yeah. Putin had them. Lots of them… Vlad sure knew how to fuckin’

hot-tub party…

‘I know that, Daddy. And they’d intuit that. But to be really loose means you’re

willing to spend time, and hang with friends.’

            His blood ran cold.  Oh. God. So she really did know. ‘Please, please, whatever you do, please don’t tell Melania.’ The brutality of her silence alone would kill him.

Ms Trump tittered. ‘Don’t be silly, Daddy. Not the rope kind of hang. I mean hang, you know, out, with friends. Drink a little wine, maybe smoke a little weed… soft music coming out through the open doors, the splash of the pool as people skinny-dip… the sun and the warm desert wind on your bare skin… kicking back… just totally chilling out…’

The tenor of all this raised immediate suspicions in the man who could read human nature like he did on Celebrity Apprentice… 

[Dr Buttrose, I have never watched this programme. But I thought I should insert at least one reference to it, as so many people appear for some reason or other to have watched it. Do you know it?] [Only by its low repute. Move on. LB] 

‘You almost sound like… you’ve actually gone there. Into enemy territory,’ Mr Trump said, a bit quietly. 

‘Daddy,’ she said, happily ignoring his intonation. ‘You can get a natural tan there. For free. And Californians aren’t all as bad as they look. There’s some great Republicans out there too. Wonderful mega-churches, and televangelists, and not all of them are pedos (paedos) either.’ 

[Dr Buttrose, I have decided that where possible – and whenever I deem it necessary, or I remember, for that matter – that I shall provide a round-bracketed Standard British English version of American English words, both in the interest of easy comprehension for the widest possible spectrum of readers, and in the cause of simple decency. Is that all right, Dr Buttrose?] [Round-bracket, sparingly, if you must, but you will never be able to convey here the gross indecency of the American pronunciation of “aluminium”, nor their common mangling of “nuclear”, as the most obvious examples of their mistreatment of the language. LB] [Noted, Dr Buttrose. I’m glad we are “eye-to-eye” on that one.]

‘I’ve heard of these churches,’ Mr Trump replied, with apparent interest.

‘Yes, you’ve seen them on television. When you can’t find Fox.’

‘What else have they got out there? Beside dumb Tesla? What kind of pussy car is that? It’s not a real American car, made by real American workers.’ 

‘Yes it is, Daddy. But all cars are made by robots now anyway.’

‘Yeah? Well who’s making our real American robots then?’


‘What? So, what do they actually make out there?’

‘Nearly all of our porn, for one thing. California is the centre of the global porn universe. Our economy would be ruined if it wasn’t for our GDP of porn. Those boys and girls are literally humping their asses off for the good of this great nation.’ 

‘Yeah? Well, of course I love our porn… industry. What red-blooded American doesn’t? But why don’t my staff tell me this stuff? Instead of always going on about stupid… numbers.’ 

‘Daddy, that’s because they’re poor communicators. But look at you. You’re a great communicator. You’re like Mr Reagan, only with a chest. There’s nothing you can’t communicate. All you need is a few simple, basic ideas, and you’ll be a great president.’ 

‘But… ideas… are the hard part,’ he confessed, because if there was one person he could confide all his failings and weaknesses and flaws and dark matters to, it was his daughter. ‘I mean, I got the Wall. I got that and I’m gonna go big on that. Totally bigly. Oh, and getting jobs back for all those retards out in the Rust-Belt… and…’

Ms Trump allowed her father to subside. She knew that when it came to policy, he would never go on for very long unaided, unless he was speaking at one of his rallies. But those events she knew were what the English call “all piss and wind”, and not to be taken seriously except by the deeply underprivileged, the intellectually-challenged, and those who were somehow congenitally doomed to being what was cruelly termed “trailer trash”.

So, she waited. Finally his lips did not move at all, and no further words issued from them because, she knew, when it came to the ideas tank, as ever he was “running on empty”. When nothing more issued, not even an “em” or an “uh”, she resumed.

‘Daddy, you do know though, don’t you, that both of those are dumb ideas. You do know that. Or at least I hope you do. Because they are. Jobs? The Chinese are competing us off the map. It’s not just the robots they make. They make everything. Other technology, consumer goods, everything. And they’re so big into AI, which our Defense Department still seems to think is a sub-branch of Alcoholics Anonymous. And no jobs will ever return to the Rust Belt, Daddy. That’s why it’s rusting. It’s uneconomic. Those jobs will only ever return if there’s a profit incentive derived from surplus value of sale price over unit production cost to attract investment.’

Mr Trump stared at her. What the fuck was she speaking? Swahili? He’d often wondered about Swahili. Who were the Swaheels anyway, and where the fuck were…

‘We’ll never make anything now but tech, arms and porn. Some pot and wine. And a few other bits and pieces. As for your Wall… we need all those people coming up here to do all the stuff we won’t. Who’ll garden, pick up our trash and raise our kids? And if we had to bring in proper guest workers from overseas, the wages would bankrupt us. These people work for nothing, Daddy! Nothing! Nada. Zero. Zilch. Two, three bucks an hour if they’re lucky. We don’t even have to give them basic healthcare. Or anything. They work for nothing and get nothing and cost us nothing. What more could we ask? If you stop them coming here, you’ll destroy us all.’

Her mind was totally amazing. Where had all this braininess come from? Some days it made Mr Trump wonder whether Ivana had fucked Einstein… When did he die? ‘But… my base… you know, they think they’re all rapists, drug traffickers and murderers coming up…’

‘Of course they do. Because you’ve told them that, forever, and… with respect…’


‘They believe you because lots of them are white supremacists like your dumb buddies on the golf course.’

Jesus fuck, Mr Trump thought. She really truly totally had his, like, number. His head swam a bit. If a kid like her had a mind like that - how many more of her were there out there who would think shit like that about him? Millions. Tens of millions. All of them educated to within an inch of their lives, and able to read him like a fuckin’ cuckoo clock… they knew so fucking much…

He stopped… and experienced a flash of revelation then. The apple… he thought… it all came back… to the fuckin’ apple. God… was right. Even if He did or did not exist, or was somewhere in between, He was right. The apple of knowledge was…. totally dangerous. And so many people had eaten of it… the apple Apple now…it was scary… he needed to think more on it…


Mr Trump looked at his daughter square in the face, or as squarely as he could, as her face wasn’t square.


She smiled in that way that chilled him to gazpacho. Like he was already in a goddam concentration nursing home camp, and she was giving him her two-minute audience in words of one syllable for his rotting brain, before running off back to Jared, Jared, fukin’ Jared… and the kids, the kids… and leaving him to be force-fed pumpkin and pea shit mash, mixed up and lukewarm and watery as his old eyes… 

‘Daddy, I know you’re trying to think of a solution to this.’

‘To what?’

‘Your Wall, Daddy. So I’ll give you the solution.’


‘It’s actually easy. You just… say… you’ll build the wall… that’s fine… you’ll keep your imbecile base happy… and, oh, oh… oh, and even better… how about this? How about you also say… say… you’ll get Mexico... to PAY for it! Hah!! And then… then if by the remotest chance you do get elected, you can’t build it because Mexicans are being mean, and won’t pay up! And you can always rely on Congress to block it anyway. They’re good at that. The Democrats will help you out, don’t worry.’

He sat there sitting fuddled as fuck. Fuck it all, she was making sense! As usual! ‘But… my staff… all think… they’re tremendous ideas…’ he said, almost timidly, with a tiny inward cower.

‘We have already discussed this, Daddy. You know and I know your staff all have the mental calibre of mobster goons who can’t get jobs as $5000 hit men. And I bet they all hate even the mention of California, right?’ 


‘Daddy, if it wasn’t for California, this country would be right in the bidet. You do know, don’t you, that Silicone Valley is not where your hookers go to get their boob jobs. Apple, Google, Facebook, and the rest of the tech gang, they’re all hanging out there, and they all make so much money they could buy France outright. And England with the spare change.’

Shit… he thought... Or perhaps it was more like a Slim Pickens’, well, shee-itt… and he felt almost faint, and sprawled back on the chesterfield, spread his legs and let out his belt a notch or two. He looked out a steadying moment at the view of the concrete city in the window. It was a terrific concrete city, yes, phenomenal, but to his eye now, strangely all the colour seemed to have faded from it, like some old tapestry some “guide” shows you on the wall of a museum, and she tells you how ancient and important and fucking intricate it is, and you’re standing there thinking “this piece of dumb shit?”, and the woman keeps yacking on and on about it and doesn’t even have a good pair of tits. But besides the tits, something else was knocking together there in his back-brain now, and that was what had suddenly drained his beloved home city of the colour it had only ever had in his imagination anyway. After all, even Mr Trump knew that concrete comes in only fifty shades of grey. But France… that was… Paree… It took him a moment to speak.

‘Buy… France? Really? Is it that, like, cheap? Lotta beautiful women there… in Paris. A lot. Very beautiful. I’ve seen them. Paris is crawling with them, models, in all that phenomenal coo-toor they do over there. France. So, yeah. I’d like to buy France. I’m sure Melania would like to have that one too. Well, at least Paris. I mean the rest is just French, right?’

‘I’m sure she would. Fashion shows. Shoe stores. And yes Daddy, there are lots of beautiful women in France. As there are everywhere in the world.’

[Dr Buttrose, I have not communicated with you in some pages. Just checking, is everything all right? Am I going OK?] [Just keep going. And whatever you do, do not feel the need to describe the chesterfield, or anything else in the room. The human mind fills this in.. Just keep the story going. We’re going to California in our minds now. That’s where the Reader wants to go. Because everyone does, admit it or not. LB].

‘And Daddy, I may have been speaking a bit figuratively in regard to the acquisition of a leading EU member state by our tech titans, but you get my general point. There’s a wealth transfer going on that’s unprecedented in human history… from governments and the people to tech. They’re impossibly rich. Governments are prostituting themselves to them with no taxes and are in hock up to their eyeballs. And China hasn’t even unleashed its top secret virus on the world yet that will kill millions. And our pharma companies will soon be making kinds of wealth from it that’s utterly obscene, even for them.’ 

Ms Trump’s allusion to insider knowledge about a deadly virus that would ravage the world breezed by him like a draft up his shorts.

‘So… so… we really… can’t buy France?? Not even our government can, I mean?’

‘Not unless it’s for sale - and if the government is privatised to a tech startup.’

‘But we could do that… couldn’t we? I mean, you know, to get… well…. Paris…’

‘Most of the good real estate in that landscape is already taken anyway.’

‘But why did you tell me we could if we can’t! That’s not nice. Even for a daughter. And what was that stuff about prostituting?’ 

‘Daddy I just was trying to put it in terms you might understand. Involving women using their bodies to earn large sums of money. That is what the world’s governments are doing with the tech companies. But in their case, selling themselves for a pittance they don’t even get.’

‘Not even fifty bucks on the dresser?’


He sat back, reached across without looking, and single-handedly cracked a Diet Coke from the eternal silver ice bucket at his elbow. He didn’t offer anything to Ivanka, but knew she never wanted it. Not even Diet Coke. That was how she always stayed so phenomenally thin. 

‘Has Daddy ever told you how beautiful you are?’ 

‘Only about a hundred times a day.’

‘You’re even more beautiful than all those French babes put together, darling.’ 

‘It’s almost all right that you call me darling still. But still feels a bit creepy…’

‘But doesn’t every regular dad still see his grown-up daughter in just a diaper?’

‘…but then I know you.’

He “thought” about this but forgot what he was going to say because he started

 thinking about something else. Sometimes it was hard for Mr Trump’s brain to keep up with itself, much less other brains. Then he remembered something easy he could say.

‘So… you you really think I could win California?’ 

‘Yes Daddy! You could!’ she chirruped, delighted to have him back “on message”. ‘If 

you changed your policies, your staff, got fit, ate properly, learned about wine, changed your circle of huckster friends, read books, and somehow started to think, yes, I think you really, really could.’

‘How come you ended up so smart? I don’t get it. Where did it come from?’

‘You always ask me that again and again and I always say the same thing: Mommy. Listen… why don’t we do a little trip to California? Just the two of us. A daddy-daughter thing. Melania wouldn’t want to go near the place anyway. There’s so many of her there she’d find it offensive. And, we’ll go to the Getty Museum… and Disneyland, of course…’

‘But isn’t that just the old one of Disney World?’

‘I’ll choose you the best rides. And then we head up to San Francisco, and I’ll show you 

the Castro district.’

            His eyes narrowed, and that was something frightening to behold, as the tanning goggle whites merged together into an infinity symbol. And infinity on the face of Mr Trump was something few could face sober.

Castro? He’s got a whole, like, district? In an American city??’

‘It’s not full of Cuban revolutionaries, Daddy,’ she tittered. ‘It’s the gay district. Or one of them. Most of San Francisco is kind of the gay district now. It’s a very gay city.’


‘Yes, Daddy,’ she spoon-fed him. ‘They’re a huge part of the voting population in California. And I’m sure if they could see a gentler, more sensitive, even rational side to you, they could, you now, switch preferences. In a manner of speaking. Or, if they looked at you squarely, some of them might literally turn.’

‘From Democrat to Republican?’

‘In a manner of speaking, as I say, yes.’

‘Well… just as long as I don’t have to be on the back of a truck in some rainbow fuckin’ parade…’ 

‘It’ll be a very nice truck. A top of the range Mercedes. With lots of spangly drag queens pole-dancing to The Star Spangled Banner.’

Shit, did he really have to ride on the back of some truck through the streets of gay San Fran-fuckin’-cisco to get elected? What kind of country was this now? What had become of… he reached for the right word…  but it wasn’t there. It hadn’t been there in the first place. That was because it had never existed.

‘But I want the Marine Band playing it.’ 

‘Sure, and they’ll love it and fit in fine. People will go mad to see them. Gays love Marines. They’re very patriotic. And Marines love gays. Because they have similar haircuts. Everyone is very accepting of difference and diversity and respect for the other person.’

Shit fuck Jesus, he thought… gay fucking Marines…

‘Daddy, the Marines are changing quickly. Have you heard of Chelsea Manning?’

            ‘The Clinton kid got hitched to someone?’

            ‘Chelsea Clinton married years ago. Chelsea Manning was a Marine named Bradley Manning who sent state secrets to Julian Assange at Wikileaks. About our dirty war stuff. And Bradley later gender-transitioned to Chelsea.’

            ‘Yeah, well, Assange… talking about gender fuckin’ transition…. I want his balls on toast. Bad.’

            ‘Daddy, to many people he’s a hero of free speech. You could come out in support of him, and people from the right and the left would love you for it.’

‘Where the fuck is he anyway and how come we can’t get him?’

‘He’s still holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Where he’s been for years while we try to work out how to get kidnap or murder him or abuse the British legal system and get him here and lock him up forever. But he’s not a bad man, Daddy.’ She paused, and he thought, fuck, fuck, fuck, she believes this shit… ‘He hasn’t done anything wrong at all, except reveal some truths we should all face.’ And then she looked at him. ‘And unlike so many other people walking around, he’s committed no crime.’

He shrugged it. ‘Where next?’

‘Oh, all right… well, and then we go on to Silicone Valley and tour all the big places. Meet Elon.’

He sat bolt upright, spilling a little of his Diet Coke in the process but not noticing. A splash or two fell on Ms Trump, too. She ignored it. She always had her clothes cleaned immediately after seeing him. 

‘Meet… like… Elon Musk? Really?’

‘I thought you hated Tesla.’

‘I do… but I mean… Elon… you know… he’s so like, cool!

‘I’ll text him. And we’ll visit One Infinite Loop, and you can meet Tim Cook.’

He eyed her with suspicion on that one. ‘You mean the… like… Apple… guy?’

‘The CEO, yes, why?’

He thought about telling her about his concerns about… the apple… but thought the better of it for now. ‘And what’s this “Infinite Loop”? I thought only women had those.’ 

‘It’s the Apple HQ, Daddy. Totally amazing. It’s a loop. Like a giant hole.’ 

‘Buildings should not be holes. Buildings should be great big huge tall towers. Tremendously tall thrusting towers.’

‘Yes of course you would say that, Daddy. But when we’re down there, inside the Loop, you can just think of yourself as Trump Tower inside it. I know it won’t be hard.’

He did not appreciate her “hard” wording in that. And he knew that not even his gorgeous, sweet-talking daughter could ever lure him into that den of evil…

‘And then… we finish up in the Napa Valley!’ she grinned. ‘And you toast California and all its wonderful people… With your first ever glass of wine!! The cameras will lap it up! And the American people will love you for your selfless sacrifice for the greater good. Even better than for your fine military service you never served.’

‘Those bone spurs.’ 

‘How are they these days?’

‘I’m holding up.’

‘And Daddy, don’t worry,’ and at this point she laughed with a kind of childlike glee that might have melted the heart of even the most narcissistic, conceited and self-centred of fathers, ‘I’ve already thought of the perfect wine for you to drink. A Napa specialty. A lovely chilled Pinot Noir. Think, Daddy! Social media will go nuts for this! Californians will go wild! A gay-cool, tech-savvy, Disney-riding hipster who loves a Pinot and knows how to kick back and chill out, and is totally, like, loose.’ 

He “thought” about it a moment. Even that time span was hard enough. ‘I want you in my cabinet.’

‘Of course, Daddy. But how about… as your…’ and here she gave him her sweetest

Daddy’s Little Girl smile, ‘well… as your running mate?’ 

‘Yeah I thought about that… for about, like, five minutes. But you can’t be. I know McCain had Potty Palin… but as well as being a woman and young, two strikes, you’re also a Jew, because you married Jared. And my people would never vote for someone saddled with being that as well as a woman and young.’

‘But… Daddy…’

 And here now was his chance to play big bad daddy with her, and after all the shit he’d eaten from her… well… the pea and pumpkin mash… he grabbed it with his biggest strongest man-voice of all. 

‘Jared. Jared. What kinda name’s Jared anyhow? Sounds like some no class realtor from Queens. No, I’ve got the perfect old white dude all picked out. But don’t worry, you’ll be president in 2024. So I can keep telling you what to do.’

‘Yes, Daddy,’ she said after a momentary pause. ‘Of course.’

‘So… what does this… peen-oh… shit taste like, anyway?’

‘You’ll like this. It’s the best part.’

‘Come on then.’

‘Diet Coke.’


[Dr Buttrose, I believe you “let me have my head” in that chapter.] [I did. Keep going. LB] [Dr Buttrose, I suspect the next chapter may be rather longer.] [Don’t worry. I’ll cut it. LB]. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Little Book of Insults Chapter 1




          A fairy tale for adults by E. E. Paxton

                           with Dr Larry Buttrose






























This fairy tale for adults is intended to follow my first (also with Dr Larry Buttrose), The *Tallageda Vision: The Alternative Facts of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. The introduction and appendix in that book describe our “process” and “working relationship”, and contractual arrangements, for anyone who might happen to be interested in such obscure, technical matters. Should any readers have come to this book without reading that first one, I refer them to my brief Afterword in this volume, which provides a curt summary of these matters. It will also prove useful if that first one proves to be tragically unpublishable for any number of good reasons.


As with the first book, we anticipated the publisher would insist for some reason known only to them that the annoying editorial exchanges between Dr Buttrose and me on the manuscript in progress be included. I assure the Reader that in this volume these are mercifully fewer and briefer, which I can only put down to a gnawing suspicion Dr Buttrose believes I may be learning how to write, as you will see from our final exchange. (Please do be patient, and read it when you get to it, not now, as that would be cheating, or something.)

E.E. Paxton

(All other details withheld)


 *Not a typographical error for Talladega.








        PART ONE


                              An Absence of Absinthe
















ONCE upon a time, there was a far-off magical land called “Europe.” But despite what one might suspect of a fairy tale, Europe turns out to be not entirely imaginary. As pioneering airfarer accounts truly attested, it was and is a real place. Nor is it a “fairytale kingdom”. Travellers described it as more of an “entity” composed of smaller ones, drawn together in some of kind of mystical union. The set-up is perhaps more complicated than our purposes require here, so let us simply call Europe a “realm”. I find that a nice, rounded five letter word with a satisfying “lm” ending, and I hope you concur, and perhaps derive as much weird pleasure from it as I do.

            Over time, our knowledge of Europe grew. Some hardy souls even began journeying there. More eventually made the arduous trip, and a picture emerged. Almost all concurred that Europe is nice: in fact, it is the kind of place people who don’t live there hope they’ll go when they die. That’s how nice it is. Those journeying there nowadays, if still enduring the most terrible privations of space and appalling food en route – although the rum ration is always generous – mostly undergo things there called “holidays”, or as some insist on quasi-scatologically terming them, “vacations”. These can be adventurous, pleasurable, even educative “experiences”, but for many they can also prove as near-death as one can go without actually “passing”. [No! Not even parenthesised, in jest, ever, EEP! LB] [Sorry, Dr Buttrose. I must have been watching television.] These return exhausted, fleeced of their savings, and bearing crude and valueless trinkets they were assured would impress their friends, who snigger behind their backs. Despite that, we still know in our hearts that Europe is very nice, and if there is any fault to be found, it must be in us, and our own lack of a proper appreciation of all the fine things it has. After all, it is we who bought the trinkets, as surely as it is the Chinese who made them. For some other people, visiting Europe can also be “transformative”, leading to a “deeper understanding” of “one’s self”, and so on. And while this fairy tale might not be about that kind of thing at all, it sounds pleasant, and mild as one of those soaps made from goat milk. I think it is always nice to find pleasant, harmless things in life, as they don’t require “trigger warnings” and 1800 telephone numbers. “Transformation” and a “deeper understanding of self” are rarities in not requiring those, and so are the goat milk soap of human experience.

            As you might have suspected by now, dear Reader, our fairy tale takes place in this Europe, although it begins not with a princess, as one might consider tradition, but a contessa. This term is used to denote a countess of Italian origin, and such is our heroine, the Contessa Isabella Gattonero de’ Medici. Now I know those of you who bother to search such things on Wikipedia will see that the line of the “big” Medicis of Florence has long died out, and the Medicis who are left are not of the banking dynasty, but dentists, accountants, nurses, clerks, sex workers, cleaners, tattooists, garbage collectors, and even politicians and journalists. But the Contessa is from a forgotten sub-twig of that great, near-extinct dynasty, and so continues the line into our times. But she is the very last, and were she to die “without issue” (as the Baron will surely mention in a subsequent chapter), that would be the end of the line for the genes of Giovanni, Cosimo and Lorenzo the Magnificent. So as you can imagine, a certain reproductive imperative may have been seen by others as resting upon her shoulders, even though she had not yet had any children. Perhaps the Contessa didn’t care a fig if the line died out: we do not know at this point. 

            We find her aboard a tram, rumbling through the streets of Brussels, the capital of Europe. She is dressed for a ball, and as with all her wardrobe, the style dates from the 18th Century. The reason for this quirk, shared by others we shall meet from the decadent European aristocracy, will become apparent as we proceed. Being our Heroine/Princess Trope, she is beautiful, in her case to a psychologically disruptive degree, so that women, men and children alike often have to avert their eyes for fear of sensory overload and possible psychotic reaction. Her hair is “coal black”, naturally, in both senses of the word, her lips are “ruby red” and eyes “flashing green”, and so on. And as you can imagine would be the case in a fairy tale in the rubric of the ruling paradigm, her skin is so translucently pale that were one to be so privileged as to see her unclad, one would see her kidneys and liver at their work, and unblemished as the soul of a nun who has not yielded herself to the predations of a pious priest or a “fallen” sister, but for the alluring beauty spot to the right of the left lip, or left of the right lip if you were looking at it, I think. Her corporeal profile is the socially-repressive idealised female form, but as this is a fairy tale for adults we may hazard to permit ourselves just this much more: full busted, narrow waisted, with a trim behind. Her legs are elongated, and slipped into heels of modest elevation, as she already has an adequacy of same, and would never be seen in the crass vulgarity of high heels at any rate. Her ankle-length “midnight blue” silk gown is adorned with strings of pearls and gilt-encrusted with gems and so on which passers-by and other riff-raff may assume to be of the costume variety, and for reasons that will also presently become apparent, it is only because she inherited this sublime garment and others in her wardrobe that she can afford to wear such prized and sought-after mineral deposits upon her person. 

            She is seated beside a “pixie-cut”, bespectacled woman of mature years in a grey business suit who is busy texting as she is late for a hastily-convened after-hours meeting concerning delays in her company’s importation from Thailand of PVC joints used in domestic electrical ducting. A life such as hers, dear Reader, is one to which so many of you thoughtlessly consign yourselves, but enough of my feeding the narcissistic needs by which some of you may be challenged, and we shall leave the businesswoman to her personal Purgatorio. Two wattle-throated gentlemen of years more mature again sit behind them, in polyester “leisure suits” of vivid, outlandish colours, discussing recent cruise trips in loud voices one naturally screens out. Across the aisle two young male Goths sit, heavily made up, presumably going out to a “rave”, or upon some similarly arcane mission, and their conversation was muttered, and thus audible.

            ‘Shit. I forgot my eyeliner.’

            ‘Norbert, you’ve got heaps on already.’

            ‘Can I have some of yours if I need a touch-up?’


            Although we hear this exchange, the Contessa did not – and please note that here we make the momentous leap, from the present to the past tense, so if you are easily upset by abrupt change, please look away here or seek counselling, and if in doubt at all, do check your blood pressure - as she was peering out the window at the sights of Brussels, a city that never ceased to surprise her by having them. She liked architecture. It was reassuringly solid, cool on a warm day, but also affording reliable shelter from winter snow and wind and other weather difficulties during the less considerate months. Parks were kind amenities too. But while the Contessa’s inner life might be occupied with the “built environment” and/or “green spaces” in that moment, her favourite thing to think about, read and recite to herself, was poetry. She loved it dearly, and wondered whether one day she might fancifully choose to waste the rest of her life with a poet. This passion was inconvenient for her many suitors, who were forced to engage private tutors to learn at least enough about it to conduct a conversation with her. This did tend to make for a less than easy flow of chat, and she often found herself inadvertently working out who had tutored them, from their faked poetic preferences from Donne and Pope to Plath and Ginsberg. And oh how they struggled with the Sonnets, with Dickenson and e e cummings, with Ozymandias, the politics of Pound, Four Quartets and the death of Hart Crane! There was so much for the poor young fellows to learn! It was poetic trial by torture. But they undertook it because they found her mind-alteringly alluring, enchanting etc - but if one can forgive here a contraction to “lure”, they still could not “hook” her, much less “reel her in”. Despite personal “challenges” that will become apparent in this fairy tale, she remained a “free agent”, akin in a way to a “free radical”, something seen as dangerous in its own manner, and thought by unexamined, unreconstructed types as in need of “taming”. [Enough with the parentheses. It taxes the eyes. LB] [Sorry, Dr Buttrose. But it’s hard being correct.] [Don’t try. Drink more. LB]  

Yet despite the best efforts of an army of suitors and their sorry tutors, the Contessa remained solo, much to their brow-knitted, clenched chagrin. That is not to say she had never married. She had done so thrice. But now she considered these more “flirtations” of her racy twenties, and comfortably installed in her thirties now, she was happily and determinedly single. Or at least, so she thought. The heart, as we know, is always hungry. [Hungry Heart? LB] [What, Dr Buttrose?] [Nevermind. LB] [Oh. Nirvana. I do know them, Dr Buttrose.] [Take me there, Sweet Jesus. Now. LB]

            At last the tram trundled to a halt near an imposing, potentially baroque structure lit up for the Ball, the Royal Palace. Alighting light of foot and long on elegance, she joined others who were converging upon the fairy-lit entrance like killer wasps on a bee hive. Such was her renown she did not even need to show her curlicued invitation, but was waved through by the otherwise horribly officious posse of Officials, who from experience shielded their eyes. 

            She entered a Ballroom of such beauty as to delight the eye even of the most cynical person. [I thought of you when I wrote this, Dr Buttrose.] [Always nice to be recognised. LB]. We don’t need to go on here about the mountains of caviar and champagne, the ice sculptural marvels created by a Japanese wunderkind, the Dutch masters lining the walls like portraits of Managing Directors of yore, the extravagant dresses of the ladies and the gay dinner jackets of the gentlemen and so on, that greeted her gaze. I am sure you can imagine it perfectly well, and if in any doubt I refer you to the Ball scene in Cinderella. [Ah. Good move. LB] [Thank you Dr Buttrose.] [Don’t rest on your laurels, you’ll crush them. LB] All eyes naturally turned to her, and lingered there as long as humanly possible. But her eye fell upon the Archduke Frederick Savoy-Truffle, Ruler of the Realm, as he sipped champagne at the room’s epicentre  in the company of one of his less simpering councillors. The Archduke was wise, very wise, and white-haired, very white-haired, both beneath his very white-haired wig. He was thin and angular, but oddly “cute” as well, and although aristocratically lofty, stooped democratically. He looked most splendid in his Archducal get-up, the vivid Vyes Klein Blue frock-coat and matching cape, both resplendent with the gold stars of Europe circling their wagons upon it, and in all his frills and buttons and bows and stockings and leggings and buckles and so forth, such as befitted an 18th Century man of his rank. You could call him a man for all seasons, but particularly autumn, mid-late, yellowing but not quite shedding. He was the one man the Contessa truly loved, if not like that. 

He kissed her dainty hand with a moist flourish. ‘My dear Contessa.’

‘My dearest Archduke.’

‘But did no-one greet you with champagne?’

‘Let’s not speak of the times, Freddy.’ 

“The times” were things people of their class and others too spoke of a good deal, and endured rather than enjoyed. The endless conflicts in the east made things even harder, so that a glass of champagne was neither there nor here now. 

[You are teasing the reader to read on. You don’t need to do this. Just write well and truly. LB] [How Earnest, Dr Buttrose.] [You should perhaps read him some time. LB] [Is he as good as Lovecraft, Dr Buttrose? He was my education for my last book.] [Our last book, EEP. And yes. Read him.] [Some of my fellows at my Wednesday fortnightly cheese, wine and book group swear by him, but others swear about him, Dr Buttrose.] [Then you have no choice but to read him and form your own abusive opinion. LB]

At this moment a suave, handsome, well groomed, impeccably tailored, tall, tanned-cheeked, trim, sexually attractive young man bulging with cocky self confidence but perhaps not radiating such intensely deep intelligence, entered the room, and as with the entrance of the Contessa, almost all eyes fell upon him, this “almost” not including hers. 

‘Ah,’ said the Archduke. ‘The Baron.’

The man we now know as the Baron swept two glasses of champagne from a passing tray and strode toward the Archduke and Contessa. He bowed, well but not obsequiously, and presented the Contessa with one of the glasses. She nodded thanks, with a smile best described as “nano”, although whether even any instrument could have detected and confirmed that remains moot.

‘Do I take it you are already acquainted with the Contessa Isabella Gattonero de’ Medici?’ the Archduke said.  

‘Tragically not, Freddy. I merely saw a damsel in distress devoid of Dom.’

‘Contessa, may I introduce the Baron Fritz von Schnauzer.’

As per protocol, she once more extended her dainty hand, and he enfolded it in his 

meaty mitt and looked into her eyes like a puppy in awe of a bone. 

            ‘Contessa,’ he whispered, in a deeply hoarse, actorly whisper, then with a curlicue of pomp and circumstance pivoted to the Archduke. ‘And my apologies for my unfashionably late arrival, Freddy. My driver was on a crib break, delivering for Amazon.’ 

‘My staff are all off screwing on something they all call “Tinder”. I prefer a good old-fashioned bed. And I do wish they’d fuck on their own time. Like we did in my day.’ 

‘I’m told you went well into overtime, Freddy,’ the Contessa said.

‘And... ah... if only I could spend just one hour more of it with you now, my dear.’

‘My dearest Archduke, I take that as a perfectly indigestible condiment.’ 

The Baron meanwhile nakedly Tom Jones-eyed the Contessa, with both Toms. ‘Your repute as a wildly ravishing beauty criminally devalues you, Contessa.’ 

‘Oh? And there I was, thinking all that nonsense was well and truly…’ and here she glanced around at her bottom, ‘behind me.’

‘On the matter of behind, yours may I say is sublime to the eye,’ the Baron continued. ‘Firm, I’m sure, yet silky to the touch as a Moroccan apricot.’

She reached out and gave his behind a squeeze. 

‘Yours seems in need of six solid months of squash Baron. But if I drink enough champagne and the time inexplicably comes, do try to think of my cunt as a rent boy’s arsehole, and you should be fine.’

The Baron chuckled unruffled basso profundo indulgence at this. ‘Mere society gossip and tittle-tattle. The stock in trade of social capitalists with no options.’ 

‘Mm. They say things about me too,’ the Contessa said.

‘I’ll have them pistol-whipped. What do they say?’

‘That I’m poor. Which though, is true.’

‘Poor? How can you be poor?’ 

‘Her daddy was a gamblin’ man,’ the Archduke said.

The Baron nodded sagely as a sage at this. Being a man of the tables himself - and as we know, what else do the brainless rich do but gamble and race cars and horses and loaf about on large yachts - he had seen enough of his fellows leaving the casino shirtless at dawn, unable even to afford the services of a sex worker to balm their wounds, to understand and sympathise with this. But nonetheless, it still challenged his reason that a woman of such troubling beauty could somehow be impoverished, when there were so many paths to wealth for her, and even more so being titled. It also suggested a door perhaps a little ajar to him. That gave him cause for optimism about tossing his hat into the proverbial ring, as had the Contessa’s remark about where an over-sufficiency of wine might lead, if couched in rather less than delicate terms.

            ‘I’m so poor I don’t even have the pox,’ the Contessa said. 

‘Fortunately I have more than enough to go around,’ the Archduke said. ‘Noblesse oblige.’  

‘Somehow I’ve missed out on the pox too,’ said the Baron. 

‘Your wife or favoured concubine must be pleased about that,’ she said. ‘At least.’  

The Baron’s face contorted with something he hoped would read as emotional hurt. ‘My dear wife is departed.’ 

‘Oh, dear,’ murmured the Contessa.   

‘Skiing incident,’ the Baron said. ‘Well, apres-ski. Impaled on a Russian. Bare.’

The Contessa regarded him and nodded, as sagely as a sage.