By Brandon Weston
Amelia Pink-Bustles slowly moved down the Grand Hallway of her Chateau fixed high in the Mountains of Bavaria, toward an aging and faded portrait of her Father, Lord Henry Flannery Jermain Pink-Bustles, situated between a china vase holding a bundle of dead tulips and an elderly woman folded-up and asleep in the corner. Amelia, tears still fresh in her eyes from the romantic conclusion of the novel she finished a few moments ago, gently bent down and tapped the beat to Mozart’s Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E major on the bridge of the old woman’s crumpled nose. Old age thought Amelia, really does do the worst to our fleshy bits. At once, in horror, she thought of other more private places subject to the withering gales of Time and nearly fainted. Catching herself on the wall she gently slid down, her dress bunching behind her like the high back of an armchair, to join the old woman who was beginning to awaken.
Eyes opening to reveal the milky cataracts that come with age, the old woman took out a long clay pipe, stained brown with the dried residue of a thousand smokings, put it to her faded remnants called lips and struck a match to light it. Her clothes were secondhand, passed down to her by a twelve-year-old street urchin named Derrick, needless to say they fit her like a wool cap pulled over the back-end of a milk cow.
Her pants and coat in the distant past were tan, but were now covered in a thick layer of coal dust and brown tobacco spittle, her shoes, more patch than leather, and upon her head she wore a fur cap, giving the illusion that some small mammal had taken up residence there. For as long as she could remember, the old woman had been in service of the Pink-Bustles family, that great tree spanning many generations of rich bores and eccentric maniacs. She served in the kitchen mostly, peeling the various root-vegetables that Lord Henry enjoyed eating raw or covered in molten gravies. In her youth she helped Mr. Bunderess the groundskeeper prune the many evergreen bushes, or plant tulip bulbs in the spring. Life then was a wonderful time for her, always summer, even as the snows began to cover the lewd Romanesque statues, her heart was warmed by the verdant embrace of the greenhouses and the wandering hands of Mr. Bunderess. Life was more a state of winter now, always grey in the house, the tulips always dead in their beds or vases. Even the walls felt the cold demise of the family, and with black shades of mildew expressed their pain.“You smoke too much, Miss Hopalong.” said Amelia, wafting the fumes away from her watering eyes.
“If you looked like me,” replied the old woman, “you would as well.”
The conversation, however brief, was beginning to bore Amelia, and the sight of Miss Hopalong’s missing ear made her feel faint again, so, with great fortitude she stood up and continued through a set of wooden doors into the Great Hall.
At the height of the family’s wealth and power this Great Hall was used to entertain the finest guests from around Europe. Counts sporting more face-powder than their wives, and troops of servants dressed in silk-brocade or often, nothing at all. This was the generation of Amelia’s grandfather, the late Lord Whitey “Hands in his Pockets” Pink-Bustles. After his unfortunate accident involving a revolver and the Count du Blé’s left buttock, the estate and title passed to his only son and Amelia’s father, Lord Henry. After this the visits became less frequent, passing from Lords and Counts to members of the Nouveau Riche or worse to members of the clergy. Winter came to House Pink-Bustles, and with it the gardens became overgrown, the wine cellars emptied, and the orgies fell on only one day of the week, Wednesday.
Lord Henry was sipping port out of a beer stein when Amelia walked in. The old man had taken up residence in the far left corner of the Hall, away from the windows, near to a portrait of his long dead mother suckling a fox. He had moved all his favorite books, mostly smut, from the upstairs library down to this spot. They were joined by a case of nearly 20 bottles of vintage port, three loaves of rye-bread, and a stuffed pheasant he named Clarice. As Amelia walked toward him she noticed that her father wasn’t alone. There next to him sat a stocky, pale man of about thirty years dressed in black save for an orange cravat fastened with a pin shaped in the likeness of a skull. He stared intently at her as she moved toward them. She noticed that in one hand he held a large roasted turkey leg, in the other a half-emptied bottle of Claret, double-fisting them, as it were, with eyes that spoke to her of a man whose insatiable appetite for fat was matched only by his cravings for a different sort of flesh, perhaps a woman’s, perhaps a man’s, she didn’t know; it seemed to her that he never refused anything he was offered. If I had my hunting rifle she thought, I think I would put him down.
“Good evening papa.” She said, gently kissing Lord Henry upon the cheek.
“Hello my darling,” he replied, dabbing at a bit of spilt port on his black velvet jacket, “do sit down.”
Amelia seated herself on a low stool next to him, removing a stack of books and a violin before she did so.
“May I present to you,” he said, making a gesture toward the pale man who was chewing a large mouthful of the turkey leg, “your cousin, Lord Reginald Poopbadger.”
As the man smiled little rivers of meat juice coursed down his bulbous lips, and as they dripped from his chin Amelia suddenly experienced a wave of memories, images that she hadn’t brought to mind, of the man before her, for nearly thirteen years, maybe more. At that moment the room was warmed by a ray of sunlight that had broken through the heavy cloud cover. Winter, thought the young lady, might be on its way out.