Tuesday 20 August 2019

The Hen Night

by Dawn Knox

 Cauli Wobble (a vegan cocktail consisting of cauliflower florets, whiskey, vermouth, bitters and an olive)

Persephone Perkins, CEO of Persephone’s Perfect Wedding Planning, took the orange garment out of its bag and holding it by the shoulders, allowed the legs to dangle. 

“What the heck is that?” Aunt Edie asked. 

“It looks like she’s holding up someone’s shadow,” Mary whispered with a shudder.

“I think it’s an orange catsuit,” Betty said, shaking her head in disbelief. 

“I’d never get into that!” Florrie looked down at her ample hips, then back at the skinny costume the wedding planner was holding up.

“Of course, you will. Look…” Persephone pulled sideways and the catsuit stretched to several times its usual width. “I’ve got a range of sizes, from small to jumbo, so I’m sure I’ll have one to fit everyone.”

“That Lycra’s certainly got a lot of give,” Aunt Edie said, “but isn’t it going to be a bit clingy?” 

“It’s a catsuit,” said Persephone coolly, “How often do you see a baggy cat?”

“But it’ll show all my bulges,” Florrie said.

“I’ve thought of that,” Persephone said looking Florrie up and down, “So I got bomber jackets to go over them.” She pulled one out of the box and held it up in her other hand.

“And you expect us to wear those to Betty’s Hen Night?” Mary asked, shaking her head in disbelief, “They’re both orange! They’ll clash horribly with my hair.”

“Don’t worry,” said Persephone, laying down the clothes and taking a small packet out of her box. She opened it to reveal a green beret, “You can tuck your hair into this.”

Dipping into her box again, she withdrew a matching green, feather boa. “And here’s the final part of the outfit.”

“Couldn’t we wear ordinary clothes?” Betty asked, a hint of desperation in her voice.

“Absolutely not!” said Persephone, “A successful Hen Night needs a theme.”

“And what is the theme you’re proposing?” Florrie asked, “Wearing those orange catsuits, it’s going to look like we got trapped in a spray tan booth and have just escaped.”

“I promise you,” said Persephone, “these outfits will be the envy of everyone and you’ll have the perfect Hen Night.” 

“But you said there was a theme,” said Mary, “So, what is it?”

“Carrots,” said Persephone.

There was silence while Betty the bride-to-be, Mary and Florrie her bridesmaids and Aunt Edie self-appointed chief guest, digested this information. 

“Perhaps you’d care to elaborate…?” Betty asked eventually. After all, she was paying for Persephone’s services even if the woman made it sound like she was doing Betty a favour. 

“Well,” said Persephone, fluffing up her blonde hair, obviously relishing the fact that all eyes were on her. “Firstly...” she said, leaning forward as if confiding an important secret, “What do you think of this? I’ve got you tickets to see the Eye-kia Boys.”

More silence as the ladies looked at her in bewilderment.

“I thought you said the theme was carrots. You didn’t mention furniture,” said Betty, “Anyway, you don’t need tickets to go to Ikea.”

“No, not Ikea… Eye-kia!” said Persephone, “you know, the male troupe of dancers.”

“You mean like the Chippendales?” Mary asked, her eyes wide in alarm and her cheeks reddening.
“Similar,” said Persephone, “but the Chippendales are performing in Las Vegas this Saturday and they’re much too expensive for Betty’s budget.”

“But, don’t they…” Mary blushed, “Err, don’t they… strip down to their smalls?”

“If they’re anything like the Chippendales, they won’t be smalls,” said Aunt Edie with a knowing nod.

“Aunt Edie!” said Betty, “How on earth do you know that?”

Aunt Edie winked, “I was young once, you know.” She turned to Persephone, “Well, that still doesn’t explain the carrots…” She gasped in horror, “Does it? They don’t do anything risqué with carrots, do they? Please tell me they don’t!”

“No!” said Persephone, “Not as far as I know. The carrot theme is more to do with the second part of the evening.”

“Second part?” Mary asked weakly, “You mean there’s more?” her voice trembled. 

“Of course!” said Persephone, “I’ve managed to get you into…” she paused dramatically, “The Khaki Carrot! The newest and fabbest Vegan Nightclub and Restaurant in Basilwade!” 

“When you say vegan, do you mean, well… vegan?” Florrie asked, “Only I don’t do fad diets.”

“Veganism isn’t a fad, I assure you,” said Persephone, “it’s the hottest new thing.” 

“Not if it’s salad, it’s not hot,” said Aunt Edie, “I loathe salad. All that chewing! It’s not dignified.” 

“Oh, I see,” said Betty, “The Khaki Carrot. And that’s why we’re supposed to dress up like carrots?”
Persephone nodded with enthusiasm. She was almost hugging herself with glee.

“But,” said Florrie, “Why are the catsuits orange?”

Persephone shook her head and tutted as if dealing with a rather foolish child, “Because, my dear, carrots are orange.”

“Don’t you take that patronising tone with me, miss!” said Florrie, crossing her arms indignantly, “I know carrots are orange but you said we were going to the Khaki Carrot! So why didn’t you bring camouflage catsuits?” 

“Look,” said Betty making calming gestures with her hands. The last thing she needed was for her wedding planner and her Maid-of-Honour to get into a fight, “let’s calm down. We’ll have a nice cuppa and then we’ll talk the arrangements over some more.”

“Non-refundable?” spluttered Florrie when Persephone explained she’d already purchased tickets and costumes, “You mean we’ve got to wear those ghastly clothes and go to watch men prance about in their undies and then eat cabbage?” 

“You’re going to love it! You’ll have such fun!” Persephone said.

When the wedding planner had gone, Florrie held up her catsuit, “I suppose I could make dusters out of it,” she said. 

“Florrie! Betty’s just paid for that! The least you could do is be grateful,” said Mary. 

“Yes, I suppose so. Well, in that case, perhaps we’d better try them on.”

“That dreadful woman was right about one thing,” said Aunt Edie, “We have had such fun, although I don’t suppose she intended it to be because we were trying on those outfits! I’ve never laughed so much in my life.” She flung the end of the feather boa over her shoulder with a flick, sending Mary into paroxysms of giggling. 

“I’m not sure we look much like carrots though,” Betty said wiping away the tears of laughter, “But you’re right Aunt Edie, we have had fun, and to think, the Hen Night’s not until Saturday!”

“Yes,” said Mary, “But I’m pretty sure if we asked we might get our money back for the tickets.”

“Although…” said Aunt Edie, “I rather enjoyed the Chippendales when I saw them… The Eye-kia Boys might be good.”

“Aunt Edie!” said Betty.

“What? It’s just a bit of innocent fun.”


“Well, of course! It’s always nice to see a well-dressed young male dancer.” 

“But I thought that was the point,” said Betty, “I thought they weren’t well-dressed.”

“Oh yes,” said Aunt Edie, “Beautifully dressed. You know, smart trousers, shiny shoes and bow ties.”

“Well, perhaps we ought to go and find out,” said Florrie, “it can’t be that bad, surely?”

“And if we don’t like it, or it’s too embarrassing, we can leave, can’t we?” said Mary, hope lighting her eyes.

On Saturday evening, the ladies assembled at Betty’s house, ready to start the Hen Night. They’d arrived dressed in their own clothes along with their orange bomber jackets, green berets and feather boas. And just in case Persephone turned up to check, they took the precaution of hiding their catsuits in their handbags.

“I’m sorry, Betty,” Mary said, “I just couldn’t bring myself to put that catsuit on.”

“Me neither,” said Betty, “but I think we all look splendid in our own clothes. And the jackets, berets and boas are enough to give a nod to carrot-dom.”

The bell rang and Betty opened the door. 

“Good evening, ladies. I’m Harris Tweed, your chauffeur and life-coach. Miss Perkins hired me to convey you to your Hen Night. Your carriage awaits.” 

“Did that young man say we were going in a coach?” asked Aunt Edie, “Only I get sick in coaches.”

“No, Aunt Edie, Persephone has laid on a car for us.”

“D’you think he’s bought a stretch limo?” Aunt Edie whispered.
“Knowing Persephone and her obsession with themes, it’s likely to be a vegetable truck or a supermarket delivery van,” said Florrie.

It was, in fact, an ordinary taxicab. 

Betty, Aunt Edie and Florrie squeezed in the back and Mary blushed as she realised she’d have to sit in the front next to Harris. 

“That’s a very fetching hat, you’re wearing, miss,” he said to her and she blushed even harder. 

“Th…thank you. I’m afraid my hair keeps falling out of it,” she said peering at herself in the vanity mirror on the visor and tucking stray curls up into the beret.

“Why don’t you leave it?” he said, “I think all those red-gold curls look glorious.”

“G… glorious?” Mary stammered and held her hands to her cheeks to hide her blushes. 

“I always say redheads have such beautiful, milky skin with angel kisses all over their noses,” Harris said.

“I should leave Mary alone, Harris,” Florrie shouted from the back, “she gets awfully embarrassed and if her cheeks get much hotter, she’s going to spontaneously combust.”

Harris pulled up outside the Basilwade Theatre and rushed around to open Mary’s door and help her out. 

“Don’t worry about us, we’ll manage to struggle out of the car on our own,” Aunt Edie grumbled as she climbed out. 

“I hope you have a wonderful time, ladies,” Harris said, “and I’ll be here to pick you up when the show’s over.” He winked at Mary.

“I think Mr Tweed’s taken a shine to you, Mary my girl,” Aunt Edie said.

“Rubbish,” said Mary with a furtive glance over her shoulder at the driver. 

“I thought you said the men would be beautifully dressed, Aunt Edie,” Betty said.

“They were!”

“But when you said they had bow ties, I assumed you meant they were wearing them on their shirts.”

“I didn’t mention shirts. Just bow ties. Weren’t they magnificent?” 

“But you definitely said they were wearing smart trousers.”

“Well, they were – until they took them off.”

“Their bodies were certainly very… um, dashing,” said Mary.

“And so… bulgy,” said Florrie, “I’ve never seen so much muscle, all rippling under lightly-oiled skin.”

“Oh, stop it!” said Betty, “you’re bringing me out in goose bumps!” 

They were all laughing when they arrived back at their taxicab.

“Evenin’ ladies,” Harris said, holding the front passenger door open for Mary, “it sounds like you all had a wonderful time. Strap yourselves in – we’re off to the Khaki Carrot.”

The four ladies sat at the bar.

“Let’s start with cocktails,” said Betty, passing around the menus. 

Aunt Edie studied the cocktail list. “Cauli Wobble? What’s in that?”

Betty read out the ingredients, “Cauliflower florets, whiskey, vermouth, bitters and an olive.” 

“Hmm, I’m not sure I like the sound of that. What’s in a Parsnip Paradise?”

“Parsnips, sherry, vodka, mango juice and an olive.”

“These cocktails sound revolting,” said Florrie. 

“Well, it’s one way of getting your five a day,” said Betty, “Come on! Let’s try something. I know the evening Persephone planned was a bit unusual but we’ve all enjoyed it so far, haven’t we?”

“All right,” said Florrie, “I’ll have a Strawberry Salsify Sizzle, please – and don’t tell me what’s in it. I don’t want to know.”

The others decided on Cauli Wobbles and Betty gestured to the barmaid.

“Yes?” the large, well-built woman in a green apron said brusquely, “Vot can I get you?”

“Vilya? Vilya Chekarova?” Betty said, her mouth agape as she recognised the woman who’d been a personal trainer at Muscle Bounders Gym. 

“Oh, it’s you,” Vilya said dismissively. She looked as if there was a disgusting smell beneath her nose, “Betty from the gym.” She peered at the four women, “Vy are you all looking so stupid please? Are you pretending to be carrots? Those hats are ridiculous and vot is this?” she said holding Betty’s boa up between finger and thumb. 

“How dare you?” said Betty, “You rude woman. If you must know, these are guests at my Hen Night and next week, I’m going to marry Sydney Jugg, the man whose business idea you stole.”

“Bah!” said Vilya, her hands on her hips, “three course meal smoothies vere stupid anyway.”

“That’s not the point! Sydney could’ve made it work if you hadn’t tried it and given several people food poisoning!”

“Vot rubbish!” Vilya said with a toss of her head, and then added, “So, you are marrying Syderney? You must be desperate!” 

“I am not desperate! And it’s Sydney! His name’s Sydney!”

“That is vot I said – Syderney! Ha!” she said, her lip curled in contempt, “That man is a vimp!”

“How dare you call my fiancé a vimp!” Betty balled her fist and despite Vilya being almost twice her size, in height and width, she was poised to swing, ready to defend Sydney’s honour.

Vilya opened her mouth to reply, then froze. She appeared to be focusing on something or someone behind Betty and the look of scorn was instantly replaced by a deferential expression. In a silky voice, she said, “Good evening, ladies! May I get you a drink? I recommend the Vortercress Virl or perhaps the Ginger and Shallot Shocker.” 

Startled at the sudden change in demeanour, Betty un-balled her fist and meekly took the drinks menu that Vilya proffered. 

“Good evening,” said a voice from behind them. It was a tall, smartly-dressed man with a badge on his lapel – George Myers: Manager.
“Firstly, ladies, may I say how marvellous your outfits are! So in keeping with our modest establishment,” he said.

“Zey are supposed to be carrots,” said Vilya, smiling proudly as if she was responsible for the jackets, berets and feather boas. 

“Yes! Yes! I can see that! What a wonderful idea! Please order what you like, ladies – on the house!” 

“Well, let’s start with three Cauli Wobbles and a Strawberry Salsify Sizzle please,” said Aunt Edie quickly. “You know, Mr Myers, this is my niece’s Hen Night. I was wondering if perhaps you could see your way clear to giving us a meal on the house as well?”

“Aunt Edie!” said Betty, embarrassed at her aunt’s audacity.

Mr Myers laughed and nodded, “Why not? You ladies have given me an excellent idea for staff uniforms. When we opened, we decided to go for green aprons but as you can see, they’re not very distinctive. But I love your colour scheme and those jackets and accessories! They’re simply marvellous! They’d look spectacular on our staff.”

“And how about this?” Aunt Edie asked, taking her orange catsuit out of her handbag, “That lovely barmaid, Vilya, would look marvellous in this!”

“Aunt Edie!” Betty gasped. 

“Yes,” said Florrie, taking her catsuit out of her handbag, “See how much it stretches.” She pulled it sideways. “I’m sure this would fit over all of Vilya’s very substantial body. They’ll fit anyone.”

Mr Myers nodded approvingly, “And where can I get hold of these amazing garments?”

“I’m sure my fiancé, Sydney, could get you sufficient for all your staff,” Betty said, “He’s so entrepreneurial!”

“And in the meantime,” said Mary, “Why don’t you take these samples?” she got hers out of her handbag.

“Thank you so much, ladies!”

Vilya returned with the drinks and placed one in front of each of the women. 

Betty beamed at her friends. This Hen Night was turning out to be wonderful after all.
And then Aunt Edie made it even better.

“Here,” she said giving Mr Myers her beret and boa, “Why don’t you ask our lovely barmaid to try out the whole ensemble now. I’m sure she’d love to, wouldn’t you Vilya, dear?”

It had been just as well Persephone had booked Harris to take the ladies home. Vegan cocktails as served in the Khaki Carrot turned out to be more potent than the guests on the Hen Night had suspected – or perhaps Vilya had been more generous than usual with the alcohol. By the time they arrived at the Willows Retirement Home, it was locked for the night and Matron had not been happy about Aunt Edie’s late arrival, nor about the song she was singing – nor the actions which went with it. 

When they arrived at Florrie’s house, she couldn’t find her door key and Harris feared she’d left it in the Khaki Carrot and that he’d have to go back to retrieve it. But finally, after tipping the contents of her handbag over the doorstep, she found it. 

He then took Betty home and watched her weave her way up the front path. She successfully negotiated the dustbin and the disgruntled cat to reach the front door, only to find she couldn’t get the key in the lock. It was Harris who remembered he’d picked her up from the house next door and led her to the correct keyhole in the correct door. 

The ladies had been so drunk, no one had noticed that although Florrie and Mary lived next door to each other, only Florrie had got out. So, once Harris had dropped off Betty, Mary was still in the car.
Rather than being annoyed, he was thrilled at having extra time with her.

What a beautiful creature she is, he thought.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Mary said as he helped her up the path to her door. 

“Well, perhaps I ought to pop round tomorrow to see how you are,” he said.

“That’sh very kind.” 

“All part of the service,” Harris said.

Links to previous stories in the series:
1) A Question of Timing: 
2) In MaryWorld: 
3) Knit and Natter: 
4) Mint Pink: 
5) Sydney Jugg’s Book of Grievances: 
6) Is there Anybody There?: 
7) Going Freelance: 
8) So App-ealing: 
9) No Saints at All Saints’: 
10) A Meal of Biblical Proportions 
11) It is Better to Give than to Receive
12) Superhero Worship
13) Playground Justice
14) Politically Correct at Christmas
15) The Life Coach https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-life-coach.html  

About the auhtor

Dawn’s first success was with a short horror story published in a charity anthology entitled Shrouded by Darkness in 2006.
Several years later, she had a Young Adult book (Daffodil and the Thin Place) and a single author anthology of speculative fiction stories (Extraordinary), published as well as several historical romances, set mainly during and between the two world wars. 
She has written two plays about the First World War, one of which commemorated the beginning of the war and was first performed in England in 2014 and then in France and Germany. The other play commemorated the end of the war and was performed in England in 2018 and in Germany 2019.
Using her World War One research, she has also written a book entitled The Great War – One Hundred Stories of One Hundred Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died One Hundred Years Ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment