The Good Series (aka the Charlie Series)
Good Time by
H.St Vincent Beechey
‘Have a good time,’ said the travel agent without conviction, as he handed us our tickets. It was said in the same bored tone as the ubiquitous ‘Have a nice day’, a contagion from the U.S. of A that has swept the country. ‘I have other plans,’ I said. I know it wasn’t original, but I had been waiting a long time to say it.
In my book, travel sucks. It is hard enough being here; why tempt providence by being somewhere else. Bonnie has other views. Bonnie has decided to take me out of myself. I don’t want to be out of myself. I am very happy in here. It has taken me years to arrange my internal furniture. The safest place for a tortoise is inside its shell. We can learn a lot from tortoises!
‘Now, Now,’ says Bonnie, ‘That’s enough of that kind of talk. I’m going to bring you out of yourself if it kills me.’
‘Wouldn’t want that on my conscience,’ I growled. ‘Why don’t you just leave me alone. I tell you I’m happy. My life is perfectly planned. It has taken me years to arrange it. I don’t need some chirpy do-gooder to louse it up with travel plans. I don’t like travel. I don’t want to go anywhere.’ I capped my remarks with supreme logic. ‘I’m already here. Here is where I want to be!. Here!’
‘Now you know you don’t really mean that.’ Bonnie oozed patience. ‘It will do you the world of good to get out of these depressing surroundings. You will love it once you are on your way. Just think,’ she gushed, ‘Tropical islands, exotic foods, fabulous scenery, you’ll have a good time.’
‘Tropics mean insects, malaria, dengue fever, spiders, snakes and foreigners! Exotic foods mean Delhi Belly, dysentery – Cholera, for all I know…’ I broke off in distress. ‘You go on your own. I’ll pay. It will be worth it for a bit of peace. Have a good time yourself and leave me out of it.’
‘Don’t be silly!’ That was Bonnie’s ultimate put down, and she delivered it with a finality that brooked no opposition. ‘You are going, and that is that!’
I’d better tell you about me and Bonnie. I won her. Along with six million dollars in the lottery. In the small print, the conditions of the lottery specified that I would receive the services of a ‘personal assistant’, a PA they had called it. I thought it was some kind of loudspeaker gadget, though I couldn’t for the life of me decide why I would need to shout at people. I never shout, well hardly ever, and I don’t need electronic help even then.
They told me that the idea of a PA had come up as a result of the bad publicity from damn fool winners who had come to grief with sudden wealth. It was felt that the services of a suitably qualified person (with a Bachelor of Social Work degree and counselling skills) would ensure that prize winners behaved responsibly and wouldn’t bring the gambling institution into disrepute. It was Bonnie’s job to ensure that I spent my windfall in a rational manner. World trips, it seemed, were a responsible use.
‘I’ll fire you. Go on, you’re sacked. Push off. Go and do good somewhere else. Scat. Shoo.’
‘You can’t fire me,’ she said smugly. “You aren’t my boss. I work for the Trust.’ And she tossed her blonde curls and pursed her rosebud mouth. She reminded me of a pigeon.
‘Really Charlie, I can’t understand why you are making all this fuss. Most people would be glad to have someone to take care of their travel problems.’
‘You are my travel problem. Don’t you get it. I don’t want to travel anywhere. I don’t even want to travel to the city. Shop local, I always say.’
She was concerned. ‘Maybe you’ve got agriphobia.”
‘It’s Agoraphobia, you stupid woman, Agriphobia is fear of farming!’ And I haven’t got any phobias, I just don’t like being mother-henned by a chook like you..”
‘You’ll thank me for it in the long run’
‘The only long run I want to see, is you vanishing into the sunset. You’d better get a move on, the sun sets in about forty minutes. You’ll just make it.’
Bonnie smiled her tolerant smile. ‘You are such a kidder Charlie. Now let’s be serious for a moment. Have you read all the brochures I got you? Just you wait until you are skiing in New Zealand, that’ll get your adrenaline running.’
‘I like to keep my adrenaline safely locked up in my glands, thank you. And skis are dangerously stupid things – no brakes! Only a fool would deliberately slide down a mountain.’
‘But it’s so exciting.’
‘Why the obsession with excitement. I try to avoid excitement; it interferes with digestion. It causes dangerous chemicals to be released into the bloodstream and besides it is an unpleasant feeling – disturbing.’
‘Oh, You…’ she gushed. ‘Don’t be such an old fuddy-duddy. Now, have a look at this itinerary I have drawn up. I thought Honolulu first and then on to San Francisco…’
‘Hawaii is full of Maoris, and American Maoris at that. I saw some of the New Zealand sort on TV once, very unfriendly people; they stick out their tongues and shake spears at you, then they play rugby.’
‘I’m sure the American ones don’t play rugby.’ She soothed.
‘Just as well – a nasty rough game, rugby, played by Queenslanders and that other mob, the ones always skiting about a bridge.’
I could go on, but what is the use. What man can really interfere with the plans of a determined woman. Bonnie triumphed, engulfing me in a syrupy morass of simpering platitudes. I gave up. Perhaps if I got out of the country for a while I could convalesce from this plague of feminine togetherness.
‘That’s marvellous.’ And Bonnie laughed that irritating bubbly laugh. ‘And guess what. I am coming with you. You need someone to look after you, you silly old thing. I’ll make sure you have a really good time.”
© Copyright H.St V. Beechey 1996