Upon reading the news, in the East Chipping Gazette, that US President Donald Trump refused to concede the election – which he lost handily to Joseph R. Biden Jr in both the electoral and popular vote – British murder mystery ingenue Daphne Hammond closed the paper and asked Griselda to bring in a second poached egg, and sugar for the tea.
“I simply cannot face such a report on anything short of a brimful stomach,” Daphne sighed. She watched as the starlings alit amongst her garden. Soon the fall would coil to winter, a cold few months of death would swallow them all before Spring – she hoped – returned, along with a new World Leader.
Just then two shadows fell across the grass, scattering the starlings.
“Frank!” she shouted with joy. “And Sirena.” Even above her cashmere brocade COVID mask, Daphne’s eyes squinted flames whenever she saw Sirena Dykes.
Frank O’Toole, the American bowling champion, was on vacation last March when the world closed down. Sirena and he were staying in the old rectory. She had violet eyes, her face cold and brutal in that ugly way American men find so sensual. In fact, she rather looked like the exiting – or rather, not exiting – First Lady.
“We’ve just come from a swim,” Frank said.
“I hear the GOP is backing Trump’s refusal to acquiesce,” gasped Sirena. She was – Daphne noted – always adding recherché words, as though that proved her pretty head wasn’t empty.
“The American people won’t stand for it. No matter what McConnell says.” Frank flexed his jaw; Daphne clenched her thighs.
“Don’t let’s talk about that now. Sit down; we’ll play bridge. Griselda – haven’t you any scones this morning?” The maid nodded and backed herself into the kitchen.
It was some time later, amidst their third game, when the heavy footfalls of Major Whitcock clomped down the stairs.
“Sleeping in again, are we Major?” cried Daphne.
“Sleeping in!” said Whitcock. “No. On the horn with the P.M. This American business.”
“Well, sit. Eat up.”
“Eat. Hurrmph. No, no. Must be going to, ah –” Daphne grasped his arm as he passed, and the old soldier’s heart leapt to his throat. Could this be it? The expression of love he had waited for? “Ms. Hammond, I must insist. A coup has begun in the old colony and I –”
“Griselda? Bring a plate of bacon for the Major.”
Major Whitcock, never one to turn down breakfast or a lady’s request, jammed a scone and looked on as Daphne took the next trick from Sirena. “Scrummy,” he puffed.
It was just before noon when a fearsome growl disrupted the game, and roused the snoring Major from a scone-induced slumber. Vernita McInnis and Nigel Graff strode through the garden after their whippet, Ivanka, who was hunting starlings.
“Hullo Daphne. Frank. Major.” Nigel and Vernita wintered in East Chipping, which this year meant they Sprung and Summered and Fell as well.
“Big to-do with the RAF, Major?” asked Nigel, who always browsed the headlines without reading.
“Humph, yes, bully, ah, operation.”
Daphne put down her final cards. “What operation, Major?”
“They’re going to quash this coup,” chirped Vernita.
“Taking back the old colony, aren’t we?” the Major snorted.
“Major Whitcock!” cried Daphne. “You’ve sat there eating my scones and not once mentioned an invasion!” The Major blushed; this was not the emotional outburst he had turned over in his mind these last weeks spent as Ms. Hammond’s guest.
Frank stood. “I guess I’d better make some calls back home.” Sirena pouted.
“You’ll do no such thing,” Daphne cried. “It’s nearly lunch, and you haven’t yet asked after my prize Wood Anemones!” She gathered the cards back into their box and gulped the last of her tea – the dregs of sugar settling sweetly on her tongue. “Griselda – hot lunch, if you please.”
As the gaggle moved about the garden, relishing the brilliant white bulbs – white as the house causing such furor across the pond – the Major coughed. “Afraid I must be going, ah, humph, Ms. Hammond,” he said.
“Whatever for!” cried Daphne.
“The base, ah, humph. American Invasion,” Whitcock coughed. Daphne Hammond was, underneath it all, a practical woman, and placed one hand upon the Major’s shoulder and the other in the crook of his elbow.
“But Major Whitcock, stay. Why, you haven’t even mentioned my Anemones.”
The Major’s heart beat hard inside his face. He roused himself for a final stand of courage and looked Daphne Hammond in the eye. “I didn’t lose my left foot to the Nazis to stand such codswallop from our allies, m’dear.”
Daphne gazed at the Major, her heart tremoring, her eyes seeking hard fast evidence of his feelings – the proof of confession, say, or the proof of an overwhelming voting majority. Just then, Ivanka chased a starling into the bush, sending sprays of white petals all about the garden. Frank snapped and shouted: “Ivanka! Heel,” and the beast left off. “I’m sorry Daphne.”
“Poor Daphne – your flowers, ruined!” cried Vernita.
Daphne turned from the gaze of the Major. A sudden smile broke off of her cold stare, and, laughing, she reached down to scrub Ivanka’s ears.
“It’s no bother. You see: the enemy of my Anemones, is my friend!”
Laughter spilled across the garden. But as the Major left, a shadow fell over them all.
“Oh Frank,” mewled Sirena, “do you really think it’ll come to war?”
Daphne Hammond turned to them all.
“Not another word of this American coup. Not until we’ve had lunch.”
And she led them back into the dining room, like children to their lesson. Ivanka growled as a starling fluttered to the ground. Yes, winter would come early to East Chipping. Winter would come early to us all.
John J King is part Texan and part Tyrannosaur, and lives in New York City where he makes plays, jokes, stories, and songs, often all at once. He has a B.A. in Theatre & English from SUNY Boondocks, and an accent from his mama. His mission: To Create and Spread Delight. www.J-RexPlays.com