She snorted. “Kuala Lumpur, my sainted butt. Want to try again?”

I sighed in abject surrender. My ammunition dump was empty. “Alright, Auntie, lay it on me. But I’m making no promises to do anything except listen. Who, exactly, insulted you?”

She had, it would seem, a friend. One could hardly credit it. She and this “friend”, Letitia Mortimer of the Brewster, NY Mortimers, one of the first families of the Upper Valley, a neighborhood where my Aunt Harriet is known to hang out to soak her feet and what-not, both belong to a club improbably named the “Needle Knockers” for its habit of getting together on the first available porch during the second-most Tuesday of every fifth week to knit comforters and tea cozies and sweaters for their freezing knees and, it would appear, quilts. “Afghans”, Aunt Harriet called them, on the theory that that was the country where the practice supposedly originated.

“Afghanistan? Really?” I said, feigning interest. “Can you prove that?”

“Of course not, you idiot,” Aunt Harriet snapped. “Anyway, it’s not important.”

“I beg to differ,” I said, hauling myself up to my full height. “It’s important to the Afghans.”

After remonstrating with me by swatting me across the ear with the end of her rhinestone eyeglass cord, she explained that the Mortimer in question had high-handedly purloined the “NK’s Champion Knockers” trophy which is awarded every Shrove Whitsuntide (whatever that is) to the knitter with the biggest knockers. Which isn’t what you’re thinking, you dawg. It’s an award for she who has banged her needles together the most often and produced the largest swatch of…whatever.

“That trophy is mine,” Aunt Harriet hissed, making the most of the only sibilant sound in her sentence, “and I want it.”

“So go get it. What’s stopping you?” That was, as it turns out, the wrong question to ask.

“She has a pit-bull,” Aunt Harriet admitted. “A rather large ugly animal with teeth like a dinosaur and the disposition of a Bengal tiger not at all satisfied with his life.”

“Does it bite?” I wondered with the casual interest characteristic of a purely scientific curiosity.

“Like a piranha,” she answered, shivering. It seemed she had already had at least one encounter with the beast.

“That’s too bad,” I said, “but why tell me? I’m not a wild animal tamer.”

She looked me up and down as if measuring. “You might want to learn. Fast. You’re going to steal that trophy for me.”

The room spun. The earth swooned. I looked around frantically for my life insurance policy. Did it cover “death by dinosaur digestion”?

Plans for the Future

  1. Shipping out for the Himalayas in the morning.
  2. Climbing K2, in pajamas if necessary.
  3. Staying there until aunt dies of aggravated boils or is executed for terminal cruelty to nephews, whichever comes first.


Hiding under the couch.