Park Avenue or Bust!

Chapter XXXV – Wagnerian Distress

Those of you who are not familiar with Wagner will underestimate the extent of Madison’s tormented emotions. Whereas Mozart and Rossini are usually good-humoured fun, with a bit of harmless suspense thrown in, Wagner is the equivalent of a protracted tragic identity crisis. It summons the full range of painful emotions in a most ungermanic way.

Although Madison’s goal was to eventually sing on Broadway, she would not have been out of place at the Metropolitan Opera. Equipped with horns and breastplates, she would not need any weapons to prove a menace on the stage. Her eyes emitted the sad terror of a woman whose hope for love has been destroyed.

Madison skipped the preliminaries of civility and collapsed beside me on the sofa amid an aria of wails. There was no need for the assistance of a stage manager, the waterworks were in full swing. Even Ypres could not remain immune. She issued a cough that, to the untrained ear, might have appeared benign, but, in its hint of added resonance, betrayed sentiment.

“Oh Vanessa!” Madison began with sonic force. “My dream is no more!”

A theory soon formed in my mind. Madison, now unshackled to love her Pietro Ducale without hindrance from her aunt, had been free to see his true nature. The forbidden union being sanctified, an element of interest had disappeared. She now realised she was in love with a well tailored, but otherwise unsuitable partner. I shared my theory. I suspect I shared it not unlike Albert Einstein lecturing the East Coast set at Princeton.

“I understand Madison. Now that your aunt has approved of Ducale, the forbidden element of your relationship has been lifted. He does not seem as appealing as he once was. You have realised this, and now see yourself faced spending time with a man you do not care for.”

Madison lifted her head as would a gazelle hearing a sound far away on the savannah. She wiped the tears off her face in a businesslike manner.

“Oh no, Vanessa! That is not the case at all! Pietro and I are still madly in love, and we will continue to be madly in love for ever!” She furrowed her brow into a perplexed look. “I thought you Brits were supposed to be great problem solvers?”

“We are! Did you forget who enabled you to love your bureaucratic peg?”

“You’re right, Vanessa! I must thank Ypres properly! Ypres, I would like to thank you with a swell gift. What would you like?”

“Never mind Ypres!” I intervened. Ypres affixed herself to an opposing chair as would a coral on the Great Barrier Reef. “So what is the problem, by Jove? Surely you don’t just barge into Park Avenue flats in full drama mode to chat the day away?”

“Park Avenue? This is a Park Avenue address? But the building entrance isn’t on Park. It’s on seventy…”

I interrupted Madison as the presiding judge had interrupted me a few months before at the Old Bailey.

“It is a Park Avenue address! As for the reason you barged into my salon.”

The wails resumed where they had left off. One thing Madison is good at is consistency.

“Oh, Vanessa! It is my aunt!”

“How is the old Gargantua?”

“She disproves of my pursuing a career on Broadway. She says she already reinstituted my allowance, and gave her approval for my being with dear Pietro. She says there is no need for me to sing as long as she provides me with financial assistance. She will remove it if I do. But you see I must sing, it is who I am. I need it to live, and je veux vivre! Why would anyone want to stop a girl from singing?”

“A woman.”

“What about a woman?”

“As a feminist, I must encourage you to say ‘woman’ instead of ‘girl’. Isn’t that right, Ypres?”

Ypres did not have time to acquiesce. Madison decided to inflict a performance of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend upon us. Indeed, diamonds may be the only things that remain shatter proof after an audio performance of Madison’s. By the time she screeched, “talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it!” I had requisitioned the pillows to cover my ears. The all clear was sounded after the final chorus. There was silence, aside from a few rats that could be heard trying to scratch their way outside the foundation out to the freedom of the street.

“Anyway, Aunt Jeanne was very clear about my singing. She summoned me and told me very clearly, face to face. I did not know what to do, so I ran out to the street and came here. I barely recognised Michael when I bumped into him, my eyes were so full of tears.”


“Yes, Michael.”

Ypres raised her left eyebrow a full inch (or three centimetres for those on metric). This signalled that that brain of hers had produced something worthwhile. I do not know how Ypres does it. Maybe it is her daily meditation sessions, or her insistence on eating fish and steamed vegetables. Her brain is so hopped up on those omega fours or fives or whatnot that it puts things together with a fraction of the effort it takes us (or we) mere mortals.

“What is it, Ypres?”

“If I may take a liberty?” When Ypres takes a liberty, it is usually something momentous. And, from my experience, momentousness can be either good or bad.

I took a risk.

“Do, Ypres.”

“I shall require the use of the landline and the number to best reach Madame LaPeine de Mort.”

Madison produced her aunt’s mobile number and Ypres disappeared into the bedroom with the phrase, “I shall be two minutes.” Exactly one hundred and twenty seconds later she reappeared like a successful eel.

“Your aunt has approved of your singing on Broadway. She is acquainted with a musical theatre producer. A meeting has been set up for tomorrow at six in the afternoon at the bar of the Pierre.”

Madison shrieked with immeasurable joy. The windows, had they been closed, would have shattered. I regained my hearing after she had, in that most American way, hugged both Ypres and I and skipped joyfully out of the flat.

I turned to Ypres. I had but one word.



Please do not hesitate to report typos or spelling errors in the comment section below. They will be duly prosecuted under the law. (Many thanks to Tooty Nolan, who has become chief prosecutor in this regard).

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