I confess I rarely have many dealings with erotic novelists. This isn’t snobbery on my part, it’s just they tend to be so much more generously remunerated than a mere poet. Still I do have a friend who is renown within the genre. I was going through a poorly remunerated period when he bumped into me.
“I say old fellow, do me a favour will you? I’ve got a book launch and really need somebody reliable behind the bar.”
It may come as a shock to people who think they know me but I’m very reliable when working, rarely drinking to excess. So I’m occasionally called upon by friends who need somebody sober to watch their back.
In this case the book launch was in the rather nice house of one of my friend’s patrons. Apparently her husband was going to some function related to work and wouldn’t be back until very late so she agreed to throw open her drawing room for the launch.
Indeed things went well. There was a considerable crowd of people, all of whom purchased a book, drank a glass of wine and engaged in polite conversation. Indeed considering the genre we were promoting I was almost disappointed at how respectable and well-behaved people were.
The lady of the house did push the limits a little. She wore a rather elegant red dress which fitted her to perfection. Indeed from the discussion that I overheard between a small set of ladies as I collected glasses, it didn’t merely fit to perfection, but rather she fitted it to perfection. By the cunning use of panels and stays it gave her the perfect figure without excessive discomfort. Not only that but it was apparently entirely in one piece. The lady merely donned this one garment. There was more, which I never really caught, but apparently it jiggled and wiggled significantly in ways that the ladies deep in conversation alluded to but never felt the need to explain.
Now the evening drew to a close, the guests dispersed, my friend left with the handful of books he had left unsold and the lady of the house retired to bed, leaving me to finish washing the glasses, her own staff having long gone to their homes.
I had just finished when there was a hesitant, “Excuse me.”
I turned to find the maid wearing only a dressing gown. She continued, “I wondered if you could assist us, madam’s dress has jammed and she cannot get out of it.”
I confess to being a little perturbed but a gentleman could hardly refuse to assist a lady in distress, so I accompanied the maid to the bedroom. There stood her mistress, almost red-faced with the efforts of trying to escape her on-piece garment.
“The catch has jammed and we cannot loosen it. Could you kindly assist?”
“Certainly madam, where is the catch.”
Her answer showed the magnitude of the problem. It was just below her waist, at the front, on the inside of the dress.
The maid and I made several attempts to reach it, but eventually realised that the only way was for me to lie on my back on a bench which was pushed under madam’s skirts. There, equipped with a lantern and a selection of crochet hooks, tweezers and a bradawl I strove to free the catch. Not only was the catch jammed but the mechanism that would remove the garment was also wedged with a piece of cloth.
Now remember that I wanted to do the minimum amount of damage to the garment and no damage at all to madam. Hence I was forced to make movements of supreme delicacy but slowly I could see I was getting there. Finally after what must have been a good solid hour of careful tinkering I managed to get everything unwedged and moving freely.
I gave the catch a good sharp tug, and just as I did, I heard a male voice saying, in tones ripe with incredulity, “What the hell is going on here?”
At that very moment the garment collapsed to the ground, leaving madam standing there mother naked. I frantically tried to untangle myself from it, and the voice, which I assumed came from madam’s husband said, “And what the hell are you doing here sirrah!”
In retrospect, just saying, “I tugged the catch and that’s when it came off in my hand”, was perhaps not my best move.
As an aside this story appeared first as part of a prestigious literary composition.
Apparently it was considered a little long, there being a 200 word limit. Personally I can understand the need for a limit, those who specialise in prose tend to be notoriously prolix and something has to be done to keep them in order.
Still should you feel in the need for prose, I might just take the opportunity to recommend a slim volume of young Benor’s tales, ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice.’