Saturday, September 18, 2010
Christine in Wonderland
A Mad Tea Party
Adaptions from Lewis Carroll
There was a large party table set in front of the Capital, and the March Army and the Gingrinch who stole America were having tea on it: an Alaskan Barracuda was sitting between them, reading notes scribbled on the palm of her hand. "Very uncomfortable for the Barracuda, thought Christine, only, as it sleeps in rational thought, I suppose it doesn't mind.
"Take some money," the March Army said in an encouraging tone.
Christine looked all around the party table, but there was nothing on it but tea."I don't see any money, she remarked"
"There isn't any," said the March Army.
"Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it," said Christine angrily.
"It wasn't very civil of you to sit down at our party table without being invited, said the March Army.
"I didn't know it was your party,' said Christine; `it's laid for a great many more than three.'
"You should learn not to make personal remarks to provocative questions," the Barracuda said raising her eyes from her palm studies; "the liberal media is very rude."
The Gingrinch opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, "Why is a liberal like a writing-desk?"
"Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Christine. "I'm glad they've begun asking riddles.--I believe I can guess that," she added aloud.
"Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?" said the March Army.
"Exactly so," said Christine.
"Then you should say what you mean," the March Army went on.
"I do," Christine hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Gingrinch. "You might just as well say that,'The people vote for whom they want' is the same thing as 'The people want for whom they vote.'
"You might just as well say," added the March Army, "that 'Conservatives want what they get' is the same thing as 'Conservatives get what they want!'
`You might just as well say," added the Barracuda, who seemed to be talking in her sleep, "that ' Congress controls the money' is the same thing as ' money controls Congress!'
"It is the same thing with you," said the Gingrinch, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Christine thought over all she could remember about liberals and writing-desks, which wasn't much.
Christine felt dreadfully puzzled. The Tea Party's remarks seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. "I don't quite understand you," she said, as politely as she could.
"Have you guessed the riddle yet?" the Gingrinch said, turning to Christine again.
"No, I give it up," Christine replied: "What's the answer?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," said the Gingrinch.
"Nor I," said the March Army.
Christine sighed wearily. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers."
"If you knew Time as well as I do," said the Gingrinch, "you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him."
"I don't know what you mean," said Christine.
"Of course you don't!" the Gingrinch said, tossing his head contemptuously. "I dare say you never even spoke to Time!"
"Perhaps not," Christine cautiously replied: "but I know time is on my side until the November elections."
"Ah! that accounts for it," said the Gingrinch. "He won't stand beside you. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were seven o'clock on the morning of the elections, just time for you to vote for yourself only: you'd only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Nine o'clock, voting booths closed!"
"That would be grand, certainly,' said Christine thoughtfully. "Is that how you manage?"
The Gingrinch shook his head mournfully. `Not I!' he replied. `We quarrelled near the end of the last administration--just before he went mad, you know--' (pointing with his tea spoon at the March Army,) `--it was at the final dinner given by the First Lady from Midland, and I had to sing
'Twinkle, twinkle, Lone Star State!
WE win when we deregulate!'
"You know the song, perhaps?"
"I've heard something like it," said Christine.
"It goes on, you know," the Gingrinch continued, `in this way:--
'Up above the United States,
Cries from Tea Party delegates.
Here the Barracuda shook itself, and began singing in its sleep `Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle--' and went on so long that they had to pinch it to make it stop.
"Well, I'd hardly finished the first verse,' said the Gingrinch, `when the First Lady jumped up and bawled out, "He's murdering the party! Tax his estate!"
"How dreadfully savage!" exclaimed Christine.
"And ever since that," the Gingrinch went on in a mournful tone, "he won't do a thing I ask! It's always December 16,1773, now."
A bright idea came into Christine's head. "Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?" she asked.
"Yes, that's it," said the Gingrinch with a sigh.
"Suppose we change the subject,' the March Army interrupted, yawning. "I'm getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story."
"I'm afraid I don't know one," said Christine, rather alarmed at the proposal.
"Then the Barracuda shall!" they both cried. "Wake up, Barracuda!" and they pinched it on both sides at once.
The Barracuda slowly opened her eyes. "I wasn't asleep," she said in a hoarse, feeble voice: "I heard every word you fellows were saying."
"Tell us a story!" said the March Army.
"Yes, please do!" pleaded Christine.
"And be quick about it," added the Gingrinch, "or you'll be asleep again before it's done."
"Once upon a time there was a little sister," the Barracuda began in a great hurry; "and she lived on campaign contributions--"
"She couldn't have done that, you know," Christine gently remarked; "it would defy social norms."
"So she was,' said the Barracuda; very defiant."
Christine tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary way of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: "But why did she live on campaign contributions?"
"Take some more tea," the March Army said to Christine, very earnestly.
"I've had nothing yet,' Christine replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Gingrinch: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
"Nobody asked your opinion," said Christine.
"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Gingrinch asked triumphantly.
Christine did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea, and then turned to the Barracuda, and repeated her question. "Why did the little sister live on campaign contributions?"
The Barracuda again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, "To prove that earnings should not be taxed.'
"That's ridiculous!" Christine was beginning very angrily, but the Gingrinch and the March Army went `Sh! sh!' and the Barracuda sulkily remarked, "If you can't be civil, you'd better finish the story for yourself."
"No, please go on!" Christine said very humbly.
The Barracuda consented to go on. "And so the little sister-- she was learning to speak in public, you know--"
"What did she say to the public?" said Christine, quite forgetting her promise.
"Taxes are wrong," said the Barracuda, without considering at all this time.
Christine did not wish to offend the Barracuda again, so she began very cautiously: "But I don't understand."
"The little sister was a Kenya channeler." The Gingrinch interjected.
"That holds no water!" Christine suggested.
"The English channel holds water." said the March Army.
This answer so confused poor Christine, that she let the Barracuda go on for some time without interrupting it.
"The little sister was learning to speck in public," the Barracuda went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; "and she spoke of taxes on all manner of things--everything that begins with an M--"
"Why with an M?" said Christine.
"Why not?" said the March Army.
Christine was silent.
The Barracuda had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Gingrinch, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: "--that begins with an M, such as money, and mansions, and mistresses, and muchness-- did you ever speak publicly against taxes on muchness?"
"Really, now you ask me,' said Christine, very much confused, `I don't think--"
"Then you shouldn't talk," said the Gingrinch.
This piece of rudeness was more than Christine could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Barracuda fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Barracuda into the teapot.
"At any rate I'll never go there again!" said Christine as she picked her way through the wood. "It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!"
Next week I'll return my focus on the characters from Benson's House, with a look at one of the first nonfictional characters introduced in the story; a writer influenced by his life at sea.