Uncle Bardie’s Book Selection: Summer Lightning

Summer Lightning
by P. G. Wodehouse
320 pages. The Overlook Press (September, 2003).

P. G. Wodehouse had a way with words. He walked that tight rope that comic writers, at least the great ones, walk. One step  to the left or one step to the right and they fall off into the abyss. But Pelham Grenville was always funny. In an English sort of way. As the saying goes, he had the knack. Only Mark Twain had more knack.

“Summer Lightning” takes us away to the fresh air and the country life of Blandings Castle. This tome could have easily been titled “Produce That Pig”. Instead Wodehouse chose “Summer Lightning”. Not sure why. The pig isn’t carrying that name. She is named the Empress of Blandings and that enormous pig is Lord Emsworth’s pride and joy. Lord Emsworth is the lord and master of Blandings Castle.

Unfortunately, the Empress is pig-napped. By none other than Ronnie Fish, Emsworth’s nephew and the son of Old Miles Fish of the Brigade Guards. In other words, Ronnie’s blue blood has blue blood. But he has no money. Dash it all.

So, what does a blue blood with no money do if he wants to marry a chorus girl named Sue Brown? He comes up with a scheme. He’ll temporarily borrow the pig, hide it out, then return it to his uncle for a rapturous applause from said uncle.

I was stunned to hear that someone of the aristocratic persuasion would sink so low. I blushed. My illusions were shattered. To break one of The Commandments. It’s one thing to break the adultery clause which aristocrats often do. At least, in the stories. But theft. No way. These are the noblesse oblige.

And the thefting does not stop there. The Hon. Gallahad, Emsworth’s bro, has all the dope on everybody in his class. For him, that is everybody that matters. Society, you know. He’s been saving up for years. Now he is producing his Reminiscences.

Those memoirs are so dastardly dastard two people want them snatched. Emsworth’s sister, Lady Constance, and Emsworth’s next door neighbor, who is accused of pig-napping. It seems thievery is alive and well among the aristocratic class at Blandings Castle. First the pig, now the manuscript.

On top of that, Hon. Galahad is going to steal the suspected pig stealer’s pig. Take that, you dastardly fellow. When all is said and done, this is the story of two pigs in a pokey, don’t you think?

Talk about your regular getting your signals crossed. Ronnie not only has goo-goo eyes for Sue Brown. Lord Emsworth’s niece, the exceedingly charming Millicent Threepwood, has shown interest in the good lord’s secretary, Hugh Carmody. Actually she’s shown more than interest. She’s in love.

Well, Hugh has to go into town. London, that is. To hire a detective for the missing pig. While he’s there, he decides a night on the town is just the thing. Calls up his old buddy, Sue Brown. She says, “Why not? What can it hurt?” They go dancing. Before he knows it, he will have some ‘splaining to do.

Ronnie, being the Fish he is, decides to drive up to London for a night with the Suze. Sees the Suze with another guy. Steam shoots out of both his ears and a volcano goes off. He heads back home and does the next best thing. Becomes engaged to Millicent who has found out that she too has been betrayed. I am telling you guys. Don’t do the bachelor or bachelorette party. It can end up with the wedding doing a Titanic.

Rupert Baxter, that most efficient of former efficient secretaries of Lord Emsworth, tells Emsworth’s sister, Lady Constance, he can deduce with all his deductibilities and find el missing pig-o. She believes him ’cause he’s her fav.

And who do you think this former secretary has his eye on for the leading suspect? The current secretary. Sounds like that green-eyed monster Jealousy has been let loose. Even if Hugh didn’t do it, the suspicion is enough to destroy Rupert’s rival in his Lordship’s affections.

But Hugh must have a partner. That pig is going to need tending while Hugh is gallavanting about, doing his thing. And does Mr. Efficiency have a suspect in mind? Yes, he does.

None other than Beach the Butler. Poor Butler. It sounds like the whale is about to be beached. Not only did he help Ronnie Fish, he is now suspected of the deed. Talk about something being rotten in Denmark. The fish is beginning to smell.

For whatever reason that fickled finger of fate has, Hugh and Millicent are thrown together. They discover the Empress. Before you know it, Beach shows up to feed the pig. When inquisitioned, he has a story. A story that will rescue Hugh from the purgatory of bachelorhood and allow him into the heaven of marriage to his one true love, Millicent. 

What’s the story? Now that would be a spoiler.

Politics in America 6: Leaving Town

Chapter 6
Getting the Puck Out of Dodge

So P F was off to Snort Holler with B S for some new duds. Right there in the middle of Snort Holler, on Main Street to be exact, was the four story local outlet of Welmarties. It had everything. Not only could a customer buy a monkey suit, they could buy a monkey to go with it. With its motto, “We got ‘em”, it out-costcoed Costco. It out-ikeaed Ikea. It was where the Snort Set went to get all their snazzies. You wanted to made up for a coffin, it was the place to go for your made-uppers. It was The Place.

It looked like P F was not going to get his new duds until hell froze over and the Cubs won the World Series. That is, if P F had anything to do with it. He did not. With a poke here, a poke there, everywhere a poke poke, B S, with a bit of get along lil dogie,  had P F moving along nicely.

P F Sneeze liked his new clothes, even though they were from Snort Holler. His ever-loving wife, B S Pudding, had been right. He liked them so much he wouldn’t take them off for a week. Thing was that when he got home the pigs did not recognize him. They took one look and they stuck their heads in the mud as if they were ostriches.

‘Course the Snort Holler College of Agricultry had initiated a study about pigs imitating ostriches. There had been the theory in them parts for nigh on forty-four years that pigs could breath out their tails. Being an alumni with a degree in pigology from the Snort Holler College of Agricultry, he had got his edumacation the hard way. By correspondence course. He knew how important this study of pig behavior was. This now proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Pigs breathed out their tails. The experts still were not sure how pigs breathed in but a half full glass is so much better than a half empty glass. And it’s better than no glass at all. Everybody knows that.

The only thing that finally got P F out of the monkey suit was his drawers. The new drawers were just way a little too tight. His way-down-theres couldn’t breathe. And fellas, you know what that is like. When he finally came to the conclusion that admiring hisself in the mirror was not worth the smothering, he took the suit off. That was absolutely the only way to get his drawers off, B S assured him. Besides it would give her the opportunity to find out if there was gold in them thar hills. Like they say, seeing is half the battle to believing. And once his Knickerbockers came off, she believed. Thank God, she was not a woman to sweat the small stuff.

After a bit of breathing, and B S using that brand spanking used washing machine P F bought her, he readied hisself for the Big Tent in the Sky Do Naught Political Convention. P F duded hisself up so much there was a rumor that went around town. Elvis was back and right chere in Weazel Sneeze of all places. That big Hunka Hunka Burning Love was all the rage in them parts. Just the thought of him coming to those parts was ‘nuff to make the ladies of the town have fainting sessions. You ain’t heard a Southern Belle say, “I have the fevahs” till you’ve heard the ladies of Weazel Sneeze say, “Elvis.” It’s not what they are saying. It’s how they are saying it. And they say it like Jesus done come back and raptured them.

And now Elvis was coming their way. They just couldn’t wait. Imagine their disappointment when they discovered that it was just a rumor. Elvis was not alive. He had not come to Weazel Sneeze. It was just like they said. Elvis was still in Someplace, Kansas where he and Michael Jackson had opened up a laundromat.

No, it was just the Mayor making his way down to the train station. He was going to follow the Yellow Brick Road and go off to see the Wizard. And the munchkins were at the station to see their beloved Mayor off. It wasn’t that they cared one way or ‘nother about the Mayor going off to the Convention. They weren’t. It was just another way they could celebrate with Doctor Pudding’s Own Home Brew. They would do anything for a snort. Even go down to the train station and wave bye bye to their Mr. American Pie.

Next Wednesday, Chapter 7: Party hardy with a chicken in every pot.