Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mark Helprin: Freddy and Fredericka

wherein I really should read more Helprin

In Freddy and Fredericka, Mark Helprin has written a brilliant farce about the English royal family. Freddy is the Prince of Wales and he's often put out by his flibbertigibbet wife, Fredericka. In this excerpt, Fredericka's dog has run away and Freddy is the only one who can bring him back. Fredericka starts the conversation.
"You're the only one it won't bite. You have a royal way with dogs, like your mother."

"You mean, 'as does your mother,'" Freddy growled.

"Yes, that's what I mean," Fredericka averred, innocently.

"I don't like having a pit bull lick Gorgonzola off my face, if you don't mind. I also don't like pit bulls. He should have been destroyed."

"I couldn't."

"Just because his master died of AIDS?"

"He didn't die of AIDS, he died of malnutrition."

"Your nutrition counsellor died of malnutrition?"

"So?" Fredericka asked indignantly.

"He was some piece of work."

"Perhaps you would expect," said Freddy, "that someone who dispenses advice about nutrition would be able to eat well enough to keep himself alive."

"It was an accident."

"Fredericka, one does not die of malnutrition by accident."

"Oh Freddy, he was always so melancholy. It's difficult for Chinese people in London."

"But you didn't have to name the dog after him."

"If the master dies, you name the dog after the master. It makes perfect sense."

"Well, fuck him."

"No, Pha-Kew."

"Yes, I know."

A page and a half later, Freddy is looking for the dog in the neighboring village:
"Excuse me," Freddy told them, "I wonder if you've seen my dog Pha-Kew."

"No, I haven't seen your dog, and fuck you," was the answer.

"No, no, no," Freddy said. "You don't understand -- Pha-Kew?"

"But yes, yes, yes, we do understand. Fuck you!"

"The name of my dog," Freddy said, laughing, and then pausing, "is...Pha-Kew."

"If you don't want to tell us the name of your dog," the other man said, "then fuck you, too."

"But I do want to tell you the name of my dog. I've been telling you the name of my dog."

"Oh really? What is it?"


"Fuck you too, and can go to hell, you royal bastard!"

Just then, a wedding reception surged out of the White Louse, spilling onto the pavement in good suits and fine dresses. Freddy and the two men turned to see. It was lovely. The women's voices carried through the night like bells. Anyone beholding the scene would be drawn to it, as were, indeed, the two men and the Prince of Wales. But for Freddy it was more than just an attractive bevy of women, it was deliverance, for Pha-Kew poked his head from behind a bush just beyond the wedding party.

Freddy was off, runnng toward the bush and screaming at the top of his voice, "Pha-Kew! Pha-Kew! Pha-Kew!"

One of the old men turned to the other, and said, "Just pray the old lady hangs on."

Meanwhile, the men in the wedding party stepped forward to protect their women. Freddy was very big, and he ran like a commando. Though they were scared, they were prepared to do their duty. But he ran right past them screaming, "Pha-Kew! Pha-Kew!" and stopped at the bush, into which Pha-Kew had receded, like a moray eel, before anyone had seen him. "Pha-Kew! Pha-Kew!" he said to the bush. "Don't do this to me, Pha-Kew. Not again."

"Is that the Prince of Wales?" one of the women asked, "or have I had too much to drink?"

"It can't be."

"But it is. It is."

"Oh, look," the bridegroom said, "Look what he's doing."

Freddy had lain down upon the ground and put the cheese on his face. "Cheese!" he said. "Cheese! Cheese!"

And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Pha-Kew darting onto the towpath beyond the Post Office. Pha-Kew disappeared in a white blur, which befit a 125-pound horseradish travelling in the moonlight, and Freddy realiZed that the dog would be halfway home in a trice. Still, he was so worked up that he rose, yelled "Cheese!" and began to run after the elusive Pha-Kew, calling his name many times.

As he passed he wedding party he felt strangely uncomfortable, and stopped. "What's that?" he asked a small blond woman who was pointing something at him. When she failed to respond, he asked, again, "What is that?"

"It's a video camera, Your Royal Highness," was the reply. She kept on shooting.

"Oh," said Freddy. "I see. Oh. Oh my."

The last scene on the tape was of Freddy running off into the darkness shouting, "Off with his bloody head!"


Blogger Ahistoricality said...

Just because I'm not blogging and linking doesn't mean I'm not reading and enjoying.

9/10/2006 04:58:00 AM  

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