by Kitty Yip Kee Wah
...continued from last issue
Next morning I came downstairs to discover the odious Gene Lam already tucking into breakfast and relaying at length an anecdote about the time he mistook Gloria Arroyo for a waitress and asked her to refill his coffee. All the Hong Kongers in the room said this was a reasonable mistake to make because she was Filipino after all. The two mainlanders had no idea who he was talking about - auntie had invited them over to play tennis and they'd arrived about three hours early, right in the middle of breakfast. Not sure why, but it's all grist for the mill for my "mainlanders are weird" theory, which gains ground daily.
The tennis was a problem. Annie was supposed to be keeping an eye on Cousin Georgie for reasons already elucidated, but she has a weird obsession with tennis. When she's got the opportunity to play, she can't think of anything else. I caught up with her on the patio at about eleven.
"Annie?" I said.
"Mmm?" said Annie. Already she was away with the fairies, slipping away into thoughts of nothing but volleys and cross-court backhands and things.
"Where's George?" I said. "Aren't you supposed to be keeping an eye on him for the sake of your ongoing well-being?"
"Oh," said Annie distractedly, "I'm sure he's fine."
Slightly perturbed, I cast around to find the young whippersnapper myself. There was no trace of him. Clearly the sprog was up to no good. I needed to make sure that I intercepted any attempt at prankish revenge he might be planning on Gene Lam. This went against the grain, as ordinarily I should have liked nothing better than to see the old lecher's face covered in custard or something, but needs must. I steeled myself for the unwelcome duty of protecting him from the wiles of an overachieving malignant child.
After some time of fruitless searching through the house's extensive rooms, I became acutely aware of the fact that I had not been ogled since breakfast. This could mean only one thing - Gene Lam was not in the building. His absence, coupled with my inability to locate George, seemed ominous. I made casual inquiries with my aunt as to the whereabouts of Mr Lam.
"Oh, it's good you're taking an interest," said Aunt Clara, "he could do wonders for your career."
"As long as these wonders are accomplished at a distance of greater than five feet away, great," I said, "but that's not why I'm looking for him."
"Oh," said Aunt Clara, "why are you looking for him?"
"I, erm, need to see if he's allergic to peanuts. For lunch," I said. Not one of my finest dodges.
"Oh, well," said Auntie, "he's gone out rowing on the lake with Georgie."
Disaster. Clearly the demon infant was going to capsize the boat or cajole the flamingoes into doing Gene Lam bodily harm, or something of a similar calibre. I went out into the gardens, breaking into a light jog towards the ornamental lake. I could not see the rowing boat on the water. However, on the island in the middle of the lake, I could see a portly figure stalking back and forth along the waterline which, though indistinct, was clearly irate.
I hurried along towards the little boathouse, squelching mud over a perfectly serviceable pair of lime green Converse All-Stars in the process. Two minuscule rowing boats were in there. I clambered into one of them. It was damp. I was unhappy. Nonetheless, I had to get out there and rescue Mr Lam and try to avoid George being blamed for his marooning, though I had no idea how I was going to manage that since it was pretty obvious it was the whelp who had done it.
As I neared the island with its pagoda about fifteen minutes later (rowing turns out to be very difficult!), Gene Lam's eyes were seething with a roiling mass of emotions, ranging from anger to desperation to ire. He was clearly in no mood to mess around, which was unfortunate as it took me another ten minutes to land the stupid boat.
To be continued...