The Principal of Lushers College for Ladies called Ruth Goldsmith into her office the Monday after the equestrian centre inauguration fiasco.
“What do you know about this, girl?” Principal Clutch demanded as she put an orange “whoopee” fart cushion on the desk in front of Ruth.
“Nothing Principal,” Ruth replied, adding truthfully, “I have never seen it before in my life.”
“It was found in the cushion poor Annabelle Purvis sat on. One of the teachers reported seeing you on the stage before the start of the opening ceremony.” The Principal said with a statement in search of an answer.
“Yes Principal. I was just making sure the sound was on and Mrs Thompson asked me to tidy the chairs.”
“Yes, yes, Mrs Thompson told me that,” the Principal said impatiently. “But, that gave you the opportunity to commit this outrage.”
“I just moved the chairs, and picked up a couple of cushions. I promise I never put that in a cushion.” Ruth insisted.
“Maybe not Goldsmith, but who else? Now go back to class,” the Principal ordered with a dismissive wave of the hand.
“Yes Principal,” Ruth replied. As she turned to leave, Ruth suddenly had a flash of inspiration. “I also saw the Deputy Principal, Miss Smyth, she was by the stage as well. She might know.”
Over morning tea, Miss Smyth confirmed her presence behind the stage, and told the Principal about the two girls who had nearly knocked her over in their haste to get away from the area.
When questioned by the Principal, Shelley and Lou initially denied they were near the stage but, after so many years of teaching, Principal Clutch could almost smell a lie and pushed on. The evidence of Miss Smyth caused the two girls to reluctantly admit to being there, but they were unable to offer the Principal any plausible explanation as to why.
With at least three possible offenders and no actual witness, Clutch decided it would be prudent not to continue the hunt for the culprit at this time. She felt sure that they were all involved in someway or other, but that would have to wait for another day. The ‘Whoopee’ cushion was put in the bottom drawer of her desk.
At midday, the previous Saturday was the only topic of conversation for the groups of girls sitting on the school lawns eating their lunch: Giggling and laughter could be heard everywhere. As usual, Ruth and Jane sat together and for them it was no different. They revelled in reliving the surprised reaction to Annabelle’s ‘fart’ and the macho inspired drenching her father had given the official party.
“But wait, but wait, I have an announcement,” Ruth said interrupting their revelry. “I’m not going to defend my single sculls title this year.”
Jane was stunned, “What, not real?”
“Yes, I want to go for the coxless pair’s title, with you,” Ruth declared matter-of-factly.
“You’re mad,” Jane shouted, elbowing her friend in the side. “I barely know one end of the boat from the other.”
“Too late, I’ve already sent in the form,” Ruth replied, shrugging her shoulders as if to say what will be will be.
On the same day, Madge and Dean Thomas went into the city in their good clothes. As they entered the imposing head office of Regal Mortgage, they were greeted by an attractive young woman who took their details and gave them a brochure that projected a great future for the company.
The Thomas’s were then passed over to an equally attractive young man who talked about the virtues of investing in one of the company’s property trusts. “A good return with absolute security,” he explained before taking the money they had saved for their daughter’s education.
“I’m sure we did the right thing,” Madge had said, sounding less than sure as they left the building.
“Yeah, I guess so,” her husband had replied.
Jane dropped into the Crystal shop next door to her family’s delicatessen on the way home from school. She was eager find out more about Ray Purvis and his proposed shopping centre and hoped the proprietor, Sky Crystal, might be able to help.
Over the years they had been neighbours, Jane had got to know Sky well: she knew she was a kind person who really cared about others, but this didn’t stop Jane finding the whole old new-age, hippy thing a bit of a struggle. The celestial rose hip tea they were drinking from small Chinese cups was okay, sort of; but the accompanying “sounds of the deep”, with its long periods of silence punctuated by loud grunts and low moans, made maintaining a conversation, let alone a straight face, very difficult.
“Leopard seal mating call, very rare recording,” commented Sky after yet another indistinguishable grunt.
Jane nodded with distracted interest. “Are you going to sell the shop?”
“Not if I can help it,” Sky replied as she took a sip of tea.
“My Dad’s thinking of selling. Do you reckon Purvis is honest?”
Sky laughed. “My family have never liked him. Once a used car salesman, always a used car salesman, dad says”. Sky leaned forward with a conspiratorial smile. “You know, he tried to join the Club a few years ago, but they black-balled him. They said he was a shark in shark’s clothing.”
Sky could see that Jane was worried. “Come on, don’t ruffle your aura. It’s not that bad. I’m going to my parents place for dinner next Tuesday; I might be able to find out something then.”
A sudden roar of tumbling water startled Jane. “Christ! Is that your water main?” she exclaimed.
“Don’t panic,” Sky calmly replied. “It’s just the tape. Now we’re in the rain forest. I find it very relaxing and peaceful, don’t you?”
Sky compassionately explained that the position of the stars at the time of Jane’s birth meant that she was always more likely to look on the dark side of everything. “You should meditate to realign your perspective,” she advised, “and just stay relaxed.”
In the next episode, “Agreement”, Ray Purvis makes a surprise visit to the Thomas deli and and asks Dean to sign a letter of agreement to sell.