THOSE WHO CAN CAN-CAN CAN. THOSE WHO CAN’T CAN’T
Ruth and John have finally made it Paris. Ruth is imagining this will be so romantic. But John is as always more pragmatic. Of course there is no one he has to assassinate in Paris, so they couple take a night off to enjoy themselves. All they need to do is keep a low profile. Good luck on that with Ruth around!
Finally, thought Ruth, Paris. How romantic.
John lowered the canvas roof of the Humber Imperial Super Snipe, and Ruth rode through Paris with the warm wind in her hair. She looked over at John. If only something could be done about those sticking out ears, he would be very handsome. Perhaps he could tuck them into a beret?
From the back of the car came the sound of snoring. Aggie was asleep and made a noise a bit like a burst harmonium. The twins were asleep and their gentle snores mingled with the quiet hum of the straight-six engine. Spirit also lay on the back seat, his canine snores were more akin to the growl of a hibernating grizzly bear.
“I’ve always wanted to come to Paris,” said Ruth.
“Me too,” said John. “I am a big fan of croissants and baguettes.”
“Really,” said Ruth unimpressed, and looked out as they drove around the Arc D’ Triomphe.
“Let’s get the children settled in at the hotel,” said John, “and then you and I can have a night on the town.”
“That sounds wonderful,” said Ruth as John parked the car outside the pensione.
John tossed the car keys to the doorman, then he restrained the newly awakened Spirit from attacking anyone. In the meantime, Ruth and Aggie carried the children to their rooms.
“This is fancy,” said Aggie. “And look,” she continued and pointed to the bidet, “they even have a wee sink for washing your ar—“
“That’s nice,” interrupted Ruth. She had no interest in hearing about Aggie’s intimate personal hygiene.
The twins both went back to sleep almost as soon as they were placed into their cots.
“I’ll stay here wi the dug,” said Aggie, “You twa go oot and see the toon.”
Not much later, Ruth and John were walking arm in arm down the Champs Elysées.
“Isn’t this romantic,” said Ruth.
“I suppose,” said John, “anywhere I can get chips, I’m starving.”
“Not chips, John, French Fries. We are in Paris after all.”
The amorous couple stopped for a moment and John wolfed down a croquet monsieur from a street vendor.
As they ambled along, they passed the Follies Bergere.
“Look,” said Ruth, “let’s go in there. I think you would like it.”
“Alright,” said John.
Soon they were sitting in the theatre waiting for the show to begin. Ruth was very excited. She had wanted to be a dancer ever since she was a child. Every day she had practised, even while she had been pregnant with twins. It would be wonderful to finally see it in real life. Although she could not help but wonder what John would make of the dancing girls? Sometimes he could be very straight-laced.
As they waited for the curtain to open, Madam Bon-Bon the theatre impresario, came out to the front of the stage.
“Madams et Monsieurs Je regrettet, our star Anne Eyevaule is non able to danceze this evening. There for Le show will be cancelle-imont.”
Groans rang around the auditorium. Anne Eyevaule was one of the most popular dancers in Paris.
“What a shame,” said John, “but if we hurry back to the pensione we can listen to BBC radio four comedy in the lodgings.”
Ruth could think of nothing worse than listening to BBC Radio Four Comedy in the lodgings. She sunk down for a moment and then determined sprang to her feet.
“Non!” she declared, “Le show must go on!”
“Impossible,” replied Madam “We have no one that can Can-Can.”
“I’ll do it,” said Ruth. “I can’t promise to give you quite Anne Eyevaule but I will do my best.” With that, Ruth did a double backflip, cartwheel and high kick down the aisle. Then she leapt on to the stage and landed gracefully on her toes and gave a curtsey. The crowd roared in approval.
“C’est ne’ possible pas,” Madam Bon-Bon exclaimed. “C’est magnificeque!”
“Go one, what have you got to lose.”
“Very well,” said Madam Bon-Bon, “but you will have to change into this.”
Ruth inspected the Can-Can costume.
“Haven’t you got something more substantial?” she asked.
Madam Bon-Bon sneered. “This is not Amsterdam. We are not clog dancers.”
“Very well,” said Ruth and slipped backstage to slip into what was little more than a slip.
The crowd whistled and cheered and then Ruth made her way on to the stage. Madam Bon-Bon grabbed Ruth by the face and turned it one way and then the other. There could be no doubt that Ruth looked stunning.
“But can you dance le Can-Can?”
“I can Can-Can.”
“We shall see.”
The orchestra started up. Ruth started to follow a long procession of girls even more scantily clad then she was. It seemed that Madam Bon-Bon was determined that the audience would get an eyeful after all.
Ruth began by shaking her tail feathers and then did a fan dance, then she did the jitterbug. The crowd applauded and shouted their approval. Who needs Anne Eyevaule, thought Ruth and then the orchestra changed its tune. The Can-Can began.
I do hope this does not expose my pantaloons, thought Ruth. She gathered her skirts together and began to swish them to and fro. She did a series of high kicks, a cartwheel and a few more high kicks. Then she joined the chorus girls to do a couple of rounds of rond de jamb, port d’armes. Fiinally, she performed la Goulou and finished off with the splits.
The crowd erupted with applause. “Bravo, bravo,” they shouted. And Ruth bowed graciously while enthusiastic French men threw flowers onto the stage. They may not have gotten Anne Eyevaule but they certainly got something for their money.
“C’est Bon,” remarked Madam Bon-Bon, “C’est tres Bon. Le star est born.”
Madam Bon-Bon gestured to Ruth to take another few bows and then to follow her back to the changing room.
“Tres bien,” said Madam Bon-Bon. “Vous must sign la contract.”
“Oh, no,” said Ruth, “I could not do that. I’m just a humble but truly excellent dancer fulfilling their lifelong dream. Besides I am sure Anne Eyevaule will be well again soon.”
In the dressing room, Ruth was introduced to two well-dressed gentlemen.
“Allow me to introducez le Baron Von Klinkenkloppen from Germany. And this is General Blinkintwat from La Angla-Terre.”
The Baron clicked his heels together like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz wishing to go home. Then he took Ruth’s hand and kissed it. Bit forward thought Ruth.
“Enchantez,” said the Baron. Ruth swung a leg round and kicked the Baron’s top hat from his head.
“The first one’s a warning,” said Ruth. “I’m a decent married woman. Try and get saucy again and the next one will be planted right on your conk.” It must be said that the Baron had quite a large conk.
The General started to snigger and then pressed a glass of Champaign into Ruth’s hand. “You tell him, my dear.”
“I’m not your dear,” said Ruth, “and I don’t want some old pervert trying to get me tipsy.”
Just then John arrived at the dressing room. He rushed to Ruth and took her in his arms.
“If you’re quite finished, we need to get back to check on the twins,” he said. “and began ushering her out the door.”
“Hold on,” said Ruth, “I can’t go out like this, I’ll catch the death of a cold.”
“I’ve got your coat,” said John and again began to lead Ruth out the dressing room.
“I’m not sure I want to go home just yet,” said Ruth. “These two gentlemen were going to offer me a drink.”
John, who knew full well how Ruth could get after a couple, shuddered. Then turning to face the two gentlemen shuddered again.
“Baron Von Klinkenkloppen, General Blinkentwat,” he said and tipped his Beret.
“John Stewart,” remarked the General, “fancy meeting you here. And don’t tell me this charming young lady is your wife.”
“Indeed she is,” said John.
“Do you boys know each other?” asked Ruth.
“Somewhat,” said John.
“My darling Mrs Stewart,” said Baron Kikkenklop. “You must come and dance for ze Fuehrer.”
“Indeed, I think that would be an excellent idea,” said General Blinkintwat. The general was winking very noticeably at John. Then whispered loudly, “That would work well with our secret plan John.”
The Baron pretended not to have heard but smiled again. “Yes please do, and bring your delightful husband with you when you come.”
“I thought Hitler only listened to German music,” said John.
“Indeed,” agreed the Baron. “Perhaps your wife knows some German oompha dances she could perform.”
“Well,” said Ruth, “I do know the Shushenplatter.”
“That would be perfect,” said the Baron.
“Well, goodnight,” said John. Before any more could be said, he wrapped Ruth in her coat and bodily carried her out of the Theatre.
“So,” said Ruth, after John let her down and they were walking back to their lodgings, “What did you think?”
“It was alright,” said John, “if you like that kind of thing, but it was a pity I never got to see Anne Eyevaule.”
“Don’t you worry,” said Ruth, “I’ll give you an eyeful when we get back to the hotel.” And she brandished her fist at him angrily. Really, she thought, a man should be a bit more appreciative.