BRINGING UP THE BACON
BY PETER KENNEALLY
Catalogue No 958: Untitled. A handwritten fragment of a hitherto unknown short story by P.G. Wodehouse. This tantalisingly brief extract, discovered behind the toilet cistern of Wodehouse’s house in Rensemberg, Long Island, during renovations by its current owner, Mr Vladimir Abramovich. Mr Abramovich donated the item to the Wodehouse Archive at Midwestern University who are now making it available to collectors in order to fund a new wing of the Dorothy L. Sayers Museum in Boise, Idaho. This item has been fully authenticated by Profs Honoria Braythwayte and Daphne Glossop of the University of Michigan. This tantalising fragment hints at a new direction for the Jeeves oeuvre, as well as providing an insight intoWodehouse’s mind during his final years.
'…[illegible]… I woke up and the lark was most definitely not on the rise and nor was the dew afreshening on the rye: in fact I felt rather like old Spoffy Barkingside when he got his head stuck between the railings of Buckingham Palace on Boat Race night—I had a deuced thick head. I felt like that chap in that song who woke up one morning and had bullfrogs on his mind, what was his name, Deaf Lemon something, I would ask Jeeves when he brought me one of his patented elixirs, any minute now.
A minute passed, followed by another minute. The lark had turned into a gannet and was nesting in my mouth and the dew was dampening my pillow in a most unattractive way: it was like being back at Eton; but no Jeeves. This was most strange, because usually he is just there, don’t you know, just sort of appears with that cough of his and half an eyebrow raised: 'I thought perhaps sir might need something to refresh him for the morning' that sort of thing, before telling one that Aunt Agatha or some other ghastly blot waits without.
After a while I had had enough of waiting without and thought I had better rouse him from his lair. I baulked at this as a rule: Jeeves is a rum cove, you know, and values what he calls the ‘privacy of the gentleman’s gentleman’. He had been a little, well, distant of late, ever since the brouhaha over the tattoo I came home with from Ibiza.
You see the evening before I had met a rather fetching young gal at a dinner party and she seemed to take a shine to me, except, as she put it, for my cruel and speciesist diet. Apparently meat is murder, and not content with that also makes the planet warmer. I didn’t follow the thrust of her arguments quite as I might have, but I went along wholeheartedly. ‘Oh Bertie, you DO care about the world! You aren’t just an insensitive heteronormative clot!’ she ejaculated, and hurled herself upon me.
I was about to rouse myself when Jeeves lurched into the room and knocked over an occasional table. His movements were stiff and jerky, but he managed not to spill the morning elixir, after which, feeling rather more at ease with the world, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction from Jeeves to my news.
'Now look here Jeeves, you’ll need to go shopping tomorrow.'
'Sir? The weekly delivery from Fortnum’s is not due until Thursday.'
'Yes well never mind that. You will have to chuck out all the meat and what not and send round to Organic Earth Lovers Market. I believe Prince Charles is a patron, so they are quite the thing. We will need to get in a raft of toffee and such like and lentils aplenty.'
'Toffee, sir?’ He had that air about him, and I feared a struggle in prospect.
'Yes, Jeeves: toffee. It is made out of beans or something and it’s what we Vegans eat. So lay in, and lay on, as the poets say.'
'I believe sir is referring to tofu , sir, a most unpleasant connection of little use in fine cuisine. Sir is a Vegan?’
'Yes, Jeeves, and don’t try to baulk me: I had had a what-d-ye-call-it, a road to thin gummy moment, and won’t be swerved from my unyielding purpose. I am like Boallab on the plains of Askaroth before the mighty host… what?’
'Very well, sir, and the bacon and sausages, sir, shall I leaven them unto the poor, as did the said Boallab?’
'Oh yes, Jeeves, they make substitutes, don't yer know, that taste exactly the same, made out of, um, some bacony stuff. Not sure what, but Vicky explained it all to me. She said it was like the small acorn that Beau Dillard developed. Didn’t entirely follow, as she was [illegible] at the time. I suppose he is some kind of country and western singer, what? Would…'
At this point something rather alarming happened. Jeeves began to emit what I can call a high-pitched whine, and his eyes, usually pale and alert in a reassuring way, actually glowed red. Then he seemed to collect himself, but I don’t mind telling you it gave me a fright.
'Vicky, sir? I do not believe the Staffington-Stonebridges have a daughter called Victoria.'
'Oh no, you see this Vicky is a friend of Lavinia’s at Oxford. Her father is a bus driver or a sociologist, something of earthly toil and noble sweat, don’t yer know.'
'Indeed, sir?' This was more like it. 'I believe the young lady was referring to Mr Baudrillard’s theorem, sir, that our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is of a simulation of reality. Moreover, these simulacra are not merely mediations of reality, nor even deceptive mediations of reality; they are not based in a reality nor do they hide a reality, they simply hide that anything like reality is relevant to our current understanding of our lives. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are the significations and symbolism of culture and media that construct perceived reality, the acquired understanding by which our lives and shared existence is and are rendered legible; Baudrillard believed that society has become so saturated with these simulacra and our lives so saturated with the constructs of society that all meaning was being rendered meaningless by being infinitely mutable. Baudrillard called this phenomenon the 'precession of simulacra'. [Archivist’s note: this section is written in a different hand, with a cheap biro, and its provenance is doubtful]
I stared at Jeeves. I may even have boggled: he was whirring! I don’t mind telling you I stammered like Bap-Bap Bapley used to at St Erstwine’s Preparatory College when Beaky McFarlane called him out in assembly, as I asked Jeeves for a stiff whiskey and soda, at which he ceased to whirr.
'At this hour , sir?'
'Yes Jeeves, at this hour. I don’t understand a word of what this Beau Dillard johnnie says. I feel quite beset, like Hoashem in battle before Goallashanakka in the er, what is it Jeeves?’
'The Bible, sir. Mr Baudrillard is a gentleman of the French persuasion, sir, and his utterances only comprehensible with the application of a rigorous intellectual schema. Perhaps sir, if I might suggest, sir might undertake an evening class? It might further relations with Miss, um
'Yes, and lay out some raiments for me, would you? I think I shall wear my dinosaur onesie to Aunt Daphne’s for lunch today.'
'Not the dinosaur onesie, I think sir. I have laid out the active wear, and the cross-training shoes.'
I could tell he still wasn’t quite himself, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. However it all seemed to settle down for the next few days, and I was enjoying being a Vegan no end, thanks to Jeeves.
'I say Jeeves, do you know, this French theoretical bacon and sausages taste just like the real thing?' Jeeves whirred again and I heard him say something about the hyperreal, but I stuck to my last and mopped up the, er, vegetable protein fat, with my bread, which was spread with lashings of delicious margarine that tasted exactly like butter! As Jeeves served up these Vegan delights he did seem to have a rum look to him, that I might have called a smirk, if I hadn’t known better, but put it down to too much Frenchness in his evening reading.
So it was with a song in my heart and a full Vegan stomach that I went off to Vicky’s flat in Penge, for an evening of what I hoped would be unbridled Frenchness. Imagine my astonishment when she turned from me like Shadwell before the gates of Upminster, and screamed, positively screamed at me, that I stank of the foul murder of beasts, and that my eyes brimmed over with the glutinous fat of rank death . 'I say, steady on' I stuttered, while attempting to ingratiate myself by stroking her pet lizard, Chomsky, 'I have been stuffing down the Vegan necessities like there was no tomorrow.'
‘Liar! You stink of bacon!' she howled completely ignoring the lizard motif, whereupon the lizard bit me. 'That lizard is a Vegan! You have corrupted even an innocent reptile! And I thought you were committed. Vivian was right: you only wanted to slake your lusts upon me. Begone!’
Well I don’t mind telling you my tail was firmly [illegible] as I undertook the endless journey back to Mayfair, furious at being so obviously deceived by Jeeves, for who knows what purpose? Bursting into the flat like Arnos Grove into the citadel of Osterley, I was in no mood for dissembling and I threw open the door of his sanctum, caring not a whit for [illegible]
Jeeves lay on the bed, whirring quietly. His eyes were bright red and blinking. His left leg gave up the struggle about half way down and he didn’t appear to have any eyebrows. Rather a lot of Vegan small goods seemed to suddenly come out of me onto the carpet, as I saw the lower portion of his leg on the table, with wires or some such coming out of it [illegible]
woke up [illegible] Jeevesshimmered and [illegible]
'…a bad dream, sir. Perhaps the Stilton stout and oysters were not a wise choice for supper? Miss Vicky is here to see you sir, with a young gentleman of French appearance called Vivian. I have laid out the overalls and the beret'.
Peter Kenneally is a librarian, writer and reviewer, and poet. His work has appeared in The Australian, Southerly, and Island.
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