Tête à Tête

'Tête à Tête' is the sixth part of Cilla McQueen's Serial, which is being published on this blog in small sections every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The preceding chapters were:

1. Higgs

2. Hotdog

3. Birdie

4. Inflation

5. Pleochroic

Next week we begin chapter 7 - 'Nanoflowers'.

Tête à Tête

Doris was transfixed by the bushfires.

When they were over she went into the kitchen to check the meat. It had shrunk. She hoped Walter was not a vegan.

Rinsing two glasses, she imagined herself incinerated by roaring flames as tall as a hillside.

As tall as a tidal wave. She would have to stock up against disaster. The tsunami pamphlet insisted on an escape route.

The quickest way up the hill would be through the gorse up the back. She should cut a track. Roly might be able to obtain an electric chainsaw.

She remembered Edwin on the day he found out about Roger, blossom flying everywhere. He wore on his head a handkerchief knotted at the corners and wielded the chainsaw with awkward violence.

Matchsticks, said Edwin at last with satisfaction. No more apple pie.

He pulled off the handkerchief and wiped his face. Extinct.

She pressed one flower between two sheets of tissue paper and put it away in the dictionary. Nevermore, she whispered.

Never mind, here’s Walter with his pinot, right on time.

When she opened the door he held out a bunch of pink hydrangeas. Voilà, Madame. Picked them myself. From Digby’s? she asked doubtfully.

He followed her into the kitchen. There was smoke in the air. Are we having a barbecue?

Just the roast, Doris apologised, turning the oven off. She could still see the victims. Negatives of a giant nuclear snapshot.

Walter pulled two crystal glasses from his coat pocket and rummaged with the other hand. Gruyère in here somewhere. Corkscrew?

Humming off-key he leaned against the bench, watching her while she set the table. I am quite an afficionado of haute cuisine, he said, especially Nigella Lawson.

Doris was pleased she had bought a baguette. Nearly ready, she said, I want to make the îles flottantes.

A specialty of mine, he offered, Allow me to show you how I break the eggs.

One hand cracking, he poured the yolk from shell to shell. Look, when I hit the rim at this angle I achieve a perfect equatorial division.

Snowy peaks, pale gold sea, the islands like foam, dawn mist.

He poured another pinot. Ah, Dostoyevsky, he intoned, raising his glass, “We are like two abstract creatures in a balloon who have met to speak the truth.”

Firefighters at gorse fire, Silverstream, [Ca 1 September 1980]
Reference number: Dom/1980/0902/01/08-F

Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society :No. 86 District. New Zealand Central. [Christ the Good Shepherd. Calendar]. 1908.
Reference number: Eph-D-ALCOHOL-Temperance-1908-01

Eagles Nest Geyser, Wairakei
Reference number: 1/1-020257-G

Paul Cinquevalli
Reference number: 1/1-007889-G

Sawn logs, Northland
Reference number: 1/1-006269-G

Makara farmer Royce Brown spraying gorse
Reference number: EP/1980/0169/19-F

Men drinking a toast, and bicycle
Reference number: 1/2-026145-G

The Queen Curasow. 1856
Reference number: A-198-038

An older woman (possibly Laura Godber) partially obscured behind an apple tree, Circa 1940s
Reference number: APG-1988-1/2-G

Reference number: 114/274/04-G

Display of decorative items
Reference number: PA1-q-041-frontispiece

Match box showing size of meat ration
Reference number: 114/261/13-G

Photograph of a certificate in anatomy, physiology, surgery and disection gained by surgeon John Dorset, 1829
Reference number: 1/2-012587-F

Men competing in an egg and spoon race
Reference number: 1/2-017774-G

Peter Fraser and the Minister of Supply, with wheat research experts, inspecting loaves of bread
Reference number: 1/2-C-004756-F

Ngaire Dawn Porter, June 1957
Reference number: 1/2-177247-F

New Zealand soldiers at an educational cooking class in Mulheim, Germany, 1919
Reference number: 1/1-002123-G

Reference number: 114/282/11-G

Louis Auguste de Sainson, Vue de l'ile Tikopia
Reference number: B-052a-018

New private boxes at Chief Post Office, Wellington
Reference number: 114/339/13-G

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