Maggie nudged her husband awake. Charles Haverston groaned.
“Get up. You said you had a meeting at 9” she said.
Charles opened one bleary eye and released a sigh of despair.
Maggie asked, “I fell asleep around 12, what time did you come home last night?”
“Three” he mumbled.
“Well, you’ll have to get up now. Also, your mother called. She expects you to call her back.”
Charles buried his head under his pillow. Maggie dialed her mother-in-law’s number and handed him the phone.
“Good morning Charlie!” Miriam Haverston’s voice boomed in his ear.
“Hi Mum. How are you?”
“I’m fit as a fiddle. But you sound awful. Have you caught something? Its terrible this new flu I’ve read about, everyone’s catching it these days. I’ll tell Maggie to make that chicken soup you like.”
“No, no. I’m fine, really. Just stayed up last night working.”
“Are you sure? Do you want me to talk with Dr. Simmons? Better safe than sorry thats what I always say.” Mrs. Haverston insisted.
The thought of her taking him to the paediatrician he used to go to twenty years ago mortified Charles. “Really, its nothing to worry about. Just a couple of late nights.”
“Well whatever you say dear. But I really think they shouldn’t make you work that hard. I always thought a government job meant you could come home to spend time with your family” Mrs. Haverston said.
“Well, you know, a new administration is coming in. They are going to change a lot of policies. Everyone is working overtime.” Charles explained.
“That sounds so hard. Well you can tell me all about it when we meet.” Mrs. Haverston announced.
Suddenly fully awake, Charles stammered, “Huh . . . what?”
“Oh don’t tell me you’ve forgotten again Charlie. You promised you would drop me at Mrs. Smelting’s today.”
Charles protested, “Well, I’m very sorry Mum, it’s just that I have a meeting at nine.”
Mrs. Haverston persisted, “I know you are busy Charlie. You were always such a hard working boy, and I wouldn’t trouble you but it’s very important. All the girls are coming over.”
“Mum, I know, but this meeting, it is really critical, I-“. Maggie cut him off with a look. Silently, she mouthed an admonition “be nice”.
Charles rolled his eyes melodramatically, “All right, I’ll be over in 40 minutes, be ready.”
“Oh can you. That’s so sweet. I’ll be ready. Remember Mummy loves you.” Mrs. Haverston cooed.
“Yes, I love you too Mum.” Charles turned off the phone with a weary sigh.
Maggie brought him a mug of coffee. “What is eating you?”
“It’s this Iran program. We just don’t know if the new President wants to go through with what the last one agreed to. To top off everything, the Saudis are putting pressure to call the whole thing off and we think they’ve got his ear. We have to be prepared for anything. It is going to be a rough week.”
Mrs. Haverston got down at the old town house. Charles waved and sped away. The poor boy looked so worried, she thought. He’ll get an ulcer if he goes on like this. A little frown wrinkled her face as she rang the bell.
The door opened, silver haired Abegail Smelting emerged, “Miriam, I am so glad you could come.”
She took Mrs. Haverston’s coat and ushered her into the drawing room where the rest of their friends were seated. Seven elderly ladies got up and kissed Mrs. Haverston’s cheeks. Only old Mrs. Crompton remained seated.
“Sorry, you’ll have to come down to me, Miriam dear. I can’t get up.” Mrs. Crompton said.
Mrs. Haverston came over, “Oh you poor dear what happened?”
“It’s my hip dear. The doctor says I’m going to need an operation.” replied Mrs. Crompton.
“When are you having it?” asked Mrs. Smelting.
“Oh dear, I’m afraid that very much depends on when my insurance company says I can have it. They say I have some sort of pre-condition that isn’t covered.”
“Have you asked a lawyer?” Mrs. Haverston asked.
“Yes of course. I asked Jackie’s girl. What was her name . . . Samantha. Yes, Samantha looked at it and said I could sue but they’ll probably drag it in court until the government’s policy changes.”
“But this simply will not do. Marjorie, can Stevie do something?” cried Mrs. Haverston in outrage.
Marjorie Sloan looked equally indignant, “I’ll certainly tell him. What is the country coming to? Just write the name of the company down will you? I can never remember these things.”
Mrs. Haverston soothed Mrs. Crompton, “Now don’t you worry about a thing, we’ll take care of you.”
A maid came in bearing a tea tray. Mrs. Smelting poured. “I am afraid the tea may not be very good this time. I do hope you all will understand.”
Marjorie Sloan asked, “Why whatever is the matter dear?”
“I couldn’t find Sri Lankan. This is from China.” She said with some disdain.
Mrs. Haverston sipped from her cup and wrinkled her nose in disapproval. “Why one Earth have the Sri Lankans stopped growing tea?”
“Well, the girl at the supermarket said it had something to do with the rains there.”
Mrs. Haverston turned, “Natalie, didn’t your daughter work in Sri Lanka? Have you talked to her about this?”
“Did she?” asked Mrs. Smelting, “I thought Barbara worked at a bank?”
“Well she did work for a bank and she did work in Sri Lanka. I’ll ask her about it. It is simply unthinkable that we should be forced to give up our tea in a civilized society.” replied Mrs. Bridges. Everyone concurred with that.
The conversation moved on to other topics. There were recipes to be swapped, grandchildren to be asked about and old reminisces to be embellished.
After lunch, Mrs. Crompton remarked that the hall way looked a little bare.
“Oh, you noticed” replied Mrs. Smelting. “Well the truth is, I was thinking this place needs redecorating and I’ve decided to start with that hall.”
“What did you have in mind?” Mrs. Haverston asked.
“I was thinking I’d put my old Cherrywood sideboard there and to complement that, I’ll need a new Persian carpet.”
“Oh you might have some trouble getting one of those, a real one at least.” Mrs. Haverston pointed out.
“Why is that?”
“”Well,” Mrs. Haverston leaned over conspiratorially, “Charlie was saying this new President wants to get tough on Iran. We might stop dealing with them for good.”
“You don’t think they’ll stop selling carpets to us, do you?” Mrs. Smelting asked.
Mrs. Haverston shrugged and indicated that the workings of the high realm of international relations was beyond her.
“Well, we will see about that” said Mrs. Smelting. “Will you excuse me a moment girls, I’ve got a phone call to make.”
Mrs. Bridges asked her hostess, “Abbie dear, do you have any of that Russian caviar I love so.”
“I’m so sorry dear, but we’ve just plain run out. And there just isn’t any available these days. They say, the Russians have stopped selling it since that silly argument started near the Black Sea.” Mrs. Smelting complained.
“Oh that horrible little man, Putin.” cried a saddened Mrs. Bridges.
Mrs. Sloan said, “Well I think he is just a little bully, pushing people around until somebody stands up to him. Debbie, you tell your nephew Donnie that he has to stand up to bullies or they’ll walk all over him. Now, for instance, if Putin won’t listen to us and give us our caviar, then there is no reason why we should listen to him.”
Everyone agreed to this sagacious advice.
Charles came to pick her up in the evening. He was decidedly more cheerful. “It’s too early to say, but I think I’m getting through to them” he confided to Mrs. Haverston.
“Getting through to whom dear?” she asked.
“To this administration. I think I can convince them to stay the course on this Iran situation.”
“I’m sure you will. Mrs. Smelting assured me of it” she said.
“Huh? Well its nice of her to say so. But boy you should have seen me today. I was in conference with the new Foreign Secretary and his team the whole morning. I went through my presentation, and it was pretty good even if I say so myself. But they didn’t look interested at all.”
”Then we broke for lunch. The Secretary went away to answer some calls, in the mean time, I kept working on his team. I guess one of them must have told him something. When he came back, he was a changed man, he asked a lot of questions and made me go over all my points again as if he wanted to memorize them. I think he is changing his mind. He might make an announcement soon.”
“That’s good to hear” Mrs. Haverston said. “Will that mean you won’t have to work so hard anymore?”
“No, I’ve already got all the plans for the old policy. That’s a cinch. But just think about it, I convinced the Secretary today. The US Foreign Policy changed because of me. I mean that’s real power isn’t it?” Charles said.
“I’m sure it is honey. I am proud of you.”
Charles hadn’t really expected his mother to understand. Never mind, he was still elated, he dropped her off at her home and came home, striding like a conquering hero.
He flipped on the television. The news anchor spoke “in other developments today, in a surprise reversal of his posture, the president elect promised to continue his predecessor’s reforms in healthcare. The World Bank has offered unprecedented loans to Sri Lanka for irrigation projects, and the US and Iran take another step forward in normalizing relations.”
“Now back to our main story. The United States has moved its advanced missile shield to front-line NATO bases in the Ukraine and Latvia in defiance of an ultimatum given by President Vladimir Putin.”