Master and the margarita
A short story
By Marin Baker
The clock struck 12 and Matthew was distressed. His, maid, Jane, had slipped on the cat on her way downstairs and was laid up on the divan. (So to speak. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves). There was nothing to be done for it; Matthew had to fetch the doctor. He looked out the big window to see that it was a rainy day. “Well,” thought Matthew, “wouldn’t want to be getting ill on my way to fetch the doctor. I’ll wait until this clears up.”
Matthew began waiting. He started by simply staring out the big window waiting for the rain to stop. When it failed to do so, he inverted his vision and studied his own reflection. He was not getting any younger, that much was clear. His midnight black hair was fading to a dusty gray, and that was about all he could see clearly without the eyeglasses that he was not yet ready to admit he needed. Matthew was distressed.
Had Matthew not been so steeped in vanity and denial to visit the optometrist, he might have been able to see that the gray in his hair actually lent him a distinguished air that he would not otherwise have had and that he still possessed a strong jawline and soulful dark gray eyes. “Well,” he would have thought, “you are one tall dark and handsome fellow.” But he was, and so he didn’t. Though presumably he was still aware that he was tall.
Instead, Matthew did a quick calculation which told him that it was 5 pm in Yalta. Matthew was kind of a liberal-arts type. From his study, he rang for the maid. Matthew was kind of forgetful.
Jane was on the divan when she noticed that she was being summoned. Not quite ready to lose the day’s pay, she lifted herself off of the divan and hopped into the study. To his credit, Matthew apologized and informed her that she was to have the day off and wait for the doctor. He did not, however, leave to fetch the doctor, as it was still raining.
Jane did not ask about the day’s pay. She assumed it was already lost and sulked her way back to the divan where she resumed her novel. Like Matthew, and most of us who find ourselves hurtling through the fourth dimension without any means of turning or reversing, Jane was not getting any younger either. She wondered if perhaps she was getting too old for romance novels. The saga of Fabio Worthington III and Destiny Carroway simply did not appeal to her like the idea of settling down with a nice apothecary or blacksmith.
Matthew headed into his slate and marble kitchen on his own for the first time since purchasing the bungalow-style mansion. He noticed a bushel of strawberries fresh from the back garden. The back garden was one of Jane’s attempts to turn the house into a home. Today, Matthew was grateful for that. “Well,” he thought, “I don’t know how this house would go on without that girl.” He was less grateful to find that the icebox was nearly empty. He transferred the ice to a hand-cut crystal pitcher and went to the cellar to retrieve a bottle of tequila that he had been saving for a rainy day. The tequila had been a gift from his schoolmate, Giles, perhaps better known to you as Dread Pirate Stevenson, captain of the dark ship Goliath, scourge of the seven known seas and others yet to be discovered. Thus the easy access to tequila. Remembering that, on his last visit home, Giles had also given him a strange green fruit, so like the oranges of India, but tougher and, in fact, virtually inedible, Matthew returned to the kitchen and retrieved said fruit from the box.
Matthew poured the tequila and strawberries into the hand-cut crystal pitcher and dropped in the strange green fruit, where it bobbed on top of the tequila with the half-melted ice cubes. He did not like the look of this. He summoned the maid.
Jane, having already given up on her day’s pay, ignored the summons. She did not like to defy Matthew. Indeed, her kindly aunt Bertha, who had helped her find a job after her father had lost all the family’s money on tulip speculations, had described her as a most agreeable girl and she did not want to reflect badly on aunt Bertha, to whom she owed so much. But her foot really hurt.
Matthew sat in the kitchen and reflected on the maid. It was not like her to ignore a summons and risk losing her day’s pay. She could be fanciful and impractical at times, but she took her maid duties very seriously. He worried that some accident had befallen her. Then he remembered.
Walking out to the divan with the cut-glass pitcher of tequila water and soggy fruit, Matthew was preparing to ask Jane for some advice, but something stopped him.
Jane lay on the divan, reading and looking as though the last thing on her mind was mixing drinks for Matthew. It was at that moment that he realized why Jane had always looked so out-of-place in the kitchen or the garden. She was, simply put, too refined for that kind of work. Here, in the drawing room, she looked right at home. “Well,” thought Matthew, “she shouldn’t be waiting on me; she should be my wife!”
Matthew forgot the pitcher of diluted tequila and ruined fruit and went to Jane, where she agreed to marry him that very day, provided he fetch the doctor already. Matthew looked out the big window to find that the clouds in the sky had left with the clouds in his soul. He went to fetch the doctor.