…to rob a heavenly body of prominence by outshining or obscuring it     



Helen stood in the corner, beneath the shade of the aspidistra. Oscar, Henry and Smith were all sat facing the wide eyes, wide smile and large breasts of the very blonde and very ardent socialist woman who Oscar had insisted call back this evening for a recruitment drive – he just happened to know a couple of people who were very interested in her socialist principles.


Henry’s interest manifested itself as an inane grin and complete inarticulacy. Smith’s interest manifested itself as an excessive attentiveness to every word that Ursula uttered; such was the level of his interest that he leaned forward almost to the point of his own toppling over onto the floor and his head knocking off the corner of the coffee table on which were arranged an array of socialist pamphlets. Oscar just nodded a lot, but was doing a rather poor job of feigning interest, asking no apposite questions but simply making crude noises which registered his assent to every point Ursula made.


Helen clearly wasn’t interested. In fact, she was the-exact-opposite-of-interested, whatever that was – neither “uninterested” nor “disinterested” properly fitted the bill. And it was whilst wondering what it was, if there was a term for such a state – the-exact-opposite-of-interestedness, that her thoughts returned to their seminal topic – herself.


Owing to her parents’ lack of familiarity with the classics, Helen thought it unlikely that she was named after that other Helen whose face launched a thousand ships and whose indescribable beauty was responsible for the terrible destruction of Troy and who since has become synonymous with beauty. It was, thought Helen, just one of those fortuitous coincidences that she was so named and also so beautifully put together, her face having the perfect symmetry of beauty, her nose just being big enough to be strong, but too small to be prominent, her eyes almond shaped, her forehead high and smooth, her teeth… Helen just realised that she had forgotten to bleach her teeth last week. And she really must floss her teeth straight away lest some horrible substance was right this minute corroding away the sides of her teeth such that the gaps between her teeth widened to such an extent that her mouth would become little more than a gaping hole.


“So that’ll be when the revolution comes?” Smith was sure that he fully grasped the intricacies of socialist politics.


“No, no, no,” Ursula shook her head and as she did so her pendulous breasts swung ever so gently, and this movement was replicated in the three sets of eyes of the three men sitting opposite her, a movement which had apparently hypnotized Henry and rendered him completely docile. “We believe in the slow movement of political change.”


“Slow movement,” repeated Henry monotonously.


“Slow movement,” chorused Oscar and Smith.


“Political change. Isn’t that marvellous.” Helen moved softly into the light, emerging from the shadow of the aspidistra just as a smile stretched across her face, revealing her perfectly bright white teeth (having forgotten about the immanent danger of her teeth rotting in her mouth and falling onto the floor, one yellow tooth rattling to the bottom of a glass on the table), and sitting herself down on the arm of the sofa where Ursula had set up camp and laid out her stall – such an array of socialist paraphernalia; it simply boggled the mind – Helen slowly passed her tongue over her teeth and pushed her lips into another smile.


“Such an array of socialist paraphernalia,” Helen began, “it simply boggles the mind.”


Ursula turned her head in order to beam up at her – she had her own set of perfectly bright white teeth, though by Helen blocking the light from the lamp, the dark gaps in this blonde socialist’s teeth seemed all the more prominent and one had to wonder, at least Helen did, what lurked in those dark spaces. But her very face glowed, the healthy and warm glow of someone who was healthy and warm.


“And when was it that the masses take over?” Helen was undeterred. “I hope it’s not too soon; I can’t stand the masses.”


But Ursula’s smile must have been chiselled into granite, because it didn’t falter, not for a moment, but continued, at the same intensity, to beam, to beam out health and beauty and innocence and all kinds of everything and the dark gaps between each tooth were erased by the radiance of her healthy smile.


It seemed that Helen was defeated.


“So when is this convention?” Oscar asked. Henry and Smith were simply content to await any words which came out of her mouth.


“It’s the annual convention. We get to vote for policies and whoever’s standing gets to put forward their case. And it all gets very exciting.”


“I bet it does.” Oscar could only begin to imagine how exciting it all got.


The shadow of the aspidistra seemed to grow in order to again encompass the waning figure of Helen, who was still sitting on the sofa’s arm, now playing with a pamphlet which warned against the impending dangers of a new class war, and no matter how much she rattled her brain, she couldn’t recall the firs class war, nor any class war, and was under the impression that such a war would certainty have stuck in her memory, even if she only read of it in a book or was told about it in the droning voice of one or another of the history teachers which peppered her own history.


And there was no stopping Ursula, who was still setting out her socialist principles, with the aide of frequent and sudden hand gestures, the odd nod or shake of her head, and once or twice tapping herself on the chest in order to register her complete sincerity and the depth of her belief. And she felt herself to be very successful in getting across her heart-felt belief in the principles of socialism and her faith in the socialist cause – “We are the masses.”


“We are,” chorused all three in unison.


And all three were completely lost in the lilting voice of this mellifluous socialist, the swaying of her blonde hair to the rhythm of her if-then-and-therefores, the rise of her voice to the peak of a question, which must have been rhetorical for it received no answer other than the slow and synchronous nodding of three heads, and the gentle tapping of her forefinger on the coffee table which sent a shiver up each of their spines, such was the depth and certainty of the belief she had inculcated.


But Helen was good for one more assault, so she attacked the enemy on another flank. “I thought you didn’t believe in politics Oscar; that there was no point.”


“I’ve been converted,” Oscar had to admit.


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