Mrs. Plumcot: (Turning to the Young Men and putting a finger to her lips) Shh! (Turning back to the women) Good morning, ladies. I am Mrs. Plumcot. I trust you are all here because of the advertisement placed in the London Review of Books?
(The women murmur assent)
Mrs. Plumcot: Very well, then. Before we get started, I’d like each one of you to introduce herself. Please keep it brief, citing your name, your degree, and your favourite book. Stand during your introduction, s’il vous plait.
(Tamasin, petite and curvy, eagerly stands up)
Tamasin: Cheers, Mrs. Plumcot. Hello, I’m Tamasin Butler Yeats. I’ve just graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. My favourite book is Konstantin Stanislavski’s Creating a Role. (Tamasin turns around, smiles flirtatiously at the Young Men at the next table, then turns again to shake her tailfeathers in their direction. They make catcalls)
Mrs. Plumcot: (Sternly, to the Young Men) Quiet! This library is a place for serious intellectual study, as generations of scholars can attest. Kindly desist or I shall have to ask you to leave the premises. (She nods at Tamasin, who sits down) Thank-you, Miss Butler Yeats. Next?
(Sigourney, a tall, slim blonde, stands up)
Sigourney: Hello, everybody. My name is Sigourney Seymour. I’m one year out of my undergraduate degree in sociology, specializing in feline-female interaction and its signifiers for insanity -- cat ladies, in other words. My favourite book is Simone de Beauvoir’s Les Bouches Inutiles, or Useless Mouths.
Mrs. Plumcot: I hadn’t heard of that one, Miss Seymour. Is that Miss de Boudoir’s sequel to There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Cream?
Sigourney: Different author, I’m afraid, Mrs. Plumcot.
Mrs. Plumcot: (Approvingly) Ah. I will seek it out. On my own shelf, I’ve placed Miss de Boudoir’s books alongside Jean-Paul Smartre’s Being and Naughtiness.
(There’s a ruckus as a frumpy 50-year-old woman, Kate, stumbles onto the scene, carrying an oversized coffee cup that she keeps whacking into chairs, etc. She takes a look at the young women, then smiles at Mrs. Plumcot)
Mrs. Plumcot: Excuse me, madam, but we’re having a private meeting here.
Kate: (Beaming) Is this for the jobs advertised in the London Review of Books? Sorry I’m late.
Mrs. Plumcot: (Taken aback) You do understand what this meeting is about?
Kate: Yes, it’s about jobs for unemployed arts graduates. But I thought there’d be tens of thousands of people applying!
Mrs. Plumcot: (Waving the ad) Did you read the other requirements? “Attractive, friendly, female university arts graduates with a marvelous sense of rhythm and an open-minded attitude wanted for intimate encounters, afternoons, eves, wknds”?
Kate: Of course I read it! I’d have a Ph.D. in reading, if I didn’t have to contribute to a mortgage and such. I’m Kate, by the way.
Mrs. Plumcot: (Baffled) Well, er, Kate, please have a seat. We’re just introducing ourselves. Next?
(Emma, a busty redhead in a spandex body-suit and horn-rimmed glasses, stands)
Emma: Hello, everyone, I’m Emma. I’ve got an undergraduate degree in psychology, and if I can’t read your mind, at least I can interpret it. Ha! I’ve got a double-D bust and my favourite book is Shake It Like You Mean It, by Carlene Jung.
(There’s a strangulated hoot from one of the Young Men)
Mrs. Plumcot: (Shooting him a withering glance) Thank-you, Emma. Yes, I’ve read that one. Miss Jung has some excellent moves, if a rather rudimentary understanding of Jungian analysis. Will our newcomer properly introduce herself now?
Kate: (Clumsily getting to her feet) Hi! I’m Kate Zimmerman. I’ve got a B.A. in English from a Canadian university. I guess I’d characterize my bust as “sloping.” I’m one of the few arts students who’s actually conquered Moby Dick.
(The younger women titter)
Mrs. Plumcot: (Intrigued) I don’t think I’ve read that one. Would you describe it as soft- or hard-core?
Kate: (Mulling it over) I’d call it hardcore. There’s a lot of dreary background about the whaling industry circa 1820 interspersed with the gripping story of Captain Ahab and his sperm whale.
Mrs. Plumcot: (Chortling) You’re speaking euphemistically?
Kate: No, that’s pretty much the size of it.
Mrs. Plumcot: (Intrigued) Miss Zimmerman, how is your dancing?
Kate: (Knocking over her coffee cup, scrambling to retrieve it, in the process ripping her ancient, overly tight corduroys along the rear seam. Young Men start packing up disgustedly) Much like my walking – best seen in the dark. And it’s Ms. Zimmerman, thanks.
Mrs. Plumcot: I see. And how would you rate your expertise in the erotic arts?
Kate: I’d say I’m at a grade seven level, which is pretty good for a Canadian. I still consult that book they gave us in junior high health class, Now You Are a Woman. I’m fairly clear on who has which parts.
Mrs. Plumcot: Indeed. (Thinks for a second) Well, Kate, I expect you might hold some appeal to our club members with “specialized interests.” Incidentally, how do you feel about administering spankings?
Mrs. Plumcot: What about reading a fellow a bedtime story?
Kate: Sure. Whatever. As we used to say in American Lit class, “Call me Ishmael -- but call me.”
Mrs. Plumcot: Do you own sweatpants?
Kate: Nothing but.
Mrs. Plumcot: Mini-van?
Kate: (Falsely modest) I lease a Chevy sedan.
Mrs. Plumcot: How do you feel about making minimum wage at your age?
Kate: It’ll be a step up. Did I mention I’ve been working as a journalist for 30 years?
Mrs. Plumcot: Ah, so your air of hopelessness is authentic, then – not just student affectation. You start tonight. Bring your degree as I.D. But Kate…
Mrs. Plumcot: (Kindly) Don’t expect any tips.