I haven’t bought Shalimar for myself since that day in the 80’s that the duck flew down the chimney and broke the fancy bottle in my bathtub. Cleaning up duck poo and broken glass can change your mind about a lot of things.
She regaled us with tales of all the city doings, the streetcars and the taxicabs and all the stores. I always tried to steer her to stories of “Ellis Airs”---the biggest, nicest department store in town. And she always obliged, telling of beautiful dresses and shoes and handbags which her daughters brought home from a day of shopping. And they ate their lunch in the store. There was an actual restaurant right there inside the building, and you could just take your shopping bags in, set them beside your chair, and order your lunch.
The world of aspics and toast points and tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad seemed to be a preview of Heaven. I longed to sit at that dainty table just once, to see beautifully-dressed patrons with the demure bearing of a religeuse in a dainty topknot---the ankles-crossed, mouth-corner napkin-dab ladies who breezed in with the auras of Shalimar and Chanel and Pall Malls, and exited in a fluff of air-kisses and shrugged-on mink.
I tried to imagine the life they must live, just supervising all those wonderful cooks every day---I thought of them as waking to their coffee, reading the Jackson Daily Ledger in their silky robes, a bath and dusting powder and teensy dabs of Toujours Moi or Shalimar in the crook of the elbows, then dressing, stockings rolled just below their knees, and drifting downstairs to take in the delicious aromas and the serene temper of the white-draped dining rooms, ready to receive their guests with the aplomb and ease of royalty, confident in their long-time retainers in the kitchen.
She had apparently come down the chimney and provided jump-and-chase amusement for those two for quite some time. I gently picked her up and took her outside, where she slowly waddled over to the field and took off. I went back in, tearing off my itchy clothes, ran into my bathroom and reached for the faucet-handle.
My lovely tub was smeared with duck poop in several places, and right in the middle of the tub, my coveted bottle of REAL Shalimar perfume---the pretty bottle with the elegant glass fan for a stopper---was on its side in several pieces, with that glorious scent filling the room.
I said several particularly nice words, gathered up the glass, scrubbed the tub--I’d have bathed in the perfume, but the glass and poop ruled that out---and as I knelt there in my bra and underpants, flinging the Comet---hot, sweaty, swearing under my breath and wanting my bath, something in my wastebasket caught my eye. I had had a Tab as I dressed for work that morning, and had stuck the can upside down into the wastebasket. And nestled in the hollow aluminum bottom was a little round pinkish egg.
I cannot imagine how that lady duck managed to elude cat and dog long enough to leave me that little tribute, nor how she managed to perch her hiney up there just right to lay that egg. And I don’t think the kids would have believed me if not for that odd little egg, pink and round and with a glow like porcelain.
I blew it out and washed it and kept it for years.