A Mary Poppins fan fiction, of all things...
That fine, bright, Sunday afternoon in May, Mrs. Janice Chandler opened the front door of Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, and was bemused at the sight which greeted her.
The oddly attired woman on the doorstep looked similarly puzzled.
She put down her carpetbag and rested her umbrella - a redundant instrument, surely, on such a beautiful day - against the doorpost. It was like no umbrella Janice had ever seen - black and rather dusty, with a parrot-head handle. The woman touched the flower on her sensible little black hat and enquired, with perfect, elocuted diction,
"Are Jane and Michael at home, please?"
"Jane and Michael Banks... Or perhaps the twins. John and Barbara?"
"I'm sorry," said Janice, "there's nobody of that name here. Are you sure you have the right address?"
"Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. Yes, of course I do. Are you the new housekeeper?" The woman craned her neck to look past Janice, into the hallway. "Are Mr and Mrs Banks at home?"
"No," said Janice. "Our name is Chandler. There's nobody here called Banks." She went to close the door. It was half-closed when something in the strange looking woman's face stopped her. The woman looked thoroughly lost, and rather weary. Janice was a caring soul, and opened the door again.
"Do you have a phone number for these Banks people? Perhaps we could ring them, find out where they live."
The woman's face brightened. "Ah!" she said, one finger raised, "Of course. How clever of you. I have the telephone number for Mr Banks's place of work. I have it here." She tapped her head with the same raised finger. May I come in and telephone him?"
Janice hesitated. The woman looked harmless, if a little eccentric, but you heard such terrible things these days.What if she was madwoman, escaped from the local psychiatric hospital? "i'll bring the phone to you. Wait here." She closed the door on the woman, whose face was a picture of puzzlement.
Seconds later, the woman inspected Janice's tiny pink sparkly Nokia mobile phone in her hand, as if was something alien.
"That's very pretty, dear, but I understood you were to bring me the telephone." she said, with a nervous laugh. "This appears to be an item of jewellery."
Was this woman for real? Janice wondered. Was she a foreigner? Or was she just having a laugh?
"It is a phone," said Janice.
"No it isn't!" said the woman, laughing, "Where is the receiver? Where is the dial?"
"You just press the buttons, see." She took the phone back and pointed to the tiny keypad "Tell me the number and I'll dial it for you."
The woman put both hands at her tiny waist and laughed even harder. "Oh dear," she said, "Oh dear, oh dear. How can you dial a number when there is no dial?"
Janice had had enough of this... this loony. She went to close the door again.
"Westminster four-six-eight," said the woman, rattling off the number. "That's the number for Mr Banks's bank."
"A bank? It's a Sunday. There aren't any banks open!" She was regretting having answered the door at all. The woman was clearly unhinged.
"Is that Kayleigh, Mum?" called a voice from behind Janice. Her ten year old daughter, Lily, pushed past her, and stood, staring at the woman. "Oh!"
The woman's face transformed. Her blue eyes became a brighter blue, and she beamed at the girl, who clutched her hands under her chin, and smiled back.
"Hello," said the woman, leaning down to the little girl. "I'm Mary. Mary Poppins. I'm here to look after you."