Pig-hoo-o-o-o-e-y by P.G. Wodehouse, 1927
The magic trick:
Setting up the same joke – conversational confusion with Lord Emsworth – three times in one story
In what has become an SSMT tradition, I wish myself a happy Aug. 18 birthday with a P.G. Wodehouse story.
If that sounds like a sad celebration, well, maybe you’re right. But I still enjoy it.
“Pig-hoo-o-o-o-e-y” is annoying and slightly demeaning to type but pretty great to read. It takes us to Blandings Castle, and make no mistake Plum knows which side of the bread is buttered in Blandings. Regular Blandings visitors surely love Lord Emsworth’s remarkable ability to find confusion in any conversation, and we get three such instances here. He is talking about his prized pig, the Empress of Blandings. The person he talking with is talking about their own (and assuredly more important) concern. It’s hilarious every single time. And that’s quite a trick on Wodehouse’s part.
“Clarence,” she cried, “an awful thing has happened!”
Lord Emsworth nodded dully.
“I know. He’s just told me.”
“What! Has he been here?”
“Only this moment left.”
“Why did you let him go? You must have known I would want to see him.”
“What good would that have done?”
“I could at least have assured him of my sympathy,” said Lady Constance stiffly.
“Yes, I suppose you could,” said Lord Emsworth, having considered the point. “Not that he deserves any sympathy. The man’s an ass.”
“Nothing of the kind. A most intelligent man, as young men go.”
“Young? Would you call him young? Fifty, I should have said, if a day.”
“Are you out of your senses? Heacham fifty?”
“Not Heacham. Smithers.”
As frequently happened to her when in conversation with her brother, Lady Constance experienced a swimming sensation in the head.
“Will you kindly tell me, Clarence, in a few simple words, what you imagined we are talking about?”
“I’m talking about Smithers. Empress of Blandings is refusing her food, and Smithers says he can’t do anything about it. And he calls himself a vet!”
“Then you haven’t heard? Clarence, a dreadful thing has happened. Angela has broken off her engagement to Heacham.”
“And the Agricultural Show on Wednesday week!”
“What on earth has that got to do with it?” demanded Lady Constance, feeling a recurrence of the swimming sensation.
“What has it got to do with it?” said Lord Emsworth warmly. “My champion sow, with less than ten days to prepare herself for a most searching examination in competition with all the finest pigs in the county, starts refusing her food – ”
As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.