Day 22 of The Literal Challenge aka Like The prose

Something a little more lighthearted than yesterday – have fun spotting all the allusions to a famous nonsensical story!

Ellie’s in Wonderland

Ellie stared at her grandmother with exasperation. She had travelled almost a hundred miles to come and visit her in the care home – sitting for almost forty minutes in non-moving traffic whilst muttering to herself, “Oh dear! I shall be late!” – and now Violet seemed to be asleep.

She looked once more at the slumbering form, slumped in an armchair and surrounded by other, equally dotty, old people. Should she try to wake her? Was it like waking a sleeping baby who would cry for hours on end once its dreams were disturbed?

“She’ll be out for ages,” a kindly, white haired biddy commented. “She had a hysterectomy this morning.”

Ellie was quite sure that no such thing had happened. The good Samaritan put down her knitting and continued, “She normally has them in the evening, but last night they forgot, so they gave her one this morning instead.”

Curiouser and curiouser, thought Ellie, who was beginning to wonder if all the residents were certifiably mad.

Across the room, a distinguished looking gentleman was enjoying a conversation with himself. “… of course, she was an exotic dancer … did incredible things with a ball of wool …”

“Who’s that?” Ellie hissed, nodding in the requisite direction.

The stranger sniffed contemptuously. “That’s Mr Hatter. Completely off his head. OFF HIS HEAD!” she suddenly screeched at full volume, making Ellie jump.

“Oh, I see.” Ellie didn’t, but then nothing made sense in this strange reality.

“… and then we all had a glass of brandy,” the gentleman continued, “and I suddenly realised that I’d completely lost my trousers!” He threw back his head and laughed uproariously. Ellie began to feel uncomfortable.

“That’s Mr Hatter,” the lady whispered, taking up her knitting once more. “Quite mad, you know. Off his head.”

Feeling desperate now, Ellie looked once more at Violet. Should she try to wake her?

“She’s out for the count,” the other woman confided. “She had a hysterectomy this morning.” Beckoning Ellie over, she held out her knitting bag. “I didn’t take mine. Look.”

Ellie stared at the tiny white tablet, nestled snugly on a ball of pale pink wool. She half expected it to bear a label that said, ‘Eat me.’

“They make me drowsy,” the woman whispered.

Ellie nodded sympathetically.

“You can have it if you want.”

Against her will, Ellie felt something being pressed into her palm.

The old lady’s eyes twinkled. “I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”

“Er, thanks.” She didn’t really know what else to say.

“And then …” Mr Hatter was laughing so hard he could barely get the words out. “And then, old Pongo set his hair on fire!”

“He’s off his head, you know.” The old lady was gesturing at Mr Hatter.

“Yes,” Ellie said awkwardly. “You told me.”

“OFF HIS HEAD!” the woman shrieked again. Then, gesturing to Ellie to lean closer, she pointed towards a pair who were sitting side by side in the far corner of the lounge. “Mabel and Gladys,” she confided. “Twins, you know – but they had a terrible falling out last week.”

“Yes?” Ellie feigned interest.

“Mabel lost her false teeth,” the unknown woman uttered dramatically, “and she thought Gladys had stolen them. Accused her of taking them out of her mouth while she slept.”

By now, Ellie was beginning to feel faint. Was the residents’ lounge really supposed to be so hot? she wondered.

“…pigeons …” Mr Hatter said earnestly. “She was the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”

“And then Gladys lost her teeth,” the story droned on, “and said she’d found them in Mabel’s handbag. They nearly came to blows …”

Ellie closed her eyes, letting the sound of the teeth anecdote, interspersed with Mr Hatter’s rumbling voice, drift over her head. “… well, she said she’d given them to the  Duke of Norbury but Mabel completely lost my trousers and then Gladys was an exotic dancer and she couldn’t find her pigeons …” She was sure she’d heard these stories many times before. “Of course,” Mr Hatter murmured absently, “I was very, VERY drunk …”

As the voices continued to swirl about her, Ellie found herself falling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world where a giant pigeon did an exotic dance with a pair of trousers, then turned into a ball of wool and set fire to itself. Meanwhile, Gladys and Mabel fused into Siamese twins, gradually becoming an enormous pair of false teeth which grew wings and fluttered away.

She came to with a start to find a white uniformed girl bending over her. “Are you okay?”

Ellie blushed with embarrassment. “Yes, I … I just dozed off. I expect it was the heat.”

The girl regarded Ellie’s anonymous companion sternly. “Queenie! Have you been giving people anti-histamine again?”

Queenie wouldn’t meet the girl’s eyes.

“You’ve got to stop doling them out like sweets,” the carer told her. “They’re supposed to be for you – not other people. Now, hand them over.”

She waited until Queenie had entirely emptied her knitting bag.

“As for you,” the carer now turned her attention back to Ellie, “I think it’s time we got you back to your room.”

Without protesting, Ellie let herself be led back to her bedroom, hearing, as she shuffled down the corridor, the joyful voice of Mr Hatter proclaiming, “I was very, VERY drunk.”

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