I just finished Alexander McCall Smith’s most recent episode of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, “Tea Time for the Traditionally Built,” and it was as charming as all the others, and possibly the funniest. There were parts I couldn’t resist reading aloud to Dean or my mom and siblings, and I’d love to share one of these with you. It’s from near the beginning of the book, and doesn’t contain spoilers. In case you’re unfamiliar with the series, Mma. Ramotswe is the “traditionally built” Botswanian lady detective who runs the agency, and her mechanic husband is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (who is always referred to by that name.)
The tiny white van . . . had intermittently been making a strange noise . . . It happened as she made her way into Zebra Drive; turning a corner always put a strain on the tiny white van, which was something to do with the suspension and what Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni referred to politely as the “distribution of load.” Mma Ramotswe had pondered this expression and then asked, perhaps rather bluntly, “And the load, I take it, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is me?”
He had looked away to cover his embarrassment. “You could say that, Mma Ramotswe. But then all of us are loads when it comes to vehicles. Even one of these very thin model ladies will be a load . . .” He trailed off. He was not making it any better, he thought, and Mma Ramotswe was looking at him in an expectant way.
When it became apparent that he had nothing further to add, Mma Ramotswe had continued, “Yes, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, there are such ladies. And unfortunately they are becoming more common. There are now many of them.” She paused. “But perhaps they will begin to disappear. They will get thinner and thinner, and more and more fashionable, and then . . . pouf . . . they will be blown away by the wind.”
This remark reduced the tension that had built, and they both laughed.
“That will teach them,” he said. “they will be blown away while the other ladies will still be here because the wind will not be strong enough to lift . . .” He stopped once more; Mma Ramotswe was again looking at him expectantly.