Polishing Silver is the story of the aftermath of Stephanie Brown's murder and all those affected in the Wayne household, told through Alfred's eyes in the form of a journal. It contains several fascinating insights into the routine of life at the manor and the behind-the-scenes details being Bruce Wayne's butler.
It is here where Alfred states unequivocally that Bruce and Selina are married in every way that matters, the difficulty being that they appear not to have noticed. He pushes in his way, maneuvering her into redecorating projects, approving menus and other superficial signs that signify her role as mistress of the manor. The tragedy, however, puts all that into a more serious context.
Selina describes Stephanie's death and the memorial as "the first real one" she was there for, as a member of the family. Alfred is quick to change gears and reassure her in more meaningful terms than superficial hostess duties. In teaching her the secret to making his special tea, which will referenced several times in later stories that are critical to the Bruce/Selina relationship, he sets her straight about her importance in Bruce's life:
“Miss Selina, you have over the past minutes—as in the past months, and indeed, in all the years of your association with him—demonstrated an understanding of Master Bruce, his aspirations, his desires and his demons, that would be the envy of his closest colleagues, who believe they know him better than anybody. It is quite impossible to credit your fear that you ‘will not be good at this,’ for there is clearly no one in his life better suited to comfort him in tragedy, rejoice with him in triumph, and keep him from being alone in the days and nights in between. If he should ‘give up hope,’ I have no doubt you would manage the situation with the same sublime felinity you have used to such advantage in the past. Now drink your tea, young woman, and the next time you enjoy, or even sniff, this particular brew, I dare say you will understand how it helps.”
With tensions running so high, there is eventually a Bruce/Selina fight, which will take Alfred to see her at her preserve, The Catitat. It is a wonderful scene, loaded with too many observations and insights to catalog here. The eventual reconciliation, again glimpsed only through Alfred's eyes, is more than sweet.
Through Clark Kent's arrival, the story also addresses an unworldly aspect of the fandom that squawked whenever Alfred's job was correctly described as a servant. Alfred sets them straight, because upper class people like Bruce and Selina would never shrink from using the correct word, or obfuscate reality with middle class euphemisms like "the help," let alone redefining the role completely by making him a surrogate father. While Bruce respects Alfred, and the butler has filled many roles in Bruce's life from doctor to advisor to confidant, it is inappropriate and disrespectful to redefine his actual job.
Like all Cat-Tales, Polishing Silver: The Journal of Alfred Pennyworth can be read online on the Cat-Tales website or mobile mirror, and can be downloaded as an ebook or pdf, which is sized for printing at Cafe Press. It is collected in Cat-Tales Book 3.
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