In her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular has skipped from Chapter CCXCI to Chapter CCC. “I crave the reader’s indulgence,” she writes, “and I promise to go back and write those intervening chapters as soon as the police stop coming around here to investigate the toothpaste rolls I made for Mr. Pitfall. It was not my fault he ate too many and is now in intensive care at the hospital. Besides which, Chapter CCC is a milestone which I wanted to reach as soon as possible.” Of course, she could have written it first and saved herself the trouble.
This is how we wind up with half the roof blown off the top of Coldsore Hall, the Marquess of Grone found crouching behind some old steamer trunks in the attic with his hair frozen straight up from his scalp, babbling about the ghost of the medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney, stealing his pocket watch, and a whole mob of Scurveyshire peasants, armed with torches and pitchforks, disappearing under the vicar’s backyard wading pool. We have no idea how any of this happened.
Chapter CCC opens with the marquess in bed and Lady Margo Cargo bending over him with a can of fishing worms. He thinks she’s Queen Victoria, with whom he once played Chutes and Ladders.
“Please, my lord, try to concentrate!” Lady Margo coos. “Tell me what these things are, wriggling around inside this can.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, Your Majesty, but I am allergic to frumpweed and I wish you would remove it from under my nose,” whimpers the peer of the realm.
“Is he any better today?” asks Lord Jeremy Coldsore, standing in the doorway and doing his best to strike a dignified pose despite having two left feet.
“Oh, much better!” cries Lady Margo. She and Lord Jeremy cannot get married until the stricken peer recovers. “As you can see, those frozen hairs are falling out and his eyes have stopped rolling. But he’s still confused about certain objects.”
“My aunt is still weeping in the garden.” Lady Petunia, the marquess’ wife, has been weeping steadily ever since a piece of the chimney fell on her. And of course there was that business with the sliding board.
“I showed this chapter to my editor,” Ms. Crepuscular interjects, “and he says it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. He is a great believer in skipping chapters. And now I have to stop because the police are at my door again.”